Day 39: Write a letter to your landlord

To my landlord,

As you may know, I resent the fact that I am in the smaller room. I am also frequently away, which makes it all the more upsetting that you enter my room, you take my bedding, you wash it and then you don’t put it back on the bed!

Surely you should either respect my privacy and enter only with my permission or you should at least return everything to where you found it. My parents always told me that if you use it, you should put it back. If you open it, you close it.

Also, your incessant need to leave the lights on in the kitchen in the morning! When I come downstairs, usually after you have left for work and I walk into the kitchen to find all the lights blaring, illuminating the cup of tea that you have made for me that sits comfortably next to the sandwiches that you have also made for me. Honestly, it’s as if you have no concept of the environment. I’ll bet you’ve never even considered a Prius.

Finally, I must comment on the rent. The amount you ask for is completely unreasonable and I have no doubt that this is something we should discuss at some point in the near future. Surely the amount that I pay would explain the shower that is rather temperamental, the cold nature of the house and the washing that is always done, but not ironed.

Kind regards,

Your Lodger.

P.S. Mum, can I have ham sandwiches tomorrow?

The Idiot in Tin Foil

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Day 38: A houseplant is dying. Tell it why it needs to live.

Dear teeny tiny Apple Tree,

Malus domestica, you are common throughout. And yet, in this case, somebody has chosen to infect you with a fungus, to shrink you down and prevent you from reaching your true potential.

And yet, my friend teeny tiny apple tree, I ask you to consider this. Is it truly that you have been denied your potential? Or that your potential has simply shifted, moving from loftier goals to smaller ones? Is it that you may never produce fruit? Or that the fruit you bear may be the exact same as your taller brethren?

The fact is, little apple tree, you are a beacon in the living room. You have been forced into this situation against your will, with no choice, no option, simply told that you would become this tiny facsimile of a true apple tree. And yet, often they expect you to bear fruit, to be treated as one of the ‘big guys.’

Teeny tiny apple tree, I respect you. I respect your endeavours, despite the adjustments to your frame, to your life, to everything that once would have made you you. But you soldier on, you sprout, you live, your leaves fall and then you do it again and again and again.

Teeny tiny apple tree, be free. Continue to show us how you do not need to be big to be influential, to bear fruit that would feed a million. You do not need to spread wide, you just need to do the job that needs to be done.

Kind regards,

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 37: What does writer’s block feel like?

Endurance runners call it the wall. The point where you just can’t run any more, that your legs turn to putty, you mouth goes dry and there is nothing you can even think. The point of the wall is to get over it, or through it, or around it, but not to let it slow you down or, god forbid, stop you.

Writer’s block, for me, is very similar. I am writing, consistently and easily and everything comes naturally, word follows word until I have a sentence, a paragraph, a beginning and then

The Wall.

That doesn’t work. You think, unlike a marathon, you don’t have to follow a set route. You can go back and change something else. So you run all the way back, looking for the point where your path could diverge and you get to take the road less travelled by and you do. So you follow this new path, the modern other path, strewn with obstacles and problems but they are nothing but stumbling blocks, overcome in the time it takes to make a cup of tea or watch an episode of your favourite show. You find your rhythm again, and then

The Wall.

It is a wall constructed of unwritten words, all the things you could have written but didn’t. You decided they were the wrong path to take and so they haunt you, collecting and amassing until they become

The Wall.

There’s only one option. You have to take the wall apart, brick by brick, word by word until it’s no longer there. Write it all down, write every brick. Fix them in a place and then you can leave them behind, but until the words are written they remain spectres, Ghosts of novels past. Then there’s nothing left but the path ahead. A truly new path, completely untravelled.

The Wall still exists, but now you can manage it. You can harness it, should you need to. There is a gap in your Yellow Brick Road, you simply find the words that used to be the wall and select the one that fits.

That is what writer’s block is. A Wall to overcome.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 36: Ten euphemisms for sex

Phil turned to Carine. ‘Why do we have to be here? I hate this place.’ He looked around at the weeping decorations, the shrunken banner, the sagging women in cheerleaders outfits designed for them when they were far younger, more pert and before the curse of children had been inflicted on them.

He was surrounded by stereotypes. In a world of round holes, he was a square peg. He heard the hubbub behind him as his old friends came forward.

Whoever had come up with the theme, DRESS FOR THE JOB YOU HAVE, NOT THE JOB YOU WANT, needed throttling with their own brain stem.

‘Oi! Turner!’ The lawyer shouted, his wig sliding off his balding head as he rushed across the room.

Carine swiftly kissed him on the cheek and told him, ‘I’m going to get some punch. Find out what you can, then we can get out of here.’

***

‘Come on, you remember the gang! So, anyway, who’s the chick? You dancing the heebie jeebie?’

‘Wrassling the Brasilian monkey?’ Said the wildlife reporter.

‘Courtoom discussion taking place downstairs?’ Said the lawyer.

‘Enjoying full touch capability?’ The computer scientist asked.

‘No, he’s definitely polishing his cue ball in her corner pocket.’ Replied the snooker player.

‘You realise that means he’s getting it wrong, don’t you? No wonder you lost the last tournament. No, he’s unequivocally been dancing the horizontal rumba, coming up for his big finish, ya know?’ The dancer snorted.

‘Pshh, dancing is for wimps. He’s been getting out his set square, if you know what I mean.’ The architect chuckled to himself. ‘Working out all the angles, ya get me?’

‘Guys…’

‘Nope, I’ve got it. I’ve got it.’ The historian said. ‘He’s been working on a certain branch of his family tree.’

There was silence in the room.

‘Well, I thought it was funny.’

‘It just sounds a bit wrong, Oscar.’

Banners hang forlornly in the background as the group take a sip of punch. There collective falls silent, conversation being replaced by umms and errs, the occasional ahh.

‘Guys, what I’m trying to say is..’

‘Putting up her shelves?’ The chorus groaned. ‘Painting her special room?’ The decorator withered under the glares from the others, mimed zipping his mouth shut over his nicotine stained teeth, and sank down into his shoulders.

‘Guys, seriously. This is important…’

‘Thou are stealing the attentions of a young lady, taking her, truly, to rapture and wonder. You construct a stairway to heaven itself, with only the tools of your manhood and virility.’

‘We get it, you act.’ The group turned to Phil. ‘Come on then, Turner. Explain?’

Phil rolled his eyes. Finally he was going to be able to explain. ‘Look, Carine and I are not together. I have never polished my cue ball in her pocket. Never wrassled her brasilian monkey… What does that even mean? Seriously guys, I’ve never even seen her naked! We just work together.’

More silence from the group.

‘Well…’ The lawyer looked around at the rest of them. ‘Mind if I take a pass at her then?’

Phil groaned. This was going to be a long night.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 35: Think of an object that describes you. Describe it.

Stuart looked furtively around, fingers dancing on an invisible piano as he nervously drew his keys from his pocket. He ran a hand under his toupee, scratching his prickling scalp. He could feel eyes on him from the shadows, separate from the ones he had brought with him, and his head snapped round, practically breaking his neck as he flashed his gaze from side to side. He hunched over the door handle, listening carefully for anything above the low hum of the generators.

‘Come on. Come on!’ He beckoned to his companion, a tall, imposing man who remained in the shadows. ‘Quickly, quickly, quickly. Time is ticking. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.’ The tall man looked in disdain at the wretch before him before sighing heavily. He gave a single brief nod as he stepped across the corridor behind the nervous man, following him into the dark room beyond the door.

Stuart scuttled around, fighting to find a chair for his mysterious patron. ‘You see, you see, I have finished it. It is right here, right here. Please sit down, sit down. A drink? You will not believe your eyes, my friend.’

‘I’m not your friend, Mr Walker. Get on with it, please. I’d like to go home to my wife.’ he sighed, pulling off a pair of black leather gloves.

‘Okay, okay. I’m sorry. I just need… Moment.. And… Voila.’ Stuart drew the black cloth from over the object, and the tall man leaned forward expectantly. And stopped.

‘Mr Walker, what am I looking at exactly? This looks like somebody reassembled a clock following instructions given by a blind Amazonian pygmy. Who’s never seen a clock.’

‘Oh, it’s simple. This lever is used to release water through to the wheel, which then turns the activation paddle, releasing this weight, which opens this doorway which opens this box. Which is empty.’ Stuart beamed at the tall man. ‘But that’s the beauty, anything could be inside! You don’t know until you pull the lever!’ He always lost the stutter when he was explaining things.

‘Walker, you’ve made a needlessly complicated machine where the only thing it does is lift the lid of an empty box. We perfected this art a long time ago, through evolution. We call them hands.’ The tall man reached towards the box, moving to open the now-closed mahogany lid. He wrapped his hands around the handle set into the lid, and lifted.

Nothing happened. A storm of doubt appeared on the tall man’s face, full of thunder as he found that he couldn’t open it.

‘Yes, yes. Now you see! The machine doesn’t just open the box. It keeps it closed. It actively resists until you pull the lever. The needless complication you state? The activation mechanism changes every time. I know which lever activates the box. Either I tell you, or you spend a very long time working it out by trying every option. Sometimes, you’ll find it quickly and the box opens. Sometimes, you get frustrated before you find the lever and the box stays closed. Then you find the person who is curious enough about what you keep inside the box to go through every lever, again and again, until they get the box open.’

The tall man let go of the box and reached toward the levers.

‘Mr Walker… I think we can work with this. Come by my office tomorrow. Bring the box.’ The tall man reached out a hand and Stuart took it. ‘Mr Walker… Call me Thompson.’

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 34: Go to the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day site and write a story based on that word.

‘Jeopardise. To put someone or something into a situation in which there is a danger of loss, harm or failure.’ Rico rolled the coin across the knuckles of his prosthetic hand, listening to the quiet clink as he did so. The six people  kneeling in front of him quivered in their hoods, one of them whispering a prayer under their breath. Rico stood tall, striding across the laminate floor in front of them. ‘Personally, I like the danger of harm definition. And that, my friends, is what Erica Weiss has done for you. She has put you in harms way, as long as you find the word harm synonymous with the name Rico.’ He grinned wolfishly, his pink tongue flicking out of his mouth as he licked his lips. It was an oddly childlike movement, a stark contrast to his imposing figure.

‘Madre de dios, Salvame…’ A whisper from the hood.

‘No, no, Mr Elgar. There will be no saving. The best you can hope for is a swift release into oblivion, once you tell me what I need to know. Until such a time as that, I will slowly remove your toes. Followed by your fingers. I will take your eyelids, your ears, whatever excuse you have for genitals cowering between your legs.’ He tossed the coin high, catching it with another clink, making the assembled kneelers quake. ‘Once I’ve done that, I will work on peeling your skin away from your body. Slowly.’

He knelt down beside the whisperer, moving his lips close to the man’s ear in a parody of intimacy. A sour nothing, one might say. ‘Mr Elgar, what I have neglected to mention to your little friends beside you, is that I will kill them first. Starting with Mr Corrin at the end, won’t his wife be upset to find his dismembered and flayed corpse?’ He stepped back up and raised his voice. ‘Mr Williams! How is Eleanor? Just starting school, isn’t that right?’

The hooded figure, second from the right, began to sob softly. ‘Please. Please.’

‘Mr Williams, I will let you live. I can’t afford to let your colleagues do the same, but you can walk out of here. I may have to take a toe, just to make sure that we understand each other, but I will let you go. You can see your daughter’s play this evening. Lady Hilda’s School, I believe? I’ll just check my ticket.’ He made a grand pantomime of drawing a ticket from his pocket, an actor performing to an audience of the blind. ‘Yes, half past seven. Won’t she look wonderful in her mouse costume?’

‘Not my daughter. Anything but that.’

‘Eric, be quiet. This man is doing this to scare us.’ Came a calm voice from the end of the row. ‘Sir, I don’t believe that we can help you.’

Rico’s head snapped around. This was unusual, anyone showing defiance at this stage in the game. Then again, he hadn’t taken out the knives yet. ‘Mr Carter. I don’t believe we’ve spoken yet. I will remind you that hooded people at the mercy of the madmen shouldn’t speak until spoken to.’

‘Please, you’re not insane.’ The hooded man scoffed. He actually scoffed, even from his position of weakness. Rico launched himself across the room, grabbing Carter’s throat with the metal of his prosthetic hand, lifting him bodily to his feet.

‘Try me.’ He snarled. Carter couldn’t respond with anything but a feeble gurgle, a valiant but misguided resistance against the assault on his windpipe. ‘Congratulations Mr Carter. You just volunteered to meet the knives first.’

Rico lifted Carter, bodily, across to the table. In a velvet wrap next to him lay his knives. He took his time with the straps, the leather cold against his remaining hand. He took a blowtorch from his bag and began heating one of the blades. His cold metal fingers closed around the hood and he yanked it from Carter’s head.

‘Mr Carter. Where is Erica Weiss?’ The blowtorch hissed and the blade began glowing red. Rico ran his finger down Carter’s leg, watching with a smile as he flinched as much as he could against the straps. He’d taken the time earlier to remove the hostages’ shoes, to make this part a lot easier. He cast his eye over the other hostages, he could see them shaking more. The religious man was muttering louder, it seemed that he might be losing his mind.

Rico moved the blowtorch across his victim’s leg, holding the white hot knife in his prosthesis. It had started as a hindrance, when Grint had taken his hand. Then he’d paid for the replacement and what a replacement it was. Cutting edge technology in a metal framework heat proof, flameproof, wires grafted onto his nerve endings, fully articulated fingers. He could crush a man’s skull with his bare hand now.

He’d tried.

He moved the blade expertly between the bones in Carter’s little toe. That’s when the brave man began to scream.

‘You’ve made my knife go cold, Mr Carter. I’ll have to heat it up again. Unless you tell me where Miss Weiss has gone.’ Carter did nothing but scream. And scream. And scream.

***

The ruins of three men were lying on the floorboards, flayed and broken. The religious man, to Rico’s surprise, had held on the longest. Rico moved to the three men that were left, catlike tread across the boards.

‘Are any of you going to share now? Mr Elgar, perhaps?’ He opened the door and closed it again without passing through. He moved, whisper silent, through to where the men were still on their knees.

‘Erica. I can’t believe she left us here man!’

‘Shut up. He may have listening devices.’

‘I don’t care! She abandoned us and went swanning off to…’ His next words were cut off by a headbutt from Elgar.

‘Very good Mr Elgar! Time for some more cutting, I think.’ Rico smiled. ‘This is going to be fun!’

***

Two more men fell beneath his blades. He added their bodies to the pile.

‘Mr Elgar, you just cost Eleanor Williams her father. What a horrible man you must be!’ He finished with the toes, moving swiftly to the fingers. Elgar whimpered instead of screaming. The fingers came off in quick succession, one after the other, falling into a pile like sausages from a machine. ‘You should have talked, Mr Elgar. I just needed to know where Erica went. Now I find you silent! You used to talk all the time. Now I cut off all of your appendages and you still won’t tell me that Erica Weiss went to Monaco on the 1800 train yesterday?’

Elgar’s eyes went wide, an impressive feat without eyelids. ‘You… You knew?’

Rico smiled, entirely without humour. ‘Oh yes, Mr Elgar. I knew. I knew at 1802 yesterday, when a crooked official at the station called me. This, Richard, is all about taking out Weiss’ lieutenants. I just decided that I would have some fun while I did it.’ Rico leaned over Elgar, using a pair of pliers to pull out his tongue. ‘Oh, Elgar.’ He whispered. ‘You did have fun, didn’t you?’ And he rammed his palm into Elgar’s lower jaw.

***

‘Ready the helo. We move to Monaco at 1300.’ Rico turned to look at the devastation left behind him, and smiled as he rolled the white phosphorous grenade into the room behind him. The flames burnt hot against his back as he left the barely human wretches to scream with tongueless mouths.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

 

Day 33: What’s stored in your closet?

‘What’s in the closet?’ Charles asked.

‘Nothing.’ I replied, quickly.

‘What’s in the closet?’

‘Nothing.’

‘What’s in the closet?’

‘Look, Charles, I told you already. Nothing!’ I stomped over to it and threw open the door. ‘Look! There’s nothing… There…’ I gawped. Charles gawped. I slowly closed the door, carefully pushing it until I heard the latch click tight. I then yanked it back open with a trembling hand, staring back inside.

‘James. Why is there a dismembered human hand holding a baseball bat on top of a collapsing pile of dollar bills in your closet?’

I shook my head, dumbfounded. Last thing I’d seen in my closet was Charles’ birthday present, a copy of Cortex. Now I had a hand, a baseball bat and a random amount of money where I’d left a copy of Raygun’s latest game. ‘James. James. Earth to James!’ I startled back to the real world. ‘The hand. What?’

I shut the shuttered closet door. ‘Charles, I have no idea what’s happened there. All I know is that… Well, I don’t know anything.’

Transport test one. Minor accident. Subject A has lost right forearm. Separation is clean, transport pressure appears to have cauterised the wound. Subject A has been moved to isolation ward six. Transport test two will occur at 1230 tomorrow. 

I was freaking out. Charles had gone home, gibbering about the hand. I was convinced that we were just suffering from an ongoing hallucination and that the hand would be gone in the morning. I decided that I would try and sleep on it. Not the hand directly, that would be rather disturbing, but on the idea that the hand would be gone. Hopefully the money too. I can’t keep a secret like a thousand dollars, if it even is that much.

‘It’ll be fine. It’ll be normal. You are suffering a psychotic break. You’ll wake up in your padded cell in the asylum. Everything will be back to normal and you’ve hallucinated the last nineteen years of your life.’ I closed my eyes, willing my limbs to stop trembling. Eventually, in fits and starts, I got to sleep.

I saw flames and smoke, great clouds of broiling fire belching great jets of flame, a stark contrast against the dark, forbidding sky, and all he feels is pain, a thousand needles against his skin, stabbing again and again until there is no part of his body that isn’t pain and yet the agony endures all effort to resist, growing and growing until there is nothing but the white hot fire of the needles that have wormed their way beneath his skin, skin that peels and cracks beneath the relentless onslaught of flame and he remains alive but screaming, screaming, screaming…

I awake with a howl of terror and agony. Something is different, though nothing has physically changed. I get out of bed slowly, carefully shuffling into a pair of slippers as the memory of my dream pain rests like ice below the surface of my body. The tendrils of ill-feeling are reaching to me from my closet.

I reach with a quaking hand towards the handle, my whole body burning hot and freezing cold at the same time. What awaits me inside, this time?

I gingerly, open the door. The hand is gone. The bat is gone. The money is gone. In their place, in a looping, cursive script, is a note.

It has five words written on it.

Tell me what you saw. 

And that’s when I threw up.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 32: Life among the pirates.

‘Captain! Sail off the starboard! Looks like a three master!’ Came the cry from the tops. Otis Carter held the spyglass to his eye before calling down, ‘Captain! Looks like she’s riding low!’

‘Excellent!’ Captain Rannigan ran his hand through his thick beard, a classic Captain Birdseye look. Except, of course, for the two sabres that hung by his sides in jewelled scabbards, the pistol sitting by the small of his back and the treasure hungry glint in his cold, grey eye. ‘Mr Ingram. Set the flags for a gasbag leak, but don’t run them up yet. Mr Carter, I want timekeeping and three minute reports.’ His redneck American accent boomed across the deck. ‘I want all watches ready to move in six minutes. Ragnar, Boondock, all Round Table to the boardroom.’ He grinned and his gold tooth gleamed in the morning sunlight.

‘Aye Captain!’ Came the chorus from the deck and the cabins. Scurrying like mice as they rushed about their tasks, drawing weapons from the arms lockers, buckling on mismatches of armour. Only very light armour mind, as on ship movement is king. A pair of armoured boots here, a set of plate gloves there. Nothing fancy, but enough to show that this group of people had teeth.

‘Good. I feel like it’s gonna be a wonderful day!’

***

Notes on the Argent Siren

The Argent Siren has three watches, one for each of its masts. There is the Flash Watch, the lowest ranking members, their training battalion as it were. This is led by Astrid Barnes, the youngest member of Rannigan’s Round Table. A classically dashing, vaguely stubbly rogue, six feet tall and a terror with any kind of blade. He’s never been seen anything less than impeccably dressed, sharp double breasted waistcoat, a shirt with lightly rolled up sleeves. A man who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, but would rather not. He is a man who has sworn to die with a smile on his lips.

Then there’s the Flame Watch, the Siren’s rank and file. The largest watch had to be run by the largest man, which is where Boondock comes in. Boondock is touching on seven feet tall, and is almost as wide. The running joke amongst the crew is that he’s as tall as a mast and pretty much as thick, but he’s a damn good leader. Men would follow him anywhere, especially as long as he’s buying the beers. He isn’t known for carrying a weapon, he simply wears thick, plated gloves that can crash a man’s skull. He is gruff, but can often be found with a bright smile crossing his face.

Finally, we have the Ash Watch, the elite of the Siren, and their fearless leader Ragnar. Ragnar is a 5 foot man with a ten foot reputation, a compact parcel of fury. A long, red braid falls down his back, never having been cut for as long as he has been alive and fighting. The day a man beats the axe from his hand, he will cut the braid. So far, he has many scars, but the braid remains uncut.

Also on Rannigan’s Round Table are the helmsmen, Roscoe and Mulligan, the cook Doshka and the Pusser. These are the men that Rannigan trusts to help guide him. But when it comes to making decisions there can be none but Rannigan himself.

He is a man who has been learning piratecraft since he was in diapers, a man who’s first words were ‘Mast ahoy!’. He learnt his trade aboard Caliban’s Stone Pixie, growing from a young cabin boy through to Caliban’s first mate, before taking the Siren.

The world has come a long way. The new world is ever growing, ever expanding. Pirates fly. Metal thunders across the landscape at terrifying speed. We ride the winds, we ride the waves and we rule the land with rings of iron.

Welcome to the future.

Oscar Belinsky, The Daily Chronicle, 17th December 1852

***

‘Captain. If it’s a three master, it’s probably going to be heavily armed.’ Ragnar drawled, hunched over the table. ‘Could be time to cry off. Especially if it’s Navy. He leaned his axe between his legs, resting his calloused hand on the head.

‘Or could be time to take everything. Everyone, Flash through Ash.’ Boondock replied, slamming a meaty fist onto the table. ‘C’mon captain! It’s been weeks since we had a good prize! Let’s take that  cheeky little ship and be on our way? Hell, I reckon Flash Watch alone could take that lil frigate!’

Rannigan stood at the edge of the room, pouring himself a glass of brandy from a crystal decanter. The decanter had been poached from a Merchanter heading for Virginia, a terrified man holding it out in front of him and begging for his life and the life of his family. He raised a hand to scratch at his eye socket beneath the soft cloth patch he wore, before turning to the group, speaking over the rising hubbub. Roscoe and Mulligan were arguing as always, Doshka was drinking from a flask, the Pusser was counting away happily.

‘Gentlemen.’ He flipped up his eye patch to expose the angry socket. ‘This is what happens when we make rash decisions. And as they say, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Roscoe, send out two of Flash on flyers. See what they can tell us about the state of the ship. Get them to spread rumours about our leak as well. Let’s hoist up our skirts and see if we can’t convince them to take a tumble? Just make sure we stay protected, eh?’ The room grumbled to a stop.

‘Alright, you bastards, let’s go get filthy fucking rich!’

The Idiot in Tin Foil

 

Day 31: What happened that night?

Well, it’s a whole month. WordPress even included a happy anniversary notification for me. Yay! I hope that those of you who are reading this are enjoying it. Let me know!

When my time comes, as it may… No, as it must. But when that time comes, whether I am a soldier in a distant field, or some disease decides to claim me, even if I suffer from a fateful hand in the game of genetics, I will look upon Death. I will see him. He will ask me if I am ready to go. He will ask me if I did everything I ever wanted.
I want to be able to make sure I said yes. I want to look into the distant supernovae resting in his eye sockets and tell him that I did. That I am ready.
I think I can.

The figure in the cowl looked at the words, hurriedly scrawled onto the page, partially obscured by the woman’s body slumped over the desk. Thin velvet gloves covered the frail arms and a small amount of drool had pooled below her painted lips. It appeared that she had dressed for the occasion, her best dress, shimmering in the firelight against her fragile frame.

‘Ah.’ The figure said. ‘I’m sure that I’m not supposed to feel. But it’s so sad.’ He wipes away a tear with his slender, piano player’s fingers.

‘Sorry, but… What’s going on?’ A translucent shape from the corner asked. ‘I mean… I can guess most of it. Some things are a little hazy though. I was writing… ’ The shape, forming harder edges now into the shape of a young woman. ‘Oh.’

‘I’m so sorry about this.’ The figure fumbled with the scythe in his hands, wincing as it fell to the ground with a loud crash.

‘That’s alright. Take all the time you need.’ She floated across to her corpse, prodding gingerly toward the place her soul had resided minutes prior to this moment. You know, you’re a lot fleshier than I was expecting. You knew to this? What happened to the… bony one?’

‘He had to make a tough decision. He took someone very dear to a lot of people, including himself.’ The figure looked at the scythe. ‘I think I’m supposed to…’ A weak gesture to the thin string connecting the soul and the body.

‘Ah. Always tricky, learning the new skill set on a new job. I remember when I started at Murbank… They has some stupid computer systems. Anyway, carry on. You can do it. Nice strong grip, I assume?’ The scythe flickered in the weak firelight. The figure hefted the scythe, cutting cleanly through the fine tether. ‘See! That wasn’t so hard! Now, I won’t ask anything too difficult. First day jitters and all that.’ The translucent woman, now young and classically beautiful, turned away. ‘You know, I don’t think I ever looked like this. I guess it’s all in our heads at the end. Well, whatever passes for my head now that… All this happened.’ She walked off, through the wall and away.

‘Life is so much easier when I’m not doing this shit.’ The figure muttered to himself. It shook of the cowl, letting it fall to the floor.

The figure… That’s me.

My name is Edgar Joshua Jonah Hunter. This was my first night as the Grim Reaper, as Death himself.

Kids, this is what happens when you are desperate for a job. Stay in school.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 30: Describe a Professor coming on to one of his students.

‘And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Stanford Prison Experiment shows that humanity, in its entirety, is inclined towards power. Power corrupts and absolute power, as they say, corrupts absolutely. Look at how easily those assigned the prisoner role submitted and those told that they were guards were corrupted. Zimbardo himself told us –  “It wasn’t until much later that I realized how far into my prison role I was at that point — that I was thinking like a prison superintendent rather than a research psychologist”. Bear in mind, this man had chosen to run this experiment that closed after 6 days. Zimbardo planned on a fortnight.’ Arthur Kellerman looked around at his students, marshalled in rows before him. All of them were looking straight at him, captivated by his honeyed voice. He adored it.

‘And what does that tell us? Take anybody. Give them the smallest amount of power, even arbitrary power, and see how dynamics change. Take Charlotte here.’ He gesticulated to her, slim and petite in the front row, where she always chose to sit. Third seat in from the left, always looking straight at him, those beautiful blue eyes, that strategically cut top that just showed the lace edges of her dark purple bra as she leant forward, caught in the rapture of his voice. ‘If I told you all that Charlotte was my favourite student and that she was getting special privileges because of this, you would begin to harbour resentment towards her. He could feel himself getting distracted, consumed by the thought of her. He drew himself up to his full six feet and ran his hand through his salt and pepper hair. ‘But I think that will be enough for today. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time. Should you have any questions, you can always drop by my office. Charlotte, if you wouldn’t mind coming by after this lecture? As long as you’re not expected elsewhere.’ She smiled at him, and mutely shook her head. ‘Excellent, so I’ll see you there at ten thirty.’ He gathered up his notes, sliding them  into his distressed briefcase. He left the room to a rising hubbub of voices. He heard the words ‘teacher’s pet’ and ‘suck-up’, the words fuelling a grin. He’d have her eating out of his hand in no time.

***

He sat in his office, feet up on the desk. He handled his forty years well, the lines barely showing on his face. A Marlboro cigarette hangs between his lips, and he takes a deep drag, staring out the window of his office towards the apple tree in the courtyard. He picks the wedding ring up from his desk, examining the simple gold band in the sunlight. ‘A simpler time, Arthur. A simpler time.’ He opened a desk drawer with a bang and  threw the ring inside. Then there was a knock at the door.

‘Umm, Arthur?’ Charlotte’s voice floated through the door like a chorus of angels. He grinned again, smoking his cigarette down to the filter before stubbing it out in the ashtray on his desk.

‘Come in, come in.’ The door opened and he swivelled round like a Bond villain. ‘Miss Aspen. I’ve been expecting you.’ She giggled, a smile that could light up the room. ‘In all seriousness, please sit down. I have a few things I want to discuss with you.’ He took all of her in as she moved to sit down in his second chair, the tartan skirt she was wearing riding up to roughly mid-thigh as she crossed her legs. She hadn’t chosen to wear tights that day either. He could feel his mouth going dry as he worked out what he was going to say.

‘Arthur, I was looking into the relationship development module. I wanted to discuss the ahh…’ She blushed, her freckles standing out against the red flush spreading across her cheeks. ‘The sexual relationship module. I had some thoughts on a study to investigate peoples initial attraction?’ He moved to his filing cabinet, pulling out a bottle of Glenmorangie.

‘Do carry on, I like to have a drink while I work. Would you care for one?’ He poured her a glass before she could answer, moving to lean against the desk behind her. ‘So, do please tell me about this idea for a study?’

‘So…’ She began talking, a long speech about setting up blind dates and videotaping them, pre and post date interviews, for a number of them requesting an FMRI during the date. He simply nodded and kept topping up their glasses.

‘And what would you hope to achieve with this study?’ He asked, his eyes drinking her in as he leaned close.

‘Well… It would help to put a name to feelings. To map out the cause of a great many crimes and.. Mistakes.’

‘And what about things that you aren’t sure are mistakes?’ He leaned in closer, resting one hand on her thigh. ‘Would you try to map those as well?’

She paused for a moment, as if trying to work out what to say. ‘I’m not entirely sure I need those mapping out.’ And she moves her head forward, lips slightly parted before she sends them forth to meet his.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But who has the power here? Who is corrupted, who is the corruptee? And how far does the corruption spread?

The Idiot in Tin Foil