Friday, 24 August 2012

Fragment of a madman

My eye is too far to the left -

I wouldn't worry about it -

No, you don't understand. My eye is definitely too far to the left -

Which one? -

Which one do you think? The left one. It's too far. Do say you can see it! -

No. Because I can't. Now go back to sleep -

How can I go back to sleep when my eye is too far to the left?! -

Just close it, and it'll be back in its proper place in the morning -

In the morning B. remembered his dream and dismissed it for the apparition it was. And, sure enough, when he looked in the mirror, his eye was only very slightly to the left, certainly it would be an exaggeration to say 'too far'. 'Perspective in all things' he laughed to himself and went about his day.

At the office all was normal. The new lie had been a tremendous success:- cuts, cuts, everywhere cuts - the austerity plans were in full swing and yet! surely anyone could merely look up global production and accumulated wealth - physical and intellectual - compare to population and its greater demands, and see that there were more riches per requirements than ever before? The information was there, all in the open, but something was wrong. Something was wrong with sight.

B. had often thought this - that the only thing certainly invisible was light. He glanced at the screen. Amongst the charts and figures he caught his reflection looking back. No, it was certain. The eye was too far to the left. Perhaps it would move back later. No one appeared to have noticed, or if they had, were being polite. Or just busy in their work. This was not the time to be noticing things.

On the bus home B. felt sure everyone was looking at him. He brushed it from his mind. After all, he was looking at everybody else. He got off a stop early, and, for no reason at all, bought a pair of sunglasses. It was a perfect evening for a stroll, and the exercise would do him good.

Along the pavement he tutted to see a discarded lolly stick. Litter! What was the town coming to, with things not in their proper places? He bent down to pick up the stick and pat the passing dog. The dog growled and B. jumped, much to the amusement of some children across the street, who were laughing and pointing. That was another thing wrong with the world. Bad manners. If B. had behaved like that when he was their age...

Back at the flat, he sipped at the tea and glanced out of the window at the dandelions in the garden. But no! It couldn't be! But there it was! In the pane. B. stared in amazement to see his face, where it should be, the newly acquired sunglasses, all present and correct, and two inches to the left, detached, unconnected, but most definitely his - oh most definitely his, eye staring back at him. It couldn't be, but it was. It winked.

Aghast, B. ran to the living room and slumped on the sofa. This was going to take more than tea. A quick shot of the medicine, and order would be restored. Think it out. This sort of thing had happened before. Now where had he read about it? Quick! quick! must remember before forget -

The doorbell rang -

Blast! Not now! Who could that be? A delivery. It would be another delivery for next door. Next door was never in. B. was always having to sign for next door's deliveries. Next door's, not his. It was incorrect, that's what it was. A thought crossed his mind. A mischievous thought. He would give the delivery man a fright he wouldn't forget.

There went the doorbell again. B. crashed down the stairs and grappled with the lock. The door swung open and B. blinked into the sunlight.

'Sorry, it's for next door, but could you sign for it? - just a squiggle, no one reads them' -

B. smiled. Just wait til he looks up and sees my eye, he sniggered to himself.

'No problem, lovely day' -

The man looked up. 'That's it just there, anywhere there - thanks very much. Saves bringing it back' -

Any moment now. The desired effect. The delivery man turned to go.

'The box is the correct size'. An odd thing to say, but B. had not been expecting to require a prompt.

'Yes, thanks a lot, got to rush -' -

B. stared at him as he walked away, and thought of saying something else, but wasn't quick enough. It had been tomorrow for a while, and he hadn't noticed. The best thing to do would be to keep a diary. He would ring work later, and make some excuse.

It occurred to B. that his cat had been dead for a while and its nose was now too long. 'Since I've got the day off, I may as well make myself useful, and fix my cat's nose'. - more easily said than done, especially with the racket the ants were making. B. had mentioned the problem with the ants before - and hadn't that been a mistake. He had laughed it off as a joke at the time - some things weren't worth explaining. Obviously one couldn't hear an ant - what an unnecessary thing to say - they were too small - but a colony, now that was different.

It wasn't so much the music but the constant farting that was so distracting. And right now B. needed to concentrate. If ever one needed to concentrate it was when one was fixing a cat's nose. Dead or alive - it didn't really make a difference - the thing was to maintain a steady hand, and that rapidly became impossible when one found one's hand involuntarily drifting off into conducting an orchestra of farting ants. No, it wouldn't do, it wouldn't do at all. He would have to shut them up.

The time was melting kettle. Perhaps the draught excluder could help. Although B. considered the draught excluder to be of a lower class - often incontinent, and bad at spelling - it had to be admitted it had a certain knack of thinking the thinkable. The secret was to approach when no one was looking, and then wait for the answer to be mimed. However, the shopping needed to be done. It had long since stopped doing itself, and there was no point complaining. People complained too much these days, instead of getting on with things. That was the trouble - people not taking responsibility for themselves.

It was at the photocopier that B. decided once again to see who was with him on the side of reason. It was a simple test, mainly purple-based, - which some people can see, and some people can't - really very simple, and foolproof, the only difficulty being the measurement of backwards jumps.

The boss heavily disapproved of backwards jumps, and it didn't take a genius to guess why. He had already got to the secretary, and most of accounts, but he wasn't as clever as B. B. was always one step ahead of him. For now. He only had to hold out a bit longer. Just a bit. The time was fast approaching.

There had been quite a lot wrong with the office recently. But B. had learnt not to say. That was what they wanted. For you to say something in an unguarded moment, something that revealed you were onto them. A noticer. Then they could get rid of you. But B. was much cleverer than that. 'Assistant reconciliation clerk' - it didn't mean a thing! - that was just a label, a kind of shorthand, a code. If you could see through the code....

But not now, not yet. The time wasn't right. He must remain undercover just a bit longer. He'd have to put up with the paperclips just a bit longer.

The paperclips looked far too much like dragonflies. That was no way to organise a business. If B. were in charge, that would be the first thing he would change. One could get used to them - he was proof of that - but how inefficient! It was quite absurd. Mere tradition. The inertia of commerce - it stopped lots of things getting done. No, if B. were in charge things would be different. It was the 21st century after all wasn't it? That was what the collander had said. The paperless office. There was absolutely no need for paperclips that looked like dragonflies anymore. Half the problems in the stationery cupboard B. put down to the paperclips. But it was no use telling anyone. Not yet.

Now would be a good time to call a meeting.

It was hard to tell just exactly when the eye had been replaced by the facsimile. But that was undoubtedly what had happened. They had even got the positioning right - two inches to the left - but they always made mistakes, left evidence of their visits. In many ways it was an amateur operation. It was a crass blunder, to say the least, to have left the vase inside out. He was bound to notice that. Clearly they had underestimated their opponent. But it did mean one thing. His hand was forced. He would have to bring the date forward. It was time. Time to organise the landlords. They had the power. The power over shelter. Power over the elements. Others had noticed this before, but none had felt it so keenly as B. There was something different about him - had he not overheard this said a hundred times? And now he knew the purpose. He decided to ring his landlord. There was no delay permissable. Not now. He would tell them in the correct order. That was the trouble with bad chess players - they played their moves in the wrong order. First he would ring the landlords, then the farmers, and then the utilities. He picked up the phone and dialled. Yes, this was the last piece of the jigsaw. There was an easy way to make sure he was put through to the correct person - and that was the farting ant orchestra. If they pretended not to hear it, he would ask to be put through to the supervisor, or just dial again. Eventually you got through. You always got through. But persistence was required. It was going to be a busy afternoon, before the meeting.

So. They had got to them first. The landlords. He hadn't bothered with the farmers after that. Or the utilities. He was already too late. They too had realised that the landlords were the ones to get to first. Although after would have been the same. That was why when he had offered them the flat back, in return for the money back, they had refused. It was the only just deal, but corruption was obviously rife. B. would have to find another way to raise the money. It certainly explained why milk had not been pouring correctly. It didn't matter - the meeting was convened.

Meetings were best effected in the absence of drawers. All drawers safely placed beyond hearing range, B. called the meeting to order. As usual, the tablets spoke first. 'Just one thing' - interrupted B., and he climbed into a sleeping bag.

The amiable monstrosity, Professor de ants writhed to reave the arrow of thought from the flow of distance. By the repeated taps on his head, B. discerned this was very important. 'Take care, for you may yet carry the fire of life'. The transports returned and B. suffered into the daylight once more.

Along a straight path curved down into the centre, B. continued his existence. Tangled straws of thirst brought steadying grasp as the weight increased. Into the cavern wove the worms that carried him. A mighty arch bore the darkness above. B. tried, but couldn't see the keystone.

Shimmering in the centre sang the echo of the ancestors. The shards began their alignment. Two vast towers, older than themselves, turned to face each other as one. A scream of consciousness reflected infinity arrested by the beat of time. Uplit the keystone and the dark was lifted.

The tablets handed B. the minutes of the meeting. It was agreed. B. must find his file. It had to be at the office. He would take the short cut through the back of the stationery cupboard. It would mean upsetting the pencils, but greater things were at stake than upset pencils. And in his file would be the answer. Tomorrow they would see.

Confusion. They often used confusion. A fatal miscalculation. Confusion was not going to work on B.. This was because he had been careful. Very careful. He had been careful for a while now - he wasn't sure how long - but that was of no consequence. The important thing was that the care had been taken. And he had already recruited the rats.

One is never more than 6 feet away from a rat - that is what people said - even when they were further away. That would just mean that time was shorter, that they were quicker. And B. had the quickest rats, he could be sure of that.

The incident with the stationery cupboard had probably gone unnoticed. That was the clever thing about using the secret entrance. As for the file, well that had certainly been worth the effort. It was a shock to be sure - there was no getting away from it - but one must always face facts. That is the mark of the exceptional. The one who eschews the false comfort of delusion. The one who rises above the fantasy of the weak. The one who faces reality. Absolute reality.

Inside the cabinet B. had been astonished to see the miniature typist - one eye too far to the left - typing up his file. So that was how it was done. A miniature copy of himself. No wonder they knew so many of his thoughts. Some agents of the troika had removed him from the building. He was getting too close. He was now under interrogation. That was what they thought. In reality B. was the interrogator. Once he had the information he required, one whistle from the side of his nose and the rats would rush the headquarters. For now they could continue with their cossack dancing. It kept them fit and was excellent for esprit de corps. It was not what B. would personally have chosen, but such was the art of delegation. 


  1. Madly funny. Best bits - there are loads but I like "The time was melting kettle" and "It had been tomorrow for a while". "it (the draught excluder)...had a certain knack of thinking the thinkable".

  2. Très jolie, mais où est le chien qui parle? Je pense qu'elle a écrit, "Peut-etre votre phiz est trop loin à droit. C'est le meme-chose, n'est ce pas?" Oauf oauf.