Monday, 31 October 2011

The Dew

In the stories he filed he saw himself, when he interviewed the subjects he saw himself and when he turned on the television or read Dostoevsky he saw himself. When he brushed and barged his way down Oxford Street he saw himself but when he did his sums he was noticably absent. Every night he opened up the books, and in later years the laptop, and knuckled down but something didn't add up. It was awfully confusing.
His wife mocked him mercilessly, if affectionately. They harmonized. Some nights she sat in the corner reading to the soundtrack of his mumbled frustration, others she left him to it and went out with friends to sit in bars unravelling living soap operas or laughing at minor idiocies. By day she dealt in gluons and leptons.

The night that he leapt from his seat and punched the air he found her absent. He called her name and met with silence. The only alcohol he knew of in the house was a bottle of Pernod, a relic from a boating holiday long passed. He topped up a glass with an equal measure of tap water, retook his seat, rubbed his eyes and stared through the screen. Half an hour later he repeated this sequence.

She found him shortly after midnight, dribbling onto the desk with the tumbler at his feet. She closed the curtains and switched off his laptop, sure to save any open documents, before she lifted him carefully, arms under his shoulders, and dragged him over to the bed. She took off his shoes as some form of growl emerged from the stupor. She lay him sideways and drew up the duvet. His hair had flopped over his eyes and with two delicate fingers she brushed it back.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Orthodox Waistcoat

"We gathered for the funeral, every one of us. All in one room, it was the first time for perhaps fifteen years. No one spoke. Every eye held only bewilderment.

Luke himself I hadn't seen since the summer of 2001. At six in the morning we'd sat on a sofa, surrounded by sleeping forms covered in blankets, or not, drinking port on the rocks out of coffee mugs; Creme Egg and Twix. That detail I remember because when we finally conceded defeat we lobbed them over the garden wall into the school playground next door. There is no 'why' when you're that mashed.

We listened to Bowie, the Berlin stuff. I remember being surprised that Luke liked that shit. I always thought of him as being harder edged; aggression over introspection, class battlefields over distopian cityscapes, humour over intellect. Unfair I know. Aren't we always?

"Always crashing in the same car" he said, "That's me."

He told me how he tried but something always dragged him back, how he was a good person who made mistakes, wittingly. That's what he said: Wittingly. I'm not even sure if that's a word. Doesn't sound right. Is it a mistake if you know you're doing it? I suppose it is but it sounds wrong. A mistake is what you make when you forget to carry a 7 in a maths test. The stuff he was talking about was different.

The drugs were incidental, he told me. I believed him. Still do. Incidental to his mistakes I mean. Obviously for us that night they were instrumental.

He had more going on his head than he let on though. Two weeks later she left him. He must have known it was coming. In fact I think he'd already accepted it. He skipped town, never returned. I honestly believe he did it for her sake.

So here we all were, a decade on, milling around in ill fitting suits and single use dresses, wondering what had just happened."

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Prototype Unit Trace

"There is an astronaut walking the Earth.
With heavy feet and heavy heart
There is a soul a world apart.
There is an astronaut walking the Earth.

There is a signal beamed from Earth.
A simple message of minimum words,
A lesson taught will never be learnt.
There is a signal beamed from Earth.

There is an astronaut walking the Earth.
Oh send me down your favourite star.
I'll keep it here, safe from harm.
There is an astronaut walking the Earth."

These were the words Franklin crooned on the top deck of a busy 253. The other passengers assumed a melancholic piano backing existing, audible only to him through headphones obscured by his woolly hat. There was no such thing. Franklin sang from memory. He'd learnt the words from Plato, some of them, and the tune from a winged lady on a park bench in Minneapolis. The lady had been sitting only a summer dress patterned with flames, the snow melting on contact with her bare shoulders. Franklin joined her and harmonized for a while. She wasn't singing about spacemen.

On the bus Franklin sat bolt upright to open his diaphragm as far as possible. His eyes were closed and the only harmony was the drone of the engine.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Sanitize Me

He spotted it in a pile of rubbish behind a burnt out telephone box; a length of steel pipe sticking out of a brown paper back of the kind you get given to help carry prepackaged soundwiches. He tossed down the stubby roll up cigarette and peered around. The street was deserted and there was no movement behind the windows opposite.

The gun was hefty and old, a revolver straight out of a western. He released and flipped open the cylinder, surprised that he knew how, and found four bullets nestling there. The grip was worn but sat comfortably in his hand. He inspected it for several minutes before remembering how exposed he was. Instinctively he wedged it down the back of his trousers under his coat, before thinking better of it. As he started walking it ocurred to him that he probably ought to report it or hand it in or something. He wouldn't. This was an opportunity, a rare thing.

Queensway was different today, absent was its menace. Young men, blinded by their own voices yelling into mobile phones got out of his path. Young women with tight jeans and visible bra straps hid, successfully, their disdain. Pram partnerships opened up their roadblocks that he might pass. In Macdonalds the smile behind the counter was genuine.

Later, in the pub, he mulled over what he should do with the thing. He'd daydreamed of having one before of course, but that plan no longer held any sense.

He could turn vigilante, a masked hero, fight crime. What crime? The only criminals he knew were the guys he bought weed and the odd couple of pills from. Not only would that be small fry but also counter productive.

He could turn to crime? He supposed he already had, but holding up a gas station or a bank held no appeal. An art gallery? And then what? Besides, most of the art he loved could hardly be rolled up and smuggled away in a guitar case. The art he loved was the grand gesture or the sisyphean endeavor.

It was a week later when he strode into the national gallery, grabbing the first security guard and pressing a muzzle to his temple. He marched the man up the steps silently while the building exploded into a panicked stampede about him. At the manager's office he yelled down the lady behind the desk until she led him to the deepest vault.

He was only in there with his two hostages for a few minutes but by the time he walked them back the way they had come the place was empty and when they emerged onto the front steps, watched by thousands from Trafalgar Square, the police were ready. The hostages he released immediately and then he followed the police's instructions to the letter, lying face down, spread eagled on the warm stone. The first officer landed a heavy knee to his back and the second kicked away the little plastic cap gun. He watched the officer pick the thing up with a pencil through the trigger guard, like Columbo he thought, and turn to him grinning. Ah, a sense of humour, he thought.

After the police had checked the building for accomplices or explosives the manager led a pair of detectives down to the vault. She shook as she keyed in the code. In the centre of the room sat an old, rusty birdcage locked with a heavy duty padlock and inside, sat on the perch was a hefty old revolver, straight out of a western.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Essential Nano Oils

For all the time and effort that the council had put into the project, there wasn't much to show for it. Boris stood at the base of the front steps looking up. The image was that of a newborn galaxy, the canvas was a medievel church to a god unrecognisable in today's world. How the thing had got through the various committee stages relatively uncontested was anybody's guess. At the opening tomorrow he would have to find something to say, anything, any scrap to toss to the press vultures.

Okay, he had to concede that the use of texture and contour was impressive. The building bloomed as your eyes were drawn in through the arched doorway. He was up the steps before he realised it. Unusually there was a long corridor before the nave was reached. The suggestion of colour could be found on the unadorned walls. He held out both arms to run his fingers along them but felt nothing. Now he felt nothing. He kept walking.

He'd forgotten the artist's name, some guy with teeth like Stonehenge and a voice like tyres. He hadn't done most of the talking of course. He had a guy for that, or a gal. Boris couldn't remember.

Between pillars at the end the colours accelerated and the galaxy's was born. Yeah, okay, this was quite impressive too. In fact fuck that; it was phenomenal. The sky mushroomed around him, a shifting mass of colour and heat. Boris put an arm out again, this time in search of support. His hand found a space on a table covered with candles.

"It ain't finished mister." The voice belonged to a little girl, maybe eight or nine, sat on the mosaic floor. "You shouldn't be in here."

"I'm Boris."

"Yes I know. Run along now."

"It looks finished."

"It ain't."

"Where's er, thingy, the artist."


"You know; gentleman with a smile like a broken fence."

"There ain't no one. Just me."

"And who are you?"

"I'm watching."

"For what?"

"For it to finish. Now push off old man."

Boris took one last look up and then turned back down the tunnel, his mind ablaze with images and ideas which he struggled to batter into shape to deal with the big question: What would he tell the press?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Always scratching at the plain

"How do I want to be remembered after I die? I don't want to be remembered. I want to be curried." William S. Simpson on the eve of his ninth marriage.

"I'm not going to leave a will. I'm going to leave a recipe."

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Words of ruthless encouragement

"Are you running from something?"

"I'm always running from something. Sometimes I slow down. I ever stop; then you gotta be worried."

She wondered why she was talking to him. It certainly wasn't doing anything to pick up her mood. He slouched in the chair opposite, grinding the bottom of his coffee cup with a teaspoon. That certainly wasn't doing anything to relieve her nausea.

"You ever listened to my records?"

"Yes of course."

"They sound like running?"

They sounded like whining.

"Some of them do. Some of them sound like fighting."

He seemed to like this. He put the spoon down and looked at her.

"Who do you think I'm fighting?"

"Right now? Me"

He laughed.

"Why am I asking all the questions?"

"Because you have something to hide?"

"So you are a journalist. Haven't we all got something to hide? Why would you care what mine is?"

"To be honest I don't," her patience was wearing thin, "but for some reason a lot of people do."

"Why do you think that is?"

"Because you've spent thirty years telling them you've got something to hide."

He picked up the spoon and then put it down again. He picked up the cup to find it empty. He checked his phone. He looked out of the window. She was no longer amusing him. He got to his feet and grabbed his jacket.

"Tell them that again."

Monday, 24 October 2011

Overture Seven

Roger prodded the shape with a piece of scaffolding. It took both hands and most of the muscles in his back to wield the hunk of steel, his young frame rigid. After a couple of attempts the form on the ground flopped over, revealing a belly alive with maggots. Margo dry wretched, Roger not so dry.

He took up the tool again and moved the head to face them. The layer of fur was matted with blood and an eye had already been purloined by some scavenger. Its teeth it bore, at once threatening and impotent.

"What do you think it was called?" Roger asked after holding back another urge with his hand.

"I don't think it was a pet."

"I never said it was."

"Well then it doesn't have a name."

"Everything has a name."


"I think it's name was Errol. It looks young don't you think? I reckon it didn't mean to die like that, however that was. It probably lost its family. I reckon it knew it was going to die though. See those teeth? Defiance. Know what that means? It means 'ain't going to go easy'. That's what my Dad says: "We ain't going to go easy". Sometimes I think he's angry with me when he says it. He's angry with something but I don't think he's angry with me. He says: "We ain't going to go easy. You and me boy. We ain't going to go easy. Not you, not me". Sometimes when he says it I make sure to give him extra ice cream when I get the dessert and sometimes it works. He ain't cross no more."

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A False Compromise

Twice that day Emma had seen movement, or rather felt it. Mid conversation she jumped at a shape flying from the side, of which there was otherwise no trace. The other party showed no sign of noticing. Later she ducked suddenly walking down the street but looking back there was nothing.

She sat in the window of a coffee chain, warming her hands on a skinny cappuccino and watching the pigeons outside attacking a fallen croissant amidst a stampede of suited commuters. There was a presence behind her and this time she found a woman squeezing past, balancing a tray and an assortment of shopping bags.

"Do you mind..." delivered as a statement as she took the next stool. Emma moved her own handbag to accomodate the woman's haul. She was surprised to see that most of the bags contained books and the woman caught her tilting her head to read the spines. "You read much?"

"I, erm, no. I should. I write." She caught something emerging through the window and span her head.

"It's okay." The woman put a hand on Emma's. The hand was warm and Emma looked down at it; she'd forgotten. She looked back at the window, which was intact, and out at the street where the stampede had thinned.

"I thought I saw..."

"There's nothing there." Fingers curled around Emma's hand. Again the wndow bulged but the hand squeezed and retained her attention. "There's nothing out there."

"There's something.."

"There's just you."

"And you I guess." She let out a nervous chuckle. The window strained and the hand squeezed to repel it. Emma looked the woman in the eye. She wore heavy eyeliner, giving a false impression of youth. "And you?" Steadier this time.

The woman said nothing but leant in, placing the other hand on Emma's shoulder. This time Emma recoiled and contact was lost. The window bellowed like a sheet on a line and then shattered onto the pavement. Passers by leapt out of the way and Emma rose involuntarily. She stared out and they stared in, the spell broken only when the woman passed between them without acknowledgement. Emma leant forward placing her hand on the window frame, cutting it on a protruding shard. Behind her, movement, but nothing.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Grit you say?

What he lacked in looks, he made up for in sarcasm and bitch. He scrapped and scratched his way through school and lied his way through college. Twenty three lies he told in all. At least that's what he wrote in the three volume autobiography he lowered from the top of Nelson's Column on a rope fashioned from a half a battalion's bootlaces. It dangled fifteen feet from the ground and was retrieved by a human pyramid of Dutch tourists.

For three days he sat at Horatio's feet; a faithful hound unaware his master is dead, and elsewhere. He refused to speak and it was taken that all he had to say was set out in the hefty tome. A special unit was hastily established by the Met: Six officers, armed with six dictionaries tasked with deciphering his words and sifting for clues. It was later admitted that this was an error and that the job should have been passed to the professionals and in hindsight it was clear that the lying had continued long after college.

The narrative was jumbled and paid no heed to traditional structure or chronology. He had dined with prophets and fought in every recorded conflict in western Europe. He had fourteen England caps to his name and one goal, though his claim on this was disputed by a player from a rival club. He had created and destroyed in equal measure, his balance at zero. He had loved and lost both men and women and yet still never recovered from the first, of which he listed several, or the last, by whom his heart was finally defeated. This, though, was not what put him at the admiral's feet.

When he impacted the square and officials plucked up the courage to examine his remains they found his foot attached to Nelsons by the other half of the battalion's bootlaces. Had the chain been just fifteen feet shorter it would have snapped when he was within a couple of feet of the unforgiving surface.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Oh, ooh, Satisfaction

The first time I saw that face it was smiling but yesterday it was altogether different. He wouldn't say what happened in between. No, scratch that, he couldn't say.

All the time he was away there were rumours of course: A sighting in the Gulf of Mexico, a dubious photo of an imminent bungee jump, a drunken answering phone message and a laughably spurious assault charge. He was a lot of things but never that.

I suppose there were clues when I knew him. You could never quite pin down where he was from or how old he was. "We're all both young and old." he would say "Ain't hardly no difference between."

Asked about his parents he would reply "I guess we've got a load in common. Not that you'd know it."

"My childhood was unremarkable."

"Oh, come on. Everyone's childhood is remarkable to them"

It would go on like this.

Certainly there were events in between which were regrettable but I couldn't honestly say how they played out.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Sensational and Red

"Nobody would have noticed the work that was going on beneath their feet even had they been alert, and they weren't. The music pounded devoid of life and the strobe reduced reality to an analogue simplicity, digestible for the modern mind.

I was one of them of course and I would be nowhere else. When I'm told that modern physics implies previously unknown dimensions, seven or eight by all accounts, I listen in wonder. Then I thank someone else's god I can't see them. I mean thank fuck for that. Most days I struggle to tie my laces. Can you imagine how complicated that would be, viewed in twelve dimensions. Fuck.

Set yourself parameters to live by; that's freedom. Without setting limits you're just going to dilute, get so thin you're invisible. You might get so thin that you forget these four dimensions and find yourself lost in those other eight. Then what? Who's going going to lead you back then? Might be you're all alone.

Well, I've been alone, and I've been led back. To Genevieve!"

Groom's speech by William S. Simpson on the occasion of his eighth marriage.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

And all Watched the Scarecrows

"...and I'll tell you one thing for cheap: I never expected this. Shit, who would? At the time Jimmy told me the state had a monopoly on the use of force. I said: Who are they? Jimmy said: Me. I laughed at that. Jimmy was always saying this shit. While we're at it, look where he is now.

I marched on the cathedral. I don't know why. It just sprang to mind. I guess I'm stuck in centuries past. Jimmy told me that too. They were awfully nice at the cathedral. I needed no force there. I visited the museums; all peaceful at the V&A. At the Natural History lot's of folk were getting into photography, clutching the past, and the present, to their face. I wondered what this record would tell my grand children. Would they need archeologists and biologists sifting photographs?

I'd heard talk of scuffles on wasteland and motorway madness but this was the stuff of fiction. Not that all was peaceful of course. I don't know. I went to the seats of power, before heading to parliament. That could wait. Peopled by gaian cyborgs, operated with ruthless efficiency, of sorts, I had no in. None of us did. Well, you could resign yourself I guess, and then what?

I wanted to think subterranean but I saw nowhere to go. I wanted to put myself in the centre but I never believed it. I couldn't bring myself to. I wanted something captured in print but that was just the past once again. The past once again. I saw people though. People in love and people in struggle, people shouting and people debating, people singing clutching shotguns. How could you look at that and feel otherwise? I'll never get that. But I never expected this. Shit, who would?"

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

On Behalf Of

Hip hop bleached by a gang of LA producers tip toed through the speakers in the corner of the bar. Kev slouched on a stool next to the register surfing Spotify, powerless. The teenagers playing pool upstairs had been feeding the jukebox for hours and were now repeating tracks. Kev trawled through the history of guitar music, pausing only to pour a new Guinness for one of the wizened gentlemen who were a feature of the pub at midday.

I sat largely unnoticed, my pockets hanging low with my burden. I say largely unnoticed; Kev knew I was there and had tired of my company. The other patrons were suspicious of my youth. They needn't be. My age was deceptive and time was surely on their side, not mine.

I was under instruction to wait here each day for a week and it would come. I was now into my third week; sat in the same seat from eleven in the morning until one in the morning, only now I began the day with a beer rather than waiting until seven, or six or four.

Sometimes I forgot for hours what I was doing there. Kev had given up asking, figuring my story would follow the usual pattern. It didn't. I thought it didn't. I just had to wait and when the time came I would have to play it by ear.

In the evenings the place got busier. I would drink with some people I knew, declining the occasional game of pool. I suppose they were friends and I hoped they wouldn't be here when the time came.

They weren't. It was just gone eleven and Kev was downstairs sorting out the barrels. The other day drinkers weren't in yet. I never expected it to happen like it did. I don't know what I expected. In truth I don't know what really happened. The stool sank back into the floor and the walls warped around me. Dragged by my pockets deeper through wood and stone I must have imagined Kev's voice as I passed through the cellar. The heat of the earth comforted me even as its weight destroyed me. At that moment, and only at that moment, I would never have made the deal but it passed and resignation returned. The temperature soared and no more could be said.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Each and Every Angel

"The jam was getting exciting. For five days they had been parked on the ring road about a mile from the arch of Wembley. Initially there was anger but when realisation dawned that this was finally it, the road began to take on a life of its own.

Perhaps the first sign came about seven hours in, when Jerry the Hatch stuffed his rucksack full with the festival supplies from his boot and wove his way between the cars on his little scooter selling beer window to window. He was surprised how quickly they went, it still being the afternoon. In half an hour the bag was empty and he pushed back into Neasden, his leg swinging freely, to find an off licence. By nightfall he was exhausted and with a four pack remaining he returned to his vehicle.

Lubricated by alcohol, conversations were struck up through open windows, Facebook friends were made, hashtags formed constellations in the Twittersphere.

Jerry awoke early the next day to get to work, only to find other vendors already going, most on scooters but others jogging. Some tried bicycles but there wasn't really room to pedal around. Business was just as quick though and by midday the party was in full swing. People tuned their radios to the same stations so that the road echoed to the BBC's own holy choir, voices fractionally out of synch.

This unity was temporary though and as the afternoon wore on it fractured. Channels were changed and new hashtags were born, nastier now. There were scuffles. The third day continued in this vein, with added car horns. Jerry restricted his sales to the mornings and locked himself in by dark. Sleep became harder to come  by. He caught snatches but the noise never died. Sometimes too near.

When rumour spread that something was coming he made one last trip to the off licence, for himself alone this time, and returned to wait."

"And then?"

"You know what happened then."

"I don't. I thought you were going to tell me."

"It was horrific."

"So you say."

"It was inevitable."

"So you say. So it's been said around here since the sixteenth century, or earlier, but you can't tell me what happened."

"I wasn't there."

"Yet you seem so sure."

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Strange That Was

"If every single one had turned and run simultaneously perhaps I would have taken notice but as it was I just ploughed straight on. It took ten minutes or so to realise that the crowd was thinning and a further ten to grow concerned. Still I put it down to strength of rumour.

I'd first got whiff around lunchtime but I was slow; my connectivity rating in the low twenties. Old fashioned I guess. I like my own company. I laughed it off of course. Conflicting messages. The city had its own life these days, literally some said, but not like this.

I tended to restrict my movements to south of the river. Somehow Clapham Common had survived as an the what? I'd read somewhere this thing by a scientist who said that the problem with creating greater comms capability and IT was that in doing so more information was created. You can never catch up. On top of that, the information becomes more important. Ain't one of us could survive more than a couple of days of disconnect. Even me.

So I kept my head down and zigzagged through the Kensington sprawl. Not a person to be seen by the time I got to Gloucester Road and approaching the museums I realised my mistake. A wall of flame leapt from Exhibition Road, tearing between the two giants. They had grown beyond all recognition warped into strange diagonals so that they leant across the road, each taunting the other. The fire licked at them and together they roared. Nuhm swung with ancient fists and Var gestured back in its own, furious language but the heat ripped the both equally.

I felt the heat of the melting pavement beneath my feet and realised I would not get away. As I sunk the behemoths thrashed away regardless."

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Cry, the imprint was ashen

Under a sycamore tree in Kensal Green Cemetery sat George, waiting to be discovered. He'd arrived by way of G.K. Chesterton and he was a gem.

He cradled a flask of strong coffee, his back to the cold, stone memory of one William S. Simpson 1927-2011. He could feel the imprints of those dates against his back; 1927 meant nothing to him but 2011 meant everything. For this was the year. This was George's year. He had no plan, someone else could cover that bit, but he had the potential.

There were many possibilities, many ways the universe could utilize an asset such as he. As some people put it: God's will could send him anywhere. He didn't know about God, hell, he didn't know about the universe but he knew about himself. He knew about George. A prophet maybe, or a politician. A commander on the battlefield or a muse to world. An interpreter of truth, a philosopher or an artist.

He opened the flask to refill his cup and more steam escaped, sweeping up his breathe in the cold air. He lit a cigarette and let the smoke seep from his lips. He waited and cooled, lending his body heat to the silent graveyard for just the briefest of times.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Strange Attempt

We had all forgotten. It was something important, we were sure of that. Regular meetings were convened in proud red brick buildings where pale rectangles patterned the walls, speaking of furnishings recently removed. Our voices echoed around us, though we had litttle to say.

Our infants ran riot. By that I mean they had fun. Hundreds of little soldiers with their own little battlefield in their back room. We sat in rows in the main room wondering when their game would end.

Memories are tricky things. We had our phones of course, thank god, but there just seemed to be so many gaps. I mean vast swathes. Some of them we filled through discussion but others, well.

After a while we started to forget what the meetings themselves were for, all except me. I thought ahead. I'd typed into my phone: MEETING TO REMEMBER. MEETING TO REMEMBER.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

City Defined

Jimmy the Think was a left-field mind. That's why they elected him.

"London" he said in his inaugural address "is sinking. We no longer think big. To paraphrase Wilde: We're all pieces of shit, and we don't even dream anymore."

His inappropriate language was part of the package. His literary pedigree went unchallenged.

"I pledge that by the end of this decade we will dream again. We will awake. I pledge that by the end of this decade London will put a man on the moon."

He was good, even his most fierce of rivals would concede, but how Jimmy's pledge should be taken was far from clear. The Metro took him at face value: 'London Enters the Space Race' with a subheading 'China Take Note!'. The Standard took a more cautious approach for their front page with 'Think Big! London to be Great' but then ran a spread on pages 2 and 3 strongly implying that Jimmy intended to create a second British Empire, the capital to once again rule the world. The nationals, on the whole, limited their coverage to bylines, mocking in tone, and comment pieces, mocking in content.

In later years we learnt that Jimmy had been entirely serious. In fact, under advice from a staffer, he had tempered his speech. "Every Londoner who contributes to society will walk on the moon" had read the original. The plan he defended to his death bed and in his posthumous autobiography, Double Think, he laid the blame for its failure squarely at the door of the prime minister 'the shithead'.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Tax Heavenly

George decided to go after them. He'd heard so much about them and was beginning to find it all rather distressing. Aparently they were both incompetent and evil. Late at night, wide awake through coffee and worry, he mulled this over. In a way it didn't seem so bad. Wasn't it preferable that the evil ones be incompetent? For all his efforts he couldn't find the fault with this reasoning but he knew there must be a fault.

They seemed unable to manage building projects like the big circus tent in Greenwich or the concrete skate park, seemingly designed for the Greek gods, in Stratford. On the other hand they seemed intent on banning everything that was nice about the world like seasonal holidays and the shape of bananas. He was confused and dismayed.

They were deliberately messing with people's minds. Exactly how many cups of coffee and how many glasses of red wine was he supposed to drink to avoid cancer. What is the correct daily coffee/red wine ratio? He was pretty sure cigarettes were a no no but they also say that it's all genetic. They also said he couldn't try opium although they said that it's fun and not too harmful.

They reckon that when you die your life flashes before your eyes. This sounded right; he was pretty sure the flashing had already begun. They also said things about a tunnel and bright lights and virgins and peace and oneness and a devil and waiting and some kind of entrance exam. They also said stuff about worms though.

From what he heard they were after him. Why couldn't they just tell him the truth and not mess with him too much? He just wanted them to lead him right, you know? They should be leading him right. George was worried about them, and angry.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

A Private Introduction

Lucy and Jim were an excellent match. Everyone said so. It was very well known. They met at a picnic on Hampstead Heath organized by mutual friends. Perhaps nobody had foreseen quite how well they might connect but in hindsight approval was unanimous. Yes, it was going awfully well.

Jim had recently seen the new movie starring Keira Knightly which Lucy had seen a week earlier at a press screening and both agreed that it was her finest work to date. Furthermore they agreed that the Pirates of the Caribbean series was an aberration on an otherwise interesting career. How could she expect to be taken seriously as an artist after nailing her colours to a series derived from a theme park ride? It was a shame.

The picnic stretched into the warm summer evening and the conversation moved through shared tastes in music, books and galleries, punctuated by comfortable silences where they rested back on their elbows and basked in the sun until it finally sank behind the woods. Three bottles of wine were devoured and yet while the rest of the party descended into singing and tales of wilder student days, neither seemed inebriated. When the group disbanded, each went off into the night with different groups after only the briefest of hugs.

For their first date a couple of days later they robbed a petrol station. How this came about would never be discovered. They walked in hand in hand, he in a baseball cap and she in a headscarf and both in sunglasses. They smiled as they pointed toy guns at the poor boy at the till. They strolled out and around the corner, still hand in hand and carrying £366 in cash.

The press loved it. They lapped it up: A young, white, well turned out couple, outlaws in love. A few columnists pointed out the double standards in reporting but excitement and titillation was the general tone of the coverage. Speculation was rife. Rumours hit Twitter that there were royal connections. Could it possibly be true? London waited.

For their second date they went to the zoo. Jim took some pencils and a couple of sketch pads and they sat for hours trying to capture the processeion of african hunting dogs endlessly circling their enclosure next to the canal. The pictures would later be displayed on the wall of a cafe in Kensal Green.

After the zoo they began to see each other on a more regular basis exploring the city together. Taking advantage of all it had to offer. A month after that first meeting they celebrated by shooting a drug dealer. He whispered to them on street corner in Camden and they followed him along the canal until, in a secluded spot, he turned a knife on them. The shots were heard from a nearby supermarket carpark and when the police arrived they found a body floating in the oily waters, face up and with two clean bullet holes in its forehead. How the press made the connection with the petrol station was unclear but soon it was commonly accepted that the young lovers had struck again.

After this their friends saw them less and less until one day a story hit the papers of a fire station razed to the ground. There were many questions to be answered. Sadly there was one casualty. This time the police preempted the press and annouced that a warrant had been issued for Lucy and Jim, the 'outlaws in love'. A photo, taken at the picnic, was released to the press and though they sat apart there was no doubting the couple.

Speculation grew and died but nothing was heard until six months later a photo appeared on the internet of the couple in the back of a jeep somewhere in the African savanna. The couple smiled into the camera and the world read what it could into it. The couple rested head against head, frozen in time, a final indecipherable record. In their eyes was history and on the paper it was fiction and to their friends there was perfection, of sorts.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Oh my, it's coming.

She hung on the wall of a small gallery attached to a hotel somewhere behind Piccadilly, in all her gold skinned glory. The things she saw might make a vicar blush but she remained untainted. A veneer of wealth covered what was already perfection. Doing what? Her eyes spoke in music and sex and the curl of her lip said she knew it.

The world as it presented itself was fat and fake, or phoney. She alone was real. Money was flashed indecently, visible only as numbers. This meant nothing to her. She would never go wanting but neither would she want. Those she saw panted and postured, lost as they pillaged.

She wore a silver jacket, offset against her skin. Clothes could never be good enough. Out of frame she held a 1953 ivory finish Gretsch Country Gentleman, a guitar built for her alone.

She needn't have watched, she remained untouched. She might have smiled, in some manner or style. She never would sneer however it may appear.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

One in Two

From a young age Philip knew he was special, not in the way that his mother meant but truly special, truly unique. Of course, as he told himself, he knew how unlikely this was. He wasn't so self obsessed and naive as to not realise that every adolescent thinks the same. Regardless, he truly was special.

He was also an eminently sensible child. He decided that to make full use of the uniqueness he'd been gifted he should do his research first, not make any rash decisions. An obvious and convenient start was comic books. A lot was to be learnt there. For example, as necessary as the secret identity might be to protect loved ones, the practicalities in real life would make life especially complicated. Furthermore the heroes of these pieces were constantly being reminded of their shortcomings and never seemed to fulfill their potential. Apprehending muggers and foiling the odd master villain just seemed small fry.

Philip thought big. Someone as special as he should go global. Through school and university he dscovered the complexities of international politics. Undeterred, he never doubted that he was on the cusp of a solution. Poverty and conflict were rife but not insurmountable.

Though the answer remained just around the corner, his university days passed and he secured a safe job which allowed him the flexibility to continue his pursuit. It was during this period that he concluded that there was a prior problem with which to deal. He could only use his special abilities to make the world as it should be if he could first decipher this 'should'.

This realisation was gradual. Half a lifetime had passed unnoticed. There remained time though, for someone as special as he. Someone as special as he would not fail as long as he kept his focus. Someone as special as he could solve it. Someone as special as he could save them all.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Pony Designate

"My friends, my people, my children we have been sold a lie for half a promise, and we got no change. Think on it. Think long and hard and you will hear. You will hear and know and then you will understand. Think on it.

What, you may well ask, is it that makes him special? Bacon, friends. I bring you bacon. I bring bacon to this house. You might say, hah, I bring home the bacon (pause). Think on it. Think on all those folks you know. Think on children and adults alike, women, men. Think on our brothersisters of transgender. Think on our brothers and sisters throughout the world, whether they favour our faith, the true faith, or otherwise. Think on those vegans even and search deep in your hearts. Search deep in your hearts and tell me is there one amongst us who can truly say they don't like bacon? I think you will agree that none could claim that.

But there is one, my friends. There is one who truly doesn't like bacon. I think you know what I'm saying here. Yes, truly, he doesn't like bacon. More than that my friends; he reviles bacon. He scorns it in all its streaky splendour. His distaste for Danish gold is absolute and unconditional.

Search your hearts my friends. Think on it."

Friday, 7 October 2011

To Stick a Fly

There was a troubadour on the steps and I didn't quite know how to deal with it. I was paralyzed with... with what? I stopped under pretence of checking my phone and turned back towards the gardens. Somewhere behind the long term, temporary fencing and overgrown bushes sat John Stuart Mill contemplating just such a dilemna. He had been captured for posterity, apparently sat on a bin. From his body shape he appeared to be just about to rise, perhaps having spotted the paparazzi sculptor, realising that this may not be most dignified way to be preserved.

Maybe it wasn't a bin. Madcap hair and a vacant face gave the impression of an elderly gentleman who has wondered off from a care home. He's been sat for a while, waiting for someone to collect him. He assumes the artist to be a nurse. The artist as a nurse. The artist as a patient. Beyond Mill was a road and a river. None of this was helping resolve my dilemna.

I could have gone around but it was a long way and what then? What would I do next time? I looked up the narrow steps beyond the troubadour. Somewhere over the top were the Royal Courts in all their Disney grandeur.

"Oh barricade the doors and they will never get through.
Did you choose London or did London choose you?
You who stole and drank and lied
Barricade the doors and the windows besides.

Oh barricade the doors and remove your sim.
Wipe away all trace so you can begin
To plan for the future and let go the past.
For you know the past, by nature, won't last."

I imagined Mill listening to this. I suspect he might have puked, raising from the bin:

"Oh I'm sorry, I mean, I didn't mean to. I've done a little sick. On my coat."

"That's okay Mr Mill. We'll get you all cleaned up. You come with me. There you go. Okay there?"

Back to the hand rail I sidestepped past the troubadour, dropping a nugget in his cap.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Outrageous Pinstripe

Something was crawling up through the earth. It sang in a dead language or a non-language. It knew not what it sang but Gregor knew what he heard. He heard promise and hope and excuses, always excuses.

Gregor peered into the monitor, the text blurred into a dizzying wallpaper, and instead listened. He began with some easy ones.

"Why did we lose?"

The response an excuse.

"How hard did you try?"

That reply again.

"How is she?"

The voice was taking the piss. He tried a harder one.

"What did I do?"

There may have been hesitation, or perhaps not, but the reply was delivered once again. He struck the desk harder than intended and cursed into the screen as he squeezed his knuckle with the other hand. Looking down he found the skin torn. He peeled the flap off and blood began to ooze around the edges. For a moment he forgot where he was and began to rise but the voice caught his attention and he sat back. While he waited the blood dried and the ache faded.

Something was crawling up through the earth. It sang in a dead language or a non-language. It knew not what it sang but Gregor knew what he heard.

"What should I do?"

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Suspended Masonry

"It was a morning of firsts. I'd neither killed a man before, nor fallen in and out of love within an hour. Maybe that's not true. Maybe I'd fallen in and out of love within an hour many a time, but there are moments when everything just seems a louder.

She was perfect. In that instant she was perfect. You know, that moment before you even know her name or hear her yapping laugh or have her push a knife into your stomach, metaphorically or, in this case, literally.

We met in a coffee shop. Most customers wrestle with the latch as they enter but not her, she owned all that she saw. The place was full, apart from the seat opposite me. 'You don't mind' was all she said. It was no question but she was right.

I made some vapid comments about the weather which she ignored, instead telling me she liked my shirt. I didn't tell her that I liked everything about her from her softly angular face to the merest hint of crows feet framing astonishing green eyes to the worn elbows of her fitted tweed jacket to the chain around her delicate neck. Off the chain hung a couple of loops missing a pendant or cross. I thanked her.

I had to go meet a guy about a thing. It's not important what, or rather I'm unable to say at present. She smiled as I left, cutting off any question I might gather the courage to ask.

It was only a few minutes after I arrived at the guy's workshop that the bell rang again. He went out to deal with the visitor and I heard voices raised and glass breaking. The rest is unclear. I mean, I know I've left questions unanswered already but the rest is unclear even to me.

I'm not an aggressive person but neither am I a pushover. I've used violence where necessary but I'm known to be fair. Whatever, the guy's head hit the wall harder than it should. A blade clattered on the concrete. I was shaking. It was her of course. She smiled as if in thanks and I hugged her, thinking she might need support but knowing that I just wanted appreciation.

I don't know when I realised. It wasn't a moment; love turned to comprehension like running a tap and feeling it go from cold to warm to hot to pain. Heat becoming pain. I never felt the knife.

She went past me into the workshop and then stepped over me as she left. I crawled after her, not to follow, only to get away."

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Open Dawn Visitation

Half a kilometer beneath the streets, lit by mirrors, sits Marta X on a low stool which bends her knees up to her navel. She faces another stool on which rests a mobile phone propped against a brick so that it's angled to face her.

"I run my hands along surfaces and feel things I can't otherwise imagine. I feel a different world, not the one I see before me. It ain't real you know, neither of them are. I never knew the real one. Don't remember it anyhow."

Her voice leaves it's mark on the chamber otherwise untouched by movement. Her words return from the walls cleaner and sharper.

"The real one just ain't in me. This twitch in my shoulders; that ain't it. Just uncomfortable in my skin you know. Whatever that is. Chasing an itch that won't be caught."

She cricks her neck and reaches up to rub shoulder against ear. Opening her eyes again she sees through matted hair the daylight reflected above. Mirror on mirror on mirror bleeds it down long shafts.

She places her hands down either side of the mobile phone and then lifts them to inspect the palms. Blackened with soot they stare her down. She sweeps up the phone and clicks a button before rising and stepping to the wooden gate across the tunnel entrance. She could just step over it but instead bends down and fiddles with the clasp. Through, she bends once again to secure it.

Monday, 3 October 2011

A Steady Surrender

“Would Inspector Sands please go to Platform 6. Inspector Sands to Platform 6.”



“That means there’s a fire. Platform 6. A fire.”

“Did he say fire?”

“Shouldn’t there be an alarm?”

“No. Protocol Z states that alarms only be sounded when the flames have spread over at least three platforms.”

“What the hell are you talking about? That’s ridiculous”

“It’s not. If alarms were triggered at every sight of flame the tubes would barely run.”

“Don’t be stupid. Fires hardly ever break out. There’s barely any fuel for a start.”

“Actually you’re wrong. You’ve been sold a lie. Don’t feel bad; most people bought it. Fires aren’t just common, they’re constant. Have you ever noticed how hot it gets in the tunnels? You really think that’s down to body heat and crap ventilation? Fire my friend. Believe. They won’t tell you because it would bring the country to its knees. London is burning or, at least, London is being slowly barbequed. Fifty metres below the tube at most points there are further tunnels, miles and miles of them laid by kings and emperors, cardinals, masons and crooks. The ground below us is hollow as honeycomb, and burning. The Great Fire my friend, the Great Fire was never extinguished. Short of flooding the whole damn place there is nothing to be done. The powers that be made a decision: Funnel most of the fumes into the Channel and keep mum. The powers that be? I wouldn’t know that mate. I’m not the type to speculate.”

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Timely Escape Mob

Across the city, past the cathedrals to authority and the chapels to oblivion, across the tame river and under the arches of an abandoned bridge left to the nightwalkers and the nocturnals denisons of the city a lone guitarist bashed out a few rudimentary chords to entertain his watchers. He felt for them. He really did.

The front of the house, anonymous and unmarked, crumbled in pace with London's dynasties. It had witnessed court cases, beheadings and coups, or so it claimed to the casual passer by. It suggested weight and history and intrigue and importance, certainly to the watchers. They reclined against the doors in their own daydreams, awaiting an aural prompt from headphones, awaiting an answer. What they got instead was a timid, counterfeit reggae.

"We, oh, we set the world alight
To set, set, set all our people right
And the righteous fight
Was always on our side.

When, oh, when the cry it sounds
We'll be here and all around
And we'll hold our ground
No I, no I, no I will never run and hide.
I'll never run and hide.
I'll never run and hide."

The voice was something of an enigma. The figure they watched entering and leaving, day after day, was substantial. The voice was fragile, vulnerable. It spoke of uncertainty. The body spoke in strength. The voice spoke in cliche, the body in stereotype. Still they sat, awaiting answers.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Meagre Front

Not every speaker on that corner of Hyde Park could claim such pedigree as William S. Simpson. Born of a wrestler and of royalty he was blessed with power and bearing. No straighter back in all Knightsbridge. He was also gifted with a rare charisma; rare, that is, down his bloodline. The Simpsons traditionally bought in their personality while the Craddocks spoke in action.

"I met a girl" was how, typically, his monologues began. This would be followed by a brief summary of the wooing process or 'preliminaries', not in a country and western way of course; his monologues were unambiguously about William S. Simpson, every girl a MacGuffin.

The preliminaries successful, a flaw in the situation would be rapidly revealed and a future terminated, William S. Simpson to emerge wiser and stronger. A monologue might end:

"When wit alone remains, the devil has taken the reigns. One must wrestle them back."

"Far be it for me to pander, ever."

"Slander may be smuggled."

"When a throne is proffered, one must sit or request a better throne."

William S. Simpson stood alone on an upturned milk crate decorated with the faded stickers of long forgotten bands with names like Sucker, Children of Mother and Collapse. His hands were clasped behind his back and his eyes angled above the skyline of Park Lane