“Old Father Time is what they called him. I know… well, ‘cos he was a watchmaker and a clock mechanic and had lived and worked in his repair shop for nigh on thirty years. And he definitely looked the part, silvery grey hair falling wild all over his head. Sometimes he’d cover them up with a wide-brimmed hat. A tidily drawn beard had been etched onto his face for as long as anyone could remember. The overall impression he gave off was one of quiet authority and patient calm. Underneath that peaceful exterior however, not all was so tranquil…”
“What’s your superpower?”
“Your superpower. What is it?”
“Oh. Well, if I concentrate really *really* hard I can create an even more intense level of personal discomfort. What’s yours?”
“I have the power to make the news both horrible *and* distressing. Every time a new nightmare.”
“Neat. Let’s have a cup of dreams.”
The surgeon had been awake for days. Looking down at the patient’s tattered face, he grimaced. This would need more than a regular skin graft.
He saw a twitch on the patient’s face. A faint mumble, and then a scream.
“Please Lord, do not forsake me!”
And in the furthest reaches of my brain I heard a bell sound and a voice, stark with intensity:
“Free tissues, sir?”
I glance across the huddled throng of pedestrians to take in the smiling face. I accept the proffered brightly coloured package and nod distractedly.
Sitting amidst the blank office walls I studied the pack of free tissues. It was a slow day. 11am Friday. Nothing much to do.
The neon green packaging was lettered in a disturbingly bold font detailing the following message:
Sick of the sneezing?
Tired of the dripping?
I gave it no more thought and clicked back to the frenzy rating feed.
Work went by and things happened on screen. They gradually changed. Things happened. And then other things happened.
I went to get a coffee. I noticed that the whole office was empty apart from Gordo from Accounts. He was dancing and humming to himself near the photocopier. He was crying. I mumbled “Gordo… are you … ok ?”
He whispered something inaudible so I went back to my desk to get the tissues. I hurriedly opened up the pack and offered him one. He took it and dabbed at his eyes and whispered again. And then the change happened.
Gordo was instantly transformed into a monster. A three headed dragon type thing previously only witnessed in dreams, nightmares, Japanese anime or a sterling combination of all three. Blue flames erupted out of Gordo’s three mouths and that was enough for me. I ran like hell fire.
Out on the street it was mayhem. Upturned cars, burning buses and specific symptoms of death. Thousands of free tissue wrappers lined the road. I could feel a sneeze forming in my snout.
LIVE/LONG LIVE/LONG LIVE/LONG LIVE/LONG LIVE/LONG LIVE/LONG LIVE/LONG LIVE/LONG LIVE/LONG LIVE/
There was something on the floor as I walked back home after my shopping excursion in town. I had been to Marks and Sparks to buy some new comfortable socks and pants, as I was running pretty low. I had also bought a nice bagel from a cafe and felt the edge of my despondency gradually diminishing. There was something on the floor as I strode with purpose, thinking of opportunities current and others due to present themselves. There was something on the floor as I huddled under a pub front awning to escape the steady flow of drizzle. There was something on the floor; it was a bit of bread that looked like a hand. There was something on the floor. There was something on the floor there was something coming out of the floor it was a hand coming out of the floor it was a hand that look like bread it was a hand that looked like bread that looked like bread like bread hand bread hand bread bread bread
I held onto it.
“Ok, Mr. M we’ve had a good look at your CV and examples and think you’d be perfect for the job…”
The fizzing transatlantic voice crackled in my ear like an ancient radio broadcast.
“We just want to know one more thing – when can you start?”
I stared at myself in the mirror, grasping tightly onto my outdated mobile. Was this really happening?
Well, yes it was, and it did.
The job itself seemed relatively simple to begin with. My task was to profile shoppers as they came and went through the halls of the vast local shopping mall, the so-called Destiny Center. The people ambled through the arcade, carefully examining each item they found intriguing before they made a purchase.
But this wasn’t what we wanted! We wanted clawing, snarling forced bargain sales produced though contempt and exclusive offers. This level of civilisation was not in the job description!
So I was forced to up the ante.
“Oi you,” I shouted at a middle aged male shopper delicately holding a reusable heavyweight holdall. “There’s a demon in your bag!”
He gave me a passing glance and then continued browsing through a selection of Bosch prints.
I tried again. “There really is! And he’s here to eat all of you up on a 2000 for 1 deal! He would like a ready meal of dissatisfaction, a convenience trip of liquid sea bass, a worrisome steak sandwich, a…”
I was forced to stop by a police dog’s paw on my shoulder.
“What are you shouting about, Mister?” barked the canine, robotically, “If you don’t calm down I’ll be forced to cancel your Destiny card.”
“But I’m working,” I replied. “I’ve been hired by the stopgap Anyjob firm to create a disturbance at this center to prove beyond all doubt that shopping makes people insouciant!”
“And what the hell’s wrong with that? A bit of casualness and disconnection hardly ever hurt anyone!”
And that’s when the buzzing started. A searing pulsating vibration going off in my head accompanied by the familiar metallic 50’s radio voice.
“Do it. Do it now!”
I took the contraption out of my own shopper and pressed the button. “This is your profile!” I screamed, the blood rushing past my eyeballs and covering the polished floor in puddles of red.
“This is the destiny you asked for!”
White electricity jumps through my skull and I know no more.
Until I wake up in the office.
“Good job, Mr. M,” the freakishly minute image of what must be the Line Manager said on screen.
“You managed to create quite a stir over there in the Destiny Center. But, next time, be sure to do it for real. You’re with us for life you know!”