Read After Covid…33

Out of the Woods

Before the virus came the winds. They were big buffeting ones that threatened all in their paths. To walk out was to enter the challenge, to be tested. Cars faired no better with their metallic assumptions blown from one side to the other. The floods came before the winds and they inundated those places that man had thought he had secured. Rivers became deltas and homes yielded themselves to the force of the waters. And before all of this there came fire, fire that burnt with the absolute joy of itself, fire that fed off anything that was put in its path.

We had been living in a safe zone. Lives there were quiet. Nothing happened that could not have been reasonably expected. People shopped for the things that they thought they needed and worked for the things they thought they needed to buy. Outside news came in the mornings and the evenings. Those who were still hungry for more could take the news as a late supper, a thing that was not sweetened for taste. Every horror of the world was available if only one wanted to savour them. The wise ones kept their diets safe, they did not eat cheese before sleep as unwanted dreams might ensue. That was the way that we kept our senses intact.

They say that an ocean starts with a trickle. Somewhere there is a source to everything that grows into significance. We do not live in a world of magic; those days have long left us. We live in a world that has been made by science, governed by laws, watched over by the immutable mores of physics. For every action there is a reaction. For every consequence there is a cause. For miracles there are explanations. That was until the first outbreaks started to be noted.

Wise men heed warnings, wiser men ignore them. The truly imbecilic ones heed and laugh whilst arranging the clap for an old school friend. I was none of the above, my concerns lay with matters of the dark side – Pet Semetary and Stephen King. For those who have not had the pleasure of reading this little tombs-tome, take my advice – DON’T. For one thing, it’s bloody scary. King has a nonchalant way of creating smallish books that hold a lot of shocks and unearthly tremors that run from the page to the permanently paranormal that resides within all of us. His scant words are like grave-ground scratching that always catch a nerve or two.

A number of years ago, I had made myself a promise that I would never, ever, read the book about dead pets being buried and brought back to life. We were on holiday in France, treating ourselves to a week in a wonderful house on the edges of a lively village. Things started to happen, things that really were nothing, but when they all came as armies massing in the turgid afternoon hours of a Languedoc village, things started to add up. Not that I was much good at adding, or subtraction, multiplication and division – I hope you’re getting my drift; things were just wrong.

If you were a social scientist, you would have a field-day examining my behaviours. Most of the time when I’m on my own I have a chat with myself. I do not believe that this is wrong or that it shows some wrong in me. Talking to yourself can be just like talking to others – most talk is functional and exists in the same sphere as post-surgical monitoring equipment. They bleep and flash; they change colours, and alter the regions of the body. Conversations tell us that the person we are talking to is still alive. They tell us that the world is alright, still pulsing, still actively accompanying us on the old journey. It’s when the bleeps miss, or the flashing does not light up, or the colours become a mass of psychedelic blackness, that it is clear that life balances on the edge of a savage knife.

My nights of sleep have taken on their own themes. Last night was set at the height of the German attempts to break the spirits of the plucky Brits. Plucky is a term that we would like others to think about when talking about us as a nation. Plucky: having or showing determined courage in the face of difficulties. It means that you don’t cry out in pain, you just accept it as your God-given lot. It means not looking for solutions that lie beyond the obvious as these will only act as time-wasters and evasions. Plucky means flourishing in conditions that are hardly bearable, smiling when all around are vanishing into a whirlpool of despair – whilst also smiling. Plucky is me waking up, smiling at the fat hog of a nurse who only attends my bed if I have managed to solve the mystery of the assistance alarm.

Last night, with the bombs starting to rain down on the garden party celebrating the arrival of a long, hot Indian summer, I listened to my recreation of swing music, a background that perfectly placed me in the summer that gasped into life as the first moves were made that would determine the following moves for the next five years. Like my other dreams, I was placed in my hospital bed that had taken on the quality of a time machine. My window offers a not so impressive view of a blankly paved square of ‘courtyard’, one that nobody uses or has real access to. The ‘courtyard’ could be its own universe for all the travelling that I’m allowed to do. Since the accident, my movements have been minimal.

I shift between the bed and the seat, but in my dreams I am able to wander in both time and space.

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