I’m not really sure how this entered my head, but many years ago, I heard, or perhaps even read somewhere, a passage that went something like this:
A novel should be just like a bottle of vintage wine. Not like a cheap everyday bottle you would buy in a supermarket; the type once you drink, the taste and the memory disappears from your mouth as soon as the wineglass is empty. No, a book should be like the vintage wine, which leaves a pleasant sensation that lingers in your head for a long time after you have taken the final sip.
‘To write a book, you must think of the vintage wine. Make the reader think of the sensation of the book for a time after the cover is closed.’
As I said, I don’t know who said these wise words, but whoever it was I owe him, or her a great debt of gratitude. It was these words, which gave me the inspiration to write the Burden of Truth, in the way it was written.
On the first day, when I sat down and decided to write this novel, I asked myself; what should be in a novel? Of course, we writers always say, ‘A novel should have a compelling plot, interesting characters along with atmospheric settings. Throw in a bit of love and romance and above all don’t forget a worthwhile goal for the protagonist but most of all, make it a page turner.’
So, there I was, a few months later, with a basic outline of how this novel should be written. All in all, I was quite happy with this outline, as I said to myself proudly and perhaps with a big head.
‘Okay, that’s it, I’ve a story, a good story.’ Then I remembered the bit about the vintage wine. I looked at the outline again.
This time, I was not so proud. I realised I had only produced a bottle of wine. Okay, possibly, it may be a wine that some people will enjoy, but it’s not a vintage; it needed more.
It took me a further year and a half to re-write the first draft copy. Even though it took me a long time, it was worth it in my eyes. It took me a further three and a half years to mould it into something like what it is today. Now, I was taking steps closer to what I wanted from this experience. Now I was starting to give this story a meaning behind it; to make it worthwhile. I was at least trying to make my vintage.
However, I’m in no doubt not everyone will think this book is anywhere near a glass of vintage wine, and they may well be quite correct in saying that. I would even go as far to say many of you may think it is more like a glass of vinegar.
Nevertheless, it’s my solemn hope some of you who have read this story will enjoy the taste of the wine for a long time, whilst thinking of the message and its meaning.
However, if you have read this book, and simply enjoyed it for the story as it is, I guess I should be happy with that, and of course, I will be.
The only thing I ask. If you have read this book, please, before you put it back in your bookcase, take a moment and reflect on it. Not just the plot and the characters, but reflect on the deeper meaning within!
Thank you all, and may all blessings be yours.
The Burden of Truth is a suspense thriller that follows the thoughts and actions of a young egocentric man named Brent Sandler. The story begins when Brent nearly loses his life on The Herald of Free Enterprise disaster back in 1987 and goes on to try and live his life to the full by filling it with adventure. However this is not so easy as he soon finds out as the story unfolds.
The story really starts when he reflects on his life and his past actions. After a while and a lot of mulling over his thoughts he realises he is wasting his young life. It's at this point he makes the decision to live life to the full! The question is... How?
In simple terms this story shows how Brent acts after this disaster and how he goes about trying to change his life for the better. The problem is, Brent finds changing his life and trying to live life to the full needs one thing! Cash, and a lot of it!
However, this is not only what the story is about. As the story moves on it shows how Brent tries to overcome many problems in his pursuit for a fulfilling life. As mentioned, this book is a suspense thriller. There is a lot of action, adventure as well as romance within the story.
It also shows how Brent collects many friends as well as enemies on his journeys. It also shows how he is unconsciously manipulated by two completely different but equally enigmatic young ladies. It also entwines the stories of many other characters, good and bad that enter the plot as the story progresses to Brent's final goal.
The story is written in a way to try and capture the atmosphere of many very different settings featured throughout the novel. However it can be said that the novel is set mainly in two locations; London and Bodhgaya India. As some of the story is set in Bodhgaya, the place where the Buddha gained enlightenment, some of the novel does deal with some issues on Buddhism. Nevertheless it should be mentioned that the story as a whole cannot claim to be about Buddhism, or even the teachings of the Buddha. However look close and you may see a Buddhist message written between the lines.
This leads onto the next bit about what The Burden of Truth is about. There is a lot that happens in the book; it has been written in a way to keep the reader guessing what is going to happen next. There are many unexpected twists and turns and more than a handful of surprises from the start of chapter one, all the way through to the last bit of the epilogue.
THE BURDEN OF TRUTH
On a cold day in March 1987, egocentric Brent Sandler makes the decision to change his life for the better. Years later he’s still not happy with his lot but not for the want of trying. Now he has hit rock bottom, penniless and in deep trouble. But little does he know his troubles are only starting as he discovers an awful tragedy unfolding. The problem is, he knows this tragedy is all down to him. Now he is determined to put things right.
Meanwhile in Bodhgaya India, Peter Cannon has just made a shocking discovery that will change his life forever. Now like Brent, he must come to terms with his very own guilty secret of the past. But little does he know as this past secret comes back to haunt him, the woman he loves is slowly hunting him down.
And when she finds him; hard questions are asked!
The tale of The Burden of Truth is the first instalment of a three-part adventurous and suspenseful thriller of how these two men are pulled apart and then drawn together as each man tries to fulfil his own quest for happiness. But they are soon to find out this quest is thwart with love, as well as danger.
Discover the first truth.
March 6th 1987.
He didn’t know if he was going to make it, but he was going to give it one hell of a try. Brent Sandler rammed the gear stick of his brand-new BMW into first gear, then swiftly into second. He watched excitedly as the needle of the rev counter tipped into the red, making the engine roar as it pulled away.
Brent loved this sound. And the speed that came with it brought a sense of excitement into his life, but then again, this was how he lived it; always fast and often tinged with a hint of danger.
‘Right, what have we got?’ he said to John, his best friend sitting in the passenger seat with a slight look of fear etched on his face.
‘If you weren’t driving like an idiot, I would be able to have a look,’ he answered, and despite the toing and froing of the swerving car he tried his best to study an old battered map of Europe, and God knows how, managed to do a quick calculation.
‘At a guess, we have about fifty miles to Zeebrugge, so if we keep up a steady seventy, we can make it easily. That means you can slow down a bit.’
‘Slow down! You’re joking,’ Brent replied laughing. ‘If we slow down now, we’ll never make it.’
‘No, listen,’ John replied, tugging on his seat belt. ‘All you have to do is keep it at seventy, and we’ll get there in bags of time.’
But Brent didn’t slow down. Quite the opposite. For the next twenty minutes, the needle on his speedometer never went below a hundred, much to the displeasure of his passenger.
‘Christ!’ John pleaded. ‘Remember, if you get stopped again, you’ll fail the breathalyser, and that’s you waving bye-bye to your license.’
‘Don’t worry, we’re nearly there,’ Brent answered, but spoke too soon, as he looked in his rear-view mirror to see the blue flashing lights of a police car.
‘No... that’s all I need,’ he moaned pulling the car over to the side of the road expecting the police car to pull up behind him. However, lady luck smiled on Brent when the blue flashing light disappeared from his mirror, and hurtled forwards as the police car, for one reason or another sped past him.
‘Brent! You’re mad. You’re a lucky son of a bitch, but you’re still mad,’ John said, watching the blue light disappearing into the distance.
‘God shines on the righteous,’ Brent replied, again laughing as he put his foot down again. But God wasn’t shining so much, when two minutes later, they came across the same police car blocking the road at the site of a traffic accident.
‘Well, that’s just about blown it. There’s not a hope we’ll catch the ferry now,’ Brent grumbled, resigning himself to the fact they would have to wait a good few hours before the next one.
‘Perhaps, perhaps not,’ John replied optimistically, as he noticed the policeman almost at once pull his car to the side of the road, letting some traffic trickle through past two crumpled cars.
‘You’ll end up like that one day, if you carry on driving the way you do.’
‘Who me? Nah,’ Brent replied, again letting the car rip. He hammered the accelerator pedal to the floor, and once more, the car blasted down the road, leaving the accident and the blue flashing light behind them. Brent had only one thing on his mind; and that was to reach his local pub in London, before last orders.
Ten minutes later, Brent looked at his watch, and punched the air in victory, as he turned off the main carriageway, and headed towards the entrance of the Zeebrugge Ferry Terminal.
‘See! Told you we’d do it,’ he said as he handed the tickets to an extremely attractive attendant before passing on a few boyish comments, which were quickly returned by a half smile and a bored look to tell him she had heard all this before. However, Brent didn’t care, and made his way towards the ship.
‘You’re still mad,’ John remarked, catching his breath.
‘We’re just about to get on the boat, aren’t we, what more do you want?’ Brent replied, looking in the mirror, noticing the young girl closing the barrier for the last time, just in front of some unlucky passengers, who never quite made it on time.
It was March, and the air in the car deck was freezing as the two men made their way swiftly up to the warmth of the upper decks, not even noticing the sign.
WELCOME ON BOARD THE HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE.
Brent, being Brent, always headed to the bar whenever he took the ferry; today was no exception. He paid for the two pints of lager, as John quickly nipped to the duty free to buy some cheap cigarettes. After having a little joke with the barman about the expensive prices, Brent turned to see if he could find any spare tables. Moving through a large pack of teenagers laughing and joking amongst themselves. Out of the blue, he heard a voice he hadn’t heard in a long time.
‘OI, THAT MAN, SANDLER. WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE OFF TO?’
Brent stopped in his tracks, turned, and smiled. ‘Sergeant Harris! How the devil are you?’
‘I’m very well, and how are you?’ he replied in a thunderous voice, the type once you heard, you would never forget.
‘Good, I’m good,’ Brent answered. ‘I’ve just had a week skiing in France with some of the boys we were stationed with in Menden. We were talking a lot about you.’
‘All good, I hope.’
‘Yeah, most of it. So, what have you been doing since you left the army?’ Brent asked.
‘Not a great deal,’ Sergeant Harris replied, now with a much quieter, solemn voice. ‘There doesn’t seem to be much call for old sergeants in the real world, so I got a job as a security guard, the pay’s not too good, but it will do for now. And you, what are you up to?’
‘I was lucky. I landed a job buying and selling diamonds, of all things.’
‘Selling diamonds!’ Sergeant Harris said, raising his eyebrows. ‘Sounds like a good number to me. Is the money good?’
‘Good enough I suppose, I do all right, but not great.’
‘Good enough!’ the Sergeant replied, not quite believing what he had just heard. ‘I’d bet you’re making a mint. I always thought you would do well, especially as a salesman. “That good-looking fellow, he can charm the birds out of the trees!” That’s what they all said about you.’
‘Who on earth said that?’ Brent replied with a cheeky grin, before asking his old Sergeant where he had been.
‘Just had a day trip to Ostend, doing a bit of a beer run. There was a special deal in the Sun newspaper a few weeks back, so a few of my mates and myself got together, and made good use of it.’
‘Good for you. Listen, I’ll catch up with you later. I need to find a table to put these drinks down.’ Brent said, before making his way towards the back of the bar to find a free table. He was just about to sit down when he noticed John shaking hands with Sergeant Harris.
The group of teenagers was getting that little too loud for Brent, but all in all, the atmosphere was good humoured he thought. One boy, aged about fifteen, was pathetically sticking his tongue out to see if he could touch the tip of his nose, much to the amusement of his friends. However, not to Brent, who was still nursing a bit of a hangover decided to look for a quieter table.
Just then, Brent wasn’t sure what happened when his balance was shifted by a strange sudden movement as the boat started to violently jolt forward, at the same time sending most of his pint of lager upwards and out of the glass, drenching his shirt and trousers.
‘Damn! That’s the last fucking thing I wanted.’
Instantly, he looked towards the now silent group of teenagers he had just walked through, many of them looking at him, shocked at his outburst, but also puzzled, and worried themselves by the sudden shaking of the ship. Then out of nowhere, a weird feeling of dizziness started to overcome Brent as he was sure the boat was tipping, but his brain was telling him, No! How can this be? The next feeling was stranger still - the feeling of weightlessness. Now, his brain was telling him the boat was indeed tipping. Yet he still couldn’t comprehend what was happening. It was still impossible.
‘Wh…Wh… What’s going on?’ he tried to shout, but no words came as he started to fall along the floor towards the windows. This can’t be. What’s happening? He threw an arm out to grab a table to stop his fall, but to his horror, the table followed him down towards a large window. He landed heavily on the glass, sending a pain shooting up his leg.
It was all happening so fast, too fast; there was no time to think. Reactively, Brent looked upwards to fathom out what was going on, but a big blue flash shot into his eye as a chair leg hit him, and milliseconds after, more chairs, tables, glasses, everything was burying him, pinning him hard against the window. The next thing he saw was one of the teenagers crashing into the debris around him, blood gushing from his mouth.
‘CHRIST,’ he shouted, and then the fear hit him hard. The sound of grating metal, the fearful screams, and now, the sheer weight of everything on top of him trapping him for what seemed to be an eternity, but in reality, was only seconds.
Instinctively, he looked to where he had last seen John, but couldn’t see him. Instead, he saw Sergeant Harris also fall to a window, instantly followed by the cash register from the bar, crushing his chest at the same time as what looked like hundreds of beer glasses and whisky bottles raining on top of him. In quick succession, two screaming women smashed through a plate-glass window of what he thought was the duty free. Their screams stopped as their bodies hammered into one of the windows on the side of the ferry.
Then it came! The water seemed to come from every door, porthole, and window and then; total blackness as the lights went out. He could now sense the panic around him, but that was the least of his worries as a sudden blast of icy water hit him like a thunderbolt. He had never in his life felt such a body blow, even though the pressure of the water was softened by what he thought was another of the teenagers pushed against his face. Again instinct took over as Brent, in the nick of time took a big gulp of deep breath, but the freezing water pounding at him made him want to open his mouth to breathe. Again, his brain told him, No!
He was underwater, trapped in the mess of the wooden tables, chairs, and God knows what else. His first reaction was to help the young lad he was entangled up with, but could not because of the sheer disorder piled on top of him. To his relief one of the tables trapping Brent moved, freeing his left arm. With this free arm, he pulled on a chair leg, trapping the boy. All he could do was hope it was enough to save him. He felt what he thought was his hand pushing on his shoulder as the young lad made his way to the surface of the water. Whether or not he made it, Brent would never know. But what he knew, right at this moment, he had no option; he had to save himself.
Think Brent, think. What’s happening? How do you get out? Think. Swim, swim your hardest. It was no good; only one of his arms was free, and both feet were trapped. The alarming realisation set in at once. Brent Sandler. You are just about to die. You are underwater, trapped, and you can’t hold your breath forever. But, I’m not going to give up. Pull, pull with all your might. Nothing moved, all he could do now was pray to a God he never believed in. But in that underwater hell, he thought his prayers were answered when the tables and chairs seemed to float away from him like the miracle he prayed for. But that is exactly what they were doing; simply floating away. The tables are made from wood, and that’s what wood does, float!
Brent, free because of this miracle, had hope, but his cheeks were at bursting point. Still, he tried frantically to reach the surface of the water.
There’s just too much debris to swim through. The tables and chairs that were only a few seconds ago trapping him to the window, were now stopping him from reaching his goal. Come on, quicker, push your way through. I can’t hold my breath. Brent pushed and pulled at anything above his head, but his cheeks were bursting. He tried one more push, but it was too late; that final push was too much, he had no option. His brain told him he had to breathe, and that’s what he did. As he opened his mouth to let in some air, the taste of the salty water hit the back of his throat, making him cough and splutter violently. But how? I’m underwater; I shouldn’t be able to breathe, should I? He was confused.
Then it hit him; that final push had been enough! Freedom, achievement, and confusion came over him as he realised his head was above the surface of the water. Again, he spluttered, before he took a breath of air he would never forget!
‘Yes! I’ve done it!’ he shouted, punching the air, realising what he had done.
'Then at once, it hit him again! He might have won a small battle, but he was nowhere near winning a war. He was far, far from safety.
He tried to get his bearings, but he could not think. The noise, this time, seemed to be just as loud as before, but different. The sounds of the grating metal had stopped, replaced by the screams of panic.
Think, Brent Think! Get out of the water; you can’t last long in this temperature. But looking around, there was only the horror of blackness; nothing! He tried to move, but in every direction there was something stopping him from doing so. His body was rapidly getting weaker, his brain was becoming numb, and his teeth chattering. Hypothermia settling in.
Think Brent. Think! How long have you been in the water, five minutes, ten? He didn’t know, but he knew he was drifting in and out of consciousness. He was in a battle to survive; and the cold was winning.
But he had at least one thing in his favour. The debris he was cursing only a short time ago was now starting to give him some ballast. It was dark, and all he could see was the faint glow of some emergency lighting somehow still in operation. He tried to kick again with his feet and move his arms, but the debris and the cold prevented him from doing so. The noise and the screaming had died down. Or was it he was slowly losing consciousness?
What, what’s that? What’s that on my face? A hand, but what hand, whose hand? Brent grabbed at it as best as he could, but was too weak. He was even too weak to shout out at whoever was pulling his hair.
‘Up you come, bonny lad.’
The pain in Brent’s head turned to hell, and it hardly rescinded when whoever was pulling him up had let go. He fell back into the water, but was at once hauled out again by what he could only make out as a giant of a man. He couldn’t see him in the dark, but as he fell on him, he knew instantly of his size. He tried to say something, but the numbness in his face made this impossible. The Giant moved Brent to one side, and laid him on his back on what was, before the ship’s ninety-degree roll to the seabed, the back of a long bar sofa. Looking up, he could just about see out of a large rectangular window two meters above him. He was now very aware the pain in his face was a direct result of the initial fall and a certain chair leg. He was also aware he could not see out of his left eye, and the shaking of his body was uncontrollable. But, in spite of it all, Brent’s mind was whirring. I have got hope. Pull yourself together. Think, he told himself once again. Think!
He looked again out of the rectangular window and thought he could see lights outside, but he wasn’t sure. Just then, he heard some heavy thumping noises, strangely mixed with what he thought might have been muffled voices. He saw the light again, only for a split second at first, before returning, this time illuminating a ghostly shape of a man’s face. Then once more the thumping noises; two in quick succession. Immediately the window turned to white, just as he felt the pain in his face sting as the shattered glass fell. Instinct told him. Close your eyes. He did so as the small fragments of glass cut stinging into his face. He didn’t care.
Again, he heard the sound of voices; this time the tone was clear and he knew they were speaking French. Slowly he tried to open his eyes, but finding it impossible because of the pain. He tried again and again, only succeeding in making a small slit between his eyelids of his right eye. But it was enough to see the waving of a flashlight from the now-open window above him.
The beam of light rested on his face, sending shooting pains into his half-open eye. He was relieved when the light went away. He tried to follow the strand of light, but it was moving too quickly, darting from one direction, and then to another, then back again. He could hear more voices, someone shouting, he did not know what. They were loud at first, but after a time, they were gradually becoming quieter and quieter. Brent knew what was happening; he was losing the battle, perhaps even the war; cold was winning.
Brent woke up a few seconds later, or at least he thought it might have been, but in reality he hadn’t a clue how long he had been unconscious, or even where he was. Nothing seemed to be in focus as he struggled to open his eyes, but he sensed something was happening around him, but not sure what. The mist in his eyes slowly cleared a fraction, and now he could just about make out what he thought was a television news crew huddled around something of interest opposite him.His eyes wandered further along the room, looking for clues. He could see a poster or some sort of a sign in French. Not being able to speak the language didn’t help. He looked further. He could see to the side of where he was lying, a light grey metal bed, and alongside that, something that looked like a stand holding some small plastic bags and tubes. He had seen all this before, but still wasn’t sure where.‘Monsieur Sandler, Monsieur Sandler.’
Brent slowly turned his head to look where these softly spoken words were coming from. As he moved his head, the television crew abruptly turned from the point of interest on the other side of the room, and like a blitz they were pointing their cameras and lights at him.‘Gentlemen. Gentlemen. Please, please, stop this at once. You have all been explained the conditions that allow you to work here.’Whoever had spoken those soft words a moment ago had now taken on the sound of someone obviously stressed, and exhausted.‘Please, gentlemen, I am sure you have enough material for this evening’s bulletin. Would it be possible to leave now?’
With that, the men lowered their cameras and other equipment to their sides, and apologised to who Brent had worked out was a nurse. As they left, one of the men couldn’t resist one last snap. The sharp flash from the camera shook Brent. Once again, the pain in his eye returned.‘What’s going on?’‘
We have been waiting for you Mr Sandler,’ the soft voice returned, introducing herself as Nurse Cuvelle.
‘Where am I?‘You are in the Koningin Fabiola Hospital in Blankenberg. Just outside Zeebrugge.’‘Why, what’s happened?’
‘There has been a terrible accident, while you were on the ferry to England.‘
'Yes, The Herald of Free Enterprise capsized just outside the port. There were many deaths. You are very lucky to be alive.‘
'Deaths, how many? I have a friend. Where is he? I can remember cold; it was cold, pain. Sergeant Harris was there.’
‘Easy, easy, slow down. You are not well, and you have just woken up. Everything here is strange to you,’ the nurse said, as Brent tried once again to work out what was going on.
‘When did this happen?’
‘Two days ago. You were winched off the ship, and brought here, unconscious. We found your name and details from your passport and wallet. I’m sorry we had to go through your personal things.’
Brent wasn’t bothered.
‘Can you remember anything about it?’
‘Yes, I can. Well, bits of it.’
‘I’m not sure, just bits. I have a friend, John Conway, he was with me. Is he okay?’
‘I will try to find out after the doctor has examined you.'
Nurse Cuvelle left Brent alone. He now had time to look around to see if he could make any sense of his new surroundings. The room was similar to that of an English hospital; he thought. Clean, tidy and practical, but this room only had four beds, three occupied and one empty. He found out later when the nurse told him a young boy of twelve had occupied the empty bed. Sadly, the poor lad had passed away only half an hour before Brent regained consciousness.
This news saddened Brent, and he wondered if it was the same teenager he saw on the ferry. With this thought in his head, the full horror of what had happened two days before was beginning to sink in, and he felt terrible. Nevertheless, he was somewhat bizarrely comforted when he was told that when the boy took his final breaths; he did so peacefully in the arms of his father, who had just arrived at the hospital ten minutes before his son died.
Brent continued to study his new surroundings. In the corner of the ward, he could see an old portable black and white television set. The picture was on, but the sound muted. His eyesight was still blurred, however he could make out that there was some talk show, or a lot of people being interviewed. He wasn’t sure, so he simply left it.His mind then drifted back over what had happened, and slowly his memory was returning. He remembered his friend John shaking hands with Sergeant Harris. But he also remembered Sergeant Harris falling, but felt certain he did not survive. Then came the recollection of a giant of a man who pulled him out of the water by nothing but the hair on his head. He desperately wanted to thank that man, but did not know what had become of him.
Slowly, but surely, the jigsaw of his recollections were coming together to form a picture of what had happened on that terrible night. He was still gathering his thoughts when a doctor entered the ward. He introduced himself as Dr Günter, a German from Hamburg.His main concern was his eye. Dr Günter was reasonably confident the eye itself wasn’t damaged, but he would have to wait until the massive amount of swelling went down to make sure all was in order. So, with that bit of news, it was sorted. Brent was to stay in hospital for a few more days.
A few seconds after the doctor left, Nurse Cuvelle returned with a very broad smile on her face.‘I have some news,’ she said excitedly. ‘Your friend, John Conway has survived the disaster and returned to England. I also know he has been trying to find you. We can contact him to let him know about your situation. Shall I do that?’
‘Yes please, that would be kind. Thank you. Thank you very much for helping me. I don’t deserve this.’
‘What do you mean? You don’t deserve this?’ she cast a very disagreeing look back at Brent. Brent, for the first time in many years, felt waves of emotions building up inside him. It was a feeling he had not experienced since the death of his mother, twenty-three years ago, when he was only nine. He did try to stop the tears now, as he did when he had heard the news that, “The good Lord has taken her away.” It was no good. Tears welled up in his eyes, and the sobbing came soon after. When it had all died down, and composure was regained, Brent said to Nurse Cuvelle, in a quiet, broken voice, ‘I’m not a good man. Other, better people, good people should be lying here, and not me.’ He was thinking of the young teenager as well as all the other poor souls who had perished. ‘Why am I here? Why have I survived, and not them? All the other people on the boat who died, they all…'
’Nurse Cuvelle put her finger gently on the lips of Brent, and in her now familiar, soft voice simply said, ‘That’s just the way it is. No one really knows why.’
Taking her finger slowly away, she carried on, ‘I only know that actions have consequences, and I think all of this has happened for a reason. Perhaps we will never know what that reason is,’ she said, shrugging her shoulders. ‘But, what I do know is, you shouldn’t feel guilty you have survived, and others have not. There’s a reason for it Brent. And I think deep down, you’re a good man. Perhaps that’s the reason, or perhaps it’s just a simple fact; or even simple karma.’
Brent was not fully sure what this beautiful, charismatic lady was trying to tell him. It seemed obvious and logical what she was saying, but he knew that this was only the tip of the iceberg, and that there was a lot more to her description of karma. Perhaps he would ask her in due time to explain further what she meant. Maybe she was right, and there was a reason, but whatever the reason was, Brent didn’t know it, and he still felt very, very guilty.
A few days later, Brent could just about make out the picture on the portable television set in the corner of the room. He could see the news a lot clearer now the swelling in his eye had subsided. Dr Günter was pleased that no great physical damage was done, and seemed to be generally relieved about his returning eyesight.‘In a few days, you’ll be able to return to England,’ he said, with a smile on his face.
Of course, Brent was happy with this news, and those few days went over quickly. In those few days, he talked a great deal more with Nurse Cuvelle; and when she was able to, she translated many of the news broadcasts shown on the old portable television. Many of these broadcasts reported stories of great acts of bravery on the ship. Some told the stories of men making human bridges, so others could crawl on their backs.
Others of a man who had spinal problems; he crawled around and carried his newborn baby with his teeth to safety. There were many other stories too. Like the news of a mother who had been told her daughter had been found alive. This was captured live on TV. Patients and nurses alike wiped away tears in their eyes, and all agreed this was possibly one the most moving things anyone could remember witnessing in their lives.It was an emotional time. Everyone on that ward had survived a major maritime disaster, and those memories would stay with them forever. Not only memories of the disaster would remain, but possibly the time afterwards, the time in hospital, when many philosophies of life would be reshaped.
Brent certainly did a lot of thinking in the days before Dr Günter was satisfied he was well enough to be repatriated back to England. It all happened very quickly, after he said he could go home. Within an hour, he said his goodbyes to all at the hospital, before the officials whisked him off back home. He was sorry when he had to leave, Nurse Cuvelle wasn’t on duty. He very much wanted to say thank you, not just for all the care but also for the love he had received. However, he managed to say goodbye and a big thank you to Dr Günter. Brent was slightly taken aback when the big German give him a big hug and a pat on the back, as they parted company. He would, of course, pass on the letter Brent had just about managed to write to Nurse Cuvelle.
Brent was also very grateful to the young man who escorted him from the hospital in Belgium to his flat, not far away from Russell Square, London. On arrival, he made sure everything was in order, even to the point as to go shopping, to get some of life’s essentials. After he’d left, promising to call again, Brent telephoned John.
John, being the good friend he was, came around at once. As Brent opened the door to let him in, the look on John’s expression told no lies. He was simply shocked to see the state of Brent’s face. It was less than two weeks since the disaster, not nearly enough time for the cuts and bruises to fully calm down.
‘Don’t suppose we’ll be going out for a beer tonight,’ John said, rather stupidly. Brent looked back at his friend, somewhat annoyed at this comment, then thought about it for a few seconds, before changing his expression on his face. He smiled as he picked up his jacket.
‘Of course we are. Life’s for living, isn’t it?’
About two hours, and six pints later, Brent and John sat talking about what had happened. They talked about many things; their feelings, their thoughts. They talked about John’s elation when he found out Brent was still alive, and his frustration afterwards as he tried to get in contact with him, but somehow found it impossible. John also passed on the grave news that Sergeant Harris, along with many other soldiers, had indeed perished on that fateful night. This saddened Brent a great deal, and it showed on his face as he sat his heavy frame back in his seat.
‘You know, we say this all the time, and still do nothing about it.’ He paused as he looked forlornly up at the ceiling. ‘We never know when our time is up, do we?’
John looked back at his friend, knowing exactly what he meant, but still asked the question anyway. ‘What do you mean?’‘
Well, we could be hit by a bus tomorrow, or we might die of a heart attack soon. I guess we all say things like that.’ He paused again, somewhat pensively before he continued, ‘I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. I nearly died on that ferry, and if I had done, my whole life would have been wasted.’
‘Oh, I don’t know,’ John replied. ‘You’ve joined the army, seen a bit of the world.’
‘I saw some of Germany, Northern Ireland, and the Falklands, that’s all. No, what I’m trying to say is... umm, I’ve never really lived my life to its full potential.’
‘Well, how many people do?’
‘I’ve got a feeling, not many,’ Brent answered. ‘I would take it as a guess, most of us would want to. But, what saddens me is, some people leave it right to the last minute to do something about it.'
‘Do you think so?’
‘I’ll give you an example. If a doctor tells someone they have only a few months to live, I bet you, if that person is able to, I reckon he or she would try to fit as much as possible in those last few months. You know, like going to America, climbing a mountain, or doing whatever it is they have always wanted to do.’
Brent gathered his thoughts, after taking another sip of beer he carried on. ‘What I’m trying to say is, why wait to climb that mountain? We should do it today! When my time comes, I don’t want to lie on my deathbed, all solemn and regretful, and say, “I wish I had lived it differently.” I don’t want to wait right at the end, just before I pop my clogs to suddenly realise what’s important in my life. From now on, I’m going to live life to the full. I will cram everything I possibly can into this short life of mine, starting now, today! Not sometime, when the doctor tells me I’ve only a year to go. And you know what?’ Brent said, looking at his friend like a ten-year-old boy at Christmas.
‘I know exactly how I’m going to do it!’
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