Day 121: What is your shrink really thinking when you tell him about your day, your life, your hopes, your fears?

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Hey Doc. So, it’s been a long month.

Oh great, it’s David again. I swear he walked out of here last time swearing that he was cured, that everything was fine. Yeah, I’m in a great place, Doc. I’ll come back next month, just to tell you how great it all is. Hello David, how are you doing? Take a seat. Sofa or chair?

I’ll take the couch. I tell you Doc. I thought I was on top of the world last time…

You were. You’ve just decided to overreact to some meaningless insult. What’s happened?

Well, I was crossing the street and some dickhead nearly runs me over in his taxi? I mean, what even is that?

Unfortunate. If it had hit you, maybe I wouldn’t have to listen to your idiotic ramblings. How did that make you feel?

Angry, I guess. But also, calm.

Calm? This is a new one. He’s been angry, he’s been depressed, anxious. Everything else he could find in the dictionary of psychology. But calm? How do you mean, calm?

Like, calm. At peace. Must have been one of those near death experiences, ya know? I saw myself, about to get hit. I just kinda thought ‘Hey, if it’s my time, it’s my time.’

Certainly would have saved you four hundred pounds on this consultancy. I wonder what the Suicide Squad film is like? I really must get round to seeing it. Do you see this as a good thing? I’m not sure that I do. 

Well, I think so. I mean, surely it means that I’m coming to terms with my anger issues? If I felt that calm when I thought I was gonna die, then surely something’s going right? Though it did take me back to my depression.

God dammit David, you weren’t depressed. You’re wasting my time. You felt the depression returning? The answer’s no, because you weren’t depressed.

Well, not really. Just a faint flicker before the calm returned.

I really hate you David. Please take the hint now. So, if the calm returned, would you say that your therapy has helped? The answer is yes. The answer is yes. Please, please, please say yes. 

Well, yeah. It’s been good, coming to you. Let’s me get stuff off my chest. I feel I can tell you about anything. All the dark places.

David. You have no dark places. Just get out! Take the hint! If you leave early, me and Caroline can get a quickie in before Thomas arrives at three. David. We talked about this. Revisiting the dark places isn’t good for you.

Well, it’s all well and good you saying that Doc. But they’re there.

Goddammit. David. You need to take some time. Deal with the experience. Come back tomorrow, when you’ve had time to calm down. Remember the breathing exercises I taught you. Also known as try doing it once in a while. 

Yeah, I suppose you’re right. I’ll see you tomorrow Doc.

Goodbye David.

Maybe this time the fucking taxi driver will get it right. 

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 120: Describe something you wanted badly and once you got it, never used.

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I used to drag him around the jewellery shops. ‘Come on, let’s see how well you know me. Pick the engagement ring I’d want.’ He’d fake groan, and bumble around, starting with the hideous ones. Honestly, the trash that’s available these days.

But then, after a few months, he switched on. He started being more choosy, more specific in what he thought I’d like. He chose white gold in one shop, platinum in another, making sure that he properly registered my reaction. If in doubt, with me, always go for white gold. Platinum is just a bit pretentious. At least in my eyes.

We went through them all, sapphires, diamonds, rubies. Then we found it. It was perfect. A small, understated emerald, set into slender white gold band. I saw him eyeing up my reaction as he pretended to pass over it, but he knew. He knew it was perfect.

We left the shop that day without it. I knew that he’d pick it later, then he’d propose to me. It’s what I’ve wanted. It’s all I’ve wanted since I’ve known him. He’s everything to me.

So I waited. Patiently. For months. Nothing. I’d get excited every time we went for a romantic dinner somewhere, or we went for a long walk on the beach. But we’d have a lovely dinner, or a great time on the walk and then we’d go home. No sign of him on one knee.

So then I started waiting impatiently. Acting out. We’d go to parties with our friends and I’d get drunk. I’d tell stories. Some of them were true.

Some of them weren’t.

It got worse. But all I wanted was for him to propose. I wasn’t going to do it. I’d given him all the information. But nothing happened. We started rowing, proper screaming bitch fits at one another.

Charlotte and Micah told me it was normal, after I’d burst into tears after the third cosmopolitan. ‘It’s just a phase. It’s perfectly fine.’

Then I made it all not perfectly fine.

He came to the door after work one day. He knocked three times. I opened it in my underwear, knowing it was him.

He didn’t hesitate. He knelt, took my hand and managed to say my name.

‘Christina.’ That was as far as he got. He must have seen the man behind me.

The slender white gold band  dropped to the floorboards with a clatter. He looked at me with tears in his eyes before walking out of my life. The understated emerald stared at me from the floor, accusing me.

I still have the ring. I’m waiting for him to come back, to forgive me, to give me the ring and the life I’ve always wanted.

He’ll come back. Won’t he?

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 119: That day in Paris

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Tell me, dear reader, have you ever stared into the end of the world? Watched on as your entire life shatters into iridescent shards that fall in slow motion around you?

That’s what happened that day in Paris. In both the metaphorical and the literal senses.

It was a cold day. The winds had picked up, sending a biting chill through anybody unlucky enough to be outside. Autumn was descending rapidly into winter, temperatures plummeting with a frost peppering the grass. I remember the sun, just beginning to creep over the cathedral. They set up a street cafe in the middle of the square, right in the shadow. You’ve got the smell of the canal, crisp and cutting in the autumn climate.

I watched people for a while as I let my coffee settle. There was an incredibly flamboyant gentleman dancing down the street. I observed as his neon leg warmers descended, pooling around his ankles, but he ignored it. He continued dancing to whatever techno beat was flowing from his phone and not having a care in the world. It was refreshing to see.

I turned my head, lifted the coffee cup to my lips and took a sip. The steam rolled in front of my eyes, distorting that iconic window before me. It looked like it was bulging outwards, like a can under pressure. Like a pimple on the face of that beautiful building, straining against the forces inside.

The steam cleared. But the window was still straining. There was shouting from across the square, cries and yells from the various passersby. Legwarmers came sprinting past me, tinny music blaring from his headphones, long forgotten .

I don’t speak French, but some things are understandable in any language. Explosion being one of them. I turned my eyes westward.

They told me later that’s what saved me. As I looked westward, that’s when the window blew. Thousands of shards of glass ripped into the crowded square, tearing into all those people.

They pulled fifteen out of the back of my head alone. One piece, the size of my arm, punched through my right shoulder. I fell to the ground, stunned and surrounded by blood. My eyes squinted shut, and as I opened them I  felt the heat of the flames. Techno Warmers was next to me, stretching his hand towards me. I reached for him when the second explosion came.

Then I blacked out.

I lay in that field of stars and blood for a long time, feeling nothing but the cold creeping over me. Swaddling me in its icy embrace. Then it all went black.

***

I returned to Notre Dame a week later. It was no terrorist attack. Where the Cathedral had once stood, all that remained was a pool of ice cold water. No trace of the Cathedral remained.

Geologists were calling it unprecedented. A pocket of water rising through the mantle and the crust, superheated and broiling below the surface. Then, when it breached the surface, it detonated. Explosively.

Four hundred and twelve people dead on that day in Paris. Six hundred and forty seven injuries, including me. All because the Earth decided it was time to get its own back.

All in one day in Paris.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

 

Day 118: The long-lost roommate

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Three days.

That’s how long it’s been since Michael went through.

He’d taken the bag. There were two, one green sixty-five litre rucksack and one shoulder bag. Michael’s had all the survival gear. The fishing gear, the rain covers, the bandages. All of the currency. We called it the live and go bag.

The other one, the shoulder bag. That was the die and go bag. It had the weaponry. Everything we’d collected over the years. Two pistols. Completely illegal, by the way, but we had them. Two rifles. Those we actually had permits for. I was the better shot with the rifle, but Michael could take out five tin cans in a row from twenty metres with the pistols. And ammunition out the wazoo.

That was just our thing. We were prepared for anything. Had been since the start. But this… This was all about the gate.

Four days ago, the gate had appeared in our room. An eight foot door in the wall. Cold flames bursting across it’s flat surface, iron bars sunk into the fiery facsimile of wood. No heat, just turbulence and fury under a thin veneer of ice.

It’s the last place you’d expect for any strange appearance, our shared flat above a chinese takeaway but would you believe it, we came back from The Undercroft after a few whiskies and there it was. Shining, shimmering, terrifying.

We had an argument. I said we had to tell someone. He said we should go through it. It got aggressive. I’d said some incredibly derogatory things about his mother and a duck, he’d told me to roll my opinion into a cylinder and insert it length ways.

Then twenty four hours later, there’d been a hole in the dust. Shaped rather a lot like a sixty-five litre rucksack that was full of food, fishing gear and rain covers.

So I’m sat here. Waiting for Michael. Or I could…

If I let myself think about this, I’ll chicken. I’ll just…

The die and go bag is in my hand already.

Three steps.

Two steps.

One step.

I’ve gone through. Into the unknown.It’s hot. It’s dusty. And the door is gone.

It’s time to find Michael.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 117: A character discovers an object hidden many years ago in a family home

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Here my story ends. You have joined me for my trials and tribulations, my journey on the Afghan Hound and the relentless hounding that has followed me. The voices refuse to stop, they chase me, forever. I went to destroy the (the words here is blurred and illegible, it appears by tears. Further words blurred in such a manner in this copy will be represented by parentheses) but I couldn’t. It has such beauty. The (           ) and the artistry.  Every time I go near it, I hear it sing(   ), (          ) to me. I want to let it go, but I can’t. I put my hands in the flames before I (                            ) in, and withdrew them once they were red and raw. It punished me for daring to defy. 

I have decided. I will use the remains of my willpower and hide it. They are rebuilding the stable house at the manor, where they have said that they will be blocking up the cellar. I will put the object in there. 

I will then do the honourable thing. I will not inflict it upon the world. I shall remove the offending item in the equation. I will go on my terms, burnt hands and all. 

Consider this the farewell of Oscar Darius Hartwell. May this letter explain my journey. And may God help anybody who discovers it. 

We’ve lived in the Stable all my life. My family have been groundskeepers for the Hartwells for years. Me and Rupert Hartwell had spent years building dens in the woods, having swordfights. When you’ve got a whole manor grounds to play through, your imagination is the limit.

Then we found the skeleton. We were deep in the woods, the sun streaming through the trees. I remember it so well. You know in autumn, where it gets just cold enough for a frost to settle? All the leaves go crunchy underfoot? Mum and Lady Hartwell had sent us out with scarves and hats armed against the weather.

We’d taken a different path to usual. Rupe had said he wanted to explore, instead of going to the usual places. And we’d found a house.

You know the classic haunted house? Smashed windows, door hanging open in a mockery of an inviting nature. A scent in the air, one of rotting vegetation and general disrepair. It looked like it had burnt once, but had managed to cling to its frame. ‘Come on, Dock, let’s have a look!’

I mutely shook my head. The building felt wrong. It felt evil. But it was too late. Rupe had disappeared inside and I did what everybody does. I followed him.

We were in there twenty minutes when we found it. Staring sockets, loose finger bones scattered across the burnt floorboards. There was a sealed document tube on the ground too. I opened it up and read the pages inside, covered with the cursive script of Oscar Darius Hartwell.

Rupe snatched it from my hands, his eyes devouring the words. ‘Dock, you see what this means?’

I said nothing. Just nodded, slowly.

‘We can find whatever he’s hidden?’

‘But…’

‘Now now. Would Captain Abraham Docker hesitate?’ I shook my head. Rupert always had had a silver tongue, weaving a web to capture anybody who listened. ‘I didn’t think so. SO why should Master Abraham Docker hesitate now?’ I could feel my body nodding even as my soul shivered. ‘Now come on. It’s in your basement! It could be anything. Treasure? Or a map?’ Rupert smiled at me, a confident grin. All that grin did for me was start gnawing on my soul with bright, perfectly spaced teeth.

We’d trekked back through the woods. Got into the Stable and Rupe dragged me down to the cellar. They’d uncovered it in ’95 and Mum was converting it into a games room. Rupe started tapping on the walls and the floor.

Plink.

Plink.

Thunk. A hollow echo. ‘Dock. We found something.’ The bright, pearly whites of dread began gnashing wildly, a deafening cacophony that chilled me to my core. Rupert picked up the hammer in the corner and drew it back, a gun poised to go off.

That’s the moment I remember. That’s the moment everything went to shit.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 116: Waking up elsewhere

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I opened my eyes, blearily. The Duke of York may have had ten thousand men, but at least half of his company were marching up and down through the crevasses of my brain. Every single one of them was fuelled by tequila and bad decisions. I stared at the crack in the curtains, sunlight stabbing through into my vulnerable eyes.

Bright sunlight, too. Which was odd. I swear it was raining when I went to sleep. Or at least as I was walking home. My hair was definitely still damp. And my clothes were…

Missing. I was stark bollock naked.

I rolled over, trying to ignore the starburst that began just behind my eyes and rolled down to my roiling stomach. I looked at my watch, thankfully still there, solid and shining on my blurred wrist. ‘Half past one?’ I croaked in a voice I’d clearly stolen from Batman. ‘What even happened last night?’ I clutched at the duvet as if it was a lifeline.

‘Good morning, rise and shine and all that nonsense!’ A gruff voice echoed from behind me. I would have rolled over, but after the first wave of nausea I was hesitant to try again. ‘Now, it is time that you found your feet and got out of the beds!’ The English was off-centre, as if it had been run through a translator once or twice and then turned back into English. The meaning was there, just a bit confused.

I was still pondering the language when a giant hand closed around my neck. I was yanked from the bed like a rag doll and held off the floor. I could feel my spine popping as I was turned around to face a beast.

‘Hello Sir! Welcome to The Abbey.’ The creature, with a face that looked like it had been sculpted badly out of clay, yelled at me.I called it gruff before, but it was closer to being artificial. ‘Time for the dressings and the awakening days.’ The creature place me gently on the floor and clomped away. Clomping was the only way to describe it, heavy footfalls deliberately placed, strangely delicate but firm. He thudded away into a room down the stone corridor. ‘Good morning, rise and shine and all that nonsense!’ His coarse voice trailed as he clomped into the next room.

I sat in a heap on the floor, bewildered. The soldiers in my head had all taken a tumble when the creature had dragged me from the bed, but now they were back and drumming their little hearts out. I screwed my eyes shut, hoping to get some clarity.

I got nothing. When I managed to clear the cotton wool from my mind, bearing in mind it was still fuzzy, I slowly let the light back into my head. I saw a jumpsuit, neatly folded on the table next to me, along with a pair of black hi-tops. An odd combination, but one that I can work.

The real question… Where the hell am I?

The Idiot in Tin Foil

 

Day 115: The last thing you’d want to do

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‘Are you sure he stashed it down here?’ Tim said nasally, poking at something unmentionable in the lamplight. I didn’t respond, as that would involve opening my mouth and in this pungent atmosphere, that isn’t something I was going to risk. The hum of our headlamps mixed with the slurps and gurgles of the… I’m hesitant to call it water. It might have been water, once. Now it was more akin to primordial ooze.

I’m fairly sure I could see life being created in the corner. At the very least, we were surrounded by death. We’d passed three human corpses already and countless animal ones. We’d ignored the corpses. They were past the point of no return.

I understand that sounds stupid, seeing as they were quite firmly dead. What I mean is that they were well… Mostly bones. Nothing useful left on them. Nothing to scavenge there. And anyway, Tim and me had a goal. A purpose.

Crazy Joe told us about this place. You followed the sewers, down from the old station. And that was fun enough to get into. The police were all over it like a rash. Some kind of bomb threat. But the best thing about the whole situation is that when the police do something, they go all out. Hundreds of people, all milling around? Never an easier time than that for two people to slip by in jumpsuits and backpacks.

What, you think I’m crazy for listening to Crazy Joe? He’s only called that because of how he ended up in prison. Now that one’s a tale. But this isn’t his story.

But that’s where we’re up to. Got past the police, got into the sewers and damn… I couldn’t stand it. I was ready to go when.

‘Ey, yo. I think I got something.’ Tim prodded again, a thunk resounding around the small space. I turned to face him. There it was.

One safe, exactly where Joe had said. Now for the tricky part…

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Damn it man, the post button is not an optional extra! Apologies for my tardiness.

Day 114: Honesty

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They always told me that honesty was the best policy. And I believed them. I believed them wholeheartedly.

Then honesty started getting me into trouble.

‘Do you think this dress makes me look fat?’ She’d asked me.

‘Yeah, a little bit.’ I had replied.She didn’t speak to me for four days and she punched me in the jaw.

‘Hey, maybe I should ask Jessica out?’ David had said, hopefully.

‘You’ve got more chance of pissing whiskey.’ And David went off in a huff.

Honestly, I don’t get honesty. Without the little lies that make the world go around, what would we be? I’m starting to think that’s humanity’s true tell of evolution. We evolved the ability to lie.

What would the world be like if everybody had to tell the truth? No little white lies, no whoppers. Just the truth, plain and harsh.

I think honesty would cause more death and destruction than anything else. Honest politicians, honest spouses… You’d say what you really felt, because you didn’t have a choice.

Honesty without limits. Honesty gone wild.

I hope to see it one day.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 113: It’s 2100 and the world is running out of fresh water. Describe a typical day.

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A wet tongue rolled across my face, hot breath blowing into my face with a deep woof. I said something intelligent, like ‘Berglmcshammy’ as my blue, bloodshot eyes snap open. I raised my hand to my slobbery face and stared into the panting face of my German Shepherd. ‘Hero? Get off.’

Another low woof in reply, and I pushed him away. ‘I know, I know. Time to get going.’ My mouth felt like I’d been at Mama Jean’s moonshine all last night, so I could only imagine how Hero must be doing.

At least he’s a shorthair. I met one Watermapper out of Mountainside who had an Old English Sheepdog. Personally I’m surprised the poor creature was still going. Hero put him to shame though. The Sheepdog had completely missed a potential mining site, but Hero had found it. That’s another tick in the box.

I rolled off my sleeping mat and crawled into the morning sun. Felt my vertebrae click one after the other as I rolled my spine. Some people say it’s good for me, some don’t. I don’t care. Makes me feel better. Especially after a night on the ground. I watched as Hero bounded off excitedly into the distance. I hoped it was water this time, though I could do with some breakfast. My stomach grumbled loudly in reply.

The dog came back with a sad looking lump of fur in his jaws. ‘Thanks Hero. Good boy.’ He dropped the sorry mess at my feet and looked up at me with those big eyes of his. ‘Squirrel?’ I said sarcastically. He wasn’t going to realise, he was a dog. ‘I love squirrel!’ I hate squirrel. I fussed him anyway. He had just bought me breakfast.

I dealt with it. Food is food out here in the desert. Skinned it slowly then roasted it over an open fire. Fires were certainly not hard to come by out here. But water was the real reason we were out here. Irwin Johnson, Watermapper First Class. Accompanied by Hero, German Shepherd. That’s what it said on our cards. That’s how much this world relies on water, the people who go find it get trading cards made for them.

I could have been a miner, down at that new lake they’d found beneath Tartarus. At least then I’d get to settle, instead of gallivanting across the waste all the time. Could have been a trader with one of the caravans running from the desalination plants on the coast. But instead, I’d fallen for the propaganda and joined the Watermappers. Those damn posters, Lord Kitchener and that stupid finger of his.

JOIN THE ELITES

SEE THE WORLD

 

I’ve seen a lot of the world. Most of it is sand, pitted with sad little settlements that are wilting in the heat. Occasionally, there’s darker sand. I saw the remains of a tree once, that was fun.

But I’ve gotten off track. We saddled up for the day after the tasty, tasty squirrel. I placed that beaten up helmet back on my head and started the engine. The bike was definitely due for a clean out tonight. Sand gets everywhere. I let Hero have a few sips of water then raised the bottle to my lips. It was going to be a hot one. We could do with finding something today.

Hero dived into the sidecar and looked up at me. ‘What?’ His eyes seemed to be screaming at me to go. ‘Alright, alright. Stop nagging.’ And we set off across the sands.

Me and Hero go way back. First day that I’d entered the Mappers Academy, I’d been hit by a streaking missile of fluff. He couldn’t have been more than eight weeks old, but he packed a punch. I’d picked him up and looked into those big, brown eyes of his. ‘I’m not getting attached to you.’ I’d told him.

I’d lied.

Hero’s tongue lolled out of his mouth in the breeze. If he barked, it was once for a water source and twice for a foreign scent.

He woofed, once.

‘Woof right back at you.’ I told him. I checked the POC, the wrist computer that showed two things. Active sites and recently flagged. It was one of the four essentials of the Watermapper. POC, Shotgun, Radio and Dog. That’s right, even the bike isn’t essential. It’s just easy because fuel’s cheaper than water.

POC showed a site nearby, flagged by Pentecost. He was from Olympus Settlement, one of the best Watermappers in the world. Definitely worth checking out. I gunned the engine, rolling us across the dunes toward the site.

That’s when Hero barked twice. Officially, that’s a foreign scent. Any Mapper worth his salt knows what it really means though.

Raiders. Waterchasers. There’s a society of them out here, living as nomads. They’ll do anything to keep the Mappers away. I looked down at Hero, breaking the shotgun over my arm as I did so.

‘Come on then, Hero. Let’s get them, boy.’

The Idiot in Tin Foil

 

Day 112: What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

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Sleep!

Oh blessed freedom of dreams, come and claim your poor servant. He is a slave to inspiration, cursed by the muses to create and drive forward to completion. There isn’t a goal in sight, but he keeps going. He feels his head nodding and then…

Sleep!

Morpheus, god of dreams, I beg of you to allow my spirit to wander through the darkness. Allow my inspiration to strike as my poor body rests, recuperates from the hammering upon the anvils of an ordinary work day. My body, trapped in chains akin to Prometheus while the eagle of industry pecks at my ingenuity. My tortured body begins to rest, my eyes begin to droop when…

Sleep!

Any deity who will listen, please just let me get some rest. Why do you curse me with this that I must have my ideas seconds before I slip beneath the darkness to rest. I must get them down, otherwise I will be stuck, rogue ideas wandering the world until they find some unsuspecting mind to sneak inside that doesn’t belong to me. I must be selfish, keep those ideas, nurture them until they are grown and ready to be loosed upon this carefree world. With that thought I can finally begin to rest until…

Sleep!

My head hits the pillow and a battle flashes before my eyes, fire and fury and blood surrounding my imagination, giving way as I roll over into a still lake, mysterious bodies lurking in the depths as a wave rolls in and accompanies my duvet in crashing over me, sending me tumbling into a fantasy land where everything fades to black…

Sleep.

It is peaceful. It is dark. I am at one with myself.

Hey, I should write that down!

The Idiot in Tin Foil