A Case for Wandering Minds
The worst thought that can occupy a man's mind is darkness...
There is nothing worse than having a mind that contains nothing – a mind without memory, without hopes; such a thing is like a well without water, a vase without flowers – a glass with no wine in it. It isn't even a dead flower – because at least a flower bloomed once, but a vacant mind isn't a head it its nothing more than a piece of stone – a skull that's never known a soul – thoughts will have passed through the teeth in a single breath with no words of hope ever spoken.
I see people who live in darkness all the time, but they don't realise it themselves, and this amazes me – how can they live like that? I think to myself, how do they live at all? – the truth is they merely exist – they look at the same things every day, they talk about the same things again and again, and do the same things over and over – with nothing ever changing.
Have they no song in their hearts? Is there not one picture that opens in their minds that they feel the urge to relate on paper? Is there nothing in the corridors of their brain that they wish to share with the community at large, to be remembered for after the final hour has escaped them?
I see one person flick through a newspaper – forgetting the lines they leave behind, while someone else lights another cigarette and then they stare vacantly at a window with their reflections gazing back. They don't see themselves as anything but walking talking machines, they don't care.
But it is different with me...
My mind is my garden – its where I plant my flowers – where I gaze at the clear skies, feel the sun and the breath of the air on my skin.
My dreams are all I live for.
My memories are all I care about.
I was looking out of the window one evening and what did I see?
No. Not the tree in the park, or the litter dancing on the ground with the breeze; I saw little lights skipping not before my eyes but behind them. I was looking into my mind and after a few seconds I could see again the vision of the beautiful vine crawled trellises of Count Agoston's garden, in Gloormound Drive, the only place where I ever felt at home.
I was sat in my shadowy office, thinking about the garden.
My friend said to me, 'Daydreaming again, Robert?'
I reply, 'No. Thinking, my friend, thinking. I never daydream I have no time for that sort of thing. But Yes, I do often spend my time of times that have gone by. And I keep having this strange memory. A memory of clear skies over a maze of ivy, and a forest and a fountain – and a tea party and a little house filled with people I used to know.
'But I forgot them... How could I forget them? What happened?'
'You need a break, my friend.'
Yes. I did.
I needed to take time off to find the source of my dreams – the heart of my thoughts. I needed to know where these memories stemmed from.
Were they dreams, or things that actually did happen only time and responsibility of life had made me forget.
I don't know how long it took – could have been days, however long it doesn't matter, I found myself standing before the tall jagged gates of Gloormound Drive.
The Gates opened at my hand, they were not locked, and I let myself in – I don't know why I did, I just felt like I was welcome here like I had just entered my second home.
The House of Gloormound looked down on the green ravine of Pelendor, who sheer sides were full to the brim with spiky pine trees. Black clouds of crows formed in and out around the branches and filled the air with their morbid din. A large raven watched me from a sign post – but I ignored it … it did not believe in ill omens, I was not a superstitious sort of person.
I found the Count outside the green house, by the natural fountain that flowed from the Gloormound Mountains. He was having lunch, drinking wine, when I approached he smiled, standing, he washed his hands in a spring and waved me over.
'I wondered when you would visit me again,' he said.
'How have you been?' I asked.
'O you know me,' said the Count. 'I like to wonder the gardens at this time. It is nearing night, and there is nothing I love more than a full. There is a lot to admire when the eye sees a full moon in the sky.'
Count Agoston was like this, rambling, speaking in riddles. It was like I liked him – he was so interesting, so different from the every day spirit one meets at work, or in the streets, or in a shop, or at home with the loved ones.
'Judging by the furrow in your brow your mind is filled with thoughts,' said the count, observing me with his hawk-like eyes. Sometimes he did look more like a bird of prey than a man... I've maintained that this man had a strange, animal-like element to his make-up.
'I can't stop thinking about the past,' I said. 'I keep having these memories of these people... they keep on appearing in my mind. People and places. But I am sure I have never met any of these people, yet it the memories feel so real – like something that happened long ago in another life, things from long long ago, but yet I remember them like it was only yesterday!'
The Count smiled. 'I understand you,' he said. 'It is the same with me sometimes. Dreams have a way of haunting the conscious mind if you allow them to linger. That is way I take these daily walks in my garden – it is a chance for me to wash the mind clean of these linger, shadows that haunt the recesses of our thoughts. If you have a shadow haunting the corner of your mind my advice to you is to take it and break it. Be firm. A dark thought will kill your soul if you let it.'
I let my friend finish his speech and then I asked him this question. 'How do you know so much about dreams and thoughts? Do you do research? Are you learned of such things, did the establishment teach you? You seem well travelled, and you must have contacts in the world what with royal blood being in your veins, did you seek out some manner of special education in the philosophy?'
'What I have learned of dreams cannot be taught by any living being,' the count replied. 'My insight into the world of dreams can only be gleamed from shadow beings that have long since passed by the ways of our world. When you know what I know, about the mind, you can live the lifetime of a star.
'You don't just become a man like me, no human has ever been born with my skills. You must live, learn, train, grow old, suffer, suffer for many years, before you become like me and know the things I know. You have to earn it. When I was thirteen, and that was long ago, I thought I was going to be the greatest painter in the world – it was only through many failures that I grew to learn the truth. Failure is the key to success, as it were. But come, the stars are still keen; let us have some tea in the garden.'
The count drank a very rich tea.
He poured it through a golden cauldron, and stirred with a silver spoon.
We drank quietly, listened to a nightingale singing somewhere out in the natural gloom.
The giant Boldizsar, a pale golem of gloom, was standing in the corner of the garden staring like a statue. He looked like a curiosity in a painting, something the artist put into their work to baffle the onlooker. Is this statue of doom looking outwards at a thing, or was it looking right back at you – only the author knew.
We drank long through the night, hardly speaking. I could hear the earth breathe. I could hear the night things crawl. I could feel the cool sleepy breath of the twilight air. The soul of the earth was in a deep dream, and midnight mists were around me, making my mind sink down into the inky pool of the inner consciousness, till I started thinking about my childhood, of me and my my feet playing across the fields under some far off summertime, and before I knew it I as in a living dream.
Then my head nodded, my chin touched my coat, and I awoke. The image of the dream went up like smoke from a chimney and with one swift blast of twilight air was gone like a flock of birds flying into nothingness.
The Count sighed.
'This is the saddest moment of the morning for me,' said he.
I asked him why and he replied, '...because now there are only a few moments of darkness left in the night...'
'You like the night that much?'
'I live in it,' he replied.
'You think its the right time to drink tea – this late? I asked him.
'Tea? He said, 'I prefer my tea early in the morning,' then he chuckled. 'Come,' he said finally, 'let us talk before the final stars fade away. Then it will be time for me to sleep, and for you think.'
'Very well,' I said. 'What shall we talk about.
'What do you think of the Moon?' and as he asked he tilted his head towards the silver disk.
I know the face on the moon is merely an illusion, but then, at that hour, it really felt like the moon did have a face, and it was looking right back at us – observing us as much as we were observing it.
'I don't think a lot about the moon,' I said. 'It's just there, that's all. It just comes and goes. It's a bit like the sun, a different colour and easier to look at, for sure. But there I nothing else to it.'
The Count smiled. My answer to him must have sounded like something spoken by an unenlightened grunt.
'The moon is my inspiration,' the Count replied. 'It is in my eye whenever I am awake. It haunts my dreams when I sleep. The Moon is my life.
'Please, take this ring,' and he gave me a green ring to wear. 'Wear it in the daylight,' he told me, 'let it remind you of the moon. The moon that smiles in all our eyes and speaks in our souls. The Moon is the king of Dreams. We are all his servants. Are we not all dreamers? Let us sleep and live in dreams as you would live life under the sunlight.'
After his final speech the Count left me, the fantastic golem following silently behind, and as the silver wisp of his figure vanished from my view, I felt a sudden onslaught of tiredness rush at my senses.
My eyes started to sting, and my hurt like someone was inside my brain with a hammer and an anvil ringing away with some heavy toil. I began to shake – I could barely stand.
I crawled, as it were, over to a bench where I could spread myself out. There was a fountain in front of me, and water was trickling out of the mouth of a green goat-like head that had been fashioned out of the leaves of the nearby thicket.
There was a huge black hedge all around me, and it closed in, and in, till it was all dark and then I feel asleep.
When I awoke again the sun was up and broad in the sky.
I wondered for a long time how I had got there on the bench, but then I saw the tea table in the garden where the Count and I had talked under the stars and my memories came back to me.
There was someone sitting next to the fountain. I guessed it was the gardener. They seemed very friendly, and asked my name, 'You've been sleeping there for hours,' he said. 'You must have been really tired to sleep like that and for so long.'
He said his name was Ted.
'Yes, I am tired,' I replied. 'And I have slept for too long. I suppose I better get home.'
And then I stopped. I heard a sound.
'Where is that music coming from?'
Ted replied, 'O that's just the old fair.'
'Not much,' said Ted. 'People just happy at surviving another night. We live in constant fear of the Drewmedian's you see. Constant fear! They hunt in the night. Whenever someone ain't grabbed from their beds when the witching hour is nigh it's considered a good enough thing to celebrate. And so we celebrate, and make music. That's what you are hearing now. Maybe you would like to come and have a look.'
'I would love to,' I replied.
There was something about the music... There was a song, and I knew with confidence that I had heard it before.
It sounded so familiar, and yet I couldn't pin point it to a particular memory other than to say that I did recognised it from something completely!
We journeyed into the heart of the village beyond the hedge, and we met a sight that both delighted and surprised me.
There was a selection of pleasant little thatch houses built along a ridge, and down in the centre there as a collection of very lively looking people, dancing and singing around a large fire. I think they were burning an effigy of a large green man, whatever it was, its green face had two applies for eyes and they were glinting in the light.
What was most bizarre, for me, were the people. Not that there was anything particularly strange about them, it was just they all had faces I recognised – and yet I knew in my heart and mind that I had never known any of them.
And the song they were singing – curses! I knew that song... I knew it! And Yet, I didn't... It is just so hard for me to explain how strange it all was.
'You look lost?' said Ted to me. 'Anything wrong?'
I thanked him for his concern. 'I am fine thank you,' I said. 'I just I know this place, these people, those houses on the ridge.
'I almost feel like I have just come home from a long a journey in a strange place.'
'I know how you feel,' Ted replied. 'That's why I love working for the Count; I love working in the garden! I am lucky to be here, sir indeed I am!'
I understood his words completely.
'Follow me,' said. 'Just up this ridge is a very beautiful looking place! You'll love it!'
We arrived at this very beautiful patch of green, wonderfully sylvan, with a little natural spring full of lilies and a large willow leaning over; a sight perfect for a painting and we came to this place just in time to see a figure vanish into the brush. A huge person, with an axe over their shoulder, stalking somewhere with intent...
'That's the old hunter,' Ted told me, 'he comes and goes, never says a word. The strangest of the strange! Some say he is one with the wood – part of the living green!'
I didn't know what to say. I was too much in wonder of this beautiful place we were standing in. 'I didn't know the Count's garden was so vast, so wonderful. It's like wandering through a living dream it really is!'
There was an old soldier sat on a tree stump, polishing their sword, they whistled Ted and I over and asked if we had anything he could smoke in his pipe.
'They call me Wilson,' said the soldier. 'I was on my way home and got lost in this beautiful place. Where am I exactly?'
'The garden of Count Agoston,' Ted replied. 'The Count is presently retired, he sleeps during the day, but everyone is welcome here in this place.'
'Just as well,' said the soldier. Then he took a smoke of his pipe, and waved us to lean closer. Then in a quiet voice he said to us, 'If you are out sightseeing, you might want to follow that old path over there. That's where I was heading from. There is a strange little building right at the end, all run down, roof falling in, a total mess. I shouldn't of gone in, I know, it was a dangerous thing to do, but curiosity got the better of me. So I just poked my head through the doorway and I saw all these really beautiful paintings. I tell you what! I need to stretch my legs again, so follow me along that path and we will explore the place together.'
'Sounds like an adventure to me,' said Ted.
'I have nothing else to do,' I replied. 'Lead on good sir, lead on!'
At the end of the path there was the rickety building the soldier had spoken of – it reminded me of a run down barn, that was probably what it had been at some time – disused and forgotten out of time. The soldier made us stop, he seemed hesitant to go any further, then he shook his head, realising, I guess, that he was behaving foolishly, and led the way to the front entrance.
'Take a look inside,' he said to me in particular. 'You won't believe this but there is a painting inside and there is a person in the picture who looks rather much like you, sir! Don't take my word for it! Go in and have a peep. You'll see what I mean.'
He had my curiosity running amok in my brain, so, yes, I peeped through the entrance, and a beam of light was falling down through a crack in the roof right on top of this great picture – a magnificent labour of love – portraying a scene of a forest, with mountains, and a little village in the middle by a stream.
Why it looked like the water was moving in the waves of the light!
In the painting there were people dancing around a fire – they were burning an effigy of a green man with apples in his eyes. Now that part of the picture got my attention.
I walked right up to the painting, starred into it, and could see that the eyes of one the merry making villagers was staring right back... My gosh! That person was me! It was almost like looking into a mirror!
I turned round to share my amazement with my companions – but the soldier and Ted had vanished!
I left the building and found myself in a clearing, with nothing to be seen except these marble statues. I looked at those statues for ages, not because they amazed me because they hadn't been there before – but because I recognised the faces that had been carved on these great pieces of stone. One of them was the soldier, Wilson, and next to him Ted, the gardener, and the others were all the villagers, like the ones I had seen that morning, dancing and signing, rather much like the ones in the painting.
Then there was this one statue that stood out from the others because its head had been cleanly knocked off – there had been a head there, for sure, but it had been smashed off and looking at the scratches the deed had been done with a heavy object, and also with quite a lot of violence.
I shook my head at horror with it all.
This can't be real. I had to be dreaming!
Then I heard a voice.
It was the voice of count Agoston.
'This way,' he said. 'Just follow my voice, that's all you have to do for now. Follow my voice and it will all soon make sense.'
I followed the call of the Count's voice for the length and breadth of the garden, till I reached the Count's great manor house of Gloormound, with its steeples like a church, I passed through the mighty wooden door and once inside the great hall on the other side the Count's voice returned to my ears, 'Lay down on the couch,' he said. 'Listen to the burning embers in my fire. Hear the pendulum of the clock tick – let it enter your mind, and let it make you sleep until the night is come again.'
I lay down on the couch, as the Count instructed, and watched the pendulum on the great clock sway, back and forth, for what seemed quite some time, probably many hours, and eventually my vision began to blur, and the pendulum melted from my sight, and when I opened my eyes again I saw the Count sitting next to me, holding a clock-watch which he was swinging in front of my eyes.
'You no longer feel sleepy,' he said. 'You will now wake up and hear my words. Your journey is over, and you are home again.'
He took the watch away and I immediately sprang up on the couch, full of confusion I started to look about, and panic, but I couldn't think of anything to say – I had many things I wanted to ask him, but everything was such a swirl at that time I couldn't find the words – I just couldn't find them! Nothing came to me!
I had never been in such a desperate state in all my life.
What had just happened?
The Count asked his servant Boldizar to place some tea on the table. 'Please, drink, it will refresh you,' the Count said to me. 'I suppose you want to know what happened to you?'
'I do indeed,' I replied. 'I saw... saw a forest – a village, I met all these people, and then there was a painting with me in it, and statues...'
'Drink the tea my friend,' said the Count. 'It will soon all make sense.'
I drank the tea but I was still confused. 'Now I don't remember anything,' I said. '…What am I doing here? I was at work one minute, then in your garden the next, and then there I was going on this strange journey, like I was inside a living dream. Did I just fall asleep and imagine it all?'
'It's more complicated than that,' said the Count. 'The things you saw were memories. Memories of a past life that never happened.'
I didn't understand him. Not at all. I told him as much. What was he talking about? memories that never happened? Such nonsense.
He continued with his speech.
'Two days ago you asked me to give you one happy memory, in a life that had been filled with misery,' he said. 'You came here because you knew of my gifts, my power of the human mind, and you begged me, till I felt such pity that I gave in. I did what you asked. I filled your mind with happy thoughts – but now you must pay me back.'
'Two days ago? What are you going on about? We've known each other for years...”
'We've known each other for two days now,' he replied.
My mind was swirling; a whirlpool of madness. Words chocked in my throat and I didn't know what to say!
The Count, sat in his chair, looking quite relaxed with it all. Actually I think he looked like he was enjoying my confusion, and probably the look of horror in my eyes.
I had never seen this side of him, almost vindictive, taking pleasure in my terror.
But then... he had just told me I had only known him for two days... No! I needed to know more!
'I don't understand!' I cried,
The Count started to speak again, very calmly. He said this to me. 'All those people you saw, the gardener, the soldier, the villagers, they never existed – I made them up and put them into your mind.'
'But even that doesn't make any sense! Why would you do that to me? Why would you want to make me think all of that was real when it wasn't? To what purpose would do such a cruel thing?'
The Count replied, 'You came to me, drunk, desperate, you begged me for death. You wanted to commit suicide, but you told me you didn't have the courage to do the deed yourself, so you asked me to do it for you. To kill you there and then. But I couldn't let you die, just like that. I asked you if there was anything you wanted, and you said to me, “If you can give me a different life, then I would be happy. If you can do that, give me a different life, with different memories, let me know what happiness is, then please, do something. Let me know peace, even if its just for day – just for one day! So I did that. I gave you peace! I filled your head with happy thoughts, and now you have these wonderful memories, of forests, picturesque villagers, happy villagers, and friends who welcomed you into adventures. I gave you images of peace and happiness, of things until now you knew nothing about. You forgot the events of your past life, your REAL life. I gave you what you wanted. And now you must repay me. My work comes at a price, you see.'
I was so angry you have no idea!
'You lured me here with lies simply to kill me,' I said to him.
“With dreams, my friend, I lured you with dreams,' he said.
'What are you?' said I to he.
I deserved to know this much at least!
And he told me this...
'I am a Drewmedian, that means I am a master of hypnosis. I can change peoples thoughts, make them believe they have seen things when they haven't. I can create memories, give people whole new lives. But in return for this work, there is a price to pay. When people employ me for my talents, I asked only for one thing. I ask for their souls. Now I ask for your soul. And you will give it freely, for we made a deal – and when your real memories return to you, which they will in time, and your remember your old life, you will come back begging for my help.'
I tried to stand, but... I couldn't move my legs.
A started to feel very sick – and my nostrils started to fill with this strange sickly sweet smell emitting from the teapot where my drink had just been poured.
'Do not worry,' said the Count, calmly. He turned his gaze to the window. The stars were out; the skies were very clear and he had his eyes set on the full moon which had taken its seat in the blue skies. 'It does not end with death,' he said. 'I have not killed you, but instead given you a whole new beginning. When you no longer cease to be, your remains will be placed onto my ring,' and he raised his hands and I saw that each of his talons wore a silver ring – they glistened like stars! 'You will become a beautiful glimmering jewel that will reflect the moonlight through all of time. It is a very beautiful gift I have given you. Thanks to my generosity the light of the moon will course through your every being from this day to the end of time.'
The villagers burned an effigy of him in their fires!
Now I was in his power.
His mighty servant, Boldizar, dragged me away into a deep dark cell where I believe I have been left to die...
But I hear him outside, the Count, muttering to himself. I hear him and fear him. Who is he talking to?
He's servant, Boldizar, or is he talking to the moon?
'The moon shines in all things,' I hear him say, again and again. 'It shines in me and in you!'
I know it will only be a manner of time before I am moon dust. I leave this letter to you... my friend. Read it and read it well, and never trust any man who talks to you about the king of dreams...