Grave Goods – Bob Fischer.
Bob Fischer is a writer and radio broadcaster, and occasional stage-botherer. His science fiction travelogue ‘Wiffle Lever To Full!’ was reiussed by Hodder and Stoughton in 2018, and he writes regularly for the Fortean Times and Electronic Sound magazine; and for his ‘Haunted Generation’ blog at www.hauntedgeneration.co.uk. He has recently toured with two live shows: ‘Summer Winos’ in which he and his friend Andrew T. Smith discuss the historical importance of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’; and ‘Scarred For Life’, an exploration of scary 1970s and 1980s pop culture, with writers Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence.
Tools of the Trade
I’m not sure I’d want to take any particular tools on my journey beyond the veil, or indeed practise much of a trade. Where’s the fun in an afterlife if I’m just going to carry on doing the stuff I did before I popped my clogs? I’m not even sure I want a physical form. When I was very small, I had incredibly vivid dreams about flying. Not in a fantastical way, they felt absolutely real. I remember floating gently up and down the stairs, and even inspecting the pattern on the wallpaper while I was hovering just beneath the landing ceiling.
At the time, I was completely unsure as to whether these were real experiences or not, and I’m still a little uncertain. I’ve since discovered that lots of people harbour similar childhood memories. I still very occasionally have the odd flying dream, and it’s always a beautiful experience. I suddenly realise, in my dream, that I can “remember” how to fly. There’s a knack to it that I can’t put into words in my waking state, but it’s easy to do in my dreams. And again, the experience always feels very “real”. I soar above my house, above my street, and the views of the town below seem unerringly accurate. And I never seem to have much of a physical form.
I had a brilliant dream about ten years ago, where I was idly swooping above my childhood garden, and bumped into a very funny Victorian woman called Susan, who was floating about twenty feet above the lilac tree. She was surprised to see me, but very happy, and took the piss out of me in a very staid, Victorian way. She was like a sarky Mary Poppins. I like to think she’s an unknown ancestor who’s waiting to guide me onto the next plane of existence.
So anyway… all of that in the next life, please. Without having to worry about whether my laptop needs charging.
Food for the Journey
Hang on, I take everything back about rejecting the corporeal world. Flamin’ Hot Monster Munch and Chocolate Hob Nobs, please. A wheelbarrow full of each.
A few years ago I wrote a book, ‘Wiffle Lever To Full!’, in which I travelled the country going to science fiction conventions. And my staple diet on these travels became Flamin’ Hot Monster Munch. There’s an exotic quality to them, perhaps because of their scarcity. They’re not easy to find in supermarkets, for example, whereas the inferior Pickled Onion and Roast Beef flavours are virtually ubiquitous. Packets of Flamin’ Hot Monster Munch seem to lurk almost exclusively in garages and service stations. So I’ve made it a firm rule-of-thumb that, whenever I see a packet, I have to buy and eat it immediately. In the same way that, now I’m 47, if I pass a public toilet then I have to pop in and have a wee, regardless of whether I really need one or not. It’s the same principle, you just never know when you’ll next get the opportunity.
And anyone who doesn’t like Chocolate Hob Nobs is obviously just a weirdo. Sick in the head. They won’t be going where I’m going, flying around the cosmos with Victorian Susan. They’ll be stuck in some dank, filthy purgatory forever. With only a single packet of stale Oreos for their sins. Which are clearly considerable.
When I was 11, my best friend was called Doug and we lived in each others’ pockets for about eighteen months. We lived half a mile apart, and each day generally began with one of us walking to the other one’s house. We built a robot together, using spare bits of wood that we found in abandoned buildings, and then made a full-scale replica of K-9 that we showed off in our school assembly. We cycled for miles around our tiny home town, weaving strange, fantastical – and often dark – stories around everyday places and events. Every copse was filled with ghosts and ancient, decayed bodies; every meandering track was the gateway to a time portal or another dimension. And then, as we approached adolescence, the conversations became more and more profound and personal, and we genuinely grew up together.
He and his family moved to Australia when we were 13, and I barely contacted him again, which I regret enormously. We’d just started to swap e-mails, and have the odd Skype conversation, when he died in 2008. I still think about him all the time, and the impact he had on my life. And the only physical memento I have of him is a daft little touristy nick-nack… a tiny glass that he brought back from a family holiday to Devon in 1984, and gave to me as a reward for looking after his rabbits. It has the legend ‘PROPERTY OF H.M. PRISON DARTMOOR – NOT TO BE REMOVED’ on the side, and now lives at the back of my kitchen cupboard. I’m a useless, clumsy bastard, and I barely dare touch it. I’d be devastated if it was ever smashed. Stupid, but it’d be like losing him all over again. It’s my connection to Doug, and those times.
‘Elidor’, by Alan Garner. I love all of his books, but Elidor forged my fascination with the everyday existing hand-in-hand with the utterly fantastical. Four children, roaming idly around Manchester’s 1960s slum clearances, find themselves travelling through a portal in a disused church and emerging in the magical, medieval land of Elidor, where they are given four “treasures” to take back to their suburban house, and keep safe. Again, I was 11 when I read it, and I was already scouring my home town for examples of “otherness” bleeding through into the ordinary world. ‘Elidor’ seemed to confirm that I was on the right track, and related the otherworldly to recognisably mundane events, in a way that I found incredibly thrilling. The ‘treasures’, stashed secretly in the attic, generate static electricity that plays merry hell with the family’s TV and washing machine, and when the denizens of Elidor break through into ‘our’ world, they chase a runaway unicorn along abandoned railway sidings, while the panic-stricken children follow on a night bus. I’ve read it over and over. It’s my gateway from the ordinary to the weird, and – again – a connection to a time in my childhood when the boundaries between the two seemed very thin indeed. I had a very spurious grasp on reality when I was a kid.
Can I take my dog? She’s a 13-year-old Border Collie, called Megan. I’m obsessed with Border Collies, I think it’s a John Noakes thing. She’s only been with me since July 2019. I bailed her out of a rescue centre, where she was too old to attract most other peoples’ attention. But she’s brilliant, and funny, and my constant companion. I once read a Kinky Friedman book where he boldly stated that, when we die, all the dogs and cats that we’ve ever owned in our life come running to meet us in a big, chaotic crowd. I’d love that.
And my Mum and Dad, who are both brilliant. They’ve always been there for me.
Oh, does it have to be transport? In which case, I’d like my old Raleigh Chopper. No other bike has ever lent itself so readily to such delicious innuendo.
A Message from Beyond the Grave
Human existence is essentially meaningless. The planet was doing absolutely fine for billions of years before we came along, and would be positively thriving it we’d never appeared at all. And, in five billion years time, the sun will go supernova and destroy any evidence that we ever actually existed.
What I’m trying to say is that, given all this, you might as well just relax and be nice to everyone. It’s like Flamin’ Hot Monster Munch and public toilets all over again… you never know when you’ll next get the opportunity.