Night Shift

Up here at night, the eyes can start to see things the mind don’t believe. If your smart you just ignore the eyes and keep right on. Since the cutbacks we do a lot more of the ghost shifts, as we call em, alone. Its quiet most nights thats true enough, especially in the small hours. The Appalachian trail covers over 2,000 miles and crosses 14 states, and one of those is North Carolina. If your ever heading that way and you don’t slow up you might pass through Hot springs without even noticing. The sign either end says we welcome careful drivers, and the tourist books say its a rugged place for those seeking charm and adventure. My patrol takes me 20 miles either side around I-46. I have an eye on the quite roads as far North as Stillwater and South to the edge of Buies creek. The official population is 563 but I can’t think of that many folks round here. Though from what I hear Truly Wilson might be doing her best to get us up to 565 by the summer.
What I’m gonna tell you I never told no one, there just never seemed no sensible reason to do so. Besides there’s no one I could tell, not no one who wouldn’t ball up double laughing.
Molly runs a small grocer shop in town an it doubles as a bar in the evenings, she has a take out alcohol licence. Last time I mentioned her licensing restrictions all she said was “But some folks just don’t seem keen on takin em away.” So in the main theres no trouble and one or two of the local boys get to drinking there, particular on a Friday. As far as the license goes we all have an understanding, no ruckus or brawlin and we all stay friends. I take a cruise by most evenings and chew some shit with the Tollen brothers or Rick the Kick. So called on account he took one clean on the side of his head from a steer as a kid and he was never the same since. He preferred that name to Thick Rick as used by some folks. Tommy Crimson was still bitchin about his stolen Heffer. We all knew that thing was probably lying at the bottom of Grafton creek after getting through his fence. But Tommy keeps on about goddam cattle rustlers, the more he drinks the more rustlers there are. I don’t want upset the fella so I tell him I’ll take a ride by his place. So he carries on his illegal drinking while an officer of the law checks his place for rustlers, thats Hot Springs, North Carolina in a nutshell. Thats why I never do pass by his place, but this particular night I actually did. It was late October, freezing cold and the sky was black as pitch. Some nights out here the moonlight can be clear as day but not this night. No Sir, I swear it was dark as hell in a sewer and you can roger that. I headed out of town on the 46, crossed the bridge at toll point and finally swung left up the high lane. As I took the bend just before Tommys place I thought I saw a light. It was so fast I hardly knew for sure, as if maybe a motorcycle or car had turned up Tommys lane. I pulled the patrol car over and switched off the lights, winding the window down to listen. If any vehicle had gone up Tommys lane it would follow the single track up the hill, I might hear or even see some light through the trees to my left. All I heard was the crack of the patrol car engine cooling but holy shit if I didn’t see a light. There it was heading up Tommys lane 100 ft above my head, moving real slow. It flickered between the branches and occasionally the beam shot up and cut through the low cloud above. I switched on the ignition to check the time, it was getting on for midnight. I felt exposed in the dashboard light and quickly switched it off.
It was right then that my skin turned to ice and I swear my hair stood up. In the silence a voice screamed out.
“47 are you awake over?” My tired old heart was pounding like a bull in a beauty salon as I snatched the radio off the dashboard.
“Sharlene, for christ sake whats the 10 for ‘You scared the shit outa me?”
I could hear her cackling in my head without her even having the button down.
“I think its 10-10 till I do it again.” She squawked and there was an intake of breath at the end of her words and I just knew.
“Sharlene, are you smokin in there? I told you.”
“Quit it Alan no I ain’t.” She said angrily.
She was too, I knew it. I could see her sitting there, puffing away with her big tits hanging out over the window ledge. I have told her so many times and caught her on more than one occasion. She made the sheriffs office look like a goddam whore house. There was no point getting into it right now.
“What can I do for you Sharlene?” I sighed.
I was ducked down across the passenger seat now looking up the hill towards Tommys place. The light was still moving up the hill and had reached the dip at the top before finally disappearing on the other side.
“The 10-37 you attended earlier was a false alarm. The owners are home and it was the cat set the alarm off.”
“Roger, Sharlene thanks for the update.”
I was gonna sign off when I stopped. Now if you know me, then you know thats how uneasy I felt, if you get me. That light had disappeared over the hill towards Tommys place. I had seen Tommy down at Mollys not half an hour ago an since he lost Marge in 94 there was no one up there for sure.
I squeezed the radio handset once more. “Hey Sharlene.”
“I am over at the Tommy Crimson place, I thought I saw somethin up there, probably nothin. Backpackers maybe lost.”
“K.” she droned
“Yeh I’m gonna take a ride over the hill, just to be sure.”
“Dodgy Lodger Alan.” she said.
I was about to complain, but click and she was gone and the darkness fell on me again like a blanket. My heart was beating a little faster now and my palms felt sweaty. I took out my revolver and checked it was loaded and the safety was on, returning it to my holster. I turned the key and slowly pulled out. As I turned up the single track road up to Tommys I put full beam on and hit the blues and twos. The cruiser bounced slowly up the unkept track as I watched the trees reflect the rotating neon lights. It was almost certainly a motorcycle and it had nowhere to go. Tommy kept his gate padlocked and so it must be somewhere right over the hill.
I crawled slowly up to the hairpin right where the road doubled back and could see the ridge up ahead. No sign of anyone either side. The surrounding trees were too thick to handle a motorcycle, even just to hide it off the road. As I crested the hill the hairs on my arms bristled when I saw what I thought was a child standing on the track. As I drew closer I relaxed a little seeing it was the bike, parked up and slightly listing to one side on its stand.
Pulling up behind the machine I unclipped my pistol and reached under the seat for the torch. It was pitch dark outside save for my lights and the full beam headlights. The beam shone like a cave, cutting through the blackness. I reached for the car door and it creaked as I opened it to step out into the darkness.
“Hello.” I shouted. “Anyone here?”
There was a crack of a branch breaking to my right as a buck panicked and bounded deep into the woods.
I was hoping for someone lost, backpackers or suchlike but there wasn’t a sign of anyone. It was days later when I remembered seeing the time and date on the dashboard before I got out of the car. Sometimes I wander if my mind just added that bit in after the trauma.
’12:00 Midnight 31st October 1998’
In the years since, I know that standing there at midnight on Halloween would never have meant a thing to me.
If it weren’t for what happened next.




The Time Travel Paradox

Whenever I attend book signings or events I am asked about the time travel paradox and how it fits in with the books ‘Life on Mars & TVC15’ (latter released in late 2017) Being as both books can be read in either order and make perfect sense. Each book finishes where the last one left off regardless of which order they are read. For this reason they cannot be catagorised as book one and two. That depends entirely on which book you read first. How can this be plausible? Two books set in overlapping time zones which feature the same or similar characters and yet two very different stories.

For the purpose of the book my explanation expands on a common and acccepted space time theory. This follows that space and time are like a loaf of bread and every slice of the bread is our experience of now. We follow our daily lives day by day, slice by slice and feel the passage of time. However the theory goes that in fact the entire loaf exists anyway and always has. At the moment of the Big Bang when the Universe was created everything happened in that instant. Ever single instance, action and decision you make or have made in your life, happened in that single millisecond. From the very first life forms to the last living thing its all there in the loaf. Although time is experienced by us as moving forward in fact it does not, its all predetermined.

But don’t we have choice and the ability to make decisions? It may feel like we do but all the evidence put forward by Einstein suggests we have already made those decisions and our story is written. Our lives and everyone else’s are a bit like a book or film. When we start to watch the film it appears that the characters can decide to do whatever suits their circumstances. We feel tension when they are about to make a wrong move or cheer when they win through. We know its just an illusion and in fact the decisions were made about those lives and interactions way before we decided to watch the story unfold. When we watch the film we can enjoy the illusion of the passage of time, cause and effect. Our hero may well win through in the end but we always knew he would, and he will do so no matter how many times we watch. Its all a lie because the story was written a long time ago and as we experience it to its conclusion then it was always going to end the same way. Unless alternative endings which in themselves are predetermined then everything will follow its expected course.

According to the theories of Einstein this is the case with all of our lives. Your life story is already written from birth to death. Not only your life story but everything leading up to you being born and their stories too. The same applies to your children, grandchildren and so on. You just happen to experience it on a minute by minute, day by day basis. In fact this can be tested using Einstiens theories attributed to time travel. An alien traveling at light speed, hundreds of millions of miles away would, in theory see your past or your future depending on his direction of travel. So at this moment, depending on his frame of reference he could see things that have not happened to you yet? In fact if you were near to the closest star with a powerful telescope looking at Earth. What you see would be the you doing whatever you were doing 4 years ago. Many quantum science experiments support the theory with compelling evidence. We get up in the morning and go to bed at night, getting slowly older and living with our decisions. Our illusion of time is no big deal to us on a day to day basis. The fun for me started when I introduced actual time travel and two books that take place in the same time zone with the same characters. It seemed to me quite plausible that I could take this theory a stage further. Its worth having some fun with because there’s no detail provided in the book itself.

Now lets take two characters A and B. Character A is very old and is frozen in time cryogenically for 500 years. He has effectively existed for that time in his freezer before being thawed out. In the future they are able to give him a much younger and healthier body. But what if character A could be sent back to when he really was that age, say 22 years old. How could it be that he would not meet himself. The original guy would presumably be at his house, being 22 and doing whatever he might have been doing at the time. Surely there would now be two guys who are identical with the latter having no idea who this clone is? Without giving too much of the story away perhaps the guy who travelled back in time just creates a new and more interesting life than his other self?

None of the story detail matters here but the problem for readers and the solution are fun.

Point one is that both these characters have already done everything as laid out in the spacetime loaf. However because the old man went back in time with a young body to live his life differently theres a small ripple in the loaf. Kind of like when the dough folds over and bakes bit on the top. Thats what has happened with these two lives. The loaf isn’t different in any way no matter which slice you experience. Every single detail of the world exists in both the main loaf and the fold in the dough. Everything else would exist for each individual, the Sydney Opera House, Tower of London and his pet cat. The only difference in each dimension would be the other person who has traveled in time. Character A and B are the same person and so as far as either is concerned their opposite character does not exist and never has. A grain of flour in the fold will experience the loaf in an identical way as one in the main loaf. In this way they are effectively living in a different world and yet could never know that. So that makes it impossible for them to meet because neither exists in each others dimension. Either character could spend a lifetime searching and never be able to find the other because they have never been there. So just like every other event in our lives or the characters lives, even the time travel and its consequences are predetermined. So with a slight twist to excepted science I am able to produce the two books where each leads into the next and where the first one you read is either prequel nor sequel.

Thats entirely your choice.

Forget Bowie

Forget David Bowie because maybe he wants us to forget him? Thats what seems to be going on right under our noses? In European Countries I am hearing that lots of people are discovering data in regard to David Bowie is being restricted or removed in accordance with the EU’s right to be forgotten laws. This European legislation gives us all the right to have our content removed from the servers of Google and any other. At the moment its effecting mainly images and it makes me wonder whats going on, after all someone has to physically implement that restriction and there are a number of explanations.

I am hoping its perhaps a wonderful artistic gesture from the man himself and in light of what we know about him it would be no surprise. One final artistic act, like a painter taking a tin of emulsion to his finest work in a fit of rage. I imagine Mr Jones would smile to himself at the idea of being erased from our digital history, with the added bonus that he could leave behind such mischief for our data masters to deal with. The sheer thought of a full-time team of Google interns frantically trying to find and remove his online presence would be a delight to us all. Think “pop up ads relevant to your recent searches” and it fills the heart with joy. The right to be forgotten law is usually applied when people wish to remove some historical misdemeanour. Being caught shoplifting when you were 14 or an unspent indecent exposure conviction (Urinating in an alley). David Robert Jones was guilty of one or two for sure, the odd dubious acting performance or maybe the Scary Monsters album? If you never made a mistake then you never achieved anything as they say, or something like that.
Another explanation could be that the milk processors may be to blame? Milk processor is my name for those who may wish to make a very good living out of relatives much more talented than they will ever be, even after their demise. Selling full colour framed prints and previously unreleased recordings of them singing happy birthday and such like. The milk processors usually come out of the woodwork once a great man or woman has departed. (See Beatles, Elvis, Jesus) It doesn’t strike me that theres a desire within the Bowie estate to mar the memory of the great man with such tat, so its an unlikely explanation. There’s little chance we’ll see the release of “David Bowie answerphone recordings 1973–2016 Volume one. Incidentally if we do then I’ill buy it just so theres no gap in my collection.

Alternatively and thinking outside the box from my own experience maybe its haircuts? He sported quite a few in his day and I can only site Chris Waddle as an example. Whilst sitting round drinking one night I attempted to explain how I once had a Chris Waddle perm. When I described the monstrosity I was treated with stares of disbelief and gaping jaws. Imagine a straight side parting on top with a bunch of curls on the back of the head, yes I know. On windy days it looked like someone had attached an octopus to the back of my head. Their reaction was more than the fact Chris Waddle could sport such a head piece but that I actually had any hair at some time in my life. I decided to prove my point and Google it, only to find it had been completely wiped from the internet. Or was it Glen Hoddle I’m not sure?
Either way we may one day sit around chatting in some virtual world and reminisce about the fellow with the spikey red hair that wore a frock, what was his name now? Musician, you know he did that film about falling out of the sky. Oh God It’s on the tip of my tongue. Hang on I’ll Google it. Only to find he has been de-Googled just like Chris Waddle and everyone thinks your making it up.

In all likelihood David Bowie is responsible and has made his wishes quite clear to Google being of sound mind etc. If it happens that he has decided to erase himself then surely we have the right to appeal, like you do in a last will and testament. We have a strong case too, after all he is kind of ours isn’t he? I’ve said it before but theres a whole generation who have never known life without him. And another thing, it seems he never went anywhere without a photographer ready to take a quick snap whenever the mood took him, a swoon here and a pose there. Much of it was very pre iPhone as well which meant film, cameras, chemicals and paper. Thats just a lot of hard work and effort so to suddenly now decide to deprive us of it all makes no sense. If that’s their attitude then we might as well go down to the V & A and put a match to the lot of it, and stop off at Madame Tousauds and the Imperial War Museum on the way back.
Do what you will Google, change history if you like but come round to my house and ask me to handover my Ziggy Stardust poster and you’ll leave with a bloody nose and you wont forget that in a hurry sunshine.

Bowie Fans Saddest Day

I was humbled to be the first spokesperson on BBC breakfast television last week after the news broke of David Bowies death. It wasn’t a position I felt I wanted or deserved to be in and yet there I was.
The press wanting to respond to the story and a quick web search had found my novel ‘Life on Mars’ inspired by his work. In the days afterwards a reader had pointed out to me the irony of the first page. It depicts the main character with a terminal illness and was written around 18 months ago. All in complete ignorance of future events and is clearly inspired by David Bowie.
The news of his death had broken around an hour before and the USA had yet to wake up to it, UK social media was buzzing with rumours first thing. Before the news was able to sink in I was on live national TV on behalf of Bowie fans across the world.
In the heat of that moment I mentioned that the death of anyone in the public eye was like clicking of a cog, and how the world changes just a click at a time. What I meant was, in a way the world we live in changes ever so slightly when we lose someone either in the public eye or privately. Across history its the tiniest click in a single direction but they all add up. Bit by bit over time until one day we find ourselves in a different world with different hero’s, villains and allies.
David Bowie was someone we always expected and knew would be there. Unlike many aging artists he was producing right up to his death at 69 and it looks likely he will do so beyond that. If you are 50 years old or less then there has always been a David Bowie to love, hate or be annoyed and frustrated by. He was not just a part of musical culture but world culture.
In that respect he is like any other celebrity in that we all feel like we own a piece of him, he is ours and we know him. Theres nothing wrong with that but it struck me a few days after his death that I might want to accept that I didn’t own any part of him.
To someone he was a loving husband, father or friend. If theres one thing I had to try and consciously understand it was that like millions of others I may have loved his role, his performance or public persona. In truth I recognised that to those who knew the real human being its very different. They were the friends and family who have been through a long and difficult illness knowing the inevitable truth was just around the corner.
I hope those people stay strong.
As for the rest of us I suppose we will have to come to terms with the fact that the cogs have just shifted forward one more click, maybe even twice and the world we know has changed again, a lot more than it usually does in these circumstances.