“You’re not in Longford now, John!” snorted James, spitting beer all over John’s shirt.
Everyone joined in the taunting of John who wiped his shirt and drank his beer, smiling as was required.
“Nothing good ever comes out of Longford”
“Except for the road out of it!”
The explosion of laughter from the table attracted stares from the rest of the bar.
“Students” said the barman to the old man sipping his pint of Guinness, a shot of whiskey waiting beside it.
“Loud” he said.
“Yes, always. Up for the day?”
“Free travel, might as well, though a bar is a bar wherever you are.”
He paused, lifted his whiskey in the air and examined the golden colour. He inhaled the smell and put it down again.
“Think I know that young fella, the butt of the joke.”
“Who, John? Ay they give him a hard time. He’s from Longford.”
“Says it all.”
He finished his pint, drank down his shot and walked out past the group, muttering under his breath. Only John noticed him. They were ready to party. John was planning a celebration of his own.
That summer he had been stuck at home, working in the local pub by night and cycling the roads by day. Cycling, the national pastime. Nobody noticed him. It was on one of his journeys that he came across the sign to the Dolmen. He opened the gate and walked up and over the slight rise. He passed sheep and cautiously watched the bullocks in the adjoining field. There it was. It was huge, bigger than any he had ever seen.
“Another secret” he said to no one in particular.
He walked around it, afraid to touch it at first and then he placed his hands on the cold stone, closing his eyes, imagining a time gone by. He opened his eyes and walked through the opening expecting to be transported to another time but the bullocks who had decided he might be there to feed them were still making their way over. Nothing had changed. He lingered a while before stepping away from it, downwards. He walked around the base of the mound, looking up at it in awe. He never noticed the old man coming towards him.
“Interesting, isn’t it? Did you think you would go somewhere?”
John was embarrassed so he didn’t reply and ran out of the field, onto his bike and down the hill.
It wasn’t long until he forgot the man and was off on one of his cycles again. He headed northwards to The Motte. He climbed it and joined St. Patrick for lunch. He liked it up there because you could see for miles around and hardly anyone ever came up so no one saw him re-enacting his battles.
“At it again I see”.
He turned from his battle with redcoats to see the same old man sitting behind him, watching him. “At what?”
“Attempting to cross again. I wouldn’t pick that one. They lost.”
“How are you there and here, this is miles away?”
“Only if you are walking. You’ll manage it yet and we’ll talk more then.”
The man wandered off while John watched, battle forgotten. The rain came down to remind him he should be going and so he left.
The next trip he went southwards, a shorter spin as he hadn’t much time before his shift. He cycled up to the top of Brí Leith and enjoyed the view of the county below. His curiosity got the better of him and he wandered down to the Farrell Castle to have a look, ignoring the cows and the muck. He climbed in through the ruin and upwards, remembering the story of the cow that went up and got stuck. That explained the destruction in parts he supposed. He climbed up as far as he could and sat down where he had a view of the entrance. He didn’t want to be surprised again.
“I like it here, myself”.
He looked over at the man sitting across from him.
“Are you in my head or real?”
“Both, let’s go now.”
He came over and held John’s hand. John felt himself falling downwards, backwards. Flashing before him were celebrations at a new St. Mel’s Cathedral, tears at it burning down, hunger while it was being built, brother kings, one meeting and welcoming St. Patrick while the other turned his back and continued to worship the Sun. They flew through times and age and stopped when the world was young.
“I brought you here because this is my home. I have been here and will be here. My name is Midir, king of these parts, father of this place. You are of me and me of you.”
John spent the rest of his summer with his guide. He watched castles being built, canals being destroyed, great men being born, great women being torn down, battles being won but mostly lost. The more he did the more power he gained. Tonight, he was ready to let the party begin.
They partied all night, drinking and smoking, dancing and snorting. The night ended quickly. As the morning sun started to rise they all fell asleep. James noticed that John seemed to be watching them.
“Stop creeping me out, go to sleep, go back to yer bog.”
James and his gang looked around in disbelief at their surroundings. They were in a fort on the top of a hill looking down at a cluster of thatched, mud cottages and forests for miles around. It took a while to register their predicament. They were tied together around a pole on top of an unlit bonfire. John was smiling at them, dressed in a tunic of purple with a picture of the sun embroidered on it. Standing beside him was a tall old man in white.
“You’re in Longford now, James.”
Note: This was part of a project called Respond 2. The following short film was inspired by it.
4 thoughts on “Centre of the Universe”
I loved it then and still do now.
Thanks Eileen. I often wonder if I should bring it further. See what happened next..