I pressed the copper washer into his grubby paw. I think he said “cheers”. I don’t know.
There is wonder in desperation. At the suggestion of some macroscopic slither of reality veering away from an assumed course, there can be found the magic once believed lost forever.
A man singing across the Thames. A three legged cat. Climbing fallen trees. The pretty women that sing our hearts lullaby.
Then the death of belief. Of hope. The freedom of the real, tangible oblivion. The womb of the universe; chaotic at first glance, yet ordered beyond fathom.
The hollow stomach gurgles with rage. The day is blunt. Blood glugs brown around the twitching veins. A bloody mess of a mind. The brain reminds itself of the possibility of suicide. Muscles relax. Endorphins rush. A sigh from that cold bastard called space. The pinprick stabs in the fabric of the universe. Endless wine. Endless hangover. Soul death for eighty three years. And even the animals have now packed up and disappeared.
I found a tuft of badger hair stuck to a snapped stick. I knealt with it in my hand and wept. I jammed the sharp end into my forearm until the muscle showed through.
And spent the evening picking out endorphin soaked splinters with a beaming smile.
Fields of beheaded flowers greet the eye of the mourning traveller. He smelled of stale wine and expensive cologne. The sky was livid pink. Aeroplanes had cut up the still slumbering clouds.
The dog was weary. It had been carrying its master for several miles. But this was normal. And the animal was close to the end anyway. It, unlike its master, had a sober grasp on its own mortality.
Both man and beast wore silver whiskers and kept their lonely souls company by whistling at the mysterious night sky.
Neither were happy. Neither were sad. Inevitability was a staunch component of both’s madness.
And in the evil morning, with the thick paws leaving a dying trail in the winter rain, a guttural grown seeped from the comatose man.
As the man snores, the animal dreams of ways to destroy them both.
A piece of driftwood glided past, hugged cheekily by the bastard, rushing river. The driftwood looked like a body with a chunk out of the trunk. Misplaced thoughts occurred: What had bit it? What had made the body a body?
Part the muck, Dr. Devon. Your patients patience is running thin.
A small piece of floating, black matter hung in the air. Swatting at it made it shape shift, like a tiny, black, break-dancing worm. And it made a noise like an electric current cackling in the silent afternoon air. I held a cigarette in between my teeth. I knew it couldn’t resist. The worm shifted into the shape of a star wars figure gun and shot an electric current at the tip. I puffed and the cig slowly began to smoke. I winked at the tiny bulging, flinching, black worm hanging there in mid-space…I laughed and winked before it assumed the shape of a pin and dived into my chest.
Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt.
Years later, I was married to a woman. She said I reminded her of her father. I should have seen it coming. In truth, I did. In truth, I was lonely. The thing in my chest threatened to kill me. It demanded I pack my bags. It demanded we run run, run.
This, I did.
But then…I ended up reminding myself of the self I was before the crash. And it was not my aura that gave away my identity, no, it was a purely surface recognition. In the end, my face gave me away.
And I saw them coming, rumbling across the horizon; 34 hungry, muscular clouds assumed the appearance of the only people to have half liked me. A sorry bunch. As one crashed through my window, my chest was split in two with pain. A fist made of storm air landed an uppercut. Shards of glass stuck in my eyes and between my toes.
The phone rang.
Answer machine: “Hello Sylvia. It’s Dad. Just ringing to see what the plan is for this weekend. Does Alfie need his bed? If so, I’ll book myself into a local hotel. Let me know. Okay, bye.”
My neck snapped. Another poltergeist. It ran rings around me. There were three of them, and they were all invisible.
I dialed for help: 9999999999999…
A voice, tinny, bore instructions in an alien language.
An owl hooted outside.
Someone used their toilet.
I lay upon the blood soggy carpet.
Yawned. Fell asleep.
He drew himself back on his wobbly spine, fizzing brain; if not with intelligence, then beer, and threw the punch. His eyes did not follow the swing, though he felt the slight tap as the knuckles, his knuckles, lightly brushed the outer, leathery edge of the bag. It creaked backwards and clacked back into its mechanised housing…almost tiresomely. He recovered his balance and, with his brain spinning in confusion, humiliation, then a building, white hot self-hatred, he watched the clock add up his score.
215. A child would have hit more powerfully.
Within a few laps of the clock, the ‘pugilist’ drank away his sorrows surrounded by gaudy, dusty photos; drying his tears on memories he might as well have invented from scratch. From deep within this musty grave lined with bunting and fairy lights, worms reached out for a single swing at his jaw, confident they might be able to floor him. Perhaps they’d heard the news. Perhaps they just wanted to kiss him, then bore into his soft, dainty flesh and remove him from the gene pool for to provide valuable fertilizer.
Perhaps. But the grave, the worms and the photographs waving in the layers of muck in a whirlwind, were phenomena that existed in the mind, and the mind only, of the failed pugilist. The grey destroyer. The punk with the clip-on nose ring. The man of the world, as seen through the comfort of the first class cabin window.
He took his precious moleskin note-book from his blazer and wrote the following instruction:
“To do – Monday: Buy shovel”.
I watched small creatures, like smileys, blowing bubbles in a rainbow, or conjoining rivers or ribbons of multi-coloured pop. I’d just opened my window. The wind slammed it onto my forehead. Bang. I was out for a second. Maybe. No one else was there so who knows. Maybe it was an entire day. And maybe I woke up at the same time, one minute later, the following day. Anyway, all these creatures; they all had something to say. Each, it seemed, had rehearsed a word. Bit like a barbershop quartet but with a healthy inhalation of helium. And each smiley had its own, little doppelganger which repeated this word but one octave higher. The little ditty they ‘sang’, if it can be called that, went: “HERE here COMES comes THE the CLUE cue FROM from YOUR your TWELVE twelve YEAR year OLD old SELF self…”
I woke up, broke open a carton of cards and dealt myself a hand. Bust. Another. Bust again.
No, I’m not a dentists, I told the voice on the other end.
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.
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.
You can see it burst in the clouds like a broken pen in water. The inky tendrils snake out and small stars flicker at their ends. He, of course, sits there in his replica Alpine cottage attempting to sketch it.
The news is still quiet about what exactly is going on but people aren’t stupid.
How many folk do you see out walking their dogs today?
It’s like the cold war.
The best way for everyone would be to know the truth. That’s all. Whatever will be will be. It was going to happen one day. And if it wasn’t some creeping, inter-dimensional puncture (my guess) then it would have been something else. Like an outbreak of pit-bull fever.
I know which I’d prefer.
We should think ourselves lucky that another dimension would want to punch through the fabric of space-time to conjoin with us anyway.
Something odd though; I’ve not seen a placard yet.