The Book

Part 1 – Chapter 1

He glanced over and the number plate of the passing car caught his eye just long enough to see the numbers 444 flash past. Woken from his day dream he paused and looked around at the street. Everything seemed just as he remembered it, the usual high street with the hustle and bustle of Saturday shoppers. It was then that he noticed he’d stopped next to the narrow cobbled alley that led to the older part of town. It was out of his way but the route afforded a more scenic view. He did have time so decided to take the detour.

The alley meandered like a river flowing with the contours of the hillside passing an array of curios shops and cafe’s until he came to an old fashioned bookshop that for some reason he knew was there but always surprised him when he saw it. There was a warm feeling and a reassuring smell that reminded him of the delight of holding and opening books. There really wasn’t time to stop but there it was and for some reason he felt compelled to just browse for a moment or two. And that’s when he saw it, The Book sitting in the window. It was plain and slim with a striking irregular gold foil symbol boldly on the cover. He knew instantly that he had to have it. Stepping up to the counter he completed the purchase with co-incidentally the exact amount of money he had in his pocket. He then sequestered the book away in the inner pocket of his bag and instantly forgetting about it, he hurried off to meet the appointment he felt sure he was now late for.

***

Dashing now instead of idling through the lanes that circumnavigated the auspiciously aligned church with its unique spire, he arrived at the cafe on the far side of town. Somewhat flustered he established himself at his favourite table overlooking the duck pond and waited. And waited.
She was late.
Convincing himself he was enjoying looking at the swan and was not in the least bit annoyed at the lateness of his friend he wondered what else he could do. Then he remembered the book he’d purchased and decided to take a quick look. He was hoping to savour the moment for a quiet special place but he was irritated and bored and needed a distraction, so reaching into the inner pocket of his bag he removed the book. He gazed lovingly at the mysterious gold foil symbol and admired its intricacy and simplicity. Picking it up he took a deep breath and smelt the cover and pages taking in all the subtle feelings and memories that a new book smell evoked. He opened it and began to read:

Have you ever found yourself waiting for someone who’s late and convincing yourself that it doesn’t matter you feel that they don’t value your time and you’re getting more and more irritated?

Just then the cafe door bell chimed and his friend entered. She greeting him with a warm smile. Feeling somewhat stunned his usually active mind went blank and a strange uncomfortable emptiness seemed to engulf him.
“What’s wrong, you look like you’ve seen a ghost!” She exclaimed “You’re not annoyed I’m late are you?”
“No, no not at all I was just away with the fairies.”
“Ok I was worried a moment there, you know how crazy my life is, sorry I’m late.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s really no bother.”
The conversation continued much the way it always had as the old friends caught up and enjoyed a coffee together. All the while he was somewhat distracted, the incident with the book had shaken something within that reverberated for the duration of the meeting and continued for the rest of the afternoon. He simply must sit down later by himself and look at this book properly.

***

Back home he finally had a moment to himself and settled down to really take a close look at the book. He had a curious feeling that this was a special moment in his life, a turning point. He opened it paying extra attention this time and working carefully from the beginning he turned to the first page. It was blank. He turned another four more blank pages. The sixth contained the symbol from the cover and the seventh was the paragraph he’d already read. He turned to the next page and continued:

Awkward moments do you:
a) Get up and walk out respecting your own time then promise to tell your friend how you really feel next time you see them.
b) Sit there, bury your feelings and pretend you’re ok and this is part of flowing with life.

Just then a loud siren screamed past the window and shattered the peace as an emergency vehicle flew down the road. As he looked up his phone rang startling him again. Exasperated he looked over it read ‘unknown caller’ 4:44 pm. Once again caught between thoughts his mind froze and time stood still. He made a snap decision, he closed the book firmly annoyed at being disturbed again and answered the phone.
“Yes” he snapped.
“Hello? Ah yes sorry to bother you, it’s about the music ad in the paper for a drummer in the band, have I got the right number?”
“Yes, yes, that’s right if you’re interested the next practice is tomorrow in the barn next to the church 6pm.”
Uncharacteristically he hung up, irritated by the interruptions that had conspired to ruin his special moment. He sat back in the chair and started to think about everything that had happened.

***

Next day on the train to work he had time to think, what was it with this number 444, how can his own life situation be uncannily mirrored in this book. He’d left it at home not wanting to open it again until he had enough time to take in the experience. He wasn’t sure but it seemed that it was important to really make the most of reading each page of The Book. His was the next stop and he waited by the exit as the train pulled up. The doors opened to reveal a strikingly beautiful girl waiting with open arms or so it seemed. Momentarily confused they held each others gaze, something was exchanged between them in that split second and then, as if the pause button had been released life abruptly continued and the man directly behind him pushed past and into her waiting arms. He stepped out of the way and onto the platform and wondered if that moment had been real. He shook his head as if to wake himself up and strode purposefully along the platform to the exit.

***

It wasn’t long before he was on his way home again on the return journey after another tedious day at work, something in his life had to change he thought. From the station he began winding his way through the alley’s and lanes on his way back.
He was distracted from the familiar journey by something on the edge of his awareness, he couldn’t make it out at first, then it slowly dawned on him what was different, sound. There was a strange pulse or should it be disturbance on the edge of his awareness. The sound came in and out of focus as he traversed the lanes. Chaotic at first and unharmonious, the unruly sounds focused into a cacophony of overlapping beats. The more he listened to the hopelessly unmusical rhythms the more he was repulsed by their disregard for rhythmic order and structure that was normally so pleasing to his ear. Just then a break in the clouds caught his attention and a shaft of sunlight burst through and seemed to directly illuminate the lane that led towards the church. Why not he thought and took the path offered.

As he stepped onto the cobbled lane something shifted in his inner awareness, or perhaps it was because the rhythm had become louder. Whatever it was he was sure that for a split second, if he really listened carefully he could discern a perfectly formed rhythm hiding inside the chaos. Could it be true. Not trusting his senses he listened more critically and all he could hear was the chaos again even though nothing had changed. Very strange. He walked on and it happened again just when he wasn’t expecting it, the rhythm came into sharp focus and became the most alluring hypnotic rhythm he’d ever heard. It was like it was from another world that was full of magic and mystery and seemed to be affecting his body physically. Then, just like the famous black and white picture of two faces and a candelabra, the faces disappeared and all he could hear now was the musical equivalent of the candelabra. He felt compelled to find the source of this strange magical rhythm.

***

The rhythm, or was it music, was getting louder as he approached the church and seemed to be coming from somewhere near by. Someway off a black cat crossed his path from left to right, it seemed portentous, but what meaning he could not guess. Getting closer now all of a sudden it all clicked into place. He glanced at his watch it was 6.30pm, he had completely forgotten about the phone call and his arrangement for band practice with the new drummer. Why had he said today at 6pm when previously they’d decided to cancel band practice. He’d forgotten all about it and he now knew he’d been listening to the new drummer he’d instructed to meet him at 6pm. He was now late and hurried the remainder of the way and stood in the entrance to the barn. He listened transfixed in wrapt primal amazement to the otherworldly wizard of the drums.

Though the rhythm was intricate and hypnotic there was a sense of openness that seemed to invite the listener to take part in the rhythm with an instrument or to move their body in some way. It was then he realised he didn’t have his guitar and his urge to join in had been confounded. Frustrated with himself he looked for an alternative. Finding nothing suitable and instinctively realising some moments don’t come along twice, he took the only option he felt was left to him and started to dance. He let his limbs be moved by the strange pulsing beats and gave himself over to the rhythm, he was hooked. Alone in the barn with the drum wizard he let himself move freely. Casting aside his inhibitions he wanted to understand this new magical rhythm completely and the only way to do this was to let his body absorb the pure living energy of the beats into the very fabric of his body.

***

Compelled to move right until the final beat he collapsed letting the experience sink in, his mind that had been totally absorbed was now starting to regain its former activities. A special atmosphere hung in the air, a tangible silence holding an invisible connection not just between the two of them but extended to the objects in the room, the room itself and out into the street beyond. The drum wizard started packing away the drums and that’s when his attention was drawn to a gold symbol on one of the cases, it looked uncannily like the symbol on the cover of The Book except this one had an oriental flavour. Connections where being made deep in his subconscious, new insight to be revealed when the time was right.

Exhausted he watched mesmerised as the drum wizard carefully packed the final drum away in reverential silence and headed for the door. The wizard turned around at the entrance and announced boldly,
“Same time, same place, full moon.”
And with that disappeared from the barn.
Still in some kind of daze he shook himself and strode after him through the open door to find the street empty. In disbelief he glanced around. A car engine started out of sight and then the car came around the corner and drove past. Expecting to see the drummer he was utterly amazed to meet the eyes of the girl from the train station, and then she was gone. Did she remember him, he was sure he saw an instant of recognition in her eyes.

***

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Continues in Chapter 2