Chapter 01: A Church Divided

Chapter 01: A Church Divided

There I stood. In a humble black shirt and a pair of jeans that could use a wash, I towered above the lectern. Usually the priest would stand here preaching sanctimoniously every Sunday on how to be good in this world, but I never went. My line of work slowly warped me, twisted me, leaving me in a position where nothing short of hour long confession or divine intervention could save my christian soul, hence I stopped showing up. I was evil. I am evil and I am aware of it, and I will burn in purgatory for millenia when I leave this life behind, but as I stand here towering above the lectern looking at not just one, but two coffins at the center of the sanctuary mere centimeters from the altar, I could see the devil. She was sitting right there with an arrogant gaze shedding crocodile tears waiting for me to give a speech she wrote for me. I might burn in purgatory forever for what I had done in my life thus far, but of all the ruined people, the husks of former respectable human beings, I had left in my wake, if I could add her to the pile, I would burn happily forever. As deep as my hatred ran, and it evidently ran deep, one person in the church, at this double funeral was more angry and loathing than I.

I took up the envelope with her speech in it. She had her creep of a new husband hand it to me as we entered the church. Opening the envelope I found twenty one pages written on machine printed front and back. With a smirk I glanced at her. "Wow," I remarked with a chuckle: "Forty two pages. Did you expect to keep us here all day?". I looked in panorama over the crowd. Divided by the aisle the nave was split into two equally crowded seating areas. To the left of the altar sat her family and friends all of whom knew little of the departed two, if they ever knew them at all. Every single male in this half of the church wore pitch black tuxedos freshly dry cleaned and ironed. Not a tux below two grand, that much was certain, as I have seen many suits in my line of work. Funny thing is, a fifty dollar suit mass-produced in Taiwan can be worn to a fine dinner party without hesitation, since everyone else present will not doubt want to show off their furiously expensive clothes only looking borderline different from everyone else and that difference, at least they convince themselves so, makes the price worth it. All the while, the bloke in the fifty dollar suit looks equally not-at-all different from everyone else. When asked what brand it is a white lie drives it home and that is easily two grand saved on a formal attire.

As for the females present it was hard to tell who was who. Either they had all decided to wear black veils except for the harpy in the front row, rolling her eyes at my previous pathetic humour at her expense, or they had been told to dress that way by said harpy to make her stand out in the crowd. If the latter was true I would honestly not be surprised. Their dresses were all equally approximately identical, black and dull. I digress.

The other side of the nave was crowded by my friends and family all of who knew at least one of the diseased well. Black shirts, black t-shirts and jeans all around, even for the largest part of the women present with few wearing matching black tops, skirts and heels. It was evident we were situated at a funeral. It was equally evident to anyone who would share my panoramic sight over the crowd these were very different sorts of people. The left side chuckled at my joke impatiently and looked longingly for me to get it over with, and the lips of the right side people perched so tightly had I shoved a lump of coal down the throat of everyone there before my complaint, the coroner would have an extravagantly dressed plethora of asphyxia victims and could after the autopsies rightfully change his profession to retired gem stone collector.

I looked down at the first page. "Clearly it was my fault," read the first line and I mumbled it out loud. "Speak up!," shrieked the bat. I darted her a glance, then looked back at the paper, then back at her and back at the paper. I did so with rising levels of fury. "I am not reading this nonsense,"  I proclaimed. "Sir, the agreement was that you perform a speech written by the lady fair," interjected the priest with a calm and patient voice smiling at the harpy. With a scoff I crumbled up the papers rapidly and threw the paper boulder in the air, then I resumed my seat at the front row. Next to me was an empty seat. Lara had not shown up. I knew she would not. I believe I saw a glimpse of her before the service began, if so she bolted. I did not intend to hold her to it. This was indeed painful, though she worked in law enforcement, this particular departure hit her harder than any sad fate she had ever dealt with on her job. My first thought when I resumed my seat was to pay her a visit later. Immediately next to Lara's empty seat sat Jonas. His gaze flickered haphazardly between a few sheets of paper in his hands, me and the priest. Sweat ran down his forehead and his shirt bore the telltale sign of his anxiety: pit stains. He was visibly shaking. "This is highly irregular," added the priest in an equally calm manner addressed at me. Glancing at the two coffins side by side I added after a while from my seat: "Yes." "Come on David," shrieked the harpy from her seat as her pet husband stood up and brushed his suit. It was not dirty at all, but his precise and casual brushing was meant as a nonchalant behavior to intimidate everyone present and to underline his assumed authority. "According to our agreement," the hollow suit began: "You are legally obligated to perform the speech handed to you." Towering above the seated sharply dressed crowd on his side he looked expectantly at me. Had a hair pin dropped to the ground the impact on the floor tiles would have been deafening.

"Perhaps, we should proceed with our second speech," suggested the priest after a while and gestured at Jonas. He stood up and trembling looked at me. A tear ran down his cheek. "This is so hard to understand," he sobbed. I got up as well: "What do you see?". A while passed when he scanned the church. "I am at a circus," he answered after a while. "No, you are not," I interjected and he scanned the church anew. "A theatre," he asked rhetorically. "No, a funeral," and his gaze found rest on the two coffins. "When sir is ready," interjected the impatient priest with a gesture towards the lectern. "It is flickering," said Jonas. To comfort him I put him hand on his shoulder: "You can do this. For her."

The church gate opened slightly and shut with a loud thump echoing through the crowd and everyone turned around and stared like rabbits caught in the headlight of a car at Lara. She saw me and Jonas at the front row and quickly made her way up the aisle, alone and uninfluenced by the relentless attention of the crowd. "Shameful," added a few of the veiled women from the harpy's nest, but Lara did not heed this. She wore a black tank top, worn jeans and a pair of black sneakers. Her hair was as always tied up in a pony tail and on her right arm she carried the silvery bracelet with the inscription: "For whom the bell tolls." Fitting. Immediately to her left walked Pouncer in his usual gay fashion not even noticing the people around him. Wagging his tail he followed his master until she, Lara, came to a halt near me and Jonas. From her right pocket he summoned a small bag and from it drew a delicate silver chain necklace. It had absolutely no adornments and Jonas at the very sight of it gave a small start. "That was hers," he added and immediately looked at the coffins. "Yes," said Lara: "Turn around." Jonas hesitated for a while looking quizzically at Lara who opened the necklace and gestured towards him. He finally understood her intent and let her put the necklace on him. "She wanted you to have this," Lara interjected and turned him around. With awkwardness she hugged him and took her seat immediately besides me, and Jonas approached the lectern. "This'll be interesting," whispered Lara with humorous anticipation. "Didn't think you'd show up," I added. "Had to take care of something," came the reply.

More nervous than ever Jonas glanced at the crowd and he put his papers in front of him. Pouncer left Lara's side and quickly climbed to the lectern and sat at Jonas' feet. Patting the dog twice Jonas with a smile addressed the crowd: "Thank you, David. Thank you, Lara." Hushed silence fell over the entire room as he glanced at his papers. They were blank except for one pages which he shuffled around to be at the very front. It hard only one word written on it.

"Now let us mourn the losses we witness here today," he started. "I know this is weird, but could I have some water?," he requested when Cory leaped to his feet, grabbed an unopened bottle of water and in a quick run awarded Jonas the bottle with the words: "Sure, YOLO." Equally quickly Cory was seated once more and Jonas took a sip. "YOLO," said Jonas hesitantly, and thus his speech began. Thanks to Lara's illicit recording of the ceremony I am able to present here the exact speech word for word, start to finish.

YOLO. You only live once. You're aware you said that at your own dead girlfriend's burial. right? Do not worry, that doesn't make you the biggest ponce present here, not even close to it. While that was insensitive and rude, I reckon an obsession with the superficial glorification of your wife due to her own selfishness to the exclusion of that fact your step-daughter lies in one of these coffins isn't only atrocious, but considering what that obsession says about your own interests in this ceremony in the house of God it ought to ensure you'll rot in Hell. Both of you. Then again your own greed should have made that clear to you already, isn't that right Diane? You wanted to write every word said during this ceremony yourself just to make sure you had complete control, just as you had complete control of your daughter by any means necessary. For the longest time you attempted to keep me away from your daughter and with good reason, but even to this day you are still completely blind to the story that led to this funeral, or at least any part of the story that does not comply with your own illusions, but since we are all here and you wanted me to perform your speech, just as you wanted David to praise your selfish useless existence to the skies, I will tell you the story in detail from another point of view. No doubt you black veiled ladies and tuxedo ghosts never even knew the departed in these coffins. I will make sure you do. Both of them. I am also certain quite a lot of you know little of Diane except from her model career and her self-branding at social events. You do not know Diane. You know a facade. You know a facade that is equally true and insightful to her character as the facade of this church is, or better yet, the walls of a public toilet, since what it houses is most likely dirty. And shit. And full of piss.

At this point the priest interrupted and the lawyer husband of Diane the Harpy furiously protested this appalling behavior. The harpy herself gleamed with ominous fury. Jonas, however, continued his walking back and forth in the sanctuary and continued his speech with deafening honesty, quickly leaving the priest and the lawyer, the angel and the devil, silent once more.

Would the clown and the rude sir in the audience, please, shut up. The show goes on as the circus director says it must, and I'll remind you in this circus the director is always observing from the calliope up high, so please, be quiet. I will tell the lot of you how the story started that led to this, and then I hope David will indulge me and perform the speech that Diane wrote for him, or rather wrote for herself, to see how much our stories agree. An officer of the law, present here against all odds, once told me that when considering a case, any case, one ought always to look at the case in at least three ways. One way from the victim of the case, another from the culprit. Finally as an external audience of the case to distance yourself from the harsh and sad reality of this world. I can not do the latter and I will leave this up to the audience present here after I perform this evening's play "The girl who was betrayed." That is not a very informative title, actually that is a bland title that says nothing about the subject matter and I hate those titles. It should be: "The girl whose death was framed by her narcissistic mother."

I started to write this is a note to my biographer to make sure he or she would eventually get all the details down especially regarding this funeral. I knew I would get a biographer one day, since just about every CEO that ever made it to the big league is bound by some unseen unyielding force to have one written on their retirement, hence, it would also happen to me, but it occurs to me now that the speech will not make any sense to a reader who does not know the story that led up to this speech. So much for in medias res. I had better end the transcript of the speech here and back up a couple of years to, what seemed like, any other day at the office and introduce the characters in a more comprehensible succession. It is easy, though, to assume that oneself is the main character in the big story that is one's life, however, just observing the influential presence of friends and family, maybe this assumption does not hold true for everyone. What would Holmes be without Watson? And the sweet angelic ms. Nell Trent without her grandfather? Nonsense.

Of course we assume the roles as main characters in the stories that are our lives because we are by definition main characters of our own lives, but we are not main characters of the histories that are the sums of us all, all our deeds and misdeeds, our adventures and our escapades; history. I would be a fool if I thought I was a main character in everything that happened, good and bad in the world. I have never been deployed thus I would be a fool to claim I was a main character in the Iraqi conflict. Calling me tangentially related to it would also be generous. With this in mind, I assume the role of a supporting character in the narrative that is Jonas's life. On that note…

The sign above the steel framed glass pane doors said: "ZenTech." I was the CEO of the company, a company I had inherited from my father yonks ago. The building containing the company headquarters was immaculate: spotless and clean. The walls were pristinely white with motivational posters scattered about. The floors were lino with a black marble surface and polish and wooden plank panels on the ceiling only broken by the air-conditioning vents scattered equidistantly around the work areas. When I say work areas, you might immediately assume the layout of the typical cubicle, the unyielding office interior where dreams and hopes come to wither and die everyday, where hopeful happy workers show up at eight in the morning and leave tired and soulless husks at 4 in the afternoon after having carried out a piece of work that, at least to the worker him- or herself, seemed unimportant and insignificant. ZenTech HQ was decorated with large polished desks and high backed office chairs of black leather. The work areas had 4 sections of 4 desks facing each other with large potted plants in the middle. Large panoramic windows revealed a tranquil garden outside the work area, kept immaculate by a retired gardener who stubbornly refused to retire on social services and as she put it: "Go to a funeral home and wither away? No, sonny, I would rather die while watering a massive rhododendrum rather than watering myself in a hospital bed." With the work she did and had done I had twice offered her a large salary to retire and let a new gardener take her place, but she stubbornly refused both times.

Usually when I offer cash settlements I do not do it twice. Bad for business. I also tried to get her to take a gardening student that she might help teach and get to know her successor, but to just as little avail as the retirement bonuses. Thus, she still works eagerly and efficiently like a bee despite being 84.

At each of the large polished desks were high performance computers with two monitors, notepads, pencils and all other paraphernalia used to keep the organisation running. While working the busy labourers were free to entertain themselves by listening to music. They were even given the headphones to do so. At 12 an one hour paid lunch break began and the workers happily got up from their desks and walked either outside in the garden to eat their lunch, a popular choice in Spring and Summer, or into the café area densely populated during Autumn and Winter. During lunch tea and coffee was offered ad libitum, free of charge. Myself and two other executives occupied offices adjacent to the work areas featuring the exact same equipment as the labourers themselves. During lunches we three would join the workers outside or inside for lunch depending on the season.

The company had a strict dress code when it came to our employees: they had to dress as comfortably as possible. When meeting with customers and clients, naturally, we all would dress to impress, but for the office work jeans, t-shits, skirts, sneakers and sandals were encountered more often than not. Especially us three executives made an effort to be as insignificantly dressed as possible.

All of this seems strange to the average work force droning for a corporation that does little, if anything, to value and appreciate its labourers. ZenTech was founded on the principle that a happy worker is a busy worker and the 64 employees along with the 3 executives ran over ninety five percent of the company yielding unfathomable profits considering the work force. This is to be attributed to the extreme efficiency of each employee. The top down structure of the typical company easily recognisable by an administration that blindly passes down information and orders while taking little if any in return was not present in ZenTech as we three executives worked with the philosophy, while we were able to sell the products and keep the wheels greased, we had little customer and problem contact, hence we did not know everything there was to know about the operation of everything. Assuming so would be catastrophic. Who would know the detailed situational problems better than the people dealing with them each day and getting paid to do so? Certainly not the people who spent most of their time talking to investors, participating in phone meetings and trying to get new customers.

My daughter June was interning at the office. She had no specific work load and her presence was completely on account of her unrelenting mother and her new lawyer husband who bent me over in court, robbing me of half my fortune in the divorce. Turns out being the bastard son of the supreme court judge who does not recognise his bastard son as his actual son has some benefits. Sadly, I have been unable to prove this relation as both parties deny this relationship and a publicity scandal does nothing to help me regain my fortune which was coming along nicely at the time of the story.

June, however, appeared to be a ball of sunshine and she helped where she could and where she was asked to help. The employees loved her and the little money I paid for her internship was spent on modelling and acting classes taught by whichever supermodel or actor/actress her harpy mother had caught wind of lately, seen in a magazine or starred in a blockbuster movie. Besides work, I only saw June every other weekend, a clause in the divorce. June was 14 when I divorced her mother and she was 17 then. Her mother had for all intended purposes the custody of June and put a lot of pressure on her to become a model or actress, as her mother herself was a model and her beauty was naturally fading with age. Had I been a vengeful person I would be overflowing with joy that her new rich lawyer idiot husband's wallet was taking heavy abuse on account of her repeated attempts to hide her aging with cosmetic surgery, to little effect. It is easy to tell when plastic surgery, Botox or any of the sort has been done on a person.

I really wanted to see June on a different career trajectory, however, under the heavy influence of her mother there was little I could do and I told myself, whenever her photoshoots landed on my desk displaying my own daughter in far too little clothes for my comfort, at least she sold herself to a glamorous industry and it could be worse; she could be a stripper. Worse yet a hooker, but my own reason chirped in the back of my head whenever I told myself so, that no matter how pretentious a facade a fashion magazine can put up it does not change the fact that people will get off to it. This, I repressed, and approvingly applauded her hard work whenever she showed me her articles with such pride, she might as well have been the innocent sweet three-year-old girl giving her daddy homemade crayon paintings again. At least back when she was little I had no needed to store them out of sight in a "Your daughter in, so far, over three hundred skimpy outfits"-binder at home in the bottom of a closet. Bikini season was the worst.

I digress. There we were April 5th 2013 in the ZenTech headquarters. I had been in meetings with investors and potential clients all morning and had just returned to the collective luncheon break. It was pouring down so we all relocated ourselves to the café area, at least us who brought lunches from home, while the rest would leave for fifteen to twenty minutes to buy lunch and then return and eat with the rest of us. On that day, Jonas, sat looking at an empty bag he brought from home. Jonas was a statistician, and a rather young one at that, hired to simulate corporate strategies. It was by no stretch a monumental task and he never seemed stressed with his work, always handing in his weekly reports on time written with such care and attention to detail, it was obvious he might even have too much time on his hands during work hours. He was just out of university and this was his first job. While he was indeed overqualified for the labour, he never complained, but rather seemed content with his ability to perform according to company requirements and standards.

He was a tall guy, six foot five, and rather slender most likely from sitting in front of a computer screen for his past many years. According to our personnel files he still lived with his parents, not far from ZenTech HQ. According to my employees, however, he was a weird bloke, a man of very few words and a twisted obscure and at times outright incomprehensible humour. During lunch he just sat and stared at his rather cheap lunch consisting of nothing but a few fruits and vegetables and a small loaf of dark bread with chicken. Same thing, every day. He took advantages of the company's casual dress code everyday and wore to the exclusion of everything else worn and tattered jeans and t-shirts along with a pair of sports shoes badly in need of replacement. With the amount of money he was paid I often did wonder, when I got bored or had nothing else to do, what he did with his money. Obviously he was not living large. Once I had seen him with a cellphone, an old Nokia model, but I had never heard it make a sound or a motion. He worked as quietly as he ate his lunch. He sat in front of his computer screens with old ear plugs listening to music on YouTube as he worked with unfaltering attention towards the computer screens. He typed without looking at his keyboard and considering the immaculate fruits of his labour, this was an impressive feat.

Whenever people are forced together in these work environments certain archetypes are made quickly. Someone will be "the funny one", "the smart one", "the dumb one", "the tattler", "the pretty one" – which was June in this office – and while these are just some of the archetypes, there will also be the "weird one", or "the nerd". This was Jonas and I would love to boast he was never bullied or mocked for his differences, this was altogether not true. Whenever he would leave his desk to grab a cup of coffee or some water from the cooler, it would happen every now and then, he was referred to as the "freak" and such. The worst offender, perhaps a better word is bully, would be June. Somehow, Jonas got out the worst in her.

That rainy day in April, however, he had not brought his lunch as usual. His tattered t-shit was not only worn but indeed foul. Stained. June had entered the café area in such a poor timing the only chair available was situated besides Jonas. Everyone could tell she was reluctant to sit there, but eyeing no other options she forced some dignity on herself and sat down with her small bag of sushi and without even acknowledging Jonas' presence she started eating a few nigiri that would make up for everything she ate that day besides some cabbage and mustard in the evening should she be unable to cope with her hunger; the price for being supermodel thin. As Jonas sat and glanced at his empty bag, June after a while turned her attention to him and spotting his immediate mischief, drew attention to it: "Forgot your lunch?". And of course everyone now turned their attention towards the clearly anxious kid. Chewing and enjoying her sushi, June continued: "How can you forget your lunch? And your laundry?". I shot her a disapproving glance, but she did not heed it. "Mommy forget to do both?," she added after a while. "June!," I exclaimed angrily and she turned her attention towards the remains of her lunch without as much as looking up. Too late, did I intervene. The damage had been done and an upset Jonas sprang from his seat, blew his empty paper bag full of air and smacked it right next to June's ear. The burst startled June and the rest of her pitiful excuse for a meal fell to the floor. Another incentive for her to eat less that day. Great. Jonas proceeded to storm out the door and after a quick moment of me and June sharing a glance, I got up and followed the poor boy out.

He was sitting at his work station almost in foetal position with his arms clutching his knees at his chest. I grabbed a chair and sat down next to him. "Jonas," I started: "Is something wrong?". No response came from him and I was not surprised. "Don't mind her. She's just having a bad day," I continued. He lifted his head from his arms and looked at me with bloodshot eyes: "Her, too?". I could hear his stomach growl. "What's ailing you?". "Nothing," he insisted. A few of the workers returned to their computers to show each other whatever amusing content they had found on the Internet since yesterday. "Why don't we step into my office?," I suggested and got up. "You gonna fire me?," he asked. With a smile I responded: "Oh, no. Just for privacy," and nodded at the cluster of 4-5 HR employees giggling at a computer screen.

"You seem hungry," I commented as Jonas resumed his guarded position on a chair opposite my desk. "And thirsty," he added with a sulk. "The water cooler has just been refilled today," I added: "And fresh coffee is always on the pot." He did not respond verbally, but offered me a frown. "You havn't been moping all morning," I added. "No," he said. A moment of silence passed before he continued: "It's just, why does she do this?". Before I could reply and apologise on her behalf he bursted: "It's not fun!". The thought entered my head that her abuse was entertaining, but only to her and anyone sufficiently juvenile to laugh at Jonas' expense. "And not fair," he added after a while. "I'll talk to her." "Don't bother," he protested: "Not even the best parenting could change that bitch." "What could?," I asked. "A miracle?," he suggested and continued: "Ransom?," "Blackmail?." A moment passed: "Death?". He started to sob at the mere mention of his latter suggestion and a chill went down my spine. After a pause to think, I got up, walked into the café area, grabbed June by the arm and dragged her into my office. These actions were by no means met without protest from June. "Listen young lady," I started: "You're going to take this guy out to get a proper meal. You're going to get one, too. You're going to pay and then you're going to apologise for your actions." With a scoff she looked at me: "As if." She looked at the sobbing boy in the chair, who was by all means in his power, attempting to avoid looking at her. The sight of this shabby bloke in the chair was indeed a morose one, enough so that she took pity on the guy and knelt besides him: "I am sorry." She attempted to seem earnest, but having raised her I could tell a fake apology from a real one. "What do you want for lunch?," she asked and he looked up. With red swollen eyes he met her indifferent gaze. "Could go for a sandwich," he answered: "Chicken and bacon."

She got his and her own coat and off they went. Concerned he would not be back before lunch break was over, he hesitated and discarded her notion to take him out to eat. I insisted and off they went. The two most different people in the office on a minor excursion. I wondered as they left the premises, whether I had put a spark to gunpowder and with an uneasy mind I watched from my window. Situated immediately opposite the ZenTech HQ was a church in gothic architecture with large spires twisting and stretching towards heaven. The building itself was beautifully maintained and the plethora of ornaments on the building itself was completely intact. In a tower stretching higher than any of the many spires on the church aspiring to pierce the pearly gates of heaven was the bell tower with a clock of gold. Immediately above the clock sat a giant brass bell, announcing proudly and relentlessly its message once an hour. When the Jonas and June reached the church, June immediately pointed in one direction and started that way, but a hesitant Jonas turned on his heels and went the other way in rapid speed. June became aware of his departure after around half a dozen steps and immediately turned around and followed Jonas, running as fast as her heels would let her. They had both left my sight.

June had rushed after Jonas, but even in his famished tired state, he was slightly faster than her. She had to remove her heels to catch up to him. Upon reaching him she immediately grabbed him by his left shoulder, but her turned around, pushed her into a bush screaming: "Leave me alone, bitch!". He was crying and running, but June swiftly got back on her feet and followed. The second attempt at stopping him left June stumbling over two strangers at a bus stop. Jonas heard this crash and came to a halt. He turned around and let June catch him: "Can't you just leave me alone?" "Why?" "You hate me and as far as I can tell it's mutual." "I don't hate you," she protested. "You do," he answered with incredible authority: "Now let me be!" Obviously something was bothering Jonas, that much was clear to any who had ever had the duty to comfort a sulky child and his furious attitude did nothing to hide his hurt. "We're going for lunch," said June after a while. "Fine." "You wanted a sandwich, I know just the place." And taking him by his wrist, she led him through the crowd and through the city. "I really am sorry," she said after a while. "For what?" "Don't play dumb, please." "If you're so sorry, why not be sorry before you do that shit, and then not do it? It's called 'being a grown-up'!". "You're one to preach," she added after a while without breaking her gate. "I need to catch my breath," Jonas protested and they stopped. "You need cardio," June commented as he bent over exhausted. No comment. After a breather they resumed their adventure in silence.

The restaurant was small, bright and lightly furnished embodying every aspect of minimalism. White walls, stainless steel and abstract art along with birch wood furnishings left the small room with a feeling of grandeur. "I don't like it," commented Jonas when asked about the decor. June frowned: "But it's so stylish." "Yeah." "And clean." "Exactly. Feels like we're in an OR." A posh waiter eventually showed up in a white formal attire: "Hello, what would you two doves–," but was immediately interrupted by Jonas: "We're not together." "Ah, my apologies. Would would the lordship and ladyship be having?" "I'll pass," said June. "He said you should eat," commented Jonas with a smirk. "I am still full," she replied with a gracious smile. "From three pieces of nigiri. Right. She'll have what I'm having," said Jonas. "What would that be, sir?," asked the waiter. "Bacon and chicken sandwich. And a coke." June frowned. "Non-diet," added Jonas matching June's gracious smile, but he failed to consider his eyesore of a presence. "Thank you," said the waiter and left the table. "Why?," she asked when the waiter was out of earshot. "Shits and giggles," came the spiteful reply from Jonas. "You know I have a photo shoot tomorrow, right?," she asked: "Bikini shoot at that. I can't eat that." "Don't then. You're still paying." "You know, I am trying to be nice to you. You're just being a jerk," she said in a hushed voice. "You're being nice because you were told to do so. You've been a bitch to me ever since I was hired. I've got some catching up to do." "How many times do I have to apologise?," she asked annoyed after a while. "Only once, if you meant it." The waiter returned with the drinks: "I apologise, the kitchen is backed up due to the bulk of orders here during lunch time. It will be a few minutes." "That's fine," said June with a smile and gratefully accepted her drink with a polite: "Thank you." Jonas did not show such social prowess. He immediately drank greedily from the glass. The carbon acid eventually became too much for his throat to handle and he had to put down his drink rapidly spilling a bit on the otherwise clean birch table. Wheezing he smiled: "That's the stuff." June grabbed a tissue and wept up the spillage. "Are you going to tell me, what's bothering you?" she asked folding up the tissue. "You don't care," came the reply swiftly. She pondered this for a while.

"I first came here with my high school boyfriend," she said after a period of silence and waiting. Her first boyfriend was a Canadian bloke named Jake who moved to town because his mother had landed a good supervisory position in an advertising agency. He was a the 'teenage musician'-archetype, mooching of his mother's fortune under the assumption that three power chords on an acoustic guitar and lyrics on unhappy love and the existential crisis of the teenage years would someday get him on a big venue with a plethora of fans along with booze, money and chicks galore. Him and over half his generation. Dumb as a lamppost he took guitar lessons, but never singing lessons leaving his 'performances', if I might describe his musical recitations that generously, rather ambiguous. He was a fair guitarist neither good nor bad, but a poor singer at best. The instrumental parts he played was not that hard on the ears, but the second he opened his mouth, whether singing or not, everyone cringed. Except June. She was convinced he was an excellent musician and a good person. "Why did you break up?," asked Jonas sipping on his coke. "He got kicked out of school," she said copying Jonas's nonchalant sip. Before Jonas could ask the obvious question she continued: "Ran a dog fighting ring in the school basement." "Uh-huh," came the response after a while. Turned out Jake's mom got the boot for blackmail and he had to do something to get cash to fund his frivolous way of life and his expensive guitars. The food eventually arrived and with a smile and a silent: "Thank you," Jonas copied the grace of June when receiving his lunch. She chuckled at this. "What do you do, when you're not a work?", asked June after a while. "Why?" "I'm curious," she said glancing at he sandwich. He took a bite of his and with his mouth full he continued: "I game," he said. With a puzzled look she stared at him. "Computer games," he clarified. "With friends?," she asked. "Alone, mostly, or with people over the Internet." "So with friends," she concluded and picked up a single crumb from her plate. "No, strangers," he replied. "What else do you do?" Jonas pondered a while. "I used to play music," he said: "Piano." "Are you any good?" "No." A while passed and Jonas took the word: "That's why I play alone. No one to judge." She smiled, but it quickly faded: "Don't you have friends and family?" "No," he replied after a while taking a ferocious bite from his sandwich and chewing violently, yet not loudly. "But you live with your parents," she continued with certainty. "No," he replied with a sad glance. "When did you move out?". "I didn't. They vanished." A shiver ran down June's spine: "Last night?". A moment passed, Jonas swallowed and drank. Finally he replied: "Yes."

Spotless

Spotless

Spot_smBrace yerselves, cos this is a tale of unmitigated woe.  I thought I should mention this up front, so you don’t go into it expecting witticisms and jollity.  I’d hate for you to be disappointed.

I have MS.  Because of this, my legs don’t work right.  The whole standing up, walking around, being vertical thing is not only tricksy, it’s quite painful.

Oh, that’s not the woe bit.  It’s background.  And I got used to it quite a while ago.

One of my volunteer jobs (I only have two, I’m not greedy) is up at the local Dogs Trust.  It’s a dog rehoming centre.   They (we?) take in abandoned dogs, and look after them til a new home is found for them.  I started up there as a dog hugger.  I think the official term is dog socialiser.  Before long they spotted that I wasn’t a complete muppet, and had a bit of a rapport with the mutts.  So I was promoted.  I am now a socialiser/trainer, and I get to work with some of the more disturbed dogs.

Many of the dogs we get in had shitty starts.  A litter of pups we had in a few months back were put in a bag and dumped over a fence into someone’s back garden.  They were (understandably) dead wary around people.  So I spent a few weeks just sitting in their kennel (not a Snoopy type kennel, a sizable room designed for the pups to stay in), just chatting to them.  By the end of it they were happily climbing all over me, chewing on my arms and ripping my trousers.  They now all have new homes.  (Please note:  I am not claiming that this acclimatisation was all my work.  I was just a small part of the team that helped them realise that not all people are bastards).

For the last couple of months I have been working with four dogs.  Rocky is a terrier that has been homed 6 times.  Each time he ‘just didn’t fit in’.  And each time he came back he was just a little more fucked up.  He is now terrified of being left alone.  He has bitten me several times when I tried to leave the room.  Kevin is a German Sheppard who is lovely with people, but is a complete git with other dogs.  He bullies the hell out of his kennel mate.  Max is… um…  how can I put this?  Weird.  If you stuck the head of a German Sheppard on the body of a Staffie (staffordshire bull terrier), you’d have Max.  He has authority issues.  We had a number of weeks of disagreement until I managed to convince him that I was the Alpha.  Now we get on fine and are making great progress.

Finally, we have Spot.  He’s a 10 month old collie.  And I love him to bits.  He’s reactional.  This should not be confused with reactionary.  Those are dogs wearing Che Guevara T-shirts.  Reactional dogs are the ones that go wiggy (technical term…  Google it) at… well, pretty much anything.

Spot and I have bonded.  When he comes into the room and see’s me, he goes ape shit.  Several of the carers (the people that work there full time, and get paid for it) have commented on how he doesn’t do that for anyone else.  Hell, he had to had a hernia removed last week.  And I’m pretty sure he got it from getting excited at seeing me (you would need to see him throwing himself about in excitement to understand my reasoning).

At the end of my sessions with each dog, one of the carers comes in to take the mutt off and then bring me my next buddy.  All of them (the dogs) are happy to see them (the carers).  These are the people that care for them on a daily basis.  And, more importantly, bring them food.  They dash over and get all excited to see them.

However, recently, Spot hasn’t.  He does the ‘Oh, it’s you.  I like you’ dance.  But then he pauses.  You can almost see the thought process.  ‘I like you, but you take me away.  I wanna stay with him.’

At which point he either hides behind me or throws himself in my lap and wraps his front legs round my neck.  I know, right?  I SOOOO wanna bring him home.  But I can’t walk him (See?  There was a reason I bought up the MS thing.  I wasn't just looking for sympathy).  And a 10 month old collie needs loads of exercise.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to sort out some kind of dog walking service.  And I think I may have found someone to do it.  Good news!

Oh, in case you forgot…  Tale of woe.

So, this evening I logged onto the Dogs Trust web site, as I often do.  Of course I do this to keep up to date on who has been found a home and who has just arrived.  Not to look at the pictures of Spot and get all gooey.  And while I was not looking at the pictures of Spot, I discovered that he has been reserved.  Someone has put their name down for him.  He’s been found a home.  Someone is going to take him away from me.

See?  Woe!!!

If you ever think about getting a dog, please do it for the right reasons.  Not cos puppies are cute, or it might be fun.  It is a big commitment.  They need care, exercise, work and love.  They have their own personalities.  Do not expect them to slot neatly into your life.  And if you are going to get one…  check out your local rehoming centre.  You may find your next member of your family waiting there.

TIC – An Imminent Threat

TIC – An Imminent Threat

Compelled by the number of victims of a yet to be officially recognized health risk I want to warn you all for TIC or in full "Traumatic Intellectual Coma".

What is TIC?

TIC is caused by the repeated digestion of malarkey, nonsense, idiocy in either verbal or written form. Both the amount of exposure and the grade of idiocy can induce mild to severe forms of TIC.

A TIC sufferer will go through following phases:

  • denial: This just can't be true.
  • anger: How is it possible!
  • doubt: I must have misunderstood this or just read it wrong.
  • depression: Is this really the kind of world we are living in !?
  • acceptance: I can't change it so let's just not think about it anymore.

All 5 phases will be present in a mild to normal case of TIC. However in more severe cases a 6th phase can appear, this is where the TIC gains its power to spread its mind numbing grip on the worlds population. In the dreaded phase 6 the patient will take the ludicrous information and accept it as a truth. Convinced he has discovered something, he will want to share his fellow men and hereby spread the TIC causing bit of nonsensical information. Once in phase 6 an individual might become immune to TIC causing information and skip straight to the spreading phase.

I am sad to report that the only way to prevent lasting brain damage caused by TIC is to keep getting annoyed by the amounts of bull you find in the world. Please keep vigilant and remain a skeptic when it comes to hard to believe stories you read all over the place.

A TIC Case Study

I can present you with the case that made me realize the existence of this horrible condition.

Unaware of any danger I was reading my new version of my monthly magazine called "Electronics and Embedded Systems", when, in between articles called "a chip-scaled atomic clock""broadband sampling oscilloscope" and "MED's views on multiprocessor-ASIC", I found an article that induced my eye-opening TIC experience:

!! Beware, reading the following article might induce TIC. Read further at own risk !!

Forget implants: the breast enlarging ringtone

So Hideto Tomabechi, one of the guys who helped deprogram members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan, has started selling a ringtone that will make your breasts grow larger just by listening to it, something which should make it very popular with the ladies . Fortunately there are customer testimonials in case you were worried about this thing being legit or not, and Tomabechi says it's really simple, that he just uses sounds that "make the brain and body move unconsciously. It's a technique involving subliminal effects," that's like "positive brainwashing." If getting all busty through a ringtone isn't your bag, he also ringtones on the way that'll improve your memory, make you more attractive to the opposite sex, cure baldness, and help you give up smoking.

Reading this article and the customer testimonials made me rush through a quick succession of TIC phases.

I hope this little blog post will make you too recognize TIC when you witness it first hand and share this knowledge with the world. Awaken your friends and family that start spreading TIC information so information spreading through various media will not have a global dumbing down effect.

02 Turning

02 Turning

As I stare into the flames I can see how I am going to die. The irony is not lost in me standing before the blazing bonfire. Why the hell did I even come here in the first place? Is there nothing I can do that will change their minds?

I can’t even see a pattern. It doesn't make any sense! How could it become so incoherent so quickly? Whether it had started now or three weeks ago shouldn’t matter now. Clambering this nightmare is my last fleeting comfort. It isn’t affected by the heat?

I should have guessed that it couldn’t be harmed this easily, the dreadful nightmare I can’t seem to wake up from. Why can’t they just take it away from me? I don’t want it, they can have it. Oh they can have it for themselves! I want them to take it away from my white throbbing knuckles.

Please take it away…

Ever since I got entangled it has been hunting me down. I guess that it wasn’t a coincidence that I would make that news report on the Mischa residence. It was blown to pieces, but I see no reason why it was me who should have been on the scene. We were the closest crew upon the scene, just returned from a festival coverage and I was a little pissed at that point.

We had looked too deep into the bottle with some of the musicians and had finally got the chance to leave as my superior called and told us to go to that accused place. Arriving there; blinded by a warm feeling from that awful single malt I stepped out onto the street amidst a crowd of people huddled together to see the wreckage of an unknown explosion. Was it a gas pipe…? Bomb…? Stove…? Who cares about the truth, I would make it a bomb in a gas stove if I wanted too. Viewers like that kind of thing, they thrive on others misery. How pathetic that they can only accept their own mundane lives by knowing that someone else has screwed up more than they did?

I don’t even care about that anymore. You can’t stay blue-eyed in this business forever. My camera man took out his equipment, supported by the driver; literally, we shot an angle that would make me look as I stood in the wake of the accident. In hindsight I guess that the drunken and shabby report with me snorting every time I tripped over large words with S, made me feel slightly guilty and I wanted to make it up by doing some in dept journalism to learn about the person who lived in this… wreckage?

It had collapsed so I couldn’t say what kind of establishment had stood before me at that point, but while my driver packed up the camera and microphone and my camera man had darted for a neighbor to borrow the bathroom, I watched the salvage team dig up some of the remains that hadn’t been ripped apart or burned beyond recognition.

I waited for them to take out something that could indicate what kind of person he was, but it seemed that the house had burned for a while and had mainly consisted of either wood or paper. There was nearly nothing left at all.

I had given up staring at them at first. They had dug around for half an hour, picking up metal hinges and melted plastic. I was talking with the startled neighbor who sat by an ambulance staring at the rubble. She told me that he had lived a normal “boring” life. Not the sharpest man she ever met, that was an old man down at Arizona. He was called Pete. I was so happy to learn that from her, but my sarcasm would limit the information and I went with her off branched saga into normal life busywork that stole a whole hour of my life. I WANT THAT HOUR BACK WOMAN!

(Maybe they would understand that they had to delay this for an hour to pay tribute to my purpose in this life. No… He would probably just say that they already done that and be on with his hazed babble once more. God he has talked for hours now. How much crap before something happens?)

I shouldn’t joke with this, they are trying to kill me. Asking if I did it myself just to be rid of his incisive gibberish would just anger them further!

None the less, that woman robbed me of sparse time, although I never would have known by then. I was sure I would have a rich full life, sitting on the French Riviera drinking merlot and playing cards with Fernando or someone else that could tickle my fancy in my seventies.

She came to a sudden halt like her train of thought had run over a cliff, sadly without her in it… and told me that he had been acting very strange yesterday. She had received his newspaper by the paperboy. Since he thought the occupant was dead or the place deserted he had chosen to hand her the newspaper instead. She had of course read it like anyone would and went to her neighbor to hand him the paper, sharing the concern of the paperboy.

Apparently he was home and half naked. He stood in the doorway in an open robe with nothing under and starred at her. He looked tired and confused according to her description and took the paper closing his door without a word. She went around the house to see if he was okay, but discarded it when she noticed him make breakfast. He would be fine if he just ate something.

Shortly after she returned to her house, she saw through her living room window that he had left his house in a great pace, still in his robe. It was not her business to meddle she said and I had a hard time concealing my derision of her personality.

It was about that time the scavenger crew made a discovery. They had found something disturbing in the ruins and were running around looking for a cell phone. What a bunch of amateurs. I saw my chance to get an insight on the matter and offered my phone and expertise by calling the local police department. I got a hold of an old friend of mine who were officer at that bland building.

The crew had a field day. They acted like they had found the ark. Keeping the place sealed off they pushed everyone and everything away to conceal the discovery. They even had what looked like an intern chasing off birds that landed near the scene.

They thought they were smart. Although I had helped them they knew me. They refused my entrance to what they suddenly called a crime scene. Something was fishy and I knew what to do, or what had to be done which I did actually. You learn to cover your ass prematurely in this business. Even if they didn’t let me see their discovery, the police station would take any evidence of their findings since it had become a crime apparently. I would just talk to my friend and have all the solo access I could dream off.

Although I would have lived without it; looking in hindsight!

It was night when I reached the police department. My friend had taken his sweet time bathing and shuffling around the place so he could let me inside. I had met him in the lobby and talked like I was complaining about a neighbor. He had shown me downstairs to an interrogation room where we could have some peace and quiet. The place was sparse staffed at that time of night and we could talk for hours without being interrupted.

We both knew the risks involved with looking at evidence, but he knew me well enough to know that I would never tell anyone about our relationship. He was an old friend of a college friend, so there was no obvious connection since our short fling had no physical evidences and we chose to stay friends after that, exchanging information across the red line. He solved mysteries that they couldn’t afford to finance or didn’t have a clue about and I got first hand information in crimes that I could broadcast for my news network.

Maybe that was the reason I didn’t get fired, reporting drunk with no manners to hide it for the audience. My boss had growled and said something under his breath I didn’t hear and thrown me out of his office with a warning that felt like a hard spanking. I could have send him a bottle of scotch, but it was too late and the sentiment would not have gone down well due to the nature of my warning.

We talked back and forth in that cold room for hours. My dear friend was more interested in how I had been doing than the actual case. He was reluctant to speak about it. Something in their discovery had made him squeamish and he tried to divert from the subject several times. Finally I asked him to show me the evidence. He refused at first appealing to my gender and told me that I wouldn’t like to see them.

I was angry that he pulled that card and chastised him accordingly. He buckled and showed me downstairs, into the vault where they had placed the evidence on a large white sheet so it could be photographed for investigation in the morning.

Going down the concrete stairs I felt that we crossed that invisible border of sea level and everything became quiet and heavy. My breathing was loud and every step echoed in the hall like a drum.

Our steps became synchronized as we approached the metal door; he picked out a bundle and found a large key opening the metal door. It made a small clang that echoed shortly and died in the creak as the door opened.

He refused to go with me inside, saying that he wanted to eat when he got home and didn’t want to spoil his appetite again. I entered the room with the notion that I had half an hour top. If I could get the pictures done in minutes it would be lovely.

I entered the vaguely lit room. Blue lamps turned on as I hit the light switch and the white sheet came into sight immediately. A large white sheet had been spread out over the floor where black rubble laid spread evenly for the investigators. It was scrap metal and a fire poker mostly. A half burned picture of an orange meadow with a burned down tree. It could have been burned in the current fire, but that would have been too coincidental to make sense.

Something caught my eye. A pile of paper was lying between two rocks. Were they rocks? I doubt that they would place similar rocks on each side just to keep a burned pile of paper from flying around.

As I touched the book a loud snap rang in the room. My friend could hear it and asked me what I was doing in here. I told him that I was looking in the book and he sounded gutted by the sentence. “You didn’t remove the body from it did you?” he asked through the small hatch in the door.

I didn’t see anything that resembled a body, making his next comment colder than I expected. “What have you done to the charred child clutching the papers?” he asked making me drop the papers immediately.

There never were any body I explained to him, but he didn’t believe me. He told me the reason it had become a crime in the first place was because they had found a child’s body burned beyond recognition clutching what looked like a crude book under the rubble in what they guessed were the fireplace.

I looked around the room, but there was no sign of bones or bodies. Only some charred metal and the picture with the tree. I told him that they may have pried the body off it for forensic investigation and he didn’t argue.

I left the book alone for a moment. Looking at the other evidence my head began dreaming up reasons for someone to kill a child holding a book. There was no logical explanation and I discarded Mischa for being psychotic for the time being.

It didn’t take me long to return to the book. I couldn’t resist it although the morbid thought of a child holding it was keeping me from doing anything but push the stone aside. The front page was filled with incoherent letters and ink stains that made the obscure text even harder to conceive. Exillion?

I tried to read on about the world and its dark places. How man should become God and create himself, how everything we did was for preserving ourselves. I had been so swallowed by the text that I hardly heard my friend call from outside the door. “What are you doing? The lights are going out?” he called sounding cold and slightly scared.

I told him it was a power surge and that he was a big baby, being scared of the dark. He said that his flashlight was not working, it was lit but it didn’t penetrate the darkness slowly moving closer.

I didn’t understand what he meant by that and he explained in a chilling voice that the lights along the hall was going out one by one.

“Open the door, OPEN THE DOOR!” I yelled to him, but his whimpering made it impossible to communicate with him. I got up and was about to run towards the door when the page I had been reading was turning black from the center and out near the edges.

Staring transfixed at the spot, I was unable to move from my spot and saw how two small white dots appeared inside the back page. Kneeling down I could hear him fall against the door and I looked closer at the dots feeling they grew on me. Reaching out to touch them I hesitated; listening to his whimper turning to a cry. Something was overwhelming him, but he didn’t sound like he was in mortal danger.

A third spot appeared after I watched the page for a minute. I felt like I could grab them like a bowling ball and as my fingers touched the surface of the paper, he screamed like a madman and shots were fired in the hall.

I looked up at the flashes coming through the hatch and then back down at the page where my three fingers had penetrated the pages. I withdrew my hand in shock and a crunching sound echoed vaguely in the hall. Everything turned quiet for a second and looking from the door to the page felt like ages. Staring down I saw to my horror that I had pulled a skull half way through the page.

Like a low screeching, a hoarse inhale builds in my throat. A pounding in my chest send shivers through my body as I involuntarily screamed while jumping backwards from the book.

I hit something as I flung myself backwards, but I never really found out what it was. Something struck me in the back of the head and I collapsed on the floor facing the door where a small puddle had gathered from the blood running down the hatch.

In my dream I had stared down the hallway.

I was alone.

I didn’t want to be alone.

Please… it hurts.

Waking up from the nightmare was just as bad. I had been brought to the hospital for intensive care. As I sat up I felt my entire body fight against me. My spine crippled my movements and a throbbing in my forehead made me fall back in bed like a log. The noise had woken someone. A guard stood up and rounded on me like a pit-bull. He talked rapidly like he was afraid that someone should interrupt us and started telling me off for killing an officer and tampering with evidence.

I wasn’t able to respond him, my head throbbing fiercely. I had to endure him for a couple of minutes before a doctor and two nurses stopped him and threw him out of the room. They assured me that they didn’t hold me responsible for the accusations and the fear of malpractice due to corruption didn’t enter my mind before they mention it indirectly. I was relieved to hear that I only had a minor head trauma and was released two days later into a crowd of reporters wanting to know everything I had ever eaten and why the burned building had caught my interest in the first place.

Knowing how they would twist everything I said, I told them that I was not there and they must have been tipped off by someone stupid.

I didn’t care that I offended a lot of people at that point. I just wanted to get away and was escorted by the police into a car driving off.

They took me back to the interrogation room I had willingly been sitting in two days ago. I entered the room with an ominous sense that I was being watched. Maybe the large glass along the wall was a hint, or the seven police officers standing behind the chief of police. I was pushed into a chair, roughly and was told to shut up.

The chief talked in a strained, but wholesome manner and addressed me as madam… at first. He asked me what I was doing in the evidence room that night and how I avoided getting shot by the officer I had killed. I tried to tell him I wasn’t the person he was shooting at and that I had known him well. I even told the chief about our short affair which didn’t last due to his wife knowing about it and nearly destroyed their relationship.

After that heartwarming story he changed tone. Now I wasn’t being looked in the eyes and the accusations rained over me like bullets. I had killed him in a love rage. I had seduced him to get into the evidence room and disposed of him as I saw fit. I was a cruel monster that would mutilate my victims in the most horrible way. They didn’t tell me how he died and refused to tell me when I asked.

I ought to know how I killed him. I was there, were their usual excuse, now having four men yelling at me. I was there for four hours before the chief had enough. He rose from the chair and everyone went quiet. “If you don’t recall how you killed him, then answer these questions instead. Where are his keys and where is the body with the book?”

I told them he had his keys and let me inside, not wanting to see something specific in there. I never saw any body and only found the book. Was the book missing?

The chief didn’t answer me straight, but I could sense that the book was gone. Had the killer who slew my friend taken it?

We were all getting tired from that long interrogation and the chief kept coming back to the point of me brutally killing my friend. He was on the edge of exploding when it knocked on the door. A small police officer came inside dropping a thick file on the table and left just as quickly. The chief sat down and opened the folder. He concealed the papers from me, but I could see in his face that he was disgusted to the brink of vomiting.

“Never have I seen such brutality. And he was alive when you did this to him?” the chief asked as he dropped the file in front of me showing me four pictures of a faceless body.

It was too much to bear. Watching the pictures made me sick again. I could feel the food I had been served in the hospital was trying to come up. Even my stomach wanted to erase those horrid pictures. I couldn’t take my eyes off them as they lay there like a macabre display. Was it a madman’s triumph or nightmares? The pictures displayed a body slump against a door, head resting against the hatch. The police uniform was drenched in blood and where a face should have been was a red and black hole.

To my utmost disgust it wasn’t decapitated, but face and skull was ripped out, leaving everything else from ears to hair on the hollow skin cap. One of the pictures showed that the skull was snapped just above Atlas, leaving the cervical spine connected with the rest of the body.

That meant it was a fierce strength that had destroyed him, I was trying to see it reasonably but succumb to vomiting on the floor as the feelings swelled up in me.

“What is your connection to the burned down house? Why did you want to get rid of the body in the evidence room Amrit Johar?” the chief said making me look up at him confused and slightly dazed?

Apparently he learned something new from that file and I pried my eyes off the pictures to see that they had been at my house retrieving a letter with my address, but the name was all wrong. I couldn’t convince him that I wasn’t this Amrit person and he told me that they had found proof that I was packing up and leaving for a small town in northern Utah.

I had never heard such preposterous claims, but they had pictures of it all. How my house was ransacked and clothes shoved into bags, clumsily forced into the trunk of my car.

“Thankful” for the generous chief of police I didn’t have long to think about my averted destiny. He removed the pictures from my sight and came up with my entire testimony, about the motive of murder. Mind numbing brutality without remorse and trying to escape and live under a new alias in another state.

Dumbstruck by his statement I stared at him hand over the paperwork to an officer who left the room and didn’t return. “If you are lucky, you will be killed in your sleep tonight. I will personally make sure you are transferred to Texas for an execution within the next 40-50 years!” he stated before leaving the room with half the officers.

“Let us get her back in her cell… what state was she in when she came here guys?” an officer said behind me and another one chuckled “I think she was half dead!”

Something struck me between the shoulders. I could feel the stinging pain run down my spine as I was kicked off the chair and hit the floor with a thud. Three officers bend down over me and started beating me with their sticks. It didn’t take them ten hits to knock me unconscious and everything from there is history.

In my dream I stood in front of an officer.

I was not alone anymore.

I just want to be someone.

It hurts.

I woke up in the back of a van. It was speeding up and tossing the turns it threw me around the floor. It took me a couple of minutes before I realized that I was in the back of the news van. My camera man Jerry was sitting in a chair holding on for dear life.

“We are getting out of here, the town is in an uproar!” he said breathlessly. He explained how they had rescued me from the hospital after I had been revived twice after aneurisms that had left me in a coma. The doctors had finally stabilized me when the boys rescued me and drug me into a wild car chase across California.

Glenn my driver had been a part of our crew for a year now. He always drove like a maniac, but this was getting out of hand. He tossed the van around the corners without slowing down and I heard several horns telling him off as we drove. I had no idea where we were heading and the way Glenn drove indicated that he only had a vague idea himself.

He drove through the night. It was dark outside as I lay staring through the milky white sunroof glass. I couldn’t get myself off the floor and holding on to anything nailed down, gave me a sense of security. My body was slowly responding again after a couple of hours. I had been clung to pipes and table legs. My hands and feet were sleeping, and the pulsation in my chest had gone from painful throbbing to a vague pounding, letting my empty stomach get the best of me.

Asking them to stop so we could get some food, didn’t go down very well at first! Being shouted down for asking a simple question when your head throbs like you are being pounced by a couch, discouraged me from asking further questions. Staring through the sunroof didn’t give me any sensation of time and it didn’t take me long before I lost track of everything around me.

It surprised me how long it took me to think about all the things I lost. I was more interested at the moment in why I didn’t feel sorrow leaving everything behind. Well I didn’t have anyone, any boyfriend or kids and my family could go fuck themselves if that is what they want. My only relations were work and that might be going downhill rather fast. Well since the boys are with me, maybe we can redeem ourselves and get a good story from this entire freak show?

I quickly learned that they had committed several felonies to rescue me. I had been locked up in the hospital and under surveillance of two policemen. Jerry had apparently jump in front of the officers and screamed that he stole the food he was carrying from a fat patient and hurled sandwiches in their faces until they pursued him down the hall and out into the street. Jerry had always been a good runner and I am happy to see his talent come into good use. Glenn had snuck into my room and shoved me in a wheelchair, driving out the hospital in the opposite direction and thrown me into the van before going to the meeting point to pick up Jerry.

Oh why did he throw “all” the food at them?

It wasn’t long before Glenn overruled Jerry and drove into Denny’s off Highway 80. He wasn’t happy about it at first, but looking at a map in the restaurant he saw that we had nearly crossed Nevada before taking a break. I couldn’t believe we had gotten this far in such a short time, but Glenn only laughed when I asked about his driving… psychopath, I’m surprised he didn’t kill us all.

It didn’t help that he refused to answer my questions and said he had been asleep the entire trip so he couldn’t have known.

We ordered dinner like it was Christmas and sat whispering between each other about our next move. Jerry didn’t know what to do, he hadn’t thought that far. Glenn was in it for the laugh and wanted to go home at some point, but for him it was like a crazy road trip.

I inquired from them where they had gotten my location last night. Jerry told me they had been at my place looking for me; they couldn’t understand why I had not shown up for work. Seeing that my house was broken into and destroyed in the search of valuables (they thought).

They called the police who said that there was already a report on the house and they should not worry. Luckily they did. They sought out someone Jerry didn’t want to elaborate on and was told that I had been placed in custody and later put in the hospital for assault. It was someone who knew what had happened in the police station because I couldn’t remember half the things Jerry told me, but they seemed to add up.

People starred at us as we sat there, the table covered with food. Funny thing is that we weren’t that hungry after all. Glenn and I threw the remains in the van while Jerry paid for the food and we drove off.

I had taken the wheel this time. Glenn had gotten enough excitement for one day and were sleeping in the back of the van slumped over a table that was nailed to the side of the box. Jerry was looking at a road map and didn’t speak for an hour. The darkening light and the empty road gave me time to think. I had been trying to remember the case and what had happened, but my head kept throbbing and I just couldn’t recall the name the police chief had called me.

It had something to do with Utah, he said I was fleeing and that would be a good place to start as any. Jerry noticed my choices and showed me the chart Glenn had taken from the bedpost as he escaped with me. Amrit Johar? It sounds so fake! Why would anyone suspect me from being anything but local? Who knows? Who cares? Maybe that name was an anagram? Someone had placed a secret message for me? Jerry looked at it for a while and didn’t come up with anything that could lead us closer to the person addressing me like this in that unknown letter.

As we entered Utah, we drove to a small town and located a payphone. I rummaged through the phonebook to see if there was anyone with that name. As I came to J I found the A. Johar I was looking for and pulled the page out of the book, jumping back in the van.

One person in all of this state and she apparently lived up northeast, a small town in the middle of nowhere. A small town called Duchesne.

Jerry pointed the way and it had become day before we reached our dusty destination. It was scorching hot outside and for a volatile summer it had chosen to be merciless today. It took nearly an hour to find that fucking address, it was a squared grid and for some reason I kept driving in circles. Four rights make a wrong as Jerry so wittingly kept muttering under his breath. I could punch him, but I didn’t need more tension in the van right now. Glenn had woken up and after we had been at the same road three times he jumped out of the car because he needed a piss.

I was nearly at my wits end. I couldn’t take his behavior right now and chose to drive off. He didn’t seem to mind as he unloaded himself in someone front garden. If I had known that I was picking him up eight minutes later at the same house I would have run him over from the beginning.

Fourth time we came to the same house, Glenn jumped on the van with that grin that I wanted to wipe the asphalt with. “Yeah you guys are idiots. I talked to an old couple who was very interested in my ability to pee for a long time even as they watched!” he told us removing any doubt if there had been any in any KIND OF UNIVERSE OR TIME OR ALTERNATE DIMENSION that  he wasn’t our Glenn.

After trying to rip my skull open and vomit into it with his monumental stupidity and idiosyncrasy, he finally got to the phase of his one dimensional humor where he could tell us that the old couple knew the streets and we should go left at the construction work on S 300 E Street.

We came to a boarded up house in the outskirts of the city. The paint was peeling off and the wood wasn’t kosher either. The tin can of a mailbox said Johar, a reasonable claim that we had found what he were searching for. I looked around the street for any people watching us, but the scarce houses made it impossible guess if anyone saw us or even lived here anymore.

Jerry complained that something smelt wrong. It couldn’t have been the fresh country air. It had to be something else; it smelt like moss and ammonium. There weren’t any factories in view and the ground was dry as dust.

The front door was boarded and every window on the ground floor was badly covered with planks and metal plating. We went around the house to see the backyard being as desolate as the rest of the place. The backdoor had been nailed shut by planks and a wooden log had been placed across the porch making it impossible to get inside.

Jerry had been struggling with the garage for a while without luck when Glenn’s low attention span had led him into a hole near the sand box. A broken sandbox with a couple of rusted tools were placed in the back of the yard, Glenn had picked up the tools out of childish interest and noticed a piece of rope going into the ground, hidden next to the wooden frame.

We pulled the rope and found what we thought were a tornado cellar at first. Crawling down into the darkness we found a long black tunnel going towards the house. An ominous feeling was rising as we walked further into the ground and finally reached what felt like concrete sidings. The path had been dug crudely as the wooden frame we followed towards the house indicated. The hole in the wall was wide enough for us to enter with no effort and we found ourselves inside the house.

The cellar was black and no light escaped through any crack. We couldn’t see the slightest as we nearly crawled along the walls. What had been minutes down there; felt like half an hour before we reached the stairs up into the house. The stench returned as we slowly ascended the creaking stairway. We stopped a couple of times to listen if there was any movement upstairs, but not a single creak or shuffling of steps were to be heard.

Our breath was becoming synchronized as we came closer to the door. The wood beneath our feet was groaning badly and Glenn had broken a few steps on the way up, coming in rear. We reached the top and found the door locked. Jerry pushed it a few times and it gave in. We pushed a last time with a hard shoulder punch and fell into a kitchen filled with people.

In that second I only saw two things. Jerry and I vanished into a thicket, of people not touching the floor, hearing something like metal hitting the floor. Glenn had picked it up and examined it. He didn’t say anything, only a small snivel was traceable in the thick stillness. He had found…

An explosion ripped the air, deafening me. I felt the pressure as it pushed everything against the walls. Several layers of bodies were covering me as I regained consciousness. The heavy bodies, cold and partially rotten were lying on top of me. The smell was sickening and their distorted faces made me scream in fear, but I couldn’t hear my own voice. A ringing for my ears was blocking the sound. Have I gone deaf from the explosion?

Kicking my way out of the meat mountain I found Jerry unconscious on the ground next to the pile I had been buried under. This place reeked of decay. The rotting bodies weren’t processed in any way and the dried spots on the floor indicated that some of them weren’t dead before they were hung here.

I watched the hole in the wall created by the explosion. It wasn’t very large. Some of the bodies strung next to it were thrown into the front lawn. God I hoped someone heard that, I wasn’t able to move.

The bodies were swaying from the explosion and I could see hung bodies everywhere. Was the entire house filled with bodies? It looked like a three store house with garage from the outside, there could be hundreds? The thought of being forced in there between all those distorted faces; knowing that it would go the same way every time made me scream again.

I couldn’t control myself. My body was shivering and my hands trembling as I watched how their swaying made it look like a zombie army chasing me. I had collapsed beside Jerry, unable to do anything when someone stood over me. I saw an old brown skirt and a silvery candlestick hover in my peripheral view. I looked up at a green blouse. It looked pale and worn in the vague light from hole in the wall.

I never got to see any face. The candlestick struck me on the side of my already heavily damaged head and I blacked out.

In my dream I reached out for the officer.

He was not alone anymore.

I just wanted him to be alone.

It hurts.

Waking up for the third time after a head trauma; had limited my movements. I didn’t feel crippled, but I stayed still. I was looking up at a wooden ceiling, shabby construction, smelling like chlorine.

Someone was sitting next to me, watching like it was a mystery how someone could wake up after a blackout. I looked up at an old woman’s face. She had been sitting next to me changing wet pieces of cloth on my forehead.

She didn’t tell me where I was or how I had come to be her guest. It took me a while before I could move properly. Again my body was rejecting my desire to move. It hurt in every crevice and I could barely sit up and drink when she handed me a pitch of grey water.

It tasted like dirt, retched and vile. Lucky for her I was dehydrated or I would have spat it in her face.

 Slipping out of the bed proved to be a spelunking adventure of dimension. I grabbed everything sturdy to hoist myself. The woman shook her head, but I ignored her and shuffled out of the hut to see where I had been taken.

Stepping into the evening sun I saw a small village with barely fifteen houses. Most of them were as small as this one and only four of them were of normal house size, I guess. People were looking ominous as I stepped into the street. They stared at me. Their deformed shapes and large beards were mocking me, they didn’t move as I stumbled over next to a small well in the middle of the street.

Everyone had stopped now. Starring at the tourist attraction, had circus come to town you freaks?

No one moved. Everyone stood still in the middle of their work or conversation. They looked like statues. If it wasn’t for some of the men spitting what I guessed was tobacco a few times, I would have guessed they were as dead as in that insane house. Why don’t they go back to their own business, stop looking at me?

Sliding down beside the well I felt how my bones were creaking, my heart was racing and I didn’t want to move from that particular spot. The old lady had stepped out on her porch and watched me sit slump against the stone. Shaking her head again she walked inside again leaving me to my misery.

An old man had summed up the courage to walk over to me. He didn’t say anything; he just stared at me mouthing something inconceivable and dropped a large jug by my feet.

I watched him walk away unable to sanctify his gesture. Reaching for the bottle was troublesome; it felt like my entire body wished to align itself with the ground. I felt heavy and my shoulders were sending shocking pain down my arms when I clutched the jug.

I looked inside for confirmation that there was something consumable and pushed the jugs to my lips in the blind hope that it was less putrid than that awful water earlier. At first my mouth felt like it was on fire. My tongue grew numb and coughing violently I felt my body being torn as my lungs contracted.

The caustic swill was spreading in my body, a warmth different from the sun filled me and I calmed down. Wasn’t it getting dark earlier? I am pretty sure that I was out in the twilight a moment ago?

Everyone was gone! I sat in the dusty street feeling the warm sun sizzle my skin. Getting to my feet I stumble back into the house or hut or wigwam or whatever it’s called when you throw planks at a rotten tree and nail anything that has contact with anything.

There was nobody. The old woman was gone. I went next door and still no one home. The entire place was empty and awfully dry. Passing the houses I saw their sparse decoration and rusted furniture. It was a sight for sore eyes and mine were the sorest. It hadn’t been long before the sun started to set, I couldn’t seem to tell the time here. Everything went so fast. The open spaces were vast and desolate. Any attempt to call for anyone was drowned in the pressing silence that place created. Even the wind was absent. No birds chirped in the… the trees were rotten too, strange?

Had they been rotten all the time? I had not stared at them before, they could have been and why should I even care? The sun sank over the mountains and as darkness came, the small lights in the houses were turned on. I had been busy starring into the mountains and been completely ignorant that people had started coming out of their houses.

Where had they been? I was in them earlier and there was not a soul?

None of them said anything. I was a little prepared this time. It didn’t startle me as much and I stepped over to the nearest pedestrian asking him where I was, but he just turned around and walked away.

I turned to see that other people had moved closer, but stood completely still starring at me as I turn towards them. I walked over to them and yet again they turned away from me and left.

Finally I gave up. My tongue was getting swollen and I was getting dizzy from the lack of proper water. I stared down at the jug, getting the idea that it couldn’t hurt as much second time when I was prepared for the burning sensation.

I knelt down and placed the jug at my lips. It felt warm as I tipped that volatile grog down my throat. Once again I felt the burning rush, but at least I didn’t cough. A tiny beeping sound throbbed in my ear. It was the first thing I heard in what felt like ages. I guessed it was only my head playing tricks, but it was a welcome mirage in this menagerie. The warmth spread equally around my body and it didn’t take minutes before I felt the scorching sun on my back again. I opened my eyes and saw that I had turned day again. How could that be possible? Was that toxic mixture leaving me unconscious for the entire night?

I don’t remember moving from this spot and my knees are still hard on the ground. I looked up to see the familiar desolate ghost town. It couldn’t be possible for them to hide in those dilapidated and derelict establishments. I felt my strength grow and I stepped into the nearest house again, tearing it apart. I threw furniture and loose planks around like a tornado in mating season, but I never found a single person.

Evening was approaching like an express train; the sun looked like a ball pushed off a table as it sank behind the mountain. I quickly ran inside one of the larger houses to see where the people came from, but nothing lit in the house. All the other houses had a small yellow light, turning on one by one.

I stepped into the street again and saw to my horror that the house I left had lights too and people stood on the porch looking at me. It was getting too much to bear. I tried to run towards a man in the street. I wanted to grab him. I needed to make sure he didn’t just go away.

My vision became blurred as I tried to run. My head betrayed me and as I stopped to regain my balance, the man had gone. Enraged with their reluctance to help me I wanted to scream at them, but nothing came out? Not a single word? My mouth was dry and my throat was clogged. I felt the thirst again, but I didn’t want to drink their radioactive waste again. It was messing with my head and they were just softening me up for something. What was their plan with me?

They could do anything with me in my drunken state. If I was unconscious for nearly a day, they had plenty of time to do any sorts of cruelty against my body! Had they already done it?

I reached around my body to see if anything was bruised or cut open, but nothing noticeable. Stepping backwards from the closest people I noticed they were closing in on me again from behind. Every time I turned around they were a few steps closer.

What happened if they grabbed me from behind? Were they only going to hurt me if I was awake to feel it? Was their idea of torture only physical? I stepped backwards and came back to the well. I needed my back against something and that was as good as any. Coming closerl every time I turned around made me think of the desperate move. If I drank from the bottle they would disappear. I grabbed the jug and quickly took a sip from that biochemical disaster and fell to my knees clutching my stomach. It was burning furiously in my body. I felt every inch of me being warm and sweaty. It overwhelmed me for a moment and stopped just as instantly as it had begun.

Opening my eyes I saw the guarding daylight. I was saved. I saw the jug had survived the drop and stood carelessly beside my contorted body. Getting to my feet was proven to be troublesome; though achievable in the nearest future.

Eventually I got up. The merciless sun made me schizophrenic. It was my savior, but it tried to boil me relentlessly. I couldn’t take much more of it and tried to stagger into the shade. To my horror the sun was about to settle yet again and I didn’t want to face those bloody judgmental pricks again.

Limping outside; grabbing the jug I drank and I didn’t stop. The nuclear waste was bringing me to my knees. It tasted like blood, a thick scent of spirit rose from the bottle. It had an after taste of metal, but I barely noticed it as I only caught my breath to drink some more. This time I must be freed from their hollow eyes. I can’t stand starring into their neutral faces, silently judging me with their baggy eyes and dark hair. They looked like something from a gothic horror… this time the jug didn’t survive the fall. I heard it crash beside me.

Falling backwards I felt the well against my hip as I fell. Did I go beside it? I stood in a white hall. It was brightly lit and warm. Someone sat at the end; I couldn’t make out who it was. I felt the desire to know who that was.

Walking closer was painful and slow. The white hall was growing slightly longer as I stumbled along.

It was a person at the end. Sitting with a large book, a boy was drawing in it. He was enjoying himself and laughing as he drew on several pages. It wasn’t long before he noticed me. He sat quietly staring at me as I came closer. He might have been shortsighted. He was squinting as he starred down the hall towards me. “What are you doing? The lights are going out?” he said and looking behind me I saw how the white light had turned grey. Was it going to be night again? I didn’t want the lights to go out, the nasty eyes would return. I hurried along as fast as my bruised legs could carry me, but the darkness grew around me.

“Please stop what you are doing, the light is slowly going out!” he cried. This time it wasn’t a boy. He had grown up. The darkness had turned him into one of them. That cursed face. That taunting stare was mocking me, it was penetrating my body. It was making me feel like a little girl. I stood helpless against his overpowering presence. His being was enveloping me and erasing my body from this cruel world. Nothing had changed since I was young. Nothing had progressed in years. I felt like that small insecure child that everyone felt pity upon. I wanted to show them all that I was resolute and coherent, but they felt sorry for me. They all took pity on me and I never found an equal I could talk too.

I hated him. I hated his guts! How could he stand there blaming me for bring that darkness which turned him into an empathic ghost. Never challenging me, no one challenged me! They just nodded and took pity on this weak little child.

I’ll show them. I will show them all!

Picking up the book the boy had drawn in; drums rang seven times like a victory march! I slammed it around his face. The bloodcurdling scream was satisfying. It wasn’t me this time. It wasn’t my weak body giving in. He was weak and pitiful not me. Not this time. I had triumphed and he would be the pitiful crippled child that everyone would feel sorry for and talk down too!

My cry of triumph was loud. I screamed like a maniac. Roaring with fierce victory I was ready to teabag his stupid face, but I was not in the dark hall anymore. I blinked as a stabbing pain in my chest made me let go of the book.

“What did you do doctor?”

Everything around me was a blur.

“Nothing? I did that same as the other three times?”

My eyes felt like they had been rubbed with steel wool.

“Two weeks. She finally woke up. Please notify the parents.”

I slowly regained my eyesight and saw that I was in a small white room.

“Look at me. Can you hear me?”

Someone was touching me. It felt strange and alienated. I shuttered and he let go of me.

“Can you speak? How many fingers do I hold up?”

I muttered that he had three fingers up and I saw a man in a white coat clap his hands with delight.

“Welcome back!”

I didn’t know what I could say to such a statement, but every second of the last couple of days was imprinted in my mind. I loathe his voice. He was smiling to me; his tired eyes resembled those of the villagers. It wasn’t for me he was cheering. It was for his achievement.

“How are you feeling?”

He asked too many questions. I took a moment before seeing the room. It was familiar, depressing and soul draining. I asked him for the book, but he didn’t know about any literature that was brought during my coma.

I assured him that I was a news reporter and were uncovering a story about a death of a young girl holding that particular book.

He shook his head. He went into a long rant about dreams and how my sub-consciousness had given up on me, projecting it that way. I told him about the travel I had made and the house of the hung. I told him that I had been accused of killing an officer and being brutally beaten before rescued and taken into the unknown by my crew.

He assured me there was no news reporter. There was no crew. Nobody had ever seen or heard about that house or that village, but when I told him about the moonshine they had given me, he turned slightly pale. He didn’t elaborate, but something was wrong.

The nurse returned after a long embarrassing silence and told us that my parents were on their way. I could barely remember them. It was so many years since I had seen them. They were the cruel bastards who had left me here… left me at this place… this…

Everything came back like a swim in syrup; hard, slow and disgusting. I had been put in a sanitarium. My body was fragile and my “so called beloved” parents had dropped me off in this hellhole three weeks ago.

The treatment here was torment as best. Forcing us medication and taking advantage of our weakened nature. We were not allowed to speak with the others. We were kept in separate rooms, and any attempt to communicate during school sessions were punished with beatings. Some of the other children had not survived some of the beatings. Their bodies were taken into a shed in the back of the field and we never saw them again. Most of us had a small window facing that side of the yards, but they were far too small to get any good view through.

I had been reminiscing for too long at this point. The oversized nurse had entered with a wheelchair and taken me back to my room. It was midsummer’s eve. Our parents were invited to an event to promote the sanitarium. Everyone knew it was a publicity stunt, but we couldn’t do anything about it. We were kept under sharp surveillance and any attempt to tell our parents about the violence would be soothed with an elaborate lie and a fatal beating afterwards.

We gathered outside that evening to watch the sun go down over the hills. They had placed a large bonfire in the middle of the fields a bit away from the buildings. We were all gathered for the big ceremony and felt threatened to smile for our parent’s sake.

The voluptuous vulture stands in the middle of the crowd. The head of the institute lights the bonfire, telling the parents some sweet little lies about their wonderful torture chambers and their zombie patients, sitting in their rooms drooling. Their eyes sunken and glazed over, we see them briefly as we are shuffled past the many open doors.

He stood pompously holding a large black book. He was fiddling with it, it must have been important to him since her brought it with him. Maybe it contains secrets he does not want the world to know?

Maybe his entire world would crumble if this book was revealed and the truth forced to coexist with our world? Could he really be that pompous, standing in the middle of the parents he is lying too with the evidence that would thwart his corrupt business?

Everything he told them was lies. His knuckles were clutching the book harder the longer his rantings went on. All lies, everything he said didn’t have root in reality. Was that his manuscript? Had he constructed a utopia which he could dazzle our parents with?

His speech became hazed babble, incoherent and inconsistent with the truth. How could his lies be truer than my entire life? I had worked hard to get that job. I had gone through college and beyond just to get a job like that? How could his lies be more plausible? How dare they discard my life and tell me I am just a silly little girl. Waking up from a coma my ass; they are withholding information and that book holds the only lies here!

I had stopped staring at him and watched the crackling bonfire instead. I notice as he stopped talking, but didn’t avert my eyes. The book came into my peripheral view as he threw it into the fire as a solid punctuation to his bloated speech. The book caught fire as I stared at the last page open before me; I smiled for the first time.

As I stare into the flames I can see how I am going to die. The irony is not lost in me standing before the blazing bonfire. Reading the words like they were my last thoughts I leapt into the fire and grabbed the book, shielding the last evidence of this corrupted world with my body. The screams around me barely reached my ears. The pain was unbearable. I regret it, I regret it all.

The book felt cold in my embrace. I should have guessed that it couldn’t be harmed this easily, this dreadful nightmare I can’t seem to wake up from. Why can’t they just take it away from me? I don’t want it, they can have it. Oh they can have it for themselves! I want them to take it away from my white throbbing knuckles.

Please take it away…