Psychobibliophilia – where’s your book been?

written in a café, distracted by a precarious stool.

Psychobibliography is not the word I am looking for, but it will do for now.
Age has seen me become increasingly intrigued in psychogeography.
Being halfway or more through life, I am beginning to get hold of the scale of time on a humdrum human civilisation level. Buidlings and avenues can more readily imagined to have psychomatic imprints of the past.
When I was lucky enough to be standing in the middle of the Lovell telescope, I experienced a sense of psychoastronomy. I imagined a sensation created by all the radio waves monitored and translated to give us images and understanding of pulsars and quasars and galaxy activity.

“YES, ALL MY LIFE, I HAVE BEEN LOOKED UPON AS A FREAK! FORCED TO JOIN THE CIRCUS BECAUSE I WAS BORN WITH FOUR ARMS! BUT IN THE CIRCUS I STUDIED HYPNOTISM…AND NOW I’M GOING TO USE MY HYPNOTIC POWERS TO MAKE ME THE MASTER OF THE TWO ARMED FOOLS!”

I was sat in a bath in Laugharne, reading a Sinister Tales comic. It was a creased and torn copy. I can’t be sure of the year, but it was one shilling, so I reckon on 1967. Still going in the seventies, I would excitedly purchase these reprints of stories of mystery and imagination and “approved comic” horror from the newsagent in Chorleywood. I had bought a small pile from the Dylan’s Mobile Bookshop parked on Laugharne high street. As I read of “NoMan’s Greatest Challenge” on Scorpion Island, I wondered who had held this copy before me. What was its journey from rip roaring pulp trash, frowned upon by unimaginative parents and coveted by kids, to a collectable in a secondhand bookshop. What had gone through the first reader’s mind when she/he held it pristine and new. What effect did these adventure towards the stars and inside nightmares had on the readers that came before me? Had it ignited thoughts of adventure or inspired them to aim to be a comic book writer? Did they mock the strips or were they engrossed, pages turned rapidly, the corners damp from licked fingers?
And where has it been for the last 50 years?
In a garage? In an attic? Was it death that led to a box of them finding their way to the secondhand world?
Was Sinister Tales passed around? a playground swapsy?
Would it become an inspiration or a forgotten piece of childhood?

“Consider the dreamers: all of the dreamers: the glorious and the corrupt….” (Harlan Ellison, Blood/Thoughts)

A back cover blurb that invites the reader into an anthology of fictional nightmares and nightmare makers, broken up by fragments of psychology and unnamed photographs of classic and less classic horror flicks; this is Nighttouch: Journeying into the Realms of Nightmare.
Published in one of the boom times for the horror book. The excerpts include the work of Robert Graves (Nobody), CS Lewis (Perelandra) and Robert Bloch (Mannikins of Horror). The photos include the original Cabinet of Dr Caligari, The Reptile and a variety of fanged images of Christopher Lee. Knowing its potential market for teen boys, there are two topless shots. One of naked woman being sacrificed, the other of Valeie Van Ost (I think it is her) being staked, with one nipple prominently out. I think this was a widely used publicity shot, her nipple having remained for the filmed staking. Was this a present for a strange boy? Did he only look at the pictures, the nail marks in the face of Barbara Steele or Frederic March tucking into a dove? Would he steal the ideas when he had to write a story for English class? Did any image go on to populate his nightmares? Did his parents confiscate the book after finding a female nipple count of three?
Did he worry his horror fascination may mean he would wonder kill, just like the bully boys told him?

“His voice was completely out of control. He screamed,’you stupid bastard, I need a fix. Do you understand now?’”

I was lured to Wenzell Brown’s Monkey on My Back by its sensationalism and the gloomily painted outsider youths, exhausted from their addiction, adorned on the cover. Two shillings and six pence, this edition published in 1958. It is the supposedly non-fiction tales of young junkies seeking their angry fix. Was it plucked off a revolving paperback carousel on a train platform newsagent. Was the traveller seeking a thrill, or did they hope to learn a little of the minds of the addicted?
Was the book finished as the train pulled into Newcastle, or did it remain unfinished and set aside. Am I only the second to scan my eyes across this edition, or has it been read by many? Each separate generation of readers believing they were in for something else, some read facetiously, some ironically, others gripped by the possible horrors waiting for them on the streets where the young people loitered?

None of these books offered further clues, save for the number of creases and an occasionally folded page. My copy of JG Ballard’s High-Rise has some tantalising hints of its history. A 1993 edition that I picked up in the early 21st century, it has an inscription on the back of the front cover.

“Dear ***, Don’t let the testoteronesersings-ness……get you down”

on the inside of the back cover. “*Project Green *Chromium. High speed. slow heal. there in an instant city to city”

What is the story and was Ballard the cure?

Who has been looking in your books?

Psychobibliophilia? No, that’s still now quite it.

Josie and Robin’s Book Shambles is back soon. Our first 13 episodes – from Chris Hadfield to Sara Pascoe via Mark Gatiss and Charlotte Church – are HERE

I am doing a few gigs, from Leicester Space Centre to Newcastle Life Centre, with Sheffield and Oxford amongst a few others. Information HERE

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Mud flats and Synth Dystopias

It is late. I have a headache. There will be mistakes in the words below. I’ll correct them soon, but here’s the clumsy version.

The Laugharne Weekend is one of my favourite weekends of the year. Last year, when I couldn’t attend as I was touring Australia, I stood in the sunshine of Brisbane having just been to a damn fine David Lynch exhibition and still found myself thinking, “hmmm, I should really be in Laugharne”.
It was in Laugharne where I spent an evening talking with Peter Blake about 1970s wrestling. It was here that Graeme Garden told his favourite shark versus zombie movie scene. It was here that I saw Phill Jupitus and Kate Tempest doing a poetry off whil John Cooper Clarke looked on from the sidelines.
It is also a lot of fun to perform at.

I arrived the day before it began, allowing me to view the splendid estuary and Dylan Thomas boathouse in sunlight, an opportunity that would not occur again during the festival.

On Thursday, festival regular Adele told me about Severed Ties, an Oliver Reed film involving a severed arm going awry. I also heard a variety of stories about Harold Pinter from Keith Allen, who I still fear a bit.

On Friday, I had to do my revision for two interviews I was doing. Erwin James was convicted of two murders in 1984. His book, Redeemable, is a horrifying and upsetting autobiography that illustrates how a child’s life can fall apart due to alcohol, bullying and a loss of worth, trust and love. It does not try to justify or pass the blame, but in a world where we still see politicians and newspapers attempting to persuade us that criminals are criminals just because they are, this detailed memoir graphically illustrates a descent and then shows how someone who has committed terrible crimes can have worth.

After writing my allotted 1000 words for a book that may or may not ever exist on a bookshelf, i was allowed out for a cheese sandwich and some poetry.

I only saw three quarters of the Faber New Poets. I was most struck by Rachel Curzon and her poem of silent thoughts during an ultrasound. A poet standing near me remarked that he wished poets would remember to use mundane words too. I think i understood, sometimes the language seems too ornate, like a festooned cream pastry burdened by the terrible weight of tasty decoration.

My partner for much of this weekend was Josie Long as we continue our Harold and Maude-like partnership (I’m Maude).

We performed a live Book Shambles show with Mark Billingham and we talked of heroes, and idols that had let us down. Also, how evil must someone be for their art to lose its alluring lustre? And I did some of my five impressions.

Then, we ate chips.

I went off to see Gwenno whose album based on a Welsh language dystopian novel of the 1970s was one of my favourites of the last year. I hoped to find out a few more things about what the album was actually about, not that that would increase or decrease the amount I would listen to it.
Walking in to the venue, someone was behind a keyboard. I presumed it was Gwenno, I have only seen her avatar and record cover and just presumde she dyed her hair since then. She was superb, a beguiling mix of layered keyboard sounds (I do like a lot of noises in my music), and quite different to the sound of her album. The reason for this was that she was not Gwenno, but her support act, Accu. I was not the only one confused, a lesson in eating your chips quicker and being on time.
Gwenno and her band were also superb, and I have since found the English translation of her album Y Dadd Olaf.
Saturday began with David Hepworth being quizzed by Mark Ellen on his “scientifically accurate” book that declares 1971 was the most important in history. It was a convincing argument, and an expensive one. I now know there are even more albums I didn’t know that I must have.

Then another gig with Josie. This was mainly her gig, I was just there in case she wanted a pause to remember more of her new material. I did some shouting and she talked about why she can’t prank.

Jude Rogers interviewed Charlotte Church. She explained that when organising political events, she finds that bands decline her invitation because their labels have told them not to be political (even though they agree with the cause). Jude added that she would interview singers she knew wished to be politically active, but was instructed that this side must not be revealed in print.
a depressing state of affairs.
But there was some upbest rabble rousing too and a plug for Grace Petrie.

Mark Billingham was a very entertaining inquisitor of Ian Rankin. The only gasp of horror came when Ian Rankin opened a carrier bag to reveal the 350 page manuscript of his new novel, which he has been working on tirelessly since 16th February. Authors and prospecfive authors muttered darkly at this revelation of his speed.

Then, Josie and I talked horror. She read a little from her contribution to the Dead Funny 2 anthology (finally, it really is out soon), we showed a few horrifying clips and heard ghastly tales of Anglia’s Sale of the Century. Then, we had another drink and forced people to watch Anthony Balch’s Horror Hospital in its entirety.

Sunday has been a day where I have slowly developed a hangover for no reason.

I interviewed Erwin James, who is very enlightening on prison and how his plight did not ultimately seal his destiny.

Nathan Filer, author of the excellent Shock of the Fall started without me and read (or appeared to read, the pages were actually blank), a lovely poem of love, and explained about mental health and the process of writing.

Two White Cranes, which is Roxy from Joanna Gruesome, performed songs with aplomb and charm, including a fine cover of Springsteen’s The River. I bought her album.

Linton Kwesi Johnson was an education, both in poetry and politics.

I couldn’t decide between Martin & Eliza Carthy or Mark Thomas’s Trespass, so I went to both.
The opening song of the Carthys reminded me of how twisted and mesmeric the best folk can sound, and the cold church they performed in added to mystical quality of it all, even though the green lighting against the church’s stone architecture was a little closer to the colour of the satan spawn juice in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.

Mark Thomas condensed a vast array of jokes, information, politcs and empowerment into the 60 minutes I saw. He presented a strong reminder to read up on our rights and to start to reclaim all the shared things that have been mercilessly privatised and taken from us in the last 36 years.

Things I missed included Pete Wylie singing Jean Genie and Charlotte Church’s rendition of be My Baby.

That’s what I did on my holiday.

Thanks to Richard and John for making such things possible.

I am doing a few gigs in next months, including Sheffield, Newcastle and Oxford. You can find out things like that HERE.

Josie and Robin’s Book Shambles is back soon, with a Jon Ronson interview, here are our first 13 – from Stewart Lee to Eddie Izzard via Sara Pascoe and AL Kennedy.

 

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What damage the 50 pence in the cup?

My busker rule is, “if I have change, I should put something in the guitar case or hat”.
This is usually around 40 or 50 pence, which seems pretty reasonable for spending 10 to 30 seconds listening to an acoustic version of a song I am not very keen on in any form.
My philosophy is,”hell, we’re all in showbiz, let’s share it about.”
I think my primeval self, the one that is discreetly hiding my belief in some form of monkey god, is imagining that if I don’t cross the trilby with silver, my own gig of the evening will be cursed.

I have been wondering if I can work out a way of coaxing the best songs out of a busker by changing the sum of money depending on the cover version. If I drop five pounds into the hat because the lady with the lute is playing Kicker Conspiracy, will this lead to an outbreak of buskers only playing Fall medleys?

On the way back from tonight’s Old Rope gig, there was a man begging with a cup on the train.
I am a white, middle class liberal, so that means I am a hypocrite. I’ve checked the newspaper columnists, so I must be. The newspaper columnists are also frequently white and middle class, but because they are cunts, this means they have decided they are not hypocrites. “Look at me, i am white and middle class and hateful for money, how more honest could I be?”.

What is the right thing to do when someone is begging? There seem to be a lot more beggars in the last year, almost up to 1980s standard. We’re all in it together, it’s just that they forgot to give the homeless the details that Vodaphone have for triumphantly scamming a government and a country, probably just an oversight.

Should I put money in the cup, or by doing so, am I getting a junkie their last fix or a criminal mastermind another 50 pence. It’s only 50 pence, I can afford 50 pence. Will my 50 pence exacerbate the problem? Am I only giving the 50 pence because I want to appear kind. It is a minimal donation for a brief tingle of, “I have been altruistic”. Though that would only be true if before and after tI dropped it inot the cup, I wasn’t going through this rigmarole of confusion.

Obviously, it would be best to donate to official charities, but that is in place already. This is about those moments where you are confronted by a human who appears to be in need.
Is it best to do nothing? Am I always being scammed?
Is it better that this 50 pence goes towards my bottle of the beer for the way home rather than theirs? Or is it more insidious that that?

Should I just up my donation for 30 seconds of a George Ezra cover to one pound?

And now over to you, Hive Mind.

I am doing occasional gigs – off to Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Leicester and a few more 

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I Never Meant to be Boring – ideas vs laughter

Writing about the upcoming film of Blade Runner, Philip K Dick remarked that the problem with Hollywood was its concentration of disturbing the senses, but not the mind.

This is not just an issue of Hollywood anymore. It is the issue of music, comedy, twenty four hour news – is it enough to create a hasty reaction without interfering with the slower, thoughtful parts of the brain.

“We have so much to choose from, you better grab us immediately or we’ll wander off to something that promises a more instant gratification.”

The argument is that everyone’s life is so hard that once they have paid admission to the cinema or theatre it would be an insult to activate their brain too much. I am not sure that everyone balks at entertainment that requires a modicum of effort. I am not sure it is even effort, it might just be engagement. Sometimes I want The Walking Dead, sometimes it’s Solaris.
Not everyone has spent their days endless slaughtering animals in an abattoir, chipping at a rockface in a subterranean hellhole, or caring for the sick, and even some of those who have might still be happy to be offered something that might take more than a minute to reach a climax.

In my tail end of regularly playing comedy clubs, I noticed that an act might be on stage, having garnered many laughs, and then moved into a longer piece. The lack of instantaneous laughter could see the audience beginning to drift off, despite seven minutes of constant entertainment, it didn’t take long for doubts to seep into the group. The speed of loss of trust was remarkably fast.

When I started watching live stand up in the mid 1980s, I didn’t always know what the hell was going on. The excitement of being in a cellar with Jeremy Hardy or Phil Cornwell or Claire Dowie was enough to carry me along. The sense of occasion was enough. The comedy I saw got sharper and more interesting or more absurd, the sort of circuit it was then would be hard to create now because comedy is such a damn big thing. I couldn’t expect to walk into any club now and see what I saw then because there are one hundred times as many acts and a thousand times more punters, whether they are going to Old Rope or the O2.

There is no shortage of risk takers on the circuit and I am constantly delighted by new acts and events I see.

This is why I am encouraged by regular nights like Lolitics or Lost Treasures of the Black Heart or Stand Up Philosophy. These are rooms that have an audience that are prepared to give acts a little space. Sometimes a great idea cannot be found within minutes of performance, sometimes a little space for potential failure is required. Sometimes, on the cusp of failure, something magnificent is found. Even the journey into failure can be fun, if you’re still performing with commitment and trying to engage, it may entertain in its own way more than leaning back on the microphone and “going through the same old shit one more time”.

The fear of failure is a dangerous thing. Once you have found your first working thirty minutes, it seems to take a lot more effort to find the next thirty minutes. Seemingly, without volition, your mind says, “hey, don’t sweat it, you have what you need for now”. Making yourself risk new ideas in front of people becomes a more and more conscious act, it’s not as if you have to do it, that thirty is doing you fine. You can become a music hall act.

The problem with a comedy night is you can go along with so many different expectations. if you go to blues night, you will expect the blues, if it’s trad jazz, you’ll expect trad jazz, if it’s prog…well, maybe that is slightly different, but you would at least expect something that lies between John Carpenter and King Crimson (actually, those boundaries seem too narrow). Comedy has never been so broad. Will your comedy night have something akin to Stewart Lee or Michael Mcintyre or Reeves & Mortimer or Roy Chubby Brown?
I think some clubs played it too safe and this led to acts feeling they must play safe as they had families and commitments and a fear of losing a booking. I know I did, and still I was never good enough for Jongleurs.

Is comedy art or commerce? Are you aiming to be Patton Oswalt or Jay Leno?

Some of the more die-hard comedy fans deserted the clubs because the misogyny and the casual racism and the homophobia crept in at the club night they went to and they presumed the comedy they wanted was gone.
This is why some clubs likes Lolitics and Stand Up Philosophy almost lay out a manifesto before you get through the door.

I don’t think anyone should go on stage with the intention of boring the audience, and it should never just be about what you are going to get from this because otherwise you shouldn’t be working in an environment that requires an audience.

One of the important lessons I learnt from the circuit is that I never want to be too far from being able to get a laugh, though I have learnt that sometimes you can be entertaining a room without the constant sound of laughter (it’s the contagious tickly cough that gives the rise of boredom away, and the slack and dulled faces).

I have been asked by other comics, “what’s more important to you, the ideas or the laughs?”, and I think the answer is both. The ideas I attempt to expound are very important to me, but I am not aiming for a silent reception. the challenge is to turn the thoughts in my head into something that is entertaining and, if possible, might be memorable as well.

The space to fail leads to far greater successes. The aim is to avoid being boring, but as I have just gone over 1000 words on this, I may not have succeeded this time.

I am off to Oxford Lit Fest, How the Light gets In at Hay on Wye, The Life Centre in Newcastle, as well as clubs in Sheffield, Manchester, Shoreham and Leicester. www.robinince.com

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What Brian and I did with Your Money – No Helicopters Purchased

About ten years ago, I started putting on shows at Christmas that mixed up science demonstrations, stand up, musicians, character acts and some fireworks. For some people, this has become a tradition, a secular sleigh ride. When there was a much talked of presumed Mayan prophecy of the end of the world, Brian Cox and I decided to have an end of the world night, with the four horsemen being represented by a D:ream reunion at the end of the night.

Since then, we have regularly put on the Compendium of Reason, a night of mystery guests who have included The Cure, Chris Hadfield, Carolyn Porco, New Order, Alison Moyet, Dara O Briain, Charlotte Church and about 40 others over the last few years.

The profits have gone to a selection of charities we have chosen, I thought it might be of interest for the audience and interested parties to know where the money went to.

And I am sorry we have never brought the show out of London. Unfortunately, due to the size of it all, it is pretty restrictive to travel it about. Brian Cox will be touring the UK in the autumn though and I will tag along to ask him annoying questions.

This year we raised around £55,000 for charities.

The main beneficiaries are –

Medecins Sans Frontieres – hvaing met doctors and nurses who work for MSF, I have been enormously impressed and also horrified by what they have had to tell me about dealing with the casulaties of war http://www.msf.org.uk/our-work

Manchester University Scholarship Fund – this is to help fund someone aiming to do a science degree who is the first member of their family to go to university. There is a risk that universities may become the domain of those that come from a financially secure background, these sort of funds are there to try to avoid this.

We also donate money to the following charities.

SOPHIE Lancaster Foundation – I met Sophie’s mother, Sylvia, at a gig in Burnley some years ago. Many of you will know of the horrific story of how her daughter, Sophie, was brutally murdered. Sylvia and her friends now operate a charity that aims to educate people about intolerance, prejudice and why, just because you may look different, you are a human who deserves dignity. I would highly recommend listening to or watching Black Roses, the words of Sylvia and the poet Simon Armitage. http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com/

Wamba Community Trust – a charity that promotes education, especially amongst girls who are not always seen as an edcuational priority there. http://www.wambacommunitytrust.co.uk/

The Jon Egging Trust – a charity inspired by Jon Egging, who died in a Red Arrows display, this charity is about promoting and encourgaing teamwork in young people. http://www.joneggingtrust.org.uk/about/ (Brian particularly likes this one as it increases the chances of him having a go in a jet aeroplane)

St Richard’s Hospice – in memory of the mother of our friend, Amy, who produces the show with us each year. http://www.strichards.org.uk/

Ian Rennie Hospice Care – My mother died a week before the 2015 Compendium. Ian Rennie Hospice Care gave us wonderful help during her last two days. http://www.renniegrove.org/

We are also giving a small contribution to the British Humanist Association. https://humanism.org.uk/

We weren’t going to do a Compendium this year, but after Brian drank champagne with New Order, he changed his mind, and that meant I changed mine. See some of you on 16th December.

Thank you to everyone who has been part of the shows, our brilliant crew, and all the excellent guests who have given up their time and even traveled from Canada for us. I am bound to forget names, but I wrote this up after these 2013 and 2014 events and they should contain most of the names.

https://robinince.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/the-compendium-of-reason-sometimes-approaches-the-asylum/

https://robinince.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/the-quandary-of-time-variety-and-space-our-night-in-hammersmith/

I am not doing much live stuff for the time being, but will be popping up at clubs in Sheffield, Manchester, Newcastle, Leicester and a few other towns.I also perform new material at Old Rope in London most weeks.  www.robinince.com

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Return of the Cardigan – the impossibility of giving up

Written on delayed trains at midnight.

The retirement from stand up didn’t quite work out, but it is like an alcoholic going from 6 pints and 6 shorts to a glass of wine a night, maybe a large glass.

I did pretty well after June. I had a couple of gigs to honour, with the exception of that it was benefits. Everyone knew I was available for benefits, and it would be mean-spirited not to turn up and get to the crisps before Stewart Lee, especially if it helped a puppy or virulogist.
And there were a few corporates too, all pretty pleasant.

In a combination of the fortunate and unfortunate, I timed it well. Family illness struck, and sadly it didn’t turn out well. Even typing it now, the strange absurdity strikes. Those nights in the pub with Michael Legge and Dan Mersh that were suddenly curtailed by worrying news, and then how everything was bright again, and then the end.

Those sort of things extinguish any hankering to get back on stage.

I didn’t miss stand up as much as I feared I might.

I have been quite satisfied to sit and try and write a book, pop off and do the occasional corporate event, and record the Infinite Monkey Cage and spin offs with Prof Cox and our producer Sash.
I enjoyed recording those nine shows almost more than any other series. I didn’t arrive in the office with a rucksack on my back, having faced delays returning from an engagement in Falmouth or Stafford. I didn’t have to hastily repack my bag for Aberdeen and Preston. The next morning I would be up to take my son to school, it can seem like a steep hill, but it’s a lovely climb hand in hand as I am told incomprehensible story involving playing techniques of Angry Birds Epic.

After Christmas, I saw a tweet about Old Rope and thought how much I enjoyed performing there, but had finally stopped as I was continuously touring. Now I had no stand up to do anywhere, i could retire from stand up by trying out new stand up every Monday. It’s fun to have that damp neck of fear as you take a last look at your A4 pad before getting to the stage and think, “am I really going to serve this up”.
Now, I am back there every Monday.
There is no grand design in the stand up, no plan for it being used anywhere else.
And then I get an email from Chris Coltrane who runs the delightful Lolitics, a passionate room of diatribes that recalls those early alternative nights I witnessed as a teen.
Well, I’m free on that night, so why don’t I go along.
I hastily scrawl ideas on my pad. i won’t look at it once I am in the light, the scrawling is to try and inkily etch it in my brain. It comes together and I sit on the train home almost satisfied.

I realise now that I had overdone it. I’ll probably overdo it again. Too many solo shows in too little time. I was squeezing myself out of the fun (though I loved my last tour, and I am still not that ashamed of it now, over 8 months since it finished, which is unusual). Playing small, eccentric rooms, I am content to dick about, never lazily or nonchalantly I hope, but experimentally and oddly and noisily.

Stand Up Philosophy was a delight, a parlour above a pub really.

I have no intention to race back to the hubbub. I have enough to occupy me until August, and then I am off to carry Brian Cox’s coat and quiz him after the interval on his tour.

Should I tour alone again, I will attempt to do it lightly. There are still a few more walks up school hill to be done.

Obvious really, but I just needed to breathe.

I am off to XS Malarkey in Manchester HERE

and Sheffield on 23rd April HERE

plus Handmade Festival in Leicester, Life Centre in Newcastle and that’ll do for now

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Your Obedient Servant…

Just a sketch of a short story, the beginning of a thing, or just an embarrassing end. 

He had given up being angry.
Eventually, he had stopped counting the days.
He was not happy, and he didn’t want to think he was resigned to his fate.
The distance from that day was so far away now that he wondered if he was recalling the reality anymore, if it the memory was now being rewritten over and over again. It was a palimpsest recall.
He had even given up thinking how unfair it all was.

He hadn’t been suspicious when he approached the gate, he had been relieved it was there. It had seemed such a long journey there, though now he had a new concept of time, he realised how brief it had all been.
Everything looked delightful.
The air smelt faintly of vanilla, the colours seemed so vivid.
And he remembered the sky so well, because after that day, he never saw it like that again.
He felt honoured.
They made him feel so welcome, as if all this was for him and him alone.
He was handed a drink by a man with a neon smile. His throat was so dry, almost burning, and the liquid was so immediately cooling. He thought it was probably delicious, but drank so fast he didn’t notice.
Had he known this was the last time he’d experience anthing like it, he may have taken it more slowly, but there was nothing hinting at what lay beyond.
Now, when he played that moment over and over again, his memory caught sight of corners his eyes hadn’t seen. Shifty, squat, shapeless things moving into the shadows every time his eye caught a corner of them, but maybe even that was a lie. He was punishing himself with the idea that he was forwarned, that he could have got out before it was too late.
It would have made no difference, even before he walked through the gates, he would have been unable to escape.

Something was crawling near his ear, shifting the dust by his skin. He flicked it away, but it kept crawling back, scraping and digging and emiting a low hum. His hands had become more deft at trapping them between his fingers with a single, rapid pinch. The bug was so tiny it almost hid in a groove of his fingerprints, but it was still something to eat.

He didn’t know whether to pity himself or just accept that he was pitiable. He had given up so much for this. He had made a conscious decision. It wasn’t as if fate had thrust this on him, it’s what he had wanted. From the age of ten, he had started work to reach it.

He had done everything he was told. He would overhear them say how wonderfully obedient he was, about how we was the one. The groups got smaller. The timewasters and doubters fell by the wayside. As each of them departed, it only made him stronger and more secure that he was on the right path. What he only realised aftewards, was that this blind obedience, this certainty, this fervour, was all they wanted.

Now, as he blindly toiled, building taller and taller pointless artefacts, and at the end of each day feeling that his skin was thin that it would soon no longer be there and eating food that hurt to swallow and tasted of a toxic nothing, he knew why he had this reward.

He remembered pressing the button, and he sometimes recalled the carnage, though how could he, as he would have been dead by then.

And now here he was, in heaven. They had weeded out all the cynics and sceptics and doubters, there would be no afterlife for them, they were given a blissful non-existence once their bodies and brains had lost their integrity. They weren’t wanted, with their questions and suspicions and methods.

This was a place for adoration and supplication, they should have known.
So many clues.
And boy, was he a jealous God.

A weevil stalked his ear again.

Josie and Robin’s Book Shambles, with some tip top guests, is HERE

I will be at Jericho Tavern in Oxford on Thursday, Pull the Other One in Nunhead on Friday, and Cambridge Science Festival on Saturday. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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