I’m walking. Beings; they come alongside and match my stride. They talk, they’re talking. No. Not talking—they preach. They’re preaching to me as we head towards the light. And while I’m drawn, all moth-like—their attention, even in the light of this light, is on me entirely. Peck, they’re pecking my ear…
“We’re no theists, but realists. Turn away,” they say. No. Not say—whisper, with persuasive words and such intimate reason, “Turn, turn around.”
A reluctance, born from the strength of my new faith’s preference, has me opt for that aforesaid sweet luminescence—all silent and aglow with a beckoning that’s—ahh—yes, this spontaneous belief; it’s all-beguiling. Instant is the trusssst in its offer of paradise.
This man’s not for converting.
But, what’s this? Incoming…the preachers, it seems, have assistance. [_____________] ← that space allows me to brace. Zapped from above and below I am; white, bright, revelatory shots: one in the pate, another in the nates; a double-jolt from a super-charged forked bolt. Each rides up my nerves to find and recombine with the other. Their manifestation darts around within and overwhelms.
It felt so natural too, the return of blind desire. To be only a fleeting resurrection of my care-for-nothing character. It’s unfair—for the sake of sociableness there grew inside a need to please: to give, to help, to shield; it’s hounded me the second half and since of my three score and ten. That dogged dog of a conscience is back following the shortest excursion, collar unclipped from its new-fangled lightning leash and now running loose—adopted pet and agent this time, I suspect, of those preachers. Aye, they encourage its yapping, and goad it with treats and whistles unheard to shepherd me from my intent. Paradise on hold, or paradise lost? I must oblige, cede, take heed.
Been beleaguered of late, what with melancholic matters of the terminal variety and Destiny’s last date: an uphill walk, not far—a fentanyl fueled liaison with the light. Bringing it all together—a permanent easement of ailments—you know, a one way ticket out of the breach.
To see then the stage my U-turn has presented, quite steals my already breathless mind away: a landscape, a valley panorama, with the right amount of lush, all overlaid with an equal measure of cirrus-streaked sky. I’m above it all—like in life; neither aloft nor aloof. No, I was the detached type, with the good fortune of a high eye and a steep nose—that was only once broken. My shadow I see, is a swathe-wide straight line, that dims the ground from feet to far, far out. Perspective plays its hand at the extremity—its digits smudging and pinching all detail to miniature—making crude the models of the vale’s villages.
If I’m to draw any details from such a vista I’d be relying on luck. To sharpen my focus, to take such a feature as texture would consume an energy I do not possess—or a younger eye. Sapped of precious time and vigour for such endeavour, pitching the vision with the familiar requires concentration—I wish I could bust these cataracts out—demist the distance.
Cue the luck, a preacher draws a brass telescope from a hessian sack. “Courtesy of Bob Hooke,” he says and hands it to me. I put it to my good eye and scope the horizon. Boo to the unsteadiness of this elder’s hand; the image pans loosely from my jitters and I cannot get a fix. The steadying hand of a preacher chimes in—he’s in tune with me and aligns my aim.
There I am, in a cradle, rocking on a precipice that demarks my life from a calmly-viewed pre-natal darkness. A baby—unable to howl, puke or mewl for the bronchial cough that rasps its respiration. That cradle in a clouded room now, with mother and her six, smoking teen-to-twenties siblings. Anger at post-nativity naivety, yet solace in the mystery of a sickly life being solved.
A nudge downward of the telescope (thank you preacher), sweeps my sight over the land of a growing child, and trails with more a measure of joy than travail. To stop to pause at the second age—the subject, of me of course, innocent until that day. A pure product of the parent. Till the arrival of the brother and the contamination of schooling. Reluctant, recalcitrant, resisting change and feigning ailments. Look at my wide eyes and mooning grin the day I realise the value of lies—slotting in so well with the early need to please—the self.
Another nudge by a preacher and another half a league nearward. Through this valley of life rides my mortal dread. I’m the young man, awash with hormone, a pard’s complexion and a lusting for the female: Jessica, Annabel, Phillipa and yes—Sue—a beautiful Southern belle with matching accent.
Nudge. Up through the valley I scope myself at 27; a bank-rolled-by-loan black sports car strapped to my arse—hands on the wheel—the consumerist’s show off grin and a right foot eager for the accelerator. That moment was all mine, and I thought I was the one. A certain beauty in such delusion. I weep in the eye that sees this, and switch the telescope to the other.
Half a league nearward with a paunch that’s swelling outwards, taken by me, the man, from the spouse who bore, and lain in line the next infants. The beard’s appeared with the aspiration of being a bard, and an early yoke over that steep nose where hang the lenses for reading. Full now with wisdom, yet a wondering where, and how, and why it all fits in—and so a leaning to faith.
To the last but one league nearward. Sunny garden, wine at 11 and free-time tan. Orange and silver man, pruning roses, morning glories—fading glories, meditating, venom-less curses with some forgiveness for the years in the consumerist’s prison—it paid for the pension. Enjoying visits from the grown infants’ latest line of infants—the happiest time. I weep in this eye too, but keep the scope fixed—not wanting away from the vision…
…to which a preacher nudges one last league nearward. I’m rocking in a free chair with a tartan comfort blanket over knee, nothing they can do for me. ‘Sans all’ as Shakespeare said—save for a mercy kick from the big ‘C’. A flight of stairs away a floor to ceiling window that appeared to forever hold in frame an image of the post-life abyss—the identical twin of the pre-natal rendering; to be viewed with a terrible shiver. It was thereafter a ‘dark-dispelling’ sunrise in that window blessed me. It held the promise of a better place, and the courage to leave my chair—a miracle—and I walked its way.
There ends my eventful history.
Then the preachers. I don’t know whether to curse or kiss them; they reveal what shone behind me, that promise of timeless bliss, was an imagined light, a concocted-by-mind divinity that chimed with my own, now lost, religion—a crutch to whack and oust the fear of the end of (my) days. While each and every pan nearward was a toe-over-heel step rearward.
I hand back the telescope, and back-handedly thank them for the memories—falling, at last, over the edge to the quieting of the yapping dog.