• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 08

Long Gone Bye

There's a story I heard
that "I Melt With You"
was based on an actual incident
that took place in the Karakan Pine Forest
in the dead of winter of 1933 —
the coldest ever recorded.

I am told that two peasants
collecting woods
found themselves freezing to death
despite being dressed in layers of
sheepskin kozhukhs
and woolen papakha hats.
To survive
they raided a hut
filled with hundreds of
wax candles and
set them on every
tree in the forest
all of them straight
and tall
like soldiers.
The men lit the candles
and were briefly warm.


Long Gone Bye

But they did not know
that the hut belonged to a witch
and were made from tallow
taken from unbaptized infants
which is hard to acquire.
When the witch saw
what they had done
she shrieked and made a spell
that heated up
the entire forest.

At first it was tolerable,
like a Turkish bath,
and then it became uncomfortable
but bracing
like a Russian bath
and then it got hotter.

The two men
watched each other
as their skin bubbled
and dripped
and eventually
they just melted away
like the candles they stole.

To this day
if you go to the Karakan Pine Forest
the trees are bent
like drunks, like dancers,
and it is said this is why.

I later found out
that this was not the story
that inspired the
song by Modern English
but instead it was inspired by
singer Robbie Grey's
fear of nuclear bombs,
but I guess we all fear
that something will come
screaming out of the east
and twist our forests
and we will be helpless
as skin loosens
and drips
and we
at last
are reduced
to higher alkanes and lipids,
now liquid
and hissing

on the ground.