A slightly longer story, but please stick with it!
Hope you enjoy reading it.
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
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.
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
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.
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
“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
“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.
“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.
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.