Clouds are gathering, William Mendler worried himself. He was desperate for a cigarette. He glanced across a cold, slate sea marbled with froth. High curved waves rolling in from the distance. Wild dreams. Night fevers. Chest pain breathlessness. Dizzy spells. Strange acts performed during periods of somnambulism.
“You have a good rest,” the cardiologist had said, “your arteries are getting narrow and you have a heart murmur. Listen to it. Take a holiday. Change your lifestyle…and for God's sake swallow your tablets daily. If you don't, you'll be dead within a year.”
'A peaceful oblivion.' Mendler had mused at the time. He had rented the old lighthouse by the North Sea in Whitley Bay just the same.
Before leaving his home in London he had systematically severed ties with all but his most trusted inner circle of friends, telling them he was completely unavailable for at least the next three months. He said he was taking an e-mail sabbatical in order to finish his second symphony, no reference was made to his health problems. Besides he was convinced that his real problem lay in his head and not with his heart, his ego ravaged by the universal dismay that had greeted his most recent operatic venture 'The Mutant King.'
APPALLING, INDECIPHERABLE POPPYCOCK! one of the more favourable reviewers had uppercased.
Mendler surveyed the empty sands toward the lighthouse, his home of several days and nights, tall and white against the bleak January sky. A stone path covered twice daily by the tide led from the beach to its front door.
'Better get back old boy,' he thought, 'before all links with the land aresevered for good.' The wet sand sucked and chewed at his feet, ghost patterns of waves advanced with the tide. Balancing from rock to rock he began to make his way back along the shore.
A spare evening meal of boiled fish and rice accompanied the sound of Bach's St Mathew Passion. Mendler had chosen to furnish a room near the top of the lighthouse as his main living quarters, enduring the cardiovascular exercise his irregular treks up and down the long twisting staircase provided. He had originally planned to live in the basement, but the angles reminded him too much of 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari'.
"Christ, you idiot," he remonstrated a piece of fish that had missed his mouth and fluttered greasily onto his lap. His voice sounded strange after such a long absence. Shadows from the dim candle light danced and skipped across the remnants on Mendler's plate. He hated his diet and longed for rich foods bathed in expensive sauce. Suddenly despondent, Mendler scraped back his chair and slouched over to his room's single, narrow window, pausing momentarily to check his reflection in the small ornate mirror by the largest of several well-stocked bookshelves.
'My face is a human mask, it's as if the dried skin of a corpse has been stretched across the