Post from a blog that I am going to delete through lack of interest.
Before the sky turned red over Seltor.
Before the Empire broke the Freehold’s world.
Before the space between the stars was aflame.
Before I travelled further than any man before.
Before all that, there was Whitford.
I was broken long before I got to Whitford, a nice little town in the heart of Yorkshire. It’s the kind of place you see in Sunday night dramas. I had a reason to be there that didn’t mean much and stayed there for no reason beyond having nowhere else to be. Fate often decides on a whim to change the course of our lives. My life is full of such moments. Am I getting ahead of myself? Okay, I should start at the beginning.
My name is Marc Hayes, a product of the foster care system. I was one of the lucky ones I suppose. I was orphaned at 6 and spent a lot of the next ten or so years with a lovely couple called Clare and Brian. That said I was less than a well behaved boy and much less than an apt student. I was sort of clever, but unfocused and I went a bit off the rails in my teens. Who doesn’t? It came to a head one day and the choice was given. Do something constructive eg join the army or get myself in more trouble and end up inside. We’ve all seen the adverts, all watched the exciting holiday like images. It all looked like so much fun, no one tells you about being sent off to die in some armpit part of the world for no proper reason or being under equipped and terrified watching good friends cut to peaces, so I signed up. I was happy there for a while in the Lancaster regiment. I played 5-a –side, did some boxing, training and maneuvers and it was ok. Then one day, the call came in, Iraq. Before we left some new people joined the regiment, one called Geoffrey Costello sat next to me on the flight out there. He called me Sparky, I called him Gez and by the time we arrived at camp, we were best mates. He was a bit of a sci fi geek and I was a film buff, we talked all the time and I remember at the time thinking, was this what it was like to have a best friend?
Over there was hell, long moments of boredom punctuated by extreme moments of terror is one of the ways I have heard this described, it fits. We spent months on patrols, waiting for IEDs to take us out. On foot it was no better. We made no decision to be there, that was the politicians and other policy makers, but we were there and could see how much the locals hated us. Some of the lads learned some arabic words, but I don’t think I wanted to know what they were saying. It was hell, but I had a gang of mates around and I had Jez, no substitute for women, but at least I wasn’t going through all this alone.
I don’t want to talk more about this part of my life, so will skip to the end. Several months into my stay there, we were checking out a suspicious building. Jez went in before me with the sarge and as I followed behind, I remember hearing the wire being tripped. I don’t remember the explosion, or being thrown into the rest of the lads, probably the reason they made it. I do remember waking up with pieces of my best friend all over me and the searing pain running through my body. I was told I went into shock very quickly after that.
My next clearish memory was being in an army hospital. I was on an IV feed and in a great deal of pain. I remember looking down at my left hand and seeing a bandaged stump. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think I took that very well. Within a few weeks I was discharged and home. The worst part I thought, was behind me. Then came the nightmares. I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and there was other symptons, they patched me up, gave me pills and then I was sent off to make my way in the world again, a world I no longer had much experience of living in. The next few years didn’t really go well to be honest.
I’ll spare you the clichéd elements of drinking problems, gambling problems, drug issues and that brief period of time when I lost a place to live, but needless to say, by the time I got to Whitford, I was a broken mess of a man, not the unmotivated teenage tearaway I was, nor the soldier I later became, but now I was just broken and lost.
Whitford has a two distinguishing features, the first is that it’s a mecca for british UFO watchers and the other is…. well that’s the thing, there is nothing else. There’s little industry, a few factories and shops, no great areas of oustanding natural beauty, it’s just a town in Yorkshire, where everyday people live. Well lived. I was there because I remember Jez wanting to visit there for the UFO stuff and it felt like unfinished business, one of the plethora of counsellors told me not to hold on to stuff too much, so I felt this was one I could cross off the list. I applied for a job at the local shop, rented a tiny flat and got on with my goal of using my free time to drink myself to death.
I suppose I look fondly at the time as the last time my life made a degree of sense.