A man pulls up outside a large grey brutal looking factory.
The man is you. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t, because it is.
He’s here, you’re here, to ask for a refund.
After flowing the directions on the website, written on the side of the bottle, which contained the pills he/you purchased from a bargain bin, in a basement store somewhere outside of town, he/you now find yourself here on this freezing cold November day, to make a complaint.
He locks the door of the Ford Capri (your favourite car), and with the bottle of pills in his/your pocket walks towards, and eventually into, the overbearing building.
Inside it somehow feels larger and more square.
It’s almost completely barren, if not but for a kiosk in the centre of the wide-open space.
You walk up to the kiosk, and discover a woman sat behind it in a red and white striped shirt, wearing a pearl necklace and ruby smile.
How may I help you? She asks.
You reply, I’m here to make a complaint.
She furrows her brow. But why? The smile slowly slipping off her face.
I bought these pills under the proviso that they would improve my memory. Take two a day, the instructions say, and in just a week you’ll notice the difference.
You put the half-full bottle on the countertop.
That’s correct, she states. Oh dear, you don’t feel like your memory has gotten any better?
No, you say, if anything my memory has gotten worse.
She shakes her head, oh dear.
You begin to reel off a list of the things you no longer remember, and halfway through, you pause forgetting what one of them was, and it suddenly dawns on that this place feels warm and empty.
The woman behind the kiosk waits. Then picks up the pills to take a closer look.
Okay, she says, that’s right.
What’s right?! You exclaim.
These pills aren’t supposed to improve your memory, you see we make two different kinds.
Perplexed you run your fingers through your short, thick brown hair.
She explains, these pills are the ones that make you lose your memory.
Baffled, you step back, why would anyone want to do that? You ask.
Well, she takes a sip of water. Have you never wanted to forget something terrible you’ve done? Never wanted to leave behind a traumatic experience, or maybe forget the pain of a death? Never wanted to abandon the negative conditioning of your experiences and start afresh? Or forget any ties that keep you bound to one place and time? You could hate your job, hate your partner, hate your kids, hate your life. You could be an entirely different you, if only you could completely forget everything it is to be you. Besides, wouldn’t it be easier not to care about anything anymore. Wouldn’t it be better to stop carrying the pain, the suffering and the truth behind the experience of who you are right now? She puts down the glass of water, and suddenly the smile is back upon her face.
You pause for thought. Think. Then slowly nod your head.
Picking up the bottle from the counter, you thank her before turning around, and walking back the way you came. And as you do, there is something in this walk that feels familiar. Something in the way the floor takes on your footsteps, something about the way you take in breath.
You walk towards the door, and as you do, you suddenly feel like you have been here before. You spin around quickly to look at the kiosk, but the woman is gone.
The kiosk stands empty.
Forced to embrace the coldness, you step out of the door, button up your coat and start to walk away, wondering why there is a car park full of Ford Capri’s outside of this old factory.
THE PINK NECK
There was something about the anguish of the past 72 hours that had added a somewhat abstract nature to her life. As though things in her world had shifted, and nothing would ever again seem right. She feels this, as clear tears dribble down the freckled cheeks of her freckled face and drip onto the sheets that surrounded her. She’s been sat up in bed for hours, maybe even days, scrolling endlessly, wondering when the pangs to get up will finally make her do so. It’s him. His Facebook, his Twitter, and his Instagram. He’s keeping her there though he’s not posted for days. She knows he’s somewhere doing something, and so to disrupt him she taps twice to like but the screen pitches black. She sits in the dark, half in shock, half in readying relief, so before it kicks in, she quickly leans out of her cocoon towards her bust and gnarly charger, and finds it buried under pizza boxes and mayonaised polystyrene trays. Tug. Grunt. Clip. Bing. Her phone blings back to life, but then dies as the tug she gave the wire severs its ties from the hard usb bit in the plug, and now she’s done. She hurls the phone across the room. Screams out loud and kicks the bed clear of quilts, pillows and sheets. The tears reappear and blur out her view of the ceiling. This room has been a place of refuge for her in the past week but has also often felt like a tomb. And it’s a mess. Stuff is just everywhere. Clothes litter almost every surface, and with them, old coffee cups and bits of other stuff. Boxes filled with a life before, and memories of him and her, are pulled out of cupboards and strewn across the floor. She feels the pain of this whole thing like being trapped on a rollercoaster that she wants to get off, or at least learn to love, but cannot. She’s stuck with the rolling roar of it through her emotions. She wipes the tears from her eyes, and the spittle from her lips. Then suddenly, from nowhere, an eye-widening noise, like shattering glass, clambers up the stairwell from downstairs. She’s frozen. Eyes glancing. Waiting for confirmation that the noise wasn’t an anomaly, then suddenly, another one, this time more of a bang than a clatter. She leaps up, standing still in the centre of the bed listening for another noise, and suddenly one comes up the stairs. It makes her quietly leap and creep to recover her phone. She pushes the on button in hard but no luck. Glancing at the window, it’s too high up. She thinks she could hide, but then suddenly becomes so angry that all she wants to do is fight. Her lingering fingers swiftly find the handle of a tennis racket leant against the wall, and as she journeys forwards her other hand finds the handle of the door. Out now into the hallway she’s sneaking, more noises coming from the kitchen. A flapping, or tapping of something hard, then the sound of cornflakes pouring out onto the floor. She plats her legs down the stairs with her back sliding against the wall. Should she call out whose there? Should she threaten them from here, with an escape route back upstairs? Then suddenly, she thinks… it’s him. He’s here. He’s come to make it all better. Maybe this means they will get back together, her brain says, before her body shakes the thought away. Off the bottom step she steps socked footed onto the floor, she creeps with the racket retracted, towards the kitchen door. The noises continue. The kitchen tap goes on and off. Then on again, then off. She pauses, held in fear, before suddenly mustering up the courage to move, she kicks open the kitchen door, and she is paused. Frozen. Unable to move or talk. Her mouth falls wide open. Her arms slowly slump and let the racket fall to the floor. Every other worry swiftly shrinks into oblivion. She doesn’t know what anything is anymore… because there, stood in her kitchen is a tall, glistening, pink necked ostrich.
Suddenly, and unarguably, a bewildering sensation took his mind, his body and of course his soul. His unique brand of misery seemed depleted as something beautiful and black was dredged up from the materials of the universe around him. Objects from littered tabletops, ashtray contents, old lipsticks, and empty beer cans hovered and collided and formed a wewe, and as the wewe grew it shone silvery and twinkled brightly. It began to simultaneously revolve and dissolve, and as it did it tore a large hole through the thin air in front of him. Invisible fingers pushed a botox smile onto his face, and then they disappeared leaving behind a natural grin. His internal organs dissipated. Hair grew rapidly on every centimeter of his skin, as he simultaneously shed old skins and grew new skins. His right foot lifted, and he let the drone of, and thunderous tone of The Misfits lift his size 9 soul. Passageway through this dimension was granted, only, by the amount and variety of prescribed and unprescribed substances he had taken four hours previously in that desert the rest of the world was calling a party. Occupied by cacti with human mouths and human minds. How he came to be here, he does not now know, and now as his inflated chest leads the way as he passes through bright white light and enters a glittering and blistering inferno. He steps through, and eventually floats through the newly torn hole and discovers a better place. No longer bewildered by each limb that slopes off his body and floats off into the ether, he treats this phenomena as inertia and simply relaxes into it. He becomes one with the void he has found himself floating through. Tomorrow he will wake up, and re-realise he is a non-metaphysical being in a world regulated by the laws of numerous sciences, but for now he is returned to our natural state. Consciousness as dust, drifting through oblivion.
Steven held Sally’s hand, as he drove away from the roadside ditch into which he had dumped her body.
Bob received high 5s from all his fellow patients in the hospital hallway. Then everyone realised Bob had misunderstood the use of the word “positive” in this context.
Margret was happy to be sharing a bed with her husband again. It was well earned respite after seven hours of digging.
Jimmy wiped the blood & fur from his face, suddenly remembering his fathers advice on using the lawnmower when Rover was around.
12 cows talk quietly behind the nervous farmers back. They laugh together under their breath, suspecting he doesnt have the guts to touch their tits.
They only sat three feet apart, but it was her words she used to cut out his heart.
PART 1: A WOMAN IN SPREAKE
She slowly placed the phone back onto the receiver and as she did she sighed and a visible breath, and it hung quick in the air like cotton, before slowly evaporating. She was relieved that another night’s attempt had ended with him not picking up his phone. She put this down to luck, for surely no man with such importance would simply refuse to answer the phone night after. Luck, she thought, that each night at the time she calls he must be busy off somewhere else, or momentarily occupied. Either way her heavy heart could rest a little more gently knowing that each night, she had at least tried.
A group of tall lean trees with wind bent branches tapped at her roof, as she sat silently gazing out the window, before readjusting her focus and momentarily marveling at her own image, reflected in the icy window of her study. Drinking in the bitter sweet image of herself, she let out another slow warm breathe, and as it left her lips it formed a trail of mist that floated towards the window. Leaning down, she slipped off her thermos slipper and pealed back the four-thick, fleece wool lined socks she wore. Then she spent a few minutes massaging each foot before her hands grew stiff and pale, and her feet had lost all feeling. She closed her eyes and smiled in the rare delights of this sometimes-pleasant numbness before slipping and tucking her feet back into the safety of her heat-preserving garments. She was old now. Much older than she’d been when she met him, older than she had ever imagined she would ever be. She was one of only three people in the town who had memories of the long daylight. The younger residents couldn’t remember the world how she could, before the axis change shift or before the twenty hour snow.
The steam of the tea she had poured herself had long since gone; she’d been sat next to the telephone for so long, mustering up the courage to dial. Cold tea was to her taste though, and as long as it hadn’t frozen over she would still enjoy sitting quietly, sipping at, smiling at her own reflection.
Would she have even had the courage to speak, she wondered, or would she have slammed the phone down the second he answered? And what would she do if her phone began to ring as he called back the last number, now knowing someone at this address wished to speak to him. Would she retreat into the next room, and refuse to answer the phone each time it rang? Suddenly a frown came across her face. Why hadn’t he answered his phone, she thought. Four consecutive nights she had tried to reach him, and each night he had given no answer. Where should he have been at such a late hour, what he might he be doing out at such a time. He wan an old man, and an old man as old as he ought not to brave this weather night after night. So perhaps he was in, she thought… but if he was then why didn’t he answer?
Well, perhaps he slept heavily with his television blaring, or he might have been having a bath, or maybe entertaining guests. But if he was entertaining, then whom did he entertain? That horrible bint of a woman, Mrs Pugh? Oh, she’d wanted to sink her claws into him since the day she had arrived. You see, Mrs Pugh had moved to Spreake a widow, and much speculation had arisen as to why exactly she chose Spreake. For a woman reaching retirement, relocating this far north of the New Line had seemed a strange thing to do, but then again so was her choice of abode. Mrs Pugh first lived in an old disused sandwich shop in the center of the town. There she lived for seven years, before selling it to local authority, and buying the biggest stately property in Spreake… paid for no doubt, with her husband’s death money. Even though the state now takes a large proportion of the dead’s wealth to fund the National Heat Dept, word around town was that Mrs Pugh’s husband was a very rich man indeed. The old lady grew instantly angry, before falling instantly calm, realising that of all the people in Spreake, it was highly unlikely that he was currently entertaining Mrs Pugh... But it couldn’t be ruled out. So, she flipped her phonebook to P and then ran her thin blue finger down the page to where P met U.
“Pee, yew, ghee, hache”. Fitting her eyes between phonebook and telephone she dialed each number precisely, pressing with near pneumatic force. She waited. It began to ring.
“Hello?” came the commanding and prudishly harsh voice of Mrs Pugh. “Hello, I said!”, and with that she slammed down the phone, before giggling in the delight of knowing Mrs Pugh was not being entertained, and at the fact that she had just made her first ever prank phone call. Joyous in the delights of knowing what an inconvenience she had caused to the priggish Mrs Pugh, she stood slowly and made her way to the kitchen clasping her empty mug, then suddenly, the phone rang. Her head darted round. Her eyes grew wide, and her mouth awed agape. Leaning into it, she clutched the kitchen doorway for some form of comfort, and to stop her falling to the floor. From here, she watched, as the phone rattled on its receiver with every single ring. Sliding down the doorframe, she sat like a child on the floor watching the phones rigid rattle, its sounds echoing about the house. It might be Mrs Pugh, she thought, returning the ambiguous call, or worse. It could be him, finally calling back after all these years.
GARY THE EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR
His eyes peeled open and the first thing he saw was the disappearing mist from the warmth of his morning breath. He hadn’t paid the gas bill and so now he had to wear two jumpers and a pair of jeans to bed. Rolling over he remembered that last night he shared his bed with the half eaten carton of home delivered Chinese food he couldn’t bothered to finish, and now dim sum or some dim was all over his legs.
Gary looked, and gently began to despise the limp, thin curtain draped across the condensation covered window, because it had holes in that let streaks of 2pm light into the room.
As Gary lay there, he hoped something would happen. That maybe an earthquake would come and tumble his dingy little flat. That maybe he might be swallowed up by the ground as the walls and ceilings cave in and cover him in his own filthy bedsheets and worthless possessions. It may give him a reason to stay in bed.
The local community would form some kind of rescue party no doubt. They’d meet in a surviving building nearby and discuss how best to form a refuge party. They’d take action by standing in single file, passing large chunks of rubble down the line, people would read about his plight on Twitter using the hashtag “GetGaryOut” and some would drive from miles and miles around to help. They’d dig and labour and tug at old bit’s of steel-frame and brick-work. Then, suddenly, the person at the head of the line moves an oven door and a bit of old breeze block to see Gary’s face poking out of the terrible rubble.
“We’ve got him! He’s alive!” The person at the head of the line would shout.
It’d probably go nation wide with BBC, ITV and Channel 4, all covering the event, getting ready to send emails vying for Gary to make a special appearance on their channels. He might meet Phillip Scofield, or Bill Turnbull, or maybe even Richard Wright.
“Gary, you’re going to be alright, we’re going to get you out of here”. The person at the head of the line would shout.
They’d give him cups of tea, special dressing rooms and private cars to and from the fanciest hotels in London. He’d probably be so enigmatic during his various television appearances that numerous celebrities would be offering to take him out to dinner, just to hear his incredible fucking story again and again and again.
“Hold on. I’ve got you now”. The person at the head of the line would shout.
He’d be front page news ’The Man That Survived’. He’d write a best selling book ‘The Man That Survived’. They’d commission a four part TV series all about his life, his strife and his struggles and they would call it ‘The Man That Survived’.
Before long, beautiful women would flock from all corners of the globe, just to be in the company the bravest man alive, the man that survived. He’d be a hero, a legend chiselled into the ever ageing ancient tablets of heroism throughout time. As his story is told and retold it’s embellished, details change, the time spent under the rocks gets longer, the amount of brick and stone that suppressed him grows in number, one version told in one of the remotest parts of the Tasmanian jungle tells of how Gary not only stopped the building from falling with his bare hands, but also managed to save every other resident and residents pet whilst doing so.
In the one and a half minutes it’s taken Gary to concoct this tale, he has become the stem cell for a future new world religion. He is the new messiah, he is Gary.
“That’d show Mr Patel” said Gary to himself out loud “always banging on about me not paying the fucking rent”. Who should really pay the rent around here? Thought Gary, not Gary, thought Gary. Not Gary the fucking Earthquake Survivor, thought Gary. If anything Mr Patel should leave him to live their eternally rent free, for everything he’s done, or at least could do in extremely rare event of an earthquake. God how he wished there would be an earthquake. That’d show him. That’d show Mr Fucking Patel.
The squirrel had been searching for well over an hour now.
Jumping from place to place, thoroughly inspecting each patch of grass previously unchecked, before discovering nothing and hopping hopefully to the next one.
As he foraged and ferreted away looking for his long lost nuts, his little fluffy tail flicked and twitched with anticipation.
His little fury face harboured his large optimistic eyes that flung from left to right as they surveyed from side to side.
Hands, almost human like in shape and form dug and ruffled and neatly parted blades of grass.
Such an inquisitive, delightfully intelligent creature, with thoughtfulness enough to bury nuts in a season of abundance for a time when there will be far fewer.
I simply watched as he leapt about my garden, from place to place, searching, aspiring to find his secret stash of summer nuts to stave away pains of hunger.
But he never would find them.
Because I dug them up the day he buried them, 6 long months ago.
Have that you fury little twat. Have that.
He was "That Guy".
He didn't want to be "That Guy" anymore, but somewhere along the pathway toward his "That Guy" destiny his control over that decision became non-existent.
His biggest fear now, was that he would always be "That Guy".
The bare bottoms of his feet where all that could be seen poking out of pile dirty clothes and sex stained sheets that lay strewn over the bed. Underneath those sheets he lay naked with a burning coke-nose and dry lips. Beside him, and wrapped partly around him, was a devoted fan. She was fast asleep too.
He was dreaming. He was dreaming he was bobbing up and down in a pool of purple water underneath a starlit sky. He was experiencing himself symoultanously from two different camera angles. One camera was underneath the water, capturing him at an up angle from behind. The other camera bobbed in front of him lapping in and out of the water. This angle captured his clean shaven but worn-tired face. His eyes wide open in awe, gazing at a burning Hollywood hills. He'd never been to Hollywood before, and thought he'd maybe seen this exact thing in a movie he'd watched once. Suddenly the water developed a kind of current, a wave. He struggled as it became increasingly difficult for him to keep his head above the water as it lapped and bashed. He trod the water and paddled, and as he did his head went under and his view of the burning Hollywood hills dipped in and out of the purple water. He could breathe, and then couldn't breathe, and then suddenly he needed to piss.
Underneath the mass of dirty bed cloth, "That Guy" begins to urinate.
In the purple swimming pool in front of a blazing Hollywood hills, "That Guy" began to urinate.
In that instant two momentarily confused signals manage to make sense, spark and bridge the gap between his conscious and unconscious mind. He gasps awake, innately aware of the fact he's pissing the bed, almost like the dream version of himself told his real self to wake the fuck up and stop it. He leaps up and dashes over to the corner of the room. There he stands and pisses in a small wastepaper basket.
"Why don't you just use the toilet?" the rudely awoken, fan suggests as she sits up and rubs her eyes.
He turns his head to the left and can see the toilet through the open bathroom door, he winces his bloodshot eyes and adjusts his vision, now he can see himself in the large mirror that covers the bathroom wall, and in a way it sort of looks like he is using the toilet. In a way. He looks down again and can see his
hand holding his dick dribbling his piss into the hotel's wastepaper basket. He doesn't answer the fan, but just carries on pissing. She's confused by the
animal nature of her one time lover. The now former fan covers her nakedness with the sheet and lays back down. All that can be heard is the traffic from the busy street below and the drum like patter of his piss hitting the bottom of the wastepaper basket.
He finishes urinating and shudders.
He zips up his flies and makes his way towards the sink. Jack's office is way too nice to have nice sinks like this, and "That Guy" makes the assumption that his 15 years of 10% paid for these nice sinks, so out of protest he tries to snap or bend or damage the tap with brute force when he turns it off, but he does nothing to it, except turn it off.
Jack was a man of many words, too many words in "That Guy"'s opinion and so he didn't like spending too much time with him, even if it was better for business. "That Guy" kind of had the opinion that you can only swallow so much shit before you start before you overflow with it yourself. He knocked and Jack's door, and Jack bade him in.
"What the fuck is this?"
"It's nice to see you too Jack..."
"Shut the fuck up and sit down."
"That Guy" had no idea what Jack was talking about.
"I buy the news papers every day, and every day I hope I'm going to turn to page ten and see your face in there, like you've attended some party or some shit, and who do I actually see? Not you, that's who. I never see you. I tell you to put on a suit, smell yourself good, get an expensive girl and walk the carpet at something once in a while. Stay in the public eye. Keep peoples attention. But you never do. And then this morning, what do I do, buy the fucking paper, like the fucking mug I am, and I turn to page ten, and I prepare myself for the absence of your stupid prick face, but this morning, this morning I see your stupid prick face and I smile".
"Good for you".
"Yeah, good for me... Until I read the fucking article. You little prick! Do you have any idea what this will do?"
"It's not a big deal, people do it all the time. Besides it's conjecture or what ever you want to call it. I didn't get arrested, nothing can be proved, I tried to score a little speed. Who gives a fuck?"
Jack's face, although this conversation is a mere 30 seconds old, is boiling. His veins are sinuous on his face, his eyes look closed but aren't, his lips are wet with spit rage, he looks like Danny DeVito if Danny DeVito was fatter and had some kind heart condition.