Archive for the ‘Cannabis’ Category

The Complete Works, (so far!)

Hey there, and many thanks for stopping by. On this site you’ll find a collection of my short stories and screenplays for your enjoyment. Please feel free to leave feedback both good and bad – as Plato once said –  the worst thing is to just be ignored!

Even better however, would be if you could find your way to actually purchasing one of my published books using the links below, that way I may continue to dodge bullets and bailiffs with your help. All books are available online, in all reputable books stores, E-books… and no doubt soon, all local Charity Shops.

Hope you find something here to enjoy….

Best Wishes,

Mike   x

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“SPRINGBOARDS”         – A further collection of original short stories, short scripts and feature screenplays.

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/Springboards-Michael-G-Zealey/dp/1291060103/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1369732955&sr=8-2&keywords=michael+zealey

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“BUM NOTES”          – A collection of eighteen original and diverse short stories:

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1447839889/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=103612307&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=1447823931&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_r=0G9A7XND7E5NS8XMQ3Z1

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“DIFFERENT STATES”           – One Man, One Credit Card, One Continent… No Plan. A travelogue from East to West Coast USA.

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/Different-States-Michael-G-Zealey/dp/1447824245/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366284192&sr=1-3

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“MOLEHOLE”            – Essays on the Human Condition. The story of one man’s dark and lonely three year journey so far up his own ass that he arrived out his mouth to recount the tale to a deaf world.  (Not suitable for minors or miners.)

miol

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Molehole-Michael-G-Zealey/dp/1447824113/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332168305&sr=1-1

Thanks awfully x

Late & Lizard

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When he got home, he drew the curtains and carefully unwrapped the cling film. He could read the bad news immediately, the weed was dry and brittle, left over from the days Moses had his last smoke by the looks of it. No point burning this bush. He consoled himself that at least he wouldn’t need to buy any dried oregano for his pizza for about a year.

‘Fucking expensive herbs though’, the thought managed to slip through his defences and brought him low. It had taken him years to get wound up this tight, a slow tightening of the screw, a squeezing of the sponge till no more moisture could come out. It was a hot and muggy night despite the torrential rain. He wiped his forehead with his shirt sleeve. Checking a CD case hidden under the television he checked how much good weed he had left, the news was equally bad: less than three strong joints. That was the remainder of his night fucked then, not that he really needed to get much higher, but he liked the feeling of security knowing there was more available if he wanted it.

Now really feeling the too numerous to remember shots of tequila he’d drank down at the bar less than an hour ago, he stumbled over to his music amp and after a few misjudged lunges managed to plug in his mp3 player to the speakers and pressed play.

Moving back to the counter he fixed himself another shot and poked around in the seeds and twigs of his weed draw. He was suddenly caught by the beauty of the music playing. Music so ecstatic and intricate he was enthralled. He felt he’d somehow travelled ten years into the future and now had an iPod with emotion detector, sensing just what he needed to hear. God it sounded great. What was the tune? He couldn’t place it. He shot back the tequila and checked the iPod. It was out of power. Wow, he must be fucked, he told himself, to have imagined the music. Maybe the weed was alright after all? But remembering he hadn’t even smoked one from this new batch yet, he studied it for a final time. Bah, definitely shit. He couldn’t even bring himself to roll it up. Fuck it, he threw it against the wall, where it fell down slowly against the grease and nicotine like green snowflakes.

Feeling the urgent need to urinate he dragged his miserable bones over to the toilet, his mouth was dehydrated but his bladder spectacularly full. He stood over the bowl and squeezed, shaking out the last drops like the nozzle on a wine box, the alcohol content about the same on this terrible night. Oh god he was sure living at the moment, living like James Bond with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in his London flat, all soft-cocked and edgy, thinking SPECTRE were coming to get him when it was only next-doors’ cat scratching at the window.

Often in the haze of an under-employed stoned afternoon he’d daydream of winning the lottery, but the first thing he’d spend the money on would be the world’s best therapist to follow him around for a month and tell him what he was doing wrong. He just couldn’t work it out for himself. These days he was writing less and less and filling the gaps with a therapy of his own: a trance-like state of inebriation where he could revisit all the important moments of his life and play them out again in his mind, but this time correcting the mistakes like an editor, making the scene work his way. Always living in the past or the future, rarely straight in his present.

Finishing his piss with a self-conscious shake that almost became an absent-minded masturbation, he zoned out and became lost in the thick jungle of his own overly-complicated thoughts, his hand continuing its automatic shaking oblivious. Disconnected, that’s how he felt, God he felt like the projectionist in the cinema of his own life, locked in a small room at the back of his brain, projecting a fake front onto his eye-screen for all to see and fall for. And boy were they falling for it. Everyone he knew watching in the hot-rock burned velvet-crush seats of his auditorium was falling for it, all the while he remained small and locked in the projection room, running out of cigarettes and new films to show.

He gave a cursory glance over to the laptop screen secretly hoping someone may have sent him a message from the dating website he’d left himself logged into before he’d gone out to buy the weed. The screen just showed the edit notes for his new book: ‘Killing the Danger Hours’, he suddenly hated the title, it was more a statement of how he’d been living recently than fitting the story. Closing the file he opened up the dating page hopefully.

‘Of course,’ he cried out loud, eyes rolling to heaven. Nothing. No messages, no likings, no chance.

How small and boring his life had become, how nervous and cautious. How he dreamt of that knock on the door that opened up a world of international espionage and intrigue, cocktails in casinos with an impossibley beautiful woman throwing the dice for him. Broke Bond, Boring Bond, Bad Bond. He felt his head begin to spin again in the washing machine drum of tequila and marijuana that had become his head. Yet just as he needed it most, the laptop beeped the news of a received message. Thank god, he felt, outside interaction at last, finally he wasn’t just doing battle with himself, the continuous judgemental stream of thoughts in his head. For a second he felt his brain like a piston engine, part of a much greater train, always in motion, endlessly pushing forward to the next moment, never satisfied with the present. If only he could pull the brakes. Just be and enjoy the moment.

Her photo looked good, his heart skipped a beat. Just the right level of secret attractiveness and cookie-ness with a certain vulnerability, but reading her profile he groaned.

‘Likes going to the gym, works as a Financier, Possible marriage material, very successful… doesn’t suffer fools…’

He felt his balls physically retreat back up into his pelvis and he felt keenly his cowardice. Next came the inevitable self-justification and back-peddling.

‘Ah who gives a shit? I don’t need success. People just wanted to get rich so they didn’t have to work anymore in soul-destroying jobs, and then use their money for leisure, hanging around getting drunk, getting high, getting loaded.’  Well here he was, except for a couple of hours a week spent writing, he was free and loaded, and on his own terms too. Who needed a job? So long as those meagre writing and dole cheques kept arriving he could just about keep his stoned head above water and backstroke in the toilet bowl of his own private world.

Feeling a little more satisfied that his life-style choices were good, he looked back down at her profile picture. Maybe it would work, maybe he should reply to her message, what harm could it do…? He imagined a perfect future moment tableaux of he and his wife-to-be with their kids in a Tyrolean snow scene by a roaring fire. He tried to hold on to the mental image, being held by her warm and safe whilst outside the snow and wolves wailed down the moonlit mountains. He imagined nestling his face between her chest and being held, hearing her soft heartbeat against his ear, back in the womb, loved, complete. He desperately needed to connect with someone, to feel the inter-connectedness and inter-dependence of living, surrounded as he was on a twenty-four seven basis by concrete and walls, both real and imagined. Deep down he knew that every living thing was connected by a life-energy that flowed through them like string through an eternal necklace of beads. Hell, if you took it down to a molecular level all there was anyway were molecules and space. Most of life was space, so everything that wasn’t space stuck together like candle-light against the greater darkness. These days he was floating in the darkness, some sort of dark matter as yet unexplained. Surely the most sacred thing in the world was to make someone else feel safe and loved? He was doing that for no-one. Putting in nothing, he was getting nothing out. Maybe it was time for a change? Once again he suppressed the unwanted thought with another sip of his tequila. Moving back to the lounge he caught his reflection in the greasy sheen of the cooker shield:

‘Oh get over yourself, you self-absorbed dick…’ he chastised himself and poured his umpteenth shot.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a red neon dot flashing, he saw he’d had another response to his dating emails. Wow, he was on fire tonight. In his drunken and stoned state he instinctively lurched towards the blinking screen. The new photo drove him back to his drink. He leapt back with an instinctual rejection such as a dog gets when its stomach warns him not to eat a dead body. No chance. He went straight over to his make-shift bar area and slammed down a can of lemonade and the tequila bottle onto the counter. Trying to shake his demons he chopped a lemon with increasingly fast and anxious strokes. Mixing all the ingredients necessary for his slammer, he began to imagine himself a Las Vegas barman and almost immediately his previous train of thought vanished like a cloud in a summer sky. Boom, pour, repeat. The third one he changed his mind about and decided to sip. The salt on his hand burned into his flesh as he dug into the ice-bucket. It sizzled like Alien blood through his flesh.

What happened to women when they got to their late thirties? he asked himself as he clicked through page after page of hopeful yet somehow depressed faces. The women still in their twenties had a bloom a blossom and ripeness to them, but they weren’t contacting him, what he was being served up was women who looked like they’d spent the last ten years of their hard living lives on an Icelandic whaling vessel, cracked eyes, so hungry for children and feeling the ticking hand of the clock and wagging metronome of inevitability. Why couldn’t he just find someone like him, he thought, maybe he should change his written profile on the site, imbue it with some stoned honesty: ‘Please take care of me, I’m fucked on every level’.

His eyes were drawn to the oil painting on the wall, his only masterpiece, the only piece of work he’d done that he was proud of, but then the subject had been pretty special too, the only girl he’d ever really been in love with. Lust he could feel at the drop of a hat, but love, that was a totally rarer creature for him, perhaps even extinct he worried. He reached his fingers up to her naked breast and tried to stroke them with a stoned and drunk heavy hand. He could feel the paint smudge under his finger and too late he snapped them away. Without daring to look at the painting he first looked at his hand. A deep red finger print on his index finger and palm where he’d clenched his fist. With heavy eyes he looked up at the painting with the enthusiasm of a scalded dog. Her breast was now a long line down to her open thighs, all definition lost. Ah fuck it, he told himself, it was time to let go anyway, perhaps this was the symbolic act that would help him?

Returning to the laptop he began searching the profiles on the dating website with a new determined energy, reaching for his pouch of tobacco he began to build another joint. His fingers hovered over the keypad, but his train of thought was interrupted by a strong and urgent knock at the door. There it was again, faster, as breathless and needy as a knuckle rapping could be.

He opened it and there she was. Simple as that. In her hand was what looked like the case for a musical instrument. Her hair was bedraggled and clinging to the side of her face, outlining a nervous bone structure. His first instinct was to let her in and dry-off, but the manic look in her eyes and short breaths made him pause.

‘Evening…’ he offered.

She grabbed him by the lapels of his tight shirt, it ripped down the back, his generous belly spilling out. More concerned with his unattractiveness in front of this gorgeous woman, than the pleading look in her eyes as she kept looking over her shoulder, he let her in and ushered her into the living room. The dope was splayed out on the carpet but somehow he knew she wouldn’t care about his indiscretion, seeming to have other things on her mind.

‘What’s eating you then?’ he said, trying in vain to cover up his midriff.

‘They’re after me…’

‘They..?’

‘Them, the men parked across the street. I need to make a phone call, please…’

He just stood there dazed. She pleaded again.

‘…Urgently… Now… Please?’

Rather than acknowledging the panic in her voice his stoned mind focused on her lisp, a ‘the’ sound every time she tried to say her ‘s’. The lisp immediately made him warm to her. She was striking, her strong features accentuated by the cruel rain making her long straight black hair stick to her cheekbones, but the lisp made her somehow seem safe and non-threatening to his ego, it was a weakness that shook hands with his own and relaxed him.

His mind slowly focused on her mouth, it was still asking questions and seemed to curl up in expectation of an answer. He forced himself to focus on the present, this was real, this was happening now. He dragged his psyche up from the basement of his brain, and crashing upwards through floorboards towards the roof he managed to formulate an answer for her. It wasn’t the one she wanted to hear though.

‘Sorry, I don’t have a phone…’

She fell back against her case.

‘What? Everyone’s got a bloody phone?’

He felt a sting of paranoia as if she was questioning the way he’d chosen to live his life.

‘Sure I got a phone. It’s pay as you go, I’ve got no credit…’

She scrunched up her fingers in frustration and let out a small squeak.

‘… you can make emergency service calls though,’ he limply offered holding out the phone as meekly as if it were a Rabbi’s foreskin.

She flapped the arms out on her wet jacket, way too big for her, he thought, and the excess water splashed over the edges of his record collection neatly filed on the bottom shelf.

‘Hey, watch it.’ He found himself involuntarily warning. But she wasn’t listening, he heard a gentle whimpering sound coming from beneath the folds of the oversize jacket. It was then he really studied her countenance. He’d just been wholly too stoned, she wasn’t some femme fatale, but just a frightened human being.

‘Oh, I’m sorry, are you ok? Look, can I fix you a drink? Tea, coffee, some stew?’ He mentally chastised himself for being such a straight prick: ‘Stew?’, what was he turning into, his mother now?

She looked up at him with darting rabbit eyes.

‘Anything stronger?’

‘Tequila.’

She nodded, licking a jewel of rain that had formed in the well of her centre lip. Throwing off the jacket she fell into one of his comfier chairs.

‘Thanks for letting me in, a lot of people wouldn’t. I know how crazy I must sound right now…’

He returned from the galley area just out of her sight holding two glasses, swashing with three fingers of brown liquid. He really studied her as she sat back into the full glare of his table lamp. My God she was gorgeous. Frozen in the light of the lamp like a flash bulb from a camera he saw her as a profile on his dating website. She was perfect. He began projecting onto her everything he wanted her to be. In the time it took her to reach up and take the offered glass he had married her, divorced her, remarried and split again. He felt a sudden sense of self-consciousness, as if someone was looking at the back of his head, turning round there was nothing behind him, but his eyes fell on the oil painting, at eye level straight between the naked open legs of his ex-girlfriend.

Turning away guiltily he handed the shivering girl the glass. ‘Thanks,’ she took it, nodding her appreciation.

‘So what’s going on then?’ he asked.

‘It sounds crazy I know, but I think I’m being followed. I’ve just come from a crazy party. It was a gig, paid gig. Just too fucking weird..’ she tapped the case by her side.

‘What’s in the case?’

‘Ilya’

‘Eh?’

 ‘… Ilya my saxophone. Like Stradivarius’ violins they all have names. This is my grandfather’s. He named it. I’m a musician. Jazz. I’m Phaedra, Phaedra McClean..?’

She held out her hand expectantly but he, feeling so smashed was missing all the social cues. He simply shook his head,

‘I don’t know much about Jazz, I’m a rock n’ roll man.’ His belly fell out of the shirt.

As if seeking to put it beyond any doubt she flicked open the metal clamps and threw open the case. Sure enough, inside was a saxophone. The rain began to lash down against his part-opened window and she stood up, edging towards it nervously, following the curve of the room. He watched spellbound as she pressed her body against the frame and slowly craned her neck to look outside.

‘Damn I think they’re still there. Oh Christ. I don’t think I’m being paranoid, I think they really are still there.’

For the first time his sense of pleasant stoned bewilderment changed to a more fearful feeling. Surely this girl, despite her beauty and vulnerability was shouting at the moon mad? She slammed her hand against the wall and turned off the overhead light. The room plunged into a murky darkness, shadows menacing every edge.

‘Hey,’ he said, starting to feel anxious, ‘You want to tell me what’s going on?’

She slid down to the side of the window and brought her knees up to her chest.

‘I had a gig tonight at this mansion up in Canonbury. You know? Down that road where all the massive Victorian houses are. Soon as we got there I could tell something wasn’t right. They got us to wear blindfolds. The conversations I was hearing were incredible….

‘Go on…’

‘It was like this was a meeting of some dark secret society. You know, like the Illuminati. The real movers and shakers. I mean, you don’t really think politicians control the world? These were the puppet masters. I heard something I shouldn’t, I guess. And now… now they’re threatening to kill me…’

‘What did you hear…?’

She began to scratch her bare arm nervously and repeatedly.

‘You not into Jazz?’ she said, changing the subject.

He looked over at his still silent iPod. ‘Not really… look, you can’t expect me to swallow this horse-shit can you? Not to sound rude, but come on, I can’t just indulge your delusion ’, then under his breath, ‘even if it might give me a chance to jump your bones.’

He went to the bar area to fix another round of drinks, kicking the edge of the table out of sight. Oh thank you god, he thought to himself in that inner private sarcastic almost mocking voice that followed him wherever he went always judging and giving a running commentary on his every action. Thank you god so bloody much, it went. Yet another girl who is gorgeous and clearly insane. His track-record was astounding, he’d had relationships with them all: Ugly but kind, gorgeous but screwed-up, perfect but married, fun-loving but desperate for children, charming but cracked, the list of his complaints was endless, and here again, even though he tried to fight the thought, he knew this woman dripping wet on his living room floor was as crazy as Charles Manson, but with better boobs.

He tried to argue it away in his own mind as he fixed the drinks. ‘Aren’t all great musicians highly strung?’ Maybe she was just going through a crisis moment, maybe most times she was normal. Perhaps if he helped her through this episode she would be grateful and they’d become friends, then maybe something more, maybe…’ his mind drifted off again to the Tyrolean mountainside. He heard that mocking voice inside of him again,  ‘Maybe… or maybe she’s just a fucking fruit-loop?’

He looked round to see her in the foetal position on the floor, rocking gently backwards and forwards on his rug. No, he couldn’t sell it to himself, clearly she was indeed a nutter. He placed a fresh drink next to her and found himself riddled with questions.

‘OK, so if you fled this gathering of the super-powerful in genuine fear of your life, then why did you bother collecting and casing up your sax, surely you’d just run?’

She took out the golden saxophone and adjusted the mouthpiece. Even knowing nothing about musical instruments he could see it was well-looked after and impressive, definitely cared for with love. She put it to her perfectly rounded lips and played a few soulful bars. He was hypnotized, totally enthralled by her siren song. As she played, he built a hundred scenarios of them together in his mind again. Feeling the sudden tightness in his trousers he self-consciously took the joint from his mouth and let it hang nonchalantly over his groin area hiding any free information. Her madness was becoming endearing.

She stopped and shook her head, looking contemplative and a little sad.

‘This is Ilya. My baby. It was my grandfather’s, he’d been a great saxophonist before the war, but after, after being ordered to kill the zombies at Belsen coz medical teams were too far away to help and they were too far gone anyway. Not beyond liberation for the photographers, but beyond salvation for the doctors. He was ordered to shoot them. Innocent Concentration Camp victims. Children, women, shoot on sight.’

She picked up the drink from the carpet, the ice now melted causing a brown overspill on the white rug, taking a long sip she put it back down, then moved it further away from her, a new brown ring visible. Oblivious, she continued her reminiscence.

‘When I was younger I never understood why my grandfather would get so upset watching my brother play zombie war WWII Call of Duty games. I guess he’d had to do it for real.  After the war he never played another note, but still took out the trombone each month to clean it. He respected the instrument and the music, but he’d been like a bird silenced. Did you know that even to this day, like at so many concentration camps, the birds still to don’t sing at Belsen? They just sit in the trees feeling the awful energy of so many souls crying out in agony. This was why I picked up Ilya, my sax, his sax, no way could I leave it in the same room as the architects of the whole conflict.’

He could feel his erection slowly fading away.

‘You don’t mean to tell me that the guys at your gig organised the second world war? Wasn’t that a guy called Hitler? Don’t tell me he was there too? Massive jazz fan?’

With a flash of genuine anger she threw her glass against the opposite wall. Outside a dog barked and dustbin lids rattled.

‘I’m fucking serious. This isn’t a joke. Listen. Every ten years they get together and plan something. Something terrible.’

The glass had narrowly missed his oil painting and he felt his hackles rise. With a mocking tone he sought to needle her.

‘Oh like Lizards yeah dancing round a massive owl in the forest? Isn’t that David Icke? You’re telling me that lizards are ruling the world. Oh come on…’

He felt the weed acutely now and looked into the corner of his room by the book-shelf, instinctively stoned to check that lizards weren’t actually reading his magazines in the dark shadows. Almost childlike he wanted to turn the overhead light back on, but thought better of such a show of weakness. Again she came back angry.

‘Fuck off. I’m not taking the piss here. What? No? Of course they’re not fucking lizards. They’re humans, like us, well, not like us, the fucking DNA master race, living up there in the rarefied air. First Class existence. You have no idea what the truly rich, I mean the truly incredibly fucking rich can do. Only time you see them would be for an instant on your peasant Penny Farthing as they whizz past you in blacked-out Land Rovers and massive white stretch limos. No offence man, but durrrrrr…’ she stuck her folded tongue into her bottom lip and waved her arms.

He hated himself for suddenly feeling stupid but his laptop broke the silence and beeped a warning that it was about to run out of power, a soft red flashing on the screen, replicating the warning light that was currently going off in his own brain. He looked over and saw the dating website fade to black. Whatever her profile she just wasn’t worth it. There was no getting away with it, she was mad. She had to be. Perfect in every physical way, except as mad as a lizard in a tin. He tried to focus his mind on the moment, feeling his interest and energy suddenly wan in the whole night. A weed-induced hunger suddenly gripped him and he fished around in his fridge, allowing himself one quick look out of the window to satisfy himself there was no-one out there.

‘You want some food?’ he offered lacklustre.

 He put the bowl down with a warning. ‘It’s not food for children, ok?’

The bones buried in the rice had a small amount of meat on them curled round the sharpest bones in her mouth. One false swallow and her oesophagus would be scared with the downward swipe of a Stanley knife. Maybe he should actually warn her a bit more explicitly, he thought, what with her obviously deranged state of mind and all. She accepted the food gratefully and dug in ravenously. The first mouthful went down fine, but the second caught a shard of chicken bone and she coughed violently as she felt its passage slice down through soft flesh.

‘Yeah sorry, you’re not in KFC now… I’m not known for my finger-licking chicken. Times are a bit tough at the moment, bit like the meat.’ Was he being too dismissive of her, he wondered, reminding himself that whatever the truth here was a human being in obvious distress. But, oh, he needed her to be telling the truth, he needed something exciting in his life, even something to believe in. He so wanted her to be for real, but deep down beyond the veil of stoned wish-fulfilment and drunken ham-fisted shaping of reality, he knew she was psychotic. And for a man so psychotic with weed that wasn’t an easy observation to make.

‘Hear me out,’ she said, ‘All I heard them talking about was the past forty years, I’ve never been that deep into history, but even I know current affairs news stuff. Think about it, roughly every ten years since 39. Starts with War, then 50 Cold War, 60, Bay of Pigs, Cuba missile crisis, 69 man on the moon, 80, global recession, 90, Berlin Wall collapse of Communism. 0I 9/II Muslim boogie man. 09 Global recession, e, t and bloody c. Every ten years there has to be something to keep the peasants absorbed with worry and feeling grateful for their pitiful lot. The men in grey. The most powerful men, all wearing cheap cologne, as far as I could smell. They hook up and have a party once every ten years and decide the fate of the world. Which country rises, which falls. Whether… I don’t know…Greece gets successful, or is crushed for long-term unknown reasons, whether Muslims will still be the bogeymen, Al Q’ada or the Chinese, which media mogul has got too powerful and needs breaking, the Banking Crisis, Euro Crisis, you get the picture. The rich get richer, and the poor get to clean up their mess.’

She paused to take a long sip of the tequila before continuing, the hatred for the people of whom she spoke clearly visible on her face.

‘No-one knows how they recruit, whether it’s a secret tap on the shoulder at the right conference once a person’s personal wealth has hit five billion dollars. Or whether it’s a nepotistic fucking blood curse, or I don’t know. Maybe they don’t even recruit, maybe they self-replicate, their powerful hate-filled spittle gobbed into a mucus on the floor and it creates a new one of them. Fuck knows. All I heard them discussing was about the founding fathers. how they been around since the first world war when for the first time they realised that their lives would be destroyed by peasants and governments who for the first time had created a world war threatening their comfortable lives. They figured, what’s the point of being the richest guy in the cemetery? They need society to keep working to keep them up where they are, just enough religion, just enough economic fear, just enough perceived enemy. Soviets, Muslims, e, t, and bloody c… take a ticket and spin the wheel, wait for your number to come up as the next public enemy number one.’

She took another spoonful of the chicken and rice, almost immediately gagging as a particularly acute splinter of bone stuck in her windpipe. She jumped up dancing towards the open window in a rictus. He ignored her distress and tried to push further into her story.

‘And you got all this by just listening to them chat?’

She continued the exaggerated flapping of her arms as if having eaten too much chicken she had now turned into one herself and was trying to take off. She banged her chest hard with a fist in an attempt to dislodge the bone, but finding herself in front of the open window she dropped to the ground, looking behind her through the crack. He realised she wasn’t choking but having some sort of attack of anxiety at what she’d seen. From the floor she pointed up to the roof of the building opposite, to something glinting by the housing for the building’s elevator system. He was incredulous:

‘Oh yeah right, let me guess, there’s a sniper on the building opposite? They’ve come to kill you for what you know? Is that a bit of raw chicken on your top or the red dot of a laser rifle…? Ha, pull the other one.’

He watched her continue to writhe on the floor, now even more so than before utterly convinced of her mental ill-health. He reminded himself that his wasn’t feeling too clever at the moment, the effects of the skunk weed still hot-stepping through his neural pathways. She’d taken to using her feet to spin herself round in ever tighter circles. He felt a cruelness in him, he wanted to punish her for being so perfect and yet, once again, so damaged.

‘…Or even better, you’ve been struck by a poison dart and now you’re choking and dying. Am I close?’ Finally he’d had enough of the whole situation. ‘I think it’s time you left. Too weird for me.’

She spat out the bone onto the carpet. ‘No. It’s YOU that’s trying to kill me. What the fuck you feeding me?’

She stood up and carefully placed the saxophone back in its velvet lined case.

‘Maybe I should go. Forget it man. I must’ve been lucky enough to stumble into the world’s most discompassionate man…

‘Uncompassionate…’

‘… uncomp…oh go fuck yourself…I’ll use a fucking payphone.’

She bent down to pick up the case and at that instant they both heard the bullet whistle over her head and embed in the picture on the wall, right into his oil painting, and more than that right between the naked legs of his ex-girlfriend, the genital area revealing a physical rounded hole. In disbelief he went up to the picture and stuck his index figure into the hole, which from where Phaedra was standing looked even more wrong than what had just happened. From between the lips of his ex-girlfriend’s painted pubis a brighter red dot appeared, brighter and more unnatural than the wet blobs of oil paint. The red-dot moved down his arm towards the centre of his back. He turned round to see Phaedra drop the case and point with her index finger this time, mouth wide-open.

Get down’, she screamed. Instinctively he dropped to the floor as the second bullet whizzed over him and into his bookcase with a precise thwap. Wisps of plaster and paper fluttered down and greyed his hair. He crawled on his belly over towards Phaedra, using his elbows as propellers. As they lay there facing each other, he had just enough to time to look into her eyes before the knock at the door, which quickly turned into a scraping sound. In the confused moment of muffled voices and the faint smell of burning paint, he reached out for her hand, as much to comfort himself as her. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine he was somewhere else, trying to deny reality, but it was no use, finally he was irrevocably in the moment. If only he could snap his Cuban heels together he’d be back in Kansas, or even KFC, anywhere but this present. Two red dots were now scouting around the room like neon flies, searching, searching…

With a sound that reminded him of a tree being felled, his solid wood front door splintered open and in they came…

Checkin’ on the Chicken


Marcus Garvey Tower Block. Hackney Downs, East London. Evening.

Quinton Nganbi reached under the hot grill and turned the chicken wings with his fingers letting out a yelp as the hot fat burned into his young flesh. He kicked the bottom of the cooker in frustration and then cussed when he saw the grubby dent he’d made in the white steel. His mum was going to tear him a new ass for this.

His phone rang and glad of the distraction he went to open the back door and out into the garden to try and get a better signal. As the call progressed, he noticed the sweet smell of chicken fat was gradually being replaced by a more acrid and bitter scent and casting his eyes lazily back up to the kitchen door he was horrified to see a black pall of smoke belching steadily out like an volcano. Dropping the phone he rushed back indoors and instinctively reached up to remove the grill, burning his fingers once more.

‘Clot!’, he chastised himself as both the grill and blackened chicken hit the floor in an explosion of grease and smoke. It looked like the bonnet of a burning car after a smash. Now his mum was surely going to dance on his grave.

Quinton stood arms out stretched, mouth open, shaking his hands like he was trying to take-off and cool his own burnt flesh. But as the smog dissipated he saw above the cooker a face he knew well. A face his mum dragged him to see every Sunday come rain or come shine. Staring back at him was the son of god.

‘Christ!’

Quinton gawped in disbelief at the perfect imprint of the face of Jesus Christ left behind the cooker on the smoke damaged wall. It was undeniably the messiah, each twist of grease and ash perfectly finding the contours of his bearded countenance.

Quinton stumbled back, catching his foot on the grill and causing the remainder of the grease to stain like blood round the linoleum. He rushed to the living room and pulled his mother’s bible from the shelf, flicking through the rice-paper pages not quite sure what he was hoping to find but needing to do something, as he then stood in the doorway staring back through to the kitchen and feeling a sudden sense of dread. He didn’t want to go back in there under any circumstances. Instead he ripped a few pages from the bible, stuffed them in his pocket and left the apartment without looking back.

 

Shoreline, West Reservoir. Hackney. Half an Hour Later.

Quinton sat on the concrete edge of the lake, his trainers just kissing the skin of the water in the evening sun. With the thin paper from the bible he rolled a joint and holding it tightly lit it hoping to draw a line under what had just happened. He breathed in deep from the blue smoke resisting the urge to blow a smoke ring in case that face should reappear. He felt an unnatural stillness to the lake this evening, even the birds had become silent in the trees and as he stared at his reflection in the mirrored water he noticed a slight ripple begin in the image. Perhaps it was just the weed messing with his mind? There was no breeze. He mouthed the words to a tune that had been on his mind as he drained the joint, pleased by how he looked in his reflection. He heard a sound behind him and turned to see a man crossing the path with his dog. Quinton felt his ghetto dream disappear and remembered that he wasn’t in East L.A but self-conscious and skint in Hackney. He kissed his teeth at the man for the interruption and turned back to the lake hoping to recapture the moment.

The dog came up to him and nuzzled under his arm. Quinton couldn’t resist stroking his head and patting him even though it didn’t fit with the image he was trying to project. He’d always wanted a pet growing up but had never got one. His mum always said she had enough trouble finding the money to feed him let alone another mouth. The dog rolled over onto his belly and Quinton stroked the soft skin, liking the total submission to his mastery that the dog was displaying. The man whistled and the dog quickly rolled over to follow him off into the brush.

Quinton found himself aroused by a sense of power but almost immediately felt frustrated. He was desperate and paranoid that at fifteen he was still a virgin, but he couldn’t find any girl who looked as great as they looked in the R&B videos: and he knew more than anything that if he got with an ugly girl then that would show his friends just how much he didn’t respect himself. Was an ugly girl really all he could get? No, his self esteem was worth more than that, how would people think he rolled if his woman wasn’t ‘peng’? No, it was more important to have respect than to be liked in his world and as not many people liked him he felt things were just fine.

His legs had remained still against the concrete wall but the water had began to tap the bottom of his trainers at regular intervals. He looked down between his feet to see there was now a definite disturbance in the water, at first like the oxygen bubbles of a large fish, but gradually a circle of water was beginning to broil like a hot kettle was being held just beneath the surface. Quinton found himself standing up and moving back from whatever he felt was coming feeling reminded of the cartoons he still sometimes watched, guiltily, caught on the bridge between child and manhood. Godzilla? In Hackney? Again he felt foolish and threw the joint roach into the centre of the bubbling cauldron. Something was coming, like a sliver of silver an inverted V shape broke the water as delicately as a hypodermic needle. Up the shimmering silver strip went into the evening air, catching the sun before it set over the surrounding tower blocks. Finally as the hilt broke through the water, Quinton recognized it to be a sword.

A green glow continued to bubble beneath the water, lit from some hot unseen source. A delicate hand twisted around the sword handle, diamonds of water and fish scales falling around the wrist. The sword too now began to glow with a bright green luminescence. Quinton was totally sucked in by the sight,  the sword seemed to beckon him, willing him to come forward and take it. He felt a sudden sense of ownership and right, he knew this gift was for him and him alone.

Without thought for his new trainers, he lowered himself into the water and swam out the short few metres to the prize. Treading water, he grabbed the sword with both hands and felt the cold and smooth hand let go her grip and the digits slip round his own enclosing palm like the tentacle of a squid.

Not quite daring to believe it was really his, Quinton swam back to shore, behind him the hand slowly disappeared back below the water line and the birds began to sing for the dusk again.

The sword clattered on the concrete retaining its eerie green glow. Quinton hauled himself out and sat next to it. It was his. He admired it in the dying light full of strange symbols and inscriptions lost on him, but fearing the glow would attract too much attention he felt exposed and the moment’s spell had been broken once more. The bark of another approaching dog, sure to be accompanied by an owner, sealed the deal. He must go. Quinton carefully shoved the sword down his left trouser-leg and pulled his T-shirt over the hilt which protruded up from his belt to around his chest. Walking like a man with a wooden leg but feeling self-conscious like a man who’d shit himself, he staggered back to his mum’s consoling himself that he’d sure be laughing tomorrow when he sold it.

 

Next Day. George Antiques, Angel Islington.

With the sword concealed under a long coat Quinton moved through the crowds as inconspicuously as a two foot broadsword would allow. Even at the best of times he still felt uncomfortable in this part of town. He didn’t understand the rules or what was expected of him in a place like this. The antique shops wound their way along the cobbled street, the old buildings leaning in like gossipy hunchbacks over his head. This was out of his postcode and he could easily be in trouble if the wrong gang was passing. Quinton looked out of the alley and onto the main road searching the telegraph wires for shoes slung over them by the laces. His worst fears were confirmed. He comforted himself with the thought that at least for once he was armed. He wasn’t sure which shop would be best to sell the sword, but figured the one with a small dagger in the window was probably a safer bet than the ones he’d just passed with their china dolls and lace bullshittery on display.

He went in and was surprised by the large bell which rang with his entrance. He felt like a greyhound out of a trap and ran forward with the sword pointing out toward the equally startled owner.

‘You may put your lance down, son. I’m not jousting today’ the owner quipped, the unease clearly heard beneath the sarcasm.

Quinton lowered his weapon and took a deep breath. This shop smelled old. Old like his grandma’s coats at the back of her wardrobe. Old like money. He felt sure he’d come to the right place.

‘You buy swords and shit, innit?’

The man had regained his composure and leant across a large oak desk playing with a clay pipe, the burned gray tobacco in the bowl matching his own hair.

‘I deal in metallurgy if that’s your question, although I’m not sure you’d be interested in any weapon pre nineteen eighties?’

‘Whatever. I’m selling not buying… So how much for this..?’

Feeling like he had the biggest dick in the world Quinton produced the sword in one elegant swoop.

The man’s eyes lit up in disbelief.

‘Jesus Christ! Let me look at that would you.’ All traces of sarcasm had drained from his voice.

Quinton handed him the sword expectantly, blade first.

‘It’s just an old sword though, hey?’

‘No it most certainly isn’t. You’re not old enough to appreciate beauty yet. You haven’t had the life-experiences to know shit from Shinola, son.‘

‘You don’t know me.’

‘True, true. But you don’t know this…’ He cupped his hand at the tip of the blade and carefully, gently, allowed his palm to run down the edge of the blade to the hilt, where he twisted it in his palm, reading the inscription.

‘Old English most certainly. The metal in the blade has clearly been folded more than the date would warrant… Ah, here we have a crest, Arthurian. Platinum! Solid bloody platinum…’

The sword began to throb and the green glow now familiar to Quinton grew from somewhere inside the blade. The shop owner dropped it fearfully onto the oak desk.

‘Jesus Christ. Where did you get this?’

Quinton shrugged his shoulders, ‘I don’t know, round the…’

‘WHERE?’ the man’s voice came impatient and strong, the clay pipe shaking in his mouth.

‘Fuck you prick. What’s it worth? Gimme two hundred and you can have it.’

The man’s jaw became slack and a bubble of hot snot began to build out of his left nostril.

‘What’s it worth…? It’s priceless.’

Quinton kicked the bottom of the oak desk in frustration, once more leaving a grubby indent on the soft wood. He quickly stepped back hoping the man hadn’t noticed, but he was lost in a reverie.

‘Shit though. Priceless? Not even worth a fiver? Come on man. That’s bullshit. You know it and I know it. There’s got to be a price we can agree on. It ain’t priceless you’re just trying to stiff me.’

Quinton went to grab the sword but the shop keeper brought to his senses defensively pulled the sword in close to his chest.

‘No! No, It’s too important. There’s no way this is yours. No. No way.’

With a convincing left hook, Quinton caught the man on the corner of his jaw sending the clay pipe splintering to the ground. The effect was impressive and immediate. The man let go the sword to instinctively protect his face, leaving Quinton free to run from the shop and back along the cobbled alley, charging with the sword as if running to some epic battle. The lunchtime shoppers parted around him like the Red Sea as he made his charge. Once clear of the antiques alley he leaned against a lamp post to catch his breath, the sword hanging from his side. Quinton looked up straight into the window of a passing police car. The officer in the passenger seat couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The squad car burst into life with sirens and flashing lights, turning viciously in the road, almost hitting an approaching cyclist. The officer in the passenger seat jumped out brandishing his night-stick but Quinton was already ducking into the nearby shopping arcade.

The officer launched himself through the glass doors and quickly gained on Quinton disadvantaged by the heavy sword. He caught the back of the boys legs with his long black truncheon causing Quinton to barrel into a popcorn stand, the ready-made bags cushioning his fall. The policeman was upon him about to rain blows, instinctively Quinton pulled the sword from his coat and deflected the first of them. The huge broadsword connected with the truncheon and split the vulcanized rubber down to the metal. This gave the officer pause for thought. Quinton got to his feet and began a running sword-fight through the shopping centre. The policeman was relentless in his pursuit and seemed oblivious to the distress of the shoppers caught up in his swashbuckling. With each parry and thrust Quinton played back in his mind how he’d got himself into this situation, what had he actually done wrong? One thing was now for certain, things had gone too deep. There was no turning back now, he was committed to getting away. He ducked into a supermarket and with a huge sweep of the sword he quickly took out an aisle of wine bottles, the glass shattering around the chasing officer and hopefully slowing him down. Without looking back to see how much, Quinton ran for the store-room and through to the loading bay sneaking out towards the high street.

Quinton continued running, he tore down the smallest alleyways he could find, zigzagging through the borough like a rat in a maze, the sound of sirens now all around him and shutting him down. Risking the main high street he caught his reflection in the large glass-fronted Camelot National Lottery offices, he liked how he looked with the sword at his side. Running round the side of the building he found himself in front of Hackney Town Hall, the steep stone steps leading up to the main entrance and a smaller side alley off to the side of the vast building. Behind him the sirens grew louder. Daring a look behind him Quinton saw the police car mounting the pavement, bathing the first few steps in a revolving blue light.

They came from the left and the right. Quinton knew he was cornered. His only chance of salvation was the side-alley at the top of the steps. He bolted for it taking the steps two at a time, trying to keep the sword up in front of him, but the tip of the blade dipped down and caught the final step acting like a pole-vault and sending him over the hilt and crashing against the wall. His left hand refused to let go of the blade and it arced over his rolling body embedding itself in the Town Hall wall. The sword shuddered through the concrete in a burst of unnatural green light, brighter than any soldering iron. A sound like the crying of a thousand souls in pain shattered the night air causing all those in the immediate vicinity to hold their ears. The sword tore into the wall like a knife through butter right up to the hilt where it stopped and remained firmly lodged.

Quinton rocked on his spine in agony, he was sure he’d broken his left arm. He twisted round to look back down the steps and saw three policemen, their nightsticks drawn, lurching up the steps towards him, their faces as eager as ravenous pigs. Clutching his broken arm to his chest, Quinton headed for the side alley and out of sight, his pain driving him on to impossible speeds. The policemen stopped their short chase and returned to inspect the sword. They were dumbfounded. Each took it in turns to yank on the ornate handle but it was clear it wasn’t budging. The fattest officer lifted up his helmet to wipe the sweat from his brow, his matted hair stuck to his forehead.

‘That’s not going anywhere, is it?’

‘Ok, best call it in then,’ replied the second.

The third officer scrunched up his neck and began speaking into the microphone attached to his dark blue jumper.

‘Two Seven to base. We’re going to need a drill down here… Yes, that’s right… drill.’

The voice squawked back harshly, seeming to bounce off the metallic hilt. ‘That’s a negative Two Seven. Be advised not possible till morning. Secure area.’

The officer released the intercom button and turned to the other two men who were now sitting down on the top step of the town hall, sweating from all the exertion.

‘Fuck it, I’m giving it one more try…’

With a base anger not befitting his uniform the officer pulled on the sword. He put his foot to the wall to get better leverage and yanked until he felt his eyes would pop out of his head. He groaned, he wailed, he cursed at the sword, but it would not move an inch. The seated officers began to laugh but quickly fell silent when they noticed an eerie green glow emitting from the hilt and travel up the policeman’s arms.

‘Shitting hell. Get away from that mate. Look…’

The officer saw his hands illuminating and quickly let go in fear.

‘Fuck that. It’s electrified or something, I ain’t touching that. It probably hit a junction box or live cable as it went in.’

The other officers got up and moved towards the squad car.

‘Well I guess it isn’t going anywhere, so balls to it. Just call it in and let the morning shift deal with it in the morning.’

Quinton had run a huge circle around the building and had taken to crouching unseen by some bike racks across the road behind the officers. He watched them return empty-handed to the squad car and drive off into the night. He felt an overwhelming desire to have the sword. He knew it was meant to be his and despite the risk he was damned if he’d leave it to be stolen by the council. Looking left and right he made a run at the steps, taking them three at a time. With a last power leap of four steps he found himself face to face with the hilt of the sword. With his right hand he reached out, closing his fingers around the cold steel and feeling the bevelled uneven surface of the ancient hilt. Quinton took a deep breath and pulled hard expecting no movement, but to his amazement the blade retracted from the concrete as smoothly as pulling out a birthday candle and the excess energy caused him to stagger back violently almost spilling down the steps.

Now free, the sword continued its wide arc, swinging into a low mounted CCTV camera and neatly chopping off the lens. Quinton heard them before he saw them: the unmistakable whining siren like a massive and dangerous baby. He spun round just in time to see the blue light of the police car. The two officers were already on the bottom step but their over-weight bodies allowed them only one step at a time in their ascent towards him. Quinton raised the sword above his head and shouted at the sky. His cry rang out across the borough as if amplified by the sword. A brilliant green light burst from the blade bathing the whole area in a supernatural glow. The officers threw themselves down on the steps, fearing an explosion, leaving them prostrate and kneeling a few metres down from Quinton who pointed Excalibur to each in turn as if knighting them.

‘Right, you fuckers. There’s gonna be some changes around here…’ he said.

Prince among Men

00:40. Customs. Baggage Reclaim Area. London Gatwick Airport.

Prince Jr felt his bottom lip begin to tremble and he bit down hard on it, fearing to look foolish in front of the passing travelers. He was re-running the events of the last hour over and over in his head, but was coming up with the same conclusion each time: he was being massively disrespected. He crouched on the floor, out of the sightline of his boss Jamal and the others and began pecking at his snacks in a lackluster fashion, not even feeling hungry.

‘I mean, I really felt I knew these guys, you know?’

The girl in the holiday poster stared back understandingly as she danced on a white-sand beach advertising something he’d never be able to afford. But that didn’t stop a man from dreaming and dream he did each night round this same time with his humble lunch imagining what it would be like to run with her through the surf.

‘We’d worked together in close quarters for about five years,’ he continued, ‘You know a man after that long. So it hurt, I mean man, it really hurt the way they could just forget all the great shit that had gone before, just wipe it all out, and suddenly judge me only on that moment. I mean… it wasn’t my fault what happened back there on the carousel. I just lost control that’s all. It happens to everyone, right?‘

Prince Jr stared deeply into the girl’s blue pixelated eyes and felt a sudden stab of guilt. He knew it didn’t happen to everyone.

‘All I ever wanted from the job was a chance to fit in, you know? I always felt different, see? But I could never quite put my finger on why…’

Prince Jr had worked for Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise for what had seemed like all his life. It had in fact only been five years but he already felt like he was fit to retire. Searching through the valises of snobby travellers always in a rush to be somewhere important, he had come to hate them all with an equal passion, working at an airport is no fun he’d decided about six months into the gig. Of all the people he worked with it was only he who never got to go anywhere outside the airport in those golf-buggies. It felt demeaning.

If you’d asked, his work colleagues would have told you they found him to be happy go lucky, totally committed and focused on his work, but in actual fact Prince Jr was bordering on the suicidal. It was when, just now, he’d accidently shit on the Number Two Baggage Carousel that things had finally come to a head.

What had hurt the most, even more than the disapproving looks was that someone had actually appeared behind him with those special gloves they always kept for cavity searches and scooped it up, but not before the perfectly crimped turd had done a few rounds on the carousel. It had perched regally atop the black rubber slats moving round at a sedate pace on the empty loop, reappearing unscathed out of the hold every four minutes to repeat his guilt and shame as he stood there open-mouthed. That had surely torn it, he’d thought, and enough was enough: if ever a man needed an inciting incident to draw a line under it all, then this was surely it?

He felt a sense of perverse relief that it was now all going to come out, as surely as his bowel evacuation on the luggage from Cairo. No-one knew about the secret habit he’d been developing on the quiet. A little extra-curricular searching that had yielded strange addictive fruits. He’d begun with a little nibble here, a little sniff there, but his intake had seriously escalated in the last couple of months, especially now as he’d switched to working nights. He knew that the ‘coke shits’ which always came with prolonged use of the drug were in the post, but he never expected it to be delivered so unannounced and bounteously.

His boss Jamal, the heartless bastard that he was, hadn’t even let him quit for the night but had ordered him to get cleaned up and finish off the last two hours of his shift. On top of everything, Prince Jr felt like he was coming down and he knew the stockroom to be dry. He desperately hoped that if he had to stay then at least he’d make a pull soon and snaffle a little pick-me-up when no-one was looking out, perhaps from some hapless mule on the Tampa Bay flight that was coming in at half two.  He stared up at the girl in the poster for a final time, now with a longing far more than just sexual. How he wanted, no, needed to be on that beach with her. Memories of being young flooded his brain, memories that were so golden it was as if they were suspended in amber. The smells he remembered most of all, home food, soul food, nourishing every part of a man along with the endless summer and laughter. He looked down at the ancient biscuits in front of him and spat the remainder back into the bowl, feeling he was chewing the desiccated ashes of his own life. It was time to go back, and not just to work.

With the heel-dragging of a man walking to the scaffold he made his way back to Baggage Reclaim. Almost immediately his eye was drawn to a nervous, fidgety man hanging round the recently arrived Tangier flight: He was good with smells and this man smelt all wrong to him. He looked at the suitcase and felt his eyes instinctively narrowing.

‘I bet he’s carrying’, thought Prince as he prepared to make his move, but Jamal sidled up to him and beat him to the punch.

‘Hey Prince, you thinking what I’m thinking?’ Jamal didn’t wait for him to respond, ‘I bet you are. Go on then… fetch that shit.’

Prince Jr looked round to check he’d heard him correctly.

‘Fetch?’ What the fuck was he? A dog? He looked Jamal up and down as if studying a cancerous x-ray. He could actually feel that final straw filament in his brain snap and he heard the voice inside him coming from a different place, somewhere dark between his ribs.

‘You want me to fetch, huh? OK, I’ll go fucking fetch then…’

Prince launched himself at the suitcase and ripped it open. Almost immediately a large block of cannabis resin fell to the floor and its unclaimed owner began to do a hot-shoe-shuffle away from the belt. Prince made him but didn’t care, he tore at the cling film and began to chow down on the treacly black solid, it stuck to his teeth as he swallowed lump after lump with the gusto of water to a shipwrecked man. Without even needing to look round he could feel Jamal’s stench of stale sweat upon him. Not this time though, he thought. No more humiliation. Prince Jr spat out the remaining hash and made a run for the airport golf-buggy parked on the steep incline heading down to the Arrivals area. He leaped onto the driver’s side and kicked the handbrake off with his foot like he’d seen his workmates do a thousand times before. How hard could this driving business be?’, he thought, ‘point the bitch where you want to go and let gravity do the rest.’

He began to gather speed as behind him Jamal turned his interest from the hash to the dashing buggy. Prince Jr hoped his boss would be stupid enough to try and get between him and the locked glass doors that separated the baggage area from Arrivals, and sure enough as he turned the wheel, the sweaty oaf had positioned himself right in front of the doors, arms outstretched in a futile effort to stop the fast approaching vehicle.

Prince Jr felt the buggy make the satisfying contact with Jamal’s kneecaps: it was like a release of five years of pent up anger to him. At the point of impact Jamal’s face had held an expression Prince had never seen before in all the painful years they had worked together, it seemed to him a mixture of disbelief and pure fear as he went flying back through the doors, the frosted glass shattering around him in a halo of bright shards. He flew over the passenger seat and Prince Jr flipped him the bird as he passed, feeling the cannabis kicking in like a stick of dynamite. As he errupted into the Arrivals Hall the security guards that began rushing towards him took on an almost balletic grace as they cocked their assault rifles and danced towards him in a slowed motion whilst behind him the glass continued to tinkle out of its shattered frame onto Jamal who moaned like a beached whale.

The incline began to level off and the buggy slowed as it passed a Starbucks, clipping the periphery of loose seating, and catching the corner of a bench as it came to a gradual standstill. Prince knew the angry world wouldn’t be far behind him, but as he leapt from the driver’s seat he caught his reflection in the large angled wing-mirror and froze almost in mid-air.

A guttural whimper breached his throat.

‘Oh Christ no, say it ain’t so…’

The hash exploded into his brain and he found himself unable to look away from the mirror, drawn into what he was seeing. For the first time in his life he could see something reflected in these shiny surfaces his workmates always looked into. It all made sense to him with a brutal alignment of reality, and as he blinked, so the reflection blinked back and he realised with abject horror, not dissimilar to the expression on the flying Jamal, that he had to take ownership for what was staring back at him. This was his reflection. Cogito Ergo Sum with a lightning bolt of revelation he realised something final. Something he’d had a sneaking suspicion about for all these years but had chosen to ignore until confronted now with an irrefutable proof… he began to howl in despair unable to deny reality any longer… Oh God suddenly it all made sense. He was a dog.

Immediately his instinct kicked in as it always did. He knew his options were running out fast. But where to go? Prince thought of the poster. He thought of the girl pointing behind her to a glorious sight unseen. Somewhere safe and wonderful. Paradise. That’s where he’d go.  Running down the escalator he could hear them all behind him like an approaching hunt, on his scent, he too could smell them.  But these bastard hounds weren’t his brothers, he was now the fox. The escalator led straight onto the train platform and Prince lept three steps early over a wall of suitcases. detecting the stench of coconut oil from inside. To his left he watched them all come off the train: perhaps this of all trains would lead him to the promised land?

He hid, crouched in the gap between the bins and the ticket machine waiting for his chance to make a run for it unseen. The officers behind him were running him close and he couldn’t afford to wait any longer. With a quick look to left and right he leapt out from the bins and rushed the train doors, hurtling through them and rolling over onto his back as he skidded across the carpet.

Despite the stunt-dog entrance, no-one had seemed to notice and he quickly positioned himself behind a pyramid of suitcases from where he could cover himself satisfactorily on all three sides. Feeling a little safer but still horribly out of breath he looked back through the still resolutely open doors, watching the people beyond moving back and forth. As reality sunk in to his drug-expanded mind he began to feel incredibly bitter towards them all rushing about their ever-so-important business. He addressed them all for the first time as one collective species.

‘If there is a god, then of all the things you’ve done to the planet, the one he won’t forgive you for is not seeing animals as people too.’ he spat the words out like the dry biscuit, hot and brittle, no-one was listening, but he didn’t need an audience anyway.

‘Do you know why all those tribespeople look so content with their lot? It’s because they don’t have ego. They’ve got nothing but what they stand in. Not for them the problem of always drawing comparisons with unrealistic images of celebrity, perfection or what society tells you must be acquired to be seen as successful, all those lying posters I had rammed down my throat for five years. Those with nothing just be and exist in the moment. I’m even luckier than that. I’m an animal and hooked into the present by design, no past or future, connected inextricably to the universal energy that bubbles at the heart of every living thing. Go rush for your closing doors humans, they’re shutting on you forever.’

As the train pulled out after what seemed like a cold sweat eternity, Prince Jr finally allowed himself to acknowledge the appendage on his rear that had been banging for some time now with a joyous ryhthm against the leather satchel behind him. No-one suspicious had boarded his carriage, he’d lost any tails but had found his own, and was at last heading toward the promised land.

Three carriages ahead of him the driver tooted his horn and reached up to change the overhead display to its final destination as the 03:34 from Gatwick departed for Barking.