The Beauty and the Horror: Peter Jackson’s King Kong - Part 1

This film is keenly aware of the myriad meanings embedded in its cinematic myth and sets about re-contextualizing and commenting upon the implied politics while offering extravagant thrills and tragic, classic romance.

King Kong

Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Jack Black, Andy Serkis, Thomas Kretschmann, Kyle Chandler, Jamie Bell, Colin Hanks
Length: 187 minutes
Studio: Universal
Year: 2005
US Release Date: 2005-12-14

Although Kong’s triumphant return to the multiplexes would follow the 1976 film by three decades, the first seeds of the latest iteration of the cinematic myth were sown years before John Guillermin’s version had even begun production. On a Friday night in 1970, in a small coastal town just north of Wellington, New Zealand, a nine-year-old boy is in tears in front of the black-and-white family television as he watches a proud, doomed creature plummet from the zenith of a skyscraper. From that moment on, Peter Jackson was fascinated by films and filmmaking, and dreamed above all to mount his own remake of the film that ignited that fascination, Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack’s seminal 1933 King Kong.

Jackson made his reputation as a cult director with anarchic splatter comedies like Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles in the late 1980s before shifting gears with the haunting Heavenly Creatures, which earned arthouse acclaim and an Academy Award nomination in 1994. While completing Heavenly Creatures’s follow-up, the breathless supernatural action-comedy The Frighteners, in 1996, Jackson and his Wellington-based production team began design and pre-production work on a new Kong film commissioned by Universal. With his near-lifelong ambition so close to fruition, Jackson’s hopes were dashed when the studio cancelled production in the face of the competing big-budget monster film remakes of Godzilla and Mighty Joe Young.

One can’t pretend that Peter Jackson didn’t eventually land on his feet, though. The burgeoning film mogul would vault into big-budget Hollywood prominence and film history with the massive critical, commercial, and artistic success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which would gross almost $3 billion worldwide and win 17 Oscars. Soon after the release of the first of the three films, Universal came knocking; any doubts the studio may have had about Jackson’s blockbuster bona fides had been laid to rest, and King Kong was his to remake as he saw fit.

Pivoting immediately into Kong after the completion and release of The Return of the King, Jackson and the formidable production team that had emerged from the Rings trilogy envisioned a new take on the classic tale that would combine modern technology and contemporary film sensibilities with the showman’s bravado and spectacular entertainment that thrilled so many fans of the original film (Jackson included). Indeed, the script of the ill-fated 1996 version written by Jackson and his long-time life and writing partner Fran Walsh suggested a classic popcorn adventure movie reminiscent of the Indiana Jones movies and Stephen Sommers’ 1999 remake of The Mummy (perhaps not coincidentally produced by Universal immediately after it had pulled the plug on Jackson’s Kong).

Although Jackson’s finished King Kong is more complex than your average whiz-bang Hollywood blockbuster, it retains the rousing cornball spectacle of the Cooper/Schoedsack original. As the stunning battle scenes in The Lord of the Rings demonstrated, extravagant, tension-ratcheting action sequences are what Jackson does best, and he constructed his Kong around those thrills, as Cooper did. From its gleaming Art Deco opening titles, this Kong operates both as homage to the original and as an act of furious imaginative one-up-man-ship, but it’s also a passionate counter-reaction to the central role of ideological meaning in Guillermin’s film as well as to its overarching tone of detached, knowing cynicism.

Like the film Jackson grew up loving and unlike the 1976 remake that he barely acknowledges (even as he borrows liberally from it), his Kong’s meanings are in the subtext; ideology is once again entirely subordinate to spectacle. But the screenplay penned by Jackson, Walsh and Philippa Boyens is keenly aware of the myriad meanings embedded in this cinematic myth and sets about re-contextualizing and commenting upon the implied politics of Cooper’s film. That this Kong is able to amplify the tragic romance element of the tale and lose itself in that romance with abandon, while also musing intelligently on the past costs of cultural imperialism and capitalist exploitation, makes it the most difficult to pigeonhole among the three canonical Kong films.

Jettisoning the ripped-from-the-headlines topicality of the 1976 film, Jackson’s film immerses itself in the milieu of 1930s Depression-era New York from its opening frames. Although Cooper’s film did not shy away from the harsh social realities of its time and place, incorporating a brief glance at a breadline and introducing its poor and hungry heroine as she steals an apple from a fruit stand (a scene reproduced faithfully by Jackson in his film), the newest Kong expends much more time and effort in depicting the details of its historical setting.

Jackson opens his film with a touch of visual thematic foreshadowing, showing various primates in cages in the Central Park Zoo both as an anticipation of Kong’s eventual captivity and as an establishment of the zoo culture of America. But these captive animals are contrasted immediately with the makeshift shantytowns of the poor and unemployed in the Park, suggesting that the higher primates are no less imprisoned by socio-economic circumstances than the lower ones are by human whims.

These contrasting images segue into an elegant montage of contemporary life in the city, featuring vignettes of congested traffic, evictions, arrests, soup lines, homelessness, and protest marches. Ironically accompanied by Al Jolson’s recording of “I’m Sitting on Top of the World”, this sequence carries with it the suggestion that the exotic adventures to come are not only an escape from the harsh economic realities of a deprived time, but also an unavoidable consequence of the relentless competitive demands of American capitalism. In order to avoid being exploited by such a ruthless system, you must be prepared to do some exploiting yourself. It’s survival of the fittest in civilization as well as in the jungle.

The focal point for the 2005 Kong’s critique of American capitalist exploitation is the figure of Carl Denham, the indefatigable huckster filmmaker who exploits the ineffable Otherness of the great ape for the basest of selfish aims. Played by comic actor Jack Black (channelling Orson Welles, Merian Cooper, and, slyly, Peter Jackson), this version of Denham is an exploded caricature of Robert Armstrong’s original character. As a consciously fictionalized sketch of himself, Denham was understood even by Cooper as being the personified American id. But the more liberally-minded non-American Jackson, despite his enormous admiration for the film pioneer he dubs a “genius” and for his much-loved film creation, doesn’t view the fundamental drives of the American male in the same positive light that his filmmaking hero did.

A striver, a dreamer, and above all a deceitful crook, Denham uses not only Kong but every human being around him to achieve wealth and fame entirely for him and him alone. He fancies himself a rugged individualist entrepreneur with artistic vision, but in the hands of Black and the screenwriting team, he’s a compulsive hack and a serial leech, an immoral grifter with no sense of personal accountability. This differing approach to Carl Denham is probably the most important thematic distinctions between Cooper’s film and Jackson’s. As played by Armstrong, Denham was not a hero, exactly, but he was an amorphously romantic figure who certainly came in for no overt blame for the symbolic death of that primitive powerhouse from the deepest jungle. Seven decades later, however, such a figure can no longer occupy movie screens without judgement, nor, arguably, should he.

The version of Carl Denham played by Black (and, more vitally, scripted by Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens) is the villain of the piece, and it is he, more than the airplanes or even beauty, that kills the beast. There is no other marker in the latest version of Kong clearer than this for the shift in social, cultural, and political sensibilities between 1933 and 2005, that the romanticized witness to destructive spectacle is transformed into the selfish author of a grand tragedy.

Our introduction to Black’s Denham comes in a darkened screening room, where he nervously unspools interminable footage of jungle life for his impatient investors, hoping to secure further funding to finish his ambitious, unnamed film. When he steps out of the room afterwards, we hear that the investors have him pegged: he’s a “preening self-promoter”, a “washed-up”, “ambitious no-talent” who “can’t direct”.

Realizing that his paying audience is slipping away, Denham lets loose with a fantastic tale of a “lost world” never before seen (or filmed, certainly) by man. In his desperation to save his flagging film (and his inflated sense of identity along with it), Denham buys wholesale into the romantic “empty land” myth that undergirds colonialism in all of its incarnations. Trying to sway the doubtful crew of the ship he later commandeers for the purpose of his film, he returns to this rhetorical line, referring to Skull Island (after two previous versions, it is finally named onscreen) as “the last blank space” on the map, reinforcing this dangerously thoughtless imperial attitude.

Jackson approaches this issue, so central to Cooper’s crafting of the origin story of the Kong myth, in an interesting way. Although both his films and his statements about them leave little doubt that he shares Denham’s (and Cooper’s) belief in the grand transformative power of the cinema and its escapist myths, Jackson’s status as a progressive, open-minded artist from New Zealand, a country with a knotty colonial history, prevents him from subscribing to the same naive and arrogant justifying mythos that drives Denham (and that drove Cooper as well).

In the commentary for the extended DVD version of Kong that he recorded with Philippa Boyens, the amateur film historian Jackson talks about the “titillating and exploitative” documentaries of Cooper’s time (some of which Cooper himself made) that focused on so-called “primitive” cultures, depicting “shocking tribal initiation rites” and the hunting of animals, all to give contemporary American audiences what he refers to as a “cheap thrill”. Although the romance and adventure of such films would seem to appeal to the primal film fan inside of him, the underlying racism and brutality of such imagery repulses him as well. One has to wonder, does Jackson feel the same way about the original Kong film that he so adores, a film which features many of those things and, indeed, for all of its vision, could be reductively described as a mere “cheap thrill”?

Jackson chooses to express his ambivalence about the smarmy exploitative instinct that undercuts the Kong narrative’s implied “lost world” myth in the dialogue of his film. As Denham wraps up his grandiose introduction to this mysterious island location, a moustachioed weasel of an investor asks glibly in response, “Will there be boobies?”, punctuating his lechery by sucking creepily on a cigarette. At once laying bare the exploitative heart of imperial hegemony and providing a sly modern satire of the supposed corporate necessity of female objectification, Jackson uses this humorous moment (Black quite obviously relishes the opportunity to utter the word “boobies” in a major motion picture in response) to comment on one element of the cinema that has not much changed in seventy years.

To his credit, however, Denham rejects the idea of inserting “nudie shots” into his putative masterpiece for titillation’s sake, grandly comparing himself to Cecil B. De Mille and demanding that this “cheap lowlife” of an investor “show some class”. Although this reply is positively marinating in Denham’s trademarked hubris and constitutes the final straw for his doubting producers, it establishes a measure of moral (or at least artistic) integrity in a character that will demonstrate diminishing levels of integrity as the film progresses. As we will see, Denham will stoop very low indeed for the sake of success on many later occasions, but naked sexual objectification is a bridge too far for him.

But perhaps he speaks more for Jackson and for the film as a whole than strictly for himself. Unlike what Pauline Kael called the “lewd” and “queasy” sexual innuendo of Cooper’s film or the lascivious, post-Code push-button sexuality of Guillermin’s version, Jackson’s Kong shows little interest in sex, privileging tragic romance over primal eroticism. This is an underappreciated point of departure from the previous versions, and reflects shifting attitudes towards interracial relationships in the modern Western world in general. But it is also a conscious choice by Jackson and his female co-writers, a choice most clearly evident in their version of Ann Darrow.

In the commentary track, Jackson and Boyens discuss their objections to the constructions of Ann as the innocent victim and Kong as the brutal monster in the original film, and the intentional effort they made to proceed in a less clear-cut direction. Presumably, the screenwriters of this newest Kong also wanted to distance themselves from the overbalancing inversion of the relations between beauty and the beast in the 1976 film. But it is also clear that Walsh and Boyens in particular craved a heroine at the heart of this tale who was more in line with notions of modern feminist independence.

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Spawning Ground

David Antrobus

In this ancient place of giant ferns and cedars, it seems the dead outnumber the living; the living fall away too quietly, too easily, taken away by stealth. There is tremendous natural beauty here, but its hold is tenuous, like moss clinging to rotting bark that will ultimately break and sink into the forest floor.

If I were to choose a visual symbol of my adopted home of Mission, an average-size town in the impossibly green western Canadian province of British Columbia, I would probably come up with a rotting carcass in a verdant pasture, a vision of death amid life. If this sounds harsh, hear me out and I'll tell my own truth about this place.

Clinging to the swift-scoured, salmon-haunted northern bank of the mighty Fraser River like an ailing lamprey to the deadly smooth flank of a Great White, this town, situated about 70 kilometers east of Vancouver, owes its entire existence to the water of its rivers and lakes, and to the wood harvested from the dense, surrounding forest. Settled in the mid-19th century, Mission has managed to survive despite two serious floods, a bridge collapse, the ominous early signs of malaise in the natural resource sector (did we really think the salmon and the great conifers were infinitely, magically renewable?), and a general reputation for unfocussed, redneck belligerence.

It all comes down to the Fraser River. The river has brought both food and trade; it provides a thoroughfare upon which the people of Mission (among others) float the great log booms that are the defeated renderings we humans fashion from the vast tracts of coastal rainforest (cedar, spruce, fir, hemlock) in our seemingly inexhaustible compulsion to exploit her resources and bring Mother Nature to her matronly knees — in part because (we believe) we can.

But the details about life in this town — the jeweler murdered in a robbery, the pretty high school graduate killed by a drunk driver, the 14-year-old suicide — in fact, all the jostling narratives crowding like paparazzi, each insisting on exclusive front page drama, bubble and coalesce and ultimately conspire to reveal the hidden Mission. There is a dark vortex lurking beneath the seemingly placid surface; the ominous shadow of something ancient beneath sun-dappled waters. Even the countless apparent banalities playing out on the town's rural borders disguise something deeper, more clandestine: the hobby farmer up in MacConnell Creek bemoaning his exhausted well; the entrepreneur hungry for an investment opportunity, eager to transform the hillsides of quiet, bucolic Silverdale into sudden, lockstep suburbia; the hiker mauled by a black bear in the mountains north of Steelhead. And always, the numerous lives derailed by marijuana grow-op busts. For all the gradual liberalisation of laws at the consumer end of this local economic rival to wood and water, those who supply the celebrated crop usually feel the full force of Canadian justice, anyway. There are times when nothing in Mission seems devoid of some kind of meaning.

A monastery sits above this town, a Benedictine haven of alternating silence and the evocative clatter of Sunday Matins bells. Its tower is phallic and disproportionately defiant, rising above the landscape like a giant darning needle, casting its intrusive shadow over the patchwork quilt of human settlement as if to stitch a final tableaux, symbolically and definitively, of the history of the original inhabitants and their mistreatment at the hands of the white settlers. Said inhabitants were (and are) the Stó:lo people (their language, Halq'eméylem, was an exclusively oral tradition, so the words are spelled phonetically nowadays). Stó:lo territory stretched along the river valley from present-day Vancouver to Yale in the Fraser Canyon, a 170 kilometer swath of virgin, fecund land, teeming with such totemic creatures as salmon, ancient sturgeon, deer, black bear, cougar, coyote, beaver, and wolf.

The Stó:lo, a Native American (or First Nations) people belonging to the larger group of Central Coast Salish, settled this area around 10,000 years ago. Europeans, attracted by rumours of gold, arrived in the 1850s. The resulting clash of cultures did not work out well for the indigenous people, and today they are still recovering from the trickle-down effects of at least one generation having been torn from its extended family. Residential schools, for which the monastery in Mission is a present-day symbol, were sites of a particularly virulent form of cultural genocide. First Nations children across Canada were taken from their homes, often exposed to physical and sexual abuse and occasionally murder, their mouths scoured with soap if they even dared to utter their own languages. St. Mary's in Mission, founded in 1861 and relinquished in 1984, was the last residential school in Canada to close.

There are 82 Indian Reserves in the Fraser Valley. There are eight correctional institutions, two in Mission alone (Aboriginal people represent around four percent of the Canadian population, yet account for 18 percent of the federally incarcerated population). Somebody — something? — really likes to control and segregate people, around here.

This fragmentation is reflected in the odd demographics of the town in general. Leaving their multicultural mark have been, at various times, Italians in Silverdale, Swedes in Silverhill, the French in Durieu, the Japanese in the early years of the fruit industry (as in the US, the Japanese were rewarded for their labours by being sent to internment camps in 1942), and immigrants from India in the early days of the shake and shingle mills. (The Western Red Cedar, with its straight grain, durability, and imperviousness to the incessant rain, while inspiring Native culture with the quixotic grandeur of totem poles, grabbed more prosaic European imaginations in the form of the shake and shingle industry, which provides reliable roofing and siding components for homes.)

In some ways, Mission is a vibrantly conflicted example of Canada's multicultural mosaic. With just over 30,000 residents (of which 3,000 are First Nations) mostly crammed into a relatively small area, bordered by the river to the south and the mountains to the north, mill workers and biker gangs, artists and Mennonites, muscle car boys and summer folkies, soccer moms and Sikh Temple-goers, merchants and pagans, Freemasons and caffeine addicts, street people and Renaissance Faire anachronisms all rub shoulders with varying degrees of friction, occasionally achieving harmony in spite of themselves. Perhaps the relative accord is due to the overall youth of the population (73 percent are under 35-years-old).

Earlier, I mentioned the presence of death. Why? Because it is everywhere here, its proximity eerily palpable. It inhabits the sly rustle of the towering conifers. It taints the air with the swampy pungency of skunk cabbage in springtime. It hums incessantly in the sub-woofer buzz of the hydroelectric dams. It shuffles along in the downcast, scuff-shoed limp of a lone child returning to a chilly home. From a distance, even the monks in their dark cassocks, knit-browed and bound by their vows of silence, seem eerily close to the Reaper caricature. For actual evidence of its pervasiveness, though, one need not go far back in time.

The bodies of three women were dumped between here and neighbouring Agassiz back in '95. Suicides and the furtive aftermath of murder, barely registering in the town at all, have spattered Burma Road, a potholed strip of rocks and dirt skirting the shore of Stave Lake. In 1997, Doug Holtam of Silverdale (a small community west of Mission) bludgeoned his pregnant wife and six-year-old daughter to death with a hammer. Against all odds, his young son Cody survived the attack. In 1995, a drunk driver, leaving in his wake not only the proverbial outpouring of community grief but also a devastated twin sister, killed 18-year-old Cindy Verhulst during the week she and her peers were busy celebrating their high school graduation. There was the little boy who slipped away from his day care centre and drowned in the swollen Fraser River. The 12-year-old boy found hanging from a school washroom towel dispenser. The elderly pilot whose body was discovered in dense forest a full two years after he had gone missing. And there was Dawn-Marie Wesley, a 14-year-old Native girl who took her own life in the basement of her home after enduring relentless bullying at school; barely noticed in life, Oprah material in death.

As disturbing and tragic as these stories are, however, there was little precedent for the breaking news in the summer of 2003. This one will need a little background.

Since the mid-'80s, women have been disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Canada's poorest postal code. Partly due to the initial incompetence of the Vancouver Police Department and jurisdictional issues with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), partly due to the amorphous (read: investigative nightmare) nature of the disappearances, and partly because so few people cared about missing hookers and addicts, more and more women went missing, with nary a ripple in the public consciousness (or conscience). In fact, as of this writing, a horrifying total of 65 individuals are currently on the Missing Women list. For years, law enforcement didn't even refer to their disappearance as crimes, and it wasn't until 1998 that an official task force was even assigned to investigate.

Finally, in February 2002, Robert William Pickton, a pig farmer from the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam (approximately half way between Vancouver and Mission), was charged with two counts of first-degree murder of two of the missing women. More charges followed in the months ahead. Pickton currently faces 15 counts of first-degree murder with seven more expected. DNA samples of 31 women have been linked to his 10-acre farm. In short, potentially the largest serial murder case in Canadian history is now underway just 35 kilometers from Mission.

Given the frequent intrusion of death into the area, I suppose it should have surprised no one when, on 20 July 2003, the missing women's joint task force announced they would be searching an area of wetlands near Mission. Just south of Highway 7 (aka the Lougheed Highway) and the man-made body of water known as Silvermere (itself the subject of a delightfully creepy urban legend or two), the area is basically marshland bisected by a meandering slough. Immediately following the announcement of the search, the site was fenced off with temporary chain link, and the highway's wide shoulders — traditionally home to roadside fruit and flower vendors hawking their locally grown products — were suddenly and unequivocally off-limits.

Driving this formerly innocuous stretch of blacktop, especially under the after-dusk arc lights, with their swirling bug armadas and liquid island oases in the dark, now touched off an indescribably eerie feeling. It was a relief when, on 8 August, the entire ensemble of law enforcement personnel (numerous forensic investigators plus 52 anthropologists) took up their tools again and vanished. They gave no word of what they had uncovered or even whether anything had been found at all, leaving our community to its familiar, fitful dreams once more. Mission's part in this unfolding story, as it relates to the wider world, remains amorphous and indistinct, with its usual chilly glints of barely suppressed horror flickering amid the overall grey.

Here, it seems, empirical proof takes a back seat to rumour and anecdote every time.

Sometimes, while hiking alone in the tree-bejeweled mountains west of Steelhead, east of the dams, I have suddenly felt the fetid breath of graves, a harsh raven-shadow lurking behind the abundant emerald and olive greens of this sodden paradise. Inexplicable noises in the deep tangled brush; distant rending, gnashing. Something skulking and hungry. With all the assured rationality of the white male immigrant, I've been known to smirk at the idea of ghosts, and yet stumbling along a jade-tunnel trail bristling with old man's beard and devil's club, I've occasionally recoiled from something, the skin of my arms prickling with gooseflesh. There are spirits here, all right, something not too far removed from the capricious tricksters who inhabit indigenous myth. Spectres of a kind, nursing some nameless, hollow ache of unrequited need rendered manifest, paradoxically, by a landscape dripping with life.

The closest we Europeans get to perceiving this (however inadvertently) can be heard in the low extended rumble of the nighttime freight trains as they call out in the dark, hunching parallel to Railway Avenue long after most residents are asleep, lonely as a buffalo herd that's somehow seen and almost comprehended its own approaching ruin.

Of course, my telling is by no means the complete, illustrated history of Mission, a town that can barely hold onto its own name (since 1884, take your pick: St. Mary's Mission, Mission Junction, Mission City, Village of Mission, Town of Mission, and currently the District of Mission). Not by a long shot; this lurid splash portrays but a small corner of the canvas. How can any one person paint the full picture of a community, after all? No, despite my perverse zeal to stir the viscous mud below the bright surface, great deeds and happy memories adorn the history of this place, too, adding the sparkle and lustre of life above and hopefully beyond the stillness and silence. And yet, no matter how much joie de vivre this community may exhibit on its special days, like a red-carpet celebrity when the cameras start rolling — whether it be the laughing children with their maple leaf flags and pancake stacks celebrating Canada Day up at Heritage Park, or the benevolently stoned crowd at the annual Folk Festival, or even the choked air and sharp adrenaline at the Raceway — surely one thing cannot go unremarked: nearly half of those missing-presumed-dead women were of Aboriginal descent. This adds one more layer of indifference to a jaded populace apparently caught somewhere between the small town rural cruelties of its past and the uneasy suburban shrugs of its gathering future.

I know this. I worked with the street kid population here for years, witnessed their hardscrabble resilience. Few people ever gave a genuine damn about the plight of these children, even though some of the throwaways had not yet reached puberty. Two-thirds of street-involved youth in Mission are Aboriginal. Many are sexually exploited by family members, neighbors, pimps and selected citizens, but few speak of it. Some of these kids head west to Vancouver for a date with misery, stretching already tenuous community ties to the breaking point. My job as a street worker was to speak for these lost children, to ensure some semblance of the child welfare system would kick in through advocacy with social workers or teachers or families or counselors or probation officers. In a world in which the so-called "bottom line" — money and the politics of money — has become drawn too garishly, these already marginalized youth were, and continue to be, largely abandoned by a system designed to protect them. Sometimes I stand beside the town's failing heart, its run down main drag (1st Avenue), taking in the pawnshops and thrift outlets and dollar stores, and I'm convinced I truly hate this place... but only because I've loved it so deeply. In life: death. In death: life. The great inscrutable cycle.

In this way, the perennially troubled summer Pow Wow, always skirting the edge of ruin (corrupt, inept politics and sporadic funding, take a bow), yet often prevailing regardless, seems to me a far more accurate symbol of the clutching, ragged breaths that secretly haunt the sleep of this community. The fleeting vibrant colours of traditional dancers whirling in bright regalia — poignant as the plumage of endangered birds, flying amongst the high wailing melismas of the Northern-style singing and the vital, aorta-punching drums of the circles — somehow speaks more of an unavenged wound in time and place, set amid the cruelty that underlies so much beauty, than anything else this conflicted human settlement seems capable of offering.

An absurd contrast, really — this vibrant gathering and the judgmental silence of all those surrounding stories of the dead — the whole place holding its breath waiting for these mortal sorrows to purge themselves before the pristine lawns and asphalt and vinyl sidings are allowed to spread and eventually suffocate every fucking thing that ever felt like something here.

For here, tenacious as the town itself alongside relentless churning waters, the living will no doubt cling to hope and the perpetual dream of life until the muscled river — unnoticed, stealthy, taken for granted — wrestles away everything (horror, joy, splintered wood and the final word) at long last, sending it all tumbling toward the planet's dark and pitiless seas for good.

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