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Work Dreams

Jock Drummond

 

It was just another ordinary day. It had, so far, been just another ordinary weekday morning. Wayne had spent the morning doing the same as he always did. His mundane administrative position at The Corporation Inc. could not have been said to be a challenging role, but that was the way he liked it. Wayne liked a quiet life. Simple, safe, no alarms and no surprises. Nothing to disturb the status quo. He had it comfortable, and he knew he couldn’t complain. He had been in the same job since the age of seventeen. He was now thirty-two. Some of his friends and colleagues had, in the past, accused him of being lazy. Perhaps he was, but he was also content. And while all around him people were complaining about their lives and their lot, Wayne had a lot to be grateful for, and having nothing to complain about was certainly amongst the many things he had to be grateful for. He lived at home with his parents. Again, some of his friends and colleagues had, in the past, accused him of being lazy. Perhaps he was, but he was also content. And while all around him people were complaining about their lives and their lot, Wayne had a lot to be grateful for, and having nothing to complain about was certainly amongst the many things he had to be grateful for.

His brother, the elder sibling by two years, had left home in his early twenties and was now married with a child. He lived with his wife not three streets from Wayne and Mr and Mrs MacRobertson. He was happy, there was no doubt about it, but Wayne didn’t envy him all that much apart from the fact he got to shag his missus whenever he wanted. Yes, Wayne did envy him that: living with a real life woman, seeing her naked, having her as his sex-slave… Dave and Sheila’s son, Wayne’s nephew, whom they had named Ewan, was a lovely wee chap, and Wayne doted on him tirelessly, but was at the same time grateful that he didn’t have the responsibility of having to care for the child himself. He was also grateful that he didn’t have to endure the financial burden of bringing up a wain. Or have the financial burden of a mortgage, wife, bills, etc. Not that Wayne didn’t have any responsibilities or financial obligations. He paid his mother £100 a month board, which also got him free Sky TV courtesy of his brother who was an employee of the company, dinner on the table every night, his laundry and shopping done. In return, he helped about the house whenever necessary – which was usually when his father was doing a spot of DIY or needed assistance moving heavy items of furniture or whatnot. Although some of his friends and colleagues had accused him of being lazy, Wayne didn’t really care. Perhaps he was, but he was also content. And while all around him people were complaining about their lives and their lot, Wayne had a lot to be grateful for, and having nothing to complain about was certainly amongst the many things he had to be grateful for. After all, his parents respected his privacy, gave him as much space as he really required, and his mother never made an issue of the stiff crotches in some of his boxers or the silver trails which marked some of his sheets when she came to change his bed on a Tuesday after he’d gone to work. He assumed she never looked under his bed, or was otherwise largely unconcerned by the magazines stored there. Not that there was much to be concerned by: apart from a couple of issues of Playboy which featured some of his favourite celebrities, Wayne contented himself with FHM and Loaded. Wayne had spent the last ten minutes typing the same letter. His concentration kept wandering back to the pictures of Dannii Minogue he had downloaded the night before. He had sat and supped Budweiser from the bottle as the pictures had appeared on his 19” TFT flat-screen monitor, before masturbating into a sock and going to sleep around midnight.

“Man, I’m so fucking bored!” yawned his colleague who sat beside him. John was always bored, and usually complained of being so at least three times during the course of any given working day. He had managed not to complain about his boredom all morning today, though, and it was now almost midday. John stretched his arms upwards and outwards. Being almost 6’4”, he possessed quite an arm span when he stretched, and his left hand wavered just a couple of inches to the right of Wayne’s ear, alerting him from his pleasant daydream in which Dannii had paid him a visit in the lace dress she had worn on ‘Top Of The Pops’ when she had performed the single ‘Put the Needle On It.’ She’d taken no persuading to slip the dress off, either! But as John’s big fingers eclipsed Wayne’s peripheral vision, Dannii had disappeared in a puff of smoke to be replaced by the usual office surroundings.

“Aye, same here,” Wayne said with a nod.

“When are you off for lunch?” asked John.

“Ah dunno,” replied Wayne. “Ah’m no’ fussed. Thought I might go about wan, but Ah’ve goat nothen’ tae de, so’s ye can gae whin youse like.”

“I’ll probably go in about ten minutes, then.”

“Aye. Nae bother.” Wayne was a Scot and proud of it. And right now he was starting to get hungry. “Hey, bring us some mence and totties back if yir oaf t’ the canteen, would ye?”

“I shan’t be going to the canteen, Scots boy,” replied his colleague. “Besides, I thought you were on a diet.”

It was true. Wayne was six feet tall, but weighed almost seventeen stone. This hadn’t bothered him too greatly over the years, but now he was growing aware of the long-term health implications of obesity. Turning thirty had been something of a catalyst, but then so had the growing pain in his knees. Losing weight would not cure this entirely, but the additional strain caused by his excessive weight was clearly not helping matters.

“Aye, Ah am,” he sighed. “Slim Fast fir lunch again fir me.” If Ah can stick to it and lose a couple or three staines Ah might get laid at last. Ah’m fuckin’ sick o’ bein’ a thirty-toose yir oal’ virgin. Whetch reminds me… “S’pose I ought tae try an’ dae somethin’ aboot thes,” he said, slapping his belly which wobbled beneath the knit of his acrylic sweatshirt. He scratched at his nipple. This shirt disnae hoff chafe. Especially whin mah hair gits cayght in the fabric.

Wayne had in recent weeks begun to chat up one of the admin staff at one of the Corporation’s other offices. He’d spoken to her in the line of business a number of times on the phone, and she’d sounded nice. Friendly, pleasant. He’d asked her one or two things about herself, and had found out one or two things during the course of their exchanges. Hazel was twenty-four and liked music and films. He had also learned from one of her colleagues that she was single. She’d only been single a short while, but this was all good news as far as Wayne was concerned. He’d seen a picture of her with her team-mates in the company newsletter – they had recently done some sponsored pub crawl or something for charity and raised over £500 – and that had been it. The picture, along with the phone calls, had been all he’d needed. Wayne was in love. He knew she was the one. In his dreams their phone calls and emails had reached a crescendo, at which point Hazel had succumbed to his charms and taken the train up from Truro in order to meet her (until now) virtual lover. It happened all the time: people meeting on the Internet and living happily ever after. In his mind’s eye, he had replayed it all countless times already. He’d taken her out for a slap-up meal, before going back to his place and making beautiful love.

Whit she needs is a bloak who’ll look eftir hir. A bloak who’ll see hir right, take hir t’ the films an’ play hir some decent records. An’ who’ll show her whit a real man cin dae…

Years of singleness and virginhood had, in some aspects of his life, left Wayne in something of a state of arrested development. A child of the seventies, Wayne had, under the shadow of his loving mother’s sagging bosom, remained in a timewarp of sorts, and while he frequently went to the pub or the cinema with his friends, his clothing and his musical tastes were horribly out of fashion. He still wore taper-legged stonewashed denims – jacket and jeans – and garishly patterned rugby shirts and sweatshirts and cream leatherette trainers. He still listened almost exclusively to early Genesis and Dark Side of the Moon era Pink Floyd. And he still sported a haircut which was distinctly mulletty, which his mother cut for him when his fringe, now thinning, got in his eyes and tickled the bridge of his nose too much. Consequently, Wayne’s ideas regarding what it was to be a ‘man,’ and his views on relationships and sexual equality were firmly rooted in the 1970s. Men should be men, he thought, an’ babes should be babes, and to this end he had steadfastly refused to address the issue of his ever-thickening body hair. Indeed, the hair on his back and shoulders seemed to be developing in direct proportion to his receding hairline and widening centre parting. He had, the previous night, sent an email to the object of his desire at the Truro office bearing attachments in the form of photographic self-portraits taken with the digital camera he had recently purchased. Another one of the benefits of living at home was the amount of disposable income he had each month. While most of this went into savings, he could readily afford to treat himself to the latest gadgetry, even on his modest wage. One of the pictures had been a full-length shot of him in his room, posing with a grin and wearing his best denims beside the life-size cardboard cut-out of Angelina Jolie his friends has bought him last Christmas. Another had been a close-up of his face, while the third had been a picture of his lower back, jis’ fir fun. So’s Hazel can see that Ah’m a real man, no’ wan o’ these nancy boys that go in fir all that waxing – back, crack an’ sack – or fake tans an’ moisturisers. No’ like some o’ these pouffy types. Homos like that should be castrated. Taken’ et up the erse just isnae natural, it’s no’ right an’ et’s against Goad. But Ah’m a real man, an Ah’ll show her what a proaper man cun dae. She’ll no’ be able to resist me…

“I can’t be arsed with this,” John groaned, yawning again. “I’m so fucking bored here,” he added. “Don’t you ever get bored?” The question was again addressed to Wayne.

“Aye, bit it’s nae sae bad,” he shrugged. “Mah mate works in a metal works, an’ that’s whit Ah call hard work. I’d no’ fancy that! Ah consider mahsel’ lucky, really, coz Ah git tae set oan mah erse aw dae. Ah couldnae dae whit he does anyway, mind, no’ wi’ mah back. An’ hes joab’s en the line the noo an’ aw. There’s nae safe joabs in manual work.”

“How long have you been here?” asked John.

“Ach, Ah cannae mind.” Wayne paused, suppressing a belch. “Eh, nearly fourteen year the noo,” he said.

“Fuck me, that’s more than half of my life! And it’s not far off half of yours!”

“Aye, true, but…”

“Ever thought about leaving, changing jobs?” John quizzed.

“Aye, but Ah’m okay here,” Wayne shrugged.

“Lazy bastard,” said John, shaking his head as he rose to leave for his lunch. It wasn’t the first time Wayne had been called a lazy bastard. Indeed, many of his friends and colleagues had accused him of being a lazy bastard. Perhaps he was, but he was also content. And while all around him people were complaining about their lives and their lot, Wayne had a lot to be grateful for, and having nothing to complain about was certainly amongst the many things he had to be grateful for.

With John now away for his lunch, Wayne decided it was time to send Hazel an email. He hadn’t heard from her since the previous afternoon, and was keen to get her reaction to his photographs. Ah wonder why she’s no’ mailed me thes morning. Ah wonder whit she thenks. Ah bet she’s been showen’ her colleagues mah pics an’ tellen’ ‘em aw that thes es her new bloak. They’ll be well impressed that she’s managed tae find hersel’ a nice guy, one weth money, an’ savings an’ a secure joab, an’ a proaper man, an’ aw. One who’ll treat hir right an’ look eftir hirs. No’ like that last knob she wes weth. If Ah play et right, she’ll move up here an’ we can get a place thegither. Mah savings would make a good deposit oan a hoose. An’ ef oor keds look’d enything like hir, I’d be so chuffed! What with my strong manly genes an’ hir good looks an aw…

Wayne sets to typing. It hasn’t occurred to him that Hazel might not be as keen on him as he is her, or that the self-portrait and the picture of his hairy kidneys hadn’t sent her heart into orbit over him. Why wouldn’t they? Alright, so he was a little overweight, his hair was thinning and receding a little, but he was a good enough looking guy and any girl would be lucky to have him. The only reason he had been single all his life was because he’d not made the effort before, and he’d not made the effort because he’d not met the right girl before. And there was no point making the effort for someone who wasn’t perfect, who was second best, who didn’t fulfil his dreams, his lifelong aspirations. He’d been biding his time, waiting for the right one to come along. And now she had. Now he had found Hazel, it was worth making the effort. And make the effort he would. All of the things he’d thought about doing, all of the things he’d seen in films, all of those tricks and the romantic gestures the heroes used to woo the chicks, who would invariably fall at their feet, if not immediately, then when they made those grand romantic displays which showed how much they meant to him… Then they’d turn to pulp and simply fall deeply and forever in love with the perfect romantic hero who’d made all the right moves. Wayne had seen it in the movies, and had thought of how it would be when he finally met the one, and now it was time to put all of this into practice.

Perhaps Ah should huv worn mah suit for the full-length pic oav me instead o’ mah jeans. Nah, thir’s time fir tha’ – Ah can always wear it when we meet. In fact, Ah’ll need it fir when Ah take her oot for a poash meal. She’ll be swept oaf hir feet by the ambience and mah smooth look an’ convirsation. She’ll thenk Ah’m some James Boand type character, well smooth an’ charming an’ completely irresistible. Ah’ll be in hir pants in nae time.

And there was no time like the present to resume his charm offensive. Oh yes, he’d pull out all the stops and she’d be his. Of course, he already had a head start in that she clearly fancied him already. She often signed off her emails ‘H x,’ which was a total come-on. Subtle, understated, and so sweet that Wayne would alternately melt and stiffen. The fact that Hazel only seemed to email on work business hadn’t completely escaped Wayne, and he found it quite charming, made him love her all the more. She was perfect: polite, bright and a little bit shy. That was why she’d not responded to some of his more full-on mails. He sat and smiled to himself as he imagined her at her desk, blushing when she read his missives of gushing flattery. Of course, this was nothing compared to what he would say, or do, when they finally met, in the flesh. And so Wayne began to type.

Hey baby…

Nah, Ah’ve used that win quite a few times already the noo. Whet’s a bet more inventive, a bet more… what says whet Ah really feel?

Hey there my beautiful wee darling, how’s it going today? I thought about you all last night…

…apart from when Ah wes thinkin’ aboot Dannii, that es, but et’s perfectly normal fir a bloke to look at other women. In fact, it’s essential for maintaining a relationship, ‘cause it stoaps ye getting fed op, an’ et’s herlmess as loang as ye dinnae take it any further than jes’ lookin. Mah bro says he does it all the time, and his missus is fine wi’ et. Mind ye, when Ah’m goin’ doon the street weth Hazel oan mah erm, Ah dinnae think Ah’ll be noticin’ other women, somehoo.

Some of his friends and colleagues, and even his brother, had accused him of being lazy. Perhaps he was, but he was anything but lazy when it came to putting the moves on Hazel. And while all around him people were complaining about their lives and their lot, Wayne had a lot to be grateful for, and once he had Hazel, and a place of their own, his life would be complete.

…and woke up with a smile on my face this morning.
Did you like the pics? If you think my back’s hairy, you should see my arse! Maybe you will if you’re lucky, hotstuff.
Big love,
Big Wayne xxx

That ought tae get a reaction. She’ll probably huv tae gae an’ frig hersel’ silly befoor she can think straight tae mail me back, though.

Wayne smirked to himself and looked up from his monitor, casting his eyes over the people down the office. There weren’t many, as a large majority had left for their lunch already. He could see Jock, his manager, wandering toward the lifts with his designer parka on. Julie, the fat slapper, was sitting at her desk, talking loudly to one of her mates on the phone.

“I know, I was mashed, don’t know ‘ow I got ‘ome! Ahahahahahahaaahahah! I know! I didn’t, like, know what I was doin’! Did I really? … No… nooo! Aaaahhhh! No… I was just like totally…. Yeah, an’ it was like, y’know what I mean? Ahahahahahahahahahahaha!”

Weird Neil was sitting quietly, looking vacantly out of the window. Susie, who was a ‘hottie,’ but a little too vacant for Wayne’s liking, was at the drinks machine.

Ach, she’s a wee honey, that yin. Hmm, Ah could use a drenk. Mebbe Ah cin call o’er to hir an’ git hir tae breng me a water. Thin mebbe Ah’ll get a wee peep doon hir toap again an’ check oot those greet baps o’ hirs. Fine pair o’ cans – an’ no’ a bad erse, either. Tight wee erse, in fact. Ah! Man! Mm-hmm!  Shame she’s no’ so bright. Ah mean, that bloke o’ hirs, whit’s she doin’ wi’ hem? He’s goat ears like the FA Cup fir a start! Lucky wee bastart. If she was single an’ a bet brighter, I’d go oot weth her mahsel.’ Ah cudnae, though: the lack o’ prepir convirsation’d dae ma heid in eftir a wee while. Ah’d no’ mind ge’en hir one, though, that’s fir sures. No’ the noo, though, av course. Not noo Ah’ve goat wee Hazel. Ah’ve goat et made!

Wayne sat back in his seat and watched Susie wiggle her way down the office carrying a tray topped with half a dozen plastic cups containing various foul liquids dispensed by the vending machine. There was no tea in the tea, no coffee in the coffee and no orange was that colour even in cartoons. He looked on at her buttocks and the way the fabric of her mid-thigh black skirt tightened across them as she bent forward to place one of the cups on Adrian’s desk. Adrian was a skinhead with a tattoo on his neck, but to Wayne he seemed quite pleasant enough despite his appearance.

He’s awright by me. At least he’s no’ a poof.

The action was repeated when she reached the desk of Ebony, the Corporation’s token black. It’s important for a company to be seen to be employing a full cross section of minorities and stereotypes. That Ebony was a wheelchair-bound lesbian was no coincidence.

Wayne checked his email inbox. Nothing from Hazel yet. He returned to the letter he had been writing in another programme. He really couldn’t be bothered with it. The fact was, he couldn’t be bothered with all that much. Some of his friends and colleagues accused him of being lazy. Perhaps he was, but he was also content, for the most part. There was, to his mind, only one thing missing from his life, and he just wanted to devote all of his time to addressing that issue. He wanted to devote all of his waking hours to talking to Hazel, showing her his devotion to her, emailing her, thinking about her, and to devote all of his sleeping hours to dreaming of her.

“There you go, flower,” Susie was saying to One-Armed Seamus while placing the final cup of her round on his desk.

Then it hit Wayne. Genius! It couldn’t fail!

Flairs! Ah’ll send Hazel some flairs! A nice beg bunch, an’ aw. Ah cannae fail wi’ flairs. Chicks love ‘em! She’ll be putty in mah honds!

Suddenly there was a loud bang outside and people rose from their desks and rushed to the window to look out and see what had caused it. Wayne hesitated for a moment, but then he saw Susie heading to the window and decided it wouldn’t hurt to go and take a peek out of the window. And so he rose and lumbered, mindful of his aching knees and stiff back, toward the window, following the swinging butt in front of him as it made its way behind swinging hips to its destination. He peered over the tops of the row of heads that lined the window: being tall had its advantages.

Out on the street below, two cars had collided. It didn’t look too serious, as both of the drivers were already getting out of their dented vehicles. One looked extremely angry, the other confused. The angry one started shouting at the confused one, whose look of confusion began to be replaced by a look of fear.

Some of those gathered in the office began to squeak with excitement at the prospect of a full-on barney, some post-accident road rage.

“He’s going to lamp ‘im one!” a voice said with vindictive enthusiasm.

“Fight, fight, fight,” chanted One-Armed Seamus, laughing.

Wayne chuckled to himself, both at the scene unfolding below and the reactions of his colleagues. Small dramas like this always drew a crowd in the office, anything to cause a diversion from doing work. A small crowd was also starting to gather below as the angry driver continued to shout, his face red with rage. It was hard to tell exactly what he was shouting due to the distance and the window blocking most of the sound from outdoors, but he appeared to be asking the scared driver if they were blind or just fucking stupid. While the numbers standing kerbside swelled, those who did not wish to linger and spectate struggled to get past the clamorous bodies: an old woman with a Zima frame was having particular difficulty in making her way through. A businessman in a suit was in a hurry and jostled some of those gathered to one side; a man in a black jacket and black jeans wove through like a sniper, darting through the gaps; a young woman with a pushchair and a child on reigns simply stood and looked harried. The motorists didn’t come to blows and the angry man started to calm down when he saw the masses gathered at the roadside.

Chuckling again, Wayne returned to his desk and sat down. He finished typing the letter and sent it to print. He filed it from his day’s ‘to do’ list and rechecked his email in box. Still nothing.

Perhaps she’s aff today. Or perhaps she’s jest in a meeting or something. Or an early lunch. Ah suppose she could even jes’ be really busy or something. Ah hope ah sent those pics to the right address… Ach, bound to huv. Ah should proabably jes’ check the neet, though, jes’ tae be sure.

His stomach rumbled, reminding him that it was lunchtime.

 Ah should get mahsel’ somethin’ tae eat. These Slim Fasts urnae aw that fillin’ fir a guy like me: ah need some meat. McDonald’s, perhaps. Ach, noo, Ah fancy mahsel’ a KFC checken wrap, aye…

And with that, he took his anorak from the back of his chair and headed out of the office.

The Sound of the Siren

Nicola Burgess

I swear it was self-defence. It certainly wasn’t premeditated, not in any way. Not in a million years. But I can still see it now, like watching a film in slow-motion. The replays from different angles, like sports coverage when they show the same goal a dozen times using the footage from all the different cameras, and then slowed down, zoomed in, enhanced. In reality, I know I only have the on angle, the one I saw it from. But talking about it afterwards, re-imagining it, has made my mind reconstruct all of the different angles and play them back in my mind’s eye. Over and over. It’s torture. I try to leave it but I can’t forget about it.

Jamie and me, we were walking home one night. We hadn’t even been drinking or anything like that. Well, no more than a couple, no enough so that we’d been drunk. Not so that our judgement was impaired. Cutting down the back alleys behind the houses, that run parallel with the streets might not seem like an especially clever thing to do, but we do it all the time. We know our neighbourhood pretty well, and it’s a pretty safe area. It’s not like there are muggings and attacks or rapes or people getting knifed every night of the week. I can’t even think of a single occasion in the time we’ve been in the area, and we’ve lived here almost three years now. Over by the river it’s rough, and near the football ground, you wouldn’t want to be in the back streets round there late at night, but we live in a quiet suburb. Even the students are mostly quiet, and they might get drunk and lark about, but they’re not looking for trouble or anything.

On this occasion, we weren’t going to take the alleyway route at first, but Jamie needed to piss and insisted he couldn’t make it home. So we ducked into an alleyway and mindful of nettles and people’s back gates, Jamie found himself a safe spot and unzipped himself.I looked away, the only sounds being distant cars and the plash of Jamie’s jet of urine as it hit the wall or the ground. He let out a long sigh of relief.

“Hell, that’s better,” he said as he rezipped his fly.

“It’s alright for guys,” I told him, “I can’t very well squat in public, can I?”

“Well, you could,” he chuckled, “Besides, I’d hardly call this public.”

“You know what I mean,” I replied, “it’s the principle.”

Just then, we heard the sound of something up ahead, scrabbling around in some bin bags that had been left out. We looked at each other. I was anxious. Jamie didn’t seem too bothered.

“Probably just a fox or a cat,” he said.

Then it showed itself: a big dog. It was dark, so I couldn’t tell if it was actually a stray or just loose. I don’t really like dogs, and definitely not big ones. People have always told me it’s an irrational fear, that there’s nothing to be scared of, that dogs are friendly. This one didn’t seem friendly to me. It fixed its stare on us and growled.

“I don’t like it,” I whispered, shaking.

“Don’t worry,” Jamie said, trying to reassure me. “It won’t do anything.”

He was wrong. In an instant, it began running towards us, snarling and barking. The single lamp gave just enough light to show its teeth and the trail of slobber as it came straight at Jamie. He didn’t have time to react as it leaped at him and knocked him to the ground.

I shrieked and Jamie shouted as the creature began to tear into his shoulder with its teeth.

Panicked, I looked around. There was no time to get y phone out and call for the police or an ambulance. The houses remained in darkness, and no-one else was around. I spotted a small pile of bricks a few yards away, and found a broken half brick I could lift. I’m not strong and am slenderly built, so it was still heavy. I dashed over to Jamie, lying on the ground, blood glistening in the dusty tarmac. He was struggling and trying to fight it off, but the dog was big, strong and heavy and was standing on his chest and ripping him to shreds. I raised the brick and brought it down on the dog’s head. I felt its skull cave in. it gave a horrible anguished howl as blood sprayed from its smashed skull. And yet it continued to go at Jamie. I hit it again. And again. And again. Over and over, until eventually it slumped down and was still.

Shaking, I looked at Jamie. He was curled up in a foetal position. Blood was pouring from him. I called for an ambulance. He mumbled something inaudible and blacked out. I stared into the night, waiting for the sound of the siren.

 

Fans

Michael Hann

 

The singer was a prick. You could tell by the way he looked down on the crowd that he thought he was cool as fuck. Wanker.
Christ, he was only two years older than me and Mel. I could remember how he used to pick on us at school. It ended after I punched him in the face and nearly broke his cheek bone. Now here he was, pretending to be king of the world.
Fuck. Him.
“Now that guy,” Mel said, drawing out her words and smiling at me, “Is a complete cockhead.”
Some knob fell out of the mosh pit and slammed into me. I grabbed him by the waist and chucked him back in. I laughed and turned to Mel but she was too busy snogging Si, her latest conquest.
I hated the weedy little fucker. He was always hanging off her, with a sulk on and pretending to be bored. I’d thought a lot about catching him alone, maybe coming back from the bogs or the bar, and then taking him outside and kicking his face off. But Mel would eventually find out and I’d be screwed.
“For God’s sake Annie, give us some privacy.”
She’d caught me staring at them again. Shit. Someone brushed past my boob and I automatically raised my fist to smack them one. It was just some lass collecting glasses.
The band thrashed through their third cover, sending the small crowd mental.  I couldn’t hear anything. I was absorbed by the pleasure on her face, the way she bit her lip when he grabbed her backside, how she smiled when he ran his tongue over the inside of her ear.
The song ended. They momentarily disengaged from one another and joined in the half hearted clapping. Mel turned and looked right at me.
“Still,” Mel said, indicating to the knobhead singer. “You’ve got to admit, he’s got something.”
Something inside me… snapped.
I stormed forward, pushing people out of my way until I got to the stage. The bouncers didn’t see me coming. Before anyone knew it, I was up there and pounding the microphone into the face of the singer. They just about got their hands on me as I started biting into the bridge of his broken nose.
As they dragged me off him, I looked around for Mel. She wasn’t there. She must have left already.

 

Dead But Dreaming

Dave Howden

 

I’m standing in my living room. It is a large, plain room with magnolia walls. It is bright, filled with natural daylight that makes its ingress from the large window that occupies much of the large wall, one of the longer dimensions of the rectangle, to my the left. I guess I’m not quite with it, hungover more than likely. I just don’t feel particularly connected. Between space… my wife is beside me, at my left hand side. Our backs rest against the shorter wall and my right shoulder is close to the corner where the wall to my rear and the other longer wall, the one without the window, meet. It’s very warm, a dry heat. It must be summer. I’ve almost forgotten what summer is.

She seems to come from nowhere. It’s as though she’s entered through the wall, a silent entry, and completely unannounced. Of course, there’s a door, to my wife’s left, some distance from me, and it’s concealed, even if my view of it wasn’t obscured. We both know her, and although she doesn’t live with us, and only visits very occasionally, the surprise is only momentary. No-one speaks, and we watch as she walks straight past us, dressed in a Chinese dress, and places her palms against the wall, the longer wall without the window, at the far end of the room. Hot on her heels – her bare, shoeless heels – appear a couple of Indian men wearing turquoise robes. They stand in the middle of the room and converse with one another in Hindi and ignore us as they watch the girl as she continues to move strangely, her back to us and her hands on the blank magnolia wall, her palms to the flat surface, almost stroking it.

Abruptly, she stops. We all go outside. It’s been a long time since I have been outside. The world has changed significantly. How long has it been? Long enough to have forgotten that from my doorstep I can see the lives of dozens of other residents in the square unfolding in real-time through the large window elevations of their flats – large, plain magnolia expanses, just like the one I live in. I move back and step outside myself once more.

Song

I pried the wooden boards away from the door, fumbling with my old set of keys to the pub. Wiping liquor sweat from my brow, I checked the dark streets. Empty. I picked up the two cans of gasoline and marched in.
As soon as I was through the door I could hear them, their many voices whispering in the shadows. I had almost missed them. My hands shook as I took a swig from the whiskey bottle in my pocket.
I slid past the stacked tables and chairs and stopped at the dust coated bar. I traced my hand in the surface dirt and remembered the many times I’d be pulling a pint at the bar and frozen, trying to hear the words, straining to decipher their song.
Once I was captured by their song, only my wife and daughter could break me out of my trance, with their screaming and fists. I would come to, and see the beer pouring over my hand onto the floor and a room full of eyes staring at me.
I unscrewed the stoppers from the gasoline cans. Their voices were rising, trying to snare me. I could feel their panic distorting their singing and I smiled. They knew I had come to silence them, for taking everything I loved away from me. To make them pay.
I poured the petrol around my feet. Their voices harmonised, growing louder. Their song was attacking me now, creating waves of hurt and nausea to stop me. The gasoline cans clattered to the floor.
My body began to shake with pain as I struck a match. Their shrieks cut through me with a terrible beauty. My hands automatically moved up to my ears to block out the song, which was useless, as the glorious noise was inside my head. Even now, as the taste of blood stung my mouth, I still wanted to know what they were singing.
I cried out as their din overpowered me, forcing me to my knees. I prayed that it would end, that their sublime screams would finally tear me apart.
Then, it became clear.
As the match fell from my hand, my mind was filled not with words, but images. Birth, love, pain, family, war, sex, grief, murder, end, joy.
I felt nothing as the flames engulfed my body. I was lost in their song.

 

About the Author

Michael Hann recently published a zine called I’m Afraid of Everyone, an edgy and dark collection of short stories. He regularly writes gig and album reviews and interviews for NARC, and one of his short stories will be featured in the literary magazine Kerouac’s Dog in January 2011. He is currently working on my first novel, whilst gathering and producing the content for vol. 2 of I’m Afraid…

http://www.facebook.com/?sk=2361831622#!/group.php?gid=114517125268779
http://www.imafraidofeveryonemh.blogspot.com

   “So you think you’re quite the man, do you?”
    James winced. He’d only known Debbie a few weeks having met her through a friend at a night out with some of his course companions. Studying chemistry, he didn’t get to see many girls in the lab or in the lectures, but he always tried to address this when out socially. And he had quickly learned that Debbie was a bugger after a few drinks. What’s more, he’d got to recognise that tone of voice she had taken, and her mannerisms. They said something was afoot and it was likely to be trouble. He was keen to avoid trouble, and so he played it safe.
    “Well, I am a man…” he began cautiously.
    This was met with snorts of derision from his mates Andy and Joe, and a tuneless rendition of the line ‘I’m a man not a boy’ as performed by the long-forgotten teen band North and South who had featured in the BBC television series ‘No Sweat’ in an attempt to replicate the success of S Club 7, from Stu. The fool.
    “Prove it,” Debbie taunted flirtatiously.
    “What?” James couldn’t hide his surprise.
    “A drinking contest, silly!” she laughed.
    James flushed, especially when he noticed that Sarah and Jenny were laughing too. He knew he’d sounded excessively indignant and defensive.
    “Oh!” he exclaimed, relieved. He had reasons to be wary after some of the stories he’d heard of Debbie, and that she had herself recounted.
    “What did you expect?” cackled Sarah.
    Jim shrugged, and before he could speak, found himself being presented with a shot of tequila that seemed to come from nowhere and his thoughts buried beneath a chant of “Drink! Drink! Drink!” from all of his companions.
    He picked up the little glass and put it to his lips, keeping one eye on Debbie all the while. Then… Bam! He sank it. Debbie did the same, in unison. More followed in rapid succession and James soon began to feel woozy.
    “Think I need some fresh air,” he said as his vision began to blur.
    He made a sharp exit, and the cool night air hit him like an adrenaline shock. He still felt disorientated – tequila always ruined him, and fast – and sweat was beading on his brow, but he no longer felt like he would die and simply felt drunk enough for more antics. And more antics he would get.
    The rest of the gang quickly gathered around him. It was time to move on. Another bar, and en route Debbie insisted she make a brief call at her house – she’d left some cash there, and made a quick-change of her top while she was making the collection. Before long, they were on their way. Debbie lived in the heart of town, and so the next bar – a horrible, loud place that played pulsating dance music but did two-for-one student offers on certain nights – was only a couple of minutes away. James was glad he was utterly trashed: it was the only way he could ever find places like this remotely tolerable.
    Despite her enormous capacity for booze, even Debbie was beginning to show the signs of her consumption, and everyone else was utterly legless – as gashed as James, or so he assumed: it was hard for him to judge. But she hadn’t forgotten her evening’s objective, to challenge James to prove himself at every opportunity. And he was drunk enough to go along with whatever she put his way. So chatting up some alcopop-guzzling teenage floozy in an impossibly short skirt might have resulted in a truly humiliating rejection, but won the approval of his peers, not least of all the truly fearsome Debbie. Dancing shirtless on a table? No problem. It might’ve got them kicked out of that particular bar, but that was half the fun.
    Once ejected, they regrouped outside. Debbie guided them all into an alleyway and broke out her wallet, removing a piece of paper, the likes of which James had never seen before.
    “Acid,” she explained, an evil conspiratory leer on her face.
    “Oh no,” James said. He meant it.
    But a little coercion goes a long way, and before long, he and Debbie and three or four others had dropped tabs and the rest of the group – minus Stuart, who claimed he had to work the following morning – made their way to the next venue. After that, the acid was beginning to kick in, but despite the onset of some mildly disconcerting hallucinations, James accepted the challenge of skinnydipping in the river that ran through the town centre. He scraped his leg on a submerged shopping trolley, but it was worth it: after all, it was a laugh, he got to maintain his credibility in the eyes of the great arbiter, Debbie, and he got to see her without any clothes. She was a good sport, and would never set a challenge she wouldn’t perform herself.
    The evening began to blur, perhaps there were more bars, even a club. The group was reducing in size now: only James, Debbie, Jenny and Andy remained. Jen and Andy were flagging and starting to weird out, but James was on fire and managing to keep up with Debbie. More drinks purchased from an off-license or somewhere topped up those already imbibed and blended with the LSD. It was quite a trip.
    Somehow, they ended up on a building site. James wasn’t sure about this. He was being coerced to climb the crane tower. It was a good hundred feet tall, and was fuzzy and bending out of shape. He was scared of heights, and right now his balance and co-ordination were fucked. However mashed he was, he knew it was impossible. He didn’t want to die. But Debbie wasn’t taking no for an answer. Then, from nowhere, she pulled a pistol from her bag. She pointed at her friend. She cocked the mechanism with terrifying steadiness and certainty.
    “Climb,” she ordered
    James knew he had no choice.

‘Drinking Games’ appears in The Gimp, out on Clinicality Press on 11th October 2010.

Clinicality Press publish and promote new works of fiction and beyond. We’re just starting out in putting out new works on-line in a blog/zine. This is the third posting, and there are lots more exiting pieces on the way. In time, there may be a second anthology, but these things take time and money, and we’re short on both. For now, we’re doing the digital thing.

 

The Persistence of Memory

Pete Miller

Ever wish you’d done something different? Ever wish you’d done some things differently? Obviously it’s too late for regret, as it won’t change anything and is simply a needless expenditure of energy and there’s less to spare as each year passes but do you? Do you have regrets? A yearning to go back and change things? Or would you play out the mistakes the same anyway: after all, we learn from our mistakes and know not to make them again. Even so, there’s always that small wish to go back, retrace the steps taken in blindness and rectify some of those darker moments those moments, however fleeting, of the most acute embarrassment…  isn’t there? Or is it just me?

I don’t wish to change who I am, or what I’ve ‘become’ – I probably couldn’t anyway, there seems to be an inevitability about the path we tread, and fight circumstance as hard as me might, it feels like a losing battle. People do us over, finance and situations of employment, family, all unwittingly contrive to bring us to the present whatever we do. But don’t you sometimes think ‘what if?’

What if you’d gone what that guy or that girl what if you’d been less spineless in relenting to that push or that, what if you’d not given in so easily when told ‘no’ to that, what if you had applied for this job, that job and the other job? If you’d not given up after the fifteenth knock-back on one career or another, had held on to and fought harder to cling to one dream or another?

Or when you discover that you’re finally able to make progress of sorts? Don’t you wish that you’d been the person you are now a decade ago? Or even fifteen years ago? What would you change? What would you have done differently? What were your dreams? Do you still have any of them now?

And how about the way you look? What would you change? Anything? Nothing? How do you feel about the ageing process? How do you feel now about your childhood? How much of it can you actually remember?

I find that I feel that while my memory is still as good as ever, some recollections are becoming somehow distorted. Or perhaps it’s that I struggle to reconcile them with my adult self.

I don’t miss the lack of responsibility of childhood. I was as repressed as a teenager as I am now. I wish I had evolved differently.  I wish I’d been the person I am now or feel I’m becoming then, ten, fifteen years ago. Don’t you ever wish that? How would you be with the people you knew then if you were how you are now? Were there missed opportunities? Did you not speak when you should have done? Did you say things when you’d have been better not doing? Or simply say the wrong thing? How would you replay it?

I’d replay it all in slow motion and consider my moved for a start. And do it from my perspective now. But there’s no going back… is there?

I’ve got some gigs to review: three nights in a row’s worth, no less. I’m struggling to remember the night before, and the other two had faded to a blur the moment I’d left the venue. I’m shit at taking notes, too. It’s pointless. When I do take notes, I struggle to read them the next morning. My room is littered with scraps of paper, torn, crumpled and beer-stained, with runs of dark ink smeared across them that are supposed to tell me who I’ve watched and what songs they’ve played. Sometimes I manage to bag set lists, but they’re often equally useless because bands usually use abbreviations or private codes when putting song titles down. Besides, if I don’t know whose set list it is, it’s no fucking use anyway, just one more piece of paper cluttering my manky hovel of a space. In a hovel of a bed / I will scream in vain / Oh please Miss Lane / Leave me with some pain…. Yes, song lyrics haunt me, permeate my thought processes. Songs and bands, good, bad and indifferent… I can’t tell the real from reflection. I can’t always remember the songs, let alone the bands. In my room, I keep the curtains drawn most of the time, and it probably stinks, but like I give a fuck. I’m busy, I like to keep it dark and, well, really, who cares? My girlfriend, Laura – she’s rabid in ecstasy – sometimes suggests opening the window when she comes round, but usually she’s content with me lighting some incense, and that’s cool with me.

I turn on the PC. I roll and light a cigarette while it boots up. I usually try to intersperse ‘real’ cigarettes with rollies for economy’s sake. Have another cigarette and have another cigarette, in a room where lovers go, talking on the telephone… Music is my life. I’m not as much lost in music, as made of music. It flows through me. I like a lot of old stuff. Punk, new wave. I’m loathe to say indie, but then indie means different things to different people. To me, it’s not a genre of 90s shit as represented by Blur, Oasis and myriad nameless generic tossbag bands who’ve nicked bits of The Smiths, The Stone Roses and whatnot to create some mediocre, jangly wank that’s brought us to Razorlight and The Wombats and Hard-Fi and Elliot Minor and One Night Only, The Cribs, The Bees, The Definite Article Followed by Forgettable Plural Noun Ad Nauseaum Bag of Spunk in Skinny Jeans and Top Man T-Shirt Playing Flaccid, Poppy Bilge That I Can’t Believe Anyone Gives a Flying Fuck About Given That I’ve Forgotten the Song Before The Second Chorus… the list is as endless as it is forgettable, and would be longer if the bands weren’t all so completely anonymous and generic that their names can’t only escape my recollection.

I sit down, ready to work, but before I can even open a window, there’s a gurgling in my guts and I have to peg it to the bathroom, kicking CDs across the floor on the way. Thankfully, it’s unoccupied. I expel a massive runny beery shit into the pan before my cheeks even hit the seat. Holy fuck! It was a close call. My ring stings like fuck and that’s what I get for having a curry for tea and ten pints on top of it. I wipe, flush and make a hasty exit: I’ve stunk the place out bigstyle, to the extent that the honk makes me want to hurl.
 

I manage to keep my toast and coffee down and return to my room. I bung a CD picked up off the floor at random  into the player and stare blankly into space. I should find this easy. I’ve been doing it for years, and it’s the job I always dreamed of doing ever since I was a teenager reading Melody Maker and Sounds. But if anything, it gets harder. Harder to write something original, harder to discern the good from the bad from the indifferent, harder not to become so jaded that the whole thing gets depressing, harder to simply keep going. The late nights and long hours take their toll.

Another knock at the door. Dan again.

‘Thought you’d gone out,’ I said.

‘Forgot my baccy,’ he replies. ‘And my wallet. Been cracking one off?’

‘Moron,’ I josh. ‘I was taking a shit. You’d probably….’

‘Yeah, yeah, I’d forget my cock if it wasn’t attached,’ he says, rolling his eyes.

‘I know, it comes in handy a lot of the time,’ I reply. ‘You can leave it home when you think it’s gonna get you in trouble, or you can rent it out, when you don’t need it. But now and then you go to a party, get drunk, and the next morning you can’t for the life of you remember what you did with it. And you really don’t like being without your penis for too long. It makes you feel like less of a man, and you really hate having to sit down every time I take a leak.’

‘Are you finished? Fucking lunatic,’ Dan grizzled. I’ve probably played him King Missile’s Happy Hour album more times than he can remember, and more times than he wants to. But it’s a great album and so I make no apology for it.

I don’t get it with you, Dan had said recently. You’re a reviewer, you should be playing me “important” albums and being superior about it. Y’know, “classic” stuff like Beatles and Bowie or the Beach Boys, or landmark alternative releases, underground classics like Suicide and that sort of thing. But instead you just play endless weird obscure shit like it’s the coolest, most important fucking album on the planet. It is to me, I’d told him. Fuck stereotypes. There’s music for everyone, and I stake my slender reputation on not towing the Q, Mojo, NME line. Which probably explains why I’m still scraping away at the bottom of the ladder, but hey, at least I’m sincere and true to myself and the music. And no, not the band The Music. They’re gash.

‘Yeah, go on,’ I say.

‘Anyway, I was going to say, Amy’s coming round later on, she might be here before I get back. Can you let her in?’

‘Nope, I’m going to leave her on the doorstep, even if it’s pissing it down with rain. I don’t like your girlfriend, I think she’s a slag and I don’t like her in my house.’ He knows I’m kidding: Amy and I get on really well. What he doesn’t know is that I have a bit of a crush on her, which isn’t something I let on to anyone. No good could come of it, and since I can’t do anything about it and as far as I know it’s not reciprocal, there’s no point.

‘I just meant to listen out for the door. I know you can’t always hear the doorbell when you’ve got music on.’

‘Doorbell’s bust,’ I remind him.

‘Oh yeah. Shit.’

He leaves once more and I resume staring into space. I can’t tell if it’s writer’s block, a lack of inspiring subject matter or fatigue. I have a headache and my eyes are so weary I can barely focus on the screen. I light another cigarette and cruise for porn. Inspiration will come in its own sweet time.

 

 

Hack is scheduled for publication by Clinicality Press in December

This is the first story to feature in our soon-to-be critically lauded blogzine, where Clinicality Press publish and promote new works of fiction and beyond. In time, there may be a second anthology, but these things take time and money, and we’re short on both. For now, we’re doing the digital thing.

Killing for Company

Vincent Clasper

It started out through boredom. Single, lonely, stuck at home, nothing to do. An evening spent with a four-pack, idling away the hours on-line. Only so much sport and music a guy can take. He’d always avoided the porn on the ‘net, said it was for sad losers who couldn’t get laid. But he’d been without a partner for some weeks now, and the urge to shoot his load was becoming too much to bear. He Googled a few random search terms:

Lesbian lick blonde

Brunette cum sprays

Jenna Jameson anal

Most of the results were disappointing: small low-res pics, or otherwise simply fronts for pay-sites and links pages that led to more links pages – all the promise, but nothing delivered. A couple of sites brought up pages of thumbnails, though, and he flicked through a handful of screens, checking out some DVDA action of some busty tan-lined blondes. Imagining himself in the place of one of the guys, he flipped his cock free of his boxers and tossed until he creamed onto the carpet.

It wasn’t long before it became a habit, and it wasn’t long before he started thinking and seeing things differently. He’d see girls in the MPEGS and JPEGS that began to clutter his hard drive who reminded him of girls he knew or had known from work or college or even school. He’d fantasize that the girls in the pictures and videos were the girls he knew and would knock a mix out with these thoughts in his head.

He started to diversify and became interested in voyeur sites, candid sites. He became obsessed. His netlife became his reality: at work, in the street, the supermarket, he’d be on he lookout for downblouse shots and nipple slips. He even removed a screw from the handle of the bathroom door and drilled through so he could catch a glimpse of his lodger in the bath or shower. Women became objects: he’d find himself engaged in a perfectly normal conversation and imagine different scenarios. In the pub, he visualised the barmaid in a short skirt, exposing her bare ass as she reached over the table to collect empty glasses, or taking the hot blonde from accounts in the stationery cupboard. He’d ponder what the women and girls he saw in the street, the shop, the pub, and at work looked like naked, imagined their nipples and their beavers.

And he was never bored again.

‘Killing for Company’ is taken from Vincent Clasper’s forthcoming booklet Kicks, to be published by Clinicality Press in October.