A collaboration with Craig Sernotti
Published 'Mindmares' 1998
It's darker towards the middle of the room. John's thoughts spark off each other, take fire from fire. He dreads the eventual outcome of his own thoughts: insanity, complete and utter.
John awakes on the parlour window-couch having, the previous night, fallen asleep (he believes) in his usual bed upstairs. The couch is under the inset bay: a wooden surface with narrow mattress. For most of the daylight hours, John has been snoozing between supposed dreams. Now. with the onset of dusk, he infers that the outskirts of the room, including the windowless walls, are shimmering with light, leaving the central rug between the fireplace and the bay in shadow. Or is the shadow a sooty mist rising towards the ceiling? With growing horror, he realizes that the supposed dreams were not dreams at all but merely what he fears most: the onset of insanity. complete and utter. Then comes an even bigger doubt - the one flaw in his line of argument. John's mind floods with mental flame, as he grows less confident regarding the demarcation of dream and insanity. There is, of course, a rogue force called reality which feeds equally from both dream and insanity, but then calls itself sanity for convenience (or just for the laugh). John feels confused, without realizing that such confusion is affecting more than just his own thoughts. All senses sense each other wrongly. John smells awful. John tastes John's own dead body. John sees nothing but John's own eyeballs slowly revolving in their sockets. John touches the top of John's head and feels gluey substance below where the skull should have been, and this sense of touch itself seems to send other senses haywire.
"I must be seeing an angel ..." John sputtered. Fresh blood leaked from his mouth with each word.
John looked down at the fallen John. This had happened during the night. John knew. A man broke in. using a knife to cut open the screen door. (John cursed John for only barring the outside world with a screen. It wasn't his fault really, though. He lived in the quiet part of town. Nothing exciting or dangerous happened. He knew people elsewhere in the world that did wrongful things, but he didn't think it would happen in his town.) The Intruder then walked calmly to where John slept, the television on, and demanded for John to wake. A groan, a moan. The man jabbed John in the ribs with a gun, which awoke the tired house's owner. The intruder asked for money. He received only a "Pay day's in two days my friend," and, in a rage of disappointment, the Intruder shot John.
"Thank you God. Thank ... you for sending an angel. One to....protect..." His sentence died, and so did John.
John heard noises inside the house. The first floor, in which room it was vague. The Intruder was still in his house.
John returned to the piece of glass that John called a mirror, and moved downstairs. He appeared in the framed portrait of John's mother, dead seven years a month ago thanks to a tumor of the brain. No one. He moved into the dining room, gazing into its dark corners from the polished lining of the table. No one.
Something solid but quite breakable shattered on the kitchen floor. Someone quite real swore gruffly at the breaking noise.
For someone to intrude, there must be something other than mere money for which the intruder intruded. The outside was safer, cleaner place for non-¬intruders to stroll. Indeed. there was a band in the park, this evening. And Old George Saintsbury - the town's favourite ever mayor - would no doubt be sounding off about the way crime was beatable as long as everybody pulled their weight in the Neighborhood Watch Scheme. John had always or often been one of the leading lights - getting up at the crack of dawn or even earlier to spy out the intruders before they had even thought of intruding.
John's mother - the one who carried a tumor in her head like an old woman's next-best-thing to being pregnant - had once been Old George Saintsbury's even older flame. Well, John's father had died before they started carrying-on, hadn't he? There was no overlap of misloyalty. John's mother and John's father (then the same John in each case), after all had both shared the same tumor. No more could a husband and wife do for each other that bear the burden of the same tumor. A slobbery, grey tumor of bulimic blubber that fed upon the brains at the same time as the brains fed upon it. This tumor had eyes, John once believed. And a mouth that was continuously sick, the same John later guessed.
The Intruder (to John's mind) was also intruding John's house in hope of burgling the tumor, the rich tumor of fluted ambergris and slime that had been passed down (via all manner of probate-wills which Old George Saintsbury's legal firm had overseen), passed down seven years ago this month when John's mother passed over (whilst the selfsame tumor's eyes were temporarily averted and its mouth pursed shut upon a brand new tide of vomit), passed down for incubation within John's (or was it John's?) head.
John, though, has no wife or children to whom it can eventually be passed down. John does, after all, sleep a solitary bachelor’s sleep, of a fastness complete and utter, in either window-couch or bed, or both. Only the darkness can wake him.