Under the Skin

Now that’s how a story ends! “Here I come,” she said. Blowing up her car and taking herself out with it. This is a strange almost sci-fi book filled with lyrical writing. The otherness of it sneaks up on you. The story opens with a woman picking up hitchhikers along the road in Scotland, making sure they are beefy male specimens. Only the end result is to kidnap them and hustle them back to the farm where the workers (considered “human beings” but they seem to be hairy, walking on 4 legged creatures) fatten the hitchers up then carve them up as meat. Beautiful writing and a strange story, but perfectly paced. Reco’d by Luke from Hell World, who included this passage in his write-up:

Isserley drove through the open fields, where massive round hay-bales lay scattered like black holes in the horizon. One field lay fallow, the opposite one was lush with the dark secretive greenery of potatoes. Here and there, bushes and trees that served no agricultural purpose sprouted up towards the heavens, displaying hardy flowers or long fragile twigs, each according to its kind.

Isserley knew what Amlis must be feeling: here was plant life that did not need to be grown in tanks or grubbed out of chalky, slimy soil, but that grew straight up into the air like a gush of joy. Here was acre upon acre of tranquil fecundity, taking care of itself with no apparent help from humans. And he was seeing Ablach’s fields in winter: if only he could see what happened here in spring! …

At the great gate at the end of the Ablach path, not far short of the cliffs, Isserley stopped the car and turned off the engine. From here there was a clear view of the North Sea, which was silver tonight, under a sky whose eastern reaches were grey with advancing snow, while the west was still bright with the moon and stars.

‘Oh,’ said Amlis feebly.

He was in shock, more or less, she could tell. He stared straight ahead at the immense, impossible waters, and she stared at the side of his face, secure in the knowledge that he was unaware of her longing.

After a long time, Amlis was ready to ask a question. Isserley knew what it was going to be before he even opened his mouth, and answered him before he could speak. That thin line of brightness there,’ she pointed. That’s where the sea ends. Well, it doesn’t really end there, it goes on forever. But that’s where our perception of it ends. And above that: that’s where the sky begins. You see?’ It was almost cruelly poignant, but delightful too, the way Amlis seemed to regard her as the custodian of an entire world, as if it belonged to her. Which, perhaps, it did.