An Essay from The Times Newspaper
I was surfing the net last night, as I do quite often, looking for anything on PF or RW and happened upon the essay I am posting below, when searching under "Fletcher Memorial Home". I was interested to see if one existed somewhere in the world, even though Rogers reference in TFC was fictional and biographical. Amazingly, one does exist, and in Birmingham, England. Although the essay is written by a cub reporter for the Times, one Sydney Mason, and maybe somewhat raw in content and composition, I felt it was worth replicating and posting in this site. I’ll leave it up to you.
13 February, 2000.
As part of my training at The Times, I was instructed by my editorial chief to do some research and write an article on the 20th Century and it’s impact on the future. My brief was to include as much human impact content as possible. He (the Editor) strongly urged me to seek out people across all walks of life, all ages and nationalities, but to keep my synopsis brief and to the point and to expand only where necessary.
I left the office and took a cab to Hyde Park, to sit amongst the quiet of the trees, to soak up a little solitude, to observe the people passing, and more importantly, to gather my plans on how I would attack this somewhat daunting task. My employment at The Times relied heavily on the result of my own efforts, and I was determined to make the most of what opportunity I now had opened to me.
To adequately plot the course of mans’ impact on the 20th century, I realised that I needed to start at the beginning of that period, back to 1900 and work from there. I realised then the enormity of my task. To find someone alive and willing to talk about that period would be nigh on impossible. The Queen Mother sprung to mind, and I added her to the start of my job sheet, with the knowing realisation that it would be extremely difficult to get an interview with her, but I would at least try. I owed that to myself. Others sort of filtered in and out, but none of them of the required age to be of any use.
I shifted about on the park bench, somewhat uncomfortably, gazing off across the park, seeing but not really observing people passing, and the pigeons plying for scraps on the pavement around me. My thoughts suddenly focused on methods of researching the first part of my article, and I suddenly concluded a visit to a library would be essential, if not to find the relevant books on the subject, but to also search the Internet with there specific facilities available. I quickly got up, half ran, half walked, across the park, out onto the street, and hailed the first cab I saw.
"London Public Library", I intoned breathlessly, as I hunkered in to the dark, smelly cab. My initial thoughts on my journey were to get my essay into focus, but the smell, and the drivers attempts to lure me into savvy conversation, negated any clarity. I lifted my head, and directed my attention towards the driver, who was expertly engaging the gears, negotiating London's busy traffic schemes, and spouting on about nothing in particular, in an accent I found out of place for a London Cabbie. He certainly wasn’t a Cockney!
"......and Clinton’s being a bit dicey with this whole Lebanon thing, eh Mate. When are those yanks ever going to see that the whole world doesn’t revolve around their bloody constitution. If it were me mate, I’d just let them kill....." He intoned on, heedless of my semi-ignorance.
"Ah, excuse me!" I pipe up, interrupting his commentary of world affairs. "Aren’t we supposed to be going to the Public Library?" I venture when his head turns to my direction.
"Oh, sorry mate, I thought you said the London Sceptic Society," he offers apologetically, " I’ll get you there right now, no charge. I sometimes get it wrong, being a Midlander. Some of the softer accents like yours are a little difficult to understand at times!"
He turns the cab into the next side street, and careens magically past oncoming cars and trucks, and dangerously close to pedestrians going about their innocent daily business.
"You said the Midlands, driver," I state," Where about exactly? "
"Aw, mate, I’m a Brummy, a brummigan, South Yardley, to be precise, home of the Bluenoses Football team, ya, know, Birmingham City Football Club."
"Oh Birmingham, never been there, and sorry, I don’t know of that team, I don’t follow soccer or sports at all," I respond.
"What’s a young fella like you heading off to the library for any ways?" He asks, somewhat roughly," should be out and about chasing some tail or on the town with the chaps, eh!"
I decide this line of questioning wont get me anywhere and seek to end the conversation by telling him my task, hoping the Cabbie finds the subject too complex and thereby switching his attention back to his own monologue conversation.
"Old folks, you after, is it?"
Oh shit, that didn’t work. The Cabbie pulls over into the nearest lay-by, stops the car and turns in his seat to face me.
"You looking for some really old and interesting people, huh. Just so ‘appens, I know of just the place to go to, although it may be a bit out of your way."
I look at him somewhat quizzically, but aware of the reputation of any Cabbie in London for spinning tall tales. How much do I trust this guy? I ask myself.
"Oh, and where would that be?" I ask, apprehensively.
"Well, it just ‘appens that my one hundred and seven year old granny lives in such a place in Birmingham, the Royal Fletcher Home for the Aged and Infirm, I think it is called, may not be Royal, but yeah! That’s the place. Last time I visited her, one of the nurses told me that they had the biggest collection of one hundred year olds in their care, anywhere in the UK!"
At the mention of that piece of information, my interest was immediately peaked.
"You’re not pulling my leg, are you?" I asked. "Geez that would be just the place I’m looking for if what you say is true."
"Course it’s true, mate," proffered the Cabbie rather gruffly," I’m not the sort of person who makes up stories about his family just to impress someone. If you don’t believe me, I’ll give them a ring on me cell phone, I got the number here. Have to, ring the old dear from time to time to see how she is."
The Cabbie, despite my protestations, reaches for his cell phone, and dials the number displayed on his personal organiser. He starts talking to someone at the other end, his voice muffled by the phone, and the fact he is now facing away from me. I can barely make out what he is saying, but he turns and passes the phone to me, a caring smile on his heavy midlands features warming my nervousness at his actions.
" Hello, who is this?" I ask, excitedly and cautiously.
The voice, female, and sounding officious and firm, replies that she is the Matron, and that yes, what the Cabbie, Michael, has told me is absolutely true. She goes on to inform me that they currently have seventeen centenarians in their care, with another twenty eight who are nonagenarians, and that most of them would be more than happy to relate their life stories to me. I was heartened by her response, but not too keen to have all of them tell me their life stories, and I told as much. She apologised for her effrontery, but explained that if I wished to pay the home a visit, I would be most welcome, and that I could stay as long as I wished. They were always happy to have someone stay to record the memories of those they cared for.
As she hung up, she remarked that they have a few special residents who would be of most particular interest, but wouldn’t elaborate over the phone, fearing that our conversation may be overheard. This little adjunct spurred my enthusiasm, to such extent, I handed the Cabbie his phone back, and slipped him a twenty pound note, as a note of thanks for his information and my good fortune.
"So you’re going to go to Birmingham then?" Asked Michael. "I thought you might."
"Yes" I replied, my heart racing at the thought." I’ll get you to drop me off at home so I can pack some things and organise a flight for as early as possible."
"Don't bother ‘bout the flight mate, I’m heading up there tonight, to see my girlfriend, how about I save you the money, and you can come along for the ride. You can also stay at me mums place if you want, plenty of beds, and I’m sure she’d be pleased to have a young’un staying with her. Keep her amused for a bit, I’d guess."
I sat there amazed by this news, and my ever spreading good luck, and quickly accepted his offer. I introduced myself, tried to give him another twenty pounds for his help, which he refused, and thanked him profusely for his kindness.
He started the cab, took off in the direction of my flat in Knightsbridge, and for once was silent, as we sped through streets of a city now slowing down as night approached. My mind drifted from London, and tried to focus on what lay ahead.
An Essay from The Times Newspaper Pt II.
The honking of the horn outside drew me away from the television set, the news item forgotten as the screen blanked from the action of the remote shutdown. I placed the useful piece of equipment on the breakfast bar, skimmed my flat to ensure I had shut everything off, grabbed my overnight bag and reporters satchel, switched off the lights and headed out the door, locking it behind me. The air had cooled noticeably, the steam being exhaled from my breath testament as to how cold.
My thoughts swung to the vehicle idling at the kerb in front of me, and my journey north. I had hoped that Michael wasn’t driving his cab, as they can be damned uncomfortable, and much to my relief, he wasn’t. The car he now sat in was a 1938 Citreon, a classic in anyone's language, and one I had always wanted to drive. Those classic "Staff Car" lines always appealed to my sense of yearning, having been brought up by an Army family in Aldershot.
He waved politely, reaching over to open the door for me, and motioned me in. I walked over to the kerb, opened the door fully backwards, granted him a quick ‘Hi and thanks once again’ and placed my luggage on the back seat. Michael returned my welcome, and commented on the cold, noting there may be a fog coming down and that the journey might be a bit longer than usual. I accepted his observation with an eager nod of the head, as he gunned the engine and headed off into the night traffic, weaving our way towards the M1 motorway.
Our journey, though slower than normal on a good day, was uneventful, the Citreon majestically chewing up the miles to Birmingham at steady 60 mph. We chatted more intimately, on subjects as diverse and far ranging as both of us could come up with, and our recently found relationship blossomed warmly. Eventually, as we approached the outskirts of the second largest Midlands city, I broached the subject of the home his grandmother resided in, seeking to get some background on the people I would be coming in contact with, and to give me an idea as to the rough layout of the place, essential if I was to make good use of my time.
Well briefed now by my enigmatic and knowledgeable companion, we drove down a small street, bricked terraced houses on either side, dirty black from years of carbon emissions from the local factories. It never failed to amaze me how the populations in the Midlands and northern regions managed to thrive in such gloomy and depressing conditions, and the man sitting next to me had somehow shown me a little of how they managed it. They were extremely tough, hard living people and who, through their relative adversity, had learned to turn that same adversity into humour and comradeship. Both traits so easily given to "foreigners" adhered them to one as truthful and life long mates. But god help you if you broke that trust.
Michael slowed the car, carefully manoeuvring into a small vacant space outside one of the many houses. Only one light was on, that in the lower half of the two story place, on the left of the wooden doorway. I surmised this to be the lounge, which was later to proved correct. The sound of the engine being shut down, and Michael's ‘here we are then, Mum’s place’, forced me to turn back into the car and reach back for my luggage. I opened the heavy steel door, the smell of aged leather replaced with that of coal smoke and the sharp coolness of the Midlands night. I closed the door behind me, Michael locking it when shut, and waited patiently for my companion to exit his car. He came round to the path, a small holdall in his left hand, and his breath breathing white steam, and motioned for me to follow him up the path to the door.
His broad shoulders obscured the door as we walked up the path, and by the time I arrived at the steps, the door was pulled wide open and his mother, dressed in her pink dressing gown and pale blue slippers, with her hair wrapped in the scarf hiding the curlers, was busily hugging her son, giving him a right royal welcome home. She looked past his clinging arms, and spied me shifting nervously on the step, a warm smile on my face. She pulled herself away from her son, half pushed him away and proceeded towards me, grabbing my extended hand and taking me in an equally fond embrace. Luckily, she didn’t see the look of partial embarrassment on my face, but thankfully the greeting was brief, and she pulled herself away, and motioned both of us into her narrow hallway. I was growing fond of the warmth these people were extending towards a complete stranger.
After a small meal of biscuits and cakes, washed down with the perennial Earl grey tea, I was shown to my room, Michael's old room in his childhood days, and bade both of them good night, as I had a rather busy day ahead of me tomorrow.
I closed the door, carefully scanned the room, plain in appearance but comfortable and clean, unpacked my bag and changed for bed. Before retiring, however, I reviewed what information I had gained so far, and that to which I would need to seek, and hopped in to bed anticipating a fruitful day ahead. My last thought as I dropped off to sleep was to conjure up an image of a retirement home in Birmingham, but all I could dredge up were some advertising brochures I had seen in a doctors surgery from some time ago, and those ones were modern bungalows in the Dover area. My perceptions were somewhat darkened by the thought of the Birmingham I had seen on the way in, but I held out hope I wasn’t walking into a scene from Oliver Twist or some of those old Dickens movies from the fifties.
An Essay from The Times Newspaper Pt III.
Royal Fletcher Home for the Aged and Infirmed.
I sit bolt upright in my bed, the sudden stream of sunlight poking through the curtain interrupting my reverie. I had failed to meet my normal quota of sleep, thanks largely to the rather amorous couple in the tenement next door. Their all night sexual Olympics, and desire to push what sounded like a very large water bed through the adjoining wall, kept my insomnia well and truly entertained. The only saving grace was the sound of The Wall from Pink Floyd, my favourite artists, pumping out non-stop at a fairly hefty volume.
Michael's mother, Edna Gates, welcomed me as I came down the stairs, dressed smartly in one of her many pinafores, a happy smile on her face.
"Ready for a bit of kippers and black pudding, young Sydney?" She beamed, gesturing for me to follow her into the dining room.
My appetite had been at the least minimal prior to leaving the room, thanks largely to the cakes from the previous evening, and the thought of such stodge reduced it even further.
"No thank you, Mrs Gates, I have a rather busy schedule today and I'll catch something on the hop."
She muttered an aggrieved 'al' right then, suit yourself, but dinners at five thirty' as I lifted my satchel, opened the door, and walked down the path to the road. Mike had indicated that the Fletcher Home was about a mile down the road, and I felt a good walk was in order. The air was still brisk, maybe not as brisk as the previous evening but still requiring the donning of my woollen balaclava to keep the head warm.
Pretty soon, the tenement houses disappeared, to be replaced by small shop's and numerous off-licenses, and the increase of pedestrian traffic going about their daily rituals. I spied a small pub, The Yew Tree, which appeared to be the local watering hole. I noted it's location for a future visit and maybe some background from the locals, who had had contact with the residents of the home, if any.
Pretty soon, the shops and houses gave way to parklands, and I began to wonder about Mike's directions. I was sure I had walked more than three miles, but I must admit, it gave me the opportunity clarify my thoughts, and instil a little enthusiasm for my task. As I walked, a huge conifer hedge formed itself to my left, it's height obscuring my vision beyond. So much so, I almost failed to notice the gap in the hedge signifying the entrance to the Royal Fletcher Home for the Aged and Infirm, and only saw the sign thanks largely to the white ambulance that crept out from it and nearly laid me out. The driver waved a polite sorry and continued on his way.
I looked up the long driveway, past the heavy wrought iron gates that stood as sentinels to the gracious grounds contained within. Some yob had graffiti-ed the left one with pink paint, letting the world know what they thought of God. I'm sure Ozzi Osbourne would never consider sodomising someone he's never met. I start up the drive, following the path my eyes were now taking me. The grounds were manicured to perfection, with large ancient oaks and yew trees spread everywhere, providing shade to those residents fit and able to find a cool place to sit. I hadn't realised the temperature had risen since leaving the coolness of the buildings and shops, and only recognised it's impact when a bead of sweat trickled down my temple. Or was it from the walk, something I was not used to doing back in London.
I caught some snippets of conversation as I passed some of the residents, not taking note of what was being said, but instead listening to the tone of aged recollections, and the fervour of memories reawakened. A thought suddenly popped into my consciousness, one day that might be me! Despite the warmth, a shiver ran down the back of my neck and into my spine.
My gaze shifted to the large double doors in the centre of the main building. They were thrown wide open and a suited figure stood watching me, her stance suggesting no nonsense power. I guessed she knew who I was before I even approached her, my solitary, youthful demeanour and my satchel giving me away, I supposed.
"Ah, young Mr Mason, I would presume" she ventured, as I strode quickly up the steps." Ready to do a wonderful expose on our venerated centenarians then." The forced smile on her lips gave me the impression of a very stern ships captain castigating drunken sailors, but there was at least a splattering of warmth in her posture to signify otherwise.
"Yes, I certainly am, uh Mrs....."
"Wainwright, Ms. Davina Wainwright. But to all the residents and staff here I am Matron, and I would appreciate that you also address me by that name when we're around both. Otherwise, in private company, Davina will be fine." Her smile appeared from the well worn creases of her face when she made the last remark. I guessed she'd be about mid-fifties, but was later to be proved very wrong.
She ushered me inside, pointing to rooms and doors as we went, explaining the layout of the place, giving me a very extensive guided tour. The next two hours were went in a blur, running into staff and residents, Davina reeling off names at a dime a dozen, none of which I would recall later. With the exception of one Mr. Reg Dombroski. He was located in the west wing and was one sprightly old codger, fondly the nurses and generally bursting into hysterical fits of laughter and manic depravity. The Matron introduced me to him and he let rip with an almighty fart as we shook hands, forcing the Matron away to a safe distance and, because of his iron-like grasp, holding me in range of the foul smelling odour. He had pulled me towards him, with surprisingly easy power for someone hitting 99 years old. He told me when I was close enough, and when he was sure his well timed anal-eruption had forced the Matron away from earshot, to come back and visit him, he had a different tour for me, one which, based on my brief, would really interest me.
He then dismissed me by releasing his hand from mine, letting off another volumous fart, and turning away towards his television set to continue watching General Paton.
Matron ventured closer then moved away at the assault on her nostrils, and motioned me to follow her down another maze of corridors and rooms. We passed a large door, recessed into the wall, and which, if I had my bearings right, was the entrance to the North Wing. I was rewarded for my skill of perception, by the brass tally above the door stating as much, but before I could fully read the other sign nailed to the door, I was grabbed roughly by an insistent Davina and lead away from the area, without explanation, I might add! A polite 'no comment' was all I received from her when queried.
This response, along with the quick glimpse of the sign I did get, reinforced my desire to further investigate that wing. After all, wouldn't your interest be peaked if you saw a sign which stated "The Mentally Disturbed Hypocrites of the 20th Century Ward" blazoned on a door, but barely discernible without sharp eyes. And why was it padlocked?
I finished my tour at 5:30 and wandered back up the road towards my lodgings. Stopping in the Old Yew Tree pub proved to be nothing short of a waste of money, as there will little or no patrons around. The fact that the Bluenoses were playing at that exact moment down the road clarified my curiosity.
I made it back to Mrs Gates house, took supper with her and shuffled off to bed. Because of the long walk I had undertaken, I felt very tired, and was determined to get some quality sleep this time. The earmuffs I'd bought at the Hi if shop next to the pub would see to that.
My last conscious thought though, annoyed me! Replaying the VHS in my head, I kept latching on to a figure, or was it two, standing next to one of the trees. His stance and bearing reeked of power, unlike his soft almost youthful face, and that face was familiar, but where from. He would have been over eighty yet the resemblance to Joseph Stalin was uncanny.
Oh, well tomorrow, the North Wing, Old Red Joe, and the matron's Opium scent would be waiting for me.
An Essay from The Times Newspaper Pt IV.
North Wing Blowin'.
I'm in! The room is dark, musty, the smell of a thousand crypts assailing the nostrils. It doesn't help much that the air is dank and moist, and fog from outside, that provided my cover across the grounds, has followed me in through the jimmied window.
I thrust my hand into my coveralls pocket, seeking the flashlight I had sequestered there. Wrapping my hand around it's familiar, yet blind shape, I extrude it and flick the switch, pointing the torch into the palm of my hand so as not to send a sudden shaft of light into the room, in the event it is occupied.
My eyes slowly adapt to the half light, seeking out shapes and objects, and realising just how dark it is in here at 4.30 in the morning, I release a little more light from the torch. My inspection finds an old oak desk, with a large worn leather-covered chair behind it. To the left and back towards the open window, is a coat-stand, with gargoyles leaning out in six directions ready to accept any fabric quarry that ventures near. I realise my mistake as I swing further left, and hurriedly shut the window and replace the heavy velvet drape back across the portal.
My continuing examination reveals only three other significant pieces in the room, one a large walnut coffee table, with very large empty fish tank on it, a cupboard in the corner, and a Star Of David - shaped chandelier over the fish tank.
I proceeded over to the table, and carefully laid my torch and jemmy bar upon it, removed my balaclava and set about checking the remainder of my clothing and tools for my mad escapade.
I think back two hours, and the reason I was now here. The banging, yelling, screaming, and continuous Ozzie Osbourne music pounding from next door, the matrons offhandedness, and that bloody door to the North Wing, had kept me awake since retiring the previous night. I was determined to at least escape the next door romp artists, so decided that killing three birds with one stone would be me only course of action. I found myself rather pensive and excited as I dug out my "paparazzi burglars" kit from the bag I had brought, a must have set of items for any prospective journo! Black cotton coveralls with built in padded tool pouches, a pair of tight rope walkers shoes, a black balaclava and chamois gloves, and of course the tools, small jemmy bar, credit card, Leatherman tool set, cell phone, and the flashlight, which also had a pepper spray unit in the other end. My daring but mad plan I had formulated was to inspect the North Wing without the knowledge of the owners, and return later in the day to interview Michael's Grandmother and that crazy old codger whose fart still lingered on my skin.
The sudden turning of a key in a door brought my attention back to my current situation. My heart began to race. Oh, hell, someone was opening the door to the wing, and quickly! I looked around the room once more, decided the window was too difficult, grabbed my belongings off the table and made a beeline for the cupboard, opening it and squeezing myself inside as the door down the corridor silently closed. I scanned the room one last time with flashlight to ensure I had left no sign of my presence.
The footsteps slowly walking down the corridor approached my hiding place, and stopped outside the door. I slinkered deeper into the closet, pulling the door shut and sitting down on my haunches in case I was in for a long wait, and to also use the keyhole for a spy hole.
A figure entered the room, and turned to light switch on at the wall. The room was thrown into brightness, but peculiarly, not from the chandelier I had earlier spied, but from halogen lamps recessed into the walls. A movement from my right soon had the figure materialising into view, and I immediately identified it as the Matron. She was still dressed in her suit, but somehow seemed a little different. Her hair maybe, I dunno, but there was a looseness to her demeanour now that I hadn't seen before, an almost totally relaxed posture. She reached towards the desk, slipped open the top draw, and pulled out what looked like a remote for a television set. Then she did a bizarre thing.
She pointed the damn thing at the empty fish tank, pressed a button at the top, and a soft green laser light burst from the end, reflected through the fish tank, lighting up the words "Two Lost Souls" I hadn't seen earlier. The refracted purple light shot straight up from the tank to the ceiling and locked onto the chandelier, sending gold shimmering light out in six directions. The matron released the remote button and the green and purple lights disappeared, but the gold light seemed to intensify.
She placed the remote back in it's drawer, and closed it, then removed all her clothes and placed them on the coat rack. Exactly six items; her jacket, her blouse, her tie, her skirt, her underpants and lastly her bra. My god she had a great body!!
Before I could get a really good perve at her shapely curves however, the gold light suddenly erupted into an iridescent white flash and I turned in time to see an equally naked man appear in the fish tank. He was an Adonis, his perfection undeniably flawless. The matron stood looking at him, as I w he language was totally foreign, nothing I can recall ever hearing before, and she in turn replied in the same dialect. The sound was almost metallic clicking, but softened by their human voice boxes. After about a minute of urgent chat amongst the two of them, the matron suddenly burst into English, taking me by surprise with her words.
"My Adam, I must ask if we can speak the accursed tongue of humans, for now. I have been here so long now I find it easier to converse than using our mother Bagrielic tongue. I am sorry if I offend you with my request." She bowed her head apologetically, resting her chin on her perfect breasts.
"Of course, my Eve, how ignorant of me," as he reached for her chin and tilted her head up and towards his placid smile. "But we must hurry. The Maker has asked me to hasten this visit as he is need of some very serious efforts from us this morning to set the balance of human affairs straight for the next millennium. Are you up to the task?"
"What the Maker wants, my Adam, the Maker gets. What has he planned to do now, may I ask?" The matron, now revealed to be none other than Eve, raised herself from Adam's lap, walked around to the front of the desk, and leaned over towards the coat stand, grabbing her jacket and removing two fig leaves. This couldn't be surely! Adam and Eve, and the Maker.
This was getting a wee bit too weird for a young cub reporter, and my shakiness almost forced me to lose my balance. I would hate to have thought of the reaction of the two naked "whatever they were" beings sharing the room with me, but I'm sure it would have been nasty.
Adam stood up, grasped the leaf handed him by Eve, and both proceeded to stick them to their groin region. So the fable was true, they did exist.
"We are to unleash the soul of the one known last century as Adolf Hitler upon the world again. The Maker wishes to use his particular traits he, Hitler, gleaned when he was the persona Ghenghis Khan to help keep the population in check. He is afraid these humans have lost touch with reality and their natural side and he wishes to restore some semblance of balance and natural order to the world."
"How is it he wants that persona? Eve asked quizzically, "I'm sure there are other equally effective souls around who can do the job in our soul bank, but to unleash that one will only bring the world into complete chaos."
"Not quite, my dear, he has given me specific instructions on this one, and how the soul is to be utilised. Would you believe, he has fashioned a non-human use for this soul, and thinks it will infect and eventually kill almost half of all the worlds human species. He intends to spread this mischief in the Internet!"
I cringed. The Internet! But how? How can anyone be killed on the Internet? These and many other thoughts raced through my mind as the two fig-leafed figures walked out the door and down the corridor to some room or other down there. I wrestled with the notion to move from my hiding place, and scarper out through the window, but realised that my cover might be blown, and couldn't begin to consider the consequences if I was caught. Besides, what if the Maker was observing the room. It was, after all, some sort of extraterrestrial teleporter and I was stuck in my position for a while yet if I was to avoid detection. I settled down to wait. I think, once they had both finished their tasks, and had departed for the day, I would investigate the wing further, and somehow find out what their intention was and warn mankind of the future outcome of what I had heard.
It was then I realised. Who the hell was going to believe me? Shit!!
An Essay from The Times Newspaper Pt V.
The Phantom of the Universe.
The sound of heavy breathing near me pulled me awake from the dream. I almost toppled from my crouch in sheer surprise. Surprised I had gone to sleep, and even more surprised at what was staring at me not one foot from my face.
"Hello sonny, couldn't resist it, eh!" Old Reg let out a hacking cough, that forced an equal volume of methane from his arse. "Thought I might find you here, he he."
I stood up, feeling the soreness in my legs and hips from being crouched for such a long period in my cramped hiding place. I looked at my watch, having noticed the very bright light streaming in from the now pulled drapes. It was eight fifteen, and I was kinda shocked at the length of time I had been asleep.
I turned to Reg, noticing his aged features grinning back at me in childish joy.
"What on earth happened? And how long have you been staring at me?" I was less than happy with the way I had been caught out and let the old guy have it a bit thickly, just to show my annoyance at myself.
"Son, you're probably lucky I found you, and not the Matron!" he said, his face twinkling seriousness at his statement. My mind raced back to the earlier events, and a shiver raced up my spine. Yes, he was right, I probably was lucky. Very lucky in fact!
"What do you know about the Matron, Reg? She seems to be a different woman than I envisaged." My journalistic bent took over, determined to dig deeper into the mystery, to confirm or deny what I had witnessed not ten feet from me four hours ago.
"Well son, that depends on what YOU think her, if you know what I mean. The answer to any riddle is in the riddle itself and what each person sees as the clues?" Reg moved away to the coffee table, rubbing the top of the fish tank, placing his hands to rest alongside the words I had seen previously.
"If we were to be two lost souls?" he continued, turning back to face me then looking up to the chandelier, "what would you have to say about that lady?"
"I...uh... um, oh hell, Reg you know don't you? You know who she is, otherwise you wouldn't be here doing what you're doing!" My impatience started to show, but his direct yet indirect inferences to the teleporter indicated that I knew he knew. Least ways I hoped I was right.
The smile that spread across his face disarmed me, almost as if he was trying to seduce me, the dirty old bugger. I felt reviled, exposed and turned away and walked over to the desk, in an endeavour to get myself back on an even footing with this old casuist. I couldn't let him suspect my xenophobia at what I had witnessed and hoped that he would be a more than willing participant with the plan that was now forming in my head, remembering the cause of my angst with the Makers intentions.
I reached over to the desk, reaching for the top drawer, but it was locked. Immovable! Inviolate! Matron, or Eve, hadn't used a key and I was perplexed at how she had managed to open it.
The sound of Reg moving behind me near the coat stand drew me around and I stood amazed at what now stood before me. In fact, complete shock was the only words for how I now viewed the not so old child standing before me. His skin was the gentlest colours, earth tones spreading over him, and wood scent and fresh grass smells permeating every pore. His teeth were no longer ivory white, but coal black, and his tongue and lips the shade of purple I'd never seen before.
As I shied away from him in obvious surprise, and searched the room to confirm he was the one and same Reg, his gnarled wood-like hands reached out for mine. I became suddenly drawn towards him, and the sweet lyrical music of the woods and the sea and the sky flowed from his lips in a dialect I found very hard to trace, and even harder to ignore.
"Hello, Sydney, I am truly sorry for frightening or alarming you, but I surmised you were aware I wasn't who I seemed to be, as you no doubt saw was the case with Eve and Adam." He motioned me to move towards the door. "I have to show you something and I need you to understand that what you are about to see and do is in the grand design, and is necessary for the survival of all this planet."
"Is Reg you're real name?"
"No of course not, it is one I choose to use when travelling the world as the watchkeeper. I do not have a name as such in human tongue, but I am more closely known to you as Nature, the world in person."
I looked round at him (or her or it or whatever) and saw then the agelessness I had first seen yesterday in the TV room. He permeated eternity, and reeked of healthiness. I certainly felt nauseous with this air pervading, but my concerns of the Makers plan, and the direction of travel Nature and I were headed down, outweighed my own personal emotions. The body could hold off, for a little while at least.
"What is this wing for?" I asked quizzically, almost ignorantly. "And why the secretiveness of it all?"
Nature stopped outside one of the doors and turning to me, pointed to the sign on the door. The portent of the words I now read suddenly exploded in my head. 'Souls of the Tyrants and Wastrels'.
Nature explained that the North Wing was the Makers soul storage facility on Earth, and was what we modern day men refer to as the Recycle Zone. He opened the door, oblivious to my nervousness. Was this the room Adam and Eve had gone to earlier to find the Hitler/Khan soul? I guess I answered my own question remembering the sign on the door. Nature walked over to a wall on the far side of the room, a wall lined from floor to ceiling with little vaults, one foot by one foot square. I started to laugh at the thought that human souls could be stored in such a manner, but was cut short by a rather malevolent Nature placing a very straight twig-finger to his lips and whispering a quiet "Sshhsshh". He pointed to an opened vault to his immediate right, about half way up the wall. We shuffled silently over to the vault, sweat now pouring from every pore in my young body, fearful once again at the situation I found myself in.
Nature closed the door, and read the ancient hieroglyphics etched into the heavy lead portal. My education was very limited, but the look on his face lead me to believe that it was that of Hitler/Khan, and his urgency became apparent as he went wailing from the room, leaving me to mull over the implications of this dreary place. It was very cold in this room, but my clothes were drenched in nervous sweat.
I quickly followed the fleeing figure further down the corridor and caught up with him leaning against another door. His breath was silent, even after the exertion from his sprint, and as I drew level with him, his eyes turned to mine, sorrow deeply etched in his gracious features.
"I have to ask you one question, Sydney, and I need just one word please. It is plain to me that you witnessed the Makers two engineers this morning, and overheard their conversation." Nature grabbed my shoulders soaking up the sweat through his porous membrane, "How were they planning to use this soul to destroy mankind?"
I felt relieved! I could now share my secret and I felt immediate relief as I told him. "Internet".
"Oh, that's not so bad, then, he's only after near annihilation then, not total. That's good, we can institute some damage control and keep the destruction of the natural order to half of what he intends to achieve, the selfish wastrel." Nature's gleeful outburst caught me completely by surprise.
"What! You're happy, happy that more than half the human population is about to be destroyed when they log on to their computers! How could you be so fucking happy at that!" I screamed vehemently, "we must save them all!"
Nature spun round, fixed me with a sorrowful stare once again, and apologised for his callousness, but explained to me, rather soothingly, that it was better than total annihilation, and if he did not miss his guess, the right mixture of souls sent through the Internet would equally stabilise some of the distraction, and provide a balance for those that remained. He turned back to the door, marked by the sign 'Talented and Caring', opened it and stepped inside. I followed. What other choice did I have?
I looked around. Mother Teresa, Ghandhi, John Lennon, Joan D'Arc, King Arthur (so he did exist), Aristotle, Beethoven, Stanley Kubrick, the names went on and on and on. I was overwhelmed by the range of great souls that were stored in this room. There was hope after all.
"Oh, good, this one is still there" exclaimed my host, pointing to one of the many opened vaults. "And the Maker has marked him with eternity! Now that is very interesting."
I walked over to get a closer look and was surprised to see that this one was written in Latin, but no mistaking the translation. "Rogerus Waterus". My mind whirled. A living soul and one known to me.
An Essay from The Times Newspaper Pt VI.
The Thoughtless Man Makes A Move....
Have you ever wondered why people do things? And have you ever wondered if they were aware of the consequences of their actions? After all, did Ernest Rutherford believe that if he split the atom in the name of peaceful scientific discovery that one hundred years later his innocent act would hold the key to the destruction of not only mankind, but all the world. And did the Britons of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries consider that their industrial revolution would be the catalyst for the killing of all life on the planet through the greenhouse gases they needed to emit in the name of progress? And what of Jesus Christ? Did he ever imagine that his simple philosophy, and that of his father, would lead to the mass suicide and murders in his name, of so many lost souls in the name of love, hope, charity and religious obedience?
I don't think so. Why do I ask these burning questions? After all, I'm only a journalist on the hunt for a good story, right. Well, it's like this. After seeing the Rogerus Waterus vault, I felt a sense of intrigue wash over me, for no particular reason, you must understand. I looked around the room, and noticed that Nature had departed, and I could just make out his faint footfalls heading off down the corridor back towards the Tyrants Room. I took this as a cue to do some more exploring, but before I could move, I felt an overwhelming sense of tiredness and hunger eating in to me, and to remain awake and steady for the remaining time I would be here, I decided to slip a couple of 'ludes to give me a bit of a burst.
What the dumb ass dickhead me forgot was that I was already very tired and hungry, and the 'ludes not only served to heighten my awareness a little, but they also created a blurry vision of reality, which caused me to do something rather naughty. I suddenly felt like I was God and I wanted to control the world, to make it all perfect, to make it free of violence and hate and nastiness. My drug hazed mind decided to play Master, and a plan formulated that sounded pretty reasonable at the time, but which would prove to be very stupid, much to my detriment, and to that of a few others too.
The first step of the plan had me running round the room, throwing my clothes and accoutrements to the four corners, ending up stark bollocky naked, and throwing myself into the next phase. I must add, the Animals song Sky Pilot was pounding threw my head in silent abandonment, driving my desire on even further. I then raced around all the vaults, opening them up and standing naked before them, accepting them into my body. Before they could take over my soul, however, I was on to the next one, and the next one, until all the Talented and Caring filled my persona, but with so many none could get control. That and the 'ludes kept me focused and in charge.
My own thoughts were starting to race in hallucinogenic mayhem as centuries of memories darted to and fro, fleeting but never permanent, nor retained. My purpose screamed it's way back and forth, and then the wailing began, slowly at first but ever so steadily increasing, at the realisation of what I was about to achieve. I now knew that their nature could not let any one soul assume control, so I would be free to continue on.
I started dancing, my nakedness now caked in iridescent sweat, and skipped out of the room and down the corridor towards the Tyrants Room, hoping to catch Nature at work. I danced on in, and found to my surprise that he was not there. Oh, well, he could wait. I sauntered over to the vaults of the tyrants and wastrels, ready to complete phase two. The wailing inside my head was now reaching a very pleasant crescendo, and with good reason. The intent was fairly clear and public. I started then on the bad guys, and followed the same pattern as before. This phase was even easier than the first as they were all keen to take possession, and because of this, they were easier to control, as they pretty much controlled each other. They were so wrapped up in themselves, they even failed to notice the other souls my skeletal vessel contained. I had a moment of mirth though, when Idi Amin tried to reach for my genitalia with his soul but failed to even raise a twinkle there. He was dragged back shouting and screaming by The Spanish Inquisition and rejoined the others in the power struggle.
Very soon, the error of my actions began to manifest itself. Nature sauntered into the room, took one look at my nakedness, complete with a cheesy grin giving away my drug stupefied state, and then fixed an even more sorrowful stare in the direction of the opened vaults. Once again he raced out of the door wailing, and went straight back to the other room, with me in hot but flaccid pursuit. By heck, someone inside me was having a right royal battle. A vision of a robed Israelite with long beard, holding something in his hand was immediately replaced by one of Napoleon Bonaparte rubbing salt into his left nipple. Back and forth the vision went, neither giving nor gaining any ground.
I arrived in the room just in time to see Nature open a side door I h ng points, to present a balance of humankind ready to take on the Maker's plans for worldly chaos.
I opened the door and felt the earthquake hit the building at the same time, short and sharp but not strong enough to unbalance me. My psychiatrist would probably have interrupted here and said in his humble opinion I was already unbalanced anyway, but as he wasn't here, he didn't say it and I remained as steady of purpose as I could.
"So you decided to dabble with the Grand Design, eh!" Nature stood firmly planted to the floor not ten feet from me, the anger plain to see on his wooden knotty face. "Decided to play God, Huh. What is it with you humans. You get a chance to observe something good at work, and to observe higher beings conducting their millennial tasks, and you just can't sit by and watch."
This was the most I had heard Nature say in the short time I had known him, and his vexed stare chopped through the haze of stupor that surrounded my cerebral vortex and rocked me back to earth.
"Oh, well, we will have to go on, but you must be prepared to share a fair amount of the burden of your actions, something your kind finds a little hard to do." Nature turned and faced a dark curtain and with a wave of his massive arms, forced them to part, to reveal what looked like an amazing accurate reproduction of Hal from A 2001 Space Odyssey!
For a nanosecond, Stanley got a grip on my brain, and stated that he wanted in, as he had always wanted to live until at least that year, just to see how prophetic his visions had been. He was quickly replaced by a smiling Hizbullah Suicide bomber, who also immediately dissipated. The mind battle obviously continued, but I seemed more oblivious to it now and more concentrated on what Nature was doing.
A heavy mist started to rise around him, and formed into large black thunder heads over his body, and as each thunderhead struck the one next to it, lightening would pulse and flash down back to the rod standing proud from the computer that was now well and truly lit before me.
One "thing" caught my attention, though, something I had never seen during the movie. Hal had an erect penis, and it was pointing straight at me, demanding my attention. Several of the stronger souls in my head with the sexual preferences associated with the powerful tried to assume control, forcing me to turn around and bare my buttocks to the offending weapon. Luckily, my heterosexual virtue was retained as Oscar Wilde and Liberace fought to gain control and placed the powerful rightfully in their place, flat on their own butts! Nature reached for the erection and started to tweak it to and fro, pressing the tip from time to time, which caused Hal to erupt in fits of convulsion. It was after a few minutes that I realised that it wasn't a penis but a very crude joystick arrangement, obviously added on later to the machine and something I hadn't seen in the original movie.
"Come over here, Syd, I need your special gifts. This is a very powerful computer, but unlike any....."
"It's Bloody Hal from 2001" I rudely interjected, regretting my outburst immediately.
"....as I was saying, this is a very unique computer, and yes your assumption is correct, it is Hal. But the Hal you saw in that movie was not mechanical nor electric in anyway. No indeed, my friend here is a bio-computer, and is what we use to control the natural justice for all living creatures on this planet of ours."
I looked at Nature somewhat quizzically, aware of the sudden coming down of the high I had been on, sobering at the thought of what he had said. The souls, however, were still preoccupied with their inner turmoil and failed to discern the sudden move both Hal and Nature took towards me. Nature landed square on my chest and Hal, amazingly quick for something that size, pinned my legs. Suddenly, a probing vine emanated from Natures forehead and shot up my left nostril, and at the same time a gaping floppy drive opened in Hals' belly, my flaccid member drawn into it. It was then that the lights went out.
An Essay from The Times Newspaper Pt VII.
I'm soaring, the dream shaping my reality. My subconscious awakened to the sights, the sounds, the music, the smell. I open my eyes and see the earth, clean, blue, green. I soar further and lower, swooping down towards the ground. I marvel at the ease with which I descend and glide. I chance a glance to the left, hoping to see something familiar, and I do. My wing is spread before my eagle-eyed gaze, feathers outspread in the pattern I know all too well, letting the air pass under and over, a little tilt here and there to alter my altitude, a flick of the tip and my passage moves either left or right.
I pass my vision back to the front and see the land unfold before me. The land is clear, the air fresh, the river running free and clean. Game animals wander the land in their day to day business, some hunting, some reproducing, but most just grazing and sleeping.
Then I see it, the Man creature, his spear held aloft over his head, ready to strike down the small rabbit twenty feet to the right and adjacent the small mound by the creek. I soar closer, hoping to distract the wretched beast, but his concentration is firmly in the prey.
I let out a loud screech, trim my feathers for rapid dive, and streak straight towards the ghastly interloper. My mind is firmly intent on stopping this creatures bloodlust, but my audible warning only shifts the attention of the Homo Sapiens towards me and in the last second I realise he has fired his weapon in my direction. I quickly apply my feathers for a sharp turn to the left to escape the spears path, but foolishly turn side onto it's flight and feel the metallic point pierce my abdomen. Is I cartwheel to the ground, in searing pain, I wonder why God had to put this wretched creature on our beautiful planet? He surely is intent on only destroying it.
My eyes open as the dream washes over me and the realisation pops into my vision that I have gone nowhere and I am certainly not an eagle. Nature and Hal stand quietly before me, knowing grins spread across their inanimate faces. I look down my torso, noting the probe and floppy drive are no longer on my person. I should feel glad, but I don't. This is getting too freaky.
An Essay from The Times Newspaper Pt VIII.
The Penultimate Test of Time.
"Well, what did you think of the vision?" asks Hal, a metallic click to his voice adding to the strangeness of my situation. "Didn't find it too bizarre did you?"
Nature looked at me, averting his gaze from his companion. His stare demanded an answer to Hal's question and he waited stoically for it.
I mulled over what I could remember and felt a little perturbed I could recall it all. Even the pain as the spear tip entered my abdomen! And the fall. But I couldn't for the life of me remember the landing, or my supposed death.
I answered Hal's question, recalling all the detail, explaining my feelings as I went. I felt very worried that me, a mere human, had been able to reconstruct the motion and thoughts of an eagle when I'd only ever seen one on the Discovery channel and that was a just fleeting glimpse!
Nature walked over to me and reached for my belly, then lightly ran his finger over the area above my navel.
"It appears to me you have had something similar happen to you before, the same fate the eagle received."
I looked down to where he was rubbing and to my surprise and horror, a three inch wound lay open, with dried blood crusted around the outside of it. My mind raced with the implications of this mystery. How the heck had that happened? Did Nature open it with his sharp branch-like fingers? Of course not, the blood was dried. Was I the eagle in my dreams? Nuh, that's impossible.
"No it's not, young Syd," whispered Hal. "You are the Eagle and that is why you are here with us at this precise moment in time. You hold the key to the mystery of Man, and with that key comes the ability to unlock the door to survival."
Hal moved away then to another area of the room, aware as to what was going through my head. How on earth did he know what I was thinking?
"We have, um... certain traits that help us survive and that is one of them. Knowing Man's brain and his thoughts helps us to keep the balance." Nature waved towards the outer wall in a gesture of total envelopment of the outside world. "We just happen to know all the thoughts and processes of things natural otherwise we cannot function, just like you know the thoughts of that eagle all those tens of thousands of years ago. Everything has something of it's past locked away in it, it just needs the right key to unlock it, Eagle man."
"I'm ready," called Hal.
Nature wandered over to where Hal now stood, and I realised that a monitor was now blinking into life, Netscape Navigator blinked its product message across the screen. I, too, joined them, and marvelled at what I was watching. The browser went through its normal start up procedures, but every now and then, I caught the sight of a subliminal flicker and amazingly recorded each word as it come to me. By the time it had finished loading, the message was complete, eight words as distinct as they were hidden, "Standby for the test of the Maker, Human."
"He has worked very quickly this time," Nature exclaimed to bio-mass computer, "very quickly indeed!"
"Yes, it is lucky we got young Sydney here when we did."
I looked at both of them, transfixed by their exchange, suddenly cognisant that my journey here wasn't an action of my own desire, but a planned excursion of someone else's making. I realised then that I was an integral part of Nature's design, and hurriedly switched my gaze back to the screen, as Hal opened the e-mail browser, which, on this unit, was Netscape Messenger.
Only one e-mail was showing, and it froze my attention to the screen as if I was a block of marble. "Are you ready to win the race of your life, and the life of your Race?" it proclaimed.
Nature motioned me over to stand alongside Hal, who then placed the mouse in my hand, ready for use.
"Everyone in the world who has e-mail access has received the same thing, world-wide. The Maker is about to set his next phase of the Earth's life cycle on its motion of discovery." Hal winked at me, like a father winking at his son when he tells him of his first date and how it went. "The reason you are here is about to become all too clear and we know you can answer the questions. We also know there are exactly one million nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine other humans out there who can also answer the questions."
"But how?" I protested, "Not all the world is on the Internet!"
Nature turned to me and explained that the Internet was the initial message carrier, and that by the end of the day, the message would be relayed on every radio, TV, cell phone, telephone and any other means of communication everywhere in the world, and those isolated from the communications age would receive it through religious sermon and discussion and via the bush telegraph and word of mouth. By the end of the month, two million people will have answered it correctly and survived, the remainder wouldn't!
My thoughts turned immediately to my family, my friends, and work mates, all the people I had living memory of, and at the same instance, the wound in my belly began to ache and bleed, and the vision of the hunter swarmed into my sight, totally blocking out anything I had just thought.
I pressed the mouse button, more as a reaction to the pain than to deliberately read the e-mail, but as soon as the e-mail flashed onto the screen, the pain subsided, and the bleeding ceased.
I fixed my focus firmly on the screen, surveying the questions as I did so. I failed to notice that Hal and Nature had disappeared, and that I was now standing alone in the room with the mouse and monitor as my only companions.
I read on.
An Essay from The Times Newspaper Pt IX.
The Eagles Soar
I have been sitting here now for seven hours. It is now dark outside and apart from heading back and donning my stripped attire from earlier in the day's events, I have been sat at the monitor digesting the import of the trial the Maker has set. I know I am confident I can answer the questions correctly, given the information my companions gave me, but still, the thought that I answer incorrectly has me a little paranoid.
The thought that millions of my fellow race are now dead or dying also holds me back. I have read and reread the warning countless times and know that in that time, the Makers plans have been well advanced. I have also become cognisant of the silence that has taken over the land in the past couple of hours. Yet still I do not attempt to read the questions. The warning says I still have 25 minutes to make my decision, but shit, I don't want to!
The squeak of a mouse outside the window, followed closely by the sounds of a cat in hot pursuit, breaks my reverie, and the ease with which I sink into the psyche of both cat and mouse refocuses my next decision. I am one with the Earth, it seems. The scar in my belly a mute reminder of how close to Nature. I chuckle a little at my private joke but stifle it immediately should I offend someone.
I re-examine the e-mail one more time, as I sit before the screen. I reach for the mouse (this one I can't feel anything for) and click back up the page to the heading "Are you ready for the Race of your Life, or the Life of your Race? Next to it, a fat smiling Sun icon flickers a winking smile, enticing the reader to make some comment.
Then the warning, (in red, what else!) is located beneath. I run the mouse over it again to ensure the hidden message was still located there. It popped up again "Where Eagles Soar" and I knew that there were a few more of my sort out there surviving the test. At least I hoped they had. I shuddered to think of what would happen if they hadn't. The warning read:
"You have this e-mail on your computer, congratulations. This is an acceptance that you are prepared to take the test of the Maker. These steps below explain the rules of competition and must be followed implicitly:
1. You cannot delete this e-mail from your system until all the answers are entered. Attempts at deletion will be accepted as forfeiture and you will be forfeited.
2. Should you choose not to answer these questions within eight hours of receipt, your system will be shut down, and you and anyone on your address book and any names on any media you have will be shut down as well.
3. This competition is open to all people who have access to communication media world wide including:
c. Computers, Laptops, Palmtops, Disks and Floppy's
d. All electronic recording devices.
e. Printed text.
f. Vocalised Message systems.
g. Visual communication systems.
4. If you haven't opened this e-mail to answer the questions, you will be null and voided. Let your friends know so that may have a chance to enter.
5. Employees of the Maker and his Nemesis shall be deemed to have cheated if they enter this competition and will suffer accordingly. Celestial interference will not be tolerated.
Thank you for reading this warning. Now go to Question one and enjoy your new life.
At this point, two icons depicting barbaric eyes, dark as coal and blinking in unison, are stationed below the warning and above the questions. I had seen earlier, but barely perceptible at first, the eyes resembling those of Ghenghis Khan, and deep in the sockets, the hated Swastika of the most barbaric human of the past millennium floating in pensive anticipation. The Makers borrowed souls marked the destruction that would be rent upon the Earth. What I could be sure of though was that the Makers plan almost certainly meant the extinction of both as there would be no technology left after the event, leastwise, no one to run it.
The amalgamation of souls in my mind had been quiet now since the episode with the eagle and seeing these two signs again shook one of them out it's slumber. I distinctly felt the force within me, and soon recognised Ghandhi slipping into my conscience. He whispered something to me, and I asked him to say it again, as I couldn't quite pick up what he had said. 'Don't you worry Sydney, the Eagle within you soars, and the souls of the Earth past within you are now at rest for eternity. You carry the human memory of life on Earth and the hope of billions of your kind. Walk on, our carrier.'
He faded as quickly as he had appeared, and I returned to the questions, realising time was getting on.
You must answer all three questions, in order from one to three. You cannot look at the next question until you answer the one you are attempting. Failure to follow these instructions means certain expulsion from this Planet. He He! You do not need to write your answers anywhere, just keep them in your head. Thank You.
Question One. How many times have you thought about deleting or not answering this test based on the warning displayed above?
Question Two. The next question will ensure your life here on Earth. When did you last come in contact with nature?
Question Three. When you last touched nature, did you recognise anything familiar from 10,000 years ago?
If you answered once or more than once for the first question, goodbye!
Now if you answered anything other than "I touched Nature today", goodbye!
If you answered anything other than an eagle, a rabbit, and one Homo Sapiens hunter, GOODBYE!
The e-mail finished with the fol screen blinked off as soon as I had finished reading the Makers signature, and my attempts to restart it were useless. I contemplated the meaning of what I had read and suddenly realised the enormity of the scenario presented to me, if indeed it were true. Maybe I was dreaming this. Yes, that's it, the combined effects of the beer from the Old Yew Tree pub mixed with my Halcion sleeping tablets I had taken before going to bed at Mrs. Gates house were creating an hallucinogenic nightmare. I knew this not to be true, but I hoped that there was some explanation for the extremely weird occurrences throughout the day.
I got up from the chair, stretching the tiredness from my aching limbs, and decided to head back to the room I had entered the wing from earlier this morning. My arrival there showed nothing untoward had happened here, and I stood and contemplated my next move. Out the window and back to my lodgings, or through the door and see Michael's Grandmother, get the interview I had come here for, and get back to London before morning.
As much as I knew that interviewing anybody would be impossible, I still had that hope that I was wrong and the world still existed as it had last night. That hope was to be sorely tested as I walked out the door guarding the North Wing and it's collection of souls, and headed off along the corridors of the Royal Fletcher Home for The Aged and Infirm. I passed the Rec. room, noticing a sound coming from an old Pye stereo gram in the corner of the room. The lid was up and a record was rotating on the turntable, a scratchy sound coming from the speakers. I gave the volume knob a tweak, without result, and remembering my fathers similar vintage machine, gave it a swift kick, which sent the needle scratching across the vinyl LP and straight into the first groove. The sound immediately roared into life as the strains of Shine On you Crazy Diamond Pt 1 bellowed from the speakers.
I turned and surveyed the room, noticing the recent signs of life, cigarettes burned down to stubs, knitting dropped to the floor and in chairs, and magazines dropped carelessly everywhere. The Fletcher Home's claim to fame no longer mattered for anything now, I guess.
An Essay from the Times Newspaper Pt X.
Epilogue - Twenty Days on.....
I have cycled the length and breadth of Birmingham and London, and all the towns between. I would have used any car I came across, but nothing seems to work anymore. The bicycle is a Broadbent Racing Special I picked out in Pack'n'Pedal in Birmingham, and it has now travelled hundreds of miles, without once having the pleasure of running someone down.
My loneliness was initially frightening, but soon gave way to wonderment at the chance of finding someone in this godforsaken country of mine, literally! I had been back to my flat and couldn't get in due to the electronic security system failure, so I was forced to enter through a window (again) and pack some stuff for my travels. I had stowed all my papers for later recovery, and set off in search of life in other English, Welsh and Scottish towns, before heading across the channel into Europe and Asia. A big world with hardly anyone in it again, awaited me.
A funny thing happened though. I was packing my stuff and happened upon an old Pink Floyd LP in my living room, Wish You Were Here, and my mind went back to the Fletcher Home stereo gram, and then back even further to the Talented and Caring souls room, and the vision of the open vault of one Rogerus Waterus. My decision to head straight for Cambridge as my first stop was made and off I went, with as much haste as a challenged ex-reporter cum road cyclist could muster.
Two days later, I arrived and scoured the town for life, without success, and guessed that he must still be in Bermuda, where he was recording his new album. I left Cambridge despondent, but with a little ache of hope that one day we might meet and share our new found life on Earth. As I headed out into the countryside, my path leading me towards the coal towns of Wales, I passed a farm, heavily wooded with Oak and Yew trees, and sheep grazing in the paddocks. Two pigs were rutting in the mud hole to my right, birds were fluttering to and fro, and a Border collie was running around by the back porch chasing imaginary children. I marvelled then at the basic life of the English country and sank into a state of euphoric happiness.
A guitar chord then burst out from across the paddock and at first it didn't register as an actual occurrence, as the scene was hypnotic and I assumed the music is part of my imagination. Then I realised the music is moving and as I switched my attention back towards the direction of the music, and the house, a figure walked around the corner with an acoustic guitar playing, and singing a song so familiar to me. He looked up from his playing and spotted me standing astride my bike in the lane. He seemed a little surprised enough to stop playing Watching TV. He waved me over then, and as I got closer I realised that I was standing in the presence of the living soul from the vault.
"Hello, mate, want to sit for a while and keep an old time troubadour company. I'm working on a concept album and I think we might be able to help each other. What do you think?"
I look at the name on the writing portfolio again to ensure that I am still me. Sydney Mason, former cub reporter for the Times Newspaper of London. Yep, still the same old Sydney. But not quite. The body is still the same, but the mind and soul are changed from that which departed for the Royal Fletcher Memorial Home for the Aged and Infirmed all those months ago. I now call myself Wind Chime, after those annoying solo efforts that blow in the breeze outside your door. It sort of suited my predicament.
Strains of Dark Side of the Moon rumble through the tight cabin space of the Farr 45 I purloined in Southampton, a yacht that has stood me in good stead o0n my round the world journey. The CD reminds me of the three days I shared with Roger at his Cambridge home, sharing thoughts on a brave new world and our ability to survive the challenge God or alien anthropologists had set us. When I suggested that we head out together to conduct a census, he was reluctant to go with me, especially when I mooted the idea of heading to Europe and Asia, through Africa, and onto the Pacific and the Americas.
And that is how I ended up in this boat. Roger volunteered to check out the united Kingdom, Europe, and Africa, and suggested I check out the Americas, the Pacific region, and we'd meet in Singapore one year from that point.
As I listen to Breathe, I relive those moments that have brought me to the East Coast of New Zealand.
I set out from Rogers on the racing bike, heading for Southampton. The journey was pleasant, but soon the loneliness started to set in, and then and only then did I realise how enormously repugnant my task was going to be. Two million people spread around the Earth and I didn't have a clue where they were or who they were. I was a stranger in a strange world. That really hit hard. Nevertheless, it formed a resolve in my mind that I had a job to do, and that I needed to find a mate to restart the clock in time.
I reached the wharves in Southampton, once again without seeing a soul, and set about discovering a suitable ocean going yacht that would handle the elements and my raw-boned attempts to sail her. After an exhaustive search through some chandlers shops familiarising myself with the advertising brochures on what was which, I located and boarded a vessel aptly named "Time Traveller". The makers plate inside told me she was designed and built in New Zealand by a Bruce Farr, a name I had seen on many of the brochures. I took it on good faith he knew how to make a sound vessel and settled into my new home for the ensuing voyage around the world.
I spent another three days around Southampton stocking up for the voyage, feeling strangely guilty about taking things from once busy shops, as if I was being watched by the owners still. Who knows, perhaps I was still being watched! But I had a duty to perform, as destined by destiny itself, and the guilt soon gave way to cheery hopefulness.
I soon nicknamed the boat "Tardus", being an old fan of the TV series, Dr Who, and was ready to sail.
My last duty on English soil was to get some memorabilia to take with me to remind me of home and how it used to be. I grabbed some CD's from a shop of British artists I loved, a Union Jack, a soccer ball, and some good old Guinness beer to while away the sad days in an alright bad way.
My journey was fraught with danger. I knew not how to sail, to navigate, and to read the weather, but after sailing around the south of England for four days I soon came to grips with most of it at a basic level. Thankfully it was summer and the winds weren't especially strong otherwise I would have had my hands full. I was about to find out what strong wind sailing was like soon anyway as my journey began in earnest.
After fifteen days due west sailing, I am feeling more comfortable with the boat, and with sailing. My expected mal de mer failed to materialise, leading me to believe I was born to be a sailor, but the events of the past three days almost lead me to recant that theory. The storm, though short, was powerful enough for me to worry about my survival. Of course all the electronic equipment failed to work, and couldn't help me with weather forecasting or navigation. But the magnetic compass held me true, even if the storm deviated me somewhat. On my present bearing of due west, storm or no storm, North America would appear on my horizon one day. Single handed sailing was tough, but I had tougher challengers to face as the unravelling days of the new earth spread before me.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, was desolate. The fishing boats were all tied up, the visage that which I had met in all of my travels in England. I left a note on the desk of the local police station to let whoever was still alive in the area know that there were at least two people alive in the world and what my travel plan was.
I then reprovisioned, sailed out of Canada, and made my way down the Eastern seaboard, heading for the Big Apple. A city of that size, someone must be around. I hoped.
Intensive training is described as a means of preparing oneself for a dire event. The only intensive training I had undertaken over the preceding months was survival as you go training, so what awaited me in New York I was never going to be prepared for.
I sailed into the Hudson River and made my way to Manhattan Island, the hub of the great city. My trip down the eastern seaboard had been rather free and easy and had lulled me into a sense of come what may, devil may care, reverie. But Manhattan, and New York, towering over the little Tardus, were a dark dank nemesis awaiting my arrival.
I docked at one of the many empty docks, secured the Tardus, and placed a note on the cabin top for any enquiring survivors. Armed with my trusty backpack with supplies for two days exploring, and an empty bag for resupply, I made my way into downtown to see what I could find.
Cars and yellow cabs, buses and trucks lay scattered where their drivers had departed them. Some were involved in collisions as they had run on. But generally the chaos was orderly as I wandered up the streets and avenues. Once again, there was no sign of life. Shops lay empty and undisturbed from the day God called his riddle. To a former journo this was awe inspiringly spooky. New York with a population over 15 million once, was now barren, a mass of concrete, steel, and glass laying dormant for the remainder of time. I had seen many holocaust movies before, but they didn't even prepare me for this graveyard of former humanity.
I found a precinct, the 23rd, and wondered in to see if there was any sign of life around. The place was musty, the air-conditioning no longer working, but the air was sweet. No pollution around so no need for any air-conditioning anyway, if it could work at all. At least the planet was going to be able to breathe again after this. Maybe that's what God wanted in this manoeuvre? Who knows. I left a note on the precincts dusty desktop, and continued on my sojourn through Manhattans streets.
After some hours of walking, I made it Central Park. In one of the stores, I had rescued a bottle of Coke and a packet of Marlboro cigarettes and a Bic lighter, which would come in handy on the boat. I sat down on one of the many park benches and sipped my Coke and had a drag on the course cigarette, my first in months. Maybe it was the desolation that lay around me that made me start again. But the sound that emanated from the other end of the park brought me up sharp! The roar of a big cat bellowed across the autumnal trees that littered the environment. My mind immediately switched to a TV image of a zoo in Central Park, and if this was so, those poor caged animals had been cooped up unfed for over two months, and must be barely alive.
I stubbed out the smoke and dropped the coke bottle in the bin beside the seat and made a mad dash across the park in the direction of the sound. It took me nearly twenty minutes, but I got there with a bead of sweat on my brow, both from the run and from the anticipation of what lay before me. I shouldn't have been so keen. The scene was one of utter desolation and horror. In almost every cage, all but one of the occupants, except the birds and fish, remained. I surmised that the golden rule of the wild had taken over when the residents had not been fed by their absent keepers, and that was survival of the fittest. They had in essence devoured each other to survive.
I located the enclosure where the big cat was roaring, a Siberian tiger, with the bones of it's mate laying in the middle of the cage. The tiger's frame was spare from starvation, signs around the enclosure that anything was fair game for it's hunger. Tires were in shreds, trees stripped of bark, and rope shredded for whatever sustenance it could get. I had a dilemma on my hands. If I let all these animals go and fend for there own survival, they would perish because they could reproduce. What's more, the tiger, and some of the other animals were very capable of seeking me as their prey, and anyone else that was still alive in New York and the surrounding areas.
If I didn't let them go, they would just die and disappear for ever without any hope.
I sat down on another bench, placed my head in my hands and proceeded to thing out the problem. Eventually I decided to let them all free. The last would be the probable man-eaters, so that they could sniff the other possible prey that I had released before them. I also wagered that there were enough dogs and cats, now wild, around to garner a feast from, and that the bigger prey of a human would not be such an enthralling prey, due to their weakness.
After three and a half hours, the deed was done, and all animals and birds were given their freedom. The most enduring moment was releasing two white doves from the aviary, a breeding pair who would last the distance. The Siberian Tiger had taken some time to coax out of his enclosure, but perched precariously above the cage, I had managed to wait until the gaunt creature had wondered slowly out and headed out into the streets that would be it's new home. I waited a further three hours, chugging away at the Marlboro's to ensure the beats was well away before chancing my arm at further investigations. I headed off in the opposite direction, paranoia now an unnerving companion. I rued my action, but thrilled at having given those animals a chance.
My last thought as walked across the park, was the wonderful feeding device I had set up for the fish in the aquarium. It would at least gravity feed them for a good three months at least, so they at least had a chance for that time.
I turned a corner, and a park bench about one hundred yards ahead moved. Or should I say the newspaper on it moved.
The Loners Lament
I am now 240 nautical miles away from Rio De Janeiro, my next destination. The sullenness of New York and my encounter with Ed still weighs on my mind. I have been at sea now for 19 days, and the import of my meeting with the park bench resident of Central Park still assails me. I have asked God countless times why he left a vagabond philosopher alive on the planet, especially with a ravishing yet intelligent model.
I have mulled over the meeting and still cannot make sense of it. The only conclusion I can come up with is that he never had contact with the message, in any form, and therefore survives as a testament to the folly of God.
He was intelligent, no doubt about it, in his mid 40's. He told me he didn't understand what had happened, but was glad that it had. He treasured the peace and quiet. I'd asked him if he ever read his blankets, where the message was posted but he confided that he didn't read anymore, just thought and spoke to himself. My intrusion to him was an affront on his humanity, his space, his being. Yet I persisted with my questions, my confusion apparent.
Then he had heard the sounds of the animals running free, and he looked quizzically at me? I admitted wha eet more such citizens of the barren planet, and would they ask the same questions of me? I hoped not, but I somehow felt that I would not be seeing the last of this issue.
Putting the encounter behind me, I tried to find the mysterious model that the hobo had mentioned in the midst of our chat. He hadn't liked her, nor she him, as I now expected knowing the reason he was here. But after hours of wondering around upper Manhattan without success, I headed back to my boat, to get some sleep, and to escape the lonely darkness made even darker by the lightless skyscrapers. It was my intention to check back into the precinct I'd earlier visited in the morning, but the hopelessness of the need to find her over took me, and as soon as I arrived back onboard I determined to stock up the boat in the morning and set sail for Rio as soon as possible.
It struck me as odd, the next morning that I had no desire to seek out this woman. Did I not need a companion, one of the fairer sex? I struggled with this thought as I went about the shelves in the local Hypermart stocking the trolley with canned and dehydrated food. I obviously didn't feel the need for a female companion, there being no urge, in fact no urge for any companion. Then it struck me. What if all the remaining people on the planet were loners? I considered myself a proposed loner, Roger seemed to be unaffected by the loss of his family, and the hobo on the park bench was certainly used to his own company. And that's probably the reason I never found the model, as she sought her own company and solace. But it all seemed to be a big "what-if".
I have spent 19 days weighing the pro's and con's of New York's import on my conscience. It has scared me, bothered me, and downright frustrated me. The thought that the only reason the world existed now was to be a hotbed for loners shattered my concepts of what had been and what was to be. But I was determined to remain positive and upbeat and presume that New York was just one bad apple in a good bunch.
I also wondered what the rest of the United States had to offer apart from our two estranged representatives. I was sure that the remaining populace would gravitate to firstly Washington, then onto America's biggest city. I only hoped the Snow Tiger wouldn't be too hungry.
And this brings me back to Rio De Janeiro. Why Rio? The Statue of Jesus Christ on the mountain behind it perhaps. A large Roman Catholic population. How had they survived? Two million survivors, and surely some of them had to be fun loving, religious Brazilians in continual search of life. Two days sail away would tell me. Besides, my supplies could only last so long before the next leg of my journey begun.