Are You Ready

The light was finally beginning to fade, and the gentle orange glow of sunset brought new shadows to the room. Darker shadows.

“Do you recognise me, Mr Cochrane?” He spoke in a direct manner, though calm and soft in tone.

“Should I?”

“Of course – I’m the man you murdered.”

Alex Cochrane looked down at the ropes holding his wrists to the chair. They were old, but tightly bound. Despite his last memory having been somewhere towards the end of dinner the previous evening, he focussed on the here and now, and gave them a gentle pull. There was hardly any slack in them, and he felt the fibres burn slightly as he turned his wrists back and forth. This could get tricky, he thought, as he furiously tried to clear his head.

“Murdered, you say? Ah. How embarrassing. You seem well for it, at least.”

He gripped the arms of the chair tightly and quickly took in the room, keeping his host in view. His host, as yet unremembered, had turned to the table behind him, busying his hands with something out of view. Metal clinked against glass.

“Yes, no thanks to you of course. Now, are you ready? You should make yourself ready, for the end. For death.”

“Hmm, prepare myself, do you mean? That’s not really my style.”

“In the end we die alone. It will help to be… prepared, as you say.”

“I don’t think so. I came into this world kicking and screaming, and I intend to go out the same reluctant way, so no I’m not fucking ready and I doubt I ever will be. Oh, and while we’re on the subject – fuck you.”

“You have spirit, my friend, and that is to be lauded, but I fear it is profoundly unproductive given your current situation.”

All the while, Alex’s fingers had been feeling out the ends of the old wooden chair he had so recently woken to find himself tied to. Finally, the right-hand one gave a little. He coughed to cover the noise, as he pulled harder and felt it lift away slightly. He steadied his feet, as he flexed the muscles in his shoulders and lower back, and waited for the right moment.

His host – a slender gentleman in a long black coat, more gaunt than tall – had been filling a syringe. It was of an older style, made of metal, and wouldn’t have looked out of place under a glass display in St Bart’s museum. Alex could see it now it as the man started to turn, and just hoped it wasn’t as rusty as some of its display counterparts probably were. He was curiously less concerned about what it contained, and rather more about what the state of the implement could end up doing to him. His host stopped to tap the main body of the syringe, holding it softly between long bony fingers. That was when Alex lunged. In one swift movement he charged forward bringing his right foot upwards in a high kick. His foot caught the gentleman’s wrist and sent the syringe up and back, plunging the business end into his eye. The scream was feral, as one hand shook in front of his face, the other clawing back towards the table’s edge. Alex’s momentum had pulled the chair’s arm away from its base, with two spokes accompanying it. Alex swung out at his host’s head, catching him in the left side of his neck. A shattered end of one of the spokes struck home and sank into his grey flesh. A spray of blood arced out and gently kissed the wall’s grubby plaster on its way down to the bare boards of the dusty floor. The gentleman gurgled once and followed barely seconds behind.

In popular movies, when someone is shot with an arrow, caught with a spear, or stabbed with a pair of scissors, or a syringe, they only ever seem to fall away from the offending intrusion – as if to do otherwise would break some hypersensitive celluloid taboo. Real life is often less delicate. The stranger face-planted with all the elegance and taste of a blood-soaked corpse with a syringe buried in his left eye. Alex kicked him in the side for good measure.

“What the fuck! Who… WHO the fuck!”

With most of the chair in ruins, he removed the remaining ropes with relative ease, stood over his would-be torturer, and massaged his wrists. Frowning, he turned and headed for the door.

The Descent

The night sky exploded into an unreal world as Maxwell lay on the shabby floorboards gasping, like a fish out of water, his gills flapping, slowly being poisoned by callous betrayal. He had been landed by those that had least appreciated his existence, he knew now, by those to whom violation and destruction came easiest. From this began his dreams. He heard and felt the distant echoes of junk-ridden screams, the unmuted screams of all the murdered women of the world joining as one in a hideous cry of the violated. Again and again the screams rose up out of the night – violent, relentless and unforgiving, picking at his naked baby flesh like crows dining on fresh road kill. From this came his stinking helplessness. Releasing an almost reluctant hold on reality, Maxwell succumbed to the darkness and fell headlong into it. Now released, Rube Thabe raised himself out of the urine and vomit laden carcass of the man that now littered the doorway, turned to the window, and leapt the thirteen floors to the street below. The little man, Dilaudid, patted his knees in a small fit of childish, but frightening, laughter and crossed the floor for a better view of Rube Thabe’s descent, holding his sides lest they fall apart.

As he descended, the images came all at once, rushing forward and through him as though each on their way towards some great celebration. For one small, brief moment Rube Thabe considered the chattering minds of the people immediately below him and the endless possibilities to be had of attaching to any one of them, but decided that there was a far more vast wealth of fun to be had elsewhere in the city, so dismissed the thought and moved on.

A Reluctant Visitor

She eventually found out the man she was looking for. He was squatting tight-lipped in a high-backed wicker throne, his furtive eyes dancing, avoiding any direct contact with the eyes of those/others around him. His hairless arms dangled aimlessly between his knees, as he shifted the weight on his haunches over to one side. His olive skin and gaunt face with its strong aquiline nose gave him a vaguely aristocratic appearance, whilst his bright, but deeply set green eyes made him look quite alien somehow. At Louise’s approach, he arched his back slightly, his mouth widening as he bared his broken and darkened teeth in an obliging grin. Louise gently shuddered as she saw his tongue quickly flicker almost imperceptively across a second row of small and pointed, but perfect teeth behind. He slid from his chair and passed a knowing glance to the shadows behind his shoulder, as he ushered her into the back room, the room reserved for private audience.

Louise felt her body temperature drop dramatically as she entered and immediately moved to one side of the room; at the same time a feverish sweat broke suddenly on her brow as she trembled. Centred beneath an exposed light bulb stood a dirty, low crooked table with one short wooden stool on either side. The bulb swung gently, causing the whole room to sway as if at sea. Shadows from the peeling paint flickered and ran back and forth across the cold, dirty walls, making Louise nauseous. She crossed and sat down harshly on one of the stools – the jar to her spine sending splinters of pain up into the base of her skull. On the table sat a small rosewood bowl with two half-finished joss sticks. As they burned, they gave off a pungent, colourless no-smell of death, which served only to telegraph the way she felt.

The man quietly closed the door behind him and moved delicately across to the stool opposite Louise. He lowered himself onto it and manoeuvred his knees under the table, his eyes never once moving away from her. She could not find it within herself to return his stare.
“Look at me.” His tone was beautiful, it commanded and questioned at the same time. Her gaze travelled beyond the twin spirals of smoke from the joss sticks, where her eyes focused on another place, reluctant to comply. Suddenly a cacophonous dirge of cathedral music droned in Louise’s head; her throat seemed choked, her belly tight. She tried to cough, but found no air. Once seated, Louise had found herself totally paralysed, only her eyes in an almost surreally perfect focus, could move. They did so and travelled the room once more, coming to rest on the man’s chin. As her eyes moved upwards, they met his gaze, and Louise’s body was allowed to relax. She gasped. The realisation then came that, from the point of them both entering that room, He was in total control of all that was to follow. His will would be obeyed at all times, reluctantly or otherwise.

Surely No-One Likes Tech Support

I’ve been filling in for our support guy this week, as he’s been off ill, and for reasons that may or may not become clear (this is just a rant, after all), no-one else really seems that interested in manning the support line (oh, and it just so happens that my extension number is next in the hunt group – funny that).

I have to say that some of our customers are absolute fucktards – there, I said it. They really are, though. In a normal world, most people will just ‘google’ something (apparently, it’s a new verb – to google, meaning to spend as little time as possible whilst at work, actually doing work, but instead using up valuable internet electrons to discover who’s tupping the currently most popular Kardashian – whatever one of those is). In this case, however, they’d rather spend time in a telephone queue, listening to a mediocre at best impression of Stephen Hawking telling them how important their call is to us, or emailing in their foetid whinings, then (presumably) going back to Kardashian Watch (I’ve heard it’s a bit like Spring Watch, but with bigger tits).

The drivel that comes through – “what’s a vendor?“, “I don’t know if we’re getting email or not“, “do I have to tell anyone, or can I just restart the server?” – each of which can be answered simply: dictionary, I think you do, and yes you can.

If you don’t know what a vendor is, you probably shouldn’t be working anywhere in the supply stream, and let’s face it – we ALL work somewhere in the supply stream, no matter what we do for a living. Go home early, you’re really not contributing in the constructive manner expected of you.

Not sure if you’re getting mail or not? Really? Shall we visit that uncertainty using a not so gentle example of parallelism? If you’re not sure whether you’re being punched in the face by a rabid Alpaca wearing spandex and a cape, odds on you’ve either been punched so much/hard that it’s a wonder you’re still in a fit state to even postulate such a thing, or you’re not. It’s quite simple. Or, if this helps: check your server queues, internet connection, or – heaven forfend – your fucking inbox!

Do you have to tell anyone? This is a tricky one, and I suppose the answer depends on any number of things – your love of grammatical construction, how long you wish to remain in your current employ, and the observational skills of those in a position to terminate said employ, to mention but a few. Think about the position you’re in, as a system admin. You’re responsible for a server that a large number of individuals connect to throughout the working day, and which hosts a system that itself is responsible for recording and progressing the IT Change Management process for your entire organisation. Now think carefully about your question, just one more time.

Sweet Christ in a wok – I ask you!

Some of them even start with “Bob did tell me before, but I can’t remember“, or “which one’s the help key? I pressed what I thought it was but just got sent to a web site“. Yes, that was the ON-LINE HELP, you twat!!

“F1 motherfucker! Learn for yourself – it’s YOUR JOB!!” is what I want to shout at them, but I don’t. Instead, I just simply hang my head, in homage to Eyore, and pray for the speedy arrival of 5 o’clock. Or death. Today, I have a preference, and yes, it’s probably death.

Oh wait, it’s 5 o’clock.