sondersojourn

A collection of writings, essays, and thoughts.

As the moon

She is as the moon. Beautiful, shining, celestial. A force of intelligence and introspection, of longing and of mystery.

She is the cause of a thousand dreams. She is the silvery glow calming my stormy sea. She waxes and wanes, but never truly leaves. Through darkest night she guides me. Through loneliness she shines downs upon me.

She loves and is loved by all.

She is as the moon. Beautiful, shining, celestial – and forever out of my reach.

Chapter One

As the hatchet flew across the room, bouncing shaft-first off the wall, Jarratt muttered a prayer of thanks for fanatics. So caught up in their righteous fury, they will willingly throw their weapon in zealous madness. Idiots. As Jarratt ducked the hatchet, however, the fanatic charged forwards ramming him to the ground. Arms, legs and fists flailed around. On his back, Jarratt took an elbow to the face, his nose spurting blood. The fanatic shifted his weight on to Jarratt’s legs pinning him down. Locking his hands together, the fanatic swung them into his face. If Jarratt’s nose wasn’t broken before, it was now. The force of the blow slammed his head against the floor. Painful light bloomed across his vision, sending waves of nausea through his body.

Though some blood had trickled into his eyes, Jarratt saw the fanatic pull a long, jagged dagger from his belt. His legs were still pinned and the pounding and throbbing in his head was unbearable. Slowly, the fanatic dragged the blade across his own tongue with a sickening gurgle of laughter. Jarratt saw that his pupils were fully dilated, eyes bulging out of their sockets. It’s well known that these religious lunatics routinely ingest enough narcotics to kill even the biggest auroch. This one was no different, clearly out of his mind in a bid to bring him closer to the Old One.

Jarratt was wracked with fear. To be honest, he thought, it was a miracle he hadn’t shit himself yet. The fanatic leaned down towards him, blood from his cut tongue dripping onto Jarratt’s face, those deranged eyes filled with rage and hatred. Pure desperation gripped Jarratt. He surged his head forwards, smashing his bloody and broken face into the grinning one in front of him. Jarratt felt his nose squash in ways that shouldn’t be possible, stabs of pain shooting across his face. But his gambit paid off. The fanatic reeled away, easing the weight from his legs. Jarratt bucked upwards, knocking the man off him. Risking a glance, Jarratt saw the discarded hatchet a few feet away. He lunged towards it, but could sense that the fanatic had the same idea. Jarratt got there first, grabbing it and twisting around to meet his attacker. Swinging round, arm stretched out with the hatchet, Jarratt saw the fanatic was in mid leap towards him. The hatchet bit into the man’s neck with a meaty thud, the momentum of his jump pushing it deep into flesh and muscle. The fanatic crashed into Jarratt, slamming him against the floor again. This time, however, there was no struggle, just mild twitching. He was dead.

With his last vestige of energy, Jarratt pushed the dead weight of the fanatic off him and collapsed back onto the floor. He was panting hard and, now that the adrenaline of the fight was leaving him, the pain across his face was building.

OK, lesson learned. Jarratt thought to himself. Never underestimate the drugged-up deranged.

The chaos of the fight had lasted less than a minute, but a lot had happened in that time. For instance, Jarratt realised that smoke was filling the room.

Shit, they’ve started already?!

Even though he would have loved nothing more than to lie on the ground forever, Jarratt hauled himself to his feet. Blood flowed steadily from his broken nose, and his breathing was coming in gurgling rasps. The smoke was rapidly filling the room and the temperature was rising just as fast.

They were supposed to wait for me, dammit!

Something must have gone wrong. Well, something else must have gone wrong because the nutcase Jarratt just fought was not supposed to be there. There wasn’t supposed to be anyone here.

Some safe house.

Batting away smoke with one hand and covering his mouth with the other, Jarratt made his way out the house. The back way out, the safe way, was blocked by flames. Deciding it was better to be stabbed than burnt to death, he went out the front door. Blinking from the smoke, scenes of destruction and madness resolved around him. The entire street before him was aflame. Bright orange tendrils reached high into the air, hungrily consuming everything in their way. Everywhere there was people running, screaming, crying, dying. The noise was immense. The roar of the fires, the cries of the hurt, the sound of metal on metal. Jarratt could see men and women fighting, hacking and slashing at each other, or cutting down fleeing people.

What in the hell has happened?

A sharp pain struck Jarratt in the back. The tip of a sword was pressed firmly against him, just biting into the skin.

‘Hold it. Move a muscle and I’ll run you through.’

The voice was deep and gravelly, the words clipped and harsh. It was a voice Jarratt knew all too well. The fear and panic from the recent fight for his life seem trivial to Jarratt now. Now, he was in serious trouble.

Good people

Surround yourself with good people and bad times will be easy to overcome.

What a load of shit.

Her Mother had told her that, back when good people still existed. Back when being a good person was actually possible. Now, all it takes for a person to be good is for them to kill you quickly. Minimal pain, no torture, no…other things.

Good people. I’m not even sure those of us that are left can be called people anymore, least of all good.

As she stared at the filth-covered man in front of her, with his spiked bat and patched clothes, her Mother’s words were stark in her mind. He was leaning motionless against a wall with the bat resting in his right hand. Even from where was she tied up, 10 meters away, she could see that the bat was splattered with the brown colour of dried blood.

Huh, good peopleNo, there’s no good people. Only base animals, doing what they must to survive. 

That’s all that humanity was now. Roving packs of frenzied animals, where only the strongest, meanest and most vile could live. She tried to move her head to get the bearings of where she was being held. As she moved, she felt a trickle of blood slide down her forehead.

Must be from when he hit me. Only a few reasons to keep me alive…

She tried to remember how she became tied up. She scrunched her eyes, ignored the pounding pain in her head, and saw glimpses of what had happened. Creeping, stalking, fear; lots of fear. Sudden noises, then running. Frantic running. Through alleys and burnt out buildings. A chant. A sickening chant, joyous that food had been found. An open door. Darkness. Lots of feet hammering past. Laughter and shouts, fading away. A quiet hope.

I hid. I hid from the mob. They passed me, but how did I…

More flashes of memories. The door started to open, a faint crack of light appearing. A face peeked through, grinning. An arm reached out to grab her. Warm, stinking breath fell against her face. A sudden noise, a brief struggle. A moment of pain. Then silence.

She opened her eyes, panting as her heart thundered in her chest.  The man in the room was crouched in front of her. A strange half smile flitted across his face.

“Well, hello there.” He said, the smile never leaving his face.

An evil smile? No, that’s not the smile of someone who has won. 

“Do you remember?” he continued. “If it wasn’t for me, they’d have got you. Sorry about the knock on the head, accidents happen. I’m Daniel, pleased to meet you.”

Well I’ll be damned. Could this be the last good person? I fucking hope so. 

 

 

Loss

Loss is an illuminating experience. It shows, in a stark light, the good and the bad. Loss lays before you memories and moments. It shows you the time you saw them smile at you when they didn’t think you could see, and you remember how dearly you love their smile. It shows you the time you held each other, listening to music to fall asleep, and your body warms recalling how sweet and tender that moment was. It shows you these moments that make your heart break over and over with yearning – to just hold them again, to talk long into the night, to see them laugh with the twinkle of love in their eye.

You also see, however, the time you screamed at each other, until red in the face, over something not worth the breath, and you ask yourself how could you have been angry at someone so perfect.

For me, the good outweighs the bad. The bad, those hurtful, spiteful recollections, try so hard to make themselves known, to make themselves the most important part of the loss. They are nothing. The good is everything, and that is why loss hurts.

I remember the good.

I mourn the good.

The good made me feel loved.

And I want that back.

Decisions

PART ONE

Mindlessly, I picked something up off the shelf. Across the front of a box in big, bright letters, were the words: “An EXPLOSION of fruity goodness!”. How the hell does that describe cereal? Why would I want to eat something described as ‘explosive’? Looking at the price, it didn’t matter. £2.90 for a bloody box of cereal…like I could afford that.

Glancing around, I checked how many people were in the shop. From what I could tell, it was nearly empty. An old boy had just tottered out, leaving just the cashier and two people, a man and a woman, paying at the cash register.

Thinking this was a good a time as any, I walked towards them.

“I’m not sure this is right.” said the man. He was holding a receipt and glaring at it like it just shit on his foot. “Sorry mate, ain’t it two for one on the Merlot?”.

The cashier looked like he really couldn’t give a fuck if it was or wasn’t two for one on the Merlot, but he took the receipt and aggressively tapped at the screen in front of him. He handed the receipt back to the man.

“Yeah it is. Must have happened recently,” said the cashier, “bloody machines haven’t caught up yet. Sorry about this, I’ll return the difference.”

Even though I knew what I was going to do, my heart wouldn’t stop beating faster and faster.

“Cheers pal,” said the man, taking the money from the cashier, “have a good evening.” The pair of them picked up their bags and left the shop. The cashier looked at me, dead eyed.

“Next.”

My hands were starting to feel clammy and a bead of sweat was trickling down my back. Stepping forward I realised I was still holding the fucking explosive cereal.

“Just this please mate.” I said, putting the box down with shaking hands. The words came out scratchy and hoarse. Fuck me, my mouth’s drier than a nun’s snatch.

As the cashier scanned the cereal, I reached into my pocket. There it is. Cold and metallic. My finger curled around it, clenching. Adrenaline was building up inside me making my head all light and fuzzy.

“That’s £2.90 then all together, was that everything?” The cashier’s voice sounded distant and mumbled, I could barely hear him from the blood pounding in my ears. I clenched my teeth and yanked my hand out my pocket towards him. I pointed the gun directly at his head.

For the first time the cashier showed emotion. His eyes grew massive and his arms shot into the air. My arm was shaking wildly. I could feel my fingers twitching.

“All the money you have, give it me now or I’ll fucking shoot you”. The words fell out of my mouth. My voice rang in my ears; too fucking quick you idiot, I thought. You sound like a scared little kid. Although in truth, that’s exactly what I am.

The cashier made a squeaking sound and opened the register up. His hands fumbled at the notes inside, dropping more than he passed to me.

“S-sorry. Sorry. Sorry.” he said, “Please don’t kill me”.

I could feel my fear being replaced with anger at this bumbling idiot. I waved the gun in his face.

“Just fucking hurry up you wanker. Pick those up, give ’em here. Quicker you little shit”.

As the cashier bent down to pick up the dropped notes I leant forward and saw him push a button just below the counter.

My fleeting confidence was replaced by fear. “You dumb fucking cunt.” I screamed, “Fuck fuck fuck, what the fuck was that? What the fuck does that button do?”.

The cashier fell over on his arse and scurried backwards. “Shit, shit, shit. I’m sorry, I’m sorry! It was a mistake, I didn’t mean to. Shit, please don’t hurt me”.

An alarm started going off in the shop. Loud and piercing, the noise was making my head pound. Fuck. What I am going to do? Shit, shit, shit. I’m not sure, but I think I’m still screaming at the trembling man on the floor. Yeah, I’m definitely still screaming. My arm is really shaking now. The gun feels so bloody heavy.

Something, suddenly, was louder than the alarm. My arm was thrown back and a sharp, burnt smell filled the air. My ears gave up trying to figure out what’s going on, I can’t hear a bloody thing.

I looked down at the cashier. His head was slumped down against his chest. A growing red puddle was leaking onto the floor. I’ve shot him. I’ve fucking shot him.

Fuck.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

The Last Journey

The sound of horns echoed across the valley. Their deep, haunting notes bellowed out, casting roosting birds from their nests who took the sky, screeching in answer. Here, on this rocky outcrop on the edge of the great grey sea, a hundred men stood.

Breaking waves covered them with cold sea spray and a fierce wind battered them with mist. Their faces were crisscrossed with blue woad and, to a man, they held axes, swords and maces proudly to the sky.

On a large rock sat a wooden boat stacked with tinder. Even through the strong wind, I could smell the acrid stench of oil that soaked the timber. After the song of the horns died down, subdued by the righteous noise of the sea and wind, a man with hair white as snow approached the boat. He was old, an ancient warrior ravaged by time and battle, but not bowed.

With strong, sure strides, the old warrior made his way to the boat. As he stepped across the rocks, a low rumble started in my throat, rising with each step the old warrior took. A hundred other voices joined my own, and a mournful song began. The song spoke of great loss, a cursed man ousted by the Gods and banished by his people into exile. Redemption lay in bloody battle, in sacrifice and in violence. My heart thumped in my chest, my voice breaking like the waves as the song reached its crescendo. On the edge of the highest cliff, the cursed man fought a mighty demon. The man was mortally wounded and, in a last act of contrition, he threw himself at the demon plunging them both onto spiky rocks and into the icy embrace of the sea.

The old warrior had reached the boat. The song stopped and weapons were lowered. The old warrior leaned into the boat and raised up the body of a man. My King. My brother. His body was lifted onto the stacked wood. A battered helmet, near cleaved in two, and a broken sword were placed across his chest.

Without a word, I stepped forward and walked towards the boat. A dozen others joined me in this silent march. The smell of oil grew stronger, mixing together with the salt of the sea. As I got closer, the stench of death overpowered both. Just before reaching the boat, I stopped. The other men continued forward in a line, each placing something of worth around the body. When the last man had finished , laying a ring of a snake devouring its own tail on my brothers chest, I stepped forward.

Looking into the boat, I felt a sense of revulsion. The pitiful body that lay there looked nothing like my brother. He was a man attuned to life, and death did not suit him. His face held a look of contempt, as if he couldn’t stomach what has happened and wanted all this ceremony sped up so he can enter the halls of our ancestors.

Onto his body I placed a ragged strip of cloth. Although dirty and stained, it still smelled, faintly, of rosemary and lilac. I hoped his spirit could smell it too, and that it would lead him to what he desired.

The dozen men around me surrounded the boat and, together, we lifted it down into the water. The old warrior walked towards me and held out a burning torch, its flame buffeted by the spray and wind.

The swell of the sea had started to take the boat, claiming it for itself. With a final glance at what was my brother, my King, I threw the torch. Flames sprang up and greedily ate at the oil-soaked wood. The fire grew, and with it, so did the fire in my heart.

I will avenge you, brother, I swear this now and forever.

 

Cyclical

Like I always do in times like now, I think of my Dad. The man would catastrophically fall into my life every now and again. He is a firm believer in circles and things of a cyclical nature. I don’t think he knows that he is, but his ingrained behaviour strongly supports this to be the case.

He would appear, as always, without any notice and in the grip of some mania or another. Flipping between alcohol and drugs, he would spend a good three days ranting to me at every opportunity about various conspiracies, intergovernmental plots, and secret societies bent on world domination. Once this part of the cycle ended, he moved swiftly to begging me to tell him where ‘she’ lived. In this section of his choreographed act, he would plead, on his knees and clawing at his face, for me to let him to know where his sweet, lady was. I would play my part dutifully, remorsefully telling him I can’t, as I don’t where she is myself.

Together, we would collapse into the penultimate segment of this well-rehearsed performance. He would tell me, in detail, why he did what he did and why he had to leave. Anger, horror, and contrition would flicker across his face until his muscles grew tired and rested on blank nothingness.

Finally, exactly a week after he would show up, he’d say to me ; “Son, you’ll never see me again. I’ll never darken your door or try to contact you. I know what you think of me, and you’re right to do so.” At this point he’d make sure his tie was perfectly centered and that his cuff links were facing the correct way. “Please don’t look for me. I’m going to find her.”

And like that, he would vanish. Confidently striding away in a well-tailored black suit, with an equally well-made black car waiting for him, engine running. Someone sitting in the backseat of the car would open the door for him. Over the course of these visits, I’ve noted it’s always the same person. A woman, in a long-sleeved silver dress and a veil. My Dad would step into the car and, without a backward glance, he’d be gone.

So, I say again, it’s at times like these, when I’m about to complete my work, that I think of my Dad. I think of how his relentless, cyclical, never-changing nature, has made me into what I am. Come to think of it, I haven’t enjoyed a visit from him in nearly four years, the longest stretch of time between cycles.

I look down at work, so nearly complete. Am I satisfied with it? Were the proper acts completed? Has my own cyclical ritual drawn to an end? Staring into a mirror as I wash the blood off my hands, the echoes of screams fading from my ears, I smile. My cycle is complete, for now.

My ears prick up, the screams long gone, there’s someone walking up behind me. I turn to see a man in shadows, but clearly wearing a well-fitting black suit. He stops a few metres away from me.

“Son, I found her. It’s time.”

Cycles, I suppose, can be broken. Either that or they merge into one.

 

Foil

The crisp blue sky burned his eyes as he drew back heavy curtains. Blinking tears not wholly caused by the bright light, he watched as the world ticked by past the window. He saw an elderly couple with time-wrinkled skin and purple spots of age walking slowly down the cracked pavement hand-in-hand, choosing not to look at the violent graffiti and broken needles. A group of small children looted through a mothers bag whilst she screamed and clutched her baby close, shame forgotten and morality as dead as God.

Pain, sudden and sharp, struck him in the chest. Blood oozed from crusted nostrils, and electric flashes blurred his sight. Vaguely remembering falling, he lay for a while listening to the ragged drum of his heart. Groping the floor, he found his saviour. Into distended veins, corrupt and diseased, he plunged his sweet release.

A last breath, as surprising as his first, left a ravaged throat; as dreams of eternity flowed as liquid into an unreceptive mind.

Flight

I woke up one day with wings.

I learned of the science and beauty of the wind, the wonder and marvel of the skies, and the ancient secrets of places unseen by grounded human eyes.

I jumped and fell without falling. A graceful descent, spiralling, trusting in instinct. Nature’s will was done and I danced through the clouds.

I chased the Sun until it fled. I chased the Moon and the Stars until they died, lonely and cold.

Nestled atop the world, I looked and saw. And beauty smiled back.

The Precipice

I left because it all became too much. The grind of living in my mundane microcosm was killing me. My life had become routine. That horrid, mind-numbing routine that led to my entire existence consisting of wandering around unthinking and emotionless in a constant cycle that I couldn’t see the end of.

Wake up. Work. Eat. Sleep. cherished the vivid dreams I had of a better existence; of action without reason, and unpredictable days that shook the foundation of my world view. It was time to act on those dreams, dreams which I always took as telling of my destiny. Dreams are a glimpse of what can become reality, but destiny waits for no fool or serendipity.

So, I left.

No goodbyes, no final farewells and a lonely walk into the horizon of a dying day. Apathetic was my life, and apathetic was my leaving. I didn’t know where to go, what I wanted to do, or even how. Which leaves me here now, without direction, without a next part to complete in a routine, without a calculable outcome and, above all, without the burden of always asking ‘Why?’.

I feel free. I am free. Please, I invite you to come on this journey with me into the unknown, to discover unsung wonders, to unearth the endless possibilities that living without reason to find reason promises to deliver, and to stand in solidarity at the beauty that envelopes this life.

The opening piece of Through the Waterfall; a collection of journal articles depicting the travels of D.C Baxter.