Thursday, 30 June 2011

Chapter One

There's a theory - inspired by quantum mechanics - that states that every possibility is realised as an actuality in some alternate world; save for the providence of chance, it might have worked out better or worse elsewhere and that, across those multiple worlds, or at least a subset recognisably close to ours, our doppelgängers sometimes hesitate to think upon their other's each others' as if it were their own.

Chapter One

Jonny watched his own face fade in-and-out, in-and-out of the passenger window with the steady beat of passing umbrella flares from overhanging pole lamps.

Penny for your thoughts? Mr. Fixit already knew the answer, though expected none, already having observed this tendency in Jonny many-a-time over the past months; now closing in on a year.

What you call that effect when the light flashes on and off - like when you're blinking fast in the sun's glare or when it's peaking through the slats in a tall fence as you're running by and the images in the back of your eyeball are all chopped-up in slow motion?

You're sometimes surprisingly eloquent for a hired henchman. Strobe is the word you’re looking for. You know, a similar effect was to be found in olden olden times gone by: they had these magic lanterns, a primitive device whereby a light source, such as a candle, was placed before a concave mirror in such a way as to concentrate it upon a transparency - a single pictorial frame - the illuminated likeness of which then passed on through an aperture terminating in a magnification lens and, finally, projected onto a blank wall or screen ... Discovered later that they could take a series of these static frames, say of someone running - separated by marginal shifts in space and time - and run them together through the lantern to create the illusion of motion - got the same the same kind of blinking-flickering effect as your strobe ... A Plato's cave within a Plato's cave. Now, prior to the lantern makers and the philosophers’ cave, long before long before, were the Sophists, foremost amongst which, Zeno, who was the first to point out that the entire notion of motion was an illusion, as an object's trajectory, tracked through space and time, could be indefinitely sliced into smaller and smaller units ... Break anything down far enough and you end up burning the reason out of it. Of course it's all digital these days, but, whatever, you still get the picture.

Strobe. Yeah, strobe. And the magic of movies. You always were with the book smarts, no doubt about, though I don't care to wonder why you bother wasting your breath on it over me: Plato; Zeno; what-the-fuck? - Jonny dramatised with a hand rushed over his head, expelling a whistled breath in imitation of the ignorance gushing slipstream - Self-amusement, I guess. Careful it don't blind.

Were with the smarts? Past tense. While I appreciate the compliment and your disinclination towards subjects of an intellectual derivation, you might want to think about getting your head back in the game.

Jonny's head had never actually left the game; indeed, it ran several plays ahead. He had already pictured - flashing - life-blood and brain-matter-splatter draining through a nearside-shot cranial crater in Mr. Fixit's head and the frozen mask of surprise before the facial muscles could contort themselves away from the fuddle to feel their way back to comprehension: what had been done.

Back to the road. It was dawn break when they reached the long, sloping approach to the Energy to Waste plant, turning off the down the slipway on bleached-by-day asphalt, selecting lanes segregated by smile-white confident correctional dashes and, on ahead, the near-distance, double punctuated by the coal-raked ruby of break-lights from slow-moving freight wagons. The cloud occluded sky, soft creamed pinks, marshmallowed above and the residual chill of night air not yet dispelled.

Viewed through the perimeter wire fence, as yet still toy-town dimensions at this distance, the plant, where the recalcitrant human-accumulated detritus - waste that couldn't otherwise be conveniently recycled and sold back for reprocessing or mulched for composting, was broken down and incinerated to steam-power giant electricity generating turbines - was housed safe within its own architectural oyster-shell-styled curves, concealing the mystery of its inner workings and shielded from passing sight of highway traffic by a verdant veil of “soft landscaping” - a curiously artificial arrangement of undulating hillocks and veils of vertiginous vegetation and, further out yet, surrounded by outlying GM rape fields of day-glow gold-yellow.

Mr. Fixit pulled the pickup truck over to the road-side. Eyes fixed forward. Still, without deviation.


Not for me Jonny.

You want me to double check on the Sat Nav?

When did I start needing an eye in the sky Jonny?

It was the blink between Jonny's attention withdrawing inward from the road outside the close environs of the cab, to feeling for the gun's handle jammed under the seat gutter nearside the passenger's door … when the moment split ... though he couldn't pinpoint the initial impact, he felt the tearing compression of tissue pressed up against the neck vertebrae as the back of his head slammed hard against the headrest. The ferric froth of blood tinctured spittle shot-up sinuses, followed by a slow, bitter gush from throat and mouth. The last flashing trails he saw searing his retinas were of the retracting onyx inlaid cuff-links embedded in eldritch-white cotton cuffs, together with the balled fist and the blanched peak-tension of skin stretched over metacarpophalangeal joints and, haltingly, the jagged stub blade and magical curtain-fall and fade to nothing no more.

Working quickly to stem the still throbbing throat wound by winding wadding and fixing with a gaffer tape tourniquet tight around the neck, Mr. Fixit paused to wipe the red-stained drool dripping from Jonny's gaping mouth, thumbing it shut by pushing up the lower mandible with a singular clack, and then moved on to arranging the trunk and limbs - now almost extenuating in their semblance of slumber - and, lastly, slid down the lids over Jonny's checked-out stare. There was no accidental oversight involved in leaving on the protective plastic sheet hire seat covers. Foresight precludes the unplanned regrets of hindsight: nine tenths preparation; one tenth execution. He paused again to self-acknowledged, whilst cajoling a single matt-black body bag Jonny had concealed earlier for this very purpose - though with a different resolution in mind - from the elongated crevice beneath the passenger seat.

Taking his time, dabbing down the side window, door and dash panelling, in careful, tight circles, methodically soaking up liquid traces of trauma; he flicked on the cab light and, when satisfied at the absence of any remaining residues, stepped out of the cab briefly, reposing for a while in mild, ankle skirting buffets of the cool breeze. Reaching back inside for the used wipe-cleans, dowsing them in solvent and knotting them in a thick wick, he set fire to dangling end from which he lit a cheroot, drawing in chuffs and then longer, slow casual lung breaths, before tossing the torched evidence to the earth and grinding out the embers under the ball of his foot.

Were one to happenstance the scene from a distance, one would have beheld the towering figure - 6' 7" or 6' 8" or may be more, indefinitely placed on the horizon, silhouetted in black; if one drew closer, one would have registered the silvering hair, seamlessly smooth skin - absent the tell-tail wrinkling of habitual expression - tanned like a pool-side sultan, sultana, and eyes stone set in the implacable reflection of the ringed visage; as for the rest: the overall impression of the consummate; the immaculately-suited conception; the kind of guy who, on entering scrapes whereby one would normally expect, at the very least, to encourage a severe case of mussed hair, ripped-to-shreds garments and a battery of bruising, together with a judicious catalogue of cuts and scars, somehow - at that crucial moment in the movies were the camera cuts away from the action and swings back to find a perfectly groomed protagonist - he, likewise, would always spring back unblemished, as if a gentle pat-down of speckled dust on jacket lapels and sleeves were the only due acknowledgement of a situation best relegated to the side-draw of inconvenience.

He slid back into the cab, adjusted the rear-view mirror and zipped Jonny shut in his shiny new black cocoon.

Stopping for a second time, this time just within the shadowy penumbra beyond the lumination of the guard's booth, he killed the engine and stepped out to present his formal credentials.

ID?Okay Mr. Bolero …

Jon. Just call me Jonny. Everyone else does.

fine, but I need you to be good Jonny; the kind of good where no alarm bells are a-ringing.

A nice, but unoriginal allusion.

I like the think the oldies, such as myself, are the best ... take it you are familiar with the health and safety regs and emergency protocols? Yeah? So point me at the area designate for congregation in case of fire and other such calamities. Fine. You need to sign here and this waver here - in full, in block capital, here and, again, here.

Passing through the whirling, sliding mechanics of broad steel-barbed security gate. Stop-start. Stop-start. Stopping for a third time, Mr. Fixit pulled up by the entrance of a preselected service bay secluded form sight of the main entrance and stepped out around back to loosen the tightly lashed tether ropes, cross-hatched secured, holding the tarp taught over the trailer, then drew back the now sunken grey canopy revealing the indefinite forms of the sheathed cargo hid beneath. He eyed the plant worker loitering just inside the bay: head slouched so his chin rested on pigeon chest, sweat beaded forehead irrigated by swales marking the tides of concentration, tapping nervously at his wrist-watch face, other hand tucked into his belt, while short pacing. All out of the way of the glare of the halogen security beams fixed either side above the entrance frame, which was marked out with black and yellow, broad hatched, hazard strips. It was mostly quite, save for the subdued crackling static of intermittent activity muffled by the cloistered maze of corridors, linking quarantine-like antechambers to cathedral-sized clunking machine rooms, within. No ponging drift of unpleasant waste smells too, due to the air pressure differentials maintained between the inside and outside, which ensued any stray stinks stayed sealed indoors.

You the man?

So some sayeth, cometh the hour and so on and on. Here's Jonny!

Eh? Oh, Jonny right, right on time.

And here's my ID. Any questions? No? Now make yourself useful and give me a hand unloading the trailer.

They hauled off five body-sized bags from the rear, piling in a criss-cross heap over each other on to a hydraulic trolley forking a broad wooden pallet base.

As I understood it right - the deal - there were to be seven items for processing? … I counted five …will this affect remuneration? … you have some splash on your cuff?

He motioned the plant worker, with slight tremulous flexing of his closed fingers from the knuckle above the palm heel, to follow; skirted again around back of the pickup and flipped the release on the passenger door when another, occupied black bag, bent in half below the dash and windscreen, slumped sideways to the ground with a heavy organic slap.

There. Makes six in my estimation. An apprenticeship that didn't work out. Trust issues. We'll chalk, give-or-take one, to margin of error in my figuring of circumstance - counterfactuals - seen and unforeseen.

Was that supposed to be funny?

Nope. This is.


Not really. That was. Your discretion, I trust.

The plant worker responded reflexively with a combination forefinger-thumb, pincered, mouth-zipping-shut motion, terminating in a flick of the wrist and an over-the-should-let-go, together with a nod-and-wink and a tug on the visor rim of his baseball cap for good measure.

Always a pleasure …

doing untaxed business.



Reaching forward, unbuttoning the plant worker's breast shirt pen pocket, Mr. Fixit - Jonny - slipped in an unmarked wedged envelope, while, with the other hand, sealing the deal in a single palm-pat to the upper arm, just below the left shoulder, and suddenly, fluidly, with feigned half-twist heal-about-turn-to-go - just as the worker was about to mouth “wait” - swung his still elevated arm around the worker's neck - sliding bodily behind - securing it in the acute vice of a crooked elbow and, using his free hand as a gag, dragged the worker kicking - chest hammering like a jammed squeeze box working against the stemmed flow of air - until the will to resist subsided: the towel-thrown-into-the-ring equivalent of physiological submission. Mr. Fixit then removed the hidden syringe tucked inside the anomalous bulge in the worker's belt, flipped the cap sheath and thumb-plunged the needled juice into an exposed trunk of elevated throat vein and the waited for the muscles to unknot themselves and slacken loose from the last remnants of struggle.


Plat schemata: floor plans, utility lines, ducts and grated air vents, systems access terminals, instructional and procedural manuals, together with personnel deployment and shift timings, were photographically stored - strobing - in his head. The mental map, a living tapestry, allowing for the fact that, every thread, has its dead ends.

Gone half-an-hour, another lit cheroot, the driver's door latch clunks shut, engine sparks and growls torching transmission torque - gear teeth crunching - tyre spin kicks-up grit spit and then the whiplash lurch forward and rapid turn-about heading out the gate, back onto the slipway and back-glance to the cork-screwed ethereal trail spiralling from the carbon-capped plant stack diminishing in his rear-view mirror.

And, some time later, the pause for a window roll-down on the highway lay-by and Jonny's gun flung hinter into a litter-strewn siding.


  1. Haaaaaaaaallelujuh...Hallelujah, hallelujah.

    I'm gettin' on it immediately.

  2. Needs some work and, no doubt, there are some errors and infelicities of composition, but any comments and criticisms welcome. Chapter Two is on its way and I hope it won't take as long to get around to posting. Hope y'all enjoy!

  3. I should mention some of the cast of characters from TOTS will be appearing in Chapter Two.

  4. I had just pulled up my dashboard...and there you were.

    When I get home tonight I'll give it a serious read.

    Don't forget to come see us every once in a have professional duties over there. There's only room for one non-contributing philosopher on the payroll.


    Seriously I'm looking forward to giving it a serious read.

  5. I'm still reading.

    Got some distractions this weekend...sun, sand, Martha in a bathing suit....

    On first impression, as usual, I'm delightfully distracted by the language and the descriptive bits.

    The paragraph that starts "Passing through the whirling..." is killer.

  6. THe description of violence is disturbingly good.

    All the descriptive language is good.

    I'm ready to proceed now.

    There was one word that did me in though...that stop a great paragraph..."metacarpophalangeal". :)
    You got me on that one...I was so distracted by it...I had to deal with it and then go back and read the whole scene again.

  7. Yes, that "metacarpophalangeal" - I think you may be right about it not sitting well; I must explain, I was visualising the scene, trying to figure out what the murderee would have seen form his POV of the murder's hand and I didn't think knuckle was right, since the clenched hand around the knife would be knuckle-facing-away; now I think about it, top-of-the-knuckle may be better, but I was stuck and looked up an old anatomy book to pin-point the exact feature.