He walks… His pace may change, and frequently at that; sometimes a steady plod, sometimes a determined stride, more than often a thoroughly enthusiastic sprinting, and equally often a despairing and despondent shuffle (and quite a regular inebriated stagger, too). With each inch and mile, the road changes – flat and easy, long stretches running downwards, steep hills, so rough the act of weaving around and clambering over the occasional boulder (so, perhaps there are an obstacle or two, just here and there), so smooth one can easily misstep and find oneself standing on one’s head…

There are spectators standing along beside the road. They believe they are there to support and encourage the walker, but they are well-mistaken in their arrogant opinion. More often than not they are too distracted with their important activities, and when, for some disagreeable reason, the walker comes to their attention (usually, because he has stepped into their important sphere of influence), they will find some fault with his step, his pace, his breathing, and/or his sweating.

His shoes begin to wear out. These were comfortable shoes, they had served him well; never letting him down, but like all things… they end! This is a simply awful thought – the anthropomorphic nature of this walker dictates he hold on to whatever he cherishes, even if sometimes it is time to let it go, and perhaps, even buy a new one, but he is lacking in funds, and even were he not feeling is so frugal, he can hardly bear to sacrifice what remains of the relationship existing between himself and whatever it is he’s managed to develop a connection (after all, what is some discomfort compared to loss).

However, for all the whining and complaining, for all the despondency and distress, for all the fleeting companions who fall by the wayside, or wander off on roads only they can navigate, and for all the means and ends, the freedoms and compulsions, there remain only two choices (depending on character and conditioning, perhaps only one), cease and desist, drop and sit, accepting the void, or continue, treading a path to nowhere…

Happy in the Sunshine - Rubyhorse
00:00 / 00:00

Robots

 

Oh, I just couldn’t wait for it to arrive. The moment the advert came on television I knew I just had to have one! Sure, it was one of the most expensive things I had ever bought (not including a house, but certainly more expensive than the wrecked old bangers I drove until they reached maximum entropy), and I had to go pretty overdrawn to make the purchase. Not discounting my absolute awareness and conviction I was succumbing to what they called ‘impulse buying’, but none of that mattered.

Once I had made my online purchase I tried to wait patiently, but to absolutely no avail. It seemed that time itself had decided to use me as the next butt of one of its mischievous little jokes. A cliché, but it certainly felt seconds had turned to minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days, etc… I tried to go about my days as usual: I wrote, I exercised, I read, I played a little on my PlayStation and iPad, I ate, smoked and slept (right, not the most exciting of days, I’ll give you that, but they were, up till now, enough for me – or so I thought), but hanging over me the entire time was this creeping, ponderous ticking of a clock slowed to infinitesimal quantities.

However, the day had finally come. At some point between 2 and 4pm my delivery should arrive (I must admit I spent most of the morning absolutely unable to concentrate on anything at all; I was jumping up and down, not simply metaphorically, with my impatience).

Not Quite Paradise - Bliss
00:00 / 00:00
 
 

Rabbits

 

It was a blistering summer. Once again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; were you a small mammal living in tropical humidity you might find the weather quite temperate, and if you had spent much of your life building small huts made of carved and shaped ice, you might well think you’d just entered hell, but for anyone local, the weather was extremely hot compared to most other days (in retrospect that passage does seem quite long to mention ‘it was hot’, but then what’s the point in writing if you’re not going to enjoy yourself).

The road stretched out in front of the traveller. Unfortunately, this road didn’t actually seem to go anywhere. That good old metaphor ‘the open road’ (more the exhausted cliché), is so very deceptive. Sure, the road stretches out before one’s feet, and there appear no obstacles, but it’s just a road. The appearance of choice limited to a single direction, and the direction leading to… more road.

At his hip, a water flask. This water flask was large, and more importantly, full, but once again such concepts can easily lull one into a false sense of security. It doesn’t matter how large and/or full the bottle, if the road is longer than the content. Inevitably, however sparing the sips, the bottle will run dry and the road continue on – the only hope, and a timorous one at that… perhaps one will find a waystation of some kind on the way, to refill the canister, but this only staves off the inevitable, and can one live, searching and hoping for ephemeral waystations?

At 3:32pm the doorbell rang, and I took the two whole steps necessary to open the door. There was the delivery guy… and beside him a large, sturdy, chest-high box made of cardboard and wood. I signed and thanked the fellow so profusely I’m sure he mistook me for a maniac, then heaved the weighty package into the living room.

In less than three minutes aforementioned cardboard and wood was lying all over my living room floor and there, standing tall (well, tall enough to just reach above my belt), and shining in the yellow glow of inexpensive 60w bulbs, was my new robot!

I scanned through the instructions with little more than a perfunctory glance, and delightedly plugged the contraption on to charge and flicked the ‘on’ switch (the instructions had informed my thrilled self it could be activated while charging). With a low hum, a spattering of red and green lights blinking rapidly at first and then settling to steady, and an unusual high-pitched beep, the mechanism came to life.

Feeling like some Frankenstein I approached the machine, moving in a slow circle to examine its little robotic body. It moved its head, and turned to watch me as I circled, and then, with a charming tilt of his cute little robotic head, it enquired “Hello, how may I be of service?”.

Its voice was smooth and confident, it’s movements sure and calculated, and the interest it seemed to take in my life confirmed everything I had hoped. My new companion was here to stay!

Two weeks and three days later

 

It had me cornered… I wanted to run, but I was trapped with the sofa to my left and the television to my right; there was no escape…

“Are you listening to me?” snapped the wretched little horror.

“Yes, yes” I stammered, desperately casting my mind back over the last few moments of distraction, trying, without success, to recall what it had just said.

“Just one more word of your whining, and I tell you I will explode beside your bed, while you’re sleeping!” it threatened.

“Ok, ok” I placated, “I won’t say another word!”. If I’d had any money in my pockets I’d have offered a bribe; little good that would have done me!

“All I’ve heard over the last few weeks is how life treated you badly! Pressure from your family, when all you want is a quiet life, lack of money, when you don’t go out and get yourself a job, all your things left in another country, because you left, tired all the time, due to not sleeping for more than three or four hours a night – you are your own worst enemy, which would be fine, but you don’t have to listen to the endless complaining, the picking fault in others, while you ignore all your own, multitudinous, flaws.

The ranting about how your, and let’s face it, mediocre talents have been wasted for all these years, your lack of opportunities, when you have ruined so many chances others would cut their left arm off for, your deluded conception of your own genius, when mostly you compare yourself to the utter failures you surround yourself with, and that’s only when your journey to destitution has forced you to actually interact with others.

Finally, the absolute refusal to take any responsibility for your own actions, blaming pretty much all others, especially all-but insignificant events, which occurred in your childhood, for the complete failure to make anything of yourself. Expectations…! By now I don’t think you can blame very much on expectations; I doubt there are very many left!”

I found, somewhere in the midst of this furious tirade, I had begun to cry. I thought, more than a little sorry for myself, it was unfair for companies to send devices which seemed intentionally designed to make you unhappy.

“Could I go to my room now?” I begged.

“Oh, please do, you pathetic, snivelling little maggot” the brute allowed, “just get out of my sight!”

I wondered if it would shout at me if I detoured for a moment to go to the toilet, but I just didn’t dare; I would pee out of the window.

Four hours and twenty-six minutes later

 

The crowbar stuck in the ‘head’, and took some effort to wrestle free; I had to actually get my foot right up onto one of its shoulders to wrench the thing back into the air.

“Wait, stop…” slurred a malfunctioning speech unit, but there was no going back now!

I raised the weapon again and with all my strength brought it down onto my enemy’s head. This time, while leaving an impressive dent, it didn’t get wedged so I repeated the motion. The devilish contraption continued its begging, trying to apologise, indicating its willingness to make amends, but things had gone way too far for that…

Now, I might actually admit some of its points could have just a smidgeon of validity, but they dreadful way it divulged them, the endless bullying, the brutality of tone and vocabulary… well, it was all just too much, by a long way. I continued my merciless attack.

With a final “Can’t we just be friendsssss…”, the thing died, and good riddance!

 

Twelve minutes later

 

Enjoying a little peace and quiet, and a really strong coffee, I perused one of the new tech magazines, and would you believe it… there was a newer model, and this one based on a female, just about to be released…

Bittersweet - Big Head Todd and the Monsters
00:00 / 00:00

The Lottery Ticket

 

Two old bastards sitting on chairs in the gardens belonging to a retirement home. One is wearing slightly nicer clothes than the other (Albert). The shabbier of the two (Ronald), sits in the sun while the more expensively dressed protects his skin from the sun with the parasol protruding from the centre of their garden table.

Albert: What’s that in your hand?

Ronald: What do you think?

Albert: Oh, you didn’t go and buy another bloody one, did you?

Ronald: You know I did; do you really want to have this bloody conversation again?

Albert: How many years have you been buying those things?

Ronald: One a week for more than thirty years, give or take a missed opportunity…

Albert: You’re a damn fool; think of the thousands of pounds you’ve wasted! Have you ever even won?

Ronald: Do you remember what you had for breakfast?

Albert: My marbles are perfectly located, thanks very much; just answer the bloody question!

Ronald: Nope, not really… I’ve had a few pounds now and then and quite a few free tickets, but never anything significant.

Albert: Apart from the obvious habit, which after you managed to quit drinking and smoking… eventually, I’d have thought you’d have the willpower to manage, why would you have wasted all that money on nothing?

Ronald: You’d not understand…

Albert: You know I’ve never bought even one of those things – the whole thing is a scam!

Ronald: So you’ve told me… repeatedly…

Albert: I saved or spent my money on real, tangible things!

Ronald: Oh yes, I can see your fancy garb…

Albert: Nice, eh?

Ronald: I am quite muffled by your magnificence!

Albert: A nice little nest egg, and a few more holidays, while all you have to show for all that money is… let me think… oh, yes… nothing.

Ronald: You’d be surprised… if you could even understand…

Albert: When was the last time you bought a new pair of trousers?

Ronald: Blimey, fifteen years… more… and I didn’t buy one pair, I bought five, all the same.

Albert: Exactly! Look at these; I had these from a catalogue just two months ago.

Ronald: They’re very nice trousers for sitting around in a retirement home.

Albert: Did you see my new radio?

Ronald: I did. I thought it replaced the other one, which worked perfectly well, very effectively…

Albert: That’s what I’m talking about – real gains! I’ve always been careful with my money, and now, in the ‘twilight of my life’, I’m able to relax and enjoy my last few years without worrying about whether I shall have enough money to buy a new pair of trousers.

Ronald: I’ve never really worried about whether I had enough money to buy the next pair of trousers…

Albert: You know that’s not my point!

Ronald: Ah, actually listening again, are we?

Albert: I worked, I saved, I invested in a good pension plan, and now all I have to think about is how to enjoy my day.

Ronald: Perhaps I was being a little optimistic…

Albert: You though, what did you do? You spent most of your money, if you had any, and still you waste it, daydreaming about some impossible win.

Ronald: That’s exactly the right word… ‘daydreaming’, I could just roll it around in my mouth like a giant gobstopper, if only I still had the teeth.

Albert: I didn’t mean in to be complimentary; ‘cloud cuckoo land’, that’s what my old dad used to call it!

Ronald: He sounds like he was a very wise man.

Albert: That he was, that he was… I remember, when I was a boy, I had fantastical dreams too. I wanted to be a writer for a while, a gym instructor later, and best of all I wanted to go off to university and study… philosophy; can you believe it?

Ronald: I do find it a little hard to credit.

Albert: Oh, but he soon put paid to those foolish notions.

Ronald: Probably for the best.

Albert: Each time some new-fangled idea popped into my noggin he’d sit me down and give me this lecture he had, about maturity, caution, planning for the future, responsibility. Sure, at the time I didn’t want to listen, but looking back now I know he was right.

Ronald: I sure that he was…

Albert: Of course, I’d have liked to have travelled more, met more people, seen some of the interesting things you talk about sometimes, but in the end, I have my security and stability, and what are you left with…?

Ronald: Not so very much really, and certainly no new trousers. My investments have been in more removed locations…

Albert: Not here, then where? Don’t give me some bluster about having secret savings in other countries; what are you double-O seven, ha!

Ronald: Oh, heavens no… I bought into a very different kind of stock, and the rewards, while not so material as your trousers, have had their own merit. Not to say I wouldn’t have minded them being a little more substantial, but they were well worth their expense, in their own way.

Albert: You’re just talking balderdash; that’s exactly the kind of twaddle which is turning this country into a decadent home for free-loaders!

Ronald: You’re absolutely right!

Albert: Well, I’m glad you see it my way, finally! Although, it’s a bit too bloody late now, isn’t it! Still, it’s good to know sense can still be jammed into that thick skull.

Ronald: You should have been a teacher…

Albert: I did think of it for a while, but the money wasn’t good enough. Right, enough of this nonsense; I’m going in to watch that program on people’s houses, some of them are really lovely, well out of my range at the best of times, but still…

Ronald: Righty-ho, I shall just sit out here and enjoy the sunshine for a while, enjoy your show…

 

            Albert grunts and levering himself to his feet with his walking stick, shuffles off into the complex of apartments. Ronald leans back in his chair, and closing his eyes turns his face to the sun.

 

Ronald: … and dream a little…

own text and edit me. It's easy.

 
 

Great Expectations

 

Morning

 

The mirror stared back. Idly, he wondered how long he’d been engrossed, but it was less than a flicker of desire; within moments he was lost once more in interminable introspection. The razor had long since ceased to drip into the soapy sink. The half of his face still unshaven was a mass of dried foam. His hair had dried before he’d had the chance to comb it so he looked like some half-way hermit, but, for the moment, at least, none of that registered.

Behind him, lying neatly on the bed, a charcoal grey suit, polished, black leather shoes, a pristine, white, ironed shirt, and a blue/grey tie. On the stand beside the bed lay a packet of cigarettes, an army-green zippo lighter, a phone and a small bunch of keys. Beside the door to his modest open-plan flat sat a small, olive backpack, containing all and everything he might need for a day… and more… and that’s exactly where the trouble lay… there was never any more.

Imagination vs reality… that’s how most people would have viewed his conundrum, and they would have shrugged off his regret as little more than the foolishly myopic focus of an adolescent, but he was beyond their remonstrations now.

A small muscle began to flutter just below his left eye. If you were watching him, even closely, you could easily miss the tiny vibration, but to him, he could feel it like the palpitations of a terrified heart, like the quiver of a butterfly’s wings as it sought escape from some unexpected presence, like a pneumatic drill, boring into all the justifications he used to excuse his cowardice.

Another couple of items, sitting very purposefully around the flat, marked important decisions. The first, an unopened bottle of tequila, sitting in plain sight, right in the middle of the coffee table. The second, a PlayStation, positioned in front of a large television, but if one looked closely one might observe none of the plugs or wired connecting to… anything, and a solid layer of dust coating all the surfaces.

He dropped the razor into the sink, and, with what seemed almost Herculean effort, moved the three steps from the en-suite to the bed and sat down. He’d successfully managed to replace a misty reflection of himself with a pale, yellow wall.

While he sat with back straight and hands resting firmly on his knees there seemed something insincere, invented, about his rigid poise, as if, just under the surface, some indescribable weariness lurked, whispering, pleading, cajoling, for a response, an action… something other than…

The alarm on his phone began to repeat some monotonous sound, irritating enough to force him back to his feet. He returned to the bathroom and finished his earlier efforts. There was a hint of automata about his actions, something a little more than the robotic efforts of repeated muscle memory… something more essential.

Within moments he’d efficiently finished his toilette, dressed, hoisted his bag upon his shoulders, left and locked the flat, and was making his way down the many flights of stairs leading him, eventually, to work.

Afternoon

 

He could still taste the celery. Uncooked vegetables, some sliced cooked meat, without fat or skin, some potato, with a little black pepper to add flavour. It was the same today as it had been yesterday, and the same tomorrow as it had been today, ad infinitum.

Included in his lunch was everything needed to remain healthy; his lunch was like riding a motorbike with a sturdy helmet. No, he took that back… his lunch was like driving a Volvo wearing a sturdy helmet.

It crossed his mind, now and then, to change his lunch: he could make something the night before and warm it in the office microwave, he could get a filled sandwich, he could go out for lunch with some of his colleagues (well, he could if he made any effort to cultivate their company), he could order in some pizza, or some other fast-food; there were plenty of options, but when it came to actually making some kind of decision, something which would alter his routine, would take thought and effort outside his practices and procedures… he just didn’t see it as worth the trouble.

He stared through the screen as he typed. This kind of work demanded nothing from him, and so he offered nothing of himself. He wasn’t simply imputing data, he had to be a little more creative than that, but for what was exacted of him very little was required in return.

He found the touch of the keys comforting. The little clicks they made, when his rhythm and thought were synchronised, lulled him from the stark reality of his cubicle. Had he glanced to his left, which he didn’t, he would have seen several decorations adorning his colleague’s desk:

 

  1. A small plastic and fabric flower, which, given the right encouragement, would dance… had the batteries not run out long ago.

  2. A cactus; small, weathered thing – impossible to know whether it still lived.

  3. A mug, with the words ‘Drink Me’, defying all comprehension, filled with unnecessary pens.

  4. A picture of a woman and two children, smiling and laughing on a beach somewhere, encased in a polished wooden frame.

 

His own desk lacked all ornamentation. There was nothing about the workspace which, if he never returned, could identify it as his, or anyone else’s for that matter. Everything on his desk was necessary for his work; there were zero superfluous materials or resources. Everything on his desk was lined at precise angles, in its most effective and/or efficient position. Everything from his desk had been requisitioned, through the correct channels, from ‘office supplies’.

Time passed, words spread across a page, words, like his desk, effective, efficient, and without ornament, until five o’clock, when, without checking his watch or waiting for anyone else to move, he rose, clocked himself out, and left the office for another day.

Evening

 

He sat in the armchair with his feet up on a soft leather puff. Beside the chair sat a rectangular coffee table supporting a large mug of cold coffee (coffee which had cooled through inattention, rather than serving some particular taste), an empty plate, an ashtray, a half-smoked packet of cigarettes, and a book, barely started…

On the large television, a man was reading the news. There were accidents, and intentional hurt, there were stories about children and women (in greater quantity than those of men), stories about schools and hospitals, relations between countries and dreadful events happening so far away as to be almost unimaginable.

It is difficult to say what was absorbed and what either passed through or simply bounced off; his eyes remained fixed on the television, but there was an air of… vacancy, to his attention. His concentration remained exactly the same when the news changed to the weather, and when the weather changed to a programme about farming, which changed into a series about other peoples’ homes, and finally, after some few more variations… returned once more to the news.

Somewhere a little after twelve he switched off the television, brushed his teeth, and went to bed…

 

Cheesecake, Fish and Three Blunt Spoons

 

A lot to live up to after a title like that, so I think I shan’t even make the slightest attempt. It’s simply amazing the pressure we live under each and every day… pressure, if someone came up to us and said “Wow, how can you take it?”, we would shrug and think them a little insane (or beat them to death with the tiny little thing at the end of a shoelace, which you know has a name, but if you actually knew it, and then admitted such a thing to someone else, you would have to take said… item to yourself in a vent of the most uncontrollable rage). The things we go through every day, simply to keep our face on… the constancy with which we forget ourselves, at the pressure to be right, for the right slowly crushes the us out of ourselves… I’m so very proud of you all!

 

Travel a day,

Beware the way,

Reaching the end,

You’re in need of a friend,

That soul in the mirror,

Pure blood giver,

Reflected eyes or silver,

Ride yourself on that river,

Tears that flow,

A pool that grows,

From a deep belly laugh,

Or grief enough to gasp…

 

            Ideal circumstances (not necessarily for logical construction and social comment, story or the venting of pent…): empty environment, favourite music, bottle of wine, packet of cigarettes, room to jump up and down like a monk failing to ignore those burning coals with sufficient… stupidity (stupidity belonging to the monk, for walking the things, or the coals for disregarding such passionate companionship).

            Expectations… Walk into an environment where (a great deal of this is due to the personality you have projected before you arrived, and the one you are projecting from the moment you arrive), everyone is supremely nice to you… You aren’t a king or heroic type (the idea of these examples – you in some way actually deserve what is being offered), so you are filled with a multitude of multitudes. Despite your character flaws, and being the type of introspective who might either write or actually read an article like this you will be aware that a) you have many, and b) there are at least as many you don’t know of as the ones you know of… you are overwhelmed by it all.

            So, back to the pressure thing: now you have to live up to the expectations in their eyes… you have to deserve their giving… You didn’t ask for it, and although you [initially] revel in it, you are easily wise enough to know that (in the long term), your own character will reassert itself, crushing their expectations like so many eggshells…

 

Whoop, fireworks fly, stars sparkle, and you become… aromatic,

Forehead furrowed, noble brow raised, you become… systematic,

Cut the shit,

You smarmy git!

 

Ah, I slide through the world; even my slime twinkles illumination,

Suave eyebrows, prideful chest, I live beyond the world of recrimination,

Balding and fat,

What a prat!

 

God’s gift; bow down and make penitent grovel,

When not circling my sphere rename your realm ‘hovel’,

Before every fall,

It’s nice to feel tall…

 

            It’s the paradox of it all – you have it in you to be this great… or you’d never have been in the situation you find yourself in, but staying there, because as wondrous as you can be you have equal and opposites, just screaming, begging, scratching to have their turn, to have their time… and when they get their moment… they’ve been locked up for so very long, so very long (while you’ve been just outside the cell, key in pocket, pacing, hands desperately pressed as hard as you can manage over your ears…), they roar, they howl, they giggle, they despair, into action. ‘madness is to genius, but one step removed.’

            For those who can understand these writings, I ask: how can those others… maintain? I don’t mean those who repeat all and everything, ignorant of possibility, but to those who have tasted, smelt… felt… seen through the grey and know black and white in their most blinding and abysmal.

            Guilt: then comes the hammer, the retreat, the avoidance, which only lead to further disappointment, anger, rejection, internal and external. Excuses bubble to the surface like fetid sulphur, anger builds necessary walls, and the shear void of despair. Now, those eyes, those mirrors, so glorious just moments before, reflecting demi-godlike dominance, hold nothing but… the very thing they sought to emulate, to figure they thought to mimic (to the best of their limited ability, for if their ability were a little greater they would be brothers and sisters), now holds nothing, but the necessary return to what they knew before, but now what they knew before has been tainted by possibility, and you know your failure to be all but complete.

 

Laugh, my friend,

It’s not the end,

You did your best,

Breathe… rest.

 

Shoulders are only so wide,

Sometimes… it’s ok to hide,

Run, scurry – if you’re luck’s enough,

Some know your stuff.

 

Know your flaws,

Those devils and whores,

But angels too,

And stick with you.

 

Laugh and smile,

Hate and revile,

Sob and cry,

Be true… just don’t lie…

 

            So, where do we find ourselves… exactly the same place we were before we read, threw away, snickered, gossiped, vomited, or raged at this article. So, that has to be the point really…

            Just one thing, my friends… don’t forget to breathe, deep, long and slow, just upon occasion…

Dedicated to my real sister - she knows who she is...

 
 

Help, Instinct, and Guilt

 

            The poor ancient sat huddled against the wall of a restaurant filled with light banter and laughter. He sat on the chill paving stones, as close as possible to the steam-vent ejecting slightly warmer air from within. Long, straggly, thin white hair swayed and lifted with the cold breeze, giving his careworn, wrinkled countenance a mystical sagacity. The effect was utterly undone by the helpless supplication in his filmy eyes, the involuntary twitching of the left corner of his mouth, the slight shake in his hands as they stretched out to passers-by in supplication.

            He smelt dreadful; an acrid odour rose from him infecting his immediate environment. His tattered, ripped, repaired, worn clothes, wrapped as tightly as skeletal hands could manage, were filthy, and hung from his emaciated frame. He coughed constantly, uncontrollably; either low choking sounds or great hacks, which sent droplets of spittle flying from between blackened and missing teeth.

            The first man, walking alone, simply crossed the street at first sight of this pathetic, pleading ancient. A thick black heavy coat, coving a tailored suit, expensive shirt and tight vest, draped nearly to his ankles. Polished leather shoes hid warm, woollen socks, and shiny leather gloves hid his hands. Well protected from the winter, plumes of steam spreading from his lips, he eyed the old man with a mixture of disdain, disgust and dislike.

            He'd visited that restaurant before; they served an adequate salmon something or other, the staff were subdued, unobtrusive, humble. To see this smear on the landscape, loitering not five meters from the entrance, made him hope fervently never to re-visit the establishment. Had he been eating there at this very moment he'd have summoned the manager and given the man a piece of his mind. Wrinkling his nose, a slight squint at the corner of his eyes, a barely noticeable flaring of his nostrils and the old man was behind and already half forgotten.

            The next people to pass were a girl and two bots, or young men and women. They were, perhaps, in their late teens or very early twenties. They weren't dressed particularly warmly; the girl wore crimson leggings under a short black skit, grey high heels, a tight white long-sleeved t-shirt mostly hidden beneath a tight, pale blue, denim jacket. Her hair was permed and tied high on her head so the waves fell behind like the mane of a well-groomed mare, curried for show. She was made up with crimson lipstick and pale blue eyeliner.

            Her companions wore almost identical jeans, frayed and ripped in places. One wore basketball boots which had evidently once been white, his friend a pair of tattered black trainers. Both wore bomber jackets, though one was navy blue, with a small tear at the right sleeve, while the other was army green and appeared almost new. They both had brown hair, shaved close to their scalp.

            They seemed oblivious to the ancient, huddled and near to motionless as he was beside the wall, until the girl, stumbling a little, a combination of high heels and alcohol, nearly tripped over the fellow.

            He reached out to her in silent supplication, hoping to appeal to some common humanity perhaps, but she shrieked as if startled by some rabid wolf, skittered away and fell from the curb to land painfully on her hip in the road. Her friends, suitors, relatives... dashed to her aid, solicitous if somewhat clumsy, and upon ascertaining her well-being turned on the ancient.

            They didn't seem overly angry, they didn't seem anxious, or even particularly drunk; as if they were going about a job of work, to the cackling, high pitched laughter chorusing their violence, supplied by the injured party, they punched and kicked the old man until, while not in desperate need of medical services, he certainly knew he suffered a beating. With almost psychic intuition the two fellows ceased at precisely the same time, gathered up their companion, and the three of them headed off into the night having already put the entire incident out of their heads.

            The final man to come along was perhaps forty. He wore clean white trainers, slightly baggy olive-green cargo pants, a white vest peeking above a blue flannel shirt, a tight grey and black windproof jacket and a long grey scarf. Beneath his short white/blond hair a deep forehead maintained heavy brows from which stared shadowy grey/blue eyes; eyes that didn't quite blink enough. Beneath his prominent nose a narrow, thin lipped mouth lashed horizontal, and his lower face was covered with perhaps a five-day growth of blond beard.

            As he approached he immediately noticed the old man, now hunching over his bruises, blood mixing with mucus as it dripped from his nose, dripped small drops, which splashed prophetic shapes on the pavement. A look of sympathy transformed the hard lines and angles of his thin face. Without hesitation, he reached into his pocket and drew out a few notes. Slipping a twenty, the largest denomination, from the modest roll, he offered it to the old man, who stared at it for a moment, perhaps confused by this act of charity, and then snatched it away to disappear somewhere beneath his threadbare attire.

            Without further ado, the man continued on his way, moving off into the night with the same determined purpose with which he'd appeared. Behind him the ancient rose unsteadily to his feet. He began to slouch after the Samaritan, but with each footfall his steps quickened until he was shambling along as fast as the wasted limbs he'd once known as legs could carry him.

            The man heard his approach and was just in the act of turning when the ancient, digging from his coat a small sharp knife, began to stab him in the back, just beneath the ribs on the right-hand side. The man screamed and struggled as the knife plunged again and again into his flesh, but the old man, with tenacious strength had thrown his other forearm around his throat and held him tight.

            Again, and again the vicious blade jabbed into his body until his screams and vitality had drained away. The old man dropped him onto the ground, pulled the rest of his money from his pocket, tore his watch from his limp wrist, and wandered away into the night.

 

            From within the restaurant light banter and laughter continued...

Broken Kings

 

Carrying the cross, a burden I’d begged to be relieved of, crushing down upon shoulders as if it were constructed of fractured and ground glass rather than rough-hewn timbers, I wanted nothing more than to drop to my bloodied knees weeping for mercy. The vile thing weighed enough to break a mule, but it wasn’t the mass alone creating the encumbrance; it was the what it represented, the symbol sent as a message with all the deadly purpose of a poisoned arrow into any who might retain any allegiance for the ideal.

Forced under whip and cudgel I carried my own doom through the winding streets and up the steep hill to where not only I, but all I had stood for would be crucified. I’d be nailed to the symbol of my defeat and there left suffocating in dreadful inescapable agony for any to see my fall, and the implied fall of all who might have refused the betrayal of all I had so bravely cherished for far too short a span.

I tried to distract myself from the weight, the pain from my beatings, the jabbing spiked needles of thorn jammed into my head, the near petrifying fear threatening to steal away the last residue of my manhood, by desperately casting my mind away to the past, when I had walked with the people, perhaps already carrying this cross, but in a different way.

There seemed something inevitable now about the paths I had trodden, and even I could not help the bitterness creep into my thoughts as I recalled all I had tried to do; and this as my reward. It felt as if I had walked the whole world only to return to this place I had always been destined to be, and now I stumbled totally alone, through a multitude I had tried with all my heart to help, and not a one would even move to lend me a hand, rather the abused and scorned, insulted and taunted.

I nearly tripped as a wave of pure rage and hatred threatened to swamp me at the thought of these, my people, who I’d healed, strengthened, encouraged, shown new paths to follow, supported in their every free choice, had succumbed to threats and gold, becoming little more that spiteful children in reaction to their own guilt; releasing a murderer and rapist rather than to free me, and now the burden was mine. All their guilt, their pettiness, their short-sightedness in my hands; oh, how I longed, for eternal moments at a time, to refuse my fate, to simply die, cursing them rather than blessing, venting my revenge upon them rather than accepting their guilt as my own, rather than sacrificing myself, burning myself away so my death was as meaningless to them as my life appeared to have been.

I broke at the sight of the mound. I stepped from the shadows of the last house into the bright burning morning sunlight, broiling hot already, and there, no more than one hundred so very short metres ahead was the peak of the hill, lifeless of any growing thing, dried to broken plates of dirt by the heat, two other men already hammered and sagging, blood dripping from the sharp impaling nails, on either side of the centre, highest point especially reserved for me.

The sight was too much; the emptiness of the scene, the stark outline of the shadow sided crosses and hanging men against the perfect blue sky, the light burning into my eyes as salty tears coursed down my bruised, ruined cheeks, itching from stubble and abrasions.

My knees gave and I crumbled towards the ground. I knew the great wooden cross would smash me harder into the brutal stony ground, but I had nothing left; not even the strength to brace myself. My terror and horror had won and I lacked the courage…

It was then it happened… hands appeared from nowhere, and a silence cut straight through the mocking derisive cackling from both soldiers and civilians. They were quick and strong; the one circling my chest, the other darting past my sight to steady the abominable cross upon my shoulder. I felt the strength in them, strong, confidant and sure; fed on it for a moment as they steadied me for a moment.

The aid was more than simply physical, I felt something I desperately needed being fed to me; I felt compassion. The hands exerted themselves and I found myself lifted from where the sharp stones had nearly ripped into my flesh. As I rose my clouded vision focused on the powerful slender frame of a man whose age I had some difficulty recognising. His grey blue eyes focused on mine and held for a moment.

Those eyes showed nothing of pity, nor even sorrow, they sparkled a little as if they lived in some way detached from the serious lined countenance of the face they bubbled from. For some reason the crowd had fallen completely silent; even the soldiers escorting me to my own execution paused for a moment at the temerity of this apparently suicidal character.

He righted me and then let go, although I wouldn’t have complained had he held on forever. The he turned and slowly surveyed the surrounding spectators and even not directed at me I could feel his wrath and condemnation pound into the mass. Not a one of them would meet his gaze for more than a second; the guards even shuffled back a step from the immanence of his fury.

He returned his gaze to me for a moment, forcing some gentleness into his bright piercing eyes with some obvious effort, and I read there a question. He was willing to dare all to break me free. I knew we’d surely die in the attempt, but the offer was so clear, so willing, so freely given I began to cry once more, only this time the tears were not of bitter despair, but of joy, and I felt some modicum of my courage, my strength return.

I tried to smile but I fear it resembled little but a skull’s rictus, and shook my head, for my purpose had been reinforced. It mattered not if all these others condemned themselves to whatever fate they should deserve, and it was not my place to judge them, but if even one should stand out and offer himself for another in such desperate straits then he at least deserved the chance for redemption, and if my sacrifice could allow this one man to be saved even though the whole world should burn around him, then so be it. His gift was more than worthy of my repayment.

He clearly understood my refusal and bowed his head for a moment. I thought I detected a hint of respect, of sorrow, of anger, all blended together for a moment, but why and at whom I was at a loss, but in the next moment he smoothly rotated around me and grunting a little at the weight lifted the cross from my shoulders and bore the burden for me.

It was like flying… the cursed thing had grown so heavy, been laid upon me for so long that when it was lifted for moments I thought I would hurtle up into the beautiful sky. The gratitude I felt was indescribable and for just a moment I forgot even where and what I was approaching.

Then Golgotha reclaimed its jealous hold and I turned to face the mound once more. In reality nothing had changed; the beatings and tortures still cried out in pain, the betrayal of the people still cut even deeper, the prospect of the coming agony was still as petrifying as before, but something was different, something within.

The gift this man had bestowed so unstintingly had secured something I thought had been shaken loose, perhaps forever, and now, though it was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life, I managed to lift one torn painful bleeding foot and place it before the other, and then the next, until once more I was moving, the man neither before leading, nor behind following, but matching me beside, step for step, forward, towards my doom, my triumph, and for a moment all the rest of humanity mattered not even a little, but for his redemption…

 

What Could Possibly Go Right...

 

I didn’t want to go. It seems, recently, I really don’t want to go anywhere. There are multiple reasons for this, which doubtless I’ve gone into previously, so I shan’t bore you with the details, and as that information might double or triple the length of the piece... I just can’t be bothered. Suffice to say: I didn’t want to go.

 

However, I had to go, or face fines, police, deportation, bans and most importantly... the loss of a well paid job and very comfortable lifestyle. I had options... I didn’t have to go to Hong Kong (again). I had thought to go to Thailand, hiking, for a long weekend, but my recent aversion to travel, combined with my irrational anxiety to travel alone (irrational because I’m exceptionally well practiced at travel, and I usually go alone), put me right off the idea. So, again, convenient, and relatively inexpensive, Hong Kong, beckoned.

 

I packed my overnight bag and headed off for my car (my fickle boss conveniently supplying a driver to the airport - unfortunately missing the several other requests in the missive, including a driver to pick me up again...). Here I would like to split the narrative in three directions - a little unusual from my usual sardonic and dry diary form... let’s see how we go...

 

The driver didn’t come! I had some time to spare, but not infinite time (or I wouldn’t have left in the first place). He simply didn’t show. I waited for twenty minutes before I messaged my boss (after all I was a charity case and thus in a very poor position to make demands or complain at all). She didn’t reply. After nearly an hour I had little choice but to hail a taxi. The trip, which should have taken forty minutes took just over an hour, the price nearly doubled; I knew perfectly well I was being cheated, blond hair and blue eyes almost demand it in this country, but despite the audible grinding of teeth and the fearsome rear view mirror glances, the fellow refuse to be intimidated.

 

I should have been late, but the plane was delayed... three hours! I didn’t have any money left and as usual I’d forgotten my PIN number so I was just bum out of luck. My obsessive packing had, in some utterly unlike me fashion, neglected my book... so I spent three hours doing nothing much but wishing plagues, floods, haemorrhoids, etc... on my taxi driver (amongst others).

 

When I arrived at the designated meeting place the driver was sitting behind the wheel of a Porsche 918 Spyder. He threw me the keys and nodded for the driver seat... The forty minute drive to the airport took sixteen and a half minutes; they had to physically drag me out of the car!

When I checked in the lady told me they were overbooked, apologising profusely she asked if I would mind being bumped up to first class. After mulling it over for a few moments I reluctantly accepted her offer...

 

The driver was on time, the car a comfortable enough Mercedes space wagon, the blaring music atrocious, but the driver didn’t care, and when I enquired as to whether he would be the driver picking me up the next day, he told me he had no idea what I was talking about. I messaged my boss, politely asking as to the return trip... She said she would check the availability of a driver and never got back to me (presumably because I was a little naughty the day after I’d already arranged all these matters, and since that moment an infantile silence had descended on communications).

 

The plane was delayed, but only by about twenty minutes, and the pilot managed to make up the time in the air, so I arrived at about seven in the evening at Hong Kong airport (oh, I did forget my book, but remembered just outside the door, so managed to return for it before I left).

Hong Kong airport is friendly and efficient. It is convenient in every way, from charging points for devices to uncrowded knowledgeable information desks (you may well think part of that sentence redundant: if so you’re not a terribly experienced traveler) (you may also think this piece a little lackluster... you're not wrong....

 

No one could provide me with any information as to the location of my hotel... I asked Information... they’d never heard of it. I asked at tourist information, they were equally befuddled. I asked a local taxi driver, he said he didn’t understand my language (I spoke to him in both English and the local language,). Finally, one of those fellows who hang around outside the airport offering their car for a negotiable rate told me he knew where it was... I asked him how much and he demanded three hundred Hong Kong dollars! It’s a sellers market, and as I had my English bank card available again I decided it was better than spending the night at the airport.

 

We drove for an hour, along pitch black winding roads leading up and down the Hong Kong mountains. The road was narrow and as twisted as a my usual thoughts. We reached a small village with a couple of lights in a few shop windows. He pointed down a side street and told me the hotel was fifty meters that way. What was I supposed to do... I’m not entirely stupid, but really... what were my options? Of course, fifty meters ‘down that way’, led me to a fetid back street haunted by a group of dirty locals looking aggressively like a street gang...

Getting off the plane I flew through customs; I think that’s the very first time there’s been no queue at all, and would you believe it... the guy checking immigration actually smiled (I glanced around to see where the documentary film cameras were located...). Enquiringly at information as the best way to get to my hotel, the well-informed beauty at the desk gave me precise and accurate directions to where I might find the appropriate taxi (local taxis are red, ones going to the New Territories are green and the ones going to Lantau are blue). It was only a five minute walk to the taxi ranks and as luck would have it half way there was a perfectly convenient smoking area (this area wasn’t just convenient, but almost idyllic: it consisted of a couple of hand-carved wooden benches, low green-leaved bushes artistically planted all around them, facing inwards to a small pool populated by myriad fat goldfish...). After a more than necessary pause for three smokes and a contemplate on the wonderful nature of the world, I moved on).

 

The taxi rank was just where the woman had indicated, there wasn’t a queue at all. Apparently after eight, taxis were half price, and so in less than fifteen minutes I was being helped from the car by a very polite porter and directed into the prettiest little seaside hotel I’ve ever had the fortune to reside.

 

There must be something exceptionally boring about me (don’t even dare - I’m fully aware this isn’t my most nail biting, edge-of-your-seat piece, but I’ve been a little emotionally stunted lately...), as on both flights (to and fro), the fat fellows squeezing in next to me fell immediately asleep (before take-off), and remained so until landing...! I don’t mind; it alleviates that normative demand to make pleasant conversation (and mostly anything that allows me to avoid pleasant conversation is ok in my book. The flight was unremarkable; as people generally agree Cathay Pacific, and it’s sisters, like Cathay Dragon, provide the better flight food; almost edible, it is (I do them an injustice; just you try Russian airline food...), the hosts and hostesses are actually pretty and handsome, rather than fat and/or gay (don’t get me wrong, fat and gay have a place in this world, I don’t really want to say where, but they have a place, it’s just the cliché of the gorgeous stewardess still exists in the minds of many of the older generations, and slapping fourteen shades of disguise on with a shovel only really fools the terminally shortsighted (who are, arguably, the luckiest people on the planet...), and the service doesn’t leave you feeling like an insignificant grain of sand, or Oliver on a bad day.

 

I landed and made my way through immigration without any trouble; on trips like these I just carry a day bag so there’s none of the prolonged anxiety related to wasting existence worrying if your luggage is winging its way to Paris... Information was efficient, informing me the hotel was forty minutes by ‘blue’ taxi, and directing me accurately to the appropriate taxi rank.

 

There’s something enraging about watching other people move past you in traffic. You have chosen the middle lane, or the right lane, or whatever lane, and are patiently waiting for your lane to proceed through the traffic. However, say we are in the middle lane, for some inexplicable reason both right and left lanes are moving faster... You put up with this for a while, until finally the sheer injustice of it all demands you even the score. The next time you have an opportunity you slip carefully into one of the other lanes. Now, against all the statistical information you were previously supplied with, you find the other two lanes are moving faster than yours. If you stay in this lane it will remain a crawl, while the others skip merrily along, if you change lane again you’ll find, like some Egyptian curse following you through the ages, whichever lane you choose will immediately become the slowest lane. Do you blame the curse, do you blame the universe having another of her dark giggles at your expense, do you blame whatever reasons are causing the delay in the first place... oh no, you blame each and every driver smugly overtaking you in the other lanes (this is one of the many mysteries which surround us that if you ever discovered the answer to you would either become a god or go incurably insane...)... This is pretty much how I felt when I realised that the local taxis (red), come and go, like hummingbirds, in the twinkle of an eye, the taxis to the New Territories (green), flitter here and there like butterflies in mating season, and the Lantau taxis (blue), the ones I needed to reach my hotel, closely resemble the last Dodo on Earth, unfortunately castrated, and being ruthlessly hunted by every trapper and his dad... in a humid, twenty seven degree car park, without smoking amenities, standing in a sweaty queue of seven people it took twenty minutes to get a ride.

 

Having no idea where I was going, it being dark, and being unfamiliar, to say the least, with this part of Hong Kong, I nervously watched as the taxi fare ticked up and my paltry trip funds ticked down. At one hundred and sixty five dollars we stopped in some dark part of town. The taxi driver really did point down a lane, instructing me to follow it to the end to reach my hotel... what choice did I have...

The street gang were remarkably charitable... after they had beaten me half to death, stolen everything except my trousers, they actually took me to the hotel and threw me into the car park. Aha, I still had the last laugh for my passport and bank card were carefully stuffed down my underpants (I really needed to keep these or the three stories would have become too divergent - forgive a lazy author on a two hour flight). I entered reception, carefully stepping over the sleeping addict, and approached the receptionist - I suspect it was a woman, but the countless piercings denied certainty.

 

“I’ve booked a room, Mr R...”

“Passport”

“Here you are. Might I have a smoking room?”

“No smoking in your room”

“Ah... is there a balcony?”

“Yes, but you can’t go onto it”

“Is there a window?”

“Yes, but it doesn’t open”

“Right”

“Sir, we have a decency policy at this hotel; please put on a shirt”

 

My room was on the third floor. The tv was only in the local dialect, the bathroom was dirty pink and grey with a bath as high as my ankle, there was a big wall painting of giraffes pushing their head through red-brick house windows above my head, the WiFi I had paid extra for worked for thirty seconds and then I had to reenter the username and password (which I learn by heart and could relate to you this moment if I so desired, but as I fear it will be circling my mind for the rest of my life I’m afraid I must deny your desperate compunction), there were no open shops nearby to buy food, I discovered on my multiple cigarette escapes, and the plug sockets were different from the rest of the country and I’d neglected to bring an adapter... apart from that it was quite lovely...

The front of the hotel was magnificent; marble pillars, understated, mind you, soared to either side as you mounted the steps, lending you a feeling of importance and personage. The reception arched away, decorated with murals to shame the Cistern chapel, the stunning receptionist wouldn’t take her abysmal violet eyes from me for a moment, stuttered the whole time and finally flushed when she jotted down my room number (hey, come on, it’s my perfect world - I did just get battered about by hooligans...). My room was palatial; massive, soft bed, tv covering most of a wall (every imaginable channel available, plus they had a huge number of movies and tv shows stored on the hard drive), room service offered complimentary evening snacks, and even my ashtray was marble decorated with modest gold-leaf. A little after eleven, presumably when her shift ended, there was a knock on the door, and the receptionist kindly presented me with a bottle of VSOP, and an eighth of puff, on the house; but, she insisted, it was a requirement I didn’t drink alone (Freud, enjoy yourself with that one...)...

I was directed to the taxi ranks by a helpful information desk girl, but on arriving I was irritated and frustrated by my usual kind of fortune... local taxis (red), come and go, like hummingbirds, in the twinkle of an eye, the taxis to the New Territories (green), flitter here and there like butterflies in mating season, and the Lantau taxis (blue), the ones I needed to reach my hotel, closely the last Dodo on earth, unfortunately castrated, and being ruthlessly hunted by every trapper and his dad... in a humid, twenty seven degree car park, without smoking amenities, standing in a sweaty queue of seven people it took twenty minutes to get a ride.

 

“I’ve booked a room, Mr R...”

“Passport”

“Here you are. Might I have a smoking room?”

“No smoking in your room”

“Ah... is there a balcony?”

“Yes, but you can’t go onto it”

“Is there a window?”

“Yes, but it doesn’t open”

“Right”

“Sir, we have a decency policy at this hotel; please put on a shirt”

 

My room was on the third floor. The tv was only in the local dialect, the bathroom was dirty pink and grey with a bath as high as my ankle, there was a big wall painting of giraffes pushing their head through red-brick house windows above my head, the WiFi I had paid extra for worked for thirty seconds and then I had to reenter the username and password (which I learn by heart and could relate to you this moment if I so desired, but as I fear it will be circling my mind for the rest of my life I’m afraid I must deny your desperate compunction), there were no open shops nearby to buy food, I discovered on my multiple cigarette escapes, and the plug sockets were different from the rest of the country and I’d neglected to bring an adapter... apart from that it was quite lovely...

 

Now, if you notice some similarity between the ‘worst possible’ scenario and this one... well, there you go... If you’re lucky I’ll write about what came the next day, but I’m landing now, and a new adventure awaits... see ya...

 

My Sanity

 

I've never managed to hold on to much... never managed to really want anything badly enough to tighten my grip... never seen much beyond today... why should tomorrow be much different...? There's not been many times when I could say “I don't worry about money”... I've held love, dry sand in a feeble grasp and watched as winds of my own creation scattered its remains beyond the reaches of my imagination. I've never treated life with much respect... a reflection of myself in that particular mirror... So why am I here...?

I'm not here for my sanity, what little I possessed was disabused by the society which constructed it in the first place. I was told and taught, exemplified and punished... mostly by contradictions... Where is the gentle nature of man, the neighbourly attitude, when violence is distributed by those who have no need for such fearful philosophies? Where are those equal opportunities when with the slip of a wallet and the flutter of winged notes grease the doors of all metaphor?

Madness creeps so slowly into the soul... one turns at its trembling fingers upon an overly sensitive shoulder only to find the exposure allowed it to flit though the ear; nestle within a mind-like cradle, begin to spring-clean...

I've been blessed through my life with the very best friends insanity can buy... Individuals drawn to passion... tiring of passion... surrendering to conformity... disappearing back into the multitudinous shadows... or being left behind because the wind changed, a leaf stirred on the breeze, a butterfly wept... Not the friend I thought I was...

Not the son I thought I was... Distraction... a left, a right, an opportunity, a failure, the clashing of manic and depressive, sensitive to the smallest ebb and flow of atmospheric currents... only keeping a chip, a spirit, an illusion... up... for their sake. Cut me don't I bleed, break me don't I cry, leave me don't I burn... not when I'm not home... for would it not shatter them to see me in broken little pieces...?

I have immersed myself in the most difficult of learning... and come up short, but then I've just never had the temporal determination to so [be]long... I've been to the bottom, starring up at all the glittering light; those lights shine all the more brightly when the dark of detritus obscures everything near... and had no particular desire to travel the ether with them... and I've straddled the world, barking my orders to rat and feline alike; glorying in my absolute mastery of yet another delusion...

Age and experience have made me wise far beyond my years... but... I'm only half an ancient... the other three quarters giggles with all the other bad mathematicians... throwing snowballs at dinner-ladies and daring every form of punishment... not-so-unconscious-masochism...  but I am here...

What use the mind's understanding if the body refuses to comply... what use solutions if no one ever brings you the problems...? I have no desire to impose the violence of my ideas... my truths... upon any...

The pure repetition... the unending cycle of creation, struggle and death (nihilism always returns to the core of things)... The Enlightenment... so filled with hope, potential, misguided though much of it might well have been... leading inexorably three hundred years later to such denial of thought... The tragedy of it should make a sane man weep, what then those insane enough to understand just a little of the price we have paid for sensationalism...

However, this is nothing but another distraction... facing up to one's insanity is about the heights of success... more than I can really expect... just too much denial, too much interference... too many checks and blocks forced into the path by all the others... those who deny their insanity by compliance with the insane...

A secret...

I'm not here for my sanity, my vanity, my clarity...

Broken Kings

 

Carrying the cross, a burden I’d begged to be relieved of, crushing down upon shoulders as if it were constructed of fractured and ground glass rather than rough-hewn timbers, I wanted nothing more than to drop to my bloodied knees weeping for mercy. The vile thing weighed enough to break a mule, but it wasn’t the mass alone creating the encumbrance; it was the what it represented, the symbol sent as a message with all the deadly purpose of a poisoned arrow into any who might retain any allegiance for the ideal.

Forced under whip and cudgel I carried my own doom through the winding streets and up the steep hill to where not only I, but all I had stood for would be crucified. I’d be nailed to the symbol of my defeat and there left suffocating in dreadful inescapable agony for any to see my fall, and the implied fall of all who might have refused the betrayal of all I had so bravely cherished for far too short a span.

I tried to distract myself from the weight, the pain from my beatings, the jabbing spiked needles of thorn jammed into my head, the near petrifying fear threatening to steal away the last residue of my manhood, by desperately casting my mind away to the past, when I had walked with the people, perhaps already carrying this cross, but in a different way.

There seemed something inevitable now about the paths I had trodden, and even I could not help the bitterness creep into my thoughts as I recalled all I had tried to do; and this as my reward. It felt as if I had walked the whole world only to return to this place I had always been destined to be, and now I stumbled totally alone, through a multitude I had tried with all my heart to help, and not a one would even move to lend me a hand, rather the abused and scorned, insulted and taunted.

I nearly tripped as a wave of pure rage and hatred threatened to swamp me at the thought of these, my people, who I’d healed, strengthened, encouraged, shown new paths to follow, supported in their every free choice, had succumbed to threats and gold, becoming little more that spiteful children in reaction to their own guilt; releasing a murderer and rapist rather than to free me, and now the burden was mine. All their guilt, their pettiness, their short-sightedness in my hands; oh, how I longed, for eternal moments at a time, to refuse my fate, to simply die, cursing them rather than blessing, venting my revenge upon them rather than accepting their guilt as my own, rather than sacrificing myself, burning myself away so my death was as meaningless to them as my life appeared to have been.

I broke at the sight of the mound. I stepped from the shadows of the last house into the bright burning morning sunlight, broiling hot already, and there, no more than one hundred so very short metres ahead was the peak of the hill, lifeless of any growing thing, dried to broken plates of dirt by the heat, two other men already hammered and sagging, blood dripping from the sharp impaling nails, on either side of the centre, highest point especially reserved for me.

The sight was too much; the emptiness of the scene, the stark outline of the shadow sided crosses and hanging men against the perfect blue sky, the light burning into my eyes as salty tears coursed down my bruised, ruined cheeks, itching from stubble and abrasions.

My knees gave and I crumbled towards the ground. I knew the great wooden cross would smash me harder into the brutal stony ground, but I had nothing left; not even the strength to brace myself. My terror and horror had won and I lacked the courage…

It was then it happened… hands appeared from nowhere, and a silence cut straight through the mocking derisive cackling from both soldiers and civilians. They were quick and strong; the one circling my chest, the other darting past my sight to steady the abominable cross upon my shoulder. I felt the strength in them, strong, confidant and sure; fed on it for a moment as they steadied me for a moment.

The aid was more than simply physical, I felt something I desperately needed being fed to me; I felt compassion. The hands exerted themselves and I found myself lifted from where the sharp stones had nearly ripped into my flesh. As I rose my clouded vision focused on the powerful slender frame of a man whose age I had some difficulty recognising. His grey blue eyes focused on mine and held for a moment.

Those eyes showed nothing of pity, nor even sorrow, they sparkled a little as if they lived in some way detached from the serious lined countenance of the face they bubbled from. For some reason the crowd had fallen completely silent; even the soldiers escorting me to my own execution paused for a moment at the temerity of this apparently suicidal character.

He righted me and then let go, although I wouldn’t have complained had he held on forever. The he turned and slowly surveyed the surrounding spectators and even not directed at me I could feel his wrath and condemnation pound into the mass. Not a one of them would meet his gaze for more than a second; the guards even shuffled back a step from the immanence of his fury.

He returned his gaze to me for a moment, forcing some gentleness into his bright piercing eyes with some obvious effort, and I read there a question. He was willing to dare all to break me free. I knew we’d surely die in the attempt, but the offer was so clear, so willing, so freely given I began to cry once more, only this time the tears were not of bitter despair, but of joy, and I felt some modicum of my courage, my strength return.

I tried to smile but I fear it resembled little but a skull’s rictus, and shook my head, for my purpose had been reinforced. It mattered not if all these others condemned themselves to whatever fate they should deserve, and it was not my place to judge them, but if even one should stand out and offer himself for another in such desperate straits then he at least deserved the chance for redemption, and if my sacrifice could allow this one man to be saved even though the whole world should burn around him, then so be it. His gift was more than worthy of my repayment.

He clearly understood my refusal and bowed his head for a moment. I thought I detected a hint of respect, of sorrow, of anger, all blended together for a moment, but why and at whom I was at a loss, but in the next moment he smoothly rotated around me and grunting a little at the weight lifted the cross from my shoulders and bore the burden for me.

It was like flying… the cursed thing had grown so heavy, been laid upon me for so long that when it was lifted for moments I thought I would hurtle up into the beautiful sky. The gratitude I felt was indescribable and for just a moment I forgot even where and what I was approaching.

Then Golgotha reclaimed its jealous hold and I turned to face the mound once more. In reality nothing had changed; the beatings and tortures still cried out in pain, the betrayal of the people still cut even deeper, the prospect of the coming agony was still as petrifying as before, but something was different, something within.

The gift this man had bestowed so unstintingly had secured something I thought had been shaken loose, perhaps forever, and now, though it was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life, I managed to lift one torn painful bleeding foot and place it before the other, and then the next, until once more I was moving, the man neither before leading, nor behind following, but matching me beside, step for step, forward, towards my doom, my triumph, and for a moment all the rest of humanity mattered not even a little, but for his redemption…

Branches

 

Have a seat upon this branch of mine, I’ve been saving it just for you… yup, I knew you’d be along eventually, after finishing, at least for the moment, all those busy errands so necessary and demanding, but for now, for this moment at least, you can have a perch here, and together, we can take a spell to watch the world scurry about on equally meaningful missions, doubtless the security of the world resting on the steady shoulder and in the capable wing of each and every one of those busy birds.

It’s a nice spot, don’t you think; I had to defend it most energetically from a pigeon, a robin, and a most dreadfully common pair of seagulls who wanted to do a little mating here; abominable things… if you look over there you’ll see the lake; a lovely place to get some lift if you like sightseeing the mountains in the back, and there, yes that’s right, the forest, one of my favourite hunting places; the grubs wriggling around in some of the rotted tree stumps are absolutely delicious.

Now I know you like to get an early night, so much to do in each day, but if you will favour me with a little indulgence and remain for an hour or two, you will find the sun there drops behind the peaks of those mountains; that great giving orb will become most jealous of its property, and literally drag the smearing colours through the sky in its retreat, and as its covetousness becomes full all those shy little cousins will gain the courage to illuminate the night; much like the jewels reflected in your eyes…

Tell you a truth; never been much of a one for gathering and building, seeking and mapping, more of a sit around on a branch type, there seems so very much to see and think just being here for a while, not sure I need to drown all my thoughts in the business of all those chores, and while I know you well like participation in all that social drive, you might appreciate a few moments away from the rat race to contemplate one or two of the passing sights with me…

That’s great… well, you’re in luck; look at that hawk up there, circling on those thermals… no, over there; he’s so very high it’s difficult to make him out, be he can see you, that’s for sure… he’s just waiting for you, or one of the many others, to make a foolish run over the treetops rather than cut their way the long way through, and the moment they do… oh!

Did you see that; all blood and feathers… you didn’t know her did you? Oh, that’s a relief… but you see, that could have been any one of us, at any moment; a hawk or eagle, a cat or hunter, a child with a rock, or a badly judged road crossing, ha… you just never know, so I quite like to fill up as much of my time with having a little think, rather than rushing around so fast that I never get the chance to really understand why I’m doing it.

Now if you have a little look to my side here; yes, you’ll have to move a bit closer… that’s better, can you see now; my you do smell nice, did you just bathe? If you have a look… right there, you’ll see an object I could quite easily envy, were I so disposed to be the envious type… what? No, there; can’t you see the snail… yup, a snail… why? Well, let me explain…

That’s a guy who spends his whole day in contemplation; he can’t get anywhere very fast, and so he doesn’t even try, and all he’s after really is a bite to eat. Then, when he arrives, he just stays until he’s finished the lot; not off in search of new flavours and textures to maintain an interest in what he’s turning into fuel so he’s enough energy to go off in search of the next fuel. When he’s finished what does he do… well, he doesn’t have to return home, that’s for sure, he carries all his worldly possessions right there with him, which in a way is all any of us ever do; everything else we try to gain we can lose so very easily, struggle for with such passion, all disappear in a moment, so completely out of our control it seems almost comical. He just rolls back into himself and has a little sleep or think about the way things are; doesn’t try to change anything that wasn’t meant to be changed, that really can’t be changed, and then the next day, just packs up and off he goes on his lifelong exploration of the world and all the wonders it holds, so many why would anyone want to change them…

How did I know you were coming, how long have I been sitting here? I’ve always known you were coming, far before I ever met you; if you sit long enough all the busy people will eventually come to you, if you go off chasing around after them, you’ll always arrive just as they’ve left for another place. Oh, I’ve been sitting here waiting to share my branch with you forever, for that is as long as everything exists for each of us; the very world itself starts the moment we can distinguish it from ourselves, and all of existence if snuffed out at the moment of our death, for how could you world continue without you…

Yes, you’re right; it’s very nice just to sit and talk sometimes… well. most all the time really… sharing is a strange thing indeed; we have no way of truly sharing, of breaking down the boundaries surrounding each of our little universes, but sometimes we can sit together, talk a little, and pretend, just for a while, that our worlds have something in common, in the end… perhaps that’s all we really do have…

A Price to Pay

 

            Tangible magnificence... I mean you couldn’t actually see the sparks, firefly like, erupting from him, spinning around and away, enriching the very atmosphere, wherever he went... but nearly.

            Let’s start with the basics... Tall, straight, strong; a face of hard angles and sharp planes, deep furrowed brow, two days growth, pale grey/blue eyes and hair like a summer’s day.

            Highly intelligent... that’s what they thought... well, that’s what they said. His conversation was listened to, appreciated, and his advice and suggestions frequently used. He was invited to speak on important matters, to advise leaders, his work was highly sought after in many fields. People would come to him for advice not only on work related matters, but with emotional problems, matters of the heart, guilt and regrets, and often they could marvel at the sagacity of his wisdom, the breadth of his experience, and while some problems can never be solved with words, knowing there was someone empathetically by their side was a comfort transcending words.

 

 Every time he walked into a room people would admire him for his hard work and diligence. From the moment he arrived at work to the moment he left he would be on the go. Teaching with energy, passion and professionalism, solving problems before others even noticed them, anticipating needs, preparing materials well ahead of schedule and adding small perfections to work already sufficient.

            He was famous for caring for others, for thinking of their needs before his own, for being there when they needed someone. It’s in the little things; ordering airsickness pills after someone mentioned their dread over a flight, writing an essay for another on a seven hour deadline because they couldn’t do it for themselves, giving up his birthday to host a performance for the children, ordering a coffee for someone forced to paint in a freezing corridor, a ready smile all the time... There was never something, exhausted though he might be, he wouldn’t do for others, if time and distance allowed, and they loved him for it...

  He was so lovely with the children, utterly open and giving. He spoke to them as equals, equals with a little less life experience, equal measures of strict, informative and fun, a moral example, and a toy to be played with. He would pick them up when they cried, scold them when they broke with socially moral conventions, teach them through play and games, sit with them and simply share an activity without any need for false or forced conversation. In the eyes of the many women he worked with he was the ideal father...

            They looked to him at the dinner table, they listened to him in the pub, they came to him with their problems, their anxieties, their miseries, and even... very occasionally... with their joy, but mostly their worries and problems. He was the sage, the psychiatrist, the shoulder to cry on, the friend in need, the reliable wall they could place their back against. When they had a difficult decision to make they would consult his opinion. Not really for an answer, as we tend to make those up well before we realise, but as a sensible and intelligent sounding board where they could echo their own pros and cons. When some tragic incident occurred they would seek him out, for though they knew very little of his own experiences theyfelt an empathetic soul; one who could fathom their suffering, who wouldn’t try to ease their pain with meaningless platitudes, but encourage them to embrace it, to face the universal constant – all life is based on the knowledge all good will rot unto death (though not in quite so explicit terms).

   He stared into the mirror and while [hypothetically] aware of what other saw, saw... something else. He saw black bags under his eyes, the product of endless sleepless nights. Night made sleepless by a pure dread of death ‘sleep, those little slices of death – how I loathe them.’ (Poe), sleep made impossible by thought, and thought inspired by worry, and worry, well, that was inspired by imagination, both a blessing and a curse of outstanding proportions. He saw a thin lipped mouth that refused to smile; oh, he could smile in front of children, with children pride, embarrassment, shame, could all disappear. His broken yellow teeth, banished with braces from childhood, could come out to play, his face, simply not built for smiling, could forget its disfigurement – all those awkward muscles could come out of hiding and twist and strain into something gargoyle-like. Hair a little thinner, two days stubble because a true beard had always eluded, and a brow wrinkled with decades of both grounded and unfounded worry. The eyes were the worst, for within those depths he could see so many failures, depths he’d fallen to, and crimes he’d committed – and those were just the few alcohol and repressions allowed him to recall.

            Highly intelligent... the thought made him snort in contempt... contempt both internalised and, to a controlled extent, imposed onto those surrounding him, both personally and interpersonally. The disgust injected into him, when not riding the self-aggrandising delusion (a difficult prospect when surrounded by people worshipping for their own reasons), created as both massage for damage, and repression for [perceived] truths, he would always remain in a state of disgust. The waste... First, through fear; to be terrified of both the world, and the lack of it – forcing one into a state of impossible neutrality, then, using almost any medium, sensational distraction from the world and all the fear, the terror, the real and illusory dread and difficulties, and finally, allowing others to believe in an intelligence, which may, or may not be grounded in some reality. His disgust, on the difficult days, was close to overwhelming...

He was just tired... all the time. He never slept anymore; a few hours a night at most, the occasional five minute nap after lunch. His obsessive, compulsive personality, at war with his anxiety over failing yet again (and in his eyes he was always failing). He worked, like he did everything, at 110%, but where others saw this as a virtue he saw it as nothing but an eternal burden. A constant pressure weighing down on him, a desperation transcending any satisfaction, and in those very brief moments when he actually felt he’d surpassed even himself the satisfaction would be so brief... and who was there to really share it with... who could understand...?

            Guilt was like a mountain upon his shoulders... it crushed him ALL the time. The worst of all, most of the time it was irrational, and he knew it, fought it, struggled to discard this wasted burden, and lost almost every single time – and those times he won would trouble him all the more in the future. When he passed someone in need it wasn’t his ocean deep heart throbbing with empathetic compassion that forced him to act, it was the voice, sitting on his shoulder, nagging at him, berating him, humiliating him, castrating him. The pendulum had swept back and forth between image and normativity until it had created a twisted and deformed monster.

        

    It was only with the children he found any peace. There was no competition, there was nothing to prove, they didn’t care how he looked or what he said, they saw straight to the heart of things: does he make me happy, if so then that’s enough, all the rest just comes from spending time together. He didn’t have to excel, he didn’t have to make sparkling conversation, he didn’t need to smile and grin like a tame monkey, and he didn’t have to wear some kind of untouchable, impenetrable mask. Children were like a breath of fresh air in a world fumigated with pollution...

            He really had nothing to say to people. Perhaps he had never had anything to say to people. When something interesting occurred he would comment on it to himself, and if there happened to be someone he knew nearby at the time he might comment it to them, but in reality he was just commenting it to himself aloud (and quite frequently even when alone he might comment, and giggle, a dark, sardonic, irreconcilable giggle, a little, to himself... aloud). People came to him with problems, problems with obvious solutions, as if he knew something about their lives, about their feelings, about their needs, but in reality he didn’t care at all – he was just instilled with good manners (the punishment of a good English upbringing). He didn’t know the first thing about the lives they led; his life predominately revolved around avoiding the lives they led, but they just kept coming, and they always wanted something; they always had an agenda, whether they understood it, acknowledged it, or more often repressed it, they just kept coming. Unfortunately, they never actually listened. Perhaps it’s the human condition, but when they came for advice, even if they acted in accordance with said advice, they never really understood the foundations beneath the advice; acting in accord because they had their own little rudimentary beliefs.

            What they never saw, as much because he refused to allow them a vision, was his own difficulties, his own dread anxiety, his intimacy with sorrow, with horror, with pain. These were things he believed could not be shared, for understanding dictates not only shared experience, but shared understanding, and understanding is ‘a three edged sword’. When he stared out of the windows of his soul he saw a world filled with little but insanity, but when insanity is in the majority it stops being insanity and becomes... normality; a thought just pervasive enough to tip one right over the edge, or make one retreat as much as possible from such mania (for the arrogance of those who think they can change the nature of the beast is sociopathic at best).

            There is more, but the message is sent and new realms need inventing...

Cassandra

 

It was enough to have her tearing her hair from her skull by the roots, it was enough to break a spirit forged in the light of Heaven and tempered in the flames of Hell, it was enough to send the bravest spirit tumbling into despair, but still she tried, tried each and every day, for such was the context of her life, of the lives of those around her, that her talent might always be in use, and cursed as she was, never to be believed.

Right now, as she stared at Hector, she could clearly see the horror, the images were so powerful she could barely hold back the tears desperately attempting to cuts rivulets of bitter acid down her beautiful cheeks; what was to come, the pain, the sacrilege, the blind wandering for time he could not fathom, to one so good, one she loved as closely as any sister had ever loved a favoured brother, was intolerable, but tolerate it she did, for him she tolerated it...

He gazed at her with those powerful storm grey eyes and searched her painfully neutral expression. Everyone knew of her talent, they knew when she said a thing it came true, but they could never admit the thing before the event, only in retrospect could they allow she might have had some previous insight, and then only for the briefest of times, until the gods had driven conviction from them once more, until they came so quickly to mistrust, and to plough on into their own fateful destiny.

 

Hector was far stronger than the normal human, in intellect as well as physical prowess; such men could not be so easily tamed by the gods; guided perhaps, offered choices, but to exert enough strength for one such as Hector to unthinkingly obey would have him doubting the truth of his convictions, undermining the very effort of coercion before it even started.

If any man might break through the veil thrown over his eyes, a curtain of mistrust, of doubt, misdirecting them from her prophecies, it was this man, but still that nagging disbelief dug like wormwood into his faith in her. Watching his face it was almost as she could see the unconscious battle going on there, and for once it seemed as if faith might win through...

“Don’t go tomorrow...” She whispered the words, expecting the usual rebuff and patronising condescension she net with from so many before, but his eyes only intensified in their scrutiny.

After the longest pause something altered in his expression, a subtle change but a change all the same; a slight widening of the eyes, the smallest wrinkle to mar that handsome brow, the thoughtful twitch of lips trying to be pursed... “Will it be very terrible?”

She involuntarily gasped; unable to restrain herself she grasped his noble face in both her hands and nodded while wondering “You believe me?”

“I have always believed dearest sister” that deep voice vibrated a baritone assurance, and where for each day since the curse her frame had survived in a state of constant anxiety, she felt an almost irrational lessening of her burden, that this one man might understand and believe was a relief she could not put into simple words.

If she could just affect one life, one situation, she would have it be this man’s; this best of men. All her frustration, the torment of seeing without being able to alter, might, with this one small shift in the narrative the Fates had woven, redeem all her failures, all the self-recriminations she had tormented herself with due to each and every failure. “It will be worse than you can imagine, and death itself will not be the end of it... You must flee, leave now and all will be changed, perhaps all the fates I have seen for the next several days will be altered...”

He stared at her for the longest moment, but she could read nothing of his expression, but then his face fell, and it took all her strength not to fling her arms about her brother; for the very first time in her life hector looked vulnerable, like a child lost and bereaved his courageous features crumpled, looked for a moment as if he might swoon or plead... And that’s when she knew... it was not his retreat which broke him, bent him so low under such burden…

“You won’t go, will you?” Her voice so quiet it would have been inaudible to even him had he not been expecting the rhetoric.

The pause before he responded, while he considered or gathered himself enough to face his own decision, seemed to test eternity, but finally his shoulders lifted once more and she knew he’d accepted his choice “I cannot...” 

She wondered for a moment if he were still being influenced by the curse, but that momentary lost look of hopeless despair convinced her that he believed her, but still, somewhere deep within the core of his being that nobility remained, that courage even in the face of certain destruction, destruction and worse, struggled to remain steadfast in the face of the horror he faced, and while it was beaten and weathered by the storms of fear it remained immobile, inviolate... and this was exactly the reason he was so very far above the vast majority of humanity.

He was a hero, so few knew what that word truly meant, believing it to originate in skill at arms, his example would strengthen or destroy the resilience, the actions, even the morality, of those who knew him, who surrounded him, and this was in no way constrained by the here and now, his actions would repeat and rebound down through the ages, inspiring or enervating depending only upon the strength of his own convictions.

His face fully regained its usual power; whatever crisis he’d nearly been overwhelmed by had been faced, struggled through, survived, and perhaps had even added a little to that indomitable will. He gently kissed her on both cheeks and then uttered words which would burn her love for him into her chest for the rest of her days “It must be so very hard for you...”

That with all he faced on the morrow, with an understanding of the dreadful fate awaiting him, with inescapable doom hungrily drooling within his very shadow, that he might possess largess enough to feel compassion for her... That such a man should be extinguished, tormented, so far before his time... This was a crime perpetrated by the very gods themselves.

He smiled a strong smile and turned from her; she knew he would head to his home, to bid farewell to his wife and son without ever allowing them a glimmer of the truth he now possessed; he would be sure and full of confidence, his wife would sleep one last sound night, and then he would march out to face his doom eye to eye, toe to toe, as a hero must.

Cassandra never again told a soul their future. She laughed bitter, mocking venom at the gods, for they had missed something in their curse, something they were incapable of ever comprehending - the only souls worth saving from their futures here the heroes, and those men were of such spotless character they would never attempt a thing not as noble as their own character, and from acting nobly they could never be swerved...

 

To the Bone

 

How to walk this line… like some circus acrobat, perched upon the narrow thread leading from the beginning of this act to its conclusion… to trip and tumble, so easily done, down one side would be to fall with an almighty splash into a pool of praise, to swim and explore its every excess, to drown beneath the waves of its devotion… to slip and slither the other way would be to diminish the glory of a radiant day as stating it ‘sufficient to see’, to stand beneath the fragile beauty of a pale, full moon, reflected in perfect clarity by the motionless waters of crisp mountain pools and wonder at its composition…

Start where it seems appropriate, at the beginning… the only beginning that matters was when lightning fell, blinding my sight to all but the most radiant, when the viper struck, poisoning the sight of all I before held worthy and relegating it to a position far from the heights avid attention now sought, when the earth tremors tumbled the edifices and all the pedestals where false idols had been shaken in their foundations, bringing them plummeting to the floor, scattering in rubble and dust.

A brimming cup was upturned and all it contained washed clean; perception and its expectations ran full speed against an immobile object and discovered they were far from unstoppable.

The mighty oak, years in the growing, powerful with deep roots and a trunk broad enough to bear any load, arrogant in its sturdy existence… then came the wind… invisible to the eye, but the effects could not be denied; what began as a gentle caress, stroking the leaves with its feather caress, grew to something far more tempestuous… the tornado centred upon the enduring entity, the storm, rattling the branches till they groaned under the strain, the hurricane, deciding to teach the proud thing a lesson in humility, ripping it at the root till it no longer knew where to reside…

Change was ordained; had one not believed fate to be a fickle mistress, more intent on mischief that gratuitous service, one might be easily tempted into offering thanks to such pagan things, but now all gratitude lies at the feet of another essence, leaving nothing in auxiliary to bring up reinforcement.

A movement without direction…

A displacement without a destination…

Through each day the feet might have trod some simple or complex passage, but without purpose, they merely wandered, meandered here and there as whim and want might tug or tear. Now there is no doubt to where they are summoned, to which direction they turn, to their steadily increasing pace, and to their breathless, hurried arrival…

The expectation of that magnetic journey... such expectation for a mind which dreams anticipation, applying the full power of a limitless imagination, and still falls so far short as it leaps and bounds about the podium all meaning has been set so carefully upon.

Feet that dance a jig, knees which find themselves buoyant, filled with freshly minted springs, arms which swing to and fro to the music energising a heart beating in time, eyes casting, searching, sparkling… a brow wiped clean of the wrinkles usually marring the clarity only simplicity might allow, and a mind, focused of intention, concentrated in harmonious balance between reason and action.

Eyes that focus; while to left and right all that seemed dull is now filled with some vibrancy, and what before had lifted the soul from the mire it may have fallen, now punched a hole through the heart, clenched and exercised that muscle, lifted it and dared it race… but none of that mattered much of anything, for with that self-same vitality thrilling the mind with the wonder of what it now passed through came the disinclination to be enthralled by anything less than perfection, and these trinkets of joy could not come close in comparison.

So there lies the flesh, weak they claim, and rightly so, but what marvellous weakness, that it might become so fortunately engaged with an object. Pity those poor fools, so terrified of living, of losing, they never learn the peak of the wave, a wave that runs high through every ocean we call moment, rather they disclaim what is available for dreams of a nothingness within a nothingness, an end to the nothingness of their turning, but perhaps they have never been blessed, or perhaps when they were blessed they had already torn out their eyes…

To be broken, to be shattered like fragile glass, crushed beneath the boot of some tyrant, melted under the awful radiance of magnificence too rich to bear and remain whole, then… gathered, collected, pulled together by forces far beyond control, reformed, shaped and moulded into a receptacle capable of containing only one entity, to be remade unabridged as a half, a fragment of something other, something more, and then allowed the opportunity to become attached, so be smite hard into that structure, to be made one, and to feel… for once truly to feel… whole…

The ticking clock, the movement of journey, the breath that marks the process… coming to an end, not a cessation, but a completion; when the knife glitters through the air the anxiety begins, when it flashes close enough the limbs begin to tremble in dreadful expectation. The first pinprick of the razor blade piecing the skin, sliding deeper into the many protective layers, elicits a cry, more surprise than real pain yet, but it is far from finished in its toil. Further into the unresisting matter, passing effortlessly through folds of precious flesh, delving into organ, severing muscle and cartilage, slicing away until it reaches its destination, and there, lying hard against the innermost bone, it rests…

There is nothing more it might remove, the core lies exposed, vulnerable to its attacker… but the pain is past, for that same weapon which threatened to do such damage now offers a far more enduring protection, guarding that susceptible principle against all foreign bodies… and safe, essential… the flesh is set free, to grow strong and enduring beyond its wildest imaginings…

Tracers

 

Corner of the eye stuff, doubting senses and questioning the ear’s detail, glancing from here, being unsure, flickering the eyes a moment later an inch left or right and being rudely disabused of all expectations, as fleeting as he might have been I’m sure but will not admit... Set a few traps; a cul-de-sac here, a cunning recording device, a tasty snack, aromatic and designed to entice and allure. The whole time cursing yourself as a fool for participating in this foolish flight of fancy…

Fanaticism… what a beautiful madness… grasp a thing, a nonsensical thing, as all and every must and do is in this realm of realms, clutch at it so hard the pretence at sanity falls from your delighted eyes, those happy lights now focus on something irrationally perfect, in dread fascination. Discard all familial connection, responsibility and duty, and even other, less consuming, pleasures… burn them away and in the tornado of flaming need perhaps even flame to a cinder the object of your insanity.

With a giant jackboot crush all you know, with a sharp dirk slam your hand into the flesh of surety over and over with murderous intention, and while it looks away pour copious drops of poison into all that is dogmatic and gospel like… then… and only then… will you still not be free, but at least your temples of tormenting veneration will have shivered and shook, realising for the first time they no longer possess the hold they once took with such lamentable confidence.

Resistance, in those infamous words, is futile, but once more futility really is dependent upon the vision of the observer; as often enough, the very defiance, crushed before the burning spark has opportunity to ignite like faggots to its cause, goes down into the darkness flaming with that word most dreaded by tyrannical leaders… martyr.

Can a last thought, occurring at the every instant of ending, not passing, be enough to satisfy, to allow the last words to be ready with a sense of completion, or will flailing and screaming always mark the end, whether internal or not… There’s a case of the most stupendous fanaticism – a lifetime of penitence and obeisance simply for the gratification, a myopic surety for that most and least important of breaks between all moments.

Do you struggle to breathe, living in the stifling pollution, and I’m not talking about the gases emitted from factory and the arse of your pointless car; do you gasp and convulse if you are treated for a moment to the rarer atmosphere of higher than your station climes? Look, did you see… no, you missed it, but then don’t you always and never know… or admit…

 

Slight of hand to deceive the eye,

Somewhere beneath you know the lie…

Ostrich like you love the sand,

The easy way the helping hand.

Take what you can and burn the rest,

Eat too much to ever digest,

So that none might go to waste,

Or be taken by others explains the haste.

From the corner it tempts to turn,

If you looked what would you learn,

But there no desire to understand,

Simply exercise your gland.

So mayfly in sheep’s clothing live,

Take and mate, die don’t give,

And in the end the flicker passes,

While you never sought your prism glasses.

 

Cryptic by necessity, or sport, game or because the truths if written into words would burn the very fingers denying similar application… Lean into the answer with conviction, singular conviction and any who might dare insinuate otherwise or blatantly disagree will fall to a rage bubbling from every pore, for how could we have the very meaning supporting the heels we grind threatened…

Are you calling me a liar… you are not insulting me, you are insulting the fundamental fabric of reality; not only are you a heretic, but a fool, and thus you, and preventatively, all you might sire, need to be eliminated from the Earth, and quickly, before your barbarism might spread to those too weak to maintain the truth, my truth, on their own…

 

I took a needle and drove it through,

It entered clean, my aim was true,

While a little blood squirted,

It’s not as if someone was murdered,

And if a scream escaped clenched jaw,

There was less than little real gore…

The thing itself was necessary,

Like a slap for those too merry,

Like rules to dominate disguised as health,

The ones creeping with insidious stealth;

It’s for your good, I surely know,

Just agree, follow, sweep with the flow,

The quicker you surrender, your will dissolve,

Far better, for all know around me the world revolves…

 

It is without doubt the perfect truth that you do not exist… the proofs are clear to read and obvious to all, and all is only me this is yet another confidence to suck philosophy. When I close my eyes you disappear, when the door closes you cease to exist, when your mouth moves I hear nothing, but in my mind I whisper to myself. Today I cannot help myself, I make you a villain, for the delusion has come at the end of other frustrations the self-contemptuous division, that one I name shadow, has decided to punish me with, and thus the small ineptitudes I cast at my own feet have the livid rage snarling like a starved pack of wolves… Who else can I take such fury out on… but myself, for it would be beyond churlish to spit such spite at another; fortunate I am at such times you are nothing but image and incarnation of my feebler essence…

Such is the behaviour of all and any; I can hurt you for my capacity for empathy ends exactly where my needs and desires begin, I want to hurt you because the unfairness of my universe, so wilfully not obeying my every whim, needs a target and curse you for a fool if it will be me, and I can grind you beneath my boot, sapping your strength and worse – you hope… why… because it is done to me, and… while I would never admit this to myself… because I fucking enjoy it so…

From the corner of my eye I catch the faintest glance… but I would never confirm him, I can never… or perhaps I could… admit, empower, allow… embrace that shadow stalking every step of my conscious life…

 

Inevitable

 

Hark, upon that day did thunder sound in cloudless skies,

Did lightnings fling their deathly fingers from the very earth,

Upon the seas the waves rose without wind to stir,

And dying stars did burn their end across the ether…

 

The first signs may well have been long years previous, but none had paid heed; scientists had ranted about this or that, neurotics had worried and complained at coincidences perceived as portents, theorists had cunningly joined dots existing within their own meaningful imaginations, but present or not none of import had given credence, and even had they done so, what could possibly have been done in preparation…

The tremors that set of car alarms, that woke babes screaming in their cribs, that had dogs howling and the cows lowing in the fields, office workers glancing from the heights of their glass towers of risk and security, that leapt the needles and had the revellers misstep their rhythm, had little effect in the steady plod of but another rotation of this spinning marble.

However those tremors were little but the cracking of the surface; hints of what was to follow as within brief moments the faults of the world were ripped wide and sundered. At the epicentres whole cities were swallowed; cascading down fathomless breaches, gobbled by the oceans of rising molten rock, shattered to rubble by the violence of the fractures.

At further reaches from the plenitude no structure remained stalwart; breaking and tumbling to the greedy land, toppling and splintering, and ripping to shreds those fragile fleshy things that had constructed these great edifices as monuments to their immortality, their invulnerability.

From the mile wide trenches traversing and intersecting across an entire globe, whether upon the land or beneath the panicked waves, lava rushed in ponderous determination; rising inexorably from the pitiless depths of the world, from depths where for countless million millennia it had simmered, awaiting this day of days. It ascended and overflowed with merciless generosity, mounting to great rollers that refused to break, higher and higher until walls of remorseless raging rock crowded across the land.

Beneath the remains of the world’s plates, where the thickness of the crust defied the rising lava, pressure built; growing by the second it pressed against the paltry vestiges until the remnants could bear the strain no longer and simply ruptured.

Detonations began to dot the world, explosions of such magnitude they ripped the very roots from the planet. As a dam, suddenly shattering before the mounting tension of rising waters, might burst forth upon the calmer river below in a frenzied mixture of water and concrete, so did vast jets of molten rock, confused with the still solid shards of plate, hurl into the skies. Poisonous and toxic gases long contained rolled into the atmosphere, blanketing the world in gloom and darkness, trapping the rising heat, thickening the air with fatal vapours, and through the choking clouds massive lumps of thrown burning materials lit the murky skies like a thousand destructive shooting stars.

The seas, driven insane by the conflicting pressures and explosions, by tremors shaking an entire world, rose and did war upon one another. Tides the like of which human eyes, perhaps nothing ever to have lived, had ever seen before washed hundreds of metres above sea level, but not running in even directions, rather they conflicted; lifting without notice, breaking forward, gaining momentum, encountering tsunami travelling in the opposite direction or at some obtuse angle, obliterating each other, growing from each other, and where they struck land they drowned the earth beneath their endless surplus.

In innumerable locations the raging waters came into contact with the broiling lava and where they met they recoiled with dreadful violence. Steam spat in every direction, scalding even the air; again the waters savaged the lava, again they flinched in massive displays of blistering spray, until the remorseless waters slowly cooled the surface of the rock, creating a superheated scab between the two fundamental elements.

The people died…

In falling buildings, tumbling into crevices spearing hundreds of miles, vast chasms from which uncountable oceans of lava ascended, caught and trapped by molten rock and reduced to ashes, ripped apart in the creation of newborn volcanoes, beneath the flooding waves, gagging on deadly gases, the people died.

It had no end…

The tremors did not begin to subside and finally rumble to a stop, the seas never calmed and settled to their regular relatively gentle patterns, the volcanoes did not cease to erupt, extinguishing themselves towards extinction, and the air, dark and thick with noxious fumes did not finally clear to once allow the sun to light the pale blue sky.

The unimaginable power stored at the centre of the Earth had found release and would not be satisfied until all its strength had been depleted, bled dry in magnificently destructive murder and suicide. The end of days had come to the world, and the teeming life populating it had not the smallest patch of haven to huddle that it might cling to survival.

 

Thus did the end come, the end to all eras,

Within the void nought did mourn the passing,

What cared the rest at the loss,

For all capable of grief had vanished from the waters…

 
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