Day 91: Death is like this…


I shuffled forward one place. Somehow, even in this crush of people, we all knew which way the queue went. Hundreds of thousands of us, all crammed into what looked, to all intents and purposes, rather like a government office. Like a stereotypical DMV in an American TV show, or a passport control booth. You following?


I knew I was near the front now. I could hear the bubble of anxiety straining at the edges. Luckily, I had a hand to hold to ease the worry. Unluckily, it was my own and was no longer attached to my shoulder.

‘NEXT!’ I made my way forward to the counter, a standard deal with the plastic window stretching as far as I can see upward… A very long way. I placed my arm onto the counter, where a shadowy figure sat in a long, hooded cloak. ‘Name?’ A voice like tombstones dropping from the sky echoed around me.

‘Cyrus. Cyrus Barton.’ My own voice paled in comparison, thin and reedy.

‘Full name.’ Thud. Thud. I sighed.

‘Cyrus Martin Arthur Syllabub Barton the Third.’ How my family didn’t get bored with filling out paperwork after CMAS Bartons One and Two, I’ll never know. How many names does one person need? Made it useful to find aliases though. Always did need them in my line of work.

Crap, missed some questions there. Hold on, has my mouth been answering for me while I’ve not been paying attention?

‘Garbage disposal for the criminal elite. The Rubbish Man, they call me.’ Never seen a skull raise an eyebrow before, but this one managed it. ‘Gotta earn a living somehow.’

‘Hmph. Cause of death?’

‘I got shot.’ Well, I had. Kind of. In a fashion. A bit.

‘Pal,’ The word sounded foreign and wrong in that eldritch voice, ‘I’ve been working deceasions and passings for the past eight centuries. Know how many people die a year? Fifty five million people. Every single year. Even broken down by regions, still massive. And pal,’ There it was again. ‘If you just tell me how you died, I can get your paperwork finished and then you can move on.’

Dealing with jobsworths. Never figured the Grim Reaper would be one. ‘Well, Pal,’ I stressed the word, focusing on its realism in that strange, hot massive tiny room, ‘It all went a bit like this…’

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 90: Write a bucket list for your favourite superhero

The Bucket List of Conrad Evergreen, aka Bulkhead

  • Chat to Dr Clocks and REALLY experience the sixties.
  • Try being the villain for once
  • Finally tell Mr Disappear what an ass he is
  • Try out for the space games, middleweight strength class.
  • Actually finish a project. Every time I try and do a puzzle, some supervillain starts causing havoc and the bloody bits go everywhere. Or learn guitar. Or write a__
  • Goddamn it.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Just a short one today, but this weekend I begin my entry into the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2016!

Wish me luck!

Day 89: A Letter to the Editor

Dear Mr Editor,

Firstly, I’d like to thank you for such a well-presented, well thought out argument on the recent business of the Richtus-Margot merger. It was an interesting piece, full of drama and intrigue. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up.

Except for the fact that you could.

Mr Editor, I was there. I know what happened and Sir, you are completely wrong. So I require you to print a number of corrections, listed below.

One) The SOURCE technology was, ultimately, the cause of the merger. Following the events of July 22nd, SOURCE was reinvested by Margot, practically fully funded and without Margot, Richtus would have folded.

Two) One hundred and fifty two people died that day, not one hundred and fifty three.

Three) Daniel Richtus did not cause the attack. He did not incite the attack. The only thing Daniel Richtus did that day was science. He didn’t just push the boundaries, he smashed them.

Four) That one person who survived in my previous point, was myself. Though I was reported dead, I am in fact (unbelievably, I’m sure) alive. I have attached my Richtus Technologies ID card to this letter, along with a recent photo. You will be able to use the facial ID software that your newspaper currently uses to reveal that I am who I say I am.

I want this letter printed, in full. Should you wish to talk to me further, you can contact me on the number provided. I can tell you what really happened at Richtus.

Finally, though I’m sure you think that I’m a crackpot or a lunatic, check the apparent age of Richtus’ body in the morgue. Then call me.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Richtus, CEO Richtus Enterprise

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 88: Create an imaginary friend (human or not)

‘This is Misha!’ Thomas proudly gestures to the empty air beside him. He smiles, a wide grin that makes his blue eyes twinkle. ‘Misha says hello.’

‘Hello Misha. Would you like to come and play?’ Thomas whispers conspiratorially to the gap in the air.

‘Misha would like that. Can we have milk?’ Thomas swings his feet from side to side as he sits on the decking. I smile, telling him that of course they can. Thomas launches into a big long description about Misha, one of those long rambling speeches that children love to make describing everything from Misha’s bright blue eyes, Misha’s jet-black hair, Misha’s hooves and horns. I drifted off a little as I poured two glasses of milk, putting them to one side of a plate of biscuits. I tilted my head to one side, trying to clear the insistent buzzing. It had been plaguing me for days. Just a relentless humming that wasn’t going away.

I just put it down to those concerts in the eighties finally catching up with me. My hearing never was the same after Metallica at the Hammersmith 1988. That was intense.

‘Mishaaa. Come out, come out, wherever you are.’ Thomas sang from the sun-drenched veranda. He rushed into the kitchen, accompanied by clip-clopping hooves. Hold on…

‘Thomas. Is Misha human?’ I asked, fear rising in my throat. The buzzing was louder now, as if a swarm of bees had invaded my skull. Thomas just laughed, as if I’d made a ridiculous comment.

‘Don’t be silly Daddy. He says he’s a… a sub-purg… sub… sub-purgate mali… malifi… malificence?’

A voice clicked in my ear, . ‘It means I’m a demon. Ta-daa!’

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 87: Write a sermon for a beloved preacher who has been caught in a sex scandal.

My children, I stand before you today as proof. Proof that no man, saint nor sinner, is infallible. I have fallen from grace and can only ask your forgiveness.

My children, you come to me and you confide in me. Your secrets lie with me and the Lord, who in his infinite wisdom grants you forgiveness. While I respect that the Lord forgives me, I can only ask of you the same thing.

I stand before you, here and now, to ask you to forgive me as the Lord forgives you. I am human and we succumb to temptation. I preach here, but never have I had my faith tested so. But now I know. Now, I understand. I understand what it means to lose faith. I understand how you feel.

For years, the Lord has been the light. He has shown me the way, a lighthouse in the storm. But in these troubled times, my faith was shaken to its very foundations. We see tragedy spreading, from the USA to Nice, from Baghdad to Syria, Brussels. Horrors unlike any other.  I listened to the news and heard about one more tragedy and I found myself in a dark place. The lights had gone out. I reached for comfort from the Lord and found none. I felt abandoned and alone and I sought comfort from any place that I could. I found it in carnal pleasures, in temptations of the flesh.

Every time, I would feel wrong, distasteful and as if I was betraying the Lord. I would feel that I had lost sight of Him and I would pray. I would call into the dark and hear no response. And I fell further from his light.

Until I was discovered. You all know of the incident that I am referring to, but that day I heard my Lord again. And he told me, he said to me, ‘I forgive you.’ And I wept. I wept at his mercy. I wept with rage that he had left me, with comfort that he had returned. I wept because I was no longer alone. I had the Lord and he set his arm around my shoulders and told me ‘I forgive you.’

So I ask of you, my children. My family. I ask that you forgive me. I ask that you forgive the Lord when he is not there, and to know that he is returning. He is coming back. And finally, I ask that you forgive yourselves. Falling from God’s light is something that can happen to all of us. Recovering is the important thing, the long road back from the Darkness. But know that God in his power will be beside you, every step. And when you cannot walk, he will carry you.

He will be with you. He forgives us all.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 86: What nobody ever said to you

You will fail.

At some point in your life, you will fail. Nobody decided to mention this fact to me as I was growing up, and I spent a lot of time ahead of the curve, so I figured I could coast. I figured I could get away with it, with not working for it because it all came so naturally and nobody mentioned to me that at some point the whole house of card would come tumbling down because, as it turns out, you will fail.

All I needed was for someone to sit down with me and let me know that life wasn’t as easy as it appeared. Then I could have made it through. Instead, I reached my first proper challenge and BAM. There it is, out of left field, silently but surely tripping you up and making sure you make an arse of yourself along the way.

So, here it goes. A message to all those reading these notes. You will fail. It’s never as easy as it seems. JK Rowling got rejected from a load of publishers, Daniel Defoe was put in prison. The fact is that without our failures, we cannot succeed.

I just wish someone had made sure that that got through to me a long time ago. This is me telling you what I wish people had told me.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 85: Write, in ridiculous detail, directions on how to get to your house.

You want to get to my house? That’s fairly simple, as long as you’re switched on. Now, are you sitting comfortably?

Your journey begins at quarter past four in the morning. You may only reach the house on a day when sunrise falls exactly at quarter past four. AM. If you’re in a land where sunrise is in the PM, you’ve definitely taken a wrong turn somewhere. You must be up, out of bed and ready to go, watching for the first rays of sun to come towards you from the horizon. When that first ray breaks upon your body and your shadow first touches the ground, your journey can begin.

First, take a right. Walk fourteen paces. Turn around, back the way you came. Jump, twice. Jump high, knees tucked fully into the chest. Now, take the piece of chalk from your pocket. What do you mean you forgot the chalk? Go back. Try again.

You’ve taken the right, walked the paces, jumped… Now, you’ve got your chalk this time? Good. Draw a circle around your feet, no bigger than your shoulders. Place your hands on either side of your feet and say ‘Dos riga maltimun.’ If nothing happens, your pronunciation is most likely off. Correctly, it is ‘doze (as in toes) reegah (regal without the l) moltimoon. This should open the portal to Firredack.

Are you through? Are you there? If not, repeat the first few steps. I know, it’s irritating, but you’ll get there eventually. Think of the portal as step one. If you manage that one, you’ve reached what I like to call a save. Like in the video games, this is where you’ll come back to if you get a step wrong.

Not if you die though. Nothing fixes that. Sorry.

But anyway, you should see a statue on a hill in the distance. A tall figure of a striding man, reaching for the heavens. You should see the sun glinting off of part of his body. Walk towards that. Don’t stop walking, not if your legs get tired, not if you get tired. You do not need to eat. You do not need to sleep. You just need to walk until you reach the statue. Stopping leaves you vulnerable. The Ostrich Riders will be coming.

Don’t believe me? Stop and turn around. But don’t blame me if you can’t reach the house.

Let’s assume you’ve listened and are still coming. The glint is closer now, you’ve reached the statue and you’ll find a small door. It looks as though nothing could fit through it, barely the size of your hand. Place your palm to the door and tell it a secret. The statue should scoop you up in his hands and jump, a journey to the clouds.

Now, welcome to Cloud Nine. This is where most people really get stuck. You can only walk on the thunder clouds. Only the thunder clouds. Ominous rumblings are good. I don’t care how strong the white clouds look, no. Just don’t. If you do, you’re back on Earth. And it starts all over again.

Now, you’re still here. You’ve survived the Ostrich Riders, the clouds. You should be coming to the Fountain now. A shimmering azure pool, with a twisting waterspout in the centre. I really hope you can swim, because the spout brings you to the Garden. So, start swimming. And then spinning. And spinning. And flying. Keep your arms tucked in tight, and I’d advise keeping your mouth shut. The water tastes horrendous.

So, you’ve risen through the spout and should be deposited at the gates. Wrought iron, with big scary spikes on the top and there should be a sign on it.

It should say this.

Why would I have made it so difficult to get to where I live if I wanted to be visited all the time?


Yours sincerely,

Lagos Marinos von Sortos, Baron of the Aerial Estate

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 84: The talk-show host.

Phillip Carter, the eponymous character of Late Night with Carter, has jet black hair. It is obviously dyed, but that only adds to his charm. He is a man who is not going gracefully into the night, but has decided to grudgingly allow its little victories. The lines around his eyes, forged into being by the hammer of his smile, are a testament to his true age. Any time that anybody dared to ask, he’d smile his talk-show smile and say ‘I can’t tell you. All I can say is that Dorian Gray learnt everything from me.’ He always kept them guessing.

He has met hundreds, if not thousands of celebrities through his shows. There was the infamous incident with Karina Mitchell’s dress during the live show, where the blue fabric had got caught under the feet of her chair and had ripped completely off. Karina, as was her want, had been talking about her spiritual journey and how she’d shared so much of herself with the world. She had stood up, about to give Phillip a hug at the end of the show when the sound had echoed through the mics in the studio and she was stood, stark naked, in the middle of the set. The rest of the studio had gone silent, but Phillip Carter just stood up, covered her with his suit jacket and told people to stop staring.

And they had.

Phillip Carter, the eponymous host of Late Night with Carter, smiles as he walks off stage. He passes his suit jacket, when it isn’t being worn by a naked actress, to the harassed intern waiting in the wings. He pulls of his tie, laying it delicately on the couch in the brightly lit dressing room and looks into the mirror.

Phillip Carter, the man, looks back at him. He has jet black hair, but it is obviously dyed. Tinges of grey appear at his temples, crows feet appearing like arrows around his eyes, guiding people to the tell-tale signs of age. He reaches for a half empty bottle of single malt whiskey, pouring a generous measure into the crystal tumbler by the open bulbs. He sighs, and knocks it back in a gulp.

Phillip Carter, the talk show host, calls for his assistant, a bright young woman named Jennifer. She smiles at him, makes irreverent small talk about children and husbands between planning for guests.

Phillip Carter, the man, wishes he could compare notes. All he has is his conversations with celebrities. He is lonely. He is tired. He watches Jennifer leave, and sits in the wide leather armchair, watching the amber liquid that he swirls around his glass. He closes his eyes, listening to the bustling world outside the door, and lets the calm wash over him. He prepares to put the mask back on, to let Phillip Carter, talk show host, leave the room to face the world.


The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 83: The moment you knew you were no longer a child

T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring except for one naughty little boy who was so excited he couldn’t possibly sleep.

He tossed and he turned, he wriggled, he lay still, but nothing could help him. He was just eight years old. He hears the adults partying below him, a whole family gathered. Well, he wasn’t going to let them get the glory of meeting Santa. Why did they get to stay awake and he couldn’t?

He climbed off of his mattress on the floor, creeping slowly towards the door. He worried, step after step, that one of the floorboards will creak beneath his weight, but he made it safely through to the wooden door. He figures, if anybody catches him, he will just say he needed the toilet. They’re sure to believe him.

He takes more steps, arriving at the top of the stairs. The family are all in the back room, but the fireplace is in the front room, so he can just go and wait for Santa there. One step, two steps, three steps…

‘Right, I’ll just go take a bite of the mince pie then.’ Uncle Geoffrey, skinny as a rake and wearing glasses that were constantly falling from his pointed nose, calls. ‘Which brandy do I get this year, by the way?’

The boy’s father calls back to his brother, ‘I think we went with the Remy Martin. You know, the one you gave me last Christmas?’

‘Oooo, excellent!’ Uncle Geoffrey stumbles towards the front room. THe boy sits on the stairs, knees hugged close to his chest, unable to believe the words he’s hearing. How can they talk about stealing the food for Santa? ‘Right, got the mince pie…’ The voice is clearly from a mouth full of mincemeat and pastry, words struggling and sputtering. ‘Shit, I’ve got to do the carrot too.’ The boy is horrified. First Santa’s and now Rudolph’s? He jumps to his feet, rushing into the room.

‘Stop it, Uncle Geoffrey!’ He shouts in blind panic as Uncle Geoffrey lowers the carrot from his mouth. ‘That’s Rudolph’s!’

‘I… I… I was going to replace it?’ Geoffrey is dumbfounded. He doesn’t have kids of his own. What does he do? ‘That’s right, I was just a little peckish.’

‘LIAR!’ The boy shouts, running out the room and down the corridor, tears streaming from his eyes. His father waits in front of him, arms open, ready to give the boy a comforting embrace. The boy gratefully accepts it, feeling his father’s arms hold him tight.

‘It’s alright Ed. Come on now.’ His father’s words soothe him, but the boy knows something is wrong. ‘Let’s get you back to bed, alright? Or Santa won’t come, you know that.’

‘Santa isn’t coming anyway. One of the boys at school said it was just going to be you or Uncle Geoffrey in a suit. And I saw…’ He points toward the front room. ‘I saw him eat the carrot!’

The conversation goes on like this all the way back upstairs. The father, skilled in this art, deflects the observations, defends his brother with his replacement theory and works hard to reassure the boy. ‘Tell you what, I’ll get Santa to write something for you. How does that work?’

The boy is silent. Pondering. He waits for a long time before he says ‘Ok.’ But even with his eyes closed, the lights off, the door shut after his father rejoins the party, he does not sleep. There are no sleigh bells to be heard, no footsteps from downstairs other than the adults, no rustling in the chimney as Santa forces his way down.

‘Santa isn’t real.’ Ed says to himself as sleep finally comes to him.

The Idiot In Tin Foil

Day 82: Write about something you absolutely nothing about. Make all of it up.

‘Good morning class, welcome to Incan History. In today’s class, we will be investigating the Spanish Conquest and Cortez’ quest for El Dorado.’ I shuffled in my borrowed brogues across the raised stage to the podium, leaning in until the microphone feedback woke everybody up. ‘Now, I understand that you probably think this is a dry subject. Taught by Professor Mooneyham, it probably is. Does he still do the thing where he talks into his sandwich?’

There were a few murmurs in class, people who’d woken from their alcohol induced slumber as they realised this wasn’t going to be a normal lesson. ‘That’s a yes then. Well, I will not be talking into any sandwiches, simply into your ever expanding minds. By which I mean, I’m going to tell you all about the Spanish Conquests.’

‘Now, as everybody knows, the conquests began in 1492 when Columbo sailed to America with the Nina, the Pinta and the Guinness. The Great Explorer, who of course had been looking for India, arrived upon the land and said ‘Oi, mate, got any spices?’ To which the Natives replied, ‘Sod off pal, all we got is these funny lookin’ ‘erbs mate, innit.’ Of course, Columbo, not knowing the language, ran back to his ships and set sail for home, wondering why it was very cold and full of penguins when he got there. He ran to his Patron, Queen Isa… of Spain, and said ‘Mummy, Mummy, the horrible natives picked on me.’

The Queen looked at him, crying that ‘Nobody picks on my baby!’ and declared war. She chose Cortez, a man raised on cold, nutritious, gold, and sent him over to show those Natives who was boss. Cortez arrived with a large number more ships than Columbo and ran around in circles for a bit before marching. One of the Natives, a man known only to history, told Cortez of El Dorado. Now, as most of you know, Cortez was hungry by this point, having had no gold to eat for months, and so led all of his bajillion men on a crazed hunt for the fabled city.’

I rested my elbows on the podium, looking out over the crowd. ‘This is history, people! This is what history is, a total collection of bullshit, poised like dominos ready to fall. This is why we need research, why we need facts, why we need historians! I saw half of you taking notes throughout that speech, were you even paying attention to what you were writing?’ I slammed my palm down. ‘Wake up, people!’

‘Charles?’ Professor Mooneyham stood at the door. ‘What are you…?’ He didn’t get to finish his sentence. I tore off my tweed jacket and threw it into the class, all listening now as I ran through the door.

‘History is the future! Learn it!’

The Idiot in Tin Foil