If tomorrow never comes,
Then, how much further away from today,
Is the day after tomorrow?
When Pieman was very young,
and living at the beginnings of time,
he often slept with the Cave Bear Clan during stormy weather.
Over the course of many such nights,
Big Brown Bear who was also very old,
taught Pieman the nature of his belly-roar.
To this day,
Pieman makes use of his roar in dreams,
but only to pacify strangers and to quiet the rowdy,
and those of us who have difficulty understanding the Ancient Tales.
“There is a stone which would be worth visiting. It is in Baslow which is on our way to the Symposium so we could stop off there, grab some lunch, check out the stone and then head off to our meeting.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“If I can remember where it is.”
“I thought you knew where it was; why else tell me about it otherwise.”
“I do, sort of, only we will be coming at it the other way, the last time I visited I came down off the moor but we won’t have time to do it that way.”
“How long ago was this?” says Wen becoming somewhat suspicious.
“About ten years. It’s a huge stone. You can’t miss it and I know the general direction of its whereabouts.”
“How big is the stone?”
“It’s massive. It’s the largest free standing monolith I’ve ever come across and we found it quite by accident.”
“Bigger that the stones at Avebury?”
“Not bigger, but taller than the stones at Avebury.”
“By accident you say?”
“Look, there’s nothing mysterious about it, I’d taken Al and Sal to see the Park-Gate stone circle and then we walked back over the moor, which is another necropolis by the way, to Baslow and lunch. There was some sort of monument giving a rather splendid view of the area and just after that we came down off the moor and found the stone.”
“A necropolis you say? It is not marked on the map,” says Wen with some conviction.
“Well, not all of them are.”
“The big ones though, they usually are, surely?”
“I didn’t imagine it. We even took a photograph. Al and I were laughing because of the, shall we say, somewhat rude reputation of such stones, so we got Sal to stand next to it and Al took a photograph on his phone.”
“Okay, if it’s as big as you say we should be able to find it again quite easily.”…
…Left alone in my room for long enough I thought I might discover how they did it, how they worked it.
I thought I was being clever.
Initially, I had suspected the lights, either the lights or the heating, or perhaps both or maybe they sprayed something on the tiles?
But my room was just a room, cold and empty, ordinary, harmless.
The only thing that felt even remotely uncomfortable about it were my memories; the only ghosts in there were created by myself yet those feelings were real enough, too real…
They were more convincing than the six, blue, square edged pillars which ran down either side of the centre of my room, they were more convincing, than the old, piped central heating, and they were more convincing too than the fluorescent light fittings which droned overhead for that was how they worked it… they worked from inside your mind.
They turned the screws and tightened the bolts in there, and everything they did or said, or did not say, and did not do was designed to get in there and there was no way to prove it which suited them because they always needed proof, facts, solid objects, evidence…
And in that room, at that moment then, totally empty and bare and ordinary, there were only ghosts, phantoms which could be driven away, dispersed simply by looking at them and saying their name.
…Metallic blue piping ran at strangely oblique angles, stretching deep into the ever darkening glass cliff-face, sparkling in the sunlight when at odd times it emerged like some long forgotten swimmer up for air, jutting rudely into the open spaces a thousand feet above the softly shimmering, golden sands below.
Away in the distance men clothed in white mingled with the green of the hills as they ran and dived, swung and caught, oblivious to all who watched them perform their curious ritual.
Smiling to himself, Earl Grae gazed out across a deliciously calm, strawberry red sea.
Some sound over his shoulder… three of the power-station’s security guards, intent upon destruction, emerged from the cliff-face and headed out towards him. He turned and casually stepped from the outcrop of reinforced steel that had been his viewpoint.
Free from its countless, tiresome folds for a moment, his voluminous black cloak billowed forth as he plummeted to earth, only to metamorphose into wings the span of an Albatross’, and caught upon the up-draught, Earl Grae soared gracefully skyward away from all danger, however imaginary.
High above the cliff-tops he went, ever upwards. Like a mighty Condor he flew lazily through the warm summer sky, gliding languidly on the streams and jets of hot air; a translucent impostor upon the thermals.
And then, shortening his wing span he slowly began to spiral downwards in great sweeping arcs. Gradually he descended until when no more than sixty feet from the beach he levelled out, skimming the retreating shoreline. As he flew a semi-ridiculous love song permeated his consciousness, wandering aimless for a moment before finding form two bodies, warm in embrace, passed by below, melting into the sun bleached sands as he wheeled away.
Their conversation carried on the breeze…
“Will you ever stop loving me?”
“No. I will never stop loving you.”
“Whatever I do to you?”
“Whatever you do to me, I will never stop loving you.”
“But what if I no longer loved you?”
“Even if you no longer loved me, I would not stop loving you.”
“What, even if I were to take away your life?”
“If you were to take away my life, in the very instant that I died I would love you still.”
“Mmmm,” she sighed, I wonder.
… Now she was out in space my Soul had turned astronomical on me. I decided to give her free reign, as much rope as she wanted. Enough for a thousand and one hangings…
“The Water Maiden has sacrificed her heavenly wings and impregnable habit for a dip in the river. She is naked as the morn and splashing about like a new born pup in the wending, silver white … She is carefree and happy…
…Radiant as a flying fish or a sated frog. The trees along the river bank transform their branch tips into shimmering leaves, leaves which dance about fruit ripening into bright stars… in a sigh… arching resplendently into the blazing heavens…”
She swayed up close, parted my lips, and entered my mouth…
“The eighth and final star to accost the sky is a misfit, stark and black as the cold dark space her Pilgrim has spent his whole life traversing… The birds quiver from their nests, with a croak, as the hours relinquish his body: a sheaf of dead skin shivering away in a twisting spiral of rainbow tails which surge and bubble: kiss gurgling fingers made shiny little fish, gulping protest against the air, silvering into the freedom of the current…”
I was glad to hear from her, of course I was… but she was going too fast…
“Hi – Ho – He rises… Old Nick rejuvenated, borne aloft on Neptune’s scaly shoulders… Tumbling back down to earth with a dull thud…
…As an acorn nestles firmly into the sandy bank.”
“What about memories?” I asked… confused.
“The heart of love is a dove enmeshed in memory.
Her wing-tips are sticky with life.
Your heart-beat is bodily proof of your own yearning to fly.”
Without waiting for a response she flitted off again.
I just caught sight of her tail disappearing into a cloud…
A Cellular Life
Happiness is a suspect word…
An unsound concept…
A dodgy character…
I know because I subjected him to surveillance…
Perhaps, but now I know.
Happiness is actually a freak: a chance occurrence…
…A beneficial whim of the vagaries of nature.
His appearance should, properly, inspire momentary elation coupled with caution.
Respect for how things could have turned out.
Wonder, at the hazards of fate, and gratitude…
…When I picked up his scent outside the car showroom, Happiness was parading about the place dressed in the glories of long term satisfaction and eternal contentment.
He looked pretty uncomfortable.
An unhappy get up!
He was sweating under the weight of it.
The burden of sustaining his performance for any length of time kept pulling his face into frowns and grimaces.
He managed to cover them with smiles, the fake kind which can only inspire disgust.
If anybody else noticed his disease they were against pointing it out.
It was a similar scenario further up town.
I caught him handing out holiday brochures in front of the travel agents…
Arranging cosmetics on the shelves of the health store…
I stuck it out with him for the day, following him to and from all his haunts.
He looked tired and harassed through them all.
It would be interesting to see just where he ended up…
…At closing time he slunk off into the darkness.
I could feel the relief issuing across the distance of my tail.
He was walking much easier now.
He seemed somehow aligned to the night.
He stopped for a time outside a betting shop.
The door was open and he could obviously see one of the monitors relaying a race…
He was waiting for the outcome but he did not go in.
I caught the gleam in his eye as he turned amid the furore of victory and sloped off again into the night.
He was heading for the cinema.
He slipped in through one of the exit doors so he must have had his own key.
I had to run to catch the door before it swung shut on my fingers…
There was no performance in the auditorium.
The screen was dead.
An attendant was clambering over chair backs and under chair seats collecting cardboard cartons, crinkled-up straws and crook tins.
Happiness was already up the top-end of the theatre and making his way along the back row of seats…
…He turned left and disappeared into the wall with a prolonged sigh.
There was a well concealed door in the wall where he had vanished.
I pushed against it but it was locked.
The lights in the projectionist’s booth flickered and flashed on and the film beam fell over dust onto faded curtains drawn across the screen…
A Cellular Life
…”When it comes to the end of life you have to have something to call your own,” Bill slipped his arm through mine.
The soft twill of his well pressed jacket warmed my bare flesh.
“Something you’ve come up with yourself,” Bill’s friend did likewise and we started to pace the white tiled floor of my room in step.
“Something you’d like to keep but would like even more to give to the world, while at the same time denying that it has anything to do with you,” said Bill.
“When Death settles upon your shoulders, folds her wings around your body and rests her fore paws on the crown of your head,” put in Bill’s friend.
“It’s as well to have something to say for yourself,” continued Bill.
“A grand idea to engage her thoughts,” said Bill’s friend.
“A sublime notion to temper her plans for you,” said Bill.
“A beautiful lie to charm her soul,” said Bill’s friend.
“A ridiculous gesture…” I ventured tentatively, “to tickle her fancy?”
Bill shook his head.
Bill’s friend smiled, “Death and Soul are in league with each other.”
“They’re twinned,” said Bill.
“They’re practically indistinguishable,” said Bill’s friend.
“They even sound similar when they speak,” they said together and then they started laughing.
“They’re both after memories, that’s all,” said Bill, “Death wants to satisfy Life with them,”
“…Soul, Love…” finished Bill’s friend,” it’s as simple and… ”
“…as straightforward as that,” finished Bill.
“There’s no mystery to it,” said Bill’s friend.
“It’s just a passion they hold for each other,” said Bill…
We started moving towards the door…
“Memory,” continued Bill, “possesses the key to Divinity… “
“She cultivates creative capabilities which are all of her own making,” continued Bill’s friend.
“It’s with a Mind’s Eye on Divinity that Death and Soul have taken such a shine to her offspring,” finished Bill.
“Memory likes to play games backwards,” said Bill’s friend…
“She envelops and unfolds Life in cycles of ever decreasing magnitude and complexity. Smile at her brightly and honestly enough and she’ll gladly clasp your hand in hers,” said Bill.
“She’s really only too willing to take the lead,” finished Bill’s friend.
“Memory hordes treasures from one lifetime to the next, “added Bill, “In the midst of a blackness sparked by stars…” he paused, “she buries your true self …” and looked at me expectantly…
“What… like a bear in winter?” Bill smiled, and withdrew his arm.
“Death has a mouth in her forehead and eyes in her chin,” said Bill’s friend,”she charms your Soul with an upside down smile and then sucks the memories from your body in a kiss.”
“Your death rattle is the flutter of an eyelid as your memories flit by,” put in Bill.
“These memories had better be good,” Bill’s friend continued, “It’s no use spewing forth a reel of standard procedures, set patterns and formulated truths.”
“You have to have cared for your memories over the years. You have to know what they’re about. What they point to. You have to nurture them and marry them up,” said Bill.
“Your memory is a repository for emotional landscapes which reflect universal truth, so you had better have treasured the right experiences,” warned Bill’s friend, “those gems and shards of quartz-crystal shining in the night are defining characteristics forged from old loves,” he said and then he smiled.
Bill smiled too, “attend to her whims diligently enough and Memory will serve each of them up for you, ” he paused, ” just like sea-food,” and looked at me expectantly…
“… On a platter! “
The door of my room clanged shut.
A Cellular Life