My Dad's logic went something like this: 'God made you a cripple, to punish me for my sins, so if I send you back to him after exorcising the Devils from you, he will forgive me'.
I had an office to write and draw in, okay it wasn't a real office, but it was away from the house and my dad, and it was my secret place... yes it was on a rubbish tip by the railway line, and well yes, it was an old safe, with the door hanging off, but it was my old safe with the door hanging off. I had my Grandad's old mining helmet with a torch on the front for reading and drawing by, a rucksack full of supplies:- emergency banana: check; peanut butter sandwich: check; bottle of Sarsaparilla: check; Pens, pencils and paper: check; several issues of Famous Monsters of Film land, check; one copy of Alice in Wonderland, check. The walls, such as they were, were wallpapered with words, paragraphs, sentences and even whole pages, torn from magazines and books, my inspiration.
This was my haven... I'd wheel myself there everyday, on my makeshift wheelchair. The chair the hospital had supplied was an adult size wooden bath-chair, that smelled of old people, piss and disinfectant, and was so heavy that not even the combined efforts of Mam, Auntie Suzie, and Mr Henderson from number six, could shift it more than a few feet. Whilst my own makeshift version, adapted from an old luggage trolley was much better, though I had to push it along with my hands on the ground, a couple of shoe brushes strapped to them for protection and extra grip.
On this particularly wind-swept Sunday morning, I had slipped past the collective radar of the neighbours, who were on high alert, with instructions from my Mam, to keep me away from the railway track. She didn't want a repeat of the incident with the ironing board and the cabbage. I'd gone up the cut, parked the trolley in the long grass, and slipped though the gap in the wall, behind the Bergman's place, managed to avoid panicking the chickens, and made it to the office unseen.
I was working on chapter two of my new book 'The Creature from the Black Lagoon vs Alice in Wonderland. My process was as follows:- 1. Cut out random passages from Alice in Wonderland (a cheap paperback edition, not my illustrated hardback of course); 2. paste into scrapbook intermingled with chunks of the dialogue from The Creature from the Black Lagoon transcribed off of the TV;
3. copy the results into my notebook longhand; finally, re-copy into my hardback manuscript book, making changes where I felt they were needed, and adding a spattering of my favourite 'words of the week' culled from my dictionary. Hey you didn't expect it to make sense did you? I was four!
I was having a bit of a dark cloud day. Mam was taking my sister to hospital after Sunday lunch, as she was suffering with spasms in her bad hand, due to the cerebral palsy. I was to be left with Dad.
That meant that after they had left for the hospital either the Church of England Bible, or the Masonic Bible, would come out. The former was bad, the latter really bad... an exorcism was on the cards either way. It was hard to write or draw, my stomach was churning (butterflies? more like killer moths!) and my head felt like King Kong and The Frankenstein creature were having a punch up in it! I peeked out at the railway track, and found myself wondering if maybe I did just go back to 'God', then maybe that would make Dad feel happier, that he might stop hurting everyone. But there was a problem with this scenario... I didn't believe in God. If I died, Dad might not feel better, unless somehow something convinced him that 'God' had forgiven him, if it didn't, then he'd still hurt people, and I'd still be dead.
On the other hand... he wouldn't be able to hurt me anymore. I'd just stop, I wasn't going to heaven or hell, I was sure of that, maybe I'd be reincarnated like the Buddhists taught, but the pain would stop, wouldn't it? I started to crawl out towards the track, when I became aware of a piece of paper stuck to my plaster (I was in a plaster-cast up to my waist after my eighth operation) it was between the drawing of Marilyn Monroe I'd done in marker, and Pop Robson's (Newcastle United footballer) autograph. I un-crumpled it and read it out loud, as was my want.
'What does your character want, what is his dream, what shape has it, and how expressed? Given expression, this is the dynamo of his life, and your life, then, as Creator. At the exact moment when truth erupts, the subconscious changes from wastebasket file to angel writing in a book of gold.
Look at yourself then. Consider everything you have fed yourself over the years. Was it a banquet or a starvation diet?
Who are your friends? Do they believe in you? Or do they stunt your growth with ridicule and disbelief? If the latter, you haven't friends. Go find some.'
©Copyright Ray Bradbury Enterprises 2012
Truth erupted! It wasn't my destiny to sacrifice myself for someone who had no regard for my dreams, someone who didn't believe in me. The nightmare scenarios and fears that took up the majority of space in the wastebasket of my subconscious, were transformed into... ideas, the stuff of stories, and thus stopped hurting. Soon I'd found a friend, admittedly he was an invisible one, made up, a blind superhero called Nocturne, but it was a start. I found a surrogate Father, okay so he was a Scarecrow in the field behind our house, but again, it was a start, and he was a great listener!
As for the Exorcisms, I started to fight back, with the help of Nocturne, and eventually I won, the abuse stopped as did the murder attempts. I survived and I thrived. It was another thirty five years before I discovered who wrote those words. I still don't believe in God, I do believe in the power of the imagination, the power of people to reach their potential against all odds and to tune in to the vast universe, or universes, and make a difference, as taught by us Buddhists, and yes I do believe that Ray Bradbury saved my life in 1964, on a rubbish tip, by a railway track in Newcastle. Thanks Ray.
This short memoir is dedicated to the memory of Ray Bradbury, and to all those writers who inspire me today including: Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Alisa kwitney, Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, Paul Cornell, Tony Lee, Marv Wolfman, Jeff Lemire, Jiro Taniguchi, Greg Rucker and Ed Brubaker amongst many others.