It was a most curious incident that found me here, quaffing a pint and wondering the madness of all that had come before. Why, mere moments ago, I was a simple man full of simple pleasures, living a simple life of simplicity. You know how it is; performing the old daily grind of a working man, whilst enjoying light suppers and jovial meetings with old friends. Just the tonic for your average fellow.
But, on this day, after another mild day at the office sorting papers for the large conglomerate I was part of, I found myself faced with a curiosity. One that, before, I could not even imagine. It was all quite normal leading up the incident; I had taken the train home, briefcase in hand, and entered my front door as I always would, placing my case and hat upon their respective areas. My lodgings were of no real note, consisting purely of a room to lounge, a place to sleep and the usual amenities a man could ask for. I made my way to the lounge and produced a paper, much as I always had, where something struck me.
On the cover, there was a story detailing a fellow who had walked the whole of the country, for no other reasons apart from the fact that he could. It was quite surreal, and had my full attention; he apparently one day just stood up from his chair, announced to his wife his intentions, and immediately set out. He partook in little sustenance or rest, instead marching each country mile from one end of this fair land to the other. Upon arriving at his destination, where a celebrating and curious crowd greeted him, he was asked his reasons for this adventure.
“Possibility,” was his only word, before falling to the floor in a comatose state in which he still resides. Quite remarkable.
Sitting in my chair, I shook my head at the absolute queerness of these events, and found my brain ticking along and finally resting on the matter of an old friend I used to know. No sooner had I recalled this fellow, than he emerged from a nearby corner and stood before me.
“I’m here good man, I’ve always been here,” he announced to my surprise. I nearly dropped the paper in my hand at this curious arrival. It really was my old friend Burlington Rathbone, a curious type who I’d known many years past. Alas, we had failed to keep in touch, mostly through my folly than anyone elses. We had met through mutual friends, and enjoyed quite the number of tankards before my mind drifted from his companionship. The last I saw of him, was a fleeting meeting some moons ago. Nothing out of the ordinary, I assure you.
Now he stood majestically before me, arms firmly placed upon his hips and moustache vibrantly upon his face. He waited for me to react to his sudden appearance, and I must say I was aghast at the whole scenario and quite lost for words. Therefore, he took the lead for me, as a fine gentleman would.
“You’re probably wondering where I came from, and how,” he declared.“Well do not worry, for I wish to not only tell you, but show you.”
Everything was quite a muddle in that moment, the swirls of enquiry taking a firm hold of my synapses. But, true to his word, he grabbed my hand and pulled me into somewhere which I cannot for the life of me describe. It was a place that transcended words, thoughts and phrase. Not matter how verbose your manner, nor vast your intellect, you would still stimulate the follicles upon your face to lay muster over it all. Before my senses could overcome the pulverising that was forced upon them, we were at a carnival, full of frolicking lady-folk and gents in various states of inebriation. Some seemed strangely recognisable to me, but no sooner had I got my bearings that Burlington thrust a beverage in my hand and looked me fiercely in the eye. He was grinning from ear to ear, as the songs of the scene permeated my ears and left me quite dizzy.
“You forgot me, but I never forgot you,” he said, dancing with the maidens who skipped around him. “Truth is, you weren’t the only one. Many lost track of me and my ways, so I used this to my advantage.”
With that he swiftly quaffed his drink and threw it to the ground, once again pulling me into an etherworld before I could partake in a drop. No sooner were we between lands, that we were back in familiar territory. A wedding, resplendent in occasion and celebration. The bride was a girl I had once known, and confess may have loved. However, our paths drifted and here I was, seeing her in marital congress with a dashing fellow of seemingly military stock.
“Being outside the common mind has gifted me,” Burlington explained as we sat and watched the ceremony unfold, tears of joy spilt all around us. “I have conquered space and time, no longer shackled by the mere limits of the physical. Now, the only thing that holds me is my own imagination. Come!”
And with that we were away again, leaving me considering the fact that, the last time I had spoken to the now-bride, she was a lone girl with no intentions of companionship. Surely she could not have become engaged in the mere weeks that had happened in between?
Before I could tick all the boxes in my cerebral land, we had arrived in a sunny field where groups of people played and laughed together. These people were mere shades, but whose forms were instant in my mind. They were joyful and full of zest, living life in a state of upmost vitality. The combination of the bright sunshine and their lust for life would give even the most maudlin figure hope, and love for his fellow patron.
“I’ve seen and experienced it all my friend, like a theatrical show that’s forever changing and never stopping. And I’ve learnt. Learnt many things. Things I must pass on. To you.”
As we stood there in a Summer’s portrait, Burlington looked me in the eye with a vigour that was immense. He threw me around by the shoulders and pushed my gaze forward, to where the families were enjoying their day. I drank in the imagery, the faces remaining hazy but familiar, until Burlington threw me back and into the void once more. He held on tight, taking away any fears or thoughts I had of this strange place, before we made our final stop on this whistle-stop.
It was a field, much like the one before, but the sun was now lashing rain and families replaced by rows and rows of tombstones. I looked up, dizzy, as Burlington strode before me and stood firm once again on the crest of a mound.
Over the hill, a small gathering of folk in black were lined around a sombre grave. They were drenched in not just rain, but sadness; weeping as openly as the grave in which a coffin was slowly dropped into. Their faces were ravaged with time, but hit me full in the frontal cortex as those I had known. The bride from before, some fellow drinkers, my brothers and sisters from families outside my own blood. They all stood there in eternal hurt, mourning the person who was being lowered outside this mortal realm.
“Life, my good man. Life is what is needed to be lived,” Burlington declared, standing beside me as we took in this funeral parlour scene. “This is merely only one reality. A parody of the circumstances that could occur. It is one I hope to sway you from.”
The penny was beginning to drop, but I simply refused to believe it. This whole experience was leaving me in a state of absolute flux, and a peak such as this? Well, the strongest digestion would have issue with it.
“The body in that box is you,” Rathbone confirmed. “One of many you’s. Should you not change your ways, this is how your story will end.”
The rain lashed most ferociously above us. Lightening erupting with every one of Burlington Rathbone’s words. I was breathless with shock. Was I really witnessing my own fate? Had I really just seen my own lost love, possible family life, and now my very end? I asked Burlington these questions and more, but he just scoffed at my naivety.
“Worry not old chum, this is only one line in a giant ball of string. Now, homeward!”
For the very last time, I was dragged through the Universe and all it’s possibilities, before being placed back in my comfortable, homely chair. Exhausted by my adventure, I caught my breath as Burlington Rathbone, my guide to the magnificent, stood before me one final time.
“You’ve seen beyond things now, and you can’t forget that. I may well again be lost to your memory, but hopefully the lessons I have taught you will stay forever. Goodbye old chum. And remember, I’m always here.”
He smiled with one corner of his mouth, giving me a fond wink before vanishing in a shimmer of light. I sat there, fallen of body, deciding that the only way I could remedy myself was a swift half down the local.
And so, here I sit, mind racing of thoughts and theories, considering the life lessons that Burlington Rathbone has taught me. That I should break out of my stupor, rush to my dreams and tell the very girl I saw lost to a dashing sergeant that, by golly, I love her.
Never again will I consider Thursdays a boring day!
(The Dashing World of Burlington Rathbone is from Filmic Cuts 3: Curse of the Ellipsis…, which is available now on Kindle & Paperback.)