All Writing Is Rewriting…

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Keep that thought. Keep it in the sunlight. Keep it as a commandment.

There have been times down the decades when I have written something that I have considered as close to perfection as I could get. Being perfect, I placed it in the sarcophagus of almost forgotten memories only for me to stumble upon it years later.

Time is a deceiver, but it can also be a revealer.

images-710 He wasn’t mixing his words was he?

Writers grow from rewriting. Sometimes it takes a day. Sometimes a month. Sometimes decades. But the truth will out.

What had once been revered as a work of neo-genius now appears for what it really always was, a half-baked, half-thought that had been woefully half-written.

Good writing is not a natural ejaculation of all that pent-up emotion, passion and desire that lies achingly dormant within us. If so, it would be gone in the moment of release, its importance spent, its significance lost in the moment of its creation. Good writers are like sculptors, they see an idea, they wish to capture it, but first they have to start chipping away. Without the second part, the idea is merely a stone in the eyes of the world.

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Nothing exemplifies this more than the work that he was rumoured to have participated in, To Kill A Mockingbird. I have posted on this before and have mentioned that I thought the ‘original’, Go Set A Watchman, was half-decent. It was, however, not the finished product; it was a work in progress. Without the rewriting, nobody would have ever heard of Atticus Finch, Boo Radley, or Tom Robinson. Personally, a huge chunk of my moral compass would have been missing. Instead of North, South, East, and West, I may have only had North and South, or East and West, or even two Wests.

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The fact is that without the rewriting, all of these points of importance may have failed to appear, leaving me directionless and drifting in the indifference that regularly inundates the world. 

Now, I have been on a little venture of my own these last two years. I have been working, travelling, cycling, writing and rediscovering. And in all of this, I have been creating.

A couple of days ago, I went back to my stone and started to chip away at it. Rewriting had never been one of my favourite pursuits, so it was with surprise that I found myself enjoying the seven or eight hours that I spent with my mallet and chisel. I have, in fact, done this type of thing before to, my rescue piece, Read After Burnout, and I thought that I had rewritten the living shite out of it, but eh?

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I am going to spend a chunk of today doing the same thing.

The truth of it is that I am enjoying the journey. It is taking me back to the moment of writing and reacquainting me with those significant thoughts and events that inspired me to write in the first place. I am pleased that I am laughing so much at things that I intended to be merley wry. I am happy that much of what I wrote stills stands up long after the tsunami of realisation first swept over the page. I am relieved that I am finally becoming a writer.

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Now, I shall have to proof-read this to prove my claim…

Money’s Too Tight…So I read James Altucher On LifeHacker.com

Write Every Day

I had a friend who wanted to be a painter. “When I move to Paris I’ll finally be able to paint,” she said. She never moved to Paris. Now she’s a programmer and hates her job. I have another friend who has been working for 30 years on one novel. She keeps hating it and rewriting it. She can’t get a publisher interested. She only writes when she’s inspired. She needs writing groups to push her along.

I get it. I get writer’s block also. But writing is a muscle. I used to play in chess tournaments a lot. I was ranked a master. And then I got busy with other things. So my skill level has dropped. It would take me a good six months of studying, three hours a day to just get back up to my old skill level. If you don’t write every day, you won’t know what your potential skill level is. You will be producing sub-par work. And in a world where 15 million books will be published this year, your book will have little chance to shine.

It doesn’t matter if you write good stuff or bad stuff every day. Yesterday, for fun, I wrote about how much I enjoyed bowel movements. Will I publish that? I hope not! It was awful! But I wrote because that’s what I wrote yesterday. 1500 words about bowel movements. Mission accomplished.

Do the math: if you just write 1,000 words a day that are publishable then you have a book every two months. 1,000 words a day is not easy. But it’s not hard either. This post is 1,800 words so far and I started 20 minutes ago. I’ll spend many more hours rewriting it than writing, it but once you start exercising the writing muscle (start with 200 words a day, then 300, etc.) you will get up to 1,000.

Rewrite Every Day

See above. I feel better about the words I take out then the words I write. First you have a block of stone, then you make a sculpture, then you chisel and fine tune until you have a work of art. Art is born from the rewrite, not from the typewrite.

With Choose Yourself! I kept rewriting obsessively. One time the book was all finished and sent to editors, designers, etc. Then I did the audio version. KABLAMO! Any paragraph that made me feel like, “Ugh, I’m too bored to read this out loud,” I noted. Then I went back home and rewrote the whole book again. And the audio version veered so much from the book it was completely unabridged. Everyone hated me. But I liked the final result much beter. Read your work out loud and cut out anything that makes you lag.

Can I Make Money Writing Articles?

No. You used to be able to make a living writing articles. Just a few years ago. In 2005 I made a good living writing about 3-4 articles a day for different publications while I was running my fund and before I started and sold Stockpickr. But those days are over. People just don’t pay for content. And there are too many writers. It’s a supply and demand thing.

If you expect to make a living from articles or blogs then figure out how to do one of three things:

  1. Blog for free, but then lead people to a subscription information product. Like “stock picks” or “dating” or whatever you think you’re an expert at and nobody else is.
  2. Get speaking gigs. This is hard.
  3. Do consulting or coaching. This is possible.

I’ve never been that great at any of the three above. Well, maybe #3 but only recently. So this leaves us with only one thing. ONE THING works.

James Altucher

https://lifehacker.com/how-i-make-a-living-as-a-writer-and-you-can-too-1525380428

 

 

The Piper 12

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She had survived the first week of work and that was the closest thing to a blessing since they had moved. She was working in the offices of the city’s main hospital, tedious work that required her to read, type and file. Tedium was good when it could be found.

The other women in the office seemed nice enough, they greeted her with smiles, asked about her kids, showed concern when they discovered that she was a single mother, and made tea at regular intervals. Not since she was temping, all those years ago, had she ‘enjoyed’ an environment such as this.

Clean, safe and reserved, she concluded.

“I have a grandson that age,” the eldest lady had offered after the first week.

This was the door opening as the eldest lady, Anne, was the gatekeeper. Nothing too warm or overly friendly about Anne. Nevertheless Laura liked her; in the way that one might like a professional funeral director.

“What are your boys called?” Anne continued opening the door wider.

She felt that she was being quizzed by a teacher.

“Michael, he’s the eldest one. Last year at school. Christopher, middle one, a year younger. And Peter, the baby, he’s getting on to being five in December.”

A cloud of confusion drifted over Anne’s face.

“But I thought you said your husband died five years ago.”

Not so much a funeral director now as a police inspector. The typing fingers of the others stopped to hear the outcome.

“Peter was born not long after Simon’s death.”

Their audience waited.

“Oh that is so tragic, my dear.”

Laura never thought of putting ‘so’ and ‘tragic’ together in this manner. ‘Tragic’ was simply tragic and ‘so’ diminished it somewhat. Still, for their watching audience, this was riveting; something to talk about later.

“Oh, my poor dear, how did he die?”

For a normal person to make leaps like this into such a sensitive area would have been like crossing a potential mine-field with oversized shoes and a blindfold. Anne was not such a person. Her tread was straightforward, yet assured.

“He died in a car accident,” Laura replied. “I’d rather not talk about it as it still hurts.”

A moment’s cease-fire was followed by a more compassionate voice from the older woman.

“Of course, my dear. I apologise if I’ve asked too much. It won’t happen again.”

And that was the conversation ended.

Have I passed the first test? Laura wondered. Will there be more?

With the practised completion of the funeral director, Anne ran her palms lightly across the front of her black skirt (she always wore white blouses and black shirts – always freshly laundered ones) and sniffed the air as if finding some other duty to chase down. Then she was gone in the clean scent of her au de toilette.

“You’re okay, Laura, I think she likes you,” Jenny, another member of the admin staff assured her.

“I’d hate to not be liked by her,” Laura replied, as much to herself as anyone else.

“Yes, you most certainly would,” Jenny added without any wrinkle of humour in her eyes.

Upon leaving the general office, Anne,  went straight to the room of Doctor Christian. Her three sharp knocks announced her and a voice form the other side invited her in. Doctor Christian was seated behind his desk and was reading from a computer screen when she came in.

“So, how is our new recruit settling in, Mrs Spencer?”

Mrs Spencer was what he always called her. It was the type of formality that she responded to. She breathed deeply so as to deliver her news.

“Yes, she has three sons. Husband is dead in a car accident. She is strong.”

Doctor Christian’s eyes watched her from afar, his attention seemingly divided between the information on his monitor and his assistant in his room.

“Three sons, eh?”

She loved his voice.

“Yes, sir. Three boys aged sixteen, fifteen and four. Michael, Christopher and Peter.”

“The Trinity? My lord what will they think of next?” he asked not meaning to be answered. “The two older boys are at the school whereas the little one is not yet there. Please, if it is not a bother, find out where she takes the child during working hours.”

“Yes, sir,” she replied and waited.

“It is okay, Mrs Spencer, we have finished our conversation. You may go.”

She turned towards the door and was surprised by a little clearing of the throat from the man behind the desk.

“Oh, and thank you, Mrs Spencer. This has been very useful. Just keep an eye on her.”

 

Later that day, Laura Andrews was greeted with a slap of rain as she made her way to the carpark. The dark nights had arrived early and a gusty breeze was chasing clouds across the sky. For some reason, she was running late. Actually, that reason had been Anne asking more questions about her sons. Laura remained at arms’ length, trusting to an instinct that she was unaware had been past down through generations of genetic memory. No matter how much Mrs Spencer smiled, Laura felt that she must remain on guard. Again, the rain attacked her.

She found Brian, the family Volvo, secreted between a row of newer cars, all glistening with autumn rain. He looked like an eccentric uncle at a family gathering, but she didn’t have the heart nor finances to replace him. Laura rushed to find her keys, no automatic locks here, and turned them sharply before pulling open the door with that familiar metallic groan of his. Once inside, her breath began to cloud the air. With a little prayer, she turned the ignition; it was like waking the dead, nothing.

“Not now, Brian. Not now.”

She remembered that, at times Brian liked a bit of choke. Simon had a way with this as if he shared some profound understanding of the workings of the car’s engine.

“Not too much or it will flood,” she heard him say. “Not too much. And listen to the engine.”

She could see his slight rolling of eyes being matched with by his stoic smile that appeared on these occasions.

“Okay, I hear you,” she said to nothing.

She reached for the choke and turned again. This time there was a little more enthusiasm in the vehicle’s response and she encouraged this further with a prod of the accelerator.

Remember, too much all at once is not good for it. Let it have a sip and get the taste for it.

Still listening to her late husband’s advice, Laura smiled with satisfaction as Brian sparked into life. She fastened her seatbelt, turned on the lights then checked her mirror so that she could reverse out of the space. The rear-view mirror was also clouded and she had to wipe it with the handkerchief so that she could see. When the condensation had finally been cleared, she gave it a cursory glance, put the gear lever into reverse and then lifted the handbrake.

The car jumped backwards at speed and into a loud bang.

A sharp exclamation of surprise left her as she quickly looked for the thing that she had hit. Hadn’t she checked before she started to move? She had been sure that she had. She had… she had.

She looked at her right hand which held the steering wheel and recognised its trembling. It was shaking with a will of its own. A flush of heat ran along her body, bringing with it the immediate perspiration that had been so commonly aligned to her attacks. She knew that she had hit something. Had she seen a figure at the last minute standing in her path? Had she seen someone just before she had lifted the handbrake? Had she knocked that someone over? Had she?

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When she got out of the car to check, only space greeted her. Nothing more.

 

The Piper 11

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Rain always threatened.

No matter how the weeks had passed since they first began at St Agnes’s, the boys still waited for the inevitable to…inevitably happen.

Sharp pellets of rain shot down upon the knots of students scattered around the playground. With their backs turned against the weather and the world, they looked so much like penguins huddled against the storm.

For the weaker ones, the weather was the least of their worries. It was the gang members, wandering with impunity, who had to be avoided. Boredom and bravado meant that an attack could take place at any moment. Even in this time of odd peace, there was still some danger. The teachers, who were supposed to be on duty, were hidden away in doorways and recesses. Everyone knew who ran the school. A certain Joel Podrall stood at the heart of his lieutenants and accepted the homage they paid.

At fifteen, he was already becoming a man. His fingers told of a habit of cigarettes and cannabis whilst his breath and eyes betrayed his liking of stronger spirits. For as long as anyone cared to remember, Podrall had been the main man; or boy. He had been the recipient of his father’s genes, a father who no longer enjoyed the liberty of the outside world, and this had enabled him to develop a strength that was beyond that of many of his peers. His size and stature made him stand out in a crowd and this had the added benefit of drawing attention to himself. Whenever there was trouble to be had, Podrall was sure to have it. Older boys and men would single him out as the one to beat and would pay for their trouble. Anyone who he could not cope with on his own would be dealt with by his gang who would spring to his defence. In his fifteenth year, Joel Podrall feared almost nobody and knew that the world owed him big style.

For more than a month now, he had followed the orders of his leader.

Flowers was not to be disobeyed. He had been told to lay low, not to create any real disturbance, just to keep it normal. Normal for Podrall was usually mayhem. His need for violence continually craved satiation. More than anything else, he wanted to have a go at the eldest Andrews’ brother; the one who had escaped him on the first day.

Something had happened that was not right. A glance in the other lad’s eyes, just before the intended attack, had unnerved him. He had sen the same in the eyes of another; Flowers. What Podrall could not accept was the memory of the sudden bolt of fear that had run along his spine. It had stopped him in his tracks just moments before the water sprinklers and fire alarms had exploded. And he knew it had been Andrews boy.

An easier target was the younger one. Flowers had told him that he wanted their efforts to be directed at Chris, the footballer. Without spelling it out in any real depth, Flowers had suggested that it would make a bigger impact if one of his meanest gang members made mincemeat out of him. It needed to be public and it certainly needed to be an event.

What Flowers had not told his general was that he was testing his enemies for weaknesses and that, by default, the younger brother was the weakest link. Sheer physical strength and agility was no match for some of the other attributes that Flowers now prized so highly.

Turning to one of his more menacing compatriots, Podrall shot out his order,

“Teally, I want you to kick the footballer in. Make him know he’s not wanted around here. If his brother interferes, you all set on them.”

A snigger of laughter ran through the pack and they set about the operation.

An important part of understanding how the school worked was to understand how the tactics of terror could be deployed in the playground. Podrall was following a tried and tested formula when he sent his lads off to welcome the newcomer. His pack let it be known that they were about to make a sacrifice and the rest of the school responded enthusiastically following as if in a religious procession towards the scene of carnage.

For those teachers who cared to interfere, the gang had created diversions that would lead them away whilst the real business was taken care of. Fortunately, most of the teachers were too afraid, or too careful, to interfere.

As Michael and Chris walked unsuspectingly across the yard, they heard a voice from behind.

“Hey, are you that Chris Andrews who had trials for United?”

They both turned to discover a meaty looking gorilla of a boy approaching them.

“I said, are you that Chris Andrews who had trials for United?”

“Yes,” Chris innocently replied to the one who was now rushing towards him at speed.

Before he could truly react, he had taken a glancing blow to the side of his head that felt as if he had been hit with a goal post. Stunned, he managed to stay on his feet for long enough to avoid the next intended blow and to duck down out of his assailant’s reach.

A well-maintained athlete, Chris was able to switch into automatic-pilot mode, allowing his body to respond before his mind had determined the course of action. Being much slimmer than his attacker meant he was much faster and far more agile. As Teally’s second swing wildly missed its mark, Chris swivelled around and was able to aim a sharp jab into the kidney area of the larger lad. He was aware of the protection afforded to his adversary by the additional weight he was carrying, yet was also in possession of the knowledge that surprise could wind an opponent just as much as a winning punch.

Michael had been a bystander during these initial exchanges, becoming conscious of the dire predicament the brother had found himself in. Around them had gathered a baying crowd. Big ones, little ones, boys and girls, all chanting, pleading for the spilling of blood. Then there were the others who were with the big kid watching and waiting to pounce. Michael had seen this before and knew that it was a no-win situation. Michael also knew that they had underestimated Chris.

Sooner or later, Chris would put the big kid down and then the pack would descend upon him. Unlike Chris, Michael was a thinker first.

The big kid had started to take a few well-aimed punches without being able to find a suitable reply. Chris was moving around his man, choosing his moment to strike and making Teally look like a drunken uncle. His reactions were slow and getting slower yet he still had strength that could be dangerous. Chris was thinking now and seeing the outrage that was written on the faces of the big kid’s mates. They wouldn’t let this go on much longer and he knew it.

Soon, they would be all over him like rats.

Michael spotted the movement before he had decided to make it himself.

It was the ginger-haired kid who had moved. He was the one who would throw himself upon Chris and give the signal for the rest to follow. Michael had caught his eyes, weighing up the proceedings and had seen how the others looked to him for their lead.

Throwing thought from his mind, Michael rushed forward and caught Ginger with the sweetest and most crunching of blows right between the mouth and the nose. In fact, the blow had been complemented by the initial impetus of the ginger kid in his eagerness to set upon Chris. The result was a devastating delivery that not only halted the charge, but laid the attacker out flat and cold.

At moments like these, audiences often stop to admire the sheer audacity of the intended victim. The noise had ceased but appreciation was far from their minds.

From his position at the back of the crowd, Podrall knew that all had not gone to plan. Now, there were teachers coming. More to the point, there was Mr Hunter, ‘old bite yer legs’, who showed Podrall no fear and no respect. He’d stick his nose in where it didn’t belong one of these days and he’d know about it.

By the time Hunter had made his way to the centre of the crowd, it was already dissipating. Only Teally, the two brothers and the out-cold ginger kid remained.

“What on earth has been going on here? Jesus, this lad’s unconscious. You, Teal, get the nurse quickly.”

As the teacher bent down to administer first aid, he barked at the brothers to go straight to the headmaster’s office and to wait for him.

During the melee the mobile phone that Mum had bought fell from Mike’s pocket. It landed face down in a cushioning patch of mud. While Hunter was dealing with the others, Podrall walked across to where it lay and ever so casually picked it up.

The eldest of the brothers turned at the exact same point just as Podrall had managed to conceal his pickings in his trouser pocket. He had given him a look that he certainly did not like, but he wasn’t going to do anything about it now.

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There would be another time, he swore to himself.

 

 

 

 

 

Being Creative On Sunday Morning…

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Or Going For A Bike Ride…

 

Being an individual in a culture that prizes the group over all else is difficult. There have been times when I thought it to be impossible. Even so, I pulled away from the general gravity and tried to free-step into a space where few had gone before. A little Captain Tiberius Kirk, eh? But it is true. It seems that all of my basic philosophy has been completed by mainstream writers. Surely, that does not make me an individual. What it makes me is a ‘sucker’ or a dreamer. Perhaps that is it, I am a dreamer and always have been. I have also built.

I think that I am a ‘creative’. That means something to me because it tells me that I do belong, but I belong to a small tribe of strange individuals who rarely meet. The thing with being a ‘creative’ is that you do create, but you follow a very different path to that taken by others.

Creativity is very messy.

According to one prominent theory, the creative process involves four stages: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. This is all well and good in theory. In reality, the creative process often feels like this:

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Taken from:

THE MESSY MINDS OF CREATIVE PEOPLE

By Scott Barry Kaufman

This is a little like mine but there are some subtle differences. When I was young,  loved the challenge of creating something new. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time thinking about it and then forgot to apply myself properly to the finished product. My processes went something like this:

 

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This:

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Somehow, knowing that I was who I was, right from the off, has made my decisions for me. I am a fish that finds it impossible to swim backwards. I didn’t chose the road-less traveled-by, it chose me.

 

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I knew I was licked before I started, but I did it anyway. 

 

 

Serialisation Of The Piper Book 1

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THE PIPER

Stealing souls (Summer 1966)

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment; I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt”

(Exodus 12:12-13).

.

 

Even in this state, the boy knew there was something wrong with the man in the white coat.

In fact, if facts were anything to be believed, he knew that this was not a man at all. His outward appearance was just that. The boy saw what he really was but could do nothing about it.

Bring unto me the little children.

And they had.

His followers had taken to the roads of the kingdom and had stolen where they could. Their master wanted the young. He wished for those minds still forming, minds that could be moulded and controlled. He wanted the chance to steal the souls of those in his charge. And his followers did their jobs well. Night after night they scoured the land for that which their master desired and soon the ward was bursting with the lost ones.

The boy had been one of the taken. He had been snatched from the garden of his home during one sleepy summer’s dusk and had been deposited on the desolate ward where his tiny existence would be taken from him. Like the others on the ward, there was to be no escape.

The thing in the white coat moved amongst them and fed upon their tortured dreams. Night after night, it arrived at his bedside and watched. Always, the white coat would come in the darkest hour bringing with it the promise of relief. All the children had to do was surrender.

Yet the boy did not yield.

 

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He was dead.

He had been that way for many years. Nobody had noticed as no one had cared. James Harrison had enjoyed in death the isolation that he had sought in life. The curtains of his flat had remained drawn. Only the tiniest shaft of light had penetrated on those days when the sun had been released from behind the veil of clouds. For all intents and purposes, this was a tomb not unlike those that were sometimes found in Egypt.

He had been sitting, seething at the television screen, wondering if he should collect another bottle of cider from his fridge and thinking that he should turn down his central heating, when it happened.

The beautiful young people on the television were laughing at their own poor attempts at being funny and he was considering changing programmes. Normally, he just needed to reach to the side of him and pick the remote control from the table but this time it wasn’t in the usual place. His hand searched more frantically but for naught. Swearing under his breath, he leant over and found that it had fallen to the floor. He attempted to reach it but only managed to nudge it under his chair. His frustration and blood pressure rose. Now he had to get up. With a strain that surprised him, he prised his body from the comfort of the cushions and was able to stand, before lowering himself to the carpet. His hand felt blindly in the darkness under the chair and he thought that he felt the hard plastic touch of the control. Yet, as he moved to clasp it, it moved away from him. Now his heart beat with primal anger.

The first of many tiny explosions of white fireworks interrupted his vision and he felt the air seeping from his lungs like a departing breeze. His first thought was that he must be coming down with something and his second was to blame the outside world of people for being incubators of such diseases.

The next thing that happened caused him concern. His attention was dragged from the underworld of the chair to the doorway where he thought that he had seen movement. It had only been in the corner of his sight yet he was sure that something small and dark had scuttled along the line of the skirting boards. His mind registered vermin.

When he had been working the fishing boats, he had seen rats as big as cats patrolling the darkest corners of the boats. They had developed a taste for the sea and had gorged upon the fish that had been the prime task of the fishermen’s cold ventures. Somehow, they could never find the things when they were searching back in dock. They just disappeared.

Again, he had seen something move and this time it was bigger. He looked more closely, ignoring his original mission but there was nothing. His eyes were playing tricks. One final push brought success and he muttered his begrudging satisfaction before returning to his pew.

The presenter was leering at him. Her common voice was filling the room and her false smile reached the sides of the screen. Like an executioner, he pointed the remote control and pressed the trigger. Nothing happened.

He pressed it again and nothing happened. Again and again and again. He exploded into obscenities as the audience fell about in induced laughter. He threw the malfunctioning equipment at the plastic smiles of the winning couple and watched it bounce off their arrogant faces.

Behind him, he heard scratching. It was getting louder and he was sure that it was moving towards him. He sat solid in his chair.

His mind’s eye saw it first. It was a rat the size of a dog and it was, he could never know how, smiling at him.

At exactly 8.27, he died. Disbelief swept the muscles of his face. The end credits rolled with the theme tune that was to play his death march. It is as a result of our society that people are allowed to live and die without ever having been noticed, or missed, by anyone. Winter is the season that takes many individuals as they are prone, through natural selection, to offer themselves up to the elements. It is the same as when hunters track a herd across the Great Plains identifying an easy kill. In our instinctive need for safety, humans have gathered themselves into strongholds, towns and cities, where the harshness of the old world can be kept at bay. It is a paradox that this is where the predators from the old world now gather to pick off easy meals.

At around the same time as Harrison met his eventual partner for eternity, many more were disappearing from the field of existence. For them, life had blinked and was gone. Whatever it had failed to give them, many of them still harboured some hope of a kinder afterlife. Harrison too would have had this if it were not for his unfortunate meeting with his personal ferryman.

In Britain during that winter, there was a rash of unreported deaths. The divorced, the disabled, the rich and the once famous were being carried away in the full view of a society that simply did not see. During the course of a few short days spanning the mid-winter solstice, a number of apparently unconnected deaths were left unreported.

In Birmingham, a fifty-five-year-old man ‘vanished’ while seated at his dinner table. His last meal awaiting his attention, cooled and then decomposed in a parody of himself. The apartment block, in which he had lived for fifty years, had been declared officially empty and stood awaiting a purchaser and redevelopment. A downturn in the local economy had helped to keep this opportunity closed like the lid of a coffin. The initial odour that rose from his corpse was not noticed and his mummification was ensured.

In Manchester, the body of a travelling salesman, back for a not so festive break from the distraction of his business, was left to its own devices in a flat that had not been visited by members of the outside world for years. These, like their other unknowing companions in death, benefited from conditions that favoured the preservation of their cadavers if not their memories.

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It was as if someone had drawn up a list of the more desirable and had gone out collecting in time for Christmas.

 

 

 

The baby had abandoned its cries on that eve before Christmas.

During the short time that it had been part of this world, it had discovered only pain and indifference. Only fourteen months and the world had rewarded its struggle with a second-hand travel cot and sheets that bore evidence of its neglect.

The television was on and was showing a programme that followed the love lives of the young. His mother, who was now without a love life, sat watching the entertainment. Tears of unfathomed regret waited beyond her eyes. She stemmed them with her anger. She pulled at her cigarette and welcomed its harshness into her lungs. Saturday night and here she was trapped in this flat with a baby she didn’t want or love. She looked over towards the kid and snapped her gaze away just as the thing started to throw back some recognition. She needed a drink. Within a minute, she was out of the door, turning off the light as she went.

The baby sat helpless in the dark.

Even for one so young, it had gotten used to this and had discovered, through pain, that silence was the best option. She would be gone a long time. Sometimes, she would not return until the next morning and then she would sleep. The baby would lay silent until sleep brought about some relief. It welcomed the comfort of the night and loved the stillness of the flat when she wasn’t there. Already, he had learnt the hard lessons of life and these were to shape a heart that would not be hurt by anyone ever again.

The child shivered as a cold breeze ran along the floor. Goosebumps shot up its arms. The boy had never seen anything like this before. It stood high like the woman but had no shape. It was darker than any night the baby had ever experienced and yet it meant him no harm. There was a hand that reached out and stroked his face.

Boy, you have been chosen. You will lead my army and you will be without equal in the time that is to come. This existence that you have to endure is only preparation for your life to come. Take care to experience all those things that will make you strong. I will be watching you from the distance and I will make sure that she does not harm you beyond that which will benefit us.

I give you this sign that others will recognise.

The dark placed a clawed hand on the child’s back and when it lifted again there was a small black mark that was shaped like a flute.

In years to come, I will call upon you. For now, you must grow boy and become strong. She that now lets you suffer shall meet her own torment when she has fulfilled her usefulness.

With that, the shape was gone. The child’s life had been marked by the hatred of a woman that could not bring herself to accept any responsibility for her baby’s existence. She would continue to serve a purpose only so that the child could get the chance to start its long journey. She was mother only by accident and her time would be spent in servitude to the greater cause.

The boy, that he would eventually become, would never be able to say anything about this woman for he would never know her. Her death would be a reminder only to those who had nothing else to think about, whose lives were meaningless and empty, shells that had lost their inhabitants. He would never know or care that he once had a mother. He would grow up in the care, or indifference, of others. He would experience neglect and abuse in the same measure as others tasted love. He would travel as a dark pilgrim through the jetsam of the modern world meeting cause admiration and fear amongst those he would meet. In some future, already sketched, he would bring about the pain of purgation for those not worthy of this toy that was life.

After finding the boy, the thing that had wandered for centuries would wander some more. Like a dark Magee, it would bring gifts to those who would inherit this earth and he would bring the wish of desolation to those that desired it.

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Throughout the world, its black seeds were being sown into desperate lives and it silently rejoiced in its own coming.