Wednesday 17 July 2013

Fever Diary – 12th December 20—

I ran with the lions for almost a week and can remember little except the feel of fur beneath my fingers as I clutched desperately at their manes. Eventually I became aware of the low babble of a thousand conversations mixed with the drone of helicopters and indecipherable megaphone messages.  There was an odd taste in my mouth and I struggled to open my eyes, the effort fading with each attempt until finally they flickered open of their own accord and I tried to focus on a bright square of whiteness ahead of me. I could still feel the lion’s mane beneath the fingers of my right hand as I tried to bring the shadows and stark brightness into balance. Someone touched my head and breathed close to my ear. I smelt Sonia’s perfume as a woman’s voice said quietly, ‘He’s awake.’
I turned my head to the right and was elated to see Sonia looming over me, her face concerned at first, and then smiling as I started to take in my surroundings. I tried to touch her cheek with my left hand but found it was restricted by a canula taped to a vein. Glancing down at my right hand, I found it was knotted in the fur of a black dog standing docilely beside my bed. I wondered why the nurse hadn’t closed the curtains on the window as the light was shining right into my eyes. I wondered why the walls of the ward seemed to shiver slightly and it was some moments before I noticed that the window had no frame and that the scene beyond was a snow covered field, as if the meadow behind Barnhill had been uprooted and placed in Gower Street, just below the private wards of the Rosenheim building.
‘He’s definitely awake. Eric’s awake.’
Then I heard another, more guttural and familiar voice. A voice from my dreams, irritable and sulky.
‘Jorge. You mean Jorge is awake.’
I tried to sit up and found Pedro’s hand on my shoulder. Pedro from the AW. Impossible Pedro who didn’t exist and next to him, not Sonia, but impossible Emily.
Behind them, his lanky form draped across a collapsible canvas chair was Scratch who said languidly, his tanned face splitting into a broad smile, ‘George. George is awake’.
He turned to the open side of the tent and shouted out into the snow, ‘George is awake. He’s awake!’ The call was taken up by voices outside and was repeated like a thousand echoes in a deep canyon. I realised then that I had woken once again in the AW and part of me was filled with sorrow. Then I saw Emily’s relieved expression and she looked so happy that I was instantly calmed and accepting. Whatever this was, she was here with me and that seemed to be all that mattered.
Gently I grasped Pedro’s hand and levered myself up to a sitting position. A young man with curious arm tattoos passed me a beaker of water and I gulped it down, my throat raw and tender.
As details began to emerge from the murk around me, I realised that I was in a large tent and that heads were appearing round the open flap as people wrapped in colourful winter clothing gathered around to stare at me. Some of them were snapping vids on their MC’s and as I turned away to look behind Emily, I noticed a middle-aged man wearing a safari jacket training a sophisticated looking camera on me. I am in their eye again.

Saturday 13 July 2013

Fever Diary – 6th December 20—

The red hoods started to appear shortly after we tramped into Stratford-upon-Avon. We had managed to hitch a few rides since we left the village hall but had been forced to rely on our weary feet for the last three miles.
The garments were placed on the tops of lampposts and perched rakishly on traffic lights at zebra crossings. As we passed the puzzling attractions of the ‘Falstaff Experience’ (a pub in a woodland glade?) I began to perceive a pattern to their placement. Looking down the street from the bridge over the Avon, I could see a long line of the red markers leading up the Warwick Road. As the direction was generally north, and not knowing their significance, I decided we would follow them as far as we could. Pedro was reluctant as he knew the hoods were somehow associated with what he called ‘beeg hassle’, but I persuaded him that if at any point they veered off a northward course, we would abandon them as a guide.
Our progress had so far been very slow and as we stopped at a garden centre cafe for tea from the ubiquitous plastic beaker, I reviewed our prospects while we sat on railway sleepers stacked around the car park. I estimated that if we continued at the present pace and with such visibility, we were unlikely to reach Jura any time soon. Either we would be apprehended or it would take a good month and a half to reach our destination with no guarantee that we would have the resources to pay for the ferry from the mainland.
I was finding the travelling extremely tiring and although I had so far been in general good health in the AW, I knew that the nights spent huddled without tents in bushes or bus shelters were taking their toll. The money from the Carolan Portal for the syndication of my column provided us with the essentials in the way of food and drink, but did not stretch to lodgings or a new tent. We found ourselves seeking out homeless shelters and finding them almost impossible to get into due to the vast increase in numbers brought about by a more severe welfare regime that had driven many from their lodgings and out on to the streets in great numbers. I began to realise how lucky we had been to have survived so long at the State’s expense and thought once more of Emily who had sent daily messages up until I had been forced to abandon the MC. I was, as expected, almost in mourning for the ridiculous box of tricks, but this lasted only a few days as I took up my journal again with pencil and notebook, despatching my columns to the newspaper from post boxes along the way.
As we neared Warwick itself and passed around its southern edge, we found ourselves part of an increasing band of travellers, many with backpacks and tents, tramping along the red cowl route.
Finding no shelter that didn’t risk exposure, we carried on walking well into the night until we veered off the main road and lost sight of the hoods in the darkness. We tramped for hours across frozen fields until we were utterly lost and bitterly cold. I even started to regret the loss of the hooded top I had been so eager to give away.
Finally, I could go no further and flopped down in the middle of a field, not caring if it snowed and covered me in the night. Pedro was eager to at least find some woodland where shelter might be found, but I was already falling into unconsciousness as I listened to his entreaties. I curled up like a chick inside the egg and fell into darkness, my hands clasped around my knees. In my head the lions roamed again, their hot breath on my cheek as they paced around my body, occasionally rasping their great tongues across my hands.