Notes on notes.
Notes from a fallen island is an unfinished project. That is important to remember as you venture forwards. It has been lightly edited, and is largely ‘first draft’ stuff. I am posting it to demonstrate how an idea can just run out of steam, and at 35k words, it’s a large idea to lose!
Some things work, and some don’t. I may go back to a few of the themes in the future, but the story itself will never be finished. There will be a few paragraphs at the end to explain the direction I was heading in, and the ideas that I had. I could never quite get the timeline right. I wanted to start at Brexit being a catalyst, but that wouldn’t work well with the other themes in the tale.
It was originally going to be released month-by-month on my website, so parts do work ‘standalone’ at times, and I enjoyed reading it back as I prepared to post this.
So enjoy what Brexitopia brings, and don’t fell too bad about Dave the dog, he was going to come back!
I don’t believe in Angels. They are the creation of imaginations and are confined to the world of books and movies. The ramblings of madmen designed to appeal to the simplistic and control the masses. Simple answers to complex problems.
‘Oh, why is he doing that?’
‘Well, the Devil made him do it!’
‘Why did that Church fall in and kill one hundred people?”
‘God works in mysterious ways.”
It’s a Ponzi Scheme of emotion that demands a display of faith without showing any evidence in return. It is blind faith. “Believe in our God,” they will say with pride and a beam of salesmanship that can rival any con artist. “No, no, no. Silly, not that God, that God is stupid. Ours is the only one true God!”
Religion in and of itself is not a bad thing. Whatever religion says we should do, we should be doing anyway. Help the poor. Be respectful; thou shalt not kill… Unless they have broken the law. Then, it is okay to use capital punishment. Or to kill those who believe in a heathen God! Thou shalt not have strange Gods before me. See, it’s okay. Real God absolves fake God. My sky fairy is better than yours.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. This one is either ignored or adhered to in such a strict manner that anyone creating images deserves to die. Shall not kill indeed.
Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. God damnit. Fucking Jesus Christ. Oops.
Remember to keep the Lord’s Day holy. Unless you have to work, which, let’s face it, most of us have to do. We have to keep earning those coins seven days a week.
Honour thy father and thy mother. Why? It’s a nice thought, sure, but mine abandoned me. Do I still need to honour them?
Thou shalt not commit adultery. Yeah, um, be realistic here. Many people will not commit adultery, and that is to be commended. But marriages break down; people change over time. Nobody should cheat on their partner, but is this really in the same league as murder? Keep ya fucking nose out cloud loving weirdo.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. People who can offer you no proof are telling you that something is the truth and you need to have faith. They can’t and don’t know themselves, but they believe. Also known as lying.
Thou shalt not steal. But please donate to us; we will put it to good use. I use the term good used very loosely. How many Churches funded by donations are filled with things bought from donations? Christ was a carpenter; worship him in a shed.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods. Do not aspire to have things. Do not let yourself be tempted; it could lead you to steal! But We’ve already had stealing, so let’s change the wording slightly.
The whole do as I say, but not as I do shite. They sit in their churches, which are often more like Palaces giving out lessons in morality when a lot are getting hand jobs from a choir boy. Nothing they preach can be considered anything other than common decency and sense. Nothing. Be a good person; don’t just do it because you fear not getting into the Kingdom of Heaven. I said I don’t believe in Angels, and I also don’t believe in Heaven. I do, however, wonder if I am stuck in Hell and was Gretchen a demon. She appeared in my time of need, and I thought her an Angel, but like many devils, she was not what she first seemed.
I must have been so tired that I didn’t notice her rolling me onto the cart. I was that tired and had drifted into a dreamless, unconscious blackness of sleep. It was, perhaps, my body’s way of saving me from the pain I was in. I tried to talk, but a dryness had taken up refuge in my mouth, and it muffled my speech. I wondered if I was actually dreaming as I rocked from side to side, but as I gathered pace, I realised what was happening. I rocked like a small boat at sea as we moved; I wanted to roll and escape this carriage, but I didn’t have the strength. I pushed my elbows down to try and lift one side, but it was fruitless. Then, she spoke. Her voice was comforting, calming even, and even though it was laced with a roughness of accent, I felt reassured. “Be still, my lovely,” she said with all the gentleness of a long-serving nurse, “you’ve done yourself a mischief, but I’ve got you now.”
I should have felt alarmed; I had, after all, been captured, but as I tried once again to push myself up by my elbows, I just felt tired and beaten. My will to live had left me alone to fend for myself. I had nothing left. Perhaps this was my time to die. I could feel it in my body and mind; I had nothing left. As if reading my mind, Gretchen said, “Oh, you’re not dying yet, dear.” I felt the world slipping out of focus as she spoke, and my eyes closed heavily. My mind drifted between the world of sleep and the world of being awake. All this time, and how far I’d come only to be felled by a broken ankle.
My eyes struggled to open, and just for a second, I had forgotten where I was. “Awake again, deary?” the woman’s voice said, “you’ve been having nightmares.” I didn’t need to be told; I was well aware of the nightmares that inhabited my mind. I felt woozy, but I had a little more energy. “Who are you?” I asked as the cart I was on rocked from side to side. “Me?” she said, “Oh, I’m just Gretchen.” With my muddled head, it took a while for this information to reach the parts of my brain that created questions, but it got there in the end. “Where are you taking me?” I asked, followed by, “what do you want with me?”
The murkiness of fever had overcome me, and I listened as she spoke. I coughed, and at that moment, I realised that my arms were now bound. That simple, instinctive reaction of lifting your arms when you sneeze was enough to set the alarm bells ringing and send me into a panic. Suddenly, I had my strength back again, and I twisted around a little to try and escape my bindings. The ropes that held me were not tight, and as I wobbled my body, I almost fell from the cart. “Be still, my dear,” the woman said, “they are to stop you from tumbling from my cart. It gets a little bumpy, you see. It’s for your own protection.” Yeah, fuck that, I thought and struggled even more.
The car shuddered to a halt, and I almost fell off. Between my struggling at the sudden stop, I almost came a cropper. I lifted my head as best I could. My neck ached with the strain, and I felt momentarily lightheaded, but I wanted to see who had captured me. I needed to see the face of my imprisoner. She was short and around my age, I think. I’ve noticed that as I get older, other people either look about twelve or around my own age, give or take a decade. I don’t know if this is common or just something I experience, but I would have put her about five years younger than myself. “What’s wrong, my cherub?” she asked as she approached. Her hair was pulled up and wrapped in a tight ponytail, and the long dress she wore, though tatty, suited her. She walked, and her hips swayed, which in turn created a mesmerising, rhythmic swing of the dress at her ankles. I felt that ting of attraction I am sure many of us have felt, but it was combined with fear. Maybe I was becoming masochistic in my old age. “What do you want from me?” I asked with a rasped, dry voice. “Want from ya?” she asked, “ha! I want nothing from ya.”
“Then why have you captured me and tied me up?” The dryness in my mouth was starting to ease as I spoke. The saliva working its magic. “Captured ya. Oh, dear, ya have quite the wrong idea,” she said. I looked at her, then at my wrist, and finally back, “do you usually greet everyone you find with ropes and kidnap?” I asked. In reply, she laughed. A strange laugh that sounded a little like paper being scrunched. “Deary me,” she said, “I found you half dead, mumbling to y’self and rescued ya!” She cackled to herself a little more. I hadn’t considered that she could have been ‘helping’ me, but now she said it, I had one further question. “Why am I tied up?”
She stood and pulled the strand of grass that was between her teeth and pointed it at me as she spoke. “Ya was injured, you see. I figured I’d look after ya; needs a man about. I didn’t want ya to go falling off and hurting y’self some more,” she said. “I travel fast, and I don’t stop for nobody. If ya’d fallen, I’d have had ta stop.” I can’t say I was sure it was an honest answer, but it felt plausible as she spoke. “What about now that I’m awake?” I still felt like shit, but I wanted to see how she’d react. “Ya want to ride up front?” she asked.
“I’d rather that than this,” I replied, trying to lift myself from the bindings. The woman came over, so she stood right next to me and placed her hand on my chest. “Calm yourself. Gosh, ya’re gonna get ya’self in all kinds of trouble. Gordon bennet,” she said as she started to untie the ropes that held me. Released from my bindings, I sat up. “Why on earth would ya think I was trying to kidnap ya?” she asked. Her words were accompanied by a smile that was far more natural than those I had encountered in 43. It had not seemed a silly presumption for me to make, but when she spoke, I felt almost stupid. As if it was a complete misunderstanding, and I was the one who had made the mistake. “Well,” I said, stuttering a little, “I didn’t expect to wake and be tied up and taken away. Have you seen what’s out here?”
“Ha! Out there?” she asked, “honey pie, ya ain’t gotta be scared of what’s out there. It’s other people you need to fear.” After my experiences thus far in the Outlands, I was going to argue my point when she continued. “Look at what they ‘ave done to the population. Locked ‘em up in cages and testing shit on ‘em. Sure what’s out here can be dangerous, but they only do what it takes to survive. Humans, pah.” She spat the strand of grass to the floor as she ‘pahed’ about humans. It’s been said many times by many people that humanity is worse than any monster. Is it true? I am inclined to think that it is. “It’s always about money and power,” she said. I hobbled my way off the cart and stood with my ankle raised from the ground. “Looks nasty,” she said; it seemed that I was not the only one who states the obvious at times. “I fell,” I said; it was the truth.
“Well, I am going. You can come and sit up front, or you can stay here. Your choice,” she said and returned to the vehicle. Her hips moved back and forth to the same rhythm as she walked. I hopped up to the quad and held out my hand, “Peter,” I said. She took my hand as I sat beside her, “Gretchen,” she replied. We were stuffed close together, and lord help me, but being that close to a woman, something I had not been for a long while, I felt urges I thought were long distant memories. I was not proud of that feeling then, and I am even more disgusted in myself now, but I vowed to tell the truth for good and bad in this journal. She twisted the accelerator, and off we went, zooming into the woodland. The quad bike and trailer that she had navigated the offroad conditions with ease, and its electric motor kept it quiet, with just a buzz to give away our location. “Why are you out here?” I asked.
“I come to collect what I need, Ya’know? I get it from here and bring it back home. It draws less attention.”
“Attention?” I asked, “but you said there was nothing to be scared of out there.”
“Aye,” she replied, “nothing out there, but people are people, and I always avoid them.”
“Unless they need help?” I ventured. It stands to reason, given she had helped me. “No,” she replied, “not usually.” I only had one final question, and I had to ask it: how could I not? “Why help me?”
“A moment of empathy, I suppose,” she said, and then added, “don’t make me regret it.” I had no intention of doing so. I still felt the throbbing from my ankle, and my mind was not clicking in full gear. I could feel it almost fogging and clearing as I tried to concentrate. I had a fucked leg and, I suspected, a fever or other infection coming on. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” Gretchen said, and I wouldn’t have disagreed. “I can’t offer ya much,” she continued, “but I will help ya as best I can.”
I thought I must have drifted for a while because the next thing I remember was it being dark. My mind had given up once again and needed the comfort of sleep. It took me but a moment to orientate myself, my brain being a little refreshed. I was sitting alone but could hear Gretchen behind huffing and puffing; perhaps that was what had woken me. I twisted and looked at the noise; she was struggling with a large boar. Her slight frame was being used to push and pull the beast’s body up and onto the trailer. Upon seeing this, I lifted myself from the seat and began to hobble my way around the quad. “What do ya think you’re doing?” Gretchen asked.
“I thought you might need some help,” I replied. To this, Gretchen laughed a laugh that should have been impossible given her size. “You? In the state ya’re in? Ya’d be about as much use as Yin without the Yang.” I huffed, stumbled and hopped across to a large stick I had seen; I thought it might be useful as a makeshift crutch. With the top of the stick snapped, I propped it under my arm and tested it to see if it would take my weight. Gretchen watched this with amused eyes. I could imagine her sitting at the window during the winter, watching from the window as people slipped and fell on the ice. The thought made me smile, as I’d have done the same, and I beamed as I hobbled to her. We lifted the boar between us in three stages; it was a struggle, but we managed it. “Thank you,” Gretchen said. It occurred to me that I had not thanked her yet for rescuing me, “thank you,” I said as I huffed and puffed my way back to the front of the quad.
“What for?” She asked.
“Well, for picking me up. I’d have been in trouble if you hadn’t found me.”
“Oh,” she replied, “I thought you had already thanked me.” I was sure that she was wrong, but what harm did it do to thank her again if she was not? We continued on our journey through the outlands, travelling at what seemed to me to be dangerously fast speeds, but Gretchen seemed to be in control the whole time. “Why’d you travel so far from home?” I asked.
“I don’t usually,” she replied, “I guess ya just got lucky. I try and vary where I go. Sometimes I travel north, sometimes south, and other times west. Yesterday, I just thoughts to myself, ya know what, the weather looks good, let’s go west.”
“Luckily for me,” I said.
“Yah, luckily for ya. Ya’d have been right fucked otherwise,” she said with a chuckle. I’d almost used the word ‘fucked’ moments earlier but then decided to say ‘trouble’ as I was in the presence of a female. Times change, but I always try to moderate my language when talking to the fairer sex. It’s old-fashioned thinking, but it was the way I was brought up. Thinking about my upbringing and how that can shape us for the rest of our lives, I lost myself for a moment in thoughts of family. “Something on your mind?” Gretchen asked.
“Family,” I replied glumly. They are never far from my mind, but with what had happened to me, they had briefly hidden themselves. “Family has a way of pissing you off when they are there, but when they are gone, you miss them with everything you have,” Gretchen said. It was a line that I could understand, if not entirely relate to. You blink, and everything I loved was gone, and I did love them, even if I was imperfect as a parent. “Do you have family?” I asked.
“Me? Gosh no,” she replied, “not through want of trying. I had resigned myself to being a lonely old spinster. I ignored the inconsistency in her tenses, presuming that it was just another quirk of how she spoke, along with the ‘ya.’ I left it there. It didn’t seem important, and we continued our journey in silence.
Gretchen’s house was not what I had expected. “It’s an old church,” I said.
“Ya. It used to be part of a town, and now, as so often happens, the church is all that is left.” The woodland had grown and now strangled the edges of the church and much of the roof. The building and living greenery became one together, and now the town was long forgotten. The grey stone, brown branches, and green leaves merged and meshed to hide the building slightly from prying eyes. It would not have hidden it from anyone who knew where it was, but from a distance, I presume, people just thought it abandoned and derelict. “Don’t people discover it?” I asked.
“Oh aye, they know I am here,” Gretchen replied. I got the feeling she was not speaking about people in general, “the animals?” I asked.
“Ya, them too,” she replied. I had more questions, but Gretchen was already dragging the boar from the back of the quad. The boar fell with a grunt that was only matched by Gretchen’s own grunting as she pulled. “I’ll get the boar. Can ya get the bike?” I looked at the bike as she dragged the corpse, “it’s got a twisty accelerator thing. Ya ain’t gotta use your feet.” I hadn’t considered it; truth be told, I was caught considering other options. I had found myself swimming in the world of questions. Why was Grethen helping me? What did she want? If anything? Why me? Why was I picked for this job? Was it random? Was it just a coincidence, or was it something more? But the biggest one, the one that kept smashing into my mind, was just the question, why? Three letters, but oh, what mysteries it holds.
Gretchen had vanished around the side of the church and left the instructions that the quad needed to go inside. I hobbled to the front door and pushed it open. The large wooden oak doors swung open with ease, and I was surprised to find them unlocked. The inside had been cleared of the pews and other religious furniture, so I made my way to the quad and slowly rode it inside. The electric engine, which had been so quiet outside, seemed to prance around the large empty room as I parked it up. “There’s a charge point over there,” Gretchen’s voice said to me. I turned and looked at where she was pointing. With the boar, presumably, stored, she had made her way back inside. I saw the lead she pointed at and plugged it into the quad. It took me a moment to find the charging port, but I got there in the end. I am not a Luddite, but I have had limited experience with electric vehicles or any vehicle, really.
If the walls could listen, they would have heard us laughing and talking as night fell. The stained glass windows that remained would have watched as we nattered. “Ya can sleep in there,” Gretchen said and pointed to a room at the back. “I’ve enjoyed this, Peter. I think I needed it.” Some people struggle to end a night; they dilly and dally about calling time, taking another drink, or asking a further question as the darkness draws in. Gretchen was not one of those people, and I respected that. It is a trick I will never learn, and had OTIN not arrived, I would no doubt still be sitting drinking with the Jobbit. The room that would be my rest for longer than I’d have liked was small and cosy. Small felt more comfortable and homely than being outside, and I found sleep easily. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that sleep found me, as I was already yawning when I crawled into the single bed. When I woke, I had the most unexpected visitor.
As I have aged, things have changed, some physically, many mentally. Bones and joints that used to move as if freshly oiled sing the song of their people as I lift myself from a good night’s sleep. Memory can become a distant friend whom you once knew; I’ve often walked into a room and forgotten why. These are not things that come only with age, but they do become more frequent. Like flies on shit, try as you might; it will always win. Fighting age is as pointless as a peephole on a door for a blind (wo)man. My foot didn’t keep me awake, but, that morning, I woke with the biggest hard-on I have had in years. Pumping of blood, throbbing of veins, and the pain of a monster stiffy that I had not experienced since my teenage years. I knew I had been attracted to Gretchen, but, I guess, my subconscious felt more!
I spent most of the morning propped up against a tree with a stump in front of me; with an axe in my hand, I started chopping the wood that Gretchen had brought. I’d felt the weight of guilt as the morning had passed. Gretchen had rescued me and offered me a roof, and I was useless. So, chopping was something I was able to do, and that made me feel a little less guilty. “Got to get loads of it, ya see,” Gretchen said as she arrived, pulling another large trunk, “gotta get through the winter.” I chopped, and Gretchen gathered; as morning drifted, she went inside and collected the Quad. We packed the chopped wood onto the back, and she drove it back into the church. It wasn’t far, and we had walked (hobbled in my case with a new makeshift crutch) out here, but for moving the wood back, it made sense.
We ate (I didn’t ask what it was, but it was not boar; it tasted like chicken, but it wasn’t), and I gave the remaining meat that I had to Gretchen. It was the least that I could do, and all I could offer!