He came home to find his mother sprawled on the sofa, asleep, haggard in the two ‘o clock sun. She looked so much older than she was, he realised. Recently, he had begun to notice things about her that he couldn’t recall being present before. Lines around her eyes and mouth, a slight tremble in her hands as she poured herself a small whisky after work, an unsteadiness in her steps. She seemed to absorb the bleakness of the city, the high-rise, as if decay was creeping through the door and into her bones. She shouldn’t have to live here. He drew the curtains shut, turned off the television, headed up to his room and sat down at his desk. A smashing of glass jolted his heart. Pulse racing, he went to the window, but it was only the clients of the bar. Today, they were hurling bottles at the wall and giggling, childlike, as another filmed the scene on his mobile phone.
Pan had a sudden urge to describe the place, the misery of it all, the expressions on the faces of these grown men as they cheered each other on, the primal unravelling of centuries of enlightenment. They seemed, to Pan, to have crawled out of the pages of a fantasy novel, to have crossed over from some swords and sandals adventure film, brutal creatures from a dark land. He reached for a pen and a notebook, started to write – and looked down. It was the wooden pen and the old journal, the birthday gift. He’d written a word on the first page, in thick, black ink.
The word seemed to shimmer, twinkle in an unnatural way. On the street below his window, muffled shouting broke out. He looked outside, still clutching the book. There was some sort of commotion. The drunkards were capering around, frantic, surrounding one of their number as he pawed at his face. The man let out a low scream, and looked up towards the window, towards Pan.
His heartbeat froze, became leaden. The moisture in his throat was gone; his tongue felt too big for his mouth. The face that stared up at him wasn’t human – not anymore. Its skin was dark green, its jaw protruding, its teeth had become yellowing fangs. Its eyes, small and red, seemed to plead with him.
Pan stared back, let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. After a while, he began to write.
© Copyright David J Marriott all rights reserved.
Nervous, like he always was. Hands playing with the rim of his hat. He didn’t like hats; they made his face look like a squashed tomato. Sitting in the lobby of the factory, he found his gaze wandering to the receptionists. One of them looked a little like a pelican. Her stern eyes caught him looking, and she frowned. The other looked like an – he squinted – an otter. Chubby with whiskers, black, beady eyes and tiny, paw-like hands.
Hooper Waugh had a theory that everyone looked like the animal they could have been. Perhaps each soul comes to a fork in the road, and, blind, chooses a path: human or animal. He would have been a proboscis monkey, he thought, scratching at his nose.
He found his foot tapping, now, and he could tell, instantly, that the pelican lady was losing her patience with him. He had that effect on people. To distract himself from himself, he took out the business card, turned it over in his hands. He’d written the address on the back, and a name – Ashley Wednesday, CEO, MeatFree.
“She’ll see you now, Mr. Waugh.” Pelican lady had a surprisingly soft voice. She held out a hand. “Room 15, down the corridor.”
“Okay, thank you,” he mumbled, gathering his briefcase and trotting past her arm.
The walls were slick white, surgical. More of a lab than a factory, he mused. Nothing like the slaughterhouses. His shoes slapped on the polished floor, like a ridiculous, oversized bird.
The door marked 15 was already open. A woman sat behind a desk – young, striking and oddly familiar. She got up as he came in, but paused, confusion flickering through her eyes. It was gone in an instant. She held out a hand.
“The great Hooper Waugh. It’s about time we met.”
© Copyright David J Marriott all rights reserved.
If it exists online, does it really exist? Is it real? A website exists, a comment some judge deemed offensive. A picture the police took down. A file sharing network. Documents, images, things we can see and hear. Is a painting less real when we upload it? Can you digitalise art or does it cease to be…
If I exist online, am I real? My character lives in a virtual world and I live through him. I give him my words, so he can speak. He chooses as I choose, his friends and enemies and which path to take through the dark forest.
My character is a man of clay and I’m opening his head, filling it with me. He exists if I exist, or because I exist, or I exist because of him. He’s starting to come to life like words on a page (which isn’t real). A page I can’t turn because it’s on a tablet, I can’t feel the texture of dead tree in my fingers as the words go into my mind, as they come out through the keyboard, less personal than writing with a pen.
A pen flows, keys don’t, they say, and yet my hand gets tired holding a pen, a staff, a sword. I can never tire from the pushing of a thousand buttons a minute, and one day I won’t have to. Thoughts will blossom on the page, on the screen, in front of or around me. Instantaneous transference of conception into realisation. An idea coming to life faster than we can currently think.
My man of clay will walk from the page or the screen, out from the digital world, into the digital world. Everything powered by wires or wireless ideas and dreams. Stop a revolution as quick as thinking it, no thought, all thought at once. Mathras will be more real than I ever was. Everything he’s done, I’ve done, but as I fade…