--- 19 - May - 2001 ---
I always knew how I was going to die. By that, I don't mean I was psychic or had visions of the future. For all I knew I was just as likely to die from falling out an aeroplane as being eaten by a swarm of flying rabid moths. No, what I mean is after my death, ihad everything planned out. Just as a bride to be plans and plans her wedding, so I tortured myself over my funeral. Everything had to be just right. At first I was going to have a classic old school burial in the ground. This is appealing because of its cost and there are fewer chances for something to go wrong. But it didn't seem adventurous enough. I wanted something that would spark of a rash of suicides as people tried to emulate my crowning achievement. Cremation was the next possibility. The fiery death is certainly dramatic, but nobody can see your coffin as it 'goes' into the afterlife and I'm robbed of people seeing me being sunk into the ground, preferably as drops of rain fall on the roof and roll down the sides like tears. Great stuff, something you'd probably want to record and watch every year at Christmas. The burial at sea was certainly novel, but also very expensive. I would want to do it right, so a large cruisboat would have to be hired along with catering staff and a captain. The danger here is that once I've been lowered in to the sea, the cruiseboat will still be floating around. This could lead to lots of dinking in the sun and an impromptu Rodney dangerfield type party could start, accompanied by bad 80's pop music. Hardly respectful of the dead. I.e. me. So I had my problems. Every type of funeral had its own advantages, which were cancelled out by the disadvantages. It reached the stage when I was just going to have a plank of wood saying; "Here lies Paul Turner. Go fuck yourself. RIP.", but this might be considered vaguely cheeky. I think it was in 1986 when I finally hit upon the solution. Why not combine them?
It was a great idea! After some careful planning I decided on the following strategy. I would have a huge Viking boat on a dock. My grieving friends and family would be gathered round the sides of the dock and would watch my coffin be lowered onto the deck. Then my coffin would be set alight along with part of the boat and it would be set free to sail out to sea. After around 8 minutes the boat would start to sink and I would disappear into the sea. The Throngs of people would stay for a respectful amount of time, before departing for the sandwiches. I had yet to decide whether or not to have a buoy float up from my coffin and mark my burial spot. At first I was going to have a lightbulb on it flash morsecode messages at people saying thing like "See you soon!" or "Doing fine and the weathers great!" but I don't know hoe legal that is. Weather actually was a concern of mine. I didn't want it to cold or to hot. I settled for August as the best month to have it. I decided if I reached the age of 95 I would commit suicide in August so as to ensure perfect weather. It would be really gutting to hang on and die of naturally causes on, say Hogmany. Terrible timing. Finally, after I was buried/cremated/sank at sea, there was going to be a huge ballroom extravaganza with whatever bands were fashionable at that time playing live for my guests. The best food would ne served, the finest champagne and to top it all off at every table there would be a lentograph picture of me. Ifthe guest looked at it from the left-hand side they would see me sleeping peacefully. If they moved to the right, I would suddenly wake up and give them a wink. I'm sure it could be tastefully done and the kids would enjoy it. All in the only badthing would be the fact I couldn't attend it myself. But you can't be the star on the big stage and be in the crowd at the sametime. Oh, and I'd be dead as well. But beyond that, everybase was covered. I was really looking forward to it and had to keep forcing myself not to bring the date forward (actually this wasn't a major concern as the estimated cost of my funeral was 10 million pounds and I only had a fiver in my savings account). I couldn't wait. Then a man called Bob King entered my life and fucked everything up.
The day I died was on record as being the hottest day of the year. The temperature was a mildly warm? at 9.00am, rose to / at 12.00pm, dipped to a still scorching? at 2.00pm and peaked at a flesh bubbling? at 4.00pm. As I said, it was a hot day. Nobody wants to work on a roasting day. Nobody wants to work fullstop apart from the 2% population of the world who get that elusive gift that is more rare and precious than the lost treasures of Atlantis; job satisfaction. But on a day like that you want to do down to your local river, peel of and jump in, ignoring ant sewage that floats past your nose for the thrill of pretending to be like huckleberry Finn for an afternoon. That morning was unusual in that I was sober for a change. Usually my flatmate, Rob Diaz - stacker, shelf-stacker, would co-erce me to go out for a few drinks on Thursday night. The few drinks would lead to a nightclub, kebab, taxi and a headache all before my alarm went of at 7.00am. But Rob was saving up for The Party. This was going to be the biggest event of the year, bar none. Drinks, drugs, women, men, animals, if it wasn't there, then it probably didn't exist in the first place. The host of this sordid night of fun was none other than Samantha Frost. It was hard to describe quite why men and most women loved her. On a purely mental level, she was the equivalent of a 90-year-old pensioner with one tooth and more wrinkles than an elephant's testicle. The woman simply couldn't hold a conversation for more than a minute and usually spoke in sentences containing less than 3 words. But physically…Jesus h. Christ. She had long blond hair, red full lips, and deep blue eyes. Her figure was the hourglass that should be possible in a universe containing the laws of physics. You could get a hard on just hearing her name. Sweat would profusely pore out your body if she walked past you. Someone had died after just meeting her (actually that last one is rumour, but hell it seems possible). On some instinctual level deep in your genes from cave man days, you knew this was the perfect mate, you would give a flawless child. Your balls cried out to be emptied before a tysannasaurous Rex came by and ripped you in half. Yeah, she truly was a thing of beauty, a legend whispered around pub tables everywhere. Of course, not that I cared. I was perfectly happy with my girlfriend, Kate, who understood that I would maybe look, but never touch. Maybe just a poke or prod, but never a serious touch. The only problem with this party was that neither me nor Rob knew where it was. Or indeed knew Samantha at all. Still, Rob seemed confident in his detective skills and I was just glad a long weekend was coming up. Saturday, Sunday, Monday. 3 days of lying about doing nothing, assuming Robs legendary skills happened to fail us. That was the reason I was suprisingly fresh for 7.05 in the morning as I walked out my room.
Rob was already up, sitting in the good chair watching carttons and spilling milk from his rice krispies doen his t-shirt. 'Uhh', he said, not looking up from the television. This was suprisingly articualate for Rob first thing. 'Morning Rob' He waved his hand, but his eyes were glued to the screen. I popped two pieces of bread in the toaster and had a look at the diary calander to see if anything important was happening this week. The Diary part was blank for the entire first half of the year, as neither me nor Rob really had crucial events we had to go to usually. A picture of my girlfriend stared down from the top, with the words JUNE printed across her forehead. Rob said it reminded him of Big Brother from 1984 and had actually spent an afternoon trying to hide from the gaze of Kate. He worked out that unless you squated directly underneath it, her eyes would follow you round the whole room. It was meant as a gift from Kate for my 25th birthday and she got it especially made, but it was qite spooky. She also gave us one for the toilet , but Rob drew the line at that, and I didn't like the idea of her knowing and watching what I was doing in the bathroom either. I checked the calander and saw today was Audit day. I groaned. Every year ib my work, we would be tailed by a shadow as we went about our daily buisness. They would have a checklist of procedures and if we did not adhere to every on then they would fail us and the company would lose its prestigous e.b.u. award, which seemed really nothing to the workers, but could mean the sack for the supervisors. Just what I needed on a Friday. I silently thanked God I hadn't gone out last night, as my bread popped up. I went to the fridge for butter, but saw an empty carton lying in the open bin.
'Rob, did you get more butter?' Hecraned his head round to look at me. 'Nah, I though you were going to buy some Paul.' He wiped some of the krispies of his shirt and on to the floor. 'why, are we out?' 'Yes' 'Oh well.' And with that went back to his TV. I decided not to press the issue and added on to the list of things that Rob hadn't paid yet including, rent, TV licence, phonebill, and batteries for the remote control, which had dissapeared last week and ended up in our neighbours flat. I opened the fridge for some juice and saw an empty plastic container with the words Juicee delight printed on the side. 'Rob?' 'Yeah?' 'nevermind' 'OK' I poured some water into a glass and sat down on the couch with my dry toated bread abd a glass of water. I munched and slurped loudly as I could, but annoyingly Rob never noticed and actually turned the volume down on the TV, as if I was listening to my own bodily sounds. I decided to watch the cartoon.
After finishing my prison cell block H breakfast, I put on the kettle for a cup of coffee. Most of our cups were stolen from various friends and aquantencies and Rob seemed to take great pleasure in drinking from the 'Happy Birthday Great-Grandma!' mug. I settled for any cup with a handle and no hole. While I waited I went to my wardrobe and tried to find something that was vaguely office like. The only tie I had was a black number which either made folk think I was a dick because I was trying to appear cool or I had a huge family and a attended funerals on a semi-regular basis. My office gear was in fact my high school gear, to my eternal shame. I was skint pretty much all the time and I really hadn't grown since school, so I figured why waste money on clothes when I could spend it on food to stay alive for another month. After dressing I went to the coffee jar to find, of course, it was empty. There was also still no milk in the fridge since I last check 10 minutes ago. 'Rob?' He raised his head. 'What? 'Nevermind' 'OK' We had thrilling conversations like this for the past 3 years and somehow I never tired of them. The kettle came to the boil, so I poured the water in and had a cup og hot water. I noticed that my mug had a thermometer penis on the side of it which frankly failed to amuse me. I finished of my imaginary coffee, grabed my denim jacket and left the flat with out saying goodbye. I didn't know it, but that was the last time I would see the pad alive.
It was 8.00am and the sun, which would become a ball of fire in little under 2 hours, was still low in the sky but burning of the morning cold quickley. I have always hated the commuting part of getting to work. Its bad enough being up at someinsane time in the morning and knowing you have to do something you don't want to do for the next 8 hours, but when you see everybody else who is in the same boat as you. Its like the living dead on the zombie train as we all shuffle into the carridges and shuffle of, thinking about eating brains. The collective misery is worse than your own individual sorrow. So I always buy a Sun to keep me sane for the hour long journey on the train. I usually can't read anything before 9.00am, but I look at the pretty pictures and that keeps my mind of the daily slog. Today, though the papershop had sold out of tabloids. It looked like everybody was having the same idea as me, so all that was left was a couple of broadsheets. I groaned inwardly, but given the choice between looking into the eyes of a flesheating cadaver and reading the Times I'll take the politics. I paid for the suitcase of a paper and felt my muscles twinge as it lifted up the enormous tombe. The trouble with broadsheets is that they're designed to be read on a falt suraface, say, the size of a ballroomdance floor. That way you can spread ot all the sections and sub-sections. On a train however, you sit (if you are lucky), and can read the fronpage easily enough, but your personal space is limited to the end of your nose. When you try to turn to page 2, its like turning the sail on a boat. You send it out into the open and hope it travels round a 360 degrees arc to your waiting left hand. What inevitably happens though is that it encounters somebodys arse and bounces back or a gust of wind hits it, taking the entire page out your hands and sailing through the open door. Once I saw a rouge broadsheet page detach and wrap its self a poor unsuspecting passengers face, like some malevonent creature. Said passenger ripped it of and stamped on it feircely, but he still eyed it warily as if it might try to bite his ankle. I trod up the road to Queen Street station and prepared my self for the worst.
The train was suprisingly on time. Unsurprisingly it was as busy as a bar in a nightclub. Once the train pulled to the station and opened the door, there was a 4.2 second gap for anyone wishing to actually lave the train to do so. After that a rush of workers flowed through the doors and instinctively searched for the best seat, then a seat, then somewhere to stand and finally just to get on the bloody train before the doors shut. I used my Times to clear a path before me, like a pough scoops snow to one side. Once on the train, my predatory instincts revealed that all the seats on this carridge were taken and there wasn't enough time to go through to the next one. Without thinking, my subconcious reminded me which passengers got of at the next stop and I subtley (if that's the word when you're barging people out the road and silentlt threatening them with your eyes) made my way and stood next to them. The doors closed and I saw a few unfortunates through the window who hadn't managed to make it onboard, either lacking a ruthless streak or new to the savagery that is early morning commuting. Never mind endless discussions about evolution and man, if you want to see Darwin in action, visit your local trainstation. My instincts proved right as an elderly gemtleman with huge grey mutton chops suddenly stood up before the train was even halfway to the station. This caught me offbalance and I nearly missed the seat as a nice enough woman, who looked like an elderly librarion swooped down like an eagle on a rabbit. Onve again, my paper saved me as I threw one of the subsections ('The Euro and how it will benefit Britain') on to the floor in front of the now vacant seat. This seemed to take librarian woman by surprise and I near enough jumped over the man sitting by the aisle to grab the seat. Victory! The librarian woman backed away, but not before marking me with a look that is more commonly found on serial killers. I sneered and began picking up my 20 pages of supplement, before realising I didn't want to read it anyway, so dropped them back to the floor. I looked at my watch and saw it was 8.23. All in all, not a bad start to the day. I had a paper, a window seat, the sun was beginning to rise in the sky and it was payday. I've had worse mornings.
The office I work in is in Union Street, facing a bar tastefully called 'Bobs Boobies' and a burger bar. There was also a church a few doors down if you found you couldn't resist the temptation of these delights. My employee, Janson & Janson, operated on the 4th and 5th floors. A travel agents had the ground, a work agency had the 2nd and 3rd and the samartitans had the 6th . Presumably this was so the could spot jumpers on buildings from their windows and coax them down . It was also a building with no air conditioning. Dust would swirl in the shafts of sunlight and dance like tiny fairys, but none of it went outside. It just gradually came to rest on whatever surface it could find, including your lungs. Our setup was fairly simple, as was the job. 9 fax machines were arranged in a horseshoe shape. Out of these machines would come requests for clients paperwork. All the files were kept in the 5th floor in allegedly alphabetical order. So you take your request, go up the stairs, collect the file, photocopy the relevant pages and fax back the request in the second circle of machines. Simple. Except round about 11.00 am, these machines start spouting out page after page every minute. And theres only 6 people to retrieve them. So you have to run like a madman. Unfortunately today was the day the Auditors came to visit. They would follow us and make sure we didn't deviate from our guidelines. If we did, then our company wouldn't get the esstemeed BOS certificte, which meant nothing to the workers, but probably guaranteed a bonus for the supervisors. The 2nd unfortunate piece of news I received was the 3 people were of sick. I was suspicious to say the least. Who actually falls ill in summertime. Around 2% of the population, and that's being genorous. No what we have is the sick of work day when you can't be arsed going into the office. To be fair I was going to do the same, but I was seen by one of the supervisors last night dancing, so they might be unsympathetic. We also couldn't keep any doors or windows opened for fear of a security risk. Never mind we're 5 storeys up, there may be a pink panther type burgler scuttling around, stealing incomprehensible legal documents and selling them on street corners. So the basic team for today was me, a woman called Lea Buckett and old Archie Adams.
Lea was 31, a devout christian and believed Jerry Springer was possibly the new messiah. She ate chocolates and based her life on what adverts and articles told her would make her happy. She was the first stereotype I have ever actually seen in reallife and despite her apparent blandness, was a continual source of facination for me. If the comment from the Sun said something, then she adopted that as her own stance. If another paper contradicted it, then she changed her mind straight away. She'd have made a great fascist, following orders blindly without question. Still, Lea made a great cup of coffee, so I loftily forgave her shortcomings. Archie was drunk. Not a drunk, but continually sloshed. I had worked for J&J for 3 years and I had never once seen Archie sober. He conducted conversations, read books watched films got married had kids - all the time he was drunk. I had only saw him sober up once after a party in the Luss hotel out by lochlomond. You couldn't buy booze and we had brougt our own carry outs. Archie had purchased 24 cans of lager, 1 bottle of Vodka (or Voo Doo as he called it) and 1 bottle of Whiskey. The poor Bastard has totally underestimated his capacity for booze and by 3.00am he had exausted his entire supply. Then he took ours. He was about to start on petrol from cars nearbuy when the bus came to take us home. On the journey back, his eye became less glazed, his pupils started to focus, and bit by bit he sobered up. He gradually looked like a man who was witnessing through the gates of hell. He staggered from the bus and ran with a horrified gurn on his face to the nearest off licence. That was the last time I saw Archie sober. "Alright Archie", I said, slipping into the seat beside him. I took a sip of my coffee from the machine (and winced at the horrendus aftetaste - if a gave blowjobs gor a living my mouth would surely taste like this, although I'd probably be on better wages) and looked at the back page of the Tabloid. "Look, the Celts are chasing after that West Ham reje-" I stooped talking sright away. I had looked in Archies eyes and saw they were focused. Nuclear dawn bloodshot eyes, but definetly not glazed. Archie was sober. I lowered my coffee slowly to the table.
"Archie, bigman, what's happened, what, I , a …" I wanted to hug him, to tell him it would be ok, we would find whiskey from somewhere, but the truth was it wasn't even 9.00 yet and the day was gaping before us like a limitless wasteland. He looked me in the eyes for the first time and sighed. "Gina, my wife, you know her, she's very headstrong when she gets an idea in her head." I nodded. Gina was 6,1 and looked more masculine than Chuck Norris in Delta Force 3. This was not a woman you fucked around with.. "Well, she decided yesterday that I drank to much and before I knew it she had pouired every bottle down the sink. Every hidden stash I had is gone. She even called the Bosses and told them where my caches are in here. Archies stashes were legendary and you might think it odd that the bosses tolerated a drunk worker who could be a danger to himself and others. But the fact was that Archie was the best Worker in the place and the more he drank the less he talked, so they turned a blind eye to it. However Archie could pull out a botlle of wild turkey and start glugung at teabraeak time. He had to be hidden and secret, so one day on a particualry boring lunch hour, he shuffled his chair over, looked around to see if anybody was watchind (which included Lea who was watching and looked very interested in what was going on but Archie stared at her till she went to the sink and started washing dishes, evenb though she brings a paclunch in every day) and pulled out a tatty, but carefully folded piece of paper from hie shirt pocket. It was in fact a map.
It was covered in clear polythene and had yelloeing sellotape round the edges. In the bottom lefthand corner was written v 3.2 and had dates written in small neat handwriting down the side noting what changes had been made and when. It was 2 blueprint pictures of the 3rd and 4th floors top down. The bosses rooms and cleaners rooms were labeled red, as these were the most dangerous locations. Hidden Booze was marked with a yellow X and there were 17 on the 3rd and 25 on the 4th. The stashes also ranged from the sensibleto the outlandish. He had whiskey hidden in plantpots, cisterns, unfder floorboards, inside old folders. He had 2 bottles dangling out of windows on pieces of string that faced onto an alleyway. The ladies toilets Tampax machine wasn't safe, neither the charity box (which was a real indicator of how inclined we workers were to part with our cash) or Children in Need, circa 1986 and only 2 pence and a can of lager. There were bottles hidden that even Archie didn't remember and hewould occasionally scutter round corners and rap his knuckles on walls to see if any old treasures could be found. Today though, which was rapidly going downhill, Archie was dry as a ship in a desert. And he didn't look happy about it. ' I don't know what to say. Have you tried the shandys from the vending machine' 'Removed and replaced with more stuff that rots your teeth' As opposed to your brain, but I kept that though quiet. 'Listen, Arch you know that the auditors are coming today, right. I mean you've read up on the rules and Regs?' Which ever one of the 3 Auditors seemed the sternest, the most unwilling to bend rules, I was going to present them with Archie. Drunk, the man was a walking mine of useful information, and I couldn't see him slipping up. Now I was worried if he might vomit on them. I turned to Lea to come up with a new plan, but she was over at the window, shielding her eyes and looking down at the carpark outside. She turned round and audibly gulped. 'They're here.'
I ran over to the window and subtley nudged Lea (i.e. elbow vicously) out of the road and looked down. My eyesight is shit at the best of times but I could make out a dark BMW and 3 ominous dark blobs moving across to our entrance. I wondered if Archie or Lea had ever taken sniper lessons for the psychotic and wondered were to find a firearm at this time in the morning, but it was too late for thoughts of homicide. They were in. I grabbed hold of Lea and Arch and shoved them roughly in front of the door. I looked them up and down like soldiers on display. Archie was looking like a homeless mans 3 year on the streets. He'd only been sober 4 hours and already his hair was sticking up, his glasses seemed askew, no tie and stains of dubious oridin were on his right trouser leg. Lea looked smart in a pink cardigan and a ridiculouslly long skirt that reached the floor and made her look like she was levitating everwhere. She looked presentable enough, but if one of the audotors somehow managed to broach the subject of Religion, then she was going to go of on a tirade that would give a jehovas witness a run for their money. I hated to admit it to myself but I was going to have to talke the shitty job, and take on the worst of the Auditors. I looked over at the elevator and saw that it was slowly counting up to 5. One last chance to get this right.
"Ok, you two, remember; don't swear, don't offer them gifts, don't spark up conversation if it isn't invited, don't lok them in the eye, don't don't not look them in the eye in case they think we've something to hide, don't rush your job, but don't go too slowly and finally don't fuck this up or we'll all be out of a job. Ok?" Lea nodded her head and Archie grunted something which sounded offensive but I took it to mean yes anyway. I looked back at the lift and saw 5 appearing on the LED. The doors opened. The auditors walked out. First out was a woman who looked quite jolly. Bubbly curly hair fell over her chubby red cheeks and her wide white teeth smile was contrasted with the stricklingly red lipstick she was wearing. The second was a skinny chap with no hair and a hooked nose. He had on the thickest pair of glasses I had ever seen and made his eyes look 10 times bigger than they should. Last out and most worrying was a whippet thin woman whos hair was tied into a pianowire tight bun. Her skin on her forehead seemed to be stretched back be the black hairband. She wore a similar skirt to Leas, but you could see the tips of her shoes which were pointed and looked like a weapon in a james Bond film. "Welcome to Jameson and Jamesons legal and Mortgage offices.", I said with a huge fake grin on my face. "My names Paul and this is Archie and Lea" The two of them held out there hands to be shaken which were looked upon as vipers from the auditors apart from the fat jolly one who pumped them like a prospecytor trying to get water from a desrt well. "My names Carol", said the fat jolly one, "And this is Hugo and Victoria"
Hugos eyes seemed to enlarge for a second, then settled back into their Jupiter sized balls. Victoria nodded her head incrementially, but it might have been my imagination. "Shall we begin?", Victoria said in a primy schoolmistress tone. I hated her already. "Yes, I said through my fixed smile which was beginning to hurt. I was gaining an unheard of respect for breakfast TV presenters. "I thought we should pair off for the day. Victoria, if you would like to follow me, Hugo, I thought you could go with Lea and Carol, if you'd like to team up with Archie." I looked at the clock and saw it was 9.00am. Time to go. "Shall we begin?"
What followed over the next 8 hours has already been described in such tones as 'The darkest day of this estemed companys history' and 'Oh God, we're gonna get sacked'. Another favorite is 'Fuck' and 'Shit' and anyother curse word which you can repeat over and over. It's fair to say it didn't go well. Yet it started so positively. After we had paired of me and Victoria went to the Fax machines to await the first fax. I didn't bother trying to engage her conversatuion and we spent an akward 10 minutes until the first fax came through. It was a simple request and we easily found it on the 5th floor, photocopied it and faxed it back to the respective office. I kept an eye out for Archie and Lea while I wandered back and forth between floors. Archie seemed to be having his ear knawed off by carol, who incredibly was still smiling and talkinh 30 words per minute. Lea had the worst of the bunch really. Hugos eyes were hypnotic and looked as if they could read your mind and know instantlly if you fed him and bullshit. Victoria, despite her stern appearance was actually very nice after the first hour and dare I say it, sweet. She would complement me on my selection of tie and tell me I was doing a great job, no uncomformities. I was polite and possibly charming, so come lunch time I was quite chuffed with the way things were going. Even the airconditioning unit seemed to be putting in a bit of effort to keep us cool. That was until I caught up with Archie and Lea at the dinner table in the kitchen area. The Auditors had gone out for lunch so for the moment we were free to talk.
"Hows it going?", I said taking a large bite out of my burger. Lea was eating her celery sandwich and Archie seemed to be pretending his water with ice was strainght vodka. There seemed to be an amonia smell coming from it and I wwondered if he had added turpentine to give it a kick. "Hugos a bit strange"Lea said, then giggled nervously and looked over her shoulder all the time like a bird keeping and eye out for a cat that was stalking it. "But he seems to be happy with the was things are run and praised me once or twice on my performance" We turned to Archie, who looked up from his strange concoction with hound dog eyes and peared blearely at us.The more sober he was, the drunker he appeared. "I hate Carol. Hate her. If she says one more thing about her two pet dogs, harry and Larry, I'll be forced to punch her out. She also seems slightly psychotic and I hate you for putting me with her. "Apart from that though, pretty good, eh?" He just stared at me and took another sip of his god awful drink (and was it tainted blue slighly? Surely that couldn't be domestos?) and winced as he tasted it. We spent the rest of the hour talking about kepping up the good performance and going over routines (If you receive a fax that has no stamp from the corresponding office what do you do?). It was like trhe worlds worst pub quiz, but I felt confident that if the afternoon went half as well as the morning, the B.S.O. would be ours.
Outside the sun began to rage. What was a hot day and got hotter became the hottest day in the history of Scotland. Pale skinned people frazzled and crawled into the nearest available shade. The Clyde began to rival the Ganji for people as everybody started to run for cool wet places. The sun was now an angry orb of fire, insisting that it wasn't spicy enough yet, it knew we wanted more heat, dust plains of Africa heat, Sahara desert heat. You bitching about the cold weather? Well heres a little heat for ya! But what do you do if the worlds a kitchen and you can't stand the heat. Where do you go? The continued to burn and the temperature continued to rise.
It was at 1.29 when our airconditioning broke. The fact it was even on to go off in the first place was a miricale in itself, but finally, finally, it sucummbed to the heat. Which was very unfortunate for us. The system started making coughing noises akin to a 40 a day smoker getting up in the morning. It seemed to right itself as if it had got rid of something choking it, but then a faint smell of burning was drifting round. The sound of its machinery started becoming more choppy until finally, like a huge areoplane cooling its engines, it wound down. The sounds of the fans turning were punctuated by longer and longer gaps as the blades slowly started to swing more lazily round in easy arcs untuil finally, all sound stopped. The Air Conditioner was dead. Without any fans to circulate heat and bring in cold currents the heat started to build astonishingly quickly. Walking through the rooms became more of a struggle than it had any right to be. Dust started to settle and would only be didturbed by one of the faxers rushing by and creating eadies in their wake. Somebody tried to slyly open one of the windows, but the boss rushed over and slammed it shut.
He gave the employee a long lecture that was cut short an 8th into it when he realised how hot it was and reatreated to his independently airconditioned office. In a muggy tropical heat like this, as tempratures soared, so the threshold for patience shortened. It's not any type of excuse for what happened, but it definetly was a factor. The time was 3.03pm when two separate factors colided with each other. One was the fact that Archies mental armour which wasn't very strong at the start of the day, was beginning to show sings of cracks appearing. His back was derenched with sweat, but he also seemed to have developed a tic from somewhere. His eyes were now almost completely red apart from a hint of green in the retinas and tiny, tiny pupils. That was the most scary thing. He looked as if he's been staring at the sun for 3 weeks. Archie was a dam in a bad Charlton Heston disaster movie getting ready to break and wash the townsfolk away. Number Two was the jolly fat Auditor, Carol. In this instance I will take some of the blame, but really who could have seen this. Carol apperantly decided that she was going to play the good cop/bad cop routine on her own. The first half of the day she was what she considered the soul of the party and great company to be around. In the afterenoon she had turned into terminator psyco bitch whose only aim was to make you break. Every time I saw her with archie she was critizing his work, his tie, his smell, the way he did stuff, the way he didn't do stuff. The worst thing through out all of this (and all the Auditors were the same) she showed no signs of ill effect from the heat. Despite the fact that her face was covered in makeup not one smudge or treacle line appeared. The possibility they were robots was never far from the front of my mind. I had considered buying booze at lunch time to give to Archie, but it wouldn't have had any effect. He might have achieved a slighly higher state of soberness, but iy would take barrels of the stuff for him to go back to the worker he was. I was still trying to think of ways I could swap places with him, so he wouldn't have to face this barage of questions, when he broke. That simple, one minute he was photocopying a d ocument, listening to Carol going on and on and on, the next the broke.
The photocopier was the first, but not the last innocent on his rampage. He looked round at carol, who was still talking, but shut up promptly when she saw Archies face. He resmbled Bruce banner and Lou frengo in the Incredibe hulk, all sanity draining from his brain, leaving only a dull red hangover hot pain in his head. Smiling (though I've saw corpses with agony rictus grins look more appealing than the one Archie had on) he turned back to the photocopier and casually kelt down and unpluged it from the wall. Then he swirlled it round 45 degrees, the carpet bobbling up as the machine had no wheels. At this stage no one quite knew what he was going to do. He still had that mad grin on his face and I feverently hoped he was simply shuffling furniture around changing room stylie to brighten the place up. He walked round to the side of the photocopier and placed both hands on it. Then he simply stood there, tensing his muscles in his arms as if waiting for something. Perhaps even then he could have been talked out of it. Perhaps he was having second thopughs about whatever he was going to do. Perhaps. But then Carol spoke and it was as if a statrers pistol had gone off. "You know you only have a minute left to finish that fax don't you?" Archie looked at her, then me, then the photocopier then straight ahead.
Then he pushed.
The copier started sliding along the carpet, making a noise like a sledge on soft snow. Archie kept pushing, pumping his legs, veins sticking out on his neck. His glasses had rivulets of sweat on them. Occasionaly a rip could be herd as the copier snagged a part of the carpet, but for the most part it went smoothly along. Everyone in the office was staring at Archie, understandably as you don't see a madman pushing a piece of office equipment up and down the ailses of desks everyday. I was looking at where he was going though, and I groaned inwardly. He couldn't be really doing what he was going to do, was he? Directly in front of him was the only floor to ceiling window in the whole office. It looked onto the alleyway and it was always something of a reason why there was only one type of window like this on the 4th floor. Monetery reasons possibly. All I knew was that Archie was pushing a large picece of machinery at it very fast. The Glass was made of close to bulletproof material, so I was hoping that it might just bounce back and hit Archie in the stomach, where he would lie winded on the floor and we would pump him full of tranquliser darts like the ones they use on rogue elephnts. However, I think a sheet of tissue paper would hve held up better resistance than the glass in the frame. As the copier hit it, the glass semmed tp flex slightly, as if it was going to bend outwards, but finally come back into shape. Then it broke. Rather than a dazzling shower og glass shards that would slice a body into tiny hundreds of tiny little pieces, the pane of glass simply brike in two neatly along the centre. The two rectangle pieces fell out neatly as you please and dissapeared from sight. There was a definte air off dissapointment. Then the Photocopier dissapeared into fresh air. It hung, just for a second as its momentum hurtled it onwards, then it fell like a lead weight, trailing behind the cable with a small plug still attached. For one second I though Archie was gouing to go out the window as well, but he somehow managed to stop his run just before the edge. Everybody ran forward to see the results of Archies work.
Thankfully the alley was empty of people, only a few old skips and binbags were victims to Archies onslaught. The Glass dissapointingly didn't break when it reached the concrete. The two pieces bounced up in the air a couple of times, then lay silent. The Photocopier was a lot better. As a general rule of thumb, it seemed to be the more expensive the piece of machinery, the sweeter the destruction. A £1,776 hewlit packard colour photocopier with 4 paper trays, auto feeder and sorter was 1 second aay from its death. Everybody agreed that it was the best explosion thay had seen of expensive office equipment and silently applauded Archie for the style and choice of office gear he had chosen to destroy. The copier exploded on impact with the old worn concrete. The casing cracked in two and hundreds of technical components which nobody had any idea what they were for flew out from the machine like ripples in a pond. The glass shatteered much more satisfactory then the window pane and seperated into thousands of tiny dimonds. The main part of the Copier which hadn't been destroyed bounced, once, then twice then on the third landing it disapated its kinetic energy and lay on the road, slowly spreadind itself outwards. All you needed was a groan coming from the photocopier and it would have finished the scene.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2001 David McNulty