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It sounded like a gull at first. A shrill caw that wouldn’t let. George jerked up when he realized what it actually was – a human voice. He looked about, half in panic. How many months since he had last seen another person? A man silhouetted by the sun shouted and waved madly, one hand holding a cloth. George knelt by the waters to wash his face and then ran to his tent.

George sat in his foldable chair, which he’d retrieved from the tent for this momentous occasion. It was best to make a clear first impression, he’d always been taught, but the lesson rang truer than ever these days. As the other man’s raft came within distance, George rested his arms over a folded leg. And in his rested hands rested a loaded rifle. The stranger dropped his tablecloth, both hands up in the air as the two rafts gently bumped together.

‘Bloody hell. Where’d you get a hold of that?’

‘Traded for it’, George lied. He took in the man’s raft. It was a neat thing, larger than his own. Where George’s was made of chopped wood roped together, the stranger’s consisted of segments of timber grouped together and buoyed by large tyres underneath. In the centre was a three-sided shelter. George hoped his face didn’t betray how impressed he was. ‘State your name and business.’

The man pointed to his shirt pocket, and slowly reached into it. He threw the contents to George’s foot – a red passport:

EUROPEAN UNION
UNITED KINGDOM OF
GREAT BRITAIN
AND NORTHERN IRELAND

‘I was an Englishman too.’ The man gestured at Her Majesty’s waving flag. ‘Name’s Nigel. Business is trading if you’re up to it. Could do with some things I’m short on.’

George cautiously bent over and opened the passport, careful to keep the rifle pointed at the stranger. HUGHES, NIGEL. Place of birth LONDON. ‘Not so fast Nigel. Who did you declare for?’

The man, Nigel, looked puzzled. He stepped forward a half step still smiling and met a raised rifle point. ‘What do you mean?’

George took a deep breath. ‘When it all happened. Who did you stand with? The continent? The union? England? The south? Where did your bloody loyalties lie, Nigel?’

The man’s eyes sharpened. ‘You want me to say the union, or England. But it was the south. Are you going to shoot me now?’

George chewed his tongue a moment and lowered his gun. ‘Doesn’t matter who was who any more, does it? What matters is you stood at all.’ He reached under his foldable deckchair and threw out some rope. ‘Name’s George. Welcome aboard.’

George rubbed the sea salt between his fingers and blew it into the winds. Gone, like all else he’d known before.

Toes perched on the edge, he squat low, riding the light bob of the seas. He was prone to seasickness – or motion sickness, as it had been back when they all travelled on land, by car and other motorized vehicles – or had been, in his previous life. He had sea legs now, had King George. Literal ones too, he thought, impressed by his own sturdiness as he pulled up the bare net. His skin was red and flaky, but his forearms were all sinew. Alone, he could admit to himself that life after the end of civilisation was actually quite satisfying. It certainly beat working in an office.

George released the net and blew his nose out between thumb and forefinger. Perhaps fresh fish was off the menu tonight, but he still had some salted supplies from weeks before. George walked past his tent and saluted the flags: one for Her Majesty’s once and future kingdom, and the other for his own sovereign raft (his above hers). Three days with no luck – there was no haul to be had in these waters. He unfurled his small sails and sat at the raft’s bow, waiting for the wind to whisk him where it may. The sun hanging low in the sky still felt warm.

“He’s rude, arrogant, intimidating and lazy. He’s the angriest man you’ll ever meet. He’s like a man with a fork in a world of soup.”

Noel Gallagher on his brother Liam, Q Magazine 2009

For a certain period of time, this man had some of the best words about.

How to explain myself… Have you ever looked upon a colony of ants with such fascination that you were compelled to become one? To live among them, as one of them. To dance and fight and feed and build and die as one?

And then, having done so, to communicate with them?

Perhaps the thought never occurred to you, as you stood over them, insignificant as they are to your higher plane of existence. Or not to the same depth, your imagination throttled by the physical limitations of reality.

Not so for I. For I am the god of all gaps. And I have stood over the creation, not of my own making, that is your universe, this colony teeming with humanoids, and looked upon your kind. Compelled to understand your feeble minds. And in doing so, decided to fold my being an infinite number of times into your restricted dimensions and live untold lifetimes as stars and wildebeest.

Perhaps another metaphor to better attempt an explanation. Imagine yourself at a museum of never ending scale, perusing the exhibitions presented by various artists. And all of it a grand waste of time. Until you come across the One work that moves something in you. Vibrates the waves in your soul. Not a lot. Just enough to halt your motions. To catch your eye and make you ponder. And this piece… a sculpture or flat painting so engrosses you the longer you stare at it, that you would partake in more of it if you so could. If you could pour yourself into it. Climb into its enclosures and become an ochre pigment or marble fragment.

I have been angel, prophet, god and demon. At times all at once. I come to warn and goad and guide and tear asunder. I have been both babe and mother alike, the lion and its meat. I am birthed and simulate an existence. I die and slip forms like you might a cloak. I scream past your little planets as comet, harbinger of doom. Herald of glory.

Still I do not understand you. I can mimic, serve, command. I have shaped and destroyed you, yet always something eludes, eluded, will elude my grasp.

I am not your God. But certainly I am the closest thing to that which you envisage when you prostrate and grovel. And I do not understand you.

I live it through forwards and backwards, inhabit every particle and wave of this colony. My experiment come to completion, I slip sideways into the dark. Spacetime washes over me like passage through a waterfall. I am more again. Resplendent once again in all the dimensions that are.

I stare at your little painting sculpture ant colony. I see my prints all through the weave. I saw it ‘before’ I entered, being outside your paltry concept of time.

I move on now, having written this note in ants tongue as farewell. Onto the other artefacts of the exhibition with infinite disinterest. Insignificant as you are, I could not, I cannot understand you.

robert johnson deal with devil blues

The devil watched the sun creep low from up in his tree. He swished the toothpick about his mouth silently before sticking it back out one side of his lip and sucking. In the distance a woman lugged a large suitcase towards his crossroad.

The sun was falling faster and faster. The woman moved slower and slower. One of the wheels broke and she profaned his names at her poor luck. He couldn’t help but grin. Shadows elongated and the orange streaked sky teased reds and purples. His hour drew closer, as did the dark unsuspecting woman. In minutes he would materialize for the night. As agreed in the covenant of old. The toothpick disappeared back into his gum line.

The woman was still muttering curses when he jumped down in her way.

‘Oh Lord.’ She said, a hand held against her chest.

The devil dusted off his suit and reached into his inner pocket for a comb. ‘I’m sorry if I scared you there, pretty lady.’

She looked him up and down twice over before speaking. ‘What the devil are you doing up in a tree?’ Her voice was the smoothest gravel. She laughed a short laugh before he could answer. ‘For a second I thought maybe this was a sundown town I’d come to, but my God, you’re as black as me. Ain’t that a relief?’

The devil said nothing. He wanted badly to hear that voice again but the woman waited for him to speak now. He pointed to the overpacked suitcase missing a wheel. ‘Must’ve been a bad set to throw you off so bad.’

She narrowed her eyes distrustfully.

‘It’s plain as day you’re a musician with a voice like that, and don’t try telling me you ain’t!’ The devil waved the comb about as he spoke like a wand, each gesture punctuating his words. ‘Why, I can smell out a musician sure as I can pick out a cat from dogs.’

‘You’re awful observant for a man jumping from trees. In a suit and in the damn near dark, no less.’

He soaked in the coffee cream of her voice. ‘I think… I think you know who I am. You look like a smart little lady. You know the price of the trade.’ He coolly put the comb back in his inner pocket.

The woman broke into a deep belly laugh. ‘Mama always told me this would happen, playing the devil hisself’s music.’ She looked at him with steel resolute eyes. ‘I have no fear for you to prey upon, nor any wants that you can false promise.’

His mouth turned to dry cotton. He believed her, by God. ‘You know what I have to offer. Surely you’ve heard the tales. What I’ve given to countless before you. What I may give to your peers if you pass. The great gift!’

She shook her head, all confidence. ‘What I have is God given. My soul is not for sale.’ With that the woman shook her broken suitcase, and trudged on passed the devil.

The sun was gone now and the devil stood alone at the crossroad.

pray 4 rick, cri evrytiem

You can’t do everything at once.

I’ve spent great portions of my life wrestling with this notion. I actually wanted to be a doctor once. It might’ve been the only career I was ever set on and I screwed the pooch because of my inability to knuckle down and not attempt everything all the time. That was one of my ugliest personal failures, but hey ho, you learn and move on.

Having killed off the only thing I ever wanted to be then left me in the position of having to search for a new calling in life. A new purpose, or at least new interests (first world problems). But choosing to go down any particular path felt like I was burning every other imaginary branch. Because in many ways you are.

I remember my brother pointing out that by refusing to pick a path and stalling, I was also burning whatever my actual real tangible outcome would end up being and not just hypothetical branch-realities. No choice was a choice in itself. In my head all possibilities were of equal merit and consideration, but obviously whatever ended up coming-to-be was of greater importance than all the shoulda-woulda-coulda’s combined (for those that care, I think this is the primest Ne vs Ni example ever). I couldn’t physically do it all once.

I can’t be all those people. I can’t live everywhere. I can’t eat all the food or meet everyone. I can’t physically do everything.

I slowly made my peace with that, for the better. And it strangely opened me up to doing largely what I want a lot of the time. 80/20 and all that.

This year I think I’ve come to make my peace now with the mental side of the same concept: that I have limited mental bandwidth with which to operate. I can’t think all the things at once. I can’t decompress, gestate a novel, formulate business plans, study economics, review martial arts concepts, and watch movies in the same down time. Those all require RAM.

If I want to make decent headway with making money, I have to spent quality time doing deep work on it. That is time I must take away from writing, and thinking about writing, and martial arts and thinking about martial arts. I have to restrict what topics I spend my thoughts on at any one time.

Yeah, no shit, Captain Obvious.

Gotta pick. You can’t have it all.

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