Monday, 23 July 2007


I have recently left England for the greener pastures of home, though perhaps such a statement is unwarranted: a verdancy comparison of the two countries would likely reveal a degree of parity between the bucolic areas of the respective nations. But I digress.

Britain has taken a page out of McDonalds' book; learning from the practice of providing happy-meal toys themed to movie releases. Here's a copy of the press-release:

"To celebrate the launch of the film, "Bruce Almighty", Britain has decided to simulate a little diluvian event of its own, flooding major road and rail connections, as well as a fair number of domiciles."

The heavy rain, and consequent flooding, made travelling prohibitive, but nevertheless, I have accomplished my return homewards, and in time to witness a golfing victory, unequalled in the past 60 years: Pádraig Harrington's victory over Sergio Garcia in the playoffs of the Open Championship. Yeah, it doesn't mean anything to me, either. But one thing I did note was that
at the presentation of the winning trophy, the Irish contingent of fans regaled their countryman with a popular patriotic song dating back to the 1990 Irish participation in the Italian-hosted World Cup. As such, it is composed, when sung in refrain, entirely of a repetition, ad infinitum, of the spanish word 'Olé'. The irony most likely escaped many present, but it must have surprised, if not annoyed, the runner-up Garcia, to be serenaded, or indeed, goaded, in his own tongue, by the fans of his victorious opponent.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Dark Magic: Part 6

Apprehensively, he opened the door, and a dozen or so faces turned to look at him. He swallowed hard. He could be in any room. This was a crazy idea. He should see a doctor; he should...

"Lewis! My man! Bit heavy on the booze last night?" The tone was caustic, and came from a square-shouldered, blond-haired guy, seated by a large window at the left side of the room.

Someone laughed.

Lewis had a feeling he was in the correct room, though he was beginning to wish he wasn't. Without responding to the derision, he let his feet guide him to a chair, and as he sat down, he realised the view from the window was familiar; not just the view itself, but the angle. This was where he usually sat. He ran his finger over the inner edge of the desk, and found familiar grooves, recognisable graffiti. He saw...his handwriting, though characteristically illegible even to himself. Only the letters 'S*****um Wood' were visible.

"Never seen a desk before?" This voice was not unkind; the same, familiar, voice that he'd heard the previous night.

Lewis turned to look at the speaker. A tall, well-built guy of south-asian complexion was looking at him with a good-humoured expression, which changed to a querulous one.

"What happened to you last night?" He asked

"I..." Lewis trailed off, searching for the right words, but only one came to him: 'Rat'.

"You feeling ok?"

With those words, Lewis remembered who he was speaking to. Rat had been in his class for years. They'd been friends for most of that time, but Rat didn't know about....what? Lewis was aware of some aspect of his life, closed to this confrere. He was aware of it in a broad, amorphous sense; of its vast boundaries and great significance, but without knowledge of its specific features; as one is aware of a missed assignation, a forgotten responsibility.

"Y-yeah, i'm just a little, emm, tired." Lewis stuttered, unwilling to reveal any more until he had a clearer picture, himself. He wasn't sure who he could talk to.

"After last night? Yeah, you looked a bit pale." Rat observed. "I was going to go after you, but Jessie..."

"It's fine." Lewis cut in. "I'll be fine."
It was a parapraxis; he'd meant to speak in the past tense, but that was what he was beginning to feel - he WOULD be fine. He was aware of areas of his memory, obscured as by veils, but if he could just approach them armed with enough pieces of the jicksaw, they would fall away.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Dark Magic: Part 5

Lewis looked, uncertainly, at the gates before him. He knew them in a way that one knows a familiar painting. They had a certain austerity to them, characteristic of the Thatcherite era in which they were built; the buildings beyond, however, were older, and had an almost imperial look to them. The overall impression was somewhat stern and unwelcoming, but he took comfort in the echoes of a mundane, quotidian familiarity.

As they passed through the gates, Lewis felt more sure of himself, more secure. They walked in silence through the yard, towards the edifice of the main building.

As they reached the front doors, Jessie stopped on her heels.

"Maybe this is a bad idea. Maybe you should see a doctor." She spat the words out rapidly, as if she'd kept them bottled up for some time.

Lewis looked from her concerned countenance to the doorway, and although the greater part of him shared her concerns, he felt that with every step he took, he regained more of himself. He was loathe to give that up for the alien, questioning environment of a doctor's office. He could almost imagine the scene; being asked if he heard voices, too; if he saw little green men. No, he would persevere.

"It's ok. I feel... better" He lied, unconvincingly.

Jessie smiled hopefully, wanting to believe him.

"Ok, but if you need anything; if you feel dizzy, or...ANYTHING, you come get me." She said urgently, looking him in the eyes, and feeling guilty, as if she was abandoning him. She turned to walk away, and stopped,"I'll be in 12A, round by the side entrance; for form class, anyway." she smiled again, morosely, and hurried away.

As she turned the corner, Lewis realised he was on his own. No turning back. He pushed through the doors, and into the foyer. Taking the first left, he found himself perambulating on autopilot. He climbed a small flight of stairs, and turned where he felt a turn was appropriate; unsure of the destination, but certain, all the way, of the route, he eventually arrived at a nondescript door marked "17B".

Friday, 6 July 2007

Dark Magic: Part 4

Lewis sighed again and looked at her, dolefully.

"We can't let mum know. Not just yet." She pleaded

He nodded a reluctant affirmation.

"If you're still like this after school...God! will you be able to go to school?" She asked, anxious.
Seeing the fearful look on his face, she added quicky,
"It'll probably help you to remember. A familiar environment; seeing your friends. It'll all come back." She offered a weak smile.

They left the house in time to catch their bus, and sat together on the way to school. Neither spoke much, and tried to avoid the glances of other students. Jessie's friends were gossipping about a bulimic girl in the year below them; Lewis's friends (at least he thought they were his friends) were giving him curious glances. Jessie explained that they were halfwits, who couldn't conceive of him sitting next to his younger sister, instead of with them. Apparantly that was without precedent, and violated their social mores.
He wasn't in any hurry to immerse himself among his peers; the chatter on the bus was several decibels above comfort level for him at present, and only added to his anxiety. He did feel like he was on more familiar ground, though. As the bus turned a corner, Lewis's heart leapt. He noted familiar landmarks; the street; the houses; even some vehicles parked along the road looked familiar. Jessie, noting his interest, pointed towards a terraced house that appeared particularly salient to him.

"That's where we used to live. You remember it, don't you?" she inquired, excitedly.

A potpourri of emotions threatened to overwhelm him, as memories flooded his mind; memories of a childhood spent on these streets. Every corner and crevice of the neighbourhood was, he realised, indelibly imprinted on his being, so that the sight of it speeding past filled him with a greater notalgia than even Odyseus could have conceived of. He wanted to call out, to implore the bus driver to stop, or at least slow down so that this halcyon vision could be held onto for just a moment longer. He remained silent, though, and stared longingly at the retreating eaves of the last house visible, of that enchanted roadway.

He was silent for the remainder of the journey, staring at the seat-rest in front of him as if looking through it. Jessie pressed him to know if he was ok, but he merely grunted in response. He seemed to be cogitating deeply, as if ruminating over a complex problem.

The bus pulled up to the kerb outside the school. Though Jessie and Lewis were seated towards the front of the bus, they were among the last off.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Dark Magic: Part 3

Jessie was awoken the next morning by waves of sunlight crashing through her window, dashing on the lids of her eyes and dazzling her. She momentarily thought she may have a hangover, but then remembered that she doesn't drink. Something had happened the night before, though. Something had...oh. Yeah. She felt a pang of concern for her brother. He hadn't been making it up; he couldn't even remember the route home. She felt bad, remembering how she'd shouted and refused to believe him. He'd walked normally, hadn't slurred his words; it wasn't until they got in the door, and she had to show him to his room, that she realised how serious the situation was. Drinking didn't do that to you. Someone must have put something in his drink...

She wracked her brain, trying to remember all the anecdotes she'd heard from girls in her class, about ecstasy and...What else? What messes with your memory?

"What time did you two get in last night?"

It was her mother's voice, emanating from beside the window, half-concealed in the gloom next to the curtain she'd recently drawn. Her mother was studying her; most likely looking for tell-tale signs of alcohol consumption. Her tone was level, but not without nuances of imperious disapproval.

"Sorry." Jessie replied, unable to articulate much else, and eager to avoid a confrontation. Suddenly, alarm-bells rang in her head and she sat up.
"Is Louie awake?" she asked urgently, and immediately regretted startling her mother.

She had sworn him to silence, fearful of a repeat of the episode six months ago, when their mother had instituted a draconian curfew in response to his arriving home drunk.

Her mother looked alarmed.
"What-happened?" She demanded, running the words together in her haste to discover what lay behind that outburst.

"N-nothing. I..." She trailed off, trying desperately to find the words to assuage her mother, but it was too late. She was already departing the room, and rushing to check on the wellbeing of her only, precious, son. She burst through the door, to find him...

...adjusting his tie, and looking surprised. Their mother breathed a sigh of relief, and turned on Jessie, who had jumped out of bed to follow her.

"Did something happen last night?"

Jessie exchanged a glance with Lewis before answering,
"No, I just...didn't want him to keep us any later than we already are."
She offered a faint smile to her mother, who was incredulous.

She looked suspiciously at her two children, but judging that she wasn't going to get any more out of them, exhaled resignedly.

"Breakfast's on the table. Hurry up or you won't get any."

When their mother had gone downstairs, Jessie approached Lewis; still standing in his room.

"So you're ok?" she asked, expectantly.

"No, i'm NOT ok!"

Jessie's face fell.
"You're still don't..." She shook her head.

He sighed and kicked at a chrome-coloured pencil, lying on the floor.

"But you remember mum, right? RIGHT?!" she demanded, aghast.

"Yeah, yeah. I remember her. I just don't...I'm not sure...things aren't right."
He slumped onto his bed, and stared at the pencil he'd just kicked under his desk.
"I can't even tie my..." He stopped suddenly, interrupted by some thought.

His hand raised from his side, lifting off the quilt to point under the desk, following his line of sight.

"That pencil!" He shouted, and dived under the desk to retrieve the object in question. When he emerged, he found his sister staring at him querulously.

"You remember it?" She asked, hopeful, but confused.

"Yes, yes. Something important, but...Gah!" He grunted in frustration.

"It's a quarter past eight; you're going to be late!" Their mother shouted from downstairs.

Neither of them reacted for a few seconds, both focussing intently on the pencil, gripped firmly in Lewis's hand.

Reluctantly, Jessie pressed him in a mournful tone,
"We should go."

Dark Magic: Part 2

He looked at Jessie, and felt at ease. She was worried, though. What was she worried about? He looked down, and a broken glass lay sideways on the table; the remainder of its contents trickling their way down the table leg, and down his. It was cold. It was cold, but it was real, and somehow that reassured him. He wanted to grasp onto the table leg - it looked solid. Some instinct called him to be rooted to the ground, because for a fleeting moment he felt he might float away. But it passed, and then he felt something more startling. Her hand was gently grasping his wrist; the other on his shoulder. She was speaking to him, but though the words thundered in his ears, they could not compete with the decibel levels being emitted from nearby speakers. He glanced around at the other faces nearby, and all were looking at him, querulously. They were waiting for an explanation, but what was he to explain? What...Where...Questions flooded his brain, and only seemed to amplify the problem. He took a deep breath and sat down again, starting as he felt a sharp prick on his thigh. He brushed aside the offending piece of glass, and heard another voice in his ear; a male voice, again familiar, but somehow he was unable to place it.

"Are you alright? do you want to go outside?"

He looked at the speaker. He was...a friend. This, he could feel sure of. But whose friend? He looked towards the door, and his breathing quickened. An ephemeral feeling passed over him, and he recoiled from the somewhat distant doorway, unwilling to conceive of approaching it. But he did want to leave. This place was too constricted; the walls seemed to be closing in, threatening to suffocate him. He rose up, looking blankly at Jessie, wanting to convey something but unable to find the words. He stumbled past her, and feeling unsteady on his feet, ambled awkwardly towards a doorway marked 'exit'.

An indignant, irascible voice boomed behind him, as the doors burst open and plunged him into cool, night air. The voice was clearer now, behind him.

"Whaddaya think yer doin'?!"

He was in no doubt that this individual was demanding an explanation, also, but these were in short supply, and he didn't turn around. Instead, he remained, craning forwards and supporting himself by leaning his hands on his thighs. He was short of breath, and wasn't about to waste what little he had on this unidentified individual. The voice was addressing someone else, now.

"Is he with you?"
"Yeah, I don't think he's feeling well."
"Well, you go out an' yer not gettin' back in."

The doors shut loudly, and the music retreated to a muffled drone.

"What's wrong?"
Jessie. Her voice was clear, now, beyond the confines of the club.

He straightened up; his breathing steady now; his limbs following commands. Turning, he studied her closely, in the hopes it would provide some cue, some salient information to get his thoughts into some kind of order. She was wearing somewhat threadbare blue jeans and a close-fitting red top exposing her midriff, and emblazoned with the proud motto, "Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them", accompanied by a suitably illustrative stick-figure image. Her face reverberated in his mind, and every nuance of an expression seemed to trigger some key facet of his being, making him feel immediately at home, secure. He was glad she was here. Still, though, he struggled to come up with anything more meaningful. Her hair is a dusty blond; her skin white, and freckled in places, with a plumpness to the cheeks suggestive of youth, but a look in the eyes incongruent with such speculation. Her blue eyes were searching him, now, increasingly concerned, increasingly impatient.

"WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG!?" She boomed, stamping her foot and throwing her hands towards him in exasperation.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Dark Magic: Part 1 of, I dunno, a few. maybe.

The babble of the crowd gradually faded into interminable distance, to be replaced by a low, mechanical humming. He felt dizzy and his thoughts became progressively more clouded, as the humming rose to a deafening roar. He glanced at the other faces around the table, but they were animated in conversation, and seemingly unaware of the sound. His chest felt tight, constricted, and a numbness overcame him so that he was unsure if he still drew breath. The sound seemed to emanate from all around, but some instinct told him that it had a source; something was approaching, and was all too near.

To his right, the entrance to the bar darkened. A shadow crossed the threshold, looming large over the crowd, which seemed to part unconsciously to admit it. There was substance to the shadow; a simulacrum of a person, but something about the proportions was wrong. The figure was moving slowly through the people, but time seemed to mould itself to its will. As it moved, it turned, so slowly, craning its cowled head to check the faces of each oblivious person it passed. It was searching for something; for someone. Fear gripped his heart. He glanced at the exit, but it was too far. A bead of sweat ran down his brow. There was no escape. The cowled figure turned, slowly, slowly. He had to hide! He had to...too late!

As it turned, its visage came into view, but it was nothing but a reflection, an illusion, a minatorial chasm, reflecting all the horrors of the world. A lachrymose, tear-drop-shaped countenance focussed on him; its vicious emptiness boring deep into his soul, exposing everything within. There was nowhere to hide, no way to escape the menacing glare. Time and causality evaporated; every vestige of hope fled, and the future stretched on as an indefinite present; a moment frozen in time and stretched on to an infinite, pernicious, unforgiving eternity.

Then there was nothing; nothing but a dull ache, where his heart had once been. But something spoke up in the void; some sensation, new and unfamiliar, calling from the corporeal world. He was aware of a cold dampness, creeping along his leg, and voices; alarmed, solicitous, but not threatening. Time returned. He registered motion, before any kind of visible world presented itself. He blinked, and there were people, again, moving, LAUGHING! The laughter awoke his senses, washing over his soul like the first monsoon rains, and spoke to him of promise, of life, and humanity. The voices in the immediate vicinity were louder now, and a face presented itself close to his - concerned, perplexed. It was a familiar face, but...he could not call to mind why, or how it was familiar. Then a fragment surfaced in his mind, a dim recollection of a bright, sunny day.

He had fallen. and she was there, concerned as now. She ran to help him. Jessie. This is Jessie.