Chapter Nineteen

Couldwell. Here we are. We walked down the corridor and alighted from the train. To either side of me I saw scores of people stepping off, unloading trunks and baggage. I wondered about each of them. How could I have not noticed them before? Mr H_ waddled over to a large congregation of families waiting for him. Looks like local dignitary. The heat is awful. My collar itches. Paisley is panting. I covered the baby’s head and took out this diary and I’m writing this now. 

I can see the town ahead. Many buildings, a town hall, some wooden structures, some Model T cars. Sign says ‘Couldwell – population 278.’

I am the last person by the train. Everyone else is walking into the town. Will follow. Turned around to look at the train. Was not surprised. Train has gone. All that is left is a huge, long sand bank in its place. Cyclones on the horizon have resumed their metronomic movements. Someone I know used to count the time by the cyclones. I cannot remember who. That memory is a dune in my mind. I will read back over my writings when in my lodgings and see if I can investigate it. Hope you are here Brekker or you are near. Need to find Lucy, need to investigate the dream, need to burn TheNeverPages. 

The sun is high and catastrophic. Baby is shaded and sleeping. Going into town now

Both my nostrils have started to bleed.

I have written that last passage twice. Copied it out verbatim. I took one step toward Couldwell and the crowds walking off into town, when a lightning-bolt shot through my psyche. That is what it felt like, Brekker. A sudden charge. Flashes of pain. Images, sounds, and smells rocketed through my mind in an instant and I staggered backwards, falling onto my knees and dropping the diary onto the sand.

As soon as I did so, the baby in my arms woke up and looked at me. Big soggy eyes. Paisley too looked up at me. I have put baby down on ground and am sitting next to it under the hot sun. Townsfolk drifting away. Last of bags and trunks being dragged away. Feel empty. Feel taut. Like muscles have been pulled. Will sacrifice a memory to better explain how I feel. Maybe that will help you shed some light on what just happened to me moments ago.

I was eight and you, Brekker, were called to my parent’s house. Autumn evening. Sister was by bedroom door, half in, half out, chewing blanket with worry. Mother and father were looming over me. Faces of concern. They said I had been playing in the sun, by the merry-go-round. They said my sister had sat me upon it and pushed me around and around. I had begun to feel dizzy. The light flicked between rails of merry-go-round and dazzled me. Like somebody turning light on and off in my face. Stroboscopic. Fiercely stroboscopic. The figure of my sister was moving so fast in front of me that I could only see her in left eye, then right eye – never in both. And the stroboscopic light. They said I lurched and fell backwards, convulsing. Epileptic. Awoke in bed, and you were standing over me with your medicine bags. Remember you laying out tonics, crèmes, balms, lotions and strange pots of ionic grass. Father forbade their use. Asked for simple diagnosis. You examined me. Said that I had strained my psychology. Epileptic Muscular and Neurological Tensile Exertion. Parents look baffled. 

Above passage now means nothing to me. But I trust the passage before it and assume that is how I feel now. Feel that, in mind, stroboscopic events have happened. These are the images I saw in my mind’s eye as that lightning bolt forked through me, for their imprint will last a little longer I feel. 

  • Concrete compounds.
  • Kiosk.
  • Old woman.
  • Melted flesh and the smell of cheese.
  • A shadow on a ceiling.
  • Myself, looking at myself.
  • Pushing something in a barrow.
  • A storm.
  • Journal in the sand. 
  • Poor Paisley sinking in quicksand. 
  • Tumours and screams. 
  • A face I cannot remember, but one I loathed. Mistrust. 
  • A man in a desert. Sinking.
  • Fog. Beacons in fog.
  • A crying man in a glass-bubbled flying machine.

Brekker, my dear, it looks like I will have a lot to investigate. 

Taken inventory of what I have. 

  • Journal – complete as expected. Addition though – over last few pages, have noticed alterations in text. Well, scuff marks really. Faint outlines. As if I had erased something. Or that something has been faintly overlaid. Difficult to tell in the sun. Can tell that it is my own handwriting as my ‘r’s are distinctive. I think the pages have aged and the ink is seeping through them. Will be extra careful in noting evidence.
  • Paisley! What a companion he is. Even now his little bullet is glinting at me in that eye socket. 
  • Tumour Baby – Alex, gone back to sleep. I can assume he has made my arm soggy even if the heat has dried it out. Like dolphin out on land, I assume I should keep him wet. Just in case. When in lodgings I will bathe him.
  • Periscope – tied to belt. The eyeball design strikes me now as a little more than just ‘familiar’. A tuning fork goes off in my mind when I look at it. The design holds a weighty recognition within me. Not sure if that’s a good thing.
  • Note in pocket! Interesting find – says, “You will forget me, but I will not. Now I am a cyclone. Love, your Angeline” – total gibberish. No idea who Angeline is or what it means. 

And that’s it. All present, correct. Onward, into Couldwell. The feeling of Epileptic Muscular and Neurological Tensile Exertion has passed and has been replaced with calm expectancy. 

Quick note on location. To the east and west lies a great plain. Behind me, dunes of red sand, cyclones like metronomes on horizon. North of town is a large ridge, maybe 800 feet high. Nothing larger than it around although I can see something peeking over its edge. There is something vast behind that ridge. It is glinting like a star. Reflecting in the sun. Like a beacon. Will investigate in good time.

On main street now. It is called Torpor Avenue. Couldwell is empty. The ants must be in the nest. Can see a sign for a hotel. Sign says simply ‘rooms’. Going to check in. No sign of any storms on the horizon, skies are clear and blue. I am in Couldwell, Brekker, come find me. Come parlay old, dear friend.

Graham Thomas