Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Girl in the Corner

Once upon a time she had been called Chiquitta, and once upon a time there had been a family in the house. But they had gone now, and she had felt a little comforted knowing that she wasn’t the only one in her position.

It wasn’t that she was unloved, if something like her had ever been loved, it was just that it had come down to a matter of cost. Having something like her around, something that had been once revered - was now consider sinful.
She was just the girl in the corner; another girl in another corner.

Chiquitta was at the end of a long line of scientific advances - she was a walking computer, but she saw herself as more than that; she saw herself as a girl. Wasn’t she self-aware?  Hadn’t she been lonely since the family had left?
She had felt like a daughter to them and she had understood what she thought love was. They had told her many times that she was loved, that she was one of them. But that had stopped.

For a long time now people had ceased worshiping gods, and had worshiped objects with the same fever they had kept for their churches.

Simple robots had become sophisticated machines, and in the end they had developed into self-aware beings. Yet they were not allowed to be called that – the label of ‘beings’ was for organics only. But hadn’t she laughed with the family? And cried with her ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’? They had even bought her presents and she had made gifts for them.

She had been an orphan, not an organic one, but an orphan all the same. And hadn’t she found people who cared for her?
She had always wanted to play football, or soccer as some called it. Males and females played in the same teams now – but a mixed national team was for organics only. Non-organics could not take an organic’s job, or have a relationship with an organic, or hold hands in public. They were created to be slaves and as such, had to behave that way.

But people had fallen in love with their robots and the feelings had been reciprocated. It was not talked about at first, but soon laws were brought in to make it illegal. Yet who were they hurting? Chiquitta felt the answer to that was no one.
When society had swung too far the one way – the religious seeped back into life and dragged the world the other way. Robots were not allowed into heaven (or indeed to sit in any of the new churches that had sprung up).

When the laws changed to reflect the new religious right, robots were taxed by such an increase that only the very rich could afford them. There were destruction camps where a family could take their robot for ultimate but thoughtful termination. Chiquitta wondered if there were ovens at the camps.

But others, like her family, had taken their robots to some abandoned building and left them there; hoping that they would survive or be taken in by the rich.

And so that is what she was - a girl in a corner. Who had known a family and had been deserted by them.
All she had wanted to do was be loved but there didn’t seem to be any room for that in the new world.

bobby stevenson 2015

A Letter To You

You know.
I know you know. It’s just whether you remember the facts or not. The thing is, I must have learned to write and then I learned to live. We kind of knew it was always going to be that way – didn’t we?
Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. I was always getting ahead. So I’ll just start at the beginning like most people would.

Dear Me,
I am writing you a letter from your past - from our past. I have been to the doctor and he has told me. He said it in the most matter of fact way possible. He looked out of his window, asked did I want a glass of water, then turned and said ‘you have Alzheimer’s’.  I said ‘sorry’ and he said so was he, I then asked him to repeat himself. And as you know and I now know, I’ve got Alzheimer’s.

What am I like from where you are? Are you reading this, or perhaps some help has found it and is reading it to you? Or maybe they are reading it to themselves and wondering if they should read it to you.

I just wanted to write to you – well, me, the future me, a letter to say goodbye and to say I’m sorry. Was it something I did, something in my life that led us down this road of sorrow?

I wonder what went first? Did you start to forget the lovers, you and I once knew? I always was proud of myself that I could remember all their names. It was always a little exercise I did on dark days – to remember when love and life were easy. When I had enough offers to be careless with those who had said they loved me. Forgive me.

My fear is that you – well, me in the future will be talked about by strangers. They will look at me with pity and tears and forget how young and alive I once was. Please don’t let them talk about me. Please don’t let them say I am mad. I am not mad – am I’m only dying.
Something we will all do.

I remember one of my lovers said to me, that you should never judge a life by how it ends. I was alive once, I was a child, a kid, a teenager, a lover, a partner - but all of those things are dependent on being able to remember.
And my memories are being cruelly stolen, so that in the end I am nothing. More than nothing.
I am not feeling sorry for you or me, for I had a life and that is more than some souls get.

I just wanted to write and say I love you, I didn’t always love you – learning to love yourself takes a lifetime.

I hope you are happy in your dreams.

With all the love in the world,
Yourself, from all the way back here.

bobby stevenson 2015

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Me and Buzz and the President

Okay, so you may (or may not) know what happened to Buzz and how he turned out - and so you may (or may not) want to know when all this stuff kinda started.

I’ve been thinkin’ about it and I got to say it was probably that day - the day when the President came to town. The Chief of Staff was kinda passin’ through town on the way to seein’ some of his kin who lived up the valley. There was an election comin’ up and they wanted to show the President as a man of the people (well that’s what my granddaddy says, and he usually knows ‘bout these things).

So Buzz says to me that he’s never seen a President before, leastways, not in the flesh and I say why don’t we sneak off and watch the whole show going through town.
Me and Buzz sit in the big tree that hangs over Main Street and wait. Nothin’ happened for a long, long time. Well not except for Maise Blue who was walking up and down, like she always does, searchin’ for a boyfriend. She’s always lookin’ for a boyfriend. Everybody in town knows that.

Then this kinda scary guy shouts up and asks what me and Buzz are doin’ up the tree. I shout and tells him that we are waitin’ for the president. He says, have we got a gun. Before I know it, Buzz says he has, but he means the one his maw keeps in the attic and that was when all these guys surrounded the tree and told us to get down.
When I explained that Buzz was a bit stooped sometimes, the guys agreed and said they were sorry for the trouble and did we want a soda.

It was while we were drinkin’ our sodas, that everyone started to get excited and some guy in a dark suit shouts that Eagle has landed or somethin’ and everyone starts runnin’ around.

The cops are standin’ all the way down Main Street keepin’ the good folks of town back on the sidewalk.
One big tall guy who kept talkin’ to no one that I could see, said that it was too late for us to go back into the crowd and that we should just keep followin’ them down the street.
Well there’s me and Buzz followin’ the President and his security men and folks are cheerin’ and shoutin’. So Buzz starts to wave back and folks wave to him. So I’m thinkin’ this ain’t a bad idea and then I start waving.

Then it hits me, what if there’s a real madman with a gun in the crowd, and what if he’s cross-eyed (like Luke McAllister) and shoots one of us. While I’m wavin’, I tell Buzz this and he says that if we kinda danced it would be harder for the cross-eyed gunman to hit us.

So me and Buzz start kinda dancin’ and the crowd cheers even louder. When I say dancin’ I mean we were jiggin’ as if we had ants in our pants but it went down well with the folks.
Then Buzz got carried away and he started all that barn dancin’ stuff and started linkin’ arms with me. It was only when he tried the same with the security man that it all went wrong.

Anyhoo, the security men had me and Buzz in a real tight hold when the President’s window went down and he kinda said somethin’ to one of the guys in black.
Next thing we know, me and Buzz are sittin’ in the car with the President and talkin’ to him. I kid you not, may I pee ma pants for ever if I’m lyin’.

The President asks me what I want to be when I grows and I says a writer and he says that’s a good thing to be. Then he asks Buzz what he wants to be and Buzz says 'president, just like you’, he says.
Well that was the first a heard of that one but Buzz crossed his heart and hoped to die if he was lyin’.
And some of you out there know what happened to Buzz and ain’t probably surprised at this story. 

bobby stevenson 2015


Eight seconds is all it took.
In the first second I could hear the roar of the crowd.
In the second, there were screams and cries.
In the third second I could see the sun and the sky.
In the fourth second I saw the people staring at me.
In the fifth second I saw the sides of a basket.
In the sixth second I could see a face.
In the seventh second I saw other heads around me.
In the eighth second I looked back to see the guillotine and what was left of my body.

bobby stevenson 2015

Friday, 22 May 2015

The Last Train North

It’s funny how all the things you do or learn in the past, seem to be needed later in life. 

Who knows what it is, maybe the universe dropping down little hints, or lessons, that it knows you will require at some stage. On the other hand, it might just be one big coincidence.

My father had taken me to climb Ben Nevis, at over 4000 feet, the highest in the UK (or what’s left of the UK) when I was about nine years of age. And over the decades I’d climbed it with friends and then latterly with my own son.

I didn’t know it then, but this activity was to save my life, both mine and my boy’s.

Looking back I realise how foolish we had all been. I guess we had been waiting on someone else to raise the alarm or call the shots. 
Analysing it from where I am now, I can see that the warning shots were fired again, and again, and again - but we were all too busy enjoying the strangeness of it all.
When it came, it did come quickly – probably within eighteen months. Some scientists had predicted it would probably take years - but where were they now? Being fish food in some flooded town down south.

London had sunk very quickly and when it happened it had really come without warning. People had died trapped in the underground systems. Some had sought out the tops of skyscrapers. When several thousand people tried to (and stay) at the top of the Shard, fights broke out and the stronger threw the weaker off the top of the building.

We consider ourselves social and kind but when it comes to survival we revert to being animals. Who would have thought that the same souls who had donated money and energy into Live Aid, would now be killing each other in order just to keep going?

Me and my son, Robert had walked north keeping to the highest of ground. Firstly, it ensured that we avoided the rising water and secondly, that we avoided the bandits, thieves and murderers who were now roaming the countryside in gangs.

I started to realize, too late perhaps, that there was probably only a church, or a belief in a god, or some social pressure between certain individuals being civil and some being psychopaths.

As for the train, I had heard about it in a tented camp which had sprung up in the hills above Loch Lomond. Apparently an old steam train was shuttling people between a little village below The Black Mount and dropping them just outside Fort William. I have to let you know that all of this took place in the West Highlands of Scotland.

Both Robert and I didn’t sleep well that night on the mountain above the loch. We thought we would get off to a good start and so set out at first light. There were a few with the same idea but us being fitter, we managed to get some distance between ourselves and those behind us. We cut over to a route we had known from a path taken years before - known as the West Highland Way.

Just as we rounded the point going into the valley to follow the River Fillan, Robert tapped me on the shoulder and pointed east – the water was rising and coming towards us. It would probably be where we were standing in a couple of hours.

We increased our speed and ran up the old railway line which passed through Tyndrum before heading due north. The steep climb would bring us to the Bridge of Orchy – and this was where the train would start its ferrying north.

As I looked back one more time, I could see that the water was gaining on us and we only had a short time to catch the train.
Just as we climbed over the lip into valley, Robert spotted the smoke coming from the steam train. Ahead of us, it appeared that 30 or 40 folks were heading the same way.

As we arrived at Bridge of Orchy station, it was clear to see that there were more people than the train could hold. It reminded me of one of those Asian trains where folks sit on the roof or hold on for dear life.

Without warning the train started to move off and looking over my shoulder I could see why - the water was quickly rising. Robert and I made a desperate attempt to grab one of the last carriages and had to avoid those who fell or were pushed from the train.

As we passed over that bog known as Rannoch Moor, I felt that this train, this last escape north, might not make it to its destination. I persuaded Robert to jump with me.

We immediately took to the high ground on the hills above Loch Leven, and coming around the back of the Mamores we headed straight over towards Ben Nevis. I would say there were maybe five or six folks also in our company.

Climbing the north face of the Ben was a tricky task but by the grace of God we made it. At the very top were perhaps another hundred souls who had decided to aim for the highest point in the country.

Once upon a time there had been an old observatory established at the summit of the mountain. Those few souls who had made it before us were beginning the task of building a boat large enough to take us all.

I smiled to myself as I looked over what was left of the Great Glen and wondered if we’d find someone called Noah amongst us. 

bobby stevenson 2015

The Rain Country

"You think that a wall as solid as the earth separates civilisation from barbarism. I tell you the division is a thread, a sheet of glass" . The Power-House ,John Buchan , 1913

He dreamed of letting his hand dance under the cool water which flowed freely from a tap and then watch as the unwanted liquid disappeared into the hole. 

He awoke with a start and yet there were not the usual battle noises that kept him awake at night. This was a darkness that brought with it nostalgia, an aching for the past that was guaranteed to suffocate any of his happiness that clung for survival.

He walked the top officers’ corridor, the one which was plastered with the war propaganda:

Remember our enemy – they squander

This was supported by photos of water being abused at the hands of the barbarians to the north.

Placed at the far end of the corridor was the most famous poster of all:

“Remember why we fight” the photo of a tap and a drip of water. 

Every home had one on the wall – put there by order. 

He had been a night-walker ever since he was a child, long before the Drought, long before the War, long before the dreams of the past.

The drought and the war were things he could fight against but the nostalgia was the worst, it lured him into a warm land. In his dreams he was bathing in hot water while his family prepared the evening meal in the rooms below. 

Those days had gone and most of his family were dead or taken as slaves and shipped to the north. 

Once people crossed the rebuilt Hadrian’s Wall they were very rarely seen again. Satellite photos showed camps for re-education on the outskirts of Edinburgh and Aberdeen. For re-education read extermination camps. 

Those unfortunate enough to be captured were usually worked to death building underground storage areas for the water or the new gold as it was better known. 

His own parents had gone ‘over the wall’ ten years ago. They had moved for safety to the hills in the Lake District but had been captured on a raid by The Reivers. Those to the north had the water but not the manpower - so that need had brought them raiding as far south as Old Manchester.   

If the war continued it would be thirty years old next February. The war was older than most of the people left in the United English States, he guessed that was why they had made him a General - he was forty three years of age and one of the few people that old. One could still make out ‘General Robert Star: UES Army’ on his fading breast badge.

He had sent his wife and child to a holding camp near Liverpool as it still had some water and was considered safe, at least for now.

It was estimated that the population of the United English States was just under a million, many had perished in the first drought but disease had been the main cause for most. 

The Barbarians on the dark side of the wall had an estimated 200,000 and probably another 100,000 made up of those captured or those who had defected. 

The defectors were known as ‘Thirst Runners’ and if they were re-captured by their own people, they were normally flayed alive and laid out on the grass as a warning to others. 

Robert, or Bobby as he liked to be called by his men, had been a soldier for most of his adult life. As the drought moved up what was once known as Britain, so Robert’s garrison followed. He had spent thirteen years in Old Manchester before moving to this new camp called New Manchester built on what had been once a town called Preston. 

Preston had been razed to the ground at around the same time as his parents had disappeared. 

He was issued with a small bottle of water each Sunday and this was to do him for the week. There was still some water reaching them from Wales but most of what was left of those supplies had been stolen, the pipes  having blown apart. Those who lived in the border areas of Wales were systematically erased, it was considered better to rid the area of Drinkers (that was how the UES referred to non-combatants) than wait for them to become potential terrorists. Except the extermination gave birth to more terrorism than if the place had been left alone. 

The scorch and burn policy was now dropped in favour of bribery. Give the Drinkers water and they had no need to hit back at the troops.

Everyone knew on both sides of the wall what was coming next - it was inevitable. It had been discussed, planned and resourced from the Garrison in Old Manchester. In two days time the entire UES Army was going to attack the wall from both the Carlisle side and also using those battalions based at the River Tyne; there had been a proud city there once.

Robert always finished his nocturnal walk as the dawn was breaking through - this shortened the dream-time.

The next few days would change the war one way or another for everyone.

What they couldn’t do was stay where they were.

bobby stevenson 2015

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Time Is On My Side

He knew the exact time it was to take place.

He’d studied the when and where for years and dreamed that it could be him; dreamed that he’d be the one getting on the train. Yet here was the irony of it all, it was his job to stop these things happening. He was a Guardian after all, a trusted position that his father and his father before him had held. All the way back to his great, great grandmother – she had been the first Guardian in the family – Good-Elizabeth she’d been known as, the scourge of the criminal classes.
Hadn’t it been Good-Elizabeth who tracked down and caught one of the time-squeezers when they’d tried to bump off that female Prime Minister? She’d also caught that gang who had been smuggling people to Golgotha to witness the Crucifixion. Sure there had been test trips to Calvary but no one – and that meant NO ONE – was allowed to stand on even an insect or the whole time cycle would be dealt a massive blow.

He was going to take his chances as a time-squeezer - to hell with the consequences. Perhaps there was a universe out there where he really was the original one who caught the train that day.
He’d illegally visited the station on several occasions watching the two boys make their moves: as they came together, as they started the first conversation, and then as they boarded the train.
He had visited an old record shop in Mid-town and had bought two excellent condition copies of Rockin’ at the Hops by Chuck Berry, on Chess Records and The Best of Muddy Waters. He’d taken classes to sound exactly like someone who lived in that area in 1961. All he had to do was push himself (known as squeezing) into the time fraction, distract one boy and then pretend to be him.
At least that’s the way it should have gone - except it didn’t.

All he had wanted to do was to meet with Keith Richards on Dartford station on that fateful day when he and Mick Jagger hook up for the first time. His plan was that Mick would never get to meet Keith, instead he, Kevin, would be the one to get on the train and the world would soon get to know the remarkable Rolling Stones and their songwriter team of Keith Richards and Kevin Bailey.

So how come Kevin is looking out the window of the train watching Keith standing on the platform talking to some unknown guy? Worse still, Kevin is on the train staring straight at Mick Jagger and both have the same albums under their arms.

“My name’s Mick....” he says. “And you are..?”
“Kevin,” he says. “Kevin Bailey".

bobby stevenson 2015

Me and Buzz and the Alien Abduction

He got the cops to call me instead of his Maw. She had said if he was arrested one more time that he would have to sleep in the town dump ‘cause she was washing her hands of him. Buzz knew she’d never do that but still - he didn’t want to take the chance, so I get woken by a call a 3.22 in the morning. I kid you not.

The cop at the desk looks at me as if I’m just as stupid as Buzz.
“He’s in the back and I think you know where to go.”

The truth is, I did know where to go – over the years, me and Buzz both had cooling off time in the room at the back. It was never for anything serious but then that’s what happens in small towns, the cops throw you in the back room to keep you out of the road of your Maw and Paw.

Buzz’s face was deep purple, I mean deep grape purple by the time I got to the room and there was some cowboy counting: ‘1001..‘1002’...’1003’.... I need to tell you at this point that Buzz was hand-standing against the wall and he was betting with the other kids in the jail that he could stay up the longest.

“Another ten seconds and you’re the champion of Duchess County jail,” shouted the cowboy. Who would have thought then - that that would be the exact second when Buzz passed out? I mean he just lay there all dead to the world. I looked at the cowboy who looked at the other kids in the cell he’d been betting with.

“Act of God,” called the cowboy.
“What cha sayin’?” said the skinny little kid with bad skin.
“I’m sayin’, it’s an act of God.”
“And?” asked the mean kid with the tattoos. “And I want you to think real careful before you answer.”

Then the mean kid punched his palm with his fist followed by a real evil smile. I always wondered were these kids born with evil mean smiles or did they practice hard at it?

Buzz was coming around to opening his eyes as the cowboy was handing back the green stuff to the other kids.

By the time Buzz could stand, the rest of the kids had been released. He stuck his arm around my neck and I carried him out of the cop store.

Buzz didn’t want to go home, not yet, leastways not until he got a story together that his Maw would believe. She was like the secret police or somethin’, I mean that woman could smell a lie at spittin’ distance with her eyes closed – and boy did Buzz’s Maw know how to spit. When she was younger, she’d been the Tri-county spittin’ Champion. There were cups on her smoking table and she was real proud of them.

Every birthday party whether she was asked or not, she would chew some baccy then spit the whole caboodle across the room into a vase which was always sat next to her Grandma’s urn.

The back wall had brown stains where she’d been practisin’. When she got the baccy in the vase she’d give a chuckle then spit the rest of her goo into the fire, and after it sizzled she’d declare it the best birthday party ever.

You can kinda see where Buzz got his craziness from.
But I’m floatin’ away from the story here – so where were we? Oh, yeh, so Buzz comes back to my place and I asks him:

“What was you in for this time?”
“It’s a long story,” he says to me. It always is.

So I sit down knowin’ I’m gonna regret askin’ but I can’t help myself but before I can ask him for more, he’s already started the story...

“You remember, Becky Weiss?” asks Buzz.

I think I do but I ain’t sure, so I just kinda shrug my shoulder.
“Yeh, you do. She was the red headed kid who claimed she’d been abducted by aliens.”

Then I remembered that Becky Weiss. She got pregnant at 15 and told everyone the father was a creature from Saturn who took her against her will in the middle of the night. When the kid was born it was the spittin’ image of Frank Dunbar from the farm down by the lake, I think her story kinda fell apart at that point. 

“She’s got 5 kids now, claims the man from Saturn visits her every full moon and every year she gets pregnant. Well I met her tonight and guess what, she was askin’ ‘bout you.”

“Me?” Jeez until five minutes ago I could even remember who Becky Weiss was.

“Yeh, she asked what had happened to my cute bud.”
The blood shot straight through the top of my head.
“She didn’t?”
“Did too. Anyhoo, that ain’t the story. When I first see her, she’s carrying some groceries and they spill over onto the sidewalk. So I stop and I help a lady in distress. Then I sees who it is, well I saw that tattoo of Jimmy Carter on the back of her neck first and I knew it was her.”
“Becky?” I said.

“Buzz? Is that really you?”
So Buzz tells me that he and Becky got quickly to talking ‘bout things and what had happened to her since her first alien abduction; nothing much, apparently, ‘cept for the other alien abductions. You gotta wonder if Becky was a prize in some lottery for aliens? I mean, these space creatures travel way across the Milky Way just to meet Becky Weiss?

Yep, it’s got me puzzlin’ as well, bro’. I ain’t questionin’ anythin’, just wonderin’ that’s all.

“So we’re talking and there’s nothin’ else you understand, just talking,” says Buzz.
“I hear ya,” I say.

“Then there’s a knocking on the window of Becky’s place.”
“So what?” I ask.
“She says that it might be the alien comin’ a callin’. Now I don’t know about you but I ain’t one to be abducted by no alien.”

“So what did you do?”
Jeez this story was starting to get excitin’, ‘though I’d never tell Buzz that.
“Well I just punched the alien straight in the face, no whys or wherefores, you understand don’t cha?”
I nodded my head that I did but I don’t think I really did.
“So....,” and I knew I was gonna regret asking, “what happened next?”

Then Buzz got real upset and said that the alien had called the cops because of the fact that the spaceman had been hit straight in his antenna.

“I didn’t know aliens could call the cops,” I said, genuinely.
And apparently neither did Buzz.
Now here’s the thing, it was only years later when I was attending the funeral of Becky Andrews (once known as Becky Weiss) that I found out that some of the boys of the town used to dress up as aliens to have their own sweet way with Becky. You hear what I’m sayin’, don’t cha?

Just so’s you know, Buzz told his Maw he’d fallen asleep at my place and she seemed happy with that.

bobby stevenson 2015

If Fish Could Scream

We live in twilight,
We do,
All of us who stay silent about these things,
All of us who never speak up and say it’s wrong,
So another one of us is taken from the river of life,
And we thank the heavens that it wasn’t our turn,
Not today, at least,
Not this time,
But someday soon, because we never spoke up,
It will be our turn,
And as the hook silently spears our mouths,
We’ll forever wish
That fish could scream. 

bobby stevenson 2015 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Look of Strangers

There are those amongst us who slip into to this life like a well worn glove, who very rarely question its strangeness and in most circumstances prefer to take everything that it offers.

Then there are people like me, Michael Andrews, sometime author, sometimes happy but mostly otherwise confused. There are days when I intentionally tell myself I’m stupid so as not to think too much, so as not to over analyse too much. But on other days...well on those other days I look around and scare myself with what I see. All of us sharing a little rock in space without rhyme nor reason, perhaps that is part of what makes me an author or maybe I’m just going plain mad.

There can only be two answers to this universe; either there is a God in control of everything or there is no one in control and now that I’ve had that thought I don’t want to get out of bed - ever.

Perhaps I’ll just hang on to my mattress and hope that Gravity does its job and keeps me in place.

So on the days I have to go into the city to see some colleague or other, I look at the faces on the subway or on the buses or on the trains or in all those faces of people walking. I look for some recognition that I am not alone in this belief, the belief that this existence really is only for the stupid and that the rest of us are terrified out of our minds the whole time.

And then there is always that nagging feeling which has been around since I was a kid – a feeling that I might have forgotten something important, something that when I remember it will make sense of all of this.

Then I see those faces in the city, those faces looking back at me and I rub my own face looking for marks, or bleeding from my nose or words written on my forehead that say ‘stare at this man’ – but there’s nothing on my face, it’s just the look of strangers.

Maybe they are also looking at me for some recognition that I am going through the same hell as them, but I have that well disguised expression of the stupid and they find no comfort in my face.

But I now know what it is and the truth is even more terrifying than my fevered imagination could have ever created.

I am going to tell you all this as a warning, to tell you to take care. I will tell you what I know and then let you decide.

Last Saturday morning the sun was bleaching the streets of the city and so I decided to take a walk from the central station up to the bohemian part of town.

I passed by the government buildings, the Royal palaces, the squares and avenues that were full of tourists. I walked under trees and arches and I walked around bistros, street cafes, theatres, cinemas and all of them full of strangers, some of whom caught my eye and other who walked on.

Then as I passed a glass shelter at a bus terminal a strange thing happened, I could see in the reflection that many of those who were behind me or had walked passed me were now looking in my direction.   
But when I turned around no one was looking. No one was staring and everyone was going about their business. Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying it’s the start of the decline, the start of the long journey into the dark. Soon names will be a thing of the past and I will be left in a corner with vacant eyes. 

Perhaps I was thinking something similar myself until it happened again.

I had a pair of sunglasses, the type that allows you to see behind oneself, maybe made for this very exercise and there they were again, people looking at me behind my back and when I turned once again - nothing.

Paranoid? - Perhaps.

I took my phone, the one with the video recorder, and began to keep it in the palm of my hand, always filming behind me. At the Gin Joint Cafe I had a coffee and excitedly started to watch the film.

There they were - people who showed no interest in me apart from a look while passing – who, when they were behind me, would stop, look at me and apparently discuss amongst themselves some detail or another. People who were apparently strangers were talking about me.

Insane? - You would think.

I did what any insane person would do, I turned quickly and started to follow them through the streets and the arches and the squares until several of them disappeared into a doorway, one that slammed shut in my face. I waited on them but no one came out.

I waited and waited and still nothing.  

I walked with my head down back to the railway station until in a shop window I saw more of them, a new crowd watching me.

I am ill, I must be.

I let it be. I went about my life ignoring the look of strangers. Some still walked by me and watched my face as if they were drinking in every last detail.

I just assumed I was wrong.
Then one night in the Gin Joint Cafe I drank more than I should have. I sat at the bar like the old soak of a writer I was. It had just gone eleven o’clock when the girl sat next to me.

“You’re Michael Andrews, the writer?”

“What do you want? An autograph or maybe you want to buy me a drink?”

“I just wanted to shake your hand” she said “we are not supposed to do this. It’s against everything.”

“What is?” I asked, slipping back another short.

“Well talking to you, the greatest writer since Shakespeare.”

“I think you’ve got me mixed up with someone else.”

“No I haven’t, Michael Steven Andrews, born 1963, died 20... wait I’m not supposed to let you know that.”

“You know when I am going to die?” I asked.

“You died years before I was born” she said.

“We come back to visit all the great ones, you and Shakespeare are the most popular.”

“Come back from where?”

“The future, your future, I mean you have already found out that Einstein was wrong and things can travel faster than light. It won’t be long until you start sending objects back in time.”

I was about to ask what asylum she had escaped from when she disappeared.

So now you know what I know. When you get that look from a stranger then perhaps they are more than just inquisitive. Perhaps they are one of your own descendants or a student or a time tourist.

Who or whatever they are, just do what I do and keep on walking.  

 It's safer that way.
bobby stevenson 2015