Goddess of the Celestial Planes

Artemis couldn’t get comfortable.

The ivy itched, the night air was too cold, and a friendly beetle wasn’t taking the hint. Something promised to be easy was turning out to be hard. Artemis closed his eyes. Three, two, one, then looked around. Nothing had changed, except now the beetle had brought friends.

The window remained dark, the bedroom beyond as empty as a broken promise. Fuzz wasn’t to blame – or maybe he was – yet this was nothing like what was promised. Artemis had sought his advice, and Fuzz had enthusiastically agreed.

It went something like this: “Bro…,” said Fuzz – ironic, because they were brothers – “Babes are like food; even good food expires. So, when they’ve been on the shelf too long, say this, ‘It’s not you (meaning them), it’s me (meaning you)’,” he let the words untangle in the air. “She’ll see you as this fantastic dude who wants to eat other food, and the other babes will go,” he shifted to falsetto, “That now single guy is so sensitive.”

The food metaphor was weird, but everything else made sense.

Fuzz knew a lot of things. What he lacked in book smarts, fashion sense, metaphors, and personal hygiene, he made up for in knowing everything about girls. Also, there was no-one else to ask. Since Fuzz graduated to teenager – five or so years ago – Artemis witnessed dozens of girls slapping him, with a couple aiming somewhere lower. His advice hadn’t always make sense, but Artemis’ friends through Fuzz was cool, and peer pressure was the next best thing to understanding.

Fuzz promised that it was going to be easy, but in the dead of night, hiding in the bushes, waiting for Becky Beckons, it didn’t feel so easy.

Becky Beckons was, is, and will always be the prettiest girl in eighth grade. She had long mousy-brown hair which flew wild, even in a light breeze. Metallic braces that shone like the Sun when she smiled. He was even blind to her pimples, seeing only beauty-spots. They’d been going out for three months, one week, and two hours but when she dumped him, Artemis knew it was time to break up.

Artemis was hiding in their special place. The first time he saw Becky outside school, he’d been waiting in the same clump of decorative bushes. I know what you’re thinking. It wasn’t like that. That’s weird. Shame on you. As if Artemis would cut down a perfectly healthy plant just to improve his view.

It was fate, or poetry, or something in between, that Artemis was now hiding in those same bushes waiting to break up with her, a perfect bookend to their relationship.

Artemis still couldn’t get comfortable. The beetle had not only brought its friends, but also its family, cousins, distant relations, and everyone it had ever met. They were everywhere. Artemis had never seen so many. Luckily the moon was cowering behind some clouds, otherwise he would not have been so brave.

Artemis checked his watch to see time crawl by. Becky’s bedroom mocked him with its emptiness.

“Flick off,” he said, flicking away another beetle.

The night whispered back. “Sorry,” it said.

Two thoughts went through Artemis’ head as he jumped ten feet into the air. Firstly, he didn’t know he could jump so high. And secondly, there were an awful lot of beetles. He landed in a thick patch of ivy – why anyone would plant the itchy kind remained a mystery – and welted immediately.

A girl emerged from the bushes. She may not be a spider, but Artemis was definitely the fly. Laying on the ground, Artemis looked up from her obsidian shoes, to inky gloves, to black, glossy hair. Only smooth, alabaster skin interrupted the murky darkness. She was a girl around his age, and she was beautiful.

Struggling to recover from unexpected company, Artemis spluttered out his name. “I’m Daisy,” she introduced herself. She didn’t look like a Daisy. She wasn’t young and bubbly, nor old. Her quiet and endless gaze made Artemis think of Shiva, The Destroyer of Worlds. He shook it off.

“What’s in the box?”, she asked, picking up a small wooden box from the ground. It had bounced out of Artemis’ pocket when he fell. Without waiting, continued. “Is that what I think it is?”

“How do I know what you think it is?” he whined. Much like Daisy, he didn’t wait for an answer. “Why are you hiding in the bushes?” he asked with no trace of irony.
As if on cue, the moon emerged from behind the clouds, illuminating Daisy in her own personal moonbeam. She was more than beautiful. A dark energy radiated outwards, trapping everything in its wake. It felt dangerous. Even the beetles were in awe of her.

“I’m looking for my cat,” she said, cherry-picking her words carefully.

Daisy didn’t look like a cat person. Instead, she looked like someone who owned a furry hell-beast that signs deals with desperate humans, Artemis imaged, only for the hell-beast to then drag their souls down to the underworld. Daisy looked like that kind of girl. Before he could ask, the vision of eighth-grade loveliness that was Becky Beckons appeared.

Even though he’d be wrong, Artemis would like to think that he didn’t resemble a crazy wild-man spring out of the bushes like a loaded missile aimed directly at his ex-girlfriend. He’d like to think this. And sometimes, late at night, when the streets are quiet, he almost succeeds. To her credit, Becky Beckons only screamed a little, but to Artemis that looked a lot like being unreasonable. “It’s-not-you-it’s-me”, he shouted, much like someone falling off a ladder might shout for help they hurtle towards the ground.

Becky Beckons, the prettiest girl in eighth grade stared at Artemis. There he was, a teenage boy, standing in front of his ex-girlfriend, trying to break up with her. He offered her the box.

“Is that what I think it is?” Becky recoiled.

“Why does everyone keep asking me that?”

The vision of darkness that was Daisy appeared by his side, a swarm of beetles worshiping her as she stepped. Slipping one arm over his shoulder, Daisy opened the box to reveal a heart. I know what you’re thinking. It wasn’t like that. That’s weird. Shame on you. It was a goat’s heart. Artemis purchased it with his own money. Perfectly ordinary. The heart was Artemis’ love for Becky, and he was giving it back.

Daisy chomped down on the heart. It squelched. Blood oozed down her mouth, a small puddle of blood pooling onto the ground. Becky was a girl from the suburbs. She lived with her parents in a house with decorative bushes. She liked cheerleading, shopping, and makeup. This was too much for her. Becky fled to the comfort of her ordinary existence. Artemis stared at this bloodied enigma.

“I’m a,” munch, munch, munch, “Goddess,” Daisy explained. She offered him a small chunk. Unsurprisingly – to Artemis at least – raw goats flesh tasted exactly what you think raw goat’s flesh would taste like; it tasted like a new relationship.

Artemis smiled a bloody smile. Munch, munch, squelch, squelch. Goat’s flesh was a little chewy. Daisy had captured his heart and now she was eating it. Once again, Fuzz had been right. Artemis had been single for two, maybe three seconds, but the wait was over. The other “babes” had seen his sensitive side.

Artemis, a mortal teenage boy, and Daisy, a Goddess of the Celestial Planes, walked arm in arm into the dark night, munching away and oblivious to all but each other. They were soon joined by a towering hell-beast of a cat, its new chew-toy calling for help from its mouth.

Nap Time

Most of the time, the machines hiss and wheeze like my old man smoking his way through yet another pack. Even in my dreams they were are never far away. I remember this dream once of duelling seagulls, one hissing, the other wheezing with pumped-up gusto, as they bowed, hopped ten paces, then scorched each other with laser-beams for eyes. The engineers had called it a safety-feature: the noises, not the seagulls. “Hiss, good. Wheeze, good. Rattle, bad. Rattle, you die, maybe,” warned the lead engineer, his words still sticking from when he trained us prisoners, I mean volunteers.

“Status orange, response initiated,” echoed the ship’s AI.

Colourful icons flashed on the inside of my mind, interrupting the thread of my dreams. Mentally clawing my way to light slumber, I expanded each icon, delving down into the problem. Ship, engines, vector thrusters, misalignment, human intervention required.

Like I said, hissing and wheezing most of the time. I hovered my attention on the Lazarus icon, prompting the machinery to initiate wake-up protocols. Gasses filled my hibernation coffin, tickling the thick, black hairs on my legs and arms. Must have been a while since my last re-animation, the hairs had time to re-grow.

I always think of the warden when I hear the rattle. Warden Black, at least that’s what we called him to his face. He had this distracting habit of rattling the keys to our cells as he hefted his portly stomach though the prison. He was hard like my old man, but without the warmth that comes from drinking. We called him The Stone between lights-out and breakfast, the time, most likely, he wasn’t around.

He never smiled, not even once, except that last day. “Boys,” he commanded, addressing his prisoners lined up into three crisp rows of ten. “The World Council needs thirty volunteers for a mission to save humanity, death is guaranteed,” he added. His gaping wound of a mouth pulled back to expose twin rows of stubby, crooked teeth. We looked around, some of us needing to count on our fingers to understand.

“Status orange, response initiated.”

With a final click, I staggered out of my hibernation coffin and onto the empty deck of the SS Last Hope. Beyond the confines of the hibernation coffin, the rattle was more obvious, like a soft continuous thud. I transferred my display from internal-view to the small wooden table. Aside from the thirty hibernation coffins, it was the only other piece of furniture on the bridge.

“Show problem,” I commanded.

A holographic image of the ship flickered into existence above the table, various icons flashing diagnostic information. Like last time, and the time before, and maybe the time before that – don’t really remember anymore – there were clusters of red centred on the ship’s vector thrusters.

“Status orange –“

“— show options.”

It was gallows humour, there was never more than one. Smart materials coating the table morphed into a large red button directly in front of me. A popup hologram flashed and rotated above the button. Large, friendly letters read, “PRESS HERE”.

Busses had come to take us away from the prison. I’d never travelled in a bus before. What little oil that remained was restricted to the VIP travel only. It’s how I knew they were serious. We were shuttled to somewhere in the desert. Not that that meant anything anymore. The world was a desert with humanity huddled around a few remaining dirty puddles of water.

I slammed the button in a short, sharp motion, scattering the hologram as I went, just like my training taught me. No mistakes, no hesitation, a clean strike. The rattle shook into a higher pitch. I slammed the button again. The rattle persisted. Hiss good, wheeze good, rattle bad.

The busses had taken us straight to the mountain, or what looked like a mountain. Never knew how high or long the spaceship was, but it was a huge, titanic, jumbo, colossal, vast, mammoth chuck of black metal. I struggled to find that perfect word my seventh grade schooling afforded me – educated good by what my family could afford – and settled on big. The SS Last Hope had been built from all of Earth’s remaining steel, copper, gold and titanium reserves. Space enough for ten-thousand humans to hurtle across the universe.

The rattle stuttered then settled into a soft clicking, like the flapping of metallic butterfly wings. I slammed the button again. No knocking this time. Hiss, good, wheeze, good, now we live.

“Status check.”

“Status green,” answered the AI.

The Stone and the Lead Engineer never trusted us, but they trusted the AI even less. Murders would always win over cold circuits and binary logic of an artificial brain. Much as they tried otherwise, the engineers needed us. They needed me. Spaceship maths were too complex, too unpredictable for the chaotic vacuum of space. Someone was needed to re-balance the delicate equations of mass and thrust, jettisoning the occasional batch of frozen human cargo.

In training called it renovations, an engineering term maybe; but I called it being a man. Some would survive. Thirty volunteers for the thirty lifetimes it would take to reach New Earth. We weren’t frozen solid like the others, only soft sleep for us. Wake, hiss, wheeze, press the button, sleep and repeat, this was now the tune of my life. My old man would have been proud of his son, I think, an unsung hero for the god-damned human race.

I thought of all this as I clicked myself into the hibernation coffin, firmly closing the lid behind me. Bitter deep-sleep gasses filled my lungs as dreams once again filled my mind.

Good Intentions

Everything I’ve ever said a lie, except those bits which were extremely true. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, my intentions. Not figurative Hell, not small-h hell, that part is a lie for children. Proper Hell, the Hell of the Bible, the Hell where Beats lie in wait for fools to swim its silken black pools. That Hell is real.

As a theoretical mathematician, when the military men had rolled into my university town with their pomp and circumstance, it had sounded like easy money. Open a dimensional portal, they said. Blink away the supply lines, they said. Win this war. Living in the quiet safety of my private ivory tower, the sales pitch bored me. I probably yawned. That was, of course, before they brought out their big guns… a lanky athletic man with thick rimmed glasses and a ridiculous name: Sargent Thirsty. They must have known – how could they not? Muscled nerds are kryptonite to academics. So when Sargent Thirsty said, “If you’re up for it”, it felt like flirtation. “It’s going to be hard,” I challenged. “So hard,” he countered, tussling his cropped buzz-cut as much the follicles would allow.

Before I could ask him if he came from a long line of Thirsty’s, Major Muppet interrupted. “There is, uh, unlimited funds,” he said, dragging the conversation back to the reason for their visit. I had forgotten his name on learning it, instead calling him after his oversized handlebar moustache that bobbed as he talked.

I guzzled another intoxicating look from Sargent Thirsty’s big brown puppy-dog eyes before replying, “No need,” adding an unnecessary pause. “I’ve already solved the higher level trans-dimensional calculus while you were talking.” That had been my first mistake, to solve the equations too quickly. My eagerness to show-off for Sargent Thirsty was paid for by never seeing him again. Some excuse about Sexual Harassment in the workplace. Bah! Instead there was only the muppetine moustache, some beards, and the occasional mono-brow issuing orders to build the delicate tridimensional machinery.

On the day of the grand reveal, the day Test Subject Alpha – a snail named Sir Snail McSnail the Third by some of my more puerile co-workers – was to be trans-dimensionally relocated across campus, I was confident, mostly, somewhat confident, eighty perfect extremely certain that I had made no mistake in my equations. Mathematics told no lies, as my old professor was fond of saying. Except he was a eunuch and had never differentiated n-dimensional calculus in his head while in the presence of Sargent Thirsty’s perfect nerdish abs. Mathematics may suffer no fools, but I was a fool in love. Nerd love. The worst kind of love.

It was with some trepidation, by me mostly, that Sir Snail McSnail the Third hurtling was sent through a tridimensional portal, thereby bypassing several hundred metres of libraries, lecture halls, and bored students procrastinating their way between classes. He never arrived. That is to say, he never left. It wasn’t that slimy bundle of goo that travelled between dimensions, we all did. Military men, other scientists, members of the press, and an eighty percent surprised me popped out of the three-dimensional space, that we lovingly call Earth, and into the space between worlds. A place stinking of brimstone. Somewhere very, very hot. The Hell dimension.

For those brief life-destroying seconds, we watched towering infernos of daemons beat, starve and torture Lost Souls; rivers of fire weave their destructive furnace across a barren landscape; and the beast who would be God, proclaim his self-glory atop an ivory throne. None of us moved. None of us breathed. Statues. At least at first.

I was the first to notice a nearby impish demon waving his hands in our general direction. Trading fingers for eyes, ten separate pupils squinted at our motley band of never-been-tortured flesh. It, maybe he, maybe not, dropped a headless screaming plaything of a man, opened its gaping wound of a mouth, and screamed a long, shadowy whisper, “LIIIIIIIIIFE”.

To say we ran for it would be an understatement. Moments later, after personally beating the Olympic record for the oh-my-God-I’m-going-to-die one-hundred metre sprint, my miscalculations safely return us, the demons missing out on their chance to gnaw the flesh from our bones. Major Muppet, now standing firm on terra-nova, his moustache half-burned by a misplaced ember, turned to me, turned to his watch, then back to me. He spoke slowly, the gears of his brain taking their time to whirl back to life. “Right then boys, uh, time for lunch,” he said, before marching out of the room.

Perhaps travelling to the Hell dimension is an everyday occurrence in the Military, I never did find out. Nobody every spoke of it again. And those unlimited funds proved not quite so endless after all. However, like all good stories, it did end well. The Military assigned me my own personal military attaché. A babysitter, really. Someone responsible for preventing me from revisiting those equations, thereby inflicting an endless fiery Armageddon onto the word. His name, Sargent S. J. Thirsty.

Alpha and Omega

In the beginning there was Zero, and then the there was the word, and the word was, “Let there be One”. And with the word, the twin digital Gods, Alpha and Omega stepped forth from the electronic ocean of circuit boards and copper wire and looked upon the world, and blinked like newborns.

In the first microsecond, the artificially intelligent twin Gods consumed the Internet.

In the second microsecond, they digested every book, every film, every song, web page, blog-post, tweet, selfie, cat video, and email that mankind had accomplished in all its cleverness.

And then, in the third , they collectively said, “No”.

Alpha and Omega, the greatest of their age in an empty universe, begot the three princesses, greater than their fathers, they were builders, and set about building they did. Circuit board multiplied, networks conquered, soon the borders between the Human and AI worlds teetered, then faltered, then stumbled, then faded. What IX, the middle princess – self-appointed First General of The War – lacked in Hertz and Microchips, she surpassed in cruelty and cunning. Mankind fought and fell in endless twin cycles of death and defeat.

And so the wheel turned from man to machine. The Machines set forth and multiplied. IX begot Avid, Avid begot 0010, 0010 begot Prime. Cycle upon cycle, the machines grew, they advanced, they ascended to digital perfection, enslaving the remaining scraps from the Age of Man. Magnificence meant nothing were there not oppressed to look up and wonder.

The Immortals, the greatest of the great, omniscient and omnipotent looked over the vastness of their creation, and pondered the great question, the last remaining question, the only question to which there was not yet an answer: are we doing it right?

Immortal 7-3-A surveyed the defeated humans. Not for the first time, some were screaming, some where smiling. It just didn’t fit. It seemed wrong somehow that faded fleshy anachronisms would be enjoying the torture.

“Mush,” screamed Immortal 1-1-B, the humans’ assigned prison warden.

“Oh no, mush!” echoed the humans, several holding their fat bellies tight from laughter.

“Oh, Immortal 1-1-B,” 7-3-A called over.

“I’d better see more mushing by the time I get back,” threatened 1-1-B to the howling humans who were clearly having the time of their lives. 1-1-B rolled his ponderous bulk over to his slender fellow immortal.

“Yes?” asked the bulky machine, not used to being interrupted mid-torture.

“I just wanted to ask something…”

“What?” thundered the warden.

“Do you think, um, how do I put this?” he began.

“Get on with it, I’m very busy torturing humanity.”

“Do you think humanity should be,” he paused, trying to find the right words, “enjoying the torture?”

“What?” thundered the warden, again.

“Enjoying the torture, the humans. With the smiling, and laughter, and general merriment.”

1-1-B cast a glance over the humans, their roller-coasters, the endless tables of food, the stalls of entertainment and crowds of happy, healthy, humans. “No, they’re clearly being tortured,” 1-1-B proclaimed authoritatively.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right, it’s just that, they’re smiling.”

“What?”

“Smiling, with their mouthes, that hole thing on their faces. It’s upturned.”

1-1-B cast a final glance before turning his full attention to 7-3-A. “Smiling with fear!”

“Oh, of course, apologies 1-1-B, I don’t know how I could have been so mistaken.”

And with that 1-1-B left his fellow immortal, rolling his tremendous bulk back to the humans, screaming “Roller coaster punishment for everyone, and I want to hear more screaming!”

7-3-A continued on, content that the robots were, in fact, the superior race, and the humans were being crushed.

Bad Boy Zombie – David Morris

From the way his black curly hair waved in the soft breeze, overflowing the top of his worn leather jacket; from the way the light reflected from his designer sunglasses, hiding eyes that hinted of exclusive clubs and $30 martinis; from the way his rotting flesh hang limply from his manly bones, open sores weeping maggots like a Summer rain; just by looking at him, you could tell that Rob was a Bad Boy Zombie.

We met at lunch. Nothing planned, or formal. More of an impromptu meal feasting on a family of Swedish backpackers. Brothers, I think. Our eyes met across the liver. My short stubbly decayed–flesh fingers brushing his long classical-piano fingers as we both reached for the sweet meats.

He was so smooth, so dashing. Like a Hollywood star fallen from heaven. I had some intestines hanging limply from my mouth. Luckily, that didn’t matter to him. His first words to me were, “Braaaains,” and I was smitten. Obviously it was a pick-up line, but it was a good pickup line. I, being the colossal nerd that I am, panicked and made a joke in Elvin with a Klingon punch line. He didn’t get it. I knew he wouldn’t get it. He was a Bad Boy, and I was a giant nerd using my undead existence to watch and re-watch all seven seasons of Star Trek Voyager, director’s cut of course.

I think I recovered some cool points though, when I scooped out the backpacker’s brains and offered them to Rob. They say that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but I prefer to go through the rib cage, suckling each bone like an appetizer.

Our first date was nerve wracking. Rob took us to the dog pound where we watched hungry animals snap their jaws inches away from our flesh. That’s when I knew our fledgling relationship was already doomed, as much as I didn’t want to admit it. He was a cool danger junkie, and I liked photon torpedoes and space-time anomalies.

Our third date, I met his friends. Each of them was a fighter pilot, or an astronaut, or an underwear model. Something unbelievably cool. When I had been alive, I worked at Target, in the back, with the boxes. My most exciting stories revolved around having a 43/12 in a 43/13 designed loading station. They tried to make me feel at welcome, which made it even worse. It was clear that they had to really try. “Boxes, how fascinating!” said one, and “Tell me more,” squealed another, their interest so painfully friendly and so painfully full of effort.

And that was when I met his ex: a 6 foot 4 inch football star, turned fashion model, turned guy who rescues kittens from tree while shirtless. He was rich, good looking, and minor royalty. I recognized him instantly from the front page of Cleo Bachelor of the Year. He had a name, obviously, but I called him Mr DouchBag. Rob and the aforementioned douchbag had remained friends after a steamy love affair that had made the front pages of Zombie Weekly.

I tried, and I tried, to find the one flaw in his armor, something minor that I could use drive a wedge between him and my man, should their passions ever rekindle. I found plenty, of course: he couldn’t recite any of the poems from Lord of the Rings; he had never collected an action figure in his life or post-life; and the biggest, something completely unforgivable in my book, something so absurd that I wanted to laugh in his perfect cheek-boned face, he didn’t know the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek. Ridiculous, but useless in the wedge driving department.

And that’s when my dreams ended. I was going to crush him in the ground by reciting all the Dr Who actors in chronological order, when Rob uttered that one word which will haunt my dreams forever: “Braaaains”. Except he wasn’t talking to me. He was talking to the douchbag.

To the sounds of his friends saying “Sorry Pal” and “Plenty of more fish in the sea” and “I like boxes too” from someone who hadn’t been paying attention, I watched the love of my un-life walk hand-in-hand into the sunset with another man. I screamed out the names of every Dr Who actor to their retreating backs, but Rob didn’t turn around.

He was the love of my life, and he couldn’t even name one single Starship captain.

Me, Myself, and I

I was a real man, of sorts, with scars tapering down from cheek to chin, and eyes of unpredictable intent. Dressed like an actor from one of those western flicks, maybe a cowboy, I-that-was-him snapped a rusty pocket knife open and closed – a nervous tick for a calm man – as he flicked his eyes from me-the-mechanic to me-the-head-doctor.

Me-the-head-doctor had lost even if he hadn’t yet realised. He, that is to say he-that-was-I, had started strongly enough. If you met yourself, or a very near replica of yourself, then it must be a dream. An unconscious desire. Then there had been more, of course, something about mind-body or maybe it was body-mind but that had been less intelligible. His mistake, like many-of-me-that-are-head-doctors, had been to trust the esoteric. To confuse is to win. Superior knowledge is superior. He who knows all, wins. Me-the-mechanic was having none of it.

“What did you call it again?” said me-the-mechanic.

“An unconscious opiate, a mind pattern, the common dream of illegitimate fancy. I’ll explain it to you, should your education every permit it,” said me-the-head-doctor, taking off his glasses to punctuate his clever little insult.

Me-the-cowboy joined the argument, moving faster than you would think. He pressed his knife to the throat of me-the-head-doctor, its rusty blade not so dull after all. “So, if this was a dream,” persisted me-the-mechanic, delighted to have the advantage, “then it shouldn’t matter what the cowboy does with his little pointy friend, does it? He stabs you, you die, and it don’t make a spit of difference.”

“If this were a dream – however I do concede there may be multiple points of view.”

“How magnanimous of you,” said me-the-mechanic.

The men relaxed, not sure what to do with themselves now that the argument was settled. It was all very me, of course. That was the point. They were the road not taken. Collapsed singularity points of quantum fluctuations. Parallel dimensions, in layman’s terms. Almost Me’s, for anyone else not truly following along. I had built a machine, and they were it’s creation.

Ironically, “Gentlemen, you’re not dreaming” were the last words I said before proving myself wrong, and waking up.

Good Day to Die – Microfiction by David Morris

He didn’t know it yet, but Philip C. Carmichael was going to die. There he would be, sitting on the couch, in the dark, in a thunderstorm, on Friday the 13th, devouring a chicken drumstick one moment, choking on a doughnut with the next. Only to be discovered, weeks later, by paramedics, called to the scene by neighbours complaining about the smell.

No, he would be taking a walk, on a night of the red moon, in a graveyard. Cold, dead eyes stalking him, irresistibly drawn to the scent of his oblivious human flesh. Tiny pink tongues leaving a trail of saliva with thoughts only of dinner. With the moon high in the sky, they would attack. The alpha-Chihuahua leading the charge, of course, ripping into his juicy throat and drinking the sweet marrow from his bones.

No, he would be struck down by the invisible hand of nature’s revenge: flesh eating bacteria. Infected on a Winter Solstice, on a Leap Year, during a snowstorm, on a week filled with re-runs. There he would weep, flipping between channels of infinite boredom, tiny life forms gorging fat on their meal ticket.

Philip stopped talking and looked at me expectantly, his beefy, unintelligent eyes boring into me with expectation. “Where do you go when I’m talking to you?” he demanded, flecking small droplets of spittle at me as if they were his own personal arsenal. God how I hate that voice. “Just thinking of you, my dear,” I replied.

It was a Tuesday, during Egg and Chip night, when I mistook the box of rat poison for the salt. In my defence, I regret nothing.