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darknation

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  1. I think it all began the morning before the day after. I can’t give you a date for that, because the morning before the day after was before today, and it was before today by a slew of yesterdays.

    It might have been a Monday, but don’t quote me on that. Don’t paraphrase me on that either. In fact, forget I ever said it. It was not a Monday. Probably.

    Whatever, my point is the day is not important. Was not important. Oh, bugger the tenses as well. Time is not important. Past, future, the fleeting moment of the present. All irrelevant.

    So why worry about it. The past is gone; the present is hardly long enough to do anything worthwhile in and who knows what’s going to happen in the future. There might not even be a future. In terms of personal perception.

    It’s all rather unfair, but there you go. You can buy practically anything, but you can’t buy time. Time is something to be spent.

    I choose to spend my time in the now recounting events of my past. I’m a personal historian in the present. In the past I fantasized about the future. I was a dreamer. But the future never turns out the way you think it will. Or I thought it would.

    So, back to the morning before the day after, and it was for all intents and purposes a morning just like any other. For it was the afternoon that was destined to be somewhat different in nature. I, the unnamed and unprotesting observer, I was in the pub. Most good tales begin inside the pub. The pub serves beer, and beer is the catalyst that turns imagination and ideas into reality. The humble alcoholic is the hub around which all humanity spins, and the pub is the center of our universe. As once Socrates and his buddies sat and got stoned on poppy extracts and other amusing pre-pharmaceuticals, so I and my worthwhile drinking buddies sat and got completely wasted on fermented wheat.

    Paul was currently in the most advanced state of inebriation, and I could tell from the look on his plain features that a “Eureka!” moment would not be long in the coming. Niles sat to my side and had not communed with the pint glass as of yet. Andrew was up at the business end of the bar exchanging government money for beverages. While all this was going on, I was sitting on my favorite stool watching the proceedings with my observer’s eye.

    “Good health to you,” I said to the Andrew as he returned, relieving him of the proffered pint.

    “And to you,” said the Andrew as he doled out the remaining beer receptacles to those seated around the bartop.

    There was much silence as the initial head of beer was drained, followed by a chorus of contented sighs. The first beer of the day was always the most refreshing, if not the most inspirational.

    “Friend Paul has started early,” noted the Niles, gesturing to the slouched Paul with a depleted glass.

    “Friend Paul has not,” noted the Andrew, “The truth of the matter is that friend Paul never truly stops.”

    “First in, last out,” said I in tones that inflected respect.

    For his part, Paul remained silent on the subject, instead choosing to rest his head in a beery puddle on the bar.

    “Leave him be,” counseled the Niles, “He is deep in thought and should not be disturbed.”

    “A wise course of action,” I agreed, deciding to smoothly change the subject. Turning to Niles, I asked, “Tell me of your adventures today.”

    “Very little to tell,” he responded, “I arose from slumber and paid a visit to the Post Office, where I met you and friend Andrew. There I collected my giro and after that I made the long walk to the pub in your company.”

    “It is a rather long walk,” said the Andrew, “The Post Office is inconveniently located. It should be moved closer to the places of commerce.”

    “Like next door to the pub?” suggested the Niles.

    “Capital idea,” said I, pleased that today’s beer-powered brainstorming had gotten off to an early start. “I shall mention it to the town elders when I next see them.”

    “The town elders still proving to be unreceptive to our ideas and suggestions?” asked the Andrew in-between sips.

    “So far they have failed to act upon the wisdom we have dispensed upon them,” said the Niles sadly.

    “This could be the big one though,” said I in a most enthusiastic manner, retrieving the ever-present pen from my denim pocket and scrawling the idea upon a spare beermat.

    “Oi, you!” boomed the barman who was hovering over the cash register, “I told you to stop defacing my bloody beermats! Next time I catch you vandalizing pub property I shall be forced to ban you from entering my establishment!”

    “Philistine,” I cursed under my breath, secreting the pen back around my presence.

    “Indeed,” indeeded the Andrew, “I bet Pythagoras had some really brilliant ideas whist under the influence that could have advanced the march of civilization by hundreds of years had be but had a handy beermat to note them down upon.”

    “It is a problem that I am familiar with,” said the Niles, “Drinking copious amounts of beverage or consuming vast quantities of narcotics do not walk hand in hand with an accurate memory. Perhaps some sort of notebook would be a viable solution to this problem?”

    “Good idea,” I conceded, reaching for my pen and a fresh beermat.

    “You kids are fucking brain damaged,” said the barman not quite under his breath before returning to his duty of polishing pint glasses with the front of his t-shirt.

    “I am no kid,” Niles rebuked the barman in the most injured of tones, “I am twenty five years of age.”

    “And still living with your parents, I have no doubt,” rebuked the barman to Nile’s prior rebuke.

    The back and forth rebuking was suddenly interrupted by the Paul, who without prior warning stood bolt upright, shouted “EUREKA!” and ran with all possible haste in the direction of the toilets.

    Niles turned his back upon the argumentative barman and lowered his hackles, instead returning his concentration to the pint that was now definitely half empty.

    “I really do not know why we insist on drinking here,” he said to the assembled philosophers.

    “I do,” said Andrew with a downturned mouth, “All the other pubs have been renovated.”

    “Ghastly pale pine tables, neon lighting and post-modernist décor,” I shuddered.

    “We are under assault by yuppies,” stated the Andrew, “Only this pub remains inviolate against the American lagers and the wretched interior designers that plague these troubled times.”

    “Only because we can’t bloody well afford American lagers and wretched interior designers,” said the Barman lurking in the background. “I’d much rather fleece yuppies than pry the dole from your cold, dead, unemployed fingers.”

    “Yuppies or not,” said I, rising to my feet and downing the last of my pint, “I refuse to drink in this feeble establishment for one minute longer. I am going to take my patronage elsewhere in future! The beer is warm, the staff are intolerable and the floor is, for some reason, completely soaking wet!”

    “Eh?” said the Barman, leaning over the bar to survey his floor, “Bloody hell! What has happened to my fucking carpet?”

    The mystery was soon solved by tracing the water back to the source. A veritable flood was gushing from underneath the toilet door into which Paul had so recently fled.

    “Bloody vandals!” the barman cried, rushing from his customary place beside the till and into the toilet with emergency pool cue in hand. Muffled screaming and much kefuffling filtered from behind the door. Unwatched, we took the opportunity to man the pumps and provide ourselves with a free refill.

    “Cheers,” said the Niles, clinking his resurrected pint against mine.

    “This carpet is rapidly becoming unhygienic,” I noted with no small amount of distaste, “I think perhaps it is time to relocate.”

    “Abandon stool!” declared the Andrew, adding a nautical note to the already soggy proceedings. We left our positions by the bar and retreated into the dark corner where the younger patrons of the establishment usually resided, hiding in the shadows where they could grope each other with wild abandon and the barman was less likely to stray asking for proof of age.

    As we sat down upon the dilapidated seats clutching our refurbished drinks the barman made his return. In one hand he held the now broken pool cue and in the other he had the Paul firmly clenched by the scruff of his shirt. I watched as another portion of violence was dealt onto the drunken form of my friend, and it was with great sorrow that I was to witness to his casting unto the streets.

    “Never come back!” declared the barman through swinging doors. Through the window I beheld the Paul curse the barman and weave many obscene gestures with his hands.

    “Eleven thirty,” Andrew pointed to the Guinness clock-face that hung above the bar, “That’s a new record.”

    “He’s shaved a good five minutes from his previous personal best,” said I, sipping my pint and utterly forgetting my previous promise to the barman. And as I did so, I was struck with a strange sensation; suddenly, everything seemed focused yet distant at the same time. I watched my friends laugh at some matter I did not hear, I was acutely aware of the slight twang of soap powder that swirled and mixed with the beer in my glass. The ticking of the Guinness clock was loud in my ears, and I was overcome with a strange sadness. Somehow I knew that I would never see my friends again.

    Fate bore down on me that moment. Then present became past, and all returned to normal.

    Bloody hell, I thought, studying my beer, and I’ve only had a pint and a half.

    “You alright?” asked the Niles, “You have a puzzled look on your face.”

    “Full bladder,” I lied.

    “The toilet is out of order!” bellowed the barman, who had an uncannily good sense of hearing. Few veiled curses or insults slipped past his sensitive ears.

    “Apparently, friend Paul has ruined the toilet. Fortunately there is a public toilet next door, where the Post Office would be if town planning was more optimal,” said the Andrew.

    “Think I’ll go spend a penny then,” I announced, rising to my feet and maneuvering from behind the table.

    “Bye,” said the Niles, absent mindedly swiping my pint and replacing it with his own, which had considerably less volume. I decided not to make an issue out of it as I strolled away.

    I walked out the swinging doors and out into the busy street. Mighty civilization greeted me. People bustled around in their hordes, going about their lives oblivious to the great philosopher currently in their midst. I walked against the tide a short distance and ducked out of the flow and into the building marked W.C.

    Before me was a plastic glass booth, and inside the tank a cantankerous civil servant lay dormant. She was shriveled and wore hideous horn rimmed spectacles. A creature of tall gray hair and teeth made long by shrinking gums. A cigarette hung from her long boney fingers, and she was studying a Reader’s Digest with ferocious concentration.

    Apparently this was the beast that guarded the public toilets. I approached her booth with no small amount of trepidation.

    “Yes?” she snapped, flipping the magazine shut with one finger between the pages to mark her place.

    “I want to book a flight to Paris,” said I.

    “You what?” screeched the hideous crone through the holes drilled in the clear plastic of her tank.

    “You are a public toilet, yes?”

    “What does it look like?” Spit speckled the psuedo-glass.

    “Then let me in so I can take a piss,” said I, tiring of sarcasm.

    “It’s a pound coin. Pay up first.”

    “Bloody hell,” I blustered, my own spit taking its turn to leave my mouth in little projectiles, “That’s extortion! That’s daylight robbery!”

    The old bitch encased just cackled and returned to her Readers Digest. Grumbling to myself, I fished in my pocket for the requisite coinage. I dropped two fifties into the little hatch on the booth and was rewarded by a tiny yellow ticket stub that was thrust out of the booth into my face.

    “Have a nice day,” the guardian of the booth sneered. I ignored her and pushed open the door to the male section of the lavatory.

    It was nice, as far as public bogs go. Probably because no one could afford to use it, I reflected bitterly. The government was ripping me off in the pub by charging duty on alcohol, and now they were ripping me off in the toilet when I needed to expel the waste from my body.

    Curse them, I thought as I did the business. Once finished, I washed my hands twice and used a massive amount of liquid soap in order to try and get my money’s worth from the facilities.

    Without warning, I was plunged into darkness. The automatic hand dryer suddenly ceased functioning along with the lights. Cursing and swearing even more than usual, I felt my away along the wall and eventually located the door. I opened it and sunlight poured in.

    And something was very, very wrong. I knew that from the second I pulled on the door handle.

    The plastic booth before me was where I left it, but the snaggle-toothed woman was not. The glass was exceedingly dirty and cracked and the booth was filled with ancient spiderwebs, hanging with old leaves and what must have been years of dust and muck.

    What. The. Hell.

    Walking out of the toilet, my feet trod on tiles that were fractured. Weeds and little flowers had pushed out of the cracks. More dirt had collected into piles where the wind had blown and trapped it. The colours of everything around me were surreal, too vivid and over saturated.

    I’m drunk, I reasoned against rising panic. I’m drunk and I’ve passed out in the bar and for some bizarre reason I’m hallucinating.

    Standing on the pavement outside the toilet, I surveyed the devastation around me. Buildings that not five minutes previous had stood tall and proud were now masses of gray and black rubble. The pub in which I had my last pint was in ruins, the glass windows advertising Scotland’s finest ales lay shattered around my feet. Inside, the roof had collapsed and someone’s washing machine had squashed my favorite barstool.

    I studied the impossible all around me. My brain began to wave a little white flag. Then the power of reason fled before the blatant tank of total insanity that had become my world.

    I laughed. I laughed for a long time. I laughed until the laughing turned into screaming and I was on my knees, heedless of the chunks of glass that dug into my legs. I laughed and screamed and burbled in rotation. I leaned back on my knees and screamed wordless insanity at the sky.

    That’s when I noticed the three suns that burned up there. Red, yellow and blue.

    “Wurhurawahahahahahbugulahhugalahahaha,” I drooled, staring at the three suns. I was dimly aware of the fact that I was slowly burning out my retina, so I stared at the ground instead.

    Three shadows of green, orange and purple struck out against the pavement.

    “Gibber,” I said, mostly to myself. And then I was aware that I had no one else to speak to. The city was silent but for my insane rantings. Not a soul stirred in the unnatural light. I was totally on my own.

    Nothing immediately suggested itself to me, so I just laughed and screamed and burbled some more. And more. And then some more.

    And more.

    And more.

    For quite some time.

    1. Joe

      Joe

      Good stuff, as good as Barry at least.

      Friend darknation = Next Douglas Adams.

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