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Meritocracy
Sunday, 2017-10-22, 9:59 AM
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Abraham's Hill Part V

The Journal of a Man who kept a Journal

It seems hard to believe that I’m about to kill myself…on account of my journal of all things. It all seemed so innocent when I first began scribbling in an old exercise jotter. Who could credit where that seemingly innocuous activity has led? It had been my intention simply to dash off my thoughts about anything that grabbed my attention. I started slowly, just a few minutes a day. I didn’t realise how quickly those minutes changed to hours. Soon I was carrying my journal with me everywhere I went. My pen was permanently in my hand. It was a shiny new Papermate, a present from my girlfriend – before she dumped me for writing about her. Even though it brought my hands out in an odd allergic rash, I insisted on using that pen and that pen alone.

I listened intently to other people’s conversations, hoping to discover a little pearl I could add to my precious notebook. I watched my neighbours with the searching eye of a private investigator. I had never realised how many utterly fascinating things they did each day. What a wealth of observations they furnished. But the best of all goldmines came in the shape of my friends. I often stopped them in mid-conversation to make them repeat something I hadn’t quite managed to commit to paper. Strangely, they seemed rather displeased that I was immortalising their thoughts. I put it down to modesty on their part.

It was such fun for a while. I thought I was laying the groundwork for a modern masterpiece, a sort of Jack Kerouac odyssey through small-town England. I fondly imagined I was honing my writing skills, converting myself into a quillster extraordinaire, a veritable writing machine. I would keep going. I would not be diverted. I would never stop until I had fulfilled my mission. My journal would furnish me with a lethal arsenal of drop-dead anecdotes. Ah, how simple it all seemed.

I suppose the moment of crisis came when I was watching a video of Stanley Kubrick’s film version of Stephen King’s spooky novel The Shining. Half way through the film, Jack Nicholson was thumping away on an ancient typewriter in much the same impassioned way as I committed my thoughts to my journal. His wife – Sissy Spacek I think it was (didn’t she star in Carrie?) – looked over his shoulder at what he was typing and was appalled to see that he was typing one, and only one, sentence over and over again. He had covered about two hundred manuscript sheets with that one sentence. The sentence itself could scarcely have been more chilling, signalling nothing but wholesale mental collapse: All work and no play makes Jack as dull boy.

That was the stark sentence, every bit as brilliant as it was terrifying. It might as well have been my life sentence. I looked down at my journal and realised that while I had been watching the dramatic scene, I had been imitating Nicholson in every particular.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, my journal madly proclaimed a thousand times over. The horror that seized me when I realised what I had done was so overwhelming that I immediately had to write about it in my journal.

I suppose it was then that I appreciated the full extent of my predicament. The fact was that I simply couldn’t stop writing. Even as I thought that thought, I wrote it down. I was a hopeless case. Not only had my girlfriend left me, all my friends had deserted me too, and my neighbours had moved as far away as they could manage. Finally, my boss had summarily sacked me for writing at work, and I immediately wrote about my dismissal in the most heart wrenching terms. He had particularly objected when I started writing down my observations about him. I was gloriously uninhibited. My journal demanded nothing but the purest truth. Couldn’t the fool see that? Couldn’t he appreciate an artist at work? Philistine!

I realised that I had effectively stopped living. I was like one of those crazy Japanese tourists addicted to filming everything. Rather than simply enjoying the spectacle they had come to see, they spent all their time filming it so that they could take the captured images back to Japan with them and replay them on a lifeless Japanese TV. They had sterilised the entire episode, drained all the life from it like the worst Nosferatus.

Don’t you see, everything has become a second hand image, a recycled imitation. We live in an inescapable ersatz world. Everything is one step beyond. We have placed a screen between the real world and ourselves. All direct experience has been destroyed.

I have achieved the same result with my journal. It has turned me into a virtual person, a kind of living ghost. I can no longer feel the fresh air against my skin. All I can do now is take one last revenge on the accursed jotter that has left my life as so many commas falling off the edge of a delete key. Burning the object would be crude. No, it must be subtler. My revenge must be…literary.

Luckily, I have the ideal ammunition. Just last week I was drowning my sorrows – hold on a moment while I make a note about how dreadful a cliché that is – in a drab local pub when a group of what I can only guess were creative writers lurched in with a rather wordy bounce to their step. They were engaged in a furious debate about whether or not something that they called ‘death in the first person’ could legitimately be performed in a short story. A spectacularly silly debate it seemed to me. I immediately made a few sneering notes in my journal. Now I can put those notes to their God-ordained purpose.

I am standing on a block of ice. A noose is around my neck. I have turned the central heating up to maximum. The ice beneath my feet is melting rapidly. It shouldn’t be long before the block is unable to support me. Even as my life runs headlong into the growing puddle on the carpet, I am carefully making notes in my journal. I am providing the definite proof that a story written in the first person can indeed conclude with the protagonist’s death.

I need only take one small liberty. Before the event actually transpires, I am going to write the words that they said could never be written. Imbeciles. How wrong they were. Let the words be shouted. Let them be carved on my headstone. Just to give them extra emphasis I am going to write then in a foreign language. Ah, the moment can be delayed no longer…

Je suis mort! 

Colour, Colour on the Wall

Not quite a fabled city. It shuns Joseph’s Coat of Many Colours. It is a crown at the top of Jacob’s Ladder. A thousand arcs of light leap-frog over one another to touch the hem of its royal robes. It lives in a hall of mirrors, surrounded by an infinity of glinting reflections and inversions. All of its shining faces are reversals. It glitters and sparkles like diamonds in the unique light of the world’s first dawn. It becomes black when it’s tarnished. It jangles into battle like a jaunty knight, and clatters on to the dinner table like a clumsy Sancho Panza. Unopened royal letters lie in a heap on its polished surface. It’s humble in the presence of only one other. It is the Second Age. It is a country. It has to be mined like coal, but it is never thrown on to any domestic fire. Its name is kept in a delicate, miniature domestic snuff box, intricately carved with magic runes. Its number is thirty and it lies at the foot of a Gospel Hanging Tree. Not quite El Dorado, the City of Gold...not quite.

What am I?

Metabolical Diabolical

‘What did you tell them?’

‘The truth – that I was going hunting.’ Jack tried to grin, but he found it impossible. Too many people had died.

‘No one has ever hunted game like this,’ Bobby muttered, finishing the elaborate zipping-up of his ski-jacket. The temperature had fallen to thirty degrees below zero. It was the coldest winter in memory. The last time it was cold as this a meteor had stretched out its fiery hand and brushed a Siberian village off the face of the world.

‘Well, who do you think did it?’ Jack turned to the remaining member of the trio of hunters in the snow.

Russheimer responded by speaking aloud the thought all three were sharing: ‘Whatever did this killing, it wasn’t human.’ He adjusted his snow visor with his thick mittens.

‘Not even from this planet if you ask me, Bobby added, taking a sharp intake of breath.

‘Some sort of vampire, do you think?’ Jack’s voice was full of faraway eastern mountains and eerie, deserted valleys. ‘Did you take a good look at the bodies? All the blood had been drained from them. Not a drop was left. Not a single blessed drop.’

Bobby felt sick just at the briefest recollection of the discovery of the twenty corpses. Sick and angry. He gripped the butt of his rifle more tightly. ‘Twenty skiers butchered in broad daylight,’ he said. ‘It shouldn’t be able to happen. We’ll get the bastard. We’ll get it whoever or whatever the damned thing is. I don’t care if it’s from Mars.’

The three hunters trudged through the snow. Their faces were resolute. They wouldn’t stop. Nor would they rest. They were heedless of darkness falling. They had mo tracks to follow in any case. All they had was a hunch that the creature had gone to the small wooden hut at the top of the highest mountain, a hut where an old mystic had once lived. It was a strange place, inexpressibly odd. An atmosphere of otherworldliness clung to it. It was like some sort of portal to another existence.

An unearthly creature was sure to be drawn there, like tears returning to the eyes of angels who had carried God’s coffin at the end of time. There’s so much sorrow, an infinity of sadness.

During great adventures, time alters its shape. The rhythm changes. Seconds pass more slowly, more cautiously, as if too scared to run ahead into an uncertain future. Events are magnified like paranoia. Feelings drink from an amethyst pool of higher intensity. The microscopic grows, the telescopic shrinks. Colours become sounds. Sounds become troubadours reciting tragic tales.

The three stalkers threw open the door of the snow hut. Inside they found a corpse of some hideously disfigured human. Frozen blood surrounded the body. It cracked and shattered as the men walked over it. All the splintered agony of a lifetime of alienation was trapped in that ice-locked lifeblood. A suicide note was clutched in the death-grip of the monster.

Russheimer tried to retrieve the note, but when he put his hand on the creature’s arm, the frozen arm snapped off and fell onto the floor. Russheimer nearly vomited. Bobby pushed him aside and pitilessly snapped off all of the corpse’s icicle fingers until they surrendered the man’s last will and testament.

Bobby read it to the others. He started in a callous tone; he ended in tears. This was the note…

‘My name is George Fitzwilliam. Being of sound mind, I now record my final moments on this earth. May God have mercy on my soul. It seems like an eternity ago but it was only last week that my condition first manifested itself. How was I to know that I carried the illegitimate bloodline of a mad English king? Who would believe me that I could trace my ancestry all the way back to George III? But I could. That is where the disease was born, the disease that would stretch through the centuries like an implacable hand of Satanic fate to strike me down.

‘The medical name for the disease, my disease, is porphyria. It is an affliction of the blood. It is essential that you know the symptoms of the condition. Perhaps then you will understand. Perhaps you might forgive.

‘The disease makes the sufferer allergic to garlic, and it causes him to shun the light. The sufferer’s skin shrinks; his muscles contract. In particular, the flesh around his mouth is drawn so far back that his teeth are made to look unnaturally pronounced, more like those of an animal, of a wolf…a werewolf.

    But, above all, comes the hunger, the hunger for one substance alone, for the sacred liquid, the energising red river of life. Blood. Blood it is that must be found. Blood becomes everything. How can I be condemned for seeking that which I must have in order to live? I must have blood and…TO BE CONTINUED