Best-selling author of 'The Little Voice', 'Occupied' and 'Involution & Evolution'

JOSS SHELDON

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1899

 

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As Alfred plays near those ticking-clocks, he starts to contract this bout of smallpox; which leaves him struggling in vain. This disease passes over his tongue, descends towards his lung; and ascends towards his brain. It covers him in pus-filled pimples, pus-filled dimples; and pus-filled pain.

Seeing Alfred like this makes his Mother start to panic, and become manic; so she takes him to see his Doctor. She takes him past this block of flats, this pack of rats; and that rather hairy Proctor.

The year is 1899.

A Norwegian Clerk is designing the modern paper-clip one afternoon, an American Astronomer is discovering Saturn's ninth moon; and a German Chemist is registering 'Aspirin' as a trademark. In the Netherlands a treaty on war is being signed by diplomats in national-costumes, in America a new society is leaving bibles in hotel rooms; and in Australia a cyclone is spreading in the dark. Whilst the British travel to war in South Africa again, in a tram-truck-and-train; and a boat which looks like an ark.

But Alfred can only focus on his Doctor's crooked-lip, crooked-hip; and dusty-drug. Which his Doctor forces down, with water which looks brown; inside this dirty-mug.

Alfred's Mother carries him out of this surgery and along these paths, past those public-baths; and back home for a period of isolation. Because smallpox is rather egregious, and rather contagious; as it spreads its brand of damnation.

And so Alfred's Mother makes a fuss, cleans Alfred's pus; and helps him to flee from his disease. She changes his dressings, recites some blessings; and gives him some lumps of cheese.

She cares for Alfred all on her own, here in their family home; where they have both been confined. For Alfred's Father is a soldier who has gone to war, with his army-corps; and left them both behind.

His Father has left Alfred in this state of sickness-soreness-and-stillness, but Alfred fights his illness; and overcomes his ordeal. His pimples turn into thirty-two scars, these stigmata which look like stars; and will never fully heal.

These marks surround Alfred's eyes of smoky brown-quartz, and these three brown-warts; as Alfred's form takes shape all over. With cocoa-coloured hair, which flutters in the air; and these cheekbones which his Mother calls 'The White Cliffs Of Dover'.

"These cliffs of yours will be attracting seagulls before too long, my little-soldier," she says as she picks this clover. "Look at me. There aren't any oceans which need a breakwater like this! There aren't any navies planning to invade your face, my wonderful-warrior. Oh, whatever shall I do with you and all your mischity, Alfred Freeman? I really don't know! I-don't-I-don't-I-don't."

Alfred's Mother is referring to Alfred's habit of stacking things up in piles, whilst he skips-shimmies-and-smiles; as his character also takes shape. As he scrambles up climbing-frames, plays infantile-games; and gets into many a scrape.

As the only child in a house without a dad, Alfred's presence stops his Mother from going mad; and so she coddles him more than is the norm. She takes him to the countryside, and to the seaside; when it is windy and when it is warm.

She makes him play-dough, and puts on a puppet-show; to give him stimulation. She reads to him, takes him to swim; and sings without cessation.

She takes Alfred to see these billowy-trees, who spend each winter losing their leaves; only to grow them back the summer after. And she rocks him on her knees, and gives his cheeks a squeeze; which leaves him in fits of childish-laughter.

So an appeal for 'Saturn and Jupiter's children' in this feuilleton-section, inspires her to take Alfred in a whole new direction; past these Workmen with noisy-drills. Past this Boy who waves this stake, this loch-lagoon-and-lake; and those satanic-looking mills. This rabbit who is caught in a trap, this Goatherd who is taking a nap; and that row of giddy-hills.

They arrive at this farmhouse which is surrounded by brown-wheat, brown-peat; a brown-awning and a brown-deck. Where they meet this Receptionist who has rings on her fists, bangles on her wrists; and chains all around her neck.

"Do you know who I am?" She asks with a jiggle.

"Ye-ye-ye-yes," Alfred replies with a giggle. "You are Ācariya. Ācariya! Teacher Ācariya."

The Receptionist closes her turquoise-eyes, lifts her chin towards the skies; and starts to glow. Alfred mirrors her movements, with his own improvements; and his own sort of natural-flow. Whilst his Mother becomes bemused, and confused; by this peculiar sort of show.

Until she is met by these three eastern Astrologers who are wearing regal-crowns, royal-gowns; and robes which look sublime. These men were inspired when Jupiter-and-Saturn aligned, to search and find; the children who were born at that time. So they take Alfred into this room, which contains this broom; and those dusty bottles of wine.

"We're going to show you two items together," this Tall Astrologer begins to chime. "All you have to do is point to the one which you prefer."

Alfred picks these prayer-beads in woody-tones, ahead of that necklace made from precious-stones; precious-gems and precious-pearls. He picks this ancient wooden-drum, ahead of that trumpet made from golden-crumb; golden-buttons and golden-curls. And he picks this ascetic's cane, ahead of that staff from a tyrant's reign; which was used to beat little-girls.

He puts the beads around his neck whilst he sucks his thumb, he creates a happy-beat on this ancient-drum, and he points this stick at the sun.

Before he chooses between battered-flasks, decorative-masks; and bronze-bells. Scented-soaps, woven-ropes; and seashells.

Without any obvious explanation, the Astrologers always respond with veneration; contented-eyes and contented-smiles. Until Alfred chooses one watch above another, when he is reunited with his Mother; who is unaware of these secretive-trials.

This Redheaded Astrologer gives her the gold which Alfred chose, whilst he brushed his clothes; and rejected some silver-coils. This Tall Astrologer gives her the frankincense which Alfred chose, whilst he scratched his nose; and rejected some scented-oils. And this Bald Astrologer gives her the myrrh which Alfred chose, whilst he smelled a rose; and rejected some stolen-spoils.

"You have a very special child," he says whilst he rubs his lumps, bumps; and boils. "He's destined to either become a mighty-soldier, who'll rule from north-to-south and east-to-west, or a great teacher who will enlighten humankind.

"If you allow him to walk his own path through life, he'll bring you untold joy-honour-and-glory. But if you stand in his way, he'll bring you untold sorrow-suffering-and-pain."

Alfred's Mother lifts her chin upwards, pulls her shoulders backwards; and blushes with maternal-pride. Before the Tall Astrologer gives her this garment, with this ancient-parchment; folded up inside...

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