Ghosts in the night

Image: Jonathan Tucker
Image: Jonathan Tucker

Tonight the tinnitus is playing up. It is often worse at night when there is so little background noise to mask it. I won’t go into it all again, I wrote about it a while ago and once was enough. Suffice it to say I can’t sleep. It will need something to ‘re-set’ my attention and take the focus off it, so I will walk the dog… or listen to music… or get on with one of the things that has been bothering me since the last trip north.

I’ve been putting that off, of course. Like the tinnitus, my attention prefers to clutch at any spar that diverts it, for I know that once I get beyond the jotted notes and snatches of images that swirl through the mind I will be plunged back into a night some two and a half thousand years ago when a band of warriors massacred the women and children of a peaceful place. To write it I will smell the smoke, hear the flames and the screams, taste the fear… you can’t write it any other way unless you are writing a sterile history. But these were real people and history is not sterile, no matter how much we may try and sanitise it.

This one is a true story… the archaeology confirms it and many of its details; even their bones have been found. I just have to write it and it will bug me until I stop procrastinating and get on with it. I want to do the research, read the reports and papers written about it, but first I have to write it. With something like this the story comes first, the research later, strange as it may seem. Of course, I still have to try and get to the place too… these things only seem to come together when you walk the earth where they happened, with a sense of place and the landscape showing you its memories.

It may well be that dealing with these images that play out on the inner screen has helped trigger the resurgence of the tinnitus; stress, of course tends to exacerbate it. A friend says it is as if the voices of the ancient dead are clamouring to be heard and that is pretty much how it feels at two in the morning when owls call in the night and the slow beat of white wings seems to fill the silence.

Ani stirs, startled at sounds unheard, staring at things unseen that flit through the room, shadows in the candlelight. Yes, perhaps it is time to begin… time to open the cinematic screen of the mind and delve into a story that is waiting to be told. It has waited long enough…

The story is not of my making, nor are its shadows my own, yet they are the shades of my people, the past of my land and as such their story touches me in a way hard to describe. I have been reluctant to open that particular Pandora’s box, not knowing… or knowing too well… what I will find there, even though the memories I will write are not my own.. are not, you might say, even ‘real’.

But ‘real’ or not, it will not be an easy thing to write and tonight the ghosts of a long dead past seem to wait at my shoulders, waiting to speak through my fingers. It is a human trait to let the attention slide away from painful memories. Most of us will not choose to delve into the things that hurt, but will shy away from recalling them if we can, even when we know that only by facing them can we exorcise the ghosts of our past.

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