Last chance to see..


Well, me for a while. I’ve recorded a video reading for the story “Just another day at the office” from the forthcoming “The Cat Tree and other stories”. The recording is now live here on Bitchute. This will be the last video reading from this particular collection. Commentaries will be available on Subscribestar when my profile is ready.

Apologies in advance for all the fluffs and mispronunciations. I know I messed up ‘Dafydd’ several times, but every time I tried to say it I hardened the last two letters. Fortunately, no Welsh people were harmed in the creation of the story that I know of and the few instances of mild profanity are necessary for dramatic impact and tone of the narrative.

So if you don’t like mild swearing, don’t bloody watch. Okay? There is a PG 13+ warning on the title page.

Scheduled publication of the collection is for late November / early December 2019 when I return from London to approve the final design and editing.

Next platform over


Like most sensible people, I’m moving from the old school social media to Minds and Gab. Minds profile is up and toddling with a Gab profile barely out of nappies. Twitter and Facebook have lost all utility and are rapidly becoming political echo chambers. People are getting banned and their content interfered with, which are not the platforms I joined way back when. The silicon Valley companies now want to dictate what others can say and think. So I’ve joined the exodus. I’ve also opened a DriveTribe account, simply because I love cars and motorcycles. May even post a few things, like a riding video from Vancouver Island next time I take the big dog out to hunt.

YouTube is going the same way, so what the hell, I’m electing to move away from it to a video sharing service which isn’t subject to such strictures. I’ll be deleting all my old stuff, which I never really liked, off YouTube and posting much better content on Bitchute. The one downside is that video embedding bitchute hosted content for wordpress is tricky. However, what will happen is I’m already posting partial short story readings and other short video content on YouTube with the full versions on Bitchute.

Next video reading will be “Another day at the office” a 1650 word story from my forthcoming fantasy and supernatural collection, ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’. One minor caveat; in these times of hyper sensitivity I find myself having to post a 13+ profane language advisory on this particular offering, even though by my native working class British standards the language contained therein is very mild indeed, which I consider necessary for both dramatic impact and characterisation. If anyone feels they might be offended by such language, then a caution will be given for them to either stop reading or continue under their own recognisance. Therefore no legal or moral responsibility will be taken by me as author for any offence taken by any reader, ridiculous though this seems.

Here is a short video of me explaining who I am and what I do. Also why I’m doing it. This is going on my Subscribestar profile, when I finally get that up and running.

‘The Cat Tree and other stories’ is on schedule for completion for the end of August / start of September, as I only have one story to finish and another to re-edit. Estimated length 42,000 words.

Update: Video also now uploaded to Bitchute.

Finally…


At last I’ve managed to put together a video reading for ‘Blink!’ that I’m half way happy with. The short YouTube version of which can be seen below. Hope the multiple fluffs and tongue stumbles don’t prove too stressful for any viewers. Dailymotion and Vimeo will also be getting a copy.

The full 2500 word reading can be found here on Bitchute.

Note 1: In future, all YouTube / Vimeo / Dailymotion versions will only be partial readings. Full story readings will henceforth only be found on my Bitchute channel.

Note 2: The colourful tropical and Provencal shirts are going to become a feature of future readings as I have quite a nice selection. Doing straight readings, although not my greatest strength, are a lot less work than producing multiple simple artworks for a story like I did for ‘The Cat tree’. Such graphics also distract from actually writing, so I’m going to try and keep that side of things to a minimum.

Note 3: Work on the supernatural compilation ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’ continues and I hope to be proofing the first hardback version in September prior to visiting London in late October. Work on ‘Darkness between the Stars’, the third volume of the Stars trilogy should be close to story completion by Spring 2020, ready for what I’m starting to think of as ‘the great edit’.

Note 4: Have moved all my (admittedly minimal) social media activity over to Minds.com here and will be opening a Gab account in the next week or two. This may sound like opening the door to the Lions cage and strolling inside, but I’m game if they are.

Happy reading and viewing.

Update:

Looks like Vimeo and Dailymotion don’t want my content. Dailymotion want me to pay them to upload and Vimeo say I’ve gone past my monthly upload limit when I haven’t put anything on their platforms for months. This is why YouTube is the biggest player in the market.

The stories so far


Regarding the short story collection ‘The Cat tree and other stories’. Hardback scheduled for October 2019 release. eBook scheduled for mid / late November / early December 2019. I’m taking a break in London UK from 2nd week October 2019 to 2nd week November, so will check the final edit and proof of the Hardback edition before then and the eBook version after I return home.

I will be taking two free copies of the hardback edition as gifts for friends who have expressed an interest.

The stories so far;
From ‘The Cat Tree’ series
The Cat Tree Completed. Supernatural
White Noise Transcribing from old paper MSS artwork in progress. Supernatural
The Unwelcoming Transcribing from old paper MSS artwork in progress. Supernatural
Josephine Transcribing from old paper MSS artwork in progress. Supernatural None of these will make the cut. Too much rewriting needed. Too many negative memories. Too personal.

From the 1990’s
Polish Ted Completed. Ghost story

Post 2004 tales
Moonlit Shadow Completed (Minor changes from Underdog anthology 7.) Horror
Just another day at the office Completed. Horror / Comedy
Good here, innit? Completed (Minor changes from copy submitted for Underdog anthology 9.) Horror / Comedy
A Coelacanth in the bathroom Completed (Minor edits from Underdog anthology 8.) Horror / Comedy
The hunting of the Squonk Work in progress 50%. Supernatural Horror
Restoration Completed. Ghost story
Honey tells Completed. General / Social commentary
Three park benches and a bicycle rack Completed. Horror / Comedy
Coffee House Completed. Supernatural
Bats! Completed. Horror / Comedy

I’ve a couple of older tales which need a lot of work, so they may not make the cut by the September 2019 deadline.

Current word count circa 37,000. On schedule for estimated completion word count 55,000-60,000 50,000. Total estimated length around 170 pages in current updated format.

Artwork is about 75% complete. Nothing fancy. All black and white in similar style to the cover at 300 DPi. I’ll triple check the proof copy before allowing distribution.

May collate a couple of sci-fi novellas with a few other sci-fi short stories for the New Year 2020. Work on ‘Darkness between the stars’ continues. Will re-issue heavily edited trilogy as three volumes when complete, day job permitting.

Note; this post is subject to periodic update.

New story


Well, there’s another 4300 word submission accepted by Leg Iron books. This time for their Halloween compilation. That will make three stories I’ve placed with them in under twelve months, which isn’t bad. The money isn’t an issue and I’m never going to make a fortune writing, but it’s fun.

I seem to have struck a chord with my semi-comical little narratives although if they have a major fault it is this; when I start a story I often have no idea where it is going to end up. My narratives often go wandering into the weeds and get lost somewhere in the long grass. I’ve tried planning, laying out careful plot lines but the thing I really enjoy is romping off to play where my wild ideas are. My inner child likes to prod at things with a stick, lift the rocks to see what’s underneath. I also like to take the odd sideswipe at PC ‘culture’. Which amuses me. Although I often don’t know where to stop.

For example, my latest submission began life under the working title ‘The Coat’ but after the plot got lost in the woods at around the four thousand word mark, I had to send out a search party to bring the narrative back to a timely conclusion or it would still be wandering in circles. When I was done, the tale had been tidied up and shortened with a new title; “Good here, innit?” which makes sly fun of extreme ‘hate speech’ laws in a highly repressive society. And that revelation is as much as I am going to give away. Kevin Hillman at Leg Iron books liked it right away, which shows that we share a certain macabre sense of humour. There is another similar work in progress comic short story with the working title; “Three benches and a bicycle rack” which is as much as I’m giving away here. Let’s just say it will be funnier than “A Coelacanth in the bathroom”, I think.

Regarding promised videos; I’m having a few issues with glitchy sound. When I record a video, I like to do my readings in one take, often over twenty minutes at a time. What I’m experiencing is the recording randomly dropping whole words and occasionally even two or three, so a sentence ends up making no sense at all. Which is frustrating. However, when my recording issues are resolved I shall be adopting a policy of posting only partial readings to YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion with the full versions exclusively on Bitchute. Suffice it to say I have good reasons for doing so. YouTube’s policy of erasing whole channels for being even mildly politically incorrect for one.

Then there’s the issue of my planned compilation. This is still a work in progress, but I have a few new ideas for satirical supernatural stories which I want to include. This will delay the final project completion by a month or two but I hope any potential readers will find it worth the wait.

On the ‘Stars trilogy’ front, the current draft of ‘Darkness between the stars’ has clambered arthritically over the 90,000 word mark after the last edit with about another 60,000 to go. That is how much further I have to travel down that path. What I have written so far is good and I have the last four thousand words already written. Unfortunately marrying the two parts together in a meaningful way is proving more difficult than I had first anticipated. There’s almost too much to keep in my head at any one time.

In the meantime, just to keep the story machine in my head working, I will continue with the short stories and see what strikes.

Progress


Finally, the logjam on ‘Darkness between the stars’ is beginning to break. I have a basic 69,000 words followed by another 30,000 plus in notes and dialogue which needs shoehorning in. There’s some good stuff in there. Failed diplomacy. Arrogant double dealing. Attempted kidnappings and assassinations. Stuttering relationships and a couple of other red herrings to keep it interesting. Oh yes, and an interstellar ‘Police action’, which makes for an action packed interlude just before the denouement and wrap up.

There are also a couple of spin offs. One project with the working title of ‘Straight on through morning’ and a single volume follow up to the ‘Stars’ trilogy I’m calling ‘Earth’s night’ set in the days following the ‘Stars’ timeline.

This whole project has been a monkey on my back for the last eight years. Simply because what I’d written had lost direction and I couldn’t visualise where the narrative was heading. There was a large black hole of a discontinuity I couldn’t see past.

I don’t actually foresee a finished draft before October, but it won’t be for lack of effort. Work at my day job has tailed off for the next couple of months which will give me more focused keyboard time. As I’ve been offered even more regular paying work beginning in September, this means I have a three month window in which to press on regardless. Fingers, nose and eyes crossed.

Regarding ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’ I hope to have a working draft in the next three weeks followed by proofing and editing. There should be a reading of my updated version of ‘Blink’ up on Bitchute by the end of Sunday. I’ve salted it with a little more irony and taken a few sniping side shots at certain modern urban dogmas. Enjoy.

Oh yes, I was talking to an eZine publisher in California, but as I don’t want to write their kind of horror story for free I think we’ve agreed that my material is ‘not a good fit’ for them. On the flip side, there will be a ghost / supernatural toe-curler for the Halloween Underdog Anthology.

Word up


There are times I am thoroughly glad I no longer use Microsoft Word products for writing projects. I also tend to switch off certain functions in the thesaurus and grammar writing functions, why? Because a) I don’t need the help and b) if an infinitive needs splitting, then I want to take the biggest bloody word-axe I have to it, not have my creative licence suspended by someone else’s idea of what I should be saying. When language is narrowed, the ideas it can express become restricted and of lesser value.

I’ve recently heard that Microsoft, acting as some kind of self-styled Word Police are apparently introducing a tool in the latest version of word that will correct the users use of English to make it more politically correct which will;

“provide estimated reading times, extract and highlight key points in paragraphs, underline potentially sensitive geopolitical references”

Wait a moment. Extract key points in paragraphs? Well excuse me. If I write something, I want it that way because it expresses the ideas I want to examine. And so it should stay until the flow of the narrative demands otherwise. As for underlining potentially sensitive geopolitical references who decides what is ‘sensitive’? Does this value change with whatever political wind is blowing?

As a thoroughly disgruntled Windows 10 user, I find this function even more intrusive than the function-degrading ‘upgrades’ of Windows 10 that cannot be switched off.

Fortunately, I do not use Office 365 or any other Microsoft office product. Primarily because I’ve never liked how Microsoft Word can hide formatting code within a document. OpenOffice and LibreOffice are just as good, possibly better office suites, firstly because they can handle documents from a wider range of formats and secondly I think Bill Gates is quite rich enough, don’t you?

As for keeping copyrighted data out in the cloud, that to me is an invitation to copyright theft by a disgruntled Microsoft employee / teenage hacker / plagiarist. Therefore I would caution any would-be creative writer to avoid Microsoft 365 and derivatives like the plague. At least if they want their output to remain their own.

Nor does this make me some form of Luddite. I have no wish to return to the bad old days of strenuously bashing away at the mechanical keys of an old Imperial Safari as I once did. I like computers. They make it easier to create, organise and adapt ideas. From a creative perspective the advantages of word processing software speed up the transfer of imagination to page without repeated messy applications of semi-toxic correction fluid or wasting the growth of a small deciduous forest for each major writing project. As for the Internet, I was in at the birth of the World Wide Web and I still love it for the cornucopia of knowledge that it makes available, although I’ve fallen heavily out of love with social media of late and having deleted my Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, will shortly be casting my little used Twitter and Instagram feeds into the nether voids between the datastreams if I can remember to do so. They contain nothing that is either real or of value.

The stories so far


…for ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’ which is a collection of tales from the supernatural and comedic side of my back catalogue.

Here are the titles so far;
The Cat Tree……………….. The first of ‘The cat Tree’ series
White Noise………………… The second of ‘The cat Tree’ series
The unwelcoming…………….. The third of ‘The cat Tree’ series
Polish Ted…………………. A modern ghost story
Moonlit shadow……………… Is Santa who we think he is?
The Coat…………………… Can an item of apparel be possessed?
A Coelacanth in the bathroom…. A nasty shock on a wet English Monday
The Hunting of the Squonk……. A hunt for a legendary North American creature
Restoration………………… A ghost story
Honey Tells………………… Homeless woman haunts herself
Coffee House……………….. A meeting with a famous ghost
A barbecue of bats………….. You’ve got an infestation of what?

There are two others which might make the cut, but this looks like being a slim volume of around 120 pages. The above list is subject to change. I’m keeping the artwork simple. Mainly line drawings and silhouettes.

New project


As Xenophon said to Claudius; “Better out than in.”

With luck there will be a new project available in hardback and eBook format by the end of May. Should be on Barnes & Noble and Amazon by then. The working title being ‘The Cat tree and other stories’ Essentially it’s going to be a collection of my short fantasy and supernatural fiction, the raw text of some which can be found on the pages of this web site. What the hardback edition will have is artwork as illustrations to accompany the text. I’ll try and add some of these to the eBook if formats allow. Artwork for front cover will include this image.

All the twisted tales from my back catalogue, including several which have never seen the light of day, will be in this modest omnibus edition. This renewed focus is because paying work has slacked off considerably and Angie is going away with house guests for a couple of weeks, which means I can focus on getting the literary side of things done and out there, so there will be a video for the short version of ‘Blink’ while our house guests are elsewhere.

A full list of edited and improved stories will be available shortly, although I’m writing a couple of fantasy tales especially for this edition. Working titles are “The hunting of the Squonk” and “The coat”. I may also create a similar package for my back catalogue of short science fiction stories. That project will include novella versions of ‘Blink’ and ‘Oggie’ which are significantly longer (and better) than the originals. Better fleshed out characters and backstories, more savage twists.

Work proceeds very slowly on the third volume of the Stars series. So far I’ve carved off most of the fat, which leaves around 70,000 words to date but there are two main story threads which need tying off and completing from ‘Falling’. Also two spin off projects at around 30,000 words each and counting.

A word of advice for those looking at online payments processors; Don’t bother with Patreon. One very good reason being that they’re very limited. Payouts only go via PayPal (More fees) and one other online service. You can’t actually, as an individual, transfer funds directly from Patreon to your bank account like you can with Subscribestar. This is very limiting and another very good reason not to use Patreon. Payment speed is also snail-like. Up to ten working days for an online transfer between Patreon and Paypal? I have transferred thousands in under forty-eight hours from the UK to Canada using only my regular bank accounts and the worst that happened was an early morning phone call from UK bank security. By contrast my last royalty cheque from Leg-iron books cleared immediately after taking four days to arrive via airmail from Scotland. Draw your own conclusions. In crayon if you must, but draw them nonetheless.

Changes


Having been contacted by another publisher via a third party for one of my quirkier brand of short story, I’m having to rethink my communications strategy. This means getting out of some aspects of social media entirely and getting new, paid, email services that have nothing to do with Silicon Valley.

Now I’ve had one of my novels disallowed by one Silicon Valley owned platform for being ‘against community guidelines’ whatever that means. To me a story is a story, and whatever happens from premise to conclusion is narrative-necessary. No-one asked me if I wanted to be part of any ‘community’, in which others set the rules to which I have no real say, apart clicking ‘accept’ to the constantly changing ‘terms of service’ one has to accept when using any given online platform. I’m not part of any ‘community’. I’m an individual who can stand on his own two feet.

So I’m starting a new non-google, non-silicon valley affiliated email provider account and shifting this site to a fully paid WordPress plan, which should give me more overall control and no adverts for anything else but my work. If conditions change, I may even forgo the assistance of their ‘Happiness Engineers’. There’s a satirical title for a story right there. Can you ‘Engineer’ happiness and what form do the perpetrators of that blessed state of mind intend it takes? I was wondering about what to submit to the editor of that horror eZine. Now I think I know. Something unexpectedly nightmarish for preference.

On the topic of publishing Transgenre Dreams, the latest from Leg Iron books containing my short story “A Coelacanth in the Bathroom” is now available via Amazon. It’s also available from Smashwords and Kindle A linked picture should shortly be available on the sidebar.

Here are some opening paragraphs from ‘Coelacanth’

Finding a four foot long fish occupying the bath was a bit of a surprise. Especially at six fifteen on a Monday morning and particularly before breakfast. “I know it’s an old bathtub.” Perry muttered to himself, blinking wearily at the large, strange looking fish peering dopily back at him through vaguely green tinted water. At this time of day his sleep fogged mind was still running far too slowly to register any shock. “But this is ridiculous.”

Maybe if he left the bathroom and came back it would maybe disappear. Maybe he was still dreaming. He pinched himself and blinked hard, twice. No. The fish with skin like Van Gogh’s starry night turned in the confined space of their claw footed cast iron antique with a sluggish sploshing and waved an amiable tail back at him.

Who had filled the bathtub anyway? Wouldn’t they have heard their flats notoriously eccentric pipework in the middle of the night? And greenish water? Their venerable plumbing occasionally dispensed liquid with a brown tinge, but never green. Perry sniffed. Was that the taint of old seaweed? Sea water? This far inland?

An expression of pleasant surprise


Last night I got an email from Kevin Hillman over at Leg-Iron books who recently accepted my short story submission “A Coelacanth in the bathroom”. Apparently there’s a small eZine publisher based in California that is looking for original horror writers. They have expressed an interest in the kind of quirky, off the wall story I like to write and asked me, via Kevin, if I had anything. So, pleasantly surprised, I said yes. So I dashed off a brief email explaining who I was and what I did and the response was guardedly positive. They don’t pay, but they do have a fairly good distribution spread.

Now I’ve offered them a short story, currently a work in progress; target length about five thousand words that is kind of a spin off from “Coelacanth” in that it includes one of the characters from that tale. Without giving too much away, it’s mainly about an infestation of semi-mythical beasts who are a little, but not quite like they are portrayed in mainstream fantasy stories.

I did my research and looked at the crypto-biology behind these creatures before fleshing out the details and making them a little more believable. Nothing much, just playing around with the how, what, why, when and where of their mythology. I haven’t gone the full J K Rowling on them because I’ve always considered using the Harry Potter style of magic and wand waving as a bit of a cop out. Far more fun to take the impossible and set it off against the mundane. I mean, what would someone do if they found an endangered species in their bathroom or a plague of mythical beasts in their place of work? Whose job is it to deal with these things? How big a crimp would it put in their day?

It’s oddball questions like these that make my mouth twist into a villainous little smile and make me take to my office for so long that my wife greets me with “Oh, hello stranger” in the evenings when I finally surface.

A Coelacanth in the bathroom


… is the title of my latest short story with Leg-Iron books for their spring anthology. I’ve decided to err on the lighter side of things with a dark little comedy of errors which I hope readers will enjoy. Sort of a comic tale of the unexpected. Currently just under five thousand words and in the final editing stage before publication. Will post the links to Amazon etc when available.

In the meantime, here’s the artwork frontispiece. If this is the version Leg Iron books choose to use, if at all.

Still working on the artwork for my reading of ‘Blink’. Stars trilogy is still being restructured. Not much more to say. Manuscript at 69,000 words, which is still only about half way.

What can I say. Fiction writing isn’t much of a spectator sport. On the technical side, have just adjusted the site to make Smartphone surfing possible.

Update: Contracts signed for the text. Not sure about the artwork.

Up on bitchute


Have uploaded my reading of ‘Moonlit shadow’ to Bitchute as it was too long for the free version of Vimeo. Same format as the Youtube version. Like, don’t like, let me know why, although I’ve often drawn criticism for putting the whole narrative of this particular story in the present tense, which some people don’t care for. What can I say, it’s a stylistic choice on my part. Channel link here.

Most of these short stories are simply experiments while I keep trying to restructure the ‘Stars’ series of science fiction stories, which started off in 2004 as a planned trilogy, but seems to be spinning off the original narrative into multiple projects like ‘Miners’. Still very much in the same universe, but too far off the main thread to be part of ‘Darkness between the Stars’.

Current word count for ‘Darkness’ is just over 69,000 words and the separate parallel and convergent narratives make sense. The bad guys are clearly defined as corrupt politicians and the ‘good’ guys as a loose grab bag of deserters, reformed drug lords and other rebels. I’ve even got to the point where I can clearly visualise them all as visual novel style drawings. When I say visual novel, the artwork I can visualise is not so much Anime, more Marvel or DC style. This is good. I may even finish the first draft this year.

As far as the recordings and video’s are concerned, have invested in a lapel microphone which should improve the sound quality of future recordings. I’ve always hated that flat, echoing and nasal quality that a webcam or PC mike gives to my voice.

‘Blink’ will be the next offering, probably by the end of February. Or as soon as I have some visuals I’m happy with. I’ve given this particular 2500 word offering a significant editing so that the new version is better than the original. ‘Blink’ is also part of a much larger project. Another work in progress. However, the chief focus will be on ‘Stars’ from now on.

Cogitus interruptus…


As someone who both writes and holds down a fairly mundane day job, I tend not to have very many adventures here in Victoria BC. Life is mostly routine with little real drama worth recounting. However, a few weeks ago I had a little medical discumbuggerance which threatened to upset a number of apple carts. My own especially. Let me expound.

My wife frequently complains about my snoring. It’s been costing both of us sleep. So, after considerable trial and error I worked out that the problem was catarrh based. During the hours of sleep, mucus was collecting at the back of my throat thus causing a partial blockage resulting in a sound like someone sawing a depressed camel in half. So just before Christmas I elected to try an extra strength sinus medicine to dry up the offending excess secretions and hopefully let the household get a good nights repose. The first night went reasonably well, I took the maximum dose and the morning consensus was that we’d all slept the better for it, so around eleven on the Wednesday evening before Christmas I popped another two of these over-the-counter nostrums and decided to stay up writing until two to let Angie take a run up at a decent nights repose.

At around two in the morning my heart began to pound uncontrollably. Just like a regular heartbeat but impossibly fast. Boom-boom-boom-boom. My body’s heretofore reliable muscle pump felt like it was trying to jackhammer out of my chest. Even at rest I couldn’t find a steady pulse, just my heartbeat thundering in my ears, my chest and fingers reverberating.

I went into the main bedroom. The light was on. Angie was awake and reading. So much for letting her get some sleep without me. “Hon. I’m not feeling so good.” I said. Truth be told I felt bloody awful. Light headed, unsteady and with an urgent need to call an ambulance. However, a quick run down a mental check list came up with no symptoms that might indicate a full-fledged heart attack. No pain, no clamminess or tightness in the chest. Just a super fast hammering inside my rib cage and the weird feeling that my head was going to float away.

Angie got up and joined me in the front room, checking my temperature and pulse as we sat on the couch. By now it was two thirty in the morning. “Emergency?” She queried.
“Please.” I said.
“Get dressed.”

I managed to pull on some clothes and stagger into the garage and thus the car. Angie hopped into the drivers seat and we took off into the early hours of a damp December night, me failing to bite my tongue as she put her foot down, pushing hard through suburban bends, nipping artfully through several tail end amber lights. As if my heart wasn’t hammering hard enough beforehand it was pounding even harder when we reached Victoria Hospital emergency. Angie decanted me at the door and I wobbled through the doors to the front desk. I managed to hand over my BC care card and burble something about having a fast heartbeat before slumping into a chair at front desk. A ponytailed girl in dark blue scrubs checked my heart rate and blood pressure. “Can we get a wheelchair for this gentleman?” She asked a colleague. By this time my vision was greying around the edges and I was too tired to walk down to the treatment area. Fortunately I was the only sick person in the emergency waiting room that night, so the road to treatment was short and timely.
“Thanks. I’m not sure I can walk. I’m a bit lightheaded.”
“With a heart rate of over two hundred I’d be light headed.” Someone, I’m not sure who, commented as I was wheeled into the very beige treatment area. I recall my head wobbling a little on my shoulders and commenting that my spatial sense was very disturbed. The simple act of being pushed around a corner in a wheelchair made me feel very uncomfortable bordering on nauseous.

A male nurse named Fraser, or was it Frasier? My normally accurate memory skips a groove every time I try and recall certain details. All I remember of him is an image of a jocund, portly young man with black frame glasses, short dark hair and jawline beard. He handed me one of those draughty hospital gowns and allowed me the dignity of changing behind curtains. Jeans and jacket draped over a cabinet I slumped onto one of those all singing, all dancing hospital beds that act as support, occasional operating table and sometime hearse.

One thing I noticed was a distinct distortion of my colour perception. Everything but the nurses and doctors scrubs seemed beige. Curtains, walls everything. Even if they were pastel shades of light blue or green. Which left me with an overwhelming impression of Victoria General Hospital’s curtain draped ER as an overall beigeness. I might have been mistaken but even the defibrillator-laden bright red crash cart parked at my beds foot appeared somehow pastel and muted. All I could do was lie back and let the medical staff get on with their jobs. Plugging leads into a heart monitor, taking various samples for testing. Ripping off bits of my chest hair when they had to move the electrodes for a better signal.

When properly wired up to a monitor I recall someone trying to find a vein in my left arm to stick in a needle and failing. Which in my semi-stupor struck me as odd as I used to be a blood donor and never had a problem with hidden veins before. A week later there was still a three inch long oval bruise on my left forearm punctuated with at least half a dozen bright red needle marks.

Then there was the annoying bleeping of the heart monitor alarm. My natural breathing rate is about five or six breaths a minute when the monitor alarm default was nine. Sometimes if I’m concentrating hard I’ll stop breathing for at least half a minute at a time. Some people stick their tongues out, others frown, I hold my breath. It’s an old habit from when I used to meditate a lot. Which of course set off the alarm every time I tried to focus on what people were saying.

Angie arrived, I’m not sure exactly when, after parking the car and chatted to the male nurse, filling in medical history details I’d omitted in my foggy mental state. She was briefly quizzed on why we hadn’t called 911, but that’s one of those questions you never have a decent answer for because you’re too caught up in the moment. Our attitude was, why call an ambulance when you can still walk?

At some stage the collector of blood samples switched to my right arm where they actually struck oil. I was also told to try various things like holding my breath and clenching my belly, which seemed to help. I believe it’s called the Varsalva manoeuvre or some such. After five minutes of this the pounding eased and I felt my booming heart gradually slow to a more leisurely eighty beats per minute and my hands stopped vibrating. To the point where I could actually use one of those cardboard urine collection bottles without spilling any. For some reason I really needed to relieve myself and couldn’t have hung on to it much longer.

What I do remember precisely is offhandedly wondering whether I was going to die that night. For some reason the thought did not worry me overmuch. At least I don’t remember feeling frightened. My heart hadn’t failed at the peak of the attack when I’d almost gone into full defibrillation, so now things were calming down I felt able to relax. I reasoned that the worst hadn’t happened by now, so it probably wasn’t going to. Panic over.

After my heartbeat steadied I dozed until four thirty despite the comings and goings of staff and one loudly complaining woman with a sand-rasp voice. At which point a slight bespectacled man with short sandy hair appeared at my bedside and introduced himself as a heart surgeon. He told me my bloods were all within normal range and we could go home. I was also quizzed about medication and confessed to maxing two doses of extra strength sinus medicine. With this revelation it was generally agreed a lack of decent regular sleep plus the medication had unbalanced my electrolytes, to the point where my cardiac electrical system literally shorted out, which was the cause of my ultra fast heartbeat. The medical name for my condition was Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia. Which is usually first noticed in much younger people. Highly unpleasant and not to be recommended, but watch the meds and get more sleep in future. At least that was what I remember being told.

After that advice I dressed, still a little unsteadily, and we walked out into the damp darkness of the early morning, arriving home just after five. Angie and I went to bed but all we could do was doze fitfully for another three hours, our little bit of hospital drama at an end.

As anyone with the slightest imagination might attest, the whole experience made for a rather thoughtful, sober and reflective festive season.

It’s a curious thing, this not-dying. Very curious indeed.

Take a walk on the dark side of Science Fiction ©

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