…and she gently stroked his hair and she sang him a lullaby, the most beautiful and serene lullaby he had ever heard. He tried to desperately hard to concentrate on the words but found the more he did the more he felt the hands of sleep pull his body deep into the cushion bed on which he lay.
And as he slept, he dreamt of a different life, a life he had never lived.
And he dreamt that he’d over slept for his paper round and he knew that when he got to the shop Mr Matthews would be mad at him and this made his tummy feel sick and he shook with nerves but he knew he had to face the music.
With trepidation, he pushed the door to the Newsagent, the chimes immediately alerted Mr Matthews who emerged like a waiting Ogre from behind an immense pile of morning papers.
The shop proprietor’s cheeks flushed cherry red as he shouted at Jim. Jim stood and looked Mr Matthews square in the eye; he knew that if he stayed quiet Mr Matthews would eventually run out of puff. This was a trick his brother Ben had taught him following his own employment as one of Mr Matthew’s morning boys a few years previously.
“Let him get it out of his system,” Ben would say, “He’s all bark and no bite, if you just take it and don’t bat an eyelid he’ll soon back down”.
He took it. As Mr Matthews spat with rage, Jim could feel the wetness of the tirade on his face but as predicted the longer the old man hollered the faster he deflated like an angry balloon with a puncture.
“Bloody kids,” he said under his breath, “I don’t know why I bother with them.”
And then it was over.
He lifted a big bundle of Newspapers from behind the counter and tucked them into the large red shoulder bag. He handed this to Jim and Jim heaved the strap over his head and got as comfortable as possible.
Mr Matthews then handed Jim a bar of chocolate and again muttered. “Bloody kids” under his breath, only this time Jim saw a slight grin on the old mans face and then a wink.
Outside it was bitterly cold. Jim hadn’t noticed on the way to the newsagent, because being as late as he was he really had only been thinking about the telling off he would get. Now the air was clear he could feel the icy wind rushing through him chilling him to the bone.
He wished he had taken the time to put on a t-shirt under his fleece and coat but knew it was too late now. Besides, the sooner he started walking the sooner he would begin to feel warm again.
Jim quickened his pace and as he walked, he clenched his fist, put his thumb to his mouth, and pretended his warm steam breath was smoke from this imaginary pipe. He laughed to himself and tried to remember where he had seen that before.
Turning the street corner of his first delivery he fished out the paper for No.22 as he done a hundred times before, on this time it was different.
Somehow it just felt wrong; it felt like it was the first time.
Had he not done this yesterday? Had he not done this on Saturday and Sunday, like he had every weekend for almost a year now?
He had, he definately had…
Then a lullaby came into his head; it was the most beautiful and serene lullaby he had ever heard.
If only he could work out where the lullaby was coming from…
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Sunday, August 27, 2006
A moment later it was finished.
Ruby stepped back and admired her handy work. She was proud of it, damn proud if she was honest with herself. It had taken almost a whole week of hard graft but it was worth it and now it was finished.
She collected up the box and all the packaging it had come in and took them down to the back door ready for collection Monday morning sharp.
She decided to keep the thick indecipherable instruction manual. ‘Just in case’ she said to herself as she slipped it alongside the many take-away menus and receipts in the drawer next to the washing machine in the kitchen.
Heading back to the lounge to turn down the booming French-electro indie pop that had accompanied her throughout the six days of construction, she considered how dramatically this labour of love would affect her life, ‘Quite a lot, but only in good ways,’ she concluded.
The room was now very dusty. It had not bothered her before, but this was probably because she had been working so intensely. As she watched the dust particles silently dance in the strong evening light in front of her she realised they were tickling her nose, which she instinctively rubbed with the back of her gloved hand.
She also now became aware that her long multicoloured brown and blonde hair was full of tiny pieces of debris, so she pulled it back into a ponytail and fastened it with her favourite clip, which was in the shape of a sheep.
Her smooth pale freckled skin was mottled with the engine grease and dirt that had collected since she fastened her first bolt the previous Sunday evening.
She didn’t know what to do first, try it out, or take a shower? She decided to take a shower; after all, it would still be there once she was finally nice and clean again.
By the time she had finished furiously towelling herself off and had pulled on her shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops it had already gotten dark. The hall light was on but when she tried the lounge light she realised it would not work as she had diverted all the power through to her creation. It was certainly true that it was going to take a lot of ‘juice’ to run, but it would definitely be worth it she thought.
Ruby took the emergency torch from the cupboard by the front door and switched it on as she walked the short distance to the entrance of the lounge.
Taking a deep breath, she shone the beam from the torch around the walls, up the curtains and across the ceiling finally settling on the exact centre of the room where it stood quietly humming to itself.
Realising Ruby was in the room; it adjusted its posture and slowly turned its head toward her. Its soft pale blue illuminated eyes glowed with life as it cleared its artificial voice box with a barely audible electronic cough, readying itself to speak for the very first time.
“Would you like me to make up a poem for you?” it asked in a reassuring calm deep tone.
“Yes,” replied Ruby as she sat on the comfy sofa, her face lighting up with a broad happy smile, “a poem would be perfect.”
Thursday, August 24, 2006
…and as I walk down the aisle, I can’t remember what it was I wanted.
The light is piercing; this florescent bully drives the drill hard between my eyes, exacerbating my already grinding headache. All I can think of is the end of the world and how it will look exactly like this… a Tesco Express open 24/7.
It’s just another one in the morning full of sad lonely bastards, drunks fighting to the last breath for more booze and ditzy giggly couples playing their happy fantasy, mistakenly believing their primal sexual urge is unique or worse still actual happiness. It is neither.
To be perfectly honest it is not the constant threat of being dragged into a drunken brawl that concerns me most, it is this group of students standing in front of me, watching me. One of them nudges another when I get a scotch egg from the chilled section, they half try to hide their mocking laughter when they see me get take the chocolate milk and it suddenly makes sense; it’s all so obvious now.
I am just another sad lonely bastard in suit.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Doug came up with the idea as he sat in the third row from the back at his cousin Martin’s send off.
It was when the Vicar had commented that the turn out was a testament to his cousin’s selfless life and that he wished Martin were there to witness it for himself that Doug suddenly thought ‘Hey, why not?’
After all, we have all had fantasises about seeing who would tip up to our funeral haven’t we? Think how fabulous it would be to see who was utterly devastated by your passing.
At a guess, your sister would not be that choked up though would she. Nah, that bitch couldn’t wait to see the back of you – especially with you sitting on all that furniture Mother left you.
‘I have to do this’, Doug thought, so he set about putting his scheme into action.
He arranged for an accident abroad and then the loss of his body on the return flight home. Losing this was far easier than he thought it would be, he simple booked the journey home through easyJet.com and struck a fragile sticker on the empty casket.
Bingo, no body.
However, there was still a funeral to carry out, which had a kick-off of 1.30pm at the Resting Willow crematorium (just off the by-pass)
He disguised himself as an elderly gent with a big grey bushy Saddam beard, a dirt old flashers Mac and thick rimmed dark glasses.
This he believed was exactly how most old men dressed.
‘Perfect’, he thought as he looked at his dishevelled form in his full length hotel room mirror, ‘No one will ever recognise me.’
Doug made certain that he got to the crematorium early, this was to ensure he would be able to check out everyone as they turned up.
He absentmindedly scribbled little drawings of a monster furiously eating a marketing executive on his order of service booklet as he excitedly waited to see who would show.
He had already complied a mental list of ‘must see’ for his funeral. These were:
1. The overall turn out.
2. Who arrived with whom.
3. General levels of sadness.
4. Individual levels of emotional distress.
5. What was said about him at the eulogy.
6. What was said about him at the wake.
7. What the wake catering was like.
8. How people were dressed.
9. What time everyone eventually pissed off from the wake.
10. How many attractive women turned up and then cried into little hankies as they realised that they would now never know him, sexually.
He was bound to get a better turn out than his cousin Martin, after all thought Doug, ‘Mart really was a bit of a berk’. (And as it happens actually his second cousin, not that Doug cared).
He also hoped the distress of the mourners for his ‘do’ would be far more intense than it had been at his best mate Dave’s funeral. Doug considered that this would be a tough call, after all Dave’s funeral was quite tragic, what with him having died whilst trying (and succeeding) to save a child’s life and all.
Doug sat outside the crematorium door and waited for the crowds to amass.
Except, they didn’t.
His sister turned up, sure. However, to be honest she didn’t exactly look that sad.
Neither of his teenage nephews showed, little bastards. He didn’t much care for them anyway, they were probably too busy off mugging grannies and sniffing glue.
Of his close friends, only Clive turned up. And he only showed to say how sorry he was, but he really couldn’t hang around for the service as he had somewhere else very important he had to be.
As Clive got back into his car, Doug noticed that he had his football socks and shin pads on under his flared cords.
Following this initial disappointment Doug became both excited and relived when a coach pulled into the car park and a large crowd got out and began walking up the path to toward him.
Sadly, Doug's sense of relief this was short lived when he realised they were just early for the funeral of the gentleman following his. (A nice old man who had died in his sleep never having gotten past chapter 12 of his book).
In total, only eight people came to mourn Doug’s passing, two of which were the carers of elderly relatives who’s names he did not know.
Worse still, the ministers eulogy was distressingly brief and seemed to Doug to be far too much of an apolo-eulogy than anything approaching a celebration of his life.
In fact, he almost blew his cover to throw a hymnbook at the minister when he commented that Doug’s aggressively negative nature was possibly born out of his sexual problems.
They didn’t even play the song he requested.
No, it was an utter disaster Doug concluded, his empty coffin was barely being scorched and everyone had already disappeared back to their own lives.
He felt completely dejected by the whole thing, so much so that he threw himself under the 15.47 city express link service.
Ironically, his second funeral had a better turn out than his first, although not by much.
They did at least get his song right this time.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
You remember when it started, don’t you?
Not very well I bet, but you do remember that miracle sheep?
You probably won’t remember them telling us that we were stupid to worry about the consequences. It was after all, far too difficult to replicate it in humans. In fact, it would never be done. It was too hard, too difficult and too dangerous.
Then those two renegade doctors appeared, Zavos and Antinori with their two thousand volunteers and claims that we were only a year away from the first cloned baby.
Naturally there was outcry in the media but it never really became the headline news it needed to be. There was always something nore immediate to worry about. A little war here, a financial slump there.
So the research went on, relatively unopposed.
After all money was already changing hands.
It didn’t happen straight away, it did take time. But Zavos and Antinori and all the others who hadn’t been quite so vocal about their intentions used that time and they perfected the techniques required.
The scientists were closer than anyone ever believed.
Jose Cibelli cloned himself using a cow’s egg; he kept this secret for three years.
Dolly the miracle sheep was seven months old before her creators The Roslin institute went public about their remarkable achievement.
So, how long then, would the scientists working away on reproductive cloning take to reveal to the world a successfully cloned human being?
Never?…Not for a long long time?…Not in our lifetime?
This time next year maybe?
One day in the autumn of 2008, which was far sooner than we thought, we were introduced to a three-year-old boy called Tom, and his genetically identical copy, Tim.
It was then that the world stopped and listened and then we spoke.
We said how identical they were.
Which was crushingly obvious. On a genetic level, these two little boys were 99.9% identical.
We said that it was a crime against nature.
However we’ve been committing crimes against nature since the first day we dragged ourselves from the primordial sludge. Nature already had a compelling case against us, so really, what difference did this make?
Besides, nature had created clones. They were called twins, or triplets or whatever, we were just catching up.
We said that it was an outrage against humanity.
But really, what humanity? Out of sheer boredom you were stuffing your over fed face with a cheese burger made from a toxic cocktail of chemically fed bovine bi-product and genetically altered high yield wheat, whilst half a world away a family died of starvation.
So really, with what humanity did we have the audacity to make such a judgement?
We just looked on at two little boys that were one. Tim’s beaming smile full of confidence, Tom sucking his thumb and looking scared…
Or was that Tim?
Where there were once loopholes, laws were tightened. After all Governments had to be seen to be acting.
It was of course all too late, they were already here.
This is it. This is the future and we have lived here for almost forty-five years.
Cloning is now officially illegal across the entire planet, and has been for over thirty years.
However, for the ten years that followed the statements made in Rome and in Washington DC in 2001 there was a period of extensive research, of extensive trials and of extensive failures.
They, being the teams of Scientist engaged in this race to be the first, operated from countries which had no formal regulations on either of the two cloning methods then available; embryo splitting and nuclear replacement.
It was just as Dr Brigitte Boisselier the Scientific Director of Clonaid had said;
“The demand is huge, the demand is there…this will be done,”
Done it was.
By 2013, the failure rate had dropped significantly, and demand was higher than ever. We never called them clones we called them Rome Babies.
In the year before the worldwide banning of all reproductive cloning, the Government in this country estimated the number of Rome Babies to be approximately three-quarters of a million.
Three quarters of a million children aged between 2 months and 6 years old.
The trouble was not just that there were so many, it was the fact the Government really did not know who they all were, or indeed, where they all were. The same was true across Europe, into Asia, through Australia, Africa and the United States.
President Richard Taylor made an address to the American public in 2015 that stated that the menace of human reproductive cloning and any associated long-term threats would be stopped, at whatever cost.
What a cost it is.
All known Rome Babies must be registered.
All known Rome Babies have restriction of movement within the United States of America and in the United States of Europe.
All known Rome Babies are genetically tagged for security reasons.
All known Rome Babies are automatically sterilised.
If you are found to be a Rome Baby and you have not declared your status you are prosecuted and jailed.
Any child of a Rome Baby is automatically exposed to the same restrictions, including enforced sterilisation, at whatever age.
If you are found to be harbouring a Rome Babies without surrendering them to authorities, you are liable to spend a lot of time in jail.
If you are found to be engaging in any form of research toward an aim of reproductive human cloning you are also liable to spend a lot of time in jail.
As you already know, China had it's own methods of dealing with Rome Babies.
The question is how can we treat Rome Babies this way? After all, are they not our fellow human beings? The intention of these laws is to stop the very act of human reproductive cloning for whatever reason. They are not about the individual; they are about the concept.
We could not have grasped the impact these laws would have on the individual. How could we? When President Taylor made his address, the eldest clone alive was only eight years old.
No one ever thought to ask the simple question…
How will you feel to know you are a clone?
To know that you are nothing more than a copy?
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
I take a swig from my can of Stella.
Helena’s eyes are like saucers and I can’t tell if she feels anything for me other than friendship.
See, that’s the problem when you’re trying to flirt with someone who has done a pill, the usual signs which indicate attraction are distorted or completely invalid.
I could say something, the music is loud and chat vibrant enough for me to tell Helena exactly how I feel without the danger of being overheard.
That is assuming she does not become deeply offended that I would betray our friendship with such a juvenile declaration, especially considering her boyfriend is no more than two metres from where we sit.
I can’t do it, I simply can’t. What does it matter anyway? She won’t feel the same way, she’ll say I’m sweet and if things were different (meaning if I was better looking, smarter, had more money and a more positive mental attitude) then maybe…
Thing is, people will always tell you that you will find the right one just as soon as you stop looking. Just like magic, it will all fall into place, you just have to stop looking and you’ll find someone, when you least expect it.
I stopped looking two year ago and nothing.
Not for me drunken conversations in the pub that lead to friendship and then love;
“Oh it’s such an interesting story, we just happened to be sitting next to one another and Martin over heard me say that I’d been to Prague. Martin was at the time about to go so we started to chat and here we are five years later; I’m pregnant and Martin’s just left me for my younger, better looking sister”.
No bumping into each other in Waitrose leading to Sushi and cunnilingus;
“I was after lemon grass and low fat humus and Elliott was after sub-dom and strangulation”.
You just don’t hire a car and fall in love with the… erm… whatever you call the person who sorts that out, or the hotel receptionist, or the barman or barmaid or bank teller or postman or temporary secretary or the person doing your BCS or any of these people.
It does not happen and if anyone tells you anything to contrary, they are lying to make themselves feel better.
“What was that you said, Ged?” ask Helena as she shifts forward to hear me over the beautifully rhythmic beats of whatever the name is of this French electronic band she was telling me about earlier.
“I can’t believe you’ve got a kid,”
“Well I have” she says as she rubs her eye, “What do you mean by that anyway?”
“Well I’ve never seen her, what’s her name?”
“Lilly”. Helena nods gesturing to the photo behind me, I turn and take it from the shelf. The photo sits within a patchwork heart shaped frame and is of Lilly sitting in Helena’s lap on a beach somewhere sunny.
“Is it pebbles or sand?” I ask absentmindedly.
Helena snatches the picture away from me and holds it face out against her chest. She jabs at the image of her jubilant daughter; “That’s Lilly, see, she looks just like me”
“What about the father?”
“Fucking idiot,” She says angrily, “He and Lilly share the same mental age, that of a six year old”
“How old is Lilly?”
“Oh I see what you mean.”
Helena turns the photo back round and stares at it intently. After a few moments, she looks up and then smiles at me. It is without doubt the warmest smile I have ever seen from her in all the years we have been friends. I smile back and try to put in as much feeling as she did in hers. As soon as I do, she frowns at me and leans toward me, I skip a beat thinking this could be it but it immediately appears she was only putting the photo back where it came from.
“Ged, how is it you haven’t met her?”
“Dunno, she’s never around when I come here, do you think she’d like me?”
“What do you think?”
“Probably not, she’d think you were weird, she looks like smart kid.”
“Helena frowns at me, disapprovingly, “Why do you do that?”
“What?” I ask.
“Put yourself down all the time?”
“To get in there first,” I say in a much rehearsed and often delivered response.
“That’s such bollocks, you’ve got loads going for you.”
I don’t like this; I don’t want to have this conversation. I’ve had versions of this conversation so many times over the years and it always ends up with me getting a series of backhand compliments which make me feel worse about myself than I already do, so I ask Helena what it is she wants, what she ultimately wants for Lilly and for herself.
Helena doesn’t even pause to think, “I’ve got to get out of this city; I don’t want Lilly growing up here”
I think come live with me, but I don’t say it.
Helena gets up and walks into the kitchen. Her boyfriend follows her in and although I can’t hear what they’re saying I think they’re having an argument.
I take another swig from my can of Stella.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
He doesn’t pick up; I didn’t honestly expect anything else.
“Hi you’ve reached the voicemail of Lee Reid. I am not available right now so please leave a message.”
The knot is already starting to form but I try to leave as casual a message as possible.
“Hi it’s only Helen, just wanted to see what time you’ll be home. I’m going to try the office number now so if you get this after I’ve spoken to you ignore it.”
I’m only trying to find out what time he’s getting home tonight, I’m not checking up on Lee, not checking up in case he’s off having an affair. No one will assume that right? I mean wives check up on what time their husbands will be home for tea all the time.
“Good evening this is RSP, Martin speaking, how can I help you?”
There is nothing unusual about this phone call.
“Hi Martin, this is Helen Reid. Could you put through to my husband please?”
I sense a very slight pause, what is Martin thinking? Is he about to lie for Lee, is that what is about to happen?
“I’m sorry Mrs Reid, Lee’s already left.”
“Oh right,” I say trying to sound completely okay with it. “How long ago did he leave?”
Martin coughs very slightly, I’m fairly sure he’s telling the truth, he’s not covering for Lee, why would he? Lee is not doing anything wrong, he just left a while ago that is all.
“I’ve only just come onto my shift so I’m not sure. Can you hold on a mo while I check?”
“Yes, please do.” I say.
“Just be a minute, just putting you on hold now.”
Then it comes at me full force. It’s on me now, clawing at my neck, my hair, I can feel the blood starting to freeze in my veins, my stomach bottoms out and I feel weightless, I know what’s coming. I know what this guy Martin is going to say. He’s going to tell me Lee left hours ago and I’ve been waiting here like an idiot and they’re all laughing at me. Laughing at this pathetic dutiful wife. They won’t be laughing at Lee though, oh no, Lee’s the big man, the big man that cheats…
The big man that cheats, that lies, that betrays, destroys, hurts…
This is horrible, I can’t breath, this is horrible…I can’t think, I want this to stop, to go back. I just want him to be home and these thoughts to be out of my head for good.
It is not that easy though. It never has been.
I remember when Lee looked me in the eyes and said he would never cheat. I recall that moment clearly now, all those years ago. I asked him if he’d ever cheat on me and he gently took my hand, and looking at me with those beautiful intense blue eyes, said no. No. He would never cheat on me.
“Hi, Mrs Reid?” Martin says in a tone that suggests he is about to tell me something I will not want to hear. “Apparently Lee left a couple of hours ago.”
I manage to get out an “Oh, okay.” Just as everything is pulling me up, up and out of myself, the weightlessness makes me feel sick.
I feel suddenly very dizzy. I don’t know what to do so I just say nothing.
Sensing something is wrong Martin fills the gap with what he probably thinks is helpful background.
“Mrs Reid, apparently Lee told Mike that he was dropping Amanda off then heading home.”
“Right.” I say and then slam the phone down.
It could still be nothing… really. You know anything could have happened. It doesn’t mean a thing, well not enough that he couldn’t have rung me, he’s only a couple of hours late, just a couple, it doesn’t mean anything at all, so really I shouldn’t read anything into it.
Except of course I do. What else can I do?
I’m in freefall, panic clutches me to its breast and as the hard cold earth screams towards me I know I don’t have a safety cord anymore, it’s too late for that, I know because I’ve pulled it before and it didn’t work.
I am falling and no one can catch me.
I try to get up from comfy chair he always sits in as soon as he gets home, sits in as he takes off his tie, and then his shoes. I can’t stand, I feel light-headed, I can’t sit, I’m shaking, can’t stay calm, I’ve been such a fool all these months, I was right all along. He lied to me, he lied and lied and lied and made me feel like I was going crazy with all these thoughts, but I was right, I was right.
I look around and all I see are memories of a home I once had, which I shared with Lee, my friend, my best friend, my husband, our home, our things, this is us, this is the past six years of us and it was safe, secure, our retreat, our fortress from the violence of the world. Now the violence is here like a malevolent tumour bursting through the skin.
It is here, and everything is a complete lie.
Two minutes and everything has changed, two minutes…
I try calling Lee again. I know I should not.
I know I should not.
“Hi you’ve reached the voicemail of Lee Reid. I am not available right now so please leave a message.”
“Where are you Lee? I’ve called your work and they said you left with ‘Mand hours ago. I don’t know what’s going on, but you should have phoned me and told me. Where the hell are you? Why are you doing this?”
I’m just about to say that if he isn’t home in the next hour then he might as well just not bother when there is a brief set of sharp knock at the front door.
Before I answer the door I have a strange feeling, as if I have been tricked, but not by Lee, by something else. This sudden unexplainable pressure in my chest that tells me that I know what’s coming next, and where this has been heading, all this time.
I get to the door just as there is a second set of sharp knocks. I turn the Yale and pull the door open and there they stand, impassive but tangibly pensive, both of them, together, and I am not at all surprised.
“Mrs Reid?” The Policeman says to me.
I just nod my head.
“Mrs Reid, I’m Police Constable David Edwards and this is my colleague Police Constable Josephine Wiggins.”
The female Police Constable steps forward very slightly, “May we come in Mrs Reid?”
Then I hear the words. I’ve heard variations of them said many times over the years on TV, the radio, read them in books, all similar situations. The only difference is this time they are being said to me.
“Mrs Reid, we have some bad news and we’d rather speak with you inside.”
Lee is dead of course.
I recall only moments of the next few hours. Sitting at the dining table with Lee’s files and folders scattered all over. He was going to tidy it up when he got home. They tell me that the paramedics fought to save his life but the injuries he sustained in the crash were just too severe.
He didn’t suffer they say. Then again, they never do.
I look at the piles of paperwork in front of me and I think I cannot tidy this, I don’t know what order they go in.
Lee will be furious if I mess them all up.
Monday, August 14, 2006
You know we have all felt lonely from time to time.
We can even feel lonely when we are with others who care for us; friends, family, lovers...
Gort Nano feels lonely. His mission to find answers has been tough, and so far fruitless. Yet, he continues his lonely quest, not just because he is programmed to; but because he has a good (mechanical) heart.
Now finally it seems his quest may be at an end...
It's been a harsh lesson for Gort Nano, but at least he now knows the answers to his questions will not come from above.
We're praying for you Gort Nano, peace be with you my robotic child.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
She was beautiful, a vision, long coal black hair, dark frosty eyes and a complexion so pale and so perfect that every china doll in the western hemisphere cracked with uncontrollable jealously.
They had met at an office Christmas party of all places. He was from one of the regional teams; she was head office staff, something in finance. They had hit it off immediately. They talked intensely until the lights came up the following morning and even the hardcore ‘party animals’ (middle-aged married at twenty one, fathers of three) had finally staggered off the dance floor and into an alcohol induced coma.
Nothing had happened that evening, other than immediate mutual attraction, so nothing physical that is; no, it was not until a week later and a secret liaison that things had gotten heavier.
He liked Kate, adored her even if he was honest. She fascinated him, he felt utterly bewitched, yet as always there was a tiny part of him which held back, a cautious fifth that said, ‘wait man, you hardly know this chick, it’ll end badly, just like last time’.
It was not that Johnny was a Lothario; he really was not. He was as fragile and as sensitive as we all can be at times. The truth was he did not need another failed relationship; he did not want to twist up another woman inside and then stamp all over her. He could not cope with anymore regret, anymore remorse, anymore guilt. Always having to wonder what could have been, rather than what could be. He just wanted to love. As hopelessly pathetic as that sounded.
Then suddenly out of nowhere the possibility of happiness had appeared, the moment had come; they were together and alone in her secluded cottage. Booze consumed, their favourites tracks playing in the background like a committee-arranged soundtrack to accompany their lives.
He held her in his arms and he felt complete. Her milky smooth skin so much warmer to the touch than one would imagine. They kissed and it was like the first kiss he had ever had, he was on fire inside, he lit up and woke up. He felt hope.
The kiss came to its natural end and he pulled away very slightly so he could look into her beguiling eyes just to assure himself that she was real, that this was actually happening.
He saw blissful moments there, plans being made, futures discussed, long evenings spent on themselves. Holidays and dinner parties, pub trips, gigs and decorating. All vital components of a wonderful and successful relationship.
However, as he held her loving gaze he saw more.
Because as he looked deeper, he saw what he most feared, he saw reality he could never escape.
He saw the slow inevitable atrophy of another relationship he could not give himself to, no matter how desperately he tried, or how honest his intentions. He saw months and then years dragging on and on as any notion of love, however tenuous cracked and fell away until all that remained were two bitter husks of the people they once were.
He knew it was not a premonition; it just was what it was, just as he was what he was. Unable to love, unable to form a lasting bond, not just with Kate, but with anyone.
It was not that he didn’t deserve happiness, companionship, peace and love, it wasn’t about deserving; it was that he simply didn’t have the capability to ever feel love, peace, contentment, whatever it is that everyone else around him seemed to find and feel as easily as the wind on their faces. For Johnny it would be like trying to decipher the most cryptic language imaginable without a Rosette stone to guide him.
He let go of her, pulling away from their passionate embrace. The sudden violent realisation of what the future held horrified him. He staggered back wide-eyed panic gripped him.
“What’s wrong”, Kate asked, confused by the abrupt sea change in Johnny.
“N…n…nothing’s wrong”, he replied, “Look Kate, I’m sorry okay, but I’ve really got to go, I can’t be here.”
Kate tried to take his hand but he pulled farther away from her. He looked at her one last time, and then left.
They never saw one another again.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
The latest, most ethically challenging yet undeniably exciting extreme sport ever has arrived and it truly is a killer.
Mark looks up and sees an image of man with a gun. The man is staring into a mirror, his reflection stares back.
Hey you! Bored of jumping off things? Tired of racing things? Sick of trying to look death in the eye and seeing nothing?
Then KillClone™ is for you.
With cloning technology, now a 24-hour hassle free procedure the time is has come for you to create the perfect nemesis for an urban-based game of kill or be killed.
It’s you against you and you alone.
The ultimate match, the ultimate challenge, the ultimate thrill.
The part of the poster which tells you where to apply, the cost, the usual legal crap; you know the kind of thing, ‘the makers of KillClone™ are not liable in the event of your death’ and such like is torn away.
He didn’t think it was odd that the poster was in the alley way, hell, in the past few months these things had popped up just about everywhere. He was surprised however, that someone had made such a bad job of putting it up in the first place.
‘Shoddy workmanship’ he thought to himself.
Mark waited in the dark, out of sight. He had been here hours, but it felt like days. He tightly gripped the Maxi-DEATH™ pistol in both hands, he tried desperately to stay as silent and as still as he possibly could, it wasn’t easy, not when you’re soaked to the skin, starving hungry and scared.
He knew that this was the fight of his life, the fight for his life. Did he have a chance? It was no longer 50/50; apparently, they always won… or rather his kind always won… that is if he was one or the other. He just did not know anymore, he thought he was real, but then so did they.
Sure it had been exciting at the beginning, virtually broadcast across the entire world the first contests had become instant celebrities, more important than Popstars, Soapstars, Geneticists or even High Def Presenters.
Predictably, the liberal marginal media were outraged; the morality of it sickened them. ‘Murder for sport’, the flyers declared, and ‘Slaughter for personnel pleasure’ they chanted outside the gates of the company. ‘Surely, someone was accountable?’ the campaigns cried on the HD bulletins, ‘It was cold bloodied murder’ they screamed, ‘plain and simple’.
Except it was not that simple. How can you prosecute someone for killing you when you are still alive? And if you are prosecuted then you could not use the argument that it was self-defence; not when it is you that has attacked you. What rights did you have and what rights did a copy of you have?
The courts got themselves into knots over the legal ramification of the sport.
The makers of KillClone™ further complicated matters by never publicly revealed whether it was the original or the copy that had triumphed at the conclusion of a contest. Questions were asked of course, but the company just brushed it off with clever PR logic;
“If you knew it was a clone of your husband, brother, father that had been the winner of the contest could you accept them into your homes and your lives knowing they’d killed your loved one despite the fact they are exactly the same?”
The thing was though, not knowing was worse. Marriages broke up, families were torn apart, but still they signed up.
Eight days after Mark signed up to take part in KillClone™ the horrific truth was revealed. An anonymous source had come forward, a disgruntled employee of the company, or maybe an ex-contestant with a conscience. No one knew, and frankly, no one cared, because the truth he revealed had already sent shockwaves around the globe.
The outcome had been the same in every single one of the thousands of battles between clone and original that had taken place since the games commenced barely 12 months earlier. Without exception.
Why was it? Again, no one really knew although a popular consensus was quickly formed; they just wanted to win more.
‘What was that?’ Mark fumbled with the surprisingly lightweight hunk of death dealing metal in his hands. Clicking off the safety he slowly rose to his feet to look over the small wooden fence that separated him from his family home which stood bathed in spotlights no farther that 100 metres from his position.
‘I wonder if the kids are in bed?’ thought Mark before BLAMMO!
The force of a sledgehammer hit him squarely in the chest. He was thrown backwards against the aging trunk of rotten tree he had long meant to cut down.
There was no pain, just shock, was he hit? He must have been.
‘Get up, get going’, he told himself, but as he tried for his feet he realised there was nothing there, in fact there was nothing below his chest.
He looked up and saw himself stand before him with a Maxi-DEATH™ rifle. He saw himself kneel down and felt himself gently place his hand on his face.
“I wasn’t sure” Mark said, “I wasn’t sure if I was real or not”.
His doppelganger leant in close and tenderly kissed him on the forehead.
“You’re about to die Mark, so I guess that means you are”.
With that a Mark died.
Friday, August 04, 2006
You may find his mechanical longing annoying, pathetic and artificial, but the truth is he is only struggling with the same questions that we all struggle with - only he has no friends to act as counsel, no guidance from flesh and blood parents.
He has only clockwork intuition; and no one to wind his key.
His quest for answers continues despite his fear that the answers may never come...
Nil desperandum Gort Nano, nil desperandum.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
It was a beautiful summers evening, the sort of evening you dreamt about all through the long cold and wet winter months. The air was still, yet comfortably warm; the sun was starting to set, leaving behind it a glorious orangey glow.
‘How utterly divine’, Ruby thought as she sat on the edge of the little stone bridge that lent across from North field to South field like an elderly gentleman trying to fish his wallet from his wife’s handbag in the bottom of the shopping trolley.
With her feet paddling in the gentle stream, Ruby had spent the past hour watching bewitched as the Swallows darted and dived at hypnotic speed above her. She had momentarily felt such a part of their simple world that she feared to move in case it may in someway disturb the little birds from this joyous dance.
She smiled her biggest and brightest smile, which was not an inconsiderable thing as she had the biggest and brightest smile county-wide; a smile that some would say could make even the most twisted and cynical man grin like a new born baby.
She gracefully rose to her feet, slipped on her pink flowery sandals and began to slowly stroll through the field that ran up to old weather-beaten farmhouse.
Her glittering blue eyes watered as she considered how lucky she was that she was she alive and able to fully experience such joyous peace.
Despite all the terrible things that the people of the world continuously did to one another in their selfish drive to satisfy base desire and misguided theologies, Ruby knew that she had managed to find true happiness and she had found it within herself, the one place most never thought to look.
Now she was on her way back home to spend time with her beloved rabbit, ‘the perfect end to a wonderful evening’, she thought with a grin.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
This is the story of Robert Watling and his encounter with a balding transsexual.
The encounter had occurred during a day trip to Southend-on-Sea. Having just purchased an egg and cress sandwich from the high street Marks and Spencer he had stepped from the sweetly air-conditioned atmosphere of the UK’s most beleaguered retailer straight into the path of a balding transsexual.
“For goodness sake” The balding transsexual said with a scowl, “Why don’t you bloody well watch where you are going?”
“I-I-I’m te-te-terribly sorry,” stuttered Robert, adjusting his thick black-rimmed glasses that had almost completely lost their grip of his right ear during the collision.
“Hmm.” replied the balding transsexual as she gave Robert a not at all discreet up and down. Then with a sneer that almost took her eye out she spun on her heels and continued down the high street at a pace that would have made Zola Budd proud.
Robert Watling felt both furious and embarrassed. He was not a man to court conflict, indeed in all his 37 years of life he had not once been engaged in a disagreement let alone a full on physical fight. He believed in equality, fairness and lived his life as open and as liberal as he possibly could. ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ he could often heard to say. Yet, this incident had unsettled him greatly.
‘Oh my’, Robert thought, ‘that was the first and rudest balding transsexual I have ever met, and worse still I do believe that a balding transsexual has silently judged me and found me wanting’.
Robert stood and watched as the balding transsexual disappeared into an Ottaker’s much farther down the high street before saying aloud (but certainly not at a volume that was at all audible on a busy lunchtime), ‘bitch’.
He then took his egg and cress sandwich and ate them on a park bench whilst he read up to chapter 12 of a book he had found on the train into Birmingham New Street Station some months before.
That was the story of Robert Watling and his encounter with a balding transsexual.