This next story was first published in Protected content The Lazy Hound of Cardiff of which a copy remains in the national library of wales in Aberystwyth.
One day, Harry the spider who was out riding his clanking bike around the streets of Cardiff in an inordinately strong wind for that time of year, decided to write a play about his life. So he took out his notebook that he carried everywhere and started writing. Half an hour later he let his bike rest against the wall and went bounding up the stairs of his girlfriend’s house and said: “Oh my darling, my love, my only…”
“Yes my dearest, my lover, my all,” said Irma the wickedest cat in the whole wide world who was just then eating a late fish supper and looking in her crystal ball at the same time. She was looking at a vision of the sun having a nightmare, the first for days: a dinosaur was riding on its back and wouldn’t get off. This vision was holding her spellbound.
“Jane the female from another story who’d had a sex change was lying in bed in the next city down the road a ways, had chosen that exact moment to pick up the cell phone, and the cell phone chose that exact moment to stop working; so we’ll leave Jane the female in a tizzy and go and have a look at the dance and shindig out at the ranch: but, oh, oh, too late, it’s closing credits and who wants to look at those? Oh those closing credits: credits de femme, like a femme fatale, to hell with them all,” said Harry sucking in a deep breath.
“No, not to hell with them all, just to hell with most of them,” said his girlfriend.
“I’d say do away with them all,” said Harry.
“Oh do please get away with you,” said Irma his girlfriend.
Harry mumbled something.
“What are you saying? Said Irma.
“What do you mean what am I saying?” said Harry.
“You said something but I didn’t catch it,” said Irma.
“I was telling a story here and then all of a sudden you came along, and now it’s not a story any more but something else entirely,” said Harry to Irma with a far-away look in his eyes.
“Oh look, if you really, really want to tell a story then go ahead, I’ll listen, that is if you really are sincere and all that kind of thing. And what do you think of all that bad stuff going down over there?” said Irma ranting on.
“Where?” Said Harry not really interested.
“Well, where all the wars are for a start,” shouted Irma.
“Are you trying to address a broad issue?” asked Harry.
“Yes,” screamed Irma.
“I’d rather talk about my new play I’m doing,” said Harry walking in circles.
“Why,” mouthed Irma, her voice gone.
“I’m tired of all the problems everywhere that I keep hearing everywhere I go,” said Harry quietly.
“Me too I guess. Let’s talk about something else then that we both feel about without going overboard. Ok?” said Irma as Harry lip-read her lips.
“Swamp love,” said harry.
“What?” mouthed Irma.
“I said swamp love,” said Harry exigently.
“What on earth are you talking about?” Irma mouthed while looking straight at Harry with her eyes blazing.
“I’m talking about being lost in a swamp,” said Harry resignedly.
“Really? Whispered Irma.
“With tinges of femme fatale,” said Harry smilingly.
“Get away with you, you’re shaking my bed,” said Irma excitingly.
“Puppets are fighting,” said Harry ostensibly.
“You’re drunk,” groaned Irma.
“With very big eyes,” said Harry enticingly.
“Never,” said Irma, her voice starting to come back.
“I can see them now,” said Harry seriously.
“You’re hallucinating,” said Irma worryingly.
“No I’m not,” said Harry seriously.
“You bloody well are,” growled Irma.
“There’s a gypsy caravan silhouetted against a darkening sky,” Harry said, carrying on his story.
“You’re mad,” said Irma in a very shaky voice.
“It’s full of eyes of people intent upon some purpose full of eyes surrounded in a soft bed,” said Harry dreamily.
“You’re making it all up as you go along,” gushed Irma deciding that gushing was appropriate.
“No I’m not,” said Harry straightforwardly.
“You’ll be howling at the moon soon,” said Irma in an echoic kind of voice.
“No I won’t. Her name is Jane,” said Harry wondering if he should have said that.
“Are you telling me something?” asked Irma in a deadly quiet voice.
“I love her,” said Harry thinking that he may as well get it all out.
“So why are you telling me all this?”
“Because I have to go to her,” said Harry looking at the door.
“So go to her then,” said Irma looking around for a weapon.
“I wanted to tell you first that I was going,” said Harry inching towards the door.
“Go to her then if she is what you really want,” said Irma surrendering all of a sudden to the idea Harry was proposing about leaving her for another woman.
“She is what I really want,” said Harry imploringly.
“I suppose she is pretty,” said Irma in a weary voice dragged up from a rusty old place she had forgotten all about.
“Pretty as a picture,” said Harry thinking it was ok now.
“Pretty as a picture heh?” said Irma sinking into the couch.
“She’s wanton, and abandon, and I want her very much,” said Harry his eyes starry.
“So go to her then,” said Irma resigned.
“I can’t. I love you too much,” said Harry looking at Irma and hoping for a solution.
“You’re a fool,” said Irma looking at the blank TV.
“Baby, I’m still wanting you,” said Harry wondering if Irma was in the mood.
“Well now you can’t have me anymore,” said Irma flatly.
“Everything hurts,” said Harry tiredly.
“That’s your problem, not mine,” said Irma wondering when Harry would leave.
“I have so many problems, more problems than I can deal with. They’re piling up, and everybody hurts me, they want too much from me, they all seem to be shouting at me. I try so hard to give them what they want but they always want more, so much more than I can give. I do try so hard, honest I do my darling,” said Harry.
“My love, I’ve always been yours, always, but the things you say distance me from you now, and the things you say you do that you want me to believe horrify me, to the extent that I just want you to go, just go away from me. Go to your mistress, that paramour of all your iniquity,” said Irma to Harry who was looking forlorn just then.
“The tyres on my bike are almost flat,” mentioned Harry as an aside.
“And I suppose it stands in my passageway all forlorn and looking in need of rescuing,” said Irma irresolutely.
“I dropped it up against the wall after I’d finally made it here from the long ride from the pub,” said Harry hesitantly.
“But you’ve not made it here, that is, you’re not having it anymore,” said Irma determinedly.
“But I really want you baby,” said Harry waveringly.
“I know,” said Irma eyeing Harry steadfastly.
“You’ve had all of me too you know, and all I know, but now I want to know someone else,” said Harry indecisively.
“She’ll never give you any more than I can. It may seem like the other side of the coin, but really you won’t find any more than you already have here,” said Irma resolutely.
“She’s waiting for me,” mentioned Harry in a small voice that slipped out of him like a well-rehearsed play on its last night.
“And like a little boy you’re ready to run to the sweet that’s offered to you regardless of the half eaten appellation in your hand,” said Irma indomitably.
“I just came back to let you know is all,” said Harry, half-heartedly.
Seven small years later on a chicken farm near Troon in Cornwall the sound of a hundred chickens feeding was the only sound that could be heard for long moments that seemed to say: is this the sum total? No, a distant call was the sum total and she was calling. Harry heard her but carried on feeding the chickens.
“Here chick, chick, chick, chick,” he went, and all the chickens went like chickens.
Oh the daisy day was all blue and up there and green fields were as afar as the eye could see with a hedge here and there to dibbed them up like. Harry was thinking about a woman called Irma that he hadn’t seen for an age. Life had been all chickens since he had left here and there came a time when you got fed up with chickens. Harry had reached that point. Still he fed the chickens and thought about his Harley motorcycle he’d sold to put a down payment on the farm. Harry was fed up. There he was with Led Zepp blasting on his personal stereo in a field full of chickens on a beautiful day and a crazy woman calling for him, and all he could think about was being a hundred miles away out on a machine built to go distances.
“Youz a fool” echoes in his head, along with a sound you only get on a long road to nowhere.
The sun shone down fierce: it was summertime. A heat haze blistered the exposed tarmac, a wind was waiting in the wings to be created and chickens fought over the meal as Harry wrestled with all the visions that plagued him. A right bloody nightmare that wouldn’t go away.
Happy family values had never been his all though he had tried, rather a wind that tore at him and ripped through his life. Harry threw down more meal at the chickens, it scattered over them but they just went on eating. He threw more meal at them and more, heaping it on their heads, they seemed not to notice his anger. Harry kicked a chicken and it went flying off all feathers and squawk, then came back running for the food.
Suddenly Led Zepp turned into Leonard Cohen and Harry became melancholic. He dropped the feed, got really sad and stuck his hands deep in his pockets and went for a long walk. He thought about things like: how old he had become suddenly and how he didn’t laugh much anymore. He thought of a room with flies languidly circling around a lamp-shade, and a river of wine dripping from a pine table while love thrashed it all out on a wood floor of exceptional. Pink Floyd filled the rest of the space coming from a beat up stereo full of good vibes.
It had got dark as Harry was walking and it was a surprise when he found himself up to his neck in murky water of the cold and unforgiving swamp he’d wandered into. Forlorn cries of emptiness and screams of despair were there all about with the doom that lay all about too. No-one comes here and leaves sane said a sign on a post.
Harry struck out for the bank, but he couldn’t see it in the dark, his desperation was absorbed in the fetid steam and cloying encompassment of the dark place he had fallen into. His thoughts were swimming, his limbs heavy. It would be so easy to just let go and slide under; that was his feeling as Harry feebly dog paddled nowhere. He just didn’t care anymore.
Just about then, Geoffrey the dolphin, who had been out catching a late fish supper came across Harry in deep water.
“Hello,” said Geoffrey,” what are you doing here looking so bedraggled and down?”
Harry spluttered and gurgled swamp water and grabbed ahold of Geoffrey’s fin.
“Stop that I’m married,” said Geoffrey secretly pleased and enjoying herself.
Harry was half dead in the darkness and cold water and stinkyness of the swamp. He held on tight.
“Ok, if that’s how you want it, hold on we’re going for a ride.” And so saying Geoffrey pulled Harry deeper into the blackness, so deep in fact so much so that they both became lost, so lost in fact all they knew was a whirling rush that washed over them in waves. It was a big swamp, and one could swim in it for many long miles and never come to the end of it but just go around in circles.
Around midnight many long miles later Harry said: “I can’t go on.”
“I think I’m lost,” said Geoffrey looking around.
“So ask someone the way,” gasped Harry hanging on for the back of the dolphin’s tail for dear life.
“Not many people around here I’m afraid,” said Geoffrey.
“There must be some,” said Harry.
“Not a one,” said Geoffrey.
Harry gathered lung-full of air and screamed: “Help!” His help was swallowed up by the darkness.
“That didn’t do much good did it?” said Geoffrey.
“I don’t know why I said it really, I’m quite happy here. Just me and death. Simple, no problems. How about you?” said Harry despondently.
“Me, oh I’m alright, I can swim all night,” said Geoffrey.
“I could do with a cheese and pickle sandwich,” moaned Harry.
“Can’t help you there, sorry,” said Geoffrey.
“Did I hear someone say they’d like a cheese and pickle sandwich?” said a voice from the night.
“Yes, me,” said Harry. “Where have you come from? Who are you?” asked Harry trying to make out who he was talking to.
“Oh, I’m only a little mermaid. I live around here, and as I was out for a quick swim I heard you talking,” said the little mermaid.
“Whom do we owe the hour of your pleasurable company to?” asked Harry.
“It’s my husband actually. He called me ugly,” said the little mermaid.
“The pig,” said Harry.
“What’s your name?” asked harry leaning up against an underwater tree.
“Sunny,” said the little mermaid.
“Nice name,” said Harry.
“Pleased to meet you,” said Geoffrey,” I’m Geoffrey.
“Me too,” said Harry. “My name’s Harry.
“Look, I’m just about to go home for. Why don’t you come along? My husband’s an old meanie but if I break out a bottle of wine or two we’ll see the better side of him, and he always makes too much to eat,” said the little mermaid.
“We’d love to,” said the intrepid pair together.
“Come on then, follow me,” said the mermaid and led the way.
The mermaid swam off into the darkness towards a distant light. Harry and Geoffrey followed as best they could.
The moon came out then and played, and creatures of the night chirruped and chirped and let down their hair and everything was alright all of a sudden. Mist danced, fog whirled, beams of moon mooned.
A soft spot drifted in the cook-pot as Grunge don the dragon stirred it with his mighty claw. Irma squealed: “Please Mr dragon, please don’t eat me. I’ll give you anything you want but please don’t eat me.”
The dragon roared his fiery breath at the cook-pot and got a glow going but he was a silly dragon, rather stupid in fact. He ignored the soft spot in his pot.
From out of the mist of forlorn abandon and melancholy stepped Harry, Geoffrey and the mermaid just in time to hear Grunge don say: “Baby you’re really boundless tonight.”
“No I’m not,” said the little mermaid to her husband.
“Help!” cried Irma from the pot. “I’m a poor female at the mercy of this here horrible dragon.”
“Uh, huh,” said the little mermaid. “And what’s so horrible about my husband?”
“He wants to eat me,” said Irma.
“We’ll see about that. What are we having for supper tonight darling?” asked the little mermaid to her husband the dragon.
“Boiled human a la carte,” he said and gave another below of flame to the cook-pot.
“A la carte huh?” she said.
“Yes me dear,” said her husband in his funny southern accent.
“Get her out of there this moment!” she demanded.
“But my dear,” began the dragon.
“Don’t but me. Do as I say now!”
“Yes my dear,” said the dragon gently lifting Irma out of the cook-pot and setting her down by the others.
“You’d better be on your best behaviour tonight. We have guests.” Said the little mermaid.
“Hello guests,” said the dragon with a sudden tick of his eyelid. “You are just in time for supper.”
“I’m a vegetarian,” said Harry the spider.
“And I only eat fish,” said Geoffrey the dolphin.
“There’s a postcard from far away for you dear,” said Grunge don the dragon to his wife.
“Really. Who’s it from?” asked his wife.
“Your paramour I expect,” said the dragon to the empty pot.
“Don’t be ridiculous dear, you know there’s only you and no-one else.”
“Sorry my love I was only being facetious.”
“Where’s the servants gone to?” asked the little mermaid.
“I gave them the day off. I was tired of them hanging around complaining about things,” said the dragon.
“What! Not even anyone left to serve supper?”
“It’s ok dearest, I’ll serve supper tonight,” said Grunge don wondering where supper would come from.
An owl hooted loudly. The moon was full and bright as a flight of witches making whoopee on broomsticks flew past through its light.
“It looks like the servants are having fun,” said Sunny the little mermaid noticing the witches flying around.
“Well don’t just stand there looking silly, make a wish and put something in the pot,” said Sunny looking at her husband.
The dragon closed his eyes and screwed up his face and wished ethereally hard, then he opened his eyes and looked in the pot.
“What have we got?” asked Sunny.
“Turnip so far,” he replied.
“Carry on wishing,” said Sunny leading her guests away to sit somewhere in comfort while supper was being prepared.
Geoffrey wallowed in the muddy water. Harry sat on a log and Irma sat beside him.
“Get me out of here,” she said to Harry as their host opened the drinks cabinet.
“Is it really you?” asked Harry doubtfully.
“Of course It’s me, who else would I be?” said Irma resolutely.
“You look so different from the last time I saw you,” said Harry bashfully.
“So would you be if you’d been chased by a dragon then thrown in a cook pot and almost eaten,” said Irma fearfully.
“The last time I saw you, you were in bed,” said Harry wistfully.
“And that’s where I would have stayed if I hadn’t decided to go looking for you,” said Irma forcefully.
“Oh,” said Harry quietly.
“What are we all having then?” asked the mermaid from the drinks cabinet.
“Could I have a gin and tonic please?” said Geoffrey.
The mermaid rummaged around in the drinks cabinet and pulled out a bottle of gin and poured a measure into a glass with tonic and handed it to Geoffrey.
“And what about you two?” she said.
“I’ll have a beer,” said Harry.
“A stiff whisky for me please,” said the woman called Irma sitting beside Harry.
“Hurrah,” shouted Grunge don from the kitchen.
“Looks like supper’s almost ready,” said the mermaid handing the drinks to the pair on the log.
Harry was still dripping wet and starting to steam.
The mermaid sat down near them with a tall glass chinking full of ice and wrapped her tail around herself.
“Cheers everyone,” she said.
Everyone realised their glasses and raised them.
“Bottoms up,” said Geoffrey.
“So what brings you to these parts?” asked the mermaid looking at Harry.
Harry looked in the mermaid’s big round eyes that seemed to be growing bigger by the moment as he stared into them. They were the deepest blue he had ever seen and they were drawing him in like a whirling whirlpool. Harry’s head began to spin. Words poured into him but drifted by without being collected. He could almost hear them and he felt on the edge of his consciousness that they meant something and that he should listen, but he felt so languid it was easier to let himself fall into the deep well that was inviting him soft and restful. He felt he could fall for ever and never reach bottom. Harry was on the edge between falling into the pool and regaining his balance, that precarious place that has no weight or decision, yet a great decision awaited him in more ways than one. Harry was in trouble.
The sound of the swamp grew loud.
Irma had been kicking Harry’s leg and when he hadn’t answered she had spoken to him, at first quietly, then louder until she was shouting and screaming at him, as she found was her want with Harry mostly. Still Harry didn’t move or answer her.
‘It is as if he is mermerised,’ she thought to herself.
The audience who had been tittering off and on, here a sublime giggle, there a ridiculous laugh interspersed with the odd guffaw had been breathlessly silent for this scene all waiting to see if Harry would pull back from the brink. And could he? Had he gone too far over the abyss into the dark?
“Get on with it,” shouted a man’s voice from the crowd.
“Here, here,” seconded another voice.
“That’s right,” put in a brave voice from the back row.
“Hey! Whose play is this?” grumbled the author while eating a cheese and pickle brown bread sandwich he’d found in his pocket.
Somebody gave a jeer.
“Enough of that,” said the author taking a sip of hot coffee and burning his lips.
The audience laughed uproariously.
‘I’ll have to get rid of this lot,’ thought the author of this play to himself.
“You and whose army?” shouted the brave voice from the back.
“Who said that?” said the author.
‘At last. Now I can get on with the play. Let’s take stock of the situation so far: Grunge don the dragon and husband to Sunny the mermaid had finally made supper using the power of the mermaid’s in being able to grant any wish after looking in her eyes, so he was wishing for supper to come to the cook-pot. The mermaid was having a problem in so much as her power once activated has to have a fulfilment, but Harry, not knowing that once the power of wish fulfilment has been set in motion has to have a conclusion was stuck in a place he couldn’t get out of. He couldn’t make a wish because he didn’t know you had to and he couldn’t hear anyone telling him to either, and the mermaid had become the power of wish and couldn’t deactivate. Geoffrey the dolphin had floated off, she was quite drunk, not being used to drink. And Irma was trying to pull Harry away from the stare of the mermaid. What will happen? Can Harry escape? Or will this be the end?
Grunge don squelched over in his heavy boots on the muddy bank and set a bowl of steaming stew down in front of everyone, then he sat down himself and slurped his stew in long slurps.
Against all the odds and sods of outrageous fortune, Harry pulled himself back from the brink of waking up and got on with his dream, if you could call it that.
It was really very simple how it happened: as he was falling towards a place that was devouring his heart and soul he said: ‘I wish me and Irma were back at the start of the play again. Failing that I wish I could take a smoke break when these kinds of things happen.’
And so saying the spell was broken and Harry fell over on top of Irma who had at that moment exerted her final but most ferocious heave so that when Harry let go of the mermaid he fell. They went sprawling. Irma squealed in glee. Harry cursed in vain.
As Irma fell back on the bed with Harry landing on top of here, she cackled: “This time you’ll stay and be mine forever. I’ll never let you go again.”
Something exploded inside of Harry, his head became full of sparks, some rainbow coloured, some yellow, others doing a dance of abandon on the floor of his life. A drum started beating in great big thunderous thuds. Then a clapping from some maniacal heinous madman echoed in those confines. Somewhere there was rapturous applause from an equally mad audience.
That last word having been written in the sands of time, the audience became silent. Yet the drumming still went on as loud as ever. Chairs were scraped as the participants left to go home having become too tired to take in any more. Soon the big hall was empty except for the drumming and a few spent sparks. Harry looked upon it all from a far distance. He had to squint for one eye was playing up, maybe going blind.
Irma went to a solicitor and changed her name by deed-poll to Cherry, then ran back and jumped into bed and pretended nothing had happened. She was fast-asleep and snoring rhythmically. Harry pushed her yet the snoring continued. Harry pushed her again for ages. Then he pushed her out of the bed. Cherry muttered as she went over to the couch to sleep. Soon the snoring started again, long distance.
Harry couldn’t sleep. He was almost sober. He thought about x who lived in a rainbow and he wondered how he could get back there again. How he missed her so much after all these years. He thought about the two lizards she kept on a leash of light. Oh how those lizards hated Harry and wanted to eat him. ‘I told her to get a pair of Doberman Pinchers, not lizards,’ he thought out loud in all his sorrows.
It was four in the new morning, the blackest part of the day and mid-winter to boot. A thunder storm came around just about then and hailed, down it scuddered on the tin roof and squalled all about. Harry got out of bed and ran to the record-player and put on the first thing he picked up. ‘No, that won’t do,’ he shouted and scratched the record taking it off. It was dark and he couldn’t see anything. Suddenly a match flared beside him. Harry looked into, eyes, the other side of the flared match. Crazy. This won’t do at all said the radio. Harry turned it off, walked away. In the big hall he walked into was a huge empty space, even bigger than the one he walked out of. Harry fitted in well to this place. He knew it well. A shadow followed him, and even though he couldn’t see it in the black dark he knew it was there. Harry hurried faster and faster. Pretty soon he was running. Behind him was a noise that chased him. Flu was in the air, you can always tell, everyone you run into is sniffling and they’re always talking of someone they know or have heard of who has got it. Harry ran a thousand miles and came to a small room with a woman in it. She immediately began talking about all her troubles. Five minutes later Harry was on his way again. “I’ll phone you,” she cried after him as he dashed down the stairs. The night captured him. (In this story it is night almost 24 hours a day) More whisky I need chanted Harry as he pounded the dark cold wet amorphous pavement towards a doom he couldn’t appease. The doom opened a door before him and said: “I told you I wouldn’t let you go again.” Cherry opened up her whole being and Harry fell into her and slept the rest of the night away and most of the day as well. As this new winter night fell, harry opened his eyes upon another darkness he couldn’t feel to deal with. Dropping out of bed, Harry got a running start on his nightmare. For hours he ran against the blackness. He thought: ‘metaphor’ and it stood out stark with the blackness and then became indecipherable in all the other black. Harry pushed into this with his arms flung wide. ‘I have to make it there somehow’ was a thought he pulled along behind him, but this thought just got bigger and heavier as he dragged it like a large suitcase. It weighed him down. His limbs became like lead. “Oh for god’s sake leave me alone won’t you,” screamed Harry. But the weight stayed right there. “What do I have to do to get rid of you?” No answer was forth-coming nor even delayed in coming. There was just no nothing except the weight which was just got heavier. Harry bobbled on a few more steps into the night, until he found he just could not go one step further. So he stopped and said: “I need a drink.” As chance would have it he had stopped right outside a pub. Harry shuffled in and queued behind a throng of what looked like appellations of boldness but were in fact something else. “God help me it just gets worse,” he said out loud.
A pretty girl there started talking to him.
“I need a boyfriend,” she said.
“I’m not a boy,” said Harry.
“That’s ok, you’ll do,” she said.
“What do you want a boyfriend for?” asked Harry.
“I’ll tell you later,” she said and howled like a wolf then walked onto the dance floor.
Harry watched her as she twisted and turned her body to a rhythm that burned his soul and sent shivers down the backs of all the inebriated poor fools that could only stand and stare with their burning desires and uncouth wisdoms, not even coming close to her.
Harry watched her face as she laughed in her abandon streaming pure droplets beading to glisten. She was all woman.
Harry sighed and knew he was crazy before her dance, and he grew sad for he was mortal and knew he would always walk alone.
Descending to a corner he closed his eyes and thought: ‘soon I will go, but not yet awhile.’
Sometime later he opened his eyes and looked around at all the emptiness, it was not a place he should be. He had spent himself upon an amorphous rock of desires that knew no mercy and lent no wings to those therein. With that rock in his heart he decided to leave and as he was clambering to his feet she walked out of that door that was bared to him. He stopped and looked at her as she walked over to him so gracefully. She was smiling as she whispered so only he could hear her: “take me home.”
‘Why not,’ he thought, and said: “Where do you live?”
“On the beaches of a place you have always longed for,” she replied, smiling.
“You sure know how to put a guy at his ease,” said Harry.
She laughed and took his arm as he extricated himself from the last vestiges of some heavy gravity that had come his way and wrapped itself around him so tight he was glad she had come along just when she had.
“Why me?” came from somewhere but was swept away by the gale that howled down the back alley they had exited into.
“Yeti,” she screamed, pulling her arm from his and running into the void of the wind. He called after her as he tried to follow: “Are you crazy?” he shouted. Even he couldn’t hear himself.
He felt like the night had passed the point of no return but he had nowhere to return to anyway, so it didn’t really matter. He ran after her departing form still wailing.
It was a narrow alleyway that he was running along flanked by tall soot-grey gloomy building he hardly noticed as he raced after the crazy woman.
‘What am I doing?’ resounded in his head over and over again as he pounded along. He felt sure the alleyway was getting narrower and pretty soon he knew that it was for his shoulders scraped the lichen covered igneous rock of the sides. What? He must have fallen asleep somewhere and was dreaming. The gibbous moon flowed through in and out of the clouds seen way above through the gap of the defile. The wind whistled tortuously in the shrinking gap. He was forcing himself on foot by foot sideways on, all thoughts of turning back driven away by the hideous slobbering beast that was stuck by its bulk not far behind him. Its bulging eyes, with no trace of intelligence were intent upon something it could rent and tear, and eat. It reached a black hairy clawed mandible towards him. ‘When I get out of this I’m giving up women,’ he thought as he pressed on. A sudden scream froze what little warmth was left to him, what with being soaked to the skin by the dripping water on the side of the defile and the high chill-factor of the wind. The scream had sounded as if it came from a woman finding something rather ugly, overpowering and intent upon penetration of some kind, maybe her, or perhaps she was about to be eaten by some horrendous gargoyle type creature. He was thinking something like that as he scrambled out of the defile into a dirty looking toilet. Harry looked behind him and there was the pan and cubicle against a brick wall. Weird. He took the opportunity to relieve himself as he’d had that pressing need for some time, then he pushed on to see what there was to see.
Outside of the toilet there was a crowd of people queuing. They looked at him strangely as he passed and headed towards the loud raunchy music. Harry stopped by a girl at the back of the queue and asked her if she’d heard a scream. She said she was a tightrope walker and heard screams all the time. Her friend beside her who looked rather dwarfish compared to her tall friend was cute looking. She gave him a beseeching smile that he took with him as he carried on down a long corridor. Harry wished he had stayed and explored her smile, it was one of those kind of smiles. He could tell some storied of smiles left behind, but then he was always dashing off somewhere on some quest that so far had always ended up in a dead-end. He thought about turning about and going back there to see her, but it would have been too late, she’d be gone and only her perfume would have lingered, her perfume and an emptiness that would have filled him with a melancholy he would have dragged about for days.
The loud music was coming from behind an ordinary looking door that he had come to at the end of the long passageway. Harry pushed the door open. He was preparing for a room full of revellers getting it all off to some rock and roll band or other, probably called Mouth and the Mouthettes, or The Screamers. He pushed the door fully open and the music stopped. It was a room he walked into alright but it was empty. It appeared to be a church foyer. He tried to walk back out again to close the door to see if the music would start back up, but when he turned around there was only a brick wall there, no door. He stared at the wall with a blank look on his face for a few moments and wished he’d just gone somewhere else earlier.
Someone breathed, seemingly very close to him and it whispered a thousand sighs that turned him around. Then he was amazed. He could only stand and stare at the vastness, for a hundred yards pew after pew stood empty except at the far end a lone person sat looking forward at a tomb on a dais of stone. Two hundred feet above his head an eagle screamed at him as it dived out of the oak beams that supported the roof. A huge echoic space it was and it magnified the eagle’s screams to expand and bounce around the bare stone walls. One of the windows set in the wall exploded outwards and sucked the sound and the eagle with it. Harry was left in silence. Time to proceed. After thirty years of practice he’d become quite good at walking so it came as no surprise to find himself gliding gracefully across the floor, a professional walker, and it felt good.
He was really getting into it, walking down the aisle with his footsteps reverberating around him. He was keeping a good eye on everything to see that it didn’t suddenly change. He wanted to see the next change coming. But he couldn’t see everything. What was behind him closed in on him. He could feel it weighing on his back and its shadow raced before him like a wave. He felt like turning around; something was pretty close and getting closer. Harry was running hard towards that lone figure in the front pew still unmoving. Something with a ferocious mouth perhaps six feet across gave a might terrible roar about an inch from the back of his head. He ran faster and thought maybe it was ten feet across. What was joined to that sized mouth he really didn’t want to find out. Its feet must have been three feet big and it must have had ten of them by the sound of what was behind him. That front pew wouldn’t get any closer but he was determined not to turn around. The thing’s breath was fetid. If ever something needed a mouthwash this was it. The floor vibrated so much he felt he was on a swaying rope and plank bridge. He stumbled and hit his head on the floor and saw the black sky full of stars, some shooting this way, some shooting that way. The bridge was still swaying and this time he was on it. Harry pulled himself to his feet and raced on, or rather stumbled on hand over hand as the bridge swayed and undulated. It was a dark moonless night, but by the faint light of the stars he could see about fifty yards ahead to the end of the bridge to where the woman he’d started out with was standing. Her silver hair down to her waist gleamed unnaturally. She had her hands on each side of the bridge and he was hoping she didn’t have a knife. Whatever was behind him was making it difficult for him to get on. He only glanced once over the side of the bridge, there was nothing there to see, it was blacker than the sky, blacker than the ace of spades, blacker than hell. Harry was sweating hard, his shirt was soaked and he must have smelt like a boxer coming out of the ring. He was beginning to feel like one too, his eye was swelling up, he was bruised all over, lungs heaving in air, legs like jelly. He was getting there slowly, groping his way along, wishing the sun would shine. He got pretty close to her and then she wailed, threw back her head and gave a banshee wail to the night. He thought he wanted to wail too but he was too busy. Suddenly he was grabbed by the shoulder and spun around to face something: should he say his nemesis? Zeitgeist? No, he’ll say earl gravy tea and to hell with it. Hell he’d say anything to get out of that, or whatever or wherever he was. His only relief was he didn’t have anyone to rescue, and he was still alive, if only just so. Anyway, there he was, in hand to hand combat with himself on a swaying rope bridge over the abyss. ‘So what’s new?’ he thought, ‘maybe tomorrow I’ll find another way home.’ He kicked himself to the knee and double handed himself on the neck so that his other self landed hard on the planking, stunned. He pushed himself over the side and listened to the forlorn cry of abandon and defeat fade into the dark depths. Then he tuned to deal with the banshee for he was beginning to feel she was leading him on a merry dance to heaven knew where. As he started to turn, a howling gale came from the darkness below him, then it dissipated and he found himself walking down the lane outside of the pub he had started from. ‘I’ll probably get home sometime tonight,’ he thought as the young lady unfolded her arms, took her shoulder from the wall where she had been leaning waiting for him and said: “What kept you?”
Harry shook his head and took her arm and walked her home.
The next few days were unrememberable so nothing so nothing much can be said about them, but when Harry sobered up he felt weird. So he went and saw someone about it.
The abominable couch absorbed him into itself. Harry was lost as words drifted past him:
“Father.” Protected content
“Ice cream.” “Pop.”
“Wine.” Protected content
“Life.” Protected content
“Work.” Protected content
“Need.” Protected content much.”
“Here.” Protected content
“Money.” Protected content
“Love” Protected content
“Women.” Protected content
“Well Harry, your time’s up for today. Shall I book you in for another appointment? Say, in about a week’s time?” said the pleasant voice coming from the smiling woman. The smile was one that had been painted on with a brush made up from many professionalisms and really only said: this is where I stand, this side of eternity. Harry paid a huge sum of money to the lonely receptionist and then went away and hid in a very dark place for a week.
The next time on the couch Harry had built up some resistance, but quickly lost it as the voice began its journey to the heart of whatever heart could be got to at that time. Harry thought of things far away and maybe lost to him forever as the drone of the voice washed over him and he gave back answers without really thinking. Harry thought of a friend from long ago who’d retired to a mental home for the insane. But half way through the memory the shrink bust in on his thought with the end of the session.
So Harry’s time was up again and the same question was asked about next week. Harry said next week had been postponed in favour of something else and so with a lot of ado about nothing much Harry pushed out of there and walked through the city. In the middle of the city was an island called The Haze. Harry sat there and drank tea and coffee as the day progressed towards night.
When it came it wrapped itself around him with a brass band that marched around the island then marched away to somewhere else. Motorbike riders started their gorgeous engines that spat fire and thunder to hell and gone. Girls climbed on board. The night tore them out of there to a place of rushing speed gone long pushing anywhere. Harry wanted to be there too.
Harry sat in the emptiness of the island and looked at the trees as the last few leaves fell solitarily to the ground. From somewhere far removed a wolf howled as a cold wind gave a shoot of forever on the pavements of nowhere. Harry pulled his collar up and walked out of there, but took it all with him. Harry went looking for a beer in a place he could be invisible in.
The ocean was wide and time was unkind in a bar that absorbed all the vision under a technology that brushed aside all protests with its incessant drone of: see, this is how it is, this is what is happening in the world today. Harry pushed in through the space called a door and walked up to the bar. He stood there for too long waiting for a beer. On all sides of him were inebriations of whatever was going down just about right then. Saturday night. Saturday god-damned night. Always the same, and it’s always raining, and it’s always paining. Yeah, Satu