Just A Mortal With The Potential of a Superman

I was given a written prompt, and it reminded me of something I’d been trying to write for a long time that I never pursued. This still isn’t that, but its something on its way. That, in turn, reminded me of something else entirely.

The prompt was:

“Everyone Assumes They Get a Guardian Angel; They Don’t Realise That Demons Can Be Guardians Too.”

The angels in my life do not have wings, and the demons certainly do not have horns; so I’ve taken this rather askew compared to what I’ve read in a lot of other pieces. I am not sure how I’ve taken it, to be honest (or even if I’ve gone completely astray…). I pinched parts of one line from somewhere else, which is what the rest is borne out of (in case anyone notices that…).

This reminded me of something called The Stanley Parable. It is designed as a game, but is far more of an existential exploration, I suppose. I really recommend you explore it, otherwise I have a YouTube video here that holds a very similar value. It is well worth 8 minutes of your time, in my opinion, even if you skip any further text I have written.

From that couture piece of fiction, to something – perhaps – less refined.


“The Great Library of Alexandria, a monument to the near infinite wealth of the Ancient Egyptians. Everything that had ever been known was held within its walls. Hundreds of people spent their whole lives transcribing knowledge so it could be stored and held safely in one place. Marked as one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World; all thoughts and ideas brought together to stand the test of time. Burned to the ground in 48 B.C. Generations of discovery lost.”

“Is that where we are now?”

“…is there somewhere you would rather be?”

“No…I’m just….surprised, is all.” A cautious glance around the shadows, “Where are all the scribes you were just talking about?”

“We do not need them, you and I. Everything you need, you talk to me.”

“You’re the librarian?”

“We are in a library. I am the librarian. If this were a shop I would be your cashier; were it a museum, I would be your guide…”

“I would feel a lot more comfortable if I could see you. I don’t know where you are.”

“Comfort is not what I am here for. I am here to tell you what you should hear. Besides, there is no comfort to be gained by seeing my face.”

“What is it that I should hear? Why should I listen?”

“Who else is there here that you can trust? There will be nothing you can learn without my guidance here. Of course, you may search beyond, I cannot stop you; but it is…purposeless. You will see for yourself. I will be here still. I am the voice between the voices; I am the one who moves this story along when it loses its way. I will not be silenced for long…”

There was anger behind the disembodied voice, the echoes ricocheted off the hall’s unseen corners. The mood had turned; the visitor had, perhaps, said the wrong thing. The wooden floors were rough and uneven; unloved. One would think no human soul had entered but for one. The dust layered upon it was broken by a chain of footprints, a continued trail leading into the gloom. The only disturbance in an otherwise untouched world. The library was, at best, unwelcoming. Without any direction, it would become a labyrinth.

With no voice to smother the surroundings, the grandiose hall came into focus. The few shelves visible were bare. The library was quite barren; all at least, that existed outside the darkness. The dim light, source of which unknown, stretched no further than a couple of arm’s lengths. For all the mention of untold understanding, there was nothing.

“Let. There. Be. Light.”

The silence was broken by the words accompanied by the reluctant grind of heavy machinery. A lever forced its way into effect, the weight of which set the world into motion. Sunlight wept inside from windows surrounding high above. The boundaries of the interior world were now confirmed; for a hall containing the world’s wealth, the atmosphere could only be described as claustrophobic. All that was outside was an infinity away.

“I care not for your tricks. If there is to be light, let it fall upon us instead!”

“Are you not impressed? Let’s shift our focus, then. Choice is your freedom as much as any other illusion. It is what’s on the inside that counts, after all…”

Another heavy lever echoed high above. The light of the world outside was extinguished. In an instant a bright spotlight revealed how close to an infinite measure the hall maintained as a zone became illuminated. There were endless levels climbing ever higher, spiralling towards the apex. There was an atrium starkly revealed becoming ever thinner as the surrounding walls reached a blinding point. None of the light reached the ground, from where he gazed upon. It reached down little further than a few floors above him, clawing the outer walls.

It was there, where the light lost its battle with the dark, leaning ponderously upon a railed balcony, he saw the man for the first time.

It was a face that was all too familiar, but belonged to a man he, truly, did not know. The eyes were tired and disguised a thinly veiled anger; one hand steadying himself on the balcony railing, the other held a stranglehold on a lever. His unsteady grasp on power was power all the same; he had dominion here and could turn on the night.

That was the moment the power in the room shifted. Everything prior had been implicit; manipulated; symbolised. Only then had he became broken.

“I am trapped down here and can’t see a way out. There is nothing down here, save for myself, all this knowledge is elsewhere; I want to step outside. You have been where I am standing; you know how I can escape. I’m afraid that I will not be able to leave. I need you to help me.”

A pause. A breath. A decree.

“Then allow me. I can stare between the fretwork. There is no one out there coming for us, but I will be the one who will go to them. I can see the broken world and will do this for us both. You have given me my own voice. Can you now see how it is to have mine? I will save you from this.

In one swift flourish his hand reached down, closing the distance, even so slightly between himself and the floors below. His facade of implied unsteadiness had faded. At first it looked as though he was reaching out to his compatriot; this was not a warm embrace. Not yet. The hand held a match; as both men stared, without even the most subtlest of movements, the head ignited and began to glow.

Both men were silent for a moment. Encapsulated temporarily by its vibrancy and allusiveness in equal measure. Finally the voice from above spoken again.

“Do you know why they burned the Great Library? Perhaps there were no treasures within after all? Or, in fact, there was a conspiracy to make the world think all the knowledge had been lost…..but it was all SAVED.” The final sentence elicited first a smile before an excited grin, finally breaking into a tired, throaty laugh, near indistinguishable from a deep and persistent cough.

“But…”, he continued, as the laughter quickly faded, “…this is not the case. It is so sad, and would have made a wonderful story. One of determination; bravery; honour; of justice.”

No words in response. The spotlight began to fade from view as the match burned brighter without even a flicker.

“This is not some fairy-tale told to children; it is not an heroic myth fondly shared. It is a footnote, in an altogether different story, one that continued long after the Library’s demise. Do you think you deserve an ending? Are you owed a neat resolution all tied up with a bow? The story will continue either way. Yours is not a story; it is a fragment. Come! Step into the light. Get your fingers burnt. It is time.”

Only silence in reply. The match was aloft, over the chasm between the two men. Its stillness was quite hypnotic. The flame was not dancing, it was prone; waiting patiently for the right tune.

“Since, my friend, you have revealed your deepest fear: let us move along; stop singing these songs; we have been performing all these years. Tear down the Hall.”

The dance started. The pirouette was beautiful.


And Every Day The Paper Boy Brings More

A friend of mine suggested I keep up with my writing, and I have been. Not that it is of benefit, but I do find it peaceful. I usually tear out and set fire to the bulk but every once in a while I’ll keep it to look at for a future date. The only real problem being that there isn’t a large multitude of topics going on in my life to write about – yet still I persist, even in the face of tedium. But only after a gem of a quote from Terry Pratchett, which is always of benefit to all:


“Come to think of it,” he said. “it wasn’t frogs exactly. It was the idea of frogs. She said there’s these hills where it’s hot and rains all the time, and in the rain forests there are these very tall trees and right in the top branches of the trees there are these like great big flowers called bromeliads, I think, and water gets into the flowers and makes little pools and there’s a type of frog that lays eggs in the pools and tadpoles hatch and grow into new frogs and these little frogs live their whole lives in the flowers right at the top of the trees and don’t even know about the ground and once you know the world is full of things like that your life is never the same.”

He took a deep breath.

“Something like that, anyway,” he said.

“Didn’t understand any of it,” he said.

“It’s a metaphor,” said the Thing.

No one paid it any attention.

Truckers – Terry Pratchett


There is something about the prospect of a spring clean that is ominous. It is an event that one always knows needs to happen, and yet – in my case, at least – probably rarely does so; certainly not at the turn of spring. I may have had a few half-hearted attempts in the past, but anything more than a slight spruce is a noteworthy event.

My room has no visitors. It is an L-shaped space sitting separate from the world. It is…chaotic. There is a lamp in the corner taking a large segment and memory fades as to when the bulbs within last functioned. Much of my time here is spent by candlelight illuminating what is close, leaving the stark walls opposite in obtuse darkness. The shadows that form peer back upon any observer who gazes too long upon them.

It has long since made up its own rules; something placed in one moment becomes transient and lost until a time as of yet undefined – almost certainly to re-appear unannounced at 3.30am on a winter’s morning. Have you ever seen something so clear disappear before you own eyes? In this place, it does. It is a honed mysterious science so advanced it is indistinguishable from magic. Occasionally, an item becomes something else altogether; I am awaiting the day my collection of lead becomes gold ingots.

Instead of riches, a metro ticket from a holiday in 2012; a sweet wrapper that evaded the Great Cleanse of November ’16; a charger cable for an item unknown. It is a monument to all that would have otherwise been forgotten; all purposeless and no longer useful for what they were once intended, and I question their function whenever I may happen upon them. Yet they persist ineffably – for every sweet wrapper deposited in the waste paper basket another three rise up to take its place.

It has its benefits – because of things becoming misplaced; lost; unfound, there is always space for new things to be moved in. Some I bring inside, place down, forget about; some are brought in and lost almost instantaneously; there are a few things appear I would swear to have never seen before. Its a slightly unsettling thought to see something completely new in your personal space; it usually takes a minute or three or four to figure out if it was me who, in fact, purchased a third box of gel pens and placed in the centre of the adjoining airing cupboard.

Having forgotten what the original shade of my carpet was, with it laden with detritus, my first thought was to close off the whole room with police tape and deem the area a disaster zone. I am a solution finder, not a problem solver. However, no matter how much I willed this into being, it was unabashedly rather unsustainable as a way of living. I will ever continue the endeavour to make this a reality I suspect.

The only thing to be done was have a cleaner come in and reset the board. It is something, on the face of it, that I felt rather guilty of needing, although, it is more of a done thing than I first considered, and its certainly not that I won’t keep things tidy, I have long since acknowledged life would have been much simpler were this possible – the dark magic at play is definitely something someone with a more professional eye for detail.

I spent rather too much time cleaning about the place before they arrived and even sought advice on the best way to do so; it seems rather vacuous when you think about it. One of the most pointless exercises I probably engaged myself in. There would have been no chance that this effort would have been worthwhile, but a distinct possibility that my feeble attempts would have been noted. A fear that took little time to be confirmed.

It was strange watching someone cut through the overgrowth with clinical precision and without emotion. As an intellectual exercise I was fascinated – even as I saw huge chunks of my life get stripped out in front of my eyes. It was not just a case of search and destroy, I am genuinely questioning what sorcery this Merlin had brought to the round table.

The curtains had never been opened; whenever I am within, the outside has always appeared as dark as the interior, so there has been no cause to have them open. I guess it makes it feel like the outside world is a prize on a game show yet to be revealed; something one has to earn (or be lucky) to win. During the big clean up, these curtains became damaged, so no longer closed all the way. The uneasy fact is that now people can see in; it would make me feel exposed slightly, except that I’m quite confident most of the time that there is nobody, in fact, looking inside. It does provide a different outlook to see everyone walk past and have more perspective on the outside world, but at least there is no longer a mystery prize to be won.

As quickly as it had started, it was over, and I was left with a very different environment. Equal in so many ways to before, it had the same features, you could see where the pizza boxes had been…and where there would be another a week or so later; yet I didn’t recognise it anymore. I knew it was mine…I have a piece of paper somewhere to prove it…but it took quite a bit of time to get to know it again. At first, it was though its character had…diminished. It had less mischief and even became receptive to the laws of physics that dictate all other areas of the world. Time, the great healer, saw it regain its previous strength and we restarted our duel anew.

It is different now, though. The rules of the game have changed and the balance of power has shifted. A person like me, at least, can never truly conquer the behemoth, but I do have a greater arsenal now. It is always useful to know the carpet is beige and I’ve been taught the virtues of the Dustbuster.


We’re Gonna Take a Trip Across the Sea; Everybody Come Along With Me

I would like to come inside, please.

Are you a member?

Yes! *holds up EHIC* I’ve been a member my whole life.

I’m sorry, sir, it says on my screen that your membership has been revoked as of June this year.

There must be some mistake – can you check again?

I’m afraid there’s no mistake. If you would like to follow me to the non-member’s lounge. Everything is the same, except far, far more expensive…

Topical…and a bit of a mis-truth. Passport Control was all automated! I didn’t even have to answer any awkward questions about why I’m visiting as I have had to do every time I’ve visited anywhere. They are clearly prepared to let just anyone in, which is good news for me, at least.

Needless to say, perhaps, part of what I wrote yesterday was also a lie. Not that I knew it at the time. As the blog was being published I was not in the afore promised steel bird thirty thousand feet in the sky. I was a mere six foot and one inch above the ground, in a pen at Gatwick airport awaiting a delayed flight. Not that is caused any great angst, but I’m ever one for accuracy in the detail.  I only know one person who works for Easyjet so I will lay the blame at their feet until they buy me a beer.

 When I was a child my dad built a bagatelle board; it’s a mini wooden pinball game where you fire a ball bearing into a board and you score points depending on where the ball comes to rest. The power of your shot (and luck) determines where the ball ends up as it follows the curves of the board. It was a wonderful feat, second (in my mind) only to the Scalextric track he built into the kitchen ceiling. This memory struck me when I was wandering the streets of Amsterdam, strangely enough. The city is a large-scale bagatelle board. (Punctuated by the canals), with the added attractions of a Tulip Museum and many coffee shops (as crazy as the 90s were I can forgive my dad for not thinking to add these in). 

With a low to medium amount of power (4-5 mph) and relying more on luck than anything else, I fired myself out of Amsterdam Centraal station in search of something story-worthy. No matter what direction you head off in, the canals will herd you back to the centre until you either arrive back at Centraal (zero points) or a (not so) hidden gem (fifty points at least). Even on my first night I saw things I’m not sure I can even transcribe (although I’ll give them a hundred points).

In preparation for my visit, many of my friends had suggestions on what I should get up to. All of which gratefully received and gave me a hard choice about whether to spend more time doing one thing or another. Even though I’m not here for long its not something worth agonising over. I don’t want to try and do everything; if I feel I’ve missed something, I’ll just have to come back again.

I probably missed an awful lot to be honest, but I covered, pretty much, the whole city on foot and saw some awesome sights. The weather was perfect throughout. As I say, though, the goal wasn’t to see and do everything – I made sure I got some quality reading time in underneath my designated favourite tree. The Rijksmuseum is a fantastic collection of Dutch object d’art and paintings. Even I, who normally struggles to appreciate these things, was mesmerised at least once or twice. If that would not strike your fancy, I also visited Artis Zoo, where – for the first time ever – I saw a lion (that’s only notable really if you consider I went on safari, to see lions, and didn’t see a single one).

I marched off towards Museumplein without really any concrete idea as to where it was…but I knew I’d find it eventually – and it didn’t actually take all that long, which gave me more than enough time to explore the museums. Ditto the zoo in the afternoon. My sense of direction is something I’m starting to get quite proud of.

Everyone cycles here. If you hate cyclists you will hate Amsterdam. They will try to kill you if given the opportunity. I know not so much of the Olympic cycling events, but a photograph of Amsterdam is probably strikingly similar to an MRI of Bradley Wiggins’ brain; every traffic light is like the opening stage of the Tour de France. I like to think I put myself in others’ shoes, I fear that Pavlov’s dog would have some sort of nervous breakdown. 

There are many coffee shops here, and they got busier and busier as the night wears on. There must be some pretty hardcore coffee drinkers here as there were bouncers on the doors too. I am not a coffee drinker (I was offered it once and always politely decline nowadays), nevertheless, I am still familiar with that clawing scent it has – I am always intrigued when I happen across a new one. Amsterdam is a very green city. 

It is only Day Two and they have already come to accept me as one of their own. I was sat in a cafe and was approached by a stranger who spoke to me in full and free-flowing Dutch (gold star to me for not looking like a tourist). After I explained I was a bit clueless, they explained they were offering me their crisps as they were not going to eat them and thought I may appreciate them. A grand act of kindness, that is probably the norm; as a Londoner though, it took a lot for me not to eye them suspiciously.  

I haven’t learned as much Dutch as I would have liked, but I am trying where I can. Plus everyone speaks English,even when I speak (what I think is) Dutch. I’ve come to the opinion that in most passer-by interactions it’s a good opportunity for me to practice my French. The only one thing better than having people think that I am a doughnut Englishman who couldn’t be bothered to learn the language…

Up with the sparrows tomorrow to make my merry way to Brussels and onward home. It has been a whirlwind, but for a solo tour, I think it’s just about right (for me, anyway). I have enjoyed each minute of this, but I’m ready to tackle the challenges of home again with a renewed vigour – or find new ways not to need to tackle them at all…

Live long and prosper

Today’s Reading:

The Sign of One by Eugene Lambert: Dystopian fiction about twins. What’s not to like?

Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett: There were no public health laws in Ankh-Morpork. It would be like installing smoke detectors in Hell.

Playlist for today:

Steve ‘n’ Seagulls – Thunderstruck: For those who like Finnish Bluegrass. I prefer to the original. They also do a good cover of Nothing Else Matters, which is well worth a search.

Neu! – Isi: Timeless krautrock (I had to look up the name of the genre…) to reflect on a good day had. Some easy listening as I sit in the hostel bar and write this.

Tulip Count: 3

Clog Count: 5 (…pairs, not individual. That would be, and is, in fact, odd.)

Windmill Count: 0. Disappointed.

Above The Planet on a Wing and a Prayer

For as long as I can remember (which is a much better way of saying, ‘for the last couple of weeks’) I have always believed that you shouldn’t run away from anything. That is not to say, you shouldn’t run; running is probably priority one in a number of scenarios (fire; tiger escape from zoo; free cheesecake). You should never run away from anything. Everywhere you run should be towards something instead, even on days when it seems like you’re heading right back where you started.

And we run. We are always running – from the second we open our eyes in the morning to the very moment they close again at the end of the day. Sometimes the only way to take a pause (perhaps rather counterintuitively) is to pack a bag and escape a while.

Every journey starts with a single step. If anyone else were to make a journey they would have probably considered the first step more than a little carefully, and pondered over what the first single step should be. I, however, can’t remember exactly which single step I made was the first one, the one that led me to the plane I’m currently sat on (yes, at the time this is published, I am on a steel bird about 30,000 feet in the air). It isn’t that I haven’t thought through exactly what I’m doing here, rather, I’ve thought rather too much about it. So much, in fact, that I never really thought I’d get here at all. So I sat and considered until my mind had to make a pit-stop from the racing it was doing.

Imagine a toddler, on a picnic blanket looking up and around at everything going on around them having nowhere particular to go, but knows full well that they are not sure they want to be where they currently are. The toddler does not really consider the step, and definitely doesn’t consider the route, but, with great effort albeit without much eloquence, they pick themselves up and toddle. Not one step, but several uneven lurching steps with no ideal destination. Probably in search of cake.

Perhaps, a better analogy is the drunk student ejected from their usual haunt and is keen to find another place to wind away the hours. Spoilt for choice, and yet with no focus on where to end up…and far far too early to call it a night. One step forward; three to the side; a twist and shuffle – something more closely resembling a dance notation than a plan. But even dance notation has a clear and unambiguous meaning, despite not being clear to everyone. Perhaps not even to the drunken student making the moves.

A drunk toddler dancing unsteadily into the dark night towards a night club which may or may not have cake. That is probably the easiest way of describing how I have come to be where I am now. The hard work has been done already; from this point, all encounters are down to chance, despite being masked as meticulous detail.

So I’m going on an adventure. I have little, if any, hopes and expectations, which will either be the making or the breaking of this mini-tour. It is, by no means, a grand expedition but a fun one nevertheless. My chief weapon is fun…and peacefulness. My twweapons are fun and peacefulness…and the unexplored….

It has had its moments, but I’ll be temporarily putting down the pen which has written the zombie-horror that has been 2016. Instead, I’m running head first towards a blank page I intend to fill using a set of brightly coloured felt tips (or anything that can produce a vivid, abstract contrast to what has come before).

Onward to peace and relaxation

Today’s reading:

Easyjet Safety Card.

Playlist for today:

Bo Burnham – Left Brain, Right Brain. The man manages both thought-provoking and comical. Plus, I’m deciding which side of the brain I need to switch off… probably both. (Note he can be quite colourful in how he speaks…)

Within Temptation – And We Run. I will be arriving in Holland in about an hour from now; the home of this band. In a world where many opinions are stated as facts: Symphonic Metal is up there as one of the best genres of music.


Just Give It Time Then Speak My Name

It’s been a while since I posted here.

It is not because I have forgotten; I’ve been working on projects, including one for the blog for the last however long.

Perhaps it is apt that the topic I am covering is that of silence.

There are many different types of relationships present in this world. A lot of them are created and held together by different causes or interests. A joint interest in a topic can bolster a friendship; a shared dislike of something will instantly create an ally; but these are only a fragment of the kind of bonds people form throughout their life. There are all those people out there you are side by side with, interdependent  with perhaps who you will never meet but have a level of understanding.

A nodding acquaintance, I suppose. The people you may see on the train everyday; the person who has the same gym schedule as you; your neighbour who spends their day on their front lawn. The stories behind the transition from silent cameo to ensemble cast member can quite often be interesting, and are – obviously – not a rare occurrence. One would point out that just as all strangers are friends we are yet to meet, so must friends have been strangers once upon a time.

Some stranger than others.

There is no template for what one considers a friend/enemy/lover/acquaintance;they cannot be grouped into types/pots/divisions. Each relationship is unique, there are as many different branches of relationship as there are people on this earth. The fascinating thing (for me, perhaps only me, at least) is how each of these relationships defines – or is defined by – the exchange of words.

A kind word is not dependent on familiarity. Indeed, there are people in my life I know very little about who have my kindest words bestowed on them; there are people I know very well who will receive none. I think we have kind words for all our friends, but as I say above, the relationships are built on different things and so equally differ in what we talk about. I don’t think its an usual thing – shared\alternative history will usually create different points of perspective.

The most interesting to me though, the part that intrigues the most is what doesn’t get said in any given relationship. Where does the boundary lie with ‘too much information’? Why can I not share things with my bus driver that I share with my significant other? Then, flip-side that for fun, and what do I share with my bus driver I do not share with my SO. Probably nothing, to be honest – but, extreme examples aside, its something ponderable.

Every relationship is a collaborative journal and need not share any features of the ‘Also by this author’. Not better, or worse – just different. People cannot be ranked, rated or pigeon-holed; the many branches reach far, they reach wide; some are stronger, broader and older – but all are vital to the tree.

This the relevant segment of a piece I’ve been working on [I’m not yet completely happy with it] (*), and will be following up (hopefully relatively soon) with an expanded version, exploring a few other things. As per standard practice in this day and age with fiction – allow yourself to feast on the beginning, a teaser, if you will, of Across the Table.

*This is transcribed from my notebook…I’ve made changes and haven’t quite settled with them yet    [/excuse]

She spotted him and hurried across. He was already sat; it was three minutes past the hour. She was late. The concern was all hers, since he was smiling as he spotted her, and rose to his feet. Thirty seconds before he had been as agonised as she appeared now – in her presence his demeanour became calmed. A close glance would see his glassy eyes remain; but that was not something to be shared.

A brief kiss, and a tentative hug, before they sat together across the table. She was visibly calmer but was still silent – both had been silent. Their eyes were betraying them both, as each became further lost in their soundless converse. Her cool exterior was a lie, his frenetic state equally so. They looked across the divide and saw only a pale reflection of their companion. Their silent words had carried them too far away from one another.

He held out his hand.

“I’ve missed you,”  sang the outstretched palm.

The hand propping up the chin had not heard him over the muted sound of fingers drumming her lower lip. The rhythmic pattern was enough to convince her she was doing enough to bridge the gap , but not enough for the weight of words to get across. Her second hand partnered her first and her elbows met the table as she did so, bringing her nearer and yet no closer.

“I’ve missed you too,” her hands had become too tired and her eyes took up the slack. They answered the call of his palm, but spoke to his eyes instead as her gaze shifted from the table. Her eyes could talk freely, unfettered by the fear held in her hands.

“What shall we do now?”, as his hands moved to mirror hers, his fingers held like a prayer, pressed firmly upon his closed lips. They were inches apart, eyes locked. They had become each other’s whole world.

She had no answer and remained unmoved. As far as she could tell, they had both found solace in the silence, but both had been very different. Hers was close and packed so tightly it was impossible to see out clearly – his was a vacuum where everything within was pulled out of reach. This single difference was what was creating a divide between them and would be the cause of the still moment reaching its close.  Their mutual veneer of comfort started to chip away the moment she parted her lips:

“I’ll get you a coffee,” it was he who spoke first as he rose from the table and made his way to the counter, not awaiting a reply. She looked to him but he had already gone. She turned her head and re-acquainted herself with the surroundings; the coffee house was in full vibrance and in full voice – as she looked at all the faces around her she realised how alone she was.

Within a few minutes he was, again, across the table with a coffee for her and a smile for himself.  The silence had been an unbearable torment and he was not displeased that it had been him who had put it to its death.  It had cost him a few moments delay – two and half minutes away from her – and three-pounds ninety-nine, but if that was the price of a ticket from limbo then he considered it more than fair.

“Thank you,” she spoke. Her accent fondled the syllables with a delicate touch, eliciting from him an imperceptible shudder and an even wider smile. For the moment, their move to spoken theatre was not the resounding failure he had initially considered; although cliché, coffee was an ideal icebreaker, but would not be a recurring topic.

“The coffee here was always good,” she continued, “I’ve missed it more than I thought I would”. He had been mistaken, perhaps – he was willing to talk with her about anything; even the coffee (which he never had developed a taste for) would sustain him for the short while before what was to come next.

“You are so, so right,” he turned his head away and studied nothing in particular on the far ceiling; “Maybe,” he paused for a moment before, “maybe, it is why we keep finding ourselves here.”As he finished he turned to her again, but now his eyes had become inflamed as they frantically scanned her face for any indication, a definite indication, of her emotion. He had always thought, up to this point, that he was skilled in the art of reading faces; the lines which tracked her journey through life. She had been untouched by time Herself and remained as youthful as she had been when his eyes first fell upon her; his beautiful enigma.

“Perhaps.” She agreed despite acknowledging the polite lie. They were both playing roles and reciting their well-rehearsed lines as consummate professionals. Somewhere along the way, she couldn’t pinpoint exactly when, the script had changed as their story developed; neither had yet seen the opportunity to reflect this in their dialogue. Without a prompt behind the scenes she knew the next move would need to be improvised. She sought inspiration out the window and to the rain rapping against the panes, until deciding against it.

He saw her hesitation and pounced on it with his own. He was saddened at the thought of their mutual silence, yet he could, neither, think of anything to say. That is, rather, he could think of nothing easy to say – everything had become so difficult in the last few moments, perhaps for them both. He had counted seven different paths of conversation he could take – none of them led to safety, warmth or comfort. The gentle and beautiful creature in front of him was as much the danger as the damsel.

She still hadn’t returned her eyes to his face and she, briefly, caught a glimpse of the world beyond. Context was a strange beast – the fear she had seen in him (and within herself) was nothing to compare with that from afar. He had always kept her from the terror, but now it seemed to seep from him. In fear she stepped forth as she looked at him with renewed resolve; he was not someone to be feared – they would always keep each other safe from the pains life brings, one way or another.

She was ready, and she spoke having placed her hands in his:

“He’s asked me to marry him.”