“Sam, ’e’s dead.”
The wavering voice crackled through Sam’s mobile phone. Sam had picked up his phone and placed it to his ear on auto-pilot. He was still in that intermediate state between dream and wakefulness. In the dream he was the Black Dog playing a battered old guitar and the voice was coming from a red mist in the corner of his room.
“I can see you” he said to the mist.
“Sam, it… It’s Joy. Your brother’s dead.”
Joy was sobbing through the crackles. He could hear Alice in the background, she was crying too. Sam blinked hard to shake the dream away, to return from the land of the dead, to the land of the living.
“Sam, I…” he heard a deep breath from the other side, “I killed ’im, Sam”.
Sam lay there on his back in silence. His eyes widened.
Was this a joke?
The phone clicked and all that was left was the sound of the sea.
Sam looked at the time on his phone, it was 3:13. His body awoke before his mind and his gross motor skills kicked in. He ran for the toilet, forgetting to put on his underpants. He dropped the contents of his stomach into the bowl and thought about the cascade of events that had brought him to this, shitting naked on a white porcelain seat. The stench of cheap wine rose up into his nostrils. As he wiped himself he noticed that the toilet paper was soaked in red. He marvelled at how gorgeous the colour of blood was. It was so bright and vivid, it was right that it should be the colour that gives life. He didn’t worry about the stained toilet tissue. He marvelled at it.
His mind became lucid and his thoughts clear.
His brother was dead.
He knew it was true. He heard the desperation in Joy’s voice.
His brother was dead. He had to go and see for himself.
A taxi was out of the question, too expensive and could leave a witness.
The dear 88 went straight to Mornington Crescent tube.
As he wandered down the lonely moonlit street to the bus stop, he thought that life had again evened itself out. Life was wondrous and everything meant something. A cat crossed his path quickly scuttling under a car. It looked at him and he told The Black Dog to play nice. He would not chase or scare this animal.
They were all out walking the Earth at night.
The bus arrived almost immediately and was virtually empty except for lone female with big gold hoops in her ears. Sam’s phone rang and on the other side he heard, fast and heavy breathing. It was Joy.
“Almost there” he said then he pressed the button.
He didn’t need to speak to anyone. Silence was golden. He knew it wouldn’t last, nothing did. He had to gather his thoughts. He had to be with the Dog in his heart. The Dog would take care of him.
Sam rang the bell of the bus and it dutifully stopped. He leapt off and instinctively rolled up. He was clumsy with his rolling as he walked, spilling almost half the contents on the pavement. Nevertheless, it would accompany him on his way to his dead brother. He lit the fag up inhaled and smoke curled and puffed around him.
The Dog inside, the smoke outside.
The streets were remarkably quiet. The moon was eclipsed by full clouds that talked of heavy showers. There were no cars speeding past, no drunken idiots, no fights, just the underground hum of the peaceful slumber of the city. It reminded him of a Post Apocalyptic film set; he half expected to see a group of robed zombies come towards him, chased by Charlton Heston with a shotgun and cigar. But nothing appeared in the cold night’s darkness only the odd light still burning behind curtains where some night owls were doing whatever drug on Friday night, whether it was pornography or blow. He wandered up to the gates of the house and stood still for a second. The lights were on and he could see the shape of Alice pacing around the living room through the thin curtains.
Sam felt like just standing there and watching them through the curtains.
Once a voyeur always a voyeur.
A moment of hesitation then his heart told him “Go in, see”.
Sam pulled the gate and shut it.
The world powers were resuming the day as normal, maintaining their eternal tension, the one that creates a Bay of Pigs.
The one that is always there.
Sam heard a commotion inside and the front door opened. Alice stood at the door that was open just a crack. She must be afraid that someone had heard whatever had gone on. Even in the shadows her face looked exhausted and pale. She had black rings around her eyes that made her look like a ghost.
“Get in!” she spat.
Sam dutifully obeyed and the first thing he noticed was the complete contrast to the dark and silent streets outside. Everything was lit up in hyper reality and all seemed in disarray. He could hear the soft wailing of Joy in the room next to him. Alice was muttering to herself. There was a mug smashed on the floor in the kitchen. Light brown tea was splashed up the side of the white refrigerator. Alice walked into the living room without saying a word. Sam followed. He noticed that Alice had to ease her way into the living room as the door wouldn’t open completely.
He stared down at his feet and saw a reddy brown liquid flowing under the door. It looked like dark strawberry syrup. He avoided standing on it. His brow furrowed as he entered into the room, what had they been doing in there?
Squeezing through the door, he first saw Joy curled up on the sofa then his eyes went down to the body on the floor. It was twisted and contorted as if caught in a dance. There was a streak of blood and grey matter up the wall where he had landed and more blood on the floor mixed among the cigarette ends that covered the side of the floor.
Well, they do say head wounds bleed a lot.
“Why’s ’e ’alf naked?” was all Sam could think of asking.
Joy looked through her smudged black make up and with one look Sam knew what had happened. He didn’t believe it, he knew. Somehow his brother had ended up in bed with her. They had made love or fucked or fornicated. It didn’t matter. It was unbelievable but he knew that it had happened. And she had killed him.
Alice stood hovering about. She was obviously in a lot of shock. She glared down at Sam. Sam knew that she blamed him. She was right in one way. It was his fault and it had been since they were kids. His silence had implicated him. It always did. It was a pact between the two of them. Since he had met Joy again and they had let each other into their lives, he had been nothing more than guilty. He had brought this upon her. The past violates the present in every sense.
There is no escape, no matter where you run to.
But you must keep running.
It keeps you human.
In his heart the Black Dog began howling at the thrill of the chase.
He knew then what he must do.
The noise began as a little itch inside his ear.
Silence was called for and there was something that could be done to make it perfect forever. He went over to Joy and put his arms around her. He held her and she was trembling all over. She nestled into his body and turned her head up to look at him, then sharply turned away again. She was embarrassed, the poor thing. She was still feeling the acid and alcohol in her bloodstream. It made her shake uncontrollably. She shut her eyes tight and spoke.
“I’m sorry, sweet, I didn’t t’ mean t’ do it but…” she gestured to the photocopies scattered on the table. Sam wondered whether she hadn’t meant to kill him or fuck him. Sam picked the pieces of paper up and read them.
“But, ‘e was sooo sweet at th’ end, y’know? He’d changed, but I just…” she strained to find the word and started coughing. Sam held her closer and cooed to calm her.
“I just lost it, d’ya understand?”
Sam said nothing and just rocked her back and forth.
The noise became a gentle washing of waves on a Thai beach.
It was indeed the end of all things.
He wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else.
He was with his friends.
The ones outside and the ones inside.
Sam spoke softly.
“Hey you. D’ya wanted come away with me? We can go now to places you’ve never seen before, you can meet my friend Oz. You’d like him. I’ll never breathe a word of this to anyone, I promise.”
Alice stood over them and huffed and puffed. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. There was no way she was going to let her friend leave with that maniac. She would phone the police and tell them it was an accident. The body had Joy’s DNA all over it. It would look like an accident, like he stumbled and hit the edge of the wall and door frame. His brains were all over there.
“But, no!” she thought as another idea formed, one which could save her friend from incarceration. She would tell the police it was Sam. Yes, Sam. He found his brother in bed with Joy and out of jealousy hit him over the head with the ashtray. Simple. That was what she would tell them. She would be a witness. It was a classic crime of passion. She would wait until Sam had left. She would make sure he left then phone the police. When he left she would convince Joy that it was the right thing to do. But he had to leave, he was scaring her.
Sam released his grip on Joy and he held her face gently in his hands.
The noise became the buzzing of all the mosquitoes sucking blood out of Thai infants.
“There’s just somethin’ I have t’do, okay. I’ll be back in a second. Then we can go.”
Sam rose and told Alice that he needed to go the toilet.
He turned to nobody in particular and smiled.
Then he spoke.
“I love you all, very much.”
They were the last words Sam ever spoke.
He realised how much the simple toilet featured in all our lives.
They had mirrors to stare and pull funny faces into.
They had toilets to vomit and shit and piss into.
They had showers and baths to lie in and wash ourselves and others.
They were places to weep.
They were the most private places in the world.
A world all to themselves.
Alice went over to Joy, she picked up her friend’s hand, feeling how cold it was. She would tell Joy when he’d gone. She didn’t want her to become hysterical, as that would put a spanner in the works. She heard Sam open one of the drawers in the kitchen and take something out of it. She heard him slipping on the split tea. She became scared again.
What if he had taken a knife?
Who knew what he was capable of? He was mad, completely mad. She heard Sam come close to the door and she inhaled sharply expecting to see him stand there knife in hand.
The noise became the death roar of the last tiger on Earth.
Sam turned the downstairs light on and continued to make his way down the steep stairs to the toilet. He tip toed down the stairs very carefully, it wouldn’t but the first time he’d slipped down them and landed on his arse. He didn’t want to do that clutching a kitchen knife. The last thing he wanted to do was impale himself or anyone else for that matter on a kitchen knife.
The noise became the flutter of tiny wings, as moths poured down the stairs with him.
One step, two steps, gently does it.
Sam went into the toilet and locked the door. He heard Alice following him down the stairs. She began banging on the door. She began asking him what he was doing in there. Sam didn’t answer.
The noise became a million Black Dogs howling inside everyone on the planet; Sam, Joy, Alice, me, you, our children, our parents, our friends, our enemies and complete strangers. There is only one. One Black Dog.
Sam stared into his own eyes and decided to pull one last face in the mirror.
Outside Alice was still knocking on the door. She was a nurse after all, it was her job to save lives. But even she had limits to patience. She thought again of Mrs. McGuiness and thought that tomorrow she would quit her job and devote herself to Anthropology.
“Do it, then!” she thought to herself.
“You can fuckin’ kill yerself fer I care!” she hissed and went back upstairs to see her friend.
Sam stuck out his pink and cracked tongue at himself and felt like a naughty child again.
Then he took hold of it and began cutting.
The screams were unbearable now but they gave him the strength to keep on cutting, slicing through that piece of flesh that had caused all the trouble in the world.
Sam began spitting and swallowing the blood, gagging as he did so.
He was cutting raggedly and the knife wasn’t the sharpest.
Still, he always finished what he started.
The screams became darkness.
Then it was over.
The noise stopped.
Grabbing a handful of tissues and letting go of the knife, Sam dropped the severed tongue into the toilet bowl and flushed it. He didn’t stay to see if it went down. He was free. There was no pain. He walked back upstairs and went into the living room. He could feel blood trickling down his chin and staining the back of his throat.
Alice saw him first and screamed. She was gripping the phone as if for dear life. Joy looked up and smiled. Sam made his way to the bottle of Barcardi and took a long, hard swig, then another one. He gurgled as the stinging liquid went down. A big glottal stop was the only noise to come from his mouth. He turned to Joy and for a moment became that sheepish little boy that she had first met all those years ago. He offered his hand to Joy and she took it. Then they both stood up together.
Alice held up her hands in a gesture of defence and tried to cover the door.
“No! You’re not going anywhere! Joy! Come on!”
Joy was giggling and placed her hand on Alice’s shoulder.
“It’ll be fine, sweet” she said.
Then she kissed Alice on the cheek and the next thing Alice knew was her friend had gone.
As they left Sam saw Oz in the shadows under the trees, he was there with Wolfgang, Sophia and Edward. They were waving. Sophia blew him a kiss and Wolfgang and Edward, though looking worse for wear, all seemed as happy as a birthday party. Oz took his hat off and bowed, then whispered something so very quiet. Sam knew what it was.
Inside Alice picked up the phone and began dialling. As she held the phone to her ear she noticed that light had begun through the curtains.
As she heard the first rings she noticed that outside had begun to become noisy.
The sun was beginning to come up and the birds had started singing.
Spring was coming.