Blues and terrible twos

Two constables were working like Dutch whores in stag weekend high season to keep the growing crowd of rubber neckers and busy bodies at bay. As the investigating officer glided through the increasingly unruly throng of curious locals and into the relative calm of the crime scene, one of the officers instinctively went to lift the police tape to allow her to proceed unchecked. To his transitory astonishment, this wasn’t necesssary.

BRITAIN-LATVIA-CRIME-MURDER“This your first suspicious death?” enquired Detective Sergeant Nigel Muck. He was stood at the foot of the stiff: a well dressed, portly middle aged man with an expensive salon cut and bruising to his throat and face. The corpse, that is. Muck was a slovenly shit of a slaphead beanpole.

Without warning she stopped still in her tracks and fixed him with an incredulous, faintly amused look. Clearly feeling uneasy under her searching gaze, he muttered “don’t, er, I mean, well, take as long as you need, this is a real tit-twister. A bloody arsing great shitemare of a head-scratcher”. With that, Muck fished a Crunchie from his Parka pocket, and exited the room masticating horribly.

73e0ff11-7c85-439c-988f-6e6659eeba60-237-00000021f2fac38c_tmp“What happened to the man?” she asked, pointing at the prone unfortunate.

“It’s a bit of a mystery I’m afraid, ma’am” replied a forensic scene of crime officer, who was busily taking photographs, making the tatty little room at the top of this cramped Docklands bedsit feel like the world’s saddest fashion shoot.

“There are clear signs of a struggle, and yet the room was locked from the inside with only that tiny” he gestured with his camera “velux window in the roof. Only about 10 by 12 inches. I mean, you could probably” he tailed off, thinking better of suggesting that his superior could feasibly have been the mysterious Spring-heeled Jack that perpetrated this fiendish act. “His injuries” he continued, “are consistent with strangulation, and we’ve pinned the time of death to between 24 and 27 hours ago”.

ef5fcf00-82a3-4aa8-955d-4f4f42ecce26-237-00000023eccb36ac_tmp“Stangly-ayshon. Twenty teighty four hour wowers” she mused, drawing out and lingering on her words as though they tasted lovely. Her grin disappeared when she saw that the SOC officer was staring at her with a half disbelieving, half disdainful expression.

“NO! Why is the man there for?” she barked. Her unsignalled annoyance made the officer start, and he sheepishly picked up from where he had left off.

“Odd thing is, at precisely that time this room was being used by the young man who rents it. He’s one of those internet vloggers“. The last two words he said with special emphasis, as though at pains to signal that he found them alien or objectionable to utter. He might just as easily have said ‘one of those piss fetishists‘.

He continued. “He was doing some sort of live stream. Four hours and thirty seven minutes of utter bollocks. But as alibis go, it’s water tight”.

She hopped back and forth between legs, all the while shaking her head. Clearly a brilliant maverick, he thought, some sort of Holmesian savant, must be why she’s on the force so young, obviously a brilliant mind. But she was awfully young. Too young. It was silly, really.

“Well ma’am, what happened to him?”.

1ca504ef-2a6c-49c4-a1a4-648662e10519-237-00000029eb554368_tmp“That man POOED himself ‘cos he was very naugh-ty. And then he didn’t, and he did because YOU stangly-ayshon him with you BUM”. On this staccato ‘bum’ she dropped to the floor and started rolling back and forth, asserting every now and then that she was a “floppety spider” and a “no-face”.

The Chief Superintendent walked in at the height of her asylum worthy floor-based antics. “Shame” he muttered. “Such promise but clearly the job is just too damn much for her”.

“Is 30 months too young, sir?” offered the female Inspector at his side. “I mean, if you consider that there are 216 months in 18 years, is 30 months enough time to develop all the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to be a police detective?”.

c7b429be-3340-4ccd-9c31-44ed3273bf3d-237-00000028fd21c83c_tmp“Five minutes ago, I would have replied a resounding ‘yes’. But now”, he paused to observe the diminutive sleuth edging round the room whilst wearing the dead man’s shoes and issuing high pitched squeaks, “I’m not so sure”.

Mail merge to World Leaders

Dear President / Prime Minister {surname}

I hope this email finds you well (and receptive to fresh thinking). Terribly cold at the moment, isn’t it?! Well, I suppose only if you’re on the same, or a similar latitude to me. I’m writing to you from my humble bedsit in Benfleet, Essex. I have been moved to compose this missive by dint of the dispiriting carnival of misery, want, tragedy and disaster that processes through my living room nightly, courtesy of desultory newscasts from my tele unit.

f703a76b-0906-4ffc-8822-d37829a35426-260-00000028d3227370_tmpI realise you have not sought my counsel but, in all conscience, I cannot withhold my long maturated ideas and insights from the world any longer. To deprive my fellows of the ameliorations, remedies and correctives to the global family’s multifarious iniquities cooked up by my brain over the preceding decades would be more than my conscience could bear. And I have a preternaturally capacious conscience, which is of course an unsubstantiatable claim.

Firstly, I implore you to do away with pop music. It corrodes the minds of young people, promotes louche and lascivious behaviours, and generally retards the development of the sort of serious, high mindedness that the world so desperately requires.

Secondly, subsidise libraries. These absolutely crucial hubs of community are a lifeline for many and play an inestimable role in the de-illiterisation of young people. They just can’t compete with googleweb or pop music.

Thirdly, put some kind of tax or levy on land. That way, nation states will be less likely to go to war over it. I have done some calculations and humbly propose that £13.50 per square metre would be an efficacious deterrent to the bellicose geo-gerrymandering of dictators and their bloody land-grabbing

Fourthly, phase out some of those new languages that have developed over the past few centuries. I’m thinking particularly of Russian, Chinese, European and American hip hop. They are confusing the picture and run contrary to the general global effort to promote integration, harmony and understanding.

Fifthly, selectively breed humanity into dwarfism. Permit only the most diminutive specimens to procreate. Not only will this go some way to address the problem of the fast dwindling natural resources and bounty of mummy earth, it will also retard climate change. I have done some calculations and humbly propose that an average height of 4 feet 5 inches would be most efficacious in achieving these objectives

e734517c-1ee9-4155-9f5b-bd3e34696800-260-000000283f2da1b7_tmpI hope that my ruminations prove useful in guiding your thinking and policy making. Should you wish to consult me further vis-a-vis the precise details of my propositions, I am available to speak on the telephone (+441268 297658) most weekdays between the hours of 10am and 3pm. Finding myself in a state of negative employment, I am also amenable to the prospect of relocating to take up a strategic advisory role in your administration.

Your humble earth servant,

Martin Ormonroyd
Freelance Global Thought Leader and Expert Dreamer

Benfleet

Form

Q1. When was the last time you wet yourself?
13

Q2. How many people can you honestly say will be at your funeral?
Six

Q3. Have you any idea how to make your partner happy?
No

Q6.  Does your net contribution to society equate to more than the crude monetary value of your organs on the Eastern European black market?
No

Q6. Can you envisage any kind of future?
Y…no.

Q7. Are you a Cunt?
Yes

Q8. Is the arbitrary and indifferent nature of the universe bothering you?
Yes

Q9. Have you failed to realise the creative potential of your early years?
Yes

Q10. Is there much point in carrying on?
Yes. I…yes. No. No.

61b091b7-0fb9-413c-9e79-3ce9f65d2e49-193-000000011eb5ae98_tmp

Haikus 3

There is no shelter
from the world’s dark madness, bomb-
proof as your child’s laugh.

There is no excuse
for that eleven pm
bowl of Rice Krispies.

Neighbours are like sharks.
I don’t go out if I spot
one in the open.

“It’s cancer” said the
doctor. “You’re trying to guess
my star sign, aren’t you”.

Office WorkersI want to work in
the seventies. A fag on
and no email.

The vicar giggled
in the shower. It just seemed
so silly, his job.

“What the fuck is this?”
he spat, pointing at the staff
newsletter dick pic.

I hired a horse
once. Best decision of my
life. Haven’t looked back.

Every now and then,
I obey the base urge to
piss in the garden.

The World of FMM

The other week I went to a big event, it was called #FMM16 – the Fat Masturbating Men conference 2016. The Birmingham NEC was packed with hundreds of fat men masturbating, I gave up counting at 756, although that was barely half. Not to mention the legions of officianados and collectors of fat masturbating men.

I spoke to a few of the fat masturbating men. Some of them had always wanted to be a fat masturbating man, others just kind of fell into it.

e3475a4a-ac2f-49ff-98b6-d453b296a005-217-00000005e859e7a9_tmpOne guy, called Gary, said he’d known all his life that he wanted to be an FMM, which is the term they use. “I was a skinny kid” he panted at me over coffee “but hard work and competitive eating saw me through”.

Another chap, Terry from Hartlepool, had a very different story. “I never saw myself as a fat masturbating man” he told me in the queue for the keynote speech. His voice was shaky, breathy, because we struck up conversation just before he hit the vinegar strokes. “I’m an architect by trade. This is just something I’m doing for a while. For the money mainly. I hope to go back to architecure in a year or so”.

The Fat Masturbating Men expo started at around 10am. By midday the Birmingham NEC was almost unnavigable. The exhibition space was becoming unhygienic and beginning to turn stomachs. Hardly anyone touched the buffet. Except the fat masturbating men. They all grabbed handfuls of it. Whilst masturbating.

The auction was a great success though. One fat masturbating man from Rochdale went for £17,500. I was outbid on a giant, red haired Welsh wanker. To be honest I only really bid on him because I liked his hat.

After the conference had ended I shared a taxi back to the station
with one of the fat masturbating men. He wasn’t masturbating anymore. We chatted awkwardly about the expo, although he seemed reluctant to discuss the fat masturbating man world. “I’m not as into it as some of the other blokes” he said. “Perhaps that’s why you didn’t sell at the auction!” I tried to joke, but it fell flat. He glowered at me like I’d just farted into his biscuit jar.

I don’t reckon I’ll go next year. I mean, it looked really interesting on the advert, but if anything I found it all a bit disgusting.

The Reckoning

I

Somewhere, an inconceivably massive number of calculations is taking place. It could be in the cloud, in the clouds or beyond the planets. It might equally be in a parallel realm or outside of space-time, perhaps inside a hollowed out mountain or flowing through a global network of supercomputers. The knowledge of the who, where, how or why hardly matters. Just as the ant neither needs to, nor can know anything of the freshly boiled kettle in the hands of the sadistic child.

Every second a zettabyte of information flows in and is assimilated. Information harvested from computer records, CCTV, biosensors, mobile phones, emails, brainwave monitors, paper records, diaries, dream logs, social media, in short every touch point between ourselves and the world – everywhere we leave an impression, scent, echo or trace – is added to the scales. Unknowable magnitudes of metadata for every living thing on the third celestial body from the G2V star of the Milky Way. All added to the scales. Which way they tip is the Reckoning.

He’d had a good life. Actually, no. That’s just an insipid platitude we trot out to comfort our fear-stricken minds. He was scared shitless at the thought of his imminent, eternal erasure. Even the defensive humour reflex catapulting his thoughts to a never ending purgatory loop of synth pop couldn’t cheer or divert him. No. This was the awful icewater-in-the-face clarity of dying and losing everything.

Think of it for a moment. Think that after you go to bed tonight, in the wee small hours as you lie supine and unconscious, your heart stutters to a stop. And your veins go still and cold. And whatever you are, or were, whatever the beautifully improbable thing that’s been haunting your meat module is, just leaves…forever. Dreams fade to black as the electrical storms in your brain flicker to nothing. And you never wake up. Gone.

He was subsumed by that paralysing, sublime terror. The visceral realisation that our life has an irreversible, immutable end game that has us trembling, pleading and acquiescing all at once. But in actual fact he had, according to the balance of the Reckoning, had a good life.

II

He had always had a keen moral sense. A felt and lived sympatico with his fellows, his lodestar was good intention. From an early age he was peculiarly sensitive to the inner states of others, aware that his happiness, sense of self worth, sanity even were all intimately connected to and contingent upon those self same states in other people.

At the age of twelve he had crossed the playground to stand next to, and talk to, a boy who had been singled out as whipping boy for the cruel pleasure of the pack. At seventeen he befriended a house-bound octogenarian lady on his street, got bits for her from the shops, went round for a cup of tea and to indulge her in her reminiscences. In his first management role at the age of twenty seven he had effectively saved someone from taking their life, although he never knew. The switch from being managed by a bullying autocrat to a nurturing coach was the ray of light this poor suicidal soul needed to summon the will to drag themself back to functioning and, in time, happiness. But he never knew.

He wasn’t perfect. Which, as utterances go, is a little like saying grey isn’t white. Mostly his sins were venal – commuting his bad mood to gormless first jobbers in the service industry, littering, not suffering fools, neglecting friendships. But he was never cruel, never wilfully unkind, never truly selfish.

There was that time, when he was eight or nine, when he kicked a frog over a fence. And the time he tried to evade a fare in a private hire cab by climbing out of one of the back windows. He’d lost his coat in a frenzied tug of war with the driver, having slipped out of it like Peter Rabbit in Mr McGregor’s field. The madcap impulsivity of adolescence. The reckless thrill-seeking of our youth. But yes, all in all, it had been a good life.

III

The Oncology Ward was at the top of a labyrinthine Victorian hospital. High, spartan, white walls gave it that cold, institutional air – imbued with an atmosphere of benign torpor, a stoic resignation that often comes from a foreknowledge of death. He had his own room, at least. In a liminal state, just below consciousness yet still dimly aware of the room around him, he sensed the presence of another close by. His brain logged the fleeting moment of shade as something walked round the bed and in front of the window. Despite this, he felt no panic. Rather, he opened his eyes with a beautific sensation of calm and clarity. Turning his head towards the window he saw a man, well groomed and kindly looking, smiling back at him.

‘Hello Phillip’ said the man. ‘My name is Peter, and I’m here for your Reckoning’.

Phillip nodded, slowly, as though in assent although, in truth he hadn’t understood anything of what Peter had just said. He glanced down to read the identity badge clipped onto the lapel of Peter’s suit jacket. It read:

Peter St. Keys,
Ingress Coordinator
Nacre Gate Passing Solutions

In the kind, calm voice of a parent talking their child out of upset, Peter asked softly ‘you are aware that you are dying, Phillip?’

‘Yes’ his whispered reply. ‘I’m just running on fumes, I know’.

‘I am here to deliver your Reckoning verdict. Now, this will all seem very strange, if not fantastical. I know. But I want you to listen to your instinct. I think you are ready to hear what I have to say, and I also think you are aware that this moment is a transcedent one for you’.

Phillip was neither curious nor alarmed by this. He was aware only of an utterly alien feeling of serenity and perfect peace. It wasn’t just that this was a feeling different in degree to anything he had experienced throughout his life. It was altogether different in kind, hitherto foreign and unknown. It was bliss.

‘I’ll use language that you’ll understand’ continued Peter. ‘We – the entity I represent – deal in big data. Every action, every interaction you have had since you became a sentient lifeform we have collected, quantified and added to the balance of your Reckoning. Every thought, word, deed, sin – including those of omission – every beneficent act or utterence, every cruelty and unkindness, every intention and impact we have monitored and thrown into the balance. You are no special case, I should add. This we do – have done, will do forever more – for every senteint thing. At the end of every life we deliver the Reckoning, which is a calculation of impact, good bad or somewhere inbetween, of that life.’

Phillip smiled and let out a little grunt as he enjoyed a private joke with himself. ‘Are you sure you’re not Peter St. Nicholas? That sounds a lot like his naughty and nice list’. He was eager to amuse this stranger, oddly drawn to him as he was.

‘You’ve got it’ replied Peter through a warm grin, ‘except for Christmas, read Annihilation’. They both smiled. It was an immensely pleasurable exchange for Phillip. Which was paradoxical since it centred on that most feared existential threat. But all thoughts of that were gone. Now there was only a delicious warmth radiating out from his solar plexus and galvanising his entire body.

‘In essence, those with a positive score are granted an extension. And the length of that extension is commensurate with the size of that score’.

‘An extension?’

‘An extension. Advances in gerontology have enabled us to fully crack the millennia-old conundrum of ageing. For a long time we have been able to retard or arrest the process, but now we can reverse it’.

‘Since when?’.

‘Oh, last century, 2016 I think. Don’t worry about the details, it’s enough for you to know that we can and that I am here in that regard’.

‘If you would just humour me’ said Phillip, ‘I’ve been a scientist all my working life. I’m just interested I suppose’.

‘OK. Well, a Japanese team put us on to the epigenetic theory. They honed in on two sections of DNA that control the production of a particular amino acid – glycine. You’ll like this, most people do, they bathed a cell line derived from a 97-year-old in glycine for ten days, and found that it restored the mitochondria’s ability to produce energy and actually reversed some age related defects’.

‘Neat’, Phillip cooed. ‘I had no idea’.

‘Would you like to receive your Reckoning?’

Silence. Just the hum of the ceiling fan, the indistinct hubbub ricocheting up from the street several storeys below, and the buzz-buzz-tap-buzz of a fly being confounded by the window.

‘Yes’

IV

Peter St. Keys looked uncharacterisically solemn as he reached into his jacket breast pocket. His fingers emerged clutching a small piece of paper, the size of a library catalogue card. He read from it in a steady, sonorous voice.

‘Phillip James Gregory. During the course of your 59 years, 7 months, 3 weeks, 5 days, 14 hours, 7 minutes and -‘ he looked up to meet Phillip’s eyes with a wry grin ‘I think that’s specific enough -‘ he resumed his recitation ‘all of you thoughts, words, deeds, dreams, sins – including those of omission – every beneficent act or utterence, every cruelty and unkindness, every intention and impact, has been monitored, quantified, and added to the balance. Your Reckoning, as you face 34 minutes left of life, is a net benefit and statistically significant positive impact. You have therefore been granted an extension of 6 years and 2 months’. He looked up again, narrowed his eyes and whispered ‘well done!’ with a heartfelt, affirmative nod of the head.

‘I’m fine, thank you. I’m ready’.

Peter cocked his head and, raising an eyebrow, echoed ‘ready?’.

‘Yes’ Phillip asserted, firmly yet cheerfully.

‘Are you sure? No-one has ever refused an extension’.

‘Yes’. Phillip closed his eyes. He drew in a long, deep breath. ‘I reckon so’.

Do Unto Others

He felt his fists balling in anger as he watched the Alsatian deposit its feculent pay load, the third of the week, on the pavement between his gate and the road. It’s owner, a bald, badly dressed mouth breather with faded green prison tattoos and a violent criminal stare, sucked vacantly on a vape contraption. He looked like an ape orally exploring a piece of alien technology. The fucking unthinking cunt.

3ea83fe5-bd13-448b-83ab-d2204a2d2999-215-0000003e2e870d93_tmpThe dog finished its crap and lurched off. The man followed, although not before sending a lump of spit hurtling into the hedge. No thought to bag up his dog’s business. A gift to the neighbourhood, a freshly squeezed little tower of shit to surprise unsuspecting shoes and pramwheels. Well, not quite this one. This one was bagged up. With the man and dog still in sight, he followed behind at a discrete distance, the little orange bag of warm crap swinging from his fingers.

He followed his quarry a couple of streets away, where they went into number 25 Staunton Terrace. Biding his time, it wasn’t long before he saw a light go on upstairs. Swiftly he made his move down the driveway. At the door he tore open the bag, lifted the letterbox open with his index fingers and gently jiggled the turds through. With a satisfying ‘phut’ they hit the carpet inside the hallway. Nervously, excitedly, he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out several flat but heavy stones, which he also dropped through the letterbox. As they hit the dog shit they squashed it deep into the carpet fibres, ensuring maximum disgust and difficulty to clean out.

Walking home he felt buoyed by a warm surge of righteousness. Natural justice had been dispensed, a wrong had been righted. Biblical, perhaps, but no less just for that.

a375b65e-df9e-4c0c-a642-b68a2697cbb2-215-0000003dcfad6a16_tmpRounding the corner of Parson Drive, he slowed his pace to watch a young woman size up the gap between a badly parked car and a hedge. Adjudging it too narrow, she had no choice but to push her pram around the car on the road, her mouth drawn tight with frustration. As he crossed over he reached into his coat pocket and clutched his door key tightly. Manipulating it between his middle and index fingers, like some covert prison shank, he slipped his hand back out of his pocket and pressed the key hard into the pristine paintwork of the selfish areshole’s Audi, holding it on to leave a good foot long scratch, in one smooth movement as he walked by. Untraceable. Expensive. A just dessert.

At around 8 o’clock it started again. Mr Mayhew next door always seemed to come to life every evening about this time. The cavity-less 1930s wall that divided their dwellings might well have muffled much of the sound of that analogue age, but it was no match for the decibels kicked out by Mr Mayhew’s Bose bins. Classic rock filled his living room, almost as clearly as it did Mr Mayhew’s. It was a maddening intrusion, an unforgivable encroachment into his private sanctuary. Mr Mayhew couldn’t have affronted him more if he’d let himself in the kitchen door, popped the kettle on and fixed himself a sandwich.

There was none of the instant karma he was used to with this one. No, this was a slow burn, a long game. The first symptom was a ringing in the ears. He knew Mr Mayhew was suffering from tinnitus because he heard him speaking to his family on the phone, when he would complain, rather loudly – no doubt as a consequence – of his aural disturbance. Some months after the onset of the tinnitus he had been delighted to see Mr Mayhew fall over in the street. It wasn’t icy out and it was barely 10 in the morning, so booze wasn’t a likely candidate. No, he was sure that it must be the next symptom. Loss of balance.

730b683e-6b21-4d94-9527-e8d46eb8c4d1-215-0000003f62db286d_tmpMr Mayhew’s inner ear was under attack. The cells that regulated his hearing and balance were losing a protracted and covert war being waged by a cocktail of ototoxic medicines that were being syringed into his gold top every morning. The aspirin was easy enough to come by. Six of those over-the-counter little bad boys every day. The neomycin he liked, an antibiotic with particular toxicity for the cochlear. That, along with the ethacrynic acid, the viomycin and the chemotherapy drugs were hard to come by, but not impossible. Very soon, if it were not already the case, the nerve damage would be permanent. Irreversible. And then there will be no merit in playing your music, will there Mr Mayhew. And our living rooms will fall silent. Yours, dispiritingly so. Mine, blissfully.

He felt a dull twinge of conscience. Once or twice. After all, this wasn’t anything a good scrub with bleach or visit to a car body shop could fix. But it was really the only fitting punishment. This was, beyond doubt, the most heinous of all selfish behaviours. That which invades, pollutes, makes intolerable another’s private space.