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A slightly longer story, but please stick with it!

Hope you enjoy reading it.

 

1.

 

This is not what you had promised. I am alone. I can hear nothing and I can

 

see nothing. I am totally alone. There is no discernable smell, and my

 

tongue tastes nothing but the sterile, stale air. You are not here and I am

 

alone. In previous times I had craved for this, the solitude of escape, the

 

pleasure of non-commitment, but I have always been aware of the cradle of

 

the natural. There is forever the constant knowledge of growth and the

 

minutest of breathings, murmurings and shiftings. The to-ing and fro-ing of

 

life, the permanent changes of shadow and light, shape and form. The

 

unerring call of evolutionary change; order, anarchy and a ceaseless return

 

to order. Revolution followed by the return to calm, and then, in a timeless

 

cycle of motion, revolution. And death. Yes, of course there is always death.

 

Always within reach, as certain as the motion that binds us to our paths,

 

there is death. The slow gentle sounds of decay replaying a script of our

 

lives, tracing us each as uniform beings. Ashes and diamonds, leaders and

 

led, when the circle is complete we will all join in dust, as one at last.

 

 

 

 

 

No, this is not what you had promised, and I am as cold as I am confused.

 

Here there is nothing, and still I strain my eye, hoping to pull into focus the

 

tiniest of recognisible features. My eyes ache. There is nothing to be seen. I

 

am lost.

 

I slump to the floor and struggle to take in my surroundings. I study them

 

slowly, and then slower still, in fear of over looking a telling detail. White.

 

Everywhere I look there is nothing but white, as far as the eye can see, and

 

is this not fifteen miles, for surely this place must obey the laws that I have

 

learnt. I look on – All is white. Not a peaceful comforting white, hand tinted

 

with hues of apple or shell. Not even a creamy rich shade, or one dirtied by

 

age. No, this is a clinical, even cynical white, sharper than a blade, more

 

suffocating than a pillow applied with the tenderness of cotton clouds. Not

 

so much the absorption of colour, but rather the exclusion of it. What I

 

perceive to be the floor is white. The ‘sky’, and there is no distinction here

 

between what is above or below me, is white, and I am white. My skin is

 

paler now, not a cold white like all around me, but paler somehow, and my

 

memory, I know, is losing a battle. I was not dressed in white before, but

 

now, kneeling silently, I can see myself clad only in material the colour of

 

white. I have cotton trousers, loose and light, soft shoes through which my

 

feet can feel the ground, and a smooth shirt. Every garment that adorns my

 

body is white. I trace the outline of my body, and feel a waistband held by a

 

thin, twisted cord. Moving up I touch buttons, two, three, four to my neck. I

 

observe my hands as if they were those of a stranger, and, gradually, I can

 

begin to distinguish differences: My clothes are all separates, as clean as my

 

surroundings, but my slowly adjusting senses can now see them clearly

 

against the bland backdrop. My skin is not as pallid as I had imagined, and

 

my imagination begins to drift. Are there really differences here? Can I

 

really distinguish shape and form, or am I merely doing what I am best at,

 

and fitting events to the situation, creating an orderly excuse for chaos?

 

Does where I find myself make any sense, or am I justifying meaning where

 

only random events exist? I can not tell, not yet at least. My senses still have

 

work to do and still need time to adjust. I am tired – I must have journeyed

 

far to arrive at this place, although I am as yet still unsure exactly as to

 

where ‘here’ is, or, in fact, if it exists at all. I am tired and my head aches. I

 

can not absorb this brightness, and it penetrates even my tightly closed eyes.

 

I pull my shirt over my head, and, wrapping it like a sacrificial gift in my

 

arms, I lay down, curled like a foetus, and drift into unconsciousness.

 

 

 

 

 

2.

 

Wellington Road, December 17th. Snow lays thick along the previously

 

grassy verge. It is stacked up against the walls, which mark territorial

 

boundaries like hurriedly stacked defenses in time of siege. Beyond the

 

walls, gardens, yards and driveways are uniform, each a canvas for the

 

artistic occupants of stand back houses, who huddle and shuffle within their

 

walls in anxious contemplation. It is cold – the surface of the snow dances

 

with icy stars – but I am not. I wear the thick coat, the one that you bought

 

for me in the throes of last year’s harsh winter, close against my body, but

 

this is not my defence against the night’s chill. Frozen hands reach up to

 

grasp my ankles and claw up my legs, but I have an inner warmth that repels

 

them. Even when I reach Blucher Court, where winter winds spin like

 

trapped tornadoes, I am warm. The winds try to entice me into their webs,

 

then snatch furiously at me, as if they are afraid of being lost, and dying

 

alone. I almost waiver, hesitating with strange pangs of sympathy, but my

 

inner heat draws me on. The lighted window ahead and to the left of me

 

leads me on, and I am helpless to resist.

 

“Hi, come on up.” The buzzer snaps the door to life, and I shake myself,

 

involuntarily, as I enter the hallway. My steps are light as I fairly fly up the

 

four flights of stairs. At the top the door stands already open.

 

“Hi. Hey, you look great.” But my words are swallowed by the kiss.

 

“Mmm. Not bed yourself, kidda. Going somewhere?”

 

I smile at her. For a reason hidden deep within my subconscious this pricked

 

me. Okay, so Andrea was a few years older than I was, but so what? And if 

 

‘kidda’ is her ‘in-joke’ then who really cared, what did it matter? I pondered

 

the question. Somewhere a part of me did care.

 

“Just to see someone gorgeous,” I retorted.

 

“There’s only me here, I’m afraid,” Andrea said. “Never mind, I’ll have to

 

do.”

 

With Andrea, no one argues. It is impossible to ever get the better of her, or

 

to out wit her. This is partly why I love her with the passion that I do, and

 

also partly why I don’t live with her.

 

“Come and have a look at this,” She calls, and I follow her. “I picked this up

 

at the Rag market at the weekend. What do you think, eh?”

 

I move in her footsteps across her lounge, and fall into her huge sofa. It

 

sucks on me like a hungry leech, and I struggle to pull free, and to perch on

 

the edge, next to her. I can feel the heat of her through her clothing, but

 

somehow manage to focus my attention on her movements.

 

“Isn’t it great?” She asks, revealing her prize.

 

“It’s beautiful, Andy, Truly beautiful. Is it Egyptian?”

 

“Assyrian. Look at the markings, aren’t they fabulous?”

 

I look, but they lettered designs spoke nothing to me of their origin. All I

 

can see is a beautifully carved box, hewn with care from a strange and

 

ancient wood, and decorated with genuine affection.

 

“This must have set you back a bit,” I said, handing the box back to her.

 

“Twenty quid, and a smile,” And Andrea displays one of her ‘come on’

 

smiles which could melt even the hardest of souls and enflame the slightest

 

of jealousies. I laugh a smile to her, and she replaces the box.

 

“Are you surgically attached to that,” She suddenly quipped, motioning

 

towards the bottle of Syrah which I am holding, “Or are you going to crack

 

it open? You know how red wine should ‘breathe’,” She laughs in her mock

 

connoisseur voice, and is gone, disappearing to her kitchen from where I

 

can smell delicate oriental scents.

 

I move slowly through the half-light of the room feeling my way to a unit

 

standing against the wall. With care I ease the cork from its confinement,

 

and stand the bottle on the nearby table. Something has caught my eye, and I

 

strain to look harder to try moving carefully, trying to discover what it is. To

 

my right, on the furthest edge of the mantle, stands a letter. I am drawn to it,

 

and my respect can not hold me. My hand reaches out to touch it.

 

 

 

3.

 

A noise. There is a noise. Slowly, as if not wanting to lose the direction

 

from which it came, I rise. I hear a sound, and strain my eyes. In this cold,

 

antiseptic white, directions have lost all meaning. I have no sense of my

 

bearings, and no point of reference. I have nothing with which to fix myself.

 

My body stiffens and I become a human satellite receiver dish, slowly

 

turning to identify the noise that I can hear. A voice. A voice, no, not a

 

voice, but voices. Yes, there are voices. I attune myself to get a fix. I focus,

 

concentrate, and then, suddenly, the hit. Like a chemical to my brain, sight

 

realises belief. On the horizon, if such a thing exists, there is movement,

 

Figures, outlined like a child’s picture, are in motion. There are two, yes,

 

definitely two, figures. I see them, moving clearly now, locked deep in

 

conversation, seemingly oblivious of their surroundings, such as they are.

 

They approach, and I stand now, relief smothering any feelings of doubt,

 

fear or excitement.

 

“Well, Byrne, what have we got here?” They see me at last, and stop, eyeing

 

my presence with suspicion. It is the taller one who speaks. His companion,

 

who is my approximately my height, but with a stockier frame, simply

 

smiles. He does not break his stare.

 

“Looks like another one.” He says, looking into my eyes.

 

“Yeah, Byrne, a touch more entertainment.”

 

“What’s going on here? What is this place?” The words spill from my

 

mouth. The questions hurtle through my brain far more quickly than I can

 

recognise them, and before I can formulate my ideas; the taller man speaks

 

again.

 

“You mean you don’t know?” And his words merge with laughter. As my

 

mouth opens, the shorter man, Byrne, plants his fist into the pit of my

 

stomach. Winded, the shock reduces me to a crouch, just in time to meet his

 

rising knee. I fall backwards. My head connects with the cold, hard floor,

 

and I spit the blood from my lip to one side. My opening eyes are aware of

 

the next blow too late.

 

“Enough!” The shorter man lowers his boot away from my face. I focus

 

blearily on an outstretched hand. I take it and am hauled to my feet.

 

“Let me apologise for my friend. You see he likes a little bit of, shall we

 

say, ‘fun’, now and then, and he doesn’t get much chance here, not these

 

days, anyhow. I do try to keep him in check, but, hell, I ain’t no superman!”

 

“Where the hell am I, are we?” I manage to splutter, my tongue snaking its

 

way around the chasmic split in my lip.

 

“You really don’t know, do you?” The man’s voice sounded genuinely

 

surprised at my ignorance.

 

“No,” I replied, and for a moment I think about facing up to the larger man,

 

but my body, still smarting, holds me back, and anyway I can hear Byrne,

 

behind my now, scowling like a primate throwback.

 

“Look around you, what do you see,” The taller man continues.

 

Involuntarily I turn, although I know that there is nothing to see, nothing but

 

the blinding whiteness, the arctic summer.

 

“White,” Continues the gangling figure, who I now see is considerably older

 

than I had first thought. He stands over six feet tall, but his flesh hangs from

 

a bony frame like an oversized overcoat. His face is drawn, his sharp cheeks

 

shadowed by unkempt growth. Almost for the first time I recognise their

 

garb. They wear the same white uniform as me, clean and precise, but with

 

little demarcation of shirt and trouser. I look again into his face.

 

“White. Everything and yet nothing. Look out side of you and all there is is

 

white. All your hopes and fears, good times and bad, dreams and

 

nightmares. They all reside here.” He gazes upwards as his arms make a

 

generous sweep against the backcloth of absent colour. “All this. All of this

 

is you.” He stares into my eyes, a stare that is bereft of compassion, and

 

suddenly, where there was gentleness, there is evil.

 

“You negate yourself.” The words hiss from between his lips, and I feel

 

myself stepping backwards.

 

Byrne is there, a leg outstretched, to trip me, and, no sooner am I prone than

 

he is upon me. His bulk holds me with ease, weakened as I am by my state

 

of confusion, which is now compounded by sheer terror. His sweaty palms

 

grasp my head, one on either side, squeezing against my temples. With his

 

knees pressing into my collarbone he raises me, then smashes my skull to

 

the floor.

 

“You see,” He says kindly, as he pounds my head again and again,

 

“Everything you do, on either side of the tracks, is lost. Each action denies

 

possibilities, and all of our pasts are lost, forgotten. The final choice you are

 

faced with is here, where there are no options, no decisions, and no

 

possibilities. You will dissipate, and finally all traces of your energy will

 

become absorbed, become a part of the whiteness, a part of  ‘here’. It’s

 

merely a matter of time.” And the pounding continues.

 

“Me and Thompson, we just pick up any stray traces, any fallout, and keep

 

on drifting. It’s a life.” And it seems to me that he laughs the last words, but

 

my grip is wavering and my temples pulsating. I smell and taste blood, and I

 

know that it is my own. I try to hold on to something, anything at all, any

 

fragment that I can remember, but I feel that I am falling. I look down, but

 

there is no safety net.

 

 

 

4.

 

“You weren’t going to say anything, were you?”

 

For once Andrea is silent.

 

“You were just going to let things run weren’t you? Let things run

 

until….Until….I don’t know, you’d go?”

 

“What’s to tell?” She showed no annoyance as she spoke, no irritation with

 

me for having read the letter.

 

“So it’s positive,” She said, flatly and calmly, “All it gives me is a date, a

 

time in which to do what I need. At least I know what is in store for me.”

 

I am shell-shocked. I can not take in what my ears are hearing or what my

 

eyes have read. I feel isolated, frozen in the moment, and totally alone. I

 

need to get out, need to breathe, but I know that I can not leave. , not now.

 

Andrea is smiling. She holds me as she talks. She tells me of her plans, and

 

through love I weep. In understanding I strengthen. Six months. Six planned

 

months, and then….

 

 

Over time we moved closer, more entwined than I had believed possible.

 

Our souls grew and breathed as one. We visited all of Andrea’s favourite

 

haunts, the museums and galleries, cities and countries that she loved. In

 

each we left a part of us, a mark on the landscape, an energy in the ether.

 

Our thoughts remained where we had been, displacing the air, waiting like

 

an orphan for a host, carer or companion. Within us we knew that this

 

would not be an ending, rather a beginning, a chance for our spirits to be

 

reborn, to inhabit the bodies of new travelers, to build a karma of hope.

 

And then we reached the climax; the time of resolution.

 

 

 

Andrea is sinking. She retches, and I can hear the flesh within her tearing,

 

pulling muscle and sinew apart. Nothing comes. She looks at me, through

 

eyes made moist by both tears and perspiration. She spits and the bowl

 

catches both blood and bile. She mops her mouth and smiles.

 

“It is time,” She whispers. “Are you sure?”

 

I look at her, my eyes damp only through my tears. We are so close that I

 

can feel her pain. I am inside her, and recognise her suffering. I know that

 

she is right, and I know that I am sure.

 

“It will be beautiful,” And Andrea smiles as she mouths the words, her

 

hands enfolding mine. “We will be free, I know it. In all of my hours, dark,

 

bleak and alone, I have seen it. Beyond all of this, this ridiculous charade,

 

lies reality. We will shed this entrapment, lose these ties, and be our true

 

spirits. No more pain. No more loss. Imagine, pure power, pure spirit. We

 

will move together, drift in peace and pleasure. Truly be one.” Her final

 

words fall on my face like a summer’s breeze.

 

I am with her. Her words wrap around me, and I am drawn to her. She holds

 

me, cocooned, and I am desperate to follow her. She holds out her hand,

 

shaking with discomfort, but still confident, still sure. I unfurl her fingers,

 

slowly, one by one. Like a magical dream I take from her soft palm the

 

remains of the bottle. I do not look at my actions. My eyes are fixed in hers,

 

and my vision has become hers. In her there is no more pain. I hold her in

 

her promise as we feel the water rise. Willingly we let it wash over us.

 

 

 

5.

 

On the distant horizon there is a sound. Slowly it gives way to a view.

 

Kneeling there is a figure, dressed solely in white. Only experienced sight

 

can distinguish its form against the harsh colourless background. The figure

 

shuffles then rises to its feet, struggling to focus. It clearly has little

 

understanding of its surroundings.

 

“Well, what have we got here?” The low-pitched voice of a tall figure

 

breaks the silence.

 

“Looks like another one, Thompson,” I reply, eagerly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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