Monthly Archives: February 2015

Tim Walker’s Novel Update

Who would have thunk it? On conclusion of my 33rd day writing, the initial draft came in at a smidgen less than 72,000 words. That is a little light on word count admittedly, but I can tell you exactly why that happened.

When my brain conceived the storyline for the aforementioned novel, it seemed in my head to be a tale of such inordinate length that when I regurgitated the idea via my QWERTY-board, I was perhaps guilty of breezing through some areas thus curtailing the story and also, I believe, inadvertently omitting much of the necessary description/explanation.

Either way, right now, as it is the book is spectacular. The edit will commence tomorrow and although its current length of 72,000 is fine, many words will undoubtedly be added through the correction process.

Meantime, enjoy my diminutive weekly chapters.

Nice one.

Tim Walker’s Novel 4

In a tongue in cheek side story, the news presenter was warning viewers to be aware that the technology they’ve relied on for years may self destruct, come the turn of the millennium; this was followed by some pompous chortling, before the lead anchor took over to recapitulate the top news story.

“Following an ongoing, deeply unsettling, trend, North Korea has announced it is further increasing its armament, claiming the threat of attack from communist foes, China, is an ever-present reality.

“This has been Michael Robertson with Three News, wishing you all the best for a happy, safe and prosperous new millennium, goodnight.”


Dave and Beth were a typical Kiwi couple; young, full of life and in love. Both gainfully employed with the same company, theirs was a love story of fairy tales, rendering the nine year age difference between them quite irrelevant. Beth had been an employee with NZ Airlines for some years before Dave had come along, but the first time their eyes had met, they’d both known they were destined to be together. As a commercial pilot Dave worked some unusual hours which might have threatened to strain their love, although as an airhostess for the same company, he and Beth frequently shared a work space anyway. Marriage was an avenue that Beth was keen to take and while Dave was certainly on board with the commitment juggernaut, his time constraints were simply too demanding. They had even talked about children, another avenue that Beth desperately wanted to traverse, but with both sides of the partnership so engrossed in their work, Beth having been an employee with NZ Airlines now for a shade over ten years, having been made aware of the lengths to which new parents are expected to go for their children, the sacrifices they would be expected to make, they were mutually concerned that they would perhaps lack the necessary level of devotion and dedication to a newborn infant.

They settled upon a compromise. They would ultimately let fate decide. They would continue to try for a baby. If Beth fell pregnant she grudgingly agreed to resign from her vocation and become a stay-at-home mum, allowing Dave to become the sole provider. Until then they would go about their working lives as usual, content with the knowledge that the future was in the hands of destiny. Admittedly the plan didn’t actually change anything, but just the knowledge that a plan was in action was enough to put Beth’s mind at ease.

Two years passed. While their relationship was still strong and both sides of the aforementioned union were still very happy in their work, Beth was beginning to worry again. She was now 33 years’ old and although it really made no difference that Dave was 42, her biological clock was at risk of losing its ability to hold time. Beth voiced these fears to her life partner who could understand her plight; although the notion of having kids wasn’t salient on Dave’s to-do list, should the opportunity present itself, nor was he totally against the idea – the following evening he arranged an appointment with a specialist to have a fertility test.

Beth was very pleased with herself: she had shown the courage to stand up and make her needs known; she was just fortunate she had such a great man to support her. She thought back to her first year with NZ Airlines and how her innate diffidence almost caused her to walk out the door – of the airport not the plane – on her very first day. It was only that nice man, who had actually seemed really nasty to start with, who had helped her through it. He had shown her that she didn’t always need to be apologising for her actions and that her needs were just as important as anyone else’s. She thought then of the child he had with him; how he hadn’t really seemed like much of a father at all and now that she thought of it, why was that baby Asian when he was so clearly not? That’s right, his wife had been Asian. Beth thought about how much she would like a cute little Asian baby just like the one on the plane all those years ago. She wondered how that kid’s life had turned out; what he might be doing now – how old would he be by now? Of course, if that was twelve years ago, he’d be twelve and a bit. What was his name? She tried to recall. No, memory recall had never been Beth’s strong suit.

She scanned the results with horror. It couldn’t be. How could it be? He was a fit, healthy man. Maybe a little overweight, sure, but what 42-year-old man wasn’t?

“I’m sorry, baby girl, I know how much you had your heart set on kids.”

Beth had broken down and was sobbing too much to speak.

“Look, Beth, honey, I’ll understand if you want to move on – find someone else.”

Her expression suddenly became hysterical: “What?! Why would I move on? Do you want to move on? Have I done something to annoy you? Why would you say -”

“Hey, hey, Bethany, Bethany, calm down. Of course I don’t want to leave you, you’re my sweet little baby girl, but I know how badly you want children, and according to this,” Dave angrily snatched back the letter, “I can’t have children, so if you want to find a man who can, baby girl, I will understand.”

Beth was trembling. Her face was flushed. Her typically smooth hair was dishevelled, thrust forward over her eyes. She was trying to speak but words evaded her. Dave pulled her face into his chest while she wept.

After a long while she gazed up at him, her face red and puffy, her make up a mess; the whites of her usually clear eyes streaked with thick traces of red. “No,” was all she said.


Tim Walker’s Novel 3

It was worse than he had expected.

Aside from the coming and going of modern planes, Pyongyang airport looked like something out of a 1960’s war movie: it was derelict, it was dilapidated; it was third world. Nevertheless, along with the hundred or so other passengers, most of Oriental persuasion, Karl disembarked. After breezing through a surprisingly relaxed customs check and picking up an assortment of travel brochures on the way out, baby in hand, he set about finding the closest accommodation outlet. Quality wasn’t overly important, he just wanted somewhere nearby. Juggling his luggage with his baby with his brochures, he located a suitable hotel/motel/holiday inn and hailed a taxi. Karl had been looking forward to riding in a rickshaw or tuk tuk, or some other interesting form of indigenous transportation, but in contrast to his impression of the airport, at first glance Pyongyang city appeared reasonably upmarket; lone bicycles were the most primitive mode of transport available, but even they weren’t carrying pillions.

Despite his career in the international travel industry Karl had little concept of the value of North Korean currency; he had given the currency exchange at the airport $1000 NZ dollars and was returned a little over 100,000 North Korean won. For the next few minutes he had felt like the wealthiest man in the country, until the taxi driver had demanded a fare of 2020 won. Reality set in. His room at the shabby little hotel/motel/holiday inn cost 14,000 won a night. The proprietor looked bemused when Karl paid the requested fee up front, in cash, and without bargaining. Switching the complaining infant from his left to the right arm, he climbed the steps behind the check-in desk and found his room. He unlocked the door and went inside. He was immediately hit by the odour. It was something akin to what he would have described as rancid air: by Karl’s reckoning, the bacteria-infused air in that room had been left undisturbed for so long that whatever living organisms which called that portion of air home will have died, an inordinate degree of heat is added; the result, hot, fetid, rancid air. The plus side though, after pushing through the palpable malodour, the inside of the room was surprisingly plush.

Karl pulled apart the queen sized bed and used the two pillows along with four cushions from chairs and the sofa to assemble a makeshift bed for Kahn, who had been intermittently vocal since leaving the airport. Karl laid him gingerly on the cushions, praying for peace. The baby wouldn’t be silent. He rolled the boy over, repeating the prayer. Still, the baby cried. Karl lifted him off the bed and gave him his bottle. To no avail. He tried gently bouncing him; this yielded results. Karl smiled, inwardly giving thanks to Bethany for demonstrating the technique in the first place. He had never been any good at being a father, even when his wife was still alive to aid him. He just didn’t have the touch. He hadn’t let that worry him though, because in keeping with Khanum’s desire to maintain Asian tradition he had assumed that she would take care of all the tender stuff while he performed the task of the classic provider. It amazed and at the same time frustrated him at how quickly, how very dramatically, even the best made plans can shift.

Or be shifted.

Ever so carefully he laid the slumbering child on its bed and walked quietly around the room closing the blinds. He then slipped out the door and made his way back down the stairs. Without acknowledging the man at the desk Karl ducked through the main door and out onto the street. The receptionist remained surreptitiously watchful as, once on the sidewalk, Karl spun to look back at the crumbling edifice, casting his gaze upwards as if reading the name of the building, The Rainbow Inn, before turning and purposefully walking down the street.


An hour later, having had no custom since the tall Englishman with the dark hair and the almost unintelligible accent had come in with his baby then left alone, the receptionist watched as two men of his own nationality, one carrying a large canvas bag, appeared on the pavement out the front of the building. Both cast their eyes upwards and exchanged a few short words. They paused as if considering something, before striding confidently into the foyer. The man holding the bag locked eyes with the receptionist before starting up the stairs; the other kept his head down as he followed. Neither man said a word.

Minutes later the men reappeared at the bottom of the stairs. The other man now held the bag; neither man spoke as they pushed through the front door and disappeared down the street.


His hair was a mess. His shirt was soaked with perspiration. His eyes were beseeching; his words distraught.

“Mr Williams,” the stocky man with the authoritative tone glanced up from his desk, “I need you go over your story once more time. Not adding up.”

“What do you mean, ‘not adding up’?” Karl’s distress had given way to exasperation. “What’s to add up? My son is gone. Someone came into my room and took him. He’s gone. What more is there to add up? You’re the police. You’re supposed to be helping me … Someone took my son!”

“Yes,” calmly replied the police Sergeant. “You say your son was taken -”

“Yes, from my hotel room!” Exasperation promptly made way for infuriation.

“Right, your hotel room, where you were not.”

“What? Yes. Right. Where I was not. Yes. I was not there at the time. Otherwise they could not have taken my son.”

“Mr Williams, as I say, you story funny -”

“It’s not funny, it’s bloody serious!”

“No, not funny, funny wrong word, how you say, it’s queer.”

“What? How the hell is my story ‘queer’? My son is missing and all you’re talking about is my ‘queer’ story? I need your help!”

“Mr Williams, please listen to me and do not interrupt. You left your son sleep, on bed, in hotel room -”

“Yes, at the Rainbow Inn.”

“Mr Williams, I must insist that you not interrupt me when I speak.”

“Sorry, go on,” said Karl with forced aplomb.

“The baby sleep. You leave. This correct?”

“This is correct, yes.”

“Just you, no one else?”

“Just me, yes.”

“Where mother, wife?”

“My wife is dead, sir.”

The Sergeant had been periodically making notes in his pad but at that moment, he stopped. “Wife dead, Mr Williams, very sorry hear that.”

“Right, and that’s why I came to this bloody country in the first place, to honour her memory and hopefully find her parents, you know, show them their grandson.”

There followed a long pause. “I’m sorry, Mr Williams, I think I don’t understand … Think maybe my translation not so good.”

“Sergeant,” Karl said, realising how disjointed his story must sound, “my wife was born in North Korea, I think up north, place called, Chongjin … Our son was half Korean.”

Another pause ensued as a look of revelation came over the policeman’s face: “Ah, Chongjin, yes, very far, north,” his look of perpetual confusion had been replaced by cool understanding, “and your son Korean now, OK then.”

Karl felt his ire rising again: “No, he was always Korean. Now, he is missing. In Korea. Sir.”

“OK, let me see,” the Sergeant made more notes. “English father, Korean baby, Korean hotel -”

“Right, so we’ve established background,” said Karl sardonically, “how many more times do you need to go over it? Christ! What are you going to do about my missing son?”

“Tell me, Mr Williams, why you leave room, baby sleeping?”

Karl hesitated mulling over the implications of those words: “What? Are you seriously suggesting this was my fault?”

“No, not at all … So why?”

“Shit, I dunno, to have a look around, I guess, stretch my legs, all of that.”

“Without baby?”

“Yes, without baby. Baby had been awake practically the entire flight from New Zealand, baby needed to rest.”

The police Sergeant appeared to ponder this before asking, “Mr Williams, where did you go?”

“What?” Karl was in disbelief, “Where did I go? Are you serious?”

“Yes, Mr Williams, on your walk, where did you go?”

“Shit, I dunno, down the street a bit, why does it matter?”

The Sergeant looked quizzical. “Many places, in this district, not so good. So, on your walk, where do you go?”

Karl was incensed: “I have no bloody idea where I went. I went somewhere, then when I came back, my son was gone … How the hell does it make any bloody difference, where I went?!”

The police Sergeant held Karl’s gaze as if in a staring competition then lowered his eyes and jotted something in his book, but said nothing.

“Well?” Karl erupted, “What are you going to do to find my son?”

“Oh, we always doing something, Mr Williams.”

“’We always doing something’?! What the hell does that mean?”

“It means, Mr Williams, your Korean son, as I’m sure you aware, is gone.”

“Yes!” Karl screamed, “I know he’s gone! I want you to find him!”

“Find him?” inquired the impassive Sergeant, “But I already know where he is.”

“Where?” Karl leapt up, “Tell me!”

“He with the Government.”

“What? What the hell does that mean, ‘with the Government’?”

The Korean police Sergeant paused while he considered this question. After what seemed an interminable silence he finally spoke: “He been, how you say in England … conscripted.”



Tim Walker’s Novel Update

As expected the plot took some unexpected twists (thank you, brilliant example of paradox), therefore is undergoing its first name change.

From ‘Fighting for the/our Future’, which was always pretty lame and bordering on immature anyway, to ‘Pride in the Name’, which is downright awesome.

Of course along with the title amelioration, there will need to be some basic adaptations in wording throughout the story to coincide with this shift, so you can be sure your first two parts will be tampered with.

Have a nice day, third part tomorrow.

Nice one.

Tim Walker’s Novel 2

The flight was interminable.

The seats were good, then food was superb; it was the company that didn’t so much agree with him. For a one month old the boy had lungs, he had to admit that much. Flight officials had quibbled about allowing such a young child to fly halfway around the world, but Karl’s eminent company stature meant that he was afforded liberties of this nature. His initial plan had been to offload the infant to passing airhostesses whenever there was an issue; alas, he was soon discovering that all they were trained to do was make a lot of garbled noises that annoyed Karl almost as much as the sound of his own baby crying – that still sounded strange, his own baby; he was only 30 years’ old, for Christ’s sake – even then the wretched infant didn’t stop crying.

He felt ashamed, understanding what it’s like from the perspective of other passengers when a baby onboard a flight screams for the duration; he had been one of those passengers. There were moments of peace, moments where the baby fell silent; in these moments Karl tried to catch two or three winks of sleep. The problem with that, he was so excited by the fact that the baby had stopped making noise and so anticipative about when it might start again, that of course he couldn’t sleep. So other than those few moments of quietude, the journey thus far was bedlam. He spotted a young stewardess who he’d hitherto not seen, making her way unsteadily along the aisle, and waved her down. “Excuse me, Miss,” he whispered, his voice hoarse from pleading with the child, “please help me.”

“OK sir, what seems to be the problem?” she responded with all the enthusiasm of a trainee whose spirit has yet to be crushed by The Man.

Karl looked at her as if she was slow, turned to his wailing baby then back to her, and uttered in quiet disbelief, “Really?”

“OK sir, is that your baby?” the stewardess asked with an exemplary display of inflexion over the last syllable that most Kiwi girls do so well.

“Yes,” said Karl, still in a disbelieving tone, “it is.”

“OK sir, do you want some help?”

“Yes please,” he whispered, running a tormented hand through his hair, “just make it be silent, please.”

“OK sir,” the girl said, leaning over and caressing the baby’s dome, “how about I see what I can do.” With that she slipped in beside Karl taking the spare seat between him and the child. The stewardess then unbuckled the baby’s seatbelt, removed him from his seat and started bouncing him gently on her lap. Karl had to admit, she appeared to know what she was doing.

“Oh, you’re so special, aren’t you, who’s a little cutie pie…” she murmured to the baby, then turning to the father, asked, “…What’s its name?”

“Oh sorry,” said Karl “I called him Kahn, after his mother.”

“Oh, how cute, little Kahn, little baby Kahn – does Kahn want his bottle?’

“No,” said Karl with a hint of irritation, “he’s just had it, he should be fine.”

“Oh right, um, it’s probably his ears then – are your ears popping, little baby Kahn?”

“Just to clarify” – glancing sideways to read the girl’s nametag, sarcasm oozing from every orifice – “Bethany, he doesn’t actually speak yet, so if you’re hoping for some sort of response…”

“Oh no, that’s fine,” Bethany chirruped, undeterred, “we’re still getting our points across, aren’t we, little baby Kahn?” To Karl’s further distaste the girl then started emitting some sort of low-pitched gurgling sounds while jiggling the baby on her lap; for the first time the father heard the sound of his son’s laughter. He looked over to see the girl playing childish games with the delighted boy. “Oh, what a cute little birthmark,” he heard her gush.

Karl had no knowledge of a birthmark.

The airhostess continued eliciting all manner of sounds from the infant and two minutes after that Kahn was asleep. Karl was in awe. “Wow. You’re brilliant.”

“I’m a woman,” said Bethany matter-of-factly, placing Kahn back in his seat.

“Even for a woman, I think you’re brilliant – do you have kids, Bethany?”

“Ah, no, I don’t,” she replied somewhat uncomfortably, turning back to Karl and looking for an opening to stand and leave, “I am only 21, sir.”

“Oh,” said Karl, keen show his appreciation to the girl while making up for the way he’d treated her so callously, “well, you’re clearly a natural – do you want kids, Bethany?”

“Um, yes, I do, sir … very much…” her voice trailed off as she looked down at her feet and shifted uncomfortably in the seat next to Karl.

“Well,” he said, turning to inspect her features more closely, “pretty girl like you, I’m surprised there’s any issue at all.” For the next few awkward seconds, without the baby’s wailing, all that could be heard across the plane was the impenetrable audio of background chatter mingled with the occasional cough.

“Oh, well,” Bethany abruptly stood, “look, sir, I can’t just sit here chatting all day, I really have to go and help other passengers with -”

“But I thought you were still helping me, you know, with Kahn,” he said, cutting her off.

She hesitated for a moment, thinking of airline rules, regulations, policies, etiquette and such, before saying, “Oh, OK then,” and reluctantly resuming her seat.

“Tell me about yourself, Bethany.”

Severe turbulence took hold of the plane for the next minute or so, causing unrest among passengers but not, thankfully, waking the sleeping child in the seat over from them.

“Ah, what did you want to know, sir?”

“You can cut the ‘sir’ crap for start,” Karl ordered with a grin, “we’re chatting.”

“Oh, OK, but I thought I was helping with -”

“You are,” he said with a chuckle, “let’s just say you’re helping me with the untimely death of my wife.”

Bethany swung to face Karl. Her face was agape. Karl wore the impassive expression of a seasoned salesman. Eventually recovering Bethany managed to choke out the words, “What? … Your wife is dead?”

“Yes,” said Karl Solemnly, “she died giving birth to her son.”

“Oh, that’s terrible,” she said with genuine emotion, something Karl guessed was seldom seen in her line of work, “so … Can I ask … What happened?”

“You can,” he waited until Bethany had become suitably uncomfortable before continuing. “She went into labour, the baby breached, apparently there were further complications – as if passing a backwards baby isn’t complicated enough – causing her to suffer horrendous blood loss, also unimaginable pain – for which she refused to accept any kind of assistance – pain meds or in fact any drugs at all – against her native country’s custom, she reckoned – until it killed her.”


The airhostess to Karl’s right was clearly aghast that anybody should speak so candidly on the topic of their wife’s death, which, judging by the baby’s age, was a decidedly recent death. They sat in silence for what felt to Bethany like a lifetime worth of personal discomfort, until finally she broke the stalemate.

“…So, your wife -”


“Ah, no, your wife … What was her name?”


Confusion came at Bethany from all sides, slapping her across the face, telling her how stupid she was; assuring her that she wasn’t good enough. “No,” she tried again, her voice rising, cracking; her face now burning from the embarrassment, “your wife.”

“Bethany, as I said, my wife’s name was Kahn.”

“What?” confusion, embarrassment, bewilderment, misunderstanding, bemusement, all of Bethany’s greatest foes joined forces to deliver one almighty slap to her self confidence. She felt tears forming at the corners of her eyes. She knew her mascara was running. The forefinger of her left hand confirmed this. Again she made to stand up and move out. “I’m sorry, sir,” she mumbled as she laboriously shuffled past Karl’s long legs.

“Bethany, stop.”

She stopped.

“What’s the matter?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said again, “I didn’t understand.”

“Bethany,” Karl said softly, “not understanding is not something to be sorry for, I probably wasn’t making myself clear anyway. Now sit down.”

She sat down.

“As I mentioned, Bethany, I called my son Kahn, after my late wife. Do you understand that?”

“Yes, I’m sorry, sir, I just, I get confused -”

“Bethany,” he looked at the forlorn stewardess with her pretty face all made up and her blonde hair done so nicely with her blue dress looking so chic, “stop being so sorry.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“I’ll ignore that. You are a beautiful young woman. You should not be sorry for anything that you do, that is the pretty girl’s prerogative. Understand?”

“I think so … All except that last word.”

“Prerogative, or understand?”

“No,” Bethany laughed, “I’m pretty sure even I understand what understand means.”

“Your prerogative is your right. You are a beautiful young woman. As a beautiful young woman, it is your right to live a life free from restraint, oppression, or ever having to say you’re sorry.”

She laughed again, “Thank you sir, you’ve made me feel a lot better. It was just so confusing because I didn’t remember that you’d said you’d named your baby after your dead wife and then I wanted to ask about your wife and you kept saying ‘Kahn’ but I knew that was your baby’s name and I thought Kahn was only a boy’s name anyway…”

It was Karl’s turn to laugh, “I see how you might have been confused, and I’m sorry for confusing you, because you’re right, Khan is typically a boy’s name. In fact my late wife was christened Khanum, which is the female alternative to the male version, Kahn, which means, commander, or leader. But once she reached New Zealand she shortened it to just, Khan, for simplicity, hence, my son’s name. Khan.”

“Thank you, sir,” Bethany said triumphantly, “I understand, as is my perogative.”

“I’m glad,” said Karl, “but I know it’s selfish of me to have kept you so long, so I‘ll let you get back to it.”

“Oh, alright,” she said, standing up, “but can I just ask you one more question?”

“You most certainly can, Bethany,” he cheered, “after all, without questions, we would be a very dull people.”

“Oh, OK … Well, I’m just wondering, why you’d be taking your baby to such a horrible place as North Korea?”

“It can’t be that ‘horrible’, surely?”

“Well, I’m not trying to put you off, but I hear it’s pretty awful…”

“It can’t be that bad, Bethany, after all, that awfully horrible place produced my darling wife.”

“Oh, gosh, I’m sorry, I -”

“Bethany, what did we just say?” Karl jokingly admonished.

“Oh, no, it’s just, I didn’t know.”

“I know you didn’t know, therefore, you don’t have to be sorry.”

“Oh, OK, thanks,” she whispered before sliding back into isle.

As she walked away to assist another passenger Karl smiled and remembered how he’d performed similar esteem-building techniques on his wife; such a diffident and downtrodden young woman she had been.

Another round of turbulence struck the plane, not as bad as the first, but bad enough to wake a sleeping child. Karl turned his gaze to the right, antipathy dripping from his features as he focused now on the child’s tiny uvula, vibrating uncontrollably as so many vociferous sound waves accosted the air around it.

“Don’t worry Kahn, almost home now,” he whispered to himself.










Tim Walker’s Novel 1

Mr Williams, Karl, to his friends, was new to the concept of fathering a child; newer still, to the idea of doing it alone. Compounding the struggle, piling straw after straw upon the camel’s back, was the irony that now, more than anything, the man just wanted to be alone. He was mindful of how awful this nagging desire for solitude sounded in his own head and could only imagine how inhuman he would sound should it ever cross his lips; nevertheless, he knew that if he was not allowed both adequate time to mourn the loss of his beautiful young wife and to regain a semblance of mental structure in his own head, he might very well end up resenting this innocent child.

Internally, psychologically, Karl Williams was a broken man. It was his fault his wife had died, because it was his seed that had been growing inside her. It was his seed that grew and grew until it was ultimately responsible for her demise. It was his seed. His seed. He had planted the seed and it had grown into a destructive monster. Now he needed to be apart from that monster, at least until he could be certain he wouldn’t attempt to vanquish it as it slept. He could appreciate that the murderous thoughts which held arbitrary assaults on his mind were somewhat removed from that of a balanced man and could appreciate furthermore that all it would take for the life form in the crib next to his bed to go from the ‘despised big ugly monster’ to his ‘cutest little baby monster’, would be time.

In the eyes of others Karl Williams was a good man. Anyone who was lucky enough to have dealings with him was quick to bestow endearments of ‘kind’, ‘honest’, and ‘pleasant natured’; attributes he used to his advantage when it came to his job. Never a manipulative or duplicitous person, he enjoyed a solid reputation both within his company and throughout his client base as someone who could invariably be trusted to display up-front honesty and wholehearted forthrightness. It was precisely this likeability that lead to Karl recently being named Salesperson of the Millennium; after receiving the annual award every year since joining Long White Cloud Travel at the age of 20 on the company’s first day of existence in 1982, management decided that 10 consecutive years of awards was approximately tantamount to the big one, therefore despite still being eight years shy, at the mid-year office party in 1992 Karl was presented with the Millennium award.

He glanced wistfully at his thousand-year trophy glistening high on a shelf in the far corner of his bedroom, dreaming of happier, simpler times, then stared down menacingly at the wrinkled little face of the monster that had shown no compunction about exchanging the life of his beloved wife for the life of his own. He had told them this would happen; they had told him it would be fine. That’s what they always told him: “It’ll be fine, Karl”, or, “It will all work out in the end, Karl, you’ll see”, or worse still, “Don’t worry, Karl, just have faith, God has a plan…”

God, he felt like throttling the ignoramuses who said that. God? What the hell’s God got to do with anything? He might as well have put his faith in Santa Claus and seen how many gifts turned up.

He was bitter, he knew that. He needed to cool down, he knew that too. He needed to turn his back on the cards life had dealt him and walk away from the table – but he couldn’t, could he? There was someone depending on him, wasn’t there? Karl couldn’t understand them leaving him in charge of such a helpless soul when he’d so clearly told them that he was unstable; but “No”, they’d said, “You’ll be fine”, they’d told him. “A new life is just what you need to help you move on from the loss of your wife”, one of them had said. What were they insinuating, that he should just accept it as an exchange of life; a fair swap? Fair? It was unjust, that’s what it was, and the loathing that he felt – towards the baby in part but mostly towards himself – was almost unbearable.

He needed to get out.


During his ten years of loyal service to ‘New Zealand’s Premier Travel Agency’, the one thing he had never done, although after five years employees were entitled, was take a company funded, annual holiday.

It was exactly two months after the death of his wife, September 10, when Karl Williams contacted his boss to request his rightful yearly holiday along with an extension to his paternity leave; expectedly, his superior did what he could to lighten the load on the bereaved solo father.

Departure: October 24th, 1992. Destination: Pyongyang, North Korea.