Monday, 17 December 2012

Season's Greetings...

Apparently it's Christmas next week.

I say apparently as the days blur into weeks blur into months, much like the sky as it descends over to the horizon. There's no actual delineated line where one colours decides to let the next have control of the sky so it can rest and wait until evening when they all turn their lights down for the day. Yes, night comes and day breaks, but even then they tend to be flipsides of the same coin. A miasma of loneliness, lethargy and lunacy.

It could have been August, except there wasn't, normally, snow on the ground. I may have been that the Day After Tomorrow had woken before its alarm, so decided to get an early start, but I doubted it. With the lack of decent heating in the recreation room, we could see our breath. It was cold.

Viola, she of the maximum Medium, convinced she was in contact with 'The Other Side,' believed her breath was her soul escaping. She spent the day chasing after it, attempting to push it back in her mouth, screaming every time she saw it spew forth. At first, this was a little funny. Then it was irritating. But, when Viola decided to use half of Mucous Mickey's toilet roll to block her throat and fell in a convulsing heap, it suddenly became serious and Dr. Connors decided to put the heating on.

Just to shake the chill off, of course. We didn't feel as if we were sprawled out on a tropical beach somewhere wondering where we'd put that bottle of sun cream or where the waiter was with our cocktail.

No. It was still cold, just a little less so. Enough so that our breath became an invisible escapee, sneaking out of our bodies to disperse, freely, in the air. Well, if only a small part of us could be free, let it be the expulsions of our lungs. Better that than nothing.


Christmas. Next week. Jeremy mentioned it, not realising, bless him, that it was just another day in the asylum. There was no tree. No tinsel wrapped the windows nor cards from friends or family adorned the sill. Presents would be in the form of a pill or injection. Perhaps a little electro-shock to spark up your day.

I have the cries of my Dead to keep me company. To reflect on family and loss. The season of goodwill, except I was good enough to take their will and trample it. Choke it. Destroy it. They remind me, daily, of that. And, to be honest, I am thankful. I should feel their sorrow. I should be suffocated with their screams.

'Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la la-la-blah-blah.

Be well, be happy, be warm. Cherish what you have and worry not for what you don’t. Fears can freeze your heart like the ice that covers the outside of the windows - a slippery coating that obscures the view of the vista beyond. Hopes can be like Viola's breath - a ghostly mist that slips through the fingers until it vanishes no matter how much you try to hold on.

How many lunatics does it take to build a snowman? None, because they already believe they're one.




Monday, 19 November 2012

A Girl for All Seasons...

It's cold today. Frosty the Snowman came in the night, with his buddy Jack Frost, and had a pillow fight in the recreation room, spraying a dusting of white over everything.

Though white on the existing glaring white of the walls, floor and ceiling was a little redundant.

Their pillows, of course, were from that ice hotel up in Norway, or wherever it is. So they'd be ice pillows.

Yes, I know the pillows there are NOT made of frozen water, but for the purposes of this entry, let's just say they are. Frosty and Jack would have no real need for real, fluffy, feather-stuffed pillows, now would they?

Their frozen touch could be seen across almost every surface. The windows were almost opaque with a crystallised coating that seemed to resist any attempt to write your name or a random obscenity in. Hands were prone to stick to the metal arms of the chairs if you held on to it for too long, ignoring the burning cold sensation. Areas of the floor were alternatively slippery when wet or mini skating rinks and various residents tried out their non-existent skills with spins and leaps that left them in heaps against the walls.

Occasionally, there'd be the sound of a snap as the whirling wonder landed awkwardly and broke an ankle or wrist. The infirmary would be full by the end of the day.

Sitting in one corner, beneath the wall-mounted television set, was Connie.

Connie was a dear old dear who was just slightly nuttier than a nut. A peanut. Salty but you still couldn't get enough of her. She was a delightful woman who had not a single spiteful, hurtful or even slightly sinister thought in her head.

If, in fact, she had thoughts in her head.

Connie's particular delusion was obvious. It was a particularly peculiar parody of SAD. Seasonal Affected Disorder. Whereas most people became down in the dumps during the winter months, with a lack of both energy and enthusiasm dragging them into despair, Connie actually FELT the seasons. She BECAME them.

In spring, she was a budding flower. She would stand in a different spot each day, and she would, effectively, blossom. From a crunched ball, Connie would - excruciatingly slowly - unfurl. It would take hours for this to happen, and I couldn't understand how her joints wouldn't be aching or she'd walk with a permanent limp from the stiffness of holding odd positions for so long. But she didn't. In spring, there'd be a spring in her step, and that remained regardless of the season.

In summer, she decided beach play was the flavour to savour. An imaginary ball or frisbee would be thrown. Often, other residents would join in her play and once or twice a good dozen would be leaping or diving to catch thrown objects that weren't there.

I, myself, had won a tournament on a few weeks ago.

You do what you must to remain sane...

Today, it appeared, Connie had decided that, as Frosty and Jack had done their own brand of redecoration, it was winter. As such, it was also Christmas.

So she stood in the corner of the room, beneath the television's enduring onslaught of MTV. He arms were straight, at an angle down but away from her body. Her face was fixed. A smile. She had fashioned small stars and snowflakes from the toilet paper that Mucous Mickey always had with him and she'd hung them from various parts of her body.

A tissue angel was on her head, flopping forward, attempting to cover her face.

She was a Christmas tree.

How can you not smile? Not in a 'huh? Freak!' way, though. In a 'how wonderful' way. We're all, apparently, crazy in here, so no-one really cares what your daily doolally is. Rather than mumble in a chair all day or sit staring out of the window, however, Connie entertained, whether intentionally or not.

She was a Christmas tree. And I think that is nice.

It's cold today, but I can't help feeling warm.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Happy Halloween

Ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night.

And that's just the staff.

Halloween, or the preparation of, in the asylum is a wonderful thing. Last year, we had Abbie and Kristy joining in the festivities, one by losing half her tongue and the other by having a broken collarbone inflicted her by heavy-handed orderlies.

That was thanks to a glow-in-the-dark skeleton they'd decided to hang over the door so it would 'attack' anyone who came through.

In an asylum, that was likely to have a detrimental effect on the mood of the residents. And it did. Hence the hospitalisations. This year, they've decided to be a little more creative. Webbing, plastic spiders and fake cut out pumpkins adorn the rooms and corridors.

I think they genuinely want us to have a little fun. I actually believe they have, in this once instance, our interests in mind. I'd say 'to heart' but they'd have to have said organ for that to be true.

Saying that, they'd have to have a mind to have our interests resident in there, and I'm not so sure that's the truth either.


Halloween. It's a wonderful thing.

Half the world gets dressed up as creatures of the night. Horror has come a long wait, don't you think? Mummies and ghosts and monsters used to scare and terrorise us. Now they're the stuff of panto and party.

That's because the real monsters don't have arms hanging off or fangs. They don't burn in sunlight and they don't grow teeth, hair and claws during the full moon.

The real monsters smile at you. They stand behind you in the queue for the checkout waiting to pay for the groceries in their trolley.

They sit opposite you at breakfast and tell you they love you.

We don't have a day for them. There's no celebration for the real monsters.

But the night before All Saints Day, when the witches are meant to fly and the darkness is meant to rise, children put on costumes. They dress as Dracula or as the walking dead. They knock on the doors of complete strangers to ask for sweets or money.

That, I think, is scary.

Because one of those strangers could be one of the monsters that smile and say "Hi" and let you pay for your carton of milk first because they have a trolley full.

"Don't you look scary in your costume? I have some sweets for you. Come inside."

Lorraine. That's what happened to her. Dressed as a bat, complete with wings and fake fangs. Eight years old. Outfit made out of cardboard and black bin liners and lots of permanent marker. With a little bit of mummy's make up thrown in.

'Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to...'

Well you know how it goes.

Three weeks later, almost the end of November, they found her. She'd missed Bonfire Night, but her reappearance caused lots of fireworks in itself. They caught him. He said he'd been looking after her. He seemed to believe it too.

Aliens is one of my favourite films. Little Newt tells Ripley that her mommy says there are no monsters, not real ones.

But there are, aren't there?

Friday, 19 October 2012


Forgive me, reader, for I am Sin. It's been an age and a half since my last entry and, for that, I feel I must apologise.

Time flies when you're feeling numb. In here, even that still means you are actually FEELING, even if it's only an absence of sensation.

I don't know where the time has gone. Has it been days? Weeks? A couple of minutes? I don't know. It 'feels' as if it has been some time.

The air is different. It's been inhaled and exhaled and tastes as though it's been partly digested. The sunlight can barely be bothered to reach in through the bars on the windows to tease us with the hint of warmth. Even the birds outside seem to be unable to raise enough effort to take flight.

I want to tell them that I'd fly, if I could. I'd leap from the ground and soar way up high. Even Icarus would have felt exhilarated at some point whilst looking down on the world. Granted, when his wings melted, the world would have been looking up thinking 'That showed you!' Still, he heart must have been fit to burst as he took to the air.

I'd tell them that I, too, would wish to soar. Even if my own fate mirrored that of poor Icarus, I'd take the risk. If I were destined to hit the ground face first, then fair enough. At least I'd have tasted freedom.

They're free, those birds. Free and they don't know it. Free and they stand, pecking, ambling, lethargic.

It's a different day, of that I'm sure.

And in the days or hours between the last I remember and this, something has happened. Something bad.

A 'me' something. A flip and catch something. Even without my coin, I can tell.

A car taking four young men to their first term at University has skidded off a road, somewhere near Edinburgh. It missed the tree. It didn't miss the fence or the dip that made it flip and roll, much like a coin, and it didn't miss the edge of the cliff that caused it to fall into the sea. Not that the cliff or the fall or the impact of the waves would have made a difference. Three of them were already dead.

The fourth took a further three minutes as the water came in. His heart gave a little dance in his chest and stopped beating before the fluid could fill his lungs. Before it could even reach his mouth or nose.

I can hear their cries. They screamed as the car spun out of control. One soiled himself. He didn't notice.

I can hear them. That's how I know something has happened. That's how I know that I flipped and the sea caught.

But I don't remember it happening. No pull. No twist in my gut. No pressure build up inside my skull. Nothing.

Except a few missing days.

Even feeling numb implies a sense of 'feeling.' As much as I wish I could join those birds and show them what they have, right now I wish...

I wish...

I wish that I wasn't.

But wishes are for those that have enough stacked up behind them to deserve a wish, whether a star is involved or a genie or simply a sigh. I'm not one of those. Even if I had anything in the bank prior to my finding my coin, I'm well overdrawn now. I wouldn't be surprised if I received a statement demanding charges.

As such, I accept. It is what it is. Such is life... and death.

I can hear them. The boys.

It was a Mazda. A white one. One of the boys was called William. Or rather 'Will.' He had a girlfriend. And a son.

Sweet little boy.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Bump Day...

Just what was it about Wednesdays anyway? And, shut away and doped to the eyeballs as we all were, how on Earth did we even know what day of the week it was?

I wonder if it's a collective consciousness. Ants have that, don't they? When one is threatened they all are? When one sneezes, they all say Gesundheit? How they know how to speak German is beyond me.

But a collective consciousness. A 'hive mind'. We're - or rather THEY'RE -almost there anyway. When one panics or throws a wobbler, there's a domino effect that has them all toppling over in one form or another. If one starts screaming uncontrollably for no other reason that the sun hit them in the eye through the window or the person next to them farted, the noise levels in the recreation room suddenly increase to levels only surpassed by standing next to an erupting volcano or under the Niagara Falls.

With the shiny walls, ceilings and floors glaring enough to make the air itself sometimes appear to be white, the room has the acoustic resonance of the Albert Hall. You'd never find the Proms being performed here, but there are certainly enough who feel the need to make their own music. Not that moaning and crying is actually anything close to being melodic, but the tune is often picked up and carried by the rest of the residents.

I prefer a little Snow Patrol or Eurythmics, myself.


Wednesdays. Bump day. The hike from Monday morning becomes the slippery slope to the weekend. In the outside world at least. Out there, where the sun shines and the grass grows and you can happily turn MTV over to Coronation Street or X-Factor - should you wish to -without fear of someone trying to rip your face off or, in the case of the orderlies, taser you.

In here, where the sun apparently shines and the grass probably grows and MTV is the only channel that the television has learned how to play, the weekend doesn't exist. Nor does the week. Or the month, year, hour or minute. Seconds and days are interchangeable. An hour and a heartbeat set to sea in a beautiful puke-green boat. A week and a day walk hand in hand along Tedious Terrace, pausing to look in the window of the old pawn shop where patients can swap their souls for an unhealthy dose of needles and neglect before continuing on the way to lunch at the Comatose Cafe.

Not a great menu there. They don't even do a decent bacon butty. And the coffee doesn't just taste like gnat's piss...

But Wednesdays. Once upon each Wednesday when the sun is high, whether or not it hits someone in the eye, one or another resident steps up to the mark and makes the Battle of Brian look like a walk in the park.

The Battle of Brian was a skirmish in the frozen foods aisle at Tesco one Saturday afternoon. There was only one tub of Cookie Dough Ben & Jerry's left and two men put their hands on it at the same time, with neither being willing to give it up. Both, by pure coincidence, were called Brian, though they didn't know it until the police informed them. It got very nasty. A bag of frozen peas can do a lot of damage, more, in fact, than an 8 serving cheesecake. The frozen chicken, however, is the weapon of choice, it has to be said.

That's going to leave a scar...

Oh yes, Wednesdays. Around ten-thirty in the morning, someone picks up a carelessly discarded wobbler and throws it. Or, to put it another way, they kick off. Randomly and for nothing evident to the pseudo-rational mind. I might have said at some point that I'm the only sane one in here. Granted there's Jeremy, so perhaps not the only one, but I assume you get my point. The door to chaos is unlocked and left ajar, and, like the cupboard under the stairs where all the junk goes, it all spills out.

Like clockwork, when the clock has been wound so tight it's almost ready to snap and poke you in the eye. Then it does. But not quite like the sun.

But, how do they know it's a Wednesday? Ask me another.

How do I know? That's when I have my weekly - or weakly - consultation with Dr. Connors. Although it seems to be getting more frequent for some reason. He wants to see me more and more.

And every day can't be Wednesday, can it?

Saturday, 15 September 2012

I Wonder...

When I close my eyes and want to go to sleep, I think of death, instead of sheep.

When the world closes its eyes, and can no longer see, what does it think of? Is it sheep? Is it me? When the sun sets and day becomes night and the demons come out and sanity takes flight, does the world's slumber become a nightmare causing a rumbling, grumbling quake of the earth?

Ask me another because I just don't know. I dream of death.

So. Last night I had a dream.

I dreamt of Joy and joy and smiles and laughter. Things that I remembered, but then... after... Her face became molten. It seeped and it cracked and it melted and dripped down onto her lap. Her eyes still had their sparkle, she couldn't lose that, even though one was sitting with the drips in her lap. But her voice was a bubble, the velvet was gone. It sounded like gargling glue had gone wrong.

I awoke with a start - or was it a stop? Either way, I sat upright. I was sweating and hot. My mind was spinning away with the wind and more than the others, I thought Sin had sinned.

But it had nothing to do with me, I am sure. Joy simply couldn't deal any more. I couldn't blame her really, I had been there too - all the deaths and the screams and the horrors down to me, and the ghosts that haunt in the dark I can't see - so why did I dream of her face becoming goo?

For a while I just laid there, staring up in the dark. My mind drifted like a leaf on a breeze whirlpooling in the park.

Was I was telling myself that I should do it as well? Take my own life and leap down into hell. Maybe I knew that by just being alive, it all carried on, the beast continuing to thrive. But I couldn't, I wouldn't, I didn't have the strength to draw the final curtain and bring it all to an end.

But perhaps, deep down, I knew that I must, lest the world, due to me, crumbled to dust.

That knowledge I bury under a mountain of guilt which I pull over my head like a thick winter quilt. I'm doing what's best and what's right and what's... easy. And if they give me the drugs, it's almost lemon squeezy. And I'll continue to ignore that I know Joy is right. That to kill herself was to win the fight. If I don't, then I know that I'll have to stand up and be a man. I'll have to commit suicide. But I don't know if I can.

When the world closes its eyes, and can no longer see, I wonder, does it dream of me?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Power....

We had a power cut today.

With a loud click, coming from nowhere in particular but seemingly everywhere in reality, the lights went off.

And the television set went off.

And the blinking light on the CCTV cameras.

Oh, and the security locking on the doors.

Nobody noticed that one straight away. In fact, the only thing that bothered anyone, apart from the orderlies, was the television. When you only have the company of the insane or the indifferent, a TV is your lifeline to the outside world.

Granted ours was stuck on MTV, producing a raucous mix of beat and breasts - sometimes a bit much for a few of the residents - but at least it had a semblance of life. At least you could see people having fun.

Not that it was always a good thing. When you're wallowing in misery, dipping your toes in the pool of pissed-off-ishness, someone ELSE having fun kind of put the boot in to kick you over the edge so you almost drowned in the sea of shitty-attitude.

Today, though, everyone had seemed to put on an up. The mood was light. The orderlies had minimal reason to interfere with the residents and the residents themselves gave the orderlies little to worry about. It was sunny outside and the warmth was filling everyone with an unusually buoyant radiance.

Then click.

Then moans. Cries. Screams, in places.

Then chaos.

NEXT is a popular clothes store. When they have a sale, people queue up outside from around 5am. I imagine, when they open their doors, the scene would be much like it was here. People would be milling around, running, pushing. Clothes would be torn or dropped to the floor. The odd unfortunate would be trampled underfoot.

A sudden lack of television had the same effect, pretty much, the only difference being that there wasn't 70% off ladies skirts.

I wondered if NEXT sold asylum scrubs... Maybe there was a gap in the market...

The orderlies must have been dozing, lulled into a false sense of sanity by the morning's mood. It took them a few precious seconds to react and jump in, attempting to instil some calm with their usual brand of brute force. Head locks and half-nelsons did next to nothing to bring the throng to heel.

In the ensuing pandemonium, someone fell or was pushed against the door.

Now Dr. Connors is all about high-tech. State of the art. Top of the range cameras. Top of the range locks. Why use a key when a four digit number will suffice? You can steal a key, but not something that's committed (no pun intended) to memory. Less chance of the lunatics taking over the asylum.

Yes... Good luck with that.

When Ian, who never listened to the voices in his head no matter how much they screamed at him, fell backwards into the corridor, there was a sudden hush (possibly even from within his head). It was as if someone had taken a 3D photograph of the room and everybody was frozen in place. Then the milling about ceased and a flood of patients very impatiently poured out of the recreation room and into the hallway.

About three minutes later, the power came back on.

About three hours later, order was, once more, restored. Well, apart from dear old Edna Cuthbertson, who'd accidentally found the furnace room and decided to burn her clothes. Unfortunately she'd used her hands to put her scrubs into the incinerator. She wouldn't be putting her hands anywhere after that.

Only two residents had managed to find the door to outside, through the nursery. They were caught picking flowers, just this side of the stump. Eight were back in their cells, curled up on their beds quietly. A further fourteen were found in the laundry room, making tents out of towels and singing around a small fire -the source of which hasn't been discovered. Eddie, all smiles and sunshine - despite the dent in the back of his head from playing catch with a bowling ball - had a broken femur from the rugby tackle used to catch him.

And me. They spent an awful lot of time searching for me. I hadn't actually moved. Whilst everyone else was enjoying the pseudo-freedom and running riot, I didn't move. I stayed in my seat and stared at the blank TV.

The sudden hush from Ian opening the door had been preceded by another one. In my own head. When the electricity went off, the screams - even the dull echo of the screams - stopped also.

I, for the first time in so long, was sitting in silence. Internally and externally. And I relished it.

I wasn't under any illusion that it was the electricity causing this beast to come alive inside of me. That was my own creation. I certainly wasn't Frankenstein's prototype or anything of the sort.

But, when that click was heard...

I wonder if it came from me. Whatever curse I battle with has an off switch, and some sort of electromagnetic pulse was emitted that killed the TV and everything else. I suppose it was better than leaving MTV and killing the patients.

No. It wasn't me - this time.

We had a power cut today. All of us. Including me.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Silver Screen...

The silver screen.

Why is it called that? Well, because the screens used to be silver - duh! Back in the days of black and white film, when a flickering feature was the highlight of the week, screens were silver for the better reflections and contrast. And now 3D movies are growing, they might make a comeback. Same deal.

And anywho, the White Screen just doesn't have the same glamorous ring to it as the Silver Screen, now does it?

If a movie were to made of your life, would you go see it? Would there be enough in your day of waking, working, soaps and snoring to enthral the viewer? Would a red carpet be laid out, flashing photographers shouting out your name?

"Look here!" "Smile!"

And who would play you? Someone dashing or alluring? Brad Pitt? Matt Damon? Ryan Reynolds? Jennifer Aniston? Penelope Cruz? Or someone more... normal. An actor without the perfect skin and face and nose? Who would you choose?

Me. What do I think?

Is my life worthy of a movie? I doubt it. Even in the days of Avatar and Harry Potter, or where werewolf and vampire vie for the love of a girl, the story of a man who can kill people with his mind. Not entirely believable, is it?

Saying that, it's not even my mind. I don't actually know what it is. It's something inside of me. Evil? A demon? Ask me another.

I really don't know. But that's why I'm here. That's why I eat the slop and spend my days in a single recreation room with only MTV and puddles of Mickey's mucous to keep me company.

Who'd want to see a film about that?

But. Who would play me?

Now I'm not vain enough to believe the like of Pitt or Damon would want to step into my shoes. Maybe Mark Wahlberg. He's not the clean cut action star. He's played the comedic and the calamitous. Or Kevin Spacey. Sure I have a little more hair. No. He draws attention to himself. Even without intending it (though he is an actor and that's what he's there for), you're drawn to him. I'm an everyman - and I believe that is glorifying myself.

Ordinary Joe. That's me. A little more ordinary than most. Or, at least, that's what I'd like. But the deaths. The screams. Maybe that's a little more than ordinary. it doesn't change me, though. It simply drags me out of my shoes and throws me about in the grumbling storm clouds above. And the deaths rain down.

A movie about me, on a screen silver or white.

Hardly Oscar material.

(Support Independent Cinema: Fiveway Films are creating a 100% public funded movie NOW)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Songs in the Key of Life...

Songs in the key of life.

That's what she sang. Forget upper 'C' or an octave lower than the bottom of your boots. She sang songs in the key Life, with a capital Luh.

Not that she sang, as such. She didn't warble one hit wonders from the 80s or rap like Eminem in a skirt - or rather scrubs. I don't think I heard her even so much as hum a happy tune, but she could sing, still.

"What you talking about, Willis?" I hear you say.

Well, of course I don't hear you say that at all. Partly because, I would assume, many of you don't even know who Willis is and partly because you're there, wherever 'there' might be, and I'm here, snuggled up cosier than a bug in a rug in front of a roaring fire. With the central heating on. And a thermal vest - though I doubt they make thermals that small or with that many leg/arm holes.

You never know, though. You can get anything on Ebay these days.


Songs. Life. The key of. Of what do I speak.

Have you ever heard someone pluck at a harp string, perfectly tuned and perfectly plucked? No? How about crystal shattering on a stone floor. Probably on a summer's day when the air is fresh and silent. All you hear is the noise of the smash, but it's almost a flawless sound. As sharp and as clear as the crystal itself.

No? Well, imagine it then. Think of what those sounds would be like. They'd pierce your eardrum with an absolute clarity and ring through your brain.

Zoe was like that. They say someone can be a breath of fresh air. She was. In the enclosed space of the recreation room - and, to be honest, the rest of the asylum as 'Outside' was almost forbidden territory - the air always felt recycled. It felt used and second hand. Like it had been picked up for 50p at a car boot sale early one Sunday morning.

But when she swept by (she did sweep -it was never simply a walk), the wake of her passing was like the harp string being plucked, possibly with a crystal shard as the plectrum.

You found yourself breathing in, a breath so deep it filled your lungs and kept on going, storing reserves of freshness from your treacle-toes up. She sang with her body and with her spirit. Always bright. Always a smile -not necessarily dazzling, but there nonetheless. Her eyes held a twinkle in them that, I don't doubt, was there voluntarily rather than being held captive, imprisoned by the iris behind the bars of the lens.

Why would such a girl be in here?

The death of a baby. The dark place it must plunge you into. The bright cell of denial she locked herself away in.

What do you do with that pain? How can you bind it so tightly you are able ignore its presence? Does that make you a master of deception - the deceived being yourself? Does it show the Hulk-like inner strength, but without the green, pants tearing aspect? Or does it make you crazy?

Zoe sings a song of Life inspired by the absence of the same. A song of Life composed after a visit from Death. I didn't realise the Reaper was such an artist.

Maybe I should sing along.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Sin... Ants in your Pants...

Ants in your pants, apparently, make your belly button dance.

I'm sure that, if ants were indeed crawling around in my pants, it wouldn't just be my belly button dancing. I'd be bouncing around like a bungee jumping Pinocchio if the little blighters were invading my interiors. They'd be like moving grains of sand - getting into all my nooks and crannies no matter how I tried to brush them off.

I don't mind flies, spiders, moths or man-eating mosquitoes, but ants get to me.

Maybe it's because I expect them to be able to club together and carry me off to their nest. I'd be their Gulliver and they'd be victorious in their conquest of me. If an ant can carry multiple times its own body weight, I don't suppose a whole nest's worth would have a problem carting me off. The food in this place isn't exactly nourishing. Or appetising. Or, really, anything resembling actual food. Any ants would be better off with the likes of me rather than anything the kitchen might produce.

It's almost as if the food goes through a filter and all of the goodness is sucked out, leaving us with the pallid, paltry remnants. I suppose that filter would be like the digestive system - all the vitamins and nutrients are removed for the good of the body and all the crap is expelled. The slop they serve us essentially is another four letter word that begins with 'S.' Rather than it saying 'Lo' to a 'P', though, it says 'Hi' to a 'T.'

It appears I'm not the only one who's not keen on them. It appears that, instead of just not being keen, some are positively fearful. Whether this is an underling, pre-existing fear, a result of the individual's dementia or a side-effect of the drugs, I'm not entirely sure.


This morning, when we were led from breakfast (slop on toast - at least, I'm assuming the cardboard wedges were meant to be toast and they weren't just handing out free door stops) to the recreation room, one corner was moving.

Yes, moving.

In the bottom corner, beneath the TV and to the left of the window, a shadow shifted and shuddered. I did the same. My friend Bender Benny looked, shrugged and parked himself in his favourite chair for his after-slop snooze. A couple threw up - a bit excessive, methinks - and then someone tipped the domino.

Brenda, sweet and low with a saccharin aftertaste, screamed. Carol, a woman whose fastest speed was a shamble and was only so far into the room because she'd been swept up by the throng of residents and orderlies, took the proffered baton of hysteria and ran with it.

Like a forest wildfire, all crackles and sparks and chaos, the madness - appropriate for an asylum, you may think - spread. Butter on toast (cardboard or otherwise) it smothered everyone until the orderlies had no option (they'd tell you) other than to resort to their mini version of cattle prods.

A few good zaps later and a few good cans of ant spray and order was finally restored. It didn't take much. A mop for the vomit. A hoover for the husks of the once-active ants. A nudge to wake Benny because his favourite programme was on in a minute. Grumbles from the orderlies about not being paid enough for this aggravation - though they didn't really need to smile as they jabbed their prods.

Hours later I still scratched myself and twitched occasionally as I was sure I felt an ant crawling on my arm or neck or under my scrubs. But I didn't. It was, most probably, their ghosts.

Ants in your pants make your belly button boogie.

Ants in an asylum make the residents riot.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Sin... Snapping Synapses...

Why is the number pad on a computer different to the one on a telephone? And why, when I'm calling someone, do I not forget this and end up calling Outer Mongolia instead?

It feels perfectly normal to be entering figures on a keyboard and then upside-down myself to call the local Indian takeaway for a nice Balti or Chicken Tikka. Sweet chilli naans please, and yes, I would like poppadoms. Or poppadums if you have them instead.

Why is that? The human brain is weird in some of the automatic connections it makes. I remember seeing an email in which the internal letters of the words were muxed ip and you were still meant to be able to read it as your brain automatically figures it out as long as the first and last are in place.

If you see waht I maen.

But that's on a small scale. Even upsidising your mind to adapt to which number order you're using, though it probably takes millions of snapping synapses to sync, is small fry - and not in the way of crispy bacon and eggs.

Edgar Alan Peterson. Ed to me and a small number of others and Poo to most of the rest. His synapses snapped along at a crazy rate, jumping from subject to subject, leaping tall bananas in a single bound. The Jack of all Juxtapositions and Master of Madness.

Well, not quite. To say he was Master of Madness was to steal Connors' crown like a thief in the night, sneaking from shadow to doorway to... other hidey thing... until the crown was in your possession. Beware of those thorns though. Not only did Connors think himself as, in here at least, the Almighty, you could be sure there'd be plenty of pricks involved.

Most involved drugs or orderlies, syringe or (though, of course, it never REALLY happens) succubus.

Anywho. Ed. He spoke at a rate of knots the coastguard would have little chance of keeping up with. He'd be a fast disappearing dot in the eye of the river police I think I saw Bruce Willis playing in a film once. And everything he said, however disjointed and tangential, made some sort of sense.

He played a permanent, tumbling, game of word association that had your head spinning as you tried to keep up but, when you attempted to replay the conversation back in your mind later - in the slow motion of a spit flinging Van Damme movie fight -you could, kind of, see how the path managed to meander from its start to its ultimate end.

Somehow the fact that the sun was shining became a discussion on mountaintop dew levels, moving to the number of times he's hit his thumb whilst hammering a nail, then being swiftly overtaken on the outside lane by the fact that he preferred KFC to McDonalds except on Fridays because Friday is Fries-day. Then it was a race for the finishing line between why men's shoe sizes are different to women's and is a bubble stronger from the inside than it is from the outside?

And, during the whole conversation, he would take, perhaps, three breaths.

That was why he was in here. He was a telephone man in a keyboard world, but, somehow, he managed to fit. You couldn't quite figure out why, but you accepted it anyway.

I wonder if that explains me. I wonder if I'm upsidised. The buttons are being pressed in the wrong order. Something in my head is the wrong way round and that's why they all died.

That's why they all die.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Sin... Fair to Middling...

Fair to middling. That's what people say, isn't it?

"How's it going?"

"Fair to middling. You?"

"Not bad, not bad."

You walk on, not particularly remembering whether the person you just spoke to had actually said "great," "wonderful," "fantastic" or "crap." It's almost a rhetorical question, in so many cases. You're so tied up in your own slide from 'middling' to 'fair' to 'crap' that the "How's it going?" was out of your mouth before you even realised the words had escaped. It's a reflex, an automatic social custom that you don't notice you do until you've done it.

"How's it going?"

"Shit, thanks. My cat just died, my wife is having an affair with her step-father and my kids hate me. I've lost my winning lottery ticket and a plane landed on my house while I was on the toilet so I had no paper to wipe my arse. Oh, and my dog thinks my leg is next door's poodle for some reason. I assume that's why he keeps humping it. You?"

"Not bad, not bad."

It doesn't quite go like that, but it could. The response is never really listened to. It's blah-blah-blah, a white noise that simply elicits a nod and a smile. Even if you were told that their budgie had died and a Panzer tank had accidentally driven over their car on the way to parking in their front room - without using the door and stopping right in front of the TV - you'd nod and smile and not even register.

And if you did? If you did stop and ask and listen to the answer, so attempting to strike up a dialogue? The other person would be taken aback, shocked that the customary question was being mutated into an actual CONVERSATION! How dare you? Don't you know the rules? Don't you know that, beneath the 'fair to middling' simmers a witches cauldron of sickly popping circumstances that were wearing away at your victim's psyche until their frazzled husk could do naught but stare into space and wonder how 'middling' became 'murder.'

But you know this, so you don't. You nod and walk on. They nod, and they walk on. Neither really remembers what the other said. Sometimes neither remembers who the other was, let alone the fact that someone was even there.

It's like telling the time. You look at your wrist and you see it's 3:30. It's afternoon, clearly, as it's daylight and you're not tucked up in your bed or propping up the local bar to make sure it doesn't fall over and spill your tenth pint or fifteenth vodka all over the floor.

You're nice like that.

You don't consciously think that it's half past three, post meridian, it's more of a feeling. The time grazes your mind, leaving only an impression. If someone sees you look at your watch and thus asks you the time, you have to look again, and it takes a second to work out what you'd seen and knew only a second or two before.

You meet, you ask, you pass, you forget.

Fair to middling. A throwaway phrase that masks the underlying fear of actually opening up and interacting. You need to catch your wife, find the ticket, make friends with your children and spay your dog, all before the local shop closes at 8:30. Otherwise you'll be too late to buy any toilet paper.

Of course, let's hope no-one asks you the time.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Sin... The Eyes Have It...

He sat in the chair, day after day, staring at nothing.

Always the same chair. Always the same posture. Dipping into a slouch but not wanting to leave the upright. Right leg over left, knee to knee. Foot swinging a metronome of neglect.

And always the same vacant stare. Did he see anything? Everything? Nothing?

To say he was in a world of his own was like saying Everest is a big hill. You could lean in close, shouting 'BOO!' and he wouldn't flinch. Waving your hands wildly similarly raised zero reaction. Once, Jersey had even, giggling to himself, spat in his face.

Still nothing.

Thankfully, Mickey was sitting nearby and had his roll of tissue readily to hand. As the Mucous one gently wiped away the gob of saliva, he looked into the other's eyes. Afterwards, when Bender and I asked what he could see, he said:


That's him, Mickey, not me, Sin. When pressed he didn't really have an explanation of what he meant. The eyes were hazy green with a darker outer circle. The pupils were black dots, almost dabbed on simply to break up the colour. They looked like, he said, the outer colour was the REAL iris, and the inner had been bled away, drained of life.

Now, it's not often that Mucous Mickey gets so descriptive and, trust me, I haven't embellished his words. In fact, it's not ever that Mickey manages much between his sniffs. In this instance, however, he had seen, somehow, himself, and it had briefly opened him up to a whole new way of speaking.

Unfortunately, a couple of Kleenex later, Mickey was back to being the 'Me' he'd seen and his vocabulary was similarly bunged up.

After that, I wanted to see for myself what my friend had seen. It wasn't as if I was going to be stopped, now was it? If phlegm in the face hadn't met with any reaction, me just looking at him would barely register. Still, the momentary transformation of Mickey had given me pause. Eerily so.

What was there to worry about? I mean, here was I, locked away not for my own good but for that of others. What did I have to fear that could top the ghosts that haunted me? Yet... It was as if Mickey had woken up. As if the snot had suddenly gone to sleep and was no longer assaulting his sinuses and the chairs. Granted it had woken up quickly enough but I was still wary.

What if parts of me were to wake up too? Parts I wanted to remain in slumber?

I didn't know this man. Three weeks he'd been here and no-one had found out his name. The orderlies were not forthcoming either. They liked to keep us questioning sometimes. They liked to have that snivel of power over us. He was just there. He was just... staring.

Yesterday I looked. I took a breath and walked with it trapped in my lungs for fortitude. An inner armour, for what it was worth.

I walked over and sat close to him, watching the hypnotic swing of his legs, the fold of his arms and the sightless stare of his eyes. He did, on this closer inspection, look sightless. His eyes seemed glazed.

I let my captive breath out in the hope that it might stand between him and I, an invisible barrier. I stood before him and leaned in, eye to eye.

It was odd. His eyes looked through me, as if I wasn't even there, but I could see that they were perceiving something. They weren't simply lost and unfocussed. They were settled on something, just not me. Not anything here in the recreation room.

Then the focus shifted and he did see me. That was when the tear crept silently out from the corner of his eye and ran down his cheek, curving around the set of his lips and dropping off his chin onto his trousers. I watched its course, spellbound, then looked back up.

That was when he screamed. That was when he pushed me away and he fell backwards. That was when the orderlies pulled me to the side and dragged him, kicking, out towards Room 101.

The man isn't here today. I'm not entirely sure we'll see him again. I'm not entirely sure I want to.

His chair is empty, though. It seems nobody wants to sit in it.

Maybe they're afraid of what they'll see.

I know I am.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Sin... Dreams...

Dreams, they can come true. Ask Gabrielle, she'll tell you.

How does it go? Wish long enough and hard enough, make your request to the Universe or your pact with the devil, and your dream will come true. Does the devil exist? Is he a horned, tailed red skinned individual who likes the heating turned way up? Does he wear a suit and take pleasure in stealing your soul? Or is he a little imp, sitting on your shoulder, forever arguing with the angel seated opposite?

I often wonder if I'm the devil. Would I know? Or is that the devil inside's little joke? I am the devil, but I don't know it, so that makes my devilishness that much more fun?

I mean. I could be. People die because of me. I hear their screams at night, in the dark. I hear their cries when I'm simply looking out of the window in the recreation room, when I'm not listening to anything or anyone and they can creep in to haunt me. Should I, rather than crying inside, enjoy the sound? Should their fingers on the chalkboard of my spine sound send tingles through me rather than shivers?

Possibly, but they don't and I don't.

I shudder and tears threaten to drown my soul.

So. If I'm the devil, I'm a pretty poor one. I'm less likely to take your soul as I am to take your last Rolo. Keep it. It's not like you can collect them in carrier bags, is it? Or store them in boxes in that cubby-hole under the stairs, where you keep the shoes you forgot you had and haven't worn for years. Souls with soles, I suppose.

Ernst Renan asked "Oh Lord, if there is a Lord, save my soul, if I have a soul." This was one of my old English teacher's favourite quotes. I wonder, if he had lost his soul (Renan, not Mr. English), would he find it under the stairs? The back of the sofa? At the bottom of his wife's Mary Poppins handbag? Maybe his Lord was there too, having a quiet games of Go Fish or Charades.

Dreams, anywho. Do you dream? Do you remember them? I forget if everyone is supposed to dream every night, but most only recall some or none. Is that the case? Your subconscious tells itself a bedtime story whilst the rest of you knocks out those Zeds. Jiminy Cricket must be one warped little locust the way he juggles with my consciousness - sub or not.

I wonder, does Jiminy Cricket have a little Jiminy Cricket perched atop his shoulder?

So. Dreams. A nightmare is a form of dream. And mine certainly have come true.

Thanks for that Gabrielle.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Sin... English Rose...

She was our very own English Rose, but the thorns could do you some nasty damage. I think it was the Scorpions who sang that Every Rose had its Thorn.

Well, that suited too, because she certainly had a sting in her tail.

She called herself Barb. I'd assume it was short for Barbara, but I'm not so sure. Barbara is more the name for an older woman. It's not often you find someone sub-50 so called and 'Barb' was, I'd say, more mid-30s.

Though, saying that, I've always been poo at guessing ages. People either seem to look a lot older or years younger than they actually are, to me. I can't help taking in to account their eyes. Windows to the soul and all that. If there's a sparkle and a smile in their eyes, it can knock years off their apparent age, so smoothing out the wrinkles in my mind. Similarly, if their eyes have a shadow - the weight of woe or the lull of lethargy - it seems to wrap a cloak around them, one that has been screwed up and shoved down the back of the sofa for the past six months, forgotten about. Its creases have been so set in place they'll neither drop out nor benefit from an industrial steam iron whacked down on them. Even though possibly new, it appears aged and sorrowful and tired.

And so the years are piled on.

So, Barb could have been sitting comfortably in the dead centre of her third decade, or she could have been twice that, carry the one, but have a spark that could burn away the years before they could even attempt to scrunch her up and drop her behind the sofa.

She had a spark that could burn, that was for sure. The wit slid down her tongue like a wrist off a razorblade, cutting deeply into those that were careless enough to venture too close. And it was the sort of wound that no bandage or suture could heal.

Barb. A bit like naming me Sin. It does what it says on the tin, except I couldn't help it. I do believe she enjoyed herself.

Perhaps that was why she appeared younger than her name would suggest. She liked being spiteful. Her needles and nudges, digs and derisions were her version of fun and she splashed about in her pool of putdowns as if it were a summer's day and she was paddling in the breakwaters of a beach.

I suffered her cruelties once. I was walking past her going nowhere other than somewhere different to where I was. She put her foot out and I had no choice but to trip over it. I wasn't the first, or the last to do so and many have learned to just ignore her and carry on walking. Unfortunately, I hadn't learned that valuable lesson yet and so made the mistake of pointing out her deliberate trip, asking for an apology.

I don't think I had the chance to utter another word until her tirade of insults and accusations had finished. Around an hour had passed and she hadn't seemed to pause to draw breath. Once she was done, she didn't speak to me again, not then nor since, and I was left reeling and picking the pieces of my Self up off the floor where she'd flung them.

I mentioned that she was an English Rose. She was. High, rosy cheeks, back so straight it seemed to be formed from one single piece and was unbendable. An air of haughtiness that sat on the shoulders of superiority and spat on all below. And her thorns, they were as sharp as a scorpion's sting.

I've never been a gardener, but I do wish someone would come along and be brave enough to prune her.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Sin... Headaches...

You know those headaches that get you... get you right at the back of the eyes so you feel grossly sick? The ones where the back of your throat is pulled up to help the vomit find its way out? The kind that holds a red hot poker to your cornea and slides it slowly in so you can feel each burning millimetre?

I have one.

People say that, on eBay, you can sell anything. Toast with the supposed face of Jesus. Broken mobile phones. Mouldy cheese, probably. I wonder how much I'd get for this headache.

It's not your ordinary, everyday, walk in the park and skip through the fallen leaves headache. It's not, either, the kind you have from too little or too much sleep. It's not like toothache behind your eyes or the sort you have from being at the cinema and sitting just too close to the screen, so your senses are going WOAH!

This, my potential customers, is a HEADACHE.

Somewhere, someone is sitting with a two by four and is whacking me over the back of my bonce every time my heart decides to pulse the blood through my temples. Now that's worth more than a little two-paracetomol pain isn't it? Buy it now, no reserve!

Hmmm... No takers?

Why am I not surprised.

So. My brain feels like my head got wet in the rain and is shrinking, squeezing down until it pops like a balloon. If I looked in a mirror, I'd probably see my eyes bulging like those kids jelly toys that bulge out boogley eyed when squeezed, my nose and ears bleeding from the build up of pressure, the blood frantically trying to escape the rapidly closing confines of my head.

I used to get headaches, bad ones, as a child. If that were then, I'd feel like Neo in the Matrix as I had to take two pills. A red one and a yellow one. I remember them well. They were meant to help with the headaches, but I don't recall if they actually did. I assume they didn't as the investigations and treatments continued. I had X-Rays to see if I had polyps in my sinuses, which I didn't. In the end, the tablets were all they had. If they can't find a cause, chuck a pill at it and they might just hit home.

The headaches, I think, faded. They certainly weren't cured, nor was the cause ever found. They just disappeared with my youth, forgotten along with the name of my old head teacher. Occasionally, like anyone, I still suffered, but not like back then, when they were almost constant.

Today, though, it feels like they've all been saving up their pain, passing it along to the headache in front, and so on in front and in front again, until the lead one could barely hold the teetering tower of torment and it fell, crashing right through my head, practically blinding me and making me feel like I could quite happily decapitate myself..

Maybe it's because I slept in, somehow. We're never, ever allowed to stay in bed later than 8 am. Ever. The lights in our rooms are slowly turned up to a luminosity that would make the Sun wish it had a pair of shades tucked away in a back pocket. it means that it's as bright with your eyes open as it is with them closed. Sleep is banished back into the night, though you quickly forget that there ever was such a thing as darkness.

It's a rumour, right? Night-time? Just something they tease us with?

Anywho. This morning. I awoke in my bed, and it certainly wasn't 8 am. Breakfast had been and gone and my stomach was grumbling for its serving of slop. By the time I had made my way to the recreation room, the rest of the residents were already there and my brain was beating to the bounce of my blood.

I looked out of the window, immediately regretting it, and figured it must have been early afternoon.

That was roughly an hour ago. My head hasn't stopped playing bongos with the inside of my skull. My throat is still pulling itself up as if giving itself a wedgie. My eyes are still blurring with a sickly red around the edges of my vision.

And I can't understand why I was allowed to sleep in. In fact, I can't understand why I did, allowed to or not. I've always, whether in here or out, woken up just before my alarm was due to go off. As such, I'm always awake just before the lights are spiralled up to blazing.

But not today. Today, I'm missing hours. Today, the morning took the morning off.

Today I have a headache. Is there a doctor in the house?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Sin... Lady Luck...


Is she a lady? She's called as much, and I wouldn't want to besmirch her good name by suggesting otherwise or by calling 'her' a 'him' or 'she' a 'he'. But, IS she a lady?Female, perhaps, but would an actual LADY, all grace and goodness, be bad?

Let's face it, luck can be so bad you'd think it had the devil in her. You'd think a little case of demonic possession was going on and Luck was sneering at you with red eyes glowing and sharp teeth gleaming.

So, a Lady or just female. Not that I'm saying women are demonically possessed, of course. We're talking 'luck' here, not the 'fairer' sex. I'm just saying, Luck is generally referred to as a her. Same as a ship.

"God bless her and all who sail in her!" the Royal Highness or Mayor of Wotsit would proclaim whilst wasting a perfectly palatable bottle of bubbly by smashing it against the side.

Naturally, no-one sails in Luck - you'd sink. And there's no way to steer. But, by the same token, a ship can't help you win the lottery. I suppose they chat about that over a glass of wine on a Friday evening. Oh, no, they can't. Some dignitary smashed it against the brow of the boat! Oh well. There's some cans of Apple Tango in the conservatory.

Anywho. Luck. Bless her, and all who get swept along when she's in a good mood, or smashed over the head with a bottle of Bad when she's not.

We've been on more than nodding terms, her and I. In the past, of course. Almost on speaking terms, no less. I've won numerous competitions - money, holidays in fabulous hotels, computers and so on. I met a wonderful girl. Luck and I were getting on great.

Then I had to jinx it.

What is a jinx? Is it a creature that hides in the shadows, waiting to trip up Luck when she's skipping along? Is it the last train from Happiness Station, with no stops till midnight? Either way, see a penny, pick it up...

You know how it goes. 'And all day long you'll have good luck.' Well, clearly Luck didn't want to be tied to me in that way, especially when that penny was a TWO pence. Especially when that TWO pence was jealous of my fraternisations with Luck and decided to let the Jinx juggle with my juices. Especially, in fact, when the two pence let the Jinx smash me over the head with Luck.

Well, a lady is bound to take offence at that, isn't she?

Take a look at me now. Someone should write a song.

In an asylum. Escaping the screams. And the pain. If only the pain was my own, though, the fact that it isn't sort of makes it more so mine.

Luck. Lady or not, she's turned her back on me.

Maybe she won't on you. Maybe you have my luck. Be careful with it. Treat it 'like a lady'. Try it out! Here's a perfect opportunity!

I'm told, by Jeremy - the only orderly to at least treat us like people - that there's a competition. A giveaway. You can win an Amazon Kindle Fire, amongst other fabulous things. I've put a link on the right hand side of this blog and there's a page for it on that Shaun Allan's page. He's a writer or something. He's called his website which, I think, is genius. no, really. Wouldn't have thought of that myself...

Anywho-be-do. Try your luck, before someone else does. You've got to be in it to win it. Being stuck in an asylum, I'm unable to enter.

Win one for me, won't you?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Sin... Spring and the shadow...

It's the first day of spring today.

Whoop. No, really, Whoop, with a capital 'W'.

Can you hear the sarcasm in my words? Does it drip like the acid blood of Sigourney Weaver's Alien, sizzling as it eats through everything it touches? Does it slice like a knife, causing the indescribable pain of a paper cut - that most heinous of wounds?

Or did you think I was being serious? When have you known that, hmmm? No, that's not true. I can be serious, when necessary, but even then it's with my tongue firmly in my cheek.

Everyone needs their defence mechanism, don't they? Some huddle on down inside themselves, peeking over the mental sofa they hide behind to check if the coast is clear. Others sort of project themselves about a foot in front, like the Wizard of Oz bearing down on poor Dorothy, feeling small but trying to appear larger than life, the universe and pretty much everything.

One might be agitated, snapping and sniping like a cranky crocodile whilst another could be a Humble Herman, sitting quietly, hoping he won't be seen, or heard, or even slightly noticed.

Bernard was like that. The latter. The shrinking violet. The breath on me I may turn to dust.

Oh, and it was BernARD, not Bernerd or Bernud. BernARD.

Not that he'd get up in your face angry, or even raise his voice. He wouldn't even flicker a freckle - but you'd know. You'd feel his disappointment, his sadness. Sadness, not just at the fact you'd pronounced his name wrong, but also at the fact that he was how he was. Wouldn't say 'boo' to a ghost. Wouldn't even argue with his own reflection.

It wasn't that he was afraid. He didn't cower, exactly. He just didn't... It was as if he stood behind himself, but in doing so he took the interactive parts of his identity with him. The Bernard that you saw was a cardboard cut-out and served as a barrier to the world. Bernard 'proper' didn't hide, he just wasn't totally visible. You, maybe, caught sight of his shadow if the sun was just so.

I liked Bernard. He was unassuming. He didn't bother anyone, even if they wanted to bother him. Sometimes I imagined him as an empty crisp packet, one he himself would like to screw up and toss in the bin.

He left yesterday. I don't know that he was cured, but then I wasn't sure exactly what was wrong - if anything. Perhaps he was here for a break. Some respite. I hope he found it. Whatever the reason, he was here yesterday and today he wasn't.

Today, it appears, is the first day of spring. I hope Bernard can step out into the sun.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Sin... New Faces...

Mission Impossible. Good films.

I like the gadgets. And the fake faces. How they have those latex (or whatever they are) masks that they just peel off. You could be whoever you wanted to be.

Tonight, Matthew, I'm not going to be a caged lunatic, I'm going to be Brad Pitt. Well, I don't have the figure for Angelina Jolie...

It's much more extravagant than Clark Kent's specs. He just needed to half his number of eyes and he was a new man. I suppose people were more looking at the fact that he wore his pants outside his tights to notice he was exactly the same person. Plus he hasn't made quite so many films as Tom Cruise.

Of course, you are still yourself, whatever mask you might wear. You're still a superhero in a suit and glasses, or a secret agent in a latex mask. A mass murderer as a teacher or child molester as the quiet man who helps the kiddies cross the road.

A madman in sheep's clothing.

Although I keep telling you I'm not, actually, crazy.

In Total Recall, there's a girl casually tapping a stylus to her fingertips to change the colour of her nails. In Surrogates, you can sit at home and live your life as someone (or something, considering it's a robot) completely different. And in Aeon Flux, a girl had her feet replaced by hands.... Now that's, clearly, more permanent, and it means you'd have a hell of a time getting shoes to fit. Would they all be a size ten...?

You'd be all fingers and thumbs tying the laces.

Then there's Face/Off. Swapping faces with a criminal only to have him do the same to you. How weird would it be to look in the mirror and see... not you. It'd fair tenderise your brain, and no mistake.


Given the chance, would you be someone else, if only for a short time?

What if you had to? What if you didn't have a choice. Your identity, everything that identified you as YOU, stolen? You had to fight back. You had to get the artist to spray on a new facade? Would that be ok?

You shouldn't judge a book by its cover. I said that the other day. But people do. It's not what's inside, it's what APPEARS to be inside.

I, myself, don't believe that, but some people can't help themselves.

Well. My face was stolen. Not by orderlies or psychiatrists. Not by some sinister surgery. Not by the ghosts on the machine of my mind.

By interlopers. By the 'Them' we should all fear.

My face was stolen.

Prepare for the new face of Sin...

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Sin... 30 days hath...

February is a funny month, don't you think? It has to be awkward.. Has to be different.

"I don't want all those days the other months have. I want to be younger. I want 28. Oh, hold on.... no. I want 29. No, wait..."

Is it the child? A petulant teen that has to go against the grain and not fall into the nice ripple of days. Well, apart from July and August, of course, who have to throw it out of sync. But that's Roman emperors for you. Each wanting to top the other, or at least be equal - just more equal. Oh, no, that's the pigs...

But February. Why be a pain in the posterior? At one time you didn't even exist! Mars, the thunderous god of war kicked of the year with a bang. It wasn't until the second Roman King decided to juggle things about and chucked a couple more months in to line things up with their all important lunar cycle that you were even a twinkle in your daddy's eye.

Ah, lunar. Of course. 28 days - the time it takes a woman to turn into a werewolf. Or something like that.

But even then, you couldn't be first, could you. Relegated into second place by Janus, god of new beginnings and all that. But... I wonder if it's because he has two faces, so he was talking about you behind you back whilst being your best drinking buddy to your face.

July and August have their emperors. April, May and June are in league with January to be named after gods. September through to December sit quietly at the back, knowing that they were just named for when they fell in the year back when Mars was in charge.

Then there's you. When Caesar (Julius, that is) scattered some extra days around the months to copy the Egyptians and bin the old lunar year to honour the sun (I've been to Egypt, and it IS sunny), where were you? Busy with your purification rituals? Nursing the hangover from you night out with your new best friend Janus? Is that why you missed the boat?

And it takes you four years to risk leaping out to grab an extra one for yourself, eh?

So, really, you're not being awkward at all. You're not throwing a tantrum every quarter decade. You’re fighting for survival against gods, emperors and the quiet ones at the back (it's always the quiet ones...).

Well, I blame the Romans. I mean, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Sin... Cindy of the Harp...

Don't judge a book by its cover.

That's what they say. What you see is not necessarily what you get. 'Cos he looks like a slob, doesn't mean he's a yob. 'Cos she looks like a tart doesn't preclude her having a heart. Because he acts like a prick doesn't mean he's got a small problem with over-compensation.

But it also doesn't mean that he hasn't, he isn't and she has.

The slob could be spending all his benefits on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs and could wake his son in the morning with a slap and send him to bed at night with a kick. The girl who dresses in skin-tight skirts with an identity crisis over whether or not they're belts and heels that a Sherpa would fear scaling, could quite easily be the estate bike who pays for her slobbish husband's alcohol, cigarette and drug habits by allowing all and sundry to park in her.

And Dr. Connors could, quite easily, be an eminently professional psychiatrist who believes the needs of his patients are paramount.

Well, yes. Indeed.

Jersey, the orderly who's so oily he could be an ecological disaster, is a slimy upstart who thinks all should bow down before him. Or, in the case of the female patients, kneel. Jeremy has kind eyes and a kind heart.

Mucous Mickey is mental - to be blunt but honest. Caroline had the grace of the lead in Swan Lake and the temperament to match.

And Connors likes to use a syringe. Enough said, no?

But, they do say, don't judge the book by the cover. Them's dangerous words.

Cindy, so she told us, liked to play the harp. When young, she wanted to be an angel. When older, a harp was the closest she could come without sitting on a cloud and growing a pair of wings. Given that we weren't allowed musical instruments other than pretending, in some cases, that the floor was the drum and the head was the stick, this was an unproven fact. But Cindy had an air about her that lifted you when you were in her presence. You were almost enlightened around her. If she actually did strum the strings of a harp, the notes would positively float.

As such, people gravitated towards her. She was the sun to the vacuum of the asylum and bodies not so heavenly were drawn to the way they felt when they stood next to or orbited her.

Though some would call it stalking.

It seemed that nothing could faze this ethereal being. She held her poise whilst crowded by the patients who couldn't help but want that drugless lift only she could give. She didn't flinch when Jersey pawed her and tried to have her kneel before his mighty sword. Total calm emanated from Cindy the harpist at all times.

Then Jersey called her 'his chick'.

He needed three stitches to his left eye. To my knowledge, the middle finger of his right hand was never straight again. And Cindy lay in a heap on the floor with blood pooling from her nose and bloodshot eyes staring at the ceiling.

She hated crowds. She hated to be touched. She couldn't bear to be within five feet of any person. She lived alone and had food delivered and left at her front door. She didn't go out in case someone bumped into or touched her. Contaminated her. Tainted her.

Apparently. So the orderlies said to each other when they thought we weren't listening - which was always. They said she was a hermit. A weirdo - fitted right in here.

In here, they didn't say but I knew, she didn't have the luxury of solitude. She only had the contamination she was so afraid of. So she turned inward. She pulled her fear inside and locked it away. Cindy's whole body held its breath, and her aura of tranquility was the result. Her collapse, her death, was nothing to do with me, I know that much. I do believe, however, that it was her escape. Her brain cried out just as she should have done long ago.

And it echoed out through her nose and the bood vessels in her eyes.

You shouldn't judge a book by its cover. You really shouldn't. I thought Cindy was the eye of the storm. I thought she was the calm before the calamity.

I was wrong.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Sin... The Swing and the Roundabout Went to Sea...

Swings and roundabouts.

They make me feel sick. Well, they do. Put me on a rollercoaster that drags you up to the stratosphere before letting go so you can drop like a stone back down to earth, just being caught by the loop-de-loop before you can smash into the ground. Swing me this way and that, bouncing like Steve McQueen’s solitary baseball, and I'm fine.

Put me on a roundabout and I'll be fully prepared to vomit. I don't do roundandround. I've come off a rollercoaster and not been able to walk in a straight line due to my body still thinking there's one more turn to fly into. But a roundabout makes my head spin and my stomach follow suit.

And if the roundabout is the jacket to that suit, the swing is the trousers and matching waistcoat.

Back and forth, back and forth. I'm not a pendulum, you know. I'm not a pocket watch to hypnotise the masses. My body is not tested, to my knowledge, to withstand g-force and impact like a hard drive is.

I'm just me.

Look, forget about the strains a rollercoaster puts on your body, ok? I never said I was consistent.

Swings and roundabouts. Back and forth and round and round. I'm almost moving my body to the way of the words as I say them. Catch you on the rebound, as Luck would say, when she's not (well, she is a Lady) off picking Lottery numbers. What you don't gain on the roundabout, you get back on the swing.

Yeah sure.

So, if I have bad luck one day, eventually I'll have good luck another? Oh, really?

See a penny, pick it up and all day long you'll have good luck. See two pence and... you end up in an asylum, haunted by the cries of the people who are dead because of you.

I almost said 'that you'd killed' - but I didn't. I know what I've done, though I don't know how. I'm, at least, pleased we don't have pockets in here. Nowhere for a sly two pence piece to hide.

But, hey-ho-daddy-o, it's off to Purgatory I go.

Swings swing and roundabouts go around. It is what it says on the tin. A bit like me. Name's Sin, remember? Sin-sin-siree, there's no luck for thee, as my dear old dad might have said.

He didn't, but he might have. Substitute 'luck' for 'place' and you're getting hotter.

You might think I'm often on what you could call 'a downer', but I'm not, not really. But if you spend so much time with nothing to contemplate other than your navel, you're bound to feel blue and... fluffy. Usually I'm one of the more upbeat people in here. I keep the peace and the pieces. Fixing the fragments of fragility. Everyone is allowed an off day, but I don't think this is mine.

I'm not down, I'm just chatting. Chewing the cloth. Unfortunately it's wool so it gets to my teeth.

So. Swings and roundabouts - they make me feel sick. But at least the bucket I throw up into would be half full.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Sin... Valentine's Day...

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day.

Lovers everywhere will be exchanging gifts of love and card in which they pour forth the words their hearts wish they could speak - except if a heart could speak it'd probably just gush blood, which would get messy, so it's potentially a good thing they actually can't...

Others will be buying cards and gifts for their other halves because they feel they have to, writing:


Me x'

and putting all their effort into doing only that.

The lovers will be feeling bubbles pop like exploding candy on your tongue whilst the 'others' will manage, at most, a perfunctory kiss. The first, in some cases, of the year. Cupid's arrow hit them years before, but the wound has healed now, leaving only scar tissue.

But still, tomorrow is Valentine's Day. The supermarkets and card shops will be resplendent with red as they try to thrust the seasonal gifts down your throat. Not, of course, that's it's entirely commercialised now, oh no... Some people, I know, refuse on principal to buy anything. They still show each other their love and don't need a piece of card or tat to profess such things. So many, though, will. Just because it raises a smile.

It's Valentine's Day tomorrow. Did I mention that? I think I did. Whether 'they' are lovers, 'others' or neither, they still have someone to share or not to share with. Out there they have that luxury.

In here, I have the orderlies. I have Connors. I have Bender, Mucous and more. I have myself.

I did have, almost, Caroline. Slush, grit and gristle put paid to that, if, indeed, there ever was a 'that'. Outside, once upon a time, I had my fiancée. The love of my life. My soulmate and best friend. But, she liked to take the bus.

The Number Five.

Love is... something dangled like a carrot to the donkey. You can stand at the window and see it peeking from beyond the horizon, a distant dot that you want to run up to and embrace, but you know you'll get a prick and electro-shock treatment if you do. For one such as I, who dances with the devil but has two left feet so keeps standing on his toes, love exists only to tantalise and tease. It haunts you in your padded cell, echoing your cries as if there was someone in there with you, sharing your pain.

But there isn't.

There's you.

And there's the pain.

A match made in... well, not heaven, that's for sure.

It's Valentine's Day tomorrow. Just saying...

Friday, 27 January 2012

Sin... The Speed of Darkness

What is the speed of darkness?

The speed of light is, I seem to remember from days not staring out of the window in physics class at school, about 186,000 miles a second. Now that's fast. There's no tortoise or hare competing for the carrot here. The speed of light is the big balloozer. Anything and everything gets left behind in its wake.

Unless you're a black hole of course, the massive maw in space that can devour a planet pull of Big Macs without so much as a hint of indigestion. But they're not particularly fast, they just have huge appetites.

Didn't they discover some photons that can move faster than light? Or did that discovery cause the Universe to implode? I forget.

When you're wandering the halls, or circling the Recreation Room, it's hard to believe there could be an absence of light. The walls hammer their nails of white brilliance into the back of your skull directly through your retina. Three years after you'd left I could imagine you still having the afterimage imprinted into your eyes. If anyone actually left, that is. The constant brightness, so much so that the walls even seem to glow at night, gives the whole place a chill. Even in the warmest summer when the light is streaming in through the window and the dust is barn-dancing in its rays, you, every so often, have to rub your hands together to instil a hint of heat to the extremities.

Darkness, I'd imagine, would be warmer. A cloak that wraps around you and protects you from the freezing piercings of the light.

But is the light too fast for the darkness? Who'd win in a race? Who'd be the Kraken to the Godzilla?

I've never been afraid of the dark. Even as a child, it didn't bother me. If there were creatures under my bed and they weren't as fun as Howie Mandel's Maurice, then that was up to them. It was cramped and dusty under there. I never heard any sneeze, so I assumed they either held their breath or liked to play with the dust bunnies.

I also didn't have a wardrobe (or closet). I had some drawers in the bedroom that I shared with my brother and I had a sort of shelf in the bedroom I eventually had on my own. Monsters don't hide in drawers... do they? Is there a Sock Monster that bites your toes when you're not looking? A Boxer Beast that nibbles on your... No. I don't think that there is.

Anywho. Such beasties were confined, if there were any, to the underside of my bed. I was a shy child, so I didn't have the confidence to look and say 'hi'. but it was that rather than fear that kept me away.

I suppose 'dark' does have a speed all of its own. It can creep up on you without you even noticing its approach or it can leap out and engulf you. But when you live in a world brighter than the centre of the sun, darkness, you wish, would be your friend. Your oasis in the desert of light. It'd wrap itself around you and hold you close.

But how fast is it? It's been said that, as it's an absence of light, its speed is 0. Nothing. Zero. As light is supremely fast, darkness just stand there and says "Run as much as you want, I'll stay here and chill and eat this bag of chips. When you're gone, I'll be what's left anyway."

Is that it? Darkness is what's left after the light is exhausted and is sprawled out on a bed gasping for breath?

It's also been said that the speed of darkness is the same as the speed of light. It's a tie, folks. You know? I really don't think darkness could be that bothered. Let light take all the glory. As much as the nearest star is just over 4.2 LIGHT years away, there's plenty of darkness between here and Proxima Centauri, and it doesn't even have to rush to be there. The light from the stars belts it across the universe to get to us, or wherever else it might fancy going, and the darkness just hangs about.

Maybe the speed of darkness is whatever it wants it to be.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Sin...The Promotion...

I'm being promoted.

No, not that kind of promotion. I'm not going from patient to orderly, or even Grand Poobah himself (or 'Himself', no doubt). There's no corner office with a lovely big window overlooking the gardens. I don't get a pay rise with a nice bonus to boot.

I might just get the boot...

No handshake. No letter on fancy-schmancy embossed paper, gilded letterhead resplendent.


But, apparently, I'm being promoted.

Well, you might think, he's known as 'The Reverend'. Perhaps he's becoming 'The Deacon' or 'The Bishop'?

You'd be wrong.

Still, though, I'm in good spirits. The promotion in question (if you, in fact, were questioning) is that I'm being made free. And, you're wrong again.

I'm not being released. Even though I'm meant to be here voluntarily so I should be able to walk out of here when I please, I can't. Connors has his claws into me just as if I'm a mouse and he's swooped down from on high and is taking me back to his nest to be fed on by his hungry children. Yeah, like he'd share.

Free. The word tastes of... freshness. I almost get giddy with the thought, but then, I am in an asylum. But it's not me. Well it is and it isn't. It's my book. My story.

Sin, written by some bloke called Shaun Allan. I'm sure he's a nice guy, and all that, but would you trust someone with two first names? It's like he can't make his mind up.

Saying that, I lost my surname somewhere along the way, so I don't have room to talk.

Anywho. Sin, the eBook, is going to be completely free all day on the 12th January. That's tomorrow, or today, or last week (depending on when you read this).

If I can't be free and walk among the populace, perhaps my book can.

Less chance of people dying, I suppose.

(Available from Amazon US - Amazon UK)