Hull And High Water

“the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

“events as yet unseen”

He had been shaken from sleep by a hand belonging to some thing that he could not comprehend. The hand had come at the end of a particularly tempestuous week with the warmth of new hope being chased by the storms rising up from the ground. Now he wandered on the keyboard of his life, choosing words that might describe the things that he may have seen.

The pre-deluvian world was coming to a close. He had not considered this as he started out upon his journey at the start of the week. For him, the clouds had parted and a languid ray of acceptance had thrown down his path. Some inner voice had whispered that his struggle was done, that it was time for him to put down the sword, or the pen, and just live.

And, in that moment, he was content.

He had carried the bundle of content to the place of learning. The content was wrapped up into a tight roll on the back of his bike as the sun arose. He cycled surely yet found time to appreciate the little things that nature had thrown into the fields along the way that he went. “Enjoy the little things,” the voice had whispered and he was even more content. It was only when the great road arrived with the faces of those inside that he took another moment to consider. Yet he, and his roll of content, found shared warmth.

In this manner, he navigated the first of the week’s days. The day of the moon was the day of the sun. For others, Monday was not so fair; tragedy had been visiting in its randomised reasoning and its victims bore the marks of its unwanted gifts. He tried to keep his roll of content to himself as to show it around could have been to invite envy or worse.

“Chairo,” the voice had whispered, “chairo.”

It was all Greek and his tongue did not stretch to it. Yet upon tasting the word, he rejoiced. He had reached the place of contentment and it had been with him all along.

“Chairo,” he sang as his peddles turned for his homeward journey. There was some sunshine within him, some cloud too, some warmth, and some cold.

Chairo. 

When he reached home, he stabled the bike and set about creating a feast for the family. He searched and searched the kitchen, the pantry and the cupboards until he realised that all the food had been eaten. He searched the house for signs of any of the three bears that may have wandered in, but none were to be found. The only thing left for the ‘feast’ were eggs. He counted them and was content that a meal could ensue.

Chairo!

That night, he slept with contentment. All the house slept. And the following morning rose with another sun. His wife and he were exhausted from deep repose and they questioned the reason over morning tea.

When time came for his daily journey to begin, he again brought the bike from the stables. He set off with a hummed tune that was to slowly disappear before he reached the gates of learning. During the day, he did not need to do battle with his wards who appeared to have tired of the struggle. Once again, he was content. But it was at that moment, that he realised with cold concern that he had left his tight roll on the bed that he had risen from.

“Chairo,” I said with more than a little caution.

Then the afternoon arrived and with it came a message. In those days they were called emails rather than the voice of God. The email promised much but was blackened when it reached his heart. He was to be tested for his ability to perform the tasks that he had performed so well for so long.

Chairo was the furthest thing from my mind.

The night, his displeasure oozed from him like liquid from a wound. He did not sleep well having used poor words to speak to his wife. She also shared his cobbled rest.

The next morning he left the bike in the stables and used the car. He took a cloud into the staffroom to share with the people there. He had fallen from a false state and was being punished for his carelessness.

Still with anger at his previous night’s work, his wife accepted apologies and gifted him with another email. It was the words that he had been waiting for, but thought that he would now never receive.

Chairo! Another place of learning in another kingdom wished to speak to him. All was well.

It was later in the afternoon that he discovered a plot by one member of my school to unsettle him. False words, wrong insinuations, damning connotations about his teaching.

He had little time to build an ark, but build it he would.  

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Chairo… 

 

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).

.

Before 1

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.

 

 

 

Book Two

(The Festivities 1993)

1

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.

 

 

 2

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.

 

 

 

Slightly Warm Turkey On The Frontier…

images-28 No, I didn’t!

They had been with me for two years; sitting at the side of the bed, waiting for the moment when I stumbled out of sleep.

Their presence was comforting and, even though I was not experiencing the immediate cavalry-charge of relief from hostile attacks, I was grateful for them being close-by in this wild landscape where each wrong move could be rewarded with deadly consequences.

I had made the decision to go on without them a year ago, but after a couple of weeks it became obvious that I needed their companionship. Travelling through hostile territory alone is difficult and often dangerous. Yet, I had been there before and had survived, neigh, I had thrived. This time, however, was different; I was back to where it had all begun.

There were many old faces that greeted me. They knew me from the past when I was unafraid and virtually impossible to best. The returning me, unfortunately, had been whipped like a cur and driven from the frontier lands. I was older, hopefully wiser, but I was gratefully defeated.

“He used to be…” I thought I heard them say.

Yes I used to be, but that’s not me any longer.

Somewhere along the trail they had been waiting. It was a spring morning with the early promise of warmth breezing through the trees and nothing was further from my mind than the idea that this beautiful wilderness would rear up and bite me.

They had been waiting in ambush. They had waited such a long time and now was their moment of revenge; and boy did they take it. Others told me later that I was lucky to escape with my top-knot. Without their intervention, it would have been hanging in someone’s trophy room as I speak (write). But I did get through it. I did come down from the mountain and I did return to the things I once knew.

The dreams left me after the first year.

They had been ushered away by the drugs that I religiously partook of: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Prozac. But after a while, I did not feel the Prozac. I had stopped feeling anything but the cold snap of fear when placed in front of groups of hostiles waiting to glory in the torment that they wished to inflict.

The Father, The Son, and The Holy Prozac… 

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The continued…

On Never Looking Back…

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The dreams have been at it again. So clear during the darkness, but not there when the dawn calls.

Unlike Lot, but like his wife, I have done an awful lot of looking back. My particular cities of Ego and Career were also destroyed by some force outside of my control. However, after leaving them to the destruction of the desert, I turned around and viewed the once grand citadels stone by stone, street by street, and house by house.

What we build is not always what we have envisaged. My cities were built on half-remembered dreams because I had no concept of the reality that I could have possibly created. So when whatever was sent against them found easy pickings, gaping fissures through which to drive an old testament-tank, the walls of my twin edifices not only fell, but they wept with the release of surrender.

No longer would they have to be held together by spit and hope. 

This morning finds me looking back.

I am not searching for my nocturnal natterings but am remembering the birth my eldest daughter. Twenty-one years we have helped her build her own world. Twenty-one years of running, reading, and revising. Twenty-one years of doing that parental pushing into the ‘just-what-may-become’ of having her own dreams.

When I chance to turn my head to look over my shoulder, I do not turn to salt.

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I need only a pinch to savour my serving.

And perhaps a little pepper…  

When You Are Mad…

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There was once a wise king that ruled over his people who resided in a vast citadel. The king was feared for his might and admired for his wisdom. And all his subjects revered him.

The citadel had one source of water which was a well in the centre. In the mornings people would gather to pull fresh water from the well and in the evenings they would sit around it in the shade of palm trees. They would chat, share the wisdoms of their king and says thanks for the fact that they lived in such a peaceful place, at such a peaceful time.

But like all good tales, there was darkness waiting beyond the safety of the text.

Somewhere in the wastes, a dark shape was forming and, as the storms began to blow, it moved ever closer to its goal.

With winds and sand battering the walls of the citadel, the citizens took to their homes and locked their doors. Window shutters were bolted into place and the people of this great city settled down to ride out the worst of the tempest. Nobody chose to sit around the sacred well that evening.

During the night, the storm tore at the nerves of the populace and shredded their sleep. Nobody could ever remember such an event as this before. Nothing, not even in the ancient texts, could have matched the ferocity of this night. Eventually however, sleep came and the storm went.

The morning woke with a new day. The clouds of sand had travelled onwards to torment others and the world, though now laden with foreign sand, was returned to itself. The well, well it to had been affected. The last person to leave it the night before had been so afraid of the sandstorm that they did not properly secure its covering and this meant that a considerable quantity of the night’s detritus had become deposited in its confines.

The King shook his head at the state of things and warned his subjects that it would be unwise to drink from the ancient source. He told them that he would send out the city guard to find new sources of water that could be consumed whilst it could be determined if the well was still…well, safe. His people, who had always trusted him, were parched from the  night spent surviving the storm and some crept up to the well at the onset of dusk and began to fill their buckets.

“The King thinks that the well is poisoned,” they whispered, “but maybe it is his own wisdom that has grown sick.’

The next morning, a much larger crowd had gathered and the voices were not so whispered.

“The water tastes good. Here, try some. It is the King who is trying to keep us away from it, so that only he can drink from its depths.”

And word spread of his trick and the people, no longer his people, talked of ways to replace him.

“Why have a King who no longer thinks like his people?” they asked.

In the cool night breeze whilst waiting for his guards to return, the rumours floated towards the King’s residences and he became fearful of their intent. So, that evening, he set off from his courtyards and walked slowly towards the centre of the citadel in which the well was to be found. As he made his way with a golden goblet in hand, the voices stopped and all eyes followed.

A great crowd had gathered at the well to watch the once mighty king follow the popular intent. They watched as he slowly lowered the bucket into the confines of beneath and raise it so that he could dip his goblet into the golden liquid. Before he managed to get the vessel to his lips, he thought that he noticed the faces of demons surrounding him where once stood his beloved people. Nevertheless, he continued and took a fulsome draught of the well’s secrets.

His eyes were the first things to change. He had seen beasts, but now he too was a beast and the world around him rejoiced. The King was wise once more.

On their way back to the citadel, the guard heard stories of a strange walled city in which all the inhabitants had become things of madness; even the once wise king. It broke their hearts not to return to the place they had once called their home, but they rode on and found new places to live. 

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A time will come when the whole world will go mad. And to anyone who is not mad, they will say,

“You are mad, for you are not like us.”

 

Fursday Is Cancelled…It’s Too Warm

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With temperatures across the UK set to rise above relative freezing point (well, 25 degrees), the people of the Fur Nation are preparing themselves for an onslaught of irritatingly decent weather. 

The winter has lasted as long as anything anyone can remember; it not just came, but it settled in, put its frozen feet up, and left the door wide open.

Not many incidents with those north of the wall as it is suppose they must have perished in one of our blessed leaders’ austerity programmes. Now the winter has gone and there are some of us northmen and women and children and dogs and cats and…

Still standing. It is time to throw of those furs, embrace the new god of light and hey, diddly, dee.

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Summer is coming!

Piste-Off…

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Woden’s Day has arrived in all its Norse finery. There was a time when this day was worshipped just as much as Fry-Up Day when all of the sops and left-overs from the week’s cooking were thrown into a huge greasy vat of pig-shavings and fried until all the evil and goodness had been banished. Archaeologists believe that this is why people at that time live longer than their fellow Earth-dwellers (twenty-one average years as opposed to seventeen rather less than average).

Recently, a giant Viking turd has been uncovered in York and it is believed that this is again evidence of a very advanced culture whose dietary habits and tastes match the very best of own own.

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Turds to one side. Woden’s Day is the centre of the work week which means that those of us on the hamster-wheel of life can look up, look back, and look ahead to the two slim days of relaxation after Fry-Up Day.

In my most shallow wisdom, I decided to name this day, The Top Of The Piste Day as I believed that all of us hamsters had spent Moon Day and Shoes Day climbing up that great edifice of the mountain face and now at Giant Turd’s Day we are ready to launch ourselves down the slippery slope and into the weekend. This is where we get Furs Day from as it is what is required on that cold mountain-top whereas Sitting day is what we do after a good pig-oil fry-up.

Unfortunately, Soon Day reminds us of our trials to come. 

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Bark at the Moon all day after that…