“Rehu”

While watching a documentary about Neanderthals, they showed a Cro Magnon carving of a horse and strangely, the word “rehu”  or “hrehu” popped into my mind.

It turns out after a brief search that the word “rehu” means “fodder” in Finnish, as in the sort of thing an animal like a horse might eat.

I can find no evidence whatsoever that the Finnic subgroup of the Uralic language family existed in the early stone age, but it’s rather interesting nonetheless.  Also, it is known that certain words have been preserved as parts of language for tens of thousands of years so it’s certainly not impossible.  For now though, I’ll call it an interesting coincidence.

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How John Harris Died- My Latest Guess

Some time in late 2012, I had a memory that I interpreted as the end of my WWI life.  It was out of context, with only image, sound, and sensation so it was difficult to interpret.

The actual memory was as follows:  There were bright objects arching across No Man’s Land, loud explosions across the field, and I was sitting on a dirt bank overlooking the trench, holding still.  There was a sensation like a downward rush of air, a shock (but no pain), and the next thing I knew I was face down in the dirt with dust settling around me.  Then everything went dark.

I had other memories later, after I’d changed my mind about what happened, but these were probably just flights of fancy; I find that my earliest memories are often the most consistently reliable.

My initial interpretation had been that this was an artillery bombardment, but it raised one major question: why was I out of the trench?  Also, the bright, star-like objects weren’t consistent with the trails of artillery shells.

Also, the number of casualties in Houplines dating from 8 July 1915 is small; at Ferme Buterne (the cemetery where they buried soldiers who died before they could get to a dressing station), John is the only casualty from that date, and at Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension (where soldiers who died at the dressing station were brought), there are two, both privates, one from the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the other from the Royal Irish Regiment.  This is completely inconsistent with what I would reasonably expect from a direct hit from an artillery shell.

I got a break a while back when I first heard a description of a wiring party in a documentary about a dig at The Somme.  One of the things they said was that older soldiers of low rank were often called upon to do this dangerous work, and I know that John was 38 at the time (not 39 as his headstone states), old enough to have been most of his comrades’ father.  Furthermore, they also mentioned signal flares.  This was the first time I had formulated the idea that John had died during a wiring party.  At the time my best guess was that John had been machine-gunned but it didn’t account for the downward rush of air.  Also, I would expect a machine gun to produce at least some amount of pain even in the event of a near-instant kill; the death I remember was painless.

I’ve since found other accounts that state that not only were the bright flares sometimes called “star flares,” but that hand-thrown bombs were used against soldiers in these wiring parties.  The accounts I’ve found all mention that soldiers caught by flares would freeze in position until the flare died out.

This in mind, I now have a fair idea of what happened to John.  I believe that he was very nearly back to his trench when another round of flares went up.  He froze on the breastworks near the trench but was killed by a bomb or a small-order mortar, dying within the space of two seconds from massive injuries.  I believe his death was painless and quick… but I’m sad to say that if I’m correct about having been him in another life, his suffering didn’t end then and there.

I want to confirm this now.  I’m still looking for something- anything- that gives the circumstances of his death.  The only sources I have found to date say “Killed in Action” and while a regimental diary does exist, it would be costly to obtain the scans I need and the diary itself is at the Shropshire Regimental Museum.  I am waiting for the 2nd KSLI diaries to be published online but so far, only the 1st Battalion and 7th Battalion diaries have been made available.

If I can confirm that John was killed during a wiring party then it will be the last of several impressive confirmations.  I have already confirmed that he was a front-line casualty by virtue of where he was buried; I confirmed the location of his grave, one of the battle sites I recalled (Hill 60), and the home he was born in.  I remain strongly biased toward the idea that John’s memories are authentic, whether I was actually him or merely some sort of contact point in the living world.

Whatever the case, I want closure.  I’ve taken a very personal interest in John’s story and it means a great deal to me to know if these memories that have haunted me for nearly two years are true.

Something I Want To Check Out

I recently discovered that not far from me, in Maryhill, WA, is a replica of Stonehenge that is also a WWI memorial.

The story goes that the man who built the monument was a Quaker who felt in 1918 that it was appropriate to remind passers by that even in our age, young men are still sacrificed to the God of War (this is of course based on the hotly-disputed claim that Stonehenge was a site of human sacrifice).  Even knowing the story, it still feels like a very weird gesture and the place has a haunting, mysterious quality.

What’s more, the site apparently has been examined and compared with the extant stones at Stonehenge, and it has been suggested by those who study archaeo-acoustics that the Maryhill Stonehenge has eerily similar acoustics to what Stonehenge would have had when it was completed.   It also has the same astronomical alignment as Stonehenge, of course.

The land it’s on, along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, doesn’t look much like Salisbury Plain; in fact it’s the kind of vista you’d be unlikely to find anywhere but North America.  It’s still breathtaking and I plan to take a drive out there later next month (I need to rent a car so I can shuttle my fiance and his equipment to his band’s concert anyhow).

Still There…

I’ve noticed a pattern now.

Whenever one thing goes wrong, I immediately expect a windfall of bad news.

I was recently told that someone thought I seemed like a paranoid prepper type because I’m always feeling like any day, we’ll wake up in a 100% totalitarian state and I’ll be carted off for re-education or extermination for my socialistic tendencies, or there will be a major war on US soil (either an invasion or a civil war) and I’ll be dragged into it somehow.

Well, I’m not a prepper.  I don’t sleep with a loaded gun next to my bed, I don’t stash ridiculous amounts of food and water, and I don’t have a “bug out vehicle” parked outside my apartment.  I don’t read Above Top Secret, I don’t listen to Alex Jones, and I don’t have a Gadsden flag flying from my balcony.  But apparently, I think like a paranoid person nonetheless.

Then again, once you’ve seen the world go to shit all around you after a domino effect of bad decisions, it kind of becomes natural to assume that the world could go to shit just as easily the next time.  You become attuned to entropy all around you; you begin seeing it, noticing as relationships, objects, plants, and animals grow old and decay over time.  You come to understand time as a function of entropy; what we perceive as the passage of time is merely the steady decay of the isotopes in our bodies.  You can become so attuned to this entropy that you begin to expect it at times when it’s not even coming.  After a while, it casts a permanent shadow over you.

This is the same anxiety Phil felt…  I sometimes wonder if I was really him or if we aren’t simply complimentary aspects of the same archetype.  But it feels like a good bit of this came unbroken from John, and the horrors he saw in 1915.

Incidentally, on Friday a doctor told me that because of the life I’ve lived, it’s hard to pin down a single source of trauma.  On that technicality he can’t diagnose PTSD; however, he did say that I had pretty much all the classic features and that if the DSM actually included Complex PTSD, that would have fit me 100% (for now it’s officially “anxiety disorder NOS”).

Obviously, I did discuss the past life memories with concerns that I might also be psychotic (around the time I thought I might have been Philip K. Dick this became a concern), but I’ve been reassured that I’m not losing my mind.  It should go without saying, I had no expectation that memories of a battle that happened 69 years before I was born would be considered by a serious psychiatrist as a defining event, crazy or not.

Sometimes I wonder if the emotional abuse I went through as a child was really as bad as I remember, though, or if it wasn’t made worse by an existing trauma much older than I was.

Oh God…

This documentary is the first I’ve come across that actually focuses on how life was for soldiers early in the war.  Then again, I’ve been avoidant about this kind of thing for months but I felt strongly that I needed to purge more bad memories because it seems to help me somehow.  I decided to deliberately trigger myself and I did it.

I’ve had to stop it momentarily because it had me crying hysterically when the reenactors read actual memoirs, even though the actors weren’t tremendous and the costumes were much too clean.  It hit extremely close to home because the conditions I remember were this bad and worse.  The one describing the rats in the Armentieres sector was the one that had me in tears but the one with the fellow telling his father he’d gone off to war had already caught me off guard with the emotions it stirred up for me.

I haven’t confirmed anything I didn’t already know, but it resonated with me because they focus on the minutiae of a Tommy’s life for once.  I was not prepared to find something like this.

EDIT: OK, the Brian Blessed dramatic reading was in poor taste (this isn’t fucking Henry IV, Mr. Blessed!)  That’s what I get for not posting this after I’d seen the whole thing.

Forward

I realized a while ago that it isn’t enough for me to simply revive the Philip K. Dick formula.  If I were claiming to be only inspired by him, that might be enough.  I could make slight updates to things like technology, for instance, and probably get at least a small following for my work as a “worthy successor.”  

But I have made a claim so ambitious that I have to live it down by taking it to the next level: if I really am Phil’s reincarnation, then I have to be a better writer or I’ll have failed myself.

At first, I turned a blind eye to the critics of his work.  I focused on getting a feel for where he was in his storytelling, his knowledge, and his character development and applying those lessons to my current life’s work.  That was easy; my current life’s work and knowledge had a lot of the same elements and it was just a matter of accentuating those elements.  Immediately, my personal style fit wonderfully with the new themes I adopted, and I began writing the sort of fiction I’d have only dreamed of writing ten years ago. I fixed the most glaring problems (like Phil’s misogyny, which is just painful to look at now) but I kept the formula pretty conservative at first.

But now, that’s not enough, and I’ve begun looking more deeply at what the critics have to say.  The fact is that many critics who know what they’re talking about regard his abilities as a writer as “mediocre” and his stories are often considered to be ingenious but poorly-finished.  His plots have been described as skeletal and breezing through places that ought to have been elaborated on (also a criticism of my work) and even I’ve noticed he tends to restrict his settings and time lines, seldom daring to go beyond the not-too-distant future or the recent past.

I realize that if I’m going to say I was an acclaimed author in a previous life, I have to put my money where my mouth is.  I can’t control if I get famous from my work, and I probably won’t; but I can control the quality of my work and I am determined to be a better writer as if that life had not ended and the progress toward improvement was unending.

My current project will be a good start, but I have a feeling that this will not be “it” for me, by a long shot.  Only when I’m consistently producing good work will I feel that I’ve made good on what I set out to do.  I’m not doing it for fame or for money, but for the simple act of living up to my own philosophy of self-improvement.