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Magazine Extract #1

The Relic Remains of a Dead Man's Dream

Neil Gilles had been a full-faced man with a shock of red hair. He had been heavy built, but had a way of carrying himself that made him look quite slender, almost athletic. He had been my closest friend, though he had been much more than that - he had been my way of life. I had met him in a cafe in the suburbs of Kensington. It was raining outside and the heat and sweaty smokiness within was great company when you were alone. It was about 10pm and I was sitting at a corner table with a cup of steaming coffee in front of me, where it would stand all night as I can't stand the stuff, but everyone else was drinking it, so it looked right. It was quite full for a Wednesday night as the local "leather jackets" had decided to come on a cafe crawl. Suddenly the juke box fizzled into action, blaring out some self-pitying ballad. Someone pulled out the chair from the other side of my table and sat down. I didn't look up for a moment, but then my curiosity got the better of me. It was a studious face, intense eyes, slender nose and the mouth had a twist to it that showed strain and bitterness.
"Hello" I gushed, too civilly. I try to make a point of never starting conversations if I can help it but something urged me on. "Would you like a f.... er, cigarette?" I fumbled with the packet.
"No thanks, I don't smoke." A response! I wasn't going to tell him that I only carried them with me to hand out as I had never been able to stand the vile weeds.
"Are you new around here?" I tried once more.
"No, I'm just unacquainted with the local bistros." He had an unusual voice for one from these parts. It was a peaceful, serene voice. For the first time he turned to face me and grinned, so losing his composed air.
"The name's Gilles, Neil Gilles." He started in a lighter, friendlier mood.
"Mine's Steve, Steve Bowman."
"Do you come here often?" Oh no, an intellectual!
"No, only when I put the sloth out for the night."
He chuckled silently and offered to buy me a fresh coffee. The night passed quickly as we talked, talked about anything and everything. He was a writer who had had a couple of books printed and he was looking for material. I was a struggling student, an impoverished academic in his third year. We kept on meeting and became good friends and eventually I moved in with him due to a misunderstanding between my landlord and me about the rent. He was very knowledgeable and when we'd had a few drinks he would philosophise a great deal. He believed in freedom and self-regulation. He despised moralists, authoritarians, politicians and the Black and White Minstrels Show. He had been scarred deeply as a child by over-caring parents who had restricted and broken him. I flatter myself with being a fairly deep thinker and now I realised he was talking a great deal of sense. I was influenced greatly by his theories and became inwardly rebellious against the state. One day I was sitting in the University Library when I heard shouting and tumultuous cries outside Hurrying to the window I saw a procession of people about my own age carrying banners and singing. I watched for a few minutes as they marched and chanted in the cause of their movement. There were at least 3000 present. I started to question myself. Were all these people wrong? Which of us is blind to the facts? Facts. Facts. Facts. I turned to the shelf of books and gazed at the gaudy ornamental and shining covers, covers covering facts. Neil and I loved the theatre, as well as drinking and we indulged in both. (at half-time, women!) He believed (now saying 'he' believed is saying 'we' believed for our opinions were now identical) that life should be lived to the full and that "Death shall have no Dominion".

He wrote, I read. We were happy, contented and free. I left University with a degree. This gained by regurgitating facts to some unknown professor who lived in some unknown professor's abode. We took every day as it came and when his books sold we laughed and drank. This was our psychological union, a bond which remained unbroken for 20 years. I was working in a research lab., gazing at dismembered rats and rabbits. Neil had got a job writing TV scripts and was doing very well. At night we would sit and listen to music or silence. We both loved Greig and emotions ran very high during 'Peer Gynt' .

His job started to unnerve him. He was pushed by producers into copying their style and then one Tuesday night, such as this, he was returning home after telling the BBC what they could do with their job, he was knocked down and killed by an 'easy-living ' motor-cyclist. I didn't mourn him and after his funeral I still felt whole as if he were still there, in his books, his music, his bottles. I lived as before until the one day that we never saw coming for we would never look. The one thing we had shut our minds against. The day the military took over. We were filed, ordered, closeted and deprived, laden with false responsibility. I was sent to the North to work in a curfewed barracks with dyed-in-the-wool colonels shouting orders and letching behind the mess. At night I cry with the Piano Concerto and now I am dead also, drowned in perfectionist ideals - "the Relic Remains of a Dead Man's Dream" can live no longer.

by Barbara Wanless

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