Design a site like this with
Get started

Ghost Days

So, yesterday was a bit of a ‘ghost day’ for me. Haunted. A past incident I was involved in unfolded around me. Encircling. Containing. Actuality dissolving into the early 1990s. The battleship grey of a Tangi landrover dully defying the sharp blue of the morning sky. Dark blast marks radiating out like teeth from where the weapon tore through the armoured skin, and on through flesh and bone. The heat of its passing cauterising some of the ragged wounds of its wake. Blood drips still. Red rivers chase one another down over uniforms, over skin, over boots. Pooling among the shadows of footwells.

The silence is louder than the explosion. It’s louder than the cracks of the Heckler & Koch HK33, the piston-punches of its working parts. Chaos drowned in silence. Seconds of blood and flame. Aeons of silence. Of stillness. The mind scattered with a shock of steel. Synapses sluggish. If you move you might die. Better to take cover behind stillness. Let your mind empty itself onto the asphalt. Cordite perfuming the air with its decaying flowers.

Still, that shinning sky dazzles above. Only a thin comb of cloud drifts across it. In a garden your eye hooks itself upon an apple tree’s sway. The pressure in your chest slowly presses towards your spine. Lips tear their dryness open. Breath no longer a stranger. Voices float between a suddenness of electronic chatter in your ear and someone screaming. I’ve never seen pain crystalize like that before. Becoming something almost solid. An apparition?

It can be hard to escape the folds of this reality. Time is of no consequence. Never within the clasp of this past. The tightening grip of fear. The unstoppable scent of seared flesh. Charred cloth and the heat of blood seeping amidst the air.

Not until your mind ceases its writhing and the tremors stop convulsing through muscle and sinew. Not until then can you begin to see the threshold of the past. To force your whole body to step across it and out onto the gaping wound of the present. A thinness of steel flickers across the inside of your forearm leaving thin red furrows. Just enough pain to break the chain. Just enough pain.

Someday the past will claim me. For now, I must live amongst its ghosts.

Published by Writer of fiction about Irish terrorism and the lives it damages.

This trilogy of novels will be set during the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ I always wanted to read. Having changed an aspect of ancient history (Constantine chose Mithras over Christ in 312 CE) this ‘butterfly effect’ freed me of the fetters of recent history and able to craft a counter-factual novel. A tale of working-class lives caught up in the deadly maelstrom of sectarian violence. While the focus is on characterisation, ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ explores internecine violence, as well as the beliefs and fears which drive ordinary people to murder. Young lives seduced into joining paramilitary organisations and committing terrible acts of violence. Elements such as protection rackets, and the shadow of political and religious leverage also loom within the story. While the primary religion, and some names, is different, the hatred and violence remains very real and familiar. To date, most novels on the ‘Troubles’ have been post-conflict. My novel is set during the mid 1970s and fixes its gaze firmly upon the cramped terraces from where paramilitarism entraps young people, and, subtly, oppresses communities. I recently retired after over thirty years service in the RUC and PSNI. I was exposed to a number of terrorist incidents in which colleagues and members of the public, sadly, lost their lives. My novel began as a part of therapy to manage my diagnosis of Complex PTSD. While ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ focuses on one side of the community, a second novel will explore the opposing community. A final novel will be written from a policing perspective. I have also written a number of poems centering on the pain and grief which continues to ripple from the ‘Troubles’. During my service I have striven to understand the ideologies of both Irish and Northern Irish paramilitaries: how they justify murder and extortion. To do this I have spoken to many paramilitaries - on both sides of the conflict. I hope my novel sheds a little light upon the dark heart of religious violence; not only in terms of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, but also on a global context.

One thought on “Ghost Days

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: