Please mask up before entering, okay?
—ckfuckfuckfuckfuck Jeremy enters Victoria shopping centre with a bladder primed to burst trying his best to walk normally even though he knows he looks like one of those racewalkers not quite running not quite walking with those strangely snake-like hips fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck he should have just gone at his mum’s but what if he’d made her ill? she’s in a high risk group so he’d had to stay outside why is that old couple looking at him over their flowery masks fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck mask! he starts to root around in his back pocket for his own mask as the toilets come into view but two women clad in high-vis vests and plastic visors stand like Queen’s Guards at the entrance to the CLOSED facilities he starts to put on his stripy mask and pathetically pleads ‘why?’ only to be answered emotionlessly by the smaller blonde woman with ‘lockdown, mate’ fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck ‘ridiculous’ he mutters as he walks off ‘Greggs is open though! hooray for capitalism! you can buy a sausage roll while you piss your pants!’ he stumbles onto the escalator on his way to the next closest public toilets five minutes away but what if they’re also shut? fuckfuckfuckfuckpiss
“Lockdown, mate,” Karen told him. What else? Idiot.
The man turned around and walked off. Karen cocked her head to the side, watching his bendy hips. He was mumbling to himself. Something about a Greg and capitalism and sausage pants?
“He had anti-masker vibes,” Debbie told her. “See how begrudgingly he put one on?”
“Can’t believe people still don’t get it,” she said.
“People are selfish,” Debbie said.
“If management think public toilets are an infection risk then we should do what they say,” Karen said.
They noticed a woman jogging towards them. She had a small child in her arms. She slowed slightly as she passed them. Lockdown, mate.
“Can you be a big boy and hold it for another few minutes?” she was saying to the child. They headed for the escalator.
“They should have just gone before they came out, for crying out loud,” Karen said, shaking her head.
‘Hey, we’re nearly there, honey, we’re nearly there.’
It’d been a testing morning. Dylan’s nanny had woken up ill, hopefully with just a cold (wait, will they need to shield just in case? What is the procedure now?) so Michelle had been all the way across town to grab Dylan from his father who had a busy day of Zoom meetings (that he ‘just can’t get out of’ and were ‘more urgent than her work things’).
Oh god, no. They aren’t closed, are they? (They are!) The place which is regularly cleaned and where everyone washes their hands is closed. Christ.
The two shopping centre staff watch as she approaches. She briefly considers rushing past them (like a rugby player going for a try) but hurries to the escalator instead. They’ll have to find an alley or something.
‘It’s okay, honey. Just another few minutes, can you be a big boy and hold it for another few minutes?’
Dylan lets out a moan that she presumes means ‘no, mother, I fucking cannot.’
Michelle quickens her pace as she steps off the escalator. Her torso, though, begins to feel warm. Warm and moist. She slows to a stop and closes her eyes, keeping Dylan close as she feels his urine seep into her top. The gentle sound of it pitter-pattering on the hard floor at her feet is strangely meditative, helping her to remain motionless like some kind of impromptu water feature.
‘You feel better, honey?’ The flow has finally stopped.
He nods, burying his face further into her shoulder.
‘Good. Home time, yeah?’
She opens her eyes, sensing people peering at her over their masks. She starts towards the bus stop, giving less of a damn than she thought she would.
dev and becki are live streaming from a bench
– if you’re just tuning in, yeah, there’s an actual puddle of piss, but people keep, like, only just avoiding it
– we should’ve taken live bets, innit. becki looks over at the escalator. we might of got another contender, yo
a vicky centre worker is coming down, blonde and serious in her high-vis vest. stepping off the escalator, she turns towards the puddle. her eyes are laser-focussed on the greggs
dev and becki both sit forward, holding their breath. dev quickly double-checks he’s recording, making sure he’s got the best framing. she is getting close, walking fast
– she must really want a sausage roll, innit
and the woman stands in the puddle, bang on
– oh shiiiiit!
both her legs fly up in front of her, her whole body almost horizontal in the air for a moment, before she comes crashing back down with a small moist thud. she almost immediately sits up, stunned, a patch of wet darkening the vicky centre logo on her high-vis
– holy shit, that was epic!
– i didn’t think people actually fell like that except in cartoons, innit!
they’re both almost choking on their laughter, tears streaming
– you laughing at that idiot who just slipped? a guy in a stripy mask stands by them, looking over at the woman as she slowly gets to her feet
they nod, bent forwards, heads in arms
the guy nods back, straight-faced
– yeah, it was fucking funny, to be honest
by HARRY WILDING
© All rights reserved 2021
This is the story of Tati and Tony, two writers who were desperate to write the most perfect poem that would ever be written. It would be so epic and untouchable in its perfection that poetry lovers everywhere would literally disintegrate in paroxysms of orgasmic delight. Well… that was their aim anyway.
Tony placed the full stop right after this word, and immediately felt regret. It should have been a comma as there surely would be more literary brilliance to follow. He tore the page out of his notebook, scrunched it up, and threw it in the bin.
‘Verily,’ he wrote on a fresh page.
“Ah, much better!” He smiled to himself. “I have a good feeling about this poem already!”
“Balderdash!” sniffed Tati, snatching the notebook out of Tony’s hands.
She crossed out Tony’s ‘Verily,’ and wrote ‘Verily!’ beneath it, then proudly shoved the notebook back in his face. He had to squint real hard in order to decipher the scribble.
“Look how real poets work, Tony! ‘Verily!'”
Tony cocked his head. “Well, okay…” he said uncertainly. “But how does the exclamation mark actually improve this? It makes about as much sense as if you’d put a starfish after it.”
“I put a starfish before it! Don’t you see?”
Tony examined the page again with a critical eye. “Oh! This is a starfish? I thought it was your attempt at a finger painting.”
Tati gasped in outrage.
“Nevertheless,” pressed Tony, “this doesn’t explain the exclamation mark after the word. Am I to understand that it’s a starfish saying ‘Verily!’ in a rather exclamatory manner? If so, what is the starfish so excited about? And does there need to be a starfish at all? I thought we were writing a serious poem.”
“Shut up, Tony! Your blabbing will only frighten away my Muse!” Tati wrinkled her nose at his impertinence, and even puffed her cheeks for emphasis. Still, he was confused by this, and had to wonder at what her scratching her ear was also about. Were there nits in her hair?
Actually, Tati was just a little irritated, and she was thinking hard over the new poem. It wasn’t her problem if people insisted on misinterpreting her body language.
“Oh, I know!”
Tony almost jumped out of his skin with surprise. Tati was so freaking unpredictable.
“I’m a genius!” She jotted something else down, then waved the notebook at him. “Look…”
Tony’s eyes widened with wonder.
“Oh my sainted stars!” he said in a hushed—almost reverential—tone. “The dots add a certain gravitas, don’t they? Like… absolutely anything could happen next.”
Suddenly, a human-sized bottle of Corona Extra crashed through their front door and wilfully—and with malicious intent—decanted itself all over them. However, Tati and Tony did not panic, for although they were sopping, stinking wet, they were also wearing masks and so the deadly liquid could not enter their airways.
“Oh, fuck you!” roared Corona. “You sheeple think you’re so clever because you’ve got a silly piece of fabric on your faces! Fuck you so much!”
Feeling rather frustrated and impotent, it turned and stomped out the way it had come in. Corona had legs, but no arms with which to gleefully rip off masks. It was all Corona could do not to have an embarrassing little cry on its way out.
Tati and Tony exchanged looks.
‘Journeys end in lovers meeting.’
Why he’s quoting Shakespeare I will never know. Nor do I care to. Never in all my years did it occur to me that I would one day attract an internet stalker—but no matter. The fool clearly doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.
I started streaming late night gameplay because of boredom, the deadly scourge of security guards everywhere. Especially those, like myself, who prefer the evening shifts. I can’t imagine how our predecessors managed to kill the endless hours of tedium before the advent of smartphones and mobile internet. I’ve heard of reading, exercise or gorging until you puke, but even those activities must get old fast, mustn’t they? Hell, if I wasn’t so lazy I’d sooner be masturbating myself into a coma.
Anyway, my current game isn’t very original, but if truth be told I do love the hidden irony of it. In it I am a lycanthrope hunter, and I’m packing some serious heat—a flintlock blunderbuss to be precise. It’s a bugger to reload but boy does it punch through those candy-ass lycans like so much tissue paper! Yes, I admit I hate their sissy guts. They’re nothing like the lycans in real life, and they sure as hell don’t represent me!
And don’t even mention my character’s costume! Purple velvet knickers, high-heeled kinky boots, a lacy corset with an absolutely shameless décolletage, and a tiny calotte with a massive feather. I think everyone should fall dead if only because of the sight of my gaudy outfit. Or puke all over themselves at the very least.
It should be pointed out that this is what my character looks like. Not me. My character. I never show my face in the live stream. What the viewers get to see and hear is raw gameplay with my commentary. That’s it. So, this stalker has fallen in love with whatever idealised version he has of me in his head, a hypersexualised videogame character in a ridiculous, revealing outfit doing over the top, ridiculous things. I have to ask if he has ever met reality at any point in his life.
So, I’ve been streaming for a little while now, and my stalker didn’t start off being a stalker right out of the gate. If anything, he was positively charming and respectful… until the week before last. I quickly grew bored of his purple prose, self-referential jokes and fawning attention. He was clearly fancying us as something of an item—which clearly we were not. We never would be either. I hate liars.
So, you know what I did? I banned him. Even if he was the last man on Earth, I don’t fucking need him. But, of course, the banning was only the beginning of my troubles. The cowardly weasel somehow managed to hijack all my social media accounts and was soon spamming all my online haunts with naked photos where the faces were cropped out. Obviously, these images were meant to be of me. They weren’t but no one but this prick and I knew that.
Well, two can play at that game. Let the hunt begin!
I will not thank God for CCTV. CCTV is the Devil’s work. Or God’s work. Perhaps they’ve collaborated on my humiliation.
Every day I enter the shit hole that is my work space and plop my bottom into a saggy arsed chair before a bank of dull, flyspecked screens. Maybe some people feel like God (or the Devil?) when they’re spying on and controlling human beings from such a vantage point, but I sincerely and wholeheartedly hate this. I would not be here during a pandemic if my job hadn’t been deemed an ‘essential service’.
Honestly, why do people scratch their genitals when they’re the only ones in the lift? Why do they check for nostril hairs in the mirror? Why do they do this whenever they damn well feel like it? And do they think if they spoil the air that their mask will make them invisible to whomever enters the lift next? I don’t know what they’re eating but it smells worse than my own ungodly clam after a session on the exercise bike. I just don’t need this shit.
It’s clear that they’re not computer scientists, aeronautics engineers or high powered executives. They’re human-sized babies. Frankly, they can’t even open a packet of potato crisps without committee approval. And the aforementioned masks? Don’t get me started on the frigging masks! Those thin strips of fabric deprive their tiny brains of oxygen and common sense. They end up with nothing in their heads but a basket of fucks not given. What other explanation could there be for their flagrant disregard for my territory?
Anyway, it may be a minor point to them but not to me. They’re always mucking shit up and I’m forever doomed to supervise it. The best place for my shapeshifting is in the lift, so how am I supposed to bear this ignominy? It’s enough to make you howl in despair…