Anderson has some extraordinary visitations. The intensity of these visitations increases and their nature changes as he moves through youth to adulthood.
In a gothic retreat a traumatic event changes his life. The self-destructive behaviour which follows seems at first to give an insight into one of the universe’s greatest secrets - a secret that will have an enormous effect on human civilisation.
A strange but powerful artefact is presented to him. In the deserts outside of Las Vegas he is asked to find the city of light. He searches through London, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and finally Sydney for this city that will become the venue for his apotheosis. Dark forces are at his heels as he races around the world protecting his secret. Finally the Sydney Olympics beckons him to the city of light.
“AND THERE YOU GO, Anderson,” his father said. “The goodies win again. The baddies are done for.”
Anderson knew this always happened. His Eagle comic told him that PC 49, honest hard-working policeman, like a cheerful uncle, frightfully clever, always caught the crooks. And Dan Dare - he always beat the Treens, those horrible green things from outer space. Yes, Dad was right. Good always won. Bad always lost.
“Why do the baddies always lose?” asked Anderson.
“Because of the Nemesis,” his father replied. Anderson felt secure with the weight of Dad pressing down on the end of the bed.
“What’s a nemesis?” he demanded.
“Ahh,” his father started in a distant tone. Anderson wondered whether his Dad really knew what he was talking about. “Even when the baddies think they have gotten away with it, they haven’t. There is something in the universe that dumps on the bad guys but not the good.”
“Oh,” said Anderson.
Anderson thought about King Arthur and Merlin and the knights. Good knights, the ones in white, always seemed to win. Black knights, well, they won a few fights, but not always.
“At the end of the story, the goodies always win, don’t they Dad?” He said this again to comfort himself as the weight on the bed disappeared.
“Of course,” his father reassured him. “Good night, son.”
The room was plunged into the darkness of desolation as the bedroom light was switched off, and the door closed. Alien territory now. Anderson shivered. “Good night, Dad,” he called out into the void.
IT WAS A BRIGHT DAY. An incredibly bright day when primary colours explode. Blue sky intimidates with its infinity. Red is the fiery arc of a ruptured artery on the battlefield. Green, it just shines and shimmers. It is jungle. Smoke rises, forming white vaults in the blue.
“And then there was the wailing. A sound that hollows out the stomach as the innocents die in the roar of slaughter.
“Through the dusty window and down the hill I could see them all. The masses were on a merciless rampage. Everything sacred was broken. The hoards were moving, aimlessly attacking each other, clubbing each other. Crushing skulls. It was a mindless moving sheet of hate that destroyed everything in its path. Small delicately decorated cottages were stripped of tender support. Verandahs crashed down. Fences were uprooted. Windows and doors were pummelled in. And worst of all were the children. The strongest of taboos was shattered. The small bodies thrown to the ground and hacked at with anything that had come loose in the furore. Broken glass, fence palings, anything at all.
“Glinting in the sun it seemed as though a red spray was moving towards me up the hill. And deep inside myself there was that flicker of awareness. The empty fear of a patriarch about to lose more than his life. I tasted fear in my mouth and a feeling of total doom overcame me. Murderers were clambering onto the porch, smashing our windows, fleeing the intangible. Destroying themselves and very soon ourselves. Death I could feel was so very near. My friends in the room screamed. We glanced at each other’s faces and knew this was the end.
“In absolute desperation and desolation I turned a gun to my beloved family -my all, my beloved children. A quicker death. We are all together. Forgive me! I cried and pulled the trigger.”
THE CLANGING OF FOOTSTEPS on the metal walkway that Anderson had never been able to locate woke him. It was as though people were clambering over the roof. Somewhere he thought there was a shortcut for those in the know. He wasn’t in the know. He looked at the ceiling. Blank whiteness. A vault of nothing. He felt remorse. There was also a feeling of surfeit. He knew he had transgressed the night before. He lingered in bed and marvelled how the sheets could become so knotted with such little provocation. Suddenly he leapt from the bed, rushed down the hallway and opened a cupboard. He looked behind the central heating unit to a small darkened ledge. The baton was still there. Relieved, he returned to bed.
He was sorry for those born to greater affluence than him. It was no crime, he thought, “to be comfortably affluent”. In fact there was more crime in poverty without hope, without relief, without a promise of future prosperity. He reflected briefly, something he didn’t have much time to do these days, on being a child of the 1950s. He was no worse off for not having all the twenty-first century trappings when young. In fact he was positively secure in his childhood. He realised as he aged he had been able to savour the improvement that came to his life by increasing wealth.
The children of today, he regretted, perceived no change, no increment in benefits. The only rule is of consumption. He thought of the time many years ago when he had first flown over the white cliffs of Dover at the end of a long flight from Australia. There had been a feeling of renewed awareness. A feeling of belonging. An excitement that had never been duplicated. Some things just cannot be done twice. If you are born to high affluence there is nothing left to discover. For the affluent, the notion of a richer future is something beyond comprehension. Only a movement to new dimensions, new ways of thinking, new worlds, perhaps, could bring real change, real improvement. His life, like billions of others around the world, of his age and experience, had plateaued. He needed the aliens. He looked around the room again and was startled by the sheer loneliness of his situation. He needed a friend too.
He decided to track down Doogleef. He remembered Doogleef had told him of an enchanting place, a classical castle that was isolated in the moors near the New Forest. It was called Rhinefield House. The name had a familiar ring to it, but Anderson couldn’t recall ever being there.
HIS EXPERIENCE on San Francisco Bay a few months earlier had left an indelible imprint. Anderson wasn’t much of a sailor, so the notion of hiring a cruiser on Pittwater was about as adventurous as he could get. The cruisers were large. The one he had was seven berth. A modem vessel. Equipped with everything. CD player. Video player. Two bathrooms. Refrigerators. Plenty of deck area on which to luxuriate in the sun. He had received some basic instructions on boating from the owners. It all seemed fairly simple. The biggest problem was the judgement of speed and distance when mooring. But they hadn’t trusted him to take the craft out by himself. He had promised them that he was picking up an old friend of his on Scotland Island and they volunteered to take him that far. The half an hour to Scotland Island started with them busily weaving between other vessels. Eventually they settled down on the last few hundred metres, heading straight towards the island.
Anderson had an old acquaintance here, a friendship that went back to the early 1970s. He had met Wally during his own prodigious drinking days. Wally had been of the same predilection. A lot of lager. A lot of wine. In those days, chilled white: moselle, sometimes Riesling. Well, before the chardonnays became popular. They had frequented the Push pubs, or what was left of them. Wally had pursued a literary career with great constancy. He had taken up an academic position in literary studies. And he had written as prodigiously as he drank. But he smoked too. Not for the nicotine. Now he lived on Scotland Island, retired from the academic scene at a relatively early age but writing more prolifically. He was easy to be with. Then and now. Anderson had only seen him once in the short time he had been in Sydney this trip; but that was enough to reconfirm his memories of someone who was sharp but amiable, assertive when necessary, but sensitive to most issues. His island retreat suited him well. The environment of a Robinson Crusoe but still close enough to Sydney by water taxi to enjoy the delights of a metropolis.
“Hey Anderson,” shouted the familiar voice of the staff member who had deftly manoeuvred the vessel through the marina across the stretch of water to Scotland Island. Well, almost all of it. He had benignly let Anderson take control for short distances.
“Hey, Anderson,” he shouted again. “Get smart. We’re just about ready to berth here. Get the ropes ready. Get ready to jump. Remember fore and aft. That’s front and back to you. Tie her up!”