Matthew awoke early every morning from his doss house bed.
He always itched when he woke up, his beard and face and chest and balls were red with a rash. His lips were chapped and bleeding. He didn’t know why, he thought that the other dissolute around him had given him fleas or a skin complaint. That morning he had pulled up his shirt and saw the little red blotches through his chest hair. He scratched at them until they became raw, the colour of tiny spots of blood. He crawled off his bunk bed almost kicking Black Jack, in the head.
“Oi, maaan. Careful now!” said Black Jack in quiet surprise.
Matthew rubbed his crusty eyes, the others in his dormitory were starting to wake too. There was Black Jack, who used to be night club singer in Soho in the Sixties until booze and women took him down, Big Howard, who fought in the first Gulf War then left the forces and couldn’t get a job or understand a society that shunned him and had taken to streets and Mad Chris, who stood on the corner of Shepherds Bush tube station tap dancing all day with his gnarled hand out turned for money.
They were the odds and sods as his father used to call them.
Matthew remembers being afraid of them when he was a child growing up in Liverpool. He never thought that he would be one of them.
The movement around him made Matthew grab his stuff and leave, they were dribbling and coughing into the musty morning air and he needed to leave. he had work to do, work that didn’t in pay in money.
Looking around him he was glad that the shuffling figures were all men. The women’s dorm was next door. He didn’t wish to see any of the women today.
Oh why, oh why were there women?
They were always showing themselves to be the sluts that really were.
Take Stinky Lilly, whenever he bumped into her on the street she tried to grab his balls. She would always leer at him, offering him carnal knowledge, asking him to show her what he had. To go somewhere and rut. He gagged every time as the smell of her piss and her grin of broken teeth gave him nightmares.
It didn’t matter whether they were rich or poor.
He remembered his only serious girlfriend and how she had treated him.
What was her name?
His head hurt now whenever he thought about his past. Her infidelities and anal sex had driven him mad with envy. Whenever they would go to clubs she would always end up dancing with other men, just to make him jealous. He was proud now of his jealousy, just like God in the Old Testament. She had tried to take control of him and then when she lost interest in having a real man around, a man that thought for himself, who would give the bitch a slap when he thought she was too licentious with others, she had left him. That had hurt. It still did. She never understood anything. She was probably a whore hanging around King’s Cross by now, with her sopping knickers around her ankles and a cock up her arse.
How could they not realize that their only purpose on this Earth, the Earth created by the One True God, was to propagate Heaven with souls that worshipped the Lord God?!
That was the only reason for women’s disgusting bodies with their monthly blood and legs and breasts and lips. It was so obvious. Matthew had been so proud of his mentor when he learnt that he had been able to suppress the urge for carnal knowledge of his wife, that true holiness was indeed chaste and pure.
He grabbed his small bag checking that it still had everything that was there the night before. Desperate men will reduce themselves to stealing anything, even a notebook, pencil and copy of the Bible. As Matthew walked out into the cold London morning, the night watchman muttered a cheery greeting.
“See you tonight” he called.
Matthew said nothing, holding his bag tighter to him as his feet him the pavement.
This girl that Edward had him running after worked in the same police station from week to week. She was a gardener (What kind of profession was that?) and she probably thought she was an eco-warrior of some kind. She looked that type. Skin tight black jeans, colourful jumpers and knitted hats. Matthew had a hard time trying to understand that this girl was evil but Edward had said so.
So it must be true.
The Lord works in mysterious ways.
He should know that by now.
Matthew spent his days lurking around the Crystal Palace police station that Joy worked for. It was a well to do station in a well to do area, surrounded by houses that people owned who needed to be protected by the police. They needed to be protected not because of a crime wave but because they felt the need for protection. They had everything to lose, from their spoilt kids who had never even had to wipe their own behinds to their high definition televisions. He wrote everything that happened down in a little notebook he had. He had seen people do this in films. Even the most mundane things had to be written down. Whether a boy was playing football in the road after school or a car travelling too fast up the street, it all went into his notebook. He took stock of everything that went on around him.
He was a sleuth.
A sleuth for Jesus.
He was good at keeping himself inconspicuous. He was good at hiding and watching. That was how he had found out about his girlfriend’s infidelities.
By hiding and watching.
It was a gift he possessed. People seemed to think he was invisible. They could sense the intolerable dreariness that hung around him like a miasma. He knew that Joy did not suspect that anything was going on around her. She had even passed him once, at a bus stop. She had snuck up on him unawares as he waited for her after her job. She had walked straight passed without even looking at him. He had remained as inconspicuous as possible, but as his eyes followed her he had found himself staring at her arse.
He found himself wondering what her arse really looked like.
Underneath those tight jeans.
In this time to himself he had begun thinking. This was problematic for him, once he started thinking, he started questioning and because of this he had begun to question Edward. Only in his mind of course. He only felt unsure about one or two things after all. But still his thoughts never went down in his notebook. Edward talked to God and so knew best. He was proud to be on this mission for a girl’s soul, when it came down to it.
Boredom or not.
He knew that Edward would teach her about truth and righteousness.
If they had to kill her to save her soul, then so be it.
It was only through suffering that true knowledge was revealed.
At night that found that he had more to occupy himself with.
The girl went out a lot.
She seemed to always be going somewhere else. It was usually a pub or sometimes a house. He suspected that she was going to orgies, strange and unnatural witches sex parties, probably with animals, like in the old books about witches Sabbats. He would wait outside the buildings on a street corner or go for short walk to get his bearings. Sometimes he would dare himself to peek in through the windows of the pubs, where he would secretly long to step inside and feel the smelly, bawdy life around him. He would never admit this to himself, of course. This longing was connected to his past. His past was dead. So he thought. But then again, he could never be sure.
Joy usually went out on her own and met friends at other places, but sometimes she was with a friend who lived at the same house. They looked like sisters together, or lovers. This thought had begun to excite him. He would just pinch or slap himself when he felt like this.
A lot of the time she met Edward’s brother, Sam.
Such a different person to Edward.
Another heretic, by all accounts.
He looked dangerous and salacious to Matthew’s eyes.
A real bad egg.
Once, he had almost been discovered when the girl and Sam had gone into The Dublin Castle one evening. Matthew had decided to enter the pub to see if he could get up close and listen to their conversation, like a real detective. So, he plucked up enough courage and in he went. He felt like a naughty schoolboy as he walked towards the pub door. The bouncers had stood aside, seeming to almost not notice him and Matthew shuffled into the pub. This was the first time he had been into an establishment like this for about three years, ever since his conversion to the true way of living. The stench of old beer hit him straight away, making him gag and he raised his hand to mouth and pushed his way directly to the bar.
The pub was heaving as usual and just to get to the bar was a test all its own. Young students with their fashionably sweeping hair and suit jackets with jeans and the old school rockers and mods and punks, all in together enjoying what was left of a mid-week blow out. The pub was red inside. The lights, the seats all seemed to create a bordello-like atmosphere. To Matthew, it seemed as if he had already died and was already in Hell. Looking around him he saw nothing more than tortured lost souls. He felt like Christ after the Ascension and in the deepest circle of Hades. He felt so much pity for his fellow men and women around him. They were all damned.
He finally got close enough to the bar to order a glass of lemonade when he came face to face with a giant goth girl in a jet black corset. As he turned, his nose pushed into the top of her breast. His unkempt beard tickled her milky flesh. She smiled and said, “Thank you”. He turned away, embarrassed and disgusted with himself. As he collected his change, he noticed the girl in a corner of the pub. She did look pretty, he thought to himself. He quickly reminded himself that she was a moral degenerate and steeled himself to watch against her enchantments.
Sam was nowhere to be seen.
That is until he turned to make his way to the girl.
Sam was stood directly behind him. Matthew’s heart stopped, he had seen Sam before in the street with Edward and he knew that Sam had seen him. In his rush to get served Sam had simply blinked and missed him as he scuttled away fast.
He was lucky.
No, not lucky divinely protected against the devil’s children.
Should he stay now and carry out his plan or not?
He decided to go and write in his notebook, but to leave the entering the pub out. He had almost been caught and didn’t want Edward to know. He might get so very angry and hit him for being stupid.
He did that sometimes.
But only when people deserved it.
Once every three or four days, Matthew would make his way down to Oxford Street to meet with Edward and maybe one or two other members of the congregation. They would sit outside a nondescript coffee franchise and Matthew would give Edward photocopied pages from his notebook. Most of what Matthew had written was nonsense, “8:30 – leaves house, dressed in work clothes, smokes cigarette. 9:00 – Goes to shop buys tobacco, rolls cigarette”, etc…
It showed the routine of such a person. An undisciplined skeleton of a routine, but Edward now knew where she went. What kind of places she frequented. He now had an insight into the girl.
Joy. That was her name, Joy.
Edward had decided that he should now take over observing the girl, as each of his followers had had a two week run, from dawn until dusk and beyond, so now it was only fair that he should join in on the chase. She was his enemy after all. It was only fair.
Edward thought back to his childhood, when he saw her and his brother in the woods. In his memory, they were making love, but of course they were too young to perform such an act. His memory was his memory and that was all he had. They had made love and performed some kind of satanic ritual and the next day someone was dead. This was fact. He had to be very careful.
Who knew what else she was capable of?
She had already murdered one helpless and defenceless man for whatever diabolic reason, he was sure that she would have no qualms in snuffing out the life of another. Especially one as holy as him.
She was even getting into his dreams.
The night before, he had fallen asleep thinking of Christ in the temple, overturning tables and he found himself in the one of the chain clothes stores in Oxford Circus, behind him, he could hear himself shouting into his loud hailer. He didn’t need to turn around and look. He knew who he was. He knew what he looked like.
He was pulling the shirts and blouses off the hangers and screaming at all the shop dummies to repent. They just carried on staring at him with their soulless damned eyes. The dummies were moving and paying no attention to him. They were shopping and eating and fucking. God, there was a lot who were fornicating, their hips moving as dispassionately and mechanically as robots. Machines, just fucking, fucking, fucking. In all positions.
His attention was taken away from the shopping and on to the show of sex. It was hell for all fornicators.
They seemed to be never able to satisfy themselves.
They were grinding for eternity.
They turned towards him, crowding around him.
They were smothering him.
He couldn’t breathe.
All he could smell was plastic.
Then she appeared.
She appeared amongst all the plastic dummies.
She was not mechanical in any way.
She was naked and writhing, as a serpent, she moved as a belly dancer.
She was lying on her back and calling his name.
She was telling him to come to her, all would be fine if he came to her.
She could carry all his burdens and sins.
She was lying tied on the bed in his room in Aberystwyth.
She seemed to change from the woman to the little girl and all the stages in between.
She was tied but she was the one who was hooking him, attaching herself to him as he tried with all his might to flee.
He could not escape; in this dream of Hell his god was not there.
He felt himself thrown towards her by an unearthly force.
They embraced on the bed where he assaulted his wife and she sucked him inside herself, sucked him of his energy and he awoke sweating and panting.
His underpants were wet and he was sure that he could smell her on his skin.
He began to realise that he was the one in danger. The devil had recognised him and had sent this witch to punish him for caring too much about humanity.
Yes, he was in danger. Those closest to sainthood were always the ones most open to psychic attack.
The gates of Hell welcoming them when they fall.
The world powers were on alert when Sam awoke, alone in his bed.
Russia had now joined in on the shambles that seemed intent on destroying everything to prove themselves to be important again. It was a matter of pride after the shambles of Glastnost.
Putin and Bush were throwing childish insults at each other across the seas.
Sam instinctively touched his sore cock.
He opened his eyes and turned over onto Sophia.
Only she wasn’t there anymore.
He had gone to sleep with her; indeed they had made love again that evening three times, while drinking two bottles of Australian Merlot. The empty wine bottles were strewn on the floor. They were a monument to their passion and joy. Sam rubbed his eyes and checked his phone to see if there were any messages left by her on it. It was most unlike him to sleep so heavily, even after drinking. He would usually hear and consciously wake up to any movement in his room. He rubbed his face and felt the dull and stupid creep of a hangover forming. His day could be a dark cloud. It would get even darker if he didn’t find out where Sophia had gone.
He phoned her.
He cursed, put on his boxer shorts and stumbled to the kitchen to make himself a real coffee with a Portuguese coffee pot that Freddie had brought over as a gift with him. Checking his cupboard, he realised that he should go shopping as man cannot live on beans, alone. He began to feel depressed that he had to go out amongst the crowd. At that moment he longed to stay inside, to avoid all people.
Where was she?
Suddenly, his phone rang. He ran into his room and lunged at the small device on his bed. The number said “Soph”. He was happy.
It was a female voice. It was not Sophia’s voice.
“Hello, who is this?” the voice demanded brusquely.
“Is Sophia there, please? This is her number.”
“What!? No, look who is this? You phoned me about ten minutes ago. This is Janice. In Sales.”
Sam did not know any Janice and was starting to feel annoyed. He decided that he would stay polite as maybe he could at least get some information out of Janice.
“Janice. In Sales. Why do you have Sophia’s phone?”
The voice went silent and he could hear people murmuring in the background and phones ringing and the click clack of someone typing on a computer. It sounded like an honest to goodness office. Suddenly the voice spoke again.
“Look, did George put you up to this?”
“I, I, no… Who’s George?”
“Look, whoever you are just fuck off, alright. This isn’t funny, it’s not my fault he has premature ejaculation.”
The phone went dead.
Sam stood there for a minute with the phone held against his ear. This had to be a joke. A mistake. The coffee pot started making slurping and squelching noises; it seemed to be taunting him. It seemed to know things that he didn’t.
“If you weren’t a gift,” he thought “I’d chuck ya out th’ window”
He found himself growling at the pot that continued to bubble and fart.
His phone started to ring again.
He looked at the number.
It was one he didn’t know.
He pressed the button to answer.
“Hi. Is that Samuel M…”
“Yep, how can I ’elp you?”
“We were wondering if you are still looking for teaching work?”
It turned out that he was being offered an interview the following day. Even though his writing was beginning to take off, he still couldn’t make a living off it. He had to accept. At least the school was easy to get to and it was central.
He would have money again soon if all went according to plan.
He wandered down to the squalid living room, covered in dust with old CDs used as decoration, its sofa missing a pillow and the three day old plates still with their Indian take away welded on to them. Scratching his balls he sat down with his cup of coffee and switched on the house television. He hadn’t seen any television in about a month. His knowledge of what was happening in the world stemmed from all that he read over the shoulders of strangers on the tube. The ancient machine coughed to life. A green patch appeared over the right side of the screen and the rest seemed to be in the dark as the voice of a news reader or reporter blurted out over the airwaves.
The BBC news showed Sam a view of the big wide world.
By the sound of it, it was not a good place to be right now.
The green patch began to diminish and the darkened portion of the screen became lighter flickering concavely only on and off. A magnet threat that had been going on for years. One day it would go phut and that would be that. Another ex-television set, a piece of junk.
The world that the irritable and wizened piece of machinery showed was one of total chaos. There were bombs going off willy-nilly in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq and it seemed as if Iran would soon join in on the fun. There were pictures of riots and protests and anti-American political demonstrations in Russia and it all came to nothing. People didn’t care enough if their liberties were taken away from them or if they were blown up in a fireball as long as it was quick and painless. As long as heaven had TVs. Sam had a feeling that this time there would no going back, the whole argument of deterrents seemed to fall apart if someone was insane enough or well protected enough in their little bunkers filled with canned food. Waiting for however long a half-life for their descendents to repopulate in the name of whichever god. He stared gormlessly, the pain of others taking away his growing hangover which was beginning to take over the other sensations in his body.
Then boredom hit again. He looked over at the back of the house opposite to see if the girl who lived in the room opposite was in. She wasn’t which disappointed Sam as she had a tendency to strip with the curtains open. Ever the voyeur, Sam would look over at the twenty-something taking off her scarlet bra and panties. Sam wondered if she knew someone was looking. If she got kick out of stripping for strangers as he did watching her. Maybe one day he’d go over and tell her.
Sam began to feel uncomfortable and was beginning to get itchy balls. He realised that he needed a shower.
He stripped off his pants, revelling in the fact that the rest of the people who inhabited the flat weren’t there. He was happy that they all had their super new HD high-tech didgeridoo televisions and that they all locked themselves in their own rooms of an evening revelling in themselves. That very English trait of privacy that had metamorphosed into childish cocooning, once it was behind lacy curtains now behind locked doors in tiny compartmentalised existences that lived to work in cramped offices that needed a fresh lick of paint, but whose bosses didn’t think that environment mattered when there was money to be made.
People whose only delight was a takeout pizza and a couple of cans of wife beater.
He entered the shower and stared at himself in the mirror.
Is that what he had become?
He remembered a photograph of himself as a child, he was about six years old and it had to be said that he was a cute kid; longish seventies light brown hair, cheeky flash in his eyes. Cute. Nothing like the thirty-something creature that stood in front of him. Everything did indeed change and there was nothing at all to grab on to.
Where was Sophia?
He continued to stare into the mirror and began pulling faces. That was a little habit of his when he was alone. Some men and women enjoyed eating their bogies when they were alone, retaining that childhood pleasure that descended from when we were five, or apes. He enjoyed gurning into mirrors. He had done it his whole life. Who knows how many CCTV cameras he had been caught on gurning his little black heart out but he enjoyed pulling faces. Sometimes his face pulling sessions were accompanied by monosyllabic grunts and squeals.
In lifts, in toilets, he didn’t care, he couldn’t control himself.
It was fun.
Where could she be and why didn’t she wake him up when she left?
Why hadn’t he woken himself up?
He strained his face into yet another position showing the bottom row of his teeth, stretching his nose, his eyes turned up towards the ceiling.
He stopped making his faces and pulling back the mouldy plastic curtain, jumped in the shower. In doing so he stubbed his toe. Slipping momentarily, his face contorted with a mixture of pain and concentration of balance. He collapsed sitting down on the side of the old porcelain bath, holding his toe. Wishing the pain to go away, wishing he had the knowledge of those Vietnamese Buddhist monks who set fire to themselves in protest to the war that ravaged their country. Everything changed but some things didn’t change that fast for his liking.
He head began to itch and he scratched it violently while his toe throbbed, then out of nowhere a thought took seed in his pain absorbed brain. While every nerve ending of his foot screamed and recoiled at existence, a single seed was planted.
It was almost a hum.
It told him this.
All is vibration.
He felt it at that moment; he felt the waves of pain washing over his foot, the hardness of his toe bone, the wetness of the sweat that was forming under his armpits, the heat in his groin, his involuntary movements.
All was vibration and energy was matter, they were the same but moving at a different speed.
Everything existed and did not exist simultaneously.
Life and death.
Silence and noise.
Then he remembered talking to Sophia over their first coffee together.
“… 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.”
It was at that moment that Sam decided that he must kill his brother before everything got out of control.
Before the world ended.
He always knew where to find his brother.
He would either be at one of two or three places. Without fail. He was as predictable as death and taxes. He had nowhere else to go. He needed his weak-minded followers to worship him, to hang on his every bigoted and banal word. He needed them to listen, to help him. He needed them more than they needed him. This was one thing people never realised. The weak are only weak when they give themselves up. The potential is always there to overcome themselves, to do better. The leader is only a leader because the others have relinquished their own needs for his. When he was dead the others would be free to choose their own lives. He was setting them free.
Or they would search for another leader.
Sam had decided to kill his brother when was preaching in his usual place.
On the crossroads of Regent’s Street and Oxford Street.
He would do it old style.
He had read of assassins who would walk up to their victims from behind and stick and knife in their kidneys, a fatal wound.
The assassin would let go of the knife as soon at entered the body and carry on walking as if nothing had happened.
Leaving their victims to drop to the ground split open like a sack of grain.
He would do it.
He would do it in front of everybody, the people who loved him and those who he hated.
He would do it to show Edward that he was nothing special.
He would do it for Joy and for Bronwyn and for himself.
He would do it because he wanted to.
And then he would kill himself.
He knew where his brother would be, that was the most important thing. It was right next to two tube station exits. He banked on the ensuing panic in the middle of one of the most populated crossroads in Central London. The collective apathy of feeling towards the shopper’s fellow mankind would ensure a lack of awareness of what was going on. His brother would die in the centre of all that despised and no one would notice. Like a fly squashed on a summer’s windscreen. He probably wouldn’t even need to run. He could walk safely down to Waterloo Bridge if he so wished and throw himself off or perhaps just jump in front of a vehicle, like Winston had done.
He would use a kitchen knife for the murder.
He could take the one from his kitchen as it was nice and sharp.
It was a shame, only two people would ever really know (well, two people who were alive) what had happened. One of them was a believer in natural justice and the other was the person who he was defending.
A paranoid always plans illegal activities better than non-paras, because a paranoid thinks about every angle where the plan could go wrong. He lived inside himself and replayed and visualised the scene and plan over and over again. No detail escaped him. The authorities would never know why Edward had been killed. Sam would be the only link and he banked on Edward’s moronic followers not daring to incriminate themselves as being part of the plan to murder Joy. All the evidence would be unseen, right in front of their faces.
In full view.
That night Sam couldn’t sleep and surprisingly enough he was calm, very calm. It seemed as if his paranoia was held at bay by the reality of the situation. The situation was very tense and very real but it was one in which he had control. One in which he had accepted the consequences. Maybe that was it. His paranoia touched him through his imagination, his fear of an imaginary future not of his own making. And so the retribution seemed unfair. It was a lack of control, so perhaps behind every paranoid lies a fascist. Or an anarchist.
His interview was at ten a.m.
He got out of his bed at six a.m. to ensure that he checked everything over four times. He had written a little checklist of things, which he now set fire to. No evidence.
They included his Black Book.
He had already burnt the one he found in the bookshop. He had burnt it the next day. He read through the book in his hands one last time. The memories invoked appeared as sharp and dull images and feelings. This one was only a quarter of the way full.
He then ripped up and set fire to his last ever Black Book. He didn’t want any police psychologist or forensic scientists going through his thoughts. He watched the flames dancing in his metal bin as he held it on his window ledge and they created shadows which moved to their own tune. The outside wall and window frame were moving and laughing, the pages were freed. He felt released now, unbound. He said goodbye to his past. Kissed it on its cheek and bade it farewell. Then he when all the pages had gone he poured water inside the bin and mixed the ash altogether and smeared it over his face and body. He was ready now.
As he lay on the bed, his mind went over the scenario again and again.
He sees himself coming up out of the tube station, spotting his brother, walking towards him in a crowd of shoppers, his head is down and he swaggers slowly, he feels the knife in his hand, he walks right up to his victim whose back is turned, he plants the knife right in Edward’s kidney, twists. He lets go and carries on walking, he crosses the road and goes down into the opposite tube entrance.
His decision was made he must not think now.
He began to wank for the last time (his mind went back to his old Japanese girlfriend, not Sophia. This disturbed him more than what he had to do) and when he had finished he mixed his semen in the ash.
He lay there and stared at the damp spot on his ceiling.
It was getting bigger.
It was time to move and to jump into the shower.
He felt the hot water splash over his body.
He felt every drop.
He would miss showers.
He was going to wear a black cotton shirt underneath a brown suede jacket that he had intended to wear for the interview. And some brogues. If he was going to commit murder, he would do well dressed. He would wear his pair of black brogues. The clothes were smart but not formal. It was important to make a good impression.
Who knew, he might even get the job?
He laughed to think that he could even think that he could work from now on. He was going somewhere where work did not matter. He was already halfway there. The Black Dog was his guide. He trusted him. He was surprised how easy premeditated murder could be when one put their mind to it.
Finally it was time.
Leaving his room, locking the door, morning cold spring sunshine blinded him for a moment. He had to get to Waterloo. The school was behind the train station, a strange place for a language school, he thought suddenly. Not exactly one of the most pleasant places for foreign students to come and study. This feeling of uneasiness stayed with him as he walked down the road.
There seemed to be something portentous about this. Or maybe it was just that part of him that wanted to feel fear.
From Vauxhall it was an easy and relaxing walk down the South Bank. Or take the tube. He decided on the walk to get some air and clear the dust from his brain. He would have more thinking time, he would be in the freshly polluted air, he could enjoy the walk. And he did. For all his misgivings about the area of the school, he was pleasantly surprised. It seems the building that the school shared with other three other businesses had just had a new lick of paint and lots of new equipment to play with. There must have been a recent inspection, Sam thought to himself and he smiled. The interview went surprisingly well. He blagged his way through the thing, smiling and charming his interviewer with his easy manner. There was no hint of the attempted murder that was to come. He played his role perfectly. It was easily the best interview he had ever done. It paled in comparison to what he would have to do next.
For a moment Sam felt like a god, like Dostoevsky’s Napoleon.
He could fly.
He left the interview feeling happy, but slowly but surely, as he made his way down to Waterloo station, that special uneasiness crept back in to his mind. Things were going well.
The universe was at best indifferent, at worst downright spiteful to him. Even the weather despised him. It was guaranteed that if there was even a slight chance that it would rain, the sky would wait until he had just left whichever building he was in at the time, and then unleash its downpour on him.
So, why did this now seem so simple?
Entering the station he realised why he had had that evil tingle. There were policemen everywhere. There were ugly looking blue/black armoured and uniformed monsters swarming all around the tube entrance. What had happened? Or what was going to happen? It had to be nothing to do with him. He had only decided yesterday to murder his brother and he had not told anybody else. No, he told himself, this must be something different, something along the lines of national security. Something that goes boom. The boys in blue were looking for large backpack carrying Middle Eastern or Indian subcontinent types. If it was up to him, he would send a Nordic Viking type convert in Jesus sandals to blow himself up for his religion. It made sense. They would not be on the look out for a well dressed man, carrying a large bag that contained a kitchen knife. That would not be high on their agendas.
Sam stared at the floor as he swaggered down past two policemen stood directly in front of the entrance gate. Even though he knew they were not looking for him he felt that same fear that he always got whenever he went through passport control and customs. That innate guilt for nothing. He knew they were looking at him, they were bored policemen. Boredom makes people resort to things that they would not usually do, like taking their time out to annoy and harass a member of the public.
It was all in his mind.
A mere fancy.
He lurched through the barrier, gently placing his Oyster card on top of the sensor and carried on through to the other side following signs to the Bakerloo line that took him to Oxford Circus.
Walking down the steps, he heard music in the distance.
“I gotta keep movin’, blues falling down like hail…”
A busker was playing some old delta blues, the tune wafted up towards him sounding in the distance like it was being played in somebody else’s toilet. As Sam got closer he realised it was the same song that Saint Christopher had sang to him, when he had appeared to him in his room.
It was “Hellhound On My Trail” by Robert Johnson.
The music was getting louder, more defined and as he turned the corner he came face to face with an old black guy in a pinstripe suit with the face of a hard life under his silk lined hat. Sam stood and listened as everybody passed him by, lost in their own dreams and worries. But he had to listen, it was beautiful and hypnotic. It seemed to Sam like a prophecy.
“…all ’round yer daddy’s door.”
The old fellow’s guitar case was open in anticipation of money. So far there was only two ten pence coins on purple velvet lining. Sam had quite forgotten his fear and decided to give this old man a couple of pounds from his pocket. Searching through his pockets for some change he pulled a handful of change from his pocket and threw it on to the case. The man carried on playing and Sam turned to go when he heard “Thank ya kindly, Sam. You take care, now.” Sam didn’t turn around but felt a smile on his back. As sharp as boar’s tusks.
Sam carried on walking.
Standing on the platform, Sam went through everything that had gone before. Wolfgang. Sophia. Saint Christopher. Oz. Winston. B. Antti. Figgis. Edward. Goatface. Joy. The Black Dog.
What was happening?
What did it all mean?
Did it really matter that the world was getting ready to explode?
That his life and mind were collapsing around him?
That he was going to murder his brother?
That it all seemed so wrong?
One day he would be dead and it would have all have been meaningless and incomprehensible. He had learnt that a long time ago.
Why change the lesson of a lifetime?
A gentle breeze brought the train with it and he got on and found a seat. All the good feeling had been taken away from him by him seeing the police. He had a strong feeling to pull his grey woolly hat further over his head to disguise himself. He was ridiculous. He felt other people’s anxiety and revulsion at him. To their eyes he was a thug, a happy-slapper, a junkie. A media inspired bogie man, like those men in dirty raincoats with grubby sweets in their pockets, hanging around school gates. He was the social enemy.
Nobody was staring at him.
It was just his head.
He fought his doubts.
The Black Dog ripped them to shreds.
He rested his head against a window and closed his eyes.
Images flashed through his head.
He saw his brother collapse in front of him.
Sophia under him.
Oz sat next to him.
Something touched his leg. He opened his eyes and saw the Black Dog at his feet. He leant down and stroked it, they were friends now. No, they were more than friends, they were brothers. They were both as mad as nature but not as insane as the human world was with its death camps, Guantanamos and light entertainment channels. Sam felt a real affection for the huge canine at his feet, his brother of flesh and blood replaced by this ghost of the mind. The Black dog looked up and appeared to be smiling. It looked around itself at the other human being on the train. It didn’t like them, Sam knew.
The Dog was his and only his.
He was its.
They were one.
Inseparable, like they always had been.
The train pulled in at Oxford Circus and Sam and the Black Dog exited and made their erratic way through the crowds of shoppers and tourists. It seemed to Sam that the crowds just seemed to open before them, for once there was no pushing or awkward face to face moments.
They both got on the escalator and it took them upwards to daylight.
The playful spring sunlight caused Sam to squint as he entered into the heaving centre of London. He was working on auto-pilot now. He knew where to go as did the beast next to him. Looking into his old army satchel he saw the kitchen knife, just as he had left it. He could hear the loudhailer and glimpsed the figure amongst the people zig-zagging on their way, to where ever they were going. Something was wrong. The voice was different from usual; there was no frenzied evangelising, no passion. The voice was dead. A television with the sound turned way down.
He stood across the road and stared at the figure.
It was not his brother.
It was Matthew.
Next to him, the Black Dog could feel his anguish and began howling. The whole of Oxford Circus became a great cry with a million Black Dogs, all weeping for their brother. The lament cascaded throughout London. From the doorway of the Ten Bells in Whitechapel to Wimbledon Common.
Sam put his hands to his ears to block out the noise.
He turned and ran as if his very life was chasing after him.