– All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental, except Paris and Death, they are very real. –
It starts with a whimper, a whisper in the wind that’s making white waves on the ocean. The attack is sudden, sharp and unexpected. When you’ve let down your guard completely, when you are enjoying the tranquility the place gives, enjoying days of calm and joy, The Thing attacks, not you and not the weakest of you, but the strongest one. It’s crept inside The Man and attacks in the middle of the night, waking you up with a promise of a dreary future and the possibility of a catastrophe. You might not be allowed to go home. The fact that it didn’t attack you, or the kid, straight away is puzzling though, confusing and you don’t know how to fight this particular battle.
While The Man fights his courageous battle with the demon inside, you take the kid to the playground and watch a small dove jump down the white steps, one step at a time until it’s down on the ground, then it flies up the stairs and starts over again. It keeps this up until a bright eyed Dane surprises it and you watch it fly off into the blue sky.
The day turns to night and the darkness brings anxious thoughts, but also a quiet calm. And you wait, you wait for it to attack you or the kid, but it doesn’t. And you think that it’s biding its time so you wait and you prepare for this particular battle. You wait for the first signs of it inside you while watching Doctor Who, Tom Baker with his long scarf, Eccleston with his face of joy and sadness in one, and Tennant who looks like an 80’s boyband star, in a very good way, and you almost forget your woes, although when you try to sleep the growling in your stomach keeps you from it. It’s starting now, is it? It’s starting now? And how will you battle this monster? How? You thought it would attack, but never suspected it would deviously sneak inside and attack from the inside, like the Alien in that movie you loved a long time ago and still do. You never thought it would attack him, and not you.
Somehow both you and the kid manage to fool The Thing and suddenly it is there again. The shadow of that grey bearded God called Death, the only god you’ll ever know exists for sure and you’re high up in the sky, praising whatever force helped you to win the battle that was never yours to fight in the first place. The greatest plot twist of the year, and possibly the worst anti-climatic ending ever, and The Man is sitting beside you smiling, taking care of the happy kid, playing games while you stare out into the dark night. And you listen to a woman tell a story, a woman who was possibly much more a head of her time than you are a head of hers. And the fear is real, oh so real, but fear is what makes us human. It’s what keeps us on the edge, what puts our perspective in order. If we have nothing to fear then we become like the Borg, we get assimilated and our humanity is lost along with most of our orginality. But fear is a fickle master and too much of it makes us just as inhumane.
And when the darkness becomes so total and the machine you’re in starts to shake uncontrollably you think that this is where you fight your battle. This is where you beat The Thing and you stare out the window, trying to find a point of reference, but there is nothing out there, it’s as if the earth and the sky have been devoured by the great wolf and you feel the panic rise within you, you feel the thoughts swirl around in your head like a never ending tornado and that’s when another ancient God comes to your rescue.
Lights. Lights on the ground, not just a few but suddenly there is a crowd of lights beneath you, a never-ending point of reference called Paris underneath you and although it is still far down you can now see. The earth is still there, the machine is still fine and the enemy within is all you. It’s all you and just you. The other one has been defeated by The Man and you are grateful that this time around it wasn’t your turn to fight that battle.
This one is yours though and when the wheels of the machine touch the ground, not with a whooshing whisper but a harsh thump, you feel the joy sprite within you. You feel the power of a thousand gods arise and think for a moment, only a moment, that you are the lizard king and that you can do anything. And then you’re back in that place where the leaves rattle on the ground like strange creatures from a Miyazaki film, chattering in their own incomprehensible language. You’re back home, where the sun only shows itself for a few hours during this time of year. Home where the bed is soft and the enemy within can be fought on a familiar ground. The Thing got left behind and if there is another monster lurking in the bushes then at least you have all your weapons by your side.
You’ve won this battle. The beast has been slain and you survived and your memories of the two weeks away become soft and sunny. You remember making mud-castles on the beach with the kid and swimming in the pool with her laughing so hard that she could hardly stay afloat. You remember the cold beer at noon on the balcony beside The Man who was reading The Time Machine and you remember the excursions you made and all the kind people. You remember the bright sunsets and the wonderful warmth. You remember the kind clown making your kid giggle and the 80’s music sounding throughout the entire village. You remember reading Ligotti in the quiet dark outside and you remember sleeping with the balcony door open, each and every night because at this time a year there are almost no insects to hassle you. And you remember thinking that this place just might be heaven, if there ever is one.
And you know that while it’s great to be home, you will be missing that place soon enough.