Another shit end of the world story

Yeah, I wrote another one for this competition. I don’t know why – the idea just kind of came to me. It’s a bit of a departure from what I usually do. Who knew I actually had the capacity to try (and I do mean try) to be funny? I had to try and tone the language down otherwise I’d be off the competition wall I suspect.

Anyway, here it is. Dismiss at your leisure…

The End of the World Half Time Show

Armageddon Live is brought to you in association with Nokia, Intel and Seat motors.’

She passes me a bag of stale pretzels. I put it down next to a bowl of Angel Delight topped with silver hundreds and thousands. We’ve just finished the cheap bottle of wine my brother brought over at Christmas four years ago and we’re about to start on the cooking sherry.

‘Is that everything?’

‘Pretty much. There’s a tin of Scooby Doo spaghetti left and a plastic tub of mixed herbs.’

‘Will they go together?’

I’m determined to clear the cupboards. I paid for this shit and I’m not about to sit here and watch it be consumed in the same fireball that rips my eyes from my skull.

On the TV, the Black Eyed Peas are ploughing through an out of tune medley of their greatest hits. I hate the Black Eyed Peas, but apparently they represent the pinnacle of our civilisation. The southern hemisphere is likely to wink out of existence to the sound of Fergie wailing about her lady bumps. Strangely, nobody else seems depressed by this.

‘Do you want to go and have sex again?’

‘I can’t be bothered to be honest. I feel a bit nauseous.’

That’s the curried tuna talking.

I don’t have the motivation either. I pop another wasabi peanut into my mouth instead. It makes my eyes water. This is the crappiest New Year’s Eve I’ve ever spent. Actually, no, that’s a lie. One year I went to a Steampunk party dressed as a teenage mutant ninja turtle. How was I supposed to know?

The ‘Peas end with a rousing yell of Mazel Tov. We get a close up of the reddening sky as Justin Beiber tells us there are twenty three minutes to go. He sounds quite glib about it, but then he would wouldn’t he? To be honest, we’ve all had time to adjust. It’s been three months since the comet Elst-Pizarro was knocked out of its orbit. Three months in which to accept our impending doom. And in all that time, with the breadth of human knowledge at our disposal, this lame concert was the best idea anyone could come up with on how to spend the final few hours.

Elton John is up next. Of course he is, he gets bloody everywhere. We all know what he’s going to sing – he rewrote Candle in the Wind again. In this version he bids goodbye to humankind. Genius. It’s available to download from iTunes, or at least will be for just over quarter of an hour. I’ve bought it twice today already. In times of panic, impulse buying is the only thing I know how to do.

‘Ritz cracker?’

Why the hell not?

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Instrumental

This is the B-Side to my first piece of 7″ fiction. Glad the ending of it came to me today as otherwise it has been a pretty shitty one. At least I now feel like I accomplished something…

I like my musicians the way I like my women: melodic, intelligent, and dead. Not in that way. There’s Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr, and Lillian Gish. There’s Cobain, Jeff Buckley, Robert Johnson, and Tom Waits. (I know Tom Waits isn’t dead, but he fucking sounds like it, so he’s going on the list).

When they’re not around anymore, it’s easier. They’re fixed and static and uncomplicated. Everything else is relative. I’m a product of that environment, locked in a hall of mirrors where everything is distorted, everything is beyond my emulation. I try, and I fail, and I lose interest. I suffer from some sort of clinical boredom. It incapacitates me.

My first girlfriend wrote me a love letter. There was a paragraph on making passionate love beneath a waterfall. I looked up from the page and out of my window at the tarnished industrial morning. Last night I’d picked her up in the rattling car I borrowed from my brother and we’d had awkward sex in the passenger seat behind the biscuit factory. Afterwards I’d stopped at a garage and bought ten cigarettes with the last of my wages. I couldn’t carry on like this.

‘What are we doing this weekend?’

What we were doing was splitting up. I’m an idiot, I know. I sometimes wonder how much simpler life would be if I didn’t realise this.

To be fair, I think we both thought we were living in some sort of movie. The problem was we’d been cast in very different genres. While she was waiting for an apology so she could forgive some romantic misunderstanding, I was watching helicopters drop swathes of Napalm through the fields of my past. Everything had to go. Including her, including me.

‘You bastard.’

I couldn’t argue with that.

‘Is there somebody else?’

There wasn’t, yet. Later there would be a girl I saw coming out of the art college who looked like Debbie Harry. She wasn’t Debbie Harry. I wasn’t Mickey Rourke in Rumblefish either, no matter how many books I pretended to read or how many instalments I paid on my leather jacket from the catalogue.

‘Who the fuck do you think you are?’

Well, that’s the problem isn’t it?

Harold Camping ate my Hamster

I wasn’t going to put this up on the Blog as I wrote it for a competition. However, upon submitting it just now I realised that it is in fact being shown on the wall of the competition submissions page and being judged in part by the public. Ok, I wasn’t quite expecting that, but I can live with it. I just kind of wish now I wasn’t the first person to submit…

The brief was to write a piece of flash fiction, under 500 words, on the theme ‘The End of the World’. I didn’t want to write about zombies (I watch too much Walking Dead for that), or meteorites. I flirted briefly with an idea about the Hadron Collider being pushed to its maximum, but in the end I did what I always do. It’s about a bloke trying to chat women up. But I had a joke about the rapture I tweeted about eight months ago that I was desperate to use in a story, so I did.

Anyway, it’s called Harold Camping ate my Hamster and is, I suppose, more about trying to sell yourself than anything else, trying to get something – fame or sex – on the back of building a brand out of yourself. It also takes a few cheap swipes at religion:

Harold Camping ate my Hamster

Evolution is a mug’s game. All that crawling about in the mud; all those millions upon millions of little adjustments to claw your way up painfully to a newt or a monkey and have shit thrown at you. Who can be bothered with all that? Get a contractor in, give him six days, and get it all sorted out in one go. You know it makes sense.

It’s just a shame he didn’t leave better instructions. Too many trumpets and hailstones for me. Everything has a lamb in it, or a ghost, or a burning locust firstborn Israelite. I can’t work it out. Even Ikea give you little diagrams to follow. It’s a smoke and mirrors routine, a PR campaign, the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Max and Clifford.

It’s May 21st, 2011. It’s the end of times – the Rapture according to Camping’s obscure calculations. I could be at home; I could be on my knees making sure I’m in the seal: that sweet spot of saviour with the four angels holding back the winds of the earth for me. But I’m not. I’m standing on a country road, unsure of where I am, and I’m drunk.

‘Are you coming tonight?’

‘What’s tonight?’

‘It’s my rapture party.’

I sensed there was a punchline in my future. Call me psychic.

‘You’re having a rapture party?’

‘It’s a no lose situation. If nobody comes, then it’s not the end of the world.’

The reality was he was turning thirty. He picked a pub in the middle of nowhere, but I had a thing for his sister. I’d walk it if I had to. The star Wormwood could descend in the car park and I’d still be trying my best lines on her.

‘I used to play football. Semi-professional, but Didier Drogba broke my ankle in a charity match.’

Style over substance is the name of the game. Who cares about truth when there’s a brand to build. Say it like you mean it: the bullshitters shall inherit the earth.

‘My dad was the original drummer in Led Zeppelin.’

She didn’t look impressed. I thought I had that one nailed after she picked out Bowie and The Faces on the jukebox.

‘I’m in a Jimi Hendrix tribute band.’

She went to the toilet and never came back.

At the end of the night I surveyed the devastation. There were seven survivors, shell-shocked with no-one to go home with. I set my sights on the best looking woman.

‘Hey, there’s still ten minutes to Armageddon. Want to spend them somewhere more private?’

Her eyes turned the colour of disdain.

‘It’s never going to happen.’

I was starting to think she was right. They all left, and so did I. I had no money for a taxi. I swayed slightly in the breeze and watched the mercury moon rising through the trees. There was no way home tonight for me or the reverend.

As I said, I think I’m the first person up, but if you’re interested in seeing what other people post, they will all eventually be here on the WOW website.

7″ Fiction

I thought I’d try a bit of flash fiction. I haven’t done any for a while and all the cool kids are at it.

I was sat in front of the TV, messing about on my laptop, drunk as hell after finishing off half a bottle of whisky in an attempt to kill a cold. And I was thinking about shorts being like three minute pop songs (not an original idea – I first saw the reference on James Everington’s blog). I was also thinking about how on earth you would go about marketing short fiction or presenting it on its own outside of a collection.

The result of my drunken pondering is 7″ fiction. I’m going to trial the idea at some point and try giving away a few copies to see if it works. Basically, each one will consist of two pieces of flash fiction – 300 words or less – one presented as an A-side and the other as a B-side. I’m going to print them in a small booklet with the front and back covers featuring a graphic like this one here. Then the booklet will be put inside a paper or cardboard sleeve, just like the ones you used to stick your old records in. Brautigan used to do it with poetry – single page lithographic prints; or the printed seed packets of Please Plant this Book. Yeah, ok, it isn’t 1968 anymore, but if you can’t mess about with stupid ideas just for the hell of it then the world would be a duller place.

Anyway, this is the first A-side. It’s a Shame About Evan Dando:

Then I kissed her, and everything unravelled. The world changed shape; the component parts of my life flew apart and reassembled into something else, something unrecognisable. We knew it was wrong and we didn’t care. I’d had enough of being the person everyone expected me to be. She was tired of being alone – with three kids and a best of Al Green CD.

‘I don’t think I can keep doing this.’

We were lying in bed, the sweat drying on my chest and shoulders. I leaned over and switched off the music. The slow, stroking rhythms of Massive Attack cut out, right in the middle of a nasal rasp by Tricky. Her oldest daughter had just been in the room – the one that was only four years younger than me.

‘For god’s sake mother, I’m trying to sleep. It’s disgusting.’

We hadn’t been noisy. Sometimes the very idea of something can pound more loudly in the ears.

‘She’s right. This isn’t going to work.’

I said nothing. If I had just ten percent more of the right kind of charisma, I might have persuaded her. As it was, I peeled back the sheets and pulled my clothes on. It was starting to rain as I reached the front door.

‘What about your records?’

The last glimpse I had of her was at the top of the stairs, ten feet and fifteen years away.

‘You can keep them.’

I lost Protection, I lost Heart Attack and Vine. I forgot about The Lemonheads.

The B-side isn’t finished yet, although I do know it’s going to be called Instrumental. I’ll stick it up when I’ve done it. Watch this space, if you can be even remotely arsed to do so…