And Never Was Piping So Sad


D. F. Lewis


I was murdered by my Mummy and Daddy.

The bars of the cot stretched upwards on either side and conjoined along the top, as if my own bones had grown into a prison. They shuddered in the candleflame ... a roofless prison, since the warders knew I could not fly nor float, nor even become old enough to climb...

I sat in the hospital waiting-room, surrounded by thin-lipped individuals who looked as if they feared the worst, but were soon to be told that they were already dead. My name didn't seem to matter since I would know it was myself being called to be seen by the doctor; I would know simply by means of the process of elimination.

I assumed that I was derived from wild forebears, even alien stock. My peers were all different from me, to such an extent that I simply must be a throwback to a race far older and, in many ways, divorced from the modern trends of natural childbirth: one step beyond the contemporary single parent norm. I must stem from a whole foundling race, I thought.

My schooling took me from farce to farce. It dawned on nobody that I had more to impart than all my teachers put together. But I merely sat on my own, all the other kids ranged behind me in double desks. I stared at the empty blackboard, seeing things that lived in there moving about with chalkless claws.

During the music lessons, I saw the actual notes billowing from the instruments--making more noise (to me) than the music otherwise carried. But during playtime, when the crates of empty milk-bottles were rattled along the corridors upon the caretaker's trolley, that was when I came into my own. The other children would mock and taunt, little realising that such tantrums on their part were as food to my thirsting glands. I watched the voices emerge from the lungs of the children, filling the sky with the dark streamers and balloons from a birthday party for Satan's little daughters...

Tagging a wild array of hellish jollity behind me, I careered over the playground, my eyes alight with the black noise that spurred me on--and, as the whistle blew, the other children trooped in Indian File, their scorn aborted by their minds into their bodies, only for it to flourish forth again much later in their lives as malign cancers.

Indeed, cancers were what I really relished. I toured the perimeter of the city on buses every weekend, examining passengers for the ripest, largest muck-forests inside their bodies. Most had such growths at incipient stages, since those with the heftiest ones could only properly incubate them in bed. So, on these bus trips, I did not score much in my 'I Spy Cancer' game, unless, of course, I ventured into the more inaccessible inner city areas, where a combination of bad housing and hard drinking had nurtured quite sizeable nodules even within teenage bodies. There, I could drink my fill and hold communion with my cousin cancers.

And, yes, today, I sat in the hospital amid those patients who had been waiting, in some cases for years, to see--and, hopefully, be seen by--a cancer specialist. I scrutinised their unresponsive faces. I scried the thought patterns as they wove versions of each carrier's past and future in light auras playing like fizz around the nostrils. However, I was most surprised to see not one sign of cancers, proving that these supposed humans were evidently in this hospital waiting-room under false pretences. Perhaps they were yet another race apart than even myself: newly come to fill man's medical centres, to such an extent that the more naturally worthwhile cases--where the cancers themselves had become the whole human bodies masquerading as people--could find no space in the waiting-room. Thus, with no professional treatment available to them, all that remained was to relieve the pain of self-loss by means of a form of suicidal onanism.

I was disgusted. At least I had been on this Earth since early childhood, so I felt I should be considered a native. Not like this bunch of up-start infiltrators sitting in the waiting-room and, as I continued to examine them, I saw practice smiles fleet across their faces. They knew that I knew they were aliens--merely playing with me, tagging me along, taunting, mocking...

I recalled those old school playgrounds, when I feared that I might have been the only one in the world who had those oceans of black party-ribbons fluttering in my wake. Now, I was still the outsider, but for different, more frightful reasons. The rest of the world had begun to watch my cancer grow, swelling like a worm-riddled beetroot inside my head. And they all smiled again, just as I had once smiled at those less fortunate than myself.

The nurse came out with a sheaf of papers in her hands. She was staring at me. "Yes, it's your turn to see the specialist."

I had been in this waiting-room for several weeks and the waiting cancers swivelled and followed me with their eyes, as I was taken in tow by the nurse. Their practice smiles were by now near perfect.

The doctor sat at his desk, doodling on his note-pad. I was happy to see that, against all the odds, this was a human being of the old school. All the doctor's brain processes were indeed like an open book. And a black glistening coil of what appeared to be an eel waggled from a hole in the doctor's forehead, reaching out towards me, acting as some version of an alien stethoscope. It teased open my clenched smile and travelled down my gullet seeking, in the wrong area it seemed, for the tell-tale sign of cancer--because, all along, the trouble was in my head: a tumour which I employed as a brain.

I dreamed of a loose clutter of farm buildings, where nobody seemed to work or live -- or, if they did, kept their curtains closed so that outsiders would pass through, ignoring their presence. The trees and chimney-stacks were picked out against a sky of mottled grey ... the air's sound peppered with birdsong and cockcrow. An orange Volkswagen had settled upon splayed tyres in a pub car park. A red sign indicated that Wem Ales were once sold here -- when there existed real customers to buy and staff to cock the pumps.

If I were to live beyond babyhood, I would one day visit such a place ... and maybe understand the machinery of buildings and open air.

I heard the milk crates echoing down the lost corridors of childhood. But then time is implacable, even to aliens like me. I even forgot I was an alien.

And there came an time when my stomach was at its most vulnerable following a period of diarrhoea, and I decided, against all sane judgement, to become a food taster at a capitalist concern in Northern England. Short of work, short of sense, indeed short of scruples, I wheedled my way to the inner sanctum of the Board Room, passing, in turn, their sweet and sour products over my palate with what looked like artist's brushes, then evaluating each one with words placed on my tongue by decades of being high-blown and high-flown, if fundamentally low-born.

"This substance has the surface taste of savoury spearmint but the undercurrents of gum blood," I reported. So, naturally, it was discarded as toothpaste, but used later (waste not, want not) in a highly secret recipe for the vampire market.

On that now infamous occasion when a new line was about to be launched, the Board of Directors snorted as they sat around the polished oval table, closely scrutinised by the framed oilshots of countless generations of their snag-toothed ancestors. As the Directors each partook of the new line's samples, I caught just the odd puff of wind surreptitiously broken from below the bespoke hangings of their behinds. They awaited my final decision, to ascertain if it was poison or provender. Looking like a flattened peeled prawn to give fullest effect, it was to be make-or-break in marketing terms. If this pink wad did not sell like their previous market leader, Crimson Crunchies, the whole flapdoodle of the family firm would certainly go bust.

Centuries of careful, pedestrian, painstaking Methodists had, of course, laid the foundations of the business on the back of blood-drop sweets and raspberry enema. All this would end up, if the new line failed, with the factory gates clanged shut and the workers, left inside, loyally continuing to stir the rumbling vats of scarlet slime for decades to come without pay.

The Directors looked up at me from their individual platters, slowly relinquishing the masquerade of tasting the firm's new line in bouts of choleric self-importance. One spat a gobbet into the communal slop bucket under the boardroom table. I fingered the pink wad. It seemed to wriggle under the touch, but I knew it was dead, having killed it myself with my bare teeth. I had indeed been attendant at every stage of its manufacture with the initial excision from the mother body, through the intricate insertions of several specially incubated cultures, to the end process of plunging it from the anus upwards at such a pressure it could not help but slowly surge towards the gullet whilst assuming all the aspects of inverse digestion--which would eventually be its uniqueness at the very pitch of sale on the mongers' slabs.

"Wait!" The bark was urgent. I looked up to see the Chairman slavering like an oven-ready pig in labour. His sodden whiskers drooped and his lips were fast clamming together with some unexpected recoil of earlier sampling. His eyes stood out on raw stalks, so as to bring my image closer.

"Yes, Sir?" I tried to cast my register between irritation at the interruption and humility that only employees sure of their position can master.

"The firm's prayer--we have not said the firm's prayer." The Chairman's eyes boggled at the thought of this near omission. So, heads were lowered in unison, whilst I, from time to time, glanced up to ensure nobody was breaking the code of the prayer's blind solemnity. The Chairman intoned the words at a pace that threatened to overtake itself, spinning so slowly that his rattling ball of phlegm could find no lodgement in fleshy hole or socket. "May God make us truly thankful for what we are about to feed the masses. We nourish the world, so that we can nourish ourselves." He sneaked a glimpse through his flickering eyelids to ensure the monkish contemplation of the rest of the Directors. Thankfully, my head was lowered at that point. "We give taste, where there is blandness. We give substance, where there is air. We give extrusion, where there is constipation..."

On and on it went. In the old days, the firm's share price was suspended for the interim. I took a peek at the mother pink wad. It had gone! Crawled from the saucer! I surreptitiously peered beneath the table and saw it stuck fast like bubble gum. The prayer droned on. "We give texture, where there are slops. We give lights, where there are grits." One ancient Director, who seemed as if he had once emerged from a swamp, was already belly-up and rasberry rippled. I lowered my head and joined in with the prayer: "Where there is death, we give life. Where there is life, we give death. Amen."

I felt within me a new force that would replace the abortion under the table--a different new line even at this moment seething up from the very lips of my lungs--something that would burp babies better than croup liver oil. Something we could put in the free school milk to make it look like diluted blancmange. But it turned out to be a virulent common cold germ that I knew was incurable--so incurable, of course, the body from which it suffered entered a spasm of optimum rebirth as a huge pulsing lobsterish thing with fangs. Brainstorming, which prevailed almost instantaneously, proved, however, that it possessed nothing like the potential marketability of its regurgitated afterbirth which probably had a residual gestation period exceeding my many residual years of child-bearing, if not the rest of my life. Purple-people eaters. Neatly packaged in long wooden boxes.

"He's asleep."

I heard Mummy's voice, always on the brink of hysteria. It was as if she were saying that I slept too long, never waking her with squawls of hunger and pain. How could she obtain the fulfilment of parental duty and be disturbed from her un-beauty sleep to tend my cares? I was therefore a selfish baby by being too good...

Daddy's montonous response to her statement was poised on an undercurrent of learned responses; he was hug-toeing a tightrope I had prepared for him by means of my listening mind.

Reincarnation reversed, I slept the conscious coma of an intensive care ward. My future life flickered through me like the past, memories with no scaffolding of experience...

When I walked down into that small town in Brittany, the bells were pealing loudly from the steeples of two churches that sat opposite each other in the square. It was one moment like empty milk-bottles clinking out infantine carillons. Then, huge gongs from a cosmic cathedral that knew more than one God.

There was only one shop immediately in view: a butcher's -- where a sparse array of unidentifiable joints lay upon the varicose-veined marble slabs beyond the window. I could barely discern a small lady in the dimness of the shop's back, as she chopped at the huge haunch which straddled two wooden trestles. I wanted to buy some, but I knew this was no time to try out my meagre skills at speaking a foreign language, since the bells would certainly confuse even an ordinary conversation in English. It being quite early on a Sunday morning, I was surprised that the shop was open at all, but not being familiar with the mode of life thereabouts, I didn't think any more about it. Equally, I refused to be surprised by the sudden emergence of a balding, middle-aged man in a shortie navy-blue overall, whom I had previously not spotted in the shop. He dodged out at me, speaking trip-wires of a seemingly incomprehemsible tongue. He said one thing close up, to which I nodded meaningfully, then he retreated as the conversation was closed, but quickly darted back wagging a finger in rhythm to the second wind that filled his cascading speech bubbles. And he repeated the process more times than I can recall.

I was soon to realise that the man must be a pillar of society in this neck of the woods, knowing everything about everybody; and, if I wanted any favours from such a quarter, I could do no better than suck up to him. Taking advantage of a slight lull in the dual clanging of the manic church bells and, with the appropriate gesticulations of head and hands, I gingerly placed one pointed foot of toes upon the tightrope of the French sentence I wished to enunciate, feeling that at any time I might over-balance and fall into the gaping jaws of my own mouth.

"Mushyer, juh swee ern onglaze."

He crossed himself vigorously, more, I hoped, in honour of my presence than his own self-protection. I was not unduly surprised, having seen several scarecrows in the fields thereabouts in the form of life-sized crucifixions of Christ. He then shook my hand as if he pumped water out of my mouth. I soon gathered that he wanted to sell me something or, perhaps, wanted me to sell something for him in England. As he continued to point at the house on the corner of the square next door to the butcher's, it was evident that he wanted me to act as a cross-channel Estate Agent on his behalf. Supposedly, if I correctly penetrated the veils of non-meaning he inadvertently threw up, such properties would soon be extremely sought after by people of my nationality wanting to escape the wild machinations of the English political system. I shrugged, as if I understood his drift but could not believe him.

Without any real impetus on my part, I found myself being tugged towards the house to be shown its insides. I must say I was particularly intrigued by the roof, which seemed to be constituted of various staircase smokestacks and ranks of chimney-pots on parade; in view of these, there did not appear to be any scope for a proper roof at all. But I was pleased by a lack of those wire sculptures with which roofs back home in England often preen themselves in the mode of costume jewellery, simply for the sake of hypnotising those people who squat in the semi-darkness under the roofs with screen-flickering third-hand images of a life that they might have wanted to lead in better circumstances. All this went through my mind as I watched the highly-strung Frenchman fumbling with a handful of assorted keys in front of a peeling door that looked as if it were determined to stay shut, come what might. I imagined the words he spoke now were typical French curses, but he peppered them with a comforting phrase which I could actually fathom: "Ce n'est pas grave ... ce n'est pas grave..." as he swayed from side to side. I smiled to myself, for evidently he did not have the correct key. I even began to doubt whether he owned the place at all. I nearly said as much in English, but then thought better of it, in case he was a closet linguist.

I felt as if we had stood outside that house for a good part of an eternity and a half, he with his voice in tape loop, me with my face frozen in a pose for a photograph. But, then, the short lady from the butcher's turned up wielding the largest, rustiest key upon which I had ever laid my eyes. Her jabber was only slightly less incomprehensible than the man's, although my feeble ear for language quickly picked up that she thought him a nincompoop of the first water, as well as being her husband. I did not respond, except for a slight twitch of my eyebrows which I think I must have got away with, since the Frenchman continued to smile, while he inserted the hefty key into the waiting mouth of the lock. The tumblers fell one by one as the ratchets were slowly cranked by the iron paddle. Eventually, the door swung wide on croaking hinges, revealing a hallway that, at first glance, seemed awash with sewage and effluent. After a double-take, I soon saw it must be where the couple stored the off-cuts from their butcher's shop. Not being refrigerated, the stench, rising from the brine in which the chops, briskets, silver-sides and rumps were steeped, seemed a trifle too ripe for comfort.

I had heard of Frenchmen laying down bottles of wine in dark places slowly to mature in trip-switches of fermentation and percolation, but this process being used for cuts of meat, well, that was the last straw left in the pig-sty.

I ran quickly from that town. I'm sure I heard the Frenchman braying after me with words that I could not quite decipher, in spite of having a decided Anglo-Saxon ring about them. Or maybe I do him a disservice. Maybe the whole thing was not as bad as it seemed. Maybe he were shouting: "Ce n'est pas grave! Ce n'est pas grave!". Maybe he didn't know we allowed Cremation in good old England.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt, as the duelling church bells gradually faded into the distance like those ancient milk bottles.

A squirrel had nervously tempted itself into the gravelly car park. It took one glance at me and disappeared with the flick of a tail. I merely saw it by the corner of my eye, but I thought it was probably the only real thing in the whole dream...

Dozing, undozing, I fleeted between the dream and the shimmering nursery. Two large faces rose above me, each with tears rilling their cheeks. I reached out with my tiny hand towards them in the guise of touching these moons back to health. But my fingernails, by their own volition, sharpened and jutted from their fleshy beds, a beast unsheathing its claws ... wanting to leave its mark on reality.

I have come here because I've heard they're shooting a horror film and will doubtless require several extras for the crowd scenes. I reckon my bent nose will stand me in good stead. The town is so non-descript, it somehow lacks any possibility of description. Although I suspected this, I'm still unmentally prepared. As I drive from the November fogs into a crystal clear afternoon, I first notice lines of identical red brick maisonettes forming a geometrical grid that even a mathematician will find boring. A social anthropologist might be able to conduct an interesting study of what compels people to live here, even if it merely tuns out to be the promise of free school milk. But, beyond that, I can't even hope to fathom it. A horror far more horrific than gothic.

The film crew aren't anywhere to be seen. No arc lights have been erected, no touchy lead actress vampire putting on airs and graces, no fat man with a cigar sitting in a deckchair marked Director and, above all, no crowds milling about ready to fire the castle where the mediaeval horrors are lurking with their own bent noses.

I leave my jalopy close the apparent centre of the town. There's a free car park and, indeed, how can any car park here be otherwise? Yet, instead, I decide to draw up close to a parade of shops under some mock-Elizabethan penthouse flats. The dusk's drawing in as I spring the seat-belt. About to open the car-door when I notice joy, oh joy, there's indeed a pub and, yes, it seems open, since, inside it, tops of heads are craning to see from the saloon windows. A man, evidently worse for wear, staggers from the swing doors and zig-zags along the street with a sloshing pint of milky beer grasped in his fist. Seeing my parked car, the face draws close to the windscreen and squashes its runny nose against the glass.

Damn, the car won't start! And the piss-artist's fumbling with the door-handle! Good grief, the man's violently thumping his head along the length of the car, giving me a feeling that, if this be indeed a horror film, I want out--and fast! In this place, stories seem real.

I look across to the pub. The local tipplers are still standing on tiptoes to see over the semi-frosted parts of the windows--eager faces pressed hard against the glass. I have to laugh, for every single one of them wields a nose even more bent than mine. And it's getting foggy again ... and now I've such a lapse of memory, I can't bring myself to believe I've not only got my car started, but I've managed to browbeat it through all manner of countryside to escape those ploughshare-nosed dignitaries who compensate for all the description that their civic realm lacks.

But no need to resort to memory now, since I'm well and truly here with each thought as memorable as the moment I have it. Another place, another present moment, but the same person. It's deserted. "Lakeside Inn" shows open, but looks closed. Further over, a few tenantless caravans, finally a small reservoir. A decided lack of real people. However, as I head back towards my car, a caravan that is evidently not as tenantless as I originally thought speaks up by means of a bent-nosed man at its door--"Can I be of any assistance?"

"I was just looking at the reservoir," I answer, trying to make my head outshadow my own twisted honker.

"Lake," he says more surlily than warranted.

"Sorry, yes--lake."

I should have known that it was a lake, I suppose, from the name of the inn, if not from its description. And so ends a relationship which has lasted all of ten seconds. If one goes through life having a series of such interchanges, one will probably learn more than if one has a deep love affair. Perhaps not so enjoyable. But certainly more instructive with all those many different angles of observation.

The "Lakeside Inn" looks more like a glorified all-purpose public convenience or shanty Picture House of the fifties. It's probably warmer in the car where I've parked it amid the puddles. Down by the "lake", the watery sun has done little to penetrate the mistcoat which it hastily donned with due respect to the season. Flags advertising Wem Ales and a bedraggled Union Jack flap uselessly from three poles outside the "Inn".

That caravan "man" has, in his strange way, scared me. Why did he offer me assistance? I suspect I am on private ground. In which case, he should have been more annoyed than he looked. But will he have it in for me, calling his "lake" a "reservoir"? When I get back to the beaten track, will he be tailing me? Nose to tail. Perhaps I should simply drive away now, before he gets the chance to think through the whole incident, in the same way as I have.

I now remember having sat down at the edge of the "lake" on a hard lifebuoy-ring to prevent my backside becoming damp. The water was rippling. I closed my eyes and imagined I was at the seaside. There's something very frightening being so far inland as this place by the "lake"--one never knows which way to run. At least, at the seaside the choice is easier. And indeed people are sillier, walking along the promenade, in their ludicrous holiday hats and wielding funfair cancers within the crazy mirrors of their minds. I should be more unnoticeable at the seaside.

The "inn" has a sloping roof, with coloured electric bulbs strung unevenly from its highest corner to an outhouse. These unaccountably make me want to weep openly. When I was by the "lake", there had been a power boat cutting across it, but the expanse was hardly big enough for a dinghy. The steersman killed the engine, soon after passing me by.

Some people actually love the things they use to get about in. Cars, that are often called affectionate names like pets, have men fiddling with their inner parts for the good deal of a Sunday and dreamily lathering them from top to tyre. Boats are similar. They loll upon the cream-topped waves luxuriously. In storms, after all, that's the most one's got between life and death.

The whole matter seems senseless, useless. The "man" who somehow scared me--why did he want me off the premises? The assistance he offered me, would I have thanked him for it, once delivered? Everything has its meaning. Well, that's what I thought until I came here. Now, I'm not so sure. It seems as if the constituents of the whole affair --the "inn", the "lake", the "man", the "boat", the "flags", even my "car"--are jigsaw bits from a puzzle that bears no resemblance the picture on the box-lid.

Now I'm back inside the "car", I ought to stir the engine, before the "man" comes out of the caravan again. I may be forced to leg it if I can't start it. The gear-stick feels embedded in liquid muscle. The windscreen's steamed up--can't even see the nose in front of my face. Something's fiddling about under the bonnet and something else below the chassis--and I'm relatively certain whoever-they-are are not simply carrying out an oil change. Whatever the case, "I" mustn't allow those plug-uglies with zoom-lens noses to clamber inside the "car" with "me". "My" bottom got damp, after all, despite the lifebuoy's makeshift seat. It's funny how nose-diving into utter terror makes us worry about such trivial matters as damp skirts. Solitary women drivers are more vulnerable than anybody else, however ugly. "I" waggle the "gear-stick" like mad. "Ce n'est pas grave," she squeals as if she's "me".

Towards the end of the now deserted car park, a swing jabbed with the freshening fitful wind, as if a ghost were mugging up on the art of childhood.

Mummy and Daddy stirred me from the stupor of near birth, tickling my chest as they cooed in the nonsensical jargon of second childishness. I vowed to turn their tears to blood, for the act of giving me birth.

My mind had been drifting upon a becalmed doze. But, then, I heard music from another part of the house. I glanced at my companion in the bed, only to discover he was also looking at me. We questioned each other with our eyes.

The music was at first the haunting clinks of milk bottles sieved by a tunesmith. Then, an air, sweet but sad in its piping; and the voice which eventually pricked out from the harmonies was that of one who'd rather sob than sing.

The house had long hallways on each floor--so long and thin, they could almost be frontages for an entertainment or corridors redolent of school blamcmange. A windy spot, too -- and we knew the whistling at night was no more than the various imperfections of the house's structure opening and shutting like valves--and the hissing down the flues merely serpent gods with which our over-active imaginations could dally.

When we first moved in, we'd wander about at night like lost souls, bewildered by the house's settling and slippage which seemed not only in the direction of its foundations as one would expect, but, on occasions, upwards to the roof and chimneystack complex.

At each keyhole, we'd childishly press our ears. Although we knew there were just the pair of us, we relished the delights of ear-wigging. We only received sharp blasts of cold air into the deepest parts of our bodies for our pains.

It was not that there were even ghosts roaming about to justify such behaviour; although, I confess, we both hoped that one day there would be a couple of ghosts fit to haunt the likes of us. Indeed, there's a romantic quality about ghosts; and on long wintry nights in that Chinese Wall we called a home, each of us took turns in pacing the corridors, pretending to be such a ghost. I lay awake listening to my companion playing a "don't touch a crack in the floorboards with your feet or you'll surely die a terrible death" game; and hooting woefully like a wounded owl in the chimney.

I recall it was often my duty to scuttle in the manner of a coaldust imp from room to room. When I acted the spirit ghost, however, I was fearful I'd "come" mid-wall, with all the fibres and tender vessels of my body engrained in the actual structure of the brickwork. And the pain I conjured up in myself was tantamount to drawing-pins being pressed hard into the bone of my skull one by one, till I bore a helmet of them. It was as if I was intent upon killing a brain tumour but none of the tacks reached.

The whooping screech I emitted from my lungs woke my companion unseasonably ... and I was scolded for it, come morning. I showed him the pink wad that I had coughed up, but he little cared for my incipient ills. Indeed, I could not withstand his stern looks nor the way he played with my tortoiseshell hand mirror. Thank goodness he then went off for a pint of Wem.

But, at long last, we come to the night of the music, as I call it. On this occasion, we were both between the long sheets in double-backed slumber. The drama evolving around us was Grand Opera. The walls were breaking out in stretched mouths, their long-held notes reverberating from the empty cellars of the house. The curtains veiled large staring eyes. The firehearth spat flame as from the backside of Heaven, Wagner's anvil hammers thudding time to the soaring music. The four corners of the bed raised a scintillating canopy above Tristan and Isolde who nestled in the breast of the whitest lakeside swan. And such a swan floated upon the buoyed airs of the floorboards' ever-widening cracks...

Our dream duet arched and shimmered, an endless rainbow of perfect sound.

I don't know which of us woke first. I think it was him, since his face suddenly seemed real. I could see all the hair-line cracks, his weathered furrows, the worldy worry of the eyes. But I still loved him, despite his liaison with the never-ending grind of living. Eventually, I woke up, too, released from dream duty ... and he cast me from his arms on seeing the crow's feet return, marking time beneath my smudged eyes...

I dream to wake up and, sometimes, I wake up to dream.

I am in an opera chorus. No single personality can be pinpointed among us, since we're not much better than a second audience.

The helmetted soloist, my one and only truly love, stands mighty and alone at the front edge of the stage, his thumping bass notes drawing to him a Lady of Sound, whose body, which only he and I can see, reaches up, like winding scales of heavenly brightness, to the gods; and it's her towering beauty that he really adores.

My own piping song cannot be heard as I'm drowned out by the rest of the chorus. None can know that I'm really sobbing my heart out.

I yearn for the dream to return, where there's no audience to worry us and, if not real, at least he's mine.

And I wake cruelly into full middle age in the foreign land of the future ... where my own children must await my return from a business trip, from a business I shall never in my own heart be able to master. My car, in which I sit, is parked alongside the Volkswagen. I gather myself to drive towards a meeting which, according to my diary in the glove compartment, I'd arranged. I wonder how I learned to drive ... I badly need a refresher course. I riffle rapidly through the pre-printed part of the diary ... and, finally, reach the page of personal details where I find someone has written out my name, address and rhesus milk group. I twitch like a startled squirrel, with nowehere to scuttle.

On glimpsing up, two red-ribboned faces are reflected in the blurred windscreen with parts of them more sharply focussed in the rearview mirror ... and they curse me--me, their son but once hoped-for daughter--yes, this pair of flesh-corrupted ghosts curse me Orphan!

"My teats of time were tugged for the milky muck that some call brain."
Rachel Mildeyes (AUTOBIOGRAPHY)

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Author Bio

D. F. Lewis (born 1948) was the recipient of the British Fantasy Society Karl Edward Wagner Award in 1998. For full details of this author and editor, please see:

Read other stories by D. F. Lewis:
The Exquistion
Boys on the Brink




"And Never Was Piping So Sad" Copyright © 2000 D. F. Lewis. All rights reserved. Published by permission of the author.
This page last updated 1-14-01.

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