“Memories are fine, but when past lingers ahead of the present then progress ceases.” The Amanuensis.
This was once going to begin a book reflecting on the life of the physician who specialised in mental health during events that occurred during previous books in the fictitious town of Houghton Fengrave. Some characters referred to are amidst the blog in short stories, blog battle entries or WIPS. Dave being the Paradox Man referred to by The Black wyvern, Rose has her own book as do Emma, Ade and Rowena. None of these have yet escaped into the world of publishing.
Whittaker is staged much later, or was going to be. I unearthed the opening paragraph whilst in prompt word limbo. It’s not a style I’m used to, so it’s raw. It’s also a long time since I’ve written outside the lands of Yish and Naz so it felt rather strange. The last line was curious. It told me things in Houghton are not yet finished.
My name is Kevin Whitaker and I have a story to tell. A life tale from a man of science turned by events, circumstances that logic fails upon. A tragedy that befell a whole town leaving many lost and in my surgery seeking help. At first it was children. Brought in by concerned parents whose own minds didn’t understand. Later they did, and children became adults. Dribs and drabs seeking mental health advice and referrals. Nothing that might attract attention as something interconnected. Unless you are me.
It’s many years later now. Dust has settled and the town carries on as if nothing ever happened. We know better though. I say we, but by that I mean those that know. The nod of heads and transient eye contact. A half smile lost in knowing I know their secrets and am bound by confidentiality to keep it such. That makes me a key to Pandora’s Box.I’m writing this sat on a bench in the local park. It has a good view, not of trees and woods, but of a council playing field. A tarmac path loops round it passing tennis courts, a kiosk selling coffee and light snacks.
A bowling green lurks behind a stand of trees. Closed at this time of year, but taking new members from April. If you walk this path regularly then people begin to remember. Perfunctory “Good mornings” become accented by nods and smiles. A community of almost friends bound together by time of day and routine. Each noting an absence and wondering if all is well.There are no names to these people. They exist in other worlds with family and friends that none of us will ever know. But for brief moments each day we are one together walking the path around the playing field. Dog walkers with their plastic bags, others with young children, the commando fitness trainers and those heading toward town and work.
For now I sit elsewhere in the cold sun before what was once a green field. It’s Autumn and the trees are fast shedding. A brief exaltation of colour before the skeletons of winter await spring. Here my story collides with another. Two arms of time flung together in coincidence… or destiny.
Graveyards are not exotic places as a rule. They do, however, hold a charm that touches those that, what is the word? Empathise with the past, feel the ghosts walking down the years or, to use colloquial expression, tune into the spectral radio. This particular yard of the resting overlooks a much older chapel. One that is rumoured to no longer be sanctified. Templar in origin and renowned for its inhabitants. The screaming monks. It tied in with parts of the shrine at the Oak. A public house where many of my clients once frequented. A paranormal pictorial display sited in a snug with a fireplace where old friends gather to pass stories. Derrick, the landlord, had a yen for this arm of his business.
Regular meetings of the weird and strange. Ghost hunters and the like.I never used to believe in such. Physics and science there to provide answers to known phenomena and hope that one day it will also unlock the unknown that often fuels fears and Gods. Or ghosts.
Before me lies a child’s grave. I recall the first visit of this ones sister. Not just a sister, but an identical twin that witnessed a traffic accident where two became one. She swore it was no normal incident. Something I later recognised as more people drifted into the surgery.
Dave, the former lollipop man, who arrived late for duty that day. Rose, the woman that carried the living sister, Emily, back to the school. Rowena and Adrian, locked out of each other’s lives for a year after a trauma nobody believed. Rebecca who suffered black outs that no science could explain. She swore her realities switched into another world. Nobody believed that then. I do now.
That was then. Here I can see worlds bleeding together, separated only by the inability to see them. Or is that just collective refusal to accept the unknown?
For my part this bench reminds me of my son. Not the bench, but the small grave it overlooks. Deliberately placed, if my information is correct, so the groundskeeper could hold a vigil of remembrance. Tending if daily in penitence of his former road crossing position. His confessions at my surgery inferred it was penitence for being late. I’m certain life often makes people late now and then. Even mentioning that caused him discomfort. To suggest it was anything other than a tragic accident created a boundary he would not cross. I think, looking back, there was more unsaid than disclosed. Then, as with others tangled in this spiders web, he disappeared.
Back to my son. Life for him lasted just five years. Grief avoidance has not rested well with me. It is only now I can assemble his life draining away into something tangible. It was not science. I should have addressed this when Rose queried the photo on my desk during her sessions. She knew I think. Life is connected with unseen streams that weave and merge into one. Binding people together throughout time and space. Maybe it really is physics at some level, or maybe physics in our dimension works differently to others. Something has to explain the screaming monks after all. And the withering of my son whose blood counts dropped until nothing was left to confer immunity. Science failed there.
It’s hard not to consider other options. Was it my fault? Poor genetics, missing something, or failing to see that something else was real. Background tales in Houghton’s history. The Black Marsh with it’s rumoured folly holding a beast, the firing of Marsh Bank House way back killing the infamous Elizabeth Beechwood. If you believed the paranormal pub snug then the folly was a focal point for a pentagram whose arms reached both chapel and house. As did the pub and certainly that place is steeped in history. Further back in time there was a sanguisage plague. That was before the Marsh. Some say the olde village lies beneath it. Deliberately flooded to purify the land. If so, what lies interred beneath?
I dwell too much. For my part, I fear the night now. My dreams fill with impossible things. Nightmares that haunt both waking and sleeping. Horrors that dusk welcomes. I see things too, even now as the sun begins to wane and I must turn toward home. For upon this chyldes tombstone I now see words that were not there before.
“I am not dead.”
Wow, Gary. I can’t quite put words to it, but this piece really hit me in the gut. There’s a profound wisdom and sadness in the mind of Whittaker. You’ve really nailed the sense of grief and greyness — I could feel the crisp autumn air, could taste the mildew of rotting leaves.
I loved the conversational tone, as if he’s speaking to another. Or, perhaps, speaking with himself? Trying to tease out repressed or forgotten pieces? Trying to convince? I also really liked seeing the familiar names woven into this piece. Many I know, a couple I don’t. I also liked the screaming monks — a loud counterpoint to my senseless lot! I’d like to know more about them, very curious.
A really beautiful piece, Gary — there’s not much more I can say. I think I’ll sit and contemplate on this for a short while. Very moving.
Thanks Joshua. This was promoted by a tiny paragraph written in a folder rediscovered by the same name as this piece. It was supposed to be the start of a book, but became part of the pile of ideas unresolved. I think there’s always a touch of self appraisal going on when long held beliefs are shaken.
The screaming monks appear in something I wrote ages ago with the paranormal brothers. It appears in Black Marsh…another unpublished novel.
Maybe I have the personality to drag these pieces into the type of contemplation points you mention… not done this months yet though 😱
An interesting story! Due to my dad being very ill right now (PancreaticCancer) a few nights ago I asked Google what happens when you die. So many theories, including the multiverse… I hope this story is completely fiction for you but it has got me thinking. Great ending, raising the question of where is he?
Thanks Marian. While this is fiction and based on a book character from a while back it does draw on some personal experiences. This one tried to challenge a man of science trying to reconcile there may be things science can’t explain (yet?). Or that other dimensions might not play out with laws of physics that this one does. I do play out the worlds within worlds a lot with things I write too. It’s a fascinating thing to me. Space and time weaving about. The other stories with Yish and Naz probably have more of that than many realise ha,ha. Mind you I really ought to actually write that story line properly at some point.
My thoughts are with you too re your Dad. Tough times and that part I can empathise with after both my parents went before age took them.
Thanks Gary, well it does sound interesting! Yes you definitely need to write it as you say. Thanks, yes its a terrible time, carer’s have said he will be gone by the weekend. I keep crying!
Not a nice place to be in Marian. I feel for you. Try and stay with the happy memories. I know it’s easy to say, but I will wager they out way the bad. It helped me x
Yes many happy memories, we all thought we had longer! Its really hard! Thankyou x
Nicely done, my friend. But you already know that 🙂 It’s wonderful being privy to the stories in your head through our discussions 🙂
I’m certain this will form into chapters and then a book. You once again captured my interest for sure. We so need more- no pressure 😉
Too kind Helen. Whittaker is somewhat behind the rest of that cast methinks. Have to get into Dave first!
Very contemplative piece here! Raises many questions although my familiarity with these characters also gives it a homecoming feel. There is a definite feeling of … not exactly suspense, maybe more like intrigue … at the beginning when Whittaker mentions how the town carries on as though nothing ever happened. Can’t help but think there is more to happen. My curiosity is also piqued by the screaming monks. Is this the first mention of them, or did I miss something, or did the mists of time obscure them from my memory…? 😉 I get the feeling Whittaker was a man of ‘cold, hard’ science, but the events he’s witnessed are making him ponder if there might not be ‘more’ out there. Oh, I also liked the quote at the beginning – it addresses at least a couple levels beneath the surface!
Thanks Abe, I felt there was a somber or sobering trend when writing it. Couldn’t quite tell if it was my mood or Whittaker’s! The screaming monks do feature in a piece written ages ago for a book on what back then were known as the paranormal brothers. Whittaker is from that series. A Dr on the mind so to speak. Definitely a hard man of science yes, but not anymore as he witnessed some very strange events through the people that descended on his practice. I think it’s created quite a brooding fellow now. The opening paragraph was written with the ambition of writing a book from his angle on events too. I dug it our while trying to find something for this months prompt. I wasn’t sure it worked as I’ve spent so long in the world of Yish and Naz it felt a tad odd. That said there’s several WIPS that are I need of doing related to this particular story arc.
The quote is from a growing repertoire of phrases pinched from The Amanuensis and his cohorts too. I rather think this world build is getting out of hand 😳