James Leavey's Corner
The Nicotine-Stained House On The Borderland

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The nicotine-stained house on the borderland
(with apologies to William Hope Hodgson)

by James Leavey, editor, The FOREST Guide to Smoking in London
and The FOREST Guide to Smoking in Scotland

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James Leavey

Last night in my study, feet up on my favourite humidor, I dreamt I had smoked myself into a trance-like state (no, I hadn't adulterated my cigars with cannabis), and fallen asleep.

With a start, I awoke to a distant tremor that shook the house. It was the growing clamour of a small army of Californian anti-smokers, which had crossed the Atlantic and was going from house to house in London, seeking nicotine lovers, dragging them out for a public Inquisition and smothering all those poor defenseless puffers with nicotine patches applied to mouths and nostrils; about the only way those placebos will ever be truly effective.

I quickly exhaled several inches of Havana smoke through my study window, immediately rendering my home invisible to its enemies. Even if they caught a whiff that gave a clue to my presence, I reasoned that they would prefer to leave me to choke on my own smoke.

And so the day passed, until the sun slid down to the horizon and disappeared from sight, almost with a jerk. The silver crescent of the moon fell out of the sky, towards the west. And then the universe moved faster and faster outside my window, until night and day went by in the blink of an eye. I sat there watching it, smoking cigar after cigar, until I fell asleep, just after I had placed my last stub in the overflowing ashtray.

After countless centuries, I awoke, the floor covered with a deep layer of cigar ash. Outside, the Earth had long since died, and the sun had turned into a dying dwarf that was barely warm enough to ignite the end of a roll-up.

Several millennia passed, and the Solar System became just another empty void in the dark vastness of space. I found myself drifting in the ether, Havana in one hand, lighter in the other.

Until the moment I found myself inextricably pulled towards a distant, ominous-looking Dark Star on the other side of the universe. As I got closer, I saw it was circled by a huge planet, very like the long-dead Earth. Nearer and nearer it drew me, down through the clouds, to a country very like Britain, and a city much like the London I knew, except it was on a much vaster scale.

And there, in north London, was a monstrous version of the home where, so many ages ago, I had lived, loved, worked and, not least, smoked.

A strange force dragged me through the gargantuan front door, up the stairs, to a room that resembled my old study, in all its little details. There were the cigar boxes, and the humidor, and the ashtrays, and all those things that I had missed during the years when the original Earth had come and gone.

Settling down on a huge version of my favourite chair, in front of a dusty Dell PC, which had somehow got there before me, I decided to celebrate life after death, with a double corona.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of trumpets, and the marching of a huge army. I looked out of the window and there they were: those humourless, anti-smoking, born-again puritans from California. 'Bloody hell,' I cried, to no one in particular. 'Those bastards get everywhere!

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