26. A Memory of Abel in the future

Abel, monoprint and pen
Abel at Barons Court Station. Monoprint and pen.

The harmonica woman is sitting in the corner of a dark damp tunnel. She still has the white face paint on and bright red lipstick, though it’s running somewhat, giving her a monstrous appearance. She is stitching something together, slowly. carefully, in the candlelight. Her thoughts are of Abel. How she first saw him at Barons Court Station, as we saw him, horror on his face, blood on his hands, in the near future. How he loves Elsie then, oh yes, how he will love her then as he never loved her when she was alive.

Time will go slowly then, so slowly. He will live every second since his very first Spletzer-Martin tablet as detailed pictures in his head. But all that is yet to happen for him. This horror he knows only as confused drug inspired dreams, along with his own death. Currently he lies semi-conscious at the harmonica woman’s feet, registering nothing but the flicker of the candle flame.

She is stitching herself a child.

 

Last episode Red Wine and Revolution 3.

For a list of all the Spletzer-Martin 5 episodes go to The Further Adventures of the Spletzer-Martin 5

22. Sewer Familiars

TunnWe last saw Abel back at part 13. The Altar, in the tunnels under London, and Dread way back in part 6.Dread. 

There is a smell in the air, something like sulphur. It’s not unusual for an addict to hallucinate a smell, and it is not unusual for such a smell to slowly slowly slowly turn into a man. In Abel’s case a man at the end of the bed naked but for a gas mask. That this is happening in a sewer deep under London could be considered unusual to some, but certainly not everyone. Does it bother Abel? It is unlikely, he is just pleased to have a Spletzer-Martin 5 travelling down his throat.

“Have you got a match?” He says to the man in the gas mask, it is an attempt at making conversation, the nakedness seems somehow familiar, comforting almost.

A huge flash occurrs.

The mattress catches fire. Flames leap into the blackness.

Screaming and trying to curl himself into the dampest corner Abel suddenly, slowly, luckily, realises this is a joke.

Dread’s joke.

The flames die away as quickly as they arrived leaving Dread sitting there naked, still wearing a gas mask.

Dread was very much an hallucination, a familiar one by now, almost a friend. Down here in the sewers Abel is very glad to see a friend.

“Dread!” He shouts, like it is a reunion with a long lost buddy. Dread just sits there saying nothing, not even a nod to acknowledge he has realised Abel is there. This was of course nothing new to Abel, Dread was normally silent, yet down here his silence seems to have more authority than above ground, gravitas even.

Still it is disturbing sitting in the near dark on a damp shelf with a man wearing a gas mask having no idea where you actually are. Abel’s brain starts playing a tune to calm himself down, and in another corner of his deluded mind pictures develop, pictures and words, words and movement, till Dread is dancing and singing, tap dancing indeed on the flooded floor in front of Abel

They call me Dread…

Not only that but Abel, Dread, the two of them together, conjure up strange rooms, exotic costumes, an oasis a long long way away from here. By the time of the grand finale Dread is no longer just the personification of dread, but a Familiar Spirit,  a guru, a holy fool. There to lead Abel through the dark tunnels to safety. He had after all provided Abel with his much needed Spletzer-Martins, hadn’t he?

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21. A Spletzer-Martin Moment

20. Red Wine and Revolution – The Luxury of Atheism

19. Red Wine and Revolution – Elsie’s thoughts.

21. A Spletzer-Martin 5 Moment

Spletzer-Martin No.5Sit for a moment, just sit, and do absolutely nothing. Allow your senses to take over and let the talking you fade; if the voice continues to babble on just let it, it’s not the important thing now. Breath deeply: in, out. Feel the air going into your lungs, filling you and going out again. You are not separate from your surroundings, your surroundings are not separate from you.

What can you feel?

What can you hear?

What can you smell?

Think how much stuff there is. How full your senses are. So much. How rich it is, this tiny bit of now, amazingly rich, immense and unfathomable.

This sounds a little like a meditation, but I present it to you now because that intense awareness of the moment is what the Spletzer-Martin 5 can give. All your senses are heightened, everything is at its fullest, most intense, most alive. And not only does the Spletzer-Martin 5 give you this amazing feeling, it gives you it for days with no sleep required and no physical side effects.*

* It has recently been reported that there are some psychological side effects. A deep addiction to the heightened feeling. As one takes more and more of it ones brain may become confused, forget the difference between you and your surroundings, loose the talking you in the many other voices of fans, sirens, dish washers…. Hallucinate creatures in the corners, eyes in the machines. You may be terrified. Out of control. Your brain desperately seeking to rebuild you and the safe reality to exist in, but sometimes the brain may find a different reality, reinterprtations of the previously understood and previously ignored, an interpretation that makes just as much rational sense as the old one. Then, what if you find others with the same alternative interpretation? What if you are living in a tunnel under London where the alternative reality now makes a lot more sense?

20. Red Wine and Revolution 2: The Luxury of Atheism

moon and sunThis is part of a fictional story called The Spletzer-Martin 5 set in London in the not so distant future. It is very much a work in progress.

“Atheism is a luxury of the rich!”

This was Louise saying hello. She flopped into the large expensively embroidered armchair and let out a rather melodramatic sigh. Elsie didn’t bother to ask if she was okay, nothing Louise did was ever so bland as to be okay. All blonde hair  and long disapproving nose, she’d been chatting up the 50 something bar tender who now gave them the benefit of candles and canapes on the house. An office party had been held there earlier and the food would only go to waste.

“its alright for you” she said to Elsie “you can afford to buy food, you don’t need to scavenge like this”

There they were, both in this exclusive London club due to Louise’s abilities to blag. Elsie watched her nibble fussily at the snacks, picking out the bits that weren’t to her taste, and couldn’t help but smile. Louise was perfectly suited to her situation. A Twilighter (1) extraordinaire.

There was something different about her now though, a darkness round the eyes, less playful than before,  hard-edged somehow, with age and fatigue collecting at the corners of her mouth.

” a friend of mine died from the cold six months ago, and now another one has gangrene in her foot and may loose it.” She said this to Elsie in an accusational fashion.

“Is she in hospital?”

“Of course not! She has no money for hospital. There’s a “See-er” in the tunnels taking care of her”

“A See-er? What’s a See-er”

” Like a witchdoctor, shaman healer type, there are quite a few practicing in the tunnels now”

” But surely she could find a charity or something to help her?”

Louise didn’t actually spit at this comment but only because that would mean them being thrown out of the club. Instead she glared a silent glare for a whole 60 seconds. Then finally she hissed:

“She’s ill, she can’t walk, how can she go hunting out charity hospitals! They’re over crowded anyway and she’s likely to be dead before she gets seen! Besides she’s been living in the tunnels for three years now, since she lost her job and couldn’t pay the rent. The Underlondoners (2) don’t trust anything belonging to  above-landers”.

Elsie was silent.

More calmly Louise continued:

” they’re starting their own religion down there, they need it to survive. Money doesn’t rule them down there. What is important is knowing the way round the tunnels. Where to find clean water, where’s best to come to the surface to scavenge for food, what remedies can be obtained from weeds and found remains. They’re returning to old folklores. When I first found out I was thinking they’d be bound to die out then, but no, it’s what is keeping them alive. Belief, psychology. is incredibly powerful”.

She took a sip of red wine, formed a deep frown across her forehead and looked directly into Elsie’s eyes

“Are you an Atheist?”

“Yes, of course” said Elsie “aren’t you?”

“Not anymore – If you are lying on a sodden blanket in pitch darkness, in severe agony, knowing there is no one coming to help you, if you’re convinced you are about to die, slowly, painfully and alone, do you rationalise it? Do you way up the scientific odds? Sing “Always look on the bright side of life”? No, you beg God – and any god will do at this moment, you’re not fussy – to save your life. I know, I’ve been there, and until you can say you’ve been there and didn’t find yourself begging God, you’re Atheism is shallow”.

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1. Twilighters – The term Twilighter started being used in the early 2000′s by the arts council of England to distinguish between respectable people and the type of person who was not worth counting as potential audience. It was later adopted by the government and media to describe a section of the public who were poor,  in temporary accommodation, in unstable employment if any. With the reforms to arts funding and low income self-employment tax it came to include most artists and musicians.

2.  Underlondoners – Those who live in the tunnels under London. Read Water

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19. Red Wine and Revolution – Elsie’s thoughts.

17. Elsie’s Pragmatism

Future birdCertain moments replayed endlessly in your head, is that love? The irrational desire to relive tiny fragments of time over and over? What is a person? What is it to know someone? What does it mean when they become your default thought? Danger I’d say.

This is how it was for Elsie, but she told herself she did not love Abel. She was obsessed with Abel, she’d admit that, it was irrational but somehow necessary. When she first discovered he had gone she’d looked for him down the tunnels of the Piccadilly line, crept through god knows what for days in the darkness. A stupid crazed search which now, in the light of the Arts Admin office, she saw as a type of madness. A breakdown perhaps.

For what had really happened? Abel had gone off without telling her where he was going – that was very like Abel – and a drunk had told her he’d gone down the tunnels under London. Why had she believed what a drunk had told her? Why had she risked her own life chasing after someone who should be capable of looking after himself? Someone who certainly wouldn’t bother chasing after her!

So she stopped. Forced herself to be sensible about it, got back to work, got busy, tried to forget. She always remembered though, in the quiet periods, those moments when he’d seemed so close.

Although it had been the potential rock-god Abel that first attracted her, it was the weak, vulnerable Abel she had perhaps fallen in love with. The one that couldn’t cope with complicated situations. The one that needed a hug. The one that kissed her as though he really needed her. She knew by the next day he’d forget her. Even she would admit that it was partly the uncertainty, the waiting and wondering, that fuelled her obsession, made her desire him like nothing else.

Now though she was being pragmatic. She had a good job, she had prospects, her boss needed her.

Changes were sort, she vaguely dated other men. What was Abel to her? Just a series of moments now past. Or at least that was what she was trying hard to pretend.

16. The Sin Eater

14. Betwixt and Between

Walking through a woodWednesday 29th August 2020. Just back from Wales.

It is the woods you know, the woods and the ferns and the river that feel most like home, not the house. The way the trees cling to the hillside, their roots grabbing at the toppling rocks, the lichen coating their arms with a silver skin. They shout so deeply it can’t be heard but it turns my insides. They talk and talk, muttering secrets. The first fit I can remember having was in a woods in Wales like this, maybe that is why its ghosts are so powerful.

I crouch in the mud and hang on to the trees trying to stop myself from falling completely, the dogs hover round me nervously. A rush of adrenalin, I breath in as deeply as I can as if to breath in the wood. Vast moments containing too much of everything enclose me, un-managable stuff, colour, sound, light, texture, smell, too much to cope with. My face hangs just above the mud, reflections in the water dazzle my eyes, memories surround me, mismatched, not making sense, I taste the air, I would not miss this experience for all the money in the world!

Of course I gave up believing in witches, fairies and trolls in the woods years ago, as one is supposed to, but i know here there is something big, something powerful, something that breaths and contains all breath.

When I can stand again we follow the river through the woods to the beach. And then there is the sea. I cry when we reach the sea, as i always do, something in me is not strong enough.

I want to make things that are like the woods, things/situations that are magic. A threshold, betwixt and between, somewhere where the self is lost into the moment.

So here I am now, back in London, trying to straighten out crimped thoughts, drowning in cheap wine, watching strange insects crawl across my keyboard. I am homesick for the trees and keeping myself busy.

Busy doing what exactly?

Explaining that I am a Twilighter, as is Steve. ‘Twilighter’ is the official tittle given to us, first by the arts council, then by everyone as we started to become invisible.

I live in a basement flat on Talgarth Road. It was once a council property back when there were council properties. Officially now I am a squatter, but no one will go to the effort of trying to get me out. There are a lot of us here on Talgarth road. The properties are in bad condition, the road is slowly collapsing into the cellars beneath it, there is no money in buying them up and developing, best just to pretend they are not here. So the buildings became invisible and gathered invisible people, Twilighters, those with problems, illnesses, things that can’t be cured easily, those society would rather not have around.

Now Elsie is definitely not a Twilighter, a very respectable lady indeed these days. She lives in a very respectible flat off the main road, just round the corner from Barons Court. We used to be good friends,  but it seems that has changed.

It was when she realised she couldn’t find Abel that I first noticed the change in her. She searched down the tunnels for him, she was determined, I got worried about her wondering along the tracks of the Piccadilly line in the dark. Then one day I saw her and she looked an absolute state, ill and dirty, coughing and wretching. I asked her what had happened but she wouldn’t tell me. After that she seemed to get very career minded, stopped mentioning Abel so much, stopped talking to me much at all, I started becoming as invisible to her as I am to most respectable citizens.

Or perhaps it was my talking to shouting trees that has freaked her out. Still being invisible has its advantages.

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13. The Alter

12. Malformed and Obscene

11. Her Pet Project

10. Water

Pisces
6th March

There are several hundred people living under London. No one can say when the first people started living down there, but it has certainly been growing steadily since 2000.  They are a close, strong community due to the harshness of their circumstances. The elder generation are mainly people who lost their homes during the big recession, those who couldn’t get jobs, the sick and the disabled who were abandoned as successive governments privatised the NHS.

The elder generation, although mocking of the above-landers, still hold a buried shame and desire to return to the daylight. The second generation however, now in their late teens and early twenties, don’t have this desire. Born in the tunnels they are proud of what they are, scavenging is their art and the above-landers are cattle to be milked.

The biggest difficulty about living down there is finding clean drinking water. Although Underlondon is partially flooded most of the time, and contains the old buried rivers of London, the water is dirty and the rivers have become sewers. Instead the people of Underlondon have sort out the ancient springs, trickles of fresh water flowing from cracks in the brick work. These springs are precious to the people down there and the holy qualities of the springs, appreciated in the past, are returning.

Where as many an above-lander has come to the rational conclusion that there are no gods, the Underlondoner knows there is nothing more rational than treating what sustains your life as Divine.

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9. So where were we…

8. Drunken Delirium
7. Hallucinari
6. Dread
5. Slapdash
4. Eyes in the Machines
3. Underlondon
2. Abel
1. What YOU Need!

( I know I should be listening to CD’s instead of writing this, but I really can’t stand those little black speakers I’ve got, and when I do listen to a piece I like on CD I have to listen to it again and again and again.)