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Once Were Windows Once Were Doors

Once Were Windows Once Were Doors

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Once Were Windows Once Were Doors

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1. Apr. 2022


This journey of discovery begins upon a circular city in space – serviced by on Earth a couple of Clark towers (a third failed) – and goes on to incorporate the Jerusalem disc, a sailship called The Scandalous Sandal, and a cold war bunker in what was Sweden.
First however the focus is on the sexual longings of a lackadaisical City student focussed obsessively on promiscuous Alvina, who only occasionally entertains him. His primary desire thwarted he comforts himself with his tutor’s daughter, Occam Jnr. His studies suffer and he develops an ulcer on the side of his leg. The accompanying stench of necrosis has him avoid even Jnr, who nevertheless swears her devotion.
The tutor is Occam Snr XVII. That his daughter has become our hero’s now rejected stand-by lover worsens their pupil-tutor relationship. To rid himself of this smelly and bothersome youth, Occam Snr dispatches him, via the Clark tower at Kankan, to post-pestilential, post-inundated Earth....

1. Apr. 2022

Über den Autor

Editor of The Journal (once 'of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry')and publisher of Original Plus books, I was born Blackpool 1946, have ended up living in a Welsh valley. Prior to picking up my state pension I almost made a living as a freelance writer/publisher/editor. My last day job was as an amusement arcade cashier, I have also been a psychiatric nurse, residential social worker, milkman, plumber, laboratory analyst, groundsman, sailor, computer operator, scaffolder, gardener, painter & decorator........ working at anything, in fact, which has paid the rent, enabled me to raise my three daughters and which hasn't got too much in the way of my writing. I now have several poetry collections and novels to my name.

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Once Were Windows Once Were Doors - Sam Smith

Chapter One : by way of an introduction

External windows in the City were few, are few, and are used almost exclusively by the maintenance crew. For the rest of us those windows were/are as good as opaque, their necessary thickness requiring the eye to adjust to their distortions. Add to that the cumulative microscopic damage to the windows’ exteriors and consequently most citizens only looked out from the City via their screens, had to trust that what they were seeing was an accurate representation of the universe beyond.

My use of the word ‘trust’ this early is deliberate. The whole of this project, side issues and outcomes, seems to have involved and revolved about trust. Trust in what I have been told, trust in what I think I have seen, trust in the motivation behind my having been given this project, and trust in my own decision-making capabilities that had me choose this particular project.

I was offered one of three. Would either of the other two have taken me this far? So far beyond any HCD project? Because what may have begun as a project has grown way beyond pleasing tutors and examining boards, has grown into this which requires its own explanation – to why it should have so grown.

Or had that been the intention? I’m still not sure? Nor do I have any idea now who, beyond Occam Snr XVII and his daughter, are going to read this. Or if anyone other than Occam Jnr will.

Will this paper too be shut away lest it cause upset to those who claim to keep us safe?

Or was the purpose of this entire project but yet another exercise in self-education? And was never intended to be ‘of public interest’?

Should however this tale in its muddled entirety surface to light – say at some time in another future, somewhere else, somewhen else – I will endeavour to explain to you my unknowable successors, to you fellow seeker after truth, everything that befell me, what I thought I discovered, even – and this will probably prove the most difficult - what I took for granted, what was then everyday obvious to me.

[Conscious that I am writing this for both Citizens and Earthlings, I make apologies in advance for my occasional confusion with whereabouts points of view and here-and-there tenses.]

Chapter Two

That scholastic year the historograph syllabus had three HCD courses on offer. Not, I hasten to add, in the manner listed below. They were couched in the high-flown and long-winded terminology beloved of academia. I have perhaps unfairly over-simplified, but what the three   courses – according to the historograph syllabus bumf - boiled down to was that each encompassed four events, and expected us to compare and contrast.

A) Relate the slaughter in Rwanda, destruction of the Afghan buddhas, and atrocity at My Lai to the theft of the Elgin Marbles.

B) Relate the mechanised slaughter of Jews and Romanians in Treblinka, the melting of the polar ice caps to the carpet bombing of medieval Dresden and the 1960 police shootings in Sharpeville.

C) Relate the destruction of Jerusalem and the atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki to the lost library of Alexandria and the locked library of the North.

Previous historograph HCD students had been offered famines in Bangladesh, Russia, China, Sweden and Ireland, along with pandemics in the Americas and West Africa. Not exactly the most uplifting of subjects, and which may have accounted for the rash of suicides among students those years. And which could be why the examining boards lightened my year (at least in topics A) and C) with their inclusion of non-fatal subjects). Of the three courses B), being unremittingly downbeat, was the least selected.

Years before that had different options, irreconcilable pairs, but all Earth-related, and which I can’t recall now. Nor do I wish to. Being but a study of eventualities the researches required were then as now designed to promote first the habit of investigation, while the grouping of disparate subjects was ‘to discourage straight-line thinking, encourage comparison not causality.’

The historical and geographical range of the 4 subjects under consideration was intended, or so I was led to believe then, to inculcate a mind-set that didn’t simply extend the present into the past. The intention was that students acquired the habit of looking for discontinuity, for the quantum state, for possibly peripheral butterfly effects; and which habit of so looking would theoretically be of benefit when they did eventually enter their professional lives.

While the knowledge gained of Earth’s history would again render students grateful for their peaceful and largely uneventful City lives.

Of my own year’s enrolment I only know what my tutor told me of my fellow students’ choices.

Of those like me taking C) I have encountered only one in the course of my terrestrial research. All others who opted for C) apparently remained in the City to complete their research.

Of those taking A) only one mildly interested me, her thesis being entirely attempted in musical notations. The first performance of the work was still in rehearsal when I left the City.

My HCD tutor was Occam Snr XVII, and my relationship with him turned out to be far from a straightforward mentor-pupil relationship.

For instance I had not long begun the course when Occam Snr XVII (he insists on the full title) made a sexual approach to me. My being several years above the legal age of consent I wasn’t shocked – rumour had already led me to expect such a proposal – and I politely declined.

We would probably thereafter have proceeded in a purely academic manner had I not begun an on-off dalliance with his youngest daughter, Occam Jnr XX. Even that might not have led to acrimony had I not tried to once-and-for-all end the affair, leading to Occam Jnr (she doesn’t insist on the numerals) becoming so upset that she bothered her otherwise distant father with her unhappiness.

Chapter Three : windows and screens

Every tale, like Earth’s blue rivers, has many small beginnings. For instance, because I’m sure it has some bearing, another aspect that needs clarifying is my earlier mention of windows.

Now windows exist to make our habitable rooms feel less enclosed, feel open in some way, escapable. We need something to look out through, beyond. A mirror can offer another dimension, or just by multiplying the light can seemingly increase the space. A framed painting, a screen even, can act as an aperture, can offer something beyond the room. But it is only windows that can effectively counteract claustrophobia.

So of course there are windows in the City. And all those windows look inwards, back into the City. The windows of my various rooms looked mostly onto street scenes. Other windows have more pleasurable aspects, look onto parks or leafy boulevards. But all look back into the City.

The parks and boulevards have overhead windows that allow sunlight to be refracted through – necessary for plant growth. For us to have looked out through those windows however, even though refracted, would have had us sun-blinded in an instant.

When we wanted to see what was outside the City we used a screen, trusted it to accurately replicate what its optic was pointed at. In the year before I left the City I had my screen fixed on Earth’s globe – smudges of green and brown among the swirls of white and blue – and centred on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, even more specifically, at maximum magnification, on the pale brown disc that had once been Jerusalem.

Pale disc visible from space, crater that isn’t a crater, shadow replica of my own circular City… It was an image to ponder, even on a screen; evidence that I was already attracted to the inexplicable.

What our screens showed us of the City itself, petty news of City worthies, celebs and sports events aside, were – for contemplative purposes – more views of parks and wooded ways, even of the lush veeps [Vegetable Production Systems], in order to demonstrate to our occasionally dissatisfied City selves how very fortunate we were to be living in such a clean and self-sustaining environment.

Chapter Four

For any relationship to progress beyond the initial flesh-touching intimacy the pair involved have to enter a state of emotional equilibrium, their need for one another about equal.

My emotional need for Occam Jnr very soon became obviously less than Occam Jnr’s need for me. I would often rather be off visiting friends of my own rather than remain alone with her, than take her with me.

At the time, youth’s arrogance, I wasn’t conscious of this imbalance. Or, if I was, it was on the level of my simply accepting Occam Jnr’s steadfastness.

Be assured that I did like Occam Jnr. She was easygoing, smiled at my witticisms, was not in the least pompous or self-aggrandizing. Indeed she had more or less all the polar opposite attitudes to Occam Snr XVIII.

She was however, and probably due to her having been raised by magniloquent Occam Snr XVIII, full of uncertainty. Uncertain of her own talents, her own physical attractiveness, an uncertainty which I guessed even back then had her attach herself to my unexceptional self.

So uncertain of herself and of our relationship was Occam Jnr that she was unable to hide her disappointment whenever I claimed to be otherwise occupied. Seeing her disappointment then had me feeling guilty for abandoning her and, so as not to again feel guilty, had me avoiding her for longer.

If this has me sounding callous and possibly cruel I can honestly attest that it wasn’t intentional. It is simply with hindsight a dispassionate view of our then unequal relationship.

I only recognised that inequality for what it was when I too fell prey to a love not returned.

I use the word ‘love’ guardedly. As everyone should.

What is love but a state of mind, almost a fever, an illness, an incompleteness that can only be made better, made whole by one other? What is love but a hunger that can only be sated by that one other, affection become an obsession?

The sufferer, the afflicted, will only realise that he/she is obsessed when made aware that that affection, that need, that emotional hunger is in no way reciprocated.

From this distance in time and space I try to recall what precisely it was about Alvina that had me quite so besotted.

Alvina was kind to me, told me that she cared for me, came to pity me – I think – but no matter what Alvina might have felt for me she valued her sexual freedom even more. Indeed it was only her pursuit of sexual experience that had had her end up in my bed.

Alvina led. All suggestions came from her. A conspiratorial, speculative smile, a giggle: Shall we try…?

I was a very willing accomplice.

Alvina was so different to Occam Jnr. Not so much better looking. Both were early twenties, curvaceous. And Occam Jnr was pert and pretty, large eyes a tad on the sad and soulful side, but a body bold enough in its youthfulness, had all the visual triggers necessary to have men old and young glance to her passing, her bobbed black hair bouncing to her every step.

But she wasn’t Alvina.

My puzzlement as to why I should be obsessed with one and not the other had me studying other men’s casual attraction to Occam Jnr. Why couldn’t I be content with what they could only desire? Could it have been that where Jnr was a receptacle – passive, reactive, wanting to please – Alvina gave pleasure by taking selfish pleasure in her own body, occasionally inviting me to share in that pleasure.

It was when that invitation was, with increasing frequency, withdrawn that my troubles started.

What I couldn’t then understand, on an emotional level, was why other men, sometimes women, were being preferred to me. Why I was being overlooked. I hadn’t changed. I was the same person that Alvina had first gladly taken to bed.

Imbalance in relationships. A knowing imbalance. A mess of mine own making. And I couldn’t help myself, knew what I was doing, was painfully aware how ridiculous was my obsession, and yet still I persisted, haunted cafes and bars where I suspected Alvina might be, even roads, alleys and connecting lanes.

I even back then had the temerity to call my trailing about after her my caring for her. ‘Residual care’ I told my mirror. I had somehow to explain to my distraught self the singlemindedness of my then existence that I, her stalker, couldn’t get out of the habit of caring for her, craving her.

See me a small anxious man looking to windows, turning on his bar stool to the door opening. The door opening again. And Alvina entering, a young woman so bold, so confident, so sure of herself that she followed her voice into rooms. And if unaccompanied [not likely], if at a loose end, then she might acknowledge my presence, might use me as her evening’s entertainment/consort/tool.

Much as I, when unable to find or be found by Alvina, might make use of Occam Jnr. And see in the mirror of Jnr’s eyes what, abandoned, bereft, I myself had just been. In this role-reversal I became the giver-out-of-favours and Jnr the too grateful supplicant. And dressing us both in my self-loathing I carried that over into what romantic novels had once been wont to call our ‘love-making’. That we all three had orgasms was by-the-by, insofar as relationships went it was unsatisfactory for all parties concerned.

Chapter Five

Inward-looking I couldn’t see beyond my obsession, my self-loathing. I hated how I was acting towards Occam Jnr, hated myself for being in thrall to Alvina, hated Alvina for the casual use she made of me, and I despised Occam Jnr for letting me make similar use of her.

The City I saw as an extension of my own inward-lookingness. Albeit that the City’s wasn’t with the same self-loathing. The very opposite. The City took pride in its inward views of its own parks, of its leafy avenues and boulevards. Premium rates were paid for those windows that looked out to the strange growths that circled the City’s weightless centre.

As a student I lived in the cheap heavies. The view I had was of windows like mine on the opposite side of the lane. That view broken only by the occasional pedestrian, bus or sweeper passing through.

According to City culture I was supposed to aspire to the lighter rooms and a greener view. I would certainly have liked a greener view, but only if such a view would have allowed me to remain in the heavies. By the soles of my feet I felt more connected to my surroundings, safer in the heavies.

I hated going to those hospital clinics in the centre, had to go there regularly for tests when young, hated that weightless grabbing onto things. Especially when it was my mother who I panic-grabbed onto, upsetting her oh-so-precise assemblage, today’s fashionable outfit for surgical-clinic-visiting.

Spoiled her pleasure my panic did. All the kudos that should have been reflected onto her from her otherwise wimp-child being considered bright enough to benefit from carotid implants. My non-too-bright panic had come about via my childish believing that the implants would remain in my carotid and make my neck as wide as my head.

Don’t be so wet, my mother had impatiently dismissed my tears when I had attempted to tell of my fears. She had made no attempt to explain, the reason being that she probably hadn’t known herself.

The implants were of course micronated, had to travel from my neck to their allotted creases in my grey matter, and the tiny pair had both been just about visible to my child’s naked eye.

Fuss about nothing, my mother bestowed her expecting-adult-sympathy smile on the floating about technician, who patiently and at length explained to my mother - in her tailored one-piece - that many selected children, despite their being exceptionally bright, reacted thus: Emotional blocking doesn’t let them take in the details of what they’re being told.

Had no effect on her. On our way home, when I blubbed my relief, she covertly shook me by the scruff. Which probably went some way towards reinforcing my adult aversion to weightlessness.

Because even as an adult, if on an errand I had to go near the centre, and I have been assured more than once that it is a purely psychosomatic reaction, but mine has been such an overpowering sense of unease that I have had to force myself forwards. Fortunately my college wasn’t of the floating prestige kind, but a few outer streets from my room.

When, early on in our almost relationship, Alvina had persuaded me to a centre hotel for weightless sex, for her sake I had forced myself to go. I hadn’t been able to help however transmitting my unease.

My performance had obviously been a disappointment because Alvina never suggested a repeated visit. With me at least. In my obsessive pursuit of her I did once see her returning, replete with companion, from the centre; and I turned my shamed eyes to the closest wall.

Love hurts. That’s what I told myself that night. Love is cruel, love is unjust, not fair. Love is unhealthy.

I developed an ulcer to the side of my shin bone that wouldn’t heal.  

Chapter Six

I loathed my weak self for being infatuated with Alvina. A simple single-minded sensualist Alvina had no business disrupting my complex thinking processes. But it wasn’t until my self-loathing found corporeal expression in my ulcerated leg that our relationship, our occasional and one-sided relationship, came to a definite end.

I didn’t have a broken

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