Ping Bomb

Ping, goes the bathroom light from where it lives in the ceiling; as summoned, rudely, by a demeaning, and simple, cord or string with a small plastic bell on the end of it.
The circular mirror, the same one my Rene used to apply her make-up in front of, confronts me. It tell me the black, spiky truth. Three missing teeth in the front of my face; my smile is gruesome; I look like an aged baby; all stubble, bruises, dark-ringed, blood-shot eyes and dried tears. My lips swollen; the skin stretched, it seems, to breaking point.
And the worst thing is: I can’t remember how this happened.
For days now small, dark creatures have followed me around, hovered above my eyes whilst I’ve tried to sleep. When I do manage a few hours, they sing nightmare lull a-byes into my skull bone, into stopped up, yet evil porous, ear-holes. And the nightmares are nightmares because they convince me of the certainty of an horrific, soon to dawn, future. One with beautiful animals only represented in name, and only then because they are written in a menu, and only then because the menu was retrieved, as possible food, or token for food, by a rabble of matted, yelping, half burnt victims of a nuclear war, from the stiff corpse clutches of a man who refused to believe that nothing would grow for 500 years from this sick soil, this toxic womb. Dirty tears were petrified upon his dead mug. A few front teeth were missing. His dry eyes sunken into their dark sockets.
The rabble made of with the pamphlet. Some gnawed at the edges. Other slapped the gnawers away. Maybe they, in their turn, were gnawed. In turn. That or slapped. Or left to cry ’til they die, clutching a copy of a charred TV mag like it’s the Bible.

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Tired

It’s your eyes. You have such handsome eyes.

But the years later, those long, dragging, alcoholic years; those are the years that take away the handsome.

The other day, let’s say last weekend, a young barmaid said “You look tired”. It got me. I left the bar. Don’t cry for me. You are me. There’s a hole waiting for all of us. And my two peepers, they have sunk deep into puffed cushions; crimson veins spread across those handsome eyes. But still, there is nothing to complain about. There is never anything to complain about. You don’t need to live in a council flat to feel pain and pressure. It’s not necessary to receive physical punishment, day after day, to be a prize fighter. All you need is a heart. Something in common.

Maybe.

You tell me all I need to hear with your eyes.

And I have composed letters to her; many, many letters. None have been sent. I’d have sent them if I wanted to feel the rush again. The shudder from the past. Temporary, at best.

In its original incarnation, we were good. Now, it would be war. War every second, every minute etc.

So I went out and spent money. The cashiers, I avoided eye contact. Still haunted by the ‘tired’ comment. Not because I hated the author, but because I hated the truth. I was tired. I am tired. But still, there is nothing to complain about. There are noisy neighbours. There is a cheap life. There is nothing but the foulness of goodbyes and hello’s. What is in these hello’s and goodbye’s can only be gauged by asking the askers. To me, it’s just noise. A rumble in the air. Like rain. But not thunder. No thunder. Oh, for thunder. Sometimes I pray for storms. Between punches, I jab away the demons with white burgundy.

Through a time of fantasy and dreams, an anti-cynicism, we loved each other. Then the time arrived when we had to face reality. Sadly, tragically, we failed reality. Not the other way around.

Shadow boxing in front of the mirror, I notice my eyes. Tired.

Hel, or the ‘G’ Button

Hel just text me.

“Save me, Russ. Save…me.”

I ignored the tedious, digital, mega-gig bastard. Things to do, you know? I’d just lit an incense stick and was watching the city grow. The UFO’s zipping between buildings, grabbing what they could while the portal remained open. Intergalactic scavengers, that’s all they are. And who would have thought, after all this time, that all they were after was lager, cigs and porn? Believe me, I ‘wanted to believe’ too. But, it seems, we aren’t the only colossal disappointment the galaxy has to offer. In fact, next to these almond eyed freaks, we’re almost palatable. Never thought I’d hear myself thinking that…must be something in the incense.

When I was a baby, I mean a kid, I mean naïve, I mean stupid, I mean a young man led by his dick, I ended up, with some woman, in Singapore. We, that is the woman and I, were staying on a high floor of a very good hotel. We had a room on the sixty somethingth storey. You could see right out over this tropical city. Clouds, the size of whole islands, would rumble across drenching everything. You could: watch the people, like ants, running from the storm: watch the ground change from matte to gloss in one, tremendous sweep. And yet it happened everyday, like clockwork. At the time I remember wondering whether we are so gripped by our needs, obligations and preoccupations that, even when we know what’s ahead, still we test our luck. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why we are extraordinary…

…damned incense.

Today, a building with a sixtieth floor wouldn’t seem that remarkable. It would appear, in this dense megapolis, a mere pimple. It’s ridiculous. And yet, like the storm, we saw it coming.

I’m dying. I know it. My doctors know it. My wife knew it (she left post-diagnosis). I sit here drinking well made cocktails. Retirement complexes are like a long haul flights; they feed ya, water ya, dim the lights and lull you to sleep by bombarding your senses with titillating nothingness.

Sitting here in my cheap, fold out chair looking out at the rusty air with its faint strip of blue before giving up to space, the universe and whatever else, I watch the blue neon headlights of the pimped UFO’s taken on long joy-rides by the wired retired.

I’m happy to watch. And to wait.

The light show and my balcony. The timbre of my pulse carrying cocktail to grey matter. My pet mouse, Miki, at my feet, nibbling the dried flesh off a cuttlefish. Curious creature.

As for Hel, he’s probably sat in his room worrying about me, which is really his way of making sure he’s okay. I wrote him. He’s my monster. And he’s a bore. If he were here, which is impossible, he’d just stare at me and blink anxiously. All fake though. That bastard doesn’t have a caring bone in his body. He’s just a tiresome projection of pixellated neurosis.

Another two UFO’s, probably each welded down the middle, have just crashed about, oooh, three miles away. A halo around a white ball of light, sparks cascading off it, followed by a limp smoky, dead octopus with growing tentacles. Those poor fuckers on the ground.

Been years since I’ve been brave enough to press the ‘G’ button in the lift.

Or stupid enough, truth be told.

Passing

Blip. Thonk. Wheeze. Deep fried fish and good, mouldy cheese. Let the bile rise and gargle it; never allow the smile to slide from your mug. Just nod and blink slowly, once, to confirm that, yes, you agree. Honk. Hon-hon-Honk. Beep, beep, beep, beep…and on and on…a splintered flock of seagulls pretend to be made of paper. A mobile phone whips past your nose. Remember? The sound of the voice, screaming from the receiver; “Eeeee”. And he, whoever he was, stomping off down the street, his hand raised in apology. And the dumb brute, in cave language, “Soy Love”. And then you get it. You told me…on a landline…you said you realised that the buildings were peeling away…you could see people crying into their cans…and when your head became too heavy from sticky, cheap lager and you looked into the drain, you noticed the drains clogged with faces; grey, mottled and with soggy cigs stuffed in their bloated lips…Then, it was probably those ruddy chemicals they put in the lagers that you were chucking down yourself…your mascara…you’d walk to me with  loaded lenses…two…welling…but ah…time to stop.

Then I Remembered

I was listening to a radio programme. On the internet. They were playing these old soundtracks from the 70’s and the 80’s. The sort of thing we would have heard when we were kids. The sort of thing you used to love. And I thought of you when I heard it. I though ‘maybe I’ll send it to you’.

It’s like last night.

Saw this beautiful film. An animation; scratchy, heart-wrenchingly well observed. It was about a man and his dog. It was like they could read one another’s minds. And my heart ached with this distant, wayward kind of joy. Weird. Put me on the back foot. This joy that I’m on about, it carried a sadness with it. Like I’d dug up a grave and found two hearts, barely beating, lying side by side together at the bottom of a muddy grave. It had such a strange effect on me this film. The man reminded me of your Dad. The way he was. And the dog, an Alsatian, reminded me of your old dog. I remembered how me and you used to go out to the common and watch her jump into the long grass, biting the heads off the tulips. I remember how she would hurry back to us to check that we were still there. She seemed happy to find us there together. She seemed to smile.

And, yeah, as I watched this film I thought ‘maybe I’ll send it to you’.

And I would have done. I would. But then I remembered that I hated you.

Into the Sea

She passed me the thin plastic bottle of cider. I kept looking at her, expecting something else, I didn’t know what. Mistake. “Don’t cut me up…tosser!” she said. Then she nodded to the bottle. I poured some down. She looked back to the pier, then the sea and whatever else was out there. The drink was evil. The smell of sugar, gas and cheap aftershave was overwhelming. Some of it came back up. I drank more to push it back down. Somehow it worked. I passed the bottle back. The plastic clicked and popped. She clasped it with both hands,  like she was holding a baby she didn’t want and wiped the bubbly, green mouth with the grubby sleeve of her purple puffer jacket.

The metal joists moaned under the weight of fairground rides, cafe’s, candy-floss, toilets, 248 shoes, teddy bears, brightly coloured plastic balls, hot dogs, goldfish, a karaoke bar, 85 tonnes of timber, arcades, doughnuts, little rifles and whatever else…

“This is rubbish. Let’s go and flob at the sea.” She said.

I followed. Of course I followed.

Bobby

He opened his eyes to slits. Then he raised his head and licked his lips and yawned. He was dizzy. His bed had been made out of the garden, though he did not know why he was there or where he was. The leaves flapped and crumpled as he moved to steady himself, then stretch his body into a state of readiness. He was surrounded by plants and shrubs: rhododendron, azalea, honeysuckle. Small flurries of light buzzed before his eyes. He threw himself to the floor and buried them under the fallen leaves. His nose picked up a scent. He followed it. In a clearing there was a big, stone table upon which was laid a book. He nudged the book off the table and the table sank into the grass with the sounds of crackling fat and twisting timber. He whimpered. The sun hung above the tips of the trees, full of courage and power. Light beamed from gaps in the woods. His little form seemed ready to burst with fear. Birds hummed and zipped in the air before him. The scent was weaker now. Then, he heard a whistle. Then another. A stick hurtled through the air and caught him on the back of the neck. He yelped. His chest lowered down to the woodland floor, his tail pointed to the sun and his teeth emerged, pointed and bright. The sun poured power and courage into his quivering body until he was straining to hold himself back. A dark form stepped between a shaft of light. His claws dug deep into the earth and he leapt at the silhouette, burying his teeth into it.
‘Bobby…’ the voice gurgled; blood bubbling from its pale, trembling mouth.

Mash Up Myself

If you cracked open my abdomen, you’d find an assortment of tired organs; a heart barely beating; more glugging than anything else, and probably a small rodent seeking shelter.
And all this while I’m driving. The car wasn’t in much better shape either.
One or twice, I could swear I heard her cough. But it was the weeping and wailing which I was less prepared for.
My sympathy vehicle and I had the appearance of having been dragged through electrical wire after being slapped around with sides of beef.
The things we have to do.
So when I parked the car and shut off the engine I could smell the fear. Then the heart leapt into life, presuming upon the advent of fight or  flight.
In the end, it was a little of both…regrettably.
And I left her with tears in her eyes whilst I got out of there, not knowing what else to do. Instinct told me to run. Like a rat’s must.
Idiotically, I expected to feel as though a weight had been lifted. But as I drove back to the destroyed city, my heart hung in my chest like it was a lead bowling ball.
Only the warm, tickling sensation on my face gave me any clue at all that I was in floods of tears.
Though…
Guilt put in the best performance of the day by a mile. Robed in sequins and neon, it strode onto centre stage with murder in its eyes. Blinding light spewed from every pore of its poisonous form like space worms with razor teeth attaching to my flesh at the speed of light. And its tirade hissed through an iron grimace; flesh still attached to its teeth. Like a hot knife, it stabbed into me again and again.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk…leaving people in the gutter like so much throw away detritus?…loathsome…all you do is rampage over people who care…no thought for their feelings…then act all surprised when it KA-BOOM’S in a shower of shit…your fault…forever…an ever…it will always be your fault…you are worthless…why can’t you just get on with it like everyone else anyway?…just go with the flow?…do you think you are BETTER than everyone else?…is that it?…hahaha, one thing I’ll give you is that you’re a funny specimen…no, not funny, you’re fucking hilarious…and I mean that; you are so funny that I’m giddy with it…look at you and your gut…and what is going on with your face?…I mean it’s all lop-sided, like a livid corpse…maybe that explains the smell that blares off you…you’re dead…DEAD…because only a dead thing would behave as you do and fail to realise how thoroughly disgusting it is…you’re a putrid, little nothing…you might as well be nothing…no guts….no substance…no balls…yeah, you heard, you’ve got no BALLS…you’re a eunuch; emotionless, compassionless, pointless…a hard, unfeeling husk…”
And you take these beatings because there is nothing else to do. You know it’s coming. The fight posters are glued up all over town. The tickets sold out within minutes. The audience members are composed of ghosts: old friends, lovers, acquaintances, those I was rude to for no reason, those I was rude to with good reason. They all watch the walk-in. Some throw urine in open top bottles. Others just throw abuse. The noise recipe included large quantities of malevolence and retribution. When the crowd favourite makes its appearance, all decked out in black sequins and laser beam red eyes, the stadium erupts. Women scream lustily at the mere thought of your downfall. Men have fantasies of being the one dealing it out; just to watch your body reduced to mashed flesh, burst blood vessels and splintered bone. And when we stand opposite each other to hear the referee’s instructions, they laugh. The monster opposite towers over me. I can feel cold air hitting me rhythmically with grief’s sub-sonic glee.
After 12 rounds of brutal punishment, the creature puts me out of my misery.
And they’re right. The one that knocks you out you don’t even see.

Air Cancer

It hovered above the pub. It was dark green and misty. Impenetrable. There were small, winged creatures buzzing in and out of it. Thousands of them. It was late summer. People stood around and looked. They were stupefied by the presence of the mist. The men urinated through their three-quarter length trousers onto their flip-flops. The women screeched and snorted at the men. One woman said ‘man-flu’ and the others fell about. One, smaller woman laughed so much she defecated. A small, round replica of herself in shit fell from her shorts and rolled down an open drain. The drain gobbled it up with a pronounced ‘gulp’. The smell of old beer and death snaked from the drain. A family of rats lived down there. They waited. A single, urine coloured lightening bolt leapt from the mist. It hit a man as he climbed out of his seat waving a twenty pound note. The bolt burnt a hole in the note and connected with the mans belly button. His stomach began to swell. A tentacle grew from his three-quarter lengths. A tail. The mans face buckled and a green olive slime drained from his nose. In the slime were small, pip-sized eggs inside which tiny, insect larvae were already hatching. A large rat ripped through the mans colon and, as his body fell, scurried down the drain. The black insects hatched and joined the others in the sky. The cloud of mist grew larger. Those that could speak said they could detect a sound like a heartbeat coming from its core .
When it grew to the size of the town they sent in the fighter jets. All were lost. The television broadcasts soon followed. The government blamed other, so-called ‘rogue states’ for the ‘disturbance’. And the entity doubled in size. A targeted exchange of military hardware between bickering nations ensued. We told that our sense of ‘Britishness’ was under attack. When the leaders began to realise that the threat did not come from another nation, they decided that the phenomenon was of extra-terrestrial origin. And the world now focussed all its hatred out into space. Orbiting the Earth, a ribbon of the mist grew a thin tentacle. The tentacle penetrated the atmosphere and connected with the mass below.
Citizens took to the streets and ransacked government offices. They set fire to small businesses and homes.
Diplomatic relations deteriorated and the ‘air-cancer’, as some were now calling it, covered one-third of the Earth’s surface.
The price and regularity of air travel has been dramatically altered. No plane can fly through the air-cancer. Imported goods are now out of reach to all but the most wealthy.
Now there are people alive who know only of a world infected with this plague. And no one knows how to stop it.
Perhaps the world has to accept it as part of a new paradigm.
Today I saw a group of tourists posing for a photo. “Make sure you get the air-cancer in the background!” one of them said.
And I watched as the thing grew like a cloud of green ink in water as the flashes went off.

Side Effect III

Ash flickers across the street. A face forms in the particles. It wakes, suddenly, and takes in the world, as though for the first time.
The face could be described as:
A man in his early forties. His face is unsymmetrical. One side of his jaw protrudes more than the other side. His eyes, as far as you could tell were fairly straight. One, however, appeared to look beyond, where the other looked through. On the nose, near the tip, was a small, almost indistinguishable bump. The lips were full and moved as though to speak. The only sound created was that of dry leaves whipped up by cold wind.
Few witnessed the apparition. Their interpretations on what might have been said, or ‘mouthed’, varied, and included the following:
‘This is my future, not my past.’
‘Forget fear. The only fear is the last.’
‘I miss you. Where did you go?’
‘The water was still. It was.’
The ash fell to the ground. A radio switched itself on in a car. A few birds fell from the trees. Someone’s phone rang. And they walked away, gesturing with their hands.
A flurry of dandelion seeds caught the new light.
Then everyone went home.