Quentin S Crisp
Introducing New Autumn.
In New Autumn, the air will tingle with many fresh and unfamiliar scents, which will, as the season recurs, become familiar. All coins will be newly minted, bank notes crisply printed, in previously unseen currencies. These currencies will actually smell of mint, though mainly in an analogous way: the freshness of mint as translated into the olfactory languages of vanilla, wood shavings, creosote and so on.
These currencies, when exchanged one for another, will breed, creating hybrid currencies with new, unpredictable values.
New Autumn will consist of innumerable curtains of silky, almost palpable darkness, on which may be projected moving three-dimensional backdrops. There will be depth to these scenes, but no relief; they must be stepped into.
New Autumn is as much an endless sky without separate worlds as it is an underground nowhere without sky.
Futurology is useless in understanding New Autumn, since New Autumn is not a projection from present data. Rather, New Autumn is coming from the future to meet us. Or, if the future is north, then New Autumn falls like russet dew from northeast and northwest.
Progress as you know it, a concept that has long relied on a scientific and politically liberal framework, has mistaken an assumption for its destination; it is, rather, a by-product of life, like excrement. New Autumn is not life. Because the two are not yet connected, many do not understand the value of New Autumn in relation to life. However, if life teleported from its current position, leaping—without crossing—intervening space, to the perfumed haze of the New Autumn superposition, there would be no by-products. Assumptions would be shed like leaves. The tree of the merging of life and New Autumn would stand bare and luxurious.
There are two versions of New Autumn, one of which is a decoy. New Autumn warns you against the seductive deceptions of orthodoxy or heterodoxy, depending on what you fear and what you wish for. For instance, one characteristic trick of New Autumn is to tell you that your false fears are true and then flatter you for facing up to them. Or it may reassure you that your true fears are false. They are “merely orthodoxy”. Or else, they are “disreputable heterodoxy”. Either way, what is wrong is wrong because of a relativity of opposition—like a trick played with mirrors—and for no other reason. The orthodox is wrong because it is orthodox; the heterodox is wrong because it is heterodox.
This is one aspect of one version of New Autumn.
New Autumn was promised in the 1990s. Fonts of elfin subtlety, like eyes winking softly open, glowing with the intelligence of dream.
A forest of bright shop windows after closing time. The fruit of darkness.
To enter the kitchen showroom as if it were a shrine of living mystery. Gone, the distrust that made reality and nightmare interchangeable; now there is this smiling curiosity as we both turn our eyes to the enigma of some plastic object.
Each mundane, mercantile establishment now wears the hues and tones of a mood-lit photograph in a lingerie catalogue.
If you look closely in the rather miserable streets through which you are so often obliged to walk, you might still find traces of the old adverts for New Autumn. The more traces you find, the easier it becomes to find further traces. But none of these traces provide a clue as to when or where New Autumn will arrive, so that you begin to suspect it has already been, without your noticing.
We cannot think of nothing, because it does not exist, but we can think of New Autumn despite its not existing. Or maybe we can’t think of it, even though it does exist.
Any sufficiently advanced technology might appear as magic, but no technology can simulate New Autumn. Even mystics do not understand it. Having studied mystical writing and been granted mystical experience, I can see that the knowledge spoken of by mystics is transparent, or, occasionally, white or black.
New Autumn is quite other than this. For many years now I have felt myself growing aged and infantile under the exquisite curse of seeing colours that do not yet exist, and wondering how to transmit them to my fellow humans. I have never encountered the barest hint of them in the words of any other human being. There is, of course, the real possibility that I am insane. When I contemplate this, I feel, at first, a parching fear. Then I think, if insanity has these colours, it is all I desire.Many attempts have been made to eliminate the very concept of New Autumn. So the echo grows, of nothing, and the nothing that we are diminishes.
Many attempts have been made to eliminate the very concept of New Autumn. So the echo grows—of nothing—and the nothing that we are diminishes.
I understand that much of what I write is self-contradiction.
I once heard of a man who cancelled all his updates and wandered in the suburbs of a degentrifying corner of the city. He came upon a kiosk at the edge of an abandoned fairground. The woman inside was selling things that made the man feel sadness and delight. He suspected that all the goods were worthless, but desired them all so much he became indifferent to buying. Finally, he bought some Tattooed Bat cigarettes and a book of matches like a trapeze artist’s underwear. On the cigarette packet was a warning that the contents would have an endlessly ambiguous effect on an individual’s health. He opened the pack, and lit a cigarette on the spot. The smoke came in antique bunting of red, yellow, green and blue, and tasted as sherbet might if it had as many flavours as a Catherine wheel has colours. There was a map inside the flap of the book of matches, and it indicated, in a dotted line, a narrow footpath from the kiosk to an opening between trees on a nearby hillock.
He took the path, and everything, indeed, happened; but he was free of it.
As I write this, the wind at the open crack of window is soft, as if a child lost his favourite mitten among fallen leaves, found it again a week later and, putting it on, became the wind, smelling of old earth; and now fumbles at my window for reasons I don’t understand.
Come New Autumn, the softness will be sharp, as if the wind is made of patterned wrapping paper. Its caress will leave paper cuts in our skin, and instead of blood, from these clean cuts there will issue secrets we have kept so long we have forgotten them.
I look at my teapot. Sehnsucht is a word indicating an ineffable longing for you know not what distant thing. I wonder what the expression is that indicates an ineffable longing for what is here now. Perhaps it is mono no aware.
New Autumn, I begin to believe, is in our heads, and yet not in our heads. We need to devise some way to give mutual signs to show the fullness of its coming.
Quentin S Crisp was born in North Devon, U.K., in 1972. His first collection of stories, The Nightmare Exhibition, was published in 2001 by BJM Press. His most recent, Defeated Dogs, in 2013 by Eibonvale Press. He hopes, with time, to write more about Annette Funicello and less about anhedonia.