Nature's Order

The story of a man who rejects an average life, in search of something more meaningful. Inspired by the life of Geoffrey Brindley.


1. Nature's Order








In a measured and humble gesture of niceness, one gentleman waved his hand and smiled an earnestly benevolent smile. Another returned the motions, but in a vague, curious and hesitant manner.

   ‘George? Is that you, George?’ asked the confused man returning the pleasantry.

   ‘Hello, John,’ said George, pleasantly. ‘It’s been a long time.’

   ‘It has,’ the first man confirmed, tilting his head to one side. ‘Oh, it has,’ he then repeated, because an awkward silence had followed.

   And then he took a moment or two to look his old friend over – up and down, down and up – inspecting his strange attire and tired eyes, in an act of perplexed, almost hauteur deliberation.

   ‘What,’ he said at last, rather uneasily, ‘what on Earth are you wearing… George? What are you… doing?’

   At this, George, the man in the strange and towelling brown robes, held out his arms, abeam.

   ‘I’m doing what I am meant to do,’ he declared proudly. ‘What I was made to do. What I was put here on this planet to do. I’m serving my purpose: spreading happiness, like a farmer sowing good seeds.’

   And then John moved aside, still confused and suspicious, saying nothing aloud but muttering something beneath his shallow breaths.

   Seemingly oblivious, George smiled at him, pleasantly nodded, and continued to smile, walking.

   And into the distance he went.


A place once admired that now sat in ruins, the city was a shadow of its former self – as many might have said – for it was a place of desolation, a fallen Olympus.

   It might also have been said that so many could have marked the decline of the once great city. Where once it was a place impassioned by grand ambition, it now fell afoul of lethargy. Where once it had glowed pregnant with enterprise and productivity, it now miscarried and birthed only consumption, spending its wealth again and again.

   An outcome easily foreseen.

   This decline could so easily have been marked by most, but very few would have felt it exactly as George did. The mills and factories, built in proud stone, partly by his great-great-grandfather’s restless hands, now fell idle, their solid structures left to decay, their timber bones protruding from between broken roof tiles and crumbling ashen walls.

   This new city, which George now looked upon, had been thrown up on thin foundations, matchstick infrastructures.

   Stones were now bricks.

   Wood was now metal.

   Atop the great many towering spider-web frames colossus arms craned across the cityscape, destroying and erecting buildings all at once, with huge wrecking-balls and god-like hands.

   Only a few old tall chimneys still smoked, burning carcasses, amidst the ever-changing constructions.

   Stood upon the brink of the valley then, his hessian robe flowing softly, feet strapped in brown leather sandals, George the Wanderer cast an eye over the city below, felt sombre, but smiled all the same.

   Curious, he watched ginormous mechanical dinosaurs chew at walls, tear out the innards of old industry, twist, turn, relax pistons, and let the debris fall from their great gaping mouths, into the hungry waiting containers, dust cascading.

   How things change, thought George.

   Ghosts of old industry now dwell in the stomachs of some mills – the now-wealthy offspring of the once poor – but some are meagrely visited museums and some are merely desolate monuments, their tired eyes blinking, blackened and broken, in the sunlight.

   George reflected on how, long ago now, the factory in which he had once worked had been torn to the ground and buried, the work there moved to another location, a more profitable place.

   The dinosaurs roared.

   Their steel sinews tautened.

   The observant individual marvelled wistfully at man’s progressive obsession, his savage machinery, his lust for all things modern and progressive.

   But still George smiled.

   He had faith in humanity.

   Faith, even, in the many faithless.


Being born into an industrial city, as he was, George grew up in the manner most did back then, schooling pushed aside, he started work young. Leisure came a distant second to labour. Play was for fools and art for girls. His parents were proud but in need of money, as most were, found him a job in a factory. There was work to be done – it was said – and all had to do it, no exceptions, no dispensations. Poverty was a choice. If one wanted out of the gutter, one had to drag themselves from it with grit and guile and the bit firmly between their teeth. There was an order to things, a right and wrong, and a path to be taken militantly.


‘George? George?’ His mother waved a casual hand in front of his fresh, young, stupefied and almost entirely expressionless face. ‘George, are you even listening to me, George?’

   George lifted his head, looked up, his pupils contracting, and said haltingly, ‘Sorry. Yes, I know, mother: nothing to fear.’

   Proud, she smiled warmly, said, ‘I’ve packed you some sandwiches and a flask of tea.’ and placed a heavily dented and scratched metal lunchbox on the half table, beside him, in the hallway.

   The front door looked bigger than ever now, more far away than it actually was. Such a big door, George felt that it could not be opened, that it was too heavy a thing to move. He could not work. He was too young. He could not stand alongside men, being so small.

   He felt nervous.

   He felt inadequate.

   He felt afraid.

   But then a voice inside him, a voice which sounded almost as his did but that somehow did not belong directly to him, speaking as though of its own volition, said aloud and confidently, ‘Right then, Mother, it’s off to work I go.’

   Walking down the narrow suburban street on which he lived, dwarfed between two long rows of terraced houses, George looked endearing but almost satirically comical to his mother – a parody of a man, drenched in his inherited overalls, carrying his father’s old lunchbox.

   Waving, smiling, she called after him, ‘See you back here at teatime, Son.’ And, ‘Good luck!’ And, finally, ‘Love you!’

   George looked back, smiled, and then waved, his cuffs loose and already stained with age-old-oil.

   The chimneys looming, unfurling great dark clouds across the blue morning sky, his mother watched him until he became smaller down the road, tiny at the bottom of it, and she carried on watching her tiny man until he vanished around the corner there.

   When he had gone, she stared at the spot from which he had vanished, imagining what the day ahead might hold for him, feeling proud.

   Fifteen years after that day, George still carried that same battered lunchbox to work and home, each morning and night. He still wore those same overalls some days, too, although he had treated himself to a new pair, after the seat of the old pair had split wide open during one afternoon’s particularly hard labour.

   His mother had sewn a patch over the embarrassing hole and decreed that they still had some life in them yet.

   George was almost thirty years old now and was quite the engineer, by all accounts. As though a micrometre had been implanted inside his mind as a child, he could pick out the tiniest of measurements with only his eyes as instruments. And he was rarely far wrong in his optical estimations. He seemed to have a natural gift for milling, too, and so spent much of his time preparing the panels, which were then primed and painted red and black and bolted to one of the many great farming machines that the Harvester’s factory turned out.

   There, each day, the overpowering smells of overworked men, used engine oil, fresh engine oil, ground coffee beans and endless cigarette smoke touched the whole factory floor. It was a vast open room of odorous things and men moving, meandering with the casual ease of seasoned farmers, observing herds in the searing summer sun, although they themselves were engineers and as such had never once farmed.

   But, despite the odious nature of the place, George was content in his work. He did not mind the smells. He was accustomed to them. Neither did he mind the noises of the factory; the chugging, drilling, hammering sounds went almost unheard.

   But then, one day, things changed.

   The humming machines spoke to him that one change-affecting day. At least that was the thought which offered comfort. Just the machines… but he could have sworn he had heard a voice. Not a voice calling in any real clarity and not a voice speaking at any real length, but a voice, all the same – a voice which came from without the mind, and not within it.

   It was definitely not the clicking talk of a torque wrench. Nor was it the guttering grind of gear wheels. And it was certainly not the banshee screaming of a lathe working sharp into smoothness. It must have been the humming of steel as it bends, George had told himself. Yes, the humming of machinery…

   ‘Do you ever think you hear… noise in here… strange noises?’ George had hesitantly asked of his colleagues, later in the day.

   ‘Don’t know what you mean,’ had been the reply of one.

   ‘Nope,’ another had said, between sips of tea.

   ‘You mean like ghosts?’ a third had asked, casting an eye of curiosity.

   ‘Maybe,’ George had then speculated, with some  degree of caution. ‘Maybe…’

   And then they had all laughed, and George had thought it best to laugh along, and to say that he was only joking, of course. It was all a big ruse – of course it was – a touch of childish mad-hatter-trickery, a jovial spot of good-old-fashioned Tomfoolery, on George’s part.

   They all laughed.

   Then, heartily, they laughed some more.

   In the following days and weeks, George went about his work with a mechanical efficiency, never once again mentioning the noises, which he kept on hearing, to his colleagues. Nor did he tell his family or friends, knowing that some would be overly concerned and some would be quite unconcerned, and some – he felt – might even ridicule. And then, even when his vision became distorted, his eyesight blurred, he did not tell a single soul.

   It happened that one morning, whilst working a sheet of metal on a milling machine in the workshop, there came a very sudden jolt to the side of his head, followed by a sharp pain. This sharp pain was then immediately followed by a sensation of immense warmth in the cranium, a dumb tension in the temple, a cracking, as though the whole of his skull was expanding, and then a throbbing which soon faded as the rolling of a storm cloud before thunder. The trauma forced George to close his eyes, open them wide, blink a few times, staggering, stumbling.

   Startled, he flung his head wildly round one way, then the other, then turned his whole self, full circle, to see just who or what might have struck him.

   But there was nobody close, nobody near.

   And, also, looking down, there was nothing lying on the floor, either. No blunt-missile-object, no shard of metal or chock of wood.

   Then, there steadily emerged in his line-of-sight a vague shape.

   Again, he spun.

   He blinked.

   He rubbed his eyes.

   He tried to shake the shape off.

   But the shape remained.

   ‘You alright there, George?’ called a man nearby, unloading a truck, seeing the commotion of the individual, this wild war of one.

   ‘Just there, just, there,’ the conspicuously maniacal man mumbled, reeling still.

   He swayed.

   He staggered.

   And then, ‘Yep, am fine,’ he said at last, unsteadily. ‘Just… just got a… a headache… that’s all.’

   ‘You sure?’

   ‘Yeah… sure… I’m sure… I’m fine. Thanks.’

   Retiring to the dirty men’s restroom, George examined himself in the mirror, rinsed his face with cold water and wetted his hair on the temple which had caused him pain, prodding at it with his index finger. But he found no injury. The pain, although now gone, seemed in hindsight to have come from within.

   Staring into the mirror now, he could see the shape arcing across his reflection but could see no cause: nothing in or around his eyes, no trace of a fallen lash, no grain of dirt or grit, no curling flake of metal shaving. And, in the next few days after that, the image faded.

   But, albeit intermittently, it would still appear to George, blearing his sight.

   It seemed to come unbidden and at seemingly sporadic times. There seemed to be no pattern to its appearance, no correlation to be measured. It would appear in the morning as he woke, or as he left the house for work; in the afternoon as he ate lunch, as he returned home, but sometimes not and sometimes neither and sometimes never in days. He could be standing or sitting still, eating or not eating, lying down in the bath, or in bed, or out walking or running, and it would appear all the same, but in no clear pattern and abiding by no law of logic.

   Night or day, day or night, there was certainly no pattern in the emergence of the apparition. It came when it wanted and left when it wished.

   But, having noted all that inconsistency, it was always the exact same shape: a sort of half-circle, though roughly formed.

   And the voice, too, when sometimes it returned, even when the machines were not humming, seemed always to carry the same notes.

   At night, as he lay in bed, the image would drift across the ceiling of his bedroom as a funeral cortège, parading itself in shadows, with a faint half-haloed luminosity. And when he closed his eyes the shape grew into sharper focus, as though it were scolded into the retinae, branded onto the nerves.

   In sleep, in his dreams, the shape would fade into a true form, focus, and the voice would become heard with a more distinct clarity, but both would fade back out into darkness and muted confusion, effervesce in lagoons of unconsciousness, as soon as George’s eyes opened.

   One morning, as quick as he could, George sketched a picture of the shape, just as he could see it before his eyes and as he had just seen it, fading, in his dream. It looked to him like the entrance to a cave.


‘Just relax now, George, and open your eyes wide. I’m just going to shine this little torch of mine in, so I can have a look around.’

   Tense, George relaxed.

   His pupils dilated.

   There was a click and the moustached doctor leaned in, shining his small torch. The glare alternated from one eye to the other, one eye to the other, and back, blinding.

   ‘Keep your head very still now please, George. Look straight ahead at my nose.’

   It occurred to George that, right now, it would be a struggle to look at anything other than the doctor’s bulbous snout. However, he thought better of announcing this fact.

   ‘Have you suffered any head injuries at work lately, George?’ asked the man with the large nostrils and magnified eye. ‘You know, blunt trauma and the likes?’

   ‘No… Well, yes… but no.’

   ‘You have or you haven’t?’ the doctor insisted.

   ‘No, I haven’t… but… I thought I had.’

   The doctor then recoiled from his inspection, frowned, shook his head, and firmly announced, ‘You’re not making any sense at all, George.’

   ‘Well, you see,’ said the patient, trying desperately to explain, ‘I had a pain in my head a few weeks ago now and I thought… I thought… that something had hit me right there,’ he pointed to his right temple. ‘But nothing had.’

   ‘Hmmm,’ hummed the doctor, returning to his desk to make some notes. ‘No blunt trauma…’

   As George looked around the room in silence, the doctor continued jotting his notes.

   The doctor’s office was all very neat and tidy, George noted, all very clinical and concise – very exacting – with that faint scent of cleaning agents lingering about it. The whole room seemed so very sure of itself, with its books all aligned on their shelves, alphabetised by section and sub-section, and then by author. Very orderly, too, was the doctor’s desk: everything precisely placed and the whole top having about it a measured degree of symmetry.

   The man of medicine let his pen rest for a moment.

   ‘Well, I’m no expert,’ he said, turning to George and brushing his moustache with thumb and forefinger, ‘but I don’t see anything obviously wrong with your eyes. They seem perfectly healthy to me. Reactions are good, pupillary dilation is normal, and there is no apparent damage to your cornea that would explain these hairline “half-moon shapes” you keep seeing. However, I’m going to refer you to the optometrist at General, to get a second opinion. You should receive an appointment from them within the month.’

   The doctor then shuffled some papers on the desk, and then straightened his tie, whilst saying, ‘In the meantime, it might be an idea to have your eyes tested at your local opticians. As for your hearing, be sure to wear plugs at work. The drums are undamaged – as far as I can see – but you can never be too careful: the ears are outstandingly fragile instruments.’

   George nodded. ‘Right you are, Doctor.’

   ‘And you say the sounds were a sort of ringing?’

   George nodded again, slower this time. ‘Yes, sort of, but sometimes it almost sounds like –’

   ‘That’s probably a little mild tinnitus.’ The doctor turned away, jotting again. ‘Yes, mild tinnitus… from the noisy work environment… Nothing to worry about, really. But be sure to get those plugs. And use them.’

   ‘Yes, Doctor.’

   With a certain briskness of brevity, the doctor shook George’s hand and said farewell. George felt his hand shook and felt that he too had shook the doctor’s hand in return, but he nevertheless left his office with an overwhelming vagueness of experience. Many words had been spoken. But nothing much had been said or done.

   ‘Rest,’ the man of medicine had said lastly. ‘Get as much rest as you can.’

   The next day George went back to work newly equipped with ear plugs and safety glasses. Quite why he had bought the two protective items was still a point of confusion for him: he felt he knew very well that nothing had injured his eyes and that nothing had damaged his hearing, but, nevertheless, he carried on wearing both the glasses and the ear plugs each day after that. And, when he did get the appointments – firstly at his local opticians, and then at General – there was found to be nothing wrong with his eyesight.

  “Almost perfect 20/20,” the optician had said.

   His eardrums too, on further inspection, were found to be undamaged.


The bell rang for morning break.

   George had always found it odd that there was a need for a bell-ringing to signal when men could drink tea, and again when they should stop drinking tea. He felt quite certain that any responsible man could see fit to drink tea when he saw fit and had a thirst for it. Surely no man would drink tea all day, in favour of completing his work. The bell seemed militant and unnecessary. It seemed a measure of unnatural control. Children at school needed a bell to ring, yes, because children daydream and become forgetful of the time and the tasks at hand. But men do not need to be herded like cattle.

   Before he left his station, he waited just long enough to feel that the bell had not dictated to him.

   George entered the canteen, sat down at a table, opened his dented lunchbox, wiped his oily hands on his oily overall trousers, pulled out his flask, and poured a cup of tea. He rolled his shoulders, let out a relaxed groan, and stretched.

   And then very suddenly his eyes became alert, and then his mouth hung open in wild disbelief…

   Because there on the coffee-stained table, surrounded by tiny crystals of sugar spilled by trembling hands, there rested a newspaper. And, more significantly, on the cover of that newspaper there was printed an image in ten shades of grey and one of black: an image identical, in almost every way, to the image that had now plagued George’s eyes and mind for weeks.

   The resemblance was too close an approximation, too almost-exact, to be coincidental. It was the image of a cave. If he had placed the sketch he had made over it, covering the front page, and shone a light through them both from behind, they might have been one and the same.

   Everything, it seemed, everything that had happened, up until now, had drawn him to this very moment. He felt it. And now the cave drew him to it, so strongly, so very strongly, that it was impossible to think of doing anything other than going to it.

   Tap, tap, tap

   He tapped the grey image with his blackened finger.

   ‘This,’ he said abstractedly, ‘where is this?’ not addressing anyone but everyone in the small smoke-filled room.

   One of his colleagues nearby, a small man holding a big cup – John, his name was – said, ‘Well, that’s Mother Earth’s cave. You never heard of Mother Earth’s cave before, never been there and seen it? Meant to be magic place.’

   ‘Never heard of it,’ said George, even more distantly now, ‘never been there… no… but, seen it… yes.’

   The small man with the big cup briefly chortled.

   ‘That doesn’t even make sense,’ he announced, laughing.

   ‘No… you’re right… it makes no sense at all, but,’ George paused, ‘but, I have to go there. I have to go there now. Right now.’ And with that he put down his sandwich, shed his once-white-but-now-very-oily apron and grabbed up the newspaper.

   Out of the canteen, he dashed.

   John shook his head, the big cup in his fat little hands. The other workers, too, shook their heads at one another with faces puzzled by this queerest of behavior.

   Down the stairs to the workshop floor, George ran.

   An enormous excitement came over him now: a crazy, unconscious wildness: a tornadic, insatiable and unsolicited urge to throw all caution to the wind, tear it back in, hold it to his chest, tightly, and again throw it out, and pull it back in again, repeatedly, and proceed to throw it further, more fiercely each time, again and again and again, into the wind, so that there was eventually no caution left in him at all. Not one bit. Not a trace of it.

   He wanted… no… he needed… to chew up the order of things, like tobacco, and to spit it hard into a fire to hear it destroyed, hissing in a disorderly, crackling inferno.

   Without knocking, this usually normal, passive, and perhaps even diffident man then burst into the office of the corpulent factory owner, Mr. Wells.

   Dissident George then proceeded, frantically and breathlessly, wildly, to decree that he must leave, that he had to go, right away, that there was nothing else for it. And so, without ever even giving Mr. Wells the chance to ask why, George left.

   The busy business man just sat there, in fact, in his chair, behind his large oak desk, confused, his mouth ajar, cigar burning between his thick sausage fingers, for a long time after his employee had left.

   He could have run the whole way there, but George took the next train, instead.

   Nobody spoke to him on the platform, or in the carriage, and he spoke to nobody save for the ticket officer, to ask which stop it was that he needed and to pay the appropriate fare.

   Unfolding the newspaper in his lap, the tall chimney stacks chugging their grey clouds, passing by slowly between the fast moving foreground, George just sat there and studied the cave in the picture, occasionally looking outside, the land passing by, to see if he could spot it coming.

   Coming to a stop, the train hissed.

   As he stood before the opening of the cave, surrounded by the kind of fertile terrain found only in fairytale forests and goblin markets, George was overcome by an odd catharsis, a strange purging of the soul: as though all the evils of the world suddenly left it, all darkness lifted from him, in a flurry of dandelion imps blowing away in the white beauty of a silent explosion among the shuddering greens, everything heavy, everything troublesome and challenging and upsetting moved away in magic, and he was left with only a wonderful euphoria.

   It was breathtaking.

   His ears fine-tuned, he could hear the voice. His eyesight more perfect than ever before, he saw the cave; and the cave was the shape and the shape the cave; and then the image and the sounds of the voice came together as one, and his dreams became reality.

   This was it, this was the exact experience felt in his sleeping mind, and now it was real, now it was no dream.

   He breathed.

   Enveloping him, the world smelled like never before, him taking nature in, in deep breaths, and nature taking him in, also. Now more than ever, George could hear the voice – the machine voice from the factory, from the street at night and from his dreams, the tinnitus – and now it was distinct and definite, it was clear and concise. It was close. But, more than anything else, it was beautiful now. It sang to him, calling him, grabbing at him, softly, calmly, with a caressing cadence, a prehensile poetry.

   George began to walk.

   The incantation of nature’s bosom charmed him, drew him nearer and nearer.

   And then, slowly, steadily, into the shadows of the cave he went…

   Quite what George found within that cave, quite what he felt and heard and touched upon as it touched him, it could not be said. However, after thirty nights and days of darkness and solitude in there, from the very moment he stepped back into the world, out of his subterranean dwelling and into the splendorous blinding sun, there was no denying that he had changed irrevocably, for the better.

   Please, do understand that he had never been a man of coarse or callous character – and so the change was not a drastic one – but now he seemed infused with an even much more gentile nature than ever before.

   He was kind, kinder than before.

   He was caring, more so than ever.

   He was pious and proper, almost saintly.


That was over forty years ago now.

   His character has never changed since.

   His kindness has never faltered.

   His caring never quilled.

   Exuding a notably odd and enigmatic nobility, he now wanders the new city, and many people, with roving eyes and roving minds and nothing but logical reasoning, picture him as a sort of roving soul, a wanderer lost in his own private universe. But George has a definite direction, a particular path to walk. His pace quickens and slows, quickens and slows, slows and quickens, as though he sees the things just past and the things soon coming, as though history is mapped out for his insight only.

   ‘As often as you look to the ground,’ says George the Wanderer, ‘look to the sky.’

   ‘I don’t understand you,’ say so many.

   ‘Consider it for long enough and you soon will.’

   And so, through the roads where Enoch’s Vermin now reside in the bowels of doctor’s homes – some dirty but good and misunderstood, some bad but clean and corrupt of soul – and where foreign hands now shape the world they once helped rebuild in Alliance, and where those impoverished by elected oppressors exist and do nothing more, in a desperately diseased state – whilst the financially endowed amass more wealth, growing fatter, feasting decadently on the misery of others – the Wanderer walks.

   The Wanderer walks to this day, every day, down the once cobbled roads, along the long-trodden thoroughfares, the lanes, alleyways and market squares, tacitly permeating society with the message gifted to him.

   His smile infectious, his nerve unwavering, he spreads a good word, a vision of a better world, simply by waving kindly.

   The Wanderer walks the streets, then, waving, smiling, and nobody quite knowing why but most of them understanding, somehow, within the depths of their hearts and minds, that his perennial purpose, as Nature’s Emissary, is to share with them inexhaustible benevolence.


The great fog of industry had long since ascended.

   Stood still upon the brink of the valley, George watched the great cerulean sky blow its voluptuous cotton-wool clouds over and across the shrunken city below.

   Looking down again, he saw the mechanical dinosaurs still crunching the skins of old industry, forever destroying, forever creating. Aimlessly, he witnessed the tiny grey figures of people, like matchstick men and women, roaming to and from places. He watched small cars – like toys – flitting along roads and joining queues and stopping at red lights and going at green ones.

   He saw life bustling.

   He saw the world changing, ceaselessly.

   He smiled to himself, and then kept on walking.



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