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
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,
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
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
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
"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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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: http://www.nemonymous.com