Theme: When I Was 13-Years-Old

Theme: When I Was 13-Years-Old

Awkward story time. Entering adolescence, the age of 13 is a great source of awkward stories for us all; the start of the “teen” years. And just looking back at the stuff I did when I was 13 years old brings back a vast selection of embarrassing stories.  However, I am not about to tell a single one of them. When I was 13 years old the year was 2001. So, when I was 13 years old:

  • Wikipedia went online for the first time.
  • Walker: Texas Ranger ended.
  • Napster was closed down as a result of a long legal kerfuffle with the RIAA.
  • Windows XP was released.
  • Gorillaz released their debut album.
  • The Enron scandal.
  • Apple released the first iPod.
  • George W. Bush Jr. was sworn into office succeeding Bill Clinton.
  • Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings hit movie theatres.
  • The Netherlands legalised same-sex marriage as the first country in the world.
  • Mars Odyssey was launched.
  • The Summer of the Shark.
  • Anne Hathaway debuted in The Princess Diaries.
  • The GameBoy Advanced was released.
  • Monica and Chandler got married.
  • Bejeweled was released for the first time for browsers.
  • Microsoft introduced the Xbox.
  • Andrea Yates drowned her five children to save them from damnation.
  • The Russian space station MIR was deorbited.
  • On September 11th, 2001, I saw the twin towers crumble on live TV.

When I was 13-years-old I saw the world change within an hour. Fire, smoke and dust. People leaping from the windows to certain death. Absolutely terrible. And of all the stupid crap I could possibly tell from my own backlog of stories – from when I was 13 years old, none of those stories matters. None of them will ever be anywhere near as important, heart-breaking, horrendous and despicable as what happened that day in 2001.

Reflections: On a Eurovision Performance…

Reflections: On a Eurovision Performance…

So, Eurovision 2015 came and went. And while the want to read on went out the window for the American viewers as early as the headline of this post, I am European and I care about the Eurovision Song Contest. Always has. Always will. Why?

Briefly, I think that in a utopic world state where we all live in peace, harmony, symbiosis and respect for one another’s cultures and beliefs, the Eurovision Song Contest is exactly the kind of thing we would be doing: a celebration of our different cultures and of mutual respect for cultures and beliefs. And I do not want this to go away.

This is not going to be a rant on why I think the wrong contribution won. Although, I somewhat do.

One performance this year left me somewhere in the uncanny valley and I want to rant a bit here. First, go watch the performance. Here, I will link it and, please, pay attention to the stage show:

Obvious disclaimers: I am not going to criticise the music, or her singing, or her appearance. The number is absolutely worthwhile listening to on its own. Bojana Stamenov’s vocal performance is great and I have nothing but respect and admiration for her representation of Serbia in this year’s contest. But I will say why I find the message moot, and that the stage show undermines it completely.

First of all, the whole “accept who you are and be at peace with it” has been a viable hot topic for decades, even before the Rocky Horror Picture Show, before the rise of the Internet. Yes, RHPS was in 1975. Makes you feel old, right? It never ceases to be a relevant message, but I find myself asking: what is this song teaching us in terms of inner peace and acceptance? Obviously a lot, but what fresh teachings does it bring about? What does this song say that has not been said before? Nothing. So I find the message moot, but this is a very subjective point of critique. You are not likely to share this opinion, so I will not argue about it. The arguments would rely too much on intertextuality to be convincing. Ultimately it comes down to the this: I have already heard all the points this song is making elsewhere and before. If you have not, you have not, and you will not share this opinion of mine.

Whether or not it is worthwhile repeating the message over and over again, if a completely different debate…

But notice the stage show from around 1:50 and onwards. When her four background dancers that were previously rather static and uniformly dressed burst into dance. Their scene presence is obvious and their energy is unmistakable, and contrasts the stage performance thus far. But this is sort of where is breaks down for me. I think the choreographer attempts to embrace the celebration of self-acceptance, which is noble, but…

The singer does not match what her dancers are doing. And to me this is glaringly obvious. First of all, she would not have the air to do so, the extreme movement would impact her impressive vocal performance (mind you, all singing must be live in the Eurovision), she is obviously not trying to match their dancing, and lastly, and I hate to draw attention to it, her size.

Since this is the SJW-age of the Internet, I need some TL;DR disclaimers here before the hate-mail and death threats commence. At least, to keep it to a minimum (the un-nuanced twat-cakes are already typing out their hate right now). I am not criticising her for being obese. I am about to bring about an argument that contains within it the appearance and weight of a female performer, so I obviously must nuance my critique, before starting it. Let me clarify once and for all: My critique is not with her. It is about the stage show’s (lack of) interaction with her.

Whether or not she is obese or that is make-up making her look like that, I feel fair in the statement that her size makes her stand out on stage. And that is fine. How people look, how they live and what people eat and drink is something I feel should be left entirely up to themselves, but the central theme of this particular piece of music is beauty. And this comes in two variants: inner and outer. For all that I know she could be a fiend or an angel to be around when it comes to inner beauty, I do not know, and that is of no importance to the performance. Her personality only affects the performance in the minds of those who know whether or not she possesses a great personality. The point of the song is the accept beauty even if it is not apparent, which is a statement that channels inner beauty outward. The song is thus about acceptance of the lack of outer beauty and the embrace of inner beauty (captain Obvious strikes again). And the sole act of appearing on a stage, let alone performing, in a show like this shines (several hundred) spotlights on her appearance. And in this context, appearance is not nothing!

And she is an obvious choice from the get-go for this song, because putting four of the usually-undernourished in-great-shape dancers around her accents her difference in appearance. She is the odd-one-out among the dancers and that is the point. That is why her dancers are static and wearing the same uniform for the first part of the song, and she is the singer. It comes across perfectly. But when they break into dance and start taking the stage, the performance, to me at least, shifts from being a celebration of self-acceptance to be a celebration of the limits imposed by her deviation in appearance. That is the way she sticks out and it becomes obvious that she can not do what they can do. But ought the point not be that in spite of her difference in appearance, she is able to do anything anyone else can? That she is every bit their equal, and then some, seeing as she is the lead singer? And that outer beauty in no way imposes superiority?

I like to think so (if this is not the point of the song, then it advocates outer beauty and my respect for the contribution is straight out the window). And that is why I think the stage show in a master stroke, to accent the climax of the music and demand scene presence, destroys the central point the performance is trying to bring across.

Her dancers shed their costumes to accent their individuality, and then they take the stage which shifts some of the attention from the singer to the media-pretty dancers. And this is where there may have been a stroke of genius. Because this is what media tend to do in practice: shift the attention of something “undesirable” towards something that is culturally pleasing to look at. And this experience that the stage show betrays the artistic message of the performance as is common in media, might have been an actual work of art, because “beauty never lies.”

But the whole point of her performance is that she is meant to be channeling inner beauty outwards. Hence, the choreography does not deem her “beautiful” in this performance (although I think she is), but the dancers obviously are. If their individuality accented by their varying costumes are meant to somehow bring across that they, too, are not “beautiful” in the eyes of the audience, then there is no contrast anymore. Their uniforms meant nothing and they are all odd-ones-out – and the whole message fails completely.

If they are “beautiful”, and this is meant to portray the betrayal of the stage show to the artistic message of self-acceptance where does this shine through? If indeed “beauty never lies, never hides, never gives a damn”, then why were the “beautiful” dancers concealed for the first part of the song? Why were the beautiful hidden? Unless they are not meant to be “beautiful” and then we return to the paragraph above. This is either wrong or implies that outer beauty excludes inner beauty (in which case my respect for this contribution is out the window). So, the only interpretation left, that I can see, is that “beauty never lines, it cries ‘here I am'”, which merits the singer’s place among the dancers and that they are indeed equal. The dancers are meant to be “beautiful” and she is not meant to be “beautiful” (although she is). And we return to the paragraphs above and it all falls apart at the seams.

It had the potential to underline how media excludes anything “not-beautiful” and shifts attention away from inner beauty to superficial beauty. A great point because the whole notion of outer superficial beauty is driven by media. But to me, it falls short and the stage show makes it a celebration of her limitations, a celebration of the fact that she is not as good as them – she is different, hence inferior.

And that rubs me all the wrong ways.

The song taken on its own without the stage show, however, is still worth listening to and advocates a great point.

Theme: My Name is Eddie Humbert, This is a Day in My Life

Theme: My Name is Eddie Humbert, This is a Day in My Life

sup? im eddie humbert. im 13 and a hardcore league of legends semi pro breakin into the big league and imma rule this game. they call me big humps. they should anyway. heres a day in my life.

07:04: got up fo breakfast and then shcool. short day and weekend soon. lookin to get gamin after shcool. league all day bitches. moms all like pay attention and shit but ther aint nothin dey can teach me to help me with my lol car33r. gotta rank up few times and then i can apply and game with the pros. maybe get a sponsership and ill be rollin in money. they dont teach this at shcool.

08:02: in class next to my boyz LZ and dixter. his names dexter but i call him dixter cuz he be puttin his dix everywhere on the weekends. he got contactx that hit him up w/ booze for the chicks so he all up in them. every week he talk big about him diggin a new skank over the weekend. that guys legit. LZ pretty cool but keeps goin maybe you should study moar. like thats gonna change shit.

12:13: talkin with LZ in recess about strats fo later. dude keeps bangin on about new skinz but i cant buy skins no more. parents have the card info and they said i cud get skinz if i got better grades so no skinz for me right now. this was over a year ago. although when my english grade dropped from d to f and then went back up to d cuz i got mad rhyme skills my dad said that didnt count. my parents are so unfair but at least i got a rap car33r to fall back on if my lol is hackd.

13:59: classes over for today and imma go home and get my lol on. so rdy for this! asked LZ if he wanted to pwn some losers but he was gonna work on a shcool assignment. lame am i rite?

14:32: home and just a quick check on 4chan and tumblr you know for the newz. gotta keep up with the times you know? some dude on tumblr goes on about how rapin a test on math class makes rape sound all positive but if so then no one should say beat or slammed neither. moron. some bitch posted about how 1 in 19 are victims of crime and shiz and that cant be true. then 19 out of 20 would be criminals. dumb bitch needs a brain. or go kill herself. usual debate on whos the worst dr who but im not into that. i mean i tried watchin it but i dont get it. a fucked up on dope guy and some low budget robots. stupid show for a stupid audience.

15:06: swaglord92 has arrived bitches! logged in and rdy to rape some pussies. immediately fire into a round with a teemo straight up makin minefields rather than fuckin up the opponents and some dude with a build out of the meta. thinks hes got it all figured out. when he died first i suggested he throw himself off a cliff. and then go fuck himself. fool. bastard cost us the round.

15:32: told a dude to fuck off cus he was pinin literally all the time and he started on a rant about trans and cis and shit and i said “sry pan gend no binary mocha frap w/ cream and duel action hydro cyls and leather grip nife who indentifys as a gurl FUCK OFF!” and a mod wrote me that was not ok. i agree dem piners are the shiz. dunno y they let these mother-f-ers play with the big dawgz. sort your community out devs.

15:38: short battle later i was stomped when two shithead team mates go afk mid battle and a feeder straight up pulls a leroy. then he calls all of us n00bz and leaves. gave him a piece of my mind. disrespectful son of a bitch deserves to get told! mod gave me a 24 hour temp ban. sorry ass leechers. devs ur mods need to git gud or gtfo.

15:39: sukkmydix91 rdy to play some dota! fuck yeah. lets do this.

19:02: dinners rdy and my parents make me join them at the tabel. or is it table? nah gotta be tabel its pronounced that way. anyway i sit dpwn and my parents are all like did you do your homework and i say of course ive done it. i got that shit all covered so i can get up get up and get dpwn on some weak ass scrubs for the evenin maybe wreck some cod or battlefield after dinner. hey i spent hours developin my 360 no scope skillz best believe imma show em off. dad freaks out cuz i was swearin at the table. tabel even. mom makes me do the fuckin dishes as punishment. meant to be educasional and stuff. yeah right.

19:51: done with the dishes and time to go pwn some retards in cod. imma quickscope them so hard. get into a random deathmatch with a bunch of kidz. pwn them like a bau5. i gun dpwn this punk like 8 times within a minute and he ims me ‘u fuckin little cuntt moddin homo’ and im all like ‘fight u irl im buff learn 2 spell n00b’ and report him. hope he gets a ban literally forever.

22:25: mom says its time for bed but f her. im mid round and on fire. she gets mad salty and unplugs my xbox and starts yellin and shit. like shes lecturin me. why do these ppl think i got so much to learn? and that i wanna? i dont get it. im a winner. a fuckin bau5. if you gotz sumthin to say fuckin tweet it @ me 140 chars or less suckers.

Theme: I Believe

Theme: I Believe

So, this post could have been many things as well. Here is a few honorable mentions of what could have been.

My first impulse was to write a fictitious story about two people at a coffee clash debating the nature of freedom of speech. But as this has been covered to death in painful details in so many outputs, it baffles me that so many people openly struggle with the concept still. And those who do not get it at this point is not capable of comprehending the idea. So it would be a post the equivalent of ranting to a closed door, or at most a dim sheep.

My second impulse was to embrace my own nihilism and take the piss. I would proceed to do a decomposition of R. Kelly’s “I believe I can fly,” but after an in-depth analysis I found it is nothing but smoke, mirrors and empty space, and I felt me writing about beautifully presented void would in itself be worse presented void. Binned.

So, I am sitting this theme out.

I do not believe.

I think.

Theme: I’m Sorry!

Theme: I’m Sorry!

Burden Banner

The murmur and music outside grew louder. It was an awkward silence. People passed by outside the window. Some going left, some going right and others stopped to read the flyers outside. There was a small menu posted in the window on the worn front door and several newspaper headlines were propped outside. This was a weird little place and by the looks of it, it only just managed to make ends meet. It was discount. It was cheap. Dirty. The tables were worn and looked like they had started their service around Woodstock, and decades of service taken for granted left the – once pristine and polished – wooden table tops looking like cracked windshields. They looked tired somehow. And the chairs were no better. It was clear that half the chairs came with the tables. They were quite uncomfortable and they squeaked, creaked and strained under any weight. The other half of the chairs were obviously bought from a thrift shop when the originals had given in to wear and tear. The lights were dim and the hum of the incandescent lights was clearly audible, even with the soft murmur coming in from the busy street outside. Every now and again the bulbs would flicker heralding their end of service. If only the worn furnishings had the same prospects.

The shopkeeper-slash-newsagent-slash-tobacconist-slash-cook was an old woman. Her grey hair fell in a mess of clusters unto her shoulders. And while she was worn, and her eyes were dead, she wore a quiant shirt, a long skirt and a pair of unfashionable orthopedic shoes. These were likely prescribed by a physician. She looked respectable, and the clothes looked fresh although the labour and the dust were leaving an impression as the day went on. It was early in the afternoon and the Saturday crowd brought in a few stragglers looking for a cup of coffee, a pack of smokes or a newspaper if a full moon was out. A small bell rang with forced enthusiasm when the door opened and someone entered. The old crone was at the counter in a flash, with a kind smile, a rehearsed tone and dead eyes. Her question: “What can I get you?,” ran over her lips with the routine of an old lumberjack cleaving the billionth log of his lifetime. And the customer would make a request or put the pack of smokes on the counter, the old shopkeeper would take care of it, her kind smile long gone.

My name is Giles. Giles Burden. And I was on a date with the devil. He sat across the table from me with a smug smile. He was observing me observing the interior. I took a sip of my coffee. It was warm, strong and fragrant. And black as night. The cups and saucers did not seem worn or marred by time. The service was clean, but definitely not fancy either. Probably the cheapest solution available, but in this hellhole, it seemed almost luxurious. “How long’ve you been with us?,” he asked. “13 years, sir,” I replied after some consideration. I put down my cup and he raised his. He sipped. In the hue of the buzzing light he looked old. He had recently turned 32, but under these lights, in this place, in this conversation, he looked at least twice his age. His tone was grave and his expression was set in stone. He slowly put his cup back down and hissed at the coffee. “Too strong for my taste,” he added.

The door creaked open and the bell jingled solemnly. A street musician was pouring his soul into his craft outside and a young girl stepped in. The old crone sprang alive: “Good afternoon.” “Hi,” the girl replied glancing around the shop. Her distaste was immediate and unmistakable. “What can I get you?” “I’ll have a latté,” the girl replied. “If only,” the devil sighed under his breath. “A what?,” asked the shopkeeper. “A cup of coffee,” the girl replied with repressed disappointment. “Coming up.” The old crone turned to the coffee machine. Her kind smile had vanished. She poured a cup to go, put it on the counter and named the price. The young girl paid, got her change and the old crone closed the register. It gave a loud and cheery chime. The young girl left the store and the doorbell rang contently behind her. From outside we could hear the street musician still at it. Why on Earth these people insisted on playing sad and obscure tunes was beyond me. Surely upbeat, happy and common tunes would resonate better with passers by.

“How’ve you been lately?,” asked the devil. His red face had a concerned expression, but his eyes were blank with disinterest. “Busy, sir. I’ve been juggling several large projects,” I replied. He was, after all, responsible for these projects ending up on my desk. “Giles,” he smiled: “I know what you’ve been doing, but I’m asking how you’re feeling.” “I’m doing great. I love my job and the work is interesting.” Aside from big company contracts and major stock exchange I had recently worked with some of the firm’s veteran customers. I had helped Denver Airlines recover from plummeting stocks. I had redesigned the business strategy of Gibbs Brothers’ Dentistry Inc. from the ground up and helped them stay alive and in business. Most recently I had assisted in a company restructuring of Murtaugh’s Marksmanship Emporium when the old CEO retired due to old age.

“Giles,” the devil began again: “You’re not on trial here. We’re not at work.” “It’s during business hours,” I interjected. “Yes, but this is not business. Be straight with me, please.” We might not have been at the office. We might not have been here for business, but he was still my boss. I worked for the devil. And it was evident he did not believe me. “I’m doing great,” I repeated: “I love my job and the work is interesting.” He sighed. Every bit of mock concern from his face was gone.

“We’ve been talking,” the devil stated sternly after a moments pause. The old crone looked at him briefly, but swiftly minded her own business. “We’ve been going over your performance reviews,” he continued. I nodded. We both knew where this was going. “It’s just not good, Giles.” He concluded. “Looking at your reviews and comparing them to company benchmarks, you’re–,” I stopped listening. Outside two teenagers passed by the window and looked in. Their paced slowed, but then they hurried out of sight – hand in hand.

I met Catherine in my early twenties – over a decade ago. I was 22 years old and on my way to campus when my useless heap of a car broke down in mid traffic. It was towed to a local mechanic. Catherine was working as an apprentice mechanic and that was where and when I first met her. At first it seemed as if we had nothing in common. I was a young lad steadily making my way through business school, and she was a mechanic with a flair for engines and exhaust pipes. Sure, we were both good looking, but that is hardly common ground for conversation. Well, not particularly interesting conversation. Anyway, it was love at second sight. When I came back a few days later to retrieve my vehicle, I got a few minutes with the mechanicess as she went over the repairs. She was funny, sarcastic and pragmatic to the exclusion of many other qualities. And I loved her for it. There was nothing she could not fix with a wrench, some grease and an oily rug. And that made her happy. She asked me out as I got in my car to leave. I went with her on my first date in the age of 22. It was terrifying, but it went smoothly. I had no frame of reference then.

On our one year anniversary we moved in together. We got an apartment in this city, close to her garage. Then we went out for a lovely dinner. Business had been going well for me and my plans were extravagant. When we got to the restaurant she looked around and turned to me: “What’s this about?” “What do you mean?” “This is really high end,” she replied with a smile. “Oh, come now,” I started rather pompously: “No less is good enough for you.” She smiled, kissed me and said: “That’s sweet, but I’d much rather go for a burger and a beer.” “You can get that here.” “Yeah, no, it’s all fancy crap. Probably a burger in a pretentious not-so-whole-wheat bun with some prime steak and oven baked fries with 75 thousand different spices – and no grease!” The sight of this lovely young lady in a stunning dress nagging about fry grease was something to behold. I had caught her eyeing the dress she was wearing and I had bought it for the occasion. The maître d’ scowled at us. Catherine noticed the scowl and turned to me. Her eyes sparkled. “And the beer is probably some import of a local brew from somewhere in Northern Fantasia that tastes like hops, halibut and horse piss,” she said quite audibly. The maître d’ started at us, but I quickly dismissed him: “Don’t worry, we’re leaving.” We left for the greasiest burger joint we could find. Our search ended in a questionable dive. Me in a suit and her in a stunning dress, among truckers, scum and low-lives. We had a lovely evening. Before she fell asleep that night I said to her: “I’m glad I met you.” She whispered back, tired and blissful: “I’m glad you met me, too.” She fell asleep with a smile on her face. We were engaged a few years later. Then she died.

A Monday morning she was going for her usual jog before work. She left the apartment and ran her usual 45 minute track down the street onto the main road, through the park, and then back home. That morning she never returned. According to an eye witness, Catherine had passed him on a bench and turned right – as per usual – when he heard a guttural growl. He turned to look. Catherine never heard it coming. Ear plugs blasted loud music into her ears and she had not seen or heard the beast behind her. The large ball of fur went straight for her and the man on the bench had screamed for Catherine’s attention. She had stopped and turned around only for the dog to pounce. She did not even have time to scream. The witness had called the police. Two officers arrived within minutes. They had been patrolling near the park and the city center. When they arrived they found her mangled body, torn to shreds. Muscles and limbs were missing. Blood was everywhere. Her throat had been ripped open and the dog had had its feast. A trail of blood vanished into the bushes and the two officers searched for the mutt. It was gone. Later, the police showed me the pictures of the crime scene. It was gory. Horrible. Messy. Most of Catherine’s face had been eaten, but just enough remained to confirm what her dentistry records already concluded: it was indeed Catherine. Was. When she had been out for an hour and a half I called her cell. Sometimes she could be gone for over an hour if the traffic was bad, or she had stopped for a drink on the way back. No one picked up. I tried again a few minutes later and an officer answered. There had been an accident, he told me. They came by to take me to the station to confirm the identification of her body. The pictures. The carcass. We were sitting in a dark interrogation room with a large mirror spanning the far wall. In the center of the room was a basic table with three chairs. One chair on one side of the table and two on the other side. I sat alone across from two officers when the pictures were pushed in front of me. I hurled.  Faintly brown bile sprayed partially onto the table and partially onto one of the officers. The room was cleaned and I was driven home. I called in sick and went to bed, pulled the covers over my head and tried to escape.

The next morning, after a sleepless and tearful night, the officers came by to pick me up. They asked me if I had had breakfast. I had not. They asked me if I had eaten at all. I had not. They gave me a cup of coffee and some sandwiches, but it tasted weird; metallic. I forced myself to eat it anyway. They asked me about my whereabouts the day before, and I told them. I was at home in my apartment, eating breakfast and catching up on the news before getting dressed for work. Any witnesses? No. None. Not after Catherine left for her run. And her testimony beyond reach. The officers told me that the technicians and the coroner were unable to confirm the eye witness’ report. The bite marks did not appear canine. Not even in the least. Their analysis indicated it was closest to a primate assault, but this was not entirely certain, either. It was likely an error, they told me. No way a ferocious monkey could have assaulted a woman in a park and gotten away unnoticed. Too unlikely. They would have the technicians run the tests again and keep me in touch if anything new came up. It did not seem as if foul play had been at work, they told me. They just needed to find out the exact type of animal, and everything would be solved. I asked about the eye witness, but they could not tell me anything.

They asked their questions, but I could not answer most of them. The ones I could answer were trivial. A description of the devoured, her route and routines. She always went the same way and nine out of ten days she was like clockwork in her return. The officers, ever the pillars of understanding, recorded everything and sent me home. I went to bed. Next morning the same thing happened. Officers showed up, drove me to the station and offered me food and drink. It tasted better this time. A fourth person had joined the interrogation. He was introduced as a grief counselor. They called him Grey. He wore a white coat, sported a homely haircut and looked otherwise unremarkable. He was worried that I was struggling to adjust and cope. And I was obviously struggling, I agreed. The officers told me the details of the investigation. They had tracked the trail of Catherine’s blood in the park as best they could. A lot of feet had been over the ground since the assault and any hopes of finding a definite print of whatever consumed her were gone. The blood trail had lead them to a small duck pond where they had found a set of teeth. A pair of dentures were placed on the table in front of me. They had been at the bottom of the pond for 48 hours, and that had left an impression. They told me these dentures matched the marks on – and in – Catherine’s body perfectly. I looked at the dentures uncomprehendingly. What were they driving at? The officers told me that due to the pond’s contamination they were unable to recover any useful DNA or evidence from the dentures – only bird feces and algae. Somehow I felt relieved. A person did this. A person can be caught and punished. A beast might not. No, this was a sick maniac. A psycho. And the psycho could be found, stand trial and be punished. And vanish. As it should be.

Grey took over from the officers and attempted to tend to my mental well being. No such thing. I just needed to get out and get some fresh air. Maybe work would do me some good – take my mind off of things. It did not. Returning to work and entering my old routines of financial reports, moving numbers around columns and studying market developments and models, I had more time to think than at home under my bed covers. At nights I had vivid nightmares. I was there in the park, watching her get pounced. I tried to call out, but my voice was feeble and failed me. I could not move. Pinned, I stood and watched the psycho with the dentures tear her apart. I saw the teeth sink into her flesh. Her blood. She struggled, and then she just stopped. I was sprayed with her blood. Chunks scattered across the ground. I was dripping. Dirty. Messy. The psycho would turn his face to me, and I would wake up bathed in sweat. When I turned on the news, the report was there, and the nightmare returned. Even in my day dreams I could not escape. The only escape was the big projects. Working with clients on big assignments. This was able to distract me sufficiently. I could not think about Catherine. I did not have time to. And when the projects were over, I was sitting in my office, angry and confused, my thoughts fixed on her passing. My coworkers noticed. The higher-ups noticed as well. They offered to send me to therapy, but I declined. They offered me leave, but I declined. So they kept me busy.

When I had finished one project a new one would appear on my desk the next day, almost magically. Contracts and deals I had not caught the slightest wind of. Somehow, I always showed up to a fresh stack of papers and a hot cup of coffee on my desk. And when I had read the files and reports, people would come by. Collaborators, interested parties, financial backers and business contacts. My colleagues came by to have a chat now and again, asking how I was, how I was getting by and if I needed anything. Occasionally we would chat about a story on the news, but I never watched TV anymore. Turning on the TV brought me back to that Monday when ‘it’ had happened. It was amazing how fast I found a routine living day to day. Just getting by. But it worked. And it worked so well for me, that time flew by. The police eventually sent me a copy of the final report of the case. Until they were able to acquire further evidence in the case, i. e. the psycho struck again, they were unable to conduct further investigations. They ceased to care.

[Exerpt from the police report]

Mr. Giles Burden, fiancee of the deceased, has been cleared of all suspicion. Dr. Grey has found him incapable of committing the murder, nor have we any reason to believe he had any motive for committing the crime. The profile of the murderer by Dr. Grey, here attached, states we are searching for a character […] with a split personality disorder, at least one of which is self destructive, and at least one of which is extremely hygienic and neat. The murderer is narcissistic and suffers from a severe inferiority complex.

[…] The eye witness was unable to shed any light on what had transpired. When she had seen what had happened, she immediately contacted the police. She did not get any clear visuals on the murderer. She arrived at the scene of the murder approximately five to ten minutes after the assault had taken place. The pictures of the deceased, here attached, along with the technician’s and coroner’s reports clearly assert how the murder was conducted. […] It was an extraordinary circumstance that no one was around in the park that Monday morning to witness the crime, but considering the ruthlessness of the murderer, this was likely a lucky happenstance as well.

Something in this report rubbed me the wrong way, but I did not heed it. I put it behind me. As time heals all wounds, I stopped caring about the investigation. Time heals all wounds, but it leaves scars. It was clear, even to me, I had changed. But people never change. No. I had adapted. Dr. Grey tried to get in touch with me, but I brushed him aside. Everything was fine. I functioned. I did something. I was useful. Was that not enough? He did not think so, but it was my choice.

“Now, Giles, we’ve all noticed you have a bit of a temper,” the devil said from across the table. I found myself back in the small store. I took a sip of my coffee. It was cold now. It tasted faintly metallic: “And the fact of the matter is, you’ve not been doing well with other people since–” “Since what!?,” I retorted in an excessively aggressive tone. I apologised immediately. The devil sighed. “We know that losing,” he started. It felt wrong for him to say her name. “Don’t say it,” I pleaded silently. He looked at me puzzled. “It was tragic,” he nodded and drank the rest of his coffee. “No hard feelings, right?,” he asked as he got up. His horns cast shadows across his forehead in the light. I did not respond. “Come now, be reasonable,” he said in a courteous tone. He reached out his hand for a shake. “I’m sorry,” I said and shook his hand. It was cold and sweaty. His grip was firm, though. “All the best,” he said and started for the door. That was when I heard the growl. It began silently and distantly. Then it grew. I felt it. Then darkness.

An officer asked me what had happened. We were back in the old interrogation room. Nothing had changed since I had seen it last. The table and chairs were the same. Only this time I felt like more people were watching me. They asked me what had happened and I told them: “When the devil was half way out the door, the old crone had sicced her dog on him and everything went black.” The officers looked skeptically at me and turned their attention to some paperwork on the table. They had several folders in front of them. One was labelled “The Catherine Incident”. “And the dog tore him in pieces,” I continued. There was a knock on the door. The door opened. An armed officer came in, and one of the interrogators went out. He then returned with a man in a white coat. His hair had faded a bit and he still looked unremarkable. “Giles Burden,” he said and shook my hand: “It’s been a while.” Grey sat down at the end of the table. The armed officer stayed in the room. “Tell me,” Grey began: “What happened the weekend the week before Catherine passed away?” “Why do you care?,” asked one of the officers. Grey sighed. “Someone hasn’t been paying attention.” He nodded at the door. Grey and the officer went outside and shut the door behind them. They returned after a minute. “So, what did happen that weekend the week before her death?,” Grey asked. “Nothing that I remember,” I answered. “And that answer could pass a polygraph,” Grey nodded. “Think, Mr. Burden. Think,” he said compassionately and gave me time to consider. Nothing came to mind. I told him so.

“Bring him in,” Grey said to the mirror. The door opened and the devil entered. He was clad in a fresh suit, and his red skin glistened in the dim lights of the interrogation room. His horns cast faint shadows onto his face. “Thank you for coming,” Grey said. “I don’t think–,” protested an officer, but was interrupted by the white coat: “Could we have a chat outside and leave these two alone?”. They went outside. I looked at the devil. He looked back at me. Was this real? Maybe the dog had killed the crone and the devil had escaped? No. Maybe? Everything went dark after I heard the growl. I think I passed out. What dog? Never mind. “Sorry to get you mixed up in this,” I remarked. The devil smiled: “Nasty business,” he said and nodded. “Is there any way I can make up for this?,” I asked. He shook his head: “Don’t worry too much about it.” “But, I do. I do worry.” “It’s alright. They caught the bastard,” he said in a reassuring voice. I wanted to believe him. “Can I see him?,” I asked. The devil looked into the mirror and shook his head slowly: “I don’t think you can.”

Grey’s face had a vexed expression when he reentered the room with the officers. They assumed their seats. “Please, begin,” Grey beckoned the devil. He caressed his horns once or twice, stroking them gingerly. Then he began: “We were at a company retreat the weekend a week before Catherine’s murder.” His mention of her name felt wrong. He continued: “Mr. Burden and his fiancee were there as well.” “No, we weren’t,” I interjected. I had no memory of this. “Now, Saturday evening we had a grand dinner. The food was amazing and the champagne flowed in sweet and bubbly rivers. We were at a five star hotel just outside town, The Excellence, and we all got a little drunk.” “This is bullshit,” I blurted out, but no one listened as if they did not hear me. “Late in the evening, Giles and his fair lady had had just a few drinks too many, so Giles was heading to bed. Catherine was just going to use the restroom and would join him right away. Now what happened next I am not proud of,” he started with a sly smile while gently stroking his red chin. I zoned out, but Grey immediately snapped his fingers in front of my face and I returned. Rage spread inside me. I felt warm. “Shut your mouth,” I screamed at the man in the devil costume. Wait. What? No. The devil. He was the devil.

I observed Giles Burden. He was angry. His face reddened. He took deep and hard breaths. I felt myself uneasy and almost rushing to my feet every third second, ready to bolt for the door. The good actor Henry Stiles was earning his wage. Clad in a cheap suit, red face paint and Halloween devil horns he stood up and said: “One drunken night. I slept with Catherine.” “N-n-no,” Giles muttered. “I slept with his fiancee, and it was good!”. “You shut your mouth, you son of a–” Giles Burden threw himself across the table flailing wildly at Henry Stiles. This was the reaction I was waiting for. Both the officers jumped to their feet and restrained him. The first officer that got his hands on Mr. Burden was bit. Again and again. His arm was bleeding when the second officer reached for his taser and electrocuted poor Giles. He howled in pain. Henry Giles shot me a nervous glance: “Is there a full moon out?” I noticed his discomfort. “Thank you,” I said: “You may go now. Worth every penny.” He smiled and nodded: “If you ever need anyone for this again, call someone else.” The armed officer holding his armed gun pointing at Giles let the actor pass out the door and out of sight.

Giles was sitting pinned down in a corner of the room. The two officers held him down. He writhed and growled. His eyes were bestial. Almost canine. I reached into my pocket and unraveled a set of dentures. “Looking for these?” I put the dentures on the floor in front of him. The reaction was vicious. “I’ll eat you all,” he yelled and tried to bite the officer nearest his face. He did not succeed. The taser found its mark again and Giles squirmed in pain. In a pathetic attempt he bit towards the officer holding the taser, but to no avail. “You killed her,” I whispered. “She was my bitch,” Giles gnarled. “A pregnant bitch,” I remarked. His ferocious eyes locked on me and I met his terrifying gaze. I felt myself tremor slightly. “Your boss slept with her. And a week later you found a pregnancy test in the bathroom,” I explained in a frail voice. “No,” he whimpered. “It was positive.” “No!,” he barked with a guttural growl. “So you tracked her that morning. You waited in the bushes and you killed her,” I continued with disgust. The officers looked disturbed. Deeply disturbed. “She was mine,” Giles protested: “And she betrayed me!”. “So you killed her.” “Yes!” Silence. I could imagine the smile on the police sergeant’s face on the other side of the mirror. “Sedate him, put him in a jacket and throw him in isolation,” I said dispassionately and hurried out of the room. I went into the booth and joined the police sergeant behind the mirror.

“How’d you know, dr. Grey?,” the sergeant asked. “Well, it was a hunch, and it was unlikely, but it was the only option. The only alternative was a primate of unknown species living in the park, eating people,” I replied. “But you cleared him the first time around,” the sergeant remarked. “I did. I had no reason not to. When they brought him in the second day, I had a crew swing by his apartment and scour the place. It was spotless. It was so clean, the technicians had a hard time finding his finger prints. But they went through Mr. Burden’s trash. They found the pregnancy test.” “Why didn’t you present this earlier?,” the sergeant protested. “Would you have believed me if I’d claimed he’d eaten his girlfriend over a positive pregnancy test?” Silence. “They were engaged. A positive pregnancy test would only have had one possible interpretation. They were pregnant.” “So where did you get the idea of cannibalism?” “It was that, or a new species of primate living in the park. It wouldn’t have held up in court.” The sergeant nodded. “The old shopkeeper told us, he had just been laid off when he assaulted his employer on his way out of the store. She said he was inaudible in his brutality, but he was mumbling something about a devil. So I had a theory. A munch. It was a long shot, I admit and I wasn’t sure it would work, but it did.” “Must’ve been Hell inside his head,” the sergeant nodded. The officers were struggling to put the rabid psychotic burden in a straight jacket. Several times he broke free from the officer’s control only to be tased and collapse – back to status quo. “I don’t think so,” I said. “I think he found himself a rather reasonable bloke.” “Where did he get the dentures?,” the sergeant asked after a pause. “I’m guessing he got them from a business contact.” “Guessing?” “Yeah. I’ll leave that to the detectives.” The police sergeant smiled: “You got–” “I got lucky, I know.” He glanced over the coroner’s autopsy report on the autopsy of Catherine. “The coroner found nothing in her womb. It was gnawed and lacerated. That was it.” “Yes,” I nodded. His expression was grave. A green tint washed over his face. “He ate–,” he started, but gagged. “Yes,” I nodded slowly.

The next morning I showed up to work and was immediately summoned to the police sergeant’s office. The night watchman had handed in his resignation. He would not be coming back. He had been making rounds and, well, the security footage speaks for itself. The sergeant presented me with a photography from the cell after the ‘incident’ around midnight. Giles Burden’s body lay near the door of the cell. In the other end of the cell, his head rested near the wall. “He–,” I asked confused: “How?” “He pulled,” explained the sergeant. On the wall the cell, written in blood, were the words: “I’m sorry!”.

On the security footage I watched Giles Burden strolling back and forth in his cell like a caged animal. I watched the horrific images of Giles Burden alleviating his head from his shoulders. It was inhuman. It was impossible. His body collapsed and a cascade of blood poured forth on the padded floor of the cell. His head fell to the ground and rolled away. He screamed and howled. Then he gurgled. Then nothing. The night watchman came rushing to the door. A small crack in the door opened and two eyes looked in and quickly disappeared. Video from a different camera showed the watchman looking and immediately legging it. Nothing happened for the rest of the video. I looked at the photo the sergeant had shown me. The text on the wall caught my eye. I turned to the video footage. No text on the wall. I rewound and fast forwarded several times. He fell dead. Then nothing. The time stamp went as far as one hour before I had arrived at work. “Don’t you see it?,” I asked. The sergeant shook his head. “Do you have video from the last hour?” “Of course,” he said and we walked to the surveillance room. I went over the tapes. Nothing. The only thing in the cell was Giles Burden’s body. No one had come in. No one had written on the wall. I checked the photograph again. “You still don’t see it?,” I asked. “No,” he protested: “What is it?” “Who wrote that?” The sergeant looked at the photo. Then at the video. Back to the photo. And checked the video one last time. He looked disturbed.

We went to Burden’s cell and the sergeant had a watchman open the door. The heavy metal door swung open without noise. The isolation cell had padding on the walls, floor and ceiling. It had once been a pristine white, but after a long career it was now closer to a gray shade of brown. The police sergeant and I stepped inside careful not to step in the pool of blood. A metallic and rotten odor hung in the air. It was nauseating. The blood covered most of the padded floor. Giles’ body lay lifeless on the floor. His severed head rested a good distance from his body. Clearly severed. The eyes were still open. Although they were cloudy and decomposing, they were still every bit as ferocious as they had been the day before during interrogation. A ghastly visage. My impulse was to leave. Get out. Run. I swallowed once or twice and checked my fear. We searched, but we found no sharp objects in the cell – no means by which Giles could have severed his head. I nodded at the wall. The two of us stood looking at the bloody letters in deafening silence: “I’m sorry!”. A growl pierced the silence.

Theme: Unrequited Love

Theme: Unrequited Love

Graham and Max had nothing in common. Neither felt like they belonged in that room. The books smelled dusky. No rooms for the elbows. Yet both of them had business to do with the manager of the antiquary. Although the only occupants of the small shop was the two boys, it felt crowded. Mr. Lawson the shopkeeper had gone out for lunch and left his store wide open with a sign on the front door heralding his return in mere minutes. Max was a sturdy character. He was wearing a worn pair of jeans, a fresh pair of sneakers and a hoodie that looked about ready for a trip to the washer. His hair was done meticulously in even gelled spikes and in his hands he held a pair of aviator shades. Quietly Max regretted he had spat out his gum before entering the tiny shop. Across the small table, seated opposite of him, sat Graham. He was doing everything in his might to ignore the awkward silence. Graham was wearing a freshly ironed shirt, a pair of newly washed jeans and sensible footwear. His head had a downwards inclination towards the tabletop. This helped him avoid eye contact with the boy across the table. It was still awkward as nothing but a fair layer of dust occupied the table. If there ever was a magazine there, the spiders would have carried it off. Max on the other hand had his gaze directed towards the ceiling. Beneath the grime and the cobwebs was a wooded ceiling that seemed molded, but it was hard to tell. The air was thick with a foul fog, as if thirty cigars had recently been smoked in the room, but that was not the case. This was dust. Behind the desk towered a clock. From it pulsed a ‘tick’ and then a ‘tock’ slowly, but steadily.

“So, what’re you here for?,” asked Max. Graham did not reply at fist. Timidly their eyes met. Graham’s reply came quietly: “I ordered a book.” Tick. Tock. “What book?” Graham started at the question. His eyes widened and his hands panicked to find a relaxed pose. “Oh, uh, just an old history book,” Graham replied. He anticipated the next question, but did not care to elaborate. Immediately he asked: “What demands your presence here?” Max snickered and threw his head back. Graham’s gaze sought the tabletop. What did he say wrong? “You mean, what am I doing here?,” Max continued. Graham nodded: “Yes.” “I’m here ‘cus my–,” he broke off and looked straight at Graham: “You know what, you don’t care.” True enough. Graham did not care. Not really. “Sure I do. Wouldn’t have asked otherwise,” Graham replied in a hesitant manner. “Well, you see, my girl has this obsession with a book – an old book – and I came here to check if the old geezer’d help me get a copy.” Graham pondered for a while. He had several questions, but which should he ask first? Max shifted in his seat and was about to continue, when Graham asked: “What book?” “Hold on,” Max rummaged swiftly through his pockets and produced a small note: “Neverending Story, Michael Ende”. Max snickered: “I guess that Ende dude was the author.” “Yeah, German author,” nodded Graham. “German? She doesn’t understand German,” Max started. “Uh, there’s an English translation,” Graham added. “Oh. Good,” Max said with a nod resuming his relaxed pose. His hands tucked away at the pockets of his hoodie and his gaze fixed at the ceiling. “Do you know this author?,” asked Max. “I’ve read the book.” “You read German?” “No, well, a little, I read it in English,” Graham clarified. “Is it any good?” “It’s great. You havn’t read it?” “No,” Max snickered. “Seen the movie?,” Graham asked. “Tried once. Fell asleep. Last thing I remember is something about a horse?” “Artax,” Graham nodded under his breath. “Come again?” “Artax. That’s the name of the horse.” “I’ll take your word for it,” Max smiled.

Tick. Tock. “What’s the occasion?” “Sorry?,” remarked Max pulling himself up in his chair. “It’s a gift for your girlfriend, right?” “My girl, yes.” Graham’s brow wrinkled briefly. “What’s the occasion?” “There has to be an occasion?” Graham thought for a moment. “No, but I think there is.” Max laughed and shifted in his seat. His gaze fixed straight at Graham he asked: “What do you mean by that?” His tone was casual, but with an infinitesimal hint of aggression. But small as that hint may have been, Graham caught on right away. “Sorry, I didn’t mean–” “What did you mean then?” “It’s just–” “Just what?,” Max pressed without any attempts to conceal an angry tone. Graham’s eye were flickering. Where should he look? “I’m sorry,” Graham began: “But–” “But what?” “Will you just let me speak?,” Graham almost shouted at the other boy. “When you correct my suggestion of ‘your girlfriend’ to ‘your girl’ I get the impression that either you are not that intimate with the girl in question, or you have more than one significant girl in your lift. Possibly both. If there is more than one girl, the gifting of a significant gift could be as innocent as an attempt to woo the lovely lady, or meant to calm the waters. Either way, that’s the occasion I was asking about.” Max’s expression switched haphazardly between a quizzical, an indignant, an insulted and an uncomprehending look. He threw himself back into his relaxed pose once more: “It’s like this,” he began: “I was at this party a few weeks back where my favourite girl Jenny wasn’t there because she was sick. My girl Maria was there though and she was looking hot. Now, me and the boys were hanging out when one of them pulled out a bottle of some homebrew stuff. My mate’s father’s a spare time brewer, so this was supposed to be some hardcore stuff. Now, we were already pretty drunk and a good way into the night when he pulled out this bottle.” Graham was listening with great care and attention. “So, two of my boys were like ‘nah bro, we gonna hit the town instead’ and I was gonna join them, but then one douchebag who had been hitting on Maria all night was like ‘you guys too soft. I’ll drink ya’. And I could see that Maria was hating this guy hard so I wanted to drink him under, right?” Max paused and Graham nodded in agreement. Truth be told, Graham was stuggling to wrap his head around the decisions and choices presented, but it seemed rude to stop the guy. “Anyway, we get ready to down shots of this stuff and we flip for who goes first. Was fair enough, tails I lose, heads he won. So I lost and had to go first. But the stuff was spiked. I don’t know what the bastard put in the shit, but after three shots I was hearing colours and seeing music, if you know what I’m saying.” Graham had no idea, but nodded. “Now the other asshole was way more drunk than I was at the time so he took it harder. Passed out. I havn’t actually seen him since, but I chalk that up as a 110 percent win. Anyway, Maria was grateful that I got rid of the douche for her, so she helped me get home. Put me in a cab, and next thing I know, I wake up with her in bed the next morning.” “Did you?,” asked Graham, but his voice trailed off. It was not any of his business. “For sure. Two used rubbers in the toilet and her memory of it all sealed that record.” “What about Jenny?,” asked Graham. “What about her?” “You said you were getting the book for her.” “Yeah, I always had a soft spot for her and all of this made me realise, she’s the one I wanna be with.” Graham looked skeptical. “What?,” asked Max with slight indignation. Tick. Tock.

“It’s just this. How you party boys get so much female attention is beyond me,” started Graham. Max sized up the other boy: “Say, you’re a logical no-nonsense kind of guy, right?” “I guess some people would say so.” Uh-huh, and you try hard not to be impolite, rude and offensive. How would you go about getting a girl’s attention?” “What do you mean?” “Say you’re on the street and this hot piece comes walking by you. How do you land her?” “I don’t. That’d be imposing.” “See, that’s just it. You may call us party boys, hell, you can find any number of stereo types in any number of books you read while you’re home alone, but at least out approach has some ladies looking our way, maybe for just for a second, but even then that is a second longer than any of you unimposing jackasses ever get. And maybe they find us rude and stupid and annoying, but that moment of attention gives us a chance. If you never have a girl looking your way, your chance is zero.” Graham nodded. Seemed logical enough for him. “And the other way around?,” asked Graham. “That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about you and me right now,” replied Max in a matter-of-fact tone. “We’re not at all that different, not as different as you think. See, we both have put some amount of attention into our looks. So, while we might not give a shit what other people think about us, or how they do, at least we know that they do and working around that’s important.” Graham nodded. It was close enough to the truth anyway. “We’re both vain,” concluded Max and nodded at a wall. On the wall next to the two boys hung an old mirror. It was angled so that when Max looked into the mirror, he saw Graham’s face and vice versa. “Two sides of the same coin. You’re the stable and safe choice, obsessing over your life never to make mistakes. You have a clean record and shy away from the big vices. The perfect suburban husband, ready to go. I do the exact opposite of that shit. Because at the end of a day, when you’ve finally found the one, or, well, a one anyway, you need to fulfill the role of friend, partner, lover, husband and possibly father to her children. And right now we both have two out of four definite roles down. I’m the friend and lover. You’re the partner and husband, ready to go. And do you wanna know the really funny thing here?” Graham looked at Max with anticipation. “Time’s a bitch. It only goes one way. In some years, I will strive to become like you. But you can never go back in time and try to become like me.” Graham sat in silence reflecting on a response, while Max continued: “But at the end of the day, you can treat the girls as nice as you want. You can keep from staring at the gym, give them all the space they want, be nice, help them, offer to help them, you can be the nicest guy in the world, but you’re not exciting to them. You’re not entertaining. You’re just good company. And then you go on the web to find other like-minded jackasses who complain they have been ‘friendzoned’, or that you are doomed to be so forever and ever.” Max sneered in distaste: “Absolutely pathetic. No one is obligated to tickle your pickles. No amount of polite, kind or sweet words can force any girl to drop it like it’s hot and give it to daddy. And no amount of genuine good will can make a girl return unrequited love!” Graham looked in the mirror and caught Max’s gaze. Tick. Tock. “At the end of the day, good guys finish last.”

A feeble voice came from the counter. Mr. Lawson had returned sometime during Max’s rant and snug inside: “You young people, you always suppose that one side in a debate is the right one, and the other is the wrong one.” His words came slowly, but steadily. Both Max and Graham looked expectingly at the old man. “Naturally,” started Graham, but he was interrupted. “No. It never follows that one is right. It’s also possible that both are right. And that both are wrong,” the old man said leaning over the counter. “But-,” protested Max. “But, what?,” interrupted the old man and continued: “There’s always two sides to any story. But the interesting ones have more than two sides.” “So, we’re both right?,” asked Max. Mr. Lawson grinned: “Who am I to tell?”