Was I in Disturbia? I plodded through dimly lit corridors that all seemed to connect to some giant Goth nightclub. The whole building mumbled ‘I’m a converted factory’. It wasn’t a feeling that I’d arrived there by choice or the small matter of my remaining there. All I knew was that I’d tuned into the Gothic atmosphere and I felt as cheery as a Joy Division record.

Some junior bat came to accompany on my walk through the corridors. I wasn’t in the mood for company so I found a toilet cubicle painted black; I locked the door and sat on the throne with my trousers up while grimy repetitive beats thudded through the walls.

The junior Goth didn’t take the hint and entered the cubicle beside me then struck up conversation through the walls like some kind of collision between the Sisters of Mercy and a Catholic church confessional. Jesus!

He said: “I Saw Sam the other day, she was asking after you…” None the wiser, I asked “Sam who?” The voice through the blackened wall replied “Sam Knuttingue.” Oh.

My mind briefly skimmed through the archives of my memories and found her filed away in the trash of a distant past and was almost surprised to find that a record still existed, though I couldn’t recall her ever having quite the stupid surname I’d just been presented with. “Anyway…” the voice added; “She thinks about you and wants to know if you’d like to meet up and spend some time together?” God! How about ‘No!’, I thought. I replied “Well, that’s a real ‘ No can do’, what’s the point? Distant past, Wife to be, that kind of thing.”

A brief transition.

Now on my belly in the rectangular duct of an air conditioning system, clutching a sniper’s rifle with a built in telescopic sight. I waited patiently. The silenced nozzle of the gun rested gently on the rim of the vent leading into an apartment. I was waiting for my mark to arrive. Through the sight I had a clear view of the kitchen in his apartment. At some point he’d arrive home, make his way to the cooker then ‘Thwip’ I’d empty a round into the back of his head. I was clad in a glorified body condom, the kind of clothing that doesn’t leave a trace behind for forensics; my eyelashes were coated in grease. No mother fuckin’ cop was going to track me!

Let’s pause for a moment while I offer some insight into the way ‘self’ is perceived in this other shifting place. I’ve noted that during travels here, the sense of self is no longer a fixed entity as we commonly are in the familiar everyday world. Maybe the simplest metaphor I can offer is this; you are like a spirit in a world full of people already autonomous and fully engaged in all manner of life paths. Sometimes you arrive in the world as your familiar self, at other times you just seem to occupy a perceptive spot in another persons mind. You are a psychic tourist, like Sam Beckett in ‘Quantum Leap’ or the characters in ‘Being John Malkovich’. This is how I found myself in the body of an assassin on the brink of committing a murder without my usual backup of conscience.

Snapping back to the job at hand, I heard a key turn in the apartment door. Brief movements somewhere beneath me, the door closing and then, just as planned, the mark strolled into view and made his way to the kitchen stove. It was at this point where the occupying passenger of my conscience briefly piped up with a silent ‘Nooooo!’ The assassin’s/my target was one of my best friends. The following moments were truly dreadful; my body mechanically adjusted its position slightly and lined the back of my friend’s head up in the crosshairs of the scope. I had become an impotent occupying witness to the horrible scenario unfolding from behind the eyes of a killer. Even though my mind protested, my body continued its cold and clinical task. In the space of a sickening moment my friend’s brain exploded over the walls and surfaces of his kitchen. His body slumped to the floor, limp and expressionless…then he started talking.

“I don’t take it personally, I know why you had to do it. Don’t forget to leave your calling card somewhere where the detectives will eventually discover it!” He seemed pretty lucid and chipper for a man who’d just been assassinated.

I pulled out a small card stencil and tin of spray-paint from the body suit and promptly sprayed a mark on the alloy walls of the air conditioning duct. As I took the blackened stencil away I could see a logo of a dripping human skull with three tapered lines on either side of it. My job was done.

The assassin I was, crawled through the ducts and made his exit somewhere else in the apartment building. He found his way to the basement car park, and then exited the building via a fire escape. He journeyed across a city of no fixed identity, to his own apartment. When he arrived into the security of his own lair, he mulled over the execution he’d just performed and double-checked the details over in his head to make sure that he’d left no physical trace other than the sprayed emblem. Satisfied that the cops would remained baffled at the lack of evidence or motive for the crime, the assassin opened up a cupboard that contained several items of oil paint and thinners. He then took some of them out and took them to a table in his living space. The table had overhead illumination; there was only a slight notion that there was an apartment surrounding it.

He began to smear red, white and blue paint across a sheet of board on the table using his fingers as paintbrushes. It was clear that he was making a crude rendition of the American flag. The oily paints bled into each other and veined at certain points between the red and white stripes, this made for an interesting detail in the design as it looked like little Mandelbrot fractals were growing on the flag. The assassin then held a new card stencil over the crude U.S flag and applied some spray-paint. He then looked at his work with a smirk of satisfaction; a bleeding star-spangled banner with a black skull eating into the middle of it like an aggressive cancer. All the while, the witness in the back of his mind watched with fascination and noted that there was a certain familiarity about the way the paint appeared to splatter in places…

The killer stepped away from his freshly completed work. I could see his mind whirring in thought; a carousel of faces and places zooming in and out of his attention. He then fixed his mind on a new target; some chav of a man who lived a couple of streets away had outstayed his welcome in life. It was time to dispatch the fucker in his shitty car and make it look like an accident, just a favour to the locals from the friendly, neighbourhood ‘button man’.

Compelling as it was to occupy this being’s warped mind, my spirit did not belong in there and was promptly ejected into another continuum. I arrived on my feet in the corridor of an hotel reminiscent of Mal Maison.

Without giving the matter any thought, I stopped by a door, swiped a key card down a card reader and entered what naturally felt like my next temporary residence. Sure enough, the room looked like a Mal Maison hotel room. I walked to the desk area of the room with a sense of pleasure and anticipation that my lover would join me. Almost immediately, two arms slid around my waist and held my tummy as a body pressed in to my back, I turned around with a smile that promptly vanished. I was face to face with an old spark from the past and her pet umlauts.

“I’ve been waiting for you!” She said in a suggestive tone of voice, which felt massively inappropriate considering our history. Call me old fashioned, but I felt I had to re-establish the boundaries that she’d blatantly crossed so I responded by removing her arms from my waist and asking her how her eczema was. Nothing kills the passion of a moment than a personal question about another person’s medical conditions. My tactic seemed to work to a degree but she remained affable in the face of my metaphoric ‘cold shoulder’. This just served to make me feel awkward and uneasy. I kept my distance and quietly cursed the absence of backup when I needed it. I noticed her underwear lying on the floor. As a gesture of my complete lack of interest I walked past it and said something like “You can put those back on too.” You can call me a cold bastard if you like.

For reasons I cannot fathom, she seemed convinced that we had only split up two years ago and that I’d broken off an engagement with her. I begged to differ but realised the simpler solution might be to turn my back and walk away in hope of shifting elsewhere.

I suppose I can be bloody rude, I strolled onto the balcony of the room and felt the presence of my ex fizzling out as my gaze locked onto an incredible phenomena in the sky.

Above the hotel, the spiralling funnel of a tornado descended from the heavy clouds above. Tornados are very common in the strange lands I visit, and are always breathtaking to behold. Ever since a Bodhisattva explained the purpose of tornados, I have felt at ease with the raging, elemental towers to the sky and I feel little in the way of fear.

The mighty funnel bobbed and writhed around several tall buildings before colliding with a modern office block adjacent to my hotel. Bricks and glass didn’t start flying, as you might expect. The point of the swirling cone stuck to the other building in a similar way that chewing gum adheres to fabric when one tries to remove it. As a result of being rooted to the offices, the tornado appeared to increase in its intensity as if to make a concerted effort to detach itself.

The part attached to the building began to undergo a thrilling metamorphosis; at first it appeared as a billboard-sized, white cloudy blob on the side of a building, then the blob became an arrangement of several thousand living, screaming frogs made of a wet ivory looking substance. I noticed that some frogs were shrinking while others were growing and transforming into other beings. The white amphibians lasted only a few moments before they erupted into a rash of screaming humanoid babies covering a third of the face of the office block. These too appeared to be made of the ivory coloured substance, though it is worth noting that its fluid movement could have been a dense smoke or even liquid. Above this the tornado reached a shrieking crescendo. I began to realise that the towering twister had become a giant spiral of foetal forms spinning hundreds of meters above me into the sky. The sheer visual power of this spectacle was enough to consume my senses to such a degree that I almost went into shock. The unfortunate by-product of which, was another shift into the familiar realm of the Newtonian physical universe.

Flying Paint.

I once spent a brief period of time living in a house calledThe Reading Rooms in the picturesque Norfolk village of Brooke. I was there for two years living with my Father and his then ‘wife to be’. The Reading Rooms are haunted by a reasonably harmless phantom that likes to periodically move small items of furniture around and knock things off shelves to draw attention to itself.

I returned to the Reading Rooms in the gap between the end of Saturday and beginning of Sunday. I was surprised to find that my old home was almost as I remembered it seventeen years ago. It was also a surprise to find my Father and estranged wife still in there, but then, I believe they both privately haunt their former house, mulling over happier times before their divorce. I believe a part of them never left; perhaps they are the new ghosts of the Reading Rooms.

In the front garden I noticed a tin of blue paint, the label said ‘Flying Emulsion’. So I popped the lid open, slid my hands into the contents and then smeared the paint over a piece of wood that happened to be lying nearby. Sure enough, as my fingers spread and worked the paint into the rough old bit of timber, the more coated it became, the more resistance it offered to the forces of gravity. In a short time I had to use both hands to suspend my body from the now fully floating piece of timber. As the paint dried, my feet left the ground and I was airborne. I know you can imagine how this felt, you need only draw upon childhood memories of swooping around on an old rope swing to get a close approximation of how I felt…you just have to un-imagine the rope.

I swooped and whooped my way over local roofs and treetops, circling my old house and feeling the thrills so reminiscent of my boyhood. I spotted my father’s ex-wife walking out of the house and it seemed that my attention to her walking below me became an opposing force to the flying paint covered wood. A brief moment later I was back in the front garden and the wood fell back on the ground with a dull clud.

I haven’t spoken to K- in years, so conversation with her seemed a little awkward and polite. In retrospect, I would have been more at peace with things if it had remained that way. Unfortunately, she decided to throw me a metaphoric ‘curve ball’ by bringing up the matter of my first P.C. Her tone was frosty and she mentioned that she was annoyed because bailiffs had come round to collect some outstanding sum remaining from the original credit agreement. I was utterly vexed by this, how many years had it been since I’d paid them back for the computer? I pointed this reasoning out to her with an additional comment along the lines of “ I gave you all the money back that I owed you, if you chose not to pay the store back the money for the computer, that’s hardly my problem.” Which was a fair point.

She didn’t like this and decided to verbally explode on me. This is how I remember her in parts, perhaps the reason I lost the inclination to remain in touch. My ability to be shocked by other people’s inability to control their tempers is no longer inside me. I stood unmoved by her tirade against me and found myself coldly observing the woman in front of me. I then picked up the tin of flying paint in one hand, magically snatched an old rustic broomstick out of thin air with the other hand and said “Here! You might as well paint this and get on it , it will fucking suit you!”

I remained a little tense as the entire scene including the Reading Rooms, the can of flying paint and my angry would’ve-been step-mother zoomed off to the left in a blur of shifting reality and a new scene came barging in to replace it.

I now stood before the stage of an outdoor theatre. My hand was no longer clutching a broomstick in an aggressive manner, instead I was holding a theatre programme which quickly brought me up to speed with my new environment. I was about to watch a performance from the “Travelling Zombie Theatre Group” and their rendition of ‘Dawn of the Living’. This would be interesting…

Here’s what I recall about the general plot details; everyone in the world was a Zombie. Everybody had been Zombies for so long, it was practically de rigueur mortis. Zombies went about their plodding daily routines, filling the streets, moaning and groaning, running around and scaring rodents, just doing the things that Zombies do. Then I recall a scene where a moaning, mumbling, middle-aged man Zombie paused in his slouch and raised his head to look at the sluggish, teenage boy Zombie staggering towards him. The middle aged Zombie had a glimmer of recognition in its eye and he murmured “Sonnnnn ?!” the teenage zombie boy slowly looked up and replied “Daaaaaad?!” Then in a stinky, rotting, slushy moment that even a dead Spielberg would be proud of, the two Zombies collapsed into each other’s arms in a putrid warm embrace.

I was so absorbed by this unfolding melodrama; I completely forgot that I was an audience member. How terrifying for the Zombies though! A viral infection of humanity and compassion spreading from corpse to corpse, bringing everybody to life!

Shifts occur out of the blue during my travels in places, I generally have no warning that one is coming and I’m an adaptable personality type so I tend to just ‘go with the flow’ of anything that happens next. Sometimes a shift will bring me into the peripheral edge of another place or plane of existence, for reasons that are never completely clear to me, I can be somewhere and simultaneously NOT be somewhere at the same time. To illustrate this more clearly to you, you need to imagine yourself as a ghost in your own life. Imagine being completely immersed in your world but incapable of fully interacting with your environment, you cannot communicate, you cannot influence any aspects of a scene … not really a great deal of difference to say, ‘watching the telly’.

After the Zombie theatre group’s rousing play, I briefly became a disembodied observer in a bank somewhere in a future world. I saw a couple of business women dressed in ugly crisp suits walk into their personal bank vaults that resembled mini-van sized, steel hazel nuts with heavy circular doors marking their entrances. Because I was there but not there, I really felt no resonance with this brief scene. I suspect that this alone was my reason for quickly shifting again and finding my next port of call, the familiar and seemingly predictable world of our own space time continuum.

The Carnival Is Over

A couple of days ago I was conducting photographic experiments in the sublimely drifting city of Norwichsmouth. My timing couldn’t have been better! There seemed to be a citywide carnival with visitors from every sphere, spilling into and colourfully tainting every street and road. They dispensed all manner of fairground attractions wherever they went; strings of colourful bright lights weaving from borough to borough, Helter Skelters on street corners, Dodgems racing down the roads, the living and the dead dancing together. It was a feast of delights for the senses.

My camera and I reached new heights of harmony together, I pointed and it clicked to the hypnotic rhythm of the vividly colourful festivities around us. For a brilliant moment, it felt as if I had become a camera entity. This was photography in Satori. I wonder if other photographers ever feel this way?

During my adventure in this magnificent occasion, I found my vision drawn to the view of a graveyard with head stones bobbing up and down in the ground to the rhythm of music that filled the air. It was almost as if the cemetery had become some kind of giant graphic equaliser for the dancing deceased. As one’s attention can be prone to shifting in the presence of such spectacles, my viewpoint was drawn to the background of the scene. The tombstones faded into a pulsing blur and my focus snapped crisply onto an elderly lady. She was glaring in my direction in a semi-menacing manner. For a moment I was bothered that she’d interrupted my view of the excited graveyard, then I considered that she made an interesting addition to the composition of my frame. Click-whir.

Spoilt for choice with subject material, I wandered around the streets of the city as they snaked and wove in and out of each other. Buildings brushed against each other for brief moments, exchanging details and occupants before going their separate ways in a dance of florescent lights and architecture. Click-whir.

A stilt walking girl dressed in a metallic green outfit bent down to tap me on the shoulder and wave hello.

I think it was a girl anyway, perhaps those spindles were her legs…her head was an eyeball with green eyelids to match the outfit; she must have been around nine ft tall.Click-whir.

Somewhere near Strange Gentleman’s Walk, at the point where the brick buildings gradually turn soft and become market stalls, I saw another spindle-legged character, a nine ft punk. I asked if he would mind if I took his photograph. He sneered briefly for the camera and then took long strides away from me before I’d captured his image. It was at about this point that the rain started and the carnival atmosphere dissipated.

With the sudden rain came sudden darkness, the city immediately stripped itself of party lights and revellers; like a lolly-gagging girl on acid suddenly coming down enough to realise that she’s been dancing naked and alone in an empty street at night.

Everything now was foul, wet and cold. I felt urgency to get out of the freezing rain, protecting my camera (Which now felt completely separate from my sense of self) and getting to the railway station. The will invoked to reach this new destination simultaneously brought the building swirling around me until it reached a degree of solidity. The atmosphere however, remained dank and cold. I found Tanya waiting anxiously for me in front of a flickering information display. She quickly brought to my attention that all trains home were now cancelled due to the railway lines being submerged by a cold lashing sea. The network had arranged for an assortment of barges and tugboats to take all stranded travellers to their respective destinations. In the back of my mind, the notion of an old battered coach ride home didn’t seem so bad, if only it were an alternative option.

I think I fell asleep while we waited for our boat.

I awoke suddenly later, cold and curled up, alone by a wall in a now almost empty station. The boats had all departed; the icy black sea cruelly retained its grip on the train tracks. There was no sign of sunlight or release from the beating rain. Tanya must have been disappointed that I fell asleep and left Norwichsmouth without me. It was now down to me to find my own way back with no companion for the remainder of my journey. God! How grim.

As the last man shivering on a platform that was equally a jetty, I boarded an empty looking barge which eventually set off on a slow meandering journey into the darkness of what felt like a cold, wet and endless night…