Somewhere a tap dripped, drip, drip, as if to mimic the bedroom wall clock, its tick, tick; together they produced a hypnotic symphony of … ALARM!!! Bee Beep Bee Beep Bee Beep Bee Beep Bee Beep, in shotgun succession before a lazy, hairy, outstretched arm clubbed away at the air and connected with one of the buttons which stopped this most unruly disturbance, at least temporarily. The arm was hurriedly retracted beneath a large sea blue continental quilt, all too aware of both the cold air coming from an open window, and the duty which awaited it, all too soon. Harry drifted off, off through the temples of fortuitous childhood dream, flying through the air on his own accord past canyons and hot plains in India where dinosaurs fought and flowers grew as high as trees; off across continents high into blue above the big steel bridge where he had come of age so many years before, and still the dinosaurs hadn’t learned from the book of He, yet the austere omniscience of the peering early morning sun seemed to conceal answers which were out of reach to all. ‘And this is what they call Nirvana,’ a voice, Harry’s own voice, said from far off, as if announcing to all over a Tannoy, or from a futuristic television screen. And he was right, for he was now under the bridge, announcing to a lone camera this very suggestion ‘And this is what they call Nirvana,’ he continued to repeat, noticing in himself that perhaps his tone was mocking of his own words as he watched his own mantra on a huge fuzzy hologram in the air. His clothes draped linens, his hair long, white, heavy bearded, was it really him after all? But it was him, he was sure of it, and, as a test of sorts, he controlled himself, told himself to stop talking for it appeared as if he were talking to nobody anyway, even the dinosaurs had gone, all that remained was the silent morning, not even the chirp of a sparrow to infiltrate the quietude of an unmoving river, a breeze so slight that not a single tree leaf was shaken, a sky so pure that he began to wonder if indeed he was in Nirvana. Yet he was alone. And then there was cold air again, the noise of birds and cars and people talking, shouting almost. Drip. Drip. The dripping had slowed but then he was back on the bridge, climbing this huge cantilever construction a thousand miles long and high. Up here his vision was distorted by cloud, all around him, and now he felt a lack of control, his climbing was instinctive but controlled by something else, something foreign and powerful. His own voice was still audible from below, the same preacher-like tone and phrase as before, yet as he climbed the huge nuts and bolts of the bridge he began to hear more sounds, the gentle and familiar voice of a woman reading lottery numbers, the acceleration of a racing car, a radio advertisement for perhaps that very car, and the screams of a child teething, all becoming more prominent as his own voice below drowned out. The cloud around him took on the bright neon colours of what he knew, but didn’t know why, to be a place called Violet Island, where he was headed, climbing towards its music which now played in acoustic strum along with the other sounds, more and more sounds; men and women laughing then arguing, animals squawking and howling, and the more he climbed the more curious he became; Violet Island, his destination above the sun. His grip was becoming tired though, a cold wind was picking up and although he was acutely aware of the drop, his certain death, whatever it was that controlled his climb also controlled his fear, encapsulating and dissolving it into a fading whisper among noises so vast and overlapping that he could no longer tell one from the other, just a shrill of auditory glances and winks, nothing identifiable yet nothing threatening either. The higher he climbed the more the wind began to take hold and his body felt as if it were aging, his skin was loosening but just as he started to inspect this a song from yesteryear was amplified above all else, the loud crackling of a needle on vinyl at thirty-three revolutions, before the words began clearly: Hey Carrie Anne, what’s your game now, can anybody play? Harry’s hands began to numb as did his lips and he was aware of the tightening of the skin around his eyes. He felt sluggish but also destined to carry on the climb, Violet Island, its enchanting, mysterious promise permeated the chilled, now almost frozen air. The song and the noises had now coalesced into nothing more than a disorientating high-pitched hum, and as he climbed, slower, the brightness in the colour of the cloud began to dull, indeed it was turning grey again, a darker grey than before. But he could almost smell his destination, as indistinct a smell as pure water, yet it invited him towards his curiosity like a sparkling new red bike meeting the gaze of a child for the very first time. He was almost there; the cloud began to clear, almost there, his hands now frozen to the bone, no feeling besides the queer instinct which led him upwards, forwards it seemed. Bristles had turned to grown hair on his cheeks and neck, the short hair above them had grown long, matted, this he could feel. His eyes were weary, uncoordinated and desperate for what he was sure lay ahead, above. And finally, as if rising from a gargantuan chimney, he pulled himself up onto a massive horizontal beam, beneath him only the grey cloud, above him only a ceaseless sky of metal stanchions. Looking forwards he saw only a never-ending bed of cloud. Was he there? He steadied himself on the magnificent, dwarfing blue-grey structure, noting the ice-hardened black denim frozen to the shape of his legs, his t-shirt similarly frozen to a bulging torso which had gained weight as it climbed. The magnitude of his surroundings overwhelmed him, making him, the centrepiece, feel irrelevant in their imperious midst, but as he turned around his emotion shot back in through his veins as if the vision now in front of him had been etched as a tattoo on his inner core. Before him was a colour portrait embedded within a tunneled hologram which he recognised before he had time to study its surreal manifestation. This angled picture projection within the long rectangular flight in the atmosphere, told of two people, one of them him, the other one, who was it? And he knew her so well but it didn’t compute, he could only see the back of her for she was clutched tight to his chest, her wavy fair hair caught in the cold wind like golden seahorses in the wild ocean of night. A pink scarf was tied tightly around her neck, keeping her warm, she was cold, too cold, this much he could tell, but the rest of her was just a blackness, a void, incoherence but for the little warmth left within her which he felt within himself, melting into his chest. And there he was, pulling her close, a pained expression on his own face, a child of twenty-five; tanned, healthy skin, high, jutting cheekbones, angular protective jaw, clean shaven with cropped brown hair and frustrated eyes, as pale and distant a blue as the steel at which they gazed. And then as if someone hit a switch, the boy in the portrait was gone. Harry again, instinctively, immediately, began to climb, faster and faster into the promise of beyond, all automatic, he just needed, to get to, where was he going? It was too cold and the bridge was too high to conquer. A whole lifetime wouldn’t even do it. A whole lifetime. Harry felt his hands become weaker, almost immobile, his legs were also at the point of surrender though with this his mind was returning solely to him, telling him clearly that there was no distance left to travel but down. A sudden fear of vertigo accompanied the words of his mind, anxiety began to take hold, fatigue began to tire his open-eyed consciousness, his breathing became fast, scared, hyperventilation, daren’t look down. ‘Just hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on,’ he told himself over and over between short sharp breaths, before fear became shock, and shock became exhausted resignation.
They say that when you die all your memories come back in a flood and your life flashes before your eyes. As Harry’s grip became loose to the point where only the skin frozen to the steel kept him attached to the bridge, such a process began. As these memories came and went like the last water of a bath swirling into the drain, the flash of postcards, films, places, pictures, people that flooded by in that instant stirred Harry’s consciousness for the final time. As he fell backwards in slow motion, leaving the skin of his palms on the frozen steel, the lightning swirl behind his eyes played out its closing reel. A family, long ago, an old grey Mustang, tires flat in the driveway, deep green moss growing beside young blades of grass. A city, Rome, then Prague, then New York, cities of vacant buildings and empty rivers, nobody on the streets, no cars, no sounds, no, reality. Then a birthday party, children singing, a joyful woman in a beige apron smiling proudly as a young blonde-haired girl blew out six candles; a postcard falling through the air among orange and yellow autumn leaves in a park somewhere; and that was it, darkness, the children continued to sing as he fell, Bee, the children, who were they? Beep. Cities, why these cities he had never visited? Bee, who was she? Carrie Anne? Who was she? The postcard!! Bee Beep Bee Beep Bee Beep Bee Beep.