The Sorrows of Gerald Fitzgerald
After breakfast, Gerald had a leisurely bath, thinking about his dream the night before: the recurring dream in which he lived in the city with the three cathedrals. But what he remembered from the dreams was only disconnected images: the road leading to a river, the warren of lanes around one of the cathedrals, the open square in front of the other one, the always busy station and the yellow trams. He remembered the view from the avenue leading into the city showing the three cathedrals towering above the buildings bathed in an orange sunset. The images were like pieces of a puzzle, unconnected and impossible to be put into a whole picture.
After his bath, Gerald dressed. He went to buy the days paper at Bansil Singh’s Newsagent on the corner of Trinity Road and Wellington Street. Walking into Allenbrook, he met the postman.
“Good Morning Mister Fitzgerald.”
“Morning, Postman Jackson. Got any mail for me?”
He was a small man with glasses, curly black hair and beard and his back was bent under the heavy mailbag. He rummaged in it and said, “A letter from overseas, posted in New Zealand, the Time Magazine and a bill from N-Power.”
“Put it through the door, please.”
“By the way,” Postman Jackson said, “something seems to be strange here. I have a funny feeling that some dark forces are invading us. Do you think it has to do with the temple they have built over there?”
Gerald laughed. “How should I know. To me everything seems to be all right. Nothing has changed.”
Gerald stopped and looked at what should have been Trinity Road. That was not the road he knew. It was the view, which he had seen in his dream: the wide avenue lined with trees leading gently down towards a city in which stood three cathedrals. He started shaking. Oh my God, have I died? Have I had a heart attack and is my soul entering a dream? Do I have to die to get into my recurring dream? But why do I feel so alive…
From the puzzle of dream images, he had, by using his imagination, mapped out the city and had shown it to his friend. Joss had engraved it in copper in the style of an old panoramic map embellished with heraldic devises and mystical beasts. He had made a few prints and Gerald had one of the prints framed and displayed over the mantelpiece in his lounge. He often looked at it and imagined walking through its streets, daydreaming about where his home could be in this town which he called Cathedral City.
Gerald quickly glanced back from where he had come but Allenbrook was gone and the avenue behind him led up to a forested ridge in the distance. He realized that he could not go back to his house with all the treasured artefacts and items attached to memories. It was all gone – what was he to do now? What did he know of this city? He knew that the avenue led to the City centre, but what about the rest? Snippets of memories pushed into his awareness. As much as he was trying, he could not remember the map he had drawn which in itself was a puzzle of roads, buildings, places and palaces, churches and stations all in a confusing pattern needing to be put into order. Maybe the only way to put the pieces into a comprehensive pattern was to start walking and with some luck they would fall into place. He started hesitantly to walk, knowing that he got further and further away from his previous existence and his security.
As he came nearer to the centre of the city the road was very busy and a tramway line had joined and yellow trams trundled past, their bells ringing, their signs displaying numbers and destinations. Many people walked towards the City centre where the cathedrals stood. Constantly he looked out for sights he could remember. He seemed to recognize the palatial building on the other side of the avenue but he was puzzled where it would fit into his map. Disorientated he walked on, looking out for familiar landmarks.
He remembered dreaming that on the square beside the Gothic cathedral was a restaurant where he could sit outside and have a cup of coffee. Or read a paper, if he could find one. On the way to find the place, he passed a newsagent and bought the days paper. Strange, that they accepted the money, which he had brought with him. Then, suddenly, he found himself standing on the wide expanse of the square in front of the Gothic cathedral. As hard as he tried, he could not remember how he got there. He had the feeling that he had walked from one piece of the puzzle onto another, unrelated one. He saw the restaurant with its tables outside with colourful shades warding off the rays of the sun. He went to it and sat down by one of the tables. A waiter came and he ordered a cup of cappuccino. As he waited, he looked at the front sheet of the paper. The headline pronounced: SOMETHING HAS TO HAPPEN!
Reading the article Gerald was informed that strange things had happened in the northern part of the country that had to be dealt with. Why was the government doing nothing? It was now known that from the Bennachi Mountains had come many dark looking beings of dwarfish nature. And in the west, in Cwmry, elves had been seen migrating through the forests in the night carrying wondrous lights and singing bewitching songs. The article ended with the statement that the country could not accept another influx of beings from other realities. Was he not himself also from another reality? thought Gerald.
The cappuccino came and he had a few sips. “Lovely,” he murmured and looked at the cathedral across the square. It was a wonderful and majestic building and it reminded him of Canterbury cathedral in another world.
What else was in the paper? The rapidly spreading cult of the Society for Advancement and Understanding of Alien and Illusional Perpetuation, based in Emerald City, had become a danger to the country and needed to be banned. Gerald did not understand any of what he read. Did it have to do with the article above about the dwarfs and elves? Thinking about it he got thoroughly confused.
What should he do next? He could try to find his home in the city, a secure place where he could rest and work out how to get on with his life. But where was his home? He had dreamed about having a house in the lanes behind the Roman cathedral. In another dream, home was a palatial house down beside a river and wasn’t there a flat by a station? Did all three of the places belong to him or was only one of them there at any time? Which of the possibilities would at present be available? As he sat, holding his head in bewilderment, the urge to find a home grew in him and he had to get up and move to find it.
He decided to find the home in the lanes and walked towards the Roman cathedral, built in red stone, with its four round towers and its narrow, vaulted windows. Standing besides the brooding building it struck him that again he could not remember how he got from the restaurant to where he stood now. Perplexed he walked through the lanes until he found a house, which looked like the one he had lived in one dream. Should he enter?
He put his key into the door and it fitted. When he stepped into the house, somebody called from upstairs asking who had come. With a shiver running up his spine, Gerald realized, that he could meet himself. He looked up and saw a smallish man dressed in a black frock coat, broad set with long black hair and a full black beard coming down the stairs. They looked at each other and Gerald felt the other’s fear.
“What are you doing in my house?” he asked boldly.
“Thou hast been away for a long time so we moved in. How could we know that thou wouldst return without announcement? Thou didst not give us time to evacuate the premises…”
“Who are you?”
The other did not answer but flinched under Gerald’s stern look.
“Are you one of the dwarfs coming from Bennachi Mountain?”
“My Lord wouldst thou give me the time to collect my fellows so that we could move out now?”
They were immigrants like himself who had come from another reality as he had. He could not throw them out. Gerald suddenly felt pity for the man. Did he not have other homes in this town while they had nothing?
“No, don’t go,” he said. “Stay here, make yourself at home. It’s your home now.”
The other grabbed his hand. “My Lord, thou art full of generosity and your magnificence humbles us.”
is coming, Martha.
we planned, Mary Magdalene.
is a pity that he cannot stay…
succumb to human emotions, Mary Magdalene. We do not feel, we know.
the end, he will be ours, Martha.
When Gerald reached the house by the river, he wondered whom he would find. Sure enough, when he stepped into the hall, he saw in front of him two beings, tall and dressed in white, standing in the sunlight streaming through the window. One had chocolate coloured hair and blue eyes whilst the others hair was white and her eyes silver. They looked like they had stepped out of a Pre-Raphaelite painting.
“And you are elves from Cwmry,” mused Gerald loudly.
They said nothing and smiled at him but their eyes were like that of cats and he could not detect any emotion in them. The one with the blue eyes stepped forward. “We did expect you.”
“Well, here I am.” Why did he say that? Was he ever there before? He had dreamed about this house but not about the women. She said, “We know. Come look at this.” She led Gerald to the window. He saw the river and remembered the stately buildings across it, built of white stone and in beautiful proportions. But what he saw were ruins, blackened by fire with twisted beams reaching for the dark clouds above it.
“What we show you is the future if the dark powers prevail. We are here to prevent it.”
Gerald stood and looked at the ruins and remembered the postman talking about dark powers. His mind went into overdrive, trying to sort out the chaos and confusion of conflicting images in his mind. He could not resign himself to accept the situation he found himself in. If it really was true that they had come to prevent this possible future, he could not interfere. Anyway, there was still the flat near the station.
“You must prevent it,” he said. “It is such a beautiful town, it must not happen. Stay here and do your work. I still have a flat where I can go.”
She nodded and the other one said, “You have no home in this city. When you find the invitation to go to Emerald City, take it and go. It is important for you. We’ll meet you again.”
“What do you mean? Which invitation?”
Her silver eyes seemed to shine with an inner light. “You’ll find it in the flat by the station. Nothing is as it seems, only Mary Magdalene and us, Martha, are real and we’ll guide you to your new home.”
“You say that nothing is at it seems. This seems to me to be my home and you say it isn’t. What is it then?”
“Don’t ask questions, it will all be explained to you when you’re ready. Go now, we always will be there when you need us.”
They turned and looked out the window.
He felt baffled and as much as he tried, he could not sort out the puzzle of images being shuffled in his mind. The women looked so beautiful and had they not promised that he would meet them again? But then, who were they? He looked up and saw two Siamese cats, one chocolate point and one lilac point walking from the room. Had he spoken to two cats in human form? Then memories from another life welled up, from his life in Gravesend where he once had two Siamese cats…
With an uneasy mind he left the house, and looking across the river he saw that the beautiful proportioned buildings were again shining in splendid white light.
When he came to the flat, in the lounge he found a woman, packing a bag. She turned to him and said, “I knew you would come.” A little girl came from the bedroom and looked at him wide eyed.
“Let’s talk about it,” said Gerald. Her eyes looked tired and with resignation in her voice she pleaded, “Just let me pack our stuff and we’ll leave.”
“Where will you go?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. I’m too tired to think about it.”
Gerald saw a letter lying on the mantelpiece. It was addressed to him.
“It came yesterday. That’s why I knew you’d come.”
He opened it and it was an invitation to a conference in Emerald City. Included was a ticket for the night train, and when he looked at it, he saw that the train was leaving in a short time. Then it hit him. How had the woman Martha known that the letter was waiting for him on the mantelpiece?
“Did you tell Martha that the letter has arrived?
“Martha? Whom are you talking about?”
“The elfish looking woman…”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t be angry with me, we’ll leave now.”
No, he could not throw them out. He was the one who was now homeless, confused and homeless, who had to go.
“Stay,” he urged her. “I have to go away to Emerald City and the train leaves soon. I won’t be back for some time. It is you and your child’s home now.”
“Are you sure?”
He nodded and she came over to him, hugged him and started to cry.
“It’s all right. Don’t cry. You’ll be happy here.”
“You could stay here with us…”
He patted her shoulder and murmured, “I would like to but I can’t. Although I have three homes in this city, none of them is now mine. It’s me who is now homeless.”
“No, please let me go,” he cried and ran from the flat. Outside, he looked agitatedly up and down the road and only when he saw the station could he take hold of himself. After some hesitation he walked briskly towards it.