Friday, 12 August 2016

The Beginnings Of Story: Harmonising The Crack In A Bell

This morning I sat in the refectory of St. Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle.  I read for a while and then put my book down and picked up a pen and a piece of paper.

The idea was to write down five words that I could see around me and from those words write a story.

The words were

Bell,   Crack,    Exit,    Harmonising,    Coffee

The first of the words wasn't one I could see, but the cathedral bell chimed the hour just as I was about to put the tip of my pen on the paper.

I sat there in the refectory and began to write.  I sat at home and wrote some more.  It's not quite free writing this time.  This time I've actually done some thinking about it!  And I've even read through my words to see whether or not they are completely awful.  It's not an ideal situation.  They're too fresh in my head to be able to have much of a clue whether or not their awful.  I might look at it again in a few weeks and cringe deeply, only not deleting the file out of a sense of completeness in a long exploration into the experience of writing.

This is the beginning of the story, formed from those words.  First version.  Raw.  Yeah, I think that highly of you all!  You're getting the raw version.  The whole uncooked potato.

So far I have included zero of those words but they are there in my head and they are leading me into a story that I haven't imagined yet.  Four of the five words are anyway.  I confess that coffee might be binned in much the same way as I would bin a coffee chocolate from the selection box.

I'm guessing that the pace would pick up in whatever comes next.  And whether anything comes next depends on my head.  Whoever this person is - I don't know who they are.  But I seem to have laid down a few clues for myself and would like to find out about them.  That said, I want to find out about the mirror woman too and need to know if the shopping trolley story might have a happy ending.  I might manage to find out one day - if I can make enough time between Blob Thing's adventures and him wanting to write long blog posts about them.

Before the first and so far only 1300 words of a story, a photograph.  It has nothing to do with the story.  Unless the story turns out to have a similar tower.  But if I don't include it then the photo included with this post when it's shared on Facebook and Twitter will be my profile picture from 2013.  It's a decent picture but it could dearly do with updating and I'd prefer this picture to be the one.


A mind rising from nothing. The sweetness of annihilation. A featureless oblivion.

Nothing and yet everything. In the blank canvas an infinite potential of image. In the white page an unfulfilled vision not yet dreamed where words and colour and even music may come together in a plenitude of beauty or ugliness.

An uncreated mind, empty. More full than it would ever be again unless returned into the void, into a placeless place where even description is beyond describing.

A mind rising into chaos. The noticing of its own existence. Those moments of wondering what form that existence may take. The torrent of thoughtless thoughts, of shapeless shape. And then remembrance. The mind existed before annihilation. The mind had form, shape. It had ways of being, preconceived, set hard in neural connections formed through many wakings.

A mind rising into reason. It's quick conclusion that it knows what it is, knows what manner of creature it owns, that its life is a coherent series of events. Today follows yesterday. Usually. The mind realises that sometimes it hasn't always happened that way.

This mind knows. As much as a mind can know.

I am here. I am myself. I am this person. I have lived in this body and live in it still. Everything is as it was before I slept into that bare nothing.

My mind risen into self awareness.

Then rising further into the first fragments of awareness of what lies beyond self.

I looked outside mind, into flesh, into earth, into elemental existence.

The pitch perfect quiet surrounded my ears, a silence punctuated only by the gentle washing of the air through my nostrils as I allowed my body to breathe. I let myself view each breath, feeling the rise and fall of my lungs pressing against my ribs and witnessing the peace in which air passed my relaxed throat. In those moments of awakening, my breath is at its clearest. It sounds in my mind as if a string quartet had somehow found a perfect chord unwritten by composers who could dream such musicality but, unable to sound out the dream, were tempted to despair by the way the music of the gods could never be sung.

As awareness continued to return, I listened.

I listened, leaned into the quiet, into the near perfect and empty stillness, into the cacophony of the voiceless, the overwhelming vibrancy of a piano long after the last note has been played and the last pianist has died. I listened. And I heard it clearly.

Outside of myself: nothing, trickling through me as unbroken stream.

I had experienced such perfect quiet once before. Deep in a cave, where the constant stream – no, raging river – of noise above ground cannot penetrate. That time, timeless in silence, was my freedom. I had sought it out purposefully. I would never have made it through the burning had I not found that place and remained suspended in the dark for as long as it took. In that space I learned control. I learned how to channel pieces of the dark, the silence into the world above. After my exile, I could survive and continue my growth. Just about.

This too, as I woke, was the peace of the free born, as if the air itself had been sucked dry of its natural ability to carry a single decibel from source to ear.


I began to wonder why. And then forced back my wondering. It didn't matter why. Not right then. What mattered was that here was peace. Just a few more seconds of waking solitude before, inevitably, I would be joined by a million uncontrollable voices each wanting to have their say in the wind and the rain, in the stars and the sun, in the electrical hum and vibration of the lights, in just the over-abundance of the background noise – the hissing, jeering, broken cheering, the birdsong, the jet planes, the piercing screams of the artificial satellites.

A few more seconds. Breathe the peace. And know myself. Breathe. Then wonder. Then panic. Then fight. That's the order.

I let thoughts go. Postponing wakefulness. It was overrated anyway.

My body, in rebellion. Form must have life. Commanding life.

As I allowed myself to wake further, I watched and saw the air passing my nostrils. I felt each moment, a fraction of time, almost feeling each molecule in turn, the edges of nitrogen and oxygen and the way the bonds between their atoms sparkled, the jaggedness of carbon dioxide and the way sparks flew whenever it hit my flesh. I saw the space between molecules and in those dark places – although dark is a poor metaphor – I could sense the edges of something darker, just out of reach of my appreciation.

The air was cold, so cold. Far from the cool comfort of the cave. Coldness. A frigidity that could almost freeze the moisture of my nose, as if with each out-breath fresh ice would form on each nasal hair were it not for the warmth of my blood warming each follicle from below. Christ, so damn cold it might have been better to have remained unaware.

Unnatural. Again.

I allowed myself to enter into the touch of the air on my face. Unmoving, except below my nose where moved by breath. Yet it seemed to have its own life, the dead coldness tap tapping on my skin, hitting me with a gentle ferocity, calling each nerve and pore to join it on a frozen journey.

I let awareness of my body come into focus. I realised I was lying on my back. The ground, or floor, below pressed into my back and legs and head as gravity pushed me down. My weight felt right. In the unnatural, at least gravity was something familiar. Whatever I was lying on was soft, a blanket rather than a rock. It was flat. And it was warm, a sandy beach on a summer day. I could tell I was fully dressed but my hand and wrist lay against this ground. The sensation returned was pleasant, a cross between mown grass and silk. I allowed the nerves of my hand to carry this pleasure to my mind and for a while I lived just in that sensation.

I knew what I would see when I opened my eyes. There was no light on the other side of my eyelids. Just like the cave. I knew. I opened my eyes anyway. And gazed into black. I watched the colours for a while, created by my eyes and by the creativity of a brain striving for stimulation. Meaningless patterns, except for the meanings I would give them in my dreams.

And then I stretched my body out. Luxuriously on the soft grass-silk.

At least, that's what my mind told my body to do.

It wouldn't obey.

It wouldn't stretch or cooperate in enjoying the softness.

I focused harder, placed more effort into the command. Telling my hand to move, to experiment with the sensation.

Nothing. Nothing at all. My mind was strong. My body aware. But without movement I could know no more.

Unnatural. Again.

I waited in the silence. Watched my breath. Watched the molecules move. Listened to my heart beat and wondered at the way my body drowned out the outer quiet. I waited. What else could I do? I would have loved to be moving. To get up and feel my way round my surroundings. I like silence. I crave it. But choosing it is one thing. Having it imposed is another. If I could, I would have been searching for a way back to the noise, the fire and sonic booms of the world.

Instead, I could only wait.  Watch.  And remember.

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