The voice continued its monotonous drone. What kind of moron broadcasted his washing machine woes inside of the crowded carriage of a cross-country train?
Six-hundred seconds of his Easter holiday had been ruined by the idiot sat on the seat behind. He balanced Paradisum Amissam on his leg and gazed through the grimy window of the 9.31 from Birmingham New Street.
Tolkien was right, this was Mordor: abandoned industrial yards surrounded by palisade security fencing, office equipment superstores announcing printer ink at clearance prices, multi-coloured scrap yards piled high with car wrecks, termite-hill apartment blocks and orcs in JCBs excavating mud by the side of polluted brown streams.
If he died and awoke in Wolverhampton, he would know he had been cast from the grace of God; just like Milton’s anti-hero, Lucifer.
But Yahweh was dead, moreover he never was. The Lie in the Sky had been slain by the trusty sword of consumerism, satellite TV, and kid’s birthday parties. Faith had been killed by indifference. Now humankind was free; free to face itself in the mirror, free to gaze upon the ape who had evolved to conquer and kill, free to see the void staring right back, free to confront the madness without fear; free to gorge on ‘5-a-day’ psychosis.
It took a brave man to point out the ape in the room; it took a courageous man to show the world the vacuity of existence; it took a great man to turn rage into actuality.
For death is death: final extinction. Resurrection of the body, the eternal soul, a loving heavenly father? All fairy tales for the stupid and the deluded. Even Christ had realised his mistake at the very end, crying out that his god had forsaken him. Even Jesus had succumbed to despair as the life drained from his body.
Twelve chapters of Miltonic prose had been an impulse buy in WH Smiths. Washing-machine-man had wrecked his moment of literary paradise. The phone call was ended; now shit-for-brains sat barking, clearing his throat like an asthmatic alpaca.
That moved him to the top of the list.
Click-boom, brains and blood.
The image passed into his mind, full colour, oozing, he could see the rifle in his hands, feel the contended fascination that he had been the agent of extinction, the angel of negation.
That made him think of Angela, Angel of his Destruction. And that made him think of how good it would feel to push the barrel of his sawn-off shotgun into her terrified face, to hear her beg for her life before he pulled the trigger and watched her head disintegrate.
If only he could have his time again. If only he’d had the courage not to walk down the aisle with the skinny woman with the bad attitude, the shrew he’d never been able to tame and had grown to hate. If only they had never had children, bought a house together, become grandparents. If only he had had the balls to screw her over in the divorce courts the way that she had screwed him.
Her and her fucking queer solicitor.
He remembered the church on their wedding day, the light coming through the stained glass window as he waited for her in front of the altar. He remembered their friends and family inside the ancient building that had witnessed fifty generations of joyful and joyless nuptials.
He remembered the priest who had married them, God’s representative on Earth, the man who, two months later, had run off with the dentist’s wife. For poorer and for poorer, for worse and for worse, in sickness of wealth, til’ the death of love and friendship us do part.
She’d got her greedy grabbing hands into his monthly salary, his ISAs, and his pension scheme. The sickest joke of all were the solicitors and court fees. But they didn’t know about the savings account, and neither did Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. All the tuition for cash on Saturdays and Sundays for twenty years had been squirrelled away and hidden. He had sixty-five grand; but the money didn’t matter as much as the principle.
He hated them all: the government, the judges, the not-so-civil servants and all the weasels who worked the system. Most of all he despised his insipid god-fearing colleagues, his Pleasant Valley Sunday neighbours, and his imbecilic thick-as-pig-shit fashion n’ football obsessed pupils.
Dungeon Master: that’s what the little prick in 11RN had called him to his face. The class had dissolved in laughter and now it seemed the whole school, even some of the staff and parents, were sniggering behind his back. He wouldn’t forget young Mister Downes; no sir, the freak with the crazy hair and the Israeli parka had a touch of the void about him; an early despatch to the depths of the bottomless chasm would be doing him a favour.
Maybe he was Master of the Matrix, Doorkeeper of the Dungeon, Attendant to the Abyss; this truer crueller reality offered a realm where individuals were free to act as evolution had always intended they should; a pagan world free of the childish constraints of religion, free of the boorish morays of a cowardly society content to survive inside a consumer sheep pen oblivious to the fact the good shepherd was not and never had been.
He felt the gravity of the dark star pulling at his shoulders, whispering its secrets in his ears, breeding in the shadows as the wearied sun rasped its dying breaths.
The world of light burned into him. Better a wraith than a seraph. Death to the sun. Patience, his time would come, and then;
Click boom, bye bye Angel.
Click boom, bye bye Mister tan-shoes-big-shot-divorce-lawyer.
Click boom, bye bye ‘Yours in Christ,’ Reverend Head-Teacher Justin Brandish.
Click boom, Michael Levy, chunky-knit jumper-smug-bastard head of Physics.
Click boom, Silly Sally, head of Religious Studies, purveyor of lies and misinformation.
Click-click-boom-fucking-boom to Form 11RN and anybody else he was going to stumble across as he taught the world its existential lesson.
Then, at last, the abyss would give leave for its servant, John Walsh, to enter into non-being and grant him sleep and eternal rest. This teacher of Science to the ignorant and the vain, this form tutor at Penburn Church of England High School, father to two daughters who never knew him, granddad to two snot-nosed retard grandsons would enter into the history books as an example of best practice. People would read about him and say, ‘Now that guy was a pioneer.’
And there would be others who would follow, emulate, surpass and build on his achievements. The worshipers of Religion, of the Hadron Collider, of Nation, Sport, Celebrity and Economics, they were the new priests of Baal and didn’t even realise it. Every man and woman had their own Golden Calf. The code was carved on ancient rocks, on CD cases, in corporate logos. The code was in every human heart. His job was to hold up a mirror and show humanity its true self.
The train had stopped at Stafford station. John Walsh realised he had been lost in his own reverie; Paradise Lost lay prone between his ankles. He watched the young college girls get on the train. He crossed his legs to disguise his erection, then wondered if any of the people around him knew they were in the presence of genius.