THe bear year
My Imaginary Fiend – Day Two (forum/ithappenedtome) submitted by montagueoak
Okay, so… first things first, you need to know that this all really happened. That this is all still happening. I’m not gonna sit here and tell you all my backstory because it isn’t important. All you need to know is that the bear was still there in the morning.
It made throaty noises of befuddlement as it waddled across the carpet, trailing pulpy deposits of shapeless dung that reeked of blistering pepper. The floorboards creaked beneath its impossible weight – it’s titanic, primordial weight.
It was waiting.
Waiting for me to stumble into the living room, bleary-eyed and famished from some brief approximation of sleep.
I know how it sounds.
There was nobody downstairs to hear it. Someone had bought the place, but that was all. I’d been there – singularly there – every night, waiting for the crash boom clutter, and there was nobody.
The bear began to walk in circles, eyeing me with bored indifference. I wanted to blink and see through it and be nothing more than another briefly interesting madman.
The bear. The bear.
Something lifted inside of me as it lost its footing upon a pile of glossy magazines. I had them imported from New York City at the weekend. Very limited print run.
Ha ha ha, I just read that back. I’m sorry. A little known factoid about the Ursus arctos is that it makes you think in purple. Salman fucking Rushdie! I’ll try to reign it in.
The police arrived twenty minutes later, apparently delayed by a domestic argument. Quelle surprise. I didn’t care. I spent that time barricading myself in my room and listening for the bear. It had been silent for a while now, but I supposed it would be difficult to hear through a mattress and a cum-stained chair.
I don’t mind admitting that I was shaking as I stood at the front door, staring into the Christ-like smile of your classic dishevelled rozzer. Honestly, he looked like the sort of thing you’d leave in a skip after moving house. I know it’s not the time or place, but surely they have standards for this sort of thing?
‘Good morning sir,’ he said. Too right. ‘We had a report of some kind of animal trouble?’
I nodded. Animal trouble. Fuck me. ‘Up there.’
The man smiled – the smile never seemed to leave his face – and stepped aside for his partner. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘why don’t we let P.C. Miller pop up and have a look and you can fill me in on the details?’
I grunted my acquiescence and stepped aside. There should have been a doorman for this sort of thing. I was going to batter the fuck out of the Loorman account and then get out of that fucking hole.
Miller – the scowly one in this shite cop/bad cop routine – pushed past me, shaking his head very slightly. His partner produced a small notebook. ‘Might help to step outside,’ he said. ‘Get a bit of air.’
We stood on the step among the filthy weeds while I related the incident. The rozzer – P.C. Carr (not their real names, obvs.) – showed little sign of scepticism. His brief nods and occasional questions would have proved tediously reassuring, were I not certain that he thought I was out of my fucking gourd.
I was about to protest his tedious whimsy, when Miller appeared at the living room window looking distinctly unamused (i.e. like all London filth).
‘Nothing up here,’ he said. ‘Not even a bum boy in a fur coat.’
Carr’s notebook snapped shut. ‘You are aware of the consequences of wasting police time – ’
I wasn’t there to hear. I was racing up the stairs, vaulting two at a time to spite the sensation that I was actually going down in flames.
I stood in the doorway and spat half-words into the ether. The bear was gone.
All trace of it, gone. Again.
It’s been twenty-three days now, though I’m not thinking much about the future anymore. If I think about the future then I think about my psychology and my psychology is an adventure into a shitty fortune cookie.
I’m holding on.
Okay, I’ll bite – what sort of bear is it?
Ha ha you get some weird old bollocks on here smetimes. Don’t you have a job to get back to?
My Imaginary Fiend – Day Four cont. (forum/inhappenedtome) submitted by montagueoak
Okay, for everyone asking why I don’t have any pictures, or where’s the proof – keep fucking reading. Why would I make this up? Do you think I’m looking for a book deal? If I wanted media attention I’d make up some piffle about Cliff Richard’s wandering hands.
Anyway. The rozzers.
Miller ran a hand through his woolly scalp, glowering as we met across the table. ‘State your name for the purposes of the recording,’ he said, ‘Blah blah blah.’
He didn’t add the last part. He said a bunch of official stuff. I just had bigger things on my mind. Talking seemed to make him angry; silence left him depressed. At lunch I felt like a dancing monkey; by two I was a bottled pear. I didn’t give them anything.
‘Let’s start this again,’ said Miller. ‘You think there’s a bear – a brown bear, is that right P.C. Carr?’
‘That is correct.’
‘A brown bear living in your flat, arsing about when the world has its back turned, apparently using some kind of magical woodland voodoo to ensure that hard-working lads like ourselves are unable to detect it’s presence?’
I cleared my throat. ‘I’ve told you – ’
‘You’ve told me the same thing over and over.’
He was right. I had told him the same thing a thousand times, and it made no more sense than when they started.
Carr shifted in his seat. Judging by my experience, his arsecheeks went numb about an hour ago. He grinned through the whole ordeal.
‘It’s quite a tale,’ he said (grin, grin, grinny. Cunt). ‘I imagine you really do believe it.’
I shrugged. You’ve got to be careful with this lot. Scratch away the A-levels and they’re attack dogs to the core.
Miller snorted and slumped in his chair, crushed beneath the effort of his half-arsed menace. ‘What’s the point?’ he said, to no-one in particular.
I used to dream about becoming a cop when I was a kid. Not a policeman; a cop, like on TV, the gulf between them never obvious until now. I arrested all the kids who played in the park behind my house and catalogued their names in a binder. Suzy Solomon was in there thirteen times, until she moved away and I buried her page in a soup can.
I called the office and declared my intent to work from home for the rest of the day. I could find no angle that could explain my guest without some concession to the hinterlands of madness (small m, don’t say it out loud), and so refused to think about it. It must have been me. It had to be, right? I must have come in on some fucking rager, some blackout fucking drunk, and gone absolutely mental overnight.
It was easy to see it that way back then. Denial is a top-notch accessory. Easily-moulded, utterly sublime, and eternally in vogue.
I drank Matcha tea and thought about the Loorman account. Charlie phoned to ask what I’d been up to. He knew me too fucking well. I told him I’d been caning it last night (true enough) and made up a story about some hyper-sexed Lithuanian model. I gave her monstrous tits and a nursing degree and found myself wondering aloud about her cancer-ridden father. I took deep breaths and exhaled slowly. At some point he abandoned the phone and left me alone with his grin.
The bear had been so real. So vivid. I’d been off the chang for almost four months now, but maybe it had left its mark. There’d been many living dreams over the years – the bank raid where I saved the day, the war beneath the bridge where I bloodied chavs like the mad bloke in Old Boy, that fucked up thing with Siobhan – but nothing that ran free without permission. Nothing with meat and muscle. Do these massive hallucinations accrue over time? Do they take on lives of their own?
No. Not unless you live in Hackney and suck off aging bankers for a living.
dude you need to see somebody
Fuck tha police!
What was the thing with Siobhan?
My Imaginary Fiend – Day Three (forum/ithappenedtome) submitted by montagueoak
It was good to get back to the office. The office was a good place to be.
You could pick it out from a mile down the road, three shiny scales in the lizard sheen of a tower of glass and steel called the REDACTED Building. It’s a good life round here. Life imagined by go-getters, up-and-comers, self-starters and modern vampires. Life celebrated in cocktail bars and germ-free gymnasia. Fit birds, hard geezers; the bloody heart of the world.
I earned all this.
REDACTED’s reception was a beautiful thing. Decked out in departure lounge chic, everything laid out to create a perpetual sense of waiting, and of imminent, ethereal satisfaction. You had to admire it. I felt better by the minute as I signed in for the day. A fat man with tired eyes sat waiting behind the desk, defiantly wedged into a herringbone suit.
‘Morning,’ I said.
‘Okay,’ said the man.
It’s not my fault, mate.
It’s not my fault.
Claudia was eating at her desk when I arrived upstairs; her plastic fork knotted with spirals of gluten-free pasta. What a fucking swizz. I’d like to shake the hand of the man who dropped that insecurity bomb. Charlie was lurking beside her, a thin sliver of sweat beading on his forehead.
‘Mate!’ he said – practically screamed, swelling with hooligan aplomb, ‘Look who got his dick wet again!’
It’s hard to fault Charlie his abruptness. That kind of social illiteracy can only be formed from the most profoundly inappropriate life lessons. There was an ongoing pool to determine what exactly his old man had done to leave him so malformed. Sex pest? Bit handy with his fists? There had to be something.
‘Fat John’s being a mong today,’ he said, jabbing at Claudia’s miniature Blu-Tak house, ‘so you probably won’t get the deletions until one-ish. Actually, can I grab a word for a minute?’
We huddled into the pea-green crevice between the fire exit and the cleaning cupboard. Charlie spoke in hushed, conspiratorial whispers. ‘Look, mate, about the Loorman thing?’
I nodded enthusiastically, leaning in until I could see the tiny golden chain hung around his neck that cost something like a million quid.
‘It’s down to you and Bearded Geoff,’ he said, and my heart began to beat like a bird like a bear in a fuck-off cage BOOM BOOM BOOM. ‘Bearded Geoff,’ I said, ‘Bearded Geoff, I’ll have him with pie and mash.’
When I could see again, Charlie’s face had turned strange and fretful, as though he were badly disguised as himself. Most of the time, the naked delight of imminent gain seemed the only thing real about him.
‘Geoff’s stepped up,’ he said.
‘Stepped up?’ BOOM BOOM BOOM.
‘He’s been working from home, seven days, all nights. Caning it. He nabbed the Kasem thing last month, remember?’
I did remember. Everybody remembered. Matt Dunican had begged me to help dig around in a skip for the USB he’d lost during a bender but I wasn’t going down with that leaky, tween-lusty rowboat. When Bearded Geoff had stepped in with his SPECTACULAR IDEA I wanted to crawl into a Russian prostitute and die.
Charlie was still going. ‘So you need to get in the game mate. You know I’m backing you to get it. Turn the tables on him, yeah? Take what he’s doing and BAM! Times ten. Times two hundred.’
I shivered. ‘Work from home?’
‘Uh, yes? Christ, she must have drained you fucking dry.’
I stayed there for a while, in the gap between worlds, and thought very hard about my bank account. I looked out at cars passing in the street below and remembered when my dad would drive me to football and I would picture great blades of gleaming steel emerging from the sides of our shitbox Lada to eviscerate everything in our path.
When I emerged, having patted myself down with a box of hand towels in the lavvy, Charlie was already banging on about his latest opponent. ‘This one;s not for the squeamish, lads and ladies,’ he screamed, ‘I’ve got a fucking, Swiss fucking Jew to carve up with my willy.’
Claudia giggled, flicking a stringy blonde bang from her saucer-sized iris. She and Charlie would probably marry some day, driven mad by the insistent gravity. Their children would be monsters.
My hands moved smoothly across the keyboard; an amendment here, a deletion there. Money living and dying at my command. The rhythm of the office eased me into smooth monotony. There was no bear. Just keyboards tapping, printers screeching, conversations on the wire. Grey walls, white shirts. Perfect synchronization. Perfect people. Perfectly plain and inoffensive. There was no bear.
At two, I sat in the staff room with a Korean taco and read twenty pages of a charity shop potboiler. It was bliss to disappear.
At twenty past, Siobhan walked in with a tea-tray, the podgy offspring of Bettie Page and a particularly sulky spider. ‘You look cheery,’ she said, flicking the switch on the kettle. ‘Not out with the others?’ Her voice was low and husky, the place where cigarettes went to die.
I had to laugh, the absurdity of it all suddenly radiant and clear. There was no fucking bear. There were only bad dreams, big city stress, bits of Ebenezer’s potato. I’m holding on mate, I’m holding on.
‘Had a weird one yesterday,’ I said. ‘One of those dreams where you swear that you’re awake.’
‘I feel that way all the time,’ she said. ‘Like someone’s pinching me over and over and I can’t wake up.’
I didn’t say anything. It was as much conversation as we’d ever shared. Siobhan was one of Charlie’s soft targets, a plump bit of gristle to get his teeth into when he ran out of gossip about Spacker Geoff or Chinny Odd-Lumps. I did my best to stay out of such talk, but Charlie was a walking maelstrom; you got sucked in or you perished, and a social demise was something like hell at REDACTED. Mistakes were currency; everybody fed on everybody. Siobhan had been sick for a long time, stress or something, and it had cost her dearly.
Siobhan was quiet as she lined up the mugs. She wore the same look all the time, like she’d just walked out of the jungle only to find herself lost all over again. I suppose I understood. I remembered climbing that ladder. I’d climbed so many times since then.
‘It was a bear,’ I said.
‘In my dream. I dreamt that I woke up and there was bear in my flat. There in the living room, just snuffling about.’
The spoon made a metallic clang as it dropped into the sink. I looked at the clock. It was almost half past.
I spent the day in a trance. I measured my time in the hoover hum, in the tick of the corridor clock. God forbid it ever stopped.
I caught the train at half past seven and walked home through the park (I did have a car at the time, but some cunt had totalled the boot. Christ, what a fucking waste). I lucked into a decent run on my iPod, imagining myself on stage as each song passed; shining like a star, clutching the holy machinery. I felt good.
The bear was waiting when I opened the door.
can somebody move this to forum/creepy
Was that the thing with Siobhan?
My Imaginary Fiend – Day Four (forum/ithappenedtome) submitted by montagueoak
The bear was still there in the morning, huffing and clicking its teeth. Much of the front room had been reduced to a simple sum; things that were ruined, and things that were going to be ruined. I’d worked hard to buy those things, had wasted hours swotting up on their precise purpose in the life I intended to live. Who would have known that a Mondrian print would turn a beefy Turkish yoga teacher into a dewy-eyed shag-fiend? That was a good run. Now it lay in tatters on the deep pile Saxony litter box.
I managed a quick shower, turning the dial to maximum in a bid to drown out its intermittent wailing. I moisturised with a strangers hands and stumbled into the street trailing bog roll from the shitter.
Charlie was at his desk when I arrived, drawing hard spunking cocks on every Post-It in his drawer. ‘Jesus,’ he said, ‘you look like shit mate. And not normal shit either. Like those shits dogs used to do in the eighties.’
I opened my mouth. Words fell out. ‘Selasi just dropped an inhuman turd in the ladies. It’s fucking mental.’
His eyes lit up. I fled towards my cubicle while he fumbled for his phone and sat very still for some time. Occasionally I ventured online for news updates in a world that no longer welcomed me. I learned that brown bears sometimes slice eyeballs from their sockets during a kill.
Nearby, Bearded Jeff waged a silent war against the desolate indifference of a photocopier. I thought about offering up a bit of playful banter, letting him know he was playing on my patch. I imagined him plummeting down the six flights of stairs that led to the reception, his head bursting like a ripe tomato across the delicate white tiling. I shot him the what-can-you-do look, and braced against my sudden trembling.
I have to go.
I have to admit I’m finding this fascinating
When in doubt, steer into the crash. Keep going young man. Don’t let the naysayers grind you down.
My Imaginary Fiend – Day Eight (forum/ithappenedtome) submitted by montagueoak
Four days later, I fell asleep at my desk, and Old Lee called me into the office. Said he was concerned about my health.
I couldn’t help but like Old Lee. There were Dad molecules in his organising field. His rough hands, his tanned saddle skin, a hint of shrunken muscle beneath the light-eating suit. Charlie practically worshipped him.
‘We feel very strongly,’ said the old man, ‘that a young lad like you has to lot to offer here. It’s a tough job. A proper grind. Some people – you see them burn out along the way.’ He was leaning in very closely now. ‘I’d hate to see you go off the rails, given some of the choices we’ve had to make here lately.’
The way he said it, it seemed like genuine concern, until I remembered Matt D’s sudden fall. He’d have been a great A & R man.
‘Why don’t you take some time off?’ smiled Old Lee. ‘I’ll have Shelley check your card.’ He let out a hearty laugh. ‘I’m always losing mine.’
I grinned too. I couldn’t help it. Blind terror was nothing next to the raw charisma of the business elite (it’s very freeing to say that now. Even here, it’s all very light).
‘What, duck out?’ I laughed (I think I laughed a lot). ‘I’m not – I’m not here to mess about. I’m here to do my job.’
Old Lee nodded, his eyes lighting up momentarily with the cold, bureaucratic fire that burned Matt down to the ground. ‘I’m glad to hear that,’ he said. ‘But we can’t have your little midnight dalliances costing us time. I need you here at eight, and I need you sharp. Savvy?’
I swallowed hard. ‘Yeah, sure. Of course.’
‘It wasn’t our Siobhan, was it? Saw you having a chat the other day.’
‘No,’ I said, stiffening in my seat. ‘Fuck, no.’
The old man shrugged with the disaffected air I had often observed in the wealthy. Like kids, they played at what they imagined their role to be.
We went to a party at Old Lee’s penthouse once. I spent most of the evening trapped with Sophia from the Rotherham office while she banged on the about artisan bon-bons and the fairtrade wine, my eye never straying from Old Lee and his cronies as they wandered in and out of the balcony and made byzantine drink requests of the hulking Polish waiters. It was a singular experience; to realise how deeply you had been invaded, and how much you still wanted more.
‘Jesus,’ said Old Lee. ‘Give us a smile son. It might not happen.’
The days fell away. I existed in a liminal state between wired and depleted that threatened with every thought to evaporate my skull. How long had I been living with the bear? A million years.
I noted its comings and goings, unable to discern any pattern. Several times I came close to confiding in my parents, or my sister, or some online acquaintance, but something – the fear – held me back. James and Calvin – the fucking grunts – would giggle when I passed, their febrile little minds jumping to attention when I asked to see the projections, and I asked all the fucking time. Even Yvonne, the Dickensian crone (we’re talking proper hard-off territory here), refused to flirt when we collided at the Nespresso machine.
So I lived with the bear.
It seemed content to remain in the living room, leaving the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom for me. It wasn’t a bad trade-off. I had plenty to catch up with on Netflix, and I battered the gym whenever I had a chance. Sometimes I stopped in at the library and read dodgy Russian literature where everything came to shit in the end.
I made it my mission to gather evidence, but the bear railed against me. It had mojo of its own; sticky, ambiguous stuff that left me turned around. I placed a camera in the living room which vanished overnight. I put footage up online – long streams of bear piss jazzing up the fireplace – and watched it disappear into a glut of memes and horny fanvids. In a fit of desperation, I showed the clip to Old Lee, who laughed it off as some Youtube sensation and said he would tell all his friends. He asked me how the Loorman account was going and I told him everything was fine.
Sometimes I thought about Siobhan when I knocked one out, and the look on her face when I shared my secret.
That Old Lee sounds like a right cunt.
Don’t turn your back on a Lee. They’ll have you as soon as look at you.
I reckon you should try your luck with that Siobhan. Sounds like you’ve got something in common. Fat birds are up for anything.
This community need to learn to be a bit more repsectul to women.
Whoever it is needs to stop deleting people’s comments.
My Imaginary Fiend – Day Fifteen (forum/ithappenedtome) submitted by montagueoak
Yes, yes, I thought of everything. Fucking hell. Yes, I tried to take down the net curtain so that the bear would be seen from outside, but it wouldn’t give up the sofa. You try moving a 40-stone bear Internet.
And anyway, I had started to feel sorry for the stupid lump. It seemed half-asleep most of the time. I had no idea what it was eating.
Sometimes I heard it clawing at the door while I was trying to sleep, and wondered what would happen if it broke through the barricade. Perhaps it would peel back the skin from my skull and feast on the boiling matter inside. Maybe it just needed a hug.
Bearded Geoff seemed to be unphased by the account. “Tough job,’ he would say, as we passed in the corridor. ‘Someone’s got to do it,’ I’d reply. A game of sorts. Then I’d leave early and do arm curls at the gym until a little Asian man complained about my breathing.
You need to show Geoff whose boss
He sounds like he’s got something to prove. Maybe he’s been through a divorce or something.
My Imaginary Fiend – Day Twenty-three? (forum/ithappenedtome) submitted by montagueoak
I took to roaming on my lunch break. Three weeks after the bear's debut – it had disappeared twice in that time – I found myself pounding the barren campfire of REDACTED Square, a concrete homage to cheap fashion and monocoffee (frankly, you can have it). Bored looking teenagers skulked around the cash machines, waving flyers to promote cheesy summer fun at some nearby water park.
My parents – my dad, really – had a story about a family trip to REDACTED Mountain when I was I nine, how I’d freaked out in line for the Super Splash after seeing a body face down in the water. Word had spread like wildfire, all the way up to the Play Rangers, and we were hauled aside for questioning while the park shut down for the day.
There was no body of course. They chalked it up to one of my ‘episodes’ and never spoke of it again. I was a nervous child I suppose, but I don’t remember of that. Probably just the old man on the sauce again.
I was nervous that day though, edging across the Square like –
There, in the throng, its fake head wobbling like some vaudevillian drunk. The bear. The Bear. Now with huge ecstatic eyeballs and a little gentleman’s hat. I watched it goon and wave among the gathering horde, made reverent by some inescapable weight.
My stomach began to churn. I felt my hands turn into fists.
The bear was getting the worst of it now, overwhelmed by squealing infants and their clamoring paws. I was loving it, mad for it, slavering at the mouth. The bear stumbled and then fell, falling to one knee before standing straight, and losing its cumbersome head in the process.
A shrill wail went up from the children. The man behind the bear cursed as he struggled to right his façade.
It was P.C. Miller. He still wasn’t smiling.
The flats on REDACTED Hill seemed dark and inescapable as I stumbled across the concrete, two organic flapjacks and a packet of ready salted evacuating my gut.
I stopped by a hardware shop on my way home from work and bought a magnifying glass. I slept with it under my pillow, waiting for the bear to evaporate.
One Sunday morning, it was gone. I found my way back to the living room, and spent an hour navigating the carpet. At 10.00, as ham-faced women began to gather in the church next door, I found Tutankhamun’s gold beneath the sofa. Three strands of long, thick fur, wonderfully soft and utterly real.
Fucking batter it mate!
I don’t think you can blame your dad for things that have happened to you.
My Imaginary Fiend – Day Thirty-eight (forum/ithappenedtome) submitted by montagueoak
Things were coming to a head. I wasn’t eating. I barely slept. At some point, I caught myself padding around the flat and growling at a mirror. It gave me an idea at least.
I decided to layer the carpet in flour, figuring that it would be difficult to clean without making noise. My ingenuity made me laugh out loud.
Midway through the process, I noticed that the carpet near the fireplace was curling away from the wall. I pulled it back with tentative care, noting the sticky pads on the underside.
The sticky pads!
Discovering the trapdoor did nothing to alleviate my fear. It thrummed with purpose, and left a hundred suffocating questions in the air.
The hatch had been locked from the inside. There was only one thing left to do. I left work early and caught the first train home. Nobody would miss me. I knew what I must look like to them.
I waited in the bushes and watched a white van pull up outside the flat. P.C. Carr was driving.
I saw now that the plan was unknowable. There was no through-line to follow, no obvious slotting of the pieces into place. It gave me a giddy sort of feeling. All that was left was to watch and react, and to follow things through to the end.
A row of men began marching in and out of the flat downstairs carrying heavy canvas bags. Once or twice I heard them murmuring and laughing, and thought I saw movement in my own gaff upstairs.
The whole process took no more than twenty minutes and one of the men did not return. The rest clambered inside the back of the van, Carr up front, and languidly drove away.
I checked my watch and sped around the corner. The taxi was still waiting when I arrived. ‘Follow that car,’ I whispered, and the driver’s mouth split in a grin. At last, that stuff.
We span out in hot pursuit. I felt like I’d been rising from my grave all day, only now emerging into something like life.
It was almost a thrill when the van pulled up, three spaces down from Bearded Geoff’s antique Pinto. The men disappeared with drilled precision as I wound my way through the car park. The van was empty as far as I could see. I arced a jet of neon piss across its muddy backside and saved the excess for Geoff’s tyres. I used a code to slip through to the basement, and quietly stepped inside. The lift took me to the roof, where Siobhan was suffocating pigeons with a rich plumage of smoke.
‘Old Lee’s looking for you,’ she said.
‘Old fucking Lee. He knows where I am. And you – you know what I’m here for.’
She nodded. The sky above her was thick with the smoke of centuries. I supposed some part of her had been waiting for this day.
‘Do you know how much monkeys shit?’ she said. ‘It’s a lot. And they eat their own shit of course, which is a dream and a delight when you’re eating your first meal in days.’
She kicked at the pigeons and watched them scatter over the rooftops. ‘Still managed to get fat again though…’
I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I wanted to scratch my head bloody. For a moment, I thought I might put my arms around her.
‘Who is it?’ I said.
She shrugged, and I knew her part was over. The bear was moaning somewhere. I could hear my samurai swords buckle and bend as it collapsed against the Italian sofa.
I knew what I had to do.
Family is a peculiar thing. I never thought I’d be glad to have assimilated the paranoia that made my sister sleep with a bat, but goddamn if it didn’t feel good in my hands. I hammered that doorknob with a strength I’d never known. Fucking splintered the thing. From there, it was a simple enough thing to march past the enormous freezer and the towering cage, and wake the man on the mattress with a bullish prod to the gut. If I’d had anything in my head but noise, I might have offered up some witty bon mot.
The man woke with a sputter and vomited on my Patrick Cox’s. One-all.
His name was Roachford. He looked like the sort of bloke who got lathered at school and grew to like it. A fucking bit character.
‘I don’t care about you,’ I said (I think I was shaking. I’m shaking now). ‘I don’t care about your friends. I just want to know about the man at the top.’
Roachford quivered as the bat danced around his nose. He gave up the name.
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My Imaginary Fiend – Day Thirty-Eight cont. (forum/ithappenedtome) submitted by montagueoak
I was out walking in the street when the car pulled up beside me. I knew who it was, I’d seen it before.
As I looked down and the window opened, I thought about Suzy Solomon and the soup-can, and knew that it had all been a stupid dream. The whole world was lit like a Vegas castle. The old walls were the hardest and the best you could hope for was to knock a bricks out along the way.
‘Just off for a bite to eat,’ said Old Lee. ‘Hop in.’
The old man suckled on a duck-fat lollipop as he nestled into the seal-black skin of an uncomfortably cubic chair.
The restaurant wasn’t overtly crowded, hardly surprising given the time of day. I wondered why we were there at all. Surely he could have had me done over in a loft in Camden? Perhaps Old Lee was perhaps afraid for his safety. The thought propelled a surge of dark, demanding power down my anatomically corrected spine.
The waiter arrived with a plate of tiny cheeses, each seeming to have been scraped from an atomically clean colostomy bag. He introduced each portion in turn, his accent bordering on the impenetrable. I picked up what I knew to be the appropriate knife and felt my fingers tighten around the hilt.
A woman laughed at a nearby table. I lost myself for a moment counting the freckles on her back and wondered if I could blag my way into a better angle. Polar bears smash it out for hours on end; they even suck each other off in zoos. And they murder their rivals.
Old Lee waved the cheese away. ‘Too rich for me mate,’ he said. ‘Christ knows who thought cheese deserved a whole bloody course to itself anyway.’
I stared across the table. ‘Why did you do this to me?’
Old Lee frowned. He scratched at his mouth for a long time. ‘Look, I know it must seem a bit out of order…’
He raised his glass and took a long, slow swig. The wine was green, like ocean water. Like REDACTED Mountain Super Splash water. ‘It started out as a stupid joke,’ he said. ‘You know. The lads are round, you talk some bollocks, have a few bevvies…’
I fought to control my breathing. I was close now, very close to surprising myself again, perhaps for the final time.
‘Why did you do this to me?’
He contemplated the question once more. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘this whole world has gone downhill ever since some poor bastard got himself strapped to a few bits of wood. You know what they had to do before that? They fought fuck-off bears and rhinos.’
‘So you were doing me a favour?’
‘You could say that. Yeah. Hardened you up a bit didn’t it?’
He leaned across the table, close enough that I could count his small, neat teeth, could see the small tufts of greying hair that glinted in his earlobes. ‘I bet you’d like to know how we did it?’
He began to outline all the particulars. The fake police, the disappearing camera, the kids and the costume. He guffawed with delight over my footage (‘They loved it mate, absolutely loved it!’) and soberly conveyed his satisfaction regarding the humane treatment of the bear.
He sat very still when he was finished. We both did. The waiter returned with a tall urn of coffee, its robot head balanced atop three stubby brass legs.
‘Somebody will stop you,’ I said. Somebody will find out about all this.’
Old Lee toyed with a silver teaspoon, watching strings of viscous honey drip into his cup, like stalactites forming in a cave. ‘Don’t be a cunt, mate,’ he said.
‘You better fucking get ready to – ’
He smashed his hands down on the table. I fell back, just for a second, and he knew it. ‘Oh, what? What? Listen to you. Having a good old moan ‘cause it hasn’t worked out for you.’
‘You put a fucking bear in my home!’
‘Bears, dogs, fucking aardvarks. You could have cancer. You could have the love of your bleeding life walk out on you and take away everything you’ve ever cared for. Instead, here you are, bitching and moaning over a silly little joke. You’re a healthy young lad with the world at your feet and as far as I can see, all you wanna do is cry about it!’
‘Yeah, mate,’ said a voice – clearly drunk – from across the room. ‘Why don’t you wind your neck in?’
I turned to catch the speaker, distracted momentarily by a lurid wink from the freckled woman. I swore under my breath, feeling exposed, suddenly outnumbered.
Old Lee took a lurid slurp of his coffee. He knotted his fingers and engaged his fatherly presence. ‘Now then,’ he said. ‘You’ve got a lot of work to catch up with haven’t you? You nail that account and you could be looking at a very bright future. But you’ve got to put the work in.’
I opened my mouth and made some kind of sound. I thought about golden chains and horny Turks and piss and shit all over everything. The coffee was far too sweet when I brought it to my lips.
Old Lee’s phone rang and he turned away. ‘I’ve got to get this,’ he said. ‘Geoff.’
I made another small noise as I stumbled from my seat, feeling the meagre strength I’d built up in the basement drain away and die. Old Lee called my name before I’d gone five steps. I turned, corralled by clumsy watercolours of vaguely Eastern origin. Rabbits, carp, tigers. Black splashes of zen frustration.
‘I’ll see you tomorrow,’ he said.
“Don’t try to blame the rest of the world. The blame only lies with you. Recognize that imeediately.” Alan Sugar. Nuff said.
My Imaginary Fiend – Day Two-Hundred and Seven (forum/ithappenedtome) submitted by montagueoak
Things are much better now. It’s taken some work, but I’ve been able to (mostly) bear-proof the flat. I’m still never certain about when they might choose to move it, but I can usually get some measure of time to myself. I’ve even been hanging out with Roachford from time to time. We might not walk in the same worlds, but he’s a bit of a savant when it comes to cultural touchstones, and we often wile away the evenings discussing magical realism or the films of Jodorowsky. Sometimes I even tell him not to bother with the trapdoor and just bring the meat straight upstairs. The smell of it gets into everything, but I’ve found it a useful distraction from the modern obsession with physical ephemera.
The people at the office have gotten used to my rather eccentric timekeeping, and I’m still in the contention for the Loorman account. Bearded Geoff’s divorce often means he has to go pick up the kids at unusual hours, and that’s when I make my move (now and then he starts crying at his desk and I know he’s not thinking about tax codes!). I secretly suspect that Chinny Odd-Lumps is suffering from an infestation of Catalan donkeys, but he isn’t giving anything away.
Siobhan and I have grown closer in the past months. She comes over when the bear is away and we go at it like porn-ruined teenagers. She is up for anything, and, I realise, so am I. I watch her sleeping while the bear naps downstairs, and I think, look at us, one happy family, and it seems to me that life is strange and anything is possible.
Right you cunts, I know you’re not answering your phones but I know you’ll read this. I know it was you. Terry and the rest. Fucking pricks. Well the game’s over and you need to come and sort this mess out. Remember that I know how it all comes together and all I need to do is call the police ad this whole thing comes out. I don’t care what happens to me. You think you’re so fucking clever – fucking squirrels, you know I hate squirrels well I also know how to fucking do them so while you sit and home and have a good fucking chuckle over Old Lee you better know that I’m taking care of the little shits one by one like I take care of everything ha ha ha