Paternoster Tales: Chapter 3

Introductions and names and muddles

On the subject of names, I have been remiss. I forgot to introduce myself. Or to introduce us, for that matter.

We need intro-diddly-ductions as a friend of mine says. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you who that friend is and he’s not important to this story, so I’ll just pretend that the diddly bit is mine.

So, intro-diddly-ductions … let’s get started.

You know who you are – don’t you?

Of course you do!

Hello you.

But you don’t know who we are, though – not yet.

You may have glimpsed us – out of the corner of your eye – as you walk, too quickly, through your life. Or felt the light tickle of our breath on your face, as we whispered ideas and dreams and aspirations into your ear. I like inventing aspirations. It’s a good word – full of dreams and promises and adventure. If I pop one in your ear, you’ll suddenly think you’ve had a brilliant idea. You won’t know that the idea was mine. You won’t see my face,  reflecting your smile, as I watch you pat yourself on the back, nod your head and stride off to get on with your life.

If I tell you that we live in the land between opposing mirrors … you’ll tell me that I’m conjuring with nonsense.

What does living in the land between opposing mirrors mean?

Let me break it down.

Just a bit.

Just for you.

I’ll explain it … hmm … how? I’ll explain it … better! Let – me – see.

Let’s start with – um – the living bit. If by living you understand eating, breathing and sleeping, then … well … we do sleep.

But we don’t eat.

And my chest does go in and out like its hooked-up to a memory of breathing. But that doesn’t mean much, because the last time I took a look inside myself which was a long time ago because looking inside yourself – properly inside – is … well, it’s properly disgusting and demoralising and left me more wretched than a beetle that’s been squashed beneath a bicycle wheel and then got to watch several of its legs going round and round and round as the bicycle sped away. And all I saw was some brittle twiggy stuff, a pile of soot and grey, thready cobwebs where I guess my lungs used to be.

So, if living must include eating and breathing, perhaps we do a different type of living to you.

If however, living simply equals sleeping and flowing through narrow spaces, like the gaps between bricks, then we live. Just like you.

Oh, you don’t do that?

Flow between bricks? You live but you don’t flow.

You don’t flow at all? Really!

Ah. I guess we just have sleep in common with your type of living. Which will do; I’ve heard it’s good to be common. I can’t remember who told me. Paternoster would know. He tells us that he knows everything. Sometimes, he’s right.

Next, next; next? The land between the mirrors.

It doesn’t exist.

Except, it must. Because that’s where we live. It’s more of an idea of a place than an actual place. You can’t visit it. Unless you become one of us. Which is unlikely.

We can’t leave it. So we’re kind of trapped. Which we whisper. Trapped is a horrid word. It’s not nice to be prisoners in a place that doesn’t exist. Which is rather complicated. And puzzling in an ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying’ way; expressed so well by the big question mark that’s written all over your face.

Best move on, then … to the mirrors.

They’re not puzzling at all.

I think you thought I’d start with the mirrors. Didn’t you? You heard mirrors and you thought ‘I know what mirrors are.’ But they’re pretty boring; the mirrors are just basic physics.

See?!

Bo-o-oring!

The laws of light demand that when you put mirrors facing each other  … that’s the opposing bit … the light between them will bounce for ever, from one to the other, creating an infinity which is precisely where you’ll find us. Except it isn’t – it’s where we’ll find you, when we see you looking at yourself in the mirrors. But where you won’t find us, because you won’t see us, because very, very, very few people can. See us, I mean. We’re still trying to figure out exactly who those people are. And why they can see us, when none of the rest of you can. You’d think after hundreds of years, we’d have some answers. But no. We have none. Paternoster has theories. Long-winded theories. Theories that put us to sleep quicker than any lullaby. But he has no answers.

It’s always a shock when we realise that one of you is watching us. Discombobulating, you could say. Which would be a good and apt thing to say because discombobulating is a very good word. Don’t you agree?

Dis-com-BOB-ul-ating!

My discombobulating intro-diddly-duction is over.

We live in the land between opposing mirrors.

We watch you.

We are Paternoster, Molly and me. I’m Barnabus. We watch you. And we try to stop Lucretia and her tricks. She’s one of us, too; the irritating one. She says her tricks are harmless. But they’re not. We’re not meant to interact too much with you. But she says there aren’t any rules. So she does. And it seldom turns out well.

That’s about it. Who we are and where we live.

Oh! I forgot to tell you what we are. We’re most definitely, absolutely, not ghosts. Molly thinks she once heard someone call us waifs. Maybe that’s what we are. Maybe it isn’t. I know we’re something. You’re reading this and these words didn’t get here on their own, so you must know we’re something. I don’t think, however, that what we are is particularly important.

We.

Are.

That’s all that matters.

If I’ve left anything out about us, I’ll try to remember to tell you later. For now – or rather tomorrow – let’s get back to the red wellingtons and Agatha.

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