Daniel Blake, Scion of Hermes

“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family”.
That phrase stands out in my mind as one of the most pointless sayings ever to pass into popular thought. Really. As statements go it’s right up there with, “that there water’s right wet!” as something that can only been seen as understandable if followed by a gut-quivering series of hyuk, hyuk, hyuks.
As if anyone can choose their family; hell, if that really was the way of it we’d live in a world of infertile bastards and millionaires who could make waitresses pregnant with little more than, “bill please”.
And nobody would be born like me.
There’s a certain silence that comes with being born through an affair; an almost palpable result of being the visible reminder of past betrayal. It hung heavy between me and the man in my mother’s life, whose respect and attention I spent most of my early life trying gain.
It didn’t help that my older brother Jason was, as far as almost everyone I knew was concerned, perfect in every way. Kid was a prodigy, made the track team younger than anyone ever had before, state shooting champion, hell; he even won the damn spelling bees. The whole house felt like a shrine to him some days, his dusty paraphernalia filling almost every available space. In a way it gave me something to aim for, pushed me to believe that I could have a place on the living room walls and therefore, by implication, in my “dad’s” heart if I tried hard enough.
But I was kidding myself. In the end there was no winning and, no matter how hard I tried, my achievements remained consigned to a dark corner of my mother’s study where they remained; sparkling, but unseen.
In the end that’s why I left, the silence became too hard to bear. I remember walking out of the house for what I thought would be the last time and passing Jason as he sat on the porch cleaning one of his pistols. I strode past him, hoping to escape his attention, when from behind me I heard his voice, low and sad;
“Bang, bang, I'm dead, find your future, follow your thread”
Of all of the two great regrets of my life, the first is that I kept walking and didn’t stop to speak to him or to say goodbye. It was the last time I saw him alive.
My life after that could be described as a montage of Chicago police reports and narrow escapes. I fell in with a gang, the Jacks, based in the city 'burbs. They were good guys but the kind of people my mom would have called "bad company", if y'know what I mean. We got into a fair bit of trouble back then, but it was all pretty small time; carjacking, dope dealing, that sort of thing. It was fun and, other than a couple of assholes who had it coming no-one ever really got too badly messed up - Jake made sure of that. He ran the gang, as much as anyone did anyway. No-one messed with him; hell, man made Mr T look like the schoolyard nerd - one time he even threw a guy plain through a wall for calling him "nigger". We felt almost invincible with him leading us, the thunder seemed to follow his wheels when we rode out.
Those were good times. We all stayed out at an abandoned house at the edge of our "territory" - it was a true shit-heap of a place, but the cops seemed not to bother us there and it meant that we could set up a pretty big soundsystem without worrying about drawing too much attention. The place rocked, and I remember spending more'n one evening kicking back in a haze of whiskey and dope.
I suppose that's why, when I heard the gentle, whispered voices from the shadows I decided to follow them to their source, crawling on my hands and knees into a dark passage that formed a link between the waking and dreaming world, and that had suddenly (and as far as I was concerned, quite understandably) come into existence in the cupboard under my kitchen sink.
The passage exited onto the moonlit slopes of a mountain that seemed to stretch up to infinity. A path of what seemed like ivory cobbles was laid out in front of me, the light glinting off their slightly oval surfaces. As in a dream I followed them, whispered voices from below my feet urging me onward, leading me to a crossroads where three women sat on rickety stools and spun translucent cloth from threads that seemed to twist and shimmer out sight when I tried to focus on them. As I approached the voices of the three echoed through my mind, relentless in their harmony, older than time and fresher than morning dew;
“We have drawn you here with a warning for he of your blood but not of your line; a courtesy to his father who has treated us well times past. The threads come easy to your brother’s eyes, but with his words he ties and binds them, remind him, young messenger, of Ocyrrhoe’s end.”
And with that the shadows seemed to drain away, the darkness leach out of the sky to reveal the dull patterns of my kitchen walls. It is here that the second of great regrets come to play. I ignored the warning. I put it down to someone cutting my stash and let it slip from the forefront of my mind.
For three days.
On the third day I awoke to find myself in Chicago O'Hare Airport, with a thundering headache, a ticket home tucked in my breast pocket, and vague memories of a bet made with strangers that I wouldn’t have the balls to go home and “kick that guy who’s screwin’ your mom in the nuts like he deserves”.