When Truth Becomes Fiction

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“Ninety-five percent of people who walk the earth are simply inert. One percent are saints, and one percent are assholes. The other three percent are people who do what they say they can do.” 

The Dead Zone   Stephen King

 

I read this book in my late teens or early twenties. It struck me then as something to think about and now it strikes me as prophetic., a successful businessman and delusional egomaniac, becomes a contender for president and would have convinced the blue-collar workers, rednecks and those left out of the American dream, to put him in the Whitehouse. King, being King, made a ludicrously sounding plot believable and now America, in homage to one of its greatest commercial writers, has made the dream come true. The world is going mad and soon Trump will be conducting the cacophonous calamity that will play out on the world stage.

 

I am scared to death of the lunatic. I am scared of those who see his illiberal-evil and believe it. I am scared that what King’s character dreamt about will actually happen. Give me vampires or zombies. Give me a super plague or virus. Give me anything but Trump (and that is not an order). The inauguration hasn’t taken place just yet but soon it will be history. How much are betting companies’ odds on Trump being trumped before he truly takes office? Will a lone gunman try to JF DT?  Alas, there will be nothing that shakes Trump’s immoveable belief and manifest destiny. Only in books do the villains falter at the last; in the real world they continue apace, get their nasty business done and then fade into a distant memory of a one-time terrible illness.

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And so, it has come to pass that the epitome of ignorant evil has survived his first year; almost. Indeed, his stance had become emboldened by the persistent sycophants and fawners who are now anxiously waiting in the queue to shake the hand of America’s best. It makes me sick, sick to the very core of my being that “the will of the people” can be so wrong. And yet isn’t it that this very will is what our newly promoted populist politicians would have us believe is in the same ball-park as the first commandment that Moses inscribed on his tablet? Thou shalt not ignore the will of the people.

 

As a person, I would gladly ignore the slavishly ignorant will of a people who have entered into the wilderness under the guidance of a snake-oil salesman and shaman. They believe that they speak the truth because they dare to say what others nowadays find repulsive. They like to call a spade a spade, a Jew a Jew, a liberal-minded woman a whore or a dyke and a gay an abomination. The truth is to be found in the core of their excremental souls, the way of seeing past evolution, empowerment and even-mindedness. Empathy left the harbour a long time ago and has now been scuttled in the mid-Atlantic.

It is a central irony that in seeking to combat extremism, Islamic in particular, the most powerful democratic nation on earth should elect an equally barbarous ignoramus who seeks to exercise power in the same manner a lynch mob would dispense Frontier-Justice.

 

And there it is folks, the reason for education. The central motivating factor for me to become educated and to attempt to lead others in that voyage of discovery was to rebalance the sides. I wanted to help put more decent thinkers into the world in order to combat the inevitable rise of the ignorant who often feign their own disappearance in order to spring back again when least expected. It’s like an overused cliche from a cheap horror-flick; the keep coming back.

   

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The Piper 36

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Few people knew it, but History was about to become just that.

The class was little over half full. Many of the students had been absent these last few days and so had been a number of teachers. Michael had been surprised to see that the government had become involved and had put the recent increase in school and work absenteeism down to the seasonal lack of sunlight.

Lack of sunlight!

It was explained that in countries where the sun decides to take a six month holiday, people become depressed. Depression led to self-medication and lots of individuals turned to alcohol or other such things to alleviate this. Others just stayed indoors. The government advice was that people should increase their vitamin intake, especially vitamin D. Many of the students at St Agnes had opted for a non-school medication  instead.

Many of the students sitting alongside Michael were ones he had only heard of when their names had been echoed into nothingness as the resister was called. Now they were all seated alongside him in the History room.

Mr Hunter was sitting on the edge of his desk explaining how the Nazis managed to seize power in Germany. Michael thought that he looked tired, the way his mother had started to look again.

“On the 30thof January 1933, Hitler gained what he was after. He was given the Chancellorship of Germany.”

The teacher surveyed his audience, a motley crew if he was to be honest, but they were quiet. Some, he suspected, were off in their own private thoughts (or whatever amounted to thinking). His one crumb of comfort was that the Andrews boy was present. He watched his keen eyes from his position at the front of the class and wished that more of them could be like him.

Since his coming to the school, even amidst all that was happening, Mr Hunter felt that the boy brought some hope. At last he had someone in his lessons who understood the processes of debate and reasoning. The others, even the ones who had promised to be academically able, had slowly closed down. It was as if they had given up. Being noticeably ‘brainy’ was not good for one’s chances of survival at St Agnes.

“We know that Germany was in a terrible state after their humiliating defeat in the First World War. This was made worse by the Great Depression of the 1930s, a depression that the country never really recovered from, but what other factors could have been involved in turning a leading European country into a state that did not merely condone violence, but also used it to increase its popularity?”

He looked out at his audience once again and waited for a show of hands that he knew would never come. Even the Andrews boy was a reticent participator today. Not being too eager to let his learners off the hook so quickly, the teacher waited.

Michael wanted to suggest something. He knew that he did not have the answer, but also knew that that was not what history was all about. People simply weighed up the evidence and measured one argument, one interpretation, against another. It was like playing Cleudo. Nevertheless, this morning he kept his hand down.

The lesson had been running for twenty minutes when the door opened and in walked Liam Flowers. He smiled at his classmates and raised a knowing eyebrow to Michael.

“Good afternoon, class. Good morning, Mr Hunter,” he flourished, turning to the man perched on his desk.

“And good afternoon to you, Mr Flowers. Did you have trouble finding us?”

“No, sir. I never have trouble finding anything I really want to find.”

He stared deeply into the eyes of the teacher. Mr Hunter looked back before cutting short  the contest. Michael watched the exchange from the back of the room and understood that something was taking place.

“If you would care to take a seat, you might find yourself interested in what we are discussing. I know that you are an enthusiastic student of history.”

Flowers had to hand it to the old man, he didn’t rise to the bait.

“And what,” the boy asked moving to the available place next to the Andrews boy, “would that be?”

“Michael Andrews, could you possibly inform your partner as to what we were discussing?”

This was a regular trick that the teacher used to make sure that everybody was listening. What hurt Michael was that Mr Hunter knew, had to know, that he had been the only one listening. It was bad enough having to sit next to Flowers, but having to openly engage in conversation was something else. Still, he was in the spolight. The whole group turned around in their seats to witness what was going to happen.

“Mr Hunter,” his throat felt suddenly dry and he instinctively swallowed. He coughed slightly and hoped this did not translate into obvious trepidation. “We,” he began once more, “were talking about Hitler’s rise to power. Mr Hunter wanted us to think about the factors that may have contributed to that.”

“Hitler again? Is he still banging on about him? Mr Hunter we’ve all had enough of Hitler. Why do we have to put up with you working through your own issues? It’s becoming just a little boring.”

“The rise of the German far right is an essential part of your study,” the history teacher replied calmly. “If you wish to do well in this course, you…”

“We get another teacher?”

“I was about to say that you attend both in body and in mind.”

“Not many faces here today are there?” Flowers was not to be outflanked. “I wonder if your audience might not be getting sick of the bleeding-heart liberal who is supposed to be teaching them about history, real history. What’s he been telling you about Hitler and the Jews?”

He turned to Michael. “You listen to him don’t you? What’s he been saying?”

“He didn’t have the chance to say much before you came in. We were just looking at the things that could have got Hitler into power.”

“Well that’s not difficult is it?” Flowers had the stage again. “Hitler came to power to save his country. No, he came to power to save the world from socialists and Jews. I dare say that our fine teacher over there might even fall into one of those categories. Do you, sir? Are you a Jew or a socialist?”

“I am your teacher and a human being who does not seek to persecute others for his own benefit. What are you, Mr Flowers?”

“Oh, that’s easy. I am Liam Flowers. If you are able to hang around for a little while, you’ll understand just who I am.”

There was silence.

Flowers watched the faces of the assembled to determine if anyone else had the balls to stand up to him. Nobody attempted to meet his gaze.

“And you,” he said looking at Michael once again, “do you believe that I am who I am?”

“No.”

Flowers thought for a moment.

“Very interesting. You deny me my existence?”

“Not that.”

“What then?”

“It’s the quotation. I think you know that you used it.”

“What’s that then?”

“I think I know what…” interjected Mr Hunter.

“We’re not interested in what you think, old man. Your time has run. What do you think, Andrews?”

“I think you have a problem. I think that you have a God complex.”

“God is the least of my problems.”

 

 

 

The Piper 35

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“Mrs Andrews. Mrs Andrews?”

She was conscious of being in a room that echoed a lot. The ceilings were high and there was a smell that was unmistakably connected with hospitals.

Her first thought was about Peter. Who would be looking after Peter? The world was coming at her in flashes. She heard the sound of horns that had raised themselves into something more threatening. She remembered the faces of the people as they threw their insults at her. She remembered their hatred that had multiplied with her attempts to reignite Brian’s engine. She only just remembered the police officer as he reached into the car.

“Mrs Andrews. Laura, can you hear me? Blink if you can hear me.”

The voice was different to the ones she had been hearing earlier. This one belonged to a woman.

From deep down, Laura made the journey to the surface. She was swimming upwards and away from a very dark place. There were things down there that searched and searched. Once or twice something brushed the soles of her feet and panic shot through the rest of her body like acid spilt across naked flesh. She looked upwards. She was almost there when a voice whispered into her ear:

They all know about you Laura. They all know about your dirty husband and his cheating ways. Relax. Give your children a chance. We’ll look after them. We have good homes for the likes of them. Let me take you to meet Simon.

Fear gripped her and she pushed with new strength for the surface.

“Laura can you hear me? Blink if you can hear me.”

“I think she’s having a seizure. We’ve checked her for drugs but there are no obvious signs. If I were to make a guess, I’d say that she was experiencing some type of paranoid schizophrenia. The police were able to get some details from the car and we’ve taken the liberty of checking her name against our computer records. If I’m right, this one has been here before.

“Hang on. She’s blinking.”

Laura had finally made it to the surface. She was now in the room looking at two doctors who were staring back at her.

“Laura, it’s Laura Andrews isn’t it?”

Laura pushed the affirmation out of her,

“Yes, it is.”

“You’ve had a bad experience. A police officer found you in your car, crying hysterically. You were blocking a long line of traffic so you caused quite a stir. Could you tell us what caused this? Have you any history of this type of event?”

Laura thought back to the black months after Simon’s death and nodded.

“I was being treated for depression after my husband died. I received counselling, no drugs. I was pregnant at the time.”

The two doctors exchanged looks and Laura thought she could hear the female doctor think the words, poor woman, pregnant to a dead husband.

“Are you on any medication now?”

“No.”

“Do you have any other dependencies like tobacco or alcohol?”

“A bottle of wine once a week, is that a dependency?”

“It’s a lot less than we’re on.”

At that point a nurse moved quickly along the ward.

“Excuse me, but one of you is needed in emergency. They’re run off their feet. I don’t know what’s happening to this country.”

A look from the male doctor indicated that she should be more conservative with her general conversation.

“You go,” said the female doctor, “I’ll finish up here.”

As the nurse and the doctor were walking quickly away, Laura thought she could hear the internal conversation that was going on between them. They were at the cutting edge of immediate medical care and had experienced a massive increase in patients attending casualty with wounds from violent attacks both animal and human.

The world was going mad.

 

 

 

 

 

The Piper 34

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The muffled cries shook him from his sleep.

He had raised himself and had popped his head around the corner of her bedroom door. What had greeted him shook his senses, almost smashed them.

His mother was sleep-talking. She was sitting bolt upright in bed, eyes wide open, speaking into the grey air of the morning. Her face was contorted. There was a loathing that he had not seen before and then, ever so slowly, she had turned deliberately toward him. As soon as her eyes met his, the indistinct light sliced through with unearthly ease, Michael saw that the hatred was directed at him.

“Get away from me, get away from all of us, you murderer!”

She had hissed and then she had loosened her gaze and fell back onto the bed.

He had watched her, making sure that she was sleeping before closing the door.

Michael then walked around the house, his bare feet hushing his progress. The sounds of the city, waking up and going about the mundane business of the day, were beginning to assert their tenure outside. Indoors, the veil of normality was being pulled away. He heard the heavy sobs of his youngest brother, sobs that heaved upon the air, but when he checked, Pete was sleeping soundly. Along the hallway, Chris uttered, as if in conversation and Michael wondered if the whole world had not begun an internal conversation.

His own dialogue was working away, asking question after question, looking for answers. Nick’s journey had thrown them all into confusion and Michael wanted to speak. He descended the stairs and entered the living room only to find the sleeping bag empty and the back door unlocked. Sometime during the night, Nick had left.

This was a bad sign, Michael was sure of that. His mother’s reaction to him was bad too. She had not just been dreaming. When she had spat out those words, they had been directed at him. She had called him a murderer and had meant it. Something had crept into their lives and was working its way around their sanity. His mother showed the signs of stress, the same ones he had seen carved across her features after his father had died. The thing was that she had been all right. She had recovered from those times and had lately started to smile again, a real smile. Something, or someone, had gotten to her.

Was it just him or had the world decided to lose all of its reason?

When she finally entered the kitchen, she appeared calm. She even had a smile and a kiss for Pete. His little brother looked up towards her, attempting to gauge his mother’s mood, but the contact was broken as she made her way towards the kettle. Laura had, without knowing it, feasted upon a handful of the tablets the good doctor had given her. Although the rigours of her sleep were still at work on her body and mind, she felt better.

“Mum,” Michael said, “Nick’s in trouble.”

His mother never wanted to hear that voice again, but she managed to look in the direction of the thing that called itself a son. The faintest of smiles, a brush of familiarity ran across her face.

“Nick? Who’s Nick?”

Her son did not give an answer.

 

Flowers watched the Leatherman.

For now, it was sitting in the armchair where all this had started. The thing that had been James Harrison was no longer. This thing was better. Liam studied its features and wondered what mayhem he could cause with this at his behest.

So far, he had contented himself with mere party tricks. The thing with the knife had amused him immensely and he had absolutely adored seeing the look on Podrall’s face. Podrall was a good soldier. He was able to learn what was required quickly and to respond to the demands that were placed upon him. There would be a place for him in the new world.

Flowers also thought about The Piper and how much he had given to him. He knew that he was destined for great, great things in the time to come and there were occasions when he wondered if he would not stop developing his own talents. The Piper had been the key and had enabled Liam to open up those doors that were closed to ordinary humans.

On the other hand, Liam had ceased to think of himself as an ordinary human. There had been a mark on his ankle. Hadn’t that been there since his birth and could it not be said  that he should be here at this time?

He told the Leatherman to stand and it did so. He told it to sit and it did as it was bid. Flowers was getting bored. He wanted more than this. He wanted to play and what better place was there to play than at school?

There was the thing he had been working on with hypnotism.

He wanted to see if it worked on the teachers. Teachers and leathermen were more or less the same with the latter having more going for them. Part of him wanted to take his new toy to school, but that would be a little previous wouldn’t it? What about this business with public transport? He hated travelling with other people. The kids could be so rowdy and the old folks, well they just whiffed terribly. Babies pissed their pants because they knew no better and old people pissed their pants even though they did know better. In between this was the age of enlightenment in which the young experimented with new ways and adventures. He would not travel by bus. He would call his old mate, the social worker, and get him to provide a taxi.

The world could be such a good place if you knew how to work it.

Fifteen minutes later and the honk of a taxi signalled his day out. The sunlight caused him to blink even though it was now late November. He had not been about during daylight for many months and he relished the sensation of being amongst the real somnambulists. He listened to the driver’s uninteresting talk and decided to make a note of his taxi licence so that he could make a call on him later. Another waste of a life and body, another meal for his hordes.

He strolled into the school grounds two hours later and noticed the incredulous looks on the faces of the teachers as he made his way to his favourite subject: History. He positively hated Mr Hunter and wanted to see him become a part of the subject that he taught. Heads on spikes, that was the answer. Heads on spikes.

It didn’t take long for one of Podrall’s boys to get the message that Flowers was back. Indeed, there was a general chatter that had started which was similar to a Mexican wave. Even the teachers were not immune from such telepathy. Flowers was back and everyone felt they knew what that could mean.

Michael and Chris arrived in school early that morning.

Michael was still smarting from the incident with his mother. Of all the times he had seen her lose it this one was the most disturbing. He had seen real hatred in her eyes and that was what had perturbed him. For a moment he thought that she was someone or something else.

Michael glanced secretively at Chris to check if he hadn’t changed. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but there was something wrong with his brother. He wasn’t speaking properly. He wasn’t telling the truth. There had been something in the way that Pete had looked at him that told Michael that things were not as they seemed. Pete, the baby, saw through them all yet couldn’t articulate what he saw. Pete had been there to pull them all together when Dad had gone and now Michael was certain that Pete was still the fulcrum around which they all revolved.

The last few weeks had been relatively quiet at school. Since the initial attack, there had been nothing directed towards them. Okay the school was still SHAGNESS, a byword for savagery, but the brothers had been avoided. Michael would go so far as to say that they had gained a certain amount of respect from the other kids: Podrall’s crew had kept their distance.

There had been no repercussions from the fight. The lad who had to be taken to hospital had only suffered from concussion. He didn’t take the matter any further. There were no detentions and no warnings as to future conduct. Everything appeared to have been swept under the carpet as if nothing had really happened. That was schools for you.

They separated and went to class. Between the normal low-level disruptions that were designed to get at the teachers and stop the lessons from going anywhere meaningfully, Michael was able to learn that Othello was a negative version of Romeo and Juliet and that his overpowering love was which drove him over the edge and into murder. Sometimes love, or the thing that fills the void when it is not there, can be one of the most destructive forces in the universe.

He also learnt that Flowers was in school. As none of the other students still did not care to speak to Michael,  he had to be content with picking this information up through the bits that he was able to steal from the conversations of others. What he was able to glean was that Flowers was one of those kids who was special.

He scared people, both teachers and students, but carried with him a legendary status that marked him out from the rest. If the government had a ‘gifted and talented’ category for the stuff that Flowers had, they would probably produce some of the most feared and respected leaders in the world.

He was thinking about this when the door to the classroom opened and in walked Flowers. It had to be.

The entire class fell into silence for the first time that morning. The English teacher stopped what he was writing on the board and turned in unconcealed reverence. You didn’t need a sign up to tell you to beware. He was a kid not unlike Michael. They could have been brothers. Michael saw this straight away and a rhyme popped into his head,

Twas the night before Christmas and all around the house

Nothing was stirring, not even a mouse.

Flowers looked around the room, spotted the empty desk at the side of Michael, half smiled to himself, and walked over to it as the teacher started to amend his register.

“You may continue now, sir,” he announced to general titter from the class.

The teacher coughed to clear a throat that had suddenly gone dry. He flourished his board pen in a fashion that suggested he may even act out the rest of the scene and Flowers put his folded arms on the table as a makeshift pillow and went to sleep.

He had reached another audience.

 

 

 

 

The Stand.

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In my moments of dread before going into the place where I spend tortured days, I attempt to perfect my vision of the writing that I am working upon at the time. The last month has seen me rewrite The Piper in order to make it readable. My initial foolhardy pride had allowed me to see the forest of a novel without taking much notice of the trees. I got that last bit from Stephen King when he was writing about his writing of The Stand.

I always wanted to rewrite my Piper but was probably overwhelmed by the work that it would entail. I was probably a little afraid of cutting interesting paths in the plot; those little diversions that I believed would make the reader sit up and think, “What a clever bloke!” The truth is that I am not that clever, just a little over-egged. My original book was a pudding of a read with lots of interesting nuggets but no real narrative drive.

So it was with King Ben’s Grandma, a wonderful follower who reminds me of a no-nonsense Mother Abigail, that I started to rewrite it. King Ben’s Grandma was my stimulus and remains central to my every rewritten episode.

Reading The Piper from afar now allows me perspective. I read things that I would not feed to the crows. Dead language lay in every line and dead-ends waited for every ‘interesting’ plot turn. So my blogging of the book allowed me to cut, cut, cut. I made a path through the forest, removed anything that wasn’t necessary, and aimed to please KBG (oh, I just got the clever old broad!).

I hope whoever is reading it is enjoying it.

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Mike Evans  

The Piper 33

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Laura Andrews woke with the night still clinging to her.

Her body ached with a phantom exertion. She had been back in the familiar landscape of the previous nights, but this time there was the voice, the voice of the Good Doctor, the one who had spoken to her so kindly.

Laura. Laura. Laura. 

Her name was being washed across a black sea.

Laura, Laura Andrews, have you forgotten your marriage vows? Have you forgotten the promises that you made? In sickness and in health you said.

Forever and ever, forsaking all others

So, poor old Simon is dead. He’s as dead as a doornail and you, you’ve wasted no time in finding something else to fill your bed with?

“I haven’t slept with anyone. I have always been faithful to Simon. I have always been his wife and I have stuck by my wedding vows.”

Oh dear, aren’t we a little sensitive about that?

Laura knew what was coming next.

It was an odd place to have an accident, don’t you think? Is it not a street known for its prostitutes? They have a quaint name for it. The Red Light District; sounds so comforting. Christmas Eve, the celebration of the birth of light out of darkness, a time for the family to unite and your husband, your dear loyal husband is found dead in his car in a street used by prostitutes.

“It wasn’t like that, you bastard. It wasn’t like that. Simon was faithful. He was the most wonderful father in the world!”

Was he a good husband Laura? Were you a good wife?

Laughter arose from beyond the horizon and its power raised a wave that she could see grow and grow. Standing on the black-ash beach, Laura could see its approach and could hear thousands of angry voices. She tried to run, but the black ash held her fast. She could not even pull herself from this depth of sleep and feared that, if she could not escape, everything would be swept away. She would be consumed by its greed.

She was dragged along the floor of existence. She saw Simon chasing a girl along a dark street. She saw the funeral, the empty aisles where their friends should have been. She saw herself giving birth to Peter and then she saw Christopher lying in a pool of blood with rats racing over him.

She screamed and they laughed at her. She screamed from the depth of her being and still they tried to pull her on.

I will give you more than I grant many others. I will give you the face of your executioner.

And there was Michael rising up before her. He was looking as though he was going to strike her and her screaming took her over the edge of sleep into a darkened alleyway where a figure stood with something clasped in its hand. It raised it like an assassin would raise a knife and came toward her.

Laura turned and ran.

The darkness surrounded her every step and pulled at her attempts to flee. There were things moving on either side of her, dark slithery masses that watched through dead eyes. She knew that they were waiting for her to trip, to fall so that they could be upon her. They would rip at her flesh until nothing was left but the memory of the attack.

Ahead of her was a bluish light and there was someone standing within is sphere. The silhouette called out to her yet she was too far away to hear what it was saying. The footsteps behind Laura were quickening and becoming heavier. She knew that if she were to turn to look upon her pursuer, she would be swallowed up. What was there was not a man; it was something else, it was pain, pain that had lasted forever.

She looked down and as she did she saw that she was no longer running on her feet for they had worn away; she was running on legs made of wood that were splintering with each stride.

Run Mrs Andrews, run towards me.

It was the voice of her dreams. Laura turned and saw it, a manic grin behind the wheel of a black car, its headlights cutting the distance between her and safety. Its hunger was forcing her backwards, forcing her to lose her balance on legs that were turning to matchsticks.

And then she fell.

 

“Mum, Mum, Mum!”

It was Michael’s voice rising up out of the void.

Laura felt the stab of fear as she remembered the warning.

“Mum, Mum wake up, you’re dreaming. It’s only a dream. You’re okay. It’s me Michael.”

 

Her eyes flashed open and he saw terror written upon them.

“Get away from me,” she hissed. “Get away from all of us, you murderer.”

 

 

The Piper 32

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If The Piper did not know the dreams of his followers and would-be converts, he would, graciously, allow them to tell him. In fact, he had known them all along.

Chris stirred in his sleep and fell into wakefulness. The almost total silence of the night greeted him and for a moment he was reassured. Then, he heard it. From far, far off came the sound. It floated beneath hearing yet washed against senses only dreams could have.

Chris’s eyes were wide open but nothing appeared before him. He waited knowing that the world would take a little time to settle. He waited for the long darkness to fade. He waited for the time when all would give way to light. He waited for the not so familiar surroundings of his bedroom to establish themselves once again.

He waited.

And waited.

There was no light, only darkness woven into a thick coat. And, for the first time, Chris noticed that there was no sound apart from that which had woken him. He strained his hearing to pick up any other notes of normality, but found none.

Before, he could unpick sounds. He knew that things went on. While others slept some worked. A train could be heard from many miles away. A car starting would cough itself into existence. The distant chimes of an unknown church would signal the passing of another hour and an aeroplane would cut a huge swathe through the emptiness of the sky. Now, no matter how hard he tried, there was nothing but the one sound and that, he was sure, was getting closer.

Against his will, Chris raised himself. He planted his feet on the carpet and was pleased that it was still there. He had expected something else. He pushed himself up from the bed and walked barefoot towards the door. The velvet dark wrapped itself around everything.

He used his hands to guide him, walking like a blind man to where he knew the door would be. His memory had given him a compass from which to navigate. He reached the door and opened it. His hand pushed out into the hallway and travelled to where the light switch should be. Once found, he pressed it down. There was no, absolutely no response. The darkness stayed the same.

If Chris had been another, he may have felt panic. But Chris was Chris and he never panicked. He moved towards the stairs and was relieved that he was able to guide himself without fear of falling. He took his first step.

He had never consciously counted the stairs. His body told him when he should be reaching the end; yet, the descent continued. He stepped down more and more aware that this was probably still a dream. Chris was not one for dreams. Even after the death of his father, Chris had never had those memory movies that others took for granted. He had never made his father live again, been carried on his back across a warm beach, had never snuggled into the warmth that was no longer there.

The last time that he saw his father was the last time that he had been alive. Since then, nothing. He had always accepted his as a matter of fact, in the same way he accpeted this nocturnal illusion as a fact. And, in this dream, he was on a flight of stairs that refused to end. In this dream, he heard something that now wrapped itself into a more familiar sound of a flute.

In this dream, the sound of the flute was a man.

For Michael, there would have been warning signals. Michael would have sensed the danger. Michael would have reached out for the light of consciousness. He would have turned and pulled himself back up the stairs and out of this rapidly developing nightmare. Unfortunately, Chris was not his brother and, being consciously unaccustomed to this other world, he did not know what to expect. Indeed, he moved forward in expectation rather than in trepidation. He was starting to enjoy this night-time sojourn.

Chris stumbled as he reached the bottom of the stairs. His stride was broken and he found himself on an even surface. Where this was, he did not know.

The was the beginning of a bluish light that showed him what looked like a cavern. As his hand touched the wall, he felt a slimy dampness. It an oily texture and this made him pull away.  He was confused. Chris, who had never knowingly addressed fear, felt the needle points of a thousand explosions run along his arm. He knew he ought to turn back, but could not.

As he continued to edge into the darkness, he found each step an exertion. He was fighting for control, battling with the thing that had always conformed to his requests, his own body. It was as if a revolt was taking place, that his own muscles had decided to mutiny. He would have, and should have turned back if it was not for the singular enticement of the flute. Its mellifluous invitation was both a comfort and a challenge.

Ahead of him, the most fragile of lights crept from an opening and he moved towards it with a more purposeful stride. He would not be defeated. He peered into the hollow and saw the thing that was making the flute sing. As he entered, the flute fell silent. A voice, if that is what it could be called, rose up and greeted its new visitor.

Even without seeing the source of the voice, he knew that a smile had appeared.

It ran like a razor across a face he would never be able to describe.

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