some days are better than none
I wake up smiling some mornings, but most of the time it’s a lot of bending over double (stomach cramps. Don’t ask me where they come from) and the mad dash to throw up whatever. I see all the colours of the rainbow down that toilet, but it’s a dark rainbow, and the colours are therefore subdued.
This is the twenty first century. Welcome to it, friend. My name is Russell. Please don’t laugh…Well okay, laugh if you want to. After all, I laugh at it every day. That name! What were Mum and Dad thinking? Well, they obviously weren’t thinking. Cut to a picture of Mum and Dad, standing at the holy water font, cradling me. There’s the priest, christening me Russell. What does he care? He’s got another one at two. I live on a street beside a prison between a Chinese takeaway and a laundrette. It’s a grey little street. I’ve lived here all my life and I’ll never leave it. People say that I don’t have a lot of ambition. I’ve had people walk up to me in busy shopping centres and say, ‘You don’t have a lot of ambition.’ I think that’s rude, but they don’t think twice about it. This little street of mine…The prison’s never been a problem. Sometimes the helicopter swoops over, looking for escapees. If you turn the TV down, you can hear it. I do it sometimes. I listen to the search and see the blue searchlight shining like a UFO. Maybe it’s not looking for escapees though, come to think of it. I just assumed it was, but come to think of it… Here I go, heading off to work, leaving my grey house at nine. The library opens at ten o’clock. I’ll get there at nine twenty, going at this rate; but now I’m speeding up and…Fuck sake, I’m a lazy bastard: I’m running to catch the bus! Why? Because the library is an erotic place filled with young, bored women who want a quickie before opening time. Well, one bored older woman anyway. She’s forty. Does she look it? I suppose she does. Thirteen years my senior and she’s in her sexual prime. I think she is anyway. She might not be. She’s as horny as fuck, I’ll tell you that. So, here I am. What the hell’s going on here? The doors are locked. She should be here by now. Wait, here she comes. Not very tall, is she? Shouldn’t she be taller? Well, look at her legs, and those tits. She’s all right. I mean, for a librarian she’s okay. I get a kiss on the cheek. I’m lucky I’m getting that, to be honest. Discretion, you see, is a must, because Sarah or Sadie is married. I’ve met her husband. He’s about the same age as her. ‘Sorry I’m late,’ she says. ‘That’s okay, honey.’ ‘Don’t call me that.’ She’s laughing a little as she says this, so it’s okay. We’re not really fighting…Right. ‘Not here.’ ‘Not here? You think Danny -’ that’s her husband - ‘might see us?’ ‘Shut up. Stop that.’ She’s saying that because I’ve got my hand on her arse. She likes it when I do it during sex, but most of the time I get a slap on the wrist. Inside: it’s a pretty nice library. The floor’s a nice dark red and the bookshelves are…Well, I mean, it’s all pretty basic, but I like it. Where’s Sadie? ‘Sadie? Sadie.’ ‘Shut up. Come up.’ There she is. How did she get up there? That’s my favourite thing about this library: the winding, black metal stairs in the middle of the floor. I used to run up and down them when I was a kid. I’m running up them now, checking my watch. Forty five minutes until the doors open. We can take an hour if we want, really. We won’t. Well, we might. You never know. I think I’ll take her into the newspapers and magazines room. No, wait, she wants to do it in the children’s section. That’s good too. ‘Wait, I’m not sure I like the idea of that.’ ‘Don’t be a pussy, Russell.’ ‘A pussy? I’m not a pussy. A pussy? When did you start talking like that, Sadie?’ ‘Get the fuck in here,’ she says, dragging me into the children’s section. She clears some Asterix and Harry Potter books off of a low table and we do it right there. She must be about forty three. I’m crap with ages. I like her hair, though: nice and dark. ‘Oh, Russell,’ she moans as I pound her arse. ‘Do it. Do it, Russell.’ When it’s over, it’s half an hour until the doors open, so we have a coffee. I have a coffee while she clears up the books. Or I clear up the books. I’m not all that keen on coffee. I don’t mind it, but I prefer tea. Listen, I’ve been meaning to ask you, do you think I look…odd? Not odd. Do you think I look strange, like a nerd? Do you think I look like a train spotter? I’m not, but do you think I look like one? I don’t like my glasses, but I can’t afford thinner ones. The jacket’s a good rain proof number. The shoes are okay, aren’t they? They should be, for the price of them. I usually cut my own hair, if that explains anything. I go to the gym sometimes. I’m not a big eater. Sadie says I’m fit. Sometimes she says I look strange. I think her and Danny are going through a bad patch.
People used to say I looked grown up when I was a kid. I never looked like a kid, come to think of it. Look at these photos: me in a suit. A suit? I can’t be much older than five there. And isn’t that a bow tie? And another one, brown this time instead of navy blue.
I wasn’t a big party child; I cried a lot. Some sort of anxiety disorder, according to Dad, so they stopped taking me to parties and any other kind of event. So, how do you explain the ties? You don’t. You just keep the photos in their wallets, in a drawer, in a locked room, in a high tower in…Siberia, or somewhere like that. If this story hinges on one moment, then it’s the one coming up now. Here I am coming out of the children’s library, passing the reference library, coming down the stairs. I’m thinking about time travel as I come down: I was there; now I am here; I will be there: time travel. It hinges on the moment I turn the corner as I come off the final step. I see Sadie. Sadie is lying on the floor between the large print books and the shelf with all the leaflets on it. Specifically, you can find information on domestic violence, the times of the films at the cinema, the local writing club, keep fit… Sadie’s bleeding – or the floor is bleeding and she’s lying in it. No, it’s Sadie’s blood. She has her hand on her stomach. ‘Sadie. Bloody hell.’ Yes, that’s what I said. I can’t believe I said it, but I did. Nothing’s ever going to wipe that from my memory. ‘Bloody hell, Sadie…’ Not once, but twice. That’s got to be…Well, I don’t suppose it’s a record or anything. I kneel down beside her. I want to take her head in my hand the way they do in films, but I’m frightened of getting blood on me. The thought of the feeling of the bloody hair - the warm squish of it! It makes me feel sick. So I let her lie the way she is and look down at her. I say: ‘Sadie. Jesus.’ I stand up. ‘It’s okay. It’s okay, honey, I’ll phone an ambulance.’ ‘No.’ My god, she’s talking. ‘What is it, honey?’ ‘No…Not…honey…Stupid bastard.’ ‘It’s okay.’ As I’m saying this, a thought occurs to me; and even as I fight to repress it, to argue internally against its insanity, I’m rushing forward to make it a reality. First I need a mop. It takes a lot of work and some thought before I can clear up the mess. I wait until Sadie’s dead, and then I get some packaging tape and some bin bags. I wrap her up like the Christmas present from Hell. I keep saying that to myself as I’m wrapping her up: you’re like the Christmas present from Hell, honey. I can call her honey all I want now…Wait, you mad fucker, what the hell does that matter? I go and wash myself before starting the next part. I’ll be due to open the doors in about five minutes. I can open ten minutes late, which will really be twenty five minutes late, if you remember. However, what you also have to remember is that this is a library, and they won’t exactly be queuing round the block. So, it’s mop-up time. The blood is everywhere by now, really messy. I’m pretty good at things like this. Not covering up murders; cleaning, I mean. My house is pretty clean. In fact, it’s really clean. I’m not obsessive compulsive or anything, I just don’t like dirt. Twenty minutes does it. I place Sadie in the store room with the buckets and the chamois leathers, and I start worrying about what I’m going to do with her as I open the doors. Old Pete, an eight book a week octogenarian, shuffles in with last week’s bag of pot boilers and autobiographies. ‘Morning, Pete…Pete, I’ll leave you to it. I’ve just got to pop out for five minutes. Leave your bag at the front desk. I’ll check those in when I get back.’ Better safe than sorry. I can’t risk Pete overhearing my call. You never can tell. Who knows who might join the dots and from what point they might begin joining them? Even a simple call to a van hire company might be the vital clue for some budding bastard Sherlock Holmes. The phone box smells like piss and beer. Or maybe it’s just beer. They’ve really got to get back to doing these phone boxes up. There’s a man – he’s an old school friend of mine, actually – whose job it is to travel the length and breadth of the district and keep the public phones clean. Well, what about the phone boxes? How about giving them a once over? I return to the library to find Pete, still the only customer of the day, wandering up and down the aisles. He already has five books and, as I approach him, he begins flipping through what could possibly be his sixth. ‘I’m just going upstairs, Pete. Everything okay?’ ‘Have you read this?’ he asks, holding up a copy of Lucky Jim. ‘Yeah, that’s one of my favourites…You thinking of taking it?’ I’m surprised. This isn’t the life story of some leathery Hollywood legend or the latest Tom Clancy doorstop. ‘No,’ says Pete. Not my cup of tea. I’m only asking because this was inside.’ He hands me a folded up piece of paper. My name is written on it in red ink. ‘What is it?’ I ask. ‘Well, it’s obviously none of my business. It’s for you.’ I’m pretty excited at this point. This is all very weird. Well, it’s a bit weird anyway. It might not be anything, to tell you the truth. Who says it’s for me? This might all just be an odd coincidence. I unfold the piece of paper. It reads: ‘Russell, I am not there anymore. You may look for me, but you will not find me. Love, Sadie.’ I look up from the note and say, ‘Pete, will you be much longer?’ ‘No. What’s wrong?’ ‘Something’s come up,’ I reply, a little vaguely. A moment’s pause, and I add, ‘Nothing’s wrong. I’ve just got to close the library for a little while.’ ‘Close the library?’ You’d think I was closing the only hospital for a hundred miles. ‘I won’t be long.’ ‘Where are you going? What does your note say?’ ‘Thought you said that was none of your business.’ ‘But you’re closing the library.’ A resigned sigh, an abstract wave of the hand, and it’s settled. ‘Fine,’ I say, heading for the stairs. So much for closing the library! I am at the mercy of forces beyond me and greater than me. Upstairs, I find a length of orange cord lying on the floor. This mystery is put to the back of my mind as I head for the store room. Where am I going? How did I get here? The store room: The door is still locked. You see? I didn’t take any chances. I unlock it and there she is…No, wait, she’s gone. Shit. You see? Sometimes caution is no safeguard against disaster. I am minus one dead body. Was she dead? She looked dead. I don’t suppose that’s any guarantee, though. Maybe death, like a lot of other things, isn’t what it used to be. The calm of realising that you have lost the only dead body you’ve ever tried to hide. Of course, things are not always what they seem. For example, you may think I’m an ordinary looking guy. You may not think I look ordinary at all. Come to think of it…Look, this all comes down to what I was talking about earlier on: do you think I look strange? We have to get this sorted out, between ourselves, you and I. Do you think I look strange? You don’t have to answer right now, but this is a subject we’ll return to again and again. It concerns me…Let’s forget about it. You may think that I look ordinary. I’m not. Surprised? No? Well, obviously not; there’s nothing to be particularly surprised about yet. But listen: I’m a killer. Maybe that’s not the right word. “Killer”: it seems so…Well, for me it conjures up an image of cool, hit man detachment, with the intended victim caught in the crosshairs. Murderer is more like it. I’d say I’m from the anorak wearing school of grey pavement stalking, with the slow crawl past the school gate, garden gate, or…I’m big on gates. Gates are great. You can always depend on gates: the comings and the goings. I especially like mid mornings: Dad’s gone and the kids are away, and here comes Mum, all alone, all preoccupied, and I make my move. Yes, I’d have to say that gates plus mid mornings equal success. So, I murdered Sadie. After we had sex, she went downstairs. I waited for about a minute, and then I followed her down. I used my own knife. Why? Why What? Why the murder? Why my own knife? What? Be specific. Why the murder: because Sadie did not respect me. Why my own knife: this is the same knife I have always used. I used it to kill off Mum and Dad and I’ll use it on you. I’m only kidding about that last part by the way. How are we doing? You probably need some time to digest all of this. Maybe you don’t, though. If you don’t, you’re a stronger person than me. I really freaked the first time it happened. Mum and Dad were dead for hours before I realised I had killed them; and it was days before I was able to sit down and calmly recollect my motives. So (wow!), Sadie’s gone. I’m not fond of the store room either. I mean mops. Who knows where Sadie’s gone. She’s walked out before, but that was then, and this is now. Things have changed, for Sadie perhaps more than any of us.
She was definitely dead when I last saw her. I know dead. Dead is my thing.
Okay, so someone’s obviously taken her, but who would do such a thing? The list of suspects is surprisingly small at this stage. Aliens maybe. That would be good, that would work. Aliens would be unlikely to take Sadie to the police, whereas the other suspects on the list, the human suspects…Humans are a bit crap, aren’t they? When it comes right down to it, humans aren’t worth shit. Now, let’s skip ahead a few hours. I’m in Danny’s haunt, a pub with a roaring open fire, which is its only saving grace. I’m glad of it tonight, that fire, let me tell you. It’s been threatening to snow all day, and now down it falls, the flakes covering the pavements and the cars. Danny’s haunt is all bagpipes hanging from the wall and tartan tablecloths. The window behind the stage is stained glass. I’m not kidding. Danny thinks it’s nice. He’s sitting across from me now. He thinks it’s better than the other soulless dives…Soulless dives: those are Danny’s words. He’s got a point, I suppose. Not that I’ve got much to compare it to. I don’t go out much. You see, I think I look a bit strange, so I keep myself to myself. ‘Sure you don’t want a drink?’ asks Danny. He’s a pretty decent guy, and real dad material, if it wasn’t for those tattoos. He’s been offering me drinks since I got here. I’ve been refusing, but now I think I need some time to think, so… ‘Yeah, okay.’ ‘Fine, so what do you want?’ ‘Just a beer.’ ‘Any kind?’ ‘Any kind.’ This is fucking shit. I shouldn’t have come here. What am I supposed to do, just come right out and say it? ‘Danny, have you hidden Sadie’s body?’ ‘Is Sadie dead?’ he’ll ask. ‘Yes,’ I’ll reply. What then? A dead end, that’s what. Oh, here he comes. ‘Cheers, Danny.’ The beer’s a bit shit. It’s got a weird taste to it, like turnip. Anyway, we talk around the subject for about two minutes. I’m glad when Danny gets to the point, because I don’t know a lot about football. ‘I know Sadie’s seeing someone,’ he says. ‘Do you?’ ‘Yes…It’s not you, is it?’ ‘What if it was?’ Why did I say that? Wouldn’t a simple ‘no’ have been enough? No, because that would have lead to a dead end, and I’m trying to push things forward here. ‘You mean would I break your neck? Probably. Don’t let that deter you from telling me the truth.’ ‘I think you know it’s me, Danny.’ He waits a beat, then he says, ‘Drink up.’ ‘Okay. First I need to ask you something.’ ‘What.’ ‘Did you do it?’ ‘Do what.’ ‘Please, Danny, don’t mess me about.’ ‘Are you right in the fucking head?’ he asks ‘No, I’m not’ I try to make it sound like a joke, but I suppose, in a way, it’s true. Drink up: Of course he means ‘I intend to take you outside and do you some serious damage.’ You have to watch. You have to recognise the codes. ‘Is Sadie with you?’ I ask after a tense few moments of silence. ‘Are you taking the piss? Why the fuck would she be with me? Listen, you better stay out my fucking way. If I see you again, I’ll break your fucking neck.’ He pushes me back with such force that I almost end up on the floor. Do you think he really breaks people’s necks? That’s twice he’s mentioned it now. If Sadie’s with him, he’s not giving anything away. I think I could take him though; I think I’d be pretty mad with a drink in me. So, who does that leave? Hard to say, really. I decide to head to the Gents and think about it, and it’s in here that things take on a new colour. The Gents looks out onto a dark lane with a dirty past. Like most lanes around here, no one walks it at night. It’s got a huge, green bin that sits at the beginning of it. During the day, the bar staff empty the pub’s rubbish into the bin, and on Wednesday mornings, the council lorry comes to take the rubbish away. That’s during the day, but at night…Well, no one walks the lane at night. There’s someone out there now, though. Your senses become heightened when you’re doing a shit in a cubicle with a broken lock. I can hear the footsteps on the old cobblestones. It’s either high heels or hooves. I’m reminded of the nights on holiday in Millport. Our house was across the street from the chapel. I’ve always been a light sleeper, and I’d often be disturbed by the isolated clip-clop of what my mind, existing in that irrational state that it finds itself in upon waking, attributed to a phantom horse. Of course, then I would hear the laughter and realise that what I had been woken by was high heels, not hooves. So here I am again, making that distinction: high heels, Russell, not hooves. The Gents has gone all quiet: there are no rubber men concentrating to hit the urinal, no lurkers of uncertain motive, no dealers…I can hear the dripping of the tap, and the high heels outside the window. I sit there for about ten minutes, the shape of the toilet seat getting imprinted on my arse. I sit and I rationalise: I mean, even if there is someone out there, so what? The trouble with me is that I connect everything. I’m caught up in this Sadie thing, so I assume that the person hanging about the lane is the same person that took the body. That’s nonsense; that’s taking this growing paranoia of mine a bit too far. So, I stand up, wipe my arse, step out of the cubicle and take a deep breath. I’m determined to see my way through this. After all, it wasn’t me that killed Sadie…Wait, that’s right, it was me; I did it…I forget sometimes. I actually used to be pretty fat. It made me look a bit strange. I’m fine now though. Sometimes I just skip a meal; and I’ve stopped eating crap. I don’t look strange anymore…Well, I don’t think I do. Look, give me your honest opinion. What do you think? I’m about to walk out of the Gents without a backward glance when I hear it again, that movement outside in the lane: clip-clop-clip. Who’s out there? I can see something through the frosted glass. It’s not close enough for me to make out the shape – at least not yet. However, things change. I take a step towards the window. I can’t hear the footsteps anymore, but I can hear something. The lid of the bin clatters, probably with the wind. It is getting up a bit outside; things are getting pretty wild. I put my ear to the window. Whoever it is has stopped moving. I want them to move. I want to know if there’s still someone out there. I think there is. This is it now: the precise moment when things change. Even as it’s happening, this mad event, this cosmic moment, I’m wholeheartedly rejecting it.
You would reject it too – I know you would. If I could ever bring myself to tell you what happened to me next, you would reject the whole thing. You would agree with me. You would think, Yeah, Russell’s right; that couldn’t have happened; that’s total bullshit.
I am in total denial about what happened in that toilet, and I’m determinedly going about my business as normal.
‘Normal? What about Sadie?’ I hear you ask. Well, what about her? She’s gone. Maybe not in the way I would have liked, but there you go. I’ll tell you one good thing to have come out of this: I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to put Sadie. That would have been a real problem for me. You see, my old plot has gained a little heat. Well, more than a little. One of my old victims has been unearthed. Others are sure to follow. It’s been all over the local rag, reported enthusiastically by an up-and-coming little hack (an old school pal of mine, by the way). Isn’t it funny how everything is connected? Yes, it’s hilarious. So, here I am, walking into work, playing at being normal again, putting the increasingly mysterious nature of my life to the back of my mind. I’m hoping for a quick day. When it’s over, I’ll go home and I’ll sit and watch television. Best, I think, to put all of this behind me. Wherever Sadie’s gone, she obviously doesn’t want me following her. Relationships end, and that’s the truth of the matter. People drift apart. Things come between them. Life happens: isn’t that what they say? The library’s pretty busy today. A strong North wind has blown in the debris of Brown’s Britain. To be honest, I think some of the leftovers from Blair and Major’s Britain are here too; and if you look closely, you can see, smuggled through from a parallel dimension, the strangely attired refugees of Smith’s Britain. All present and accounted for. They sit and slouch in the circle of low chairs between fiction and non-fiction. They are ignorant of the shifting shades of a morning that is half storm, half harsh sunlight. I love them: they’re keeping my mind off of the Gents, off of that night of invading chaos. Sadie’s gone: the events following her death are in the past; and this is the present. Here comes the future. Home time as it was: running out the school gate, towards Mum, towards safety. Home time as it is: alone in the library’s gloom, which I don’t mind, wandering up the steps to the children’s section, from where I’ll start my last patrol of the day. I’ll make sure the windows are locked, double check the back door...Can boredom make you vomit? I mean, can you get so bored that you actually fall ill? That’s something to mull over, isn’t it? Actually, I think I’m starting to look more normal by the day. What do you think? Speaking of vomit, the floor needs mopped. I once had a two hour conversation with someone about a gravestone – I’m not kidding. Throughout the whole of those two hours, I felt as grey and as cold as that gravestone, which I was told sat on a hill, beside a tree, facing boarded up, decaying high flats, somewhere emptied of people. There is a time, just before the weekday alarm goes off, an hour or so before that shrill call to arms, when you wake up and realise that now is not the time. You doze off and are, you find, able to control your dreams. This sleep of the hour before the alarm is a return to the sensations of the womb. I wish I was in the womb now. I wish I was in the womb, because I am about to be plunged into…Well, the seventh fucking level of Hell. I’m thinking that the store room has gained more of an air of menace than it actually deserves. It’s time to make my peace with it. Yes, I’m going to exorcise the demons I have come to associate with that place. So: here goes. A pale faced little Harry Potter fan chucked up his lunch while his mum was being chatted up by a desperate looking single dad. I need that mop, there’s no two ways about it. I see the store room. I stand before the store room, stare at its closed door. I reach out and hear a noise: a raised voice outside. Don’t be a pussy, Russell. Oh, Russell. Do it. Do it, Russell. Here goes; I’m going to do it. I reach out once more. I turn the handle and…Pow! I burst into the room like I’m raiding some crack den in LA. Oh, holy fuck! How the fuck do I describe this? Fuck this, I’m not describing anything. I’m fucking out of here! Okay, listen, I’m only going to say this once: it looks like a woman, but its hair is moving, like it’s got snakes for hair. But it’s not snakes. I mean, I know what you’re thinking: Medusa. No, definitely not. It doesn’t have snakes for hair; it just happens to have hair that’s…alive. The thing’s face…Is it a woman? I think so. Her face is covered in sores or wounds, and these sores or wounds have maggots crawling out of them. She’s naked. She has a scorpion’s tail. Are you getting this? This is the Central fucking Library, for fuck sake. This isn’t supposed to be happening. We are cast adrift. However, my mind is opening its own locked doors, and everything is being connected: this is the same thing that attacked me in the Gents. It crashed its head through the window as I stood listening. I dare say you can understand why I suppressed that shit. Things are looking up though. The time of revelations is almost upon us. We will have answers…of a kind. I’m moving at such a rate that I actually fall down the stairs. I’m pretty clumsy, actually, when it comes right down to it. I’ve put some weight on, over the last year or so, but I’m not fat. I don’t have a belly. It’s muscle. I’ve been working out. I like the gym. I like watching telly on the exercise bike. She actually smells not too bad. It’s like the beach. It’s like the smell you get at the beach: seaweed, suntan oil, shit like that, all mixed in together. She’s obviously not from the beach – I know that. That’s just what she smells like to me, and I may be going mad. Actually, isn’t that a symptom of an impending brain haemorrhage? A brain haemorrhage would be great; right now, a brain haemorrhage would come in really handy. Oh, fuck, get off me, you smelly fucking bitch. I …That fucking hurts…Fuck, she’s just grabbed my balls. The fucking bitch has me by the balls…Oh, don’t squeeze. You’re fucking squeezing them. ‘I really love you, Russell.’ ‘Let go my balls then.’ ‘I really love you, Russell.’ The voice rings a bell. I ask her to let go my balls again, but she’s having none of it. Actually, those last five words she said were a really big help to me…Come to think of it, the hand on the balls is a bit of a give away too. ‘Kerry?’ I say. That does the trick. She loosens her grip. My balls’ll hurt for a few days, no doubt about it. Complete bed rest for them, I think. I’ll pamper them. ‘Kerry, is that you?’ ‘I saw it, Russell. I knew it would happen.’ ‘Kerry. What have you done?’ She doesn’t sound any different. Now, Kerry is definitely dead. I know that for a fact. She was also, until very recently, buried in the woods behind the Garden of Remembrance, which itself is nestled just behind the crematorium. No one knew where the body was. I was careful. I ‘m always careful. The circumstances of the discovery were bizarre in that the body was dug up and just left there. No one alerted the police. Some kids playing cowboys and Indians – presumably the only children on Earth who still do this – took credit for the grisly find. They didn’t dig the body up though: the authorities were confident of that. So, who did, and why? And how did they know where to look? Those are all excellent questions. Kerry’s still on top of me. I’m lying at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at them as they spiral up into the infinity of my ebbing consciousness. To be floating in that infinity now, with Perseus, Zeus, Pegasus and Andromeda, as they take more definite form out of the constellations. I am here, though, with my ex straddling me and my balls two little worlds of pain. ‘I saw it, Russell. I knew it would happen. I really love you, Russell.’ ‘I know you do, honey.’ Do I sound okay? Does that sound convincing? I’ll tell her anything if it’ll get her off me. ‘I saw it, Russell.’ ‘What did you see?’ ‘I saw what you’d do.’ ‘What I’d do…Really?’ Really? She saw that? ‘Tell me exactly. Tell me what you saw.’ ‘I saw my death.’ ‘Ah hah…’ ‘I saw you killing me. I read it, Russell.’ ‘What?’ ‘I read your journal.’ ‘I see.’ That’s right, I keep a journal. What do you think of that, by the way? I’ve always been pretty embarrassed about it. I mean, I basically just write down my thoughts, and it’s a side of me that I don’t ever show to the world. I sometimes have this nightmare – I have it quite a lot, actually- where someone’s pasted pages of my journal to every wall in town. People are reading the pages, and they’re having a really good laugh. I come into town to do some shopping. It’s a Saturday. I’m wandering along, wondering what everybody’s laughing at. I see a group of my friends and I ask them: I say, ‘So, what’s happening?’ They’re gathered outside the supermarket, which has had its windows totally covered with the pages. They move aside to let me see. ‘Cheers,’ I say as I move towards the windows. By now my blood’s starting to run cold because I can recognise my handwriting. ‘Who did this?’ I ask, turning to face the sniggering crowd that has gathered. Nobody answers; they all just look at each other, whispering and grinning like idiots. It’s then that I realise that I need to go to the toilet. I’ve needed to go for hours. I need to take a piss. My bladder twitches and strains. I try to make a run for it, but I’m rooted to the spot. Then it happens: I lose control and piss my pants. Everybody cracks up…Well, almost everybody: Mum and Dad are at the back of the crowd shouting about how disappointed they are in me. Mum’s particularly vocal: she’s saying something about rubber sheets
Kerry gives a full and satisfying explanation of events:
‘I read your journal,’ she says. ‘Do you remember how good we were together?’ As she talks, she loosens the grip her thighs have on my waist. Her features soften. I can see that her tongue is becoming pinker; the hairs on its surface are disappearing. She is becoming the Kerry of long-cherished memory. ‘You were my one and only; my love; my starlight. Do you remember the plans we were making? I don’t suppose you do.’ She’s wrong. Look, there’s something else I want to ask you: do you hate me? I didn’t tell you right off about what I do because I thought you might. I wanted us to get to know each other first. I don’t suppose you do hate me. How could you? Maybe you do, though. Shit. Look, let’s talk about this later. Kerry’s talking about the day she stumbled across my journal. We’d been together about seven months at the time. I think we really had a future together. I knew what I was going to do to her; I had it all mapped out in my head. She was a bit special, though, so I kept putting it off, hoping that I would change my mind for once. She was into magic and things like that. She used to take me to these shops where they sold a lot of weird stuff. I used to think I was a pretty tolerant person, but the more I see of life the more I think we would be better off if we got rid of some of the people. I don’t mean kill them. We could put them on a train. I mean, kill them if you want. That might actually be a better idea. I get carried away sometimes. Just ignore me! I think she might have been into it deeper than she liked to let on. We never used to really talk much. We were always in bed or going out or watching T.V. ‘Your journal is the most frightening thing I’ve ever read,’ she says. I think that’s putting it a bit strong; she’s over egging the pudding there, just a bit. She’s always been like this, to tell you the truth. She’s a bit irritating, when it comes right down to it. If you were going to choose any of your murder victims to come back to life, Kerry would be at the bottom of your list. Anyway, she’s here now and we’re all going to have to listen to what she has to say. ‘It was all there: everything you’ve done, everyone you’ve murdered. Even your mum and dad. You told me they fell into a mincing machine!’ That’s right, so I did! I nearly pissed myself laughing when Kerry went home that night. She’d swallowed it! ‘And then I saw it, Russell: I foresaw my own death. It was like my head suddenly became tense, like someone was squeezing it in between their hands. I couldn’t stop shaking. I could smell the woods, and I could feel the grass under my feet. I was there. I was in the future. You were behind me. You were talking about films; and you said something as well about how you sometimes wake up during the night and forget who you are and how you’ve got to where you are. You said – I’ll never forget this – you said that in those moments all you can remember is being a child, happy and safe in your bed at home, and then waking up as a man with no memory. Then you put the knife in my back and held your hand over my mouth as you lowered me gently to the ground. I saw all of this as I sat at the desk, your journal lying open in front of me. You came into the room then and asked what I was doing. I closed the journal over as quickly as I could, but I think you knew that I had been reading it, and that was what made up your mind. My reading the journal had created the future that I had seen after reading it. Fate works like that quite a lot. ‘That night I went home like I always did, but I was already walking a path that would lead me to those woods, to that unmarked grave. I couldn’t stop it. I had encountered a demon disguised, as demons usually are, as an ordinary man. The only thing I could think of to do was cast a Vengeance Spell.’ A Vengeance Spell! She used to say crap like that all the time when we were going out. She had a spell for everything and a crystal for every occasion. The spells didn’t even have anything going for them. I mean they were all a bit shit. They all seemed to revolve around incense and pot pouri. ‘I would use seven knots to bind my spirit to earth.’ Knots! See what I mean? ‘Do you want to know how I did it?’ ‘Sure.’ I suppose it must have worked this time. I don’t know how. Maybe magic only works when you really need it to. ‘I took a length of orange curtain cord and sat in a circle of altar candles. I lit the candles and tied the first of the seven knots in the middle of the cord. I recited the spell: ‘I’ve knotted one, the spell’s begun.’ Then I tied another knot at the extreme left end: ‘I’ve knotted two, it cometh true.’ Another at the extreme right: ‘I’ve knotted three, so will it be.’ Between the left and the centre: ‘I’ve knotted four, its strength is more.’ Between the right and the centre: ‘I’ve knotted five, it comes alive.’ Midway between the knots on the left-hand side: ‘I’ve knotted six, the spell to fix.’ And midway between the knots on the right-hand side: ‘I’ve knotted seven, the stars of heaven.’’ ‘I take it this was a…magic cord?’ I don’t know what else to say. To be honest, at the moment magic cords are the least of what I’m willing to accept. Do you think I might have imagined all of this? Okay, maybe I did, but at what point did I start imagining? I like films like that, where you have to press ‘pause’ at a certain part and think, Okay, what the fuck’s happening? Or you have to rewind it a bit and identify the exact point at which the narrative twisted and headed off towards this unexpected destination. Vanilla Sky’s like that. It at least has the courtesy to tell you when exactly it veered off of the main road. ‘It gains its magic from being a symbol of the spider or weaving goddesses, who spin a web through into the mortal world. The idea of the vengeance spell is that, seven days before her own death, the next victim will be drawn to the cord. She’ll untie the knots, which have bound your spirit to earth and, at the moment of her death, she will be possessed with this selfsame spirit.’ Kerry looks great now. All the horrible lesions and discolouration have subsided. I’m sitting beside a beautiful, naked, twenty-nine year old witch. I don’t want to ask her the question that I’m asking myself: what else jumped into Sadie’s body? I mean, Kerry by herself would have been fine; I could have handled Kerry no problem. That green thing that jumped out of the storeroom was…Well, I’m thinking Exorcist here, I have to say. Maybe there were a few demons kicking around in the spirit world with Kerry after Sadie released her from the cord. Anyway, I leave it. Knowing if a demon is involved won’t necessarily make this any easier to deal with. I feel as if I should at least ask her something, so I say, ‘So you had the cord on you when I killed you? And then Sadie was drawn to it and dug you up to get it.’ ‘Yes. How did you feel when you heard that my body had been discovered?’ She asks this with a smile, as if these events are sufficiently far in the past for us to have a laugh about them. ‘I nearly shit myself.’ ‘Don’t worry, Russell, you’re not going to jail, if that’s any consolation.’ ‘Where am I going?’ ‘I haven’t decided yet.’ That’s not any good! ‘What’s it a choice between?’ ‘Staying here and going to Hell,’ she replies. ‘What does staying here mean?’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘I mean, if you leave me here and don’t take me to Hell, will that be it? Will that mean you’ve decided to let me off the hook?’ ‘That all depends.’ ‘On…’ ‘On whether you behave or not after I let you go.’ ‘I promise, Kerry. Please.’ I don’t know, okay? Fuck, look: she said she’d be back. She said she’d watch me for a while and that would give me time to think about it, too, give me time to consider whether I even believe myself. Will I kill again? Good question. At the moment, I ‘m fine; but then, no one’s caught my eye for a while. It may only take a small thing, like a length of leg, a style of dress I’ve never seen before, or never seen worn quite like that. Maybe someone new will start at the library, we’ll get close… Is it sexual? With the women it sometimes is. I’m not gay or anything – you don’t have to worry about that! With the men, it’s anger. I think I’m going to have to live in cliché country from now on: I’ll take it one day at a time, live for the moment, take each day as it comes, let tomorrow take care of itself. This is going to be hard. If only I had someone, a friend, or something like that. I never killed the whole time I was with Kerry, and there were a few people that I would have loved to have sorted out. I mean, I killed Kerry in the end, we all know that, but she did keep me more well-balanced than I’ve ever been. You would think that the threat of Hell would be enough to keep me on the straight and narrow. Well, I knew before Kerry came back that I was going down instead of up. It didn’t stop me then. You see, it’s an impulse that I’m fighting. At night, I lose my memory, Kerry was right about that. Shit, this is the freakiest, scariest fucking feeling you’re ever likely to feel. No memory? Fuck me, I used to hear people talking about memory loss and think, ‘How fucking bad can it be?’ But, no, it’s bad. I think it’s the feeling of grasping for something precious that’s been lost, the fear that you might never find it. You panic. It’s like your head’s been burgled. Yeah, it’s like someone’s climbed in your window during the night and left the telly, the couch, the CD player and all that shit, but taken your memories. Men will wrestle alligators to save their children, and mankind is capable of extraordinary feats, but I cannot stop killing despite Hell breathing down my neck. How exactly will it work? Will I be consumed by flames the moment my knife next slices through skin? I suppose that must be it, otherwise, how different would Kerry’s punishment be from life? Because, like I said, I’m going down anyway. ‘Okay,’ she says. She evaporates, before my eyes – and that’s exactly what it’s like, like water turning to steam. When she goes, it’s like losing a memory, and I hate that. She… First, I lose the sense of what she looked like: was she solid or transparent like a ghost? Then I lose the knack I have always had for mimicking her voice: even when we were going out, I used to echo her accusations and snipes right back at her. Then I lose the memory of why she returned: was this an unexpected, unexplained visitation or did Kerry have a purpose for being here? Then I lose the memory of her return altogether: why am I sitting in the library so long after closing time? Then I lose the memory of Sadie’s death: I think, ‘Has Sadie left for the day? I could use a quick shag if she hasn’t.’ Then I lose the thread of what I have been thinking for the last few days. I’ve been talking to you…But who are you? You are the observer in my head. In my head is where you exist. But when do you exist? That’s a good question. Why, too: that’s also a very good question. Here I am in the very nucleus of the week, but where was I when things started going wrong? How exactly was I positioned? Maybe if I could recreate that moment, I could straighten things out. Where was I? Right, did I tell you my name? My name is Russell. Please don’t laugh...Well, laugh if you want to. After all, I laugh at it every day.
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