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Paradoxical Undressing

Paradoxical Undressing

 

 

Published by Lee A Jackson at Shakespir

 

Copyright 2016 Lee A Jackson

 

Paradoxical Undressing

 

Mid-winter in the northern moors town of Tealsdale was a time of vast blankets of snow resting upon rolling meadows. The covering of snow was even, but the many hills that made up this scenic world lay underneath these blankets and made it look as if the fall had been haphazardly distributed over the fields. Almost like a giant had been shuffling about under the bed covers; a big pile of white scrunched up here, even bigger pillows over there. The hedgerows which encompassed these fields looked like the whitest cream piped around the edge of a mammoth wedding cake.

Despite its attraction to Christmas Card frontages, the winter brought about hard times for the isolated farm-hands of the north. It was always a struggle for them to get out of bed, let alone tear themselves away from an open fire to make their way over the hidden tracks towards town.

Hardly any semblance of light had broken over the world as Archery pulled the cottage door shut behind him. Archroy realised why it had been darker than normal and opened his eyes to rectify the situation. An apocalyptic white shock-wave immediately blasted through his pupils, knocking him backwards. Trying to shake his head free of the hangover that last night’s plethora of cider had inflicted upon him, he plodded forward, eyes barely open.

Hearing a whuuummmph behind him, Archroy turned around and squinted at the cottage. A bare patch on his roof was now exposed and a fresh pile of snow had fallen on his doorstep where he had just been stood. Archroy’s brain mumbled that it must be his lucky day today and on he ploughed towards the town that lay two miles away.

A new batch of cold snow, like icing sugar cast by creation’s finest decorator of cakes, started to find its way earthwards.

 

A cold morning in winter and the town of Tealsdale was hardly a hive of activity. Only footprints from the milkman wound their way down the high street and Johnston the postman was about to weave another set. Johnston hardly ever a saw a sole in the summer this early in the morning, apart from the milkman and the odd farmhand making an early start to the day, let alone in the bleak mid-winter. Johnston’s job was pretty lonely despite all the houses he called upon.

Having fed the last of the letters to the hungry jaws of the butcher’s letterbox, it certainly came as a surprise to the postman to see a figure that resembled Archroy stumbling down over the fields. Could this possibly be the same Archroy who was keeled over in the Mason’s Arms last night in the belief that a profusion of alcohol would beat off his fever? ‘Fair play to the man,’ thought Johnston, ‘his cranky methods must obviously work,’ and was about to turn away when something caught his eye.

Johnston stood and watched the farmhand approach the town from across the fields.

As Archroy neared, Johnston’s brow furrowed deeper.

There was definitely something odd about Archroy this morning.

As a heavier quota of snow started to fall, Johnston decided that he couldn’t be bothered to wait for Archroy to get close enough to see the farmhand properly. Pulling his coat collar up around his ears, Johnston shuffled off back to the post office.

Archroy stumbled uneasily to the edge of the town and not three minutes later he had passed the spot from where Johnston had seen him approaching. If the postman had remained just that little bit longer he would have had a bit of a shock, for Archroy was still in his pyjamas. He had his grey slippers on too, but they had now turned black from the wetness of the snow. Upon his head, he wore a balaclava and a thermometer stuck out from beneath his tongue. A thermometer that read…

 

97ºF – Pre-shivering

Deep inside his body, Archroy’s in-built sensors alerted the temperature control centre in his hypothalamus. He could feel his insides; his muscles clamped and tightened like vices with each passing second. He could feel the constriction of his entire web of capillaries.

Bravely Archroy battled against his body and stumbled on down the street.

At least, he tried to.

Archroy collapsed to his knees on the frost-bitten floor.

Everything was quiet and still.

Archroy head-butted the ground trying to shake the felon out from inside his head. But Jack Frost held on tightly and then gleefully splattered snowballs at the inside of Archroy’s skull, laughing all the while with menace.

 

95ºF – Mild Hypothermia

Gathering himself to his feet, Archroy felt the world about him shake in one great earthquake. Even the cold air about him was shuddering and battering his body left, right and centre. As he tried to grab a post-box for support, he suddenly realised that it was he who was violently trembling and the world was indeed, as still as it had ever been.

The cold metallic surface of the post-box held him in its icy grip. He felt paralysed; his hand stuck to the freezing surface. Archroy mumbled, teetered uneasily upon on severely trembling legs, and with a surge of effort managed to remove his frozen hand.

 

93ºF – Amnesia

Archroy felt more cold flakes of white land upon his exposed lips. His balaclava couldn’t protect everything. He licked his solid lips and looked about the street for shelter. Everywhere looked foreign to him. He had not been here before, had he? Where was he? Where was he going? Archroy couldn’t remember as his brain shut down the memories and concentrated all its efforts on telling his body to keep shaking to raise that temperature.

‘How do I get home? Where is this place? Have I been here before?’ Archroy was confused. ‘Where is home?’ All the doorways around him were foreign, strange entrances that could ultimately lead him further from where he was heading. Wherever that may be. If only he knew where his home was. He could be even standing outside his home now and he wouldn’t know it.

More flakes fell onto Archroy’s balaclava. Archroy felt a mighty surge of a shiver tear through his body. A dusting of white fell off his crown and showered the already white ground around him.

 

91ºF – Apathy

‘Oh, what the hell? Who wants to go home?’ Archroy figured. He could feel the wet snow seeping through his clothes, touching his skin as if he had forgotten to put any clothes on this morning. ‘But that’s just crazy talk. It’s only a bit of cold. Maybe I’ll just sit and watch the day go by, it is pretty after all. I’m easy. I’m cool. Who cares about the weather? So what if I’m getting soaked through? The fire will soon dry me off. Hey, come on Archroy, let’s walk some more, let’s make the most of this beautiful morning.’

 

90ºF – Stupor

Nah, thought Archroy, failing to feel his feet on the ground through the numbness. With his feet obviously not bothered about walking on, he decided that he couldn’t be arsed to walk either. ‘Maybe I’ll go and sit by that street-lamp over there, rest my back and watch the world go by. I feet a bit dizzy and numb after all. Lassitude isn’t a bad thing. Just my body is ordering me to rest. Yes, I have been stressed with this fever and I need to rest! Hey, hey! Poetry in motion.’

 

[* 88ºF- Profound Hypothermia *]

Archroy’s body slumped against the nearest lamppost. The winter weather carried on regardless of the poor man’s condition. The sun stayed hidden above a plethora of greyness. The blood inside Archroy’s veins was thickening like crankcase oil inside of his cold engine. He thought of nothing as he leant there, unaware apparently of his alarming condition. He just watched the lonely white world go about its business of doing nothing. The snow from the heavens started to fall with more vehemence even as he stood there. A stiff chill was now whistling its way down Tealsdale’s main street.

Unbeknown to him, Archroy’s oxygen consumption had fallen to almost a quarter of the normal measure and his metabolic rate wasn’t that far behind.

Archroy was in dire straits.

 

87ºF – Loss of recognition

As the morning progressed and Archroy remained supported by the lamppost, a handful of people started creeping out of their warm homes to brave the severe winter weather.

Through a gathering blizzard, Archroy watched them shuffle past on the opposite side of the street. ‘Look at all these people wandering about aimlessly,’ he mused. Most of the people walked head bowed in shelter from the wind, so Archroy and his plight went unnoticed to them. ‘Isn’t that old Mrs Whatshername over there? And Mr Thingamebob. Hi Aunt, um, Aunt, Aunt um…..hey, how ya doing Mr Chinese man.’

Archroy folded his arms and held himself. None of these people who were hurrying past in their winter coats wanted to know him. Even though he had seen these people a hundred times before he was now beyond the state of recognising them.

‘Oh well,’ he thought as he watched new footprints being imprinted in the soft whiteness about him, ‘the weather can’t be all that bad if they’re out and about.’

Archroy shoved himself off the lamppost and stumbled uneasily down the snow-covered street.

The few people who had ventured out rushed to the shops and back home as quickly as the Arctic conditions underfoot allowed. Mr Chang scuttled his way back to his restaurant from fetching his fresh supply of vegetables. A task he had to do regardless of the weather. Oh yes, he still had to get his restaurant open, no doubt some inconsiderate people would expect a delivery come dinner time. Just because they were too nesh to brave their way to the stores, they expected him to traipse halfway across the town, and for what? A tip that didn’t even cover the wear and tear on his shoes! Couldn’t they chuck a pan of beans on the oven and stick some slices of bread in the toaster for heaven’s sake? Mr Chang stopped and looked at the white lump stumbling down the opposite side of the street. ‘There’s old Archroy,’ he thought. ‘Drunk again,’ he told himself matter-of-factly. ‘He’d better not be going to my restaurant. I don’t want him scaring off what few customers I might get.’ Mr Chang trotted over to Archroy, pushed a few coins into the freezing man’s palm and turned him around so that he was heading away from his restaurant. Mr Chang bustled off to the warmth of his kitchen.

 

86ºF – Arrhythmic heartbeat

Archroy could feel his heart jumping about discordantly like a scratched CD. He swore he could feel chunks of frozen blood being passed through his arteries. He could feel his body slowing as if he was living his life in a slow motion replay. He grabbed out in front of him for the nearest pole that was in his path.

Suddenly the whole world changed for Archroy. With his arrhythmic heart only pumping less than two-thirds the normal amount of blood, along with the slowing of his metabolism and the lack of oxygen, Archroy’s brain kicked into hallucinatory overdrive.

Archroy clung on tightly to the palm tree. ‘Ah,’ thought he, ‘that’s more like it. Bring on the dancing girls.’ Through his heavy eyelids, he could see topless women prancing provocatively down the street, teasing him by pulling at their g-strings in a suggestive manner. ‘Aye up!’ A sudden spark of excitement inside Archroy’s head perked up. ‘Phwoarr. The weather definitely can’t be all that bad.’

 

85ºF – Paradoxical undressing

Archroy staggered onto another lamppost whilst keeping the prancing girls in his view. He then looked up above him and through blurred vision, he could make out a glimmering light above him. Sun! he heard his brain mutter. Streetlamp; a cognisant mind would have stated. Archroy wiped at the wetness on his forehead that was surely sweat. Suddenly he felt hot under the blistering sun. Grateful at last for warmth, he removed his pyjama jacket, exposing his arms to the warm air. Still too hot, he removed his vest. Boiling, he removed his slippers and bed-socks and cursed as he felt the soft orange surface beneath him scorch the soles of his feet. ‘Bugger,’ complained he, hopping from one foot to another. Finally, he braced himself as he planted his feet firmly on the ground and gritted his teeth through the pain until the surface beneath him cooled. When his feet had become accustomed to the heat he pulled down his pyjama trousers and then, ignorant of any shame, whipped off his thermal kecks.

The passing old Mrs Humpernickle was shocked to say the least. Seeing this man clutching to a lamppost wearing nothing but a balaclava on his head and a thermometer in his mouth. ‘Stark naked in this weather? What is the world coming too?’ She wondered to herself just how much more forward the prostitutes of this day and age were going to get? ‘They’ll be knocking on people’s doors before long!’ Mrs Humpernickle stopped and took a good long look at the man. ‘Well, he’s not going to make much of a profit with a balaclava over his head. Must be right pig-ugly,’ she surmised. Plus; having not seen one in so many years since her late husband’s erections had taken almost as long to be constructed as the Eiffel Tower, the old lady’s eyes wandered down to this strange man’s nether regions. ‘Phuh,’ she said to herself, spying the severely shrivelled member, ‘call that a todger?’ Pulling down her woolly hat she shook her head in disgust and hobbled on home.

 

‘You’re burning Archroy, feel the fire, feel the heat. You can feel the flames, they’re scorching you.’ Archroy could hear the auditory hallucinations behind his eyes, taunting him. Archroy slumped to his knees, trembling until his bones were rattling inside him. The snow beneath him dispersed outwards in little puffs of white. Archroy thought about curling up into a foetal position and lying on his bed of ‘sand’. His ‘sunburned’ body, however, refused to move.

Instead, he dreamt of children pottering about him in their woolly hats and scarves and mittens, burying him in the sand that was all around him. Back in the real world, as more thick snow fell, Archroy was gradually becoming a snowman. The greatest snowman ever to have lived. At least, it would banish the scorching sun.

 

60.8ºF – Lowest recorded core temperature in a surviving adult

A stray dog trotted past, but not without stopping to relieve itself unceremoniously on the fresh snowman first.

More and more children came to build him. One little child slammed a lump of snow right on his face, covering his eyes. They used Mr Chang’s money to construct him a new nose, eyes and a mouth. Archroy painfully knelt on under the blanket of snow, and on the surface, a wide smile adorned his alabaster face.

 

60ºF – Skin temperature

With the constriction of surface capillaries on his hands, the blood coursed away from the skin and delved deeper into his torso. Archroy’s blood fled from his fingers and toes in a valiant attempt to keep his vital organs warm for as long as it could.

It did the best it possibly could.

 

 

***

 

 

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Shakespir Interview

 

About the author:

I began writing in my mid to late teens, sequestered away in my bedroom in rural south west England.

The writing was borne out of a need to express myself and to communicate with the world, something I

was not good at doing verbally. It became an outlet for me and my writing grew with me through the

years.

 

Other titles by Lee A Jackson

 

A Soul of Stone

A Cerberus Jaw

Dreaming Falling Down

S and M

Delphine

The Crawling

Destination B


Paradoxical Undressing

The falling degrees of Archroy's ill-fated journey into town. Dazed and confused in the white world of snow, Archroy looks to shake off his fever and hangover but the winter weather is his biggest enemy. The townfolk are no help either.

  • ISBN: 9781311547088
  • Author: Lee A Jackson
  • Published: 2016-01-04 05:05:07
  • Words: 2718
Paradoxical Undressing Paradoxical Undressing