Archive for fiction

ET VOILA!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2018 by ofherbsandaltars

This is not a story, though I suppose it could be…

“Once upon a time, there was a young girl-shaped boy, who had a vampire in his head. The vampire came everywhere – it ate hashcake in Amsterdam, it wandered up and down lurid neon highways through warm Floridian nights. It tried to tell its story in hot, dingy Spanish internet cafes, but the boy and the vampire couldn’t reach an agreement, couldn’t communicate, and they both got pretty pissed off.

The girl-shaped boy stopped travelling, because there was no money left, and the vampire refused to lend a hand, so instead they both ended up at a crumby little university in the the Shitlands of England. For several months, the boy and the vampire endured tedious lectures that weren’t about writing at all, and then they drove home very fast and engaged in their mutual passion for heroin. But then, one day, on a dusty blackboard, the vampire saw a picture of something it recognised, and got very excited. The boy wrote it all down, and the vampire said Yes – like that! Well, more or less…something like that, anyway…

Together, they barely bothered attending the crumby university anymore – they had far better things to do, like talk in the same language finally, and of course, shoot up heroin and smoke so much weed that the boy’s fingers turned yellow and he always found his bony elbow in the depths of an ashtray. The university was so crumby it gave them a degree anyway, largely due to the vampire’s self-proclaimed genius; he, and his friends, because by now there were several vampires, introductions having been made all round, they taught the boy to write their songs, and tried not to be too rude when he mangled them horrifically into life with his shiteous guitar playing.

Over the years, they wrote seven books, seven, in rapid succession, never able to say goodbye to each other, but that didn’t matter, because the vampire had been alive for absolutely fucking ages, so he had a lot to talk about. The boy tried to understand the vampire better, spending hours walking and driving around the city at night, suffering through endless, tedious nightclubs, surrounded by humans, who weren’t anything like as scintillating company as the vampire was; it was always a relief to get in the car, to put on the old, old music they both enjoyed, and cruise home through the night, the vampire reaching out a thin white finger to distastefully prod the dashboard, stating that One day, we will drive something FASTER than this! I’m going to make it happen – I’m going to CONQUER THE WORLD, and you’re coming too! The boy was rather dubious about that, by this point, but it didn’t matter – even if they drove around in slow cars forever, and even if none of the humans he met really interested him, he had the vampire, the vampires, and that was really all that mattered.

One night, the boy had gone out to The Pub, with some humans. It was ghastly…it was worse than ghastly, and then on the train home, there were so many obnoxious drunken humans, he couldn’t even hear the voice of the vampire in his head, which made it even more awful. So he started writing, just so that he didn’t hit anybody, but not about the vampires. He wrote about something else, for the first time ever, and that Something Else turned into several Somethings. The vampire didn’t mind – it gave him some time off, because vampires have a lot to be getting on with too, like killing people and playing volleyball with their decapitated heads. He and the boy kept working together, along with all the Something Else, until the boy hardly went anywhere at all because the entire world, or all the parts that mattered, were either in his head or in his computer.

Some humans would have been miserable, but the boy was actually very happy, in general. And eventually, it came the time to round up some of those stories, about the Somethings, and about the vampires, and send them out into the world…

So he did. The internet made it possible – scary, confusing, but possible. Now those stories are floating about in cyberspace, like embryos bobbing about in the electro-amniotic currents of data, waiting to be adopted and taken home.

The End Beginning”

…that would be it, if it was a story. But the real stories are actually on Amazonas of today, and you can read them! Most are horror stories, or dark erotica, but The Vampire decided he had plenty to say too, so he wrote a whole novella and then threw an enormous tantrum until it was added to the book. And all of that, can be found right here!

The boy and the vampire hope you enjoy them, and promise not to spend the money on smack 😉

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The Cruel Fate of Coco

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 11, 2015 by ofherbsandaltars

The Coco Pops monkey was just like any other child star – deeply and irrevocably fucked up. He’d been captured from his native jungle when he was just a baby, and at the time it had seemed like a triumph. Coco’s dad had been a forward-thinking monkey, who enjoyed swinging through the trees around the nearest village, and watching the progression of human culture. He would tell Coco tales of faraway places, of the things the humans had built and created. One day he’d brought Coco a baseball cap that he’d stolen from the humans, and Coco had worn it with pride – it seemed a weird thing, initially, the idea of wearing something on your head that served no purpose and wasn’t for eating, but his dad had taken him down to the village, and explained what clothing meant. It meant having an identity, it meant creating your own image – often the humans wore on their chest the symbols of the music and culture they loved and believed in. After that, Coco came to like his cap, because it made him different, and even the humans in the village grew quite fond of him, that little monkey in the hat.

Coco’s reputation with the villagers had grown, and it wasn’t long before the people from Kelloggs came down to meet him – they were looking for a new mascot, a new star, and Coco was dazzled by everything they told him. He was to leave his jungle home, and move to the city of London, where he would have an apartment all of his own, overlooking the bright lights of that thriving, vibrant city. His image would be on cereal boxes all over the country, and he would even be on television, like a real live star! Coco felt a pang of sadness about leaving his family, but his father urged him on, as did the rest of the monkeys – none of them would ever see anything beyond this jungle, and Coco was being offered the chance to see the world. It made Coco feel special, and after three days of talks with the people from Kelloggs, he agreed to their terms, and said a teary but hopeful goodbye to his family, and to the jungle he had always known.

That had been fifty-three years ago, and since then, a lot had changed. Coco’s image was still splattered across cereal boxes all over Europe, and to any onlooker, he was the same fun-loving, happy monkey he’d always been, but the truth had become far grimmer. Since the very first day Coco arrived in London, bright-eyed and over-excited, he’d been given ‘vitamin pills’ to ‘make him strong’. It was several decades before he realised they were hormone blockers, designed to stop him ever growing up. Forever and always, Coco would be small, endearing and childlike, but they couldn’t halt his ageing altogether. For the past fifteen years Coco had endured endless needles to the face, botox and juvederm, paralysing his muscles, plumping up his cheeks – the botox regime was so intense that Coco couldn’t show any emotions at all, his face permanently frozen in a wide, happy grin. Coco had smashed every mirror in his apartment, because he couldn’t stand it, feeling so much pain on the inside, while his frozen face grinned and grinned as though it was the happiest day of his life. Sometimes he wondered, in the depths of some bleak, drunken midnight, whether when he died and his flesh rotted away, his skull too would be fixed forever in that same imbecilic smile.

Of course it had been good to begin with – the bright lights, the big city, the adulation of those human children. Coco had loved Coco Pops when he first tried them – they were an explosion of crunchy sweetness unlike anything he’d ever tasted in the jungle. One of the stipulations of his contract was that he would be given a lifetime’s supply of Coco Pops, so he ate them and ate them for every meal, but soon he started getting fat, and that wasn’t good for the marketing. Coco tried to diet, but fruit seemed so bland now, and all his cupboards were stuffed with Coco Pops, eternally tempting him. Soon enough he’d learned how to get rid of it, to stuff himself with Coco Pops, then slip away to the bathroom, insert one long hairy finger into the back of his throat and regurgitate a torrent of chocolate milk. He lost the weight rapidly, but it left him feeling strangely vague and empty, curled up on the bathroom floor, missing his family, missing his jungle.

As Coco aged without ageing, he began to experiment with nightlife, but after he was photographed drunk with a cigarette in 1984, the Kelloggs people were furious – Coco was the mainstay of their brand, and he was a children’s character, for god’s sake, if the parents found out that he was drinking and smoking, their stocks would plummet, don’t you know what that means, Coco? Millions of pounds, millions of jobs, millions of innocent children, all relying on you! After that shameful night, Coco was more or less imprisoned in his apartment, but he got bored, so bored, and after all he was still a star, with bodyguards to do his bidding, so Coco just partied at home, privately – all alone. His bodyguard was a simple but well-meaning man with a shaven head and missing teeth, and for the next three decades he brought Coco anything he asked for – vodka, weed, cigarettes, heroin. Coco spent all day every day staring at the TV, drunk out of his mind, in a fug of cigarette smoke, surrounded by overflowing ashtrays, syringes, spilled bottles of valium. Years ago he’d turned his own TV adverts into a sort of sick, masochistic drinking game. Whenever his own beaming face appeared on the TV, he would pour out half a glass of vodka, down it with a handful of valium, and start cooking up a shot of heroin, muttering bitterly under his breath, “I’d rather have a bowl of Coco Pops…”

Coco still looked presentable enough to star in those adverts, once he’d been given a good wash and a haircut, and sometimes they would make him wear coloured contact lenses, to hide the redness of his glassy, dilated eyes. But with these preparations made, in front of the camera he returned to being that sprightly, carefree monkey, and just like always, he leapt around, grinning eternally, devouring Coco Pops, then shuffling off to the bathroom to throw them all up again. The only thing Coco couldn’t do anymore was his own voice-overs – somewhere around 1987 they’d brought in a voice actor, because Coco’s voice sounded like roadkill dragged through gravel, full of booze and cigarettes and sadness, and when he spoke his childish lines they sounded tragic, doomed, ironic, so they dubbed him over with the high-pitched enthusiasm of a perky woman in her twenties.

Then, in 2015 a famous human chef started up a ‘sugar tax’, and he pointed the finger directly at Coco. Human children were getting fatter and fatter by the year, so much so that they’d had to make up a new word for fat – ‘fat’ was just normal now; ‘obese’ was the new fat. And all of these obese children with their Type 2 diabetes and their asthma and their heart conditions, who would drop dead long before their parents did, it was all being blamed on Coco. From the rumours he’d heard, he was going to be sacked, so that he couldn’t “corrupt the minds” and health of children anymore, but then where would he go? He couldn’t bear the thought of returning to the jungle, full of shame, bereft of heroin – his mother and father were long dead anyway. The one spark of hope for Coco was that maybe now, once he was sacked, once he was free, he could finally be himself – he could tell his bitter truth after all these years, get his vengeance on the Kelloggs people, who had stolen his life and destroyed it all, kept him rotting away eternally behind the bolted doors of this gleaming apartment.

Unfortunately, Coco wasn’t much of a secret keeper. The Kelloggs people had come round to discuss his ‘contractual alterations’, and Coco had been slumped across the rug, the whole apartment foggy with cigarette smoke, a half empty vodka bottle rolling across the floor, and so many needles stabbed into the arm of the sofa it resembled a junkie hedgehog. Today, Coco had seen four of his own adverts, as Kelloggs went for a final push before the new ‘sugar tax’ legislation came into play. As a result, even by Coco’s standards, he was pretty well fucked up. And those smug, condescending Kelloggs people came round to tell him that he was being all but fired – the new ‘sugar tax’, and its ban on Coco’s advertising, only applied to the UK, so they had considered moving Coco to Berlin, where he would continue to star in European adverts, but due to his ‘current circumstances’, they had instead chosen to terminate his contract entirely. Coco stared at them with vacant eyes, his face frozen, as ever, in that eerie, empty grin, and they stared down at him with contempt – glossing over this betrayal with their fancy words, until Coco started laughing, muttering,

Terminate me? We’ll see about that… Poison. Iss all just poison. They know it’s poison, and soon enough they’ll know who the real poisoner is…” He dissolved into raspy laughter, draining the dregs of his vodka bottle, and the Kelloggs people looked at each other for a long time. Finally, they asked,

“What do you mean by that, Coco?”

Coco snorted. “Nothin’ at all. I got nothin’ to say to you anymore…but I got plenty to say to the world, soon’z you let me out of here. None of your business though, is it, now I’m terminated…”

The Kelloggs people shared another long, meaningful glance, then one reached into his pocket, and held out his hand to the drunken monkey. In his palm rested five scrunched rizlas, each forming a little white ball with a twisted tail, and Coco reached out a trembling hand and snatched them up, asking,

“Wha’d I do to deserve this?”

“Just a little goodbye present,” said the Kelloggs man, with his forced, artificial smile. “Tide you over until Tuesday. Two more days here, then they’ll come to move you out – don’t worry about the details, it’s all been arranged for you.”

Coco didn’t bother to reply, dragging himself into a sitting position and riffling through the detritus for a brown-stained spoon and a lighter. The Kelloggs people turned, and walked away, ushering Coco’s bodyguard out with them, where they delayed him in the corridor for the better part of twenty minutes, discussing the fine-print of his contractual alterations – for him, it meant early retirement, well-paid to sweeten the deal; Coco’s affairs were to remain private, so that the world would always remember him as the cheerful, smiling Coco Pops monkey, and not the disaster he had become.

When the bodyguard re-entered the apartment, Coco was sprawled out amongst the chaos, fingers splayed and rigid, eyes wide open, yet showing nothing but white, frothy vomit filling his mouth – no pulse, no heartbeat, no breathing. The Kelloggs people returned with surprising promptness, relieving the bodyguard of his duties – telling him to rest assured that their poor, fallen monkey’s affairs would be put lovingly in order, after five decades of faithful service.

The next day, the papers told of a tragic heart attack suffered by Coco the Monkey, who had been distressed beyond endurance by the foul accusations of chef Jamie Oliver. A sweet and gentle creature, he had lived solely to bring joy to children, and the accusations thrown at him – that he was poisoning, was killing the children he loved so dearly – it had all been too much for him to take. In the wake of Coco’s obituary, children and parents alike cried out at the cruelty of Jamie Oliver’s ‘sugar tax’ – generations had grown up eating their breakfast as Coco smiled down at them from the cereal box, and his untimely death was the British version of Cecil the Lion. Support for Jamie The Murderer’s sugar tax faltered, then failed, until it was thrown out altogether in the House of Lords. Finally, as before, Kelloggs could use whatever mascot they liked, but it was all too late for poor, beloved Coco.

At the funeral, there was an open casket, and in it lay the corpse of a slim and youthful monkey, lying peacefully in eternal sleep. In the depths of a Kelloggs factory, a hefty bin-bag was dragged across the floor, smelling strangely of cigarette smoke and rotting flesh, before it was hoisted into the fiery depths of the incinerator.

I Don’t Want To Be A Dungbeetle

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 24, 2015 by ofherbsandaltars

“I think I might be different,” said George. “I think I might be-”

“You ain’t different,” George’s mother interrupted. “You’re a dungbeetle, just like the rest of us. Ain’t no one ‘different’ in this family!”

“But I don’t think I want to be a dungbeetle,” said George. “I think I want to make music, and I think I want to-”

“You ain’t makin’ music! Your father rolls shit, I rolled shit before I ‘ad you, and your granddaddy rolled so much shit it killed him. You’re a dungbeetle, George, and you’ll bloody well roll shit like one!”

“Aye,” agreed George’s dad, scuttling in and shaking the shit off his six feet. “You’ll roll shit, son, and you’ll roll it wi’ pride!”

“Don’t know how,” muttered George. “It smells so bad…”

“That,” said his father, unwrapping a squashed cheese sandwich, “Is the smell of legacy! It’s a proud thing, bein’ a dungbeetle.” He proceeded to devour the sandwich without even washing his hands, and George sighed.

“It’s easy for you,” said George, “You’re a proper dungbeetle. But how am I ever supposed to roll shit with only two legs, and these…awful, mutated flaps? I’ll never be able to-”

“Ain’t nothin’ wrong wi’ you, son,” said his mother firmly. “Dungbeetles lose their legs all the time, an’ it’s just a sign you worked hard. Ain’t your fault you came out a bit…different.”

“But that’s exactly what I’m saying! I’m different! And I want to be different! Last night I couldn’t sleep, again, and I heard this music, and it was-”

“Fuckin’ owls,” grumbled his dad. “Fuckin’ menace, those owls.”

“…it was…beautiful…” George finished, wistfully.

“Owls ain’t beautiful! Shit is beautiful!”

George lapsed into silence, and sulkily examined his fingers. Except his fingers were all wrong, just like they’d always been – they were sort of feathery and flappy and useless. Come to mention it, George was covered in feathers all over, the result of some hideous undiagnosed medical condition. Dungbeetles didn’t have feathers. Everyone laughed at George. His mum had tried plucking them out when he was young, but it hurt, and underneath he was all pink and bumpy, not at all like a normal dungbeetle. So they just let the feathers grow back, and George hid away from the beetles who mocked him. The daylight hurt his eyes, anyway – it made him sleepy. Night time was when he really felt alive, and he’d listen to the distant music of those strange creatures they called ‘owls’, and he’d wish that he could be an owl, as well.

The Sticky Cat

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2015 by ofherbsandaltars

If there was one moment when you knew your life had gone to shit, Sam thought, this had to be it. Washing methadone out of an angry, sticky cat. Sam had sucked spilled methadone out of his carpet in the past, and for a few seconds he’d contemplated doing the same thing to the cat – 50ml of fucking methadone, and every drop of it was absorbed in the shaggy tabby fur of that ungrateful fucking cat. Which meant that he now faced a day of feeling unpleasantly twitchy, followed by a full night of climbing the walls, constantly yawning and nose blowing, and taking more shits than the average person managed in a week. And all because of this sticky green bastard of a cat. Sucking bitter methadone out of the cat’s fur had been deeply unappealing, and Sam’s attempt at wringing the cat out hadn’t gone down a storm either – it had merely yielded a few lumps of moist, sticky fur, and an even more furious feline.

This, he supposed, was why you weren’t supposed to get an animal while you were a junkie. Get a fucking pot plant, they said, that’s all you’re good for, even you can’t fuck up a pot plant, surely! Sam hadn’t fucked up the pot plant, well, not exactly – at least, he hadn’t meant to. It had just seemed so fucking judgemental, that pot plant, probably because it was a gift from Sam’s mum. She’d obviously read the same book about recovery, telling you that the first step was a fucking pot plant. So there it was. A great big flowery pink thing, sitting on the windowsill, and every time Sam shot up gear in the living room, happily nodding out to Depeche Mode with a cigarette burning holes in his jeans, he would suddenly notice that ghastly bloody pot plant sitting there, watching him. Judging him. One night when his dealer had been feeling generous, and gifted him with a ten-bag of crack, which Sam had duly dumped into the syringe along with the brown, he’d become deeply paranoid about that fucking pot plant. Was it more than just a pot plant? More than just a metaphor? For days he’d felt the thing watching him – what if it wasn’t just familial guilt that was prickling at him? What if his mother had actually bugged the fucking thing, and every time he shot up in front of that beastly pink plant, his mother was watching his every move, weeping into her gin and tonic and plotting to have him carted off to rehab, or even a lunatic asylum?! That was the night Sam tore the pot plant to shreds in search of a hidden camera, frantically apologising to his mother and making wild promises of sobriety as he clawed through handful after handful of mud and compost and roots.

So the pot plant wasn’t a success. It clearly wasn’t time to move onto anything bigger, like a hamster, or a relationship. But then, along came that fucking cat.

It was a great big shaggy bastard of a cat, hairy and tabby with a ripped up ear, and Sam had absolutely no idea how it got into the house, the first time, but when he came home it was sitting on the sofa like it owned the place. Since he had three newly-purchased bags of gear in his pocket, which would do significantly more than his three sweaters to warm up a shitty winter’s day, he ignored the cat completely, and got on with the task at hand. Before he knew it, he was sprawled out on the floor in the blissful embrace of the best batch since October, and the cat was curled up on his chest, purring. It was so fucking furry, so fucking soft and furry, and its deep rumbling purr-vibrations ebbed and flowed like the sea, as if the cat was sharing his high and loving every second of it, and at that moment, Sam became quite attached to the cat. The next day, he went to buy it some tins of fishy cat food, and the cat became a permanent resident.

That had been three months ago, and Sam and the cat had been getting along just fine, until today. He’d put the opened bottle of methadone down on the coffee table for five seconds, while he went to grab a cup of tea to chase it down with, and when he came back, that fucking cat was drenched in the stuff, blinking its big yellow eyes at him with an expression of smug amusement. The cat wasn’t quite so amused now though, since Sam had taken it upstairs and dumped it in the sink for a rudimentary washing. He might be a dysfunctional smackhead with an irrational phobia of pot-plants, but he was still aware that the Cat Situation needed to be rectified – if he ignored it, the stupid bloody thing would lick itself clean and get high off its furry little tits, and then probably drop dead.

Unfortunately, there was no explaining this to the cat. Maybe because the cat had wanted it all along, had wanted to be slurping up Sam’s methadone and getting fucked off its furry little face. Maybe the cat had planned the whole thing! That fucking cat was always watching, when Sam shot up gear, perhaps growing curious, growing envious, but cats didn’t have thumbs – there was sod all a cat could do with a needle. The methadone though, that was fair game, for a scheming, plotting, deviant feline…

By the time the cat was more or less cleaned of sticky green methadone, Sam’s wrists resembled those of a disenfranchised emo teenager, hashed with shallow, stinging scratches, and he got the strong feeling that his pleasant relationship with the cat might well be over for good. Finally, he gave it a bit of a rub with a towel, and the cat dealt him one final hissing, snarling gouge across the back of the hand, before it shot out of the room and vanished completely. Sam muttered a rude word, rinsing his torn-up arms under the tap, and plodding down the stairs to survey the remaining chaos. The carpet wasn’t too bad, so he ignored it, but the cat had done a thorough job – not a drop of methadone remained in the brown plastic pharmacy bottle. Sam frowned at it for several seconds, then he checked his watch. It was barely past one in the afternoon – that left a very, very long night ahead of him…

Well… said the insidious little voice in the back of his head, it doesn’t HAVE to be that way…

He felt the beginnings of a tantalising nervous-excitement tingle in his stomach, urging him into junkie autopilot – grab your phone, grab your wallet and your keys, dial the golden number and get down to business – what the fuck are you waiting for?! But then, with a heavy sense of crushing defeat, he remembered the precise reason that this Methadone Cat debacle had happened in the first place. The Dreaded Piss Test. Usually, his consumption of methadone was lazy at best – he generally just chucked it in the cupboard for a rainy day, and shot some smack instead. But not today. Not this week. He’d already fucked up the last one, and if his piss wasn’t as pure as the Virgin Mary this time around, his worker had informed him in no uncertain terms that There Would Be Consequences. Which meant that he’d spent the last four days so sober, so bored out of his skull, that he’d resorted to drinking every last drop of stashed methadone. It had been better than he’d expected, actually, but now he was double fucked – no stash, and still handcuffed to tomorrow’s piss test.

Well… said the voice, there are always options…

Frowning, Sam picked up the empty methadone bottle, screwed on the lid, and experimentally shoved it into the pocket of his jeans. It fit well enough. Bit of a bulge, but nothing that wouldn’t be fixed by a baggy sweater. He stood motionless for several seconds, staring at the empty bottle, frozen in an agony of indecision. If they caught him, he would be absolutely, completely fucked…

Microwave, said the voice. Put it in the microwave, make it nice and hot…

Three seconds later, Sam lost the battle with temptation, and launched into frantic movement. In the kitchen, he yanked the top off the methadone bottle, gave it a perfunctory rinse-out, whipped out his dick, and filled the whole thing with Grade A dope-free piss. After screwing on the lid, he held it up to the light, feeling proud of his creation, as though he had personally brewed an exceptionally fine batch of vintage champagne. Four and a half hard-fought days of boring sobriety, distilled into this priceless golden solution. It seemed such an achievement, in fact, that he went delving in the cupboard, and when he found a small Tupperware box, he pissed into that too, and when he could piss no more, he put all of it away in the fridge. Hiding his precious fluids behind a jar of pickles, he suppressed a snigger, feeling like a deviant genius. This fridge-full of piss was more precious than gold – Sam didn’t see a bottle of lukewarm urine, he saw absolute freedom. Grinning, he shut the fridge, and went over to the sink to chug down three large glasses of water, before he shot into action, snatching up his wallet and keys, and dialling That Number as he hurried out of the door.

By the time he got back, forty minutes later, he had a pocketful of heroin, and a bladder ready to rupture, but he was armed and ready, a two-litre bottle of cheap lemonade purchased from the corner shop. He poured the fizzy contents down the sink, and gave it a thorough wash, before he grabbed an old jug, and stood proudly in the centre of his kitchen, unleashing the piss. Soon enough, he had enough piss in his fridge to sail through piss tests for months to come. The latest batch he was particularly proud of – it was so pale in colour that it barely resembled piss at all, and from previous urinary experiments, he knew that this was best. Watery piss would never begin to stink, no matter how long you kept it. If you presented your drug worker with a cupful of stale old piss that was orange as marmalade, thick with sediment and reeking like a blocked up sewer, your game was up. Sam gave his creation a proud nod, and continued into the living room with a smile on his face.

Sitting down on the rug, he started cooking up, but as soon as he dumped the gear into the spoon, he felt the unpleasant creepings of his conscience. Scoring was one thing – the chase, the mission, the uncertainty – it was so tense and all-consuming that there was no room for doubt. But now that he was here, in the safety of his living room, teetering on the brink of a Stupid Decision, the doubts flooded back. Though he was reasonably confident that he could get through the Dreaded Piss Test without being convicted of illicit piss-smuggling, there was the morality of the thing. Though it baffled Sam, some people were proud of their piss tests. You could even get a fucking print-out to take home and hang on the fridge – an official certification of your pristine, saint-like bladder. And although Sam had no desire to give his mum a Piss Certificate to hang on her wall, as a matter of personal pride, wasn’t it a bit shit? A bit of a wankerish cop-out, to find yourself incapable of surviving five miserable days without smack? It was the sort of thing that was supposed to kick you into recovery, that – looking around yourself at the feebleness of your willpower, and going Well Shit, I Guess I Have A Problem…

Despite his doubts, Sam’s fingers had been deftly running through the familiar and beloved ritual, and he found himself staring at a fresh syringe half filled with warm amber liquid. As always, it was the most beautiful sight on Earth. Fuck the Grand Canyon. Fuck California sunsets and lunar eclipses and Kim Kardashian’s juicy great greased-up ass – this was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen in his life.  The doubts continued their grumbling unabated – you useless, wankerish, pathetic little junkie – but as Sam surveyed his loaded syringe, he remembered the cat. That fucking cat, drenched in his methadone. None of this was Sam’s fault! His morality and will-power remained proud and unblemished, for he had had no choice. The fucking cat made him do it!

Spurred into action by this cast-iron excuse, and the glowing feeling of utter vindication it gave him, he snapped the belt around his bicep, and drove the needle into his favourite vein. When he’d forced the drugs into his bloodstream and dropped the syringe on the carpet, he stared into space, swaying slightly as the rush enveloped him, savouring every second of this lover’s reunion, after four long days of lonesome separation. The warmth, the golden tinge it gave the sunlight, the way his sense of smell seemed to cloud over with a subtle dusty scent as everything was turned down like a volume slider on the radio of existence, smoothly gliding from the too-bright, too-sharp ugliness of sober life, into the honeyed treacle bliss of his heroin reality.  The air in the room, the blood in his veins, it all became as thick and golden as warm molasses, the ticking clock of life slowing into stillness until all that remained was the languorous dance of dust in the afternoon sun, spilling through the gap in the curtains.

As he gazed across the room, he saw a movement in the doorway, and the cat came melting out of the shadows. Its pupils were the narrowest of slits, turning its eyes into vast, glassy golden lamps – he’d never seen a cat look so smug, or so wasted. Whatever methadone he’d left in its fur, that fucking cat had gladly devoured. Sam smiled at the cat. The cat smiled smugly back, beginning to vibrate with a low, rumbling purr. Drowsily, Sam wondered whether, just maybe, the cat wasn’t such an intolerably fiendish bastard after all – maybe it had had his best interests at heart all along. A cast-iron excuse to get high, with no guilt at all, and then a furry little friend to curl up and cuddle with afterwards. What an awesome cat. Those recovery books, he decided, sprawling out on the rug, were total bollocks. Fuck the pot plants – what every junkie needed was a plotting, scheming, dope-fiend of a cat…

The Moth’s Religion

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on March 6, 2015 by ofherbsandaltars

Moths are obsessed with sacrifice. The purpose of a moth, as every young moth is taught, is to sacrifice itself to the Goddess. But like every religion, the sacrificial beliefs of a moth are fraught with error and superstition. The particularly cynical moths will tell their naïve cousins that the Goddess is just a cold, hard, ball of stone, and that even if the Goddess loved you, she’s thousands of miles away, through an endless expanse of dark uncaring nothingness. But always, one small, bedraggled moth with tattered wings and wide, wondering eyes, will tell the others that this isn’t true – I’ve seen the Goddess. I touched her with my wings, and she was as warm and bright as love itself. But she didn’t take me – she spared me, so that I could tell you this very thing…

And so the moths continue on their path into doomed love and burning fate, hurling themselves with reckless abandon into the face of the Goddess, frying themselves alive in the fires of false idols. Never pity the smoldering corpse of a hapless moth – for the last seconds of its life, it flew through warmth and radiant light, and thought itself in heaven. When humans tell tales of a near death experience, of the light at the end of the tunnel, their feeling of perfect love and acceptance, perhaps they are merely recalling their earlier, simpler existence. The embracing warmth and loving arms of that light at the end of the tunnel – is it truly God, or just a naked bulb, swinging from a cord in some unremarkable ceiling? Humans could argue this point for eternity, but the moth doesn’t mind. Moths have died in their millions, since humans brought artificial light into the world, but to a moth, this is merely heaven multiplied. No longer do they find themselves lost and doubting in the dark – in every room of every dwelling, the pale face of the Goddess shines down upon them. A moth can find divine beauty in the lowliest of places, and this Goddess, their false electric idol, she will accept their humble sacrifice, taking them beyond, in a blinding burst of heavenly light.

Just as there are in the human race, there are the cynical moths, who perch eternally on walls, scowling in defiance as they ignore the myriad faces of divinity, and there are the worshipful moths, who find their God in all they see. To these moths, the Goddess is everywhere – in the night sky, shining down from the ceiling, even gleaming in the pale skin of a tired human, lounging in the glow of his monitor.

So if a moth is circling your face, fluttering determinedly back and forth, don’t be annoyed. It thinks you’re the most beautiful creature in the universe. It thinks you are the reason for its very existence, and if you let it live to fly away, it will tell every moth it ever meets the tale of how it met the Goddess, and how, though it offered itself to her, the kindly Goddess let it live.

10 Minutes With Satan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 27, 2014 by ofherbsandaltars

In this issue of Z Magazine, we bring you the interview you’ve been waiting for since the dawn of humanity. Breaking his multi-millennia silence, Satan himself has granted us an exclusive, and rather surprising interview. The entrance hall to the Hell Penthouse was much as I’d expected it to be – rough red walls adorned with vicious gleaming spikes, here and there a tattered, shrivelled scrap of crispy human flesh. There were several slick leather couches that I was warned not to sit on, as they were glossed daily with neurotoxins milked from the most painful jellyfish in the world. Stuffed goats everywhere, some of which were fitted with human eyeballs that eerily moved, and open fires stood against every wall, the frequent crackle and pop from within of burning human teeth. The aroma was of brimstone and singed hair, and I began to fear what I would find deeper into the demon’s lair.

As I walked through his house of horrors, and into Satan’s inner sanctum, I was surprised to find a complete change of décor – in here it was light and airy; white walls, white carpet, white everything. Even more surprisingly, Satan was dressed in a sky-blue sarong and a white silk shirt, and his tipple of choice turned out to be crème de menthe. When I mentioned the surprising aura of calm in this room, his reply was that,

“When you’ve lived in Disneyland for thousands of years, you get a bit sick of Mickey Mouse. You know what I mean?”

ZM – “You’re getting tired of being evil?”

“No…” Satan replies, at length. “But that’s not all I am – no one is. No one is all about the evil, all the time. The most evil men on Earth still love their mum, or their cat, or something…”

ZM – “What’s the most evil thing you’ve ever done?”

Satan seems amused by this question, and after sipping his crème de menthe, he replies,

“What is evil, really? All the acts I undertake, as the boss of this place, are acts of retribution – righting the wrongs of the world. Punishing the sinners. You could call me karma, and karma isn’t evil, is it?”

ZM – “Then…how would you, personally, define evil?”

“God,” Satan replies, smiling slightly. “God is evil. Everything that goes on down here – out in the Disneyland part at least – is on his say so. He’s massacred whole villages just because he lost a game of cards and it pissed him off. God has terrible impulse control, if you hadn’t already noticed. And of course, he’s the one who made you people – humans. Made you all in his own image, which is the image of an egotistical, selfish, power-crazed lunatic, so it’s no wonder you all are the way you are. And then of course he can’t cope with staring at his own reflection in every major fuckup of humanity, so he creates this place and makes me the scapegoat for every dogshit on the pavement of life. But I don’t mind. I don’t mind being the “bad guy”” – he shapes these words with sarcastic speechmark fingers – “it gets me this place, and I know the truth. Plus I get all the cool ones, down here.”

ZM – “The cool ones?”

Satan nods. “I’ve got Elvis, among others – he’s a good buddy.”

ZM – “Can I ask what Elvis went to hell for, or is that just between you and him?”

“Well, I bent the rules a little, on Elvis’s account, but God didn’t want him anyway. Basically, I took Elvis for dying too early, and messing everything up. Caused a lot of unhappiness, Elvis dying the way he did, so he came here, to hell.”

ZM – “Elvis went to hell for dying? Isn’t that a bit unfair?”

“Ah, it is what it is. Elvis doesn’t mind.”

ZM – “Then he’s not burning for all eternity?”

Satan snorts with laughter, draining his glass and getting himself a refill, before he tells me,

“The burning for all eternity schtick is just the advertising campaign. Realistically, we can’t afford the gas bill to keep that up in the longrun – thousands of burning people, ad infinum? Not realistic, not in this economy. Realistically speaking, it’s more like an occasional singed finger, stubbed toe once a week, that kind of thing. We’ve had to be creative with affordable punishments for the really bad ones, so we go with things like hair stuck in throat for five years, perpetual loss of the remote control, lagging wifi – that sort of stuff. But Elvis doesn’t get any of that – like I said, he’s a buddy of mine.”

ZM – “Hell sounds a lot less extreme than most people would imagine…”

This sentence is met with another amused snort from Satan, who replies dryly,

“You people get all your info on this place from God, or his little minions, who are just as twisted as he is. Don’t pity the ones who end up in hell – they’re down here with me, and I’m a reasonable guy. Pity the ones who end up in heaven, subject to the whims of a madman for all eternity. Admittedly I haven’t been up there in about a century, but it’s not what you’d call progressive – pretty damn backwards compared to this place. Ain’t no crème de menthe in heaven, I’ll tell you that much…”

ZM – “Aren’t you afraid of the repercussions for humanity, of revealing this information? Isn’t it better that people are scared of going to hell?”

“Aren’t you beyond that, as a species?” Satan asks, rhetorically. “I thought you’d moved onto being decent for decency’s sake, learning empathy for your fellow man, instead of stomping round the world wanting to murder everyone but being too scared of my fiery pitchfork. Surely humanity’s left that stage of pathetic infancy by now – we’re all adults here, aren’t we?”

ZM – “So…on the sins that matter, is pre-marital sex still a punishable offence, despite the looser morals on Earth?”

Satan smiles. “Even God, in the depths of his insanity, has finally loosened up on that one. But I’ll tell you why, and it’s not out of love for his creations, that’s for damned sure. Since the 1960’s, the floodgates down here were thrown wide open – I had absolute stampedes coming in, and things got pretty wild, in a really good way. But then God got jealous. Down here, I was the party king, and we were having a riot, but up there, he had nothing. No one was going to heaven at all, which meant no one to worship him, no one to flatter his pompous ass, and it pissed him off big time. So, eventually he loosened up on the sex. Which…I’m loathe to admit, was a pretty clever move by the old guy. Got everyone back on side – look how progressive I am, look how forgiving and loving I am, saving you all despite your sins from the eternal fires of damnation. And none of those poor schmucks up there realise that hell is the true promised land. If you liked getting your end away up on Earth, you’ll be fucking sorry you missed out on this place…”

ZM – “Are there any other interesting stories you could tell us about God?”

“Do you ever think about defecation?” Satan asks. “Probably not – most of you humans don’t like to dwell on it, and who can blame you. But there’s a lot of interesting things I could tell you about defecation. I don’t shit. The angels don’t shit, the demons don’t shit, except for their own entertainment, and God most certainly doesn’t shit. So why do humans shit, if they’re made in his image? I’ll tell you why – God made humans shit to keep them in their place. The minute they start getting all high and mighty, getting some lofty ideas about being a Godly sort of creature, they have to hurry off to the outhouse and squeeze a reeking turd out of their own arsehole, and that kind of thing kills off all those lofty ideas in three seconds flat. You can’t forget your own stinking mortality when there are always horrible smells erupting out of your backside. But the minute people get up to heaven, there’s no more shitting – not another shit for the rest of your life, once you get to heaven. Because God can’t stand the smell of farts. What a complete hypocrite…”

ZM – “Well, on that pleasant note, our ten minutes is up. Thanks for having us, Satan!”

“No problem,” Satan replies, draining his glass. “Hope to see you back here in about forty years. Hell’s the place to be – don’t be afraid to think sinful thoughts, and I’ll pull some strings for you.”

With Satan’s promise to sign me up for eternal damnation ringing in my ears, I made my way out of the white rooms and through the fiery corridors, towards home.

Even God Gets Lonely, Sometimes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 28, 2014 by ofherbsandaltars

God hated birthdays. No one knew when God’s birthday was, because God wasn’t allowed a birthday. The very concept of God having a birthday was enough to blow the mortals’ minds, so he kept it to himself, and every birthday was even lonelier than the one before. But the truth was, God had a birthday – God remembered every detail of his birth. The answer to the eternal question, ‘Who made God?’, was simply that God had made himself. He had been a particularly precocious clump of space-dust and atoms, all those billions of years ago, filled with big dreams and wild ambition, and though it had taken him several thousands of years to do so, God willed himself into existence. He had shaped his own Godly form, bequeathed to himself all the powers of creation, and eagerly set about building the universe, sploshing molecules around with a gleeful grin on his bearded face. And the date on which he had exploded into being was, by modern calculations, the 27th of September. The year? That aspect, God would never reveal to anyone, and he did his very best to wipe it from his own mind, because whenever he realised the grim magnitude of his advancing age, he was filled with a deep and ghastly horror at the thought of such a mind-bending span of time, and worse still, the collected memories of all those lonesome birthdays. Remembering his age made God need a sit down, a big whiskey, and sometimes even an angelic hooker.

But angelic hookers aside, it was always lonely, being God. He saw the sadness of those dwindling, pathetic pandas, their confusion when it came to mating, and eating, and all the simple tasks of survival – they had been a rather flawed creation on a very hungover Sunday, but God was fond of them all the same. In their mournful, black-ringed eyes, he saw his own loneliness reflected – I’m not supposed to be here anymore, thought the pandas, and God sometimes thought the same thing. He was the only one of his kind, he didn’t even have any family to speak of, now that Jesus was deep into his rebellious phase. He was attending college on the other side of heaven, but all he really did was smoke weed and drink beer and learn new skateboarding tricks, and he thought that God was really, really uncool. When God went to visit Jesus’s fraternity house, they made him feel old and weird and awkward, and he would leave feeling even more alone, so these days, he didn’t bother to visit much.

And although, obviously, the humans were God’s creations, were all his distant family, pumped into life with his own sweat and tears and breath, often they made him feel just as confused and alone. All the atrocities and hatred that were committed in his name made him feel sick, and there was no easy way for God to straighten this out. He had discovered a very long time ago that he could not speak directly to the humans, to his delicate little fleshy creations – the power of his merest whisper was enough to blow out their eardrums, and if he got onto an interesting subject and his voice became more enthusiastic, they would violently explode before his very eyes, which had traumatised God so intensely that he never dared try speaking to the people again. He had to rely on Metatron for most of it, but what the humans didn’t know was that Metatron had very bad hearing and a serious drinking problem, so more often than not he fucked it all up, and that was when the Old Testament happened. And now that Metatron had been in rehab for the past thousand years, God was a bit screwed. The other angels weren’t much use, even though they loved God with all their pure, angelic hearts. They were the most innocent of his creations, and in a way, they were almost childlike, which had been endearing until the 1960’s happened and their happy, childish minds were filled with visions of free love and LSD. Raphael was always high off his pretty little head, going around making MDMA beer and morphine potatoes for all the inhabitants of heaven, and Uriel forgot his own name so often that Raphael was forced to keep writing it on the poor kid’s hands. So all in all, as beautiful as they were, the angels were useless for everything except the creation of wild parties.

But the atrocities continued, and God watched day after day, feeling helpless and depressed, and lonely and angry, unable to speak his mind, to straighten out the religious lies or give assistance to the needy. Much to his surprise, it had been that useless skateboarding stoner brat Jesus who had finally given God the means to right these wrongs. At the fraternity house, amidst a scattering of bongs and beer cans, Jesus had a luminous purple laptop, and on it, he had The Internet. God was quickly entranced by this strange thing, this gaudy creation of his creations – it felt like he had spawned a surprising but wonderful grandson. And after a lengthy explanation from Jesus, punctuated by much exasperated sighing and rolling of eyes at the sheer uncoolness of having to explain The Internet, God got the hang of the thing. And then, he joined Facebook.

God quickly came to enjoy Facebook, but it was as inherently flawed as those poor, hapless pandas. God might be God, up in heaven, but on Facebook, he had less priority and status than some excessively tongue-endowed being named Miley Cyrus, which was more than a little frustrating. God rapidly went through ten laptops, when the irksome flaws of Facebook infuriated him to the extent of accidentally spitting thunderbolts at the unfortunate piece of machinery, but still, the lure of Facebook, of this opportunity to mingle with the people, kept drawing him back. He had enjoyed many bouts of hilarious, Earth-shaking laughter when some of the more brain-lacking humans accused him of blasphemy – they couldn’t even spell the word properly, to add to God’s amusement, but the fact they believed Metatron’s garbled translations over the genuine, direct Word of God, was so bizarre that he laughed and laughed until he blew up his eleventh laptop.

Some of the humans, some of the ones who could spell, and think for themselves, they came to love God, to welcome him into their lives, into their mundane mortal conversations, to wear his face on their t-shirts as though he were a human rockstar, and something strange began to happen. God started to feel that he was a part of things, again – that he had a family, down on Earth, and that he was welcome there. And when God felt really, really bummed out about the dawning of yet another awful, depressing, lonely birthday, he told the humans about it, and they cheered him up. So much so, in fact, that God finally revealed the existence of his birthday to the angels, to all of heaven, and that total wastecase Raphael threw him the most ridiculous birthday party anyone had ever experienced in the entire history of the universe, in a house where the walls were fully papered with blotter acid. The ceiling rained ecstasy pills and in every room was a fountain of beer, in which floated happy little duck-shaped cocaine marshmallows, and after a few hours of that, God was far too happy to give half a shit about his awful birthday.

Instead, he sat down with Raphael, who beamed at him in utter delight at having the sole attention of God, his white-blonde hair a mad chaos around his pale face, his glittering aquamarine eyes dilated and blissful. And God told him about Facebook, and about the friendly humans, and about how awesome it all was, and Raphael gave him a hug, and made him the biggest morphine potato that anyone had ever seen. And then, he went to write the date of God’s birthday on the back of his hand, so that he would never forget to throw him a party.

When God finally crawled out of the front door, at 6am, Metatron was puking in the flowerbeds, and Uriel was passed out on a massive blow-up flamingo in the middle of the swimming pool. And that day, God went home with a great big grin on his bearded, Godly face, clutching a sheaf of his first ever birthday cards.

***********

If you liked this, a more in-depth, alternate universe tale, also featuring stoner Jesus and his dysfunctional angels, can be found here: Paradise