The Coin

John Bray is a good boy. Always helping around the large house where he lived, he went to church every day and had a crucifix above his bed. He knew that his Mother had died in childbirth (her only child), and was now in heaven.

The large run-down detached house where he and his father lived was situated on a green hill overlooking a bustling and successful Norfolk fishing village and had been built in the 1600’s. The family was no longer rich. John wanted to be a fisherman when he grew up. John’s Dad was a train driver.

On his thirteenth birthday, in May 1933, John’s father presented to his son a small brownish coin. From that day on John kept the coin in his adults wallet in his trouser pocket.

This coin had been unearthed up when this, the family home was having its foundations laid in 1614. Shortly before John received the coin it had been examined by one of John’s father’s friends who was a renowned scientist at a university in London. The coin had on it two pictures, one on each side. On one side was apparently a rendering of Ithaqua the Wind-Walker. He, it has been said, had been banished to the Arctic Circle back in the depths of time by the hilarious Elder Gods who dwell in Orion. He presumably strides or strode or will stride the Arctic winds and star voids on huge black, webbed feet.

On the reverse side is Armandra, Ithaqua’s half-human daughter! Her red flowing hair visible on the metal, alas without the glory of colour. However her beauty was still apparant on the metal.

The coin, professor Johnson revealed privately to John’s father (in hushed and half-worried tones) was made of an unknown metal. And it had been examined and re-examined and then hurried away in disbelief from the university for the coin had been made long, long before the earliest known tool using cave men…

*

The winter of 1937 was the coldest on record. One dark and freezing evening, John was in his bathroom. He was humming a very contented tune to himself. The tune would occasionally become full of intense fear. This lasted for about a second but perhaps John did not fully notice this worse than formless fear. Perhaps it defined him for a moment and he dealt with it with a quickly forgotten, reflex mental shrug and it went away again. Anyway, in the next instant he was back humming his contented tune again thinking vaguely of puzzling things like – his rope swing and how he was going to put a new seat on it, nice girls in his classes at college and the dust on the grandfather clock that stood in the back hall. He looked in the mirror for a few seconds, and then he suddenly realised that the expression on his face and the one in the mirror did not match up! It was his face, but a different expression! John staggered backwards and sat down heavily on the edge of his bath, feeling shocked and afraid, looking all around him then. Suddenly his right hand went to his right thigh where his wallet was … his upper leg was freezing cold! The cold moved down his legs to his feet and his toes went numb, his legs started shivering violently. A freezing gale arrived from out of nowhere and caused a very worried John to shield his face from it. The wind raged through the room in anger and loneliness. The cold inside him now moved slowly through his upper body and as it gripped his heart John felt vast stabbing pains (excitement as well?) and waited to be engulfed by cold, his arms by now freezing also. When the steadily moving cold reached his brain, time, reality, as John had known it ceased and was revealed as an imprisoning, infinitely alone, panic stricken, infinite NOW! John was still conscious in this. There were apparently things going on around him he was sensing – one of the water pipes was shuddering up and down and side to side, John’s freezing fingers and toes were twitching mindlessly, and the light bulb above his head was shining painfully. The Arctic wind continued. He could hear an abysmal ringing (that went forwards not) and his own confused voice talking diabolical gibberish in his head. His life’s past, future and dreams spun around, out of focus, in a frighteningly meaningless jumble. But these idiotic things are the extent of reality and are without consequence and seemed to him in his bathroom at that point to be unloving.

His, indeed THE ONLY central truth, had been revealed and any of his panicking, desperately groping thought is futile. All the things and feelings he thought of as good and nice had been revealed as revolting and mindless cardboard cut-outs.

*

But he did escape from this death camp of misery. A warm multicoloured glow filled his blue skinned skull, his eyes and his heart and this reminded him of a young woman known, unknown. A friendly faint whisper swirled around his fading mind. And he went to the desolation of oblivion.

If observed from outside, John’s motionless body lay on the floor of his small bathroom for several minutes. The Arctic wind had ceased. Then John felt a warm breeze on his face as if from some distant constellation, and opened his eyes, some part of his mind feeling vast gratitude to something and with this, vast joy at the potential of reality.

But then he got to his feet and recalled the timeless, putrid abyss of horror he had just been through and forgot his gratitude and joy for the moment. He blinked, and glimpsed in this instant the truth of the never-ending NOW once more. He blinked again and it was still there, threatening. All around him was madness. His heart filled with panic and he buried his face in his now warm hands. The room was quiet. He had to open his eyes because the NOW was there, threatening to take over everything, take him away from everything, once more. He very slowly and deliberately left the bathroom and as the door clicked shut his eyes widened in wonder as he again felt an undeniable joy. A new and exciting joy that he was outside that room of DOOM, and out here were all the infinite, infinitely good souls and all of ecstatic creation! But he had to spin round as the NOW closed in behind him telling him of his delusion that anything but his unhappy self was actually there at all. He nodded very confused indeed.

In the upper corridor walking to his room he suddenly stopped and leaned on the wall with one hand his brow furrowed. Maybe I WANT to be alone? Maybe that’s what I have always wanted? Could I be somewhat, or even completely content for reality to be me and my dumb self alone? But the wretched and unstoppable, undeniable panic and fear of the catastrophically alone and restless NOW, that eternal damnation, was to be despised – it was bad? But maybe if it is stark truth, I can embrace the NOW and could see it as great!? And then what? He swung open his bedroom door with determined strength. He was desperately searching in his mind for brilliant memories to banish the sickeningly mundane NOW. But he felt as if those good memories of nice things like clean lakes and picnics had never been happy at all – that they had been defined by the rotting NOW all along. But no! He shook his head in unshakeable pain and irritating confusion very confused indeed. The good memories seemed then to be few and far between and getting fewer and defeated like the last seal in a shark tank. He wanted someone to talk to. But he thought he might be able to suppress this desire, and be … etc, etc.

In his bedroom, John frowned and took out the coin and examined it. It was surely the source of the freezing insanity, he thought miserably. He looked over at the crucifix on the wall, but Jesus might have looked grim and without salvation, John was not sure. A severe doubt was in John now where before he would surely have denied, if told, that he would ever doubt the bible, and his prayer which he then uttered, felt as if it could be unheard by anyone but himself. This thought troubled him somewhat. Yet he became calm as he stared at Jesus and his mind danced awkwardly back into biblical times. He arrived with a jump back inside his bedroom as the nail drove into his palm.

He shambled to the window and could make out the Birch tree outside. A strange wind had picked up and John listened intently as it blew through branches outside and clouds drifting high above. He held the coin in his palm and looked on the still images of Ithaqua and Armandra. He turned the coin over and over in his palm just looking at it transfixed and then he placed the coin carefully on the windowsill turning away head bowed in awe at things beyond himself. All the time trying to keep his eyes open without success.

*

At the top of the stairs he felt a great sadness fill his soul – a hope of a female companion in life entered his thoughts and focussed in front of his frenzied eyes to a beautiful white dot of pure friendship and love. He reeled back and then reached out slowly with thin fingers that wanted peace. But when his hand got seemingly near the white dot it disappeared and he suddenly took that then, at the top of the dusty stairs, to be the hope being utterly defeated like it had vanished forever! He descended the stairs in utter and overwhelmingly devastating, hopeless loneliness.

At the foot of the stairs he stopped dead and he shook his head, laughing genuinely and hysterically for a minute and smiled oddly. And he crossed the great hall with a terrible indifference circling his mind. He still liked females he thought clenching then completely relaxing his strong hands, which were at his split sides.

DOOM and its (or it’s) many pits tormented him in their enjoyment-less hatred and torture as he carried on down the hall, smiling.

As he always did he glanced searchingly backwards at the stained glass window on the front door. Part of the multicoloured glass was arranged into a vector equilibrium: infinitely big and infinitely small.

He thought of the horror of a black, silent spinning sphere. He thought of the famines and the wars raging. He also thought of the Devil and heaven. When the bad get going, how bad does the going get?

He remembered a dream. In this dream he built a bridge and crossed it looking back at a young woman’s face he recognised – she was smiling. He wandered away into the darkness. And then all around him were green trees and plants and a feeling of peace…

He gripped the silver handle of the drawing room door, smiling gravely at memories of girls in his classes at college that day. He thought of his rugby team pals and his mind was refreshingly invigorated in a different way to the memories of girls (which he had perhaps forgotten for the moment) as he pictured very muddy playing fields, envisioned crunching tackles on opponents who had the ball and smelled beer soaked rugby club bars. Then for a moment he saw nothing but a rugby ball flying for ages through the air towards distant goalposts (now accompanied by an African woman singing indescribably, drums booming!)

At his very fingertips was his dawning, amusing, terrifying, utter insanity that had all his life been dawning (and slumbering somewhere dreaming preposterously.) Five more minutes please!! His mind was suddenly flooded with good memories of clean lakes and picnics and bikes and he knew that there were possibly many picnics to be had! “Maybe never-ending picnics for all!” he said and his mind rose to an appalling sky of brilliance. Feeling the hatred of all damned in hell.

He stood blood flowing unfathomed through his veins. He applied pressure and pushed, causing the door to swing gently on its hinges. John felt the warmth of the room wash over his grim features and as he somewhat confidently entered the room to his father’s warm greeting, he blinked.

THE END

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