The Reds and the Blues (In Old Ingham Town)

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Chapter 8

We adjourned to the original ‘dream room’, where I eagerly awaited Piers’ demonstration. Of course, it took a small age for him to get to the point.

Whilst he was saying nothing in particular about how enlightened he had become about the beauty of the human mind, I had a good watch of the different dreams. This was film footage unlike any other, for it defied the limitations of modern technology. I have wondered at the amazing graphics and effects of movies like Star Wars, but nothing I had ever seen was a patch on this. It is hard enough for us to remember what last night’s dream was about, let alone recreate a vivid picture of it in our heads, but it is logical to assume that our mind can visualise concrete objects that the naked eye cannot detect in ‘real life’. In other words, films like Star Wars, no matter how unrealistic, are only limited recreations of that which the naked eye understand; whereas the mind during sleep can create all manner of colours, textures and effects that our Conscious does not know exist. The Sub-Conscious is something that has been discussed and even believed in for centuries, but in the ‘Dream Room’ I was honoured to see it in action.

The dreams did not follow the rational narrative that we are used to seeing. There was no logical order to anything I was seeing, or at least none that I could understand anyway. A crude image like two people having sex would be sharing a screen with a deep blue sky, but then the deep blue sky would not be a blue sky at all but the man’s leg, and then not the man’s leg but the inside of the woman’s brain, and then not the woman’s brain but a concept – such as space travel. It was all pretty nutty really, and difficult to explain. I can only really paint the picture as well as I can - unlike these films, which painted the picture better than anyone could. To say that they all made good viewing, however, would be a lie. Most only succeeded in being nauseating; too confusing for the human eye. Indeed, I felt like I was watching the workings behind the camera lens, rather than the images in front of it. I could recognise certain forms on the screens, but wasn’t familiar with the abstract contexts they were in, and so did not understand them. To not understand something, visually, is to dislike it, for our eyes have only one aim: aesthetic pleasure, or to see ‘nice’ things. Therefore, I was seeing a lot of ugliness. Not ugliness such as violence or excrement, but the ugliness of tangled-up wires and cold machinery.

On the other hand, however, a lot of what I saw was extremely exhilarating – both to the naked eye and the conscious mind. Some of the films were straightforward, logical narratives with bona fide characters in settings I could associate with. Some were even worthy of being blockbuster movies, and I’m sure we’ve all had these dreams. In one, a girl was hanging off a cliff by one arm. Some hero of the hour threw a rope from a cliff on the other side of the canyon, it landed conveniently on a jutting out tree close to the girl, and he swung across the canyon to her rescue! It was pure cheese I know, but cheese that hadn’t cost a million-million dollars - yet looked twice as good. Some even had music, which I didn’t know existed in dreams. The music, however, never seemed to fit the action. Scenes of complete misery, i.e. a girl watching her father being stabbed to death, could be backed with upbeat jazz tunes, whilst Moonlight Sonata may be playing at some Christmas party. It was all a mix-match of many human minds, both Conscious and Sub-Conscious. Moreover, the images did not stay long on the screens. In real life, dreams do not last longer than a matter of seconds. It is our Conscious minds that remember them as longer.

“Who is dreaming these dreams?” I asked, “Is it one screen to each person, or what?”

Piers grinned, finally having something he knew about to talk about.

“At first, when we found the computers ten years ago, they were picking up the dream frequencies of random minds across the whole world. There was no order whatsoever. For months, we were doing exactly what you are doing now: simply watching the images with no clue whatsoever as to what the Perkins was going on. As time passed, however, we started to see certain patterns. A number of screens actually began to show the dreams of individual minds…”

“ ‘Individual minds’? How could you tell?”

“…Because we had been watching them carefully, and started to see stories repeat themselves. The first one I can remember was about a group of teenage boys on some desolate train track. They had climbed up a steep embankment to the side, and were making their way to a bridge further down the track. Then the ‘camera-view’, as it were, cuts to the viewpoint of one of the boys who has reached the bridge already. He is looking down, from that vantage point, on to a city in the distance below. He was very high up indeed, and the height was very nauseating indeed.

I had seen this dream three or four times before a colleague noted that he had seen a repeated dream on another screen - by the way, we knew these stories to be dreams for the very same reason that you do: it is intuitively obvious – and got excited, now knowing that we could actually use the information we had in some way. We took a screen each, and made a note of every sequence of images we could translate into a sensical narrative. It was a long, laborious process as you can well imagine, but within weeks, or months even, we had made a fascinating discovery.”

“And what is that?”

“We discovered that not only were the dreams that repeated themselves were becoming more frequently played on their own screens, but were actually starting to fit together in one sensical narrative!”

He had lost me, excited as he was.

“In other words, the story of the boy on the bridge was only the start of a much bigger story! Other screens were slowly churning out the events which followed. It took a while for the scene to show up on another screen but, eventually, we all sat down to watch the other boys catch up with the boy on the bridge. Then, a few weeks later, they made the decision to head for the city below. A few weeks later still, one of the boys’ names was mentioned. Don’t you know what that meant? I’ll tell you: what it meant, and forgive me for being blunt, is that different people were dreaming the same dream! This dream was not being dreamed in full by any one person, and neither was it a dream that had yet reached any conclusion, but it was definitely there. Do you understand now?”

I certainly did. “But who was dreaming this ‘mass dream’? How did you find out?”

“I was just getting to that, Mal. I must admit, you are taking this all in very well. But you must be patient, as we had to be. The collective dream developed over a long space of time, but the screens still replayed the irrelevant dreams that the machine picked up. After a year or so, however, the irrelevant ones became rarer than the relevant ones. Before too long, my dear lamb, each screen only relayed images that were part of the story concerning teenage boys and their adventure on the railtracks. They would repeat and repeat, and that was somewhat infuriating, but the story became the same on all screens. The only task was putting the events in order. And soon after, that was done for us.”

I would’ve asked ‘how?’, but he still hadn’t answered my question. I was about to repeat it when he gave me a look of disappointment.

“I don’t think you appreciate how hard it is for me to give you the full and beautiful truth, and how well I am trying to do it. Writing a letter may have been an option, but I wanted to give you my secret as a package: a presentation to guide you in the direction of not only knowing the truth, as a data-man does, but loving it also, as an artist does. You don’t understand how lucky you are…”

“Lucky!” I fumed, “You’ve just…fuckin…turned my WORLD upside down ! I’ve just been told that my entire bastard life is a joke…a fuckin EXPERIMENT! How d’you expect me to feel? ‘Honoured’?”

“Exactly!” he snapped, “You are up with the gods, Mal! You seem to think, just because we have been monitoring your mind, that you have no free will. You could not be further from the truth!

We cannot control you. We simply know what you will want to do next, but that is not a problem because we are on your side! Now, you have more free will than ever before because you can see it before your very eyes! Cats…”

Oh my Lordy not cats again.

“…Are creatures that know humanity can read them, but they have no free will as humanity rules the planet. Human beings, to the reverse, do not know they are being read but have all the free will in the world as they rule it. We, on the other hand, we…are like gods! We are the rulers of the universe, Mal!”

For some futile reason, my stomach churned. God didn’t matter any more I knew, but twenty-seven years of thinking He did made it difficult to give up. I couldn’t bear to be in this blasphemous position, knowing as I did that my soul would burn in hell for it. But I was already burning in hell, and always had been just as everyone else was. Piers and his witches were simply the devil’s messengers, put on Earth to tell me that there was no God. There never had been. Neither was there any devil, however. The only real thing was the here and now; Piers and his laboratory for the joke of human existence.

But he was right, of course. I thought back to all those times when the truth had been whispered to me on the wind. For all the ‘beautiful’ things I had seen, there had been a sick thought to accompany it. For all the ‘evil and sin’, I had managed to raise a smile or tweek out a genuine tear. In the fight between Good and Evil, both had destroyed each other. And left nothing. Nothing, that is, but this. The story that Piers was so interested in.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “Do go on.”

And he did, but he didn’t have to say a word. He simply turned all the screens off, one by one, and motioned me to walk over with him to the other side of the room. There, in glorious technicolor, was the biggest screen of all. Above it, engraved on the wall, were the words NUMBER ONE. Piers switched a switch, and it was on. In widescreen experience, I saw the most baffling scene of all.

“Yesssss!!!” Piers said gleefully, “It’s us. It’s you and I!”

I was watching the pair of us on screen, doing what we were doing and saying what we were saying at that present time.

“So whose dream is this?”

Piers went on with his story. “This last screen came to us by accident. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘If you build it, he will come’?”

This c*nt was too daft to be true. It’s nice in one way that, at this point, I was well aware that everything in existence was a joke and nothing is real and all, but in another it’s a mass headfuck coz that same c*nt cannot be taken seriously. How can you seriously believe someone who comes out with all the old advert-slogans you’ve been having nightmares about? You can’t, unless you take into account the fact that he runs the show. This is your head he’s talking about. He’s been watching your mind, and it’s been rubbing off on him. Those catchphrases are your catchphrases. And everyone else’s. When you realise that your mind is part of a machine, you know beyond all doubt that we are all responsible for all everyone’s thoughts no matter how stupid or vain.

If you build it, he will come” is one of those quotes that appeal to a common side of all of us. And I’ll tell you why. no one really knows what the f*ck it means, that’s why! Ooh that’s oh so very sexy to the animal in all of us. We spend our entire shitty existences knowing how to do this and do that and eeking and surviving our way through life that these bizarre and silly riddles are like orgasms to us. We turn obscure sayings, that don’t really mean much even after we’ve gone through the rigmarole of translating them, into Rubik’s fu**ing cubes that only the wisest of the wise can suss out. “If you build it, he will come” really means, “If you help him, he’ll help you!”, but some bellends think it means that if you build a baseball pitch then a whole host of dead legends will turn up at your house. We love to hear about things we know fuck all about. We make the meanings up to cure our frustration at having sod orl better to do. But Piers Adrian knew this himself, for he had already read it on my mind – fancy trickster that he was.

“You’re right about this story,” he said, “But you must know that it is not just your own. You must know that these dreams are the dream of a select group of people. You are just one of these people, and nothing more…”

It’s strange to say, and especially after all this talk about that nothing is real and all, that some feeling - and a feeling is definitely what is was - came back and welled up inside me at this point. The feeling, and I hate myself for saying this, is called jealousy, and jealousy is for the fairies. I’ve always hated jealous types, because there is nothing that one man cannot do or be that another man can’t. I’ll have to be strictly sexist in this - for men and women cannot compare themselves in that way because we have different parts that cannot be compared. A man cannot be jealous of a woman for being sexier than he - even if he’s gay – because he cannot possibly compete. He can compete, on the other hand, with a fellow man, because he has the same parts which can be developed upon (and that even means brains!) and jealousy arises only in those who cannot be brave or respectful enough to compete. Jealous people are otherwise known as weak people. Weak people, above all else, are lazy. They cannot be arsed to learn guts. In this way, they are also ignorant. Who needs the f**kers?

But despite all this analysing, I had become a Jealous Boy. Piers was about to tell me that this bizarre dream he was telling me about was not my creation. I had come to the vain conclusion that I had been summoned to the place because I was some sort of ‘chosen one’, but I was nought more than the poor sod who Piers wanted to rant the truth to. Jealousy set in when he began to tell me of a certain mind- a mind that put all these sequences together – and I realised that that certain mind wasn’t mine. That mind belonged to some unknown quantity, and that quantity was dreaming all these dreams. All my dreams. This mind wasn’t even a computer!

“So who is it then?” I asked.

“I had a dream, Mal,” he went on, “that can only be described as ‘a divine message’. I was told to have one of my team build a new computer; one with the all the same faculties as the others, but only ‘twice as large’. That is the computer you see before you now. It’s the mainframe, Mal.”

“And what does it do?”

“It puts all those scenes, all those threads of stories from the other screens, into a logical order. It has been doing this for sixteen years now, saving me and the chaps from having to do it ourselves. This screen, Mal, is the storyteller. It’s the big boss. The Bard.”

Once again, I had to laugh at how ridiculous this all sounded.

“But who, may I ask politely, is actually dreaming all these dreams? Why am I here? Who are you? You’ve only scratched the surface of truth, I’m sure. You said originally that the mind of this ‘big boss’ here belongs to a human, but now you’re saying that it’s just some sort of computer programme that does all the work for you and your technicians! So what’s the truth then? Why do I feel none the f***in wiser?”

“ ‘A bit of both’ is the truth, Malachy.”

He took a deep breath.

“The ‘Big Boss’ is a computer programme, but it’s also the mind of a human being. It’s the mind of someone you know very well, Mal. Very well indeed. Someone you and I, and everyone else for that matter, have a vested interest in. Can’t you guess?”

And yes, I could.

Jon Pallace!”, I said.

Piers gave a wry smile.

“Close, but not close enough.”

“Well WHO then?”

“His brother, Leo. The mind belongs to Leo Pallace!”

Mal had arrived just at the right time, me needing strong allies and all. He looked like a fully-hardcore traveller, long matted hair and beard an’ all. His eyes were deep and dazzling, no doubt having endless stories to tell. I only had to look at him to tell that my events wouldn’t have a patch on his. He had been to Hell and back, obviously. He looked like a Jedi.

“Need protecting there, Leo?” were the first words that came out of his mouth, but Jon sidetracked him with gasps of amazement and welcome. It was a funny situation that didn’t call for immediate discussion of the night’s previous event. Him simply being there was enough to go on, for the moment. We rushed into the kitchen to stick the kettle on and do quick lines in succession. Jon became a frantic bumlicker, Mal being his hero an’ all. He was all over him like a rash, saying “Please, take a seat!” and “No no, let me!” Being a lot older, it probably hadn’t been as long in his mind, and he looked graciously amused at our flapping. Eventually, he had to tell us to calm down and shut up. After all, he had arrived for a special reason.

Once we had simmered, Mal requested politely that we tell him, as calmly and clearly as possible, what had been going on. Jon raced into the thing, but Mal had to zip his lip. “From the beginning, and slowly,” he said, “I want to be able to understand what you say, OK?”

“OK” we said.

Jon started by telling him about my flat at Westways Court, and how my neighbours were Andy Kerrigan, Jingo and Big Al. He told of my wild parties and the jealousy of those older boys. He told of the situation brewing and a-brewing until it reached boiling point, and that that boiling point had come about earlier the same evening. He told of Macca, Jonno and myself getting battered. He told of us wanting revenge. Why he made the whole thing last so long I’ll never know, but at least we knew that our friend had been put in the Know.

With a wry smile, Mal assured us that the whole ‘mess’ amounted to nothing. “Kerri and Jingo are pissants,” he said, “You’ve got far worse to deal with, I’ll tell you now” Whatever did he mean by this, I wondered.

“Let me tell you where I’ve been for the past two years” he said. “You’re right, I have been to Hell and back, but there’s more to it than just that. I’ve also been to Heaven, and it’s just as daunting a place. It’s all pretty daunting when you know what I know. How do you think it feels to find that nothing is sacred?”

“Sacred?”

“Yeah, ‘sacred’. There must be things that are sacred to you. It’s a religious word, first and foremost. You’ve been brought up Catholics and, no matter how lapsed you’ve become or rebellious you’ve been, the thought of someone running into Sunday morning mass and smashing up the Church and pissing and shitting all over the place is not one that fills you with glee. In fact, it makes you sick. But somewhere, deep down, you know that material things don’t really matter and no-one actually suffers as a result of someone’s mindless vandalism. True, a few expensive things may be broken and the shock may be offensive to the respectable parishoners, but no-one has lost their faith or love of God. True worship is this, and only this, and if this is kept then no damage has been done. But the term ‘sacred’ is one we invent for things that are personal to us. The Altar, and the building, and all that pomp and ceremony are sacred to Catholics because they are our private sentimental treasures; the symbols of our individuality. But let’s not slag off Catholics here, because all peoples have them. Whatever club or society or collective or clique we choose to think of has its own share of sacred things. Know what I mean?”

“We do,” we said, somewhat baffled by this impromptu sermon. Mal began to laugh. He read the bewilderment in our faces, but had so so much to tell us.

“I look at you two lads, and I see so much I understand. I don’t wanna sound like your Dad or anything, but you remind me of myself at your age. You’re good lads really, and you’re sensitive enough to see that there are things wrong that need putting right. But you need more humour about the whole thing. If you don’t, it’ll get the better of you.”

Humour?’ I thought. This is the guy that killed someone. Surely he must be having a laugh!

“It’s good to remember that nothing is sacred, and that nothing really matters. In fact, nothing is really real…”

Who did he think he was now? John Lennon? ‘Nothing is real’ indeed! Try telling that to the countless starving people in Africa. Try telling that to the soldier who sees his mates’ brains blown to bits on a daily basis. Try telling that to the widow who grieves her dead husband. But don’t try and tell it to me!

As if to read my thoughts, Mal looked at me sternly, and changed his tone.

“Do you not think that I’ve witnessed such horrors Leo? I’m about to tell you where’ve I’ve been for the last two years. I said I’d been to Hell and back, and I meant it! I’ve witnessed all kinds of monstrous and disgusting shit, the horrors of which you cannot begin to imagine! I’ve been at War Leo, watching blood and guts and horror and sickness and death! I’ve seen all this shit and more, and I’ve learnt more than this conversation can explain! But one thing I know from all this…all the wisdom I need in the world…is to know that NOTHING IS REAL! Are you with me!”

I looked at Jon, and he had shit himself. Mal had been somewhere terrible. He we were with our petty little problems wingeing on, and this guy had killed someone gone on the run and been living in a Hell we didn’t know the first thing about. Or perhaps we did, and that first bit of knowledge was that ‘nothing is real’, for whatever that meant. Mal had fire in his eyes, and had come here for a far bigger reason than simply to say hello. He had come here to tell his story. He had come here to give us his wisdom; the spoils of his war. He had come here to tell us about Hell, and we were the lucky ones that would finally be told the truth. He had come here to give us the kick in the balls that would piss on our pretty parade, like the grim reaper coming to make us grow up.

He quickly apologised for sounding so desperate, and regained his composure.

“Don’t worry about Kerri and Jingo,” he said, “because they are nothing to you unless you let them be so. These quarrels of yours are your own…inventions…you must see that it’s all…in your own head. It’s your story. You’ve gotta be more interested in yourselves, in how you relate to each other as brothers. That’s the important thing. You’re brothers, don’t you see?”

We looked at each other, and we did. We always had, and there’s no love like brotherhood. Men and women get together and make babies, and some men get together with other men to have sex, but the bond between man and man and woman and woman is for friendship and fraternity only. It’s a bond built out of two of the same species that are trying to make the best of the sick and awful joke we call life. We are soldiers, or sailors, and we need all the help we can get. For that moment, Mal was our brother too. And then I remembered Theo, my actual brother. ‘Where is he?’ I wondered. ‘He’s too young’, Mal seemed to say. ‘And where’s Anna, my sister?’ I asked. ‘She’s getting about the business of life’ he said again. ‘You should try it yourself,’ he let me know, ‘just as your Mum and Dad do. That is what families are all about, after all’.

There was something going on with Mal and him reading my thoughts. He was looking at Jon and myself and seeing double. For the first time, he was speaking to us both as an inseparable pair. He wanted us to know that we were an inseparable pair. He wanted us to know this as if his life depended on it. He wanted us to see the power in family units; in blood being thicker than water. He wanted us to see that he liked how we were and wanted us to keep on being it. In truth, he wanted to be with us also.

“Don’t let any f***er drive you apart,” he said sincerely. “There are the jealous and the sick and the downright terrified, but don’t let them get to you. Jimmy Pallace is a good man, and Mary is incorruptible. Your sister Anna is a gem, and Theo will one day be like you or better. Protect them. You are the healthy, untainted young men of the family and they rely on you. We all rely on you…”

“Who like?” Jon asked.

“…Everyone. It starts with your family, but then the circle gets wider. Think about all your cousins, aunts and uncles. Your grandparents. All the other relatives. Then move onto all those kids you grew up with, and all the family they have. All these people are your fraternity. Whatever they’ve done, with or without you, has influenced you in some way. You are the sum of everything that has ever been in your world. With me so far?”

“Yeah”

“OK, but what’s also true is the exact opposite. Everything that has ever been in your world is a sum of everything you are aswell. Your world has created you, but you have also created your world. I know that what I say might be obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be said.”

Mal took a long, deep drag on a pipe; one that had been resting on his lap throughout. Afterwards, he relaxed a little, and looked as if he couldn’t be arsed with the lecture anymore. He wanted us brothers to talk a little.

“I know what you’re saying, Mal.” Jon began. “I…credit…everything I know…everything I am…to the circle of friends and family. I’d be nothing without all these people…”

“But it’s not just that!” Mal interrupted. “It’s everything, and this means people and memories you don’t want to remember as well. Your mind is in control, but I don’t think you really know that you are not in control of your mind. You think you are, but you aren’t. The reason for this is that you think that your mind is whatever you are conscious of, but you’re wrong Jon. Your mind is your Sub-conscious also, and I don’t have to explain what that is. Your mind is bigger than you, if you know what I mean?”

Jon nodded in agreement, and it didn’t take him long to do so. He knew sense when he saw it, and was mature enough to accept it. I, on the other hand, wasn’t as quick to slap Mal’s back, for the simple reason that I had known this already. I think Jon had too. I think we all do, deep down.

“It’s all about you, Leo” said Mal, seemingly reading my thoughts and focusing on me again. “You’ve gotta realise that everything that goes on is down to you, and no-one else. It’s your world. You can make it whatever you want.”

“I know,” I pleaded, “But I can’t do whatever I want. That’s impossible.”

“But that’s where you’re wrong!” he snapped, “I’m not exaggerating here. It really is all down to your mind; your imagination.”

“But how can it be?” I snapped back, “When it’s his world too? And yours? And everyone else’s? We can’t all be running the universe.”

“Why not?”

“Because we have different ambitions. Somewhere along the way, they’d clash.”

“Not necessarily. We may all have the same intentions, but the names are different. Perhaps we’re all gunning for the same team. Perhaps we’re all doing and living the lives that are perfect for us, and no-one is actually getting in the way of anyone else…”

I remembered that old-forgotten theory of mine entitled ’The Universal Mind’. Mal had just explained it to precision, and somewhere he was right. We each of us think that we know ourselves, knowing full well that there is a Subconscious world we cannot understand. Perhaps, subconsciously, we do understand it, and not only understand it but know it like a brother. It is our driving force; our collective soul. It is bigger than any of our Earthly intentions, but remains a mystery so that our Earthly intentions can pretend to be our prime interest. The Earthly intentions are the biggest blag in history. They put us off the scent. Seemingly, only animals and madmen live of their gut instincts, but perhaps the real truth is that we are all, each and every one us, living day-to-day on an instinct that is the Universal Mind. If that isn’t the case, than how can ‘peace’ ever exist?

“…It’s universal, yes. All life has the same goal. Know what it is?”

“Death?” Jon asked.

“Happiness?” I asked myself.

Life!” said an enlightened Mal, “Life itself is the point of life, and that is all we need to know. All we are allowed to know. All we will ever know. But now that that’s out of the way, I wanna tell you something…”

Rosie started crying upstairs, and Alicia called for Jon to come and help.

Mal kept his gaze on me, and sighed as if he had too much to say and not enough knowledge of how to do it. He began to whisper, now talking to me and me only.

“Do you…ever…see…patterns…between…your mind…and…”

He sighed, and gave up saying what he was trying to say. I tried to help him along, genuinely wanting him to spit it out.

“Other people’s minds?”

“No, no. Patterns in the way…your mind works…and in the things you see…and hear…don’t you know what I mean?”

“Not really, no.” I said in earnest.

“Oh for Fuck’s sake Leo! The TV! The Radio! Films! Songs! The f***in’ media! It’s all there! Can’t you see it?”

“Well, I…”

“Don’t you notice any similarities? Don’t you wake up in the morning to see that same dream, that same old shit you’ve been dreaming about, being played out to you in one way or another on the Telly screen in front of you? Don’t you hear the news you’ve just heard in your sleep being read out on the Radio? Aren’t the songs you hear from your neighbours’ stereos always about you? DON’T tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about, because I can’t be sure of anything if that’s the case! You’ve gotta let me know, Leo. You’ve gotta…give me…hope…”

Scary as all this was, Mal was touching on something I had, somewhere in the deepest recesses of my memory, thought about before. When I was a little kid, I had this bizarre idea (but not one that I actually gave much attention to or believed in) that my whole life was a film, and I was the star part. The difference in this ‘film’ was that I hadn’t been told I was in it. Everyone else had, but I had not. I entertained the idea that one day, perhaps when I died, I would walk into a room full of the people closest to me throughout my life. They would introduce themselves as their true selves; as the actors they were really were. My Mum, for example, would say to me, “Hi! I’m Greta Garbo, and I played your mother!” and so on. All pretty spacey really, but nonetheless thought up years and years before The Truman Show came out.

If Mal had now come to the same bizarre theory that I had entertained as a child, he had not yet reached the genius conclusion that I did soon after. He had not realised that, if his life was a film after all, he could have no say in its outcome. He would be chained to his own destiny, and destiny is the keyword here. He would be a prisoner to the plot that is his life, and may do whatever he wanted to do at will but it wouldn’t matter. The only difference between him and the actors around him would be that he hadn’t been given a script. But the director wouldn’t have to waste paper on a script for him, because he had planted the script in his mind! In other words, to discover that he was the star of a secret film would in no way mean that the game was over. On the contrary, this discovery would just be one more event in the film that is his life.

If the pre-pubescent Leo Pallace had been at all disappointed by this realisation (had he fully believed the film theory, of course), then something called ‘Vanity’ would have put some colour back into the little boy’s rosy cheeks. If the theory was bollocks, he had nothing to worry about anyway, but if it wasn’t then Vanity was there to help him out. He may have realised that he was a prisoner to destiny, but he was still the star of the show the entire universe was watching, and the entire world at least was staging. What more important boy to be? For the average kid who craves nothing but attention, it is the life of riley and all he could’ve ever dreamed of. Surely Mal, a fully grown man of about thirty, could see this?

Obviously, he couldn’t. He asked me how I’d become to be so vain. It took a deal of courage, but I answered as honestly as possible:

“I didn’t mean to become so self-obsessed. It’s just that…one day, whilst washing or shaving or whatever, I caught sight of this handsome young man in front of me. Without wanting to sound gay or anything, I sorta liked the look of him. As the years passed, I got accustomed to seeing this familiar face in the mirror, and began to realise that he was not just ‘looking back’ at me. He was staring into my soul, in a way that no-one else had. He KNOWS me, like my bestest ever friend, and now life’s become so that I can’t live without him. When I close my eyes, he’s the one I see. When I inspect him, I see a whole host of other people. I see my dead grandparents. I see my parents. I see my brothers and sister. I see all the friends I’ve loved. I see EVERYONE. Even you.”

Mal just stared at me after this. I couldn’t tell whether it was admiration or disgust in his eyes, but either way it was pretty deep. He had got some truth out of me at least, and so I didn’t mind if I had offended him with my arrogance and self-adulation. Truth was what he was all about, after all.

He looked away as he asked the next question, almost as if he knew the answer.

“Would you say then…honestly…that the world does revolve around…you?”

I didn’t rush into answering, but the answer would’ve been the same had I had. It was basically ‘yes’, but more extensively ‘but around everyone else too, in their own minds’. This kind of pussyfooting wasn’t good enough for Mal Bellis, the truth-seeker. His romantic soul didn’t care too much for in-depth analysis, and for some reason he wanted me to know that neither should mine.

“Forget what everyone else thinks, or should think.” he said, “I only want to know what you think. This is all about you.

“But why!” I snapped, “I’m just like everyone else!”

“No! That’s where you’re wrong! Believe me Leo, it is all about you! You control the world! It is from your imaginative mind that all Art comes from! All Science stems from your logical brain! You really are the master of all you survey!”

I was sure that there was no need for this emotional outburst, but aware that it was called for. What…what was he trying to say? His eyes blazed like some divine messenger. He…reeled in saying what he was sent to say, his body burned as he did what he did the one thing what he was put on Earth to do. But I had always known this. I had always believed in divine messengers; in angels. I had never actually met one, and they had never been explained to me, but I knew them as I knew that the sun rises and sets. This was not new to me, and it dawned on me that nothing had been! Jon re-entered the room, and he was not new to it either. Rather than carry the air of a man that had walked into something he had not been present for the start of, it was easy for me to understand that he knew already that the focus of discussion had turned to me. He sidled in silently and took his seat, knowing full well that Angel Mal was not to be interrupted. Better still, Angel Mal was not interrupted.

The words that came out of his mouth fell on death ears, but of course Mal was knowing that. I’d heard them all before. My soul was one step ahead. Hearing the truth, for the first time since birth. It was seeing the revelation. Feeling the love that came from the messenger. Mal Bellis! I had always seen this strength in him; always known the potential welling up inside. This was the great jester of time; the voice of the wilderness ignored by Science. This was the forgotten cat howling outside in the rain; the wild, frustratingly-ranting John the Baptist of Love versus Reason. I had seen this before, yes. He was perfectly right. It is my film. I wrote it. I had brought the poor servant here to do my work; to remind me of what I really am and must be. All of my life had been a play, and there was no lesser way to it as no-one else was in the starring role. Only I. Only yours truly, the narrator, has been the centre of this universe. Only yours truly, the narrator, can be real in it. All else is a result of not having anything better to do with a vivid imagination. All else is through not knowing what I am here for. ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’ is what someone said, and that is the sheer truth when it comes to me and my story. Whilst I have lived for the future, my mind and emotions have been controlling the present without me knowing

But Jon had sidled in unnoticed; he had known all along. Why was he nodding his head in silent agreement with Mal? What did he know?

He nodded away there, hidden by shadow.

I couldn’t hear Mal, but I couldn’t see Jon. He seemed to be hissing there, hidden by shadow. Mal was just echo; echo to the hissing that was loudest to me. Remember all that shit about betrayal? This was what I was alluding to. This is it. My brother’s hissing, surrounded by shadow, is the deepest betrayal of all. Judas has nothing on this. The good Lord Jesus knew he was going to do it. What I didn’t know was that he did know. He knew everything. He wasn’t with me, for all that life I thought he was. He was with the everything else, the endless army of bloodsuckers who use my mind to live their lives. He was part of the everything else that I created, unwittingly; the everything else that I cannot be proud of creating because I had no choice in doing so. He was not my comrade; my equal; my brother. He was an actor, just like anyone else.

Tears. The tears of a clown; of someone who discovers that he is truly alone – despite everything. No gift is fair recompense for complete loneliness. No lonely person is happy. No matter what can be achieved or discovered, the hissing of that secret intimate world you are not entitled to is the loudest sound of all. It is a sound that cannot be ignored, not even next to the vision of truth being revealed to one as gifted as I. It is the underscore to whatever new song you have the honour of listening to. You may be on the greatest of human pedestals; the focus of the universe’s attention and the most powerful force on it. You may even have a mind that creates that universe at will. You may even be the Universal Mind. But you lack the one important thing that every other human has. You lack the one thing you truly crave and think you need more than any other. Intimacy. Never will you be able to be truly intimate with another human soul. And why? Because you will never, never ever be able to be truly intimate with another human soul. That hissing is the sound of all those people, loving and plotting and getting married and living their lives, who can see you. Surrounded by shadow, it is impossible to see them. They are the creatures you created, but you can never be one of them.

Mal told me why he had killed Wayne Ross. He told me quite clearly that it didn’t actually happen. I had made it up. Where was the evidence? A newspaper report? That shite isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, especially as I hadn’t even read the paper myself anyway. Someone else had read it for me, and so I didn’t even have to create the tabloid and headline! Wayne Ross was a nothing anyway; I may have seen him and his boys hospitalise several Inghamers, but that was a kiddy fight. I had done oh so well in turning this edgy tearaway into a high-class mafioso. I had made it plausible to myself that someone would want him dead, and then made it plausible to myself that someone did kill him. A natural step after that would be to name ‘Mal Bellis’ as the culprit. And why not? He had featured so well in the story so far. Some little rascals had written some ‘challenge on a wall’, and it had not been satisfactory to my imagination that they were simply cowards who didn’t show up for the fight. Neither was it satisfactory to my imagination that some joker, probably Pete rainer, had written it himself to cause a stir for the sake of pranking. In fact, it may even have been unsatisfactory to my imagination that the ‘disused building’ did not really exist at all! In which case, all the fuss was for nothing.

I let Mal know these thoughts, if he didn’t already, and he was glad that I had worked everything out. He was glad to let me take over, bearing in mind that he would’ve been tired after his fiery rant. After all, I was in charge now, and I wanted to get a few things sorted out. I had figured out that Wayne Ross had been no threat to me, my brother and his mates, but I hadn’t sussed out why there had been all the grief with Nusam and co; grief which had started an Ingam – Elswick war. Neither had I figured out why my mind had created all this business with the painting, and ‘Eddie Fisher’- whoever he was. If Mal hadn’t murdered ‘Wayne Ross’, if ever there was such a person, why had ‘Tommo’ been involved in an elaborate cover-up and spy game, if ever there was such a person? Wars? Elaborate plots? Paintings? Surely I could have thought of something better? If I was a true storyteller, wouldn’t I know the answers to these questions myself?

The answer, quite crudely, was no. Cruel as it was, these poxy details were the work of my subconscious mind, which created the details (in Mal’s own words) to make me feel ‘safe’. The broadcasters of my mind, those who tuned into it and used it for airplay and other forms of media and journalism and science, were having a field-day on my bythoughts. They were treating these pre-occupations of the Subconscious as the main story, when in reality the main story was in my conscious mind! Please try not to be as baffled as I at this point, I beg you. Please bear with me when I say that I had no control over whatever the masters of my mind tuned into, but was lucky that they tuned into the unreal part of that mind. They chose the preoccupations, and not the focuses, of it. These preoccupations were created by me myself; my soul, or essence, or subconscious mind, or whatever I choose to call it next. They were created to protect me, and I’ll tell you why:-

Each of these imaginary storylines, such as the psychic power of Jon’s painting or Mal’s murdering deeds, did not directly involve myself. They were, however, interesting scenarios, and so they excited my spirit and gave me something to chew on. They did not, however, give me so much to chew on that I bit my tongue out and/or choked to death. In other words, I could get all the excitement from these scenarios without being in fear for my own safety – or even life. I felt safe because I was always one step away from the action, and if by bad luck the action did come my way, then the legendary hero Mal Bellis would be there to sort the baddies out. This was the beauty of my Subconscious storytelling. It appealed to my sense of romance, but I could run away from it if the need arise. Also, it appealed to my awful superiority complex. I could be watching these events from arm’s length, and therefore be able to watch all the fuss from outside; with the objectivity of a scientist. This scientist, however, would be in no danger whatsoever in his project. I was a front-line journalist who was in no danger of dying. I was a poet who didn’t get rocks thrown at him. Perfect. This is in no doubt as ridiculous to you, the reader, as it is to me, the whatever. I only hope and pray that you can find it as enjoyable to know as I do. The bubble of smugness around me has protected me from the real story. The real story is the overwhelming, staggering, fantastically beautiful horror of my own mind. Count yourself lucky it isn’t yours.

I only had one more question for Mal Bellis: How did he know, and why was he the one chosen to come and tell me? Why did he come at this time? Who had sent him, or rather, who had I created to send him? His answer was simply so:

“It all started in August, 1989. On Privet Park, Ingham. The occasion was a kind of mini-festival, a collection of bands performing free of charge for anyone who wished to come and listen. It was called . One of the bands present was ‘The Jungle Monsters’. I was lead guitarist and vocalist with this band.

Despite its political name, to us the gig was no more than the chance to create some local publicity. We failed in this, because the only people that showed up were mates: local wreckheads who had nothing better to do and would’ve taken whatever shit was thrown at them. In the minds of certain people the occasion was entirely different: a successful display of working class unity and strength. In reality, however, it was nothing more than a good giggle. You’ve got to understand that first, before anything else.

I became good friends with Jon at about the same time. He was a good lad, and a lot younger than me, so naturally I had the urge to protect him as friends do. I could see him getting into all the same kinds of shit that I did, and making the same mistakes, and wanted only to be a guiding light to him. And I think I was, too. I tried my best to keep him safe from harm.

But sure enough, he did get into trouble. He sold a painting to someone. No harm in that, you might say, but fickle Jon made the humble mistake of neglecting to actually hand the painting over. Some may be able to forgive such mistakes, but none of these people suffer the burden of not wanting to be mugs who let others rip the piss out of them and insult their intelligence. Unfortunately, Jon ripped the piss out of the wrong people.

A friend of mine let me know of Jon’s problem. He also found it high time that he introduce me to a good friend of his. This is where the story becomes the maddest of mad trips that it is right now. The friend in question had a vested interest in the Pallace family. Or, should I say in particular,

Leo Pallace of the Pallace family. His name was ‘Piers Adrian’, and as a matter of fact it still is. Heard of him?”

The hissing from Jon wasn’t a patch on the hissing coming from the back of my own head.

“Piers Adrian is a descendant of the legendary and historical Robert De Bruce, Scotland’s greatest hero and King. His branch of the family, however, moved into heroic obscurity hundreds of years ago. For the duration of this time, they have not lived as Scots at all. They haven’t even been Celts. They have been English nobles, selling out to the Imperial power of Great Britain and living in pompous material luxury. No doubt you can picture the sort of situation our friend Piers was born into. His name says it all, really. ‘Piers Adrian’? What kind of a name is that!

But Piers Adrian became a hero. Like St. Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa, he gave up his riches and birthright as the next Lord of whatever to fight for truth, justice and the romantic way. He became a hippy for a bit, and then used his head by using a now-defunct birthright to make money for those less fortunate than himself. He formed some sort of artistic corporation that made films and songs and literature and paintings and any other sort of media you can think of. The difference with this corporation is that its employees were all poverty-stricken nobodies; those unlucky souls, like ourselves, who have had no lucky start in life. He used his lucky start to give these people their lucky break. A true hero, indeed. Robert De Bruce was alive and well somewhere in his blood, popping up again after skipping so many generations. A rebellious hero who had the suave to resist being a savage. A dandy, toe-tapping smoothie. An elegant gent. A King.

At first, Piers filled my head with all kinds of shit about him having a vested interest in you because he had made a vow to your Dad Jim that he would always protect your family because he had saved his life at some time on a building site. That sounds very nice indeed, but it’s complete b***ocks. Piers Adrian didn’t give a shit about your Dad, or the past. He was there for one reason and one reason only: you invented him. Somewhere in your sense of reasoning, you knew that that vivid imagination of yours was capable of creating all manner of demons that could endanger you; demons that were bigger than Jon or me or anyone you knew that would be able to protect you. Somewhere in your knowledge, you made the vast step of realising that everything really is ‘all in the mind’. You once said to someone that you truly believed that anything, and I mean anything, is possible with belief. This is why you created Piers Adrian. On an optimistic level, you knew that success was down to nothing more than your own belief. On a pessimistic level, you knew that your imagination couldn’t resist conning you into believing that there was a real evil in the world; a faceless evil that would eat you up and spit you out with no trouble at all. Of course, this evil didn’t exist until you created it. You began to see that you were in no danger from the hard lads of Ingham town, because no-one actually wanted to fight and you posed no threat to them. Easy. But that wasn’t good enough for you. You couldn’t help believing, after watching all those scary films, that there would be psychopaths that would eat you for breakfast for no other reason than bloodlust. There came a point where you decided that not even God could protect you. That is when you created Piers Adrian, who is not only the most powerful man you could dream up, but the most interesting. You wanted to create someone who fought those faceless demons on their own level, but whilst doing so you figured that you might as well create a fancy, romantic, traditional showman type of storybook character in the process. Piers Adrian is everything you want to be.”

I had to forgive Jon for his ‘betrayal’, for I now realised that the hissing I spoke about was my own invention, just as everything else was. There was no secret really. Or at least there had been, but Mal had just let that cat out of the bag. No-one is doing things that I don’t know about, because when I am not with them or thinking about them they are doing nothing at all. In fact, they don’t even exist.

“This is the part of the story you don’t know about, Leo. Heard of Frankenstein’s monster? Course you have. Well the monster you created now has a life of its own. You don’t run the universe after all, because you have lost control of that monster and now it controls you. Piers Adrian is an actual person. That beautiful place in the hills where you gave him his home is an actual place. The computers that transmit and broadcast the thoughts from your head are actually working. How mad is that! I’ve actually been to that place, and met the man that is your dream. He’s real, Leo! He’s as real as you or I. In fact, he’s realler. He’s the reallest thing there is!”

Now it was I that owed Jon the eternal apology. All this was my fault; any secrecy had been on my part. I owed Mal a big sorry too, for putting him through the horror of meeting my monster in the flesh. But no, for as I looked at him closely I could see real pleasure. ‘You should be proud of yourself’, he seemed to say. Proud of what exactly, Mal? Proud of not being in control? Proud of letting so many bad things happen? Well if pride comes before a fall, sock it to me.

Piers Adrian’? What was I on? If I had created everything, all these amazing things, why was he necessary? Surely I could destroy him just as easily as create him, or did it not work like that? Hang on, surely it could work in whatever way I wanted it to? Every creator must have the abilty to destroy, surely? Why was I asking so many questions when I am the creator? The Creator. Does that word mean what I think it means?

Am I blaspheming? Who is it that I say I am? I wasn’t brought up like this; I wasn’t raised to think myself higher than God. I wasn’t raised to think myself God. I’m just a human, after all. I eat and shit and have cravings and cry. Is that what God is? Is God one of us, after all? I don’t believe it though my mind tells me it’s true. I believe it, but know I am wrong. Mal Bellis is wrong too. And so is Jon. And so is everyone else. But only because I am. I am the source of all wrongness.

Though it was something like four in the morning, I had to get away from the house. I had to be on my own, even though I had just been told that I could never be alone again. One last time though, for old time’s sake. One last time, at least not having to look at other people. If my head were to explode, I didn’t want anyone else to see it happening. I owed them that much at least.

I may have mentioned Chat Moss earlier in the story, but I don’t think the description ‘magic’ quite fully explains the real beauty of it. In childhood, this was the place where me and all my mates would come to experience desolate landscapes. It was the nearest we had to a desert; the voice of nature in its purest form. It was a scary place, for we weren’t protected by familiar streets and adults and the hustle-bustle of the town. For this reason, we had a reverence, or even fear, for it. It was the sort of place from which all the traditional ghost stories come.

Now, as an adult, it was like an old friend; a schoolteacher who once scared the shit out of me but now sits in a wheelchair whilst all his old pupils look after him. It’s a place to get away to; a place to contemplate life and love without distraction. Even at four in the morning, it is not the eerie place it used to be. Not to me, anyway. I mean it no harm, and so it will mean me no harm.

Why couldn’t I have kept that belief with me throughout? I would have had no cause to invent ‘Piers Adrian’, because I would have been safe in the knowledge that nothing or no-one would harm me as long as I did nothing or no-one any harm. But as I sat and watched the streams trickle into fertile farmland and make it muddy, I realised that there was still no need for him even if I had. As a child, my parents protected me from harm. But they didn’t need a Piers Adrian to protect them. In the days when I came up here on my bike and made dens, the fear was a hobby. Deep down, we knew there to be no actual danger on Chat Moss (at least during the daytime) because our parents had made the same excursions when they were children. Before them, their parents had done the same thing. And so on. So what had been protecting us all, I wondered? It hadn’t been me, surely, because I had copped out and invented something else.

I sat and watched the different fields and allotments in front of me. As a child, I had thought all this to be wilderness, but now I knew that human beings were responsible for the upkeep of this land, and had been for many years. I had, at one time, thought this to be nature in its purest form. I now knew that not to be true. In one way or another, and for as long as we have been on Earth, human beings have utilised what nature has given us. It has caused great debate as to whether we have done more harm or good, but we have utilised all those resources nonetheless. In doing so, we have learned to understand some of nature’s laws, and we are still learning. The farmers are still experimenting with ditches and crop rotation and whatever, just as scientists are still trying to find a cure for AIDS. We go on, and we know that we are not the first. Neither are we by any means the last, and it is for this reason that we keep learning.

But only the best of us know that nature can never be fully controlled. We can understand its laws, but we can never predict its mood swings, for it does have them. Time and time again, Nature punishes us for getting too big for our boots. That is why the Titanic sank. Some people deemed it “unsinkable”, but they were soon put in their place. The same people that think the human race to be “unsinkable” will soon be put in their place also, along with those that think us to be the biggest ship on the seas. We can only be something if we know that we are nothing. There are bigger forces than us, and when we look closely we can see that they are staring us in the face, right under our upturned noses.

But something other than Piers Adrian has been looking after us, keeping us warm and tucking us in at night. This too has been staring us in the face, though we choose to look away. The reason we look away is that as this thing looks into our eyes, we are distracted by weak and wicked people who are also looking in our direction. When I say ‘we’, I am not referring to these people. When I say ‘we’, I am referring to people that want nothing more than to love and be loved. When we are born, this is what each and every one of us want, but the confusion of life distracts us from that simple goal. Some people try too hard, and think they have failed when all they need is a little more faith. These are the people that stare at us, thinking us stupid but knowing, deep down, that they are jealous and bitter and twisted. When these people stare, it is best to look back. But wink at them. If they look away, you can get back to looking at the God they used to think they owned. If they wink back, they are cured. You will have done them a great favour, because now they will not have to stand behind the God they thought they knew better than you. They can stand with you, and with anyone else who wants to stand with you. Indeed, we can all stand together.

My mistake was in thinking that I stood alone, when in reality it was just my mind that stood alone. The Universal Mind is not a mind at all, but a soul. We all share it, but only when we know we share it can we be truly happy. We don’t have to be ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the next person, animal or thing, because we all have our part to play. Neither do we have to obey rules that someone else made in haste. Deep down, we all know the rules anyway. They are God’s rules, and God is not distracted. God is the energy that keeps us going. Human science is the How, but God is the Why. I think the time is right for us to try and ask ‘Why?’ once again. We needn’t be afraid of not finding the answer, because we have enough love in us to live without it. God does not have a mind, as Religion tells us. God does not have a religion either. It is better to God that we live in unity than go to Church to Church every Sunday and live in separation. If we remember this always, there will be no reason for Church at all. Simply being ourselves will be the perfect form of worship.

Piers Adrian was Satan, the Devil, because I invented him to protect me in the place of God. This was a bad thing to do, but also a stupid thing to do, for only God can protect us from Nature’s wrath. The ironic thing is that if we always remember God and what God really is, Nature will have no wrath. Nature will be just as happy to watch us learn as we are to let it teach us. That is what will make us all happy. Satan was only ever real because we created him. There are no faceless monsters, really. The dark is nothing to be afraid of.

I found out where Piers Adrian lived, and went to visit him. If this book was a film, the encounter would be a fiercely dramatic finale in which I, the hero, overcame all manner of ferocious soldiers and henchmen to get there, and then shot him in the head with a gun given to me by my father, and his head exploded and his brains splattered out all over the place. But I’d rather tell you about the beauty of Wales. It’s an exceptional place, and I think everyone should go there. But that’s another story entirely, and one not as good, although probably far better, than this.

Since 1995, many things have happened in the world. At one time, these ‘things’ may have seemed secondary to what goes on in my own mind and imagination, but ‘maturity’ has told me that I am a grain of sand in a handful of sand from a vast wide beach on an immense planet. Unlike many others, who think that maturity means taking control of their own lives, it is to me the surrender to the realisation that I cannot be in control of my own life. Not in destiny-terms, anyway. I don’t see anything wrong with this, however. I think it healthier and happier to be a leaf that knows it’s a leaf, being blown on that eternal breeze, than a leaf that thinks it to be something else, perhaps even the wind itself.

You may not think it sounds like much fun to have no other purpose than to be blown around, but the patient and enlightened will discover the finer (and finer in more ways than one) details to this seemingly futile state. It is in being blown around that we collide with other leaves, all with personalities different than our own. When we collide with these other leaves, we realise that we are not alone. We are happy to float on the breeze, for we amuse ourselves with all the many ways we can interact, create and love with the other leaves we see. Eventually, even, we have that much of a laugh, or suffer so many pains in the arse, that we actually forget that we are leaves. Someone like me comes along and reminds us, and I am thought to be either mad or stupid. Or irrelevant. Or saying something that has been said before. In any case, the leaf theory is not a popular one. Not even to many of those who claim to be ‘religious’.

For the last seven years, I have been a leaf like anyone else. For much of the time, I have been unlucky in that I have got stuck in a few gutters and such. At such times life hasn’t been a carnival, and watching the other leaves conduct the soap operas of their windswept lives has sometimes been like watching paint dry. I have wondered why these out-of-control leaves seem to think that they live such fascinating and riveting lives, when they are just being blown along without a say in it. Then suddenly, as divine and glorious as it is, that magical wind pulls me from the gutter and I am off again. “Wheeee!” I say, like a poncy gay little kid. I remember what fun it is, and dance in the breeze without a care in the world that some cynic like me is watching.

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