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.