The small white paper tag affixed to the back of the seat opposite me speak of another passenger due to board the train. Someone organised, someone who has taken the time to ensure a seat by booking their ticket in advance. The slip tells me where they will join the train but not where they will leave and I wonder, as the train begins its journey, who my mysterious travelling companion will be.
My mind returns to the mystery stories of my youth, the tales of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, the great detectives of fiction, the characters who would take the evidence in front of me and extrapolate the intimate details of the life and history of the passenger to be. I drift in thoughts of deerstalkers and midnight chases, of dastardly deeds and justice served and in my revery the trains moves on, stations called at un-noticed until at last a jolt brings me to my senses, I open my eyes and see, in the seat opposite me, a soft smile on his face and a knife in his hand…
We sit, we talk, we discuss, hard topics, challenging, driving the conversation forward by inches, creeping nearer to the truth, that hidden core that lies at the root of the problem. We skirt, we flirt, we sup on the beer, the nebulous protective barrier shielding our deepest thoughts is slowly stripped away, pierced as the veil between Worlds is pierced by the Shamanic trance. The naked form of the underlying self revealed in all its terrible glory, as fear dripping, terrorised, beset by childhood demons we reveal the tragic emotional scars of a life lived in subservience to paralysing, numbing greyness of the fear of failure, the fear of being wrong, the fear of being laughed at….
…but trust me, it gets better. The laughter quietens, the fear subsides. Live your dreams…
Bright lights illuminated the stand, a showcase of creative and artistic endeavour as Sam paced nervously waiting for the doors of the cavernous arena to open. She reflected as she paced, her eyes scanning the walls of her exhibition space, taking in the imagery, the colour, texture and shape of her designs, her mind drifting back to the moments of inspiration, those flashes of insight, triggered by a word, a momentary view, a glimpse caught from the window of the train. Each creative project wrought from that single point, her mind visualizing the finished project even as her hands drew together the component pieces, forming, moulding, the vision becoming reality before her eyes.
Time and the sweet sweat of physical exertion have honed her skills as a craftsperson, refined her eye for detail, colour, form, given her a clarity and economy of design that has allowed the development of a highly credible portfolio and brought her to this point, this zenith of presenting her work to the public. Her hands, almost without thought caress the soft curves of a thrown pot to her left, stroke the embossed highlights of the wall covering to her right, her work at once visual and textural, inviting the viewer to interact. She takes a deep breath as the tannoy system crackles into life…
“Doors open in five minutes…”
Black walls absorbing light
The crushing claustrophobic state
of a mind beset by demon blight
a psyche left to reap its fate
From every side the barbs pierce
Soft flesh, the tenderest of tears
Are drawn from eyes so oft rehearsed
By time, the wearying of years
So broken now the mind recoils,
From barbarous sights, the horrors seen
On battle field, the bloody toil
What nightmares where this man has been
Yet still there is a spark of hope
In human heart the endless love
That is the core that helps us cope
When death pale winged floats above.
“Come on Fred, play the game! You know I had a whole row of runner beans here last night! Good straight ones too! Like as not prize winners if I’m any judge!” Joe said as he looked forlorn at the plants, tall and strong on their bamboo framework. Broad leaved and healthy, fine specimen plants now bereft of crop, the evidence of empty stalks all too clear.
“I don’t know what on Earth you’re talking about Joe” Fred replied, walking his own rows, selecting the long, thick bean pods to batch together into neat groups of equal length ready for the horticultural show. “I told you, you should have put up that pigeon netting you daft old sod!”
Joe looked, his mouth drawn into a harsh line, disbelief in his eyes as his friend of forty years finished selecting, and turning away walked back to his shed, the prize for best runner beans ensured for another year…
The steel spike of the railings pierced his chest, the barbed tip tearing through soft flesh, back to front, lacerating the tissue, forcing ribs apart. The foaming blood in his mouth telling him instantly that his lung had been punctured, that he was drowning in his own blood, coughing as he struggled to free himself.
The fall had been an easy one, a misplaced step on the rungs of the iron ladder leading to the roof, the treads made slick by the overnight rain. His hands had grasped instinctively for the rails to either side, missing by a hairs breadth, but it might as well have been miles. The moment of suspension as every fibre of his being screamed in one heart stopping beat of clarity before the descent, limbs flailing, the sky above, the wall of the building, brought into sharp focus by the surge of adrenalin.
The impact, shocking, tearing, devastating. The outcome inevitable as blood drains and struggles weaken until finally, stillness…
The fluorescent strip light hummed a discordant tone at 60hz penetrating the concentration of the room full of students. The monotonous drone competing with the incessant drone of the lecturer to achieve a state akin to deep hypnosis in the battered, sleep deprived brains of the putative learners. If anything the lecture should have been more than usually engaging, focused as it was on the period of upheaval around the English civil war, the bloody removal of the Monarch as head of state and the imposition of a landed elite to positions of power, the accurate forerunner of todays political wilderness.
The combination of lecturer and external audible trigger was enough to prevent any spark of engagement in the audience, the induced torpor misinterpreted as apathy as the lecturers temper rose inexorably. This misinterpretation becoming reality as, unable to focus,, unable to comprehend, one by one the students lost interest, drifting away on historical journeys of their own…
The clear blue sky streaked with jet contrails, lines of pale vapour creating interlocking patterns as passengers are conveyed across vast distances, their purposes unknowable to the observer on the ground, the only evidence of their existence the trails, fingers pointing to some far off destination, the arrowhead shape indicating the direction. Sun glinting on the metallic fuselage of the jet, the comet at the head of a spreading tail. The trails merge, filtering the rays of the sun, reducing its power, blocking the ultraviolet warmth, returning the cosmic rays to space.
I remember a time, not so long ago, when volcanic ash replaced the trails, when the planes lay idle on the runways, grounded by natures fury, the Icelandic fires, when the sky was clear, the air was pure. I remember seeing the blue vault of the heavens as if for the first time, unsullied, unchained from these gauzy remnants, the sky my ancestors saw before the coming of the modern age. A sky not seen at any other time in my life. Those few days stay with me, and as I watch the skies fill each morning, the trails spreading like a blanket I wonder, just for a moment
“What have we done?”
Within the white walled room, the ranks of steel cages, three high lined the perimeter. Heavy cage mesh construction, the door to each protected by a numeric keypad. The room itself secured by iris and fingerprint recognition, secure within the lower basement levels of an already secure building, part of a complex of such buildings, each as nondescript as the next, nothing hinting at the work being undertaken inside. The technicians, lab coats left on hooks outside the room, bedecked in sealed biohazard suits, strict protocols adhered to for the best of reasons.
The cages linked to a central control system, the animals within monitored for responses to the injections being given at regular intervals, the testing procedures refined, honed, the disease vectors under experimentation warranting the level of security. The possibilities for disaster, for exposure to some of the most deadly pathogens known to man too horrific to contemplate yet still the research continues, producing the weapons of tomorrow, the threat of a pandemic the ultimate deterrent?
The coffee cup, half finished sits beside the monitor as her fingers skittered over the keyboard, the words filling the screen, line after line, sentences structured, the story clear in her head as the voices of characters weaved a semi-magical ribbon of narrative fabric, almost autonomous, a natural rhythm to the cut and thrust of dialogue. Lost in reverie, in the swirling kaleidoscope of colours and sounds the story takes shape, moulded, sculpted, carved from the language of the everyday, the mundane but reformed into something more, something beautiful, something wonderful.
He watches her work, lost in admiration for the ease with which she conveys the deepest human longings, emotions and sensations etched across the mind of the reader, seared into the psyche creating new archetypes, hinting at hidden meanings, of deeper truth, of passions beyond the experience of most, but longed for at some primeval level. She pauses, looks up from the screen, a faint smile on her lips as she sees him watching, a smile he returns, and in his eyes she sees her muse….