On the edge of the forest stood two figures, one taller than the other. The woman wore a long black skirt that made her look taller than she was, her torso’s clothing was hard to distinguish disappearing into a blur of fabric but her face, her face was white like the face of a ghost. Standing next to her a child, also giving the impression that she might be tall. He (I’m pretty sure it was a he) wore a suit, a dark brown pinstripe, well-fitted and he was groomed like he was visiting the cousins. He was probably 12 years old, hard to say with the adult clothing. They stood perfectly still, both staring outward onto the clearing in front of the forest. It wasn’t just a field, the grass was long in tufts, unruly, a result of the influence of the trees. It wasn’t a paddock for animals, deer may have roamed there, foxes and rabbits hidden in the tangle but it was no place to keep stock or crop.
It was then that the pair began to move forward towards me but they weren’t stepping one foot in front of the other, their legs weren’t moving at all but still, they were advancing. The long grass was hiding their feet so it was difficult to say what was causing their momentum. It was then that the reality began to reveal itself. As they moved forwards everything behind them began to wilt. The trees drooped, the branches sagged and everything became black and white. They were killing the vegetation, draining the colour out of the forest and the field. A rabbit shot past me at breakneck speed, a flutter of birds flew up from a small bush but too late as the landscape turned them to dust in mid-air, their remains a cloud of flaky soot and feathers slowly spiralling back to the Earth.
For me there was nowhere to run, they were advancing too quickly and although I wasn’t exactly frozen to the spot, I remained static. The area behind them, desolate and dead, was now extensive and I wondered what poison they emitted to kill life so quickly and easily, to decimate and destroy and just by their presence create a wasteland that resembled a war zone or the surface of a dead planet. They had been perhaps a mile away and through my binoculars, I could see the grimaces on the faces, their dead eyes, yellow with thin lines of blood vessels in the eyeball and a bleak pallor. Still, the closeness of the two like mother and child was apparent, connected by that unseen force between parents and their children. But their lips were dried like they had little water in their bodies, like they might flake into dust like the birds at a touch.
I felt no fear, more curiosity. I questioned the power they wielded, the ability to create such chaos on a whim. Was it revenge, a haunting, a searching for those responsible for their own demise? And why obliterate nature, what harm could the good green Earth deserve? As I looked up I saw a line in the sky that separated that which was alive from that which was dead and it was then that I noticed it was moving more quickly. It was moving forwards in waves like a creeping smouldering flame on a blackened piece of paper taking the print and the colour to black until it was an indecipherable layer.
I removed the binoculars from around my neck, placed my hat down on the ground in front of me. I slowly undid the laces on my boots, removing one then the other plus two odd socks, red and brown, and placed them in the throat between the laces and the back of the leather. Barefoot in loose shirt and shorts, I stood and faced the oncoming surge and closed my eyes. There was no fear, no panic, no desire to turn away. There was no sound except for the quiet whistle of a mellow wind, consistent as a draft under a door. It made me shiver slightly as the cold fingers of that insistent breeze hit my chest and ankles simultaneously and then my face as my head was slightly raised and leaning back beyond my shoulders, my chest thrust forward catching the light air on the pecs, nipples and breastbone.
The aroma of summer had gone replaced by the cold damp smell of rotting leaves, the green mould on the walls of the cellars, the petrichor, the worms on the lawns. Slugs left their slime in trails on the footpaths. A murder of crows circling dilapidated turrets of a disused collapsing mansion, ripped dirty curtains trembling beyond a broken pane of glass.
Early evening empty streets, only lonely orange lamps unable to penetrate the dark but for an eclipse of moths circling the deeper darkness beyond the light. The plague of winter had come.
Music today was early as I had a session late with Noel, French, writing and another bout with the diamonds that made me close my eyes and wish away any oncoming pain, it seemed to work but I lost a lot of time. It might have been the fact that I didn’t have to get up today and I slept too long. The new Pretenders album arrived in the post and I’m dying to hear it as I heard one song online that I really liked, a return to form but it was Genesis’s Nursery Cryme that found its way onto the stereo more for Olivia than anyone else.
Released in 1971 it was the first to feature Phil Collins on drums and Steve Hackett on guitar who was tapping long before Eddie ever was. The bizarre cover art of a croquet game with severed heads and the childlike macabre of it all was a sensation for the imagination for a young teenager in the seventies. Mellotrons and 12 string guitars from Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, Victorian fairytales and lyrical wonders from Peter Gabriel. Collins sings For Absent Friends and adds new depth to the group with his vocal skills to support Gabriel. The album cover is by Paul Whitehead, also responsible for Trespass and Foxtrot as well as Van der Graaf Generator’s H To He Who Am The Only One and Pawn Hearts (ask me about that title someday). Whitehead also did three Le Orme album covers and Tom Fogerty’s Myopia – and many others.
When they bury me with my records, you can put this one in the casket to enjoy in The Afterlife.