Awakening

Over the past three months I’ve really been in a state of hibernation, which has been part of a bigger hiding away over the last three years, well maybe more like five years. Three years ago I had what is known as a spiritual awakening or a kundalini awakening. This is incredibly phenomenal event that is rare but is becoming increasingly common here. Well, it’s one of the most extreme events that can happen to a human being.

It creates a huge and phenomenal amount of changes, which, in turn really shake up someone’s life. It makes them to see the world in a different expanded way, process the world in a different way, but also have a greater sense of compassion and a push to be of service to others.

Effectively, in certain souls when they have reached a certain state of maturity, or they have been spiritually seeking, (or sometimes it happens randomly or through traumatic events) – they will experience a spiritual awakening. What this is, is the conscious of the person (Alex – me, in my case) merges with higher planes and beings and the Divine. Call that God, call that Source. Call that whatever.

We live in such a spiritually void materialistic physical-centric culture that all of that sounds a bit hocus-pocus and like mad raving. But if you ever genuinely experience this, maybe in this lifetime, maybe in a future lifetime, this is something that would really shake any cynicism to its core.

In my case it was a combination of extreme seeking, extreme loneliness and pretty desperately traumatic and distressing circumstances that led to basically the cracking of my psyche. In that time there was a very rapid and abrupt expansion. The experience basically short-circuited my body, emotional body and all the nervous system of me and put me in a very fragile place. This is very common among those who experience awakenings, especially those of an abrupt nature.

There was extreme bliss, liberation and expansion but an extreme loss of the previous self and reference points. There were experiences of extreme love, extreme fear, extreme creativity and imagination, just huge amounts of emotion pouring out of me and a real battle and struggle to just get through the day, especially in the early stages. There was enormous grief from just seeing the huge amount of suffering on this planet and human struggle – I’m still just incredibly moved by what people go through on a daily basis. (And kind of irritated that people reproduce and inflict themselves on their children, but that’s my personal opinion of being a gay man, and the God-force has a different greater plan for others)

If you see the worlds beyond this one, and what’s possible and the descent from grace, you recognise this planet as a really tough old place. It’s a real struggle-ground. And in many ways, the reason I’m still here and chose to be here is to help relieve that suffering and help create more love, more awareness and consciousness and help others on their journeys.

That will likely come in different ways when my energy wants to move outwards, rather than healing inwardly. It may come through my writing or some artistic bent. There may be some healing abilities that come through. There may be some kind of projects that I’ll lead. Or they may be all kinds of gifts and skills that could be given to me with the aim of supporting others. Gifts and skills can come and go spontaneously as required by circumstances. Even if I lived in a cave for the next 50 years, that would be perfectly OK and my energy would be supporting this planet for the macro, large-scale shifts that are taking place.

In the meantime I’m undergoing a process of deep healing and integration and shifting old emotions. There is a purification and refinement of the body, of the emotional body, of my nervous system and release of trauma that is stuck in the cells. What this requires is vast amounts of quiet alone time, time in nature, a nutritious diet, time away from vexatious people and places, and a sort of hermitage.  I also am working with a teacher and healer who is shifting the toughest densest stuff – that comes from just being such a sensitive soul on this planet.

The most important thing is to say, this doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else. It’s not that I’m enlightened and other people are not. It’s just that I vibrate in a different way to other people and have different aims and goals that come from operating from an expanded reality. I’m in touch with energies, spirits and unspoken emotions, I can communicate with land, trees, buildings, collective energy grids, and the elements within someone’s body or psyche. At times, I’ve had interactions with angels and Gods or deities. These things are real and exist. But it’s best not to talk too much about them as it either blows people’s minds, creates fear, or gets ridiculed. With that ability and awareness of the struggle and friction of just existing, comes deep frustration, and the desire to harmonise things where possible and appropriate.

To other people that might not sound like fun. I sound probably a bit depressed and morose about it. In a way I am. It’s hard to fully relate to others once you have this depth of vision. When I do find others who have similar experiences, I’ll probably need to grieve and cry for days with relief. Often I kind of wish this experience hadn’t happened to me and wish I were more normal, but the genie is out the bottle now and you have to work with whatever is in front of you. And to be honest I was never meant to have a normal human life. But on the other hand I often have experiences of deep love, deep bliss, deep light and experiences of the transcendental. You know, going beyond this plane and all the worldly fears, desires, stresses etc. I’m guided by the forces and hands which made this world – and am pulled towards where I’m needed or where I can be of service. That is some of the most meaningful and rewarding work that’s possible.

There’s a kind of deep bittersweetness amount everything, about seeing its transience, its smallness, its beauty, shape and form, but also the meaningless and meaning of it. That in turn creates a huge and deepening jumbling of emotions. Different parts of you feel different things at the same time. The world is not black and white, good and bad. It’s more like a mix of musical chords, with several notes playing at once.  You see things through the lens of “what does this person need” and “how do I unpick and resolve the moving cogs of this issue”. There is the old personal self of Alex and his world and prejudices and irritations, but a more dominant Divine energy that is using the vehicle of Alex, me, as a vessel for whatever it wants to bring forward here. Increasingly there is an intertwinement of the two.

Other people project things on to me too. They sometimes experience deep fear as you can see right through them and bring the darker elements of them to light, merely by existing. Others, especially those more aware souls look to you and are receptive to your energy as a sort of guide. I just have to align myself with where the great universe wants me to be, and let whatever wants to come through, come through.

Having had an awakening, it’s a huge survival disadvantage for being in this culture, especially during the early fragile stages. Many of those shifts can look like mental illnesses – psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar, multiple personality disorder and a whole other bunch of pathologies and maladies. What the medical and psychiatric profession doesn’t often see is that an awakening often has the same symptoms as these things, but is a very good thing, it’s the expansion of the soul beyond this culture and it’s neurosies and cultural entrapments. But because this culture and these institutions are so dense, they can’t believe in anything that supercedes or goes beyond their framework of reference and training. It’s important that the awakening person avoids contact with these people and places in the early stages. I was really fortunate to be supported and somewhat understood by family during those very messy stages.

Our present day culture doesn’t really make time or space for the contemplatives, the mystics, the curious or the beings of being. It’s very human-centric, ego-centric and focused on achievement and ownership of things often through dominating and taking the power of others. That’s just the nature of the collective state of humanity at present. But what keeps the awakened person safe is the quality of their energy and information that guides them towards fulfilling their basic needs and being of service to others. Once you’re in touch with that energy, even in an unawakened state, if you’re working with this creative, supporting, loving principle, it feeds and propels you towards scenarios and gives you assistance in whatever you really need.

My healing process will probably need to continue for a fair few months at this intensity of hibernation and maybe a fair few years at a lesser intensity, before I can fully be in this world and dedicate myself to higher external purposes. It’s a bit like a rewiring project on an old house. In order to handle modern and futuristic appliances and machinery, there needs to be a wholescale upgrade and shift and letting go of the old rusty scrappy wires.

This is a very short explanation of my process and what’s going on. Other people have smoother and easy awakenings, some have more wretched and violent ones which become deeply overwhelming and intolerable. It’s tough to be on this planet, and it’s tough to be aware that this is a tough planet. But we’re here for a reason and by the time I leave here, I’ll have done my best to support it and the other inhabitants.

 

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The pleasures of writing, cooking and being

I’m writing this post to give a kind of status update. Over the past of couple of years I’ve been writing and producing audiobooks. I’ve always had a very good eye for detail and picking up emotions and atmospheres. And I’ve had a talent for putting those intangible atmospheres into words.

I’ve produced 3 books (one published, two being prepared), several short stories and 5 audiobooks in that time. Most recently I wrote The Foreign Desk. It is about a buffoon of a journalist who bumbles around a mountain town in Spain looking for a weather-altering machine but he’s rather drunk and hapless. It was a fun jolly jape to write, read and record.

I got a 4* review from a stranger on Amazon – who compared it to the likes of Ernest Hemingway! So please buy it when you get chance.

The thing about writing and telling stores is it takes people out of themselves. It gives them another point of view. It gives another perspective. It’s magical in it’s own way.

I’ve found writing and narrating audiobooks has been incredibly therapeutic for me too. I can take the roles of other people and you think how they would think. You start to think about how people operate, how the gears of their minds work. In a way you embody them and it’s a phenomenal experience and skill once you have it. You feel understanding and empathy, you begin to see the depths of the world around you. No longer are you limited to yourself and your own personality – you can be and become whoever you want to be. Everything takes on a new dimension and the world becomes richer and richer.

An orange becomes more than just an orange. It’s a zesty skin, it’s acidic spray, it’s an uplifting smell, it’s a journey through the flat plains near Seville with Moroccan labourers plucking them and filling trailers.

Equally as that sensitivity has grown and has been a curse. Being in crowds, especially harsh hostile city environments becomes unbearable and physically painful. Anything heavy on TV like a violent thriller or drama becomes intolerable too.  I process that in my own cells and there have been times when I had to walk out of a cinema because I was getting pain in my head from the distress of the characters.

I have been incredibly lucky to meet the Creative Writing Society at the University of Kent. They have been a massively supportive group. We would meet twice a week, one where someone would deliver a workshop and we’d write, another time where we’d read and share our work. It was incredibly special and we also did some trips around Kent. Then of course there was the extraordinary foreign trips of January.

In 2017 we went to Seville. It was absolutely blissful and I was the happiest I have ever been in my life that week. I was in a kind of earthly heaven.

Then in 2018 we went to Marrakesh. A horrendously overwhelming place full of tricksters and crooks, but also some very light kind people. With my sensitivity it was really easy to know who to trust and who to dodge and I didn’t get ripped off in the souk. While there, I wrote a pantomime with magic carpets, the palace of His Holy Excellency Omar Tagine and genies.

Besides those trips for the most part, I’ve lived a small and simple life and have been very happy with it. When I’ve been in the UK – I’ve rarely travelled further than the 4 or 6 miles on my bike to the nearest towns and when I’ve been in Spain I’ve biked the 9 miles out of town and back.

The world isn’t out there, the most important world is at home – being kind and warm and loving and caring. But also having clear boundaries so wretched people don’t take advantage of your good-nature. The universe doesn’t need more bankers and cut-throat career people – it needs people who are attentive to their own real needs and the needs of the community.

All of my old writings here are from a time when I was traumatised by toxic school, work and social environments. I’m kind of embarrassed, but I want to leave them online for reference. Looking back I can say my psyche was very fractured, the pain bottled away. I was angry at the world for creating me and hurting me. I was trying to find the thing that would fix everything – be that a job, or money, or a relationship or something like that.

In the end I realised that nothing could fix me, except me. I trusted my intuition and guts more than whatever society and people told me. I followed my curiosity and in the end I found exactly what I was looking for – the ability to trust myself and be Alex in own weird and wonderful way.

There are strong forces at work that are trying to connect people together, that are bringing more love into the world. Over time more and more people will awaken. The general energy will expand and many people (at some point this lifetime or in several incarnations time) will get to their own peace.

I’ve been doing my writing, recording and have got deeply into cooking. It’s incredibly satisfying. Here is a really divine tagine I made the other night. It was with fresh apricots and it was just sex on a plate.

Besides that, I’m not that important in the great scheme of the cosmos. I’m just one person of 7 billion on this planet. This is just one planet in the zillions of galaxies and dimensions.  So I basically don’t exist. I have my role to play while I’m still alive – it matters and it’s significant in its own little way. But it’s not that important. My ego is small and I’m just happy to be alive most of the time when I’m not having a down day.

I would like to become a modestly successful author in this lifetime, so please buy my books and audiobooks. I have created a new website: alexandercliffordstories.com From there you can sign up to the mailing list.

Thanks for reading, Alex

Psychic Sue

 

The poster was curled at the edges. Psychic Sue had felt drawn to the village of Boxstead when arranging her tour of the country. Any press was good press and despite the papers calling her a fraud and a money-grubbing old hag – she still managed to attract sell-out crowds. She half-suspected that it was because these villages were so devoid of any excitement and activity that anything could pull people out. She could juggle pineapples and still fill the village halls.

Her 66-reg blue BMW arrived in the afternoon, where her assistant started pulling out the show’s decor. A red velvet curtain, a stand to hang it from, a crystal ball, some stuffed birds of prey, lighting equipment for dramatic effect, and some spirit-invoking crystals. While he prepared the set, she set about the village.

The pub was built between the village green and the church. Heavy lumbersome oak trees hung over the fringes of the green. The pub had dark tudor beams and a thatched roof. There were some strong forboding energy in the building – generations of unresolved differences lingered like the fog rolling across the parish.

The building gave her the heebie jeebies as she entered.

“Pick your poison…” said the baldheaded landlord. He was wearing a red jumper and brown trousers.

She shook her head and said – “just a lime and soda, please”

“Nothing stronger?”

“No – I find the alcohol addles me brain and I can’t work.”

“Oh, you must be Psychic Sue.”

“Oh… that’s me. Psychic Sue, watch out or I’ll put a curse on you. Now chop chop with my drink”

The landlord snarled and hurriedly prepared the lady’s beverage.

“Fanks love” she said, smiled half heartedly and took a seat in the corner by the fire.

She read a biography of the late great Michael “The Oracle” Schmiechel – one of her heroes as she grew up in a two-up-two-down on the banks of the Mersey. She’d spent so many bleak years as a child and had been determined to break out. Now she was a very succesful showwoman and wanted everyone to know about it. The hours passed and the silver disk of sun disappeared over the horizon.

Her assistant joined her for a dinner of beef and parsnips in the pub – before escorting her back to the village hall.

The gaggle of old Southern ladies had assembled in the cheap plastic seats and were gossiping about the upcoming fete and Edith’s funeral. A few had managed to drag their husbands along. The few men in the audience looked very skeptical, but Sue had astonished those types before.

A gentle ethereal music was passing over the room. Then Sue kicked her assistant to turn up the music, so that the crowd would quieten down.

“Right – calm down, calm down.”

“Welcome to my night of clairvoyance. I’m gonna take some of youz lot tonight and give you a reading from the other side. So… any volunteers?”

A lady in the front row edged her hand up from her pearls self-consciously.

“You’ll do, love. Come on up and tell us yer name?”

“I’m Carol.”

“Right Carol, sit there nice and tight and let the spirit be bright.”

Psychic Sue was closing her eyes and tapping her temples. A blast of energy shot from her spine and she was suddenly floating through the realm of the afterlife. She focused on the energetic outline of the woman in front of her.”

She shivered and it came to her with a lump in her throat. She pulled a face.

“He’s pink. Very pink. Like when you’ve two weeks in Mallorca”

“And he’s got yellow spots.”

“And oh god,” she wobbled in her seat. “He’s got big googley eyes.”

She brought herself back to the room terrified.

“Can you help me Carol?”

Carol was looking down at the floor a little ashamed. He was gone now, she was lonely, she really didn’t want to say to much in front of the women here. But this Liverpudlian lady seemed to be coaxing the truth out of her, whether Carol liked it or not. She blushed.

“Well, it’s my Husband.”

“It didn’t look like a person, Carol. It was like an alien.”

Carol clutched her pearls, still looking at the floor. “He had a…” she inhaled “fetish”. She shook after saying such a dirty word.

“A fetish for what Carol? Trust me I’ve seen a lot in my time…” said Sue

She couldn’t believe she was saying this, in front of all these people, she didn’t want to, but this woman was very persuasive.

“I can tell it’s bothering you love. Get it out.”

Carol looked to the heavens and the words stuttered out. “He liked” she exhaled. “He liked dressing up as Mr Blobby”

The hall went into uproar, they always knew there was something strange about John when he’d been in the village. They were in hoots of laughter. Carol felt terribly ashamed to start with but couldn’t conceal a giggle.

Carol stared upwards “The things we do for love”

“Oh I see. Let me see if he has a message for you.” Sue jolted back in her seat.

“He wants you to know he loves ya. And that you will always be his Mrs Blobby.”

Carol laughed and cried and burst into a fit of hysterics before returning to her seat.

“Ok there you go sweet pea. Who’s next?”

The Great Library

The library extended upwards into a gloom. The tall bookcases were rammed with volumes, the older ones heavy and leatherbound. The newer ones, colourful and paperback. Brass lamps shone onto the mahogany paneling. Chesterton sofas were scattered around.

There was no indication of night or day, for the building had no windows. Jeremy was alone here. How he got here he didn’t know. But the hollow, eerie echo-eyness of the place had a how would you say… a gravitas.

He stood up and looked around to absorb the place. A large station clock with the sun’s rays shining from it was on the ground floor. There was something not quite right about it though. He stared at it and then he realised, it was running in reverse. The second hand was moving backwards. The minute hand too.

He would normally find being in such a location a little intimidating or unsettling. But he had to accept that this was where he found himself for now, until he wasn’t

here. There was a hum of some air conditioning in the distance. He paced around the labarythine bookshelves.

He climbed the stairs in a wall and came out at the other levels, built in the same symetrical structure.

The dark brown wood and the golden brass put him at ease. This was built by gentlemen for gentlemen. He took a book out at random. He examined the spine and the front.

It had some markings, lines and squares and triangles and circles and combinations of these shapes. He opened it up and it was the same inside. It was no recognisable human language he’d seen before.

He took another book, examined it in the same way. And again it had the same markings, written in the same language he didn’t know. He repeated the process a couple more times before giving up.

What was there to do here? He slumped down on the floor and crossed his legs.

Then a book jumped off the shelf and into the sky rising into the heavens. This was very very strange. Oh well, he had to get on with it.

Then he looked across and another book flew up from a shelf below him. Gradually books were rising up into the gloomy roof.

A young man in a cream suit then came through from the stairs.

“Sorry to keep you waiting. The librarian see you now.”

The man pulled on an orange book on a shelf nearby and the shelf rotated. Jeremy followed the assistant and he found himself in a dining room in a conservatory-type building in a park. Old Victorian gaslights were shining around the edges and there was one elderly man sitting in the centre table. The rest of the restaurant was predictably empty.

“Cheesecake. I’ve never been a great lover of it. Would you care for mine and some coffee?”
“Coffee Jeeves, pronto!” he snapped his fingers.

The assistant started preparing coffee and tentative Jeremy sat silently taking in the place. It was night outside. Just silhouettes of trees stood against the sky of dull glowing orange.

The elder moved the plate of cheesecake across.

“So, what did you make of my library?”

“Your libary, oh yes, I liked it.” He hesitated. “But… it’s a little bit empty, isn’t it.” said the young man

“You’ll find that’s the case. It will always be fairly empty, only a few of you humans have access to it. But that will grow over time.”

“Really?”

The coffee cups were clinking on the linen now.

“Yes. You see all the information, all the knowledge, all the ideas of the universe are stored up here ready for you to read and explore and share.”

“Really?”

“You seem quite mistrustful and astonished. I’d have thought you would expect this by now.”

“Hmmm… this cheesecake is divine. What’s in it.”

“Raspberry and champagne. Fantastic little recipe from an accident in Marseille in 1922 that was scribbled down in a notebook that found it’s way back here. We’ve been

doing it ever since in the restaurant. Gets a little too familiar though”

“Ok – tell me about the library” said the young man melting in his seat.

“You see we have all these books, information – everything is stored up here. Lots of kids come and visit but when they start school, they gradually lose interest and then become bogglewarts. The few who keep their imagination in tact visit here quite regularly.

Because the bogglewarts are so bogged down in responsibilities and jobs and trying to impress people they don’t like — they need a little… how shall we say, a helping hand to remember the worthwhile things.

And so we enlist you, the imagineer to solve this problem. We’ll take things from here, ping it through the portal up there and then it’ll land in your head as a writer, musician, composer, artist – whatever you call yourself.

The young man sipped his coffee.

“Hmm… and what happens then?”

“Well you either use it or you don’t. It’s quite maddening when all these books keep going up there then they return unused. These ideas need to reach Earth while there still is an Earth to enjoy them.”

The young man finished the cheesecake and coffee, gestured to the waiter and went back to the library to find something that he wanted to take back with him.

Halfway House

hheref

Halfway House was located half way between the capital and the port. Along this ancient thoroughfare had passed thousands of pilgrims seeking miracles, merchants seeking shillings and wenches seeking wooing. In previous years it had served as a tavern and inn for weary wind-beaten travelers. But after the place was taken over by the Methodist Richard Forrester, alcohol – “the spirit of satan” – was prohibited. The house was converted into a tea room which closed strictly at sundown to keep out rowdy troublemakers.

The former lodgings upstairs had been converted into a spacious accommodation for the sideburned man’s family.

For it was a big family he had. Judith had died while birthing their sixth child and he was left to raise his offspring. The call of the cockrell at dawn would take him from his pleasant dream into the cold flinching reality. He would light a candle and walk across the creaking floorboards to the kitchen. He would toss some logs into the smouldering fireplace, wander to the well to fetch a bucket to fill the copper kettle, then return to hang it above the flames. The baker and his cart would ratatat-tat on the door shortly afterwards. Forrester got the first pickings before the village.

The doughy loafs would sit on the aged oak table. While he prepared his tea leaves – there would normally be another knock on the door. The butcher would lift a cloth showing yesterday’s animals in pieces. This was followed by the grocery man’s horse and cart – offering flour, fresh vegetables from the continent and an array of jams and confectionery. The milkman would trundle up last and usually late for some reason, but a big smile made everyone forget about their frustration with him.

Richard would stoke up the fire substantially as he enjoyed a quiet cup of tea, for a few minutes of solitude with the birds singing, cockerel tooting and flames crackling. After this he’d dash in and out from the well with buckets and buckets of water to pour into the tin bath. He’d push the tub as close to the fire as it would go. Then he would cook some fresh bacon above the flames, slice up a new loaf and spread a thin crust of butter.

He found this was the easiest way to pull the children out of bed. No matter how cold and dark and grim the morning was, the juicy, greasy salty smell would drift into the bedrooms and perk them up. They would race down the hall and find chipped plates with the most fantastic treasure. A bacon sandwich.

Elizabeth was the eldest. A buxom young woman of 16, she was an excellent workhorse around the business. After eating, she’d jump through the bath, scrubbing herself with the bristley brush and soap. From there she’d dress herself modestly taking extra care to conceal her ankles with the trousers that were too small. She’d then look for any problems downstairs. She’d sweep and scrub the floorboards. She’d crumble the stale bread and put it outside for the hens. She’d collect their eggs and then start preparing food for the day with what her father had picked that morning from the passing tradesmen. It would be a great loss when she left, her father thought. When any customer was casting an eye upon her figure, her father would raise an eyebrow at the gentleman unless he approved of him.

Edward was 13 and extremely bright. He had stayed at the village school until he was 11 and then was offered a place at the local grammar school. He walked four miles down the straight road each morning, and returned four miles back each night. He could read and write, which his father couldn’t. He would probably go to university and probably onto London with a good job doing something his father didn’t understand. He would keep his old man in his old age, his father hoped.

Jack was good at making things. He made things out of wood before he could talk. He was 12 and was an apprentice to the village’s blacksmith. With all the horses trotting through, covering endless miles along the countryside, their shoes were ground to mere plates. He was learning a craft and on his apprentice wage he could sneak a half pint of ale in the public house at lunch, enough time to sober up without his Dad finding out.

Then there were the twins Jill and Christopher. They were both 7 and still at school. They didn’t seem to like it very much but when they came home in the afternoon they would play in the garden a lot with each other. They were not hard work.

Finally there was Emmanuel who was 4. He was a very nice little boy. He’d make a lot of noise when he wasn’t happy with something. He needed a lot of attention and Elizabeth tended to look after him while her father was serving the punters.

When the children were all plunked through the bathtub – the schoolbound and work-bound ones were sent on their way. At which point the tea room would open. All the passing humanity would notice the creaky roadside sign of a house between the city and sea. Those on foot would come through the front. Those with wagons would park in the stables at the side. In summer they would be sweaty. In winter they would be sodden and cold. The tea, Elizabeth’s cake, the roaring fire and steamed up windows was the respite the travelers desperately needed.

Here one earthy spring morning a man on horseback galloped to the front and dismounted. He was young, had curly black hair and skin freckled brown by the summers. He came to the counter and gave an envelope with a green wax seal.

“Hand this on to the man who asks for it” he said and left abruptly.

This was unusual, but Richard took the letter upstairs for safekeeping. The script on the brown parchment was lacey and definitely a woman’s handwriting. A mistress calling upon her gentleman friend perhaps? Who else could afford to send a messenger from the port? It was also French, yes definitely French. English ladies were definitely less flowery with their handwriting.

Two days passed and Forrester began to wonder if the letter would be collected at all. But when a well-dressed man with a large curly wig arrived in a carriage, he suspected this would be the recipient. He had the look of a man of law. The way he held himself with power and presence, the way he commanded his order and the way he looked at the other motley travelers, all confirmed Forrester’s suspicions. He requested the best lunch the establishment could offer for him and his horse-driver, and the letter.

After fetching the prized object, some leek and potato soup and crusty bread – Richard observed from behind the counter. He washed plates and toweled glasses dry when the mouth of the man formed a large O. The letter obviously revealed something of great shock. The wooden wheels of the lawyers’s mind were rolling at a ferocious pace. His mind was galloping through the pastures of possibilities. The man tilted his head one way, considering one hypothesis then shook it again obviously dismissing it. He chewed his lip to consider something else, but threw that away as well. He eyes tilted down to the bottom left, taking into account something he saw before. Then his mental carriage had stopped with a sudden jolt.

“We must see her… come on James, I’ll pay for this lot and I’ll meet you outside.”

The two of them had barely stayed for five minutes, and had only taken a spoonful of soup. He threw a few coins on the table and stormed out in such haste that he left the letter behind.

What could be so urgent that they would avoid eating, Forrester pondered as he cleared the table. The nag was neighing outside and clopping of its footsteps was dissipating as they headed up the hill. He put the letter in his pocket. When Edward came home that night he asked the boy to read it for him.

“Dearest Guillaume,

It is late and I am unwell. It is not a malady of the head or the body, but a malady of the heart. I am sick with worry of my husband. He hasn’t looked at me with any love or passion for many months. He arrives home drunk and aggressive in the darkest hours. At first I thought it was another woman, all roses decay and I’m ready to accept it graciously. But I have discovered he has found another love, a love much more dangerous than I had feared.

She spins around and around with the allure of a great hypnotist. She satiates his greed and his passion beyond anything I could ever offer him. The thought of her crazes him with her unpredictability and power. Of course, I am talking about La Roulette.

Many men have succumbed to her charm and a few francs won and lost are nothing to worry about. But when the stakes become higher and higher tempting ultimate destruction – one lives in fear. One cannot sleep. I took a meeting with the bank manager discretment of course, and after many strong words I discover the house and lands are mortgaged to the hilt. How can one sleep when the bed that one occupies could be pulled away in the morning?

I’ve tried to make him see sense but he avoids me, shouts and blames me. Every morning he pummels the casino’s doors, to let him enter her with his fortune… our fortune. Then every night she spits him out in a state of drunken ruin.

I am a damsel in distress. He simply will not listen to me and he is quite insane. Please rescue me dearest Guillaume. Every night I dream of our nights on the Riviera, under the palm trees, mere kittens in love. Then I awake with the horror of our servant bringing breakfast. Fine Bernaud has been very loyal and I dread the day that I must release him from our house because of the misdeeds of my useless husband.

Take me Guilliame, mon amour, from this house of misery before I am made a vagabond.

Bisous,
Claudette xxx”

“We do get some interesting people coming through here” said Richard to his son.

“I want to know how this ends.”

Derailed Home

alaska-train

Rick piped on the harmonica on the steam train that marched down the line. The rhythmic low notes matched the tempo of the train’s chugging. His face would crease as he slid to the higher notes, that wailed from deep inside his lungs.

He wore a disemboweled raccoon as a hat. His beard caught the condensation of his breath. Snow, tundra and pine trees surrounded the track on his route, delivering coal and canned food to the remote mining towns of Alaska, before the vicious winter totally cut them off. He shoveled a couple of coal heaps onto the flames and toasted his mottled hands in front of the heat. Deep lines were chiseled into the face of this hardy driver, his eyes gleamed in the glowing engine fire.

He’d run to these tracks at the age of 16, fleeing an alcoholic father and a bruised mother. His co-workers had taken him under their wing and he never looked back. It was intense methodical work. Hauling loads, watching the oncoming track, checking supplies on board were topped up and fixing the endless breakdowns on this rusty iron horse.

He lived between rest stops of the railroad’s outposts. These were normally cabins with a single bed, thick blankets and a cheap wardrobe that nobody ever used. He’d eat at the greasy restaurants in the town and visit dive bars in the evening – though never touching a drop of booze. He might have fathered many children he never met. The local chicks loved the out-of-towner. But there were so many small towns, so many routes, so many stops that the women who punctuated those lonely nights all blurred into one.

He’d sometimes see kids in towns that looked like his own, but it wasn’t his place to ask questions. They would grow up and fend for themselves just like he did. Besides he was as bound to this railroad as the rails on the sleepers. He was the lifeline to these towns. Sticking around after 30 years on the move would drive him insane. There were not many old-timers left anyway. Some had died early deaths from whiskey and women and the rest had moved south.

The young-uns didn’t know the first thing about these railroads. They’d never wrestled with moose or had a train derailed by hungry bears. His harmonica kept wailing until he saw a cloud of snow tumble ahead.

“Sweet Mother of Jesus!” he shouted and yanked on the brake lever with all his might. Sparks went flying across the rack as the ear-piercing scrape of metal on metal cut through the air. He’d not crashed into the snow mound, but this was another beast to deal with. A 12 foot wall of white powder was blocking the path of the halted train.

Rick got out the cabin and got down into the ditch to take a look at how long this avalanche went on for. Lucky for him it was narrow. It was time for the big guns. He got out the cabin to service wagon and pulled out the rocket canon. This would blast enough out of the block to him through. He unloaded it and rolled it deep into the ditch, put on his ear muffs and goggles and loaded the mother fucker.

“Booooooooom!” the machine went as it propelled Rick backwards. When the rocket exploded crunchily in the snow mound, it was like a million snowballs had been launched into the air.

Rick was sheltering for cover but a large block of ice had landed on his left shoulder. Such filthy language had never been heard before as Rick hopped around, but thankfully there was only a deer to hear it. Despite his agony, the train’s path was clear. Wincing and staggering into the cabin, Rick released the brakes and shovelled what he could with his right arm into the engine’s fire. It started chuffing along and he passed out.


The next thing he knew was a big clang reverberating through his body. And the pain. He touched his left shoulder, but his left arm was unconscious and unresponsive. It was also covered in dry blood. Someone opened the train’s cabin.

“He needs help!”

More blurry faces crowded over him but they all faded to black again.


“That was a nasty accident you had there. There should be at least to of you on the train at once”

He was in a doctor’s clinic, in a makeshift bed on the floor. He looked to his left to discover his left arm was missing.

“Arggh!” he screamed, but at least their was no pain. What had the doctor said again?

“Oh, we’re understaffed!” he barked.

There was a woman the other side of the bed. She was stroking his hair. She looked vaguely familiar. He creased his face thicker, trying to dig in the recesses of his brain.

“Remember me Rick? Iron Castle in ’49” she drawled “You remember… we danced, you took me your lodge, pressed me onto the floor and put Billy inside me”. She looked dreamy, happy and ethereal. Then her face turned blood red and furious.

“It’s been nothing but misery since! My Dad kicked me out, said I was nothing but a cheap whore so we had to run as fast as we could to the city. I got a job at the railroad HQ as a mail clerk. Come and find me Rick. I love you”

She disappeared. Rick reached out to where she had been with his functioning arm.

“You OK, Rick?” said the nurse
“You saw her, right?”
“Who?”
“The woman there”
“The only person who’s been here has been me and Doctor Dubrowski”
“But she was here”
“Maybe these painkillers are a little strong. You’ve been through a major shock, get some sleep.”

It all sorta made sense. He closed his eyes and started snoring.

He awoke once more and everything seemed to be in focus again. His arm was still missing but everything else was alright and seemed real again. A man in a uniform was offering him some papers to sign about sickness pay and liability something. He signed them and didn’t listen. All he could think about was the women he remembered who was tugging on the heart he didn’t know he had. He hated being here in this damp, stinky building wearing bandages and not able to move.

When the man left, he stood up. He ached and stretched. He looked around the room and found some clothes in a closet. He staggered out the clinic and went around town. He found a pawnbrokers where he offered his gold chain. The bastard didn’t offer much but it was enough for a ticket to Fairbanks.

He waited a couple of hours for the train in the station’s bar. The coffee was weak and terrible, the sandwich was stale but he put it down him. He needed food and strength. He went to the platform and played his mouth organ to make his withered body happy again.

The journey was uneventful and the passenger car was as barren as the landscape outside. They pulled in to the station with its long and numerous platforms – the only landmark here was a tall four-story office block overshadowing the station, made of purposeful concrete and steel.

“Where’s the mail room” he asked the receptionist. The lady in the tight uniform and red lipstick pointed the way half-mindedly. Rick went down the corridor with butterflies in his stomach. No woman had made him feel like this before. He didn’t even know if she would be there, or even if she would like him. Maybe it was just some stupid hallucination. He poked his head in the door. There she was with her typewriter. She was fatter and frumpier than his memory. But he went to kneel down in front of her .

“Helen?”

She looked up, deeply buried in a thought about reimbursement for delayed cargo. Then there he was. Her body melted, her pulse raced and thumped out of her chest.

“Rick?!” she said confused, happy and bemused. “What happened to your arm?”
“Long story”

“What’s this?” shouted a short man who’d strode in, the woman’s boss.

“Nothing.” Helen said hurriedly.

“I’ll meet you outside in 10” she whispered, staring at him while Rick moved away.

He went outside and played his harmonica with more gusto and colour than he’d used in years.

When she joined him with a wobbly walk, they talked awkwardly, mist clouding from their mouths. He followed her along the icy sidewalks to an apartment block. She took him to the top floor. She jangled her keys in the lock.

A young man was watching the black-and-white television. He looked about 16 and had the unmistakable nose of his father.

“Billy meet your Dad” she said.

He turned his head, not quite comprehending… confused and muddled. As the words clicked in his head he walked over to the man and gave him a wordless hug.

Rick started feeling all sorts of things he didn’t know he could feel. His mouth was gagged for words and a single tear rolled down his tired face.

The Magician’s Elevator

I read this in Canterbury Waterstones on the 26th January 2017. Video to follow.

rincewind

The elevator dinged and the magician emerged. A pointy red hat with silvery moons and stars sat atop his head. A wizened wrinkly face held his goofy toothless smile.

“Good night boys and girls. You have left your bodies behind for this evening and you are welcome to my magical realm.”

The children stared at him with their mouths agape and fidgeting around in excitement.

“You meet me every night. Some of you meet me in the day. But that’s enough explanation for now. Who wants to go on an adventure?”

“Meeee!!!” screamed a girl at the front.
“Alright then let’s get in the lift”

The elevator shut behind the pair. Uplifting smooth jazz music was piped in. “This is one of my favourite tracks on this CD” said the magician”

“Ok – where shall we go young madam?”

“The dinosaurs!”

“The Dinosaurs it shall be then”

The magician adjusted the fourth-dimensional dial to 100 million years ago and the fifth dimensional dial to somewhere not too far from the building.

The elevator whistled down the double-helix shaped shaft and through the loop-the-loop and landed in the prehistoric age.

The doors pinged open again and Madeline was confronted with the sight of a 20 foot tall Diplodocus munching leaves.

“Don’t be afraid they don’t eat humans”. The girl calmed down and looked up at the scaly poo-coloured creature.

“It looks like my mummy”

“Yes that’s what having children and too many chocolate bars does to you” sighed the magician
“I’ll pick you up later, but beware of the T-Rex”

“Which one’s that?” said the bemused girl.

“The one that looks like your Dad on a bad day. Toodle pip!”

The magician popped back in the elevator and pressed the Home button. It whooshed back through the loops and the double-helix. The magician did some groovy disco dancing and then put his serious face on for the children.

“Who’s next?” he said slyly.

A chunky boy pushed past the others. He was sour-faced and in a posh school uniform.

“OK, Henry where would you like to go today?”

“When I’m rich. I want to meet me when I’m rich”

“Alrighty” said the elderly magician. He twisted the fourth dimension dial 30 years forward and fifth dimensional dial to the spaceship colony of New Zork.

The elevator pinged through the stratosphere, grew rockets, wings and propellers and jumped through the hyper space portal. The ride was a little rickety, but then the elevator landed on the rocket dock of future Henry’s dome.

The elevator doors opened to future Henry’s bedroom. There were wide panoramic views of the galaxy. A large circular white bed stood in the centre.

“Wow!!!” exclaimed Henry

“New Zork is fantastic isn’t it. A little too hectic for someone of my age but you’d be right in your element.”
“Oh, your lady friends will come in a moment”

“What?!?!?! Girls!!!?!?!” said Henry

“Oh yes! You’ll like them by this point”

“Urrghghgh! Girls smell!”

“Well little Henry. You should be careful what you wish for in this life because you might just get it. See you later!”

With that the elevator got back in the elevator and pushed home. He hummed to the glorious bossa nova, track 12 if he was right. This was divine!

He arrived back to the children so engrossed in his singing he didn’t hear the door open. The children saw the old man gyrating and humming to the silly song and all started laughing.

“Pretend you didn’t see that” said the magician, straightening up. But the children kept giggling.

“Now I’m going to choose someone who isn’t a bossypants.” He looked towards the back.
A shy boy was sucking his thumb.

“Dexter, today is your lucky day” The little man stood up and toddled over innocently with pure trust in his eyes.

As soon as the lift doors shut the poor boy started crying.

“Oh come here.” he lifted the boy up.

“It’s OK. You’re OK now. The boy wailed and wailed and wailed until no more tears came out and no more sound could be made.”

“You’re safe now. You’re here with me. It was probably a little too early for you to go to Earth with those savages.”
“Where shall we take you?”

“Home” said the boy without hesitation. Using one of the few words he knew.

The magician held down the button with a picture of a house and the doors opened at a woodland scene. The deer were prancing about, the dappled sunlight was shining through the trees and a few woodland faeries were playing around.

The boy toddled towards them with a big grin on his face.

“See you soon” said the magician.

His work continued throughout the night. He took everyone to a dreamworld before taking them back again to their sleepy 3D bodies.

“Remember you can come here any time you want.” he’d whisper. The people would wake up in child and adult bodies, sighing warmly and happily in their beds.