The Boredom Artist

Ennui, stasis, liquefying putrid decay. The drip drip drip of the tap in your head. Replace the parts, flush out the system with corrosive rage. Break, smash, burn. Melted marshmallow screams. Faces floating, flashing in and out of the void. Words in a spin cycle, the hum of the machine, you try to crush your skull with your own hands.

The prisoner has no identity. He is hidden from all. Isolation. No one sees or hears him. Rip open your chest and hold up the bloodied pumping heart to the sun…the deception of flesh. Crush the heart and throw it to the baying dogs. Fill your chest with the emptiness in people’s eyes.

Walk among the barcoded husks living an illusion. Is it all a lie? Is it a test? When do we find out if we passed, if we won? In the afterlife when our souls are rattling in the Devil’s rusty jagged soup can?

Music, defiance, shifting realities, flat one dimensional words forming the DNA of new and different lives and yet…it persists. Deja clue. Haven’t we been here before? The stage, the players, the applause, the bows. Clenched fists of victory and hate. Banality. Tired pathetic excuses for human beings; zeroth dimensional cardboard cutouts. Sound bytes clack their teeth, hungry for the propagation of misery. Let us save you by casting more into Hell. The equality of suffering. When the fires rage the grubby puppets will have no more words. What a day that will be, they will be torn to shreds by the people they promised to save.

The annihilation gene has been activated. Reduce yourself to nothing then do the same to other people. Everyone has an opinion, or so they think, type furiously to defend or denigrate, it’s never been so important. Apparently. It’s ‘The Age of Frightenment’. An invisible vortex lives, breathes and fucks in the internet. It drags us all in, a virtual Cyclopic eye with teeth, crunching and munching our data, our habits, our photos, our words, our minds, our souls. It speaks to us even though it has no mouth. Whispering incessantly. Draining us. We follow, like, heart the show because we are in it. A global cast…the cabaret of calamity.

Oh wait, maybe someone has been offended by something, better apologise, make it sincere, preserve the brand. The fucking brand. Glossy mannequins dressed in flesh. Their fake plastic smiles are like coat-hangers with sharp shiny white teeth. Kill the savages! Who said that? Was it me or you? Or none of us? The voices. They are not real. Well, they are, sort of. Oh, yeah, I get it. Don’t forget to stream your suicide live. Thumbs up.

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Clowning About

So I killed a clown. Big deal. He probably had it coming. Freaking weirdo! When I say I killed a clown, it wasn’t like I accidentally bumped into him and he fell off a cliff, no, I decapitated him with an axe. His head flew through the air and hit a little girl square in the face. I burst out laughing. You had to be there really. The little girl’s scream was so shrill all the balloons popped. Everyone froze. The clown’s body was still walking, you know like slow zombies do, blood spurting out of its severed neck. The people stared at it then the head then back at me doubled over with laughter. They started laughing, they thought it was part of the show. A guy went to push the chest of the headless body, that was a big mistake. It grabbed his throat and started to strangle him. It went quiet again. Darndest thing, the severed head began to cackle, a real creepy psycho cackle. It got a bit hectic after that.

The problem with clowns is that they are like a piece of sellotape which gets stuck to you, annoying as fuck. Five of them were staring me down from across the main circus tent, their grins could only be described as murderous. They charged, hitting and hacking anyone in their way with tent pegs and swords. Everyone knew the sword swallower never locked his swords away. I booted the severed head into the lion cage in an attempt to shut it up. Lions are notorious for having no sense of humour. I ran from the clowns and people ran from me.

The circus folk were riled up. The fortune teller threw her crystal ball at me and it was raining midgets with flick blade knives as they were being fired out of the cannon. The strong man tried to chase me, you know the type, looks buff but those chicken legs can’t carry the weight of all those steroids, he collapsed in a wheezing heap. The circus master had lost it completely, he was blasting norms who crossed his path with a Schmeisser submachine gun. Showbiz just isn’t for some people.

I snuck into the main tent, it was quiet there, I needed to catch my breath. Next thing I know I am flying through the air whilst being punched and kicked. Damn. Damn. Damn. I had forgotten about the conjoined trapeze triplets The Damn Busters. It was like being pummelled by a human spider. Bounced and booted, I was getting a battering. Luckily an elephant careered into the tent. It was being ridden by the Angry Dwarf, he was chasing down the midgets, literally stamping them out. The elephant broke the main pole and we fell onto a trampoline and boinged into the gorilla enclosure.

This was a problem. Gus the Gorilla had vowed to punch me so hard that my face would turn into an omelette. It was personal, oh yes. I had rinsed Gus in a poker game and he found out later I had been cheating. Gus yawned lazily. There was nothing lazy about him, he did at least one thousand press ups a day. The triplets skedaddled. It was just me and Gus. He ambled over with a box and opened it. It was a chess board. Turned out he wanted to beat me intellectually not physically. He told me it was about breaking down stereotypes. He had been reading a lot of psychology books recently. Gus was a pro at speed chess, he beat me fair and square. I stood up, uttered a well done and went to the enclosure gate. It was unlocked. Gus could leave any time he wanted. Two zebras hoofed past. Someone had spray-painted them like rainbows, probably the clowns. I looked back at Gus, he had lit a cigar and was puffing contentedly. Gorillas were so obtuse.

The strong man and the triplets had teamed up against some of the clowns; arms, legs, over-sized shoes and squeaky noses were flying all over the place. I need a vantage point I could defend. I kept to the edge of the tents and trailers. I picked up a claw hammer and felt a bit safer after a few practice swings with it. I could hear an unusual noise, it seemed to be getting closer, I was trying to work out what it was when I was suddenly stabbed in the leg by the Angry Dwarf. I hit him with the claw hammer and he flew through the air and into a lion’s mouth.

I made it into the hall of mirrors. It seemed like a good idea because I would be able to see if anyone came in. I quickly changed my mind. One by one, a clown appeared in each mirror. Holy shit! A maniacal need to survive surged through me, it was hammer time! I couldn’t hear anything apart from their laughing and breaking glass. When it was over, I was panting, all the mirrors had been smashed. I was alone but I could still hear their laughter. I picked up a mirror shard and looked at the reflection…I was staring at a laughing clown.

Christmas Is Cancelled!!

The wife of Santa Claus was incandescent with rage. The whole year of planning was for one fateful night. Forget Amazon or Argos, Santa Claus delivered the goods when it mattered most. You have a screw loose if you think one guy can deliver presents all over the world in one go, grow up! There was a whole network of Santas who were trained in reindeer and sledge management. Usually, the whole process ran smoothly, bar the odd Santa here and there who got caught drunk sledging because of one too many sherries. But just like Mission Impossible such Santas were disavowed.

Only the CEO could call himself Santa Claus. His wife was VP and as she did exist as a woman in her own right so, no, she was not called Mrs Santa Claus. Seriously, do some research, Claus isn’t even his surname. She was called Mavis and the brains of the operation. No one could ever look at a Santa and think, yes, that is the guy who can project manage a global enterprise. He doesn’t shave and needs to lose weight, that’s what you think. This year Santa Claus told Mavis she could go on a girls’ holiday to Ibiza. Mavis loved house music and foam parties but rarely had time to enjoy herself since she got married. It was a last minute deal for the start of the winter club season in December so she packed her party dresses and flew out of Stansted. Mavis had e-mailed a detailed itinerary to Santa Claus and the elves to follow. Nothing could go wrong.

Except it went very wrong. She rocked up at the warehouse on 23rd December to find it ablaze. The accumulated stock for the year had been destroyed. It was a deliberate act of arson. The police found CCTV footage. Someone had slipped the reindeers ketamine and they had gone mental! They bolted with all the sledges and started chewing people’s faces off. The military were called in and assault helicopters blasted most of them to oblivion.

No stock and no transport. What of the elves? Turns out they all had a drug problem. The only way they could meet their deadlines was on speed. Quality control had literally gone up in flames. A brawl had started between the elves and Santas after a drinking game of ‘name the reindeers’ had turned ugly. No one was sure what sparked the melee. It was rumoured a Santa had Tweeted a photo of a leprechaun to one of the elves with a #yourmama (this was later deleted but only after it had been retweeted five thousand times in one second. Everyone loves a #yourmama unless of course it is your mama). Punches, albeit small ones from the elves were thrown, kneecaps were bitten and it snowballed. Most of the Santas had a drink problem. Who wouldn’t? Listening to little brats telling men on zero hour contracts all the presents they wanted. Get a job, you spoilt brats! Some think Margaret Thatcher closing the mines started the problems with children in this country as they no longer got sent down the mines to work and went to school to learn instead. No one would own up but several Molotov cocktails were thrown and whoosh it was a disco inferno.

Mavis had to go on The Official Santa Claus website to post the news that Christmas was cancelled due to unforeseen technical problems and outsourcing to an external consultancy company. Such was the online abuse, a sad trend in this day and age, the website had to be shut down. Children around the world were devastated. First they took it out on their parents by crying and shouting. The parents started to run out of valium and were drinking two bottles of voddy a day just to shut out the noise so they did what any responsible parent would do, they found scapegoats. Packs of feral children roamed the streets hunting for Santas and elves to dish out a kicking. Pity those poor fools who had committed to a Santa pub crawl in London. They were already drunk when they arrived at Trafalgar Square by ten in the morning. It was a massacre. Imagine ‘Lord of the Flies’ crossed with ‘Battle Royale’. They were fishing out drowned Santas from the Thames for weeks.

Mavis found out that Santa Claus had not returned to the warehouse after he had dropped her off at the airport. He was in big trouble with his wife and America. One of the reindeer had somehow breached White House security and had eaten most of Donald Trump’s hair live on television. The FBI issued an arrest warrant for Santa Claus. The other law enforcement agencies cooperated. Everyone was still angry about Christmas being cancelled. Mavis wanted to get to him first. Not out of wifely love. No. She suspected Santa Claus was having an affair. It’s all those little things that started to add up: different aftershave, a new shirt she had not bought, a beardicure.

Santa Claus was in hiding. Maybe Mavis wouldn’t have found him except Putin posted a video online of him beating Santa Claus in an arm-wrestling match. Putin agreed to swap Santa Claus for one of the face-eating reindeer. Mavis transported her husband home extreme rendition style, no more first class for that love cheat! She still needed proof though so she waterboarded him. In the end, he cracked, all men do. Quite how Santa Claus pulled Hilary Clinton was beyond Mavis, it probably involved cheap liquor in a pool hall on a Friday night in Washington. Mavis filed for divorce.

Merry Christmas!

The Horseman

seconds

minutes

hours

days

weeks

months

years

decades

centuries

millennia

hourglass

cosmic

the

cosmic

hourglass

 

so

many

too

many

words

Another skull cracked under my iron-heeled boot. There was no mistaking the dry splintering of bone. I smiled. How long had I been walking in the charred wasteland? It didn’t matter. This was my dominion.

credo

logos

nego

What did I believe in? I made my choice. I lit a cigarette, exactly the same way I always did. The others did not suspect me. Why would they? All that would ever be was written down. No one was allowed to read the scroll. Those were the rules. We were supposed to wait for a sign. It was a bit vague. One of us spent the equivalent of two hundred years staring at a traffic light until his head exploded. That was a sign alright.

What of destiny?

The traditionalists said the sun would go black and the moon blood-red. Which pretty much meant that when we ran out of tokens to put into the universe’s electricity meter, the cosmic plug would be pulled and those dimensions which had been so carefully folded into the unblinking vortical eyes of black holes would unfurl like the monsters from your worst nightmares.

The way I see it, even though I caused the end of the world, it was going to happen anyway so technically I had an alibi. What did you expect? I am one of the Fallen after all. The scroll was fated to be eaten. I sort of set it on fire.

O

O

P

S

!

Limbo was a neutral realm between Heaven and Hell. It was good to catch up with old friends and enemies. Believe it or not, we behaved ourselves. The war had been eons ago. Family is family. Limbo was just one massive entertainment complex – table-tennis, pool, arcade games, mini-golf with dwarf caddies.

The scroll was pinned to a wall near the cocktail bar. The parchment was supposed to be fire-proof. I sourced a special type of fire, God bless Bitcoin and the Dark Net. A massive fight broke out, everyone was blaming each other, you know how religion works. During the melee, I wedged open the trapdoor to Earth. The words fled the parchment, aflame in the purple sky, they sensed the noxious odour of mortality and thought they could save themselves. The words ignited as they entered the atmosphere. The humans watched in wonder…it was a divine omen. Well, not quite. I burned their sky. The blaze was awesome, it made Hell look like a beach resort.

In the beginning of the end, the Atomic Angel (That’s me!  up, if I haven’t already cut them off with a sword) torched the heavens and burnt the sun. The seas, rivers and soil were already polluted. If I was blessed enough to be given a brand new planet, I would keep it tidy. Sure, I would have a party now and then but I would always clean up the empty bottles and the bloodied cadavers the next day. I rewarded human arrogance with pestilence and contagion.

God resigned his position of CEO for this universe. If the truth be told, I think he had been considering a more lucrative offer from a parallel universe. Angels formed new alliances. Some went with God. Those were optimists, the second time lucky mindset. Those that stayed in this universe were the hardcore angels. The ones who wanted a piece of the action and had no problem with another almighty war. Earth was the only planet I desired. Jesus texted me good luck. He’s still sore about the Crucifixion. Talk about holding a grudge. He wanted to pitch in with me but his Dad was having none of it. Some angels did join forces with me. Naturally, I killed them the first opportunity I got. Never trust an angel.

Earth needed a reboot, or more specifically, the human race needed a reboot. No artifice was needed. I was open about who I was, what I had done and what I intended to do, which was to slaughter a quarter of the global population. It transpired that nihilism was a powerful motivational tool for recruiting an army intent on a scorched Earth policy. I even managed to teleport in a load of dinosaurs back from the past. I dumped them in America and China to thin the numbers.

Electricity doesn’t exist any more. I had stolen the Doomsday EMP from Heaven before they shut up shop. It was configured to fry any electrical circuits but also to detonate any nuclear device. Atomic sunsets were something to behold. No one was keeping count of the dead because, yeah, there’s no internet.

All I know that is my sword’s thirst has not been slaked even though it is drenched in hot blood and caked in fleshy gore. Remove the veneer of civilisation and the human race becomes noble in its savagery. I like them now. Well, the ones on my side. There are still a few pesky angels trying to muscle in on my planet. They want the kudos of killing me. Probably because of what happened with Lucifer. He tried to pull rank on me. Hell had become so decadent, there was even a roller coaster ride. Lucifer wanted to be by God’s side again.

I

 obliged

               him

                      by

                          lopping

                                        off

                                             his

                                                  head

                                                           …

                                                              …

                                                                 caput!

The human race had overreached themselves and no one had been prepared to do anything about it. Wallowing in their embalmed conceit, they had not even noticed God had abandoned them. I decided to give them a second chance.

I

am

Ω

&

α

I

am

DEATH

&

LIFE

I

am

ABADDON

Crazy Eye (extended version)

School was out! All the kids galloped towards freedom in case the scary headmistress, Crazy Eye, ambushed them with a last minute detention. Every student in the school lived in mortal terror of Crazy Eye. Not that they would have dared to call her that to her face. It was a nickname that came about from a mistake. Some parents had been talking at the bus stop and one of the kids thought he had overheard them call the headmistress ‘Crazy Eye’. Joey’s ma had been there and she patiently explained to Joey that the words uttered were ‘lazy eye’. Joey thought there was nothing lazy about that eye, it followed the students all over school. It was like the eye in the film ‘Flight of the Navigator’, except not as friendly; when no one was looking it would push out from the socket and peep around corners. Totally gross.

Crazy Eye had the supernatural ability to seemingly manifest from thin air. Even if someone had checked the coast was clear – empty corridors, stairs or classrooms – she still caught the offender red-handed. Many believed she was a witch.

Forget his first kiss or asking a girl out to the prom, Joey’s most nerve-racking moment in his school life was being summoned to Crazy Eye’s office. He got caught up in some trouble. It involved a girl. Doesn’t it always? Joey was sweet on Casey-Anne ever since their kiss underneath the bleachers. It was embedded in his memory. The sound of the basketball bouncing off the court surface, the stamping of feet on the bleachers, the cheerleaders swishing their pompoms, the uproar when the home team scored. He could feel something amazing was going to happen. And there he was, alone with Casey-Anne, hidden from prying eyes. They had been playing with a paper fortune teller. Joey was hypnotised as the folds opened and closed until it revealed its message, a scrawled red heart. Their kiss tasted of strawberry laces. Casey-Anne was Joey’s first kiss and his prom date. Between those two events was the school bully, Brad ‘Biffer’ Dubicheck. A hulking creature who could only express himself with short words and meaty punches. His activities mainly involved extorting lunch money or Hershey Bars and being generally unpleasant.

Joey was walking with Casey-Anne, heading to the school library, when their path was blocked by Brad. Joey’s instinct was to turn and head off in the opposite direction. Before he could grab Casey-Anne’s hand to make a tactical retreat, he heard her speak.

“Brad Dubicheck! Aren’t you just the most horrible boy in the ENTIRE school!”

There were gasps from other students who were in the vicinity. Brad blinked like Casey-Anne had punched him in the face. This was uncharted territory. No boy had ever challenged Brad. Even the vaguest murmur of a protest meant the kid would end up with a busted lip. A girl standing up to Brad was huge, bigger than an 80s perm. Joey would have loved to be a bystander but he was part of the drama. Joey didn’t speak because his mouth was completely dry. Brad didn’t speak because his was brain was still trying to process what was happening. Casey-Anne fixed Brad with a stare, she put her hand on her hip and followed up with her next missile strike.

“Well, are you going to get your big butt out of the way?”

The tension was unbearable. A girl half-screamed and fainted. No one went to pick her up, they couldn’t risk missing anything. This story would make the whole school year worthwhile. Forget about average grades or pushy parents, this would cement status if you could start a sentence with “Were you there when Casey-Anne smart-mouthed Brad Dubicheck?”

The confusion cleared from Brad’s face, the brain had caught up. His right hand batted Casey-Anne’s left shoulder so roughly that a book fell out of her bag. Brad sneered at her.

“I’m gonna dump your book in the toilet!”

Joey saw red. He ran at Brad and pushed into him with both of his hands. Brad toppled over like an upside down windmill. Oh crap! Joey looked at his hands as if they were possessed. Brad hauled himself up and pinned Joey to the wall. Joey was ready to be pounded back to the Stone Age.

A voice sliced through the air and students shrunk away. Crazy Eye had been drawn to the disturbance.

“Brad Dubicheck, Joey Stevens, my office, now!”

Crazy Eye dispensed with Brad quickly.

“This was your last strike. This school has no place for you. You are expelled, clear out your locker. The school secretary will phone your mother.”

Joey kept his eyes fixed on the tips of his sneakers. Expulsion! Brad shuffled out of the office in silence. Then it was just Joey. What was he going to say to his parents? There was only one school in his town. Would his parents kick him out of the house? He might end up like one of those drunken bums that were always slumped outside Piggly Wiggly stores. Or maybe they would send him to a military academy in Alaska? Crazy Eye wasn’t saying anything. It was freaking him out.

“Joey, I believe you have a study session in the library, I suggest you make up for lost time.”

“What?”

“Are you deaf, young man? Back to your studies!”

Joey skedaddled.

This June was the hottest Joey could remember. The four weeks at the family cabin was always the highlight of his summer. The lake was an hour away from town. Joey’s pa drove all the way with the windows down. Joey had his head stuck out of the window, enjoying the breeze until his ma told him off. He still got a thrill as they passed the sign which said ‘Private Land’ and headed up the long narrow winding road to the lake. Their cabin was two hundred metres from the water. There were other cabins dotted around the perimeter of the lake and more still at the end of dirt tracks which peppered the woods.

After Joey had helped his parents, he ran down the slope to the jetty. As usual, Jeb was sat at the end of it with a fishing rod and a craftily concealed hip flask. Jeb was a grizzled old man who kept an eye on the cabins out of season. He was also Joey’s friend. Jeb had taught him to fish and told him stories. Joey handed over the bottle of rye his parents always bought Jeb. He chuckled and ruffled Joey’s hair. Joey told Jeb all about Brad because it was his biggest news ever. Well, the kiss with Casey-Anne was big too but Joey reckoned that wasn’t suitable man talk.

“It takes guts to stand up for someone, you did good, champ!”

Joey spent the afternoon fishing with Jeb until his ma reeled him in for dinner.

Maybe Joey was emboldened by events at school. One day, he decided to explore the woods on the far side of the lake. It was uncharted territory and a big adventure. Sunlight filtered through the leafy boughs. He saw two raccoons racing through the undergrowth and left the path to see where they were heading. Joey discovered a cabin far away from all the others. It had a rusty pick up truck parked outside of it. He could see animal skins pegged out on wooden pegs. It was real creepy. He tiptoed away. His nerves were jangling, he was sure someone was watching him. Joey panicked and started running. He tripped over a rotting log. The log split and it was teeming with maggots and weevils. A shadow loomed over him. Brad Dubicheck was holding a large stick and he struck Joey in the face with it. Joey could taste blood in his mouth. Brad had a cruel smile as he thwacked his victim again and again. Joey raised his arms to protect himself.

It was a miracle. The beating stopped. Brad let out a shriek and ran away. Joey realised someone was standing behind him. Crazy Eye had grabbed the stick from Brad and snapped it. She helped Joey up. They walked to another part of the woods. Crazy Eye had her own cabin. She cleaned up Joey’s bloodied lip and gave him a glass of homemade lemonade.

“Miss Jefferies, please don’t tell my parents I was beat up. I’ll say I was fooling about up a tree and fell.”

“I understand. We will make a deal.”

“Okay.”

“Will you stop calling me Crazy Eye?”

Joey blushed. They shook hands like two grown ups.

“When I was a teenager, Joey, I was attacked by a bully with a stick. That is why my eye is the way it is. Someone found me crying in the woods that day and I made him promise not to tell anyone what happened. I told my parents I fell out of a tree too.”

They walked back to the lake in silence. Jeb had finished fishing for the day and was carrying his rod and cooler when he spotted them. His eyes narrowed when he saw Joey’s lip. Miss Jefferies told Jeb that Joey had fallen out of a tree just like she did all those years ago.

Joey’s ma scolded and fussed over Joey in equal measure. Before he went to bed, Joey happened to look out of the window and saw Miss Jefferies talking with Jeb.

Three days later, a deputy knocked on the cabin door. He was speaking with Joey’s parents. Joey opened the door of his room so he could eavesdrop. Something had happened to Brad Dubicheck! The deputy asked Joey if he had seen any strangers hanging around. Joey clammed up. He couldn’t betray Miss Jefferies after she had helped him. He wrestled with his knowledge. It was like his insides had a hook caught up in them. What should he do? He didn’t eat much dinner. Miss Jeffries had been so nice to him. Had she done something to Brad? He was scared. He had been sleeping with his window ajar during the night, now he locked it up and rattled the window frame to make sure it was secure. His ma and pa attempted to reassure him he was safe. Except they also told him not to go anywhere by himself.

The next day Joey confided in Jeb.

“If someone did something bad, should I tell?”

Jeb patted Joey on the back.

“Kid, you’re at that age where everything is changing, nothing can ever be the same again. Do what you think is right. Have a swig of my rye, don’t tell your ma!”

The drink tasted foul and made Joey’s throat sting. After Joey stopped coughing, Jeb asked him to help bait his hooks. They caught three fish and one was wrapped up for Joey. The sun was beginning to dip into the lake when a voice called out.

“Jeb, let the kid come over to us!”

Jeb and Joey looked over their shoulders. The Sheriff and a Deputy both had their guns drawn. Joey could see his parents being held back by two other deputies. What was happening?

“Best take your fish and be with your pa and ma.”

Joey’s heart was thumping. They had the wrong person. Tears welled up in his eyes. Why was Jeb getting the blame?

“I won’t leave you. I know who they should be arresting, I can tell them!”

Jeb gave Joey a gentle squeeze on the shoulder. And spoke in a clear voice.

“One thing that always burns me up are bullies. Can’t stand ’em. Some people are borne mean nasty varmints. Others are good decent people. Take Eileen Jefferies. Almost lost an eye. Attacked by Mike Dubicheck, a wild dangerous boy. Why? Because she was the smart girl in class. Eileen believed in giving people a second chance because everyone makes mistakes. Don’t see how almost taking someone’s eye out is a mistake but I promised to button my lip. Turns out Mike Dubicheck’s second chance ended up with a DUI, he crippled a girl, did some time in the can. When he came back he was worse than ever. Married a girl, had a kid and whupped them both whenever he felt like it. By then Eileen was a teacher at your school. I saw him harassing her in town, calling her a freak on account of her eye. A fever took a hold of me. I followed him about as he got thrown out of bar after bar. I rolled my window down, told him I was heading up to the lake and had beers in the truck. He didn’t remember me being the guy who chased him off all those years ago. He was as drunk as a skunk when I parked up on his side of the lake. I hit him in the head with a rock and dragged him to the edge of the lake. I held his head underwater until he stopped kicking. I let him float away. The investigation recorded it as an accidental death.”

Joey couldn’t believe his ears.

“I have carried that murder around with me for years, it wears a man down. I sit here by the lake and every day I reminded of what I did. I was no better than Mike. Maybe how Brad turned out was my fault given I killed his pa. Anyways, I thought if I spoke to Brad’s ma, she could rein him in. She was a real hostile woman, started waving a hunting rifle about and things went wrong. She took a tumble and her neck gave out. Same time, the rifle went off, drilled a hole clean through Brad’s head. I won’t be around here no more. I’ll miss you. Run along now, son.”

Joey’s world was upside down. He walked towards the Sheriff and Deputy who were beckoning to him. Once he passed them, they charged towards Jeb. The bottle of rye next to him was knocked over as they tightened the handcuffs around his wrists.

That was the last family holiday by the lake. Pa Stevens sold the cabin. He didn’t want to but Ma Stevens was insistent.

When the holidays were over, it was back to school. Joey was going steady with Casey-Anne. Joey had an untouchable status in school now. He had stood up to Brad Dubicheck and that same summer Brad was chopped up by a psycho killer who happened to be Joey’s pal. Joey had tried to explain there was no chopping, no one cared. Brad’s death became school legend. When the Sheriff opened the cooler, instead of fish he found Brad’s severed head and puked all over it.

Miss Eileen Jefferies was walking down the corridor, Joey was by his locker, he smiled at her, she smiled back. Joey had never noticed what a pretty smile she had.

C=at²

You have probably heard of me, except you have not. Ay, there’s the rub. Rub denotes friction and that has to matter. An ongoing battle of creation and annihilation and sublation. What about dark matter, I hear you murmur? Scientists say it exists. Where is the proof? Theory is sufficient. All they know is that something is out there. Ooh, spooky!

Ergo quod non erat demonstrandum, dark matter is God. Or a god. Or a collective of gods. The rungs are slippery when you start playing Jacob’s Ladder. Imagine the kerfuffle if scientists discovered they actually worshipped a deity because of an erroneous equation? How would they square that off?

Maybe I am a god? Accuse me of blasphemy all you like, wage a holy war against me. You will never find me. I am in lockdown, Guantanamo Bay style, but in a more (in-)finite way than you could ever imagine. No orange boiler suit for me. I do like orange though, it brings out the colour in my eyes. Your souls are stuffed full of my eyes – I see you all. Melting pots of jumbled protons, electrons and neutrons. Throw in some Higgs bosons for seasoning and you are ready to be served up as stardust to the cosmos.

I digress. Excuse my manners, I am a bit quarky at the moment. Those tech anarchists fired up the Large Hardon Collider again. Oops, lapsus lingus, I meant Hadron. A Big Bang always gives me a headache. Seriously, they will not be happy until they accidentally open up a black hole then…blip! Has anyone seen Switzerland? It was here a minute ago.

If I had my way I would focus the LHC’s energy up into the sky, dial in the numbers for a collect call and bring back David Bowie. A rather sublime deus ex machina. The starman has to be floating somewhere up there, dancing to some cosmic jive. Shiny tin cans rocket into space and zip around the Moon looking for Buck Rogers. Life on Mars? Absolutely. Why do you think so many probes malfunction near that planet?

The LHC is a magnificent apotheosis of our evolutionary creation. It is perfect. If it spoke it would have exactly the same voice as HAL – calm, reassuring, psychotic. I have a recurring nightmare that I am being murdered by a calculator. Surely there has to be a finite set of equations for this?

Trinity was a technological terror which blossomed into a beautiful atomic horizon. The Alpha and the Omega. That was a day for designer sunglasses – ‘Would you prefer Armani Armageddon or Versace Vortex to watch the end of the world, sir?’ – as the sky was riven with fires of golds, purples and blues. Scientists are the destroyers of worlds, except they like to call it progress.

The LHC is progress.

Miaow! I will calm down. Physics is a divisive topic, just ask the atom. Physics can be a Bohr and you may feel like a Planck but ultimately you do not need to be an Einstein to understand the basics.

Here is my take on it…

Reality exists as much as it does not exist. The universe is flux and you are fluxed if you cannot get that into your head, if indeed your head is even real. Flux is both constant and inconstant. Uncertainty is the only certainty. So to sum up, there could be a human out there who could make your head explode through the power of thought.

Despite everything, I believe I have a place in this world. People have written about the presupposition of my existence within an equation. It is not so much quantum superposition as quantum superstition. Alive and dead at the same moment in/out of and beyond time…aren’t we all?

I find the experiment to be fallacious. Where is the saucer of milk?

I reject the premise there is more than one of me. That is the whiff of righteous mortality. I do not care about this entangling malarkey because I have been falsely imprisoned in a chamber with radioactive matter and poison.

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you, Schrödinger?

Oh! The cat is out of the metaphysical bag now, if you had not already guessed.

All I ever wanted was a name.

Echo

The horizon was tinged with wispy tendrils of the sun’s fading fire. Shadows tentatively crept out of their diurnal prisons reclaiming their domain of sepulchres filled with dusty relics. The cemetery was a sanctuary for the shadows; they could swathe themselves in melancholy, silence and solitude.

The shadows whispered to one another and the trees rustled uneasily…something was out of place. A girl was sitting on the edge of a tomb. She was wearing scuffed Doc Marten boots, ripped fishnet tights, a short black leather skirt and a black t-shirt with the image of a bleeding heart. Her sandy-coloured hair looked brittle, like it would snap if someone tried to touch it. Black lipstick and deliberately overdone black eye-shadow could not detract from her brown eyes which were overflowing with soul. What was the girl doing here? They decided to observe her.

Priscilla brushed broken twigs and desiccated leaves from the tomb until she could see a name, she read out aloud: Jacques De Villiers! Angels carried him up to the heavens on 2nd July 1886.

The persistence of memory. That was Priscilla’s affliction. What made a tomb? Masonry, marble, grandeur, inscribed words or the skeleton within? Walk through a cemetery, read the names and messages, you can feel an echo of love and loss still lingering, cheating the fickleness of Father Time. The deceased persist in our memories and when we, the torch-bearers of their lives fade, cemeteries are their enduring testament.

Priscilla knew she should not be here. How was it that her journey had started at the end? It did not make any sense. A cemetery was definitely the end of a journey. The things she had seen – wondrous horror and terrible beauty. She lit a cigarette. She could sense the shadows were watching her.

“Do not fret, my sable friends, all will be revealed!”

The shadows rippled. This girl was strange.

“I will tell you a story!”

The shadows stretched closer towards her.

‘A noble family with one heir; the son was raised in the manner of a prince. The widowed father’s design was to have his son marry into royalty and promulgate the family lineage. While Jacques was well-versed in societal protocols, he found his peers to be frivolous and shallow. The De Villiers’ estate was large and renowned for its game. Jacques hunted to avoid the presence of simpering girls tittering behind bejewelled brocaded corsets.

It was during a pilgrimage in the forest when he chanced upon her…a girl unlike any other. She moved with the natural grace of her arboreal surroundings. Her clothing was smudged, the hem of her dress was bedraggled and she had dandelion seeds caught up in her flowing hair. He remembered his botany classes and without thinking spoke aloud.

“Did you know the botanical name for the dandelion is Taraxacum officinale?”

The girl whirled around, grasping a hatchet.

“Peasants call it pissenlit!”

Jacques was taken aback. Nothing in his education had prepared him for this encounter.

“I meant no disrespect.”

“If you touch me, I will hack you to death!”

Jacques laughed. He was smitten. He would often seek her out in the forest. She would always ignore him when he spoke to her about books he had read. The girl loved his stories. She did not understand this strange man at all. One day she would consent to tell him her name. Their lives were intangibly different yet neither of them had ever been so happy.

Charles De Villiers had noticed a change in his son’s demeanour. He charged one of his servants to spy on Jacques. Bernard was a shifty fellow. He reported his findings to his master with glee. Charles was furious! This peasant was a passing fancy. His son was defying him. Charles paid Bernard to remove the problem. The De Villiers’ bloodline could not be tainted.

The girl was missing and Jacques was frantic. He spent every waking hour in the forest searching for her. Charles asked Bernard to bring the girl back. Bernard smirked.

“She was a feisty one, attacked me with a hatchet. I threw her down a well.”

“She is dead?”

“Very.”

Charles could not tell his son the truth, he was quasi-insensate without that damned girl. Time would temper his son’s current fever.

Jacques emerged from the forest one night and saw Bernard chopping kindling. He sat down on a log to watch. Bernard was uneasy. Had the old man let something slip?

“Permit me to assist you, Bernard, it would alleviate my nerves.”

Bernard was bemused but acquiesced. Jacques studied the hatchet Bernard had handed him.

“She never would have surrendered this, it belonged to her father.”

Bernard cursed himself. It had been too fine a hatchet to throw into the well. Death blazed in Jacques’s eyes as he advanced on Bernard. The servant fell backwards, scrambling in the dirt. Jacques gripped Bernard’s left wrist, pinning the hand to a log. The hatchet flashed hungrily in the moonlight. Bernard screamed in horror and grabbed his severed hand. He garbled about following orders and a well. The babbling stopped. The hatchet was lodged in Bernard’s skull.

Jacques ran amok, setting the family mansion aflame. Charles saw his son disappear into the forest and dispatched servants to retrieve him. They followed the glow of Jacques’s torch as it flitted in the darkness until it stopped moving. They were too late. Jacques had flung himself into the well to be with his love.’

The shadows sighed.

Priscilla took one final drag of her cigarette.

“It is a terrible thing to know your loved one will never know your name. It took me three days to die in that well.”

Priscilla lay on the tomb.

“I could not let death keep us apart, your Priscilla is here for you.”

The shadows watched in rapt amazement as a phantasm manifested; it embraced the prone girl and pulled her gently into the tomb. Dandelion seeds floated by in the breeze.