Published 'Best of DFL' 1993
The room was like eyes squeezed tight shut, darker than darkness itself, whilst alive with the fuzzy edges of colour-moving patterns.
I had been left here, I did not doubt, to think myself stupid. This was a variety of punishment favoured by the more friendly bobbies on the beat, more efficient for confessions than the sledgehammer techniques of the others who would come later. Whatever the crime, they always seemed to apply capital punishment those days.
Needless to say, I’d done just nothing wrong. Only contravened some gratuitous law which had been on the statute books since when words were spelt differently than they are now. I had trespassed on a technical wrong-of-way near some derelict Government outbuildings. I was obviously up to no good. Come off it, I’d said, how can a twelve year old be a spy? You’re too old to be twelve, they’d replied, looking me up and down with their scanners. The words you use are far too long for a twelve year old, anyway, they’d added, after a pause.
My mother had always said that I looked too old for my age, even when I was a new-born baby, but I did not tell them that. I did not want to add suspicion to their doubt. They just hived me off into this (god)forsaken room... to think it over, as they put it.
“Okay, okay, I’ll come quietly. I’ll come clean,” I eventually shouted at the echoing walls. No hurriedly answering footsteps. Only the sound of my own shallow breathing. I felt scarcely alive.
I got up from the chair, only quickly to realize that it had not been a chair at all, only my own bones locked into a sitting position. I shuffled round the room, arms being stretched out by my hands desperately seeking the door or, at least, the sign of a wall. No such luck, as I wandered the interior of my own blocked-off eyesight. Like exploring the dripping cavern of one’s own skull, with the eyes swivelled back-to-front in their sockets. Hope I don’t stumble into the brain, I mused, and, as if in reply, I began to feel soft floor underfoot. Walking on a soggy trampoline or living human fat. Then the walls closed in clammily, as if, after all, they were really searching for me, rather than vice versa. At the interface of the ventricles of a heart sluggish with congealing blood, was the only way I could describe it to myself. But not to you.
Thinking that I might as well die happy, I rummaged for my body member whilst it still belonged to me; circled its bobbin with caressing fingers and I finally gunned it like my old grandmother’s sewing machine.
I did come clean (if that’s not a paradox). All they found at the centre of the cell was a mound of bubbling white ectoplasm. They said it was my brain and put it in a jug for ever more.
Unknown to them, I still haunt the corridors of an empty echoing prison, one of those derelict Government outbuildings which, it is said, houses most of the convicts on the roof.
But sometimes, I have a nightmare that someone has unstitched my head, exchanged me for someone else inside it, and stitched it up again.
I must be thinking myself stupid again.