Posts Tagged ‘Mystical’

The Dolphin Dalai


3am Outside the Dolphin Pub. Mare Street, Hackney, London.

Walter Sikhart stank of piss again, only this time it wasn’t his fault. At some point earlier in the night someone must’ve found him drunk and asleep in the shop doorway and actually urinated on him. It was probably another drunk, caught short on his way home from the pub, unaware that tonight this darkened doorway was Walter’s bedroom.

Walter preferred to believe this rather than think they’d done it on purpose, few people deep down were that rotten, he reasoned. These were part-time drunks after all, mere amateurs at the craft, not full-time masters like he who’d studied for years at the altar of disappointment and despair. It was a Friday night and these drunks were off the clock from their regular office jobs. Jobs where they got to use staplers and paperclips for their original purpose and not to hold up their trousers, where correction fluid was used to mask mistakes on paper, not drunk as a shooter to mask mistakes in life.

Walter moved over to the bus stop, hoping the orange glow from the overhead bulb might give the illusion of warmth and dry him off a little. He looked down at the floor and saw a cigarette butt with a good length left on it, probably thrown down in the arrival of an unexpected bus. He carefully straightened out the crumpled end between thumb and forefinger and put it too his lips, rooting round in his overcoat for a match.

He hadn’t been born an alcoholic, in fact he hadn’t even been born Walter Sikhart, he had become both in the intervening years.  He’d actually chosen the name himself when he’d first come over from Nepal some ten years ago, for all the good it had done him. He’d been born Wai Sikhinn, on the northern shore of Lake Rara in the west of the mountainous Himalayan kingdom. Even this harmless twist of fate had gone against him, because if his mother had decided to take the ferry that day then he’d have been born closer to civilisation on the southern bank and wouldn’t have been brought up to believe he was a demigod.

The town elders had decreed that nineteen forty-eight was the year the next Nepalese Lama would be born and they searched the villages in their flowing orange robes scattering lotus blossom as they went and ensuring Walter could never again have a normal life. He remembered nothing of the determining test, laid down for millennia in their sacred teachings. When all the different animal bones had been spread out in front of him that early spring afternoon, smooth and rounded from the years of having been wrapped in silk, his four year old hand had naturally just reached out for the one that interested him the most: the sacrum bone of a pink bottle-nosed dolphin.

He did recall how this action had changed the electricity in the room, the energy had picked up and the people in the funny orange sheets seemed to become animated and talkative. The necessary astrologers and numerologists were consulted and charts drawn up. All had agreed he was a shoe-in for the top job. The stars were in correct alignment, the dolphins were crooning at night in the nearby lake, the bone had been correctly selected. And so for the next twelve years Walter Sikhart was trained and instructed in his future role as spiritual leader of the Limbus people.

Then, about a week after his sixteenth birthday his world changed forever and his destiny gurgled down the plug-hole like the mulch of so many dead lotus flowers and pointless tears, culminating in his inexorable sluice down the drain to exit here in Hackney. His mother had taken ill and deteriorated fast. On what was to become her death bed she confessed to him that she’d got the date of his birth wrong all those years ago. She’d realised soon after the monks had taken him to their monastery, but knowing that they could provide for him better than she ever could, she held her tongue, until the guilt and cancer had eaten away at her and now she was dying. He found it hard to come to terms with either situation. His whole life had been a based on a lie. Having spent his formative years being revered as a saviour he was suddenly reviled as a fake and shut out in the cold.

After much thought and in what was looking likely to be the only moral stand he’d take in his life, he told the elders of his village the truth and relinquished his destiny.

He’d tried to stay in the village but the constant looks of pity and suspicion that the fix had been in from the get-go, had eventually forced him out. He became a fisherman, using the dolphin bone that he still kept with him to call the pink bottle-nosed dolphins close to shore.

Each morning, just after sunrise he’d stand with his bare feet in the turquoise water and sound the bone, relishing the ghostly noise bouncing off the residual fog like a skipping stone and echoing up through the tall pines. What followed was an amazing symbiosis between the land mammals and our aquatic distant cousins. Each time a school of fish congregated in the lake, the dolphins would corral them up and push them towards the shore so the waiting fishermen could catch them. So deep did the relationship run that once the fish were rounded-up, the porpoise would give a flick of their tail to show it was time to cast the nets. It never failed!

What amazed Walter most about this relationship was that there was nothing in it for the dolphins, they were purely doing it to be helpful. It was then that he realised the true connectedness of life. The inter-dependency and co-existence between everything, all alive with the same spark of life-energy linking as one on a sub-atomic level. All relying on each other for survival and a purpose. A purpose in life that had so cruely been robbed from him. The bone had of course been lost in the pissed mist of time, along with any last dreams of redemption.

Walter smoked the butt down to the filter before tossing it back to the floor of the bus shelter, such memories were dangerous for him, they invariably led to bitterness and more drinking. He exhaled slowly, savouring the last puffs of the chocolaty smoke and looked round at the city, surrounded as it was by rat-maze walls of man-made concrete. The exhale became a sigh. There were very few places left on earth where humans still understood this precious symbiosis of life. Here in the artificial urbanity there was only humanity and machines, and both seemed pretty heartless right now. Man appeared hell-bent on an unstoppable rush into the dark and unnatural blending of flesh and silicone. A Cybernetic marriage without possibility of a divorce.  In only a few hundred years we’d gone from being surrounded by the ecstatic hum of life, to the incessant whir of cold anti-life in metal, stone, smoke and plastic. To Walter what was most crazy of all was that we’d done it by choice, but the physical comforts we’d gained sure as hell didn’t add up to the spiritual reality sacrificed.

He was starting to feel the bitterness well up inside himself again. Damn, he wanted a drink. A chemical cosh to beat the bilious monster back down again for a few more hours. He shook the can of barley wine between his legs but it didn’t even make a rattle: more empty than his pockets. Maybe if he had’ve been a demigod he could’ve magic’d up another can, but not here, not now.

His train of thought was broken by the clatter of dustbin lids behind him in the pub alleyway. Twisting his neck in the damp, piss-stained coat Walter watched two teenagers kicking at a trash can. They looked detached, malevolent and empty, surrounded by artificial things he guessed they’d never known how to live connected and real.

They saw him staring, Walter turned quickly away and stared at his feet imagining invisibility, but it was too late. The taller of the two youths swaggered up, the angry vinegar piss coursing inside rather than outside on somebody else’s coat.

‘Hey, what up, clot? You wanna get shanked old man?’

Walter buried his face in his coat. The smell of stale urine was stronger here, he felt there were hints of hops and wheat, definitely a drinker.

The youth was immediately all up in his face, posturing and looking for an excuse to escalate their encounter.

‘Hey, I is talking to you. Want to get robbed?’

His friend had caught up and grabbed his arm.

‘Leave him, he’s just a bum, look at him. He ain’t got nuffink. Fuck it blud.’

As if to show he’d given it careful consideration, the taller youth kissed his teeth and snatched the can from Walter before turning away. He watched them go from the corner of his eye not daring to turn his head, leaving the majority of his face concealed by the coat. On discovering the can was empty the youth drop-kicked it at a betting shop window across the street only for it to bounce off the advertisement for some perfume none of them would ever get to smell.

Right now Walter was smelling piss and he didn’t like it. The smack of the can startled a fox which had been rummaging nearby through a discarded fried chicken box and it started across the road towards him.  In the relative safety of the bus shelter the fox cowered under the red plastic bench, covering three of its four possible avenues of attack.

Walter leant forward and peered between his legs to get a better view of the fox. It was shivering and wide-eyed with a mix of fear and adrenaline. Remembering he had a small piece of kebab left in his pocket he retrieved the greasy strip of meat, grey and glistening in the orange light. He flapped it on the grooved seating and the fox instinctively got up to inspect the offering. As it slinked up to the rancid meat Walter could see something clasped between its teeth, a white bony protuberance sticking out either side of the jaw. The fox cautiously sniffed the meat, then stepped over it towards the scrunched up material of Walter’s coat. Locking eyes with him, the fox bowed its head and dropped the object on the urine-soaked clothing, before retreating back and hastily gobbling up the meat.

Walter recognised the gift instantly and poked it with his nicotine and shit stained finger, just to make sure. For the first time in weeks he forced himself to mentally focus and cut through the drunken stupor. It was undoubtedly the cranial bone of a bottle-nosed dolphin and as he reached out for it he felt again like the innocent four year old selecting the thing that was most pleasing to him. With trembling hand he put it too his lips not daring to believe and exhaled…

Above him in the bedsits and studios of Mare St people found themselves being roused softly from the depths of their slumber to hear a haunting sound that had no business on a London street. Walter took another breath as it began to rain. The droplets danced over the air-hole of the bone making the sound even more watery and ethereal in the blue dawn. The gently haunting sound wailed out, soft yet insistent like a candle against the darkness, becoming a Pied Piper’s rallying cry quite impossible for the sleeping city-dwellers to ignore in their artificial beds.

© Michael G Zealey