Thursday, 14 August 2014

Old Man Star

Old Man Star made it rain; made it rain paper air-planes and starfish. He'd never understood how he made these fall from the sky and the why, now he was elderly, barely mattered.
After the Second World War he'd been closely studied by scientists and head doctors; poked and prodded by men in white coats like a lab-bred rat. The Home he lived in allowed that. They'd taken him in after finding him, as a young boy, wandering London's bombed streets. He couldn't tell them his name, where he lived, or if he had family. There were fragments, but they were hazy, lodged in a part of his brain that he had limited access to.
Back then, cases like him were thought to be caused by the doodlebug bombs: low-flying bombs that quietly dropped out of the sky, but exploded loudly. Doctors said they upset the circuitry in his head, but he didn't know anything about that; all he knew was that he was different. The other Home kids fell down suddenly and fitted, whereas he, subconsciously, made intricate paper planes and brightly coloured starfish rain from the heavens.   
Unable to remember his own name, the nurses had named him David, which was better than being called Star Boy or Boy Spy. He grew up there for ten years surrounded by a mixture of awe and fear as they said he was able to enter a world that others couldn't. Was what he could do trickery or an inexplicable condition?
Doctors agreed it was undoubtedly a combination of the two, but David at sixteen believed he'd been chosen to show that not everything was always just so; miracles happen as does the perverse, the bizarre, the impossible. The world was full of random occurrences and he was one of them. War had torn up nature's rules and chosen to rewire him.
He could smell when it was about to happen like heavy rain hanging in the air or the fresh scent of spring. His pores soaking it up like a withered plant until a tingling sensation took over his hands, shot up his arms and exited forcefully from the crown of his head so that it threw his skull back to the sky. His arms pinned to his sides with the palms of both hands spread wide as his eyes rolled inwards.
Frozen in that twitching pose, pilot-less paper air-planes would then dive from the skies and release bombs of bright orange sea stars. As they dropped, some of these starfish would sag and lose one or two of their five arms, which would spin off and land with a splat somewhere on a tree-lined street. Passers-by found shelter whenever they could and peered in earnest at their heavens as the street they'd just been walking along became littered with flimsy fighter planes and strange star-shaped fish. The Second World War was over long ago, what was this?
Their reaction was always the same when this rain suddenly stopped. They glanced nervously about and then cautiously crept out from their hiding spots. Small boys excitedly picked up the paper planes and played war games; housewives inspected the starfish and collected them in buckets; shopkeepers cleaned their smeared windows, and people continued on to wherever they are going to or coming from.
David, when recovering from a trance, shook himself like a wet dog and gazed at his surroundings with a nonplussed and slightly amused expression. Had he caused that? And that? He was usually trapped in a monochrome world the next day and the day after; grainy images of the world floated around him and were gradually broken up by vivid flecks of colour.
But raining paper planes and sea stars used up precious energy making David old well before his appointed time. The years were brutally stripped away before he'd lived them until his eyes twinkled and his face glowed with a translucency. Nobody now wondered what he was: he was an old man, an old star.