Idle chatter of the apocalypse has somewhat increased of late. Be it by the hand of god or by the hand of man or, at a push, by the variable appendages of extra-terrestrial or demonic agents, we have delighted in envisaging and subsequently enacting our own obliteration. In the years to come, the evolved progeny of cockroaches and of vermin will rifle through the soil and examine our fossilised bones. They will attempt to piece together what happened to us, where we went wrong and how annihilation was wrought upon our race. Presently, we are not afforded the gift of objectivity that time offers as a favour to survivors. Presently we go blind and hell-bound. Instead, we should think like cockroaches would do. We have watched the reports on the cataclysmic destruction of towns and cities by tidal waves, tsunamis, tornadoes and storms. We have read with grim rubber-necks of the pervasive drought, hunger, disease that has been the plight of nations. We have glanced briefly, whilst updating our statuses and posting photographs of our, misapprehended, cynosural selves, of the marches of warlords, in all their guises, destroying the homes of millions and burning down to ash vast swathes of land.
And all I wanted for the apocalypse was a zombie horde. Something a little more cinematic, you know? I wanted to be raiding stores for food and weapons to fight back the slavering onslaught of blank-eyed undead whilst pithily commenting on the use of zombies throughout literature and film to represent mans’ dependence on consumerism, religion, representative of the slave trade, as a motif for sexual dominance and inequality. That would have indeed been a fitting and joyous apocalypse for this world.
Truth is that in the end, it was neither god, nor demon, undead nor alien, tidal wave nor tsunami, storm nor drought, hunger nor disease, not even war that brought us to our knees. It was a far more pervasive, insipid and ostensibly impotent agent of revelations that caused this, our final judgment. It was, indeed, a most disappointing apocalypse.
I understand that the end of civilisation is a concept almost impossible to conceive of. It outstrips the tragedy of losing a single relative, or a friend. There is no time, no cultural construct upon which one can rest one’s grief. There is no solemn procession down the streets the departed once lived, as all the pall bearers are gone. There is no eulogistic service at which a stranger in black talks in hushed tones, serving your misremembered fondness of the deceased, as all the priests are now piles of dust. No wake, in which Uncle Tony drinks too much and doesn’t eat the luke warm servings of sausage rolls and cheese and subsequently gets “a little handsy”, as Uncle Tony is, well, you get it right?
No? Well okay, to put it in terms you might understand, two days before the power finally went out Buzzfeed released the following missive:
10 Reasons you can tell it is the Apocalypse:
- The birds have stopped singing
- A shortage of food has led to a suspicious yearning for previously unpalatable tinned goods
- There is panic on the streets of London
- There is panic on the streets of Birmingham
- The DJ has finally been hanged
- Reports of beatific visions have increased ten-fold as have the occurrences of mass suicides
- You find on entering your family home after being absent for two weeks that the previously adored family cat has eaten your parents’ faces off
- There is a general sense of milaise and every other sentence you hear is “how could things have got this bad?”
- People you previously had no chance of shagging beforehand now offer themselves to you willingly but weep mid-coitus as they remember that everyone is dead or dying
- You can’t get a 4g signal for love nor money.
Upon the communal tombstone of the human race, marked for all eternity, underwriting tens of thousands of years of the development of culture, medicine, philosophy, technology; bracketing the billions of dead, scraped deep into the veins of the multifarious, multi-faceted, nebulous, rich and awe-inspiring works perpetrated by this curious, insistent and contradictory species, the words will read:
Chapter 1 – pre-event
Sitting, walled in by a flurry of files and paperwork that had been waiting to be sorted for several months now, Lo idly scrolled through the news feeds flanked with adverts of “Earn £££s from home”, “Get the body of your dreams in just weeks”, “Fuck lonely women in your local area now” and “Repent your sins, judgment is upon us”. He clicked on a trending video of some silly cunt doing some silly cuntish thing and swore he could feel another neural synapse close down on him in disgust. Tepidly the late winter sun pissed its way through the bars on the windows as Lo deliberated on the eternal quandary of whether to do some work or continue to scroll through the internet finding things that made him briefly laugh. Not a hearty, full belly laugh, not the laugh that shoots through your whole body, aching at your sides and painfully stretching your jaw, just the laugh that could have been mistaken for someone putting a cup down on a table, just a “hah” then it was gone and the realisation that the unsorted files and paper still sat untouched upon his desk. He didn’t even feel it was his desk, there was no pride of ownership, no sense of belonging to this blank cooperation at which he was waiting out another temporary contract before he, in his mind “truly got his break” or “was finally realised as the towering intellect and potential rising star he was”. If he was a little less arrogant and delusional Lo would have understood that given his middling scores on his recent appraisal, this repetitive administrative position would be forever all he was to be trusted with. Deep down, very deep down, like right down in the darkest pit of his being, deeper than any psychotherapist, or mining team could ever plumb, he did know this and as such, the news of the impending demise of civilisation and death of 16/17ths of the global population, rather than leading him to a wailing lamentation the like of which was rife in the office, was instead borne with a shrug and a feeling that this would offer the possibility to reinvent himself, to start again. He would be a survivor, a soldier, a saint. He would rebuild the world in his image and into an ideal eutopic earth. He would inspire and lead he would…..another stack of files were thrown on his desk.
“Sort these before 6” his manager barked at him, adding a heart warming and reassuring “the worlds not finished yet, still business to be done”
Lo soothed himself by breathing in an almost prescient image of Rodger, the manager that is, in his soon to be inevitable state. Lo saw Rodger, lying cold, his blank eyes staring into the forever abyss, his mouth slowly filling up with the morbid, but highly necessary industry of flies. He saw Rodger, prostrate and motionless on his newly installed parquet floor. The same parquet floor that Rodger had not shut the fuck up about for the last two weeks. The same fucking parquet floor that Rodger had some how used as an instrument of derision against Lo last Wednesday.
“Tell you what son” snorted fucking Rodger, “you apply yourself, you know, pay your dues, put in the hours, tow the line a bit more then you could get yourself a nice house, get yourself a posh new kitchen with a smart floor, hey?”
Fuck you Rodger, you soon to be departed smug shit. Fuck you and all your golfing buddies. Fuck you Rodger, you imminently deceased little twat. Fuck you and your floral dressed prissy, tight lipped cunt of a wife. Fuck you Rodger. Fuck you and your fucking parquet floor.
In Lo’s mind eye he saw himself gradually rising up above the piles of dead, rising further into the air before he spread his limbs in cruciform and exploded in a beautiful ball of angry, cleansing, angelic white light.
Yeah, fuck you Rodger, you will get yours soon enough.
Lo woke from his daydream to find another stack of files had been placed on his already overcrowded desk with a note on top “ASAP if you’d be so kind, Rodger”. Oh for fuck’s sake.
Chapter 2 – post-event
“Given The Time, I only have time for The Reality, know what I mean?”
She lifted the glass to her mouth and threw back what was left of a now decimated bottle of scotch.
“Given the time, The Reality has nothing to offer you presently, Sister, you should look at The Time” the pot-marked skin of the bartender seemed to vibrate in the fluorescence of the cheap strip lighting that, with its repetitive flickering, announced to the few who could stomach the acrid smells of New Rom’s least salubrious establishment, that they really should have tried a little harder in life.
She fell from her stool to the shit-stained floor, laughing with a desperate wheeze as she pissed herself before passing out, muttering something along the lines of: “Fucking Movers, taking what was ours, ain’t fuckin’ nuffin sacred”
Helen Bardsley was not going anywhere for a while.
New Rom was an urban mega – development which, after the collapse of the government and the aggressive takeover of Britain by a union of two dialectically opposed extremist groups, known irritatingly as The Reality and The Time, was built to house those who had failed the enforced General Aptitude Process (enforced by The Time) but who had passed the Genectic Acceptance Programme (enforced by The Reality). That both parties used the same acronym for their cleansing tests was just one of many idiotic confusions and contentions between the two – a stubbornness that led to not a little inefficiency and a great deal of unnecessary bloodshed.
“It’s like my old mum said innit, hey? Remember?”
There was a-sucking and a-spitting and a generally unpalatable oozing noise as he inhaled his crooked, blackened, false teeth back into his mouth.
“Fuckin things keep makin a bid for escape! Hey, remember what she said? Corse you don’t sorry, long dead after you knew her and you didn’t know her before that did ya? Well….(schlerp), fucking teeth, well…..what she always said was “Mind the GAP” hey, hey? Can’t member why now, but it proves me point dunt it?”
“I suppose a lot has happened since you last were here so maybe we should start from the beginning, yes? It is no use telling you that a dilapidated old drunk woman has fallen on the floor covered in her own piss and disappointment because of obtusely named political parties of which you have no reckoning, as she blames what could only be to you faceless, shapeless threats called The Movers, is it now? So, take a seat, not there…..it is nicer there – that’s the chair my old mum used to save for the posh old guests – Doctors, Vicars, you know, more comfortable that is and you don’t get the sun streaming in through the windows into your peepers do you now? God, what we would give for a few clouds now, hey? Must be 20 years since we last felt that welcome breeze as those nimbly cummuluses, I forget their names, wafted over and through and wet our faces; that old pot-marked bar-tender could do with a little hydration on his parched epi couldn’t he? Face like over-stretched cling film that’s been in the ping too long right? Ugly old fuck! Guess we all are now though, right? Now, where were we?”
“Look, I just wanted to find out what happened to my family, I don’t think I have the…..”
“No, no, no, you take the weight off, hey? Been walking for a few schleps I bet? Come now, I’ll tell you about it and then you might be a little clearer in your head, help you find them better, right?”
“I fucking doubt it” he thought and caught himself before the words fell out for keeps.
Take the weight off then, come come, you all dandy for a bit of grub? Must be hungry right lad? I bloody am, tell you that much.
“No, I’m okay, thanks”
His words went ignored as, he felt, was to be the continuing trend, and a grey, stale morsel of, I guess cake? Bread? Well, either way something unappetising was slid along the floor knocking empty bottles over like skittles around his feet. The glass reverborated in the empty dilapidated shack, sending a variety of vermin running for safety. Whether from the glass or the cake was left unknown.
“Just get meself settled lad and we’ll fill ye in right?”
The armchair creaked under the not inconsiderable weight as Lo waited for the old man to begin finally, well, waited for him to finish really, but he didn’t want to seem rude.
“So what’s yeh name then lad? Can’t just call you lad all night can we lad, hey!”
“I just told you my name”
“Nah ya didn’t lad, that was in the narrative, ‘member, I can’t hear those bits can I? Bloody problem with you kids these days, think you are in your own flicker show dontcha, hey!?”
“Oh, yes, I am sorry. My name is Lo”
“Yeah lad I know that already, you told me ‘member, hey? Ha! Only messing with you lad, come now, where was I? Any questions yet?”
“What?” Lo exclamated with growing frustration.
“Good as any question there is, I guess lad.”
“So….what is The Time?”
“I don’t fuckin’ know do I Lad, fucking ticktocks been bust broken for longer than I care to count and I stopped caring to counting after the aforementioned ticktock fuckin’ stopped, didn’t I, hey!?”
The irritating old bastard laughed uproariously at his own absurdity before coughing up an animal sized amount of phlegm and finally settled down into his story.
Lo sat there for hours listening to the incoherent, self-humouring rumblings and ramblings of his host. For the sake of brevity we have taken Lo’s notes of the more pertinent details of what he was told rather than relay verbatim what he was told. You will thank me, I am sure, given the labyrinthine route the old bastard has taken until now and his apparent pathological fear of making a coherent point.
He writ thus:
The Time: An organisation whose preliminary foundations were set on the liberal intelligentsia’s penchant for the finer things in life. Artists, connoisseurs, lawyers, armchair philosophers, despite their seemingly apolitical stance originally, their realisation that the supply of luxury goods was dependent on the fractious relationships of foreign States and Republics, they moved towards the political arena in the Last Third Stanza (circa 2005 – 2008) as the isolationist groups withdrew from global economies. Whilst championing the free and bounteous movement of people between Republics, The Time later introduced spot-tests to ascertain the genetic aptitude for intelligence citizens had. In the Final Fourth Chorus (2008 – 2010) these tests were carried out with greater frequency and with the most severe of consequences, effectively perpetrating a genocide that wiped out between 2 and 10 million citizens. Note: the true figures and extent of the genocide are unclear as, unfortunately, the administrator in charge of keeping a record of the figures had somehow fluked The Time’s G.A.P (General Aptitude Process) and was, in truth, an idiot.
The Reality: During the years know to our most learned historians as The Middle Flourish (1998-2001), when the Senecan Ombudsman theoretically erased the borders between countries, states and subsequently all religions and political faiths, there was unbridled peace that was as close to universal as is thought to have been. This was not, unfortunately, to the delight, happiness and, markedly, profit of most as it was impossible to brand anything, points of difference and a certain “it is not that, it is this” being necessary in commerce, religion and the populaces’ dichotomous imaginations. As a move against The Dream (The ruling party, insomuch as a ruling party could be so under the confusion that global accord led to during the Middle Flourish) a group of enterprising young women and men set up a grass roots movement known as The Reality. The Reality’s aims were to regain the former differentiation between States, Religions and Peoples. The aim to imbue people with the ghosts and rituals of their original pre-Dream tribes was a reaction against the perceived homogenisation which was peace and perfection’s greatest weapon. It was a reaction that for a while during the 62nd Segment of the Penultimate Movement (5.30-11.45 pm 11 June 2015) was an enormous success. Following that however, the revolution hit what is mischievously etymologically fundamental and inherent in any revolution’s lifespan, it was cyclical and came back on itself. For fuck’s sake people, it revolved. The mouse that roared grew a pair and turned on the cat that chased it, becoming the cat itself, as the cat was in turn neutered, minimalized and became the very mouse it had been chasing previously. The Mouse/Cat that now chased the Cat/Mouse in the 63rd Segment of the Penultimate Whatdoyoucallit pinned its quarry down and, politically speaking, fucked it hard and fucked it fast. The obnoxious and monstrous offspring of this Mouse/Cat – Cat/Mouse became in completely allegorical terms you understand, the situation we have now between The Time and The Reality. * Editor’s note: It is felt that Lo had at this point left his journal on a bedside table, or some other manufactured catalyst for the perpetual loss of objects and that this final Cat/Mouse Mouse/Cat coitus explanation was the work of the Old irritating Bastard.
“There are some whom The End never seemed to touch. These are, you will no doubt be aware, the very same people you are thinking of now – you know the ones. Doesn’t seem fair does it, son? Eh? Fucking no way they should have all the luck of the “I –Rich” and us the luck of the leper, do it? Well forget that moralising balance you think the universe has, you dopey cunt. Some are born fucked, some achieve getting fucked, and some have fuck all thrust upon them, you can make what you will of that.”
He belched and the room vibrated with the putrescence of a perpetually poor diet.
“So who you trying to find again lad? Well doesn’t matter really, no chance in Hull anyways, best off resting your plates round our fish pond whilst you can, you get me son? No chance left for any of us nowadays, you get me?”
Suddenly, the sirens bled out through the cloudless sky, aching their knife sounds into Lo’s ears and reducing him to a supplicant’s stance.
“Oh, that time again already is it? Give me a break; give me The Time any days, fucking Reality. Right you cunts come have it then.”
The irritating old bastard fell to his knees also, a practised obsecration, which he would rhythmically repeat
The doors burst open. The shouts of youthful voices sounding misplaced in authority. All were taken from the house, all except Lo.
“Leave him here, with the dust and the dormice, no good to Them yet is he?”
“Sure thing, but at least a kosh right?”
“Oh, of course, a good kosh never goes amiss with these types – you know what they used to say ‘Spare the rod……’”
“No, what did they say?”
“Well, Spare the rod….” he looks to the chandelier point and forgets
“So don’t kosh him then you are saying?”
“There is something after the spare the rod part matey, just can’t put my thumb on it”
“SO, Look, do I kosh him or not?”
“Well, I guess not if they used to say ‘spare the rod'”
They left Lo, confused, yet relieved not to receive a knock to the head. He drew a long breath as the young militants left the house carrying away the old irritating bastard.
Breathing deep and thankful breaths Lo began to pick himself up off the floor, appreciative of the clarity with which he could focus and guiltily aware of the peace and quiet now the old irritating bastard had been taken. Just as he thought this, he heard the jack boot footsteps march up decisively behind him with a “Spoil the child” and a ‘thwack-phlp’ and a bright explosion of crimson red light drowning his eyes. He fell to the floor.
Awaking, however many hours later, with a visceral spasm after yet again dying in yet another dream, Lo realised that he was not late for work, there being no work to be late for.
The room was empty.
At nine minutes past nine it occurred to him that he had led a perfectly useless life.
The dull morning light and constant low hum indicative of previously being beaten half to death slightly bored Lo now. He always started the first moments after awaking from being almost killed with the same monotonous, perfunctory ritual.
He sat up.
He took a cigarette into his mouth and lit it.
He stubbed it out after briefly smoking it.
No action was performed with any particular conviction, just a plodding rhythm before falling back asleep for another hour.
He dreamt he was listening to Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies. The ambient loll of the 3/4 beat, the alternating progression of two major seventh chords, the first on the subdominant G, and the second on the tonic D, keeping him half an octave away from reality.
Lent et Douloreux.
Lent et Douloreux.
The mice along the skirting keeping time, as best they could, given the interruptions they faced from the pigeons on the window sill.
Nobody had told the pigeons it was Gymnopedies this morning, so instead they self-indulgently warbled some amateurish rehash of Vaughn-Williams’ ‘The Lark Ascending’.
The conceited birds.
The octave dropped back as Lo woke up from his death.
It was three days later that Lo heard the door being opened, it creaked and stuck as the handle was shook and turned , twisted to the latch point before pushing open. There stood the Old Irritating Bastard. His large silhouette against the day light bursting through.
Though still large the Old Irritating Bastard was somewhat reduced in presence. Lo recoiled somewhat in disgust as he realised.
“Yep I fuckin know lad but what can you do eh? Fucking bastards rip you off now and again don’t they?”
“What have they done to you?” Lo asked with an uncharacteristic sympathy
“Ah, that’s their tax intit ey? Got to pay the vipers keep them sweet with apples.”
The Old irritating Bastard sat down, tiredness and sadness breathed over his eyes before he tried to shake it off with a “oh the silly cunts taking what they think they are owed and leaving us with nought but ought to keep ourselves afloat ey!?”
“Ha, can’t see me keeping afloat no more, fuck I might just be swimming in circles now with this ‘un ey Lad?”
He gestured with his one remaining arm at the space at which his right arm used to inhabit and then down to the void which followed the knee joint of what was left of his left leg. The amputation had clearly been a hatchet job, the wound barely healed and certainly not treated, the raw bloody stumps of each limb left open for whoever could still see to see.
“What can I do for you?”
“Ey? What’s that there lad? Sorry I was miles off, thinking, I think, not quite sure I remember how to think I don’t think, it’s when you get lost in your ol’ head intit? Get lost down remembering, right? Can’t always remember though ey! Think I took a wrong path back thinking and ended up in someone else’s thoughts.”
Lo, felt for the Old Irritatting Bastard, yet recoiled when he thought to start to make physical contact. Instead he asked:
“What were you thinking about?”
“Ah, well, yes, (schlerp), well I did nay always be an Old man, I used to be a young fool and I was just remin-icing bout when I lost my first wife. She was a good egg ‘er.
It could have been a Monday, but it might as well have been Wednesday.
I was ambling down the high street to catch the morning carriage, hood up, eyes down, trying to shelter me ‘fissage from the rain and the cold, but truth be told I had barely raised my peepers from the ground for two months. I was a fool, tired with life and bored of people, turning into myself and spending all my time exaggerating my own obscurities.
What happened, you ask? ey?”
Lo had not asked, but prompted the old man to continue.
“I was standing in the cold church two months previous, holding the piece of paper on which I had written me wife’s eulogy. I am struggling now to try and remember what I saw on that single page. My ol’ memory and sight both unfocused through my swelling tears, I remember nothing of the speech. Nor do I really remember anything of my wife, yes, yes yes of course I remember that I once did remember and try desperately to grasp to how it was I felt when I did remember but all was becoming so very detached now, so much part of another man’s life.
All I now feel is a reconstitution, a reconstruction of a set of original emotions that were lost, burnt, torn, muddied, water logged and made in a variety of means, indistinguishable. The gaps have been filled but the monster child stands at odds with its parents. I cannot know for sure where I first saw her nor if I once used to walk with a dandyish gait twirling my cane or if in fact I limped, my weight bearing down upon my right hand side, dragging my left behind me. The left hand-side drags, the left-hand side drags, the-left hand side drags, the left hand side-drags.
She was beautiful though. I feel she was beautiful, I can’t think she was beautiful. Beauty is uselessness, it is non-knowledge and loss. Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder but in the eye of the world. It is as shameless as an ocean; it is the abyss the bridge of reason will never traverse. To state that someone is beautiful is to say nothing of them; instead it halos our own relationship with them. Beauty is stupidity. Beauty leaves the object indeterminate. Beauty destroys the conditional. No because. Beauty is the non-utilitarian Excess that heats our blood. It is the immediacy of experience that knocks one out of kilter with immediate being. Beauty is Fear. Beauty is Trembling. Beauty is Ecstasy, the opening up to an intensity that wakes us up to the world. Beauty is the wonder, the amplification of life; we all must feel in the face of the infinite impossibility of existence, though Beauty has no interest in existence itself. Know what I mean?
Me ol’ visual memory flickers two feet above my shoulder and three foot to the right of where I actually stands. I noticed the disintegration of me ol’ tempero-parietal junction; the disruption of several phenomenological and cognitive aspects of self-processing and subsequent illusory reduplication, illusory self-location, illusory perspective, and illusory agency. Everything visible was to me, illusory, it was light that carries the burden of the guilty not himself. Pietà, Pietà. You get me?
I found the page the one that I wrote her death’s words on y.’know? Wet and crumpled from its journey, clinging for a desperate moment around the base of the lamppost. I picked it up and put it carefully into my bag as there was nothing else left. “
In the faltering winter light the Old irritating Bastard read the words:
“I would vomit the last 4 years and like the dog I am, return.”
The sirens yelped out into the night air once again and both the Old Irritating Bastard and Lo assumed their positions on the ground. The Old Irritating Bastard did this with some difficulty and with help from Lo, given his grotesque injuries.
“…I told you, that is what she said, threw her arms up in the air and gasped in that insufferable way she does”
The young militants had kicked their way through into the shack mid-conversation.
“Well matey” replied the other to his troubled friend, “You know what they say?”
“Well what then?”
“Well, what do they say?”
The jack-booted officers looked down at Lo and the Old Irritating Bastard.
“What did you say then?”
“I dint say nuthin, you dopey prick” started the Old Irritating Bastard, “you came in mid flourish with your tongue wagging no sense through the airwaves.”
“Is that what they say?” asked the younger of the two to his colleague.
“Well, I guess it is, as they just said it, but don’t quite have the same ring to it as what I was to remember”
“Well, what is it that you remember?”
“They said, ‘there is fish in the tree should the bird fly the bush’”
Lo, looked up at them incredulously and said “I can feel myself getting increasingly stupid every time you two fucks burst in through”
“Well” exclaimed the first.
“Well” exclaimed the second.
“Ughghgh” exclaimed Lo as he received a blow round the head and fell to the floor.
Lo woke several hours later, his head sore with crimson.
The room was empty.
At twelve minutes past twelve it occurred to him that he had allowed too many opportunities in life to pass him by.
He sat up.
He took a cigarette into his mouth and lit it.
He stubbed it out after briefly smoking it.
He dreamt, this time, that he was listening to Claude Debussy’s Sirène. Moderately lively at first, a bit slower, beginning to be more animated again, especially and progressively in the expression, back to the primary tempo, increasing gradually – before – slower and holding until the end.
The mice along the skirting keeping time, as best they could with a tempo that played like moonlight upon the sea.
Nobody had told either the Moonlight or the Sea that the mice and Lo would try to keep harmony with them.
The conceited Moonlight.
The conceited Sea.
The piano struck its last chord as Lo woke up from his death.
It was not until five days later that Lo heard the door being tried. The rusted lock aching in its socket as it was shook from its peace. Turning to see his friend standing in the doorway, Lo saw nothing at first. His gaze lowered to see the Old Irritating Bastard, prostrate upon the entrance, his legs, now both sawed off from the hips, and a single arm pulling his pathetic figure slowly and with anguished movement across the splintered floor. With each slight movement the Old Irritating Bastard’s wounds were further opened as they rubbed against the ground. With each slight, incremental movement, tears welled in the Old Irritating Bastard’s eyes. With each movement, tears welled up in the corners of Lo’s eyes.
“Let me help you”, Lo heard himself say, “…please, let me help you.”
The Old man said nothing but looked balefully up at his friend.
Lo rushed to his side and gathered what was left of him up in his arms, carrying him like a fragile infant to the now inconsiderately termed armchair.
For a moment Lo just sat on the floor looking up at the decimated figure. Nothing was said for some time and Lo believed nothing could bring a voice back to his old friend’s cracked and parched lips, before….
“Fuck me lad, ey? Man could die of furst before they first have the rest of me away ey!? Grab us a cup o’sommat firey n damp ey?”
Lo scrabbled upright and searched for a cup and reached for the bottle of liquor that sat collecting dust on the hearth.
“Dontcha stand on ceremony lad, fuck the vessel – give me the ocean – ey!”
Lo laughed and handed the bottle to him.
“Gonna need your help with the screw cap though, would ya? That’s why drinkin is for two not on your lonesome ey I guess? Much better with a bit of chat and spit with an old comrade in….”
He looked to either side of his shoulders,
“Comrade in arm, ey!? Ain’t no harm in cracking the puns with a good friend right?? Takes the edge off. Just like this nectar.”
He took a sizeable glug of his liquor bottle.
Lo awkwardly tried to join his friend’s levity.
“Careful, you’ll be legless at this rate.”
There was silence.
The old man burst into laughter.
“There we ‘ave it son o’mine, now you bloody get it don’t ya!?”
“Now, where was I, ey? Telling you about these happenins and occurences. Filling you in, making the story legible, right?”
“Yes”, Lo answered, “yes you were.”
“And where’d we get to? That ol’ Helen fell off her stool, right?”
“Yes, that’s right”, said Lo.
‘Covered in piss an’ disappointment, right?”
“Yes, that’s right”, Lo said.
“Blaming, what she called, “them fuckin Movers” right?”
“Yes”, Lo said, “yes, that’s right.”
“‘Spose you want to know who them Movers were ey lad?”
“Please”, Lo answered, “please do tell me.”
The old man tried to right himself best he could in the armchair, given his disabilities before clearing his throat loudly, taking another sizeable mouth-full, throat-full then belly-full of the liquor, before starting in his inimitable, convuluted way:
“The Movers, sometimes known as the Metix, known often in less educated and angrier circles as Migs and Zooms; discussed in terms of Mitigants by the Liberal Press and the Swarms by those whom were sucking on silver spoons or their own feet at any given point; fenced in by The Reality, sent back by The Time, allowed to find their own ways by the Dream which served to briefly protract the Demise of the Fourth Union before the stamping feet, banner waving, screaming, red-faced, half-sighted Hordes, supported by the Provincial Privies (who gave some tawdry social credence to the violent, cuntish actions of the HEIL HEIL HEIL mobs) that suffocated the optimism of any person of heart, that turned the stomachs of those who could see how things would transpire if the restrictions continued. The Movers, who were spat at, stabbed at, shot at, raped, moved for being human litter, re-housed, de-homed, re-housed, de-housed, burnt-housed, kept at checkpoints, camps, jungles, communes, squats, squalors, separated baby from Father, baby from mother, mother from daughter, daughter from father, all from all, all from everything, separated from all identity, nomadic and orphaned, alienated, antagonised, returned to nothing left but rubble, returned to nothing left except, wait….returned to scorched fields, to broken businesses that once were their own and now….now the Provincial Privies and the HEIL HEIL HEIL, have their banners up on where the Movers had been moved from, now the homelands were no homelands, the PPs and the HHHs had moved themselves in the interim of the Movers being moved and settled in the Movers’ land, but they were not called Movers themselves, they didn’t have a need for a nomenclature determining the sub-group denomination as they had the right, imbued in them by the far-reaching hands of The Reality and The Time, to settle where they wanted and not be called anything other than what they had been known as previously. Lynched and drawn, hung and crucified, the bodies of the Movers flanked the roads as terrifying beacons of un-hope, left to rot in this rotten isolated state, isolated from their families and from those who could recognise the face that with anguished howling was frozen in their death throe grin. Forever moved, forever abused, forever forgotten. The Movers, The Metix, The Migs, The Zooms, The Mitigants, The Swarms, whom until their children littered the shores of the lands they sort respite upon (the very same shores that launched the forces and the businessmen who orchestrated, be it directly or otherwise, the events leading to the Final Exodus), were categorised under such blur-lined collective vernacular to avoid your own realisation that the voxpopping half-baked, incongruous hatreds of yours and your family, yours and your neighbours, yours and your leaders, were leading to actual suffering, actual death. What is in a name? That which we call an immigrant by any other would cause a strain on your purse strings. What is in a name? That which we call a Refugee, A Person, A Mother, A Father, A Brother, A Sister, A Friend, A Lover, by any other would you have still refused to hold out your hand as they sink to the bottom of the muddied waters of your idling isolationism? Your protectionist, self-serving, “oh we have to help our own first” self-medicating, sophistic moralising?
They were our own.
We left them all to the fucking rats and dogs.
Fuck us. Good riddance, that’s what I say, ey lad?”
A short time passed and The Reality came and dragged the Old Irritating bastard away and again koshed Lo over the head.
“People in glass houses, I tell you”
“People in glass houses, what?”
“Just something you say”
“Is it now?”
“Oh it is, yes. People in glass houses….well it is something to do about the fiscal transparency of elected governments within a society that is so immediately and ferociously socially networked and the need to pay your woman more, ‘else she can’t fix the ceiling.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Well, that or there was this gent who took to masturbating in the basement as his glass house afforded him not an inch of privacy.”
“Oh yes, I heard that one already”
It was Sunday morning, and, surprisingly, Lo woke up and felt fine.
From the window of the room, which grew so small in solitude, Lo looked out and saw nothing. He remembered watching the people rush-rush-rushing about in the rain and hearing the preacher railing against the empty skies, selling souls again. .
He sat up.
He took a cigarette into his mouth and lit it.
He stubbed it out after briefly smoking it.
He dreamt the preacher’s words were insects caught on the wind.
He heard the cockroach’s words “We will turn dull into Divine.”
He heard the centipede’s words “We will turn simple into Saintly”
He heard the spider’s words but quickly disregarded them as he remembered a spider was an arachnid, not an insect.
He heard the beetle’s words “Love, love, love”
He heard the WASP’s words “We will turn maniacs into Messiahs”
Dolce. Dolce. Dolce.
Nobody had told the insects that they had been abandoned by god.
Nobody had told the preacher that what he saw as immaculate, was senseless.
The conceited insects. The conceited preacher.
The words of insects and preachers were lost to a breeze and Lo broke from his trance.
“Where did she live, this woman you loved?” asked Lo of the old man whose body lay immobile and limbless upon the rotting armchair.
With all the energy he could gather the old man replied, “She lived alone. She lived in a tumble down cottage.”
“And what was the house like, do you remember?”
“The bricks of the cottage crumbled like cake crumbs. You could see why the children would be confused when they ate the bricks, but this is not about them.”
“Was she alone in the house?” continued Lo.
“Where once had been her family, her friends, her life, set in a shimmering sunlight in the glade of a forest, she now sat undisturbed, staring out and waiting for them to return.”
“And where had they all gone, why had they left?”
“She did not know that her sister had been eaten by a wolf.”
“Her brother then maybe?”
“She did not know that her brother had been clubbed to death by an angry drunk on the span of a bridge.”
“Her mother then? Surely her mother hadn’t left?”
“She did not know that her mother had eaten a poisoned apple and died in agony.”
“But then her father, surely her father had survived?”
“She did not know that her father was actually the wolf that had killed her sister, and in his madness and grief had taken his own life.”
“Oh,” exclaimed Lo, “so no other family or friends?”
“She did not know that her cousin had pricked her finger on the needle of a spinning wheel and, rather than cleaning the wound with a mild disinfectant, had just fallen asleep, subsequently developing a bad case of tetanus and eventually dying.
She did not know that her best friend, had in fact been a fictional construct used to analogise the variants of the quantum world.”
“Doesn’t sound like she knew much or was careful in keeping anyone close to her alive?”
“All she knew was that they had not returned one day. In her sadness, the forest in which she lived was left untended, it grew untamed, it grew unruly and enveloped the little cobbled path that once led her safely to the nearest village.
She did not mind that she could not see the path however, as she still had a map that showed her all the 7 kingdoms that surrounded her cottage. She kept the map locked safe inside a chest that sat underneath the table next to the stove in her kitchen.
Every second Wednesday she would take the map out and pour over it. She did this for years until finally the map disintegrated in her hands.
This is the very reason that my lover never left her cottage as, although she could remember the map perfectly, having seen it so many times, she could not locate the map within her own mind as she did not have access to Computed Axial Tomography, Diffuse Optical Imaging, Event-related Optical Signalling, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Magnetoencephalography, Positron Emission Tomogaphy or even Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography. So just as she had lived alone, she died alone, knowing exactly where she was in relation to everything except herself.”
“I am sorry to hear that”, Lo replied.