The last time I saw heard from him he was in a mess. He had been arrested for assaulting someone in a restaurant and threatening to cut his fucking head off. I couldn’t believe it. First of all I thought he’d got into the drug scene or something, but where he was living there was no drug scene. He told me. He didn’t even drink anymore. Had gone straight. Maybe that’s what did him in.
The straight and narrow is a thin red line slap bang in the middle of the road. The gutter is sometimes a much safer place to be. There tends to be a lot more slack rolling around there. A lot more room to fuck up. Anyone who has known druggies will know this. They’re all in the same boat and they have no expectations. They don’t care if you’re not always perfectly prim and proper. Drug friends will stay your friends no matter what. You can try to kill them one minute then the next day go: ‘ahhh, sorry mate, that trip was deffing me out, it fucked my head in. One moment you were there talking to me and we were having a right laugh, the next instant you turned into a fucking lizard.I thought it was the Reptilian invasion, so I grabbed the first thing to hand, the Bluebird toffee hammer and tried to save Earth. Sorry 'bout that mate.’
“Man that is some FUNNY shit right there. I can’t believe you thought I was an alien. That acid was DA BOMB! Let’s get some more.”
Well, it happened to me anyway but this is the kind of thing that happens when drug people try to kill each other. As long as the shit was good and it wears off and no one is actually killed, then it’s usually possible to explain it within the mitigating circumstance of recreational drug use.
But when you’re on the straight and narrow, drug and alcohol free, and you attack someone and threatening to chop their fucking head off, people just don’t understand. And if you say it’s because you thought they were an alien it just makes it worse.
This is what happened to my friend. At least it’s the bits that made sense between the incoherent ravings that Tuesday hated him for some reason
This is the message he sent me, I honestly haven’t embellished the style so it sounds like something from a Lovecraft or Poe story, it’s just the way he was I’m afraid. I was thinking of trimming the flourishes but then it wouldn’t be his words it would be mine and that wouldn’t be authentic.
Here it is:
It was a Tuesday when it all started, I’ve since learned that Tuesday’s hold special significance to me but I won’t go into it here. Suffice it to say that 9-11 took place on a Tuesday. That’s what Tuesday is. It’s a bastard. Ask the Spanish and Greeks, they know what I’m talking about. But you know each day seems to have a special feeling? You know what I’m talking about right? How a Wednesday feels? How all the days are a bit different and how certain things only happen on certain days?
That’s because each day of the week is still owned by the Gods. Always has been. Wednesday is Wodin’s day. Thursday is Thor’s day. It’s interesting how in the ancient languages the same word for Sabbath and Seven are the same or at least related, but that’s because the seventh day was a day of rest for the lord. The lord who talks to me. But the funny thing is whenever I was on holiday I would always forget what day it was and sometimes would have to Google it. I think I just completely contradicted myself. I often do that. I blame reality, it’s too fluid. One moment something works and makes sense, the next moment the world does a 180 and spins you around and upside down. Like the law of diminishing returns, there’s something encoded in reality which ensures that nothing works or makes sense consistently. Like a trick to keep us all guessing so we never really manage to figure it all out.
I walked out the office onto the balcony where the rain had just started. The children below were having their break and they were jumping up and down and messing about in the rain. Kids always stayed indoors when it rained in England. Here they went nuts running outside. The rain was an answer to prayers, it was like God was talking to you and blessing you. Like he talked to me. Though the night before I had heard the low rumble of chemtrail planes furiously pumping the lower atmosphere full of barium salts. It’s what they do. No mystery to it. I read an article about it. The government here have spent millions on the weather modification program. Just like the Greek Cypriots, they paid the Russian military for their programme and they had plenty of rain while I was there. Until the EU decided to steal all the Russian Mafia’s dirty money parked in the Cyprus banks. They’ve had nothing but drought since then. It’s alright for the Turks in the north, they’ve got a water pipeline. They’re laughing. The poor buggers in the south aren’t laughing though. Still, they make some good wine.
I was walking downstairs with my hand in my pocket rooting for a minty sweet and I ended up with my hand all over my cheap but decent Lenovo smart phone.
I popped the sweet into my mouth and walked downstairs to the bathroom. As I was sat there at my ease, enjoying a bit of peace and my minty sweet, I heard this sound. It was a sort of squeaky sound, I dismissed it for a moment as just some random noise coming from outside, but it was strangely insistent and seemed to be coming at me from quite close quarters. It took me a minute to get my head around. It was coming from my pocket. I had a sudden moment of total fear as I realized that I has accidentally pocket dialed someone by the perverse power of mobile accessibility which seems to make it possible for a strong sneeze to quick dial someone completely at random. In a superlative state of sheer panic and horror I pulled the phone from my pocket as if it was a small jabbering beast with teeth. Something or rather more evidently ‘someone’ was speaking to me through the speakers, since people were generally not contacted by things. It was usually people. Well it was always people. Usually.
I held the phone in my hand while trying to maintain my balance since I was presently engaged with an Arabic lavatory which was after all, just a porcelain hole in the ground. I held the jabbering phone and looked at the number, it was someone I had once phoned for an apartment in Abu Dhabi. With a complete lack of guilt or social unease I disconnected the call with a sudden stamp of my thumb onto the red button. It was over. The fear and terror passed. I had been lucky. I had not inadvertently phoned someone, a woman, an old girlfriend, whose number I had taken with no intention of ever speaking to her again.
So I went outside to nip out and get some fuul from the Lebanese restaurant. I checked my phone. It was now 11:18 am. I had less than 12 minutes to get to the restaurant and place my order otherwise I would miss the breakfast window. What was worse was that after breakfast there were no lunch time sandwiches available until 12pm. The worst thing was to get there after 11:30 and be trapped in the food void between breakfast and lunch when there was nothing available. I couldn’t understand why this was the case but in order to beat the void I’d better move.
I picked up my pace, doing an Olympian walk through the playground and to the door which led through the reception area of the school and out into the car park. I got to the door. It was locked. Locked as an obstacle to prevent the Emirati students from escaping. The students were always trying to escape from the school. The doors were siege points and there had been a double door leading from the reception into the playground but this had proved a weak point for the senior school managers and was difficult to defend.
Sometimes when there were so many students shouting at the students through the wireless microphone and lashing at them with the small canes they had, was ineffectual. The solution had been, in the best tradition of siege defense, to brick up this weak point and replace it with a strong wall which now no longer showed any indication of ever having been a set of doors.
I went to the side door like a cat wanting to come in, and pawed feebly at the locked door until I caught the eye of the security guard. He came over and unbolted the door. It was now 11.20 am.
I smiled and said thankyou and continued the Olympic walking event and almost bowled into Kemal’s father. I apologized and he shook my hands and we then became trapped in an Arabic exchange of pleasantries for two minutes. When I finally got away I was absolutely crest fallen. By the time I got into my car it was 11.23 am.
I took out my car keys and drove out of the school hoping not to get caught in the Lebanese restaurant’s uncanny mid-day food abyss. When I lived in Morocco I had been with this Moroccan girl who believed most of us went through the stations of the Kabbalah without even knowing it, on a daily basis. I thought about this, how now I was at Yesod, hungry and aiming for the transcendental Kether of the Lebanese’ restaurant’s delicious fuul sandwich.
As I drove the car out of the carpark onto the road I could hear something, it sounded like a small trapped mouse. It was my damn phone again. I must have somehow dialed someone when I fumbled in my pocket for my keys. In the old days of telephone technology dialing a telephone was a comparatively strenuous business and was the kind of action you couldn’t repeat too many times without ending up with a sore index finger. I wonder what on Earth telephone marketers used to do in the old days of rotary dial telephones when obliged to dial number upon number, day after day. I think they had a special finger shield. A kind of plastic sock for the finger which would protect their finger from the repeated contact of the resistant plastic dial. But I might have made that up. I was pretty sure I’d seen such a thing. It was flesh coloured and covered in small nodules and turned the finger into something resembling an exotic looking alien marital aid.
The little mouse was jabbering away in my pocket but I couldn’t do anything since I was driving.
By the time I got to the roundabout two minutes later it was somehow 11:26. I was fuming at this point. Not now time thief! Give me back my minutes you just stole! I was always having problems with the time thief, I’d taken my eyes off the clock for a second and let my mind drift and when I came back to myself he’d struck, stealing the minutes from right under my nose and thinking I wouldn’t notice. I don’t know, maybe he doesn’t care if I notice anymore, after all if I start saying that someone is stealing minutes from me when I’m not looking what will they think? It’s very hard to prove something like that, but I think if I had the appropriate equipment and laboratory conditions I could probably do it. I should have been a scientist. Curse you time thief, now I was sure to miss the fuul breakfast window and tumble into the pre-noon Daath of no food. The abyss of hunger and pointless wasted effort.
When I got to the restaurant I didn’t even dare look at the time and I got out and made a dash for the counter, the clock I could see had a second hand which was now 11:29 and 30 seconds. There was someone in front of me collecting a takeaway and I saw the seconds of hope remaining me crushed with the mindless exchange of trifling metal pieces of small change. I ordered the fuul with only seconds left to spare.
“I’m sorry, the breakfast is finished.”
“I’ve got five seconds left, look,” I protested showing her the clock.
“No, that time is wrong.”
“What do you mean it’s wrong? Why is it wrong?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t know? I repeated.” I was turning into a beast from the sheer force of hunger and the tedium of having to beg for a mere 4 dirham sandwich of cooked fava beans.
Then the manager came and I appealed to him for some fuul, he said he would go and check.
While I was waiting I checked my phone to see who the little mouse voice in my pocket had been. I had dialed my mum! My poor mum caught in my pocket talking to a pen top, a tissue and a strong mint. It’s no way to treat your mum. I felt very guilty.
I felt Gevurah admonishing me. My pocket dialing of my poor mum who no doubt must have felt some pleasure seeing that I was calling her, only to find herself speaking to a pocket full of rubbish and then hanging up whatever the literal equivalent thing is that you do to mobile phones. But then Chesod’s light shone upon me and the manager returned asking me how many I wanted.
“Just two. No make it three.” Then I thought for a moment, “Actually can I have eight.”
I decided to buy fuul sandwiches for all my colleagues and eight ought to be enough to go around.
A few moment later someone came back with a plastic bag containing eight delicious hot fuul sandwiches.
I’d done it. In spite of all the odds I had succeeded in getting some breakfast. I felt the crown of Kether descend upon me in my joy and satisfaction. I felt God had blessed me and in return I would bless the other English teachers with a hot and tasty breakfast wrap.
Just as I sat there I made a determined effort to do something about this tiresome business of pocket dialing. I found an app to prevent pocket dialing, downloaded it and installed it. That should do it I thought. I slipped my phone back into my pocket and was about to drive off when I heard that same squeaky trapped buzzy bee voice. It was annoying because I thought I’d solved the problem but sod it I thought and drove back while the fuul was hot.
As I drove the voice continued, I found it odd that they didn’t just give up and hang up. As I drove I found I could actually catch words they were saying in my pocket. At first it was just a sort of human buzz but then I heard words, random words coming out of my pocket. I wondered if it was my poor mum with the pen top and strong mint again, and for a second it sounded like her, but I heard words she wouldn’t use. Then the voice sounded male for a moment. It was hard to tell really, since I was also driving at the same time.
I wondered what on earth was going on and why the person on my phone was still speaking. It figured it was some kind of sales pitch or something, or a furious ex girlfriend delivering a lecture suddenly finding an opportunity to release or their long festered resentments composted down to the essential bitter nutrients. Just then I thought I recognized the sad pleading voice of my Turkish ex girlfriend.
“Jaymie Jan. Jaymie Jan. Oof ya.” I heard her repeat. Jan is the Turkish word life and putting ‘Jan’ after a person’s name is a term of endearment. But I didn’t even have her number now so how could I have pocket dialed her? Besides our terms of endearment had long since come to terms and the last time I spoke to her she was still bitter and ranting about all the things she said I’d done wrong.
I tried to tune-in to the sound and just then something came through loud and clear.
“Look behind the curtain. We’re behind the curtain.”
I pulled the car over suddenly. This was too strange and specific a phrase, I had to find out who it was. I took out my phone to see who had called me. That phrase ‘we’re behind the curtain’ was weird. Who would say that? except a group of children who’d had enough of playing hide and seek. I knew plenty of children, but for the most part I tried to teach them English, hide and seek wasn’t even on the syllabus.
I looked to see who had called. No-one. There had been no phone call. There was no record of anything.
Obviously it was a bug with the new software. It hadn’t worked and also had the added effect of denying all knowledge of the fact that it hadn’t worked by refusing to reveal who it was the software had failed to prevent you from finger dialing. It seemed to have software installed which covered up the fact it didn’t work.
Clearly I needed to uninstall it and try something else. Aware that the hot fuul was cooling down, but determined to end this tedious finger dialing charade NOW, I quickly uninstalled the software and downloaded and installed an alternative. It seemed that this was a very common problem and there were at least half a dozen possible software solutions to resolving it. It just appeared the some of them didn’t actually work.
I was starving so decided to waste no more time and got stuck into one of the fuul sandwiches which God had in his mercy, given to me and my friends. I unwrapped the sandwich while looking out across the beautiful Bay of the Two Jaws. Probably the most beautiful spot in the whole county and certainly somewhere in the top ten for the whole Arabian peninsula and pondered the beauty of this place while I ate. The fuul was delicious, perfectly seasoned, like how good baby food used to taste. An unctuous tasty salty pate with fresh chopped peppers and onions.
As I was eating for some reason a long forgotten memory came to me, of a time I had been cruel to my sister with a girl from down the road. A skinny girl with drab black hair in a tight pony tail, with scabs on her knees and a perpetually runny nose. A nasty girl who incited me to do mean things to my sister. The whole strange friendship lasted from summer to deep winter, there was no sense of attraction or anything like a ‘girlfriend’ at least not for me. She brought out a strange desire to be nasty. Some people seem to do that.
This dark period came to an end and I was returned to my usual peaceful and cruelty free solitude when I threw a snowball at her bay window, all in friendly jest and certainly within the spirit, I thought, of our friendship. Her parents didn’t see it like that and I almost thought for one childish moment that I would be hauled off to Borstal, such was the overreaction which greeted me at school the next day at assembly with the headmaster making an example of me to the whole school. The headmaster even got me in his office and jabbed me with his knuckles in his special deadly Taekwondo move which he liked to inflict on naughty boys. Well if she can’t take a joke, I thought. And I never spoke to her again. I think that snowball was a blessing and whatever spirit of infantile mischief impelled me to throw it was really doing me a big favour and removing from my life, some strange unsavoury associations.
Kids are the worst, most of what happens in the tiny world they live in escapes the notice of the adults living in a world several orders of magnitude larger and operating on entirely different principles, and all under the delusions that kids are cute and harmless, never suspecting the animal hierarchical hell of cruelty they can inflict on each other.
I thought of my poor sister, her childish face, four years old, four years my junior. As Vicky and I amused ourselves by telling her to eat leaves because they were ‘secret garden candy’.
At that moment with that thought I bit my finger hard. Ouch! Another pattern. Whenever we berate ourselves with some past sin karma always looks for an immediate way to make itself felt. Biting a finger while eating a sandwich, stubbing a toe, burning a finger on a hot stove. There were a million ways for the demons employed by the Karmic collection agencies to extract instant payment. I should have been a scientist. I can spot patterns where none thought they existed. Never mind watching molecules and looking for atoms, why not work with the best reality raw material we could ever have? Our own psychological interactions with reality itself.
Damn I bit my finger really hard. You have to keep your wits about you whenever you think about something you’ve done wrong. Have no hot implements to hand, under no circumstances find yourself in a kitchen, and never attempt anything with fingers in the vicinity of hot, sharp, slippery burny things. I had been caught in the Karma kitchen many times in my life and have a collections of burn scars and small cuts to prove it. The demons of Karma could strike any moment as you mind slips into a million avenues of guilt. At that point you are an easy target for anything malevolent. Undefended by your own guilty conscience.
I looked at my finger. It had two teeth marks in the skin.
I tested the new app before I set out to drive. I decided to try to call someone, my mum, since there was no one else I would willingly speak to. Finding myself approaching middle-age with no burdens of my own family and long since having given up on women, I found history repeating itself and my strongest, best and indeed, aside from my sister, my only relationship of any kind with a woman, was with my mother. I didn’t feel inwardly embarrassed by this in the least. I wasn’t a forty year old virgin, I was a forty year old child. Slightly different. Everyone in the world was turning into stone, nothing but grey faced brittle idiots locked in an eternal pose. Same job everyday for ten years, same house, same people. You might as well be perched up on a fountain: a grinning piece of rock covered in moss and pigeon shit.
I hadn’t changed much since my first dim memories of preserved consciousness around the ages of two or three. I knew even then, or at least I was learning fast, that the world was not my friend and it was filled with endless horror. It took me forty years to understand that the world is only the friend to those ‘special people’, who have the ability to trick people, the sociopaths, politicians, crooks and charlatans. Those people generally do very well and are on very friendly terms with the world and its inhabitants. Open and honest people are destroyed or driven to despair. Since I realized that the world was managed in this way I determined that I would personally bring no more beautiful innocent souls here just in order to see them either slowly corrupted, or destroyed and driven to despair. This combined with my final realization that men and women had nothing in common and would be really better off keeping away from each other for as much of their time on Earth as they are able, set me on this course of doing just what the hell I wanted with my life and totally giving up on women, children and indeed, most relationships with other humans since no one really understood my perspective.
They were just gaudy puppets, going through the motions. I felt I had broken free of the puppeteer, whoever or whatever it was, biological imperative, social conditioning, sense and sensibility.
I dialed the number and pressed the call button. To proceed with the call it was necessary to specifically swipe my finger, the one with the teeth marks in, across the screen to make the call. This ought to work.
I finished my wrap and reversed back onto the main road back to the school.
Nothing more to report on that day.
Two weeks later I was trying to escape from Dubai. I’d found it easy enough to slip quietly into the city, leaving Khor Fakkan and driving through the gaps blasted through the mountains. The wind, funneling down tight mountain valleys and occasionally jumping out into the road and howling at my car with such sudden terrifying force that my car was buffeted sideways. I gripped the wheel tighter, shocked and alarmed at the violence of this angry dry wind which jumped out at people. Perhaps it was a collection of djinn who had lived quietly and undisturbed in these dry dead mountains for centuries, playing and shrieking unheard and unsuspected. Now their homes had been blasted open now the humans in their cars teemed all over their formerly pristine desolation. Every day, endless, all day and all night. There was no respite. Even in the heart of their desolation the drumming hum of aircraft or the buzzing splutter of the near infinite army of internal combustion engine machines, carefully detonating high octane hydrocarbons in order to visit their grandmother.
I knew that the wind was alive. There wasn’t any doubt about this. I had discovered this fact in Casablanca. It had quite startled me at the time, and for a moment there was a sight risk of a loss of sanity. I had felt it slipping. The onset of terror. The realization that all around you are the countless billions of dead souls of humans, animals and everything that ever lived on the planet, was still alive and angrily swirling and chasing around the whole Earth in a constant tempest, looking to cause mischief at any opportunity. Knocking things over, scattering rubbish, escalating to tempests hurricanes and tornadoes. Concentrated demonic fury. I thought to myself, how can one be safe? Also while I was thinking this I heard them howl all the louder, I heard disembodied hands, pushing at the side of my apartment with all the rage of the djinn of the Atlantic ocean weather system.
My apartment was a penthouse, well it would have been, were it not for the fact that a landlord had built a rather shabby and barely habitable shed on top of it, in which two strangely demon possessed people seemed to occasionally visit. I was sure they were demon possessed because they could read my mind and also, during Ramadan, I would hear them in their barely habitable shed committing all sorts of noisy abominations. Ramadan was supposed to be a time when one didn’t cede to temptation and avoided anything haram, but these two instead doubled down, and were riotously drunk most evenings during the whole month of Ramadan, and these excesses would be punctuated by an alternating pattern of noisy sex and violent arguments.
My apartment stood high in the air, opposite the sea lashed Hassan II mosque, and directly opposite the surging fury of the ocean. In summer it was ideal because the sea air kept the excessive heat of Morocco at bay but in the winter it was a box to be rattled and wracked by the wind while the sea tried to endlessly reclaim the land, knowing that one day it would win its battle.
The wind that had assaulted me in the mountains on the way to Dubai was of a different character, dry and hot, like a fossil wind which had been roving lost in the same desert for tens of thousands of years. But the wind was like an egregor or group consciousness, except it displayed different abilities and strengths in different places. The desert wind was harmless except in as much as it could whip up a sand storm. The wind in Morocco no doubt reported on me to the wind here and this is why I was being victimized in this way, because I knew its secret.
Once I had slid out from the mountains and hit the orange sands of the Arabian desert the situation was greatly improved. The desert was just too open for any fury to really accumulate, so the mountain tempest became a dissipated desert breeze. However once I noticed a solitary desert djinn, spinning the desert sands into a maelstrom. I stopped the car and walked behind him as he made his scurrying spinning way. He behaved very much like a nervous cat which didn’t want to be stroked. I followed him and he kept moving away from me, until once I jumped right into him and felt his spinning confusion rush all around me. Then he dashed off at an acute angle and since I can’t run diagonally through desert sand I abandoned the chase, got back into my car and continued to Dubai.
As I said, slipping into Dubai was easy. I parked at Rashida station and slipped into the city’s elegant steel and glass metro system, but getting out was a nightmare. Always the same story with cities. They suck you in and all roads lead to them. They breathe you into their circulatory systems through a thousand different routes and inviting motorway exits. But to escape requires a lesson in patience and good driving skills. Several times while trapped on the exit of the D89 and entry to the E311, a sort of motorway limbo between worlds, where civilisations could rise and fall on distant planets and you’d have moved less than four Earth feet. The particular difficulty of a traffic jam here is that there was no sense of order. Cars would continue to fly into the stationary line of idling cars, crowbarring themselves into the exit lane at the last possible moment. Big white dusty buses full of dusty Pakistanis and bus drivers brazenly forcing their wheezy battered buses between a three inch gap.
As I was stuck there, in a rising terror of urban claustrophobia, trying to resist the compulsion to get out of my rental car and just leave it and all the chaos behind while I ran into the peace and protection of the desert, I heard a sound. It sounded like a kind of high pitched whine, like a particularly loud mosquito. As I listened the sound seemed to take form and became a woman’s voice.
“Are you there? Are you there?”
I heard it say. Not my damn phone again. I hadn’t even touched it this time and it still rang.
Then the voice changed to a man’s voice and it said:
“Hold your breath, make a wish, count to three.” I did just as it suggested, I wished that the traffic would start to move and I would be able to get home. Then I heard some music come from somewhere….and then Gene Wilder’s voice singing the Willy Wonka song Pure Imagination. Then I heard the sound of a dozen cacophonous car horns behind me which told me that seemingly a line had opened in the traffic.
To be continued....