It is dark – pitch dark – but the air is warm and soft. Scents of pinewood, coffee and spices waft about like dust flurries. Almost beyond the reach of my ears comes whispers of exotic languages, strange animal cries, the creaking of ropes and the flutter of canvas – shifting and changing like an aural kaleidoscope.
Fumbling briefly I strike a match, and light a candle.
She is there. She always is – materializing in the glow of candle light like an ethereal sprite.
She may have many different faces, but they are always beautiful. She may have different coloured hair, but it is always long and silky and catches the light, just so. She may have different coloured eyes but they are always full of the same light, love and mischief.
No matter who she is, it is always Her.
She takes my hand and we run, whooping and laughing like children down endless corridors, throwing open doors with reckless abandon.
Oh the things they open on to! Here a field of stars and swirling galaxies, explored at the speed of imagination (so much faster than boring old light). Worlds full of sights, sounds, people and things you could never believe.
Over here a desert awash in moonlight – it’s deep silence broken by the far-off sound of exotic music. We follow it until we spy a nomad camp, its fires glowing amber like drops of honey spilled on the silvered dunes. We dance and drink and sing before moving on to more doors and more worlds – never tiring.
We sail tall ships on seas of beaten copper. We share adventures with friends, loyal and true – fighting battles where no-one ever seems to get hurt. We celebrate with great feasts in stone halls lit by huge fires. We make love wrapped in silks on a four-poster bed high in a castle tower…
After a fun-filled eternity we finally enter quietly the one door I admit I love the most. It leads to our shack by the beach. She and I curl up on the back verandah, on a bench buried by dozens of big, well-worn cushions. Snuggling under the comforting weight of soft old blankets we sip scalding coffee from ancient, cracked mugs.
It doesn’t matter that the house next door has fresh paint, or a better balcony. It doesn’t matter that those down the road have a flat screen TV, a better car and jobs full of prestige. With the joy of our own company, the feel of the damp breeze on our faces and the sound of rain on the roof and waves on the shore we have everything we could ever want or need…
The candle snuffs out. Instead of growing darker, the world is suddenly lit with hard, bright electric light. My candlelight had been pushing back a darkness of an entirely different kind…
“That last deployment had bugs in the reporting, application processing and activity modules. Make sure your team pick ‘em up next time…” A harsh, guttural voice floats down from somewhere above the pot belly filling my vision as I sit at a grey computer terminal, before the belly turns and leaves.
I sigh as Reality drops back on me with all the elegance of a fat, sweaty man flopping onto a prostitute’s bed before saying “Come over ‘ere darlin’…”
I know it is childish but I hate the Real World – something I have never felt a part of and rarely even wanted to. It is the place where toilets back up and stink, and where people drive broken glass into one another’s faces in fights over trivialities.
It is where colourless lights shine on colourless offices where colourful people are forced to do colourless things in cubicles like battery hen cages until they fade like old photographs.
Insecurities are exploited. Bitter arguments start from “Have you taken out the rubbish yet?”. The most crushing loneliness can strike while surrounded by people – and wading your way through the crap that must be done, trying to get to the things you want to do can feel like pushing through a sponge.
People get hurt. There is misery and pain and no amount of wishing changes a thing. The laws of Space cannot be broken, and Time stands at your back pushing you, totally unstoppable, toward the Great Cliff of Death – and it will shove you straight over, forcing you to let go of every moment the instant you gain it every step of the way.
I know it is irresponsible. I know it is selfish. I know it is not real. I know She is not real and neither is anyone else in those wonderful worlds through those plain wooden doors. I know it is all in my head – but still I endure Reality like a lecture in something I find totally uninteresting, longing for that next spare moment…
When I will run! Shedding the Real World with my office clothing I bolt straight for that warm, dark corner smelling pinewood and spices – of love and adventure…
…and light another candle…
I’m not a Real World kinda guy. There’s an entire universe between my ears I find infinitely preferable!