The Dyatlov Incident and Me

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On February the 2nd 1959, nine experienced Russian Hikers cut their way out of their shared tent in the middle of the freezing night and ran away into the Ural Mountains snow. Half of them weren’t even dressed. Some were barefoot. All of them died within twelve hours. And when the bodies were found some of them had injuries that the Coroner described as being ‘unable to be inflicted by any human.’

Two semi naked members of the party were found with bloodied hands and had climbed five meters up into a tree to pull branches down and make a fire barely 250 meters from their tent. But there was abundant dry wood laying around on the forest floor. Why did they do this?

Some of the bodies had their eyes removed, and one person was missing their tongue, although her stomach contained blood – meaning she was alive when it was taken. Another Hiker was so badly crushed by something that it had apparently broken every single one of his ribs.

They had taken a camera with them on the trip. It was found propped up on a tripod inside the tent, facing the buttoned up entrance. The film was developed successfully. All normal pictures of smiling hikers, but many of the same scene: the treeline by the campsite, almost like they were trying to capture something on film lurking out there in the forest. The last photo was blurred and appeared to show two lights in the night sky. After the bodies were all recovered the Russian Government placed an exclusion order on the entire area for the next three years.

Yeah, you’re thinking what I’m thinking too: why am I even reading this stuff? I don’t know. It is the basis for some really crazy hours of internet research when I should really be writing about things that make my heart glad and fill me with life-affirming thoughts. But here we are…stuck in the possibilities of something that is almost too terrifying to consider. What it is for sure, I maybe can’t figure out. Look it up – The Dyatlov Pass Incident.

Why do I get bogged down in things like this? Do I need a purpose instead of sitting here at this desk and staring down into the portal of the internet waiting for some bullshit thing like this to grab me by the amygdala and thrash my psyche around like a Kingfisher slapping a minnow on small branch? The dull thwack thwack thwack until the flapping stops and I’m moved on to some thoughts about that bastard Donald Trump and his promise today to cut corporation tax in the USA to 20%. ‘It will help the USA,’ he said, tiny fingers making that perverse OK sign that has come to represent nothing more than a rich mans take on a wanking gesture. ‘Here’s what I think of all of you.’ Secret laughs in the back of the Presidential Limo afterwards. Back slapping as pornography is streamed right into his eyeballs by the CIA. Those people know how to control a sexually dysfunctional clown like Trump – beam old Miss World shows right into his brain, or scenes of Russian prostitutes snorting cocaine from the inside of his soiled underwear. That freak could get his kicks from anything if you gave him enough time and the promise that he’d never really be prosecuted. He’d fuck a dolphin, or even a rubberised half-human, half-rat mannequin, without once looking over his shoulder to see if the whole thing was being viewed by the entire population of the World.

Horror scenes aplenty here on the Hill this morning, in my little stone cottage. Not what the doctor ordered. The music is fine, loud, and this is a good thing but yesterday I killed the menacing fat spider out the back of my house that was being cared for by my elderly neighbour as some form of pet. I knocked it out of its web with a small stone, then stomped on it when it hit the ground. My neighbour will know it was me, but I will deny it and blame it on a bird; the wind; Donald Trump; or simply tell her the spider could read the writing on the wall, even if we couldn’t, and left for greener pastures. I am a bad liar, but I’ll do my best this time. No-one likes to admit they have killed something for no good, logical, reason. Not even me.

Yes, things are weighing heavily this morning. In a weird way, I kind of know why those Russian Hikers ran blindly into the night all those years ago. I just don’t want to believe it.




Character Study in A Minor

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He was odd. I knew that much the first time I’d met him, before he even started talking. Today he was wearing a long duster coat and cowboy boots, white shirt open nearly down to his navel, blue jeans. It was 1990.

The kid had lived up the road from me for years but had gone to a public school rather than mix with the rest of us in the festering pool of genetic freaks, shared girlfriends, and poor educational prospects delivered at the local comprehensive. Now we were standing outside the smokers common room at the sixth form college in a nearby town. It was sunny. Dust blew along the old surface of what used to be a tennis court. He was a few feet away, chest puffed out so it looked like he had some form of spinal problem. Inane grin showing too many teeth, arrow straight, like a nightmarish Muppet or a horror film cyborg. His chin extended far in front of his face, not helped by a sight underbite. Flattop hair, buzz shaved at the sides, sloped downwards and mirrored the angle of the chin. I was studying him, watching him leering at a girl he was talking to. I could hear him telling her lies about having signed up for the Army, being trained in close combat. She was disinterested, took a cigarette out of a packet, and went to light it. Like a gunslinger, in a blur, he took a matchbox from a pocket in his jeans, lifted up a snakeskin cowboy boot, and struck a match on the sole. He flourished it at her cigarette. I guess she was too overcome with the ferocity of the gesture and the stares from the people around us to refuse. He waved the flame out and tossed the dead match onto the ground with too much effort. Now she looked embarrassed.

His voice was kind of mid-Atlantic. Gravelly, too. Cross between Clint Eastwood and Eton. The accent took a lot of effort, and he spoke slowly, considering the vowel sounds and the tone of the thing before saying the actual words. He was trying to portray a superior air. We were all beneath him. He was leering again, his eyes flicking down to her chest when he thought she couldn’t tell. Most of the other people on their smoke breaks had stopped talking to each other by now and some were openly laughing at him.

‘Hey, Alastair. Why do you light matches on your fucking boots?’ someone asked.

‘If it’s for a lady, then I have to make an extra special effort,’ he replied, grinning at the girl. My God, those teeth went on forever. I wondered how many teeth a human head is supposed to contain and if he had broken some kind of natural order of things. She took a step away from him, her legs unconsciously moving her away from danger; primeval instinct of self-preservation. He had the same look in his eyes that I had seen on nature documentaries: a shark heading up through the surf and about to open its mouth before the first exploratory bite; the adrenaline keenness and focus of an apex predator. Like a San Francisco harbour seal, stranded from the safety of its own kind, she could sense a shift in the atmosphere, she looked scared.

‘Err…thanks for the light, Alastair. I’ve got to run, I’ve got an art lesson in a minute.’

‘I’ll see you on the bus then, my lady.’ He looked pleased. Okay, so he had missed the target in his first rushed attack, but he knew where the prey would be heading and he was going to make damn sure he was ready for the ambush next time. On the college bus, no-one could hear you scream.

The clock ran round to the hour. People began to leave. I had a free period and was going to smoke some hash on the playing field, so I was in no rush. I sat down against the wall and checked I had enough Rizla papers. I looked up. Alastair was standing there, blocking out the sunlight.

‘You know, Ben-boy, drugs are bad for you. They make you weak.’

‘Fuck off.’

‘The women prefer someone with class. Someone who can operate at maximum performance all the time. Drugs just slow you down.’


He fidgeted a bit, like there was some kind of internal struggle going on behind the crazy look in his eyes, then grinned again, pirouetted around on one of those high cowboy boot heels, and walked slowly down towards his GCSE retake class.


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A day of mixed problems of varying seriousness and effect.

Firstly, my 85yr old neighbour is living in a perpetual state of stress because someone’s bin got vandalised yesterday. It took ten minutes to calm her down. I stood in the howling wind and rain in a pair of shorts and t shirt outside her door as she took her time telling me the fine print details. By the time I’d told her to go back inside and ring me if she was worried, I was soaked to the skin. I just know this isn’t over. I am completely at her mercy right now. There is no reasoning with someone that old. The only solution is to hide and ignore her shouting over the gate for me. Which, of course, I will never do..

Later this morning I got a text from my GP asking me to ring the surgery. It took all of five seconds for me to realise they are trying to kick me off of my codeine prescription. The dosage is poxy – 15mg four times a day – but it’s enough in these days of opiate paranoia to become a blip on a doctors radar. I’ve nursed that prescription for years. And I always only ever use half the prescribed dose, meaning the time between repeat prescriptions goes a long way to proving my ability to maintain a sense of restraint and control over the codeine. This doesn’t seem to have got me very far. A week on Friday I’ll know for sure, when I’m deep into an argument in a doctors room with some poor sap who knows me less than you do. I’m not knocking their obligations to a patient with codeine, diazepam, and pregabalin prescriptions – it’s just common sense – but justifying the codeine is going to be tough. Truth is, it’s genuinely needed, but this won’t go far in the cold light of the surgery on Friday. Ever tried to prove pain? It’s tough. There is another little withdrawal looming on the horizon. And freshly opiate-free synapses hurt. Trust me.

The General Election is tomorrow. I won’t be doing my usual drunk/medicated vigil in front of the tv screen into the early hours, shouting at the screen and pledging my allegiance to Satan if only he’d suck back the souls he rented to the Conservative Party candidates. It’s an exercise i recommend, especially if your neighbours can hear you at 4am on your tenth Red Bull and vodka, wired up to the political mainline like an electricity sub-station. People who hear that kind of behaviour never want to engage you in conversation about politics ever again. But I’m driving for four hours at 9am on the next morning so I’ll just go to bed and grind my teeth until the savage dawn awakens the next chapter of Austerity, Cuts, and Right Wing death squads. What the fucking hell have we become? It’ll be a fast and dangerous drive because my mood will be terrible. There is no chance that Labour will win. Anyone living in hope is delusional. People in the UK are either rich, hideous, and scared, or poor and too apathetic to rise up and care about how many times they get kicked in the balls. And the latest terror attacks have rubber-stamped Theresa’s victory. The majority want someone punished and they want it done with excessive force. Doesn’t matter who, just as long as they aren’t White and we don’t get to see them putting out the flames on their children’s backs. Jeremy Corbyn is too empathetic for this country of revenge-hungry beasts. We are at War. And Jeremy admits he wouldn’t press the button. It’s just common sense, and I applaud him for it, but the average voter doesn’t want to hear about taking backwards steps; about being weak; the chance for peace. They want blood and for someone to guarantee they can live their life on Facebook without giving a thought to anyone else other than clicking ‘Like’ on a random acquaintance’s holiday photos. X-Factor, Dance-Off, Bake-Off, Fuck-Off TV, rammed down semi-alcoholic throats at the end of long boring weeks in a dead end job, hating everyone. It’s the British way.

Jeremy will lose. Maybe not by a crushing defeat, but by enough for him to walk away into history as the man who should have proved the UK had some sense of hope for the future, if only enough of us had had the guts and the brains to stand up for peace.

Problems, eh. You’ve got yours and I’ve got mine. Right now it’s time to put Kurt Vile on the stereo and try to calm down. Maybe smoke a joint. Let it all pass. I mean, these are dangerous times. Someone like me doesn’t need to add their own foul twist on an already evil brew. By Friday morning we’ll all know just how fucked that brew can get us, and the hangover is going to take an eon to shift. Maybe it’ll never leave us.


The bomb

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I’m not knocking anyone. But I know music doesn’t heal, and nowhere is safe.

Manchester was bombed again – the last one was the IRA explosion that destroyed a part of the city centre. As an aside, my father was once questioned about another IRA bombing back in the mid eighties. He didn’t do it, but had stayed at the hotel a couple of days before the attempt on Margret Thatcher’s life. Bombs are emotive – made in small workshops – plotted – planned – ingenious – terrorising – cowardly. They have targets but they don’t aim. Collateral damage is inevitable, whether a suicide vest, or a million dollar cruise missile. I guess that’s an important lesson to remember from the ‘War on Terror’. But we don’t think about it from any other side than from our own White, Western, lard-ass, perspective. NO cruise missiles will ever scream down onto my village. NO meeting or Think Tank will plot a multi-billion dollar attack where I walk/shop/eat. I am civilised, and I’m on the side of civilisation…. Right?

My niece is in Manchester right now. She was last night, too. She’s at a public school in the city. There is an outside chance she was at that concert last night, but I haven’t had a phonecall this morning, so I’m guessing she wasn’t. These things have a funny way of wanting to wrap you up in them, churn a piece of you into the chaotic fall-out, and in times like these it’s all too easy to start posting ‘Pray for Manchester’ on social media, or replacing your avatar with a British flag. Godawful jingoism always rears up in the face of a non-white terror. People in the UK this morning are using words like Justice, Revenge, and saying things like ‘Lets hit the bastards back……bomb Iraq.’ And – as of 9.17am GMT – 22 people are dead, blown to pieces at a child music concert. Caused by one man. No-one knows anything of the finer details – a reporter asked the head of the Manchester Police if he knew if nails were wrapped around the bomb. Hideous thing to ask, and I didn’t see the purpose until I watched another hour of circulating news on TV. It was all the same thing over and over: 22 dead, 59 injured, bomb, concert, running, people stampeding over each other, jumping from balconies, communities ‘coming together’. What else is there to say about an event that took place in less than a second and had been locked down within half an hour? Not much, just newscasters repeating titbits of information while looking serious and trying hard to conjure up something new to say while standing outside of a featureless hospital entrance.

IF you think about it, the questions are few and we all know the answers to them anyway. We know why/who, the important stuff. And now another 22 innocent people are dead. No amount of ‘Thoughts and prayers’ statements will change a single thing. Praying (ok, and oil money) got us into this in the first place. It won’t get us out.


Out there at the Perimeter

  • A skeleton has been found in Greece nestled in a deserted cove or beach. The police think it is the last remains of Steven Cook, who disappeared there twelve years ago. They say a disposable camera was found with the bones. I wonder what the pictures are.
  • Donald Trump says we’re all liars and only he has the truth.
  • Tony Blair wants the UK to rethink its conscience: laughable and ironic.
  • The birds in my garden have started to watch me.

And that, my friends, is the news today. Full of bad intentions, bad outcomes, and even worse futures. There is little to smile about – even the anti-psychotics I’m prescribed are giving me headaches – and much less to get up in the mornings for. I’m constantly burning incense sticks in my house to try and drive evil away but the forces pile up some days against my doors like dirty great snowdrifts. They seep through cracks and into my home with supine intentions for me. It’s not a situation to be envious of.

In the dead of night I sometimes wonder if there is any point to anything good going on out there in the land beyond my triple locked doors. After listening to the neighbour’s headboard banging for a while until he reaches climax, I turn my good ear to the pillow and think of reasons to live. If nothing else, it gives me a sense of purpose. Sometimes I get up watch the stars out of my window, and blink in the moonlight. The universe deserves better than all of the above. Where we are is just on the dumb perimeter of something more magical than we’ll know in my lifetime. There’s just that big-assed fucking thing in the way. Call it mental illness, call it actually being awake when others are asleep in more ways than one. It’s an inescapable barrier which is dooming me to sadness. Right now I’m just stuck.




Whale Death

What can you do when something, or someone, helpless is in front of you in pain? What are you supposed to do, and what is righteous? I mean, when the horrors of a situation are right before you is there some innate procedure that kicks in? Can anything be salvaged? Is there really something good in the bad?

I’m asking because a hundred Pilot Whales are stranded on some goddamn place called Farewell Spit in New Zealand. It was all over the tv this morning. I watched it at 4.30am, curled up in disgust and terror on my sofa, freshly woken half an hour earlier from a nightmare where the old Preacher from Poltergeist Two was chasing me around my house asking me to pray for my salvation.

The Pilot Whales lay there on the golden shore like huge black slugs in a giant sandbox. But around them, some in lifejackets and hi-viz vests, gathered together to share the intense Natural grief of the impending death of a hundred large wild animals, milled the local population. Some covered the whales in wet bed sheets, others poured water over their skin. Most stood looking from body to body, wondering, like me, what made these things happen. Some knelt lovingly next to the dying whales and patted and caressed them, talking to them and oozing anthropomorphic love. In my mind I heard a panpipe. The grief was all being sucked up by the humans. All the words and the knowing grim smiles…. The whales, as far as I know, don’t speak English, and I’m sure they don’t know why they are dying any more than I do. A few sandy tubs of water, baptising them as ‘touched by human kindness’, so worthy of allowing close contact, were pointless but they continued anyhow. The least the whales could do under the circumstances was to allow a sobbing middle-aged human the benefit of watching it pass away while being patted like a large, oilskinned cat. Get with the pro-social programme, you fucking ungrateful Cetacean.

Some people dug channels, waiting for the next tide, but the whales were already dying by then. Nobody could really help – which brings me back to the beginning: What? Why? How? Is doing something better than doing nothing and leaving these terrified creatures alone in their final moments together? Do Pilot Whales find humans comforting?

No. No, they don’t.

Those Pilot Whales will all die; causes unknown. But a lot of people will leave that beach feeling just that little bit better about their own shit because they got to watch a heart stop in the middle of several tons of marine flesh that should really be in water. There was a smugness that pervaded that beach which I found horrific.

Cuddle a whale, cuddle something, try to safely absorb some grief. It’s all safe unless, like me, you’re all washed up.


Sharkfin Blues Liddiard

Depression. Solid gold bottomed out bummer. Black as the eye of the night. Never thought I suffered with it myself but I guess that’s because there are other more complicated things thrown in the bucket along with it. Like lack of sense of self….or sense of time and place. Throw in that shitty music I hear when I’m stressed, and the hissing voice that tells me how bad I am, the odd hallucination, and we’re almost there. Fun times.

But depression is something that people find debilitating. I looked down my nose at the depressed at first when I found out what my diagnosis was (Bipolar, then Borderline Personality Disorder) because I thought in the league table of being fucked up I ranked highly. I didn’t want to, it was just how it felt for a long, long time. But all that has changed. Depression is no better or worse than me, you, any Psychiatric diagnosis going – except maybe the Paranoid Schizophrenics who can’t be left in a room alone for even a minute. I guess they have the edge over my shit.

Like I said, I don’t have a true handle on the clinically depressed, because it ain’t me, but I think I know enough now to say I don’t envy them. Maybe their road isn’t my road, but at least I can see where it is on the map now. There was no epiphany, no single moment of realisation, just a gradual growing respect for those who can’t see the way past the edge of the foggy gloom. I’m taken on rocket rides through a series of emotions, out of control and intense, but just to feel sadness and nothing else….man…

There are so many of us out there whispering our stories out into the hurricane, blown away before they reach an ear. I’m one of them sitting here just writing this, but don’t give it a second thought. Do what you have to to get well; feel better; stay afloat. We are all we’ve got.

Like usual, I can’t explain myself properly, which I will punish myself for at some point tonight.. Love to all of you who struggle with the things in your head that don’t work as they should. We are many, and we are brothers and sisters in one mixed up battle to find some good in being alive. It’s the key to everything.

The final words on the subject are from Gareth Liddiard –


Demons in the dark.. Election special


Just up the road from my house is a place called Demon Wood. An elderly neighbour told me that its name comes from an incident two hundred years ago when a miner was trapped in a small lead mine in the wood after part of the mine collapsed. He stayed down there in the complete dark for seven days, licking water from the rock. He also started hallucinating. He saw demons and evil pictures of monstrous events. When they eventually rescued him he couldn’t be reasoned with. He’d lost an important part of his mind down in the earth.

That miner, legend goes, took the best part of a month to stop gibbering and running away from those Demons whenever night fell. He was a broken man with no future in the lead mining business. He had seen another view of the world.

The local community took pity on him, and they also gave the name Demon Wood to the site of the lead mine. Today I can still see the small mound that marks the top of the shaft down to the Demons in the deep. I walk past it maybe three times a week. I’ve never seen any evil up there. But this morning, things are different. Evil is everywhere.

I watched the Presidential election results come in first thing. The images provoked the same sort of feelings I remember having when I watched the second plane hit the twin towers some fifteen years ago. There was nothing but disbelief in what I was witnessing. I shook my head slowly from side to side like it might rock something malfunctioning back into place. It hasn’t. It won’t ever, I guess. This morning, despite the codeine and pregabalin, the story of the miner came back to me in the rainy first light. He had had a total loss of any capability to filter what was real and what was just a hideous hallucination – a complex process of brain death, subjugation to sensory deprivation, loss of faith in everything in front of his eyes – and now only the evil remained. And that’s the overwhelming feeling right now: only the evil remains. This is all just so terrible that it can’t be real.

The truths are many, and they matter right now on this sofa. Coupled with the lies, they feed the hive-mind and they whip up the cosmos in ways we’ll never truly work out until it’s too late. If Aliens weren’t interested in our World yesterday, then….listen… You can hear the sound of Flying Saucers being cranked into gear right now. And when they get here I’ll be the first in the queue to get a lift. Shit, I’d even take a bit of laser-beaming or probing on the way just get out.

I always had faith in humans to do the right thing, to light the right torches and shine in the most needed dark places. Carry each other. Help. We are living in times now where that sentiment is dead for the foreseeable future in the places that really matter – The minds of too many people. We are each others enemy. We cannot be trusted to look after the world. Brexit/POTUS/Tory victories/Right Wing power growth/terrorism/religious intolerance/selfishness/money-accumulation/whipping the poor, just go to prove to me that the roof has collapsed on Planet Earth. I can’t make sense of any of it.

The miner sat in the dark and watched the demonic horror overwhelm him. He was powerless. Today, I am he.


Fervour (Attic part Two)


‘There’s a war going on out there, Ben. Today the battle is raging and you need all the help you can get.’

Man….he was right, even if he didn’t know which direction the battle was in. The over-large cycle helmet, trousers in cycle clips at the ankles, and functional backpack made him look like someone vulnerable. The thing he was clutching in his left hand as we talked looked like a wooden ninja star. I joked about it but he was deadly serious.

‘It’s a holding Cross,’ he said. ‘It wards off Evil.’

I stopped laughing. He was deep into it. Against all other failures to understand people, one thing I know is you should never piss on someone else’s religious beliefs, no matter how bat-shit crazy they may appear. I mean, fuck, who am I to judge anyhow? I’ve seen things flying about, heard voices, been tapped straight into some supreme being’s femoral vein more than once. Tolerance isn’t just something you know you should exhibit, it’s something you feel. 

He was on my Team, I was his boss – laughable really – and he was a Police Officer at the end of a long and boring and fruitless career. Now, following a seventies conversion by the Rev Billy Graham at a huge open air Christian love-in, he was into his beliefs in a big way. The penny dropped when he told me about the holding cross.

‘Oh….yeah….I suppose. Martin, do you really think there’s a war?’

‘I have no doubt.’ He stared right at me with purpose and religious affliction. Unblinking, full of fervour and powerful New Testament gibberish. ‘Satan is testing us all. His time has come and we need to be ready to fight; mankind needs to be ready.’

I said I had to leave. Conversations like that were unhelpful at the time when I was heading back home to piss into a glass in an attic room for fear of coming out of the room and facing world. It was easier than having to talk to my girlfriend, and helped avoid those eyes of hers she always used like Jedi mind control. It was a self-imposed exile that was serving a purpose. I was getting sicker. What I didn’t need was to feed images in my mind of Satan rearing a thousand feet over my cul-de-sac while the dark early morning hours chugged by like greasy black slugs. No. Who does? Martin didn’t know my backstory, it wasn’t his fault. I liked him. He even bought me a bible one time – one of those expensive leather bound ones. He’d signed it “I’m so happy you’re in God’s Team now.” I couldn’t tell him I wasn’t. I mean, how do you go about making someone like him understand that you don’t believe what they do without that someone getting hurt? These things have, in my experience, a tendency to turn violent from time to time. Messy, protracted, shouting, shoving. All bad, however you look at it and whichever side you’re on.

I watched from my attic skylight that night. The sky was clear. I could hear my nearly ex-girlfriend downstairs in the bedroom on the phone telling the guy with the spiders how much she was looking forward to fucking him again. She really wanted his cock so badly, so she said. In my mind his member was already there and she was speaking those words right into it in the warm night. The stars were barely visible over the artificial streetlight dome cast up by our shitty new estate. I looked for Hercules with his sword and shield and belt and massive frame. He held sway over the sky. He’d deal with Satan alright, if he did manage to show a horn or two around here. I found the outline of his belt up there but couldn’t see much more than a bit of one leg. He was useless when faced with a couple of orange street lamps. Satan would murder him with less trouble than my girlfriend was going to have with that “huge, gorgeous, pulsating cock,” downstairs. Walk in the park. She was a fucking machine, when she was in the mood.

Next day, Martin took me to one side and told me he’d heard a sermon last night. The Preacher said we needed to get serious with our lives, the end was in sight – Fire raining from the sky; ‘Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed…Then they gathered at the place named Armageddon. Don’t forget that, Ben,’ he said.

I agreed, out of cowardice, but he was wrong. There was a lot of nakedness, and more, going on but there was no end in sight for me at the mercy of any fantastical being. Just the little man-made tablets I had stockpiled at home. Held in one trembling hand. Stigmata-free.


Attic womb

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The skylight opened. I reached out with the glass and poured the piss out onto the sloping roof. Along the street, people were cutting the grass or washing their cars. The place was a Toytown full of people who didn’t know anything and had no desires other than to be the same as everyone else, only just that little bit better.

I’d been living in the attic room for three months. She had the two floors below. I’d get up, go to work, come home, take food up to my room and shut the door. I fantasised about running off into the world – becoming homeless, free, away from her and the bullshit. The relationship was fucked. I was in a job I hated, and she’d signed me up to some scheme where, right then, I owed something in the region of £45,000 to banks. I’d never seen a penny of it. These situations are easy to get into if you are vulnerable at the time but they don’t last. They always move on to their next phase: you lose.

I wigged out on codeine, fentanyl, booze, and thought for too long about how I wasn’t just trapped in the attic, but in life full stop. Man, I was so ill up there. I took at least one overdose; Tramadol for sure one time. Pupils as big a saucers for the whole of the next day, confused. But it was good to be alone in my room all the time, even waking up from an overdose. She was out fucking some other guy on a regular basis anyway. Said he had a huge cock. All I knew was he was about five feet tall, wore leather coats, and kept tarantulas. She told me when he fucked her in the ass she would cum and cum until she thought she would pass out. She was kind like that. She’d bellow up the stairs that she was going out. I knew what it meant. I was relieved. At least she wouldn’t try to get me in the sack.

I suppose I was meant to feel jealous. I felt nothing at all about much at all in the attic.

High up in the rooftops I could watch the sun rise, hear the birds scratching on the tiles. It was sadly beautiful up there. I only left it to work, shit, bathe, and get food. I just didn’t want an excuse to leave the room if I didn’t have to. Solitude and mental illness….oh, and the drugs and alcohol. Resetting to point zero. That’s what I called it. That’s how I justified it.

She left after a vicious argument – I can’t remember what about – and that was that. She would be the Spider Guy’s problem now. All I needed to do was to fend off the Banks who were trying to get the money back that she lost for me. Then get my mental health back to somewhere near functioning. Tough ask. Actually, I don’t think it ever really recovered. I had two serious overdoses in the following two months. Shit like that doesn’t leave you easily.

In the attic there was something foetal going on. A re-birth of sorts. Snug and warm and trapped and with a lockable door. My head sometimes looked out of that skylight and wondered what was over the hill. If I’d ever get to a better place than this.

When I finally moved from the house I got a tiny flat just up the road. No skylight, no attic, no central heating. Two windows with the blinds always drawn, blocking out the desperate sobbing of a guy newly sacked from his job. I dodged the bailiffs and the knocks on the door from anyone and everyone. It was always dark in there. Dust, diazepam, late night television, xbox games, lining up tablets on the dirty table and wondering if I had enough to do the job. Crazy nights of opiate withdrawing, crashing around the flat ripping drawers out of their holes, searching for forgotten codeine to take the ache away. Nightmares, screaming in the early hours covered in sweat while, twenty miles away, she was being fucked in the ass for the fiftieth time that week and telling him lies, like she used to tell me. That poor sucker. I felt for him.

At the end of the summer I was barely alive. The room turned from a womb to a cocoon. Indefinite period of gestation, or mutation, or metamorphosis, or simply  still birth. Which one it’d be was anyone’s guess.