Fiction,  Issue 3

Shatterback by Gary Power

Shatterback is like putting your face through a pane of glass, and then the stench of stagnant pond water fills your lungs. It makes you feel unreal, as though nothing in the world matters, like you’re balancing on a knife-edge of emotions, mainly despair tinged with utter desolation. And then darkness consumes you.

And then, of course there’s the time warp bit; that’s why I call it shatterback.

The first time the shatterback thing happened I thought I was having a seizure.

I’d just left my flat in Chalk Hill road, Wembley. I used to live in a tower block until they redeveloped the area in the nineties. My new home was a street level apartment and it was a lot safer and cleaner than the old place. I’d turned the key in one of those awkward double lock things and walked down the path. I remember fumbling for my cigarettes; I needed that nicotine rush.

It was a crisp morning; clear blue sky but bitterly cold. The air was like ice in my lungs. Everything seemed so sharp and clear. I’d been thinking about my dad – more so just lately. I hadn’t seen him since I was a kid. My old lady kicked him out in the Christmas of  ‘71. Anyway, the shatterback thing happened and suddenly I was back at my front door struggling with the lock again. I just stood there for a couple of minutes and stared.

I was in a daze for a few hours after that, and really tired too. I tried to work out what had happened. It was like I’d gone back in time…but just a few seconds. I didn’t think I really had. I’d had some kind of fit; that was the only explanation. Nothing happened for a few days after that and the whole thing became a sort of vague memory.

I thought about going to my doctor, but what would I say? Hey doc, I think I time warped the other day, a bit like Doctor Who but without a Tardis. Maybe it was just all imagination anyway.

Then it happened again. Some kid, probably 12 or 13 years old ran out of a local shop in front of me. He was being chased by Ali Arkwright; we call him that ‘cause his shop’s a sort of Asian ‘open all hours’ and he does look a bit like a well-tanned Ronnie Barker. The kid had nicked something and he was off like a bullet. He ran into the road, right in front of a car. I heard his leg break like a branch snapping, and then he went flying over the bonnet, onto the roof and into the road behind. There was this sort of soggy thud as he hit the tarmac. The bones in his leg were poking through his skin and blood spurting from the gaping gash. The poor mite was out cold. His head was twisted around too much for my liking.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Ali and me just looked at each other. I thought I was going to be sick; I’m not good with blood or accidents. That was when the shatterback thing happened again.

Anyway, suddenly I was back outside Ali’s Emporium and the same kid is coming out of the shop, but this time I grab him. I guess it was instinct. Ali appears and drags him back inside. The kid swears at me and calls me every name under the sun. He even spits at me, the little bleeder. He didn’t realise I’d just saved his life. And then I turn and see the very car that hit him go by. That was really spooky.

Now I really had something to think about. Nobody would believe me if I told them. I suppose a nutter would, or Derek Acorah, but a normal person wouldn’t, and that’s what I considered myself to be. I mean, I wouldn’t believe someone if they told me what had just happened to me had happened to them – if you know what I mean.

It got me thinking; how could I use the shatterback thing to my advantage? It was like discovering you were the invisible man.

Now there’s this bird, Lucy’s her name, Lucy Allcock…yeah, really. She’s got a Croydon facelift and bottle tan; you know the type. She works in the baker’s shop. She’s always giving me the come on, flirting with her eyes and leaving buttons undone on her blouse. She’s a right tease but trying to get a date with her is useless. Now I could chat her up as many times as I wanted until I got a result.

I was down the local one evening with my step dad Ken; we were talking hypothetically about this shatterback thing with the landlord. We call him ‘google’ ‘cos he’s got an answer for everything and he wasn’t going to let us down tonight. He was surprisingly knowledgeable about time travel and started harping on about causality and conflicting paradox theories. That lost us so I guided the conversation back to Lucy and her cleavage. We chatted about all the things you could do if you could turn the clock back at will. That was all just speculation though. I didn’t have any control over it – that was to come later.

I thought maybe it was linked to stress or some kind of hormone thing, maybe cancer in my brain. I’d get up, wash, have breakfast -all that stuff you do without even thinking. Then I’d go to work and suddenly find myself getting out of bed again. What was that film…when the guy keeps reliving the same day?

Oh yeah, Groundhog Day. Not everything was the same for me though. There were subtle changes; the weather might be different or maybe what people were wearing had changed.

Maybe stuff like this happens to everyone at some time in their lives. Like seeing ghosts or having premonitions. You know, weird stuff that can’t be rationally explained. There’s this religious guy I know, Cosmo, all my mates have nicknames, he told me that it was a spiritual experience, a miracle even, but I said that was a load of crap. I’m not saying I don’t believe in religious stuff – I just have my own opinions and I guess I’m a bit too vocal sometimes.

‘Shatterback man’, that was me. I could wear underpants on the outside of my trousers with SB emblazoned on them. When something bad happened, I’d turn the clock back and make it all better. But I’m not that kind of guy. I don’t think too deeply and I don’t want to save the world. I’m not green or politically correct or any of that rubbish. ‘Keep life simple’, that’s my motto. ‘Live for the moment’; that’s another of my mottos.

I’ve got lots of mottos.

I had a moment of inspiration one night. I’d had a few beers and a pinch of Bob Hope. There was a spooky old black and white movie on TV, some monster chasing a bloke through the trees. I was comfortably chilled and gazing from the window of my flat. It was raining and I was wishing. The sky was dark and moody, and the rain was hammering at the glass and melting the world outside. The wind was howling and it was sort of cosy, just lying there, tucked up under a snug duvet, watching those big, grey clouds drift over London. I found myself thinking about my dad; he died from a head injury when I was a kid after getting into a fight. He was mad about Marc Bolan and went to a legendary gig at Wembley Empire Pool in ‘72, the one Ringo Star made a film about. Mum said he was fanatical about the guy. He even had a tattoo of him on his arm. More importantly, I had an exact time and place, and with shatterback I could do time and places, I just needed to learn how to control it. Apparently, he’d fought his way to the security barrier and been just a few feet away from his idol. 75 pence to see one of the biggest stars of the time, that’s all it cost him.

There was some kind of altercation at the gig. He probably pissed someone off; he was good at that. The story was, they found him lying in a pool of blood. My only legacy was a silk Marc Bolan scarf and the crumpled March 18th concert ticket.

Mike, that was my old man, was no more and the sad thing is we didn’t really miss him, especially mum. If dad wasn’t stoned then he was drunk and belting mum ‘cos she hadn’t left enough of the housekeeping for him to go to the pub. The way he’d fly into a rage used to freak me out. It was like he was possessed. I was just a kid but I still vividly remember the fights. You remember stuff like that, especially when you’re a nipper.

He was a vicious, drunken bastard so it would be easy to spot him, if I ever got there. He had a tattoo of Bolan on his left forearm and a deep scar on his right cheek. There were various stories as to how he got the scar. Most likely it was chatting up some bloke’s missus and getting the thrashing he deserved.

Mum chucked him out the day he cracked my head open because I trod on his cigarettes. It was Christmas and I didn’t have a present because he’d spent the money down at Ladbrokes investing it on a better future for us all. I was upset and stomping around in a mood as any five-year-old would. I never even saw his damned fags. He grabbed me by my shirt and slammed me into the wall like I was a rag doll. He was drunk, as usual, and in a blind rage. I’ll never forget the look on his face as long as I live. I thought he was going to punch me. Instead, he walked out leaving me lying there. Mum slung his clothes onto the path after him, and that was the last we saw of him.

A couple of years later she met Ken. He was more like a father to me than my own dad. But that’s all in the past, so back to the present.

It was three in the morning and I was wide awake. My head was filled with memories of mum, me crying and both of us wishing dad would disappear.

Lightning flashed and the clouds lit up like they had neon lights inside them. A rolling rumble of thunder followed closely after. The rain started up again with a vengeance, and then there was this splintering crack like the world had just split in two. I blinked hard and in that same moment, the room was filled with sunlight.

The clouds were gone and in their place was a blue, cloudless sky. The television was on – one of those morning programmes with feuding chavs and a host who probably had more skeletons in his cupboard than Ted Bundy. I brought up the date; I’d gone back 3 days. I felt great; like I’d had the best nights sleep ever.

Something told me my journey had begun.

I dressed and left my flat with a destination in mind. Another attack was imminent; I could feel it in my bones. But somehow I knew I could hold it off ‘til I was ready. My head felt spongy, as though I wasn’t quite in touch with the world. My thoughts were confused but my objective was clear as day; I was going to meet my dad. Somehow I’d get back to that concert in Wembley and meet him man to man; I had a few questions to ask and a score to settle.

It was all a bit daunting though.  Half a mile and thirty-five years was going to be one hell of a journey.

I was halfway down Chalk Hill road when it happened again. I recoiled as if I’d been shot in the chest, and the world shattered into a million pieces. The fragments reconfigured before my eyes and I found myself in the same place, except for some reason it didn’t feel exactly the same; it was like one of those parallax things Google had talked about.

I’d gone back even further in time. Not just weeks or months, but years. A car slowed up next to me at some traffic lights. Its window was open and the radio blaring. The DJ blurted something about Kylie Minogue being at number one for the fourth week running then he played ‘Can’t get you out of my head’. That song always reminded me of a holiday I had in Torremolinos, which meant the year was 2001. I’d gone back maybe six years and I felt like I’d just been pulled through a gorse bush backwards. I was breathless and gasping like an old man but nothing was going to stop me now. I staggered forwards a few feet and then perched myself on a wall. Shatterback happened again just as I turned left into Bridge road. This time it was the worst ever. I found myself lying on the pavement with people around me. I was dazed and my heart pounding. I thought I was going to hurl as well. Some guy pulled me forwards and asked if I was alright; I just stared at him; I couldn’t get my head into gear. He was wearing a Metallica T-shirt. People looked at me like I was an alien. In a way, I suppose I was. My mobile had fallen out of my pocket but nobody picked it up. They just looked at it like it was a bomb or something. I guess they’d never seen an iPhone before.

A black VW Golf cabrio went by with a 1989 plate on it. It looked like new. I overheard a couple of guys moaning about Maggie Thatcher and poll taxes. ‘She’ll resign in November 1990 and she’ll snuff it in 2013.’ I said knowingly. I was good at trivia. I struggled to my feet and moved on. ‘Stick your money on John Major, then Tony Blair after that.’ I called out.

At times it was like walking through a cosmic battlefield. I was trapped in a shatterback assault. I’d stagger on until another one hit me. The attacks were draining me of energy. I’d probably have a heart attack before I got there. It was going to be harder work than I thought. I was becoming disorientated. It’s like when people say they’re out of their comfort zone. I think I was a million miles from mine. I was in a permanent state of deja vu. People looked at me with this manic sort of stare, like they could see inside my spongy head. It was as if they knew about shatterback. I was becoming paranoid.

My focus was on my destination and date. That was how I could control it. So long as I remained focussed, I would get there. With faith.

Just after the ‘Thatcher’ episode, I found myself suddenly plunged into the middle of a snowstorm. It was bitterly cold, well below zero for sure. I reckon it must have been 2 or 3 in the morning. Everything was soft blues and stark whites. There was no one else around; it was like I was the only person in the world. The snow was driving into me and laying thick on the pavement. The visit was brief but so precious – like being in a fantasy world. The weird thing was, I’d appeared out of nowhere like old Arnie in Terminator, not in the buff though thank God.

Shatterback happened again, almost immediately and I found myself heading in the direction of Wembley Park tube station, only now it was a gloriously sunny day. I’d been walking headlong into the blizzard so when things changed I fell heavily forwards onto the pavement. Several people helped me up. ‘He’s got snow on him.’ said one of the helpful Samaritans. She was right; I was covered in the stuff. The strange thing was, nobody seemed to have noticed that I appeared out of thin air. Maybe I was lurching into a place where I already existed. I remember Google said something about that; he called it astral projection. The best was yet to come though; I recognised a couple of the onlookers. It was my own mother arm in arm with my stepdad, Ken. She could never have guessed it was me. I’d have been about seventeen then; long hair and acne; she was looking at a spaced-out bloke in his early forties. She looked really good, sort of youthful and happy. I think I might have said ‘mum’ without thinking. It just came out. I was looking right at her when I said it. She did stare though, like something registered.

Shatterback happened soon after that meeting. I was ready to move on. I felt good. No aches or pains. Not hungry or thirsty. Somehow I just willed it to happen, and that was it.

I found myself amongst a slow-moving crowd. I mean, literally thousands of people were surging from almost every direction. They were happy, like something really special was happening. My clothes were bone dry. That was a plus, although a little puzzling. I looked around. It didn’t take long for me to realise what was going on. I knew the date immediately; it was July 13th, 1985 – the day of Live Aid. I had been there in my teens and now I was back again as an adult. I wondered if I’d bump into myself, which would have been really freaky. I joined the crowd and made my way towards Wembley Stadium. I could hear Status Quo playing ‘Rockin’ all over the World’. That meant the event was just starting. For a moment I forgot I was trapped in this fragmented, time warp thing. Strangers became friends that day. For one brief moment in time, the world became a united place. I could see the twin towers of Wembley stadium as we marched along Olympic way. That brought a tear to my eye; I never thought I’d see them again.

‘Nice T-shirt?’ said a guy to my left. I was wearing a 2005 Oasis top from their ‘Don’t Believe the Truth’ tour. Black and white fish-eye photo. Pretty cool. But it would be 20 years before he could get one.

There was a woman with the guy; she was really fit. She looked a bit like Lucy, cleavage and all. I smiled back. ‘Haven’t heard of Oasis before; they good?’ he asked. ‘Keep an eye out for them.’ I told him. It would be about 6 years before they played their first gig at the Boardwalk club in Manchester.

And then I had an idea.

‘Want to swap?’ I asked.

‘Yeah.’ he said eagerly and so we exchanged shirts. His was a Live Aid top emblazoned with a multicoloured map of Africa in the shape of a guitar. Now he had something that would blow his mind in a few years time. ‘Treasure it.’ I told him. I was really starting to enjoy myself. It was a ‘feel good’ day: the sun was blazing, people were happy and there was music in the air. We filed past a BBC TV camera and I suddenly had a great idea. I turned to my two new pals and said, ‘let’s be on the box.’ We jumped up and down, cheering and screaming until the camera focussed in on us. We were like long lost friends getting high on the intoxicating atmosphere. We punched the air and tugged at our T-shirts, and then his girlfriend lifted her top and flashed her tits. The cameraman beamed and gave us a thumbs-up. ‘That’ll be on a DVD one day.’ I said. My friend looked puzzled.

‘What’s a DVD?’

I just grinned. He looked back like I was a bit crazy.

There was a deafening cacophony in my ears, the usual stench and suddenly I found myself transported again.

Live Aid was gone in a flash. Pity. I was having a great time reliving it.

In the blink of an eye, it was nighttime and rain was sweeping down. Three figures were approaching and my instincts told me that suddenly I was in big trouble. They were silhouetted against a hazy red glow of sulfurous streetlight. I could just make out long hair and hungry feral eyes. They looked more like lycanthropic beasts; maybe they were. I heard one them growl. It was deep, guttural. I thought I could smell them as well; stale, bestial. One was holding a hefty stump of wood and pounding it into his palm. I turned and ran fast as I could. I heard a stampede of feet stomping heavily on the tarmac close behind. They sounded like cloven hooves stamping on sodden earth. My heart was pounding. If ever I needed shatterback then it was now. I tried to will it to happen. Maybe I could. The ground was slippery with rain – or was it the congealed blood of previous victims. I nearly fell trying to look over my shoulder. I thought I might be able to outrun them but they were fast and closing in. They were like savages after my blood. I was being pushed to my physical limits; stopping wasn’t an option. I caught glimpse of a gap in the hedge and fought my way through it. Rain was thrashing into my face and stinging my eyes. My lungs felt like they might burst. I nearly fell over a tangle of stark white roots, or where they bones sucked dry and scattered on the ground. I knew Wembley well but this place was alien to me. shatterback had taken me somewhere else.

A terrifying howl brought me back to my senses.

I turned briefly and in the incident light of the storm, I saw their faces. They were the stuff of nightmares – monstrosities too terrifying to be given physical form.

I took a moment’s pause, gasped at the cold air and then crashed through another hedgerow. A gut-wrenching caterwaul cut through the wintry air and ran through me like a knife. I felt sick from exhaustion and fear but still, I continued to weave through a labyrinth of bushes until eventually I managed to throw them off my trail. It was a brief reprise. For a few precious seconds, I cowered in the shadows, gasping for breath, trying not to make any noise. My pursuers weren’t difficult to spot even in the poor light. I could see two of them searching for me but they were quite far off. I took my chance and broke away. The third one stepped out in front of me.

Shatterback came to my rescue and I breathed a sigh of relief. My head jarred sideways as the familiar sound of smashing glass filled my ears. But something was wrong; my head was spinning and I was lying on the ground. Through a haze of rain and tears I saw three figures looking down on me. They were nothing more than long-haired thugs, not the monsters I had imagined. One of them had hurled a bottle at me and it had glanced off my head. My body was broken and aching. One of them bent over and with a gloating smile thrust something into my chest. Instinctively I reached down. When I lifted my hand I found it covered in blood. That was when the pain kicked in.

As I watched them run away I realised that life was seeping away. I crawled from the bushes and staggered around aimlessly for a few minutes but my energy was spent. Exhausted and in agony, I fell to the ground. For a while I just lay there listening to the patter of rain and watching the way the streetlights reflected on the wet tarmac. I didn’t even have the strength to call for help. As the world slipped away I found myself feeling curiously serene.

I guess shatterback must have happened while I was unconscious. When I opened my eyes I found myself on the ground with several other people. Some of them were smoking what my mother would have called, ‘dubious looking cigarettes.’ One of them, a hippyish looking guy in an afghan coat smiled and passed me his joint.

‘I was dying just now.’ I said to him as I bathed my aching body in the glorious sunshine.

‘Me too man.’ he replied and he gave me a hang-loose handshake.

‘No, I really was.’ I continued. I was barely able to contain the euphoric relief of still being alive. ‘It was nighttime. I had the crap kicked out of me by three thugs. One of them stabbed me between the ribs. Right through the heart. Right…here.’

I looked down. The stab wound was gone. There wasn’t even a tear in my shirt.

The hippie took a deep drag on his spliff.

‘I was on another planet.’ he said. ‘There were all these chicks.’ he added. He rested his head back and closed his eyes.

‘They were naked.’

I wished I’d been on that planet instead my nightmare one. 

Two funnels of smoke spiralled from his nostrils. He looked at me and it was like I’d known him all my life.

‘We made love man. All of us. It was a divine orgy of galactic ecstasy. Gonna make it happen next week dude, gonna really make that party happen.’

 Something told me he probably would.

Fascinating as it was to hear the explicit details of his drug-induced debauchery, I had other things on my mind.

‘So tell me something, because I really need to know…’

The joint was really chilling me out. With a sanguine smile I asked in my coolest voice, which for some reason came out like Dirty Harry, ‘…what’s the date, man?’

That made him smile. ‘Dude…you must have done some real heavy shit. This is the day…the day. 18th March 1972.’

A shock wave rippled through my body. I was at my journey’s end. The time and the place were spot on.

‘What’s your name?’ I asked.

‘Sebastian.’ he said with a smile. ‘…but you can call me Sebastion.’

All his hippy friends whooped and cheered. I laughed with them. Everything’s funny when you’re high.

‘I’m going to call you Captain Jack Sparrow because you’re a dead ringer for this Captain Jack guy that I know.’ I said.

‘Is he popular with ladies?’ asked Sebastian.

‘You could say that. Just remember the name.’ He’d have to have a good memory though; it would be almost thirty years before he’d hear that name again.

For a while, the group of us just stared dreamily into space. I wallowed in the atmosphere of the 70’s. Sebastian turned his head and squinted at my T-shirt. 

‘What’s with Live Aid 85?’ he asked.

‘I had a wild trip once.’ I said coolly, ‘…like a vision.’ I sounded like a bad actor but they were all too stoned to notice. ‘In my vision,’ I continued, ‘all these people get together. Tens of thousands of people. The year’s 1985. There’s music and love and peace. It’s the biggest gig ever and all to feed a starving nation and help make the world a better place to live in.’ Someone passed me another joint. I took a deep drag and closed my eyes. ‘Feed the world…’ I tried to sing, ‘…fee-eed the world.’

‘Far out.’ muttered Sebastian, ‘Like Woodstock.’

I wondered if one day when they were all corporate executives or IT consultants they’d remember my prophetic words. But it was time to move on. ‘You want to swap T-shirts dude?’ I said.

‘Cool.’ he replied, and he deftly stripped to the waist to reveal a perfect, skinny six pack. The women with him were pretty things, certainly liberated in the way they dressed and probably even more liberated in their lifestyle.

It seemed I was destined to swap T-shirts and leave a trail of clues for the future in my wake. I, in turn, received a garment emblazoned with a psychedelic headshot of Marc Bolan.

People began to move towards the huge concrete building that I knew as Wembley Arena. For the moment the threat of shatterback was gone and I was free to explore. At that moment in time the arena was known as Wembley pool, previously the Empire pool and sports arena. Built in 1934, it hosted the Empire games and then in 1948 housed the summer Olympics. As a kid, I became obsessed with the place because of its association with my father.

I said goodbye to my trippy friends and reluctantly moved on. Sebastian slipped something into my pocket but I didn’t look. My mind was elsewhere. I was about to see not only a musical legend at the peak of his career but more importantly, my own father. My stomach cramped at the thought as violent memories flooded back. I despised him for everything he’d done. I hated him with a passion for treating me and mum so badly but how could I take my vengeance on a man who would have no idea who I was? Maybe he wouldn’t seem so bad. Perhaps I’d even like him. I very much doubted that.

The atmosphere surrounding the venue was incredible. The wide-open space in front of the building was filled with crazy kids. There were scores of long-haired fans with silk T.Rex scarves wrapped around their wrists and necks. Screaming hysterical girls were everywhere; God knows what they’d be like when the concert started. A couple of leather-clad guys on a motorbike cut in front of me as I made my way to the north gate. They carried on right through the crowd without a care in the world; nobody seemed bothered.

I’d almost reached the entrance when suddenly my head felt like it was being slammed sideways against a wall. I started seeing double and the world started spinning about me. I was having a shatterback attack, but I wasn’t ready to go yet. I crouched down and fought it with all the concentration I could muster. I screwed my eyes tight and screamed, ‘No!’ Nobody seemed to care. I suppose I was just another drugged up fan going to see his idol. I could feel myself being jolted through time but I wouldn’t go; not just yet. Psychedelic lights assaulted my eyes. The splintered images spiralled through a black and timeless void: Lucy in the baker’s shop, the guy in the Metallica T-shirt, the yobs attacking me, the bird flashing her boobs at Live aid, Sebastian drawing deeply on a joint.

The attack passed. Somehow I’d managed to fight it off.

I remained where I was for a few moments, dazed and in a state of confusion. I felt like I wanted to cry; it was as though nothing in the world really mattered. I felt hollow.

Some guy on the door said eighty thousand people were there, and I had to find my dad amongst that lot. Clutching the crumpled ticket stub in my sweaty hand I blagged my way into the concert hall. It wasn’t at all like the concerts I was used to. There were no intimidating doormen or security searches, just a small army of aging, uniformed commissioners wearing peaked caps and solemn faces. The despairing expressions on their faces as the long-haired hippies filed by said it all.

The auditorium was like an air hangar and the stage area, massive. There was a standing area at the front and seating behind but it was obvious that nobody would be sitting. It was chaos in there.

A disc jockey by the name of Emperor Rosko was whipping the audience into a frenzy. He was leaping about the stage, waving his tasselled jacket arms around and screaming like the wild man of Borneo. I pushed my way through the crowd looking for my dad. If he were there I would recognise him, no question.

Suddenly the lights lowered and the place erupted with a roar like I’d never heard before. I’ve been to some amazing concerts in my life but had never experienced anything like this. The sheer wide-eyed, breathless exuberance of the audience was incredible, and when the man himself hit the stage the women especially went completely hysterical. One of them grabbed my arm and just stared at me. She had golden stars on her cheeks and raw emotion in her eyes; she was in another place. Marc Bolan struck a pop star pose mere feet away from us, and the next thing I knew, she fainted and was being carried over the metal barriers in front of the stage.

I feared I might be next, but for different reasons. The earlier shatterback attack had taken its toll on me. I felt weak and drained of energy. I was finding it difficult to breath and the constant screaming was becoming intensely claustrophobic. The muggy, airless atmosphere was like syrup in my lungs. I fought my way to an exit and wandered aimlessly in search of the toilets. I needed somewhere where I could be alone and out of the intimidating glare of the geriatric commissionaires.

The foyer was spookily deserted and a curiously surreal place to be. The music from the auditorium sounded distant and haunting. Occasionally a shrill scream or wail of guitar would rise above the ghostly serenade. I closed my eyes and took a moment’s break from the madness of my time-defying journey. Bolan was playing ‘Telegram Sam’; I recognised it from one of my dad’s records. But there was another sound as well, a sort of rhythmical cry was coming from somewhere in the closer vicinity. With my eyes half open I let this new sound guide me to its source and found myself opposite the ladies toilets. One of the cubicle doors was flung open and a man staggered out followed by a giggling, drunken woman.

‘C’mon Mike, we’ll miss the show.’ she said. She was hitching up her underwear as she spoke. ‘Better get that lippy off your face or else you’ll be in trouble, not to mention my old man if he comes looking for me.’ she said.

They carried on like I wasn’t there.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

 It was my dad; the face, the scar and most of all, the tattoo. Hearing his name was just the icing on the cake. Something inside me snapped and I lost it big time. He had even lied about seeing the concert. He was more interested in shagging some bloke’s bird in the toilets. I was fuming. Years of frustration were released in a few seconds. I called him every name under the sun. I threw punches at the air in front of his face. He looked genuinely terrified; I guess I must have looked like a madman. I pulled of my T-shirt and threw it at him telling him that was probably the closest he’d ever get to his idol. The young woman screamed and ran back into the foyer.

‘Who the hell are you?’ he bawled.

I told him I was his fucking conscience. He was drunk and staggering about, trying to focus his eyes and stay on his feet at the same time.

‘There’s a kid back home who wants a dad he can be proud of.’ I yelled.

That really threw him. He just stood there swaying gently from side to side pointing his finger left and right as he tried to work out which of the two of me was the real one. Then the drink took control again and he lost his cool. I’d obviously touched a nerve.

That was when shatterback really kicked in. Only this time it didn’t take me anywhere. It was like I was looking in on the world and not part of it.

There’s a commotion in the foyer. Some big bloke is having an altercation with a couple of the commissionaires. He’s shouting a name and suddenly the woman my dad was with starts looking worried. Before she can make herself scarce the bloke spots her and starts shouting even more.


Then he sees my dad and he goes into this terrifying rage. He tears over and with a single, massive swipe sends my old man crashing to the ground. Dad just lays there. A stunned silence prevails as a pool of blood spreads out from beneath his head.

It’s difficult to say how I feel at that moment. Numb definitely. Part of me feels sorry for him because he’s so hopelessly pathetic. But then again he’s getting payback for all the hurt he caused mum and me. I want to help him. God knows why.

Suddenly I’m back in the show; now I’m just an onlooker. The bloke that floored my dad is calling his women a whore. It sounds like they’ve been screwing around for some time. No ones paying any attention to my dad. They’re all too wrapped up in themselves so I turn him onto his back and shake and talk to him.

‘It’s me,’ I say, ‘…Sam.’

He doesn’t respond. He’s not even breathing so I do the artificial resuscitation stuff I’ve seen on telly. You know, hand over his sovereign, 30 pushes then a couple of breaths into his mouth, but it seems useless.

I watch the scene in a state of numbness. My vision becomes blurred and distorted; voices slow and slurred. My head feels light. Through a haze I see a medic examining him. The man’s feeling for a pulse in his wrist and then his neck, then he shines a light into his eyes. It all looks a bit desperate.

And then everything goes black.

I’m standing in front of the entrance to my flat in Chalk Hill lane and to be honest, I’m in a bit of a daze. Just a moment ago it was 1972 and I was at a Marc Bolan concert. I witnessed the death of my father.


Was it all a figment of my imagination? How will I ever know?

I reach into my pocket and pull out a crumpled spliff, the one Sebastian gave me.

I’m poised to turn my front door key. I need to get inside and rest before I collapse. I feel sick and dizzy.

Someone calls my name.


I turn. There’s a man standing there. Silhouetted at first, but then he moves into the light and I see him more clearly. He looks anxious. He’s smiling nervously. There are tears in his eyes. He’s got a scar on his cheek and a tattoo on his forearm. He’s holding a T-shirt up to his chest.

‘Dad…’ I say. I don’t feel angry because there’s something different about him. ‘…it’s been a long time.’ He sort of smiles but he looks really uncomfortable.

‘You’re dead.’

‘You’re mum wanted you to think that after she chucked me out.’

He stutters as he talks; it’s like he’s making a confession. I think he’s worried I’m going to slam the door in his face. He continues: ‘It was best for you to think that and it suited me. I was out of control. You didn’t deserve a waster like me, but I changed.’

Everything was falling into place now.

‘There was an incident at a concert back in ‘72.’ he explained. ‘I got into a fight and nearly died. Some guy attacked me at a gig in Wembley. I’d stopped breathing but someone brought me around again.’

I wanted to tell him that it was me, about half an hour ago. Maybe not such a good idea.

We look into each other’s eyes, both searching for the lost years. ‘I was in a coma for a while. When I came around I couldn’t help thinking about the things the guy who saved me said. I remember he flew into a rage, like I’d done something terrible to him. Whoever he was, he saved my life.’

After that, I drifted and travelled abroad. I did voluntary work, helping in drug rehab centres – anywhere that put a roof over my head and food in my stomach. I needed to feel better about myself.’

He sort of chuckles and then looks down embarrassedly. ‘I came back a few times and saw you and your mum…and your stepdad. You looked like a real family…you wouldn’t have wanted me back in your lives. I thought of you all the time though, Sam. I cried heaps for you. I’ve always been with you,’ he says, and then putting a clenched fist to his heart he adds, ‘…and in here.’

Now it’s me who’s got tearful eyes.

‘I’ve got this for you.’ He says and hands me a T-shirt. I hold it up. It’s the Marc Bolan shirt that Sebastian gave me. The same one I threw at my dad in the toilets just half an hour ago. But now it’s old and faded and looks like it’s been worn a thousand times.

‘It’s kept me going all these years-a sort of reminder?’

‘I can’t talk anymore because I’m too choked up.’

‘Can we go in?’ he asks.

I nod that we can.

Because it’s different now.

Because I’ve got a dad who I might like.

He rests his hand on my shoulder and I feel like I’m going to cry which is mad because since the day he went I vowed never shed a tear over him.

‘Just one thing.’ I say to him.

He looks back in trepidation.

‘I need to dig out my Live Aid video. It’s difficult to explain, but there’s a guy I know who might be in it.’


Gary Power is an author of short stories that have been published in respected anthologies such as When Graveyards Yawn (Crowswing Books), Spinetinglers (Spinetinglers publishing), 3 times in ‘The Black Book of Horror’ (Mortbury Press), The Horror zine (as featured author of the month),  The Year’s Best Body Horror 2017 (Gehenna and Hinnom publishing), Volume 6 of Dark Lane books Anthology series  and ‘I’m Dead?’ anthology from Zimbell House Publishing. He has also been e-published with Penny Shorts, 50 Word Stories, the Ham Free Press and Sein und Werden amongst others. Gary has a podcast play currently being adapted by Manor House Audio (USA). He has been a member of the British Fantasy Society since 2006. He attended World Fantasycon 2013 in Brighton and participated in a signing for the BFS nominated Tenth Black Book of Horror. Gary has been shortlisted for the Ian St James short story award. He is registered as an Amazon author and his website is He is also a member of the ‘Clockhouse London Writers’ group.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *