Kurt got the bed. No way I’d let god take the food-carton-ridden floor, though I’d cleared a clean patch of carpet for myself. Two of his shirts were now my pillows and Kurt’d let me wear his deer-stalker hat to stop my fire fringe from brightening the space. Kurt and all the dirty details of the area submerged into a blackness.
Thom Yorke was yodeling through the stereo, half way through singing Creeps’ I-don’t-belong-here chorus. Kurt, was sobbing quietly, the way old women do. I’d been ignoring this nagging ordeal for about, well, for a shit load of a Radiohead compilation.
Every now and then my eyes would open themselves to the night, my enhanced vision spying Kurt coiled up tight. My god facing the wall and whimpering about some new half-cooked existential crisis.
I remember reaching out to nudge his attention toward me. That’s when Sid Vicious flamed out of his black rectangle stand-by mode. Sid had become the solar flare that’d attacked me previously, ready to protect his master.
I had to pull myself together and head back to my space on the floor, empathy for my grunge god replaced by the perversion of listening to his cry-fest.
All this whilst my link to the world of shadow tightened python-like round my left ankle.
In front of me, leading me along was a girl. From one room to the next I’m ducking and dodging spears and swords and maces, warrior dilfs trying to take us out. Occasionally me and this girl (whose hand was snapped around my wrist) would get cornered and she’d use me as a human shield to take the impact or sheaving of a blade. An axe. An arrow.
Yet each blow left me feeling nothing.
In this dream I was able to survive gruesome cuts and stabs from the enemy. I felt my sense of empowerment return. Also, I considered myself a little wise.
Y’see, I know killing strokes when I see them, these renegades meant capture. That madness was enough of a mental nudge to give away that this must be a dream, because the dilfs are my people, citizens of Po who would sooner lick the ground I walk across than try to harm me.
The girl in front of me - I remember - she had long flowing blonde hair. The black ribbon on top of her head and the long socks were familiar in the archetypal sense. I would learn a little later that her name was unsurprisingly Alice.
Ah, the logic of dream, so entertaining. The oddity of this dark wonderland stepped up a gear as I clutched at the flesh shimmying upon my chest, movement that had no place in my vicinity.
Breasts. In this reality I was a woman.
I’ve not always been fortunate in these lands, and when I recall my few tries at lucid imagining I’ve got to laugh. But there I was running with Alice in Wonderland with complete awareness that I wasn’t awake. Although, I was still a passenger.
The woman I was riding within had total control. My eyes were fixed ahead even when I felt the urge to look about the thrilling but ultimately harmless fiction.
From furnished Victorian room to dank cave-like den we sprinted. There were no doors in these variations of living space, just mirrors that we charged through. These were the safe houses I’d designed.
I wanted to ask Alice what she was doing in my dream and how my many fortresses of solitude had become overrun with mutinous chaos servants. I remember opening my mouth with the question but I could feel the growing awareness more and more, that the whole place was falling away.
I hoped desperately that I would stay.
I prayed with the names of old warriors on my lips. Dead friends long gone and deaf to my indulgence.
Behind my fluttering optical doors awaited a shift in my internal adventure. We were backing away, retreating slowly from the roaring beast wedged between the mirror-door entrance of this room and the last. This room was familiar. One way in, one way out. A rendezvous point for my fellow Discordians' and I.
Then somebody spoke,
‘It’ll rupture its own ribs to get in here y’know.’
Me and Alice - it was so real – we twisted around to see where the informative voice had come from.
There was a woman, say about forty – just standing in front of us, staring with a contended smirk across her muck ridden face. She was dressed like Queen Victoria...grey hair, white bonnet and that large black dress of hers. I knew this woman but this was a dream where I was someone else,
‘Who are you?’ I heard my female mouth wonder.
‘Nightingale.’ replied the woman as she stretched her hands out toward the monster. The sound of snapping bones erupted from within its body.
‘I see its arteries,’ declared our female saviour, ‘I understand Anubis’ hunting staff in my own way.’
Nightingale said all of this moving closer and closer to the gargantuan creature tearing into the floorboards, digging its bloodied claws into the floor, advancing. She stood above the creature’s bleeding and broken assemblage,
‘All I need to do,’ said Nightingale, ‘is reach out and touch.'
Nightingale’s hands flicked out toward the beast ruffling its fur, and only after a few seconds bones popped out of its matted hairy skin, purple skeletal mass bursting out of the creatures flesh. The wolf beast shuddered and clutched at its head. Nightingale took her hands away.
‘It’s still alive?’ I whispered, ‘for fuck sake, finish it off?’
‘She doesn’t do that,’ remarked Alice with a cold stare across the room,
‘Do you, Nightingale?’
‘How are you, Alice?’ said the woman in an over familiar yet sinister tone.
‘Oh?’ replied Nightingale arching her eyebrows at me, inviting comment.
‘Nightingale,’ said Alice pointing to the woman's mouth,
‘You seem to have swallowed something with wings. Want to tell us about your new diet?’ My female eyes scoured Nightingale's mouth. Indeed, there were buzzing creatures flying about it. Her skin had never looked so pale to me. My jaw dropped a little as I realised just how dead Nightingale appeared.
'That’s it?’ remarked Nightingale, ‘That’s all chaos’ super sleuth wishes to ask me? Spider really was the exaggeration artist eh?'
My mind got stuck on the past tense of her reference to me. It messed with me till I reminded myself that I was only dreaming. I wanted to ask her where Spiderfingers was but the woman’s mouth I sought to control remained shut.
The dream had other ideas.
I chose to enjoy this reality like one would a movie. I watched Alice travel calmly over to the corner of the room, seemingly at ease as she said,
‘When Steph asked you for your name you answered with Nightingale. The real Florence Buchanan hated that name.'
Nightingale flexed a humorless smirk as she replied, ‘Paranoid isn’t she, eh Steph?’
Steph. The body I was in was called Steph.
‘Maybe Spiderfingers built her wrong?’ continued Nightingale in my direction stroking her chin in mock contemplation. This was a look that did not suit the Florence Buchanan that I had sworn to protect.
‘I’m not paranoid. Far from it.’ replied Alice inspecting the mouth of the woman claiming to be Florence Buchanan. A litany of flies buzzing from the insides of her ears and mouth now, 'I just watched you enjoy torturing that Anubis minion, hardly the attitude of a conscientious nurse who occasionally resorts to homeopathic remedies behind doctors backs, right?’
The woman with Nightingale’s face laughed out, ‘Well hello Batman.’
‘Who are you? Questioned Alice, ‘What do you want?’
'Oh detective, first a bit of healing,' said Nightingale flicking her fingers at my cuts and bruises, all of them sealing up, mending, 'Aronson needs you all at peak performance.'
'Performance?' I said.
‘Come along quietly,’ replied the imposter, ‘it's a surprise.’
‘We can’t go out,’ I heard my mouth say, ‘There’re loads of monsters out there.’
‘Don’t worry,’ replied Nightingale ushering us past the beast toward the room’s only mirror-door, ‘Aronson won't allow you to die. Not needlessly.’
Like a good movie. my dream was fantastic at cutting out the boring bits. No longer in the room with Alice and the fake Nightingale, I found myself in the warmth of waist high liquid. A scene change orchestrated between eyelid flutters.
In the dark cavernous belly of the Oma I’d come face to face with an old man with a dark fire cane. Aronson.
I remember the slight motion sickness as the warrior hefted my tiny prison above its head.
That was when I looked down at Aronson flanked by the evil Nightingale, the bitch going speedily through Alice’s rucksack. Out of it she pulled Handy Andy, all wrapped up in a Sonic Youth T-shirt. I had never seen Handy’s skin look so ill and translucent.
‘What are you up to this time?’ said Alice in a cage held aloft by the Dilf’s other palm. He ignored her question and with a look of complete coldness, Aronson waived for ‘Nightingale’ to follow him towards a rippling where a long boat began breaking the waters black and misty surface.
I still can’t get Nightingale’s bloated look of satisfaction out of my head.
Oh, and the way she stroked a broken and feeble-looking Handy Andy. She reminded me of a Bond villain stroking their overfed pet. Even after she placed him in the cage of another loyal Dilff, even after it was obvious she had been using her hands to heal him, I hated her.
I hated the woman I was in. Not once asking the right questions.
She just started to blabber on about some wacky stories not making sense.
'I should have just ran away from Spiderfingers when I first met him. Who sits and listens to someone telling a story about a man giving himself head?'
'We did our homework on you Steph,' replied Alice, 'When you know someone called Object Girl, who can talk to anything inanimate, then there is NOTHING one can't find out. We know about your need for attention. We know that you'd love to write children's stories, if only you thought they would sell.'
I felt myself nod as I heard myself ask, 'What is the main theme of The Russian Doll Stories?'
‘S.U.R.V.I.V.A.L,' answered Alice, 'In Bradley the Boy Wonder, Bradley’s mother changed her lifestyle completely after being raped and sought to survive the darkness of the incident by turning the product of that night - Bradley – into a model human being. She viewed Bradley’s ridiculous death as her ultimate failure.’
‘Seems a bit of a stretch and -’
‘Invisible was the rather obvious struggle for Spiderfingers to survive the streets of London by pretending to himself that he was in fact a delusional homeless man, not a god. performance, failing as a coping technique.’
‘Really? That's not how he told it! How the hell was I ever supposed to work all this all out?’
‘The task was to intrigue you. The point was to stroke your ego into believing yourself a better storyteller than Spiderfingers. It worked.'
‘What about Man is the Meal? Wait – I have it!'
I jumped up a little forgetting where I was. Is getting Alice's riddles so important to this Steph woman?
Doesn't she care to question Aronson?!
'Gods will do anything to survive, right?'
Alice smiles patiently as my mouth jabbers on,'They’d dangle a prize such as eternal life so that anyone penitent enough would via prayers and lifestyles would feed them.'’
‘Man is the Meal is as much your story as his Steph,' confirms Alice, 'If that works for you, then yes – you’re right.’
‘And the Killing Moon – man – it’s like a Christie! The clues are so blatant once you know the answer! The Killing Moon shows that gods have no problem in debasing themselves in order to cling onto more life. Luna and her flare are just Red Herrings. It’s all about Rao telling the tale at his expense so that his audience of heckling gods will keep him alive in their memory. What's Spiderfingers' connection to the Algebra Killer?'
‘We really ought to be figuring our what Aronson wants.'
'But I need to know more about me. Why have I been chosen? What made me eligible to be selected for...what was it? Operation erm...'
'Operation Genie Bottle.'
'You want to sell. You don't care what it is or who it's to - you feed off other people's adulation. Perhaps your parents didn't tell you they loved you? That can wait. Aronson was built to lose, but something’s not right. He’s different.’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘Where’s the gloating?’ she said counting a finger on her tiny hand, ‘Where’s the reveal of the grand plan?’ she counted another.
‘Maybe he’s keeping it close to his chest?’ I was a step ahead of my naive vehicle, willing the feel of soil and mud around me to hold off, at least until my dreams conclusion.
‘Aronson isn't good with secrets. That’s not how you made him.’
I felt the dream world slip away…
A monkey swims past me as I note that there is no water here. Just stars and black void peaking between their five pointed realities. This new dream is utter fantasy but then I consider my life, and for a silly moment I decide against the truth, that Steph is my mind's creation.
Considering the madness that my life attracts, it would make more sense that I’m in fact her whimsy and everything about me is under her ownership. I hear the voice of the earth rumble about my boat and again - a disillusion – the world I’m travelling in – she wants to talk to me. I don’t think so.
I conjure an imaginary dystopia, inflected by an ice-age. I’m a squirrel foraging for nuts in nuclear waste landmarks. I’m a revolving series of humiliating instances orbiting around the head of a hyper-libidinous Catholic priest. I imagine my soul split between varying aspects of myself, each one of three oddities attracted to the effervescent allure of life-threatening adventure. I manufacture a wild haired mad scientist who can 'reality hop' to murder alternate versions of me.
I am every imaginable psychic shield. Still, she seeps on through. She leaks her ancient voice between the crevices. Not even I can shut out the world. Gaia’s sultry whispering of, ‘You’re not alone, you’ll never be alone.’
I’ve awoken into the well after, into the season of goodwill and the muscle memory of cold motivates my mind to seek out my cardboard bed. I’ll gorge on more dreamland and ignore Miss World’s whispered insistent ‘you’re-not-alone’ platitudes. My mother’s roots reach out to me. Instinctively, I kick out at them, these tendrils that dehumanise me. No touching please.
‘Fuck off. Not now.’ I tell her, too angry to consider how much I want her, ‘We’re not even alone.’ says the Clay in me, the human looking around nervously for him...it.
Blackness, then I’m looking up from where I slipped on the snow, where I’ve become this stinking faded Technicolor tramp, which blacks out at the thought of parental abuse. Your favourite Camdenite returned from the city of angels, gift wrapped in trench-coat red, he’s left a man-size shape in the railings of St Martins Gardens.
Time to scoop him up and NOT limp into the herd of teenage Europeans, spilling over priced Starbucks coffee. Sorry. I apologise with my mouth full of clear liquid life force, my jaw still not completely healed from my slugfest with ‘Kurt’, I apologise and leave them to eat their bad noodles.
I try to figure out how the hell my glasses didn’t fly off in pieces during the fight. But then even this simple process of thought loses out to the bug I become, overshooting Carol Street, overrunning the quiet course to bed, my dormant consumerist instinct chasing old promises embedded in Camden Road's night-glow.
I stop agape outside the Sainsbury’s, a perfect extra for Dawn of the Dead, George A Romero’s perfect satire on nineteen seventies consumerism. Mere moments later, I’m kicked out by the gruff tall Hindu off-licence guy for licking merchandise, practically giving head to Buds I paw out of his freezer. My bleeding phosphorous goo blood freaking him out, repulsive.
He shouts, ‘Out, get out. Bloody drunk. Stinker! Out of shop now!’
It’s outside Camden Town Station that I come to. Outside my place for distraction, outside this part of my playground, the human nature in me collects the fragments, the compulsion to build towards order taking precedence. In my left eye-corner I spy tinsel, and the carol singers and horror on high. A billboard for the new Pulp Fiction movie. Why Tarantino, how could you go the way of George 'Emperor Palpatine' Lucas? Beneath this latest cultural evil, to the admittedly pleasant rendition of We Kings of Orient Are, I spot a gang of Italian punks, bad skin, bad English, always coughing with flu. I’ve seen em before, forever drinking and clowning about near Camden Station, these guys, their filthy weed stench fingers hand me out a flyer for a Doc Martins shop. I take it thinking about the snow that’s now ice water leaking into the holes in my boots.
I give the punks a little nod saying 'Hi,’
And one replies, ‘How’s things?’
So I say, ‘My mum said I couldn’t have my mate round my house anymore. It’s her house, and cos I didn’t do as she said, she’s chucked him out.’
‘Shame, shame...Sorry to hear that man.’ he says sounding genuine and compassionate, the way cool punks that believe in the word punk do.
He has a mohican the size of a twelve inch record, each canary yellow follicle laughs in the face of Newton’s Law. The drunkest, the skinniest, he shoves his can of Strongbow under my chin. Their third member, Mark Hamil short, he tries to put his Santa’s hat on my head. I politely wave both gifts off.
‘Maybe you should get you’re own place y’know?’ says the leader as his grubby fingers busy themselves at stroking his hairy yellow fin.
I tell him that, ‘I’d move out but...I can’t leave her. Mum's kinda disabled. The bastards on our estate are always trying to break in y’know?’
‘Pick a better place to live or go fuck those bullies up man. Know what I’m saying? Take the battle to them. You want some help?’ says Yellow fin, and I smile. I nod. I walk. Not yet, I think. Not yet, as I hear the child-choir sing of wise men following a star, confluence and ego do poisonous things to my self-perception. Time for a remedy.
I’ll need someone to watch the telly with and discuss Iggy Pop’s T.V Eye, probably the best live album track of his career.
I let slip my grip on the here. May sleep swallow, protect and placate me. Sleep, make me a foodstuff in your belly, safe from things I don’t yet understand. Like being tapped on the shoulder by Saul, who really has no place outside of my memories.
‘Y-y-you’re de-dead.’ He says, ‘What are you doing here? How did you do it? I saw you die.’
Saul is stuttering. Not good. Gonna have to hunt for a bad guy for him to chew on. No rest for the wicked.
Hold on. Saw me die? This is just another dream. I close my eyes placing faith in the knowledge that his shoving and pleading will fade away.
I don’t believe in him at all.
I believe in the dream god. I almost open my mouth to pray that he pins my eyelids down so I may enter his kingdom. I'm about to make this pleading when I become aware of the rat.
This little soul scampers out of the dark and halts a short distance from my aching and heavy head.
Of course it speaks.
'Well done chaos. You've made your mother so proud, bringing yourself back from the edge like that. It would have been so easy for you to ruin the world with your friend.'
I'm too tired to lie to her let alone myself about the truth of my victory.
'But it wasn't me,' I plead, 'It was the sun. Without the dawn I would still be under Rooenn's control.'
'Oh chaos, you know what tales I must spin. The mothers of special children must weave careful stories around the minds of their young...'
And my battle-sore chest ignores its pain, swelling as it does with the pride of new found knowledge.
'...so that they may process the multitude of stimuli that would drive them mad. You owe nothing to the sun, for you alone vanquished Eros.'
Yes, It was me. It was my choice to rebel against Cobain. Rooenn has always been a bogeyman, a projection to help me filter...
'Now begins the season of muzzling. It is time for you to accept your strength, to regard your terror as a trait rather than a dog that requires vigilant taming.'
And that's when my body withers, my entirety folds into a deflated hollow shape, broken under the weight of a more comprehensive understanding.
Rooenn can't be on his way tonight.
He's already here.
He holds his stump against the side of the rusty door that I’m about to push him out of, ‘We were ambushed! The baddie Nat - E-Eraser - he-he-he-he - fucking hell – he helped!’
‘Oh yeah,’ I say halting briefly, ‘how come a dildo like you survived?’