Someone once told me that he knew how to commit the perfect murder. No physical evidence and no possibility of conviction. Like all second hand information, I stored it and paid no more attention, filed away with the rest of the junk mail, a growing mass desperately in need of a spring clean. Over the years I’ve assembled quite an extensive library of useless facts, conspiracy theories, personal secrets and dubious alibi’s. You name it it’s in there. Buried, hibernating, waiting for that single moment when it’s necessity would become inevitable. Contented and happy to let all things hold on to their investment in my mental time share, the concept of obsolescence was never even considered. What’s a use by date between friends?. It’s only some extra lettering, the small print on the packaging.
Growing up, I’d read the stories of Robin Hood and the knights of old, and how their selfless deeds had made them the focus of legend. The needs of the many outweighed those of the few. Seemed the perfect way to do things. Adapt your mistakes and use them to your advantage, make something of yourself and use the predilection for chemical dependency in the pursuit of redemption. Drugs and alcohol counselling was a job for the future, a service catering to the biggest growth industry on the face of the planet. Stress counselling for the executives and middle management of the narcotic corporations that held the last decades of the twentieth century in its ever increasing grip.
Establishing base camp was easier than I’d ever imagined, with a minimum of training I was in the middle of a modern war zone, glorified by the media, the opposing factions facing each other across a desolate no man’s land. I was an urban guerrilla walking the tight rope between good and evil, reassuring both, drawing up the conditions of a cease-fire that would never come into being. There was an element of danger that made the role more desirable, the adrenaline rush of knowing that no two days would be the same and your personal safety was in doubt at the best of times served as an opiate, the more you ingested, the greater the warmth and sense of self-worth.
I watched medical school graduates complain about their punishing sixty hour schedules and laughed, knowing that I was handling eighty and walking away untarnished. Or so I thought. Hell, this wasn’t just a job it was a fucking adventure, a stroll on the wild side, a quick peek into the darkest realms of the seedier side of town. Nothing could touch or harm me, I was too far gone. An immortal among my contemporaries, bloated by the praise which they lavished upon my completed caseloads, I stood above the pack, the epitome of my vocation. To reach the pinnacle of this creed, I had spread myself thinly, the strings of the web drawn taunt. But the tighter they were pulled, the easier they were to snap, all it needed was a little pressure in the right place to collapse my empire. Without realising it, I had lost large segments of my personality, handing them out with reckless abandon to anyone who reached out for me. There was nothing left, I met each sunrise running on pure adrenaline, a desolate field that couldn’t sustain its own existence let alone the lives that had come to depend on it. My downfall was a certainty, measured by the sands of time as they slowly trickled through my fingers. I was playing the waiting game with a loaded gun, one in six, the explosion beckoned, a megaton carry wave set to engulf all who surrounded me.
When it came, to say that it was unexpected would be a lie; there was no refuge and no rest for the wicked. I’ve often heard people talk about serial killers and the neighbours who one day, just snapped. They always say the same thing.
“He was such a quiet guy; it’s the last thing in the world that any of us expected. But now that I think about it, there was always something about him that didn’t seem quite right. Damn weirdo’s.”
I was sat across from one of the leaches that had bled me dry, probing him about the theft of personal property, some items having gone missing two days previously. He looked up at me, pleading, a last ditch attempt to try and convince me of his innocence. I’d seen him with the items, knew he was guilty, so why the fuck was he lying to me?. The mysteries of life have always escaped my narrow outlook. All the avenues had been travelled, all the corners explored, it was time to come clean and tell him what I knew.
“I know you took the stuff, just tell me why and I’ll try and sort it out”
The voice of reason. Who could argue with that?.
“Fuck off, you can’t prove anything. Why are you accusing me when you’re supposed to be helping me?”
Give me the strength to rise above and not smite him down with great fury. Please.
“Come on, all I want to know is why you took it”.
His expression changed, a sly smile stretched out over the previously angelic face, a mask he’d perfected in penal institutions while being gang raped by the guards.
“Yeah, I took the worthless crap, don’t know why. You’re no better than the fucking pigs. At least they’re honest about what they’re doing”
When I woke up, I was holding him by his throat against the wall, a fist drawn back ready to strike. His screams could be heard throughout the building, a wailing banshee transfixing it’s listeners. I was pulled from him, the umbilical cord cut, and a desperate attempt made to calm both of us down. He left the building promising a different punishment for each day of the week, all part of an insane vendetta, service charge included. Buy now, while stocks last. Eventually I was faced my actions and had no choice but to go on indefinite leave. They called it nervous exhaustion, I called it release. Release from other people’s shit, a chance to turn my gaze inwards, sort out my own rat hole before clearing any other minefields. I’d like to think that it wouldn’t have gone any further, but I know damn well that if I’d been able to recall what that guy had told me, then I’d have been cutting and slashing. Sure as shit and the sky is blue. All I could think of were the knots I’d been taught as a cub scout and the best way to replace a flat tyre. Animals hibernate for a reason and some facts are better off staying where they are.
Tim Mass Movement
‘The Long, Cold Winter’ originally appeared in ‘What Would Gary Gygax Do?’ which is available for purchase from iTunes , Kobo and Amazon here