Black Eyed Dog

‘Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay 

To mould me man, Did I solicit thee 

From darkness to promote me?’

John Milton, Paradise Lost

I awoke with a start, sweat-soaked, choking and stifled of breath in the cloying warmth of the room. In the far off distance thunder rumbled in the canopies of clouds that shrouded the night. Darkness, deep and velvet and impermeable settled all around me, enfolding me in its weighty cloak. A distant and trebly sound, but one with familiar and beautiful cadences came from somewhere… befuddlement passed and became recollection – the listening device… yes, the I-Pod. I had placed it under my pillow along with that other electronic device… I fumbled under that selfsame pillow for the cellular telephone, located it and pressed its eerie greenish light into life. 2.45am… and on the periphery of my vision, a movement, a darker shadow than any other object in the room, caught in the fading edge of the light from the telephone. I reached for the bedside lamp switch, pressed it on and scorched my eyes with the sudden intensity of its light. A moment passed, and as my eyes adjusted to plain sight there could be no doubt. It sat, absolutely still, on the tiny stool at the foot of my bed.

‘You’ I cried out ‘you have come to… to…’ my voice vanished, strangled in the fearful closure of my throat at the sight I beheld.
The creature raised its head and gazed directly at me. Water – mayhap rainwater, was trickling down its fearful visage. After several seconds it spoke.
‘No. This time I have not come to kill thee. I have come to take my leave of thee.’ Its voice held no anger, as it had done so many times before. Now it seemed weighted with a deep and unimaginable sorrow, how changed from the blazing terror that I knew from experience could be unleashed by its tongue.
‘You are leaving me?’ relief had unblocked the stricture of my throat, and now I could scarce believe the words that had emerged hoarse and laboured from the scarred lips of the beast before me.
‘truly, you leave?’
It nodded, saying no more, yet conveying the absolute truth of its intentions in the slow gravity of the gesture.
Minutes passed. The creature continued to stare directly at me, in absolute stillness. No breath appeared to pass from it, no blink of an eyelid to confirm humanity. I saw now that it was wearing my Navy greatcoat, that which I had inherited from my uncle, and that it was flecked with mud and shimmering with droplets of rainwater. In the right hand pocket I could clearly see my copy of ‘L’etranger’, now water stained and grubby. Upon seeing this, I clearly recalled my teenage years of existential doubt and angst, and once more my throat constricted.

The creature leaned forward, and extended a parchment dry bony finger in my direction, jabbing it toward me for emphasis as it spoke. “Remember this, if you will of me – It was thou that created me, thou that breathed life into me, thou that needed me… ‘ it leaned back into the corner, and gazed upwards to the ceiling before continuing ‘but I know… I know now that it is time for me to leave thee… forever. I have brought much pain to you and to the ones you love…’ I fear he almost spat the last word out ‘… but hast thou ever considered me? A dark thing, unloved, unwanted… I cannot bear to see myself… I cannot walk freely in daylight…’
his voice broke off in a choking sob. At that moment, I felt sorrow for him. True sorrow. I felt as God must mayhap feel toward mankind, the frustration that endowing one’s creatures with free will must cause the creator… yes, I had created this beast, called it up from the depths of my dark mind, bestowed life upon it, a shape, a form… and now I had to recognize that the time had come, and the tragedy was that it too knew this, and had come almost willingly, it seemed, to his nemesis, his maker… yes, to meet his maker.

The thunder having calmed, the room was now almost silent, other than the sound of the I-Pod, the music seemingly shimmering in the still warm air. The creature leaned forward again. ‘That sound… it is so… so calming, so beautiful. What is it?’
‘It is Nick Drake. It is called Black Eyed Dog.’
The creature allowed a slight smile to flicker across his lips, and nodded his head slightly. ‘Ah yes, I know of him. He was born in Rangoon.’ I was surprised at this, and my surprise must have shown, as the creature let out a harsh, barking laugh
‘ha! You wonder at my knowledge. Here!’
from inside my greatcoat he threw a ragged parcel upon my bed, wrapped in torn and stained brown paper and held loosely together with fraying string. It was clear his intention was for me to open it, so I duly did. Inside were many familiar loose leaf printed sheets, individually printed from the internet it appeared. ‘I know these’ I said, quietly. ‘As do I’ retorted the creature ’As do I…’ he reached over, lifted one up and squinted at it before reading aloud slowly and deliberately. ‘Lost – in – Space. Ha! The vanities of man!’ he threw it disdainfully back onto the bed. ‘Enough of this! Tell me about this music, this song. What does it mean?’ In truth I was fearful of where this discourse may lead, but to humour him I answered. “It comes from his last album… record. It was named Pink Moon. He died soon after making this, from an accidental overdose of anti-depressants. Many people think it’s a song about suicide, or depression. A metaphor for them… do you know, Winston Churchill used to describe his depression as a Black Dog, following him around…’

‘Really? How interesting. But this is a Black Eyed Dog… perhaps it means something other… perhaps it looks to better times…’

Abruptly, the creature stood up. Startled, I moved suddenly and knocked the bedside lamp spinning. I hurriedly straightened it up and in that brief moment it was beside me, leaning over me, inches from my face. ‘Goodbye’ it said. In that instant, I saw that its eyes were the deepest, darkest black imaginable…

…and then it was gone…

Historical note – the reference made to Rangoon by the creature is generally accepted to be a direct reference to the author’s visit to Yangon with his wife and child in 2009 during the New Year water celebrations. From contemporary accounts it was clear that they had a wonderful time, and were enchanted with the city and overwhelmed by the kindness of their hosts, Nick and May Yei.

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