The Stand is an old friend.

I read it every five or six years. I go back to it in the same way one might go back to the place in which you grew up.

My affair with everything apocalyptical probably came from King; well some of it anyway. The landscape of my youth was clouded by the coming apocalypse. But it never came. There was the threat of nuclear war, Aids, over-population, and ISIS (so called), but it has never ended. Neither has my love of The Stand.

I picked up a copy of this book just before the weekend and started to read it once again. Some people never go back to books once they have read them. Some people never review a film once it has been watched. I do both. The mind-readers out there will tell you that it will be connected with my psychological hoarding, a need to never let go of the past. I believe this to be true, as this book testifies. For somebody who can launch into new experiences, whilst leaving behind old ones, I am a strange contradiction.  But there are artefacts that I treasure; books, books, books.

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The latest edition of The Stand has new chapters and some new characters. All of these are peripheral to the main events yet they work in a way to freshen up the novel for a new audience. Where King falls down a little is where there are obvious anachronisms that have been born out of temporal revision.

My favourite character, Larry Underwood, a musician about to make it big before Captain Trips seizes his stage. At that time Larry was mixing his tracks with Neil Diamond. Now, I am not one to put Neil Diamond down, but a new audience wouldn’t really know him. If they had heard of him, it would be in the same way that would have heard of somebody once called Noah. I have a student who goes by that name, but he hasn’t got an arc or a zoo. That to one side, the book gripped me once again and I spent huge swathes of the weekend lost in its many pages.

Once again, I was back to the time when I was eighteen, still wet behind the ears, hoping beyond reasonable hope that I would amount to something in life.  I was afflicted with that good old Jesus-Syndrome. Reading, The Stand is like reading me and about all that has happened during the time that I became what I am today.

 

My favourite characters in the book are Larry Underwood and Nick Andros. The latter is a youngish man who can’t speak nor hear. He is very special in the grand scheme of things. Larry, because he is a tragic figure who is haunted by his own doubtful character. He wants to be good but often does bad things. “You ain’t no good guy!” He hears from women, who would have been complete strangers if he hadn’t have slept with them. I like Larry because he is a little bit like I was when I was young, self-centred, hedonistic, and a dreamer. He wanted  to do the right thing in a world which was not right so, he just went along with it and carved out his own little stretch of land where he could hide from his troubles and the eyes of his critics.

 

Larry is an artist who has struggled to be heard properly. He hasn’t had the breaks and when one sashays his way it is blown away by a combination of genetic engineering and the end of days conducted by Randall Flag. Old Randy is the Devil in-definite-carnate. And poor old Larry, and the rest of the world, are swept away by this janitor from Hell. Larry is a guy who has always been good, at heart, but indifferent in actions. The last stand of good against evil is one in which he will play a major role, surprising himself and others with his bravery and selflessness. At the end of it all, Larry is a “good guy” but dies in the process. So, is this Jesus thing in my DNA or has it been placed there by the writers I worship?

images-34    Randall Flag

If I was a lawyer, I would possibly say that this particular case ought to go to litigation. Through their poetry and prose, these writers have led me all the way along a narrative that quite possibly would not have been written in the same the way that it has turned out. Or is it that I was always predisposed to this type of existence, and that I chose the literature that best reflected me?

 

Thanks goodness that I never liked Jane Austin – although with zombies it is a lovely treat.

 

Selling Like Hot-Cakes?

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL Read After Burnout.

It makes no sense. 

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The Piper 6

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Liam could not remember when he had last slept.

Maybe it had been years as he could not recall ever having slipped from the paltry reality of the world of waking. What he did know was that when others chose to close their eyes, he wandered.

Everything had taken place as he had been told. He had a place of his own that had been provided with a computer that had been thoughtfully linked to the Internet. They had provided it as a means of allowing him to catch up with his schoolwork. His situation was specialand he needed to be reintegrated into both school and society. He was a boy with a certain amount of intelligence who had been forced down the paths of illiteracy and innumeracy like so many others. His reading age was estimated to be between the ages of eight and ten but the computer would help him.

Liam attended school on a drip-feed basis allowing him that unthreatening path back to their straight and very narrow understanding of educational opportunities. If all went well, he would become a bricklayer or something else that would require him to work with his hands rather than his head. Good physical labour would be his saviour, either that or a stint in the army. The boy who sat in front of the computer knew that the army would be his destination, but it would be an army that answered to him and not one that fought wars on foreign soil for the betterment of all. This Liam was a very different Liam from the one they thought their records knew of and understood. This boy was seizing upon everything he could as a means of gaining an appropriateeducation.

At first, it had been the television with its late shows stretching off into the morning. He would then sit through the endless nonsense of chat shows and re-runs. Sometimes he would watch The Learning Channel and that was more rewarding. He found himself drawn to programmes about history, physics and especially religion. He loved religion and would pity those who now chose to ignore it.

Later, when he had been given a computer, there was the Internet and this was where he could find everything.

If there was one key to the secrets of everything, then the Internet would provide it. Since its beginnings, men had worked tirelessly to give their knowledge for free. At school, the teachers placed restrictions on access to this believing that the boys would try to find sites for porn and their lack of faith was continually rewarded. Many of them appeared obsessed with the female form, naked and defiled and Liam thought this was good, but he didn’t waste his time on such matters. Liam was a learner. He had always been one yet showed nothing of this to those who called themselves teachers or adults. Liam learnt in secret, scouring the world for everything that could be of use to him.

Since he had moved in with The Leatherman, Liam had grown in understanding. The body in the armchair had fascinated him. Its controlled preservation was nothing short of a miracle that awaited his own coming. During darkness, when only the light from his monitor fell across the room, he felt the eyes, long since turned to dust, watching him, pleading for release. Time would come.

Somewhere along the way, he had mastered many skills that enabled him to quietly contact others who had been waiting for him. He established websites that reached out insidiously across space drawing in those who too didn’t sleep. Many were young like himself, but a significant number were older and some were very old. They had been waiting for him and word was spreading of his arrival like echoes in a sewer. Soon, his nerves tingled,soon.

Liam had recently taken to wandering the streets. Moving like a shadow along the unwanted hours that people threw away. He loved the illicit mutterings of this time, of the groans of sleepers, the scuttle of feet belonging to creatures that ventured out beneath sight, the plotting of acts whose names could only be whispered. Liam was a nefarious tourist, glimpsing a kingdom that could soon be his. The Piper had been right. Everything was turning towards his promise. Everything was moving along the lines that had been drawn so very long ago. Everything, that was, until the two new boys turned up.

He knew of them before they had arrived. He had been warned many years before but had forgotten.

There are those who will not follow you. They are afraid of you, but they will stand against you. If you let them live, they will attract others from both sides of the void. You must find them before they find themselves. I have tried. There is something protecting them, something stronger than I have encountered before. You must break them.

Now those words flooded back, filtered through his plans and forced him to act. The night was his and he moved with the assurance of a nocturnal. He developed his other senses for detection. Sound and smell became his allies as he moved about the streets. He had checked the obvious routes but someone had been at the school files and had ensured that there was no address for the boys. He had decided to have them followed after school yet they seemed to know something and always managed to avoid their pursuers. It had never occurred to Liam that they would come with their own assistance. If you want something doing well, do it yourself.

Anyone who may have been on the same street as Flowers at this time would probably not have seen him. They would have heard the rush of movement as the floor became alive with sleek, dark bodies, all gathering to feel the sensation that had been written into their genetic code. The city was alive with the whisper of vermin and a flood of expectation. Where he walked, there was a vague tune which entranced them to the core of their instincts. A shared memory was being revealed and their gatherings were moments to rejoice.

This was what had been foretold, the bringer of The Piper, and now he wanted something from them. He wanted those who would stop what would happen, he wanted to end the line of those who had inherited the hesitancy of the lame boy so long ago.

He wanted the Resistors.

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Before long, he would have them.

 

 

 

I Am Legend…

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When the world goes mad, one must accept madness as sanity; since sanity is, in the last analysis, nothing but the madness on which the whole world happens to agree.

George Bernard Shaw

My Adventures in Everyday Madness have continued to find new places to visit. I also return to some older places in order to uncover evidence of my supposition. More than any other site of archaeological interest has been the rich pickings of education.

My assertion has long held it to be the case that it is in this area that we find the greatest divergence from presupposed norms of society. In their day, schools were safe places as long as one could navigate one’s way between the accepted school bullies and the kids who just wanted to kick crap out of you for a bit of fun. At least the neanderthals on the playground stopped when they got bored. Teachers sometimes felt that they had a duty to beat some civilised behaviour into you.

I am over-egging this last bit a little in order to bring some Dickensian perspective to the whole issue. The beating we got from teachers were usually well deserved intentions, and totally in line with contemporary thinking. In those days, teachers were trying to help build a better society. Schools of today seem not to know what they are doing or why they are supposed to be doing it.

Once upon a time there were league tables. It was like an everyman’s Saturday tea-time when the football results came in. The pundits would tot up the scores and the results and put the football teams (not soccer; although we did go through a stage in the 1970s when we called it so..what was all that about?)into some logical order. At the end of the season, the teams with the most points got to call themselves the best, until the next season started. This was sport, not education.

In recent years, sport has become the opium of the people and the gangs who run it are called big business. It’s all suited and booted, hedge-funds, managing for success, and muchas, muchas money. Education, the great circus of society, has followed. And it has left me behind wondering what on earth is going on.

I can remember back in the ‘noughties’ when schools started becoming mini marketing machines. Flashy booklets were printed to encourage parents to send their offspring (little cash calves) to various places of instruction. Posters of smiling kids studying seriously took to the back of buses. And press-melees would form outside of successful or very unsuccessful schools on results day. I can remember thinking that this was the start of some form of popular insanity.

As time has worn on, this has become so much part of the norm that anyone who suggests otherwise needs urgent reprogramming or placed in an institution (or a supermarket stacking shelves).

Robert Neville looked out over the new people of the earth. he knew he did not belong to them; he knew that, like the vampires, he was anathema and black terror to be destroyed. And, abruptly, the concept came, amusing to him even in his pain. 

A coughing chuckle filled his throat. he turned and leaned against the wall while he swallowed his pills. Full circle, he thought while the final lethargy crept into his limbs. full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever.

i-am-legend

I am legend.

Richard Matheson

 

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.”

 

The End And The Means…

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“Sir, is a nuclear war going to happen?”

He was a well-rounded teacher who had lived through this type of threat before. The Cold War had come and gone and then went on to slink around behind some bushes. 

“I don’t think so,” he answered in a fashion that suggested that he didn’t like thinking about it too much.

“But is says in the news…”

Did it say so in the news or was it just the news that kids invented to pass the time during the boredom of waking hours?

“…it says that Trump is going to fire his arsenal at them and they are going to do the same to him.”

They had a point.

“If there was a nuclear war, would school still be on?”

He was again on safe ground.

” I am pretty sure that if there was a nuclear war the school would be closed.”

A few sunrises appeared on the faces of those who were still listening.

“So, we wouldn’t have to come to school?”

“No…” he managed before a fist-pump of collective euphoria raced around the desks.

“RESULT!”

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They had a point.