Friday, December 11, 2009

Don't mention headaches or they'll write you up in a different book altogether, son.

A blithe attitude and a ready quip will only get a chap so far when his arm doesn't work and he can't tell which one. Try dropping the needle onto the record with any kind of grace with that on your plate and then send me a postcard. Just don't say Wish You Were Here.

Still in the wash of the wetting of the books

Undrowning the study an ongoing concern. Didn't realise it was water at first; just thought the books were floating in the air and turning their own pages. Strangely comforting. Nostalgia, most likely. Science scant help.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

How many summers can I sell you?

The handle comes off the mug and the mug just floats away. Even the once-nice thought of sending us up here with warming evidences of whence (tooth brushes, biscuit tins, Eagle annuals) has cooled to cold and I often see the ladies and gentlemen of the crew crying now. Off in quiet spots, of course; no mention of it afterwards.

Crawling out to the compromised arm of the ship on Saturday nights to play the jukebox in the lounge there becomes more dangerous with each try. If only Saturday night came around more than once a week. But even the thought of a little dance on a tuesday, say, or a thursday evening, brings nothing but objections from some of the more committed members of the crew, along with earnest wax-crayon scribbles in glass notebooks and a variety of hard looks.

If only I could catch the eye of SFC Hood. Then we might form a little caucus, a little quorum of our own and scramble out to the lounge with a pocketful of change. But she hasn't taken off her helmet for quite a while now. Nor touched her food. Nor moved.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Managing to send back a few snaps at least

Obviously I would have preferred a picture with all three of us in it, but someone had to hold the camera. The letter I had included with the photos was largely blacked out by the censor, but there was just enough sense left in the thing to allow me to piece together what I was trying to say to myself.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Smoke Signals in the Night

DoctorProfessor Nyfenfork, in perhaps a bid to make me more compliant, has moved my house closer to the hospital.

And it almost worked! There was me, thinking that nobody noticed me climbing out the window after lights out, shinning down the drainpipe and legging it into my own kitchen for a cup of tea (the water in the house is so much more palatable than that at Saint Feasance's) when all the time I should have been alert to the fact that this was probably exactly what he (and Blackmann) wanted me to do.

But dash it, it's my own house; my own cups and spoons; my own cupboards and my own jamjars. I left the kitchen light off- the flame under the kettle cast more than enough light for me to feel comfortable; relaxed, even- especially when I thought about all the nurses clambering around outside, trying to be quiet as they spied on me, getting more and more vexed as they failed to establish even what room I was in (I don't glow anymore).

So I made a pot of tea and let it draw. The view from the kitchen window was different. How could it not be? If Nyfenfork had brought the garden along with the house then he mught have had a chance of bringing me around. But he hadn't, and all there was to look out upon was the walls of the hospital. This, however, comforted me. I had another biscuit from the tin.

As my eyes adjusted I began to be able to make out that the nurses, dressed in commando gear or not, were beginning to get steadily less stealthy as the night wore on and their patience grew thin. They were hardly even bothering to conceal themselves anymore.

Cheeky little faces in the dark, all scrunched up and serious. When I saw one of them yawning, I quietly put the kettle on again. Then I placed the biscuit tin in plain view on the table, and waited.

I could hear them talking out there, but I couldn't make out what they were saying. Then: more silence. After a few minutes of this the kettle boiled and I made a fresh pot of tea. It had been drawing for a couple of minutes when I heard the quiet knock upon the front door.

I took in a breath, let it out, and stood up. I was in no hurry. Then, with my hands in the pockets of my dressing gown I sauntered casually out of the kitchen and along the hall, all the while pretending not to see the eyes watching me through the letterbox.

I opened the door and made a good show of being surprised to see half a dozen nurses in commando gear standing there looking sheepish. Of course I asked them in.

It was warm in the kitchen and they were cold. They rubbed their hands together and eyed the biscuit tin. First one, then the rest, took off their balaclava helmets. "A vast improvement, ladies!" I said, pouring six cups of tea and giving myself a hot drop. Two or three of them smiled, shyly, whispering yes pleases or no thank yous as I offered milk and sugar. No-one refused a biscuit.


All of the trainees holidayed in Garma. Or at least they did so eventually. Both together and, increasingly, separately. Many of them retired there, whether they know it or not. Such details are impossible to check, particularly in the off season. Sightings of the lady in the yellow dress continue to be recorded, however. The weather is the same as ever.

The waters are said to possess certain properties conducive to the mental peace of those most extremely affected. I have a postcard of the hotel on my bedside locker still. Even now, I could walk there. And the crunch of the stones on the beach beneath my...Why am I seeing space boots when I look down at my feet?

One can check in for a single night or for a longer stay. It might have been Logan who first...But now I'm thinking about boots again. Crunching along the shore of- Wait a minute: They don't have water on the moon. Nor would I be able to hear the crunch of my boots, out there. This is the sort of confusion I have to keep quiet about, if I ever want to walk out through that gate. So a moment's thought brings clarity: I'm not the one wearing the space suit. It's those two chaps following me along the beach at what they imagine is a discreet distance, put up to this by Dr Blackmann, no doubt. And if I'm walking along the beach in Garma, then this must be the past. Oh, thank god.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Clink of paintbrush tipping against the side of a jamjar full of water as it's dipped. Sunny morning, this. The blooms on my skin are quiet. It's difficult to remember, of course, whether upon this particular occasion I have escaped into, or out of, the hospital. Certainly the old familiar bits and pieces seem familiar, but familiarity's like that.

Sound of the brush being swished in the water. The thought occurs that if I sit up I should be able to see what he's painting. Which thought of course comes clattering along afterwards like half of the Crazy Gang hurtling onto the stage and tripping over the other half: Brush means a hand to hold it. Hand means an arm. Arm means a person. A person means, well, that there's another person in here.

Tink, tink again- the sound inflected with a roundness rather than a pointedness- as the excess water is tapped off the brush. Well, comes a not unwelcome thought, this corpse won't sit up by itself. So I give it a try.

He must have heard the groaning as my defamiliared bits managed at last to move in concert. All I could see was an easel, over near the window. And I had an impression that there was someone standing behind the canvas mounted on that easel, artisting away.

Tired from the sitting up, I rested awhile, holding on to the bars and remembering that, yes, I receive my care in a cage. But the familiarity with which that thought asserts itself makes me immediately distruct it. Either way, there are bars.

Speech is still some distance from being possible. Fine. I just want to look. There's the jamjar, resting on the window ledge. Flutter of sun ripples through it, throwing little white spots onto the floor. Then a hand reaches out from behind the work in progress and dips the brush to clean it again. Only...

...The water was and remains clear. Even after another dip. "Don't worry", the painter reassures me. "You're not imagining things. I'm not using paint."

Which fact he proves by making both of his hands visible to me. No palette. He had what looked like a duelling scar on his face, however. But I was more interested in what he was painting.

"You know very well what I'm painting", he said, as I finally realised that I had not, in fact, asked any question. "And you know why I can never use paint on my brush."

I began to guess what he was talking about, and for a moment I was back in BERG-1, tootling out to where it's not even safe to think about tootling to. If we even ever tootled there.

"Oh, you did", said the painter. "And such things you saw. Here, I've painted some of them."

So he turned the blank canvas towards me. It's funny the way we give familiar (that word again) names to things we have no names for. I'm thinking of the chaps in the trenches, calling this bit of muck Piccadilly Circus, or that rock Gibraltar. Which I hope goes some way to explain why I can only describe what he had painted for me as the grasses of Soho Square burning as the red water of Bury St Edmunds erupted through them from the caverns of Bermondsey below; a night scene, this, lit by the fifth moon of Clapham, idling above. Scattered throughout, oranged by the flames, were numerous examples of the things we jokingly called buses (until such time as they ceased to be a joke) walking about on their...well, they were sort of like legs.

"I'm sorry", the painter said. "I've upset you."

"No," I managed, speaking for the first time in months. "Not at all. It's just...nostalgia, I suppose."

"I understand, Victor", he said. "You don't mind if I refer to you as Victor?" Of course I didn't. Victor was a familiar name. "I understand, Victor", he repeated. "We all get homesick."

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Murderer

Inside the corridors the outside of the garden blends with the wallpaper as the window is surmounted, overcome and eventually blotted out by the things growing in at me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Do you think there's really fire in those fire buckets?

It's very quiet in the hospital. The sheets have all but dissolved. They stick to me. The doctors are embarrassed and will not discuss what went wrong. The tiles are loose. I can listen to anything I like on the radio. But broadcasts from the moon don't reach us here. The cities recede. Oh, and the little model of my home I've been building under the bed turned out to be the real thing.