Somewhere, at the end of a long, dark road, the sounds of a party can be heard. The only light in the street comes from within the party and, outside one of the windows, it is possible to make out a forlorn, broken lamp post – standing straight and tall: a guard against the darkness, not realising that that it had been overcome long ages hence.
Inside, there is a man – one man amongst many – and he sits, fidgeting and glancing every now and then through the window at the broken lamp post outside. As he sits, he is vaguely aware of memories of the time he spent helping in the kitchen: happy times learning to cook, how to throw a meal together from whatever was available – salads, steaks and sandwiches, peaches, pies and puddings – he became the master of every type of food he could imagine and others besides. His main impression though, was of a large number of years that had passed very quickly indeed. Eventually, he had asked for a chance to serve the food to the guests. He took one tray through and was invited to join the celebration – he looked back towards the kitchen door, saw the chef smiling encouragement and nodding, and began learning a whole new set of skills.
Soon, his conversational art was second to none – his witty repartee, his eloquence and generosity in argument, and his breathtaking ability to spin a story out of the most meagre of beginnings were balanced by his talent for listening: other guests would open up to him, and many found themselves, quite unexpectedly, sharing their darkest secrets and most joyful desires with him. He found himself very-much in demand among the talkative element of the party.
And, so it was with the musical, dancing, artistic amongst the revellers. The man from the kitchen had something to offer all of them.
He would sing – dirges and ballads, limericks and love songs – all as the mood demanded, often seamlessly moving from one style to another as the night went on.
He would play the piano or guitar – sometimes as part of a group, sometimes to accompany his own voice, and sometimes simply as a solo performance – and the guests danced and sang along and partook of all he had to offer.
Sometimes he would dance and whoever he danced with left the floor feeling like they were the only one in the world that mattered, but were more than happy to see somebody else take their place and dance with this extraordinary man.
In dimly lit corners of the party were the artists, poets and painters – all practising their own particular arts and sharing their work with any interested party-goers. The man from the kitchen, whilst not an artist himself, would provide helpful suggestions and valued criticism, which when acted upon would improve the works in question. His manner was such that nobody even thought to take what he said with bad grace – his eye for detail was simply one of his gifts.
Time passed and the party went on and, having thrown himself into all the party had to offer, the man grew tired and restless.
Now, he sits at the window, his eyes looking outwards but seeing nothing. He is troubled by the memory of a sound he heard long ago and, deep within his chest, he can feel the locks and restraints clicking gently open. In his mind, the noise grows and he struggles to recognise it until its volume, mass and speed are an inescapable disaster, rushing towards him, that he can do nothing about. He stumbles to his feet, remembering a time outside: if he can only get back to that time, then everything will be all right. He takes one step towards the door, two, three, another lock opens but two more steps and everything will be all right. One more step, his hand grips the door handle and the scream tears itself from him: a sound so raw, bloody and terrifying that the guests (who have never heard such a thing in the entire history of the party) for moment stand rooted to the spot. By the time they turn to stare uncomprehendingly towards the door, asking themselves what the hell that noise was and what will become of the party now, the man from the kitchen has slipped outside and closed the door behind him.
Some time later, when he has gathered his thoughts together and decided that it’s quite possible for him to sit forever, leaning back against the lamp post and quietly watching the shadows on the window – it’s then that he feels a hand on his shoulder and hears a warm, inviting voice that he remembers from a time before the kitchen say, “Thank you.”