So Fades the Day is a novel about a dying man lying in his bed reflecting on his life, both the good points, and the bad. This is one of the few novels which I have written that foes not have any fantastical elements. It was back when I still possessed illusions about becoming a literary author, as well as a fantasy one.
As people may have noticed, I am attracted to dark and morbid themes in my writing. Perhaps by putting those things on paper I can exorcise some of the darkness within me. I feel that without the ability to write that it is doubtful that I would still be extant. I would have seen my personal sunset instead, and faded away to be nothing other than a memory in the minds of those who have known me.
A fair number of my views have gone into the storyteller in the novel. But the character is not me, even though he might have a couple of facets of my personality. But it is definitely not the author. Unlike the dying man, I have never experimented with hallucinogens, for example.
In writing,, I can be an actor, a man of many parts. I can have the protagonists be all of the things which I never will. I can have them spouse views which I would never say. An author, through his creations, can vicariously live out a hundred lives, whether tramp or murderer or thief, with no danger accruing, no blain upon the author’s soul.
Sometimes it can be fun to be such a miserabilist.
Extract from So Fades The Day
…into the grey, into the black; unto death. And here I was, in a bed I would never leave, surrounded by books which I will never read. Some have been devoured, their knowledge stored, but too few. Goodbye, Plato, I will never venture into your Republic. Au revoir, Derrida, I always intended to read you, but never did. Now it is too late. Not that you care, as you, like Plato, are dead. All the good men are dead.
What will become of this data once I am dead? It will dissipate, with the passing of my life. All the things that I have read will be gone, and for what? Sometimes I wonder why I became an author in the first place. Fewer and fewer people read books with the passage of each cruel year. There will come a time that everything I have written will be lost, the books pulped, the printed page no more. Perhaps there will be some stories, still being written, and presented in some electronic format. But they will not be books. You will not be able to pick up and admire them, or enjoy the heady scent of a freshly published novel, or luxuriate in the musky odour of some older book, pages turned crinkly, or mottled by time.
What of libraries then, those buildings which gave power? Will they be but empty shells? Or will they have long been transformed into coffee bars and cybercafés? Ah, yes, those ubiquitous coffee chains, with their coffee-flavoured milk, how much I detest them, I hate them with all my heart! They are all the same, but provide the illusion of choice.
I hate everything of the Americana which is invading this once green, once pleasant land. I hate the television shows that seem to be the staple of most broadcasters. Not that I know the full fare that is available on digital television, as I have stuck resolutely to the five channels which are available on terrestrial television. Too late now, I think, for me to have my mind poisoned by Sky. The day is far too late for that; the sun is falling for the last time, perhaps.
I was propped up in my funereal bed, the white sheets becoming my shroud. Two pillows supported my back, as I surveyed this last chamber of my life. A book lay open and half read beside me. It was In Search of Lost Time. I feared I will finish it not.
The curtains were closed against the dwindling winter’s light. Artificial illumination came from the bedside lamp to my right. It appeared dimmer than once it was. If I did not better I would have sworn that some scheming kinsman of mine had replaced its bulb, reducing its wattage by 20 or more. But I do not see how they could have had the opportunity; so I must conclude that it is my own sight which grew dim.
I could hear cars, in the distance, coming near; even here, in a small village the wrong side of Offa’s Dyke, in the opinion of my English brethren. This village, which for so long has been my place of solace, and escape from all the vain intricacies of our modern, pernicious lives, will be my place of death. And I would not wish it to be any other way.
Here I was, far from the madding crowd (to steal from Thomas Hardy), far from the world of commerce and Pop Idol, from thieving, impecunious politicians and newspaper knaves. Yet even here the world intruded, as it must. For although the railway was over forty years gone now, the roads increase in size, the volume of the four wheeled metal coffins grow ever greater, their numbers increasing just as the resources of the world dwindle away. We have eyes, but do not see; we have brains, but do not think.
The volume of those cars outside has stopped. Their engines have been stilled, the poison fumes ceasing, just for a while. Car doors slammed, too close to be for any one but me. I despatched that priest some time ago – so it must be even worse. This must be what passes for my family, cretins all. I hate them. I loathe them. I despise them.
Below, downstairs, I heard the front door open. Ellie, as nice a member of my family as there can be – the faintest praise of all – has let the others into the hall, those luckless, hapless fools who share my surname, for the most. They are an Unholy Host, were there such things as Holy to be Unholy against. I had told Ellie to go home, and leave me be, but she insisted on staying, feeling that her fussing around me constitutes some form of charity.
Charity? Go and give some volumes to Oxfam, let them put more second hand booksellers out of business, if you like. Give money to Christian Aid, so their workers can make themselves feel good, while booking a place in a Heaven which does not exist. Yes, give to charity if you must, so that the right wing government – labour, Tory, two sides of the same worthless coin – can continue cutting back the welfare state. Oh, Dawkins, how I hate charity.
Ellie, you should have obeyed me, you should have gone, and left me to die all on my own, the way I wanted to go: tired, at peace, alone. Now I will have to add your name to my metaphorical little black book, the one with the names of those who I’d like to see up against the wall in my fascist mental state. Come the glorious day… but the glory days are long behind, lost in time, never to be found again. I will have no madeleine moment now.
At least there were not many places for my relatives to stay at, in this village which I have made my home. There was one public house which can put a person or two up for the night, a village pub not yet closed down and sold off, reappearing as some home on a property show. All those millionaire wankers, saying they don’t want to spend more than seven hundred thousand pounds, not realising that it is more money than some people will see in their entire lives. Oh, these happy couples come along, buying up bits of England (and Wales), moving into converted churches or public houses, and then wondering why the nearest services are a long car ride away. Idiots all.
But the Ddraig Goch – that’s the Red Dragon to you, you mono-linguistic fool, guv – will survive. It is not a tied pub, bled dry by avaricious breweries who don’t give a fuck about local communities. It’s run by Dafydd Evans, as sound a landlord as you can ever meet. And in my twilight years I have developed a palate for the real ales which he always has on tap, after a lifetime of drinking nothing but crap. I only wish that I had discovered them sooner.
Not that I am a member of CAMRA, not by any means. Not that I have any intrinsic dislike of campaigns for real ale, no more than I have a dislike for real food, or for real, as opposed to electronic, books. But I am not the sort of person who joins organisations anymore, not if I can help it. Besides, it appears that beards are almost mandatory in CAMRA, and I have always preferred to be clean shaven. Even at the end of the sixties the only facial hair I ever grew was a wispy little moustache, a fashion mistake which I have been wise enough never to repeat.
You can tell the pub by its sign, which is the Welsh flag, hanging proud outside in metal and wood. Even if you don’t speak Welsh you should be able too guess the English version of the pub’s name. But what person goes to a country and does not bother to learn any of the Mother Tongue?
I’ve learned a few Welsh phrases, enough to get by. I have lived here for the last thirty years or so, after all, and I consider myself not to be a Philistine, although my facility with languages other than my own has never been great. But I have seen English people on holiday in my adopted nation, complaining about the fact that the Welsh have been talking in, er, Welsh, as though to do so is somehow rude. Yet these families, in their Japanese cars, with their Spanish tans, are the first people to complain about immigrants coming to Britain and still speaking in Bengali or Hindi or Swahili. Those people, now I come to think of it, sound like my relatives, those who I have done my best to estrange myself from my entire adult life. Obviously I have not been as successful as I would have liked.
The front door has closed. The Ormolu Horde has arrived, ready to pillage what they can. Not so keen on the rapine, though, still infected with British, priggish ways. But where will they stay? No more than a couple will be put up by Evans – and they will need to be polite not to be turned away. Will some of them sleep in their cars, or on the floor of my sanctum sanctorum, couches pressed into service? I thank Dawkins and Darwin that I do not have a spare bed. Let them be uncomfortable. Let them have bad backs in the morning, if I manage to make it through the night, and drag out my death a little more. Let them suffer for their pointless avarice and fake concern. I care for them not.
I listen, and can hear the susurrus of voices, but none of them are loud enough to make out any individual words. Speak up, you bloody fools I don’t shout. If they are talking about me then I want to know what is being said. Do I not have that right? Am I just some cripple to be talked about behind his back? They had better not be trying to make decisions, not about me, or what is left of my estate.
So tired. I want to sleep. But I know that if I do that I might not wake up again. And I want to have a little fun first, with these mutterers and fools. I want to expend all my remaining vitriol before I die, if only to see the surprise and shock on their faces. Yes, I will be a talking point, a figure of hate, or die trying, ha ha. That last bit was not a joke.
I hear them coming up the stairs, towards my bedroom. The stairs are steep, and the evil part of me hopes that one of them stumbles and falls back down, taking the others with him/her. Timber! But, of course, they don’t. No broken legs or necks, more’s the pity.
They are outside my door. There is a faux respectful knock. I wonder why they bother, and don’t just barge in. Then I realise: they are wondering if I am still alive, or whether I’ve snuffed it, and there is a corpse in my bed, slowly going rigid.
I wonder if I should leave them hanging around outside, discussing as to whether I might be dead. I could try and stay very still, in my bed, holding my breath, pretending to be the dead man who another week will make real. But even I am not quite evil enough to do that, so, with resignation, I bid these relatives enter my room, and see me for the last time.
They do so. They obey me in this, at the least, and come in. All of them come in, and stare at me in my bed. It is lucky that my bedroom is the largest room of my little Welsh house, otherwise there would not have been room for all of them. I do not want them to be crowded too closely to me. I could not bear their greedy faces pressed close to mine. I think that would just about finish me off.
So Fades The Day is available as an e-book on the Amazon Kindle store.