Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Light Gate Chapter One

Ok.  After reading this I am scared:

And this makes me bring forward the first chapter of my novelization of The Light Gate my long gestated Cold War rock opera.  I am no writer of prose.  I am a musician.  I never intended for the following to be public consumption but sometime things change.  Something changed tonight.   God bless.

The Light Gate

On the counter-point of darkness
Stand my glass gates
On foundations of light,

That guide with a brilliant beam
Holds the blinded navigator
Still searching for his sight,

And this magic light show
Has now begun
Like a razor sharp laser
Brighter than the sun.

Chapter One:  In Polished Destruction

He remembered them from his childhood.  Standing out on the horizon from his parent’s bedroom window as the heavy red orange summer sky hung like satin from the heavens to the ground.  Twenty or so steel towers stretching up to the setting sun in the West.  They were thin and delicately structured forms; intertwining strings of metal precisely strung and rigidly linked together.  He thought that they were beautiful and when dusk was settling he always thought that they were at their best.  That’s when lights came on like bright ruby beacons becoming more brilliant as the darkness came down.

When the night came and the sky was dark - Coca cola dark as he called it – you could see them bright and clear.  Like hundreds of red stars in the near distance, he told his four year old self.  They were awake through the night and being scared of the dark he took great comfort in this.  He thought of them as friends.
He asked his mother once about them.  “They’re radio masts, dear” she explained “those lights are there so that aeroplanes don’t fly into them at night”.  

“Clever!” he thought. They were very clever.

The dark brown Vauxhall Cavalier pulled up outside the fish and chip shop in Hilmorton, a small suburb of Rugby, Warwickshire.  Rugby was famous for its radio masts, some of the biggest ever built. They were first brought to life on New Year’s Day 1926.  In 1927, the site grew and provided the first transatlantic commercial telephone service connecting New York to London; at its peak it hosted twelve 250ft aerials.

As well as scientific research and telegram messaging, it was also used to communicate with the Royal Navy submarine fleet under the call sign, GBR.  It was where the BBC broadcasted its electronic time code pips on Radio 4, the ticking clock at the heart of the United Kingdom’s psyche since 1972. 

It is 1985.  The year that Gorbachev became Secretary General of the Communist Party and three years before he becomes Head of State of the Soviet Union.  The Doomsday Clock is at three minutes to midnight according to the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists , the closest the world has been to nuclear apocalypse since 1952 and the invention of the Hydrogen Bomb.  Time has moved on since then with East and West Cold War rivals posturing for the dominance of their competing systems with easily enough fire power to annihilate life on the earth. 

In the early 1980s the Soviet Union began developing a Doomsday fail deadly deterrence called The Dead Hand.   Should a nuclear strike is detected by seismic, light, radioactivity and overpressure sensors it would automatically launch its nuclear arsenal of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) at their pre-destined targets by computer control.  One accident.  One incident.  And the world would be ravaged by annihilation. 

Outside the fish and chip shop the little boy waited with his mother as his father brought a bag to the car with the warm smell of batter, cod and fried potato.  The heaters were on in the car and he felt snug in the back seat with a soft glow from the digital display of the in car radio.  Outside rain came down and the street lights shone on the road in the early night. 

The 7pm Radio 4 news started and the father turned up the car’s radio.  Blip.  Blip. Blip. Blip. Blip. Blip. Blip.  Beep. As car turned around to head home his parents listen intently to the headline news and after a silence break into conversation about the story that they’ve just heard.
“That’s us” the mother says, sounding concerned.
“W-w-hat’s us, Mummy?” asked the little boy, he was still learning to speak and had a terrible stutter.  He didn’t like the tone in her voice.
“It’s the radio masts.  If the Russians launched an attack, we would be at Ground Zero” his mother said matter of factly, as though she was resigned to an immovable fact.
“What’s g-g-g-round zero?”, he knew what zero was.  It was a numberless number.  He’d just learnt about that at school.  Zero meant nothing.

“Well, it means that if there was a war, the radio masts would be the first thing that they would try to bomb and if the Royal Navy don’t hear the Today programme pips two days in a row or something like that, then they attack the Russians”.

“Does that mean we would die?” the little boy was worried.  He didn’t want his parents to die.  He felt protective of them.  The radio masts looked a long way away when he watched them from his parent’s window, he wondered if he could do something to save them.

“Yes” she replied.  “But don’t worry…we wouldn’t know a thing”.

Tucked up on the top of his bunk bed the little boy felt uneasy.  He was worried about the Russians and their bombs.  He felt comfort from the landing light falling through the window above his bedroom door but he could feel a distant terror.  He snuggled up with his favourite teddy bear and hid himself under the blankets.
He’d never really known fear like this before.  It was his first taste of something that felt really bleak.  He couldn’t sleep, so stayed awake for hours with his young mind imagining the darkness falling over his towers.  The corners of his bedroom grew darker, so dark that he thought he could see things living in them like they were in another world.  He had visions of the destruction hanging over his world.
26th April 1986.  01:23H.  Chernobyl, Russia.  Engineers are undertaking a systems test at the nuclear power plant near the city of Pripyat on the border of Belarus in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.  A sudden power serge causes a reactor vessel to rupture.  A series of violent steam explosions damage the structure to expose the graphite moderator to the air resulting in a fire bursting up into the night sky spreading a plume of highly radioactive fall out up into the earth’s atmosphere containing four hundred times more radioactive material than in the first atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

27th April 1986.  The little boy’s mother ran out into the street of a small Northamptonshire cul-de-sac.  She found in one of his favourite haunts at the end of the road playing with one of his friends.
“Darling, I need you to come inside.  Its nothing to worry about” she said trying to hide her mild panic “I just want you to come inside.  There’s some kind of toxic cloud that they talked about on the news.  Something to do with Russia.”

“Can Charlie come?” the little boy asked, gesturing toward his best friend.
The mother said that she better check with his parents and walked the boys to the house across the road.  Soon afterward he walked with his mother up to their family’s semi-detached house that sat up at the top of the road.  There was a dense wooded embankment running alongside the road with a wire fence and a long strip of grass between.  Charlie’s mother had thought it was best that he stayed inside his own home.

He watched the television news in the living room with big windows that looked out onto the road.  “Those Russians” he thought “they’re rubbish”.  The television said it was an accident but with an unshakeable impression that it was the result of inept operation and poor maintenance.  There was it seemed to his young mind another notch on the meter of bad things that could happen.  Maybe the Russians would be too busy to fight a war and bomb him.  Edward Sun slept soundly that night. 

Shortly after the extensive environmental devastation brought on by the Chernobyl incident - that poisoned the heart of the Soviet Union with pollution mainly affecting Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine, as well as much of Western Europe to a lesser extent - Glasnost, or as it translates ‘publicity’ meaning transparency became the dominant movement within Soviet politics.  Ultimately, it is seen as the process by which the Soviet Union led by Mikhail Gorbachev began to re-assess its modus operandi and led to the federation’s collapse in the late 1980s and until 1991 when the Doomsday Clock reversed back to 17 minutes to midnight.

The world breathed a sigh of relief.  Nuclear war no longer seemed like an immediate threat.  In the United Kingdom, Irish republicans bombed shopping centres and banks across in England.  In Belfast, a civil war raged between paramilitary terrorist organisations and the authorities of both sides.  The bombs were different and as the little boy grew into an awkward teenager, he didn’t worry too much about them.

On September 11th 2001, Edward Sun was working in a munitions factory building parts for the Queen’s personal jet when the news broke.  Nobody paid much attention when the newscaster’s voice crackled over the speaker.  A plane had flown into a New York skyscraper.  Details were scarce at the time and his Mind’s Eye he imagined a little single prop light aircraft. 

Gradually the provincial radio DJ began to play more sedate, melancholic music as the extent of the Al Queda attack on the Twin Towers in New York emerged.  The news then came in that a second aircraft had followed, which began to ring alarm bells.  He decided to forego the promised over time he had booked in to get home and watch the news on television as it came in.  His co-workers sneered at him for being so earnest as he left but he was excited by the news; it seemed like something important was happening.
When he got home the television were pictures looked apocalyptic, huge plumes of heavy dust laden smoke stretching up into the sky.  It was surreal.  He felt enthusiastic about engaging with the drama unfolding; they’d even managed to hit the Pentagon.  Even though it was happening in a land far, far away he knew enough to know that the repercussions and went to bed that night a little drunk and half suspecting that the United States would drop a nuclear bomb somewhere that night.

The terrorist plan had been ingenious.  Their approach to death was chillingly practical.  Fly a plane into a building and kill three thousand people.  Their fatal commitment to religion lethally more so.
 A new war had seemingly begun but it still seemed remote.  The newspapers, television commentators and politicians all seemed to stress the great severity of what had happened.  World leaders expressed condemnation and promised vengeance but as time marched on it started to ring a little hollow; there would be no turning point just a slow, bloody pursuit of those responsible that would in the process claim the lives of many innocent people until Western pride could be restored.

The same leaders conspired to use the whole affair as a shameless opportunity to preach fear and remove the odd dictator or two for economic gain until nobody – except the devout, insane and blindly patriotic - quite knew which side of good and bad they lived on.

Edward Sun found himself living in a strange world.  He had grown to become awkwardly gregarious by nature, serious and intellectual.  Hugely driven but with a capacity for self-destructive idiocy; he sneered at his peer’s sense of fun, particularly in pleasure derived from creative pursuit other than that that he derived from his own inexplicable global view.  He thought that tortured artists were self-indulgent but justified his own self-indulgences as a necessary part of his creative process.  His deep introspection led him to troubling guilt over the contradictions in his high self-minded value system.

It was a gamble.  If he delivered, it would all be worthwhile.  If he didn’t  then he’d be a fraud, a failure or dead.  There was no rational line of mediation between the two.  The battle lines were drawn indelibly in his psychology.  One man and his guitar can change the world.

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