[A sample chapter from my book “Reluctant Angels”]
Homesick snores and the scent of starched, overclean sheets invaded Nathan’s senses every night. It was like a cacophony of lost little piglets restlessly seeking their mummies across the dark, so they could suckle and receive comfort in the wilderness. The dormitory was entirely dark except for a dully lit sign over a door in one corner saying “FIRE EXIT” (though the door was always locked). The bulb behind the “F” had never worked for as long as Nathan could remember; so, in fact, it said “IRE EXIT”, which he found most amusing, in view of all the combative and often bullying behaviour he witnessed every day throughout the establishment, whether from teachers, pupils or other staff — but not from the gardener, Mister Jasper, as he was called (for all non-teaching staff, like servants in colonial times, were known only by their first names, preceded by “Mister” or “Miss”. His full name, in fact, was Jasper Burrows). Nathan had a special and formative relationship with Mister Jasper [as will be revealed in greater detail in a later chapter], whom everyone thought to be “simple” but who Nathan recognised as a fountain of quiet genius. On one occasion, as his father was driving him back to the school after a weekend away, Nathan had pointed out to him Mister Jasper, who was working among the rhododendron bushes at one side of the entry drive.
“Look! There he is! That’s Mister Jasper!” said the boy excitedly.
Karelija Comes of Age
Karelija Šviečiantys regularly braided her long, mousey-brown hair. It was a meditation ritual. She braided it in a spiral shape — closely resembling the archetypal pattern of DNA — but with a personal extra-dimensional twist every time. This should not be a surprise, for she came into this world not only with revolution built into her DNA but she defied all standard genetic encoding in her life and comportment.
Nathan receives his Mission from Livinia
IS RAIN MUSIC? Not necessarily. But the sound it makes on everything is more than a symphony. Nathan was listening to the first movement. It started with a largo and soon became an allegro moderato. It was emblematically washing away the dirt (and bruises) which still clung to him from his close encounter with the Police Specials like clumps of cobweb and burrs. So cathartic was the experience that he wandered about in the wetness for what seemed like hours.
[extract from my book which is under construction, “Reluctant Angels”]
‘Why do so many families behave like little cults?’ was the question Nathan asked inside his head, as he watched the interaction between the larger and smaller people, noting how the larger ones bragged about the smaller ones’ achievements, taking pride in what they were saying and doing and in how they were dressed, treating them as little extensions of themselves to puff up their own egos. Living by proxy. Even in his tender teenage years he could see this clearly. After all, he had spent sixteen years wryly observing his own family, those of his friends and every other family with which he had come in contact. He saw how it worked — these self-perpetuating close-knit little cults which repeated themselves in identical patterns from one generation to the next. He observed how the parents are the cult leaders and the children are its members. So often there was manipulation and control masquerading fulsomely as love and care. There was coercion, funnelling and emotional blackmail, subtle threats of deprivation or abandonment, contrived withdrawal of affection, the conditioning process of praise and punishment, the denial of freedom.
He couldn’t remember the second time it happened. It was when he was a kid — not very long after the episode on the bus with his mother. Some character had come into his vision and it was as if an unseeable multi-dimensional screen had been switched on in his mind. He received impressions, scenes, conversations, sounds, smells, noises, like dribbles trickling down from some infinite network of the sum of human thought and action. Often they would come all at the same time, yet still be individually discernable — rather like those exploded diagrams of engines one sees in car manuals, in which you are shown even the smallest part but also the entire engine itself, thus making it clear how the whole thing fits together. Nathan saw people’s lives like that. “Exploded diagrams of happenstance and synchronicity”, as he called them.
“He fumbled again for his notebook. He remembered when it was new, when he had looked at it and said: “One day you will be dog-eared and dimpled, filled with substance and inconsequence, like an obese cadaver on a mortuary slab”. He noticed some words scratched into the back page from an inkless pen:
I am the hypocrite of a thousand petals
The hole of my life is the empty
eyeball grimace of a skull
I am a ragged flower
A hybrid of deadly nightshade
Of foxglove phantasies
Of morning glory
Of unfantastic gloriousness
I dwell in the suburbs of hell
A flock of birds flew past the window like momentary reflections of some sunlight on a lake. A donkey brayed in the distance. The muffled chatter of grape-pickers rose up from the vineyard like early morning mist. Anticipation dangled from the trees and something smiled. As soon as she walked into the room he knew that she was ovulating. There was no scent in the air — no visible evidence of fecundity — nothing significant in the eyes or facial expression. It filtered through the ether like a message from another world — one to which he belonged and where he longed to be. The body language, though a little awkward, was what one would expect from a woman meeting a man for the first time; though he listened to everything: her fruitly womb, her slightly broken heart, the notes of music played behind her velvet words (where legato met staccato in sonata form and where no coda had, as yet, been written on the stave). She shook his hand and sat down in the chair which plainly hadn’t been designed for sitting but merely looking good. Just like her, he thought. As soon as her eyes locked with his, the bottom of her tightly guarded world began to slide away. Something unfamiliar (though not unknown) had spread like brightly-coloured ink on blotting paper through her head. She thought “The tide is coming in” but had no knowledge how those words had come into her mind. A suggestive roll of thunder beckoned urgely from the hills. “That’s where we now belong”, he thought, “and where we soon will be”…
© Alan Morrison, 2013
“Pain. A word with no anagrams. Indivisible. Unchangeable. Period. It begins with pain. It ends with pain — interspersed with windows casting shafts of strange-coloured light. Mindless, morphinic, mendacious illuminism. Even the end of the tunnel is just another window.”
These were the words he scribbled in his tattered notebook in the halflight, as the sun fell below the horizon.