Confessions of a Black Dog

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Chapter 20

“I need to speak to him” thought Sam as a chill winter’s breeze blew against his ears. It was a typically cold and grim winter’s morning. He wondered what frostbite felt like. It’s funny how the colder something becomes, the more it burns. All extremes end in burning.

The weather was really getting Sam down.

It was raining cats and dogs as he passed the old Catholic church in Victoria. He stopped and poked his head through the door. There was a Mass in progress. He saw all the devoted there waiting for their Eucharist amongst the ornate baroque surrounding. The blood and the flesh; a practice based on Bacchanalian pagan rites, on cannibalism. The tribes in the Amazon that still practice cannibalism believe that they eat the souls of their meal, that they absorb them.

Transubstantiation.

He gently entered the place of worship and sat at the back watching the devoted souls searching themselves for their sins, while the priest absorbed those sins and dished out the help and punishment that he, a man thought was appropriate. Watching the spectacle in front of him, he found himself quite drawn to it. The theatre, something that Protestantism had lost in its puritanical outrage, an outrage that had created a monster, the most powerful monster in the world.

America.

He stood up and walked towards the altar and the priest, the soft and holy sepulchre light of the candles guiding his way. Looking around him, he saw the look of apologetic hope on the face of old women and young girls. People sat in peaceful contemplation and the odd one weeping in the corner. Were they thinking of a lost relative or secret abortion?

In front of him was an effigy of Christ suffering on the cross.

“You have been haunting me my whole life, you bastard” he thought.

Standing at the end of the line of believers, Sam found himself to be both disgusted and elated. He felt like a trespasser and traitor. In front of him was a lady. She was blonde and from what Sam could tell was foreign and attractive. He felt he wanted to take her right there and then on the altar, in front of her god. He began to get hard and blushed. Then it was his turn. He took the wafer and the wine. He swallowed them both and he stared at Christ.

“I hate you”

Sam hoped the nails hurt, he hoped that his suffering had not ended at the crucifixion. He hoped he knew and felt guilty at what had been done in the name of his creed. A so-called religion of love. He turned around and felt himself shaking with anger. It was anger at himself. You only hate the things that you once loved. That is the nature of hate. It is different from contempt. To hold something in contempt is to perceive its worthlessness, this is not hate, it is a form of indifference.

It cannot hurt.

His shaking hands were flexing themselves into fists and he sat down staring at the effigy.

“I have cast fire upon the world, and look, I’m guarding it until it blazes”, Christ said in the Gospel of Thomas.

The candles moved with a gentle wind and their light, their fire blossomed.

The spark ignited here and Nature’s deep inhalation and exultation nurtured the tiny fire-being.

With avarice it began to consume the room, smoke rising from the floorboards as it crawled up the richly coloured curtains, to the pews, the walls alight, a fiesta of crackling orange and red, the fumes from trinkets and furniture. Sam saw the priest burning in front of his sad and woeful figure of worship.

He saw the roof crumbling and letting in the real light of the day.

He saw his wooden nemesis burning and bubbling as the paint was stripped off his precious body, Sam hoped that he felt this burning for all those who had died in his name.

Sam hoped he was crying.

The flames set everyone free.

The flames dowsed the rain outside and began engulfing all but the cucarachas who always endure.

The flames spread throughout the city, burning all types of sacrificial altars, from churches to marketplace, everywhere that dullard animal Man gives pieces of his half-dead soul willingly.

All became ashes, all that was living and inanimate, the legs of chairs and tails of dogs, until the furnace had nothing more to gobble.

But all was not lost, my friends!

Tiny hot embers leapt aboard ships bound for foreign climes and waited

smouldering for a time to give their gift to the whole world.

“’I”

Sam opened his eyes.

“’I” said female voice. It took Sam a second to get his bearings, the voice came from the woman that had stood in front of him.

“Hello” Sam replied somewhat in shock, “who are you?”

The woman cocked her head to the side, furrowed her brow and smiled curiously. She was lovely. Long strawberry blonde hair, green eyes, dressed in black. An angel.

“’I, I’m Sophia. ’Aven’t seen you ’ere before.”

He couldn’t place her accent. It was Mediterranean, Italian maybe, or perhaps Spanish. He became interested.

“Hello, Sophia. I’m Sam.”

They shook hands.

“I’ve never been ’ere before so you probably haven’t seen me before. I don’t go to church much.” Then changing the subject “Where ’re you from Sophia?”

“Italy”

Of course, the dropping of the “h” and the soft vowel endings to all words.

Italian.

“Ahhh… thought it was one of those pesky Mediterranean countries” he said smiling. She giggled and Sam felt embarrassed. he felt like a child again being kisses in the playground. He wanted to ask her if she wanted a coffee, but something stopped him. He had no job, no hope, it wouldn’t be fair on her and she seemed nice. She had a kind and gentle face. He didn’t deserve such luck. He made his excuses and began to leave. Walking through the doors and out into the open air he felt short of breath. He heard somebody come out just after him. It was Sophia.

“Would you like to go for a walk?” she asked, her eyes coaxing him.

Fuck it, does the torture never stop?

Just tell her “no” and be done with it.

You paranoid fuck, what would you be able to talk to a Catholic about?

Just say “no”.

“Sure, why not?”

The rain had stopped but the wind was still punishing. They decided to go for a cup of tea. Sam discovered that Sophia preferred tea to coffee. Another myth blown. He found her interesting. They talked about her life. She was in London studying for her PHD in English Drama. She loved England. She felt like it was her second home. She hoped to live in London one day, she wanted to teach Italian. She liked English people’s accent. She liked Sam because he seemed shy.

“I like shy men, they’re usually ’iding something” she squinted, judging his reaction.

Sam looked down into his mug of tea.

“Shy boy!”

“Just a little confused that’s all. You seem to be a very nice person. Are you sure you exist?”

“No. I’m not sure. Maybe I don’t”

“So, I could well be sat ’ere talking to myself and looking like a lunatic.”

“Si, it’s possible.”

“Oh, well. Won’t be the first time.”

“Really, you often speak to yourself?”

“Speak to myself, shout at myself, sing to myself. In fact all my communication’s one way. It’s a problem”

“You’re funny.”

“That’s one word for me. I s’pose”

Sam told Sophia that he had to leave and go and see someone. Sophia seemed a little disappointed but there was nothing that could be done, Sam had to go. They swapped phone numbers and arranged to meet a couple of days later. As she left she gave Sam a quick peck on the cheek. Sam felt content for once and strengthened enough for his next meeting.

Sam knew where to find him.

Oxford Circus.

Consumer Central, the mother lode of all incomplete hopes.

Walking up the steps of the tube, past the booths where you can get your shoes repaired and buy your cigarettes, a shaft of sunlight pierced the exit; the weary winter’s sun had finally decided to show itself. Come rain or shine, the shoppers were always there. The crowd in front of him revealed themselves. They were pushing and pulling, each one trying to get what they wanted. The collective will. If only it could be harnessed into something more than the will to shop, then what power they would have. It could topple governments and empires. It could never happen. Not now. Television and other methods of control had put pay to that. Think how they want you think, and be told that your life is only of worth if you tow the line.

Looking around him at the noisy crossroads, the buses and taxis edging their way eternally for one end of the city to the other, the shops doors open welcoming the devoted, the shopping zombies shuffling and wide-eyed in their pre-Christmas shopping, those hungry ghosts (pretas), he found that he momentarily lost his fear of the marketplace and caught himself laughing at it all, his disgust turned to jest.

“Is this it?” he guffawed, “Is this what we’re all reduced to?”

Then he heard a familiar voice in the distance above all the noise around him, it had been mechanically changed but was still recognisable.

“Be a winner not a sinner, people. Jesus loves you, yes indeed. He’s coming back sooner than you think. Just open your ’earts to ’im or suffer the torment of endless pain, people…” and so it went on.

Sam stood under the eaves of a shop, sparked up a cigarette and watched the one man carnival go on. The man was a good half a foot taller than Sam. Like Sam he had swarthy skin and curly black hair. He was slim and had the stoic handsomeness of a young street cat. He was stood on an island in the middle of the road, speaking into a loudhailer. He was staring coldly at everyone passing him by. He saw their smirking disparaging faces. He didn’t care. He spoke with a booming yet calm voice, well practiced at speaking at those lower than himself. Never get angry in public, they’re just not worth it.

“You’re going to ’ell” he spoke pointing at a fat woman in a shell suit surrounded by her brood of squawking children, “And you” he said to a group of gangly teenagers all hip hop attitude with dreams of pimpdom. Around the corner a group of Hare Krishna devotees appeared; all yellow robes, with the smiles of ex-junkies, tinkle tinkle bells and tambourines, and Hare Hare Krishna Krishna. The man reared up, stared with the sneer of an enemy, “And you’re definitely going to ’ell, people” he spat quietly, almost whispering. It was both amusing and sinister. It was psychedelic.

Sam stood and watched him for five minutes.

Then when he’d had enough of the show, he finished his fag, dropped it and walked towards his brother.

“Hello Edward”

Edward turned his head, stopped his quiet bombast and put his loudhailer down.

“Samuel, come to join us?” he asked smiling maliciously.

“We need t’talk” said Sam feeling uncomfortable stood in the street and having all and sundry staring at him. He began to feel agoraphobic.

“So, you got my note, eh, boy?”

“Yeah… how’re things? See ya still don’t have a job”

“I do the Lord’s work, Samuel, you know that. The most beautiful job in the world. All these sinners to be saved.”

“So, how many ’ave joined you today, Ed?”

“Pearls before swine, dear Sam.”

“I thought they’d enforced an asbo on you?”

“Oh, they did and we moved, but now they police and all the helpers of the authorities, those small people, they seem to have forgotten about us. The Lord knows we’re his true servants, Samuel. He’s helping us.”

“Really. Look, let’s get a tea.”

“Yes, brother. Oh well, I s’pose those that don’t hear now will burn in the endless fires of ’ell. It’s all in God’s plan. He wouldn’t deny me a cuppa.”

“Indeed”

They both made their way to a little Italian deli around the corner on Margaret Street, a small and friendly place that Sam knew. Better to be on one’s own territory when dealing with the enemy. And an enemy Edward was. All throughout Sam’s childhood and formative years Edward had embraced his role as an older sibling with pride. For him that meant psychological and physical torture of those seen to be lower than him.

The spider eats the moth.

Edward had embraced his father’s faith with a vengeance. He had become hellfire and brimstone. Old Testament. Even when he was small, he had seen his brother’s gift for foresight and reverie as a gift, not from his god but from some satanic power and he hated him for it. He was an embarrassment, a freak, the black sheep. When he was old enough, Edward became a lay preacher, travelling amongst the Welsh hills in his beat up old Nissan Sunny. Spreading the good word in all his spite. It became his mission. He had to save souls from the threat living right there amongst them.

Edward eventually went to theological college in the small seaside town of Aberystwyth. It was a student town with a pebble beach and small soulless pier, a place for fruit machines, yet it had one of the most prized libraries in Britain. He spent most of time in the library or in his room, pouring over theological books while the rain pelted down against the cold grey slate of his surroundings. He sometimes spent a sunny afternoon stood on the corner of the red bricked bank preaching to the deaf crowd, soaking up their ridicule and abuse. It was here he honed his craft.

It was in the library that he first met Bronwyn. She was in her first year at university, while Edward was in his second and seemed so pure and innocent. It was natural that a man such as Edward would feel attracted to a girl such as her. She was attracted to his intense magnetism and rugged looks, she saw someone in him with something to give to the world.

They married just after Edward graduated and even though he made her leave her studies and devote her life to being a housebound wife, the first year seemed like married bliss to anyone on the outside looking in. Every Sunday they drove to this or that half empty chapel and scared the devoted half to death with his measured rantings. The perfect Christian couple, him, full of righteous anger like Christ himself, her, the mouse-like wife, polite with a hint of saintly sadness. If the truth be told Edward had taken to manipulating and using his wife in his holy crusade. Even on their wedding night behind the closed doors of their squalid boarding room accommodation, he refused to consummate his marriage, calling it, “a sordid occupation and one that’ll only bring children t’ taint the world with their sin.”

Bronwyn tried to understand the extremities of her husband and she bore his scorn and suffered his spiritual self flagellation before the little wooden cross in their bedroom. She was made to watch as he stood naked before his icon, insulting and blaspheming against his own flesh. She noticed that this was the only time he got aroused. She was made to do. The first time she refused and he slapped her so hard that her ears almost popped. She would never refuse again. It became a weekly ritual and he was a servant of the Lord, she was too afraid and weak for a rebellion. So it went for three years, until she met a younger student on her secretive visits to the library where she read books by Dylan Thomas and Wilfred Owen. Edward would be on the street corner, in his finery, speaking. He was beginning to acquire quite a few followers. It seemed that every lunatic from Merthyr to Dolgellau was drawn to him.

Bronwyn met the student every time she was in the library. They struck up a friendship, and then it became more. Her very human desires spilled out of her like a tsunami. She was, if you excuse the expression, a veritable animal in the sack.

There were no taboos.

The boy got an education.

It couldn’t last, of course. Not in a small town like that.

Eyes poking out the sides of every curtain, tongues made for wagging.

Edward found out from a malicious old bat, the kind of person who destroys people lives for mere sport. And that afternoon he beat Bronwyn with his walking stick and tied her naked to the bed. He then proceeded to rape her with everything he could lay his hands on, including his walking stick. He never fucked her with his prick, though in the heat of the attack she saw him staring at the cross on the wall.

He was hard.

He knew that she enjoyed fornication so much.

She suffered repeatedly for four hours.

“Are you well pleased?” he asked as he left her evening.

She was still tied the bed and weeping blood and tears.

When he caught up with his rival in a student pub, he spat in the landlady’s face calling her “Priestess of Sin” and had to be pulled off his adversary for fear of murder and forcibly removed. The police were phoned but before returning home the half crazed man kicked down a road sign and sent it flying through the pub window shattering the glass and injuring a young underage girl. Just as the sign crashed into the glass the police appeared and Edward ran. The police caught him on the stony beach and as they pinned to the ground and cuffed him, he screamed, still struggling, kicking and spitting, “YOU’RE ALL COMING TO HELL WITH ME!”

The police kicked open the door of his bedsit and found the girl lying there half conscious, but alive.

His trial even reached the attention of the national tabloid newspapers and they made Edward out to be some kind of Charles Manson in the valleys. After the judge and jury found out about how he had treated poor Bronwyn, bail was out of the question. His father and mother were devastated. He was demonised and sent to the prison in Swansea. He served seven years, until the shrink deemed him fit to join society.

In all that time Bronwyn had failed to escape his resentment. She moved back to her parent’s house, decent people who dealt with the embarrassment and constant flow of reporters during the trial with dignity and quiet. They never talked to the reporters, and kept their daughter safe. When Edward went down, Bronwyn filed for divorce but was still subject to abuse and threats from Edward’s followers when she saw them in public. They even sent dogshit and pages of the St. James Bible in the post. Her friends stopped calling her as nobody cares for the cursed.

She killed herself one dawn.

Her parents found her hanging in her bedroom.

She had used her wedding night nightie as the noose.

When Edward got out of prison he decided to head for London.

Most of his followers had either vilified, forgotten him or died on a park bench, naked.

He would soon make others.

London was full of the dispossessed.

“So, what d’ya want Edward?”

Sam stared at his brother, seeing all the lies and beatings from his childhood and he wondered why this evil bastard was his brother. What the fuck had he done to deserve him?

“Decided to ’ave a family meeting, dear Sam. It’s been so long ’asn’t it?”

“Stop fucking about. This note,” said Sam pulling a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and throwing it across the table at his brother’s head, “…what did ya mean?”

Edward picked up and opened the note, on it in pencil was scrawled:

“Dear Sam,

I know what you two did,

love,

your brother.”

Edward smiled, crumpled the paper up and dropped it into the ashtray.

“Just tidying up some ends, little brother”

“What’re you talking about?”

“Ohhhh… Sam, I was there y’know. All those years ago”

“You were where, man?”

“I saw you n’ her. The dark ‘aired little slut. I saw you take your clothes off an’ I saw what ya did, boy.”

Sam’s eyes widened, he began to feel his heart beating in his chest.

“You were there?”

“Yes.”

“I see.” Sam was stumped and his thoughts spilled out of his mouth. “Why tell me? I mean why, now?”

“Jesus told me to. Plain n’ simple. You’re damned, Sam. I’m your only ’ope, brother.”

Sam suddenly had the wild urge to laugh. This demented little shit actually thought he could bring Sam into his fold by bringing up something that happened when he was a kid. He covered his eyes with his hands and started chuckling seeing all the coloured snowflakes dancing with his exhalations. Jesus, it happened so long ago. Sam took his hands away from his face, a single happy tear flowed down his face. He shook his head and rubbed his eyes.

“Any… anyway, how did ya find my address?”

“Dear Mother. I know Father despises me the poor ignorant fool after all I did for him as a child, we’re such an embarrassment to ’im. But Mother believes I’ve repented. Women do like the old repentance card. Like I don’t ’ave me own deal with God?” he smirked.

“Yeah, seems like you’ve got blood on your hands too.”

Edward seemed visibly riled for the first time, it lasted a mere flash of his brilliant white eyes. He had the whitest white of the eyes that Sam had ever seen, they made his pupils seem all the darker. He never noticed them when he was a child. They seemed to glow with a fanaticism; Sam imagined that they were same eyes as Hitler or Tomas De Torquemada. He was an asura, a maniacal and obsessive demon after the fruits of his mind.

Edward tilted his head and smiled almost pityingly.

“If you’re talkin’ about the wife, and believe me she still is my wife ’cause the divorce was never finalised, then that little adulteress did it to herself, the moment she disobeyed me. When I’m sat in the halls of glory, I’ll stare down at her wretched soul being torn apart eternally and I’ll weep, Sam. I’ll weep for her. I’m not heartless, dear boy. I’m a man of God.”

“You sick bastard.”

“Now, now, Sam. Anyway, how is little Joy? I believe you’ve seen her recently.”

“How did ya know?”

“My, what a reunion that must have been. Have you fucked ’er, yet? Let’s just say I see a lot on the streets.”

Sam just stared into his brother’s eyes. There was the feeling of a threat in his manner, it was unnerving. What did he want?

Then it came.

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, Sam.”

Shit.

“Are you threatenin’ her, you bastard. She’s been through enough, you mad cunt. You’d better leave ’er alone.”

Edward stood up to leave and as he did he lashed out at Sam, his backhand catching him across the temple. The noise was vicious and sharp. Edward crouched down over his shocked brother.

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live!” he hissed and then was gone.

Sam sat in his embarrassment, red faced and pointless. He looked around himself to find all eyes on him. The proprietor came over to ask if he was okay and if he wanted to contact the police, Sam said that he was and that it was nothing, just another family argument. He paid for the two mugs of tea and left the café, his face still throbbing from the blow.

Sam thought about contacting the police, then he realised that there was no real evidence of a threat and that it was all completely absurd. Digging up the past. What happened was nobody’s business, it was nothing. It was finished. It had never finished for Joy.

Sam turned down Regent’s Street, deciding to walk back to Vauxhall.

Down Regent’s Street to Piccadilly, through St. James’ Park, past Parliament, down the Thames, past Tate Britain, over Vauxhall Bridge, down South Lambeth Road on to Fentiman, then Rita Road.

Easy.

He’d done it hundreds of times. It was his route, his safety zone and it was exercise and better than the Tube. It gave him time to think and absorb what had just happened.

Jesus, it was all happening again. The mad times. He knew that sometime soon the magic would start again. He also knew that it was just a symptom of his paranoia.

Magical thinking.

Control.

Controlling his environment.

He had known this for years, yet it never stopped him doing it.

An irrational act of will.

Turning down into the melee of Piccadilly, passing the statue of Eros he heard someone whisper “Sam”. It seemed to come from somewhere far away. Somewhere at the back of his mind, his reptilian hindbrain.

“Sam”

Looking around him, he focussed on the figure of a man in a doorway, he seemed to be smoking which made no sense to Sam. He was half obscured by the wall, but Sam knew who it was. He was quite striking with his beard and moustache, and his burnt face. He seemed larger than Sam remembered from the park. It’s funny how the odds and sods of London have some of the most interesting faces and manners, yet are never looked at unless selling the Big Issue or going loudly insane. Sam stopped and walked over to Oz. he realised that the figure was not smoking but was smoking.

“Shall we go to the park, old boy. Less embarrassing for you, I’d imagine.”

“Hello, Oz.”

“Greetings.”

“… Earthling”, Sam chuckled and a light feeling took hold of him. He felt as free as a bubble in the sun. It was Oz.

“Fuck, mate. I see your sense of humour hasn’t improved much.”

Sam noticed strange sideways glances from the people around him, then it struck him; Oz was dead. Oz was dead and nobody else could see him. He was acting like a crazy person in public. As far as the rest of humanity was concerned, he was having a conversation with himself. “Well,” thought Sam. “the rest of humanity can fuck off”

“Now, now, Sam. There’s no need to treat your fellow man in such a way. You always were an ’ornery fucker. And by the way, that business in the church was just plain rude. How would you like it if I came to your house and left a big shit in your toilet? Not very nice, old boy. Although that young lady yer met is a lovely bit of stuff.”

Sam walked in silence in front of his friend. It was a lot to take in and his bubble was well and truly deflated.

They walked until they found a park bench. They sat down and Sam rolled up as a group of Japanese tourists walked briskly passed, heads and cameras poking in ever direction, golf clothes and pigeon toed girls running awkwardly.

“Very small legs have the Japanese” said Oz gazing thoughtfully.

“’Ave you just come back t’ harangue me or what?”

“And big heads.”

“Look Oz, mate. No offense, but why are you here?”

“Ahh… The big question. It doesn’t get any clearer when you die you know.

At least the journey was pleasant enough. A good guitar player is that ferryman, luckily enough I ’ad some cash in me pocket when I died so as I could pay ’im. Ya don’t wanta wander the banks of that river fer a ’undred years I can tell you, mate!

And before you start asking what’s it like bein’ dead and all that, let’s just say that being alive is better. It’s no fun being a shade in Hades, y’know, no feelings just the longing for blood inside you pumping.

Especially with there being more people in the world, stands to reason that there’re more dead.

Especially with all the War, Famine, Pestilence and Death going on this plane. The queues to Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, just get longer and longer. You drink change and ZOOM! Off you fly like a shooting star into the Great Womb in the Sky. But, fuck knows when I’ll get the chance to get a chance at drinking from it and rebirth. Metempsychosis, they’s call it. I wanna come back as a sea turtle, they live for a long time, I’ll avoid Asia this time, though, eh. Don’t wanna be turned into no necklace or ring or soup. Although, of course time’s all relative. Anyways I’m meanderin’. I was bored waitin’, so, I thought I’d come back and warn me old mucker, Sam. Bit of a breach of etiquette, but I never had much time fer regulations.”

“Warn me. About what? You ain’t gonna tell t’ beware of th’ moon are ya? Or that I can now feel confident ‘cos I shouldn’t have any fear of death? Well, it ain’t death that’s scary to me at th’ mo’, mate. It’s fuckin’ life that’s putting the willies up me.”

“Yessss… Your brother’s a bit of dark cunt, to say the least.”

“He’s the life and soul of th’ party, mate. Sunshine and flowers.”

“Look, Sam. All that, it’s bad. But trust me its gonna get worse. It’s all coming true, Sam. the end of th’ world is fuckin’ nigh. Whatever you want t’ call it, the Apocalypse, Armageddon, whatever. I call it a big fuckin’ shitstorm with the heart of rotten snake.”

Sam studied his friend’s face, it was a mess. The burning had taken away most of his skin on the left side of his face, leaving nothing more than a fried bacon looking skull and his hair, beard and that moustache seemed to smoulder and crackle in the haze around him. He didn’t even know if Oz was nothing more than a figment of his already vivid imagination.

“Well, maybe I am. Just your subconscious fuckin’ with ya. You want t’ try the old beans trick. Grab a handful of beans and then ask me how many there are. If you don’t know then how would I? And surely I would disappear in a puff of imagination”

“So, this is why you came back? To tell me about the end of the world? Okay, look… “ said Sam, “How many ciggie papers do I have left?”

Oz was still there.

“Seventeen”

Sam counted his Rizlas and sure enough after the second one the “Warning! Only 15 papers left” paper appeared.

“Smartarse”

The ghost exhaled and as he did a cloud of sparks, ash and smoke left him and whirled into the atmosphere finding their way into a little girl’s sandwich and a squirrel’s eye.

“By th’way…” asked Sam “I never did ask ya why yer dressed like that?”

“It’s fucking England in the winter, mate. It’s freezing!”

Sam just shrugged, no longer trying to understand.

“Y’know Sam, all life’s suffering and dissatisfaction, but at least you feel somethin’. And there are beautiful things ’ere, mate. They don’t last long, but that’s their beauty. That’s why they’re important, because all things do die.” Oz stared out at the little girl with her sandwich.

“She’s there too, Sam. I found her again, mate. Her and the little one. I told them about ya, y’know.”

For the first time since they met again, Sam saw a real glimpse of the old Oz, the tender and sad character with the burdens of a former life. It was silent except for the cawing of a crow and the whirring of a car engine in the distance.

Oz began to speak.

“Listen, mate. Ev’rythin’s going t’ go bad. But it’s th’ way things have t’ be. We’ve been takin’ th’ piss fer too long. It’s th’ collective karma of th’ whole fuckin’ human race. It’s already started. There’s no hope, except t’ know that it will all ‘appen again an’ again an’ again. An’ it will happen ssssslllooooowwwlllllyyyyyyy.”

“Not a sudden event then?”

“Nah, mate. That’s th’ hopes an’ fear of the nuclear age. A big bang. Boom! T’ain’t gonna really all go up in smoke in one big orgasm. This’s gonna be a slow an’ dirty fuck. It has t’ happen. It’s humanity’s nature, innit? The world needs t’ breathe. It’s th’ Law, man. That big wheel turnin’. You’re all fucked.”

“So nothin’ matters, then?”

Nothing matters. Flowers and sunshine, growing old, your first love, violence on a drunken Friday night, family and lust; all comes to naught.

“Jezzzzzzzzus, you can be one dumb bastard, y’know. Everythin’ matters. Especially that friend of yours. She needs ya, mate. You ain’t dead yet. But, she will be if’n you don’t take care of ’er. You ’eard yer brother. He means it. The big picture’s gonna go down anyway. One more sacrifice won’t matter ‘n this world. Ya may end up savin’ it, well, part of it anway. Th’ king is dead.”

“Long live th’ king.”

The sun began to poke its fingers through the trees and on to the pond, poking once more until its daily death.

Oz began to chuckle.

“What’re you chucklin’ at, you sick bastard?”

“Somethin’ I saw th’ other day. There I was, minding me own, and I looked over and who should I see playin’ cards?”

Sam exhaled and gestured showing a lack of knowledge.

“Fuckin’ Mahatma Gandhi playin’ against Genghis Khan. And Gandhi was cheatin’! Imagine that!”

Imagine that.

Sam could and a smile grew upon his face, and that smile turned into a laugh and that laugh began to swallow the sunlight and the trees full of birds and the grass teeming with worms and the bench and the tourists with their cameras and Whitehall and London all around him.

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