He was an on-target Communist who regularly hit the Marx. Sat there, stroking his prodigious beard with his tattooed hand, he wondered about all those visits to Lenin that he had made. So long ago. Now he drank vodka in a bar in St Petersburg, Florida, and pondered how little return he had got on the investment of defection.

Vladimir was smoking cheap Russian smokes and watching the bar’s regulars mill around, turning circles through the dullness of their daily routines, until the momentum petered out and they pitched forward into their pitchers of beer.

He didn’t work now – he had invested well, and he had an amazing amount of resources. He had been a heavy in Mother Russia, and he had used his tendency towards mercy to garnish his pay quite handsomely – let someone off, take a little bit of information, and go and invest based on it. If it worked out badly and the information was bad, you could always locate creatures of habit easily, and you could break a few bones until they either paid up or remembered how to be useful some other way.

People came to ask him questions – students mostly. He was a swarthy good-looking fifty, and he bedded some of the sultry language students looking for a bit of danger. It was not how his life was supposed to turn out. He had been a straight up gangster since he got kicked out of school, and he had been building something of an empire. That period when the underworld was suddenly flooded by ex-KGB was hard though, and he had pissed a fair few of them off. He had to leave – given the death threats and the injuries he received, it did not take much to convince his liaison that he needed asylum.

It was cold outside, but it was bright, he walked down past the art museum to the park, where they sometimes showed movies, and he sat under one of the trees, looking up at the fairy lights, thinking about all he had lost; thinking about how long he had mourned those losses. It was time to go home, time to walk through the town, get on the bus, and make his way back to that little room. He never escaped his Russianness – it was the first thing anyone here noticed about him. He was proud, but it made him sad. Sat on the bus, he fell asleep, as he always did, and he dreamt of walking across the permafrost, seeing the twinkling ice crystals in the air before him – he woke up remembering how warm he always felt in Russia; he thought about how cold he felt in Florida. He laughed – life was a joke most people didn’t get. How often he was one of those.

Or Mr

Smiles. Through flames. Yes, he does. A picture develops under a skin of chemicals. Snap. The moments aren’t quite joined up, fragile like a baby’s skull; pressure distorts the shape. And he moves through images like someone bursting through one of those hoops with tissue paper they sometimes use in clown acts, he thought it was.

He knew that somewhere scripts were pushing the direction of his footfalls. He knew that somewhere edits were pushing back. He was not a sympathetic character – he knew this, but he hadn’t run across many heroes … they were few and far between as far as he could discern.

He pressed each finger against the glass carefully – he did not wish to smudge the prints. Treat every act in your life like it is a potential crime scene. Why was that important? He wanted to make an impact, always. He had a strange sense of the world around him and himself.

The newspaper talked of him – a constant chatter which he had to work hard to tune out. How could he be villain though, if there was nothing he was doing except following around? He circled the word thoughtcrime in his battered copy of 1984. He thought long and hard about many things.

Death came from a rumour. He wasn’t sure who spread it, but it pushed out of the cocoon of its quotation marked genesis, and flapped its chaos butterfly wings to push towards oblivion on eddies that became tsunami. Bang bang. His suit ignited. And he dreamed that he was a phoenix, in moments where he was bleeding out, and … and … back to the beginning. The worm swallowed its tale.

What had he been doing? Who was he? Fingerprints in a room where nothing happened.

His sister wrote a little story about him where he had learned to eat fire. He fell asleep every night in a bed full of ribbons. They had said that he had done things – stolen ideas, wrote them out as his own – but the truth was, his death was the only act of plagiarism he had ever been involved in. It was strange. It was strange.

The gun fires. The fires burning. He gets fired. He gets shot. A photograph.




He was an Outline, some kind of reality glitch, where the continuum rejig hadn’t erased a non-person completely. Logically they shouldn’t have existed, but somehow there was residual data stored in the signalling part of some of the upper dimensional particles that had been quantum entangled with the individuals.

He could see others like him easily – he knew none of the non-Outlines could really do that, but where did that get him … unless there was some kind of quantum physicist genius who had been outlined as well, they weren’t going to be building any escape routes any time soon.

He knew his mother had christened him Christopher, but he felt that the fact he no longer technically had a mother meant his name seemed a little invalid too. Screw it, might as well call himself Christ – who was going to oppose it?

It was maybe his third year of trudging through this half-life. It seemed longer – relativity took hold of the experience and stretched it like taffy. It was depressing – reality was a vestigial limb of his perceptual apparatus that itched like hell, but which he couldn’t get in a position to scratch.

Christ sat down and wondered how this had come to pass – what thing had been bumped aside or erased from the continuum preceding his existence that had wiped him out? What if he could skirt back down the loop of infinity, through the eye of the needle singularity, and unstitch that event horizon slipslide drown into oblivion? There was something unphysical about him, so what if the logical constraints of the physical universe were not binding to him? He felt no concern about theoretical Hawking radiation or unilinear time. What did he care for the postulated universe of some quantum physicist? What if observer influence and intention had made the first time travel machine possible, and what if, here on the outskirts of the real, his own perceptual push could undo something … could unmake some newly minted absolute?

He had once listened to a cassette on the power of positive thought. He had once managed to get his foot behind his head after a particularly limber yoga class where he had spent over an hour sat in the vedic position doing circular breathing – so he could focus really hard … he was good at that shit. So he did it.

One man can make a change – he had been an author back before he was wiped out. He had ghost-written before, so he was used to working with outlines. He sat there and he reconfigured the localspace around him into a script, digging in down deep and dirty into the heart of reality, and he had started to fill in that outline. He sat there and smiled as he thought about how all works of art are, in some small way, a self portrait, and he wrote himself anew; he wrote himself back in.

He sat there writing, burying himself in the work, excavating himself from the shadow world he had slipped into, and when he felt the soft pressure of a hand on his shoulder, and when he smelt the familiar perfume that his mother always wore, he knew he had travelled back to reality … one he had put there, and he fell in love with his life and the world again. He knew it loved him back, because he was the one who was the beating heart at its center – he was the engine of this place, and as he drove it on it rewarded him back.



He sits there with a tiny block – his artistic spirit was sacrificed upon it. He needed a larger one for his integrity. Above his bed he had a picture of the sainted Gordon Comstock. The aspidistras were wilted.

He pissed on a toilet block. Piss on his writer’s block. He lifted a cinder block and hefted it over the edge of the building. Someone walking around the block looked up and had their block knocked off. Sitting in Cell Block W he would have plenty of time to write.

Marvin was a blockhead. Carin hated him – his bunkmate sat there and listened to Jenny from the block. His agent had put a block on his calls. But hey, he didn’t have the block anymore, and diminished responsibility meant he could block in a release date on his calendar; block in a release date for his book.

He looked at the illustration of some kids ABC blocks – that simple, eh? He smiled.


Note To Self

He left notes everywhere. There is found sound and there is lost sound. The melodious and the disharmonic. He felt so broken and had done for a long time. He would pick up the various instruments which once upon a time had made sense, but which he now talked of in terms of investment; which he now looked at wistfully. How had his life drifted so far off the course he had imagined it following?

Did it all really tie back to one bum note? Had it all gone wrong with that one time he corpsed on stage? Maybe it was so – that was where the doubt set in; that was where he began to feel that the perfect run of playing that he had had, had come to an end, and that was an immensely sad thing. What use is a broken musician to anyone? When the edge is blunted what kind of new territory can you saw into? None. All the maps were old in that moment – there was no undiscovered country for him, and he was scared that never would be again. He had seen people in this situation who had never come back from it.

Pinned under the fridge magnet was some poor excuse for mundane magic – a regular cheer up that Chip the chipper housemate tried to float his way … it didn’t work. His other housemate Billie would sing at him; would sing tunes that he had played that she had learned especially to cheer him up; it was a nice thing for her to do but it bummed him out more than anything.

What could resurrect him? What could give him the heart that would make his tin ear disappear and his innate sense of rhythm return? He didn’t think there was a thing in the world that could do it. He was surely lost in the wilderness, and the world of music was a world away from him now.

He liked kids, and he had a new nephew so he got invited to a few kids parties because his nephew loved him. The first time they asked him to play music for the kids he refused and made excuses and was confronted by enough crestfallen looks from the parents and the children that he felt like the biggest party-pooper in the world. The second time he was asked and refused his nephew cried and his sister got really angry at him. The third time was the charm – even he couldn’t mess up Chopsticks. He had an appreciative audience, and he had fun. And that was it – that was the simple magic that got him playing again. Fun. Who would have thought it? Not him. He had never associated what he did with fun, and maybe that was the hole where the magic leaked out. The music in a child’s laughter plugged that whole, and the music came back …. he heard it again. He was inspired, and he knew what he had to hold onto. He held onto it fiercely.

The Cure For What Ails You

Some people can find more ways to fuck up than you would believe. He was a hobbled nothing now – oh, hadn’t it all been so bright! He was in the league of cure for cancer – that bright and sunny and full of possibility. And now? Now he wasn’t worth shit. He deserved it. He had to deserve it, didn’t he? For it to be happening to him there had to be some effect he was pushing into the universe? He was so unsure of himself that he was even less certain about the environment around him, and how it might be impacting upon him. He sat down at the bar and ordered the house whiskey. The guy was genuine Irish, which surprised him. Wasn’t it an odd world when being served by an Irish man in a so-called Irish Bar was enough to cause some dissonance and psychic stress. The whiskey wasn’t Irish though; it wasn’t good either – the warmth almost disguised it, but not quite. Did any of the bar staff drink here? Probably not. That wasn’t a good sign.

He was looking for some kind of job; some kind of work that a low rent scumfuck like him would be able to hold down. There were certain kinds of job that he went for and they took one look at him and they didn’t even have to ask him a question – they knew that they didn’t want him; it was all conveyed in the momentary sneer that soured their whole face. When he was being entertained by employers who were a small half-step above him in the pondscum rankings they were a little less judgmental. Why? Because they knew what it was like to be coming from where he was coming – they had visited that very location themselves only recently.

Parmenter had a bad reputation as an individual, but he was supposedly a good employer – he paid what he promised and he paid it on time, and that was good in anyone’s book. Joel sat down opposite him and when Parmenter offered a smoke he took it – the brand was Zero Skull, which he liked because they were high tar.

‘So, what’s the gig?’

‘Something noble, Galahad. I know you like the Robin Hood shit, so what I have for you, come to me from a very reliable source, is that some bastard has a cure for cancer but is holding it hostage.’

‘What, and we’re gonna break in and steal it?’

‘In one, my friend.’

‘Where is it?’

‘Eight Gates Laboratory.’

Eight Gates was notorious for the way that it dealt with people who tried to break into it, and people tried to break into it on a regular frequency. Why? Because they had things like cures for cancer held there, that was why. This couldn’t be a coincidence, could it? That a man who had once stood alongside those scientists was now given an opportunity to liberate something that would help as much as the inventions which he had failed to deliver when he had worked there. How the mighty have fallen, and how those broken crippled phoenixes might rise.

They picked him for his inside knowledge, and he did not fail to deliver. He had to admit that until he saw it – until he read the specs and the lab results on the screen he had though that they were on a wild goose chase. When he read that report though he was so happy – it was real, and the best thing was was that he discovered some small part of what he had done when he had worked here had proved useful – he may not have made the intuitive leap necessary to formulate the cure but he had surely built part of the launch platform. In that moment it was fair to say that some of the fight went out of him – that he felt a satisfaction he had never known before. As the guard moved in on him, weapons hot, his knowledge that there was a cure for cancer cured something in him that had been broken long ago. He died a happy man.

Never Tired Of Hanging Around

He has enough independent wealth to do whatever he likes. He likes to be around humanity stripped raw – something he has found harder since his worth grew a hundredfold. So what is he doing today? He is sat in the gridlock he spent the early morning driving to find, wishing really hard for it, driving just well enough not to die, and just badly enough that he might be a stone sending out ripples across the surface on the pond and create the perfect storm that would bring this standstill into being.

He likes standing in line. He likes waiting rooms. He will get himself embroiled in all kinds of things he should probably keep out of, just to feel that peculiar pressure of people packed in like sardines and feeling uncomfortable; tension building. Is this Freudian womb desire? Is this, as his hypnotist told him, derived from that past life experience of being buried alive in a mass grave? Too complicated – drive towards something simpler.

He adjusted himself inside his tight blue jeans. Odd – a boner? In such a sexless and sex-thought-free life his body acting this way actually surprises him. Was he unconsciously aroused by the girl in the convertible next door? Her smile curdles into a sneer when the light shining in her eyes lessens and she sees he is older than she thought he was at first – she doesn’t need or want a sugar daddy; she is an independent woman. He turns his head and smiles to himself, a thing he knows she would misconstrue. He doesn’t mind witnessing arguments but he doesn’t want to be part of one.

The horns have been getting louder. The colourful epithets are getting more colourful. It is music to him. For him this was something he did a lot. Not many people knew about it, but those who did wondered if there was something loose in his noggin. He felt he was totally sane, and that these actions he indulged in actually contributed to that. This was going to last quite a while.

His money brought him in contact with those people who wanted to find some way to wrestle control of his life from him for his own good, and those who worked hard to make it known it was not important and then it came to occupy a different kind of place in their relationship. Sat here, all this humanity pressed in close, this felt real – it was artificial, but it gave him what he needed. Hendrix came on playing Crosstown Traffic – what a perfect day.