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What If

My mind wanders aimlessly back through the distant haze of long buried memories, catching brief glimpses of what seems a lifetime ago and another person living in a strange twilight world, filled with constant dread of what could or might happen at any moment. A song resonates through the cascade of images, providing the soundtrack of this strange life review, whilst embedding discarded emotions back into the screenplay of history. The first line of the song could well have been picked from my brain. The haunting melody brings a prickling sensation in the nape of my neck and draws my soul back through space and time to a place of foreboding.

"Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again”

In an instant I was back in the dark confines of the old wood shed, struggling to find a comfortable or at least bearable enough position among the jumbled piles of splinter laden logs, all the while being aware of the imminent threat of unseen but lurking eight legged fiends, hiding in large numbers among the apocalyptic rubble that masqueraded as the firewood stack. Time would not be measured here as there was no clock or watch to look at and certainly no sun moving across the sky to gauge the passage of time.

The concept of 'eternity' was one learned by experience. I was only eight years old and still blissfully unaware of the arduous journey that lay waiting for me. The only sound apart from my own breathing and the rustle of scuttling mice underfoot was the distant crackling and slightly muted music that wafted on the wind from next door and an aging gramophone that eked out the sixties hit, The Sound of Silence. How ironic it seems now.

There in the inky darkness and isolation the only comfort was the sound of silence and the lyrics that still echo across time to remind me how grateful I should be to have made it to this place. It was in a place of total darkness that I first heard it call to me and tell me of the great ‘What If'. The all possibility that is our constant companion. “Robert, Robert, but What If”?

I curled up tightly against the cold and sank mercilessly into a fitful sleep, exhausted and in a trance like state, the constant lullaby of sounds of silence repeated over and over for what seemed like an eternity. The words are forever etched deep in my psyche.

Hello darkness my old friend

I've come to talk with you again

because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

and the vision that was planted in my brain still remains

within the sound of silence.

I awoke with a start, peering into the infinite blackness when suddenly a shaft of light, coming from a jagged knot hole in the timber cladding, pierced the darkness and edged its way toward me, stopping only inches from my face. I felt an overwhelming sense of comfort and slipped gently back to sleep. Somewhere in the night I had a strange dream and was sure someone had picked me up, cradled me in their arms and carried me away from that egregious place. I stretched and rubbed my eyes as the bright sunlight shone directly on my face, its warmth welcome against the cold air of morning. I pulled back the covers of my bed and for a moment could not comprehend where I was. “How did I get here?” What if,” I thought, “someone felt guilty and rescued me. Not for the only time, would the light come to my aid and teach me not only a valuable lesson but give me a stupendous gift. “The What If”.

That same spirit moves across the face of my life today and regularly reminds me of the great treasure I posses. A treasure we all posses but don’t always appreciate. My first tentative steps on a long road of discovery were taken by what I now call the Accidental Adept. Heed the advice of one who has since been to the very edge of the abyss, staring death in the face and yet, been freed by the light once again.

When all seems in darkness, just ask yourself, ‘What If”, and let the Light do the rest.

Robert Harbottle

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