There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear?
It was a colder than normal August evening. The summer had been a washout as day after sunny day was ruined by storms that would make Noah pack his arm bands. Then, when you were sick to the gold teeth of rain, the sun would rock up, turned up to eleven and refuse to go away until the whole county was wide awake at 4am, getting up from sticky sheets to take a cold shower for a few precious minutes of respite.
Meteorologists, forever pissed off that they didn’t get to study meteors, printed off another graph, which was looking dangerously close to becoming an exponential one. The Earth was overheating and we were drunk in bed, lying on the thermostat.
The 10 ‘O’ Clock News confirmed it. The Earth was really dying. Huw Edwards face was wet, so I knew he wasn’t lying.
But somewhere, in the North of England, tucked away in an observatory in England’s darkest forest, Dr. Blackstar had another hypothesis. Not a better one. Just another one.
His analysis of the isobars had supported the idea that something, or someone, was stirring the thick atmospheric soup above us and fucking with the summer. Sadly, for the rest of us, he’d never get his moment in the sun.
I was nearing the end of my book tour, reading excerpts, night after lonely night, in the last 23 remaining vicar’s pele towers in the counties of Cumbria and Northumbria.
I had just read to two men and their dog in the tower that guarded the ancient settlement of Corbridge. When I say read, I mean I interjected into an argument they were having about why it was odd that they were still playing Blockbuster by Gary Glitter on the radio after all he’d done. I told them that Blockbuster was by The Sweet, but then I think I inadvertently confused them with The Bay City Rollers and suggested that one of The Sweet’s members had also been arrested for noncing. Sensing that this would not be the right time to read the hilarious chapter from my new book where the hero incorrectly sums 1+9+7+5 to make 23 and books a Ukrainian Mott The Hoople tribute band to help save the world, I finished my shandy and hit the road for the 23 mile drive to my B&B in Haltwhistle.
When the sun is shining and the clouds have floated away, the A69 is a glorious road to drive, strangulating the thin Northern neck of England like a diamanté garrote. Sheep and cows pepper the fields like a sleepy Pink Floyd sleeve designer who has fallen asleep on CTRL-V. It alternates between single and double carriageways with the crawler lanes expertly designed to deliver both a glimmer of hope and a crashing sense of despair as you realise your never going to get past this fucking Preston’s of Potto lorry.
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Craving some light listening for the last few miles, I switched on Radio 4, only to be disappointed to hear the bombastic tones that introduced the hourly news bulletin. Some men and women had signed up to a plan to help them stop another man from stopping them interfering with his plan to leave the EU without having any plan for that whatsoever. The plotters were so smug that their plan was going to work, even though they hadn’t told the bad man what the plan was he knew it must be a good plan if it made the socialists smug. Smugness in the delivery of plans to stop non-smug citizens from ever being smug again was normally reserved for the Tory Party and it was normally delivered to the press by either a haunted pencil in a top-hat or the lab-grown stunted dwarf offspring of The Two Ronnies. The bad man decided to take the ‘nuclear option’ which is always a worrying turn of phrase when it’s concerning an over-grown teddybear of a man, shaved strategically to reveal the semblance of a face and expressions, whose blustering bollocks frequently give the impression that he would drop depleted uranium on an old school chum who wouldn’t sneak him a Curly Wurly our of the Tuck Shop forty years earlier and would convince the population of the existence of aggressive banana legislation from Brussels just to get back at the winner of the 1987 Best Dressed Man Standing On Some Steps In Oxford Looking Off Into The Future Like It Fucking Belongs To Him Alone Award.
Things were going to get nasty soon, but I was optimistic that once it got better, after it had first got much worse, the better would be better that any available betters today and ultimately usher in a utopian paradise of free love and trance vinyl.
My mind drifted for a moment as I pictured wind turbines powering glow sticks all along The Pennines and when it returned to the road, I was struck by how dark it had become and how little I could see of the road ahead. I slowed the car and pulled into a lay-by decorated only by two wheelie bins full of soiled adult diapers and Wagon Wheel wrappers. As the engine gently ticked over, adding a click track to the melancholic theme for The Shipping Forecast, I became aware of a bright pulsating light in my rear view mirror and I watched, frozen in terror as it enveloped my car. Inside the light, whispered voices spoke the language of a fever dream and floating sparks of electricity fired across my synapses. A message crystallised in my frontal lobe.
“Don’t be afraid. We are going to fuck you up a bit, but in a few days time everything will be back to a kind of normal again. So, if you wouldn’t mind, could you unfasten your seatbelt as it makes it easier for our tractor beam to suck you up into the laboratory. There will be about 48 hours of extreme disorientation and discomfort interspersed with breaks for sausage casserole or maybe you’d like to try some of the moussaka. If you‘re not into your meat then we’ve got all the Waldorf Salad you’re ever gonna need.”
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away...
What followed exists only as shattered fragments of memory, momentary flashes of colour and form. Serpents emerging from hidden spaces. Conga lines and childhood dances. Shimmering vistas of dreamt up landscapes bathed in a technicolored drizzle. Discordant electric bubbles of sound and the warped thoughts of Others are forced babbling out of my mouth. More speaking in tongues as the test subjects are crowded around a circular target to share our dreams, shine a light on our fears and make declarations of love.
For some, it was all too much and they were taken away by featureless forms in lab coats for rehabilitation or recycling. Then darkness descended and enveloped the test pod. An intergalactic wind spiralled around our womb-like cell and examinations were carried out on ourselves, inside and out. Crescendo upon crescendo of flickering blood red flames and then more deathly dark and cold.
Back in our containment pods, the absence of light made eyes obsolete and time became imperceivable. We lay frozen in space and time, longing for the return of the light.
When the light finally returned, it was a light of illumination. Information poured into our minds until it was running out of our ears. We saw the history of our planet replayed in a random order and at breakneck speed. The Esch was Immed, God’s bankers re-emerged selling frozen goods. The back stories of counter cultures were ripped apart and reformed into Trickster testimonies. Togetherness was forcefully encouraged by adhesion to new norms and generations re-bonded with shamanic forefathers. Superheroes became the new mythology gifting us their powers.
We rode on the backs of gigantic invertebrates, but moved slowly like wading through treacle.
Without warning, our collective consciousness was fashioned into a smooth glass bullet and fired into the dark heart of humanity where envy and betrayal writhe amongst the rocks and broken shards of dreams.
Then, we tried the moussaka.
Our extraterrestrial captors had finished with us, but before we returned we were treated to a celebration of mankind’s creative peaks as idols were reanimated to perform again, we laughed at the ridiculousness of our archetypes and rejoiced as the shimmering rays of the beat rocked the bells of peace.
We were returned again to our isolation pods where we bathed in the warm glow of brotherly and sisterly love. We were returned to Earth with energy and insight, Popes of a New Church, Kings and Queens of a Castle In The Sky.
One of our number headed for the hills and took refuge in his bunker, nervous about an uncertain future.
The Dark Ages?
Nah, fuck that.
Turn on the light.