To Yoliztli, the moon in the skyTo Timothy, the embers of the bonfire
Let’s keep this quick. I hate prologues. My name is Ralf Matle, I was born in March of 2008. Here I am in the year 2072, at my house in a green and tepid suburb of Northern London. I live with my wife and we have a couple of kids that moved out as soon as they could. Pretty boring so far, am I right? Well, that’s basically it! That’s me, the entire story! Well, perhaps not entirely. In fact, there are a few people, maybe more than just a few people, who will tell you that I have many tales tell. But I need to issue a little warning first before I can start telling you any of them. First of all, you might not believe them. You might think that they are made up, that they are a bad joke or simply the offspring of a very messy imagination. I need you to understand that if you come to one of these conclusion, then that’s perfectly alright by me. If you think these stories are lies, it’s fine! I really don’t mind! I know what I saw and what I felt and I will have told as it is. That’s the only credibility I have. So don’t worry if certain things don’t make any sense. Nothing in life ever does really but we’ll get to that. So I will tell you the stories of my life. Tak’em or leave them. Now, second little warning: this biography of my life is not chronological. It is divided into eight parts and sometimes we’ll jump ahead and I’ll first tell you about things that technically, happened later. This first part discusses my late twenties and we’ll then go back to the childhood. But rest assured, this ordering will only make it easier for you to understand my life. To really, really know someone, a linear timeline doesn’t work, as I’m sure you agree.And last of all, I have included excerpts of my dream journal. For every life episode I tell you, you’ll have a dream that I dreamt during that time to go with it. I don’t know if that only makes matters worse, but hey, it is what it is. You have now been warned been warned. I am now free to tell you my stories and you are free to read them and you are free to believe some of them and free not to believe others.
Part I Whetherspoons And The Seven Tales
-We Live, As We Dream, AloneJ. Conrad
Dream Journal Entry: 23/06/2034
I want, in order to write my eclogues in purest verse,To lie myself beneath the sky like the astrologersNext to the neighbouring bells, to listen and dreamCarried by the winds, their most solemn of hymnsMy two hands to my chin, from my attic bedroomI’ll watch the factory sing a babbled tuneThe chimney pipes, the steeples, all the city’s mastsAnd the great big skies, boundless and so vast
How sweet is it to see, across the misty gloomAs the stars are born in the blue, with a lamp lit in the roomThe rivers of smoke flowing through Night’s embankmentAnd the glow of the moon pouring her pale enchantmentI will witness the spring, summer and autumn’s showAnd when the winter comes with its monotone snowI’ll lock up all my doors and shutters firmly tightSo to build a fairy palace for myself in the nightI will then dream of bright horizons in the blueWhere fountains weep in pools of Alabaster hueWith kisses in the glade, birds singing night and dayAnd all that the Idyll has to offer in its childish playThe Riot, banging vainly at my window glassWill not lift my forehead from my desk’s taskBecause I’ll be plunged in that voluptuous delightOf conjuring up the Spring with all my appetiteOf pulling a sun out of my heart and to shareMy burning thoughts into a warm breathing atmosphere
So we shall begin with me inside a Wetherspoon’s. It’s a starting to get tardy on a Wednesday evening and I’ve dangerously started sipping at my third pint. I’m alone of course. Alone, confused and angry. A perilous triumvirate, just like my pints. In fact I’ve decided to dedicate a pint to every one of them. So cheers to you Anger, I thrust my swilling glass half-heartily. Yes Anger, it feeds and strengthens my first two problems despite being caused by them. Fu… I mean just look at this place. You must know what a Wetherspoon’s looks like, right? At least you’ve heard of it? It’s a trawl for people like me and once it has you there, there is no going back. I glance around for the umpteenth time, sipping from my soapy beer. The place is plasticized, laminated, panelled, bare white reflecting ceilings, identical sticky tables with their padded chairs and assortment of sauces cloned a hundred times across the wide breathing room. The place is stuffed with old men with tuberous tufts of hair. The rug is cardinal maroon, little lozenge sailing about below, with swaying lilies blooming in their centres.I then gaze horizontally down the bar, furnished with empty foam crusted glasses and only a few other dozy patrons. I don’t know what else I was expecting. But I still can’t work out why this place, this dump, is deeply upsetting me. I’ve been here many times before and never has its functional blandness offended me quite so much. Perhaps something to do, with the fact that this place only exists to parasite off people’s weakness and woes. I mean you can’t blame them, these people would probably be drinking on the street or in their homes anyway, wasting even more of their meagre means. Or maybe it’s the because of how honed and specialized this place is at serving the need of self-destruction. You can’t even call it a trap because it is so open and honest about it, with its discounted prices, its early opening hour, its efficient services. I mean at least that’s something, they aren’t even trying to hide the fact they are social club for alcoholics and to be fair honesty goes a long way these days. Most people in here consider themselves too old to do anything else I guess. In a way this place is a bit like the antechamber for the grave and I feel like my time hasn’t come yet. I mean I’m only 26 for goodness’s sake and I feel trapped. I palm my very last £50 note hidden deep in my pocket and it doesn’t inspire me any confidence. For how long now have I been washed and lapped up by tides of beer? I realize that I’ve guzzled down half my pint and I don’t even know how. And once I’ve finished it, what next? I have nowhere to go, nowhere to sleep and nothing to do. Surely not a fourth? Fuck. From the corner of my eye, I detect movement, unusually close. A broad fellow has landed himself on the ledge of the bar right by my side and is trying to order a drink. The pustular student finally comes over and he orders a pint of Spitfire and then a half of plain lager. As the barboy totters off, this fellow turns his lumberly frame to me and displays an expression as if he’s just noticed me. He has very short grey hair, spiking up all across his scalp, wide and baggy cheeks and a beaming forehead made even more expansive by his reductive nose and narrow blue green eyes. He loosely wears a checkered white-green shirt under an ugly brown jacket and it is just impossible to tell whether he is muscular or just a tad overweight. He is now gaping and smiling at me as if he’s just been reunited with a long lost friend.“Hello mate, sorry almost bumped into you there! How are things going?” My first instinct is to grunt at him as rudely as possible but I end up mumbling something like “Yeah, not too bad and yourself?” “Yes, boyo, couldn’t be better, couldn’t be better to tell you the truth.”He stares at me, contemplative, even as his two drinks are delivered in front of him, he keeps staring. I can feel my brow starting to crease into a frown.
“Don’t mean to be inquisitive, but how many pints have you had?” he finally asks. “I’m on my third, why are you asking?” I answer back wearily. “Ha! By Jove! You’ve hardly started! Here take this.” He drops the half pint in front of me“There you go, now we both have a pint a piece! My name is ‘Arie by the way.” “ ’Arie? Uhm, I’m Ralf and thanks… for the drink.” “No worries, what goes around will come around and all that, at least I hope it does! Ha-ha!”He chuckles full of bluster and although I do feel like joining in, my mouth decides to stay metallically shut.He takes a long drag from his drink and smacks his lips full of appetite before saying “And what are your plans for tonight young man?”My fist clenches under the bar table“Nothing really, just to drink my drink… you know.” I retort, full of caution, unable to figure this guy out in the slightest.“Good, good that’s a start, that’s a start, but it’s hardly living is it?” He suddenly starts looking around the place, smiling gravely. “I mean here is no ending place for you my friend. This place is beautiful in its own right, don’t get me wrong, of course, but it lacks a story, doesn’t it? Know what I mean? Everything in here is just so practical, functional, self-evident. Nothing in here exists just to be looked at, know what I mean?” He’s hit a spot. I don’t know how but he’s hit a spot. That was exactly what I had wanted to put my finger on. I want to say something in agreement but I just have another sip of my beer. “Yes, this is no place for telling stories, I’m afraid.” He continues, suddenly weary. “This is a place where stories come to end.” He seems to be reciting my thoughts now.“But you my friend, you have many more stories to tell still, you’re not quite ready for a place like this quite yet.”I nod. “ I’m flattered mate. What do you mean by stories? Tales and stuff? You talk as if you’re a master on the subject.”“Nah boyo, on the contrary I’m a pupil, a pupil of life and indeed I do like a good story for they are life’s lectures” He chortles loudly once more. He then slaps me on the shoulder fearlessly, like we’ve always been the best of chums ““Sorry mate, I just can’t help but to be cheesy. I love it, it’s the best style in the book.” This time I managed to smile, he could be amusing after all this bloke. “Anyway, the point is, cheers to stories.” And he raises his glass. I follow his lead and they clink noiselessly. “You know, the word story,” he resumes, now completely serious again as if nothing had happened “is derived from the Latin storia which means an account of something that has happened. A report basically, a series of past true facts, in other words. But nowadays, what does it mean?” There was a long pause during which I tried to figure out whether or not his question was rhetorical. Eventually I fumble for a “Dunno” “I’ll give you a clue” and he slapped on the counter a thread of green string. Though very taken aback, I refuse to react, as I was starting to gather that he might be a bit mad. He smiles broadly, expectantly. In the end he retrieves the piece string that had outlandishly been contrasting with the bar’s wood to put it back in his pocket and says, much more quietly.“Stories nowadays mean fiction no? Nobody believes them! So if something which long ago meant a true event can now mean a piece of fiction then surely the opposite is just as possible, right? It’s all just one big mash, you know, nobody quite knows what’s true and what’s not. And that is where the fun begins for people like us! If our lives are just stories, then they might as well be fictional stories which means we can do what the fuck we want in them! Hehe!”He raises his pint and chucks half of it down his neck. I continue to nurse mine very cautiously. “Don’t worry mate, it’s normal to be a bit apprehensive around me when we first meet. But I’m just a jester and the world is my court. But I know that you’ll understand me even if you dare not admit it yet. I could tell from the back of your head. You do know you can only trust a person by the back of their head, right? ‘Cause that’s the only place where they don’t know they’re being watched.” That, of all things he had said up to this point, was what finally made me laugh out loud. That was it, my barrier had been shattered and he somehow won me over.He snickered along with me and then clamped his hand on my shoulder yet again. “You see mate, I knew we’d get along. You have the potential to be a wordsmith, a story crafter, a fable fountain just like yours truly here.” “Why thank you, I’m not going to lie, you are entertaining and all but it might be a bit too soon to know whether you’re my new best mate.” “Of course, of course, our characters might be rivals or allies or long lost brothers, who knows! But there is one thing that I would like to show you, if you don’t mind.” His buffoonery and his quaint openness inspired me some trust and I realized I had already latched on to something he had said, on something he implicitly promised, onto something he exhumed. And there was no hiding from the fact that that this was only the case because I was bereft of anything else to believe in. And when he said “Come, finish that drink and let’s go outside. I’ll show you something.” I already knew the excuse I would give to myself. “You-Have-Nothing-Better-To-Do”. So I slurped up the last dregs of my initial drink and then downed the half that ‘Arie had invited me to. We left our glasses and marched out in a ravish manner.“Good lad! It won’t take long, promise” As I followed him across the stale atmosphere, I realized that he’d already cured two of my ailments, loneliness and confusion. Let’s see what he could do about the third.He pushed through the cold chrome door and we emerged onto the starless main road. The sky was puffy with an uncompromising layer of clouds and a steeling breeze was squashed beneath it and pushed onto us as it rolled towards the repetitive sea. I think it was the town was Brighton or a coastal city of similar configuration. The frill of the chill hit me squarely and frankly and I breathed in deep.“Are you hungry by the way?” Queried my new companion. The truth was that I hadn’t had a good meal in over a week and that wasn’t even counting today’s empty stomach. There was no point in lying. “Well… I haven’t eaten much this whole week actually. Slight financial difficulties, hopefully it will clear up soon enough!”“They always do, my friend. And I feel like your luck might be turning.” We traipsed down the road. “But before all else, let us indulge in a feast for thought. You must learn the story of Wetherspoon’s, it’s true and unbeknown history.” I smirked, assuming this was yet just another of his idiosyncratic jokes that I had already started to grow accustomed to. But he rebuffed my smile “This is no laughing matter, young Amanuensis, this is a tale that has been passed down from generation to generation in the utmost secrecy, for this is very powerful and dangerous information I am about to tell you. I myself would have never acquired it had I not been so proficient in the art of Eavesdropping which was taught to me by the great master Miss Brill herself. Anyway I hence came to know that back at the dawn of the 3rd century, a secret order of bardic nomads from Western Wales were given a fabulous secret. As one of their elders was bathing in a pond of gooseberries, the goodness Ceridwen, daughter-in-law of Ceres, appeared filthy and exhausted after having climbed to the highest point of Snowden to scold her cowering son, Morfran, for having played skipping rocks across the sacred pools of the Northern Lakes. Anyways, so exhausted and desperate was she for a bath that she offered the bearded elder of the poets an advantageous secret in exchange for a place in his aromatic bath. The wise man could only accept and with parchment and lily ink, recorded the amazing revelation that was made to him. Ceridwen revealed that there existed a mighty beast, half boar, half python that ruled the Midlands, and that if it was tamed in a battle of wits and its riddle solve, it would become tamed and would produce for its master all the food and beverage he could stuff himself with for the rest of eternity.“The elder returned to his modest troop of balladeers and they agreed that it wasn’t worth all the trouble and that they were more than happy munching on elderberries anyway. But one of their youngest recruits, a youngling called Alder, thought otherwise and believed this was the opportunity to feed to whole land and country and put an end to much misery. The elders tried to make him understand that nothing was or should be free in this world and that no matter how good his intentions were, they would only lead him to perdition. Alder argued furiously with these fogeys and left the troupe in order to found his own warrior sect known as the Weathders of Spoons.“You see, back then Spoon referred to the triangular maces they wielded and Weathders was the demotic term for tamer of wild boars. Their group grew quickly into a small army, many lured by the promise of a never-ending feast and so they scoured the Middle lands for over seven hundred years in vain. This was until Alder, who had not grown a day older due to his ardent desire to find the beast, stumbled onto a crumbling cave with an ollamhic inscription which when deciphered turned out to be a boastful riddle. “It took them 71 more years to find its answer as they had to wait for the ghost of the Alchemist Michael Scot to become bored enough to give it a go. The answer to riddle pointed to the fact that the beast had in fact already been captured and now resided in a monastery in Flemish Belgium. Far from downhearted, Alder, still cherubic despite is ancestral age, summoned his men and they barrelled off to the land of the Flems. Through many trials that are too long to recount now but that were all prophesied by Ibn Rushd many centuries prior, they crossed the Sleeve of the Channel and they arrived to the hidden monastery of Asthorina Grimbergen. “Here they found a myriad of drunken clergy constantly gorging themselves on goose entrails and feasting on the tastiest ale of all the land and probably known to man. There was no doubt that the beast was nearby but Alder knew all too well that brute force would be senseless as the monks would rather die than reveal their secret. So Alder, wise from is interminable life, devised the most cunning of plans and sent his 66 most trusted men to the monastery , all feigning the symptoms of demonic possession. The monks, for the first time in a long time, were forced to set out to work and exorcize them with psalms and rosaries, putting their feasting on hold. They started to work away but no sooner than 17 hours had passed when they all hit by a titanic hangover that had been waiting for themafter several decades of uninterrupted drinking. So intense was their suffering that they were consigned to the floor and were paralyzed by their tortuous headaches. Alder approached one of the Junior Deacons and offered him a potion which he guaranteed would cure his pain in exchange for the location of the beast. So desperate and excruciating the pain thathe was in that he conceded immediately. “So Alder and his Spoon wielders travelled to a hidden cellar three valleys away. They found the beast there who was so exhausted by its constant production of Algigem Ale that it could only give them an anapaestic riddle that Alder, from his minstreling days, had no problem in cracking. They caged the Wyvern Bairaz and sailed back to Wingland as it was called has back then. There Alder prepared everything for his plan to feed the whole kingdom but asked the beast first to produce a roast turkey in order to test the quality of the supply… or so he claimed. Nobody was fooled. Alder simply couldn’t wait to taste the richness of the food after more than seven centuries of precarity and the instant he put the fork in his mouth he was punished by instant death as gluttony returned to his body after having been kept it at bay for all those many years. “The members of the Weathders of Spoons were so devastated by the death of their leader that they disappeared into mystery with the beast in the cage into one of the pits of the Folkestone cliffs. They only lived off Chinese crackers and dried biscuits that the beast provided them and awaited for a deserving and worthy leader to come and carry out Alder’s vision. To distract themselves during these many centuries of loneliness they wrote out their Cyymerian epistles, as recondite as they were magniloquent. These poems lamented the tragic loss of their leader and contained a hidden plea for a reincarnation of their Adler to come forth. These hermetic scribblings slowly started to circulate around the country only thanks to the advent of the printing press. “50 more painful decades went by. Things became unstuck when in 1910, a man that went by the inversed name of Gray Martin stumbled across the lost poetries of the Weathders of Spoons that his close friend the Rev. Edward Davies had been studying out of benevolent curiosity. Now Gray wasn’t any willy nilly, he happened to hold a high position with the Imprisoned Mason order and used his different literary contacts from within to uncover the hidden meaning written between the lines of these odes. When he finally understood what was being kept hidden, he decided to steal the beast for himself. He travelled to Folkstone, wearing the exact attire that the superstitious and exiled Weathders of Spoons had prophesized for their savior. “However, they were not entirely convinced by his arrival to their hiding cave because the Moon had just entered Taurus. But they still accepted him into their humbled caverns and told him they would have to consult the oracle the next day but that he could stay here for the night meanwhile. But that very night, Gray Martin stole the slithering beast in a fishing boat as the moon struck midnight and he made it back to the Hasting shores with the help of Proteus who was by this stage was so desperate to appear in any myth that he would have helped anyone. Mission accomplished for Gray.“However, for many many years more, the beast was of no use to Gray Martin as he could not understand the language the beast spoke in, let alone solve the riddle that needed to be answered to master the hairy Wyvern and its alimentation prowess. Gray had to wait ‘til the 1950s in order to use Turing’s factorization technology to solve the riddle algebraically. He then opened a little pub in Berkshire where he sold the beer and food produced by the beast at a discounted price. He tried to live simply and never abuse of the powers of the beast, but he did die some 16 years later from some pork scratchings intoxication.“His son, Tim Martin, discovered the pub’s secret on his father’s deathbed and took over possession of the beast. Using his knowledge from the Chicago Business School, he bought and expanded pub after pub all over the country, and all the while all the food and drink was tirelessly being sourced by the Boar Wyvern herself, which had now in fact been hidden away somewhere in Hounslow. Tim used the name Wetherspoon’s which was a translation error of his father’s as a token of gratitude to the original Sacred Order that had probably all starved to death by now in their cave. “He has hence become a multibillionaire and this explains why to this very day, Wetherspoon’s can serve the cheapest beer and food in the country, outcompeting all other pubs in the market, no matter what.” ‘Arie finally paused to catch his breath. I, just like you are right now no doubt, was left speechless and thoughtless. I did not know whether I should laugh or clap or answer or run away from this maniac. My tightened stomach however, excited from so much description of tasty feasts, brought me back to our original purpose.“Quite a story, ‘Arie, but what was the point of it? And why the fuck are we here?” Because I had just realized that I’d been so captivated by his rambling tale that I’d more or less blanked the fact that we were in a tight alley behind a building. I knew we’d turned right after exiting the pub and then down a dim orange street and then again a shadowy alley. The last part of the story had been narrated while stood in front of several metal boxes hanging from the brick wall.‘Arie took something small and metallic from his pocket. For a split moment of hair-splitting fright, I was convinced he was about to stab me.“The dictum of this tale is: …”. He said boomingly.But it was a pocket bolt cutter and the oddness of the weapon calmed me down. “…never feel guilty about stealing from Wetherspoon’s ‘cause those bastards get it all for free anyway!” He cut through the D-lock on one of the containers and rolled up its blind to reveal an assortment of chilled crips, Brussel Sprouts au-gratin, bottled beer and a whole range of curly and wedged potato chips. We seized the lot and headed to the beach, our meals bulging between our arms. We feasted there, laughing and swapping anecdotes as the waves head-butted tirelessly against the scree. “I like you Ralfie!” Roared my new friend. “We understand one another well enough. If you don’t have anything better to do, then you should spend this next week with me, mate! I’ll show you how the whole world is just one big story!” “Yeah, one big story that you make up as you go along, am I right?” “Something like that! Hahaa! You’re already catching on!” It was without doubt due to my naivety and the complete absence of any kind of plan in my life that I accepted to hang around this lunatic for the next seven days. Looking back on it now from the spongy cushion of hindsight, it is undeniable that those days were the some of the most defining of my life. It was during this week of nomadism that I learned how to tell a great story.