Present by his Absence
I'm The Rover. I'm the trees, the rivers and the earth beneath your feet. I'm the ale you drink, the tobacco you smoke and the air that whips you to the bone when, late at night, you stumble home from the pub. I'm the birds in the morning and the sounds at night which confuse you. I was comfort for some, a pain for others. I am dead now.
If you looked down into the parlour of the house I barely stayed in, at the chair by the fire, you'd see an Old God. Born from old pains and happy days. I took the aches, the stress and the burden. I held you whilst you cried. I am still dead. You'll see my boots, by the fire. Warming in the twilight, for the first time in years. I took my boots off at last and saw the flesh of my feet. I kept walking because it kept me young. Along the way I met some wonderful people and some devils in disguise. I've sat to long, each time the warmth has kept me longer. I rarely returned home and never married. Old gods never married. My blood is built on love and care. Though it beats no more, my love carries on. So to fly with an eternal eye, an Old God shall watch his funeral.
The coffin was carried in by his friends. Tall and short, in black suits and white shirts. Their neckties were green and brown and their heads covered with old battered hats. From them protruded feathers from a pheasant.They'd been a gift, from a friend who loved them like no other. At different times he had handed them a hat, upon his departure and within days a pheasant had appeared. They took a feather and the bird had flown. His spirit was in the bird and from that bird the feather they took had been a part of him which they carried and kept. Now was the only time they would wear their hats and cry. They walked the coffin through the trees and into the open glade. The wind caused the trees to whisper their secrets to the world. Like oft they'd whispered their secrets to him. They hung around the coffin like the flowers of the spring. The ones who'd told them dark truths and the secrets they saw as silly. He carried them with him in life and into death. His crown of thorns were thorns grown in the gardens of others. The casket of reeds was placed softly on the stones as those who had known him filtered through the woodland and stood in somber silence.
I don't like the silence. I was silent at times but they spoke. Always speaking, always laughing. I'd prefer they speak.
The Priest, a man who could speak to the earth and not a man of religion for he'd had no time for that in life let alone in death, stood in the middle of the building circle and spoke to those around him. His hand upon the coffin and his head raised to the sky.
“Before us lays a man we knew. A man we cared for. At times he feared we didn't though he learned as times went on to accept our love. When he stumbled, we caught him and when the road got to much, we lay him down and kept him warm. His shaking form was our constant care. We held his hand while he shivered and spat. We dried his tears and felt his pain. Though he thought he could carry this burden by himself there were times he had to admit that his knees were buckling beneath the weight. There were days he would not speak to us.
Damn right, there were days I wouldn't talk to myself. They were bad days.
There were days he'd sleep and sleep, to recharge. He'd eat and drink on other days. He'd take the bill though we fought him on that matter and all he'd say was 'Of all the money that ever i've had...
I spent it in good company.
He would sit and laugh with us, his hands behind his head. He'd tap his foot the whole time, desperate for the road to be back beneath his feet. He would walk around the country, meeting people that were connected to us all through his love. When he'd stop for those brief glimmering moments there is one thing he'd always do. He would, as the night was winding her arms around his company he'd sing the latest song he'd heard in some distant pub. Let that music fill our hearts today, the day The Rover died.” The trees sang in sweet harmony with the grass and the birds. Then a figure stepped forward.
Him? Why is he here? Let alone about to speak at my funeral. After everything...
A tall figure in a long coat stood in a moment of silence that covered the whole glade. His hair was grey and his beard was a simple ghost upon his face.
“I'm guessing your surprised to see me. I'm talking to you cocker. I know you're here. In spirit, you're part of this place. You're a part of these people and you'd love to see this.
I'm going to speak now, to some this will be shocking, as his friend. The man you knew was an image. He was an idea that took wing. A wanderlust that became a physical being. Don't think any less of him for that. The thing I need to talk about is the duality of the deity. The light you met and the darkness I knew. Very few saw that true darkness. They saw the sadness and the hurt. But you did not feel the pain nor did the horror of his suffering ever seep into your mind. I sat with him during the days he could not walk. I have heard the madness ousing from him, the muttering in the night. The poison flowing from his screaming mind and bursting from his mouth in booming silent screams. He would sit and never move, only his rising and falling chest would show me he was still alive. He'd drink to much and smoker non-stop. He'd talk about his pains freely. He would tell me his secrets. A precious gift he kept for only a few. Of ghosts of lost loves and of deeds he could never be absolved of. He'd cry with me and then laugh. He'd sit in the cold for hours on end and just think.
The dog had me then, by the arm. It's teeth ripping into my flesh and turing my blood black with bile.
He called the pain “My Black Dog” and at times he would tell me I was the only one who could beat the beast back to it's mental kennel. I did my best though I fear it wasn't enough. He never thanked me. Eventually he stopped calling at my door. Did I fail him? Did I fail you?”
You served me better than anyone. You kept me going. You broke the strangle hold and kept me sane. I never thanked you because I couldn't. How do you thank someone for keeping your head above the water and stopping you from drowning? What words exist to tell you how much you meant to me.
The tall figure leaves the spot light. He is slowly replaced by a shorter man. His hands in his pockets and his head down.
“He'd have liked me talking here. Although he always said I spoke to much. He gave me some advice in later life. When he was starting to hurt. He'd been rushing around, hadn't felt the seasons change. He sat there rubbing his heels and polishing his boots. I was talking and for the first time he placed his hand up and signalled me to stop. I fell silent and he just looked into my eyes. His deep blue eyes glinted in the sun. After a moment, he spoke. “You never stop to listen. Not to words or theories. You absorb in quiet consideration and can talk about such marvelous topics. But have you ever stopped to listen to the world? To the songs of the season?
I felt the seasons change, I hear the trees and sense the turning of the earth. Within me flows ancient knowledge and forgotten songs. I am eternal, though the light bearer must change each season. At the start of each new season's song.
I sat then and listened. I heard the world like he heard it. Its pain and it's joys. He'd feel that through he feet each day. Sadness was his constant companion on his never ending journey.” The man walked away from the podium and returned to the crowd.
The third man, finishing the triad of those due to speak, was a tall, blonde man. Younger than the rest, he walked with a determined step.
“Less of the myth. Less of the stories. I remember him for one thing. How he smelled. How, when I was a child, when he'd appear he'd bring me sweets or toys and he's laugh and play. He could be serious at times. Very serious and loud. Though even when the wanderlust was calling him again I knew he'd be fine and that he still cared deep down. He'd tell me stories and sing me songs and then he'd be gone. Sometimes before the house woke and sometimes in prolonged goodbyes which hurt him, though he'd never ever admit it. He told me a story once. About how he knew people around the world. To some he was a mighty god and to others he was The Ghost. He said he would turn up to see people but deeds of the past kept him from their doors. I'll never forget him. No one will.”
The body was placed in a hole at the base of a large tree. A tree where, it was said, he was photoed sleeping and he'd loved the photo. In his scrap book he wrote underneath the dog eared polaroid “At peace” He's under that tree sleeping now. At peace.
I'm at peace. But is she?
“I am now. You would come and go but now i've got you. Time to stop and rest you old ghost.”
Will they be OK? Without me?
“I don't know. I managed it didn't I? You're always with them. Present by your absence.”
Authors Notes - I used to write about The Rover - an aspect of myself which desired to travel, never to settle. Sadly i feel that no longer. The Rover is Dead. Though his spirit still kicks me once in a while. I may listen one day
It's hard to explain where exactly my interest in everything to do with the occult began. I know it got worse at University. I'd occasionally drop hidden references into essays or exams and attempt to covertly link my discussion topic to something connected to the forgotten knowledge. Eventually a friend of mine sat me down and told me that I needed someone else to talk to about the occult. Though my dear sweet friends would humour me when, after a couple of bottles of Riesling i'd end up talking at great speed and length about Count Cagliostro or Eliphas Lévi. They would after a while steer me away from these topics and back to music or ale and i'd be left feeling, like most times I discussed the occult, empty. This was my hidden perversion. Some enjoyed the sensual touch of feet others the idea of whips and chains. I was interested wholly in the forgotten knowledge and its trappings. It wasn't until on a research expedition to the British Library, when upon completion of the research I needed to do, I decided to look up a book by the Master Alistair Crowley. I leafed through the “Liber AL vel Legis” (Book of the Law) taking in the ancient knowledge. Savouring each word like a fine wine, the blood running through my body taking on the hugh of an empowered liquid of ritual. My hands ran over the elderly pages until I noticed in the margin of one of the yellowing pages some idiot had used a pen to graffiti the sacred work. In anger I decided to read the small note and see to what had been so necessary to write and thus defile the text. There in a small and ornate handwriting was written an email address. What kind of idiot would put an email address in a book? One owned by the British Library at that! So strong was my conviction to 'express my annoyance that I noted down the address and set about writing a strongly worded response to this sacrilege. It became overly weird from that point on I remember.
I sat at my laptop in a coffee shop in central London using their free wi-fi. As I opened my laptop bag and touched my laptop I received a small electric shock. I pulled the computer from the bag and placed it on the table in front of me. Within ten minutes I was accessing my email account and preparing to berate the bastard who'd written his email address in a sacred text when I noticed an email in my inbox who was supposedly sent by A. Friend. Though i'd always had faith in my spam email filter in its ability to remove from sight request to aid an African gentleman who's mother had been eaten by lions and had in her nearsighted ness negated to make a will and thus my bank details were needed to unlock her huge capital. And viagra. I was offered copious amounts of viagra. I opened the email ready to confine it and its email address to my spam list when I noticed two things. Firstly the message was addressed to me by full name and contained a simple message saying “Hello Seeker” and secondly the email address was the same as the one i'd found in the book. I sat in a brief moment of shock at this impossible coincidence. Instinctively I replied with my planned email explaining my disgust at the desecration. Admittedly I used words including some rather rude phrases. Within minutes though i'd received a reply.
“My Dear boy,
I expected so much more from a man dressed so well. Though I suppose the man who wears a blue shirt with a white necktie can't be expected to achieve much.
I'm wearing a blue shirt and white tie. That was the first thought to cross my mind and as my hands flew to my neck and removed the tie my web browser automatically updated to announce another email.
I froze for the briefest moment and then began to look around to locate the friend who had followed me to London and managed to execute an intricate but irritating prank on me. I turned on my seat to see that no one else was in the coffee shop, let alone a friend of mine. I turned slowly back and sitting opposite me was a man. Tall and thin with long brown hair and a full beard. He wore circular tinted sunglasses. His hands were clasped one upon the other on top of the table. He wore a single silver ring and his hands looked soft. He sat and stared at me for a moment before speaking.
“Good Afternoon.” he said in a soft tone.
I stuttered slightly before speaking. “Good Afternoon.”
'You're currently thinking three things. Firstly who on earth is this man in-front of me? Secondly, Is this man mad? And finally is he going to hurt me?'
I only heard snippets of this comment as at the time I was thinking: Who the hell is this guy? Is he the local nutter and is he going to kill me?
'I have no intention of hurting you nor am I mad. I am simply the least insane inmate in this global asylum. I'm simply a friend.' he said. At this point I was beginning to fell less at ease. Here in front of me was a man who had some how managed to get my email address, my name and to watch me from a distance for goodness knows how long before eventually cornering me in a deserted London coffee shop.
'By the look of you, i'd say you've been interested in the occult for some five years. But your friends don't understand you. This one does though.' He smiled and as I blinked he suddenly had a cup of coffee in his hands. He stared at me, looking deep into my should. Or so I feared.
'Conversations only work if both people involved should seek to speak my friend.'
Stammering again 'I don't even know you! Who are you?' I spoke with a tremble once the stammer stopped.
'Oh i'm just a man who seeks the same wisdom that you most obviously do. You found my email address in...' he paused and took a sip of his coffee. 'Liber AL vel Legis?' For a moment I was dumbfounded. This stranger not only knew my name, my email address but even the books I read.
'Is your address in other books?'
'Yes, one or two.'
'Is there a reason your in the habit of scribbling your email address in works of great importance? Are your chest measurements in a folio of shakespeare's work?' I realised what i'd said just after I said it. He laughed, a deep laugh which echoed like it had come from hell itself. It began to get far weirder than before at this point.
He rubbed his beard, grabbed at his face, pulling the skin downwards, to stretch the face. Each time he ran his hands down his thin, sallow face he pulled the beard from its place. In clumps it came away, with each tiny hair his face grew slightly fatter. He began to run his fingers through his hair and the long strands began to come out from their roots. His self mutilation left a shinning bald head and a fatter face. I looked in disbelief, my eyes wide open, slowly drying out begging me to blink. I was scared. To scared to blink. What could he do in the brief second. The time between my eyes shutting and reopening in that fraction of a second.
'Don't mind me old boy. Airing out the cobwebs one gains from to long not involved in day to day life. Meeting people, drinking coffee and eating.' I blinked and in that fraction of time a plate of food appeared in front of him. My initial thought was coffee shop doesn't serve food and then as I looked closely I realised what he was eating. There in front of me sat this impossible man eating what can only be described as a heart. A small browned heart, with vegetables and gravy. It just sat there. 'He was somewhat of an uneducated and deaf to the knowledge'
'My last acquaintance, though he had a big heart.' He smiled and amongst his yellow teeth were fibres. Long moist fibres dangling as he laughed.
I stood up, leaving my laptop open and my coffee unfinished. I went to move, to leave and run. He just sat there and stared at me. I sat down, I still don't know why but I sat down. His smile creeped back over his face and we sat in silence whilst he ate his meal. Upon finishing, he removed his napkin and draped it over the plate. I never saw it, but I knew it disappeared at that point. It was at this point he began to rub his stomach. Each rub caused it to swell further and further and as he grew he began to sweat. He grew larger and larger and then he threw his hands in the air and in a flourish removed the handkerchief in his top pocket and began to rub his face. When he'd finished I watched the final part of his extraordinary transformation complete in front of my very eyes. His face was harder, his eyes cold. He was completely bald and clean shaven. He had grown considerably in size and the tall thin man who had first sat in front of me was now a short fat man. I stared as the connections in my mind began to click over and over until eventually I realised who this man sitting before me was. I spoke.
'Love is the law.'
'Love under will'
I began to shake but I knew I had to carry on towards my unhappy conclusion.
'Do what thou wilt...'
I heard his answer in my mind first. Ringing through my fearful mind.
'Shall be the whole of the Law.'
I'm not sure how I escaped that day. Or what he wanted with me and what would have happened had I not stood and run. I found myself in an alley about a quarter of a mile away. I vomited and fell to the ground with my body twitching. I lay there, panting, paranoid of the footsteps and shadows mere metres away at the alley mouth. I lay there and knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt and though it was impossible, that I had, inexplicably, had coffee with the Beast.