“Now you see Coque, what it is right, is that you just been born. Not re-born. Born” continued John, “What you see around yer, right, is all real. Real as where yer come from just now, right, and where yer is now, is exactly that, now. Simple right?”
No, not simple at all lamented Mini.
The darkness of the night he had gone to work in prior to his birth, was exactly what Mini found cloaking him. Ill at ease whilst walking down a grassed embankment beside a dirt track, it became apparent to Mini that a walking, talking, bald and charred man of his own height, wearing what could only be best described as the remnants of an extremely old dress was stalking along beside him. His crispy companion also sported the scar in outline of a crucifix burnt white into his chest. A charcoal burns victim with white scarification?
However, what Mini found to be strangest of all was the faint and smoky ghost like numbers, oddly floating around 30 cm his newly minted companions’ head. They were ten centimetres high and stretched out to forty centimetres width. All in an old style of French script. The numbers read ‘30051431’.
Stranger still, if that was even vaguely possible, was that the white ferret at his heel bore the number ‘29052012’ above its head also.
“Ummmm………..”, being a favourite word come phrase used by footballer’s the world, over escaped his lips. This was the second longest conversation Mini had had in the last six months.
“Well me old Coque, here’s how it works.” John inhaled deeply, completely ignoring Mini’s turn of phrase, and continued. “You know when you was alive right? An’ you was alive too might I add, but not totally alive, if you know what I mean?”
Mini did not. What Mini did know was that he had an increasingly abundant sensation that he was being exposed to some bottomless level of insanity, and it was washing him deeper within its vortex of some disturbed psyche. A habit he was definitely going to break.
“Well you see that life was just yer trainer wheels so to speak. A probation period ‘life’, that sort of thing.”
Mini’s inner monologue screamed whilst listening in vague terror that this could and was actually happening.
“So when yer dies, right, it pretty much means you are either off yer ‘P’ plates and yer passed their poxy test right. Or, yer get ta resit them like, which is what happens with babies and kids and stuff who weren’t around long enough to make decisions as to what sort of person they was going ter be. That means either growing up to be a right bastard worth hangin’ or regular boofhead content with just gettin’ on with it like. Then when yer pass, yer get sent here right. But passing don’t mean you’ve lead a good life right. Good or bad don’t matter. What matters is you have had an opportunity at life, and you made judgements that eternally show your character, and what direction your moral compass points. That’s what ‘Death’ were readin’ when she birthed yer back there, an’ she ain’t never wrong. Ever. So now she knows if you’re good or bad or you are just a result of certain circumstance that caused yer ta make decisions that were out of your control. Like me right? I weren’t meant to be wearin’ no dress getting burnt at the stake right?”
‘This isn’t real, this isn’t real’, rolled like a scratched record through whatever grey matter either was, or, was not filling the space between his ears as he walked. Sadly enhancing the confusion riveted to the fore of Mini’s introvert mind further.
“Most importantly Coque is don’t think too hard about it, or look deeper into it. It is what it is, and that’s it.” Said John, pausing to look at his left foot, puzzling at what he may have stepped in. “Since you’ve shown if you are good or bad or whatever while you had your training wheels, back in Gero, that was what we call that place yer see. Gero means ‘then’ in Basque, just so’s yer know. So, say it, go on ‘Gero’.”
“Gero.” Mini quietly repeated.
“Orain, Basque for ‘now’, which is the here and right now, is the time that we live forever so long as we don’t upset no one in a big way. And in a ‘big way’ means thinkin’ you is better than everyone else really. Anyway, you’ll figure that out later. Here we are then.”
Grass had given way to gravel; the gravel track had gained cobbles by the time predawn light started waking the world. Still in his late night rubbish collecting outfit, the reflective strips shone like a beacon.
Stopping to remove his helmet, Mini looked around as though for the first time, which in an ironic, mind altering way, it was.
Considering this, Mini viewed the world. Hmmmmm……………the world? Is it the ‘the world’? Internal monologue clicks over. ‘Where am I?’ another doozie. ‘When am I? Actually?’ equally perplexing. ‘France’, possibly? ‘The essence of France’ more likely. What is the go with the different outfits and trends in fashion? What’s the go with the ferret, and do I have a home to go to? Is there money, do I have money, how do I get money?
“Em, and what happens at the end of this life? What does, er, God, the Gods, do with us?” Mini’s first scream free sentence as a new born.
“Simple really. You don’t play by the rules an’ ‘Death’ comes a’knockin’ again with them secateurs, ‘cept this time it ain’t to cut away yer necrobilical cord. It’s ta cut the head off of yer soul. No soul, no life, an’ no life from here on is what every religion finds a different word for, but agree on in principle. That bein’ ‘Hell’. An’ ‘Hell’ is worse than bein’ stuck in a loop at a tambourine, recorder, and piano accordion festival. It’s worse than bein’ forced to watch endless re-runs of the Euro Vision song contest thing, although not quite as bad as watching the majority of US reality television.”
Slumping down into an ant avoiding semi-seated position on the ground, Mini shudders at the thought of ignorant people disclosing personal problems to a cheering hooting booing heckling television audience from a nation full of people of severe ignorance, a chronic lack of basic education, and the geographical awareness of a hamster on a wheel. Then the ‘hamster wheel’, plus the ‘piano accordion’ simile. Escaping such hideous visions, he leans to John, question on tongue “So what now? Where do I go, what do I do, that sort of thing? Do I look sort of ‘flat’ to you?”
“Simple Coque. Take off where you wished you had left off and start again. You put your mind to what you dreamt of doing in your trainer wheel life, ‘Gero’, focus on it, and follow that thought until you find yourself. You can’t change your appearance however, no matter how hand hard you try and I have tried old Coque. How I’ve tried. Anyway, follow what you wanted to be but never were, and that is your light home, both literally and as a crap metaphor.” Old John passing on mid slump, getting stuck half way as a result of a non elastic movement somewhere between thigh and singed hem. Falling the rest of the distance to the ground, landing with a grunt and a string of medieval French profanities in the dialects of Domremy and Limousine. Captain Archibald Haddock would have blushed at the verbal eruption. Ant’s swarmed to John.
“John. For your help I will always be truly thankful. But to repeat myself, why help me as you have? Do you want something of me?”
“No my friend, I lived nineteen years in my first life, Gero, and 580 something in my second, here in Orain. I am in no rush to go anywhere. Your ferret act was the funniest thing I’ve seen since that short arse Napoleon met some Pom named Nelson! Then I witnessed your birth, now your confusion and plight. I think old Coque, that I will help you on your way until you are back on your feet like.”
With a nod of vague appreciation and a nervous smile Mini relaxed ever so slightly. Wondering why a ferret, not that Mini had anything against ferrets, it was psychopathic, scatty, hissing, spitting cats he was not a fan of, would continue to trail him? His nose still throbbed at the memory of their first encounter.
“Why is there a ferret with us?”
“I have no idea. It may be the extra baggage that old cow ‘Death’ spoke of. He has your number to.”
“Yes, “29052012”, your number. We all have one, well except for the like’s o’the ones over the extra-hairy lads dressed in animal skins from Chauvet. They have either, the moon, the sun, or a muddy sort of a hand print. No numbers back then old Coque!!”
Chauvet. Hairy, no calendar. The cave paintings of Chauvet had been dated roughly 35000 years before the birth of that Rabbi who was an Islamic prophet as well as political dissident, and had a Dad named Joseph!! INRI!!! I wonder who else is floating around here?
“Otherwise old Coque, we just keep on livin’ like. Me I was five hundred and eighty years in May last year. No one die’s ‘ere cause there ain’t no need. Unless you’re a right bastard o’course, so I guess if you was some sort o’religious nut, yer could say we’s in heaven.”
People wander by without apparent destination, aiding in the digestion of all that Mini has heard. Absolutely none of it making any sense, yet, in the same breath, and yet understanding every word of it. What the hell do I do now?
As an introvert, Mini, through the distinct lack of interruptions that people, and society in general cause, he had time management down to a tee. Spending countless mornings after work, concocting as many conceivable dramatic situations as possible; to then plan meticulously for every eventuality. He had file after file filled with neatly written A4 sheets, including sketches and glued in photocopies of information and devices and plants and telephone numbers and packets of seeds and coordinates.
Very little escaped him, with one exception, the ability to commit anything written to memory. Auditory or tactile learning was always his thing whilst at school.
“IPod, water, shelter, warmth” were his initial thoughts. Then second thoughts stepped forward, elbowing ‘first thoughts’ aside with a delightfully careless abandon.
“John, what was it you said earlier?”
“I loved your ferret show. Can you do it again? I haven’t seen a good travelling ferret show since one bit a bloke on the nadgers in a pub a couple o’hundred years back. Come on old Coque, get him out!! Just the ferret mind you!! Haw haw!!! Ok, it was a crap joke, but what are you going to do like?! Me timing was impeccable!”
“Maybe later for the ferret. Take me back to where you found me, and do I look a bit squished to you?”
John took him. Mini did look squished. The ferret followed.
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