With a supreme effort, Michael Selwyn Barton opened one sensationally bloodshot eye.
In a series of weak, random twitches, it tried to focus on some of the pale, shadowy shapes within the room.
But the sad fact was, the images received on his retina could not be transmitted to what was left of his brain. The power simply wasn’t available. His eye, having performed well above the level that could be expected of any reasonable organ, closed again, pulsating rather violently, as his eyelashes met.
Even a man on a galloping something, though that would have been a rare event inside Mick’s tiny, lino-clad Soho office, could have seen he must have been happier at other times in his life.
A grubby string vest, faded British Film Institute underpants and black socks with holes in the toes were bad enough, but there must have been an additional destructive force in play.
The previous evening, there had been a celebration. Mick had downed three pints in an hour - and this was the apocalyptic result. It was, without doubt, his own fault. He didn’t normally drink sherry.
However, despite appearances, he was clinging to life. A few moments after the eyelid adventure, he began dreaming a pleasant dream, featuring beautiful, soft-focus images, probably shot on HDV Progressive, of the Dan Dare mobile which had once hung over his cot.
He snuggled his substantial bulk down into the office hammock, and moved to an even deeper comatose level. This was helped, no doubt, by the warmth generated as he began peeing gently, but steadily, into his unwashed, unloved underpants.
Directly below the hammock, was an old oak desk with a beautiful, antique, green leather embossed surface, across which, lay, face up, another body - pale, thin, semi-naked, unshaven and completely rigid. Partly-eaten slices of microwaved pizza were stuck to his bare chest, and the whole ensemble was finished off with Y-fronts that were too large and a pair of threadbare tartan slippers. If this body had not passed through death’s door, it had certainly been fumbling with the keys trying to find the keyhole.
Two things were immediately obvious. The body - which, on more formal occasions, was known as James Redfern Chartwell - had been poorly. And it had rolled over in the night. The clues were obvious - a multi-coloured selection of plastic-coated, paper clips attached to its face by a thin, encrusted layer of something nasty.
The hammock was obviously not designed to be peed into, and, after about twenty minutes, the cotton-polyester blend was breached. Steady drips of urine, no doubt with a similar composition to an illegal discharge from a secret Albanian nuclear facility, began to fall.
They fell through an atmosphere polluted by the unsavoury odour of regurgitated lamb vindaloo, stale alcohol and uncontrolled gaseous emissions, and began anointing the head of the body on the desk.
Neither of them stirred.
At least, not for another three hours.
It was around midday when, in a voice that came from the bottom of a deep well, Mick turned in his hammock and called out, ‘‘Ere Jim.’
There was no reply, but Mick was undeterred. There was important information to impart.
‘‘Ere Jim,’ he repeated. And, with as much dignity as he could muster, announced, ‘my scrotum smells of kippers.’
What was left of Jim’s intellect must have been stirred, because he responded. His voice sounded as though it came from a mouth stuffed with wet cardboard.
‘Is that Manx kippers or Scottish kippers? When you’re talking personal hygiene, Michael, it’s important to be precise.’
Encouraged by this response, Mick rolled to the edge of the hammock, misjudged his centre of gravity and fell heavily onto his associate below.
Jim gave a short, strangled scream and together they tipped off the desk onto the linoleum in a melange of fill-your-own sherry bottles, tinfoil curry containers, paperclips, underpants, plastic spoons, cold chips in newspaper and the copious contents of Mick’s bladder.
After a few minutes, Mick raised himself up on his elbow.
’James, my old geranium, I want you to savour this moment. Savour it!
Mick shook Jim, but there was no response, not that the lack of an audience ever blunted his oratorical skills. Despite his slurred voice and vaguely waving arm, Mick managed to deliver a message of encouragement to his comatose colleague.
‘Gentlemen in England now-a-bed strut and fret their hour upon the stage. But we, we happy few, we band of brothers know that nothing - and I really do mean, y’know, like fuck all - will stop us getting a Bring-Your-Own bottle and a half of that life, liberty and pursuit of bollocks stuff.’
Message delivered, Mick gave a huge belch and passed out.
The two of them curled up together and slept peacefully until early evening.
All film and video companies have their ups and downs. And you could be forgiven for thinking that, for the two directors of Implosion Productions, this was, absolutely, the lowest point of their professional careers.
But you would be wrong.
Things were about to get worse. A lot worse…