Although writing served to drag me from the depths of despair, the contemplation of phenomena such as death, the afterlife, facing defeat, and finding the resolve to continue only allowed a certain degree of ascent. So, I watched comedies on youtube, and browsed 9gag, in an effort to further my distance from misery, which resulted in brief period of relative jollity, and a short story entitled The Joker.
I remove the elastic from the waistband of my underpants, and use it to snap the ear of my neighbour as she passes my open, ground-floor bedroom window. She screeches, and I laugh. That’s the kind of person I am, and if you were to pass my window, I would snap you with my underpants’ elastic too.
Last night, I pooped on a side plate and put it in the fridge, and told my grandmother where she might find her supper. I said it was an out-of-season Yule log. She didn’t eat it, so maybe her dementia’s not as bad as everyone thinks; maybe my endless pranks are jolting her from her fuddled frame of mind. If they are, the intent with which I work bears fruit.
I am on a mission to change the world, and I will be as brutal as I need be to achieve my goal. Firstly, I must wake people up, for most are sleeping. Going about their daily routine like zombies, and repeating the same bunch of rituals until they drop dead. My reasoning is that if everyone is awake, we might begin to live.
The majority of people seem obsessed with the meaningless, and neglect to pay attention to that which matters, which is why I attempt to rouse them from their cerebral slumber. For example; how soft, how many layers, and how long a roll of toilet paper is – meaningless. How many plates you can wash with one bottle of washing up liquid – equally so.
A world on the brink of the Third World War – meaningful, of course, because it may destroy our planet.
So, my reasoning is that if I can somehow shift priorities, by waking the masses, we may have a chance of marching forward, fully conscious, towards a bright new future, rather than stumbling into hell in our pyjamas.
I place a blunt pencil into the handkerchief pocket of my blue blazer, button it up, and leave the house, because I have seen someone walking up our street with his little dog. I have seen him many times, because I have observed him like I observe everyone. He takes his dog out every day at the same time, which shits, eventually, at which point he stoops to pick it up, with his hand in a plastic bag, like a glove, which he draws inside out with his other hand, so the shit is inside the bag. He puts the bag of shit in his pocket, as if that is somehow less disgusting than leaving it on the pavement, and performs the whole ritual as though practising some obscene magic trick.
According to my observations, most will do whatever they are told to do without questioning the absurdity of their actions. And they will become fascinated by trivialities, while ignoring pressing concerns. I plan to reverse this abnormality.
I approach the man and his dog, stop, and say – “excuse me, good sir, would you happen to have a pencil sharpener?” – while removing, rather theatrically, the blunt pencil from the handkerchief pocket of my blue blazer. As he considers his response, I hold the pencil upright, almost touching my nose, so my eyes are drawn into a squint as I stare at it.
“Um, no. Sorry mate .... I don’t have one with me” – he replies cautiously, while performing a side-step and attempting to resume his walk. I drop down onto my haunches, point dramatically towards his dog and yodel – “WELL! I THINK YOU DO!” – in a high-pitched falsetto, before ripping open my blazer to reveal my bare chest, where massive curtain tassels are secured to my nipples with gaffer tape. His mouth falls open as I grasp his little dog and tuck it into the crook of my arm, like a loaf of bread, with the dog’s head behind me and its bottom pointing forward.
“O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blätter!” – I wail, as I slowly rise to a standing position while gyrating my upper body, which encourages the tassels to twirl in eager circles. I maintain the gyroscopical rhythm as I insert the tip of the blunt pencil into the little dog’s bottom and turn it, betwixt thumb and forefinger, as if sharpening it.
“What the FUCK!” – the man shouts, as he tries to free his dog from my grasp, which yelps and yaps in between gnawing the reinforced elbow of my blazer.
I pull the pencil out and sniff it, as though Spring’s first daisy, and place his dog gently upon the ground. After I have closed my jacket, I squint at the pencil’s point and say – “I think your pencil sharpener needs a new blade” – before strolling nonchalantly away. I turn to look back, just before I reach my home, and see he stands in the same place, staring after me with his mouth hanging open and his little dog yapping and fretting around his feet.
Success! He is almost certainly awake, and I have broken his routine. He will walk a different route with his dog from now on, and an element of his consciousness will wonder whether his dog is a pencil sharpener or not. He will not call the police, because the encounter is too bizarre to recount. In fact; he may not tell anyone, which will prompt him to use his own reasoning to make sense of that which one cannot make sense of. In essence; his encounter with me will lead him to search for the absurd, which should encourage him to notice some of the greater absurdities in this absurd world of ours, and hopefully; do something that may lead to their eradication.
Once home, I sit on my bed, and feel satisfied that I have managed to wake one person today. Oho! My neighbour has returned from wherever she has been, and ducks her head as she passes my bedroom window. That’s two. I feel peckish and walk through to the kitchen, where grandma is standing in front of the open fridge, wearing an expression of extreme distaste, with her tongue sticking out and waggling rapidly from side to side – three within twenty-four hours. Not bad, but too slow. There are seven billion people in the world, so I have to think of an all-encompassing planetary prank. I return to my bedroom, flop onto the bed, place my hands beneath my head, and stare at the ceiling, while attempting to come up with something that will wake the entire human race from their slumber.
My dad’s graven face slowly appears near the summit of the open bedroom door, from where he stares at me solemnly, for a long moment, before saying – “did you stretch cling film over the toilet again, Jonathan?”
I direct a tight-lipped, yet bright smile towards him and reply – “yes.”
“Well, your grandmother has diarrhoea. If you do it again, you can clean the bathroom” – he says, while glaring at me levelly. “And grandma” – he adds.
“Only trying to be helpful” – I say smartly, as though opening my mouth for the precise amount of time required to let the words out.
“Jonathan. Pranks will not cure your grandmother of her dementia, as I have told you before. They may even make her worse. I wish you would stop.”
His head recedes from sight, as I resume my contemplation of future events.
“Good morning grandma” – I say, as she attempts to pull on a hat I have sewn closed. A symptom of her dementia is wearing a winter hat throughout the entire year, inside the house, and taking it off whenever she goes out, whatever the weather, so I am merely attempting to reprogramme her failing mentality. Grandma doesn’t reply, and continues stretching the useless garment over her troubled cranium.
I fart into my hand, close it, and open it again under mum’s nose, as she is shovelling a spoonful of cereal into her mouth. “HAND FART!” – I shout, as she retches. My family’s wide awake, that’s for sure, apart from grandma, of course.
I look through the kitchen window and see my neighbour passing, with the hood of a thick winter coat pulled up over her head, even though it’s a hot, cloudless summer’s day. I smile, and think it will be a good day. I’m quite certain my prank to prank the planet will work, and leave the house to gather the simple props I will need. My first stop is our local shop, which I enter under the suspicious gaze of the shopkeeper. I plan to buy some almost out of date chocolate, which he sells at a cut price.
“Norra puttin doggy do inner heesta hegg?” – he enquires in his broken English, which I admire, since he has been in the country for less than a year.
“I have told you before; that wasn’t me” – I lie. And if I were to admit it, I would correct him and say it was a human do. My do, to be precise. Scatological warfare is free and extremely effective.
“Inner Mahs Bah whappah?” – he continues.
“No” – I respond, firmly.
“Inner jarra Nhut-hella?”
“I don’t do that kind of thing; it’s childish” – I say, while selecting a handful of ageing Mars Bars and Cadbury’s dairy milk.
“I dunno whatta tink. Hevrywon sez yorra funni fella. Holweys pullin jokz leev peepl stingin or cover in poop. Sumwon putta doggy do inner Nhut-hella, inner heesta heggs anna Mahs Bah whappahs, thas fer shuwa.”
“Rumours” – I say, while smiling warmly and placing money and the chocolate on the counter.
“I dunno” – he replies, shaking his head and selecting my change from the till.
My next stop is the stationers, where I am met with an equally unfriendly attitude.
“I hope you’re not here to pull some prank, like replacing the contents of tubes of fake snow with dandruff?” – the shopkeeper asks. “Or glitter-stars with chopped up painted toenails?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about” – I reply, brightly.
“Or brown crepe paper with sheets of copy paper smeared with shit?”
I gaze directly into the shopkeeper’s eyes. “I have said already; I have no idea what you mean. People who do that kind of thing should be locked up.”
The shopkeeper meets my gaze, throws me a lop-sided smile and says – “indeed.”
I can feel her staring at me as I wander around the shop, where I select several rolls of Sellotape and some sheets of coloured, transparent plastic. I take them to the checkout, and smile at the top of the shopkeeper’s head as she rolls the plastic into a tube and drops the rolls of Sellotape into a bag.
What are you doing” – mum asks, suspiciously, while casting glances between me and the bars of Dairy Milk melting in a bowl, which sits upon a pan of hot water on the stove. “I suppose it’s some kind of poop prank, which, I hope, you aren’t planning to perform on your family?”I turn to mum and say – “not this time, mum, and it’s not a poop prank, despite its appearance. And if it was, I would use poo rather than chocolate, as you know.”
Mum walks off, frowning at the linoleum floor and wringing her hands, while I take the bowl of melted chocolate to my bedroom, where I place it on a shelf above the radiator. I regard my reflection in a mirror sitting upon the desk, and take a roll of Sellotape from the bag. I tear short strips from the tape, and stick the end of each to the edge of the desk, so they dangle there, ready to use.
Before I begin, I double check everything three times; the bowl of melted chocolate, a small bottle of red food dye, the strips of Sellotape, the Mars Bars, which I have pulled apart, with the toffee resting on one plate and the nougat on another (I ate the chocolate while working). My laptop, resting on the desk in front of me, with the webcam set ready to record. A large sheet of aluminium I found in the garage, which stands behind me, to act as a backdrop for the short film I am about to make, and an angle-poise lamp, with a sheet of transparent plastic taped in front of the bulb, which casts the room in an eerie blue hue.
When I am satisfied I have everything, I lock the bedroom door, sit back at the desk and take a strip of Sellotape, which I use to hold one of my ears into the position I have folded it in. I add another strip, to make sure it won’t spring up, and repeat the same procedure with my other ear. Another few strips of tape secures my nose in an upturned position, while some more pull my mouth sideways at the corners. When I have secured my face into its new shape with further strips of tape, I begin to squash the nougat and toffee from the Mars Bars together in my hands. I press the resulting pate around by mouth, to form a pair of long, thin lips, and the rest above my eyes, to create a heavy brow.
After I have stained my tongue deep red with the food dye, I jump up from the desk and take the bowl of melted chocolate from the shelf above the radiator, sit back down, and dip my fingers into it. I smear the melted chocolate all over my face, while observing progress in the mirror, and when I have finished, with a pinch here and a tweak there, the result is incredible. I stick out my tongue, which looks purple in the blue light, and slowly turn my head from side to side, while contemplating the colour of my chocolate-covered skin in the light from the angle-poise, which looks positively inhuman. I resist the urge to smile, wake my computer from its rest, and observe my efforts on screen. With a little fine tuning of the colour and light balance, I consider the results astounding.
When I was younger, I loved the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ especially the lion, and made great efforts to speak as he did. I practised and practised, but all I ever achieved was a gurgling speech to make your hair stand on end. I was too embarrassed to let anyone else hear it, until now.
I look into the camera, press record and say – “greetings, Earthlings” – in my gurgley lion’s voice, and then stop, rewind and play. My forearms prickle as I view the resulting footage. I know I’ve got it right; it’s better than perfect. I clear my throat, shuffle into a comfortable position, take a deep breath, press record, and begin to recite the speech I have memorised;
“People, and most especially politicians of Earth. I speak on behalf of the planet So-lar De-dar, the inhabitants of which have observed your planet for the past two hundred thousand years.
Our observations have always caused us great concern, and most especially since your recent discovery of an Earth-like planet, because it happens to be ours. The peoples of our planet have observed you so intensively because we are your nearest neighbour. In fact; there is a joke in the universe, which says our heavy brow is the result of slapping our hands over our foreheads whenever we contemplate your way of life.
Earth floats alone for good reason, and revolves upon a crooked axis because it was shunted into deep space some sixty five thousand years ago, since its inhabitants were considered a potential threat to the peace loving peoples of the universe, due to what were seen as flaws in the reasoning of your kind.
We are concerned that you may attempt to visit us, some day, when your technology has advanced sufficiently, which has led the universal community to agree with us – the peoples of So-lar De-dar – that you should be shunted again, even further away, far into deep space, from where you will not be able to reach us or anyone else for a very long time; hopefully long enough to devise the technology required to shunt you to the perimeters of infinity.
Of course, the peoples of the universe wish you would simply change, and treat one another, and your planet, with respect, rather than disrespect. Delight in equality, rather than creating inequality. Strive to instil fairness upon Earth, rather than encourage unfairness. And live together in peace, instead of attempting to settle every dispute with war. But it seems you are, in the words of one of your own religious texts ‘on the broad road leading to the wide gates of hell’ and nothing will stop you marching towards self-destruction. In fact; our own mystics suggest God is becoming rather tired of you too, and the feeling is that your shunting would not be against universal morality.
Incidentally; I should point out that the majority of intelligent life forms in the universe believe there is only the one God, or, perhaps, Gods, watching over us all. Your endless Gods and corresponding religions are the result of considering the concept of God on a planet divided by borders, language and culture. If you had been free to roam the planet as you pleased, as all the peoples of the universe have been able to upon theirs, you would surely have assumed the same. If this had been so, divided worship of the divine would not have manifested, and religious warfare would not have occurred as a result.
To return to the point of this recording; the shunting is set to take place on the eighteenth of October, 2033, which we feel gives you plenty of time to consider this message, and hopefully change the political infrastructure of your planet, so you may begin to exist in harmony with one another, your beautiful planet and all its life, and the universe within which we all exist.
The universe is a peaceful, loving, friendly place, peoples of Earth, and we dearly wish you would strive to harmonise with its vibe. If ever such a change were to take place, unlikely as it seems at this moment in time, instead of shunting you far away, we would pull you to rest within our planetary complex – from where you were shunted.
The development of your planet has always been a great deal slower than that of all others, and for every step of advance you have made, you have taken two steps backwards in a moralistic sense, with a recent example being when you developed the Atom Bomb within decades of learning how to split an atom. We foresaw events such as this, peoples of Earth, which is why we pushed you deep into outer space, far away from other planets, the closest of which, before the shunting took place, was as near to you as your moon – our planet, as I have already said. You were our closest neighbour then, as you are now, but if you are shunted again, distance will become meaningless, since the Earth would be entirely alone within the far reaches of time and space.
You live upon a planet divided by borders, so your kind cannot travel freely. Your civilisation is built upon a foundation of unfairness, inequality, slavery and corruption, and you wonder why it is so unstable. You increase an arsenal of nuclear weaponry, which already has the power to destroy your entire planet, but still you do not stop. You see such perversions of science as advancements, and there is no one in the entire universe, apart from you Earthlings, who sees sensible reasoning in a strategy that maintains peace through warfare, or the threat thereof; it seems nothing more than absurd irony to intelligent forms of life, which leaves your so-called intelligence to stand firmly within the realms of scrutiny.
You throw away edible food, produced to feed your kind, if it is not bought, which feeds vermin and insects on dumps, while people starve to death. Some live in grand houses, while others roam homeless on the streets. Some drink clean water from a tap or well, while others drink dirty, contaminated water that causes disease and death. You flush human waste into your seas and oceans, where sea creatures live, which form an element of your diet. The manner in which you live may destroy the planet upon which you live, yet you do not change your ways. We hope you will see the absurdity of your existence, change, and become a part of the universal community. That is all, dear peoples of Earth. We wish you strength, the courage to face the truth, and the will to chart a new course towards a bright future.”
Once I have finished, I press stop, rewind and play, and watch the resulting footage. My mouth falls open to the muffled sound of Sellotape becoming unstuck under my mask of nougat, toffee and chocolate, and my top lip droops into my mouth, which I begin to chew absent-mindedly while I watch the film.
I pick bits off my face and eat it, while watching the film over and over again, before loading it onto a small video-sharing site. I know encryption will prevent its source from being discovered, so its authenticity will be a matter of public debate.
Two weeks have passed since I loaded my prank to change the world onto the Internet, and I have to say I am overwhelmed with pride. It has been the Internet’s main topic of discussion, and has even made headlines in international newspapers. I don’t know if it will change the world. Maybe nothing will encourage humankind to stop and consider the direction in which we are traveling, and where it might lead us.
I’m pretty sure the world’s more awake now than it has ever been, though, so I do have some hope, and there’s still a good few years before the deadline, so there would be no excuse if we fail to do something to alter the absurdity of our ways.
All I can do now is make sure the world doesn’t fall back to sleep, which is why I bought an assortment of foil-wrapped chocolate figurines from the supermarket yesterday, and sit in my bedroom, today, wearing a mask and gloves, sculpting exact replicas from poop.