Saturday, April 22, 2017

THE REAL MESSAGE BEHIND 'THE NEVERENDING STORY'




When the above title is mentioned, the first thing most people would probably say, ‘Oh, gosh... I watched that movie a long time ago!’
Uh huh... so did I as a child. It was one of the ‘holiday films’ aired in Nigerian television when I was a child, the sort of films shown only on public holidays and many children were probably as fascinated by it as my siblings and I were.
Released in 1984, The Neverending Story is about Bastian, who finds himself drawn to a magical land called Fantasia; the main setting of a mysterious old book he stole from a bookshop. The central character in the book is a young warrior called Atreyu who goes on a quest to find a cure for the ruler of Fantasia, who is dying. Who can forget his flying creature friend Falkor, the werewolf like monster who almost killed him and the enormous rock eater? I have to admit, we were more focused on Atreyu and the people and creatures he encountered through the film, rather than his actual quest. Don’t judge us, we were just kids.
Years later, it struck me that such a fantasy epic must have been adapted from a book and I was right. It was written by the late German novelist, Michael Ende and published in 1979. However, I also discovered that Ende was not pleased with the film adaptation of his classic book; saying it did not capture the spirit of the book. Having read the book and seeing the film again through a woman’s eyes instead of a child’s... I realised why.
The Neverending Story is a book that’s really detailed and doesn’t contain humour, like J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, so it’s not for those who aren’t into the fantasy/epic genre. If you are, it’s a page turner.
Plot... Bastian Balthazar Bux, (yeah that’s the boy’s full name) is neglected by his father who is mourning the sudden death of Bastian’s mother. Bastian is very fond of reading and has a vivid imagination, but has no friends and is constantly picked on by bullies. Escaping them one morning on his way to school, he runs into an old bookshop. He meets the owner, a Mr Carl Conrad Coreander and comes upon a book the old man was reading.


It was bound in copper-colored silk that shimmered when he moved it about. Leafing through the pages, he saw the book was printed in two colors. There seemed to be no pictures, but there were large, beautiful capital letters at the beginning of the chapters. Examining the binding more closely, he discovered two snakes on it, one light and one dark. They were biting each other’s tail, so forming an oval. And inside the oval, in strangely intricate letters, he saw the title:The Neverending Story. 


Being a passionate book buff and more than fascinated by the book’s title, Bastian stole the book while Mr Coreander was on the phone. Skipping classes, he sits down to read the book in the school’s attic. And there, the story unfolds....the story within this story.
 We (and Bastian) find out that Fantasia (actually called Fantastica in the book) is in trouble because a dark and faceless entity  known as ‘The Nothing’ is destroying the land, ruled by the Child-Like Empress; who is the oldest being in the land but eternally has the appearance of a 10 year old girl...she is ageless. But ‘The Nothing’ has made her very ill, she is dying. 
A young warrior/hunter known as Atreyu is sent on a quest to find a cure. He’s given the Empress’ medallion- AURYN- which will protect him as long as he wears it but is ordered never to use its power.


 Michael Ende made good use of folklore and literary expressions to help make his fantasy story logical, something Lewis Caroll (Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass) and J.K Rowling (The Harry Potter books) also did. And this served to show how Bastian himself got into Fantastica himself. According to Uyulala, the oracle Atreyu encounters after several chapters, the cure for the Empress is a new name; she lived by names, not Time itself. And the name must be provided by a child from the Outer World.
Gmork, the werewolf like monster the power behind ‘The Nothing’ sent to kill Atreyu before he can complete his mission said to him;
 ‘What are you creatures of Fantastica? Dreams. Poetic Inventions, characters in a neverending story. Do you think you are real? Well, yes, here in your world you are; If humans believe Fantastica doesn’t exist, they won’t get the idea of visiting your country.’

What’s the message behind ‘The Neverending Story’? The message of the first half of the book is the power of the human imagination and power of names. How magical creatures and lands are alive because humans who conjure them up vividly in their minds, passing stories from generation to generation. Uyulala said to Atreyu,
‘In every age it’s they who gave
The Child Like Empress Life,
For wondrous new names have the power to save.
But now for many a many a day
No human has visited Fantastica.
For they no longer know the way.
They have forgotten how read we are,
They don’t believe in us anymore.
Oh, if only a child of man would come,
Oh, then at last the thing would be done.

And according to the Empress, ‘Only the right name gives beings and things their reality,’ and ‘If the hero comes to us, new life can be born.
And Bastian, having followed Atreyu in his journey and putting himself in Atreyu’s shoes was literally absorbed by the book, finding himself in Fantastica after calling out the Empress’s new name.  According to the Empress when Atreyu felt he had failed in his mission;
He took part in everything you did and he has come all that way with you...
You entered into his image and took it with you, and he followed you, because he saw himself through your eyes. And now too, he can hear every word we are saying. He knows we are talking about him, he knows we have set our hope in him and are expecting him.
A story and its characters and settings exists forever, as long as it stays on our memory for a very long time and we are a part of it because it stays in our hearts as well; thus a 'Neverending story'. 
The other half of the book deals with the Fulfilment of Wishes. Bastian saved Fantastica by giving the Empress a new name but falls prey to pride, ambition, arrogance and bad advice from a sorceress Xayide, after the Empress gave him AURYN, with the message at the back- Do What You Wish. 
 Bastian misunderstood her actual meaning and his wishes caused negative happenings in Fantastica and causing him to lose his memories as a human, how to go back to his world as well as his humility. Only when he realised what the message actually meant, he was able to put things right, with Atreyu and Falkor’s help. The second message of The Neverending Story? My interpretation... how one can lose his way after wishing for the wrong thing and make a wrong decision...it brings to mind this saying gain the whole world but lose your own soul.
Watch the movie, but the movie only covered half of the novel; hence The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter that was released in 1990 but was loosely based on it as a new story line was added, so was not a good adaptation. As for The NeverEnding Story III: Escape from Fantasia released in 1994, it  was a complete travesty because it was completely revamped, using only some the characters from the book. Michael Ende complained of the original movie when it first came out but at least that was better than the two sequels.
The Neverending Story is a classic and definitely a must read. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

CARBO FAN FICTION-Déjà Vu CHAPTER 21




Alamain was dragged out of the holding cell and escorted to the interrogation room. After the handcuffs were removed, the uniformed officer left him alone to his thoughts. As he waited, his confusion grew as he thought about Carly.  She had changed her name and discarded her medical career; two main reasons why she had remain hidden for so long. But had he changed that much over the years that she couldn’t even recognise him? What the hell was going on? If he didn’t know any better, he would swear she didn’t know him!
He looked up as Bo entered the room, accompanied by another man he recognised as his brother Roman. He tensed, seeing the nasty scowl on Bo’s face.
‘I knew you no-good Alamains would show up sooner or later. Bo growled, glaring at him.
Alamain reddened with anger, bristling. ‘I will not be spoken to like that...’
‘Save the royal theatrics for somebody who cares, Nicky.’
‘Don’t you presume to address me by that name; I’m not a little boy anymore!’ Carly’s son-now a grown man-shouted at back, outraged. ‘And I demand to speak with my mother... right now!’
‘You don’t have the right to demand anything, Nicky.’ Bo replied coldly, disgusted by his arrogance. Just like Lawrence. Although the young man had Clarice’s eyes, he was the living image of his scumbag father who beat her severely and left her to die...and left her in her present condition. ‘Your mother won’t see you. Even if she wanted to, it’s only going to be when I say so.’
‘And who do you think you are that you can keep my mother away from me, especially when she has a lot to answer for!’ He sneered derisively. ‘But then again, why am I surprised? I should have known when she suddenly decided to abandon her husband and son; she’ll end up back with her peasant lover! Nothing but a shameless slut...’
Bo’s palm viciously struck him across the face, throwing him back on the chair so hard, he fell off. Bo pulled him to his feet by grabbing him by the lapels of his jacket. ‘Don’t you ever talk about your mother like that in front of me again, ever!’
‘Let go of me.’ Nicholas hissed, green eyes flashing defiantly.
‘Bo, let him go,’ came Roman’s calm voice from behind.  
Bo pushed the younger man back onto the chair, wiping his hands on his jeans derisively.
‘We can’t talk over this situation in the middle of both your tempers.’ Roman went on. ‘I managed to stop Carly from coming down here but she’s obviously going to ask questions and we have to decide on what she’ll be told.’
Nicholas’s eyes darted from him and back to Bo. ‘What she’ll be told?  What do you mean by that? What in God’s name is going on here? I demand to speak with her!’
‘It won’t do you any good to talk to her right now, Nicky.’
‘I said...’
‘I don’t give a damn what you prefer right now.’ Roman’s voice was now cold. ‘I don’t give a damn about you, I care a lot about your Mum and so do a lot of people. You need to listen to us and listen to us you will. You don’t exist in Carly’s mind right now. She doesn’t know you.’
Nicholas wondered if this was some elaborate expensive joke. ‘What?’
 ‘She has amnesia, you idiot.’ Bo snapped. ‘She doesn’t remember you, your father or her past. No thanks to your father who almost beat her to death.’
‘Don’t you dare slander my father! They had their problems...all married couples do, but he never laid a hand on her. She’s the one who left him, who abandoned me!’
‘Typical...making it all about you. I figured your father must have fed your enough lies to poison your mind against her.’
‘I know the true facts!’ Nicholas spat. ‘And that story about amnesia is nothing but a fabrication...I don’t believe you.’
‘Yeah well, here’s a refresher course on truth.’ Abe walked in, holding the file on Clarice. Roman looked at Bo who shook his head. ‘You tell him.’ He said, not trusting himself to do so without losing his temper again. He turned away to lean against the wall, arms folded as Roman sat opposite Nicholas Alamain and told him the truth about his mother, Abe filling in some gaps. Nicholas’ expression turned from incredulous to shocked, hands clenched on the table. Given the file, he went through it, his hands shaking as he read through every aspect of Shane’s report.
Finally he sat back, one hand covering his trembling mouth. ‘All this time,’ he whispered. ‘All this time... he told me she was dead.’ He raised his damp eyes to look at the three men. ‘I didn’t know he did this... I swear it. I thought she just left without me...’
Bo watched him carefully. ‘What really happened that night?’
Nicholas closed his eyes. He did it to her because of me. It was my fault.
‘I asked you a question, Nicky. What really happened that night?’
Nicholas managed to pull himself together. ‘Mum seemed out of sorts about two months after we left Salem. She wouldn’t tell me what was wrong and I noticed she and Dad seemed to snip at each other often but I thought they always managed to sort things out. Clearly I was wrong about that, it was all an elaborate front. Sometime later, Dad took us on a holiday in his yacht and one night...Mum came to my room. She said we were going away on a little trip, that she and Dad were unhappy and needed some space.’ Nicholas’ voice shook. ‘I yelled at her. I said I wasn’t going to leave my father and she was probably making him unhappy with her drama. She tried to calm me down but I wouldn’t listen to her. I ran away from her and...’ he couldn’t go on.
‘And what?’ Bo asked, his hands itching to strangle Nicholas as he guessed what was coming.
‘I swear, I never thought he would do such a thing to her, I didn’t!’ Tears slid down Nicholas’ cheeks. ‘I ran into Dad outside and I told him... I repeated what she said to me.’ He bowed his head in shame.
Roman raised his eyes to the ceiling, while Abe shook his head.
‘He said I shouldn’t worry about it, that he would talk to her. I went to bed. The next morning... he told me she’d packed a case and left, telling him to look after me since I wouldn’t go with her. And a week later, he told me he’d heard word that she’d drowned in a boating accident, trying to make it to the mainland. He lied to me!’
‘But you were the one who told him she was leaving him.’ Bo’s voice shook with anger.
‘I was just a boy, an angry, thoughtless little boy!’ Nicholas rose to his feet.
‘You’ve always been blind when your father or Vivian was concerned so don’t expect me to feel any sympathy for you right now. Half the time you gave that woman grief but she loved you far too much to ever see your vicious side. Before you left Salem, I really thought you’d changed. I should’ve expected far less from Larry Alamain’s spawn!’
Swallowing, Nicholas hung his head, wiping his eyes.
‘Well,’ Abe said briskly. ‘What are we going to do now? Clarice is going to demand to  know who he is and why he attacked her at Bo’s place.’
‘We’ll just have to play it well for her benefit. We pretend to interrogate him, he says it’s a case of false identity; he gets a slap on a wrist and he’s out of here.’ Bo said, working it out.
‘Is there no chance at all that she would recognise me? I’m her son.’ Nicholas protested. ‘I want to help her with her memory, make it up to her.’
‘That’s partly the reason why we’re doing this, to see if she does recognise you. There’s a chance that she might, if she does; yeah, you can stay and help her get her memory back. If she doesn’t, you will leave Salem and keep your mouth shut. It’s not in her best interest Larry finds out she’s alive.’ Bo said, his tone broking no argument.
‘I may have been a thoughtless little boy but I’m not evil.’ Nicholas replied, chastened. ‘And I don’t see why I can’t stay around and be near her.’
‘That’s out of the question,’ said Abe firmly. ‘Because then your father will come here to see you and everything will be out. You can’t stay here, it’s too dangerous for her...and a lot of people.
Nicholas turned to looked at Bo. ‘She didn’t remember you on sight yet you two are in a relationship again. Am I missing something here?’
Bo didn’t deign to reply.
‘Let’s now decide what we’re going to let Carly know.’ Roman sat down again.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Rafe  Hernandez was quickly briefed and told to handle the fake interrogation. Clarice arrived at the station the next morning and she and Bo with Roman watched Nicholas and Rafe talk through the one-way mirror. Nicholas stated that he had acted impulsively and it had all been a case of mistaken identity-the woman in Bo’s house had merely reminded him of someone else. Bo kept looking at her frowning face for any sign of recognition.
‘Lord knows who this woman was to set him off like that.’
‘Want to press charges?’ asked Roman.
She shook her head. ‘No. But I want to talk to him.’
‘Why?’
‘I don’t know... I just feel this need to.’
Rafe ended the interview and left the room. Bo stood back, allowing her to enter the room. Nicholas tensed as he stared at his mother.
‘Hi.’ Clarice said.
‘Hello.’ He mumbled, anxiously wondering if she would see anything familiar about him at all, hence he would be allowed to stay and help her.
‘Nicholas, is it?’
‘Yes, but you can call me... umm...Nicky.’ he said, sensing Bo was furiously staring at him through the one-way mirror but was desperate to see if it would trigger off something in her mind. It was all still a nightmare to him, a nightmare that was partly his doing.
‘Nicky.’ Clarice repeated. ‘Doesn’t seem in keeping with you.’
He was silent.
‘Look, I’ve decided not to press charges against you. But I feel there’s more than what you told Detective Hernandez.’
 ‘I don’t know what else  to tell you, Ms Parker. I gave my statement to your colleague and it’s the truth. And I apologise most sincerely for what happened.’
Clarice studied him. He was a handsome young man, from his accent polished and cultured, yet she sensed a troubled little boy inside. For a very strange  reason, she felt like giving him a hug, which shocked her.  ‘I accept your apology. But I sincerely hope you aren’t going to go around attacking other women under the guise of “mistaken identity” after your release. Because for some reason, I don’t believe you.’  She said coldly. ‘I better not see you around here again, you understand?’
 She honestly doesn’t remember me...my own mother, Nicholas thought, feeling heartsick. Maybe she was drawn to Bo Brady despite her condition because her days with him in the past had been all light and sunshine while her days with Lawrence had been all darkness...and he had been a part of it.  She was this way because of him, because of his betrayal.
‘Understood.’ He managed to say.
Turning her heel, she left the room. ‘Cut him loose.’ She told Bo and Roman.
::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Later in his hotel room, Nicholas Alamain wept for hours; wracked with guilt and despair and cursing Lawrence over and over. It had been sheer agony standing in the same room with Carly, unable to tell her the truth...seeing how she didn’t even recognise him. How could he have known it would come to this?
Calming down at last, he drifted off to sleep. And in the morning, he made an appointment with Bo, agreeing to meet him at the docks.
Bo found Nicholas staring at the tugboats going along the river, his hands thrust deep in his jacket pockets. He turned as Bo approached him.
‘I owe you yet another apology Bo. It won’t erase what happened but...I just hope you will accept it. I was a spoilt bratty boy who took advantage of my mother’s love for me. I was the master of manipulation, just like him. And I helped destroy her life. It was a miracle she survived that ordeal... a miracle she came back here, back to you. With what she’s going through right now, I’m glad she has you again.’
‘Appreciate that.’
Nicholas shook his head sadly. ‘Is her condition permanent?’
‘We don’t know. But Roman’s ex wife...she’s a trained psychiatrist, she feels it’s best her memory comes back naturally. The doctors who tried treating her in the past only made things worse, which is why in the end her brain had to be planted with false memories. Somehow or other, she’s going to remember. We just don’t know when.’
‘I’m not going to tell my father or Vivian about it, I hope you can trust me on that. I won’t endanger Mum’s life for anything.’ He gave a harsh, mirthless laugh. ‘I had the impudence to say she had a lot to answer for when it was I the whole time!’ He dashed some angry tears away impatiently. ‘I don’t blame you for despising me, I despise me. I just hope when she finally remembers everything, she’ll find it in her heart to forgive me.’ He turned to Bo. ‘And I hope you will be able to as well.’
Bo turned away, unable to look at him.
‘I don’t need to tell you this but please... take care of her for me. When she starts to remember,’ he reached into his pocket and brought out a card from his wallet. ‘Call me by any of these numbers, and I’ll be here. Promise me you will, Bo. I beg you.’
Bo turned back and saw the stark desperation on Nicholas’ face. ‘Sure.’ He said at last, taking the card.
::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
That night as they lay entwined in each other’s arms, Clarice jerked awake from another dream. A dream where she was in a candle lit room and she was in a man’s arms. A faceless man with a tattoo, a tattoo she now saw clearly enough to see it was the same as the one on Bo’s back. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

NOSTALGIC 80s: HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR-VISITOR FROM THE GRAVE


For a long time, at least until the late 90s, Nigerian Television was under the British invasion (Doctor Who, Mind Your Language, 'Allo 'Allo, Some Mothers Do 'Ave Them, Rent-A-Ghost, Robin Hood of Sherwood, The Invisible Man, Armchair Thriller etc.) and the German invasion (Derrick, The Investigator, Tele Match, Peter's Toy Box etc.), with a sprinkling of American T.V shows and cartoons. But I felt when it came to T.V; British Television really ruled and now that we are bombarded with the Mexican and Indian invasion (Telenovelas), I find myself missing a lot of the British stuff we had on our screens a long time ago.
And this is a question mostly for Nigerian viewers... who actually remembers the 80's British anthology series...  Hammer House of Horror?
Yes it was horror and yes it was definitely  not something parents today would allow their children to watch before bedtime. As a child I was scared yet rather interested in this series. Why? 
Pushing the scary aspect aside, I was always curious to see how each episode would end. Being an anthology, each episode was a different story and a story one just yearned to see the end of.
This series aired on LTV and somehow I managed to catch a few episodes. I'll start with the one I mostly remember...


                                                    VISITOR FROM THE GRAVE

One night, a woman shoots a man who tried to rape her in the face.

 The following morning, her husband comes home to find blood stains in the house and Penny hysterically tells Harry what happened. He finds the man's corpse outside in the woods and tells her the man was Charles Willoughby; a business associate. Penny insists they call the police but Harry pointed out that while she may not be arrested for using an unregistered gun, she might be sent back to a psychiatric facility- as Penny had a history of mental illness. She doesn't want to go through that ordeal again, hence Charles is buried, his car dunked into the lake and they keep their mouths shut.


But Penny kept seeing Charles' ghost leering at her; through her bedroom window, appearing as a waiter who served her a drink at a party (causing her to scream hysterically and carried out by Harry), she saw him again glaring at her from a car. Poor Penny lives in constant fear and takes a bit more of her medication than she should; more so after a policeman comes to their house, looking for Charles.

A friend of theirs-Margaret- is a medium and she conducts a seance; where Charles is summoned from the grave and told to leave Penny alone. But Charles malevolently insisted he wanted revenge and both woman collapse.
Margaret suggested a stronger medium; a male medium who would carry out what needed to be done... for a large fee and being a well off woman, Penny agreed to pay it; anything to get the malevolent sceptre off her back and leave her in peace. On the appointed evening, Margaret arrives with the man.

The seance begins... the Indian medium summons Charles who demands to know why he's being disturbed again. The medium demands that he leaves Penny in peace but again Charles' spirit is adamant... he wants revenge and he will get revenge on Penny. Terrified to the core, Penny screams and runs into her bedroom.
Harry breaks down the door only to face a grisly sight- Penny on the floor, her neck bleeding. Out of sheer desperation, the poor woman had commited suicide.

However... after the ambulance takes Penny's body away, what do the viewers see?
Harry bursting out laughing and twirling Margaret around; the 'Indian Medium' taking off his sunglasses, beard and turban... not only had he posed as a medium but was the same man who had posed as a policeman! And worse... much worse... there was Charles in a tracksuit with fake blood on his forehead... alive and kicking and pouring out champagne!
What was that all about???!
As the evil group unpack Penny's money and celebrate, we find out...
Penny was a wealthy woman. Harry and Margaret had a thing going on but if Harry divorced Penny, he got nothing. And as poor Penny was a former mental patient, the plan was to render her permanently insane and sent back to the mental facility and he and his mistress would enjoy her money with no interference.  The gun she had used on Charles (who was actively in on the plan) was loaded with blanks and he had been wearing fake blood and appearing her and there to frighten her even more. The unexpected plus-which none of them were sorry about- was Penny killing herself.
But as they laugh and toast one another, the lights go out...

And it was their turn to be terrified because the ghost, the real ghost of the woman they had wronged appeared through the windows and spoke...

                                                          I will be revenged

Pointing at the pile of money they more or less stole from her, the whole thing caught fire, no longer of use to them.



They could only stare helplessly as she repeated with ominous glee;

                                                     I will be revenged!


What started out as a malicious prank to render an innocent woman insane and steal her money brought damning consequences; a suicide, resulting from a real visitor from the grave. In a real life situation, what on earth would the culprits do after being faced by a vengeful spirit?
They would probably  cover their faces and moan, "Had I known..."