I first saw him coming out of a general store in a small town east of Melbourne, the capital city of the Australian state of Victoria. I’m not going to give you any more details of where I was because I have been sworn to secrecy and it’s a secret I plan to keep for reasons that will become obvious as the story goes on.
The town I was in consisted of only a handful of shops, only about fifteen it all, it was a quiet town and it’s permanent residents numbered less than fifty. The nearest neighbouring town was more than an hour away and although the main income stream of the town was tourism some of the town folk did travel for work. They did have twice weekly deliveries of produce, milk, bread etc, but they were extremely self sufficient with communal gardens and a willingness to help your fellow neighbour like city folk just don’t understand.
Suggesting that tourism was the main income stream might have been a bit misleading to some people. Many folk these days believe they are underpaid if they aren’t getting $100K a year, the folks of this town only need a fraction of that and their main income stream last year came from a grand total of 947 tourists. I was one of those tourists.
I don’t even know how I came across the town, it is on the maps but I wasn’t planning on heading in that direction. When I woke up that morning in the far east town of Orbost I had intended on heading in a westerly direction along the main highway before diverting off into the hills to the Northwest. Again I’m not going to tell you the exact town I was headed for because it’s too much information but that was the general direction I was headed. I was about ninety minutes into my trip when for some reason I ignored the GPS and turned left instead of going straight ahead.
I think with GPS these days the tourists among us as more open to taking unplanned detours because we think the GPS will keep us from getting lost. Whether that was my reasoning or not I don’t really know but I turned and within an hour I found myself crossing the outer limits of a small town. I slowed the car down to under thirty ks and crept my way along the main, only, road, I wasn’t entirely sure if I was going to stop in the town but then I saw him entering the General Store and I knew I had to stop.
I quickly pulled my car into the parking spot three down from the door to the store and sat in the car thinking. The man I just saw enter the store was dead, he’d been dead for nearly six months, it couldn’t possibly have been him, but I was dead (bad pun I know) convinced it was him. I know some people think that somewhere in this world there is a doppelganger for all of us but surely this guy’s doppelganger didn’t live in some tin pot little country town in regional Australia. For starters his attire didn’t fit with the country look. The black long sleeve shirt, black jeans and broad brimmed hat were not that out of place, neither was the long straight dark hair or handlebar moustache and lamb chop side burns. It was the sleeveless denim jacket plastered with pins and badges signifying war and especially the one that depicted the silver skull with horns that made him look out of place in a small country town. But it was those things that also made me certain that he was who I thought he was.
I opened my window a crack to let some air in and watched the door of the store wondering if I had the nerve to go into the store and greet him. But I didn’t have to wonder for very long because as the thought bounced around my mind I noticed the door of the store open and the man I had seen enter was now coming out. In his right hand was a packet of Marlboro’s and he was tapping it on his left hand to get one to slide out. But it was his gravely thick voice with the distinctive British accent I heard him say goodbye to the shop keeper in that convinced me beyond a doubt that the man I was looking at was the real deal and not just some doppelganger. Then as if I needed further convincing he walked out of the General Store and straight into the pub on the corner, lighting his cigarette as he walked past the front of my car.
Once the door of the pub shut behind him I couldn’t contain myself any longer I had to investigate further so I climbed out of my Commodore and walked towards the pub. Despite the fact that it was still before 11am, a time I’d usually be looking for a coffee not a pub, I tried to look like a casual tourist as I made my way into the pub.
It wasn’t a huge pub, in such a small town they didn’t need it, but the usual pub items were all present. A pool table to one side, a jukebox to the other, a bar running most of the length of the rear wall with two doors in it that obviously led to storerooms or the like, a few tables and stools scattered around and alcoves on the left had side that according to the signs lead to a male and female toilet. Directly in front of me and less than ten meters away was the man I had followed in, his back was facing me and I could see cigarette smoke rising from in front of him, obviously no one had told him smoking was banned inside pubs in Australia.
The bar tender was behind the bar polishing a glass with a tea towel seemingly oblivious to the fact that I had entered. I walked tentatively up to the bar and sat down two seats from the man I followed in. I kept my eyes forward and didn’t look at him because I was still too nervous.
“What can I get you stranger?” The bar man asked looking directly at me.
“Jack and coke on the rocks.” I answered not expecting those words to come out of my mouth.
As the bar tender started to make my drink I still wasn’t game to look at the man two seats from me. My mind was telling me it was him but my common sense was telling me it couldn’t possibly be, weirdly enough I wasn’t sure which one of them I wanted to be right. When the bar tender placed the glass in front of me I heard that gravely British accent.
“Put it on my tab, Ross!”
I couldn’t stop myself any longer I turned to the man to my left to thank him for the drink and removed all doubt from my mind as to who is was.
“Thanks Lem,” I said as if I’d known the guy for years.
So now is where the story gets strange, gets to a point where you are going to start doubting my sanity. I wont hold it against you if you because as I read back over these words and stories that I have been journaling for what seems like years, but is only six months, I sometimes have to stop and question if I am remembering them correctly.
In case you haven’t guessed it yet the man I had followed into the small town pub out in the middle of nowhere was none other than Lemmy Kilmister front man of Motorhead, one of the most enduring rock and roll bands ever. Now don’t get me wrong I know Lemmy died in 2015 and like you I was always taught that dead people don’t come back, but I was also taught not to pass judgement on things I hadn’t seen with my own eyes and what I saw before me in that pub was no ghost, no doppelganger and no fancy dress part goer, it was the real deal. How did I know? Well in the interests of sanity I guess I didn’t know straight away but I did not long after that meeting.
“What brings you here?” Lemmy asked me as I took the first sip of my drink.
“To be honest I don’t know. I’d seen this place on the maps but I wasn’t intending to come this way then about hour out of town I ignored the GPS telling me to go straight and made a left turn instead.”
“Sounds like you were meant to be here.” Ross said without looking like he was paying attention.
We spent the next thirty minutes, and three Jack and Cokes, talking at the bar. Each drink went on Lemmy’s tab no matter how many times I offered to pay. I didn’t dare ask question about how he got there, or why, and he didn’t offer anything up. I tried hard not to act like the star struck fan but I think occasionally my comments about seeing the band live each time they came to Australia and my extensive collection of Motorhead and related paraphernalia probably gave me away.
It was immediately after he drained his third drink that he told me he had to get going. I asked him where he was going at which time he seemed to think about his answer.
“Can you keep a secret?” Lemmy asked.
“Yeah, of course I can,” I said wondering where the conversation was going.
“What do you reckon Ross?” Lemmy asked the bar tender.
“He gets the bar tender’s seal of approval, Lem,”
“Well that settles it. What your name?”
When Lemmy asked the question it was the first time I realised that for more than half an hour I’d been speaking to a music legend and not once offered up my name.
“It’s Phillip,” I said, “My friends call me Phil.”
“Ah, with a name like that Ross has got to be right.” Lemmy said directly at me obviously making reference to me sharing my name with his long time friend and fellow Motorhead and member Phil Campbell. “I’m guessing that’s you’re car I saw you sitting in out there?”
“Yes.” I answered realising that I’d been seen long before I made my move.
“Well Phil, I’ve got something to show you, how about a ride?” That gravely British sounding question will ring in my head forever.
“Yeah sure,” I replied hoping that the local coppers weren’t waiting around the corner to breathalyse me. “Where are we headed?”
“Due time my friend!” Lemmy replied.
Authors note: While this story is obviously fiction there is a distinct similarity between this and a Stephen King story. That similarity is intended, I’m not passing the idea off as my own but hopefully if the story continues the similarities will be less obvious. I haven’t planned this story out yet (and probably wont) but at this stage I don’t plan to take it down the same path King took his or follow his craft.