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By Dom Maitland


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There is a small explosive device trapped inside my skull. It is just beneath the crown of my head and if I were to press hard enough I would feel it, like I would feel a lump. I know how long it has been there and I remember how it got there.

I went into the street. I shouted.

It was starting to explode.

I tried to get someone to look at me, to examine it, but they were scared, I could see the fear in their eyes, they knew that I had this tiny metal trap inside my head, that they should stand clear, before it exploded. I tried to tell people, I know now that everyone has one.

Chris told me. I shuddered. I wanted to cry.

He said that we are all victims, shadows of our real selves, that we all have this bomb inside of us and no one will share that secret with anyone else. Nobody believes or trusts anyone; we are all completely alone. I asked him if it was possible to break it down, disintegrate it, he said that certain liquids in the right amount would help to delay its effects, but it would be a long and dangerous road. I didn't know what other roads there were. Today the light from the sun bounced off the pavement, it cut into me like a razor. I am still squinting. I am still close to crying.

He stood in the road, and no one heard him when he screamed.

That's how I'll start it when I get round to it. My Opus.

All I want to do is diffuse the device, because sometimes I can feel it pounding inside me, it wants to escape. But if it escapes it will kill me, there is only one way out, through the top of my head. Anyway, I'm out of liquid. Point of crisis. The bomb reforms itself; it multiplies its connections, it has joined itself to my brain. It is part organic and my body has incorporated it into my system, I can't tell which of my thoughts belong to me or the bomb. I suppose I'm scared, but as I say the liquid helps.

Chris looked a bit confused when I told him, but it's true. It attacks in different ways. It warns you, it threatens you, you have to remain guarded, but sometimes you can't help it. You just can't, it starts to come out of you, and you try to stop it but it grows and grows and then you can't back down, you have to stand your ground and it's hurting, it's hurting so fucking much.
Then I get into trouble and I try to explain, I really do. No one can hear me.

No. No. No, that's not right.

I speak a different language.

That's it.

Well, a sort of old language, an unfamiliar voice. A language that is spoken in small groups, gathered round fires late at night, a language filled with colour and longing, a sad tongue. It is a voice that lived long ago and the liquid brings it back. It's a side effect but a necessary one for diffusing the device. I hate it, but it's necessary.

In some ways I should be grateful. I know who my allies and enemies are in a moment. Nobody understands Chris except for me. It's better that way. We have to be careful. They have no eyes, not real eyes, they are filled with liquid, but they are made of glass or plastic and if I look directly at them, it will set off the device.

The evil ones are coming, there are bringing together an army of wanderers, a ragged bunch of low life screw heads, their bombs on the edge, waiting to explode at any moment. They don't care; they do nothing to stop it, just stand and stare at us, the chosen few; the hated few. We are the ones who are aware, the ones with tears in our eyes and the anger of their dismissive voice still ringing in our ears.

I walk into the liquid shop.

They keep it in a special place; it's too powerful to be sold to naive minds. Time is running out.

I was a very sick boy. I stole a box of matches and hid them in the drawer. I was sick and naughty and my father taught me a lesson for being naughty and I ran away and that was naughty and awful and sick. I hurt him.

He had a special sort of gun that he kept out of view and he put it inside me and the bomb was fired into my body and went into my brain and there it stayed.

He cried, my dad, he cried when it happened.

I suppose he didn't want to do it, but I had been very bad and he said it was normal and all sick boys had to be treated this way.
The bomb stayed and it grew, the more I thought about it the more it grew and I had to run away before it came out of my mouth and everyone knew what had happened.

I stood in the porch and I couldn't look at him, his gaze would kill me. I could see he was one of them, it was my fault, and I made him that way. I wish I could go back sometimes, I wish I could explain, but I can't look.

Those were dark times, before I found out the truth, about the bomb and what it would do to me if I didn't protect myself. Every day is a nightmare. The liquid helps though.

I reach out for a few tubes, but my hands are weak.

Come on...

I hear someone coughing and I turn. A small wanderer with dark eyes is sussing me; his eyes are empty though. He can't know, too young.

He points he laughs. I keep my gaze on the tubes.

Chris is waiting outside. He hates waiting and time is precious. He stops someone as they pass him, another dismissive face, and another non-believer. He looks at them, straight in the eyes and I can hear him say:

In the derelict warehouse of your memories, the charred remains of hope and renewal are scattered like broken leaves on the lake of your anguish. You are dying. You are a fool, a fool trapped in a burning machine. The planet is corrupt and dying and you are an accomplice in its murder. You may stand on the road, but you never speak and each time you look behind you the storm clouds are growing in number and are darkening by the hour.

You know the rest. The fool doesn't listen.

He walks on. No one listens.

Chris calls to me to hurry up. I reach into my pocket and pull out the money needed to obtain the liquid.

'What's this?' he says. I will not look into his face. He is beneath me.

'wharrayameanwazdiseh.' I tell him.

The fool is confused.

'isafugginforcunnsalaga yeah?' he looks blindly at me, another set of empty eyes. 'cunyaseadat? Eh?' I point to the tubes; maybe his eyes aren't switched on. It happens a lot.

'I'm sick of seeing your sort round here.' He spits.

'wasatmeaneh?' I say. I start to explain about the necessity of the liquid, the nature of the bomb, but it's pointless. He looks away, down the side of the shop, looking at some woman by the magazines.

'I'm not going to say this again.' He says, stopping me in mid-flow. 'Get out!'

I try to explain, I try to say it as clearly as I can, and I try to switch to the other tongue. 'Looch mate,' I clench my fists, it helps.

 'Plees I nees da liquid becozzofada bomb ya knows? I cun leevit tu long.'

'Listen, I have a license and I don't want to lose it, I could get into a lot of trouble if I served drunks like you.' He looks away again, 'yes madam?' he says to his accomplice, another cohort in the mass ignorance.

I look up at him, trying to get his attention.

My hands gone numb, there is a blood vessel bursting through the skin...

Oh shit no...

The switch has been flicked.

I can feel it. This is it. I know.

I want to hold onto the door, my head is gone. My legs feel dead. Chris is shouting:

Why did you hit him?

The woman screams, maybe she knows it now.

Fortunately Chris was at a safe distance when I exploded.

I stood in the road, and I shouted. But no one helped.

The police closed off the surrounding area, nobody said anything. It was the third explosion that week, they struggled to put my head together, but they couldn't do it, it was beyond their knowledge. Chris told me later they got really annoyed about their incompetence and had to send for assistance. People gathered around and were getting cross and nasty and asking the police why they were bothering at all. Chris tried to explain what had happened, he was so brave. He was my best friend, he really was.
Later they strapped me onto a white stretcher and brought me to a cold bed in a white room, with plastic pipes stuck into my arms, and injections, and white cloths, and pain.

I lost my tongue that was the worst of it, I found myself talking the way the wanderers do and I couldn't look at a mirror. I hated the way i sounded, I cried for the liquid, but they wouldn't help me. They were all in on the plot. Soon we will be gone, no trace, no memory, a forgotten people like so many others.

I screamed in the night and this woman put a needle in my arse.

'Did that hurt?' she asked me, rubbing it with cotton wool.

'I'm sorry.' I said to her.

Her face looked puzzled. 'What for?'

I was going to tell her how sick and naughty i was but I knew it wouldn't make any difference.

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