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

13.The Altar

Abel could hear the sound of running water. It was coming from the altar. He approached it crawling on all fours, standing had not occurred to him yet. In the centre of the alter the rock wall was exposed and from it there trickled a small but constant flow of clear water. Abel, his mouth still feeling like a chalk mine, flung himself towards it, only to be whacked across the back with a large stick.

The mad harmonica lady stood growling at him like a wild cat, stick clasped in one hand, lantern in the other. Then he heard voices, lots of them coming nearer and nearer. To avoid being hit again he scrambled  into a corner.

Suddenly the room was full of people. Men and women, maybe 60, maybe more. All silent. No one seemed to notice Abel, even the harmonica lady seemed uninterested in him now. She was kneeling down beside the spring.

One by one each person knelt down at the alter. Each took their turn, slowly, rhythmically. They closed their eyes, bent and sipped the water. And each time the harmonica lady dipped her figure in the water and made some kind of symbol on the person’s head.  Then each took out a jug and filled it with spring water before returning to the crowd.

For a minute Abel was convinced he could see Steve in the crowd, but it was too dark to be sure.
After what seemed like years the crowd slowly started to leave the room. Abel, his back still hurting from where the stick had hit, creeped out with the others. They were a scruffy bunch so he blended in.
Tunnel after tunnel they walked, one being no more memorable than the next. It was so dark Abel found he was moving with the pace of the feet of the crowd and could not see where he was going. Still it was somehow restful this steady hippnotic pace leading him along, so much so that on waking up on what appeared to be a shelf at the side of a tunnel, a slightly damp blanket flung over him, he had no idea how he  got there. Beside  him lay a packet of Spletzer-Martins.

12. Malformed and Obscene

Abel passed out in the tunnels under LondonAbel stumbles and falls into the ankle deep drain water. He’s been in the tunnels for 5 hours and found nothing but sewage and rats. He’s only managed to keep going through fear of what he’ll become if he stops. Dread is tap dancing heavily in his head, and something seems to be following him. He is lost. Actually he is in the storm drain that carries the Westbourne river to the Thames, but he doesn’t know that.

He tries to get up again but only manages to slide the upper part of his body against the tunnel wall. Then he passes out. If Elsie saw him now she wouldn’t recognise him, he looks so old and ill.

It is the mad harmonica lady that finds him, turns out she knows her way round the the underground rivers very well. She dances along the tunnel, her ripped skirts trailing through the water, singing to herself :

In the blood
in the gene
Malformed and obscene
Its a crack in the glass
And a whisker in the cream

A snake in the garden
He goes unseen
Theres an apple in the tree
And a devil in a dream

There’s bones in these tunnels
Your hands won’t wash clean
There’ll be meat in the belly
Where the carnival has been

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She grabs his arm and drags his now corpse-like body over her shoulder. She is surprisingly strong for an old lady.

When Abel wakes he finds himself in a small cave-like room lit only by candles. There is what looks like an alter on the far wall, and straight in front of him is a roughly carved wooden Jesus on a cross with a hand painted sun as his halo.

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11. Her Pet Project