The pain was all too familiar now. It greeted Walter every day as he awoke from troubled dreams.
A sickness for which he knew no remedy. A burning pain in the pit of his stomach.
Each morning as he came round there was a tiny glimmer of hope. The hope that the pain belonged
only to the dreams and that his reality continued as beautifully as it once had. It was as if the
knife was being twisted anew each morning as the sunlight brought the real world harshly into full colour.
The pain was familiar but his surroundings were not. Slowly Walter began to remember that he had
left the comfort of his sofa home and was now across the sea in Ireland, the guest of his cousin
Seamus the leprechaun. His recollection of his arrival in Ireland the previous evening was decidedly shaky.
Like many inhabitants of his beautiful homeland, Seamus took the notion of celebrating life very literally
and had persuaded Walter to join with him in celebrating the passing of every half hour of the journey with
another Guinness. Walter vaguely recalled that once they arrived in the Emerald isle, there also seemed to
be a general air of celebration at their arrival, which had included live music and dancing on tables.
As the memories slowly returned to Walter, he realised that maybe at least some of the pain he was feeling
was the price of the night before. His attention shifted from his stomach to his mouth, which felt like he
had been eating loft insulation. He opened his eyes and the light caused the throbbing pain in his head to
sharply worsen. Like a stranded Foreign Legionnaire, all Walter could think of was water. Then a welcome
smell interrupted the torture. The smell of frying bacon so powerful that it caused his barren mouth to start
watering once more.
Seamus entered in an unnaturally buoyant mood, carrying a tray in one hand and a tin whistle in the other.
"Aaah, you've foinally come round! Oi thart you were gonna make us late fer de pub. Here, get dis down ye
and then we'll get going," said Seamus.
"What? The pub? What time is it?" Walter's stomach churned slightly at the thought of more drinking as
he took the tray from Seamus.
"It's 10 o'clock," answered Seamus.
"10 o'clock? We are going to the pub at ten o'clock in the morning?" Walter asked in astonishment.
"Well, you were still asleep earlier. But don't ye be worrying none. Oi don't tink we'll have missed much.
Oi want ye to meet Dara down there. He's our equivalent of your Magic Dave. He's a magic barman legend round
these parts. If anyone can sort out your head for ye, Dara's yer man."
"Ah, I don't know Seamus. I'm not sure more drinking's going to solve my problems. I'm not sure I want to
talk about Tallina any more. I came here to get away, to forget." As he mentioned her name, the anguish
was noticable in Walter's face and body, like he was flinching to avoid a fierce blow.
"Ha ha! Drinking's not gonna solve yer problems? Jaysus, you English are a strange lot. Oi sappose ye
tink dat foighting is 'just not cricket' too! Listen Walter, you're in Oireland now. We'll show you what
it means to be aloive. When oi've finished with ye, you won't even remember her name." Seamus placed his
tin whistle to his lips and started playing a tune which Walter didn't recognise, but which nonetheless seemed
to stir something inside him. The heady music from the previous night flooded back into his mind and for a
moment he was entranced. Then Seamus knew he had his man. Tin whistle magic never failed.
As they left Seamus' place, Walter was able to take in all that he had missed the night before. They were in a vast
underground network of caverns, one small part of which was Seamus' abode. They followed a tunnel for a short while
before emerging into a vast chamber which was criss-crossed with paths carved into the cavern floor by thousands of
passing feet. The paths led to many further openings in the cavern walls on all sides. Although there seemed to be
no signs to guide the way, Seamus strode confidently on, beckoning Walter. Eventually they reached a door which was
roughly opposite Seamus' quarters. A small picture of a tankard hung above the door with the words
'Dara Duff - Ales, Wines, Spirits and Sensational Advice' below it.
Walter looked at his watch, which read 10.45 am. He expected that they would be the first people to arrive at the pub.
But when Seamus opened the door, he was hit by a wall of noise. Walter could not believe his eyes.
The place was packed. In one corner a trio played fiddle, flute and bodhran. In front of them a flame-haired
beauty sang with a voice which sent shivers down Walter's spine. All around were animated faces. They were dancing,
singing along or trying to hold conversations above the music. A great cheer went up as Seamus entered.
From seemingly out of nowhere, another wonderfully natural looking raven-haired beauty rushed up to Seamus,
grabbing his waist and kissing him on the lips, before turning and walking away, pausing momentarily to look
over her shoulder at him once more with a dazzling glint in her eye.
Unconditional Page 2 >>
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