Monthly Archives: July 2014

Mr Ben

“Well Mr Ben. I can tell you why you always feel like an outsider.”

“Why is that Doctor?”

“It’s because you’re an alien.”

“An alien?”

“Yes. Or at least. There’s an alien inside your brain.”

“That means I’m not an alien. I’m a human with an alien inside him.”

“Not quite.” said the doctor. She took off her glasses and wiped them with a napkin. Then she wiped her forehead.

“You see. There’s very little human left in your brain. Very little brain at all. Most of what is in your skull is somewhere between crustacean and mollusc.”

“Oh.” I had often wondered why I shouted to myself when nobody was looking. Why I spent my life in books and television shows and could never quite see myself as in any way sexually desirable. I imagined I was more extreme in these respects than most. That this might possibly be related to what doctors call a disorder or abnormality. It seemed entirely plausible that the cause of that disorder or perhaps the disorder itself could be physical. But an alien? That was more than just unlikely. That was extremely improbable.

“Are you sure it’s an alien in my skull?”

“Yes.”

She poured herself a glass of water.

“Or a very rare slug.”

She offered me a glass. I realised I was frowning.

“An alien is more likely I’m afraid.”

I drank.

“Look I know this is frightening but there’s a lot we can do for you. You can still live a perfectly long and healthy life as long as you keep both your human body and alien brain in good shape.”

“But I don’t want to be an alien.”

“I’m afraid we can’t change that.”

“Not even a bit?”

“I don’t want to give you false hope.”

“Could you pass a tissue please?”

I wiped tears from my face.

“Thanks.”

We looked at each other.

“Has this happened to anybody else?”

“Never.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“How is it possible?”

“It could be the result of a near infinite number of simultaneous quantum events. Or God may have done this to you.”

“Who is that?”

“God?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t describe God. He’s a bit like a ghost.”

“A ghost?”

“Look, I’m a doctor. I can’t explain God to you.”

“But why has this happened to me?”

“No reason at all I suspect.”

“But that’s not fair.”

“Have you ever been made redundant Mr Ben?”

“No.”

“Dumped?”

“What’s that?”

“How do you not know what ‘dumped’ means?”

“I don’t know.”

“Has anything ever happened to you for reasons outside of your control?”

“Well I- I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it really.”

“What do you think about, Mr Ben?”

“I’m not sure. Before this diagnosis I suppose I thought about ordinary human things like breakfast and legal systems. But this heat. It’s brought something out in me. Something confused. I’m not really sure what’s going on any more.”

“Mr Ben-”

“Do you think it has something to do with the creature in my head?”

“Your nose is-

“Oh yes, a nose bleed. That often happens to people when it’s hot doesn’t it?”

My arm reached for the napkin but slammed into the table instead.

“How clumsy of me. I seem to have completely lost my balance.”

I could feel something slipping out of my nose and I blocked the movement with my left hand, which seemed to still be working.

“So sorry.” I said.

The doctor leapt out of her chair and left the room. I tried to stand up but fell over and bashed my elbow. She locked the door behind her. I could hear her talking in panicked tones. I couldn’t think what was upsetting her. She wasn’t bothered that I was an alien twenty minutes ago. The lights were so bright. My clothes were drenched.

I slowly climbed back into my chair. I could feel there was something tentatively crawling out of my nose.

I reached up, very slowly given my extreme dizziness and lack of limb control, and touched it very softly. It darted back inside and I sneezed violently. Suddenly everything exploded and went black.

I remember crawling on my stomach using my teeth (or were they my arms?), climbing out of a shell onto my back legs and scurrying into the smallest darkest hole I could find. I lay there, dehydrated and lonely, bristling, all eyes wide open, and waited motionless for as long as I can remember.

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Nigel’s Nightmare

It was half past seven and Nigel Farage was ready for the recording of Have I Got News For You. He was on Ian Hislop’s team, presumably because Hislop hated him. Opposite him were Paul Merton looking confused and a woman. The host was a man who wasn’t Jeremy Clarkson.

They started off with a bit of footage about some missiles that MI6 had left on a train. Hislop made some obvious jokes and Paul Merton comically misunderstood what was going on. The host asked Nigel some questions which he got absolutely spot on and then the woman said something flirtatious to the man who wasn’t Jeremy Clarkson. Hislop then started making ridiculous accusations against Nigel, saying “You’re having an affair, aren’t you?”

With righteous fury, Nigel replied “That’s not proven. I mean no comment. I mean absolutely not!” A lot of people jeered at him. Typical BBC lefties. Nigel stood up and shouted at them. “You’re just as bad! Don’t judge me you bastards!” The jeering got louder. Nigel jumped up onto his desk and smashed his glass. “I hate you! I hate you all! Why won’t you vote for me?” he said. The shouting and booing only got worse.

At this point Farage felt that something was wrong with his face. He touched his cheeks and sure enough, his jowls and his chin had dropped a bit. He looked at Hislop. “Hislop! My face is melting!” he said.

“That’s exactly what you would say” Hislop replied. The audience sighed.

“I’m serious.” said Farage. Someone giggled.

“Seriously?” said the woman. Nigel could hear his chin dripping onto the desk.

“I have to get down.” said Nigel. Everyone laughed a deep belly laugh. Nigel clambered back into his seat.

The host started the video for the other team.

“Paul and Amanda.” he said. “What does this film tell us about Prince Charles?”

“My ears are on my neck!” Shouted Nigel. There were woops from the audience. Ian Hislop leaned over to Nigel and quietly told him to stop interrupting. Black blotches were forming in Nigel’s right eye. Paul Merton started to describe an encounter he had had with a post box.

“I can’t see! My forehead is in my eyes.” The audience booed this interruption.

“Look I know this show isn’t quite what it used to be.” said Paul Merton. “But you don’t have to be rude.” Someone cheered and then everyone clapped. Nigel decided escape was his only option. He stood up once more, only for his whole head to almost fall off. Even the host laughed at that. Nigel collapsed onto all fours and dragged his head along the floor out into the corridor. Amanda said “Sore looser.” and people cheered again. This was one of the most well received episodes of Have I Got News For You since the nineties.

“Now I finally have a chance.” said Hislop. The audience was silent at that.

In the corridor Nigel was trying to scream for an ambulance but he had no lips, and his lungs had dissolved. His last thought was that all this had to be some terrible nightmare.

Road Trip

I realized I was awake. I looked at my phone. 2:50. There was a small amount of orange light at my feet. Benny was breathing quietly in his sleeping bag. Five days in and I just wanted to go back to uni.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like Benny or the Polish countryside or these little villages or the museums or the art galleries. They were all wonderful really. I just needed a woman – the possibility of dwelling on a possibility. I couldn’t fancy anyone if I couldn’t speak to them. Or they couldn’t fancy me. That was more important. It’s not as if there was anyone in particular back home. But there could be someone waiting around the corner. And that’s what let me sleep at night.

My night feelings always appeared to me as both profound and confusing. I could never remember any of them. I’d be at the end of a thought, very proud of my conclusions, and suddenly have no idea what my conclusions were. Or even my premises.

It was the dip before the hip I missed most. And the tummy. That woman in the bedroom had a wonderful tummy. What was her name? I could stroke her tummy forever. And kiss her lips. They could be dry, they were still wonderful.

But I was stuck here with the orange and having to speak through my friend. Maybe I could find someone soft to hold onto here in Eastern Europe. If I was a different person I could. If I was Benny. I wasn’t. I barely had the confidence at home. Living in a fantasy world.

My nose was running. If Benny was awake he might have heard crying. I wasn’t, but he might have heard it. It’s just what happens when I lie down.

“Mustn’t think about the past. Mustn’t fantasize. I must focus on reality.” That’s what I was thinking. In truth I imagined a lot of images with no feeling behind them. I often found it hard to know how I felt. Was I happy, sad, anticipatory? Is that a feeling? What are feelings? My problem was that my life was so boring that there was nothing to dwell on. Must be why I wanted an adventure so much. Adventure is something to think about. Adventure lets me dream. Adventure lets me sleep.

Jesus of Suburbia

They ran. Erica on the left side of the road, Carmen somewhere behind her on the right. Erica knew she would get there first. Carmen was short and unfit, she outpaced herself and she did not take to the summer heat. Erica had not liked becoming gangly and sinewy over the last two winters, but it gave her the advantage of being able to jog for a long time without tiring. She was at the prophet in no time.

He was small and pale, with simian arms. Red hair drooped over one of his sparkling eyes. For all the mystery he passed as wisdom, this Geordie kid-soothsayer was remarkably ugly. No wonder none of the adults saw anything in him. They don’t bother with anyone or anything weird. “People over twenty are superficial.” Erica thought to herself. “Perhaps that’s why they have so many quick answers. Most thirteen year-olds are much more perceptive.”

Erica thought this boy was a fraud, but she had to earn his trust and prove it, not dismiss him out of hand.

“I got here first.” Erica said. “I’m your disciple.”

The red haired boy raised a finger to quiet her.

“What does that mean?” She said.

He said nothing. He looked over Erica’s shoulder. Carmen was panting up the road a long way behind her. She was red in the face. She had red hair too like the boy. Her sweat was off-putting. “She’s weird. He’s weird. I must look weird being with them. This is embarrassing.” When Carmen jogged it just looked wrong.

Erica realized she had taken her phone with her. She took it out of her pocket and turned it on. She probably didn’t have any interesting messages but she looked at it just in case. Plus it meant she didn’t have to look at Carmen or the boy. Nothing. She waited a bit and then spoke. “What’s your name anyway?”

The prophet silently raised his hand again.

“You know being aloof is a lot like being rude.” She said.

He looked at her.

“Sorry.” She said.

She was right though.

Maybe he was embarrassed because his voice hadn’t broken. Or if he spoke it would do that horrible up-down thing when it’s in the middle of breaking. Maybe he was pretending not to be Geordie. Carmen finally reached them.

“Sorry I’m late.” She said. “I ran as fast as I could.”

“Well done.” Said the Jesus kid. “You have proven yourself well Carmen.” His voice was in the middle of breaking.

“Hang on.” Erica said. “You told us whoever found you first would be your disciple. I got here first.”

She looked at Carmen and the prophet. Carmen was panting. The boy was smiling like a smug peach. He spoke.

“You have proven your dedication Carmen.” He said. “You can be my disciple.”

“But that’s not fair!”

The boy put on sunglasses. Erica continued.

“I did what you told me to. I should be your disciple. I won. You said you’d do things fairly.”

“Did I?” Said the boy.

The blood rushed to Erica’s head. She thought about going home. She sighed the loudest sigh she ever had. The boy spoke again.

“I said whoever found me first could be my disciple. Carmen found me as soon as I told her. You still have not found me Erica.”

“What?”

Carmen spoke. “It’s about how you feel, not how fast you run.”

“Oh come on!” snapped Erica. She spoke to the prophet. “You don’t know how I feel.”

“Don’t I?”

“I- What?” She felt like she was falling in fog. He spoke again.

“You must find me with your heart Erica, not with your-”

“NO.” She found her footing again. “You don’t get to be smart just by asking stupid questions. And you have made me feel like this because you’re being weird and arbitrary.”

“Erica.” The boy spoke slowly and softly. “If you don’t want to follow me you don’t have to. I offer myself as I am. I will do my best to reach you, just as Carmen here has done her best to reach me. If you do your best, you can be my disciple.”

“But what’s my best?” said Erica.

“That…” said the boy “is for another day.”