What is catch 23? Well, it's a bit like Catch 22, but this is love not war. It's a little tricky to pin it down…suffice it to say a catch 23 is concerned with the problem of telling the difference between what's real and what's not. In this new quantum existence life can throw up all sorts of intriguing anomalies that can quite easily set your mind a'wandering. Well this story is all about this girl…woman if you like, who discovers that her most intense feelings altered her reality. She is propelled into a world that rotates with us but remains illusive…
The reality of Tottenham Court Road transforms to that of a tropical beach where she meets her equal and opposite other half. The start of five surreal days in a love story, where she is forced to face her ego and her place in the world. An extravagant finale rounds off this tale with an ever expanding universe in our souls.
“Back on track, I strolled across the sand to the sea. The magical feeling of the place oozed back in, through my hardened exterior, releasing all my previous tensions. It was simply impossible for me to ignore the great feelings I had all over. The sand between my toes, the heat on my face and that gorgeous turquoise sea. The hunger from my belly had dissolved and my irritable gait had soothed to a slow and peaceful amble.
Quiet contemplation eased itself back into position and played with my mind. With eyes gazing down through the cool water its crystal clarity astonished and thrilled my senses. The light seemed more vibrant and enticing. A laugh and a joyful skip leaked out of me and I began lolloping through the surf like a big kid. My smile broadened as I let the visuals sink once more into my memory.
With my feet six inches below the surface I could clearly define three separate worlds. The surface was punctuated by small, ever-changing patches of foam like topographical islands. These in turn cast moving shadows over the peaks and troughs of the miniature dunes beneath my feet. Bisecting all of this were the rapidly twisting, smoke-like ribbons of light refracted through the constantly shifting peaks and troughs of tiny moving waves that wrapped themselves around my ankles. More perfection is hard to find. Nature at its most beguiling.”
First and crucial episode.
Instantly the room filled with many thousands of tiny multi-coloured flying shapes that looked to me just like little psychedelic manta rays. They span, whistled and twinkled, rolling and zapping about, filling every corner of the room.
Jamie vanished amid the confusing visuals. A thick and fluid, yet particulate mass sparkled a thousand enticing colours into our eyes. Jamie stood back, his mouth open, moving back as if forward, further into the room, reaching out to touch the GPO-inspired detritus.
From somewhere deep within the bewildering mist he spoke. I heard his voice as if through a synthesiser:
"I must be having a ... what's happening...? My head! I'm... I'm... I'm....having a flashback!"
"Flashback? Flashback? You mean like an acid flashback? LSD?"
"Are you still here Jane? What! You see it too??!
"Yes I see it too... what's happening?"
"But...but it's not possible..." and he stared at me, his mouth open again. I just stared right back. His face was sort of shifting about. As he spoke I could see his mouth moving, his odd pose; all of him. Why was it that he looked so different all of a sudden?
I said, "I've never seen anything like this before… I've never taken mind-bending drugs. Is this what LSD does? But how…” I trailed off.
“I that case we must have been spiked.” he asserted.
“WHAT! Spiked? Oh god no. Do you really think? Who would do such a stupid thing?”
“Oh god. Maybe it was Julian - that bloody lunatic Julian. Bloody acid casualty. He was always talking about doing something like this.”
“Oh, he had this crazy idea of turning everybody on. Cosmic union and all that. Like Timothy Leary, you know? Well…there's one way to find out.”
“Step out the room and see if it comes with us.”
“Alright… Do you think it will help?”
“I dunno…I've never had one like this before.”
He moved to the door that had been undulating ever so gently. Reaching for the soft handle he pulled and as he pulled eddies of colour spiralled and flowed in its wake. The room filled with and new and harmonious tone:
a pink perfect B flat Major 7th...
Jamie turned to look back at me and said:
“Jane… you have an aura. You have tendrils of waving light, delicious white and lemon yellow shining from your head. Your hair's flying away from your head, shimmering.” He just held the door handle and stood quite still. He was deeply confused. He was looking at me as if I were some kind of Madonna-like being. I saw his belly quiver. So I smiled warmly at him. His confused expression changed as if my understanding smile had smothered him in a soothing analgesic glow. Warmth and security flooded into our bodies as he looked up at me and sank to his knees, his arms open, struggling between prayer and open compliance.
“This feels wonderful Jamie.” I said simply with my smile broadening ever wider. The feeling was so wonderful and so inexplicable for a rational girl like me. Where was it all coming from, this… this… feeling? Jamie's face was flushed. He was still on his knees. I had the impression that he was sort of leaking out of himself.
“I'm so warm…” He said quietly. “Why? I… er... are you…? Should I tell someone? What shall I do? What must I do for you?” He trailed off again, too embarrassed to verbalise his thoughts.
“Jamie! Don’t cower down there for god’s sake. What’s wrong with you?” but all I saw was love in his eyes.
Finally he spoke.
“I think you should take a look in the mirror Jane.”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing much...” But before he could finish his sentence my feelings changed and as they changed so did my aura. The delicate pastel yellow and the soft ivory white had become a cool green. As I moved to the mirror, I held my hands out trying to make my way through the blizzard of colour. That’s when I noticed all the veins running along the backs of my hands were glowing. They were now a fluorescent magenta while the rest of my hands were a gorgeous fleshy-pink.
Finally close enough to look into the watery mirror, I gazed at my reflection. This was the first time I had seen my very own electro-magnetosphere. My aura. That it was visible to me… that I was finally able to see what the stories were all about! As the shock of this vision crashed into my consciousness, so the colour shook violently and became neon blue. Amazed, I turned back to Jamie but he was nowhere to be seen.
“Jamie, Jamie? Where are you?” I had no sense of fear though. Almost immediately I realised that the notion of 'Jamie' was now lost somewhere amid the madness I felt and saw all about me. So I sank to the floor and rested my head on the carpet because it felt like the right thing to do. I surveyed the new landscape. All the loops of synthetic fibres stood strangely flat on my retina. In fact as I put my hands on the floor, my palms bristling with enlivened energy, new interpretations from the stiff fabric rushed up my arm and into my body. They stood about waiting to be seen but the place was empty.
Naturally enough my brain was having trouble understanding all the unexpected changes. Eventually my panic ran in, lost, crying, frightened and alone. The sudden change in my mood shattered my concentration and my aura; it blasted apart sending glistening shards of gold-plated crystal shooting from my head. On my hands and knees now I crawled to the nearest wall and struggled to my feet.
Once standing I felt a little more in control though the mirror was still very wet-looking. I placed my face in front of it and gazed in absent wonder. My skin was glowing bright. Any previous panic was overcome by simple wonder and surprise. Lost in bewilderment I straightened my back and looked up to the ceiling. I held my arms open wide and blinked madly. A smooth and building sigh grew within my soul. My confusion and fear was immediately soothed by waves of peace and security from above; nothing I could do about it but smile.
I began to make farty-party noises just for something to do. “Oh, why fight it... tit...titty, tittie, too…tittie… tooo… tooo?” My words felt like solid blocks as they left my mouth. Curious, I lifted my hand to my lips, to feel the substance of my speech.
“Hello... helloooooo,” my hand registered the form of the words as they hit the glowing flesh of my palm. Splashes of surreal meaning rose up to fall back and merge with the open ‘It’ again. As I moved away from the wall my body seemed to lag behind, causing more spiralling eddies of colour.
“Hohohoooooo........eeeiooooww” Now I was laughing and rolling around in the comfort zone that kept me away from the furniture’s sharp edges and walls. A new feeling entered my head from below. The feeling was of doubt. It arrived in my head and alerted my thought centres. The problem was they were unaware of what to make of these strange new sensations. Indignant, they pleaded with me to find more. Let them know what it was, how it worked and to get some more.
Feelings felt loved at last, felt respect, felt peace. My head, however, had its hands full of requests for data retrieval. Systems were losing themselves amid all the strange new particles they were having to deal with. Finally, the loudest call was from my gut.
“Normality! Normality!” it screamed, and like a good girl I obeyed it and headed for the door. But as I stepped forwards it I felt my body slow again, as if caught in molasses. I pushed to the door but again I found my momentum curtailed. My hands and fingers felt like they too were being held back. I began to feel disquiet and desperately pushed hard against the energy but still got nowhere. Then with a sigh I felt my whole body expand by 0.0248 microns. This finally allowed me to move through the very fabric of the room. As I slowly approached the office door, I became aware of millions of atomic particles streaming through me, like a Brillo pad moving through a loose sand dune.
This was when I instinctively realised that I was just a mass of vibrating atoms all with their own electrical fields; that the once solid fields had begun to dissipate. Then a new worry took me. I feared I might fall through the floorboards and finally through the very planet, so loose did I feel.
“So, okay… umm…”
The trouble was I still didn't really know how to phrase the question. I still wasn't sure there was a question even to think about. Why does it always have to be ‘What's it all about’?
I tendered another thought. I needed to think quickly. Clarity! Clarity! Then a jab in my little toe clarified my question.
“Okay, I think I have it. Is symbolism real? Is it delusional and, or, worth study?”
“Good question my girl! And do I have the energy to answer it?” Harley stood straight and held his head at an angle, catching a glimpse of a feeling. “’Is symbolism real?’” He said and thought a little more for a moment. “Do you mean: should you make a critical decision based only on a symbolic sign or your interpretation of that sign? That it feels as if you might have created the apparent reality by your own feelings?”
“Right. This is one of those funny, synchronicity, catch 23 questions, isn't it?”
“That elusive answer that keeps nagging at all those that think too deeply. The reason for it all. Okay. Interpretation: Look at our auspicious meeting on that bridge. It seems as if you've come to a junction in your life. Yes?”
“I guess… Didn't plan it but there you go.”
“In the world of symbolism you reach the other side by crossing a bridge.”
“Right, so here we are on the other side of the bridge. This is the next part of your life. To you I am a symbolic gatekeeper to your missing boyfriend. You're trying to reach an elusive and slippery eel. Good fortune, congratulations. But you can't just get on your knees and demand attention because it doesn't really work like that. You have to work in harmony with it. Have to float in its wake. Try pushing against a locked door and you're wasting your time. Look… sorry, what’s your name?”
“Look Jane. If by your question you’re asking me if you can manipulate reality then I have to say one thing: Tread lightly and carefully. The universe has this awkward reality that can feel so close and intimate yet utterly detached… it’s just the way it is. Yes, it can feel like total love and it is for those briefest of moments. One minute you think you see a pattern, the next it dwindles away to nothing. Once seen, however, a witness to the thread of creation will have trouble turning away. Do you see Jane? Once on the path there’s no turning back.”
“Phew, right...thanks. I think you have something there. It’s just that it all hit me a bit sudden you know... I didn’t expect any of this.”
“Nobody ever does. I have a good feeling about you though. You have a presence about you. Clean, clear. As far as I can make out it’s a great way to edge out of the mainstream of life but it’s a difficult and lonely business. You have to be strong unless you want to end up like me that is. I’ve fucked up my entire life, Jane. I took more than I gave. I abused my good looks. It was easy for me to manipulate the people that I met, male or female. Well, I’m paying for that arrogance now.”
I was a little stunned. He smiled warmly.
“You’ll be alright, I can feel it.”
Heather. Our third and most crucial protagonist
Ever since Heather’s return to civilisation after her episode in India, her desire and belief that she would finally meet the ideal life partner had grown way too long in the tooth. Her disappointment at not being able to have children had left her bitter. What she needed was a reason to be. The more she’d searched for one, the more she’d realised that trying to save the planet was just keeping her busy - busy and distracted. No matter the distraction it could not replace the real need in her for personal satisfaction.
Sure, she gleaned pleasure from her successes but the overall picture was far from pleasing. She had so much to give and no one to give it to. This irritant took small chunks out of her bit by bit until she felt that I was her last hope. She had gone as far as she could comfortably go on the holistic healing side of things towards finding fulfilment. Some of it seemed to help for a little while but in the end the real problem remained and no amount of Chakra manipulation had helped. The thought of adopting a child had crossed her mind but the realities of life and lack of money stopped her before she went any further with the dream.
For the next ten minutes she simply steamed angrily. With her nose just poking above the surface of the water she watched the vapour trails rising from her sugar loaf knees poking through the bubbly green water.
From her position inches above the surface her memories were overshadowed by the visually refracted view over her once flowered garden. She had spent far too long waiting for it all to slot neatly together. So many of her ingredients were right, but somehow the mixture just got burnt in the hands of other people. She was unable to find that all-important final ingredient. Life: to be the bearer of new life. For her the simple birth-right of every woman had not been awarded. Was it bad luck or something more? Karma…? She prayed it wasn’t the former – for what can you do with bad luck but curse its reality?
All her frustrations slammed her foot against the end of the bath, sending water splashing over. The dream had been so clear. It required nothing more than the basics and a stability that eluded her. Australia had been so close. So close to that successful and happy existence we all dream of.
The commune had been based in Queensland on the edge of the mountains, two hundred miles from the Flinders Range among the near tropical jungle. The settlement had been set up by a multinational group of enthusiastic hippies that had all met on the India trail. Most had money of sorts and the rest were simply incredibly handy with their imaginations and hands. The project had taken two and a half years to get running efficiently. Crops, homes and ancillary buildings had been built along with drainage and a fresh water supply, brought in by an enclosed aqueduct to prevent evaporation. Naturally no man-made materials were used and only natural preservatives were used to prevent the rotting of timbers. Unfortunately, termites hadn’t been factored into the equation.
By the second anniversary of its founding there were three new lives amongst the thirty five permanent residents and many tiny holes in many timbers. Many people had come and gone, some because they were unable to live with more than three people at a time and some, because of their misguided ideals and left in disgust at the lack of drive for growth and profit, so went home to make money instead.
Heather had been living with one of the original founders for two years. They were very happy with each other although she had begun to wonder about him. They all knew that lust was a problem for those choosing monogamy and as such the couples that chose that way went through hell. The men were all fit, well fed and horny. The beards and long hair suited the outdoor lifestyle. Sex hung unspoken and heavy in the air for much of the time. Sometimes the sound of bonking in the woods outdid the wildlife. When it was good, it was great... but when it went bad, it really turned nasty.
Heather had found her partner, Frank, knee deep in one of her closest friends behind a large tree one afternoon. From then on things simply crumbled into back stabbing power struggles and all were to blame.
She had returned to London where she had drifted aimlessly for ten years, trying to improve her state of mind with assorted pills, potions and theories. Acid had played a strong part in her early life and had left her deeply troubled by the opening of her mind to things outside of mainstream thinking. She was one of the many who had had their lives permanently influenced by the drug.
The opening of so many different concepts and possibilities for life and beyond had been the source of her will to continue with her barren life. Sometimes she regretted she ever took it and others she was filled with faith and hope that it was the evolutionary thing to do.
Her quest for enlightenment had diminished with time to such an extent that she had realised pure devotion to one, and only one, of the spiritual options available was impossible for her; deciding that it was all too much she would put the whole thing on ice until she died. This was the important decision she made for herself.
She learnt how to accept her diminished role in the grand scheme of things. She knew the chances of meeting a man that she could really have a secure future with were incredibly slim. The pain of the realisation was immense and took several years to solidify fully until she was finally able to blank out the grief.
She contented herself with the friends she had managed to hang on to over the years. She worked for her keep and took advantage of the discounts she could get at work for trips to hot climes. She was, however, one of those hopelessly optimistic people that Paul would never be. She blessed the fact continuously because the lows were short-lived and were replaced by the more common happy contentment with her lot. Her problems were, as far as she could see, insurmountable. They were kept down in her mental cellar and only occasionally crept up the stairs to stand up and demand attention. When they did so she would go through the motions of carefully examining them but always she quietly she shoved them back down, there being no simple solution for dealing with any of them.
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