'We waited for nothingness. We made a list of those we hated. We remembered them. We continued to make a daily inventory and when we noticed disturbing personality traits, we embraced them. Having spiritually annulled ourselves as a result of working these steps, we carried this message to the newly dead'.
-Will Self, 'How the Dead Live'.
I am not, as you will see at once, Officer, a salt-of-the-earth murderer. Something terrible has happened to me beyond simply being a vicious killer. In my head it's like a blizzard.
My dad told a good anecdote about the day I was born. He'd fallen in as a labourer at a hundred-strong construction site in Elnham. A few months in, there came a fierce snow storm (I know, Officer, shameless allegory – I hate it too). As it was starting to intensify, the drifts settling into waist-deep walls, the news came through that my mother had gone into labour at Athton hospital. What to do? A steep, ten mile valley separated them. At that time, my family didn't have a car, and even if we did, no regular axles could have coped with that insane snowfall.
My dad; I can't imagine him panicked or heck-emotional, so what was it that endeared him to the company boss, so much so that he loaned him what was then a top-of-the-range Caterpillar 755 dumper? Though he was a dab-hand at driving it, my dad wasn't insured to use this particular machine – plus it wasn't allowed beyond a certain radius from the site. So what was it that made an anonymous company boss commit this crazy act of faith? They weren't friends. By all accounts, the man was strict, authoritative, disciplined to the point of being sullen.
It was a question my dad asked himself even as the engine gasped and surfed him over the increasingly bunged-up curbs, past abandoned cars, at one point –so the legend goes—across a massively hilly field. We're talking about the 755, Constable-Detective; if it had been any other vehicle and if the cab wasn't open-plan, my dad wouldn't even have been able to see where he was going. Talk about defining moment. Years later, he'd see some NASA footage of the Apollo moon-buggy coasting up over the white craters, and he'd say, 'That's what it felt like'.
In any case, he's to whom I owe my antiquated name, 'Howdy', that stern and kindly company-man who allowed a simple blue-collar to roar across the landscape in such a fearsome monster.
In such a fearsome monster.
When my dad died in 2004 – my mum having gone the previous – I chose to opt out. Of everything. Of most kinds of morality, certainly. Every girl I'd ever loved –and I was a lover—had betrayed me. Similarly, my beautiful blue-collar jobs allowed me to rise to front-line management positions, always at what seemed like five year intervals, before each company inevitably moved to such 'picturesque' countries as Malaysia or Taiwan or Korea.
In Hankley, it happened differently. Because Yondes' soap factory was the little town's main employer, the community took greater notice than if it had happened in the heart of Birmingham or Brishampton (both industrial hubs where I'd worked before). The MP James White made a big show of arranging talks with the owners. Union involvement? N please. This is the West, where we do what we're told. All the same, I remember thinking, what is there to lose? If the lives of five-hundred of your constituents suddenly fall into the thrall of someone who's wall-eyed greed incarnate – you don't try to negotiate with it. You book a slot on West Window, look straight into the camera and decry him as a Nazi. You cry boycott. Or you say, stay in this country, and even if you make half as much money as you would in rickshaw land, you're still millions of pounds in profit, so try and be less of a grasping whore. Some fanatics might even say, stay in this country, even if it means your company going under. Constable-Detective, murder not withstanding, he does not consider himself a fanatic. As far as he knows, he is still just a lonely, bitter man driven to murder. Beautifully alone, grateful in the sanctity of his solitude. This is what he believes. Remember that.
In fact, yes, look at all these beautiful Metropolitan Police Statement sheets. Tens of dozens, all of them that curious, slightly-off-white shade. Are they stored on a sun-drenched window sill somewhere? Hell. They promise that I've got room in abundance, to talk about the balloon, and the chase, the sunsets, and of course Reagan. So why not go ahead and dwell on James White, Jim Yondes and his hateful daughter a while longer? When you think about it, all the loves and hates you humans feel are just forms of worship for something far more powerful. You might say justice, Detective-Constable. I say Hell, now seventy percent in Reagan's mind, thirty in mine. Twenty, ten…
Jim Yondes walked around the shelly metal corridors of our factory, smiling, drifting like a Sunset Boulevard tourist. About once a month or so, he'd have business partners en toe. Except they weren't authentic business partners. Business men wear suits. These people wore polo-shirts, actual polo-shirts from a buck-toothed polo ground.
Bad form part two: some time in 2004, Yondes' mother died of Vertsing Disease, though the workers only learnt of this through an in-factory fund-raising day; trays of obscure badges beneath germ-like bundles of pink balloons. Give the man back a small slice of your wages, so the money can go round and round, and Vertsing Disease – there I was worrying about my father's cancer, so pathetically old fashioned. There he was worrying about his father's cancer like a mournful ape.
Bad form part three: her name was Vivea, the boss' daughter. Do you know that weird archetype of pretty girl, where they've passed straight through the personification of Western-World beauty to become completely homogenous? I wouldn't even have touched it with yours, Officer. Taunting Greek Gods only allowed me to see her in the first place because she invaded our works canteen, trying to sell her pretentious cushions to the blue-collars. Displaying the rubbish on two hologram-linoleum dining tables pushed together, she'd occupy herself with horrible, self-conscious smiles. Always he dreamed of saying, "Please. No one wants primary-colour, three-inch cushions. No one wants cushions with the stars and crescent moons of a theatrical wizard's cloak. No one! Wants any cushion that costs over twenty pounds" – and then suffocate her with one. Suffocate your enemies the way they suffocate you, by virtue of their mere existence.
Quite often I felt that gentle, almost romantic pull towards murder, though I always let it tide away again. Does this win me any leniency? That there were people who gave me such visceral loathing, who I nonetheless allowed to go blithely on in my world? Or does that make things worse, with the suggestion that by always hating the same sort of aristocratic person, I'm a constant threat, an ocean of violence? Constable-Detective puts his head in his hands, swigs his oil-spill coffee – too much exposition. Think about heaven. Think about getting to heaven some day. Small 'h', noted by your groping eyes.
After loitering in the distant future for months, reference an un-winnable election, our redundancy meeting was finally upon us. Hundreds of us marched through the matte-steel corridors – my abdomen gnawing itself to pieces with dread; weird, because I could have sworn I didn't care. We took our place at the back. In came JimYondes, instantly recognisable. The expensive GQ shirt worn so loosely and rippled, it was the aristo equivalent of lazily slipping on a promotional beer T. Cord trousers because they're nothing but comfort. Dusty white hair: keep it uncombed because it makes you look like one of your 'eccentric' Eton professors.
A curious phenomenon which I've noticed; as your murderous hatred is incubated, the more it builds, then the more your subject starts to resemble a simple stereotype in proportion. Just as though the forces of lowest-common-denominator anonymity are trying to deflect you with the suggestion that they're not to blame, it's their archetype. And so, ironically, you their murderer become the greatest champion of their idiosyncratic soul.
Except, sorry, we can live without irony. To be a zen-like, dream-like cloud of death, that's the only drive that was in us. I knew I'd give in to it, too, if I had to stand there absorbing his inane, granny-faced apologies a second longer. So I stormed out of the meeting, out of the factory, into the paradisal countryside. Call me Mr Succinct. Memory number one: walking past a sunny field-nook and a shire horse who I fed with brambles. His huge and intriguingly hollow-sounding muzzle.
Off I went into the valleys, the mountains, hundred mile patch-works of grassland with horizon so flat I felt like a hundred foot giant surveying the Earth. That's where I disappeared to. That's where I've been disappeared ever since, along with Hell. Sleeping beneath the stars and reading the broadsheets in small-town libraries. My life. Oh, of the two-thousand pound redundancy-bonus which Yondes owed me, dependent on my working the last few days? It was never about the money. Humanity equals money, the fending of entropy with greed.
I can sense you're still not hooked, Mr Officer. That none of this quite mixes on your crime-solving palette. Fine. Let's proceed straight into the timeline of the main event. September 21. Chepstow Library, the mezzanine. He breathed in the stories from an expensive, arbitrary broadsheet. Jim Yondes, inventor of revolutionary clog-free soap dispenser, is to be knighted in recognition of his services to technology and industry. 'Industry'. 'And Industry'. The worlds danced and lilted around my heart in a very mild form of hysteria. Imagine that sensation of slipping too quickly into a piping-hot bath, only the roar of pain hits you solely on your neck and the back of your forearms, everything else a haunted-house chill. Worst of all, my conscious mind refused to understand what it signified, the exact emotions. I had to think hard before I realised. No conventional hate, this. Profound, god-stirring zeal. I shook. My heartbeat resembled… no kind of heartbeat you've heard, Officer. A hatred so colossal, I had no choice but to force it out of my head. It rose like a invitation, or an invocation.
September 22. Having slept soundly in a clean, perfectly rectangular barn, I awoke at the hidden hour of 5 AM. From nowhere, it was the most beautiful morning I'd ever known. Mescaline sunbeams, actually golden. Mescaline grass. I stalked along, just another dagger-shaped shadow wielded by some kindly Jamaican god. The nearest I got to a road was when I leaned inside an old woman's garden (it may have been an young woman's, or a old man's) and appropriated an entire vines-worth of ripe strawberries. Upsetting for them, I know, though I did leave two crisp twenties weighted to their doorstep. Upsetting for all concerned.
I walked through beautiful green valleys for hours. Sloping together, it was the nature of those luscious fields to subdue any sound, bar the birds. I heard it eventually, though. A low and godly roar. Can you guess what it was? A inconceivable roar, inhuman. From nowhere there was a hot-air balloon resting on the ground before me; silken, primary-coloured, larger than life and billowing such heavenly contentment. In the basket was a beautiful middle-aged woman in a tight red shirt. The pilot seemed to be a prepubescent boy solemnly messing with the fire-tubes.
We smiled at each other –genuine smiles from Day One of Heaven – and talked for a while. I told them that they should head West, where they'd see the tank fair being held at Nighbridge.
The woman consulted with the solemn boy. "Will you join us?", she asked me.
His heart, Officer, felt like a miniature universe, and joyous. Obviously, to go with two happy strangers on a balloon flight would be weird and awkward. I said no, but the good was already done. I waved goodbye, my torso tingling as though I was floating up with them, just below. You may think that anecdote has nothing to do with the murder. I will explain.
13.30. I sat in Stinchcombe Library reading one of the lesser broadsheets. Still dreaming about the balloon, I barely registered the bi-lines. Except. 'Car Wreck Man found guilty of manslaughter'. 'Terry Sher, depressed after being made redundant from his job at an aeronautics factory in Carmarthenshire, drove his Citroen hatchback at high speed into the River Usk, instantly killing his seven year old son who was a passenger. This was the ruling of Abergavenny Crown Court - '. 'Sher, who was described by friends as a devoted family man -'. 'The privately owned company, which shifted production to Thailand at the end of last year-'.
What an odyssey. And, yes, even in my horror, I thought less about your man Sher and more about my own factory. On the morning of the meeting, there'd been grown men with tears in their eyes, men who otherwise looked like sturdy football managers, and part of us had wanted to laugh at them, the other part –
What? Even now, there were no new emotions, just an impetus, reference those NASA modules that just need a tiny burst of energy from a watch battery. And away. I realised – it was the reason I hadn't gone on the balloon that morning, allowed the attractive woman to fall in love with him, become a surrogate father to the solemn boy. Still the knowledge that they existed at all gave him power.
18.50. The rough details of what happened next - you no doubt know already. His thoughts were of a cunning cowboy, playing possum in the middle of an isolated country road. What's he up to? I lay prone, my evil eyes as wide as the Mercedes headlights that approached, the universe of yellow which pooled on the tarmac. The car door opened slowly, as an expression of awe. My evil eyes flicked mechanically up onto the face of his enemy.
"I've had an accident". The production of a revolver. "Could you lend me fifty pence? I'll give you a fiver tomorrow".
Officer, you'll note my theory of how the personality senses a murderer approaching and goes to ground – the psychic equivalent of lion-hunted emu sticking his head in the soil. The victim does his best to look homogeneous. Yondes said absolutely nothing, merely took out his wallet and threw it on the ground at my feet.
The cowboy, "I think you do me a disservice. I said, 'lend me fifty pence', not 'I want to steal your wallet'". And I kicked it back, between his feet. He knew there was a sadistic game in play; he just played it dully, stupidly. A fifty pence coin was removed and placed in my left palm by a grey, hesitant hand.
"Thank-you", I told him. "Now. Some time around lunch tomorrow, I'll repay you, with interest. I'll pin a five pound note to the back of that tree".
With the barrel of the six-shooter, I gestured at an anonymous tree on the side of the road. I asked him, solemnly, if he understood. Dumfounded. I smiled and handed him the shooting-iron. "By the way, this is just a child's toy. I just really need this fifty pence, right now".
He looked at the gun for a little while, then threw it in the hedge and hurriedly got back in the Merc, still in fear of his wretched life. Then the cowboy could only smile as the tail-lights became red will-o'-the-wisps, far away in the grey countryside.
Yondes' actions now would be quite distinct and would represent either a red, amber or green light for the murder to go ahead. If he went back the next day to collect the money, fine, it would show that he understood the delicacies of making a deal with an anonymous, honour-bound man, and in turn society. If he never returned for the fiver (which was pinned to the back of the tree all along), amber: it would highlight him as an honourless bourgeois – but, please, this is the way of the world. Green, proceed: if he had the police investigate the scene, because I was such a mysterious madman – the audacity of being mysterious when I should have been hollow, explicable to his arrogant mind and the world which revolves around it. Searing green.
As I sat on that nearby hill the next day, binocular-frowned, I hoped all along that it would be red.
And then, at ten the next morning – you arrived. The intermediaries. I breathed deeply and limbered up.
Now and again, you humans theorise about executing a murder. It's the price you pay for living in a world constrained by Christ's gobbledegook. In a world saturated with glibness, unrequited love, arrogance, capitalism-sanctioned rivalries. His elaborate plans to leave red herrings, side-step any police-linked security alarms, the dead pigeon placed near a smashed window, a faux-robbery – no. When the time came, there was no plan in my mind, just the impetus. Closer, in spirit, to all those sunset evenings when I woke, left for the ubiquitous 12-hour nightshift, a cold kiss goodbye from Nina, or Jane, or Ruby, or Alice. And then oblivion. A type of fierce meditation poured through me as I hoisted up the concrete birdbath (superhuman?) and smashed it through the patio doors. His ugly, screaming wife I punched into repose. Watched his young daughter run away on dainty feet. Go – I advanced on him; he fell back into a pitch-black room, where I could still see him somehow, even though there was no light-source whatsoever. Let the records show: at the end, Jim Yondes was weak and pliant, like an animal. Rich, but with no survival instinct.
Want to know what the killing felt like, just the emotion? It's abstract and harsh, and has no practical application to assessing either my guilt or sanity or ungodly rage. In case you want to spare yourself the horror (after all, we're all just children, Officer), I'll write an account separately, isolated on the next report sheet, which you can ignore if you wish –
It felt wonderful, and liberating, for both of us. Was there a crippling loss of innocence? No. I don't believe what the Buddhists say, that there's some super-subtle, cosmic-solipsist core which is traumatised by the reckless actions of our conscious minds. Psychologists say something similar, that the act of murder is so potent it messes you up in wildly unpredictable ways, even if you believe you're ready, and justified. Wrong – I believed in my murders, dreamed of them, considered how I'd think back to them after a dozen successive lifetimes. Really, Officer-Shaman, it's hypocritical for anyone to condemn me on a spiritual level. All human consciousness is the same. We all feel boredom, drudgery, oppression. For anyone to work in a utilitarian, industrial job for more than thirty years – basic human consciousness has to be turned off so that we can become part of the machine. Yet we knew what we were doing. But who has the right to condemn us when we finally emerge into consciousness again, to discover we've been horrifically dishonoured? Who will come to greet us? God? God is a grubby disabled man. He dribbles, and you lick the spittle from his chin.
I headed for any rifts in the dark tree-line, and again, and again, until I arrived at a main road. The nearest town was Berklow, which had a very pleasant library. Until such a time as it opened, or I was caught, a secluded railway arch was my room. Oh, that everything felt different? Certainly; the wall of black-silver foliage, as I drifted in and out of consciousness, put me in mind of something surreal, wonderful, infinitely lonely.
At the library, they didn't carry the day's newspapers, so I resigned myself to wandering on the internet. I formed my haunted-preoccupation into a neat phrase and Googled it, perhaps searching for absolution even at this early stage. 'Betrayal of workers'. It brought some fascinating results: the fragment of a speech by Carl Marx, the lyrics of a punk group, the plot of a silly science fiction movie – but mainly, page after page of archive news stories illustrating the death of the manufacturing industry.
'Respected company fined over betrayal of workers'. 'Gerald Fontesmith, chief-executive of Olucent Solvent Works, has lashed out at the record fine imposed on his company by the Equality Commission, citing excessive government interference in 'sovereign industrial practice'. Investigators were called to the factory last year following fears that the Human Resources Department had ignored employment laws whereby posts for non and semi-skilled manual workers must first have been advertised to English workers for at least three weeks before immigrants are recruited – Mr Fontesmith said, 'Now more than ever, British Industry has to be given a free hand to do whatever it takes to survive. I can assure the Government that what time and money was saved by directly recruiting legitimate EU labour was redirected straight into our Research and Development Department, so keeping our business innovative and financially attractive to investors'.
That's all paraphrased, but – what do you think about all this, Officer? It's a big subject. Tell me your opinion. Tell me your opinion, that you accrue from being alive and having an eternal soul. All those allegorical tales about the dangers of blind capitalism – H G Wells - the savage and industrious Morlocks versus the feckless, aristocratic Eloi. Fritz Lang, 'Metropolis' (saw that on TV one night in the sixties, with my dad, who fell asleep just in time to miss the final overthrow of the capitalists). Plus, give the 'Research and Development Department' enough time and you know they'll come up with Soylent Green.
We can't go on like this. Napoleon called us a nation of shopkeepers. But I didn't want to work in a shop. I didn't want to work behind a desk. I wanted to physically make something – tangible and by the hundredweight. As if by a miracle, the number of soap-dispensing machines that had passed through my hands, into the far reaches of the land; it had been dizzying, profound.
I spent the rest of my time playing on the internet, trying to find some addresses. There was lots of photos of the man, but in the end, it was in the good old red-spines of the reference section that I found his location. An on-peak rail ticket from Berklow to Newport: £205. Exactly one weeks wages, sans bonus. Officer, I never desired to become a vigilante, or a serial killer, but then – the devil makes work, believe it. It's God's brother, evil to His insane. Take your chances.
The shortfall from the train-station at Kempley Hill took me along a brow to a valley-scourge that ran hundreds of miles into the distance, reference an eternity of tufty grass and squashed hedgerows. I tramped past the famous-poet cottages, all silent, the wedge-shaped barns and the forever rusting silage spreaders. One of the last high points before I entered the scourge was a shabby compound which proclaimed, 'Hot Air Balloon Flights, from £125 pp – appointments not always necessary if contacted before noon'. Daubed in heavy strokes of red paint, the sign hardly inspired confidence, but still, a balloon flight is a balloon flight. I read it sadly, then proceeded to the murder.
A lot of what happened next is lost to me. I remember the GPS on my mobile phone seemed to be talking in an excited tone, as if the robot-lady was so happy to be moving along the gloaming country lanes, exploring the pointless geometric lattice-work of the fields. When I drew near to Somerford Manor, I broke from the lanes completely, up across the fields to try and get a vantage point. I remember, the robot lady said, 'Turn Left' - ad infinitum, as though sexually aroused, coaxing, poised on a deathly event horizon.
The manor, home to the Fontesmith family, was a series of smooth blocks, each crowned by overprotective, over-complicated chateaux steeples. There were several outhouses which I could use as cover before making a dash into one of the back rooms. But certainly no 'lend me fifty pence' test, not at this embittered stage.
Staring at the vibrant windows and sensing the funny pulses in the air, I realised they were having a party.
Convenient for me, though. There was every variety of ostentatious, metal-muscular sports car parked tightly in the courtyard; I moved among them, pretending to talk into my phone as though I was just another guest. There was an open and glowing door, and then an ivy-ravaged kitchen window, semi-illuminated. Hurrying around the back, I stowed phone and replaced it in my affections with an apple knife, blade facing outwards and aching to be connected with the man's jugular. Moving through a linoleum-echoey anteroom, I was spooked by the sound of some approaching, tittering bourgeoisie, the emissaries of the huge army in the main house. I swept down some shallow stairs into the storeroom, where I waited, feeling insanely scared – not that I expected to survive this time. 'The man who expects to die can achieve anything'; Officer, did I make that phrase up, or is it appropriated from some old Samurai film? Waiting and waiting. Eventually, small footsteps fell upon the schooner-cabin steps. I felt the muscles in my shoulders grow mountainous and stony; still I managed to spread my palms flat on the surface of a deep-freeze, knife concealed.
I turned to find a pretty girl. Flickering, knowing eyes, made for watching snow through skyscraper windows. Certainly too warm for this world.
I said something to her, or rather, my subconscious did – I couldn't hear the words which came from my mouth.
To my astonishment, she laughed. She was drunk, I think, but all the same, it was intriguing. She laughed so hard, so joyously and deliberately, I came to my senses at once. It's like when you're drunk, and you get shocked into sobriety. I asked her what I'd said.
"You said, 'I don't want to buy any of your pretentious goddamn cushions'", and though she'd stifled the giggles, there were still tears in her eyes. Let the records show: it had been a long time since I'd made a girl cry with laughter. "You must be that actor man", she said with a kind of fierce pleasure.
"I work in a factory", I said defiantly.
She nodded. "You must work with my dad".
"Gerald Fontesmith-Smythe III", she said, deprecating.
I said –all the time wondering how she could be within feet of my murderous face without realising—"Your old man and I have had a big falling out".
"Half his own execs dislike him", she said pointedly. "Are you going to make a 'hostile take-over'?"
I smiled, dark as you like. "You want in?"
"Talk to me". She made herself comfortable on the small steps, before remembering something all-important. "Wait there".
She cat-footed her way back up the steps, and wait I did. It was only my heart that still seemed to be alive, everything else static, a mess of tension. She returned with a bottle of wine and two glasses – latching the heavy larder door behind her.
"We weren't introduced. My name is Reagan".
"My name – is Howdy", the words forced out of me by some kind of ghost.
For ten-twenty seconds she stared directly at my face, peeled me away with her perfect, complicated, drunken-girl eyes.
"It's O.K. This is the Cellar of Secrets. In the deep freeze is an atom bomb. Everything you say now, can't possibly be as serious as that. Tell me who you thought I was, who might be forcing their –bloody, bloody—cushions on you".
"She was like you". I felt my eyes twinkle. "But gone wrong".
"What makes you think I'm 'right'?"
"You've brought me wine, as if I were a Roman Emperor".
"Whereas, in reality, you're just a street-level centurion?", she gave a ponderous smile.
"I would have liked to have had a party in Pompeii, the night before the big destruction"
- and in this way, Officer, we spoke about this and that, and everything in the world that could possibly matter any more. It went on for an hour or more. Sometimes I tried to give her a cheap laugh, only to have it work too well, she blinking at me as though we were lovers, pupils dilating as a roar. Then the blinks became more frequent - I could tell that she'd soon be asleep. In my arms if I wasn't careful.
She rubbed her chin on her shoulder, mumbled something pointed-yet-incoherent, and was under.
In her absence, my face felt like stone, though there was still a faint smile. No guilt anymore. I prepared to leave.
"Do you really hate my dad?"
A short, sharp laugh, and gruff. I told her straight. "Reagan, men like your dad, I hate so much I'm going out of my mind".
"Will you marry me?"
I kissed her forehead and mimed pulling a blanket up over her now-foetal limbs.
"Tomorrow, would you like to go up in hot-air balloon?"
She smiled, even as her eyes closed and her breathing fell in with the quantum buzz. "Sounds perfect. Howdy, thank you for coming".
I said coolly, "My pleasure".
But clearly this coolness was useless to her. She awoke. At once a hundred times more lucid now, her eyes had turned from brown to yellow. The irises: from brown to yellow. Did you know, Officer, that all human eyes start off as grey, and it's only once the foetus is expelled that the tissue in the eyes reacts with the air, developing your idiosyncratic colours? But here, yellow. Fine, primary-yellow, and glaring. Van Gogh, desperate to be loved and appreciated in his lifetime. Van Gogh, unloved and unappreciated in his lifetime, and still alive here in Hell. Those yellow eyes: a chemical reaction between foetal growth hormone and concentrate sulphur, I think you'll find.
What she told me; "There is no pleasure. I brought you here. I have been with you a very long time, and I brought you here to free me".
He looked on, scared, petrified even, but too feeble to drink it in.
"No one is willing to talk to me anymore", her otherwise pretty voice was rasping now.
"Why not?", he asked so very feebly.
"They're only ever willing to talk to me in Latin, about the magic attributes of a two-thousand-years dead man".
I told her I didn't understand, and felt acute fear. She smiled, quite mysteriously. Her words, "Sublata Causa Tollitur Effectus. Our nerves threaded out of our bodies and splayed on the asphalt. Do we have a rapport, Howdy?"
"Rapport?", I pondered, the aim towards cowboy meditation.
Reagan explained everything. In an arresting whisper, you understand, the world's most. "Rapport is a favourite word. Almost a favourite concept".
She speaks in a beat, and that's all that's needed to overpower you. Speaks in a beat, at speed, syllables so loose and pliant in my palate. Speaks to the pretty girl at the bus stop. The death-dosing atoms are your allies, but they hate the small talk just as you do, even as you reach out your claw and she reacts in pleasure. Always the desperate, crawling laughter; you cannot recite to her the Latin slime, or the Samuel Beckett, or the Philip Larkin, or the words in your warm, slippery palate would be as the folds of labia minora in a cunnilingust's parry. And so you hate each other, every breath, every atom.
After meeting the girl, immediately after meeting her, before leaving the cellar, I blacked out. Which is to say, my memory lapsed into darkness and I lost consciousness, but apparently I carried on functioning without it. 'I'.
And I don't deny for a heartbeat that what I did was horrific, and if this was America, I'd fully deserve my execution, wild schizophrenia or no. But listen, Officer Detective, for the sake of Truth. My mind, for the remainder of these crimes, could be divided up into three distinct states. Firstly, as now, I was fully lucid and taking pride in it. The little bird which thuds into the plate glass window, and everybody makes a sympathetic noise and goes to investigate. Secondly, I was unconscious, as of Death, but in my absence, apparently, my body controlled by some – inhuman evil. You look out of your window to see a little bird crumpled on the sill, the surrendered bulbous eyes the most heartbreaking thing existent. Thirdly, the state of awareness where I was conscious, but unable to control my body. Fully aware that I was sharing my tortured synapses with the said evil. Today your fine, fine children, your life's work, are first to discover the baby bird, and so they lean out of the window to poke it with sticks. 'My child would never do that' ? Open your eyes. 'It's just children being children' ? Yes. Thank-you for giving me my parameters.
My limbs billowed. I opened my eyes to find myself emerged from the cellar, in fact, several feet out into the spacious main courtyard of the Fontesmith estate. The moonlight was incredibly bright and concise; it served to illuminate a semi-circle of panicked-looking bourgeois. I was dragging Reagan along with me as a hostage, at her throat, an oversized kitchen knife. The bourgeois: gaping, consistently stepping back like a tide. You might imagine how frightening it must have been in this situation, to be the centre of such a nightmarish scene, yet not able to control yourself. In truth, I was just vaguely interested. This demon which was inside of me; how would it try to resolve the situation? As long as it was in my body, it was still temporal, still bound by the laws of causality. There was no obvious escape.
Except. They tell me I killed Reagan, and I suppose I must have done. Granted, I sensed the infinitesimal nerve impulses as they flew forth with the command to plunge the knife. But I was blacked out by the time the action was manifested. 'How convenient', you're no doubt thinking, Officer Detective. Yes. Convenient. Utilitarian. If the earth was just a few thousand miles further from the sun, we'd ice over. If your precious children were any further from getting a tangible job, we'd all wake one morning to find the word 'RECESSION' scratched into our foreheads by Satan. Like so.
Evidently, the people in the courtyard must either have been so horrified by the stabbing, or so desperate to help her, that 'I' was able to escape cleanly onto the horizon. The loyal Black Dog wagging his tail and together you play fetch on a beach, happiness incarnate. In your left hand, a spinning compass. In your right, the dead baby bird Hitler. Insane / insightful. Beyond that, perhaps I moved like a fox, trotting daintily, happily, infallible in his chlorophyll solitude. This would certainly tie in with the fact that, when I became myself again, I was in the heart of a deep, clustered wood. It was dawn, though I could only perceive this by the smokey hues directly above – all points of the horizon were consumed by dense and scratchy foliage. Sir, the myriad birdsong I heard as I became conscious again was something profound. It was beautiful and inhuman. Chicken, egg, scream. I sat back and enjoyed the complex and time-immemorial dubstep of the black birds. Also the small, evangelical prayers of the starlings and sparrows.
And then, at once, I realised there were no birds present; I was somehow making the noises myself, like the world's most talented and oblique ventriloquist.
'(Today, we're going to see the world's most approachable priest)', the demon told me. I don't know why I place its words in brackets – the parenthesis just seems to fit, on a cosmic level. I sat back and was silent, like an obedient child or lover.
'(But first, you have been a loyal servant, and I will indulge you)'.
I blacked out, apparently for at least a couple of hours. When I was allowed dominance again, I was sitting three seats up from the back row of a large bus.
'I was sitting three seats up from the back row of a large bus' –and the stadium crowd gives a tentative, nonetheless colossal round of applause as they recognise the trace elements of a most famous riff. Everybody's favourite song. Smells Like Teen Spirit. Pink Floyd - Great Gig in the Sky.
Sitting three seats up from the back row of a large bus. Second one and second two, it was pleasing to be in control once more. Then I heard the bass-drowned musak, remembered the cardinal dynamic of public transport in the twenty-first century. Torture. I turned to face the student. Taking a very deep breath, I prepared to say, 'This is a public place, would you mind turning your musak off' – but what came was merely a long and sonorous howl, as inhuman as you like. Even then, the student did not have the presence of mind to turn the musak off, even in reaction to his own petrifear.
Don't let the walls cave in you. We can't live on without you.
And let the records show; there's that scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent Vega is lamenting the fact that his prized Chevy Convertable was keyed in a parking spot. It would almost –almost- have been worth them doing it, he says, if only he'd been able to catch them and expel his catharsis. A deal with the Devil? Devil shmevil. I used to wonder: on the day when God eventually granted me permission to abduct the ubiquitous musak-spewing students and indulge in an orgy of vengeance, protracted at my discretion, how long would it take before my hate was sated? Would it ever be sated, or would I keep them alive into their old age, in perpetual agony? The wild, visceral depths of my emotions suggest this would surely be the case. But actually, it's all quite ingenious. He knows that eventually his hate will be sated, and only love will be left. But on a pseudo-intellectual level, he knows the philosophical value of torturing students is limitless. After all, they represent all that is most shallow and arrogant about mankind. And so whenever he wrote a fan-fiction short story, he'd always include a passage or two where the protagonist confronts a student on public transport, and the student is obliterated. The patterns are set in eternity. Sooner or later, all fictional characters will confront the torturous students. They are his army. And when the students arrive in hell, the other hell, the one they don't epitomise, they will find themselves beset. Jake La Motta will lunge at them in decisive jabs and second-long upper-cuts. Gort from 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' will incinerate them with his heat-ray, sinister or just concise? Sinister. James Bond Sean Connery will swing them around the room, as James Bond Daniel Craig will veer towards kung-fu methodical. James Bond George Lazenby – he's fighting shoulder to shoulder with dead Tracy Draco and Ernst Blofeld, and why did we never notice the true evil before? Plus, of course, a thousand variations of Robin Hood, but presently robbing from the poor to give to the rich (those with poor inner-lives, students, to those with rich inner-lives, communists). For so long he was persecuted, until there was nowhere left to go but inside. But now he's resurfaced, the Super-Lucid Id, and he's brought with him God's army.
But, shut your mouth. He knows about The Sacred Rules; he isn't stupid. For any kind of cathartic fiction to work, the protagonists must either be the under-dog (Black-Dog?), or have a grand philosophical struggle to work through. And that's just fine, because he never once denied it; this need for revenge against students is a curse. But at least it's a philosophical compulsion and not a physical or twee-thoughtless one, such is the main drive of modern man. Modern fat man, modern dribbling man, modern Gobchyte man (Jamie Oliver). Besides, students do a thousand times more damage to society and the economy than the most fearsome fictional character you can think of. The Borg, you say? At least they weren't shrieking hedonists. And there's far more students, or at least, that's the way it seems.
He sweeps his underdog ethos around him like the cloak of a plunging, dying superhero, even as he's about his business with the student. How exactly did he despatch the monster this time? We are all gentlefolk here, and so I'll reserve myself from uttering of the act itself. Suffice it to say, it was prompt, not necessarily bloody, but extremely damaging. Think 'Fist of the Northstar'. And thereafter, the nothingness which was the student will change to become a different kind of nothingness –quieter, less arrogant, less human. Read about it in Maiming Monthly (only got three stars, though, because he still retained his stupid, blank, emaciated eyes).
The lunatic is on the grass.
My feet carried me to the dirty, waxy green of a city outskirts, then inwards through the happy, oppressive terraces. Lots of Asians and Muslims and Rastas, and this pleased me. Perhaps because ethnic groups have less to hide behind than white, 'middle class' ponces, or at least understood the need to hide behind something, a loving concession from fart-minded greed to ethereal humility. Or perhaps they just have trace amounts of a work ethic, versus our boom-and-bust thoughtlessness. Perhaps. Perhapsaloosa. Nothing so satisfying as scooping away the un-iced sections of a gaudy wedding cake just before you die. In a stereotypical subway, I paused and gifted an auld tramp my all-titanium Omega, and he was awed and tearful. A little along the way, I bought myself a kebab, then shortly afterwards threw the kebab and my wad of notes into an inner-city stream, despite the fact that I'd no doubt meet further beggars as I made my way into the metropol. What a monster I truly am (shrug). 'I got the watch as a golden handshake when I left my company', I lied to the tramp. 'The gold links denote long service'. What a dirty liar. The watch was a present from my father.
The layout of the city became more sparse, with fewer looming overpasses. At this point, I lost control of my limbs, and was carried I-don't-know-where. Networks of musty Victorian houses became my lot, before they eventually coalesced back into a broad encampment of friendly-looking office blocks. There was what looked like gothic university halls, plus a pleasant old church tower, all of it set on a mighty rise. A long flight of impossibly steep steps, flanked by Victorian streetlamps, led upwards to my destination. The cobbled steps compelled a lightness of step, which the Demon resisted.
At the top of the flight, without a pause, I walked into a broad landing with posters and leaflets for benevolent local services. I'd never trusted social benevolence; it was just a way of imparting weird, kink-hearted rules. I smelt Christians. A mousy woman bristled past me. This was obviously some variety of pop-in social centre. My feet took me to the first little flight of stairs I came to, then out into a corridor of many office doors, all of them opening into daylight-jewelled box-rooms.
Immediately, the psychic presence was overpowering; the priest's. I marched towards him, and he didn't see me until the last moment. He was trying on a leather jacket, collarless.
"Seems like everything you could ever want from a leather jacket", the Demon smiled at him. Ingenious, really. I wondered if it was subtly plundering my mind for skills; I used to smile like that, in order to disarm and lull people into a false sense of security. It was a neat little trick.
"Off the top of my head", chuckled Dyer, "it's just about the finest jacket I've ever owned".
"Well tailored, elegant interlacing of the sections, bold where it needs to be, subtle where it doesn't. The sheer waist and the inward-inclined forearms -sleek. Naturally, you could accuse it of being overly-devolved, but that would miss the point. The original Kawasaki biker jackets all had elasticated waists and padded kidney-guards, but what sort of sophisticated modern man would want to wear that?"
Still uncomprehending and fearless. "You seem like a scholar of biker jackets. How funny that we should meet each other just as I'm trying on my very first".
"I'm a scholar of many things-", said the Demon, and I sensed the care with which it held back from a tip-of-my-tongue C-bomb.
"I'm not sure about the brand", he continued. " 'Tiger Cove'. Ever heard of it?"
"Yes, Father Dyer. Made in Malaysia Truly Asia", said the Demon, with a despairing nod to me.
The young man breathed and tapped his sides. "What brings you to our dainty little facility, friend? Can I make you a cup of tea?"
"I only drink coffee, and no", more smiles from the Entity Formerly Known as Howdy.
Said Dyer, "Endless cups of tea. The English way. I wonder if I didn't buy this jacket purely to pretend I'm a yank".
The Demon, "I know what it's like to feel entombed within your own crawling flesh. Did you know that towards the end of the eighteenth century, there was such a rush of bogus and genuinely-unearthed Shakespearean manuscripts that King Edward had to recruit special literary scholars to differentiate? These men could read the parchment and just tell by the ratio of nouns and adjectives, the just-so beat of the pentameter, whether it was genuine or not. They made an empirical science of something that was apparently the very heart of flourishing idiosyncrasy. If the author is powerful and strong-minded enough, you can instantly tell. And so I ask you, Father Dyer, do you know who I am? Do you recognise me, simply by my personality or the pattern of my words? If not, why not?"
It looked at him closely, a little like Larry David and some other mischievous Jew, and the situation would have been funny if it wasn't so cancerous.
The man regarded me, and he obviously knew that if I wasn't possessed, then I was definitely dangerously insane. He took measured breaths and proceeded cautiously.
"Are you friend or foe?", he asked brightly.
"Foe", said the Demon, faux-apologetically.
"I think", said Dyer decisively, "you want me to suggest you're the devil".
" 'Suggest' nothing. Have the courage of your convictions. Yes or no?"
Give a worldly illustration, Father. Thatta boy. "I read somewhere, the other day, 'The devil doesn't exist, because the devil's motivations don't exist'. This makes sense to me. I believe that no one would choose to be evil just for the sake of it. Tell me your motivations, sir".
"There are no motivations", said the Demon. "Any motivations are entirely incidental to an abyss of thoughtlessness. Take no pride in your motivations, you freak. You felt 'motivated' to buy that leather jacket, made in Malaysia, when the leatherwares factory not fifty miles from here will close down on the quantum-tip of a feather, causing at least one British blue-collar to hang himself in a wood".
Dyer's countenance was darkened. How to depress a tiny child. He regained himself to come out with, "How do you know that, if I bought a jacket made by this British factory, a Malaysian factory wouldn't then go bust, and a Malaysian man wouldn't hang himself?"
The Demon felt acute pity. My face carried its pity well. "Please tell me that isn't the best counter-argument you have".
See the blind man feeling his way around a pitch-black room. Full of zombies. Defiantly, "Either all human life is sacred or none of it is sacred. In which case, why do you place any value on my thinking?"
"It's not a question of whether human life is sacred or not", the words of the Demon were blank, all the more compelling for it. "Sanctity doesn't enter in to it. Human life exists – as far as you can trust your senses, you know this to be a fact. But what of the personality of this hypothetical, delusion-baiting god of yours? He created you in his image. The labyrinths of your individuality are a reflection of him. Do you love yourself, Father Dyer?"
For a second, he seemed much older. He carefully considered the political ramifications of his reply. "I love myself in a small way, in acknowledgement that I'm a part of something vast, and beautiful, but as yet unexplored".
The Demon spoke immediately, awarding him no quarter whatsoever. You might even suspect that their conversation was preordained, or pathetically smooth, intellectually antiquated (though I'd never heard anything like it myself). "But you must admit that your eternal soul is mutually exclusive to the life of a dog-eating foreigner, who doesn't see the impracticability of having six syllables in his word for 'the'".
The man scratched his hair and spoke, almost kindly. "I'm fairly sure Malaysians don't eat dogs. I know that they eat dogs in certain regions of Korea, but even then, I don't hate them for it. It's Christian thinking that we should hate the things people do, but not the people themselves".
"Noble words", said the Demon. "Except, here, we begin to sink into a miasma of mindless liberal soothsaying. You don't know anything about the Koreans. If God had wanted you to have omniscient empathy, he would have made you omniscient. Instead, you are a conscious being. You are God's experiment in refined omniscience. How can you deny this?"
"Because I want to love everyone", said Dyer. "I desire it".
A further Larry David stare-out.
"Eating dogs is the single most messed-up thing. Did you ever have a pet dog? Did you ever notice the way they consciously smiled at you, single-mindedly, unlike any other animal or human? Loyal, in a way that can't be matched by any other creature at all".
Dyer pretended to give a moment of consternation, because that's what beautifully-fragile humans do in delicate arguments. It seemed absolutely fake, however. "We had two dogs, as I was growing up. Charlie. Then, after Charlie died, we found a stray, Denzil. And I've never known such love. I loved them so much, I almost went out of my mind with grief when they died. Yes, the thought of them being eaten is inconceivably horrible. But whoever eats dogs? I'm confident I can forgive them, because they don't know what they're doing. The same goes for murder and paedophelia".
The Demon used my face to assume a mad, 'whatever!' expression, and defied the tension in my shoulders to shrug mightily. "And, of course, you'd have to forgive each one of them individually. Wouldn't that be too time-consuming?"
"No", the man smiled breathlessly. "That's what we have God for".
The Demon, casually, sat down on a black-metal and scratchy-felt chair. There were two chairs like this, each parallel with the narrow walls. "Wait a minute. This debate will take a further nineteen minutes, and by the end, you'll have lost all the same. Are you sure you want to carry on?"
"Nineteen minutes?", said Dyer. "If I was a more obstinate man, I would purposefully remain silent for the next nineteen minutes, just to illustrate that your perceptions and judgements might be just the –tiniest- bit fallible".
(sigh). "If you were a more obstinate man, I wouldn't loathe you so much. More intelligent, more daring, less forgiving. We could be like a new Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, landing on a conceptual moon. Only instead of 'one giant leap for mankind' it would be '-the- giant leap for mankind'".
Pointed out Dyer, "I'm human. It's not my place to decide what's forgiven and what isn't, only to practice universal forgiveness in accordance with the hope epitomised by Jesus".
"Yes". I felt my newly-yellow eyes glare broadly, very open-hearted. "And yet, if I were to offer that we both sit here and pray that the whole of mankind be delivered en masse to Heaven, right this minute, you would refuse".
Primly, "Yes, I would refuse. Because you're not in the right frame of mind to make such a request. And neither is half the globe".
Shaking my head, moving it at an incredibly slight and victorious inclination. "Mankind will never be in the right frame of mind. But as for me? Father, I tell you, I am The Devil. But you don't believe me. By your own admission, 'The devil doesn't exist, because the devil's motivations don't exist'. If you truly believe this, have the courage of your convictions. Whether I am The Devil or not, I believe in the omnipotence of God. Whether that omnipotence makes for His benevolence, or cruelty, or His cosmic mismanagement –this is something for our respective conjecture, yours or mine. But we both believe in the same root being, and no harm can come of our invoking Him. Agreed?"
At odds with the cool, static sunlight, Dyer shifted his tense shoulders. He sat in the chair opposite and regarded the Demon, quite seriously. Enter his pretty, simple-minded little gambit. "You say that you're possessed. Let me speak with the original occupant of your body".
Within my mind, the Demon nodded at me in perfect equanimity. Meanwhile, it spoke laconically to Dyer, "You can speak to him for thirty of your Earth seconds".
And it was like catching yourself just as you nod off to sleep, added to a slightly deeper control of my breathing, the ability to push words from my throat once more. Mentally, there was little difference, just that I now had a slot to talk through. Perhaps my eyes returned to their original blue-yellow. I like to think they did.
"My name is John Howdy. My father's name was Jackie Howdy. I'm forty-four years old. I was a factory worker, all my life. Beyond that, what would you like to know?"
He stared at me hauntedly, the priest. There were four forces at work in that room, me, the Demon, Dyer, and that fearsome, unknowable silence. It disturbed me no end; it was the only thing that did.
"I don't know anything about the mechanics of demonic possession", said the man quickly. "But I always imagined it would be acutely unpleasant for the mind of the person being subjugated. You seem very calm. Did you actually seek this?"
"No", I said, as much surprised as he was. "But the Cat in the Hat knows a lot about that. I think you'll find that the human mind is actually built to accommodate unpalatable ideas and oppression. I am with the Demon, because at least it gives me options".
"Are you -"
"Time's up", said the Demon stoically, perhaps a little regretfully.
Dyer nodded and ambled across his small office. From the top of a magazine rack, a small address book. "I'd like you to speak to a friend of mine, Father Enn. He's a more scholarly man than me, and I think he'll better understand what's happening. Though obviously I'll stay with you".
Said the Demon, "This country, and at a lesser rate, this world, is dying. Together we can save it. But we don't have time for this inanity. We don't have time to play twenty questions with a psychiatrist, just to wind up with the same conclusion. I am the Devil. Ask me to show you a miracle. Anything you want".
Set flush with the creme-painted wall and just bebeath city-scape window was a small table. Dyer looked towards it and frowned thoughtfully. He emptied his pen jar, took one at random and placed it on the table. "Make this pen move, by telekinesis".
Yes, that's it. A lovely bit of irony. My body convulsed and my throat moved peculiarly. What issued from my mouth was a violent coughing fit, though it hadn't started that way. The priest moved hesitantly to paw my shoulders, the Demon prevented him. It explained, "The man inside me is laughing. Once? He was in the middle of a love affair. Laying in bed with the pretty girl, post-coital, they jokily placed a pen on their knees and tried to move it into the air, using purely the power of their minds. It was the first time off he'd had in a sequence of four twelve-hour night shifts. They were drunk, but somehow it worked. Up it went, and for a long time, they spoke and thought about nothing else, and told everyone they met. So you see, Father, you're asking me to do something he was perfectly able to do anyway, as a matter of course".
Without further ado, the Demon did indeed use telekinesis to move the pen –it flicked lightly into Dyer's face. Then, accusingly, "You're pathetic. You want what all humans want, to be awed, but within such safe, predictable margins. And the name of this margin is Capitalist Yuppie Hell".
My body stood tall and squared up to the priest. It removed my shirt and my T-shirt. Dyer was just starting to be properly scared, though he gabbled when he saw the design on my T. "I like The Bad Seeds, too", was his breathless gambit.
"The only people who don't like The Bad Seeds are the ones who never bothered to get any of their albums. They are the perfect band".
Naked from the waist up, the Demon caused embossed patterns to appear on my shoulders, between the hairs of my chest and my emaciated collar bone. Sometimes a disparate word would form. 'Hate', 'Rage', 'Death'. Your man's eyes gaped. What a fool.
" 'He's a god, he's a man, he's a ghost, he's a goon. And they're whispering his name through this disappearing land, while hidden in his coat is a red right hand' ".
Hilarious, how hard the man had to work to keep his petrified head from shaking, quaking, dropping off and rolling across the floor, under the desk, the unconcealed porn mag in the bottom-most drawer.
"This is wrong", he said.
" 'This' is wrong?", said the Demon. "Only 'this'?"
"A man has a responsibility to determine the path of his own eternal soul, without outside influence".
"You're wrong", the Demon informed him. "The world is now too overwhelmed; by default it knocks you into a tizzy, and if you can think straight for more than a few moments, you're drunk, in a ditch. Spiritual enlightenment is no longer possible".
"This is an argument -", began Dyer.
"Correct", said the Demon.
"What you're doing is wrong", he said simply. "Leave this man. You cannot invade someone's mind. It's wrong". His tone was capriciously light and alt-compelling.
It impressed me. It impressed me, even though he was a fool and talking flip nonsense. These days you must do what you can to survive, to bolster even the semblance of sanity. That said, the gentle and knowing tone he'd used for, 'it's wrong'; I hadn't heard anything like it for a long time. In fact, I hadn't heard any other human recently declare 'it's wrong' about anything, nothing that was universal and relevant to everyone. Oh, you could cite the way that Pob-mouthed ponce David Cameron decried the expenses abuse by both Labour and Tory MPs. But, so? What about everyone else's greed? What about the expenses claimed in the private sector? All the 'salt of the earth' families taking out vast and arrogant-whorish bank loans, rather than waiting until they've earned the money themselves? All the fat, scurrying industrialists moving their companies abroad, many of them being knighted when, obviously, they should be beheaded. Britain as a giant office is imploding, and you people are drowning in your own fat, your fat husband gametes, your greed. I need revenge, and it ain't gonna happen if the Rapture comes early.
I struggled with the Demon. I fought to shake it off. The strain, weirdly, did not show in my voice.
"It is wrong, isn't it? But then, lots of things are wrong. Get a personality and deal with it".
With a flick, I was in control of my limbs. Like an animal rescue fox bolting from the wire cage, I sped towards the window and smashed through it. Hell of a drop, I don't deny. The sensation of falling was profound, even without the mental protraction that occurs naturally in moments of high drama. The bone-breaking thud was very visceral and decisive. Then it blended with jarring, tumbling spikes of agony – I realised I was rolling down from the uppermost point of the steps. Nice. The Gospel According to Chris Moyles. Sickening glimpses of a vertigo-elongated skyline became my lot. That and the pretty cobbled steps. Early on, I saw a old-woman-faced IT man pass by the top of the steps, and pause, because he'd seen a thing. Funny kind of momentum in play, I was bouncing and ricocheting well into a dizzy oblivion, and hats-off admiration to any form of consciousness whatsoever –be it the Demon's or my own—which could stay the course. Bones broke or threatened to break with the sense of a brittle old tennis ball in a fat man's fist. Or getting back together with a long-gone girlfriend, 'Is that a new watch?' 'No, I always had it, you just don't remember' (I bought it yesterday). 'Did you always have that tattoo of Colonel Gadaffi?' 'Yes, is that a problem?'
At the bottom, I was still conscious, and still me, apparently, though I could sense the Demon fluttering around in pained, purple patches above my mind. So I crawled on for a few inches, even as I heard your emissaries approaching.
Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb.
That's the jokey punchline to my statement, Officer. Here's the serious one: one day, a majestic force will impel you pathetic swine over the edge of a cliff, all of you, and not a moment too soon. I hate you. Peace.