What if……?

What if? A term you are always told you should never be able to say whilst lying on your death bed. Never think ‘what if’? Always do it, if you have a yearning to do it, you are told. Live for the moment. Do what you want to do. Be who you want to be. Never regret not having done something.

I completely agree, dear reader, I really do and I do try very hard to live by that philosophy. I have, after all, plucked up the courage to unleash my writings on you, in the form of this blog and also my debut novel, Bonds. I took the plunge. I risked your mirth and your wrath and your rejection. Why? Because I never wanted to be old and grey and dying and wonder, what if I had had the courage to publish my book; to share my writing?

It is a really scary prospect to consider doing something you desire, but something which fills you with an element of trepidation; a hint of fear. For, dear reader, what if you fail? What if you make a fool of yourself? What if you make a mistake? What if you hate it? All these things are very real possibilities, but think about it from the other side….what if this is the best thing you ever do? What if your wildest dreams come true? What if your book goes viral (still waiting for that, by the way, hint hint)? What if it works?

It is very rare that we think about the positive when we consider doing something we really want to do, but are afraid. As Julia Roberts said in ‘Pretty Woman’ – the bad stuff is easier to believe. And, indeed it is. It is far easier to presume failure than success. Only the blessed few have the supreme confidence to believe they are invincible; to believe that everything they touch will turn to gold. For the rest of us, there is that little flutter in the pit of our stomachs that indicates that a part of us truly does believe; the rest of us, well, it’s easier to believe in failure.

Is this just a British thing? I mean, how many of you will admit to watching Andy Murray on Sunday and muttering ‘he won’t do it, he doesn’t have the killer instinct. None of us Brits do’? I’ll bet there’s more of you than you’re admitting. I hold my hand up and admit that I was one of them. I will also hold my hand up and admit to shedding a tear when he did win. An historical moment for Britain and for British sport, but a classic ‘what if’ scenario.

You may be wondering where I am going with this as, given this is Scary Ramblings, I haven’t been too scary just yet. Well, fasten your seatbelts and make sure you are sitting comfortably, because I would like to turn the ‘what if’ scenario on its head and look at it from a different point of view.

Have you ever considered the possibility that ‘what if’ is actually nothing to do with regretting what you didn’t do, but more about being grateful that you didn’t do it? Have you ever considered the possibility that, on several occasions, ‘what if’ may very well have saved your life? It has for me, on more occasions than I can count.

Think about it. Think about all the times you needed to be somewhere, but something happened, causing you to be late leaving. Have you ever considered this to be fate’s way of intervening; of preventing something really really bad from happening to you? Think back to the last few times this has happened and then try and remember everything you noticed on the way to wherever you were going.

You may say you didn’t notice anything, but I would have to beg to differ. It doesn’t always happen, but in my experience, it happens more often than not. Something will have happened to someone else; something which could have happened to you; which, arguably should have happened to you, except you were running late.

‘What if’ you hadn’t been? ‘What if’ fate hadn’t intervened and you had been running on time? That could’ve been you in that mangled car wreck you have just driven passed; that could’ve been you, hit by that lorry; that could’ve been you, raped by the serial rapist in the park; that could have been you, murdered and sliced up by the escaped convict they are frantically searching for. After all, that is the road, the pedestrian crossing, the park, and the footpath you would have taken; that you did take or try and take, just after the event.

Is a chill running down your spine right about now? Can you think of at least one of these incidents? You will, if you open yourself up and allow the thoughts and memories to flood in.

I’ll share one with you; one that left me in such a profound state of shock that it took me several weeks to stop having nightmares about it.

Many moons ago, when I was studying for my degree at night school, whilst holding down a full time job, I was running late. The tills hadn’t balanced and it had taken us ages to find the difference and I was running at least an hour behind schedule. Well, I jumped in my beat up Ford Fiesta and stamped on the gas pedal (not that it did much) and with engine screaming, shot off to university as quickly as I could.

I had been making good progress and had just got onto the main road, which would take me straight to the door, when the traffic came to a grinding halt. As we all do, I swore and cursed and stamped my feet and huffed and puffed. Why? Because I could. This was in the days before I had a mobile phone and so I couldn’t let anybody know I was going to be late. For those who know me, you know how I hate being late, and so was cursing whoever the ‘idiot’ was that had crashed his car.

Well, the traffic crawled along and eventually the scene of the traffic jam came into view and I felt the bottom fall out of my stomach. At this point I had only got a glimpse of the carnage, but I knew. I knew what I was going to see; I knew when this had happened and, more importantly, I knew that, had I been running on time, that would have been me.

As the traffic slunk forward, the scene revealed itself and I struggled to maintain calm. I took back every curse I had uttered since I’d been in that jam. For, dear reader, nothing could have prepared me for the horror I saw that evening; the horror that left me vomiting at the side of the road.

Cars; four or five of them, twisted and bent and intertwined in a way cars are not meant to be; not unless they were part of some tasteless art. Blood decorated the scene, as though the artist had splattered paint randomly across the canvas. Bodies lay twitching in seats; crushed into positions the human body isn’t designed to go. Body parts – fingers, hands, an arm – were strewn across the road, severed and discarded like unwanted ends of meat.

But it wasn’t what I saw, so much as what I smelt and what I heard and, more than that, what I felt. The stench, for that is what it was, of death permeated the acrid smoke from twisted and burning metal. The sound of the wounded and the dying cut through the air, the keening rendering even the sirens of the emergency services mute.

But the feeling, well, for those of you in tune with your sixth sense, this will make a lot of sense. The feeling I had was the feeling I get whenever I have been anywhere where something so horrific has happened – Ground Zero and Pompeii being two examples – that even nature doesn’t know how to respond. The air was dead. There was nothing. No movement; no life; no nothing.

So, dear reader, when that little something happens, causing you to be a little late, always think ‘what if’, but think of it as ‘what if’ this is saving my life….?

May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

Til next time.