Shirking

Not seeing a posting on this blog in commemoration of this Christmas Day just past, you might be forgiven for asking yourself if there was anything the matter with me, or indeed if I had finally died. The fact is, I was too ill to write anything, for I was struck with a very bad dose of the influenza. At my age (120), influenza is just not a good thing to get, especially influenza as virulent as the one I not only had, but still have, for I’m still far from being totally well.

For many days, I tossed and turned in my little bed from the raging fever. And my coughing spasms nearly turned my body inside out. For all I know, I was at death’s door. But I dared not visit a doctor because of the murder arrest-warrants issued against me by the police forces throughout the world. Any doctor, being visited by a 120 year-old, is likely to begin asking questions inordinately intrusive, and he could make further inquiries with the Authorities. I just can’t have that. To die by being hanged from a scaffold would be just too humiliating for me.

Even to have influenza is humiliating, for I never used to get influenza until quite recently. In fact, I don’t remember my Mater or Pater ever having even a day’s illness, let alone influenza, apart from the maladies from which they died when very old. As for Monty, the notion that he would ever have been indisposed by influenza would be preposterous. I remember when I served on Monty’s staff in North Africa in 1942-1943. Monty had all us officers doing PT at 6.00 every morning, and Monty would do the PT as well. There was no shirking, for Rommel had to be knocked for six out of Africa. Monty would have regarded as a shirker any officer taking to his sick bed for a little thing like influenza.

Therefore, by taking to my sick bed these past few days, I have been shirking. Monty, looking down at me from wherever he is now, cannot be pleased. This is something I’ll have to live with.

The Shriek

I’ve lived as long as I have (120 years) because I take care of myself. Which is to say I exercise strenuously every day. I always have, and always will. I’m in such good shape, most people take me for only seventy. And, because of my prowess in the “sweet science” (I’m, for one thing, a former middleweight champion of the British Army), I can still knock out most of today’s young men in any bout of fisticuffs.

Hiking up and down mountainous terrain – a prominent feature of the northern Pacific Rain Coast where I now live, near a city I can’t name for reasons of security – is one of my ways of keeping in good shape. I did such a hike today – in the course of which something odd happened.

It was becoming dusk when I heard a very loud, hoarse, piercing, anguished shriek up ahead the path I was walking on. The shriek was of short duration, and almost unearthly. I heard it again a few seconds later. It was, being a shriek, high pitched, and could therefore have come from a human female, or perhaps from an ape – like a Sasquatch, which have been seen by some in these parts.

On hearing the unearthly shriek I quickened my steps, expecting to stumble upon something extremely unpleasant – like a murder. Then, from around a corner, a lady came towards me, walking a largish, long black-haired, Alsatian-like dog. Twenty yards behind her, also coming towards me, was a youngish man walking alone.

When the lady was about to pass me by I looked at her closely. She was, I surmised, fortyish, and she looked little fat. She was walking at a normal pace and was looking fixedly down at the ground. The dog seemed calm. The man behind her was of nondescript appearance, and therefore not alarming-looking. Which is to say, he didn’t look like a man who I couldn’t knock out in any bout of fisticuffs.

I thought of asking the lady if she’d heard the unearthly shriek. I decided against it because – who knows – she might have been the shrieker, and I wished not to embarrass her, for to publicly embarrass a lady is something an Englishman just doesn’t do.

If the shriek hadn’t come from her, it must have been from a non-human – like, as I’ve just said, from a Sasquatch, or even an extra-terrestrial alien, that have also been seen by some in these parts. The shriek could, I suppose, have come from a bird, maybe an exotic bird. But the shriek was somehow too loud, and too unearthly, for a bird – whether or not exotic.

Could, though, the shriek have been my imagination? Psychotics do, after all, hear noises that only they can hear. My being so old, and my brain likely deteriorating, it’s entirely possible I’m sliding the slippery slope into psychosis. However, and more happily, the shriek could have emanated from a parallel world – whose vibration frequencies my brain was able to tune into.

Whatever the shriek was, it will remain forever a mystery……..