There are places on this earth that will never be charted or explored by man. Wonders beyond our wildest imagination fill these far away corners of the globe, and I know this to be true. Television told me so, and the cathode ray can’t lie. It was constructed by mankind , faithful until the failure of its silicone heart, it’s life span aided by the transplantation of micro circuitry. In the hands of a good surgeon and soldering iron, it can struggle on indefinitely, a lover, companion and advisor to each new generation, flourishing under the watchful eye of its neon glow. Escapism without forfeit, so many different fantasies to become part of, control achieved, plug in and feed.
Fleeing in vain across the endless sands, the demon bird of Mysterious Island was gaining ground, the possibility of escape decreasing with every step. The captain turned to meet the evolutionary throwback, one on one. No rules laid down by The Marquis Of Queensbury, they’d use whatever damn weaponry came to hand and only one of them would walk away.
I leaned forward in my chair, bracing myself for the imminent clash of the titans, lovingly preserved on B grade celluloid. Daylight shattered my darkness and dragged me kicking and screaming back to reality. There’d be no epic battle for supremacy this day, no confrontation with Mother Nature and her servants of the night.
A child, no matter how young or old can always tell when something is wrong with or between its parents. Science comes up with an answer, genetic links, mental chains, empathy, in the nine to five existence these hypotheses mean jack shit and are about as clever as pissing in the wind.
The news I’d been waiting for, was about to be forthcoming. Two possibilities and one truth. Acceptance is the hardest game to play. Oh you can smile, say it’s fine and choke on your own rage until your face turns blue and your fingers black. Doesn’t mean you have to like it, but a thousand fuck you’s won’t alter the facts or persuade destiny to change its mind. Things are the way they are and you can’t turn back the hands of time. Acceptance. I’d spent the morning flipping a coin, muttering
“ If it’s heads everything will be fine, no problem”
A desperate attempt to change fate, to no avail. Bastard thing kept mocking me each time I tried to exercise man’s supremacy over his surroundings.
My mother had been crying and although he was smiling , my father had no colour left in his skin. White ?. Shit, he was transparent , and I swear I could see the pattern of the wall paper he was standing in front of. He’d been feeling like shit for about a year, with all kinds of symptoms and each time he’d seen a doctor they’d been unable to find out what was wrong with him.
“ Ladies and gentleman, this case provides science with one of it’s greatest challenges of the last millennium. So far we haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact cause of distress and when we are faced with problems of this kind we reach into the magic hat and grab hold of the acclaimed White Rabbit. Alternatively, we close our eyes, spin around in a circle and take a wild guess. Bearing this in mind I prescribe Doctor Killemall’s Marvellous Miracle Linctus and a course of leeches”
Fucking Quacks. Hey, come to medical school, pass a couple of exams and venture out to heal the masses. Don’t worry, most of them are faking anyway and even if they’re not, fuck it you’ve got your BMW haven’t you ?.
Eventually, like all good politicians, the medical world caved and agreed that they didn’t have a clue and would he like to go for some “routine” tests. Does it hurt when I stick this needle in your eye?. How about when I pass electricity through your scrotum?. These “routine” tests included some x-rays, which he’d gone for this morning, and from the look of sheer disbelief, I guessed that he’d had the results. A regular Einstein.
No news is good news and the truth hurts. Sit down young man, we’ve got to talk. Now this in itself did not bode well. They were going to talk to me, not at me. Uh oh, recipe for disaster, the locomotive’s jumped its tracks and it’s heading for the school full of disabled children. Who can help us now ?. As I snap my fingers you will wake up and have no memory of the preceding events.
“ Pardon?. What did you just say ?”
“ Weren’t you listening ?”
Of course I was listening, I’m always listening. I’m clever like that. They seek me here, they seek me there, like the chameleon I’ll blend into the background listening to the conversations nobody wants you to hear. Then, when they’re not ready, I’ll rise, a phoenix from the ashes of deceit to crush the ineffectual and rule with a rod of iron, forged from the molten waste of nihilism and cynical mistrust.
“ Yeah, I was, but it just kind of went over my head. I’m stupid, you should know you tell me often enough”
“ I said your Father has cancer”
“ What ?. You’re joking right ?”
I looked over at him. He shook his head and smiled weakly.
“ No, this is no joke”
“ But it can be treated and everything will be okay. That’s right isn’t it Dad ?. They can treat it can’t they ?.”
“ It can be treated, Hormone therapy and radio therapy, but there’s no guarantee it can be cured”
Cancer. I tried imagining it, a black mass racing through his arteries consuming everything in it’s path, leaving bits of itself on every bone, in every tissue to continue the work of the Mother Ship. Devouring him from the inside, slowly eating away at his soul. Death reeling in the fishing line, and as much as you thrash around and try to get away, you’re hooked. Inch by inch, closer to that final port of call.
I found myself thinking back to my first school and one of the parent / teacher evenings. Lame excuse for teachers to rat on the kids, so that when their parents take them home, Mummy bear and Daddy bear can beat the shit out of little Baby bear and Goldilocks doesn’t have a guilt trip. They can stand back and wash their hands of the affair. Pontius Pilot taught remedial English. I remember looking up at my father. He could do anything.
“Dad, build me a time machine, I wanna go play with the dinosaurs.”
“In a minute son.”
“Dad, why doesn’t everything just fly off the planet?”
“Well, son it’s like this…..”
This didn’t last though. Nothing lasts forever. I made it to a point as I got older to disagree with everything he said and go against everything he stood for. If he said the sky was blue – “Fuck you, it’s pink and it’s always been pink”. Occasionally he’d rise to the challenge, and battle would commence. More often than not though, he’d let it slide and walk away. Eventually it became so bad that the only time we could spend together was in front of the family guidance counsellor, television. Star Trek. Kirk and his buddies scooting round the galaxy, killing aliens, taking their women and teaching them about sex. Enterprise and her crew could have fucked their way to universal fame.
“Captain, the engines cannae take it”
“Later Scottie, I’m fucking”.
What could I say, what could I do?.
“Sorry Dad for being such a prick, but, you know it’s growing pains, and it is my job to fuck with you and everything you say”.
“That’s okay son, you’ll be a parent one day and then you’ll understand how it rips you apart and hurts you more than any disease could”.
I thought about the medical profession. Didn’t they have any idea , or were they just, as I had always suspected, terminally stupid?
“And now I shall reveal that the murderer, was in fact Mr Body, with the revolver in the Study.”
“Brilliant reasoning Doctor, but there is one small flaw in your theory”
“Oh, and what’s that?”
“Mr Body was the victim.”
Ten million ways in which I could sentence them to a slow, agonising death. Ten million. I wouldn’t though, I didn’t have the courage. Besides I needed to blame somebody , had to have someone to point the finger at. It’s your fault, and knowing that makes me feel better. Of course it does young man, now run along and play.
For the first time in my life, I looked at my father and realised what he was. Another average guy. He wouldn’t run into a phone booth , change into some ridiculous costume, save the world and be back in time for dinner. He hadn’t built a death ray and held the government to ransom. He was just an ordinary guy who’d found out he had cancer, like so many others do each day. He was mortal and one day he’d die. Only that day would be a lot closer than I ever though it would. Too close for comfort.
My father looked at me and smiled. He knew. I knew. I never did find out if the Captain killed the demon bird and escaped Mysterious Island. I never want to.
Tim Mass Movement
‘Mysterious Island’ originally appeared in ‘What Would Gary Gygax Do?’ which is available for purchase from iTunes , Kobo and Amazon here