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The crossroads

By Simon Brown

The crossroads

After waiting for what seemed an eternity, I walk away leaving the crossroads behind me.

Of all those cars and lorries, buses and carts, driving south, not one ever stopped and gave me a lift.

It was if they never ever saw me.

Leaving me with the feeling that I didn’t even exist.

My head feels like it’s going to explode. I’m not sure if I’m awake or asleep, alive or dead.

As I walk through this borderland, I realise I am but a guest not only to the liminality of my geographic location but of my inner reality.

In so much, I am yet to make the full transition and transaction into my ideal sense of self, the embodiment of who I desire to be, as it were.

It was here, in this liminal space, between the sacred realm and the profound and the meaningless that I finally evoked the trickster, the magician, Papa Legba, if you will. Of course there are many names and many shapes for this deity depending upon your cultural reference.

He often appears as a man.

Foreboding as he is.

For others, I hear he has appeared in many forms.

One tale says he appeared as a cat, but that was for a woman. I believe she wanted to be a queen. I have no idea if she ever made it to such dizzy heights. Perhaps, perhaps not. No matter.

I have now, spent eight consecutive nights sitting alone at the intersection from dusk till dawn playing my guitar and singing my incantations. And tonight upon this ninth encounter I finally got to meet the sulphur ridden black rider, the truly underground gangster himself.

I look up to see the full moon vanish behind the dark brooding cloud, suggesting to me I can no longer seek her guidance. I get the feeling she ain’t coming back out, not tonight. So in this darkness, I start to feel smaller as those shadows get taller, I feel a bit less conspicuous and a little less proud.  All of a sudden without warning the most blinding of white light illuminates the earth, and I see them ghostly outliers, the beasts and demons contorted in the tree lines. Thunder crashes in the monochrome sky, in waves of fierce cacophonic rapture. And, the darkness leaves me in the void of uncertainty, the liminality.

As much as I am giddy with excitement in this expectation of meeting my idealised self, I kinda get that feeling beyond my desire there’s something there that ain’t pretty. Tales I have heard but never paid real attention to rush through my head and I am becoming aroused, becoming full of dread. My mind projects what demonic forces may arise and meet this lonely traveller. Especially now, as I realise there is no one around who will miss me. And, as I’ve turned my back on God, he ain’t gonna watch my back no more.

Walking south through this summer sweat, through the humidity and heat, I strangely feel a coldness, a shiver, like a steel blade running down my spine. I try to curb this fear, this rising fear. I know now in the shadows the un-dead are upon this trail. I can hear them dragging their chains along the ground, just chinking and rattling along, casting up the dust and the dirt along their way. What’s more, I can hear them playing their battered, permanently detuned, broken guitars that make the most haunting, pitiful, self indulgent, mournful sounds. I kinda feel sorry for these deluded, false prophets of self indulgent fulfilment. But I need to ask myself am I one my self? I guess I am. I ain’t no better than them, just luckier I guess. Well I am for now. Let’s keep it that way.

No matter, the die is cast and the dice are thrown. I have to walk the straight line upon this crooked path. It’s as simple as that. I wish it was. He told me right at the last minute, if I wanted to seal the deal, I have yet one transaction to accomplish, and that is to play him a song he ain’t heard before. No one told me that in their tales and yarns. That’s the trouble in doing a deal with a trickster, they always will try to trick you at every God dam turn, just like the scorpion will always try to sting you and fire will always burn.

Hell, what do I sing? Like most songs and stories, you’ve heard them all before. My story ain’t no different. It’s a familiar one, coveted in folklore and superstition, in myth and perdition. The place in space that science tries to leave upon the cutting room floor. Nonetheless, it’s worth telling, I ain’t selling no moral lesson, but you might be wise to listen as in stories the truth does glisten.

Like most protagonists I didn’t even realise I was the fool in the middle, that along with life, the best kept secrets are kept in riddles. You see, before it all happened, I was becoming as offset as old typeset, which was scribbled on the pages of my supersized, tabloid fed, middle age spread. My life’s acumination of scientific, theological and scholarly delight brought me no illumination and my thinking ink was so god dam hard to see. Hell, I had even forgotten everything I ever wanted to be. I was living a life full of ill thought out views, living a life of second hand news, with overreached ambition, over prepared scripts and renditions, forming beliefs just bring relief from thinking too hard, fizzy cognition, and no God dam ignition. I was not really the burning star I wanted to be. I was just fading away. I was a drunken hearted fool I can tell you. I craved for the angels to come and take me away.

So it’s with some form of irony that I tell you about when I met an angel. I met her the other day, she walked down my garden path and without thinking I opened the door and I said ‘do come on in.’ So she walked in, all burning bright, bathed in light, and turned around and said, ‘take off my broken wings.’

Well, that same angel I met the other day that I said to her, do come on in. She said to me something strange, ‘I’ve come down here to teach you sin,’ she said. She had that most beautiful butterfly lips I ever did see, and every time she spoke it appeared to me, that little butterflies flew from her lips. But then all I could think about was, how long do butterflies live? And, as I thought that, she just faded away. So I stopped thinking along those lines, just to bring her back. She then kissed me. I tasted the sweet, sweet taste of heaven and I was there for a while I can tell you not wanting to leave. Instantly addicted to the feeling I can tell you.

Just then, as she was going to kiss me again there was a knock on my door, and a demon came dashing. He said, ‘Hi, I’m a critique of your fashion,’ He stood there all nice and proud, then he ran upstairs with that angel and I heard them both laugh out loud. So I stood in my own house like a fool engulfed, and like flames, their laughter seemed to burn. Now, I went upstairs and I found that demon in my wardrobe trying on my clothes, and the angel was in my bathroom sticking powder up her nose. I drew my breath and swung for that demon, but punched right through him, hitting the wall. By the time I got to the bathroom the angel had gone. There was just a butterfly with a broken wing sitting upon the sink looking exhausted.

I walked back downstairs attentively cupping the butterfly, wondering in God’s name what to do with it. For I was torn, put it out of its misery or let it go. One action means killing it but in mercy, the other might make me feel better but it might just prolong its agony. Anyway, as I lost in mulling over these diametrically opposed positions I came face to face with the almighty, sat in my study, playing chess by himself. He was busy looking at his upside down reflection in the looking glass opposite muttering to himself he needed time to think. The Devil on the other hand sat there beside him, in a fine bespoke suit pouring a drink. Sufficed to say I took his offer and drank the cocktail of rum and infused gunpowder. As I spluttered, choked and heaved upon this unworldly brew, I saw Jesus in the garden looking kinda lost, and a man called Mohamed was right next to him, carrying his cross. Now I watched them for a bit and I tell you, they seemed to get along with each other just fine.

Now some might say I’m just projecting autobiographical representations and letting my imagination getting the better of me. Others might say of course, I’m going down the spiral staircase, going crazy, going down, going down the spiral staircase, going crazy going round.

So back here in the silence of this dark night I need to find my pitch, for I need to sing the song the devil ain’t heard. I finger a chord that just diminishes into the night air. Start with the triad, the devils chord he told me, that way you keep everybody happy. Now, I think he was just trying to trick me again, because as I played that chord I heard him laugh and them Hell Hounds being released.

‘Keep on walking, keep on walking,’ I tell myself. “Hell hounds on your trail boy, hell hounds on your trail,” I hear him sing through wind at me. His voice seems to come from deep within me. I smell the unmistakable hideous odour. I smell, what can only be described as the foul stench of death, but I can’t look back, I can’t look back. I can now feel its breath. Gotta keep walking, gotta keep talking. Gotta keep on playing my guitar. Can’t make a mistake, if I make a mistake or stop I loose it all. That’s the deal. I can’t put my head down nor look at the ground, and I can’t look around, that’s the deal. The ghost walkers, soul stalkers, are on my trail. The hell hounds are on my trail and it’s too late to stop them now. I reach down and touch my soul and I realise just how precious it is to me.

‘Devil wears a black suit, black suit made of fur.’ I sing, ‘I don’t wanna see those eyes, I don’t wanna see those eyes. Nocturnal dogs barks at me, black dog laughs at me,’ I holler this out

loud and all I can think of is getting home. But I have no home, not now, now I roam, that’s the deal. I hear the howls, I imagine them jowls clamping down on my tender neck, devouring me. I hear the growls up close and I now feel the red hot coal blazing eyes burning, burning into the back of my head, ‘just three looks they tell me and then you know you’re dead.’ I keep walking and I keep telling myself the fear is just from within.

Up at the bridge, I feel the rush as the black dog jumps over my head, its hot damp breath fills me with dread. It now stands before me, seven foot tall upon its hind legs speaking in tongues beginning to burn. It wants me to fall to the ground, and it wants me to beg. But I stand tall and sing to the night air, for one and all. What legacy will I leave? I will walk this earth with my heart on my sleeve. I feel its breath. I keep on walking looking straight at its heart, I don’t look in them eyes. Its body shakes as I play the blues, ‘I got everything to gain now, and everything to loose.’

As I keep walking I feel the heat, I smell its stench. Its head lowers and I see them snarling fangs covered in blood. But, I pass right through the beast. HA, HA, HA, I laugh into the night, the devil, he tried to trick me but I got better of him.

But unbeknown to me the half naked murdered man that’s tied to his whipping post, who swings silently around my neck chuckles to himself and sings ‘their ain’t no fool like the fool who walks with an ill gained sense of pride.’ Unbeknown to me he can see the bite mark in my soul.

And so, after waiting for what seemed an eternity, I walk away leaving the crossroads behind me. Of all those cars and lorries, buses and carts, driving south, not one ever stopped and gave me a lift. It was if they never saw me, leaving me with the feeling that I didn’t even exist.

This page was amended on 21/03/2012
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