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Synopsis

THIS IS CHAPTER FOUR. The Story Of The Man is a surreal picaresque piece intended for adults. With regard to tone, it juxtaposes between the mundane and the extreme whilst also underpinned with an ironic dark humour.

It’s written in first person from the point of view of a nameless, naive, good natured young man who finds himself in a harsh alternate dystopian version of present day Britain. He appears to have no agenda and similarly approaches all situations from a neutral journalistic manner. This contracts greatly with most of the pivotal characters who are introduced with nightmarish back stories.

As the story progresses he is presented with a Faustian bargain whereby ultimately he must follow what he believes to be morally correct and suffer the consequences or either be coerced into leading a more materially comfortable but corrupt existence.

-It doesn’t end particularly well.


Chapter 4

Home

I’m awake, hunched up on the back seat of the taxi, we are no longer moving. I rub away the crusty grains from my eyes and wince as the daylight streams against my face. I’m confronted with a panoramic view of a bank of cliffs and past that an expanse of perfect clear blue sky. I’m quite taken aback by this sudden exposure to such an expanse of open space, without taking my eyes off of this majestic sight I reach over and unlock the door before stepping outside onto the grass. I’m aware of the sound of the soft rhythm of waves crashing in the near distance that somehow seems strangely comforting to me, why though I cannot say. Away to my right there’s a solitary figure, I assume that this must be the man that drove me here. As I walk over to him I realise that he’s standing very near to the edge of the cliff, I therefore show some caution and remain a safe distance from him.

‘Excuse me…’ I say, with the words trailing off as I’m transfixed at the vast glistening ocean laid before me.

The man turns his head and smiles faintly at me. He’s quite stockily built with white hair, ruddy complexion and glasses that magnify his pale blue eyes. He reminds me of someone I’ve seen before but I can’t quite remember exactly where from.

‘Amazing isn’t it?’ He says, pointing to the white cliffs spread before us. ‘Look at how they’re completely flat on top and how the edges form one perfect right angle. It’s like someone has taken a giant knife and just lopped a piece off as if it were a piece of cake. It looks man made but it isn’t. Sort of puts things into perspective doesn’t it? Reminds you how small we all are in God’s great garden.’

I say nothing but offer a polite nod regardlessly.

‘Can you taste that salt on your lips blowing in from sea? I like to come here sometimes to be on my own. It’s a good place to get some thinking done.’ He says as he takes a last drag on his cigarette and casts it aside over the edge. ‘Are you hungry? I’ve got a couple of scotch eggs in the cab.’

‘Actually, I’m starving.’ I reply.

He steps forward with a smile and guides me back towards the vehicle.

Once inside, with myself sitting in the rear and the driver once more in his seat we spend the next few minutes eating in silence. That’s when something catches my attention, I lean forward to peer a little closer at the open glove compartment. Inside it there appears to be a black metallic object with a handle.

‘Hey. Isn’t that a gun?’ I blurt.

The man turns round to face me.

‘It’s a Tanfoglio nine millimetre pistol.’ He replies with orange crumbs dotted around his lips. ‘My wife bought it for me on our twenty fifth wedding Anniversary.’

‘Why do you have it in your car?’ I ask nervously.

‘I know who you are!’ He replies. Suddenly his expression has changed, his eyes are like two slits and there is a serious edge to his voice. ‘You’re a murderer!’

‘I think that you’re mistaken.’ I anxiously retort.

He takes a last mouthful of his of his scotch egg before takes the gun from the glove compartment and places it in my lap.

‘You know what to do don’t you? You’ve done it before. Fire one shot into the back of my head and then a double tap into my torso just to make sure.’ He says, cocking a finger at me.

‘What?’

‘Go on. You’re a bullet!’

‘No!’

‘If you don’t do it.’ He adds. ‘I’ll drive over the cliff and we’ll both go out together!’

‘Let me out!’ I scream.

Without any further discussion he revs up the engine and bolts the vehicle with such a jolt that I’m flung over onto my left hand side. When I pull myself back up I
see that he’s driving us at some considerable speed towards the edge of the cliff.

‘YAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!’ Belows the man.

I frantically scrabble with the handle of the door until I’m able to push it open. I project myself out into a dizzying whirl of geen and blue as I roll along the ground.
Finally I come to a stop, I’m in a bedraggled state but otherwise I’m physically unscathed. I catch my breath before gathering myself up off the grass, the taxi is no where to be seen but there are tyre tracks etched in the soil leading to the cliff edge, cautiously I follow them. I gaze down as the white foam of the sea laps against the black rocks. Wedged between them is the taxi, it’s largely intact but for the wrinkled front section. Also, on what is left of the bonnet is the motionless figure of the man, face down and snared halfway through the shattered windscreen. It’s a terrible way to end one’s life but all the same I’m relieved that I’m not down there with him.

And with that, as the light begins to fade and a cold wind whips against me, I turn and walk away from this scene.

________________________________________________________________

I’m somewhere within the bowels of a great forest. With the passing of the day and with only the reflected traces of moonlight against the tall trees to guide I find my present mood being one of great despondency. I’ve no real idea of where I am or where I’m going. I decide the best thing to do is to settle down for the night and to continue with my journey the next day. Warily, I reach up and grasp a branch that has a generous covering of leaves, I break it away and do the same with some others, placing them on an untidy heap on the ground. I then slump down on it whilst heaping some of the foliage over me in an attempt to keep me warm throughout the night.

I’m awoken by the sound of a twig being snapped followed by heavy rustling. Immediately I turn my head to ascertain what could be making this noise but I’m unable to see anything through the darkness, I then realise that the branches are no longer covering me, another twig is snapped only this time it sounds in much closer proximity than the first. For a few moments I remain in a curled up position, I close my eyes tightly and grit my teeth together whilst desperately hoping that whatever or whoever it is out here with me wont hurt me. Then to my utmost horror I hear the sound of breathing directly against to my ear. I yelp instinctively and leap up from my pile of leaves to cower behind the nearest tree. That’s when I catch a whiff of a most unpleasant aroma that’s reminiscent of rotting meat. I can’t be certain but I believe I can make out a dull shape amongst the darkness, hesitantly I move closer to it. I reach out and feel something cold and smooth brush against my fingers, it bounces away from me before gently swaying back to me. It appears to be hung from the tree.

‘Hello?’ I say, grasping the object steadily between my hands.

As my hands slide across it I realise that it has the texture of a human body, I can feel a rib cage beneath the skin but there’s something missing. I begin to involuntary gag at the realisation that it’s a naked human torso, possibly male, I can’t tell as there’s only a crude indent at the lower abdomen where the genitals should be, it doesn’t appear to have any limbs either. I push it away and lose my footing causing me to stumble backwards. Something bounces against me, it’s another one. As a stray glimmer of moonlight catches it I can make out the uneven glistening black stains against the pale skin where the head and limbs should be.
I succumb to a bout of hysteria, shrieking at the top of my voice. In my frantic bid to get it away, I can’t be certain but I think I disturb another three carcasses that were also left strung up in surrounding the area.

I run blindly like a madman through the dark undergrowth, a few times I misjudge my footing and I trip however the mounting fear that now courses through ensures that I quickly pick myself up and resume my escape. I continue like this for an indiscernible amount of time until judging by the comparative scarcity of trees and the consistency of the ground that now seems somehow more softer, I realise that I must have made it to the edge of the forest.

As I pause for a moment to catch my breath and wipe the cold sweat from my brow ahead of me I can make out the outline of the raised curvature of a hill with long grass blowing in the wind, it would seem like a sensible place to go to as the raised ground may offer me a better idea of my surroundings. Pausing for a moment I glance back at the tall dark trees of the forest, I can’t help feeling that there’s something in there watching me. Hurriedly, I lift my feet from the mud and start my ascent to the hill.

Once I reach the top of hill I’m confronted with the sight of a deserted road comprising of eight lanes with a metal barrier diving them to four on either side, it’s also well lit with an impressive series of hanging beacons that align for as far as I can make out. I carefully watch my footing whilst maintaining a sideways shuffle down the bank, when I reach the bottom I pause at the edge of the road and look to either side of myself. There are no markings or signs to indicate where the road actually leads, I decide to take the left but only manage a few steps before I change my mind completely and turn around to walk in the direction. With nothing to hold my attention but the constant sound of my footsteps I try to entertain myself by counting the line of beacons that gradually arc and shrink towards the distance, after a few minutes though I give up as my mind begins to wander, I contemplate the events of the evening. In retrospect the whole thing seems so incredible that due to the cumulative effects of lack of food, sleep and exposure to the cold, I realise it’s possible that I could have imagined the whole thing. I suddenly stop in my tracks. Something further up the roadside has caught my attention, it appears to be a sign or banner standing upright on a metal frame. As I come nearer to it I can see that there are a series of words written against it’s predominantly yellow background.

CAN YOU HELP US? ON THE 12th APRIL 2016 AT THIS LOCATION THERE WAS AN INCIDENT. A MAN WAS MURDERED IN HIS CAR. DID YOU SEE ANYTHING? DID YOU HEAR ANYTHING? IF YOU DID, PLEASE CALL CRIME ZONE ON THE FOLLOWING TELEPHONE NUMBER. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR IDENTITY AND YOUR CALL WILL BE TAKEN IN STRICTEST CONFIDENCE.

I stand there for a few moments when two tiny lights flutter away from some point away on the road ahead. I can’t quite believe it and so for a moment I even wonder that by some strange electrical phenomena, the beacons may have come alive but once I hear the soft hum of an engine I realise that it must be a vehicle. I’m saved! At once I begin waving my arms in the air however my excitement soon abates as I realise the vehicle is not slowing and what’s more it’s coming directly towards me! My hands instinctively cover my eyes as I brace myself and wait for the impact. Then I hear the harsh screech of tyres on the tarmac before I whirl around and catch sight of it disappearing away further down the road. It must have missed me by only inches.

During the rest of the night from the relative safety of the grass bank I continue my attempts to attract the attention of a further seventeen vehicles, a few of them slow down and even sound their horn but it’s to my dismay that not one of them stops for me. My mood is not helped either by further yellow signs similar to the one I saw previously, listing further details of atrocities that have been acted out in these parts however my luck soon changes, at various stages on the road I come across several other roads that link onto the one I’m following, presumably I must be on a central route leading to a very popular destination. It can only mean that I’m getting nearer to civilisation!

Eventually the night sky lightens to shades of blue and the moon becomes hidden by the soft contours of the clouds, almost simultaneously as I hear the sound of sweet birdsong I catch my first glimpse of the tops of some grey buildings looming on the horizon. Despite my fatigue, a glowing pang of optimism causes me to smile to myself. I notice how the trees and wide open spaces of nature seem to recede further from the road until vanishing completely behind high walls made of concrete, I’m also extremely thankful for the pavement that has appeared for me to walk on been laid alongside. The first buildings I come to are large and box shaped with corrugated metal roofs, they’re situated in a gravel yard or compound of some sort. I pause for a moment to look through the barbed wire that adorns a metal gate. It’s an inhospitable, cold looking place with no sign of any people so I decide to pass it by and continue with my journey.

Abruptly the four lanes that I’ve spent all night following twists and siphons off three lanes until I’m left with just one and then finally I come to a junction with four roads splintering off in opposite directions. There’s a mixture of relief and some apprehension as I stand there with the traffic zig-zagging in front of me wondering which road direction to take. I then spot a green sign that points to road nearest to my right, written on it are the words TOWN CENTRE. With no further hesitation I follow it.

By the time I make my way into town it’s late in the morning. I can’t help thinking how much this environment dramatically differs to the one I was last night. The grass has been replaced with a carpet of concrete, the trees uprooted and replaced with metal railings, there’s a symmetry to how the rows of buildings have been constructed in relation to the roads and pavements. It’s all been done as a convenience for the humble traveller like myself. I have to admit I much prefer this prevailing sense of order that comes with man made structures, compared to that of the chaos of mother nature. It’s good to be able to safely walk on the street and not feel threatened. As I ponder all of this a woman carrying two white plastic bags passes me, I cannot help myself from offering a polite smile however she reciprocates with a nasty stare followed by a sharp tutting noise before she gives me a wide berth. I feel surprised and mildly dejected by her reaction.

The centre of the town is a flat paved area of land that has four distinct corners and I would imagine if observed from a great height would resemble a perfect
square. Surrounding this area are two busy roads whilst the other sides are flanked by a series of joined buildings that look surprisingly out of place amongst the rest of buildings I’ve seen today, by this I mean that their very design conveys an impression of grandeur and importance due to the white smooth brickwork and ornate archways. For some reason the doorways appear to be twice my size in height and engraved into the walls around them are elaborate murals depictions of young men with beards in various states of undress that brandish either rolled up scrolls or swords, also amongst them are all manner of fierce looking animals such as eagles, horses and even the odd dragon. As I observe all this my eyes follow upwards to a plaque that’s adorned with a series of unintelligible words.

ILLUD BONUM NON EST TIBI AGERE. FRATER FEROX CONSTILIA MALA HABET.

Above this is a steeple that’s covered in black slate with a single golden spire at the very top. It’s as though I’ve stumbled upon a palace from some magical world, suffice to say as I stand in it’s shadow I can’t help but feel as it would be more apt if I bowed my head in reverence. After a few moments of marvelling at this wonderful piece of architecture I walk over to the entrance where I’m at once confronted by a small portly gentleman dressed in an outfit comprising of navy blue trousers, tie and blazer.

‘Where do you think you’re going?’ He asks tersely.

‘Hello. I want to have a look inside this lovely building.’ I reply.

‘You’ve got to be joking. I’m not letting you in here. You’re covered in shit!’ He says.

Looking down at myself I realise that he’s got a point. I do rather look a mess. My clothes are caked in dry mud and ripped in various places.

‘Go on. Be on your way.’ The man says, pointing back into the square.

So I sit on a bench nearby and watch as people pass, some walk quickly, swerving through the crowds towards some unknown destination whilst others slowly stroll or loiter about the square. My attention is drawn to my left to a young man and woman, they appear out of place amongst the other people due to them being dressed rather shabbily and are clearly are having a heated discussion. The young man swaggers unsteadily and holds a tin can of which he occasionally takes a drink from, the girl is more animated and pushes him then walks away before turning back and verbally remonstrating with him, this is repeated further two times. In response the young man cackles at her and shrugs his shoulders in a show of indifference, it’s apparent their relationship is a turbulent one. After a while the man disappears from view and the woman wanders amongst the crowd of people. She approaches another man, stands directly in front of him and says something while cupping her hands up to him, he simply responds by shaking his head before turning away from her. I continue to watch her as she continues this play with other people in the square, although some choose to dismiss her some appear to search in their pockets and place coins in her hand. At one point she dramatically slumps to the floor and curls into a ball by the feet of an elderly couple who in turn glance down at her with sorrowful expressions on their faces, then the elderly man bends down and takes her arm, helping her to her feet. They talk for a few moments before he finally takes out his wallet and thrusts some folded notes into her hand. The young woman smiles in gratitude and swiftly departs away into the crowd. I continue to watch her as she rejoins the man she had been arguing with just minutes ago. I have to admit, I’m impressed by how brazenly she can just approach a member of public and be given money like that. My stomach begins to rumble, I realise I haven’t eaten for over twenty four hours. I realise that if I am eat today then I will have to pluck up some courage and offer myself to the pavement.

‘Excuse me.’ I say to the lady wearing the cream coloured coat. ‘I don’t mean to trouble you but I wonder if you can help me out. I’m really hungry. Could you possibly find it within you…’

‘No I’m sorry. I don’t give money to drug addicts.’ She replies, cutting me short.

I want to enquire about what she specifically means by this but she doesn’t leave me with the opportunity, she swiftly lifts her hand towards my face in a swatting motion and walks away from me. So I wander about the square and attempt to draw the attention of other people however they don’t seem interested in anything I have to say either. With a heavy heart I begin to walk back over to the bench when someone taps me on the shoulder.

‘Hey! You’re not homeless. You fucking cunt!’ A voice grunts.

I turn round and immediately recognise him as being the scruffy looking man, he’s also accompanied by the young woman. Before I can say anything he’s flailing at me with his hands, luckily though his efforts only seem to throw him of balance and make him wobble from side to side. I attempt to step away from him but the woman moves to my side and begins kicking at my legs.

‘Yerrahh bastard! What do you think you’re doing? This is our square! Go an
find your own fucking spot!’ She screams in my ear.

I see his fist from the corner of my eye just before it connects against my cheek, In a daze I fall backwards. The world is spinning around me as more punches rain down from. For a brief movement I feel a strange sensation of disconnection, as though I don’t remember exactly who I am or how I got here.

When I drift back to consciousness I find myself flat on my back with people walking all around me with none of them coming to my assistance. I rouse myself into a sitting position, my hand goes to the dull aching place at my forehead. I realise that the man must have hit me quite hard because there’s blood running down my face and all over my shirt. Curiously, I also notice that there are a number of coins strewn all around me. I stagger to my feet and am surprised to see that the half of the square is now almost full with people crammed together and face the opposite direction from me, many of them hold placards or balloons, on which have written slogans with the words GOD and JESUS being particularly popular. It would appear that they their attention is drawn to an elderly gentleman that’s raised before them on a platform behind an alter and is delivering a speech through a loudspeaker, he’s dressed entirely in black but for a square patch of white around his collar. Exactly what it is he is saying defies me as his voice is heavily distorted in echoes and is partially drowned out by the ensuing background traffic however if the sporadically nodding of the crowd is anything to go by then I would presume that it’s of some importance.

‘…(inaudible)…our God is bigger than their… (inaudible) …the world would not have been born without a fight (inaudible) …of course I know he exists despite being invisible… (inaudible) …he is transparent also with much rage… (inaudible)
…especially on a sunday …(inaudible) …protect us from our indiscretions… (inaudible) …it’ll be worth it in the end… (inaudible) …plebeian scum will die trying to find… (inaudible) …tis better to live a thousand years as a lamb than one day as a lion (inaudible) …we all live in God’s sacred imagination and indeed, what an imagination it is! (inaudible) …although it is upon this day that we must… (inaudible) …with a strength and certainty that will lead us to the semi finals… (inaudible) …God – three. Satan – nil.’

After a few minutes of this, I begin to lose interest and idly gaze around. Suddenly, my attention is drawn towards the front of the crowd due to a verbal altercation featuring a number of expletives, I think someone has taken exception to the elderly gentleman speaker and is now proceeding to heckle him. Despite this he remains
oblivious and continues to address the crowd, that’s when a scuffle breaks out between a group of men. As I catch a clearer view I realise that I recognise the heckler, his hair is a bit longer but appears to be Marvin!

My initial feeling is one of elation as I thought he was gone forever however considering the circumstances he’s now in it would seem I’m filled with only concern. I shout out to him as I try to barge myself forward but it’s no good, I’m too far and he can’t hear me over the noise so I stand there and watch as the events unfurl.
Women are sobbing as they frantically grab their children to usher then away whilst men of all ages are visibly agitated as they tug at their neighbour in a prelude act to violence. Someone throws a lit rag which lands at the feet of the speaker causing him to curtail his speech and scurry away. Through the billowing smoke I spot Marvin’s head for one last time before it disappears completely amongst the angry mob. Fearing for my own safety I turn around and make my escape by climbing onto the bench that I was earlier sitting on and clamber up onto an elaborately carved stone ledge that surrounds the square. I then carefully balance myself along until I come to the base of a statue of a stern faced man that holds a gesticulating finger at the sky. Finally I lower myself down onto the relative safety of the pavement that runs parallel with the square. Looking on I observe how the scene has escalated into chaos, groups of burly men adorned with helmets, transparent plastic shields and protective black uniform line the far end of the square and begin edging their way into the crowd, there’s even a few on horseback.

The crowd are hemmed in and respond angrily but are soon overcome with the most aggressive members rounded up and bundled into the back of white vans.
I’m about to consider what I’m going to do next when I spot Marvin calmly walking on the pavement on the other side of the road. I shout his name once in order to get his attention but it’s to no avail as he’s too far to hear me. Without further hesitation I weave myself through the wounded people that have spilled out from the square and follow him.

As I pick up my pace I manage to spot Marvin’s blue jacket in the near distance.

‘Marvin! …Marvin Gay!’ I shout.

He doesn’t respond but continues walking, taking a sharp left down a narrow passageway leading from the busy road, breathlessly I follow. When I reach the passageway I’m met with an unlit narrow cobbled path no other visible exit, as I slowly walk down it there in the shadows I see Marvin huddled by a couple of tall green bins, he appears to be taking off his jacket. As I get nearer he hears my footsteps and turns sharply to face me.

‘I can’t believe it’s you.’ I say.

‘I’m sorry mate. I think you’re mistaken.’ He replies, taking off his t-shirt and laying it on the ground.

‘It’s me! It’s Phil, your roommate from the hotel.’

‘What hotel? What’s going on? I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ He replies, as he unzips his denim trousers.

‘This is all a bit strange. What are you doing?’ I ask.

‘What does it look like? Are you stupid or something?’ He replies testily.

He stands there in nothing but his underwear, a black pair of socks and a blue plastic band around his right ankle that’s identical to the one I have on mine. He eyes me suspiciously for a moment then reaches over behind one of the green bins to pick up a brown leather bag, he snaps open the buckle and takes out a folded bundle of clothing, gently unfolds them and begins to separate each item. First he takes the black pin-striped trousers and puts them on followed by the crisp white shirt and the black pin-striped blazer. Whilst he does this I try to reason with him.

‘But you look and sound exactly like him. You even have a scar on your left buttock too!’

Just as he’s looping the tie around his neck his eyes suddenly widen, he takes a step towards me and points his finger close to my face.

‘Listen fucktard! You’re starting to piss me off! I don’t know what you’re game is but I don’t appreciate you looking at my arse. I ain’t no fucking queer!’ He shouts.

‘I don’t want any trouble.’ I say as I raise my palms up in a non confrontational gesture.

This seems to placate him as he steps back to finish arranging his tie and collar.

‘Look, I’m going now. You can have those if you like.’ He says, pointing to the discarded clothes on the floor. ‘I was going to throw them away but it looks like you could benefit from them.’

‘Wait!’ I shout after him. ‘Just tell me one thing. Why were you in the square?’

‘Starting some fires. A favour for a friend.’ He nonchalantly replies before walking down the passageway and back onto the busy road.

As I put on the trousers, t-shirt and jacket I feel an object brushing against
my left thigh, I put my hand in the pocket and take take out a key. I’m dumbfounded when I realise it as being identical to the one that Marvin had given to me in the hotel. I try to comprehend the possibility that all this could be some strange act of coincidence but quickly disregard this as nonsense and decide that I should find out more about ‘the man that looks like Marvin.’ I Hurry down the passageway and cast my eyes down the pavement, I see him some distance away over the heads of the pedestrians. Briskly, I follow him whilst maintaining a careful distance as I definitely wouldn’t want him to know that I’m spying on him.

Over the course of the afternoon it’s evident that he’s in no hurry, I observe him a
number of times lingering in front of some shop windows before popping into one of them to purchase a few items. As he does this I remain inconspicuous by stepping into a doorway or stooping down behind yet another one of those metal yellow signs that stand by the kerb.

Eventually he leads me away from the bustle of the town and along a series of winding roads until we reach somewhere called Hayter Street. There’s less traffic here and the buildings are joined to line each side of the road, curiously they’re all practically identical in design as they’re two stories in height with four white framed windows, the lower set being larger and projecting outwards. The brickwork that makes up the buildings is made from an unfussy red-brown pattern and is topped off with angular grey tiled roofing. To the immediate front, boxed behind gates and low walls nearly all have small pieces of land that feature hedges or slightly more untidy foliage.
‘The man that looks like Marvin’ suddenly stops about halfway down the street and heads to one of the buildings, I instantly drop down to my haunches and hide behind a parked car before surreptitiously peeking out, for a few seconds he rummages around in one of his pockets before continuing to the front door. Just as he steps into the building he glances over his shoulder towards my direction, causing me to urgently cock my head back behind the car, when I pluck the courage to have another look I’m relieved to see that he’s no longer there.

For the next few hours I alternate my hiding place so as not to draw attention to
myself eventually though as the evening wears on and with the failing light, I position myself directly opposite the building that ‘the man that looks like Marvin’ went into. So here I am, squatting down between a hedge and one of those tall green bins staring into his large windows, watching him as he sits motionlessly in a darkened room with just the slow flicker of a blue light to illuminate him. Despite my cramped position I’m actually feeling quite pleased with myself as not only is this a most ideal place to view him but by flipping open the bin’s lid back on itself so it’s lying flat over my head, it offers me most excellent shelter against the drizzle of rain.

That’s when things take an interesting turn. My attention is drawn to the sound of a nearby vehicle, I arch my head to see a shiny black taxi cab approach and park directly in front of me. After a blast of it’s horn I briefly see ‘the man that looks like Marvin’ rise from his chair and peer closely from the window followed by the light in the room going out until there’s just darkness. ‘The man that looks like Marvin’ then appears from the front door dressed in a long grey coat, he closes the door, pauses to look up into the dark sky before he walks to the taxi cab, climbing into it’s rear side. The taxi then slowly pulls away until I’m left staring at the building. After a few minutes I crawl out from my hiding place and stand on the pavement, look about myself before crossing the road. Nervously, I knock on the wood panel twice and wait a moment for any response, there isn’t one. I take out the key from my pocket and try it in the lock. It fits! I turn it slowly until I hear a dull metallic click, with my heart pounding I take a deep breath and push open the door. I’m just about to take my first step inside when my attention is drawn to a brown wiry mat on the floor, written on it are the words NOW WIPE YOUR FEET. So I do exactly that.

________________________________________________________________

The only source of illumination comes from the soft orange streaks of the street lights that reflect through the narrow panels of frosted glass in the door. As I’m trespassing the thought of being caught fills me with much trepidation so I’m thankful that there doesn’t seem to be anyone here. Despite this I cannot help but to tiptoe along the hallway. Unexpectedly from the road outside I hear a car passing. In my heightened nervous state I clumsily duck down onto all fours and crawl like a petrified farm animal only stopping when my head painfully connects with a wall. That’s when I steady myself, sit up on my knees and place my palms along the wall to tentatively feel my way ahead. I then find a door knob, gently I turn it. The prolonged whine caused by the creaky door hinge involuntary causes my heart to pound and my stomach to churn, taking a deep breath I shuffle further forwards into the room. Although there’s still much darkness visibility is slightly better due to a large window that allows ghostly shards of moonlight to shine against the outline of the various furniture and fittings. I look down and notice that the floor comprises of a smooth tiled surface. I’d hazard a guess and say that I must be in the kitchen. To my left hand side and in the corner I notice two rectangular white boxlike objects that are stacked one on top of the other. I pull myself up to my feet and gently reach out for it. An intense feeling of relief surges through me as a glorious beacon of light spills out from the fridge door. My soul is saved!

Within seconds I have abandoned any notion of caution and am kneeling down with my head stuck inside eagerly surveying the three shelves full of assorted colourfully packaged food. My first choice is the carton of milk of which I spill down my front. It tastes good but I need more! My hands hover over a row of eggs, I pluck one from the smooth concave plastic display holder before unceremoniously squashing it against my eager mouth so the shell breaks and the cool yoke oozes down my throat. I pause only to wipe the sticky remains from my hand down my left trouser leg before I spot two or three silver foil wrapped objects, taking one between my fingers I and bring it close to my face …it smells like meat! Carefully I peel open the foil and lay it out on a work surface into flat into a jagged square shape to scrutinise the contents that are now heaped in the centre. It’s already been cooked and appears to still have it’s pale wrinkly brown skin, I break off a piece to reveal the succulent white meat within before sampling some. It tastes absolutely delicious, a bit like chicken …of course I can’t be certain.

I spend the next few minutes trying to find some cutlery however I’m hindered by the kitchen fittings as they jut out unexpectedly from the shadows. Luckily I soon come across a torch so I can navigate through the drawers and cupboards until finally I’m able to make a sandwich and pour myself a nice glass of wine. Strangely, I realise that, as well as satisfying my hunger the food has actually had the effect of making me feel less nervous. And so with that, once I’ve finished my meal I decide to explore the other rooms.

I peer my head round the door that leads to the large room where I had earlier spied the man that looks like Marvin. Immediately I’m aware of the smell of stale cigarette smoke in the air that reminds me of the same brand that Marvin used to smoke. I then flash the torch to reveal the sparsely furnished decor – a single sofa chair facing a television that’s situated on a low wooden table table in a dark alcove, a threadbare rug laying in the centre with the rest of the floor exposed to revel wooden boards and over in the other corner of the room a cabinet stands. I don’t venture inside as I feel a little self conscious and exposed due to the bank of windows facing onto the street so I turn back into the hallway until I’m at the foot of the stairs. Still with the torch pointing ahead, I gently pad up each step whilst my left hand grazes against on bannister. At the top I find myself on a landing with three white doors, two line on either side and the furthest one being directly opposite me. The last door is ajar enabling me to glimpse the shiny tiled decor and the smooth curvature of the porcelain lavatory. I turn to my right, slowly reach down and grasp the door handle, the door inches open and I shine the torch inside. It’s quite a small room with just a single bed and a tall wooden wardrobe beside a curtained window. My attention is then drawn to a rustling sound from underneath, I’m standing on some pages of white paper that are scattered around, it looks like they’ve come from an upturned box housing bundles of more pages. I kneel down and pick one up at random, there’s a number at the bottom showing it to be the ninety-sixth page of what looks like a story or essay. That’s when I recognise the hand writing, it’s Marvin’s …could this possibly be the manuscript of the novel he was writing?

I also notice in addition to Marvin’s tidy, evenly spaced text there’s a different set of handwriting that’s in red ink that can only be described as being a large spidery scrawl in capital letters. I then realise that I recognise as Mike’s handwriting. I can’t be certain but it seems like his words are meant as some sort of running commentary or critique.

NO NO NO! …YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT A META NARRATIVE IS!’

YOUR GRASP OF PUNCTUATION IS VAGUE.

THIS IS NO LONGER LINEAR! …IT MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL!

YOU ARE CONFUSING FORM WITH CONTENT!

YOU ARE CONFUSING CONTENT WITH FORM!

THE LEADING CHARACTER IS NOT VERY WELL WRITTEN. WHO IS THIS MAN? WHERE DOES HE COME FROM? WHERE IS HIS BACKSTORY! HOW CAN YOU EXPECT THE READER TO CONNECT EMOTIONALLY WHEN VIRTUALLY NOTHING IS KNOWN ABOUT HIM?

I flick through other pages. They’re all etched with thick red horizontal lines, crosses and similar nasty sentiments from Mike however much of it detracts from Marvin’s story altogether and goes on to personally deride him.

HOW CAN YOU WASTE SO MUCH OF HIS TIME WRITING THIS SHIT WHEN IT’S PATENTLY OBVIOUS THAT IT’LL NEVER PUBLISHED. NO ONE WILL EVER READ IT!!!!!!!

WHAT’S THIS ABOUT THE TRUTH? YOU KNOW NOTHING! YOU LIVE AMIDST A PERMANENT FOG THAT IS PUNCTUATED ONLY BY THE DEMONS THAT RUN WILD FROM YOUR HEAD. YOU SHOULD HAVE STUCK TO BALLET!

I’m most upset and shocked to read these last remarks, the vitriolic tone is one that I’ve rarely heard from Mike and certainly not one I’d expect him to use towards Marvin.

I’m about to sit down on the bed and look through some more of the pages when I hear the sound of the front door being opened and slammed shut followed by footsteps slowly trudging up the stairs. In a split second my mind is in a whirl as I consider my options. I could escape by climbing out of the window? …no good, I would make too much noise and probably injure myself in the process. I could confront him on the stairs and maybe push past him?…no that’s too dangerous. I look down at the gap under of the bed and realise that there’s enough space for me to hide so without another second to spare I turn off the torch and lay myself on the floor before rolling underneath.
I’m paralysed with fear, staring wide eyed into the darkness listening intently as whoever’s out there walks slowly along the landing and thankfully into not this room but the one next door. There’s the sharp clicking sound of what I believe must be a light switch being pressed followed by pacing feet before an object of some considerable weight is dragged along the floorboards. For a moment there’s complete silence until abruptly the footsteps pace back and the light switch pressed once more, the person leaves the room, briefly uses the bathroom to relieve themselves and disembarks down the stairs. I suddenly remember the plate and remnants of assorted food that I’d left out on in the kitchen! If they go in there they’ll surely know that someone’s been on his property. Despite my concern, thankfully I’m in luck as I hear the person leave the building with a slam of the front door.
And so I remain there curled up underneath the bed counting my blessings until they turn into sheep, overcome with tiredness I soon drift off to sleep.

For no reason that I can explain I am standing in absolute pitch blackness. There are no indications of any dark shapes for me to identify any semblance
of space or distance. There is literally nothing. I try to call out but there’s only silence. I raise both my hands up to my face in some vain hope that I may be able to see them but it’s no good. When I pinch myself on the inside of my left wrist I’m startled by the lack of any sensation. There’s something else here with me, a very real but unexplainable presence is hanging somewhere above and around me. I have no way of describing any physical form but it feels like a dense and cloying fog. I am now fearful and despite being adrift in this space I attempt to move away and find some area to escape to. It’s no good! It’s swiftly convulsing on me until I’m gradually suffocating. I scream hysterically but there is no sound, only silence.

I awaken with a horrible feeling. I’m covered in a cold sweat and disorientated. I open my eyes but immediately squint them back closed as a reaction to the intensity of the blinding light, it must be the morning. Within a second of regaining my bearings I find I’ve forgotten my dream altogether, all I know is that it was extremely upsetting. I drag myself out from beneath the bed, stand up in the centre of the room and gaze down at the sheets of paper that are scattered all over the floor.Then, stepping over them, I stand by the window and peer through the gap in the curtains. There’s a small square plot of land that’s largely made up of thick grass and a few lumps of fresh soil, surrounding it is a wooden fence along with some hedges. Suddenly my stomach begins to rumble and ache, I realise that I need to use the lavatory.
I pause on the landing and strain to hear any sound from downstairs but there’s only silence. Once inside the bathroom I undo the top button of my trousers and take out my penis before aiming it downwards to the white oval bowl. There’s a contented feeling of satisfaction as the pressure on my stomach subsides coupled with the lovely sound of urine splashing steadily against the water. Looking about myself I notice the large empty white bath, I smile and I consider how nice it would be able to have a good relaxing soak in it. I then look down and see that a few stray drops of urine have missed the bowl and landed on the floor. I curse under my breath for being so clumsy, finish urinating, button up my trousers and turn towards the sink so I can wash my hands. That’s when I discover something strange. There are red blood stains smeared everywhere, all over the porcelain, the soap, the metal taps and on the towels! As that familiar sickly aroma fills my nostrils I begin to feel lightheaded nauseous. I lurch towards the bath but matters are only made worse when floating by the plughole, I spot more blood and a small portion of fleshy substance with black hairs attached to it. I swiftly leave the bathroom and grasp firmly onto the bannister in an attempt to regain my composure.
After a few seconds of controlled breathing my attention is drawn to the third closed door where I had heard someone rummaging around and making those odd dragging noises. I’m convinced that whatever’s inside will surely leave an unsavoury impression however despite my reservation I know I must explore it if I am ever to understand the true nature of the man that looks like Marvin.

I turn the doorknob and push open the door. Immediately I’m confronted with an overwhelming stench of rotting meat that causes me to flinch and press my hand against my lower face. Stepping inside I notice that this room is only moderately bigger than the one I had spent the night in, it is also clearly in a worse state of decor with large areas on the wall where the paper has peeled and become stained with damp patches. Standing prominently in the centre is a sturdy wooden table that’s covered in scratches and gouge marks. It’s of some considerable size as the top of it comes up just past my waist and the length spans quite large area that if I were lay on it my head and feet would still probably be an inch or so from reaching either end. I also notice that that it has a heavy metal clamp attached to one end that sticks out at an ugly angle. Despite not knowing specifically what it’s used for I would guess it were used as a workstation for general handiwork or domestic manual labour.
In the corner of the room there’s a chair positioned in front of a desk complete with drawers. I take the handle of the top drawer and slide it open to reveal an assortment of implements and tools such as nails, a large roll of thick tape, plastic cord and pliers. The second draw below has a variety of sized knives and an impressive looking metal hammer. Finally the last drawer has a small axe, a plastic container with the word BLEACH and a pair of rubber gloves. I pick up the axe by the handle and scrutinise it’s sharp edge and then recoil when I notice what appears to be some spots of blood. Hastily, I return it to the drawer and begin to turn to leave. That’s when something far more macabre catches my eye. From underneath the table placed on a white dinner plate in a congealed pool of blood is an assortment of human facial parts that have been severed and arranged in the shape of a twisted version of a face. In the centre stands a nose that’s been cut right down to the the bone, on either side is an ear, above it are two eyeballs with some tangled fleshy traces of eyelid, lastly to the bottom of the plate is a pair of bloody red grinning lips complete with an elongated tongue curling from in between.

Within seconds I have left the room and vomited down the stairs. I sit there on the top step shaking uncontrollably in a heightened state of fear. Abruptly, the sound of a telephone rings from downstairs. I remain still. I definitely do not want to answer it as to do so would only attract unwanted attention to myself however it doesn’t stop ringing! I clasp my hands over my ears to drown out the sound but it just seems to get louder and soon becomes unbearable. I decide the best thing to do in this situation would be to answer the it in a curt but polite manner and inform the caller that they have dialled an incorrect number. And so with that I descend the stairs, careful not to stand in any lumps of vomit until I’m standing in the hallway. Cautiously I peer into the front room, I’m fairly content that there’s no one in there so I pluck up some courage and enter. The telephone is situated at the furthest corner of the room on the floor but as the curtains are wide open I am all too aware that I could be seen by any outside prying eyes so with that there’s really no other option but to crawl along the wooden floorboards. Finally I grasp the receiver and bring it my ear.

‘Hello Phil. How are you?’ A voice says.

‘Who’s that?’

‘A friend. Go on, take a guess.’

‘I don’t know. I don’t recognise your voice.’

‘It’s Mike.’

‘Mike? But you can’t talk. You’ve got no head!’

‘Oh never mind all that now! How are you finding your halfway house?’

‘Halfway house?’

‘Yes. For one half a person.’

‘I have to say that I’m finding this conversation a little odd.’

‘Oh come on Phil. Where’s your sense of humour? It’s just a joke. The main reason I’m ringing is to check up on you and to see how you’re shaping up in the big world.’

‘I’ve just been sick.’

‘Oh dear. I’m sorry to hear that.’

‘Mike if this is really you then I need your help. I don’t what’s going on anymore. I think Marvin’s still alive. I followed a man that looked just like him until I came to this place. He doesn’t know I’m here but I found the manuscript for his novel. There’s definitely something suspicious going on and that’s not all. I’ve found human body parts upstairs. I think he might have killed someone!’

‘Calm down Phil and listen to me. You’re not telling me anything that I don’t already know. That man is not coming back. It’s your house now. Think of it as a gift. Now, I’ve got a little job for you to do for me. I take it you’ve found the axe?’

‘Yes but…’

‘ …all you’ve got to do is sit tight and wait for further instructions. You’ll be contacted later on tonight. I’ll be sending a taxi round to pick you up. It’ll be a black one.’

‘I’m not sure I understand. Is anyone going to get hurt?’

‘Don’t worry about a thing. It’ll be fine. This is your moment.’

‘But…’

‘I’m going to hang up now but I hope you’re not to do anything stupid like
trying to run away …oh by the way, there are some interesting videos just by the television. Why don’t you watch them?’

Before I can reply to the voice that says it is Mike a soft continuous hum fills my ear. I replace the telephone’s receiver and remain sitting on the floor whilst contemplating some of the things he had said to me. Although I can’t be completely certain, I feel I’m being coerced into some sort of activity that I will not agree with. I glance over to the window and consider what would happen to me if I left this place and went back outside. As my previous attempts to adapt to my surroundings have always resulted in me being abused or harassed by complete strangers and with having no destination to go to I realise that I would be extremely vulnerable. I then ponder the voice that says it is Mike’s intention for me to remain in this building and for me to not do anything stupid -was that a threat? I have no idea what he mean’t by that! The more I try to understand the more my mind is a whirl of confusion fuelled by dark feelings of repression and irrational bouts of paranoia. Under these circumstances I decide the best thing is to remain here.

I draw the curtains before sitting myself on the floor before attempting to turn the television on by randomly pressing the buttons on the panel below the screen. After a few seconds I hear a faint hum, a red light flickers into life followed by the blank screen slowly being filled with a fuzzy grey pattern made up of thousands of dancing tiny dots. It’s also accompanied with a harsh atonal discharge that causes me to quickly locate the volume button so I can turn the offending noise down. Then I notice a stack of video tape cartridges covered in dust so I pick one from the top of the pile and place it into the letterbox shaped slot situated below. Immediately the grey static is replaced with an image of two exotic, brightly multi-coloured fish swimming in a wide large tank whilst in the background a the sound of a mid-tempo piano music can be heard. The shot then scrolls smoothly away to show a luxuriously decorated room. There’s an impressive wall made completely out of polished wood panels and purple curtains that elegantly drape behind a white statue of a reclining semi naked woman. A chandelier glistens above and below that splayed out to the centre of the room is a thick rug made of white fur, this actually prompts me to shift uncomfortably on the hard floorboards as it would be to live in a place like that.
The image steadies on a middle aged man with thin greying hair and a large nose. He sits on large cushioned sofa reading a newspaper and is dressed in a formal but smart manner, his crisp white shirt is tucked at the waist but also unbuttoned and open at the collar to reveal a wealth of chest hair whilst his light brown trousers are immaculately pressed to how off a single vertical crease running down the middle of each leg. The scene is interrupted by an electronic chime which seems to disturb and aggravate who in return grimaces before throwing the paper down. The shot switches to a long distance view of him standing up and pacing across the floor before the film then jumps to another shot of a young woman with long straight blond hair standing with her finger pressing the doorbell. Although she’s only in profile I’m at once intrigued as she is very physically attractive. The door opens to show the middle aged man now with a stern expression on his face, the only altercation between them is a sharp click of the man’s fingers followed by a curt hand movement that gestures for her to enter the building. Back inside, the man ushers her towards the seating area. At this point I realise that the woman could very possibly be the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen! She’s wearing a very short skirt that not only shows off her impressive legs and even a flash of white underwear. I’m now thoroughly transfixed to the film to such an extent that the only thing to remind me of my surroundings is the subtle reflected image of my own gaping face staring back from the screen.
The man sits next to the woman on the sofa, his eyes drop towards her open cleavage before he begins to speak in a language that is incomprehensible and foreign to my ears however, despite this I can gather from the way he delivers his speech, the way his voice raises into a drawn out hissing noise that he is not pleased with her. She responds, saying nothing but the way that her eyes widen and the slight lowering of her head would lead me to assume that she feels self conscious and embarrassed. Curiously, I notice that his hand is resting at the top of his left thigh and his thumb is slowly rubbing against the bulge at own his crotch. I wonder to myself as to what exactly the relationship could be between these two individuals and more so, what could this beautiful woman have done to elicit such a scolding reception …and why is the piano music still tickling away such a nonchalant manner?

Then with a wag of his finger, his voice lowers to a husky growl and he stands up in front of her. At this point I have to admit that I find it odd that a conversation can be conducted with someone when their head is eye level with the other person’s crotch.
The angle of the shot changes to a close up view that frames the woman’s face, she has the faintest faint look of concern as from the left hand corner of the screen, the man’s fingers begin to undo the buttons on his trousers before he eases out his swollen penis and displays it to within an inch from her nose. In response she opens her bright red lips and casually flicks her tongue against her teeth before bringing up her hand to loosely grasp the penis in her palm and massage it for a couple of seconds. After a few seconds the penis appears to have developed in size and become more erect causing the woman to use both her hands to restrain it. Then in one swift movement she opens her mouth and ducks her head forward until just under half of the full length of of the man’s penis bulges against the inside of her cheek. Although the man’s face is not visible his satisfied reaction can be heard from a succession of satisfied audible groans. The woman continues to massage the penis by sliding her mouth back and forth before she withdraws it, holds it at an upright angle before performing a licking motion up and down the entire length in a way that would suggest that she were savouring every last bit of flavour from some rare pink fruit.

After a few moments of watching this I feel a dull ache from my groin area. I let my hand undo the button on my trousers and pull open the metal zip before I delve inside and hold my penis. With my eyes still fixed to the screen I begin to massage it to match every downward stroke to the man’s heavy breathing. The shot then changes to a wider angle, the man takes back his penis as the woman wipes her mouth on the back of her hand and stands to face him. He pauses for a moment with a cruel grimace on his face before his hand clutches her chest, pulls down her blouse and exposes one of her breasts. She doesn’t resist but seems to flinch slightly with an arch of her back, he then leans forward takes her brown nipple between his teeth and roughly begins chewing on it in a way that causes it stretch. Despite looking extremely painful apparently she seems to like this and even encourages him by clutching the back his neck. They then proceed to kiss with much clashing of teeth, it’s such an animated display that I can only describe one that only falls short of them both trying to devour each other!

The shot slowly scrolls down the woman’s body to show that the man has hitched up her skirt and is rubbing his hand against her crotch. He then goes behind her in a kneeling position and unfastens the zip on her skirt, once he’s let it drop down to the floor he begins to kiss and stroke the back of her thighs until the tips of his fingers slip inside her white underwear, he then takes the thin material and pulls it tautly up between between her buttocks until finally he pulls her underwear down to reveal her naked behind. The shot pauses on this sight for a few seconds before the man continues, placing both palms on either buttock cheek he pushes them apart to reveal her anus. Then with the end of an extended index finger, he inserts it whilst turning it in a motion that reminds me of how one would operate a key in a lock until it’s up to the knuckle. This is followed by a shot of the woman with her head thrown back over her shoulder and a dreamy expression on her face, despite one furtive glance down towards him, she appears that she is not only content to let the man digitally penetrate her but is deriving extreme pleasure from it. After some more agitation he removes his finger, stands up until his face is close to hers and brings his finger up towards her chin. She merely stares at him with that same dreamlike expression before enclosing it in her mouth, sliding it back and forth in the exact same way that she did with his penis.

‘mmmmmmmm.’ She murmurs.

The man continues to speak in that same unintelligible language which causes me to ponder if there could possibly be a code of conduct or etiquette that is being adhered to that I’m just not understanding, and if so then what exactly is the correct way to address such a beautiful woman that leads her to behave in such crude behaviour? Whatever it is, this man seems to know as he now has her bent over on the on the sofa with her behind arched up in the air. Kneeling behind her, he once more prises her buttocks apart and with a sneer on his face he spits onto her anus.
With a grimace he aims the red bulbous end of his penis against her before slowly pushing himself inside her. She winces so that the veins in her neck stand out prominently and her left hand clench into a fist. For a fleeting moment she looks like she’s in pain however within a second she’s reverted back to that familiar drowsy expression and continues to moan in appreciation.
Next the man holds her waist with both hands and levers himself in and out of her whilst pausing now and then to administer a few heavy slaps to her fleshy behind, after a few minutes of this they’re both sweating profusely with the woman also covered in nasty red marks. With his penis still inside her the man reaches round with both arms pressing on her stomach and lifts her up and turns her around until she’s squatting with her feet resting on both of his thighs. With the position reversed she hoists herself up and then down on his penis, for his part the man remains seated but uses his free hands to rub her exposed red genitals in a frantic manner. Although there’s still much moaning from both of them I’m not sure she’s enjoying herself as I definitely notice her wince a few more times and even fix a serious gaze towards some unknown point just out of the shot. Eventually, after some exhaustion he pushes her off and stands before her once more with his penis pointing at her face, she merely stares up at him her mouth wide open, the man pulls hard back and forth on his penis until a succession of thick white goo sprays over her face. Finally with her make up smudged and the long strands of hair sticking to the side of her face, she smiles defiantly and utters something unintelligible.

There’s a warm surging sensation in my groin followed by an overwhelming feeling of relief, I look down to see that my fist is clenching the base of my erect penis and is shaking it up and down. With a groan of satisfaction I slump backwards and lay on the floor with my eyes closed, it feels very good indeed. After the moment has passed I open my eyes and notice how there’s now a line of thick white goo dribbling from the red slit at the end of my wilting penis with also a few blobs on my stomach. When I touch it with my fingers it feels like a warm thick grease and emits a pungent smell into the air, I not only feel disgusted at the mess I’ve made but also a little disappointed at how I’ve allowed myself to succumb to such a compromising situation. I decide the best thing to do is to turn the television off. I then carefully sit up whilst cupping my testicles and flaccid penis in my left hand so as not to let any of the white discharge drop onto the floor, with my free hand I adjust my trousers and go upstairs to clean myself up with some toilet paper.

When I return downstairs I go into the kitchen, glance around at the various appliances and shelving units that are fixed along the walls before turning to the fridge. I’m now very hungry so it doesn’t me long to select an assortment of food items. After I’ve finished eating I begin to wash the dishes, I contemplate what I would do if the situation arose where I had to defend myself, as a nonviolent person it’s not an issue that I’m readily comfortable with however it would be foolish of me to not be prepared. I remember the tools I had seen upstairs in the second room, they would inflict considerable damage however most of them were too cumbersome to keep on my person. My hands delve into the soapy water and feel around for some cutlery to scrub, I look down and notice the the knife that I had used to cut the meat for my sandwich, it’s similar to the one Marvin had used on Governor Veetman, it’s about the same size and has the same handle. I hold it at arms length and practice a few jabbing manoeuvres as though there were an adversary in front of me and preventing me access to the fridge. It’s a good knife and it’ll discreetly fit into my back trouser pocket. I decide to keep it there just in case a moment of peril arises.

With nothing to keep me occupied I soon become bored and restless. After some minutes of pacing the wooden floorboards I resort to kneeling by the window in the front room and staring at the world outside through the slit between the curtains however there’s not much to look at as there’s barely a soul passing by. It’s not long therefore before I find myself sitting in front of the blank television screen and reaching over to the pile of video cartridges.
This film differs from the previous one, there’s no piano music, no introduction or build up of any sort, there’s just a shaky shot of a very attractive woman with long wavy brown hair against a plain white background. Curiously there’s no pretence of the fact that she’s being filmed, she actually stares directly into the camera as though she was aware that I’m watching her …I have to admit this unnerves me a little! Compared to the other film the quality of the picture is poorer previous one. What follows is a conversation between the woman and an unknown male who remains out of shot but whose voice can be heard asking the woman a series of questions.

‘So tell us a bit about yourself …what’s your name? How old are?’ Says the male voice.

‘Hello. My name is Leanne and I’m twenty four.’ She replies with a smile on her face.

‘What do you do for a living?’

‘I work as a travel agent.’

‘Do you enjoy it?’

‘Yes I do. I get to go on lots of cheap holidays.’

‘Where did you last go to?’

‘Barbados for two weeks.’

‘Very nice. I can see that you’ve got a bit of a tan. Do you like to sunbathe topless?’

‘Oh yes, whenever I can get the chance.’ She smiles.

‘Have you got a boyfriend?’

She nods.

‘Does he know that you’re being filmed by me today?’

‘Yes.’

‘He doesn’t mind you being watched by other men?’

‘No. He gets a kick out of it and he knows I that I enjoy it.’

‘He’s a very considerate man.’

‘Yeah. He’s great.’ She smiles again but there’s a trace of embarrassment as her voice wavers.

At this point the shot pans out to show that she’s sitting on a stool with her arms resting against her lap. She’s dressed in a pair of jeans and a red t-shirt that
clings shows some of her cleavage. She’s obviously very physically fit.

‘So I take it you have an active sex life with your boyfriend?’ Asks the male voice.

‘Yes I’d say we’re fairly active.’

‘How many times do you Have sex in a week?’

‘I don’t know …we’re at it all the time!’

‘Once a day?’

‘More than that. Sometimes we can do it five times.’

‘Really? What sort of things do you like to get up to? Kinky stuff?’

‘Role play, a bit of bondage.’

‘Have you ever had a threesome?’

‘I have yes but only once.’

‘Was it with your boyfriend.’

‘No it was with a friend and her fella.’

‘Does your boyfriend know?’

‘…er…no.’

‘Naughty. Do you like big cocks?’

She doesn’t answer but feigns an embarrassed smile.

‘Has your boyfriend got a big cock?’

‘It’s big enough.’ She says quietly.

‘…and you like to suck him off?’

‘Sometimes.’

‘Do you want to show us what you’ve got then?’

She brushes her hair away from the side of her face, leans forward and draws up the bottom of her t-shirt up over her head, letting it fall away to her left to reveal a black brassiere, she then arches her back and reaches around with both arms in order to unfasten it. As the cups fall free the shot pans in closer on her breasts.

‘Lovely.’ Says the male voice.

The woman then stands up and takes off her tight blue jeans until she is left wearing just a thin strip of black lace that barely covers her crotch.

‘Can you just keep them on for a moment and turn around slowly so we can see your bottom?’

The shot pans back and focuses on the undergarment which nestles between her white buttock cheeks.

‘Do you want me to take them off now?’ She asks, turning around.

There’s no reply from the man. Her fingers pull at the string clasps around her hips, allowing them to fall free. I notice how the colour of her skin down there is paler in comparison to her stomach and upper thighs, she’s also got a small tattoo depicting a black cat just above where a cropped tuft of auburn hair grows, just below that my attention rests on a protruding thin roll of pink flesh. The shot pans out to a wider view to show her staring directly at the camera with her hands now placed on her hips and her shoulders pushed back in a way that accentuates the fullness of her breasts. Although there’s still a hint of embarrassment on her face her movements are now more relaxed and not nearly as stiff and jerky when she was clothed. She then sits back down on the stool and reaches down to retrieve from her bag what appears to look like a tube of toothpaste. She unscrews the top and squeezes out a portion of clear substance onto onto her fingers.

‘Ah the magical KY jelly!’ Exclaims the male voice.

‘Just to help get things started!’ She replies, a smile flashing across her face.

With her legs apart she reaches down and gently massages the vertical pink folds of skin before stretching them open to reveal the gaping red slit. With her other hand she applies the jelly substance onto the exposed area. At this point I detect a subtle change in her demeanour, there’s no trace of self consciousness or even an awareness that she’s being watched. After a few seconds she casually removes her fingers.

‘You are easily, the sexiest bit of fanny that I’ve ever filmed.’ The male voice enthuses.

Still seated with her legs wide apart she takes another object from her bag, it appears to be a smooth stick or wand, about six inches in length with one slightly curved end.

‘I’ve had this a long time,’ she says. ‘It’s a bit skanky but it does the trick.’

She holds the tool with between her open legs, the curved end is pushed up and clamped by the swollen red lips. She then effortlessly slides it inside herself whilst also rotating it slowly until only an inch of the base is visible. Over the next few minutes she continues to ease it back and forth, for the main part she casts a passive gaze to some unknown place that’s just out of shot until finally she abruptly removes it in such a way that it creates a loud wet popping noise. For a second she inspects the glistening curved tip before discarding it completely, she then selects another tool similar in shape but is coloured bright pink that appears to be double the size both in length and girth. She slowly inserts it inside herself and begins to stirs it around as though she were mixing some secret ingredient in her belly. Noticeably, her facial expression has become much more serious with her brow now furrowed and her eyes staring pensively, her nostrils seem to twitch involuntary creating are slightly more open flared shape and her lips pucker and quiver before she gently gasps for air. At one point a few stray locks of hair from her fringe become loose and dangle down past her eyes during, rather than brush it away with her free hand instead reaches down and vigorously strokes her red wet wet mound.

Her buttocks remain rooted and splayed against the stool but her upper body arches, causing her rib cage to train against her skin and her magnificent bosoms to heave in way that would suggest that she’s become set alive by some sudden surge of energy. She then starts to softly moan which seems to inspire the male voice to offer a lewd commentary.

‘You love playing with yourself don’t you?’ He says.

‘…..mmmmmmmmmmhhh…yeh!’

‘You know exactly what you are don’t you? …you’re a right dirty bitch aren’t you?’

‘….uuuuuuhhhhh….mmmm….’

‘If I was your boyfriend I would fuck you all the way back to the stone age!’

As her jabbing becomes more furious, her head rocks back and her hair flows wildly. Her eyes scarily roll in their sockets before she lets out a long guttural howling noise. Her eyes then close firmly shut and her body buckles in spasmodic motion before she slumps back against the wall. Finally just as the film comes to an end, she reaches down with an exhausted smile and loosens the tool.

I glance down at myself. I’m holding my penis in my right hand and I have once again ejaculated the white sticky substance. After paying another visit upstairs to the bathroom I return to the front room but this time with a roll of tissue and continue to watch more of these films. The next one starts in a similar way to the first film I had watched, in that it is situated in a well furnished apartment and is accompanied with soft background however this one differs in that there are no men initially present but four attractive women, three blondes and one brunette. It’s clear that they already know each other as they sit on a red leather sofa and happily chat together. After complementing one another on their fashion choices the conversation quickly turns to the subject of men and how much they seem to disparage of them. Surprisingly within just a matter of seconds they begin to kiss each other, strip off all their clothes and proceed to take it in turns to shave off each others pubic hair! After some lengthy scenes of sexual gratuity a tanned and well built young man appears from behind the sofa. He seems a little shocked at what he sees but nonetheless is easily persuaded by one of the blonde haired women to take off his clothes and join them. I have to admit I’m most impressed by his stamina as throughout the remainder of the film, he’s able to satisfy all of them in various positions …it’s definitely not something I could muster!

After quickly wiping myself down I begin to watch the next film. It has no dialogue whatsoever and simply shows a naked buxom woman whose pendulous breasts hang down as she leans over an extremely skinny naked. They both remain expressionless throughout but for just a fleeting moment when the man offers a few contended grunts as she clasps her fist up and down his erect penis. The screen then wobbles erratically and jumps straight onto an image of a different interior shot featuring a seated partially dressed light skinned with a slightly sullen expression. Then suddenly superimposed over the screen flashes lime green words that read BOOTY & THE BEAST DICKS. Next, two muscular dark skinned men stand either side of the woman. They are completely naked but for but garishly coloured face masks with just a few holes for the eyes, nostrils and mouth. I can’t help noticing that even in their current flaccid state, they both have exceptionally well endowed penises.

‘Me an’ my man here want to know if you’d like to party?’ Says the one on the left.

‘What do you mean?’ She replies.

‘Well you don’ need me to spell it out do ya? You know what I’m taking about!’

‘C’mon babe. You me an my homey gonna have a real good time.’ Says the one on the right.

And with that he takes her wrist and places it onto his penis only for her to recoil with a disgusted look on her face.

‘Oh c’mon now sugar. There ain’t nothin’ much to it. He ain’t gon’ bite yuh! Just give ol’ Mr Johnson a lil’ kiss.’

Warily, she takes the man’s penis in her hand, stoops her head forward and gives it a peck while the other man drapes his own onto her lap.

‘There that didn’t hurt did it?’ Asks the one on the right.

‘I don’ know about this. Your cock is bigger than a horses!’ She exclaims.

‘Ha ha ha!’

The film is interrupted by a succession of grey fuzzy static lines that gradually scroll horizontally down the screen. Once they’ve disappeared and the image settles, there’s a grainy shot of another interior however it’s unlike any of the other films I’ve watched today.

It comprises of black and white footage from one stationary overhead angle showing an empty corner of a dimly lit room with the figure of a man sprawled face down on a mattress. I’m intrigued by this, how could anyone want to film someone while they are sleeping? I continue to watch it for a few minutes at normal speed
before pressing the fast forward when at precisely one hour and sixteen seconds there is movement, it looks like two men. Once I’ve changed the speed to normal time I can make out that they are both stockily built as well as being identically dressed in dark t-shirts, trousers and heavy boots. There’s no actual audible sound on the the film but I can clearly see from their faces that there’s an exchange of words between them. Suddenly one of them pounces on top of the sleeping man. He moves his head slightly and tries to turn around but he doesn’t really stand a chance as the other man quickly has him pinned down, the second man then joins in and administers a few punches until his body goes limp. They leave him face down on the mattress for a few moments whilst they smoke cigarettes and exchange more words. Once they’ve extinguished them they turn their attention back to their victim just as he begins to stir. The first man kneels down on his upper back whilst the other positions himself at the other end of the mattress, leans over him and and roughly pulls his trousers down so his buttocks are exposed. I can’t be exactly certain of what happens next due to the poor quality of the film but I think he’s being sexually assaulted. After a while of this the two thuggish men swap places and resume their attack until at two hours and forty eight minutes they finally finish their torture, adjust their clothes and congratulate each other with a slap on the back before leaving. Still on the mattress, the man moves very slowly but is obviously in some pain as he clutches his stomach before reaching to his buttocks. Then what follows is most bizarre and a thing that simply leaves me dumbfounded. With a most disorientated look on his face he staggers to his feet and gazes around the room, it’s the first time I’ve been able to view him clearly and incredibly I recognise him …it’s me!

I try to comprehend what I just saw but there is only confusion and anxiety as I simply cannot remember such an assault. One thing is I am certain of however is that I have must not allow myself to watch anymore of those vile films or be manipulated by anyone ever again. That includes the voice that says it is Mike or the man who looks like Marvin! I must trust no one. Firstly though, I must remove all sources of negativity that could influence my present fragile state of mind. I will eradicate all trace of any sordid evidence that poses as a reminder of what may have gone on beneath this roof. I’ll make this place a good place to live!

Firstly, I scrub away all the spots of blood and other bits of flesh in the bathroom. Then I find some durable black plastic sacks and fill them with all the film cartridges and all the pages of the man that looks like Marvin’s manuscript. Finally I decided to dispose all of by burying it in the plot of land behind the building, it’s not ideal but I’m just about able to dig deep enough by improvising with the axe as a digging tool. Two hours later, just as the light beginning to darken I’m hoisting the sacks down into the earth when I suddenly feel as though I’m being watched. I quickly turn round to see a small elderly woman standing behind the wooden fence.

‘Hello. I see you’re doing a bit of gardening.’ She says with a smile on her face.

‘…er…yes.’ I reply. ‘I like to keep on top of things.’

There’s a moment of silence. Despite her warm smile I’m careful not to reveal too much to her.

‘I wonder if you could do me a favour?’ She asks. ‘Since I’ve hurt my back I’ve been unable to reach up and tend to my hedge. If you look you can see that it’s grown and beginning to look a bit untidy.’

I follow her gaze over towards the back of her plot of land. She’s right, that hedge
could do with a trim. As I look back at her smiling face gazing up at me I decide that it probably wouldn’t be too much of a hardship for me to help her. The job is a fairly simple one that’s made easier with the shears that the old woman supplies me with. She genuinely seems to enjoy me being in her company and plies me with numerous biscuits and cups of tea.

‘I haven’t seen you before have I?’ She asks. ‘Have you just moved in next door?’

‘Yes. Next door. That’s right.’ I reply.

‘Well I’m glad you are here. I never really got to know the previous occupier. He kept himself to himself you see. What is it again that you do for a living?’

‘ …erm …I work privately …in the disposal business.’ I reply.

‘That’s nice. I find that people these days tend to keep hold of things that are broken or serve no real purpose. It’s always good to have a clear out now and again isn’t it?’

‘Oh I agree.’

And then a strange thing happens. She places a quivering hand over my arm and draws closer to me.

‘Is everything okay? I just want you to know that I’m always available to offer any assistance if it’s needed.’ She says in a hushed tone.

She then just stares directly at me in a way that makes me think that she could almost see through me and know all the things I’ve been going through. For a second I even consider in confiding in her.

‘I’m fine thank you. I appreciate your concern but, no really…’ I say, my words wavering in the breeze.

‘Well you know where I am if you change your mind.’

I thank her again, hand back her empty cup and climb back over to the wooden fence to my side. Not soon after as I finish returning the remainder of the loose soil into the hole I notice her at her window watching me. I offer one last wave and go back indoors.

As I wash away the dirt from my hands in the kitchen sink I hear the sound of a car horn. Instantly I stop what I’m doing and go into the front room. I carefully stand to one side of the window and peep through the gap between the curtains, directly outside in the street there’s a black vehicle parked but with it’s engine running, on it’s roof there’s a brightly lit yellow sign with words that read FOR HIRE. I remember my conversation with the voice that says it is Mike and how a taxi would be sent to collect me.
So I stand there, with that fearful indecisive shaking sensation that I’ve recently become so accustomed to. I wonder if the driver has spotted me, it’s hard to tell as his face is obscured by the shadows. He activates his horn again, startling me. A few tense minutes later and with one final blast of his horn the vehicle slowly turns around and drives away. I exhale sharply and fall in a crumpled heap in a dark corner of the room, despite my sudden bout of self confidence of earlier I now feel as though I’ve been plunged into despair as it’s obvious the longer I stay here, the more I’ll just be a sitting target for whoever comes to find me.

During the rest of the evening more taxis arrive, one after the other they sound their horns and wait for me me but I do nothing. Eventually I take myself upstairs and crawl underneath the bed like the previous night. Although It’s uncomfortable it offers me a small feeling of security. I close my eyes and succumb to the warm drowsiness, it feels good. After some time I’m aware of a persistent nagging voice from somewhere in my head, warning me to stay awake and to be alert. At once my consciousness is pricked, I open my eyes and wonder how long I had been asleep. Then I have an idea, I reach around and take out the knife from my back and press the blade lightly against my forearm with the intention that it will cause me just enough discomfort from nodding off.
And so as the distant sound of car horns continue to punctuate my fitful bouts of lethargy I wait for the next day to come however I feel my thoughts are drifting amongst the darkness. I have no idea what time it is or how long I’ve been here, minutes could be hours and hours could be minutes. I open my eyes and realise my surroundings have changed and yet are familiar. I’m floating in an empty vacuum of pitch blackness. From above I catch sight of a tiny white light hovering gently, instinctively I try to focus on it but it flickers and moves away, becoming more distant. I then hear a faint echo from behind me, a voice, deep and muffled, talking in a slow but manner. I turn around, and try to ascertain where this person must be but there’s nothing but the the pitch blackness. There’s another voice, like the first the words are too faint to decipher them. Both voices converge and overlap the other before I hear another, and then another until it’s just all just hectic jumble of noise. A dreadful feeling of threat and fear pours over me, I try to find the light, reach out to it but it’s not there. Now the voices are louder and seem to surround me from all angles. I try to speak to them, somehow remonstrate my situation but it’s of no consequence as my own voice is barely a whisper in comparison. The voices lash at me and smother me until I’m sure they’re inside my head. I can no longer string two words of consciousness together.

I open my eyes only to close them immediately due to the harsh brightness of the light, it must be the morning. There’s a stinging sensation on the inside of my left arm that causes, I slowly drag myself from underneath the bed and roll my shirt sleeve up. The skin appears to have been cut with a sharp instrument as
there’s now a series of eleven evenly spaced red lines, each one being about an inch in length. I then notice the knife laying on the floor beside the bed, it’s likely that this was the instrument that caused them but I’m left feeling unnerved as I have no actual recollection of this or who was holding the knife. Was it me? Did I unconsciously inflict those wounds on myself or could it have been someone else?
I climb to my feet but feel myself begin to sway accompanied with a dizzy sensation rushing at my forehead so I take a moment to pause. After a few deep breaths I stagger through the doorway and onto a hallway and carefully shuffle down the staircase. When I reach the bottom I peer into the lounge, there doesn’t appear to be any furnishings! I step inside and it’s just an empty room, the television has is no longer there nor the chairs or tables, there’s nothing. Even the curtains have been removed!
Looking out of the windows and onto the street everything looks quiet, there’s no one about but for one solitary figure standing on the opposite side in between a couple of parked cars. He appears to be a light skinned youth dressed in a loose fitting grey coloured loose jacket that’s zipped up at the front and has a hood pulled up over his head. He has a scowl on his face that reminds me of someone, I know him. It’s Richard Rarsclarse, from the hotel.

He swiftly produces a bottle from beneath the jacket and appears to rub the his hand over the top before a flame erupts from it. Without further hesitation he raises his arm and throws it towards the building next door. The sound of a loud smash is followed by thick black smoke that billows onto the pavement. He stands there for a moment to watch his handiwork before he notices me watching him. With a pained angry expression on his face he picks up a brown concrete brick from the ground and hurls it directly towards me. Immediately I dive down to the floor just as the showers of glass explode into the room. I tentatively lift my head up to see that he’s no longer there however my attention is drawn to intermittent bouts of screaming from what sounds like a female.
I realise I have to do something to help so I quickly leave the room and pull open the front door until I’m standing there on the pavement, shocked with what I see. The smoke has become thicker and now pours out of the broken window, from somewhere inside the debris I can see large orange flames. I attempt to open the front door but I’m unable as it’s jammed shut locked, as well as this I find that the combining factors of the heat and smoke are making it impossible to get too close without recoiling in a fit of coughing. And so I stand in the road and watch powerlessly as the front of my neighbour’s building is all but consumed in smoke.

I return to the relative safety of my front room and gaze out through the broken window as a flurry of activity now fills the street. As well as a crowd of members of public that have stopped to observe, two large red coloured vehicles with the words FIRE AND RESCUE written on them are parked in the middle of the road, from them a number of burly sized men wearing heavy protective clothing have divided and cordoned off the area. Most of them are armed with long hoses that shoot out powerful bursts of water and soon extinguish the flames in a most efficient manner. Next, three of the fire and rescue operatives kick the charred remains of the front door down and charge inside the smoking building. After a tense few minutes they return through the smoke carrying a large black bundle of rags between them and proceed to gently place them onto the pavement, that’s when I realise that those aren’t rags, it’s the elderly woman whose hedge I had helped to trim. A transparent mask attached to what I presume to be a breathing apparatus is hurriedly brought forward and placed over her face however she remains motionless, the only sound to be heard is from the hiss and collapsing structures of what is left of the building.

Whatever the outcome of these men’s valiant efforts, whether the person lived or died I will never know, within minutes she is placed onto a stretcher and deposited into the back of another vehicle adorned with the word AMBULANCE before she’s transported to some other unknown place. Afterwards, as the crowd disperses and the fire and rescue operatives secure the area next door with sturdy metal partitions and large plastic sheets, I wander out onto to the pavement.

‘Hey!’ I holler, in an attempt to attract their attention. ‘I know who is responsible for that!’

‘What was that?’ Replies one of them, standing a good foot and half in height over me.

‘It wasn’t an accident. Someone started it. I saw everything.’

‘You got a clear view of them? Can you tell me what they looked like?’

Just as I’m about to offer a description, I pause and suddenly realise that whatever information I give now could draw attention to myself and as a consequence impact greatly on my own well being. It may be better to say nothing.

realise that my mind is suddenly a blank! …I have no recollection of the person

or even the circumstances that started the fire.

‘…er …it was a … I think possibly …er …an accident? I don’t know.’ I stammer.

‘What’s your name?’

I don’t want to even tell him my name so I remain mute and simply stare at him.

‘Do me a favour. Don’t waste our time!’ He says angrily before walking away.

In a daze I return to the lounge, watching as the crowd disperses and the debris is cleared from the street. Lastly, just before the fire and rescue operatives leave they nail a crude metal sheet over the broken window as a temporary means of replacement and in doing so, I’m left with just a tiny of amount of daylight to find it’s way through the gaps. I slump down to my knees in despair as I ponder my dilemma, I’m too scared to leave this place or even speak to people as a result I am nothing more than a prisoner in this place! That’s when from the corner of my eye I notice something scurry along the empty floor. Focussing on it, I see it’s just a spider that’s crawling towards me.

‘Hello mate, I just thought I’d come in from the cold.’ A cheery voice says.

‘What?’ I ask. ‘Are you talking to me?’

‘Yes, I hope you don’t mind.’ It replies.

‘What are you?’

‘I’m a spider! Pleased to make your acquaintance.’

‘I’ve had a terrible day.’

‘Well maybe I can help?’

I’m just about to going to tell the spider my problems when I stop myself and consider how it could be rationally for a spider to be able to have a conversation, even if it was possible how could such a small thing throw it’s voice at such a volume? I therefore decide that I cannot trust it.

‘Please just go away.’ I say.

‘Hey! There’s no need for that!’ It replies.

‘Yes there is. There’s something very strange going on here. I don’t accept that you are able to talk to me. I can’t even see your mouth!’

‘So whose voice do you think this is then?’

‘I don’t know. For all I know you may as well just be a voice in my head!’

‘Well that is nice isn’t it? I’ve never been so insulted in my whole life!’

‘I’m warning you! If you don’t go away now you’ll regret it!’

‘You can shout and scream all you want old chum but I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got as much right to be here as you have.’

‘Right!’

And with that I grit my teeth and raise my clenched fist in the air.

‘What are you looking at me like that for? No wait a minute …don’t do that!’

I then stamp it down on top of him.

‘AAAAAAAAHHHHH! …bas…tard!’ groans the spider.

I lift up my hand. The spider is now squashed matter with the exception of just two of it’s legs that twitch, weakly.

‘You’ve really gone and done it now!’ Say’s the spider.

‘No!’ I blurt incredulously.’How can you still be alive?’

‘I’m not a spider anymore! I’ve moved on. I’m now a voice in your head. If that’s the only way that you’ll acknowledge me then so be it! I have to say, I’m not very impressed with you!’

‘What?’

‘Who do you think it is? …it’s Mike!’

‘No.’ I say, incredulously.

‘You’re just in a state of denial. When I look at you all I see is a little man trying to get above his station.

‘…but.’

‘Spare me the innocent routine! I know why you started that fire. That poor sweet old lady from next door witnessed you burying those body parts in the garden and so you just had to kill her, didn’t you?!’

‘No. That’s not true. I’m not a violent person.’ I retort.

‘You even bumped me off a few seconds ago! Look at what’s left of me lying next to you! You don’t fool me! I know everything there is to know about you and your depraved ways! You’re a voyeur, a thief, a burglar, a beggar, a serial masturbator, a pervert, murderer and now you’re a liar! For those very reasons I’m going to switch you up!’

‘Why are you saying this? What do you want from me!’

‘You still don’t get it? Do you need me to spoon feed you like a baby? Okay, fine. There’s a simple honesty in what I do. I provide safe passage for the poor and maligned brothers and sisters that have struggled and fallen by the wayside. To put it bluntly, they need help! Unfortunately nothing comes for free in this world. There’s an obligation that needs to be served.’

‘Obligation?’

‘I require your skills …look, try and see it in a wider context. We live in a civilised world, yes? However in order for it to exist we need rules and we need to have a system that is not afraid to punish anyone that breaks the rules. I’m talking about criminality.

‘Criminality?’

‘Don’t interrupt! The concept is simple. Some people are born to fail while others are born to prosper. This is such a cliche I know but you simply can’t have one without the other. And so, grand designs have to be mapped out in order to steer the right people onto their road to prosperity and the wrong one’s onto their so called downward spiral, It’s a bit like juggling but instead of balls you use human lives. As you can imagine it’s not a small procedure. We’re talking about a whole population here, it’s a very complex operation.’

‘This isn’t making any sense.’

‘It makes perfect sense! It’s detrimental! If we didn’t have this system in place then the country wouldn’t be able to operate. If the screws pop out then the wheels will fall off too and if that happened then we’d all be stuck in the ditch! Therefore every last individual has to be accounted for. That means you too.’

‘You can’t make me do something I don’t want to do!’

‘You have no choice. You are merely a reflection of society.’

‘What will happen to me if I refuse to believe you?’

‘If a man chooses to ignore his duty then will cease to be a man. For fucks sake it’s not hard! Just do what you’re told to do. If you feel so guilty about it then you can always apologise afterwards. Actually I find that that’s always been very a popular response when a person wishes to absolve their sins!’

‘Please don’t be offended.’ I say. ‘I’m feeling very fragile. I can hear you’re voice …whoever you are but I’m not sure if you’re real or if you’re just a figment of my imagination!’

‘That may be so but look around yourself. What do you see?’

‘An empty room.’

‘Exactly. I’m all you’ve got left for company. If you want me to go then I will. It’s up to you.’

I consider my options. I’ve clearly got my reservations as I have no way of knowing if this really is the voice of Mike …I never even knew what he sounded like in the first place! However he does have a point, I’m all alone and scared. I need help. And so with that, I relent.

‘Okay. I’ll do whatever you want me to do.’ I say.

This is followed by a moment of prolonged silence. I start to panic, believing that I may have been too late in answering causing the voice that say’s it’s Mike to become impatient and leave me.

‘Mike? Are you there? Please come back!’ I beg.

Then, after a fraught and indefinite amount of time, the voice returns.

‘Good. I think we’re going to get along just fine. Now, I’m expecting a delivery. Be a good fellow and answer the door.’

________________________________________________________________

I peer through the small circular window that’s fixed in the centre of the front door, outside I can see a man carrying four large boxes that are stacked up on one another. I turn the handle and open the door.

‘I’ve come to deliver some items. Are you Philip Kratos?’ Asks the man.

‘Yes.’ I reply.

‘I need a signature.’ He says, thrusting a pen and piece of paper at me.

‘Just make a scribble next to the cross.’ Instructs the voice that says it’s Mike.

Once I’ve done this the man hands over the boxes and walks down the path.

‘Now, be careful with those,’ says the voice.’ There are some very delicate pieces inside.’

Steadily, I take the boxes into the front room and gently pace them on the floor.

‘Now what do I do?’ I ask.

‘Open them.’ replies the voice.

I begin to pick at the brown tape on the first box, pull a long strip away and prise open the lid. Inside, firmly pressed together are three large white bricks that fit exactly to the shape of the box. I tip it onto one side and give it a little shake until the white bricks come loose. As I take one of them in my hands I’m surprised by how by it’s soft spongy texture. I then notice it has a hollowed out circumference in it’s centre that firmly holds a plastic transparent sleeve containing the small chubby round head of a child. I respond to this gruesome sight by dropping it on the floor.

‘Don’t be stupid. It wont hurt you.’ Says the voice.

‘It’s awful! I don’t want to look at it!’ I exclaim.

‘It’s not real. It’s just a replica of a head. Look in the other boxes. There should be some other parts that go with it.’

Dubiously, I open the other boxes. They are packaged identically with one of them containing a small naked torso and the other a pair of arms and legs. At this point I’m starting to feel lightheaded and would surely faint but it were not for the voice that says it is Mike ringing in my head urging me to check that none of the parts are damaged. They appear very convincing, with every intricacy such as the creases at the joints and soft texture of the skin taken into account, this really is a work of supreme craftsmanship.

‘Now if you look in the box to your right hand side you should see a small plastic bag with the words dockyard confetti written on it.’

I look inside and see it attached with adhesive tape.

‘Good. Now take it out and pour the contents into the hole between the shoulders of the torso.’

It seems a strange request to do but I do it nonetheless. Taking the bag in my hand I notice that the bag is full of a combination of small metal nails and screws. Without further hesitation I hold the torso upright against myself whilst aligning the bag until they spill out of the bag with a rustle. Upon the voice’s instructions I unwrap the limbs and head then attach them to the five appropriate holes situated on the
torso until finally standing there before me is a naked little boy.

‘What do I now?’ I hear myself say.

‘In the second box you opened there should be two blue coloured cylindrical objects, these are called batteries. I want you to slot them in the compartment at the base of the child’s spine. You should be able to see to it by lifting the flap of skin that covers it.’ Says the voice.

I turn the child around and feel for the flap of skin before gently lifting back the thin layer to reveal a hollow square pocket that is otherwise featureless but for three small words that read MADE IN UK. I then take the two blue barrel shaped objects and insert them into the compartment.

‘Also, in the box, you’ll see a black metal rectangular object with the word ‘BOY’ written on it, please can you take that out too. This device is called the remote control. It controls the child’s movements.

I delve back into the box to look for the black rectangular object of which I find almost immediately. With a slight feeling of pride I take it out and cradle it in my hand.

‘As you can see, it’s got a dial on it that’s slightly raised. This dictates the direction that you want the child to go. If you want the child to walk forward then you press the top of the dial. For the child to walk left you press the left side of the dial and for the child to walk in the right direction then you press the right side. To make the child stop you press the middle. Do you understand?’

‘Yes. What happens if I press the bottom of the dial?’ I ask.

‘This will make the child walk backwards but to tell you truth it looks a bit unusual. The manufacturers tried to perfect a way of turning the child round but unfortunately this is the closest they’ve been able to come up with.’ Replies the voice.

Looking at the remote control I notice that there’s also a single red button that’s set in the top right hand corner with the word BOOM written underneath in white writing. For some unknown reason my thumb hovers over it.

‘Don’t touch that!’ Shrieks the voice. ‘That button is only to be pressed during circumstances of extreme emergency! Is that clear?’

‘Yes.’ I mutter, feeling a little embarrassed with myself.

‘On the base of the remote control there’s a switch with the words ‘on’ and ‘off’ written on either side of it. This will activate the child. In a moment I will ask you do so by flicking the switch towards the word ‘on’ however first you must dress the child in the clothes that are packed in the final box that you have. We can’t have a naked child running around!’

I take out articles of clothing, these being some underwear, shorts, socks, shoes and a t-shirt. Once I’ve dressed the stationary child I point the remote control towards him and flick the button to the on position.

‘Nothing’s happening.’ I say.

‘Wait a moment for it to warm up.’ Replies the voice.

The child’s chest then begins to heave and his mouth begins to twitch. He makes an ugly grimace and a succession of harsh wheezing noises before his face turns an awful shade of blue.

‘What’s happening?’ I ask.

‘Quick.’ Shouts the voice. ‘Give him a slap on his back!’

I waste no time in positioning myself behind him and bringing my open right hand down between his shoulders. He responds by making a high pitched yelp, some panting noises and finally a succession of wails.

‘WAAAAAAAAAHHHH …..WAAAAAAAAHHHH ….WAAAAAAAAAHHHH!’

‘He’s crying.’ I exclaim. ‘What shall I do?’

‘Be nice to him. Tell him it’s going to be okay …that sort of thing!’

‘Can’t you tell him?’ I ask.

‘No. Only you can hear me. I’m the voice in your head remember?’

I decide it best not to argue with the voice on this point and begin trying to placate the child by kneeling in front of him and mopping his tears with a piece of foam packaging from one of the boxes.

‘Don’t cry. There’s nothing for you to be getting upset about.’ I offer.

‘I want my mummy and daddy!’ The child shrieks.

‘WAAAAAAAAHHHH!’

This catches me completely by surprise as I wasn’t expecting him to be able to speak back to me. In addition, the suggestion that he has parents frankly leaves me dumbfounded.

‘He’s acting up.’ Says the voice calmly. ‘Children should do as they’re told. Make him aware that you’re not going to tolerate any nonsense.’

Before I can though the child has pulled away from me and bolted out of the room.

‘Stop him!’ Shouts the voice. ‘Use the remote control like I instructed you.’

I chase after the child. From the hallway I can see him flailing around in the kitchen so I aim the remote control and press the dial. Immediately there is silence. Not only has the child been stopped in his tracks but he seems to be experiencing some kind of full body muscle spasm.

‘What’s happened to him?’ I ask.

‘Just a mild shock to teach him a lesson.’

‘That’s cruel.’

‘He’ll be fine. He’s no use to us damaged.’

Whatever I’d just subjected upon the poor child lasts only briefly and although he’s clearly upset by the experience he doesn’t seem to be hurt.

‘Tell him to be quiet or he’ll never see his mummy and daddy again!’ Says the voice.

I decide that’s far too cruel for me to say instead I merely present the remote control up to his face and wag my finger in a disapproving manner. He responds with a sniffle. I then leave him to take a few minutes to think about his actions.

’Now.’ The voice says. ‘I want you to have a look in the cupboard underneath the sink. There are some items in I’d like you to assist me with.’

I follow his instructions and minutes later I’ve arranged a four white plastic bottles that are labelled with different words. The first one reads as LIQUID PEROXIDE, the second as NITROCELLULOSE, the third as FLOUR and the last one reads KENSINGTON GORE. In addition to this I’m told take find a metal bowl and a spoon.

‘I want you to open the tins and pour their contents into dish.’ Says the voice.

‘What for?’ I ask.

‘We’re going to make some porridge for the little one. It’s important that he keeps his strength up. Be careful that you don’t spill any on yourself and make sure you stir it into a nice creamy texture. It should smell of almonds.’

‘It certainly is pungent!’ I exclaim as the aroma begins to sting my eyes.

I’m not the only one that has my reservations about the murky yellow concoction I’ve just made as when I place a dollop of it on the spoon and serve it to the child he looks at it with disgust. I raise the spoon towards his face before pushing it into his mouth, he responds by spitting it out and waving his arms frantically.

‘Tell him if he doesn’t eat it then you’ll crush him just like you did to that spider!’ Demands the voice.

‘If you eat it it’ll make you happy …it’s a happy meal.’ I say to the child.

In an attempt to encourage the child I decide that it may be a good idea if I were to taste some so I dunk the spoon into the into the dish shovel a generous helping of the porridge onto it and take a mouthful. Immediately there’s a burning sensation that envelopes my throat, I then start to gag and involuntary retch up a combination of porridge and saliva. I spend the next few minutes with my head in the sink, eagerly gulping down the cool tap water in a bid hope to wash away the taste and soothe the pain. The child meanwhile begins to chuckle at my expense.

‘He can’t eat that. It’s disgusting!’ I proclaim.

‘Don’t be so sentimental.’ Says the voice. ‘Remember, you had to assemble him from spare parts that were delivered in a box!’

I find myself agreeing with the voice and decide to practice a more authoritarian approach. Of course the child doesn’t like it and responds by creating an almighty tantrum however I soon curtail with the help of a few stabs of the remote control, it’s not long before I’m feeding him the very last spoonfuls of the nasty sludge.

‘Excellent.’ Announces the voice. ‘I can see that you’d make good father. Now, prepare yourselves as we’re all going on a trip outside.’

The thought of leaving this place makes me feel a little apprehensive but I realise I allow myself to appear insecure in front of the child, so with his tiny hand pressed firmly in mine, we walk through the front door and follow the voice directions. Initially we find ourselves walking down the street, which is longer than I had expected also curiously it’s lined with on each side with red bricked buildings that conform to the exact same shape and size. Eventually there’s a twist in the road that leads us up a hill with grassy banks and trees. Somewhere in the near distance I become aware of a noise like none I’ve heard before. It’s like a constant chanting of multiples of chirruping joyful voices. It’s a nice sound and actually has the effect of making me pick up my pace and seek out the source. Luckily it’s also where the voice is intending us to go.

We turn a last corner and are at once faced with a large grey building complete with a pointed spire that’s situated on a flat compound concreted area, this whole area is enclosed with high metal railings that aren’t too dissimilar to the ones that also surrounded the hotel where I stayed. Inside this space I can see many children, boys and girls that are roughly of the same height, dressed in uniform colours of black white and blue. They’re all engrossed in playtime activity and as such everything is a whirling, jumping, skipping, dancing or running activity of movement and gleaming smiles. It’s a very charming sight indeed, even the ones that aren’t partaking in some sort of physical games, the ones that huddle around in conversation can’t seem to contain a burst of erratic movement be that a jiggle here or an bounce there. As l stand there watching through the gaps in the railings I can’t however help but wonder where all this enthusiasm come from? What is this thing that makes them so wondrously happy?

‘Stop daydreaming!’ Interjects the voice. ‘I want you to take the child to the entrance and let him join them into the playground.’

I look to my right hand side and see a closed gate, gently I placing my hand on the child’s shoulder and usher him towards it.

‘That’s it. Make it look natural, like you’re saying goodbye to him.’ Adds the voice.

The child halts with a worried expression on his face so I bend down until my eyes are level with his.

‘You have to go inside now.’ I say, in an attempt to pressure him. ‘You’ll enjoy yourself with your new friends.’

‘I don’t want to.’ He whimpers. ‘They’re all bigger than me.’

I turn round and gaze at the children, it’s true. They look like they’re all a few years older than him.

‘Please mister. Don’t make me go. I want to stay with you.’ He pleads, his bottom lip now beginning to quiver.

‘It’ll be okay. You’ve got much more in common with them than you have with me.’

‘Use the remote control on him!’ The voice says sharply.

‘No.’ I reply.

‘If you’re not careful then I might use the remote control on you!’ The voice hisses.

I’m not exactly sure what is meant by this remark but it has the effect of making me suddenly become fearful for my own safety.

‘You know what will happen if you don’t go with the other children don’t you?’ I calmly say to the child before opening my coat and showing him the remote control tucked inside the pocket.

‘No mister! Don’t do that. It hurts!’ He protests, tears welling up in his big blue eyes.

‘Then just do as I say!’ I reply.

The child gasps for air in a bid to stifle the tears before turning and walking slowly through the entrance. I can’t help but feel sorry for the little mite.

‘Pull yourself together!’ The voice barks. ‘Keep your eyes on that child.’

So I do. He’s wandering towards the centre of the playground and stops next to two boys who yap excitedly with each other. He moves closer to them but they cast a
suspicious gaze at him and merely move away. For a moment he stands there on his own while the groups of other children continue to play. I can’t help thinking how sad and lonely he looks. And then suddenly from behind him a much larger boy looms close. He taps him twice on his shoulder and squares up to him. The child is clearly petrified and responds by stepping away from the larger boy but he’s quickly flanked by another three boys with mischievous smirks on their faces. They start by poking and prodding at him with their fingers before they become rougher and shove him a few times. Some other boys and girls have noticed the altercation and start crowding around them. Unfortunately none of them offer to help him. They just stand and stare. The little fellow is knocked down to the gravel floor, he’s sitting there on his hands and knees bawling his eyes out while the mob scornfully shout abuse at him. The whole thing has escalated into something so very deplorable and ugly. I’m afraid I’ve let him down badly.

‘This must end now. They’ll tear him to pieces!’ The voice exclaims.

‘Yes!’ I say in agreement.

‘The remote control!’ The voice yells. ‘If you want to help him then use the remote control. Press the emergency button.’

‘What? You told me that I wasn’t supposed to.’

‘DON’T ARGUE! JUST DO IT! DO IT NOW! DO IT! DO IT! PRESS THE BUTTON!’

I can no longer see the child as he’s become completely surrounded by the pack of the little monsters. Then I see a plume of black smoke rising from the middle of them.

‘WAAAAAAAAAHHH …WAAAAAHHHHH …WAAAAAAAHHHH!’ Cries the child.

He’s in pain! What have they done to him? I realise that I must step in and help him, so with no further hesitation I run onto the playground.

‘Stop!’ The voice yells. ‘You’ll ruin the whole thing!’

‘Leave him alone!’ I shout, ignoring the voice.

I wade into them and wave my arms like a mad person until they scatter in all directions. When I see the child I’m dismayed to see that he’s now motionlessly laid out on the concrete. His head has become detached and smoke curls from the hole at the exposed neck where wires now poke out. In addition there’s also a trail of bubbling yellow porridge that has spewed out everywhere accompanied with that now familiar awful stinging bitter aroma. I kneel down next to him and carefully pick his head.

‘I’m sorry.’ I say, gazing into his face.

Suddenly the child’s eyes open and his lips form a twisted smile, his body twitches to life and rises to it’s feet.

‘You’re an idiot Phil.’ He says.

Before I can do anything it lunges at me and snatches the remote control from my coat pocket. The tiny fingers encircle the single red button with the word BOOM written underneath it.

The next I know I’m consumed by a blinding white flash followed by a deafening explosion. I’m propelled up into the air by the force of the blast. There’s a searing hot pain that whips me and causes my clothes to rip apart. My limp body gathers speed whilst my skin peels back and my veins sizzle. Pop go my muscles, leaving vapours of blood to hang in the sky. It doesn’t end there. I’m weightless and no longer feel any pain, not really feeling anything. As I watch the remainder of me, the bits that don’t melt, flutter back down to the earth like rags there’s the vague notion that I’m no longer inhabiting any sort of physical state. I continue upwards, higher now as the landscape effortlessly moves away from me. I marvel at the simplicity of how all the different rectangular shaped patches of greens, browns, yellows and greys fit alongside the each other. Just as the clouds envelope me I peacefully drift away into nothing.

________________________________________________________________

I’m gently lulled from the rambling images of my dreams by the distant sound of soft crashing waves. I stir with my face resting against the damp sand before managing to sit up. I’m on a wide expanse of beach with not another soul in sight. The only source of illumination comes from the sky, which is a murky stew of deep blues mixed with tinges of pinks and oranges. In front of me some metres away the white foam of the rolling tide dribbles up before it ebbs away and past that is the darkness of the sea. Behind me the beach continues some way towards a bank until it comes to a huge wall of jagged black cliffs that span my periphery.

‘Hello Phil.’ Says a voice.

I turn round to see a smiling middle aged man that’s dressed in an immaculate white suit. I’ve seen him before.

‘Mr Rainbird!’ I exclaim.

‘Mike. Please call me Mike.’ He replies.

‘You’re Mike? How?’ I ask.

‘Oh don’t worry about that. It’s just a technicality.’ He says waving his hand dismissively.

Strangely. it’s a gesture that I recognise as one that Mike would use in order to express a point. I then realise that his build and standing posture are the exactly the same. I sit there baffled by this and wonder if Mr Rainbird and Mike could be the same person.

‘Yes. It’s true. We really are the same person.’ He says.

Before I can broach him on this matter he places the palm of his right hand against my shoulder and sits on a large rock beside me.

‘There’s something quite magical about this time of day.’ He says, gazing out to the sea. ‘It’s that brief moment in between night and the break of a new day when the moon has all but vanished to just a faint outline and the first rays of the sun are yet to be seen. That indefinable moment of uncertainty of what lies ahead. Feel it hanging in the breeze Phil, brushing against your face. Breathe it in.’

He then takes me completely by surprise and causes me to jump by leaning close in to me and shouting ‘BOO!’ in my left ear. He then laughs and playfully slaps me on the back.

‘Okay, let’s see.’ He says as he takes out a little black book from his inside jacket pocket. He flicks through it casually only stopping a few times to read a few lines.

‘I clumsily duck down onto all fours and crawl like a petrified farm animal only stopping when my head painfully connects with a wall …hahaha …that’s very funny. So tell me Phil. Why have you been ignoring me all this time?’

‘I wasn’t aware that I was.’ I reply.

‘I’ve been with you all along. Look over here.’ He says, pointing towards two sets of footprints that run along the beach. ‘These represent the journey of your entire life. They trace every step, every moment even the one’s of indecision where you’ve strayed and become lost.’

I rise to my feet and slowly follow them until I notice a section where one of the set footprints have become faint and disappeared altogether.

‘Then where were you here? …and here?’ I say, waving my finger accusingly and pointing it at the undisturbed sand.

‘Those are my footprints. This is from a period of your life where you suffered with the hard times when you had no will left and were too weak to go on. I was carrying you.’

‘Why am I here with you now?’ I ask.

‘Why do you think?’

‘I have no idea. But I suspect that I don’t have much choice in the matter.’

‘You are wrong!’ He smiles, jumping to his feet. ‘You do have a choice.’

‘I don’t know what you expect from me.’

‘Let me help you. I can guide you.’

‘Why would you want to do that?’ I ask.

‘Because I like you. You remind me a little of myself when I was your age. Do you know what my impression of you were when I first met you? From your dour expression and bouts of long silences I recognised that you are harboured feelings of dissatisfaction with your surroundings. I saw an aptitude for learning and self discovery. You know, there aren’t many people like you Phil. There are plenty of talkers out there but not enough listeners. That’s right, yes sir! But I need to know for certain. Do you have that inner resolve that I can depend on when the whole shit house has gone up in flames?’

During this time of our conversation I notice how the sky has considerably lightened with the onset of morning and consequently, how the beach has been cast in an eerie pink glow. For the first time also I’m aware of the broken remains of a black taxi rested on the rocks.

‘Hey!’ I say pointing to it. ‘I hope you don’t think that I had anything to do with that! He drove off the top of the cliff on his own accord.’

‘It’s okay.’ Mr Rainbird says with a smile. ‘I’m know you’re not responsible for that …not directly anyway. Do you know what the problem is with this damp little country of ours? I’ll tell you. It’s full of complaisant little people whose only desire is to struggle all their lives. It’s not exactly surprising though is it? What do you expect from a society that brainwashes our children with petty the notions. Once you put things into a lager context I’m afraid you’ll find that things don’t quite add up. Example …we take the moral higher ground when someone tries to break into our homes and steal our belongings but we somehow it’s acceptable for the invasion of countries, the eradication of entire civilisations. The history of the world has always been born from rivers of blood. Murder runs deep within all humanities family trees.

‘I’ve never really thought about it.’ I offer.

‘There is no peaceful solution when your neighbour carries a gun. The only solution is to arm yourself. I’ve had enough of this country! I’m going to cut my losses and go over to America. They know what they’re doing. They have supermarkets that are open twenty four hours a day that sell guns to children! Now that’s a promising start! Holy cats and jammers, why don’t you come with me?’

‘I’m not sure if I want to. How are you going to get there?’

‘Haven’t you noticed?’ He says, pointing out to the sea. ‘The waves are flowing backwards. All you have to do is take a few paces and the tide will sweep you away to the old U-S of A. What a golden opportunity! It’s beautiful on the other side Phil, you’ll love it. You do realise don’t you, that if you stay here and disregard my word then it’s very likely that you will suffer greatly?’

I follow his gaze over my shoulder towards the foot of the cliff where parked on the sandhill is a stationary white vehicle with the word AMBULANCE written along it’s side. I consider Mr Rainbird’s proposition for just a second before declining him with a shake of my head.

‘Oh well, do what you will. It’s just you and the choir invisible from here on in.’ He replies with one last cursory look.

I watch him striding into the sea as the sunrise against the horizon. Then something extraordinary happens. Bubbles surface around him along with trails of steam that rise into the air. He seems quite unperturbed by this as he whistles a discordant tune and walks out deeper until the waves are waist high. Finally, the top of his head submerges with a hiss and he’s gone. As I stand there with the sun glistening against the sea I catch the sight of a single solitary white dove gracefully flying in the blue sky. I don’t know the significance of what this means but in that precise moment I experience an overwhelming feeling of calmness. It’s like a veil has been lifted and I have somehow sidestepped all memory of fear. There is only love. I follow the dove’s ascent when suddenly I spot a larger dark object come flying in from the left. It looks another bird, more angular and clearly much faster. It aims itself, swooping down towards the dove. In an instant it latches onto it with before carrying it back up to the dark cliffs. The shock of witnessing this terrible spectacle bears down on me and proves to be the catalyst that sets in motion a series of violent physical reactions. First there’s a shortness of breath followed by a sharp stabbing pain in my chest before I collapse onto the sand and double up in agony. I’m not sure what’s happening to me but I suspect that I’m having some sort of seizure. From this spinning world I sense I’m not alone.

‘Don’t worry mate, you’re going to alright. We’re here to help you.’ Says a voice, in a controlled manner.

Although my vision is now blurring I can make out a man staring down at me wearing a luminous green reflective suit along with a woman that’s dressed in the same way and busying herself with the contents of a plastic grey box.

‘Do you know what you name is? Do You know what your name is? Do you know what your name is?’ He repeats.

This strikes me as a strange question considering my the circumstances however when I attempt to tell him I can only manage a weak groan.

‘Christ! He looks just like a ghost leaving a seance!’ Exclaims the man,

The woman then leans over me, her nostrils looming like two black holes. She takes my right arm and applies some pressure to it before by injecting me with a needle. Almost immediately a cold sensation surges through me followed by a numbness which somehow miraculously takes away my pain. I then start to feel a wooziness that has the effect of undermining any understanding of the severity of the situation.

‘He’s going into a hypovolemic shock due to loss of blood.’ A voice says. ‘Pass me those swabs. The internal bleeding wont stop. We need to get him to theatre. We can’t do any thing else for him here!’

Theatre? Why am I going to the theatre? I don’t need entertainment, I need medical assistance. Who do these people think they are?

‘One-two-three- LIFT!’

Then I’m strapped to a metal stretcher with tubes attached to my arms and breathing apparatus cupped over my mouth. I appear to be in the back of the ambulance. Drowsily, from the corner of my eye I notice that my clothes have been cut up and lay in a heap, on top of them is a blue plastic tag that bear the words VOID IF REMOVED.

‘He’s going into hypertensive crisis!’

A tremor shakes through me that causes my entire body to buckle as though there were some errant power pulsing through me. The man and woman are leering at me with bared teeth and frantic expressions on their faces. They take it in
turns to slam down my chest with their fists.

‘Come on! Stay with me! Stay with me!’ The man snarls.

I definitely don’t want to stay with him if he continues to do that.

‘His eyes are open and fixed but there’s no pupillary reflexes. They’re dilating. I think that’s it.’

From some distant I hear a continuous melody that oscillates back and forth between two ethereal high pitched notes. Could this be the choir Invisible?

________________________________________________________________

‘Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining me today. My name is Doctor Jokapatruchka. As leading physician and surgeon I’m here to talk to you about a new medical procedure that I believe will radically change mankind’s perception of spiritual existence. I have to state at this point and make quite clear that I alone am not the inventor of this practice. There have indeed been many experiments in the field of anastomosis however it is to the best of my knowledge that my results will prove to be the most comprehensive and conclusive.’

‘And so now, ladies and gentlemen if I may begin …Jason, please could you dim the lights and show the first slide. As you can see here we have the first subject, a male who we shall refer to as patient A. When brought to me he was in an extremely critical condition. There was significant head trauma with the dorsal and ventral branches bearing deterioration to the peripheral nervous system. We can see that there’s a depression to the lower temporal aspect of the left side of the skull as well as lacerations along the left and right parietal area of the forehead. There’s also disfigurement to the skin with burns covering a ninety-eight per cent area of the body and face. Further tests on respiratory, cardiovascular, abdominal and neurological showed his symptoms to be unremarkable. In addition there was also substantial bone damage in various limb parts with breakages in both the Tibias and knee joints. There were some parts missing altogether such as the entire right forearm, left hand and most of the left foot. Some surgery was performed at this point as well as minor surgery to avoid prolonged bleeding from the wounds into joints, muscles and other tissues. As is standard practice we also made a compartment fasciotomy to reduce post operation swelling. Despite our best efforts however patient A showed no sign of recovery and was thought to remain attached to a ventilator in a vegetative state.’

‘Now if we move to patient B who is another male individual. Upon his arrival to the hospital there was no body activity. The results of an autopsy showed that he died from drowning with all characteristics evident such as the over inflation of the lungs, quantities of water and sea debris in stomach, a fine white froth lining in the airways and and some slight skin maceration. How he came to drown we can’t be certain however we do know that he had no external injuries or marks that would to indicate physical struggle with a second party. Perhaps more curiously, it’s notable that he had a smile on his face, it’s known that death by immersion can lead the individual to experience a last rush of euphoria, apparently being similar to that of sexual orgasm. It’s not unrealistic therefore to suggest that this individual was a victim of his own suicide.’

‘Going back to patient A. I was left with a moral and ethical dilemma. I had to consider what would be the most humane decision to take. Was it correct to continue treating a person that shows no sign of physical recovery or was it in his best interests to help him to pass away? I decided that neither would be my choice ladies and gentlemen. There was another option, one that would my ignite my imagination and wrestle my conscience into submission! First, my team and myself conducted a two day operation that involved cooling both of the patient’s heads to minus fifteen celsius. Next, the damaged parts of patient A’s brain cells were removed and similarly the healthy membrane from the parts of patient’s B’s brain were surgically fused in the A cranium. Fortunately, the base of the brain connecting the stem and spinal cord of patient A was undamaged with the cerebrospinal fluid still able to flow. I come now to the important part of the procedure …Jason, the next slide please, if you will.’

‘How many of you here today have heard of Radio-electrotransplantive therapy?
It’s not a new concept due to extensive historic research involving the experimentation of primates however it’s a procedure that had yet to be proven successful …until now. The programme requires that the patient be exposed to carefully controlled bursts of electricity between regular intervals of every six hours. After a week an electroencepha was used to record the patients neurol reflexes. The results showed an improvement of two delta waves per second. Compared to his reading of minus three just prior to the treatment, this was astonishing! We next placed patient A into a coma in order to allow for healing.’

‘After just over a month we gradually lowered the patient’s drug dosage. Immediately there was some indication of progress from a very visible twitch of his left shoulder. This was encouraging however we were careful not be too overly optimistic as it could also be attributed to involuntary muscle spasms. We next embarked into phase two and reconstructive surgery. Myself and my team had to literally rebuild sixty percent of him. We worked tirelessly around the clock to obtain as many missing parts from a wide variety of different donors consisting of terminally ill patients who were compatible with regard their to blood type, age and build. Infuriatingly, it has to be said that much of this time was spent waiting for one of them to die!’

‘We were lucky with the hands though, the gentleman that owned them, a Mr Matthias Linklater kindly donated them to us whilst he still had a few more weeks to live. As soon as they arrived we attached them to the patient by means of trimming them down so the bones could be fixed with screws. We then used a microsurgery to repair the arteries, veins and nerves until lastly the skin was sealed off at the forearms. It will take twelve months before he has any movement or experiences any sensation of feeling but eventually they should function just like yours or mine.’

‘With the restoration of the patient’s face although much more complex in practice it’s principally the same as the other body parts. Plastic and Maxillofacial surgeons remove fat, skin, blood and connective tissue from the donor. It’s placed on the recipient’s skull where we’d then reconnect the muscles and vessels. Look, notice how the complexion is bright pink, this is normal occurrence as the blood is being flushed before it soon dissipates into a more natural pallor. Following on, we needed to pay careful attention to how much the skin is tightened as the more tension there is, the more the scars will show. Scar tissue is unavoidable unfortunately however some will fade in time. Incidentally, the patient will not bear any similarity to the donor as we have chosen to alter his bone structure by means of sculpting and adding definition where possible. To some extent we can create what is generally regarded as an attractive face. It may be of interest to know that for our patient we used the likeliness of a deceased Hollywood film star!’

‘So ladies and gentlemen, you may be wondering what the future will hold for our young man. Of course he won’t be a normal person like you or I. He’ll spend his entire life on a programme of prescriptive drugs that that suppress his immune system from rejecting the brain, body and face transplants. In addition, with regard to his mental health, it would be wrong of us to expect that his faculties will not be impaired in some way however iI is hoped through close attention and comprehensive assessment that progress can be made. We need to remember that this is no longer the same person we started off with, it is our reimagining of a person! These are our first steps ladies and gentlemen, we have much to learn but I’m confident that we can usher forward a great new age of medical science. Think of it! What we do today is bringing humankind one step closer to Godliness!’

‘So please, for your kind indulgence, he’s only just been released from his coma this morning! Wide eyed and fresh faced! Please welcome the person formally known as patient A!

________________________________________________________________

I awake from my sleep. I’m unable to open my eyes due the fabric that’s wrapped securely around my head and face. I’ve no idea where I am, this is only compounded by my lethargy which prompts my thoughts to drift back towards that strange warm place I’ve been inhabiting. But they wont let me. They prod me, push and pull at me until I’m conveniently seated in an upright position in a chair. There’s the sensation that I’m moving, gliding through a myriad of alien surface noise that randomly echoes from mid to far distance. The most prominent noises are the measured soft footsteps that follow directly behind belonging to a female voice.

‘It wont be long now.’ She says in a calm reassuring tone. ‘This is a very good day!’

I come to a halt, a door is closed firmly behind me and whoever the woman was that was talking to me has now fallen silent. I sit there for a moment, confused and vulnerable. Suddenly I hear a voice from somewhere ahead of me. It’s male and is delivered with an assured clarity.

‘Did I tell you the one about the baby that was born with two heads? The extra cranium moved, smiled and blinked but was wrongly diagnosed as being a parasite. It ended up suing the Hospital for negligence and came away with a pay out of with thousands. The other head wasn’t happy though and wanted his cut!’

This is followed by instantaneous laughter by a large gathering of people. Instantly, the muscles in my arms begin to spasm.

‘So please now ladies and gentleman for your kind indulgence, he’s only just been released from his coma this morning! Wide eyed and fresh faced! Please welcome the person formally known as patient A!’

There’s some movement in front of me, the sound of metal hangers being drawn apart followed by more applause that abruptly curtails into a wash of hushed mutterings. Despite my blindness I’m all too aware it’s my presence that is making this crowd react in this way. I’m pushed slowly forward, exposed and closer to them, as a result I become agitated.

‘Sssshhh …relax.’ whispers the female voice. ‘It’s okay.’

Then I feel a gentle tension against my face as the fabric is unwound.

‘Can you just open your eyes for me?’ Asks the male voice.

I attempt to do so. There’s a slight pulling as my eyelids come unstruck followed by a searing brightness of light that.

‘Jason. Please can you dim the lights a little for our friend.’ Says the male voice. ‘As you can see, the eyes are very sensitive to these surroundings. At this point he will be very physically weak but we are confident that in a relatively brief period of time he will adjust and soon be up on his feet.’

As my vision adjusts the first thing I see is a large crowd of men and women staring at me. They appear to be dressed identically in white coats and are seated in tiered rows with myself in a wheelchair situated on the middle of a stage.

‘Three cheers for penicillin! Hip hip!’ Shouts one animated voice.

‘HOORAY!’ Replies most of the crowd.

Once the man standing next to me, the one who has presumedly who has been addressing this crowd manages to quieten them all down he turns to me.

‘Now my friend. I wonder if you could slowly count to ten for me?’ He asks.

I look at him, startled and unsure what he means with this request. Then. unexpectedly from somewhere deep inside my head I hear a small familiar voice.

‘One.’ It says.

‘One.’ I repeat.

‘Two.’ It says.

‘Two.’ I repeat.

‘Three.’ It says.

‘Three.’ I repeat.

From the wide grin on the man’s face I realise that I’m saying exactly what he wants to hear however whatever this trick is, it’s not something I’m comfortable with.

‘Four.’ The voice continues. ‘Five.’ It’s delivery is now faster and louder. ’Six.’ I quickly become flustered and find it hard to concentrate on which number I said last. ‘Seven.’ Someone then lifts a glass of water to my lips.

‘Eight.’ The voice says, causing me to splutter water all over myself.

I sit there paralysed with fear, gazing out at all the incredulous expressions before me. I try to open my mouth but no sound comes out.

‘Nine.’ Says the voice …but it’s my voice I hear. It speaks with my voice!

‘Ten!’ It says.

I don’t understand this strange phenomenon or how it can be using my mouth against my permission. I want to tell them all to stop this cruel game but again there are words. I’m rendered mute!

‘Do you know what your name is?’ Asks the man.

I search my mind but I can’t remember. I’m at a loss to answer him.

‘Yes. My name is Mike.’ Replies the voice.

‘This is incredible. He has independent thought!’ Shouts a man from the audience followed by an eruption of enthusiastic applause.

‘There is something else I would like to say.’ Says the voice defiantly.

At once the audience falls silent.

‘It’s better to live one day as a lion than a thousand years as a lamb.’

-END

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Paul Kristovic

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