They buried me this morning and by all accounts it was a very moving service. The memory of my mother’s loud wailing echoed around the dirty soil, infiltrating its every pore and molecule, bypassing every worm and mole that had stopped and bowed their heads in perhaps a kind of animalistic worship, the kind that at some point would turn into the possibility of food and further enriching of the mud that would surround the casket.
In the darkness I imagined my father, stoic as always, his service tie flapping slightly at the end as it tried heroically to wrestle its way from underneath the tight fitting black waist-jacket that was also bound in place by the thirty year old jacket suit that had witnessed better days. But then again, as I lay there in a cheaply made coffin in my final descent, past the worms licking their lips as they thought fondly of the meal to come, I remember thinking, haven’t we all seen better days.
Have you ever tried to crawl your way through a few feet of earth? To act like a mole, just as blind, just as unsighted and acting of pure instinct? Unlike a mole who has a purpose for his nightly travelling work, try scraping, scratching inch by inch upwards, the dirt, the mud, so tightly packed and disgusting to breathe in, the fine particles of dust and collected, spread out ashes of a thousand cremated bodies scraping and crawling down your lungs; the higher you make it, the lower the dust goes, the further down the remains of decomposed leaves, mole droppings and the odd doomed spider, boiled alive by the gastric juices of your stomach, happen to go. If the cream rises to the top then where does the excrement flow?
A mole, that’s exactly what I was, in life and now in death. Admittedly, the first time I opened up the wooden shell that housed my body, it was via the collapsible and hastily made side. As I crashed into the spacious and well lit bunker, I smiled for the first time in weeks and then let out a cry so loud that I had suddenly thought I might have given the game away and that news of my demise would be seen for what it was, a sham. Knowing my spiritually guided mother though, she might just be convinced that she had heard my soul tasting the first of the Devil’s trials and torments that were rightly reserved for someone who had bought the world closer to destruction. Death was to be merely an extension of the suffering that awaited me as I found my right place in Hades.
I rest here a few yards from the surface and the weight of the world is upon me. I was only meant to be in that hole for a month. Ten times as long as my mother’s beloved other son, the one who only had to move a boulder out of the way and came out looking immaculate, he certainly would have smelt a lot better than I did as I faced the world after a month in solitary confinement. He would have had a huge bear hug from John, Peter would have slapped him on the back and Mary Magdelene…well she would have least given him a large welcome home snog. Me? I perhaps might have expected the high pitch whistle of an assassin’s bullet to momentarily speed through the air before killing me for the second and final time. Would it be better to see the person pulling the trigger, to look them in the face as I had done in a lonely but highly furnished office, or would it just be more peaceful to catch the sudden flash of light out of the corner of the eye and believe it to be the natural force of lightening sparking the very around me before light escapes from my head as the bullet passes through. Does it hurt less if you don’t see it coming?
I’m almost too scared to carry on, the radio that has been grinding out nothing but static for three weeks is going bat shit crazy now. Would it scare me any more if it suddenly sprang to life, if the static that had been driving me insane as I eeked out the last of the fresh water and the smell of rotting food tore apart my nostrils, suddenly stopped and there surrounded by thousands and thousands of graves came the dulcet tones of whatever had been manufactured to be that year’s Number One. I almost prayed to my mother’s God that should I survive an assassin’s assault on my life that the first thing I would not hear would be anybody wishing me a wonderful Christmas time.
It was supposed to be easy. To hide away in a small hole for a month, all the mod cons, if you didn’t want the chance to go down the pub and chat to a woman, her lipstick glistening as wildly as the sun as it hits the Cornish coast, or having more than just a couple of mix tape cassettes full of tracks by The Stranglers, Iron Maiden or even if possible an seemingly endless supply of Chicago’s greatest hits. Anything to get the woman with the bright, sunlight scarred lips to look up from her cards, the thought of pegging out in a game of Cribbage lost in the moment …it was supposed to be easy but as I realise I had been forgotten, left to rot in some superpower game like a pawn sacrificed in sake of preserving its corresponding Bishop…I had suddenly become scared of what I had taken part in and the death I so obviously deserved. I was pawn who had only moved one square, I was the 19 Cribbage hand and the replayed worn out tape.
The kill had been the easy part, I was good at that. I was exceptional. I had found my way into the inner workings of Government; I had shadowed my target for years without him even suspecting I was there. I watched, I observed silently as he sweated over affairs of state, as he grew tired, shattered by the weight of his own responsibility as he plunged his country ever closer to war. He would have died soon enough, his heart weakened by non-stop canvassing, trips abroad as he played the throne giver to the highest in the land and then regretted each appointment as each one turned on him like a nest of vipers sensing the single lame mongoose in the pit. He would have died soon enough, only his stubbornness to admit he was not up to the job kept him going. He thought he could control it all, his enemies became bitter and soon enough I was told to finish the job, save the nation, die for a while and then re-emerge to hopefully see war averted.
The kill was easy, it’s funny how many turned their heads away at the right moment as I pulled the trigger inside his opulent office of state, his nerve centre, the spider’s dank and mouldy web filled with the carcass of many dead. He saw my face, he didn’t even scream out in the vain attempt to save his life. He remained calm for the next minute of his life as I passed down the sentence from the jury. He closed his eyes, for the first time in months there was no sweat on his face being pumped to the surface from his tortured black heart and he whispered to his God. Perhaps he sensed the boulder closing across; perhaps the final vestige of daylight that streamed through his white crossed windows eased his resolve.
“It’s too late, we are all dead anyway, now at least history will not blame me.” He opened his eyes slowly as I clicked the hammer back and prepared to let lightning strike where it will when he said, “Is your soul clean? Are you prepared to wander the Earth in perpetual blame, are your shoulder strong enough Sissuphus?” Well I never much liked Greek mythology so I did the only thing I was ever trained to do and put the man finally out of our misery.
The kill is never really that easy, it gets messy, there are rules that nature hates having broken, to commit murder on the leader of the country, no matter how tempting, is one such rule that nature makes you pay for.
A few more inches, I can taste the air now, the stench from below is getting weaker and there is a breeze wafting across the still fresh grave markings is hacking away at the festering hole my employers had laid out for me.
Of course you simply cannot assassinate the leader of an independent and sovereign nation and walk out into the open and just catch a train out of town and find a beautiful woman to hold onto and sit and read the news headlines together on some far off exotic beach. God no, I had to die to make the plan succeed. I had to be die, albeit for a short while, in order to make the plot seem the work of a single lonely loon. I held my hands up to the awaiting world, I let the camera cast me in the worst of light and when the time came the needle did its work.
At first, the initial couple of days had been o.k. The bunker was built to withstand anything; nothing could get in, not even a mole attached to its own homemade suicide pack. I sat on the single bed and took turns to sleep, make a cup of tea, plan the future and read one of the few book left by my handlers. James Herbert’s Domain, A Murder Is Announced, Royal Flash, Hamlet and for light relief and Manchester United Ruined My life were read and enjoyed in the first week. There was one picture on the wall that gave me a view of sorts, a splash of colour to break up the sterility. It was one of two I had as a print as a boy, when music was the be-all of existence and before I found the particular skill I had employed for a decade with such accuracy. The theme of the Devil being controlled like an unaware puppet, its strings being pulled in various directions always had me believing that there was always a higher power in which to represent, especially if the money or the cause was right.
In a way this picture was more apt, especially after the batteries started running out, cheap nasty ones that weren’t up to the challenge of keeping me sane and amused in the days after the funeral. If I had seen the other picture, the one that drove me into the arms of the profession in the first place over the next couple of weeks, well I may have tried to climb out of Hell a lot sooner…Hell or Earth, the end result is the same after all.
The news that I heard as I laid back on the bed, the pillows full of mildew and the faint stirrings of lice eggs being hatched, was one that made me sick. The plan, the sweet plan to save us all had gone badly wrong. Secrets started spilling out of the leader’s involvement in deals with the enemy, with him being exposed as a double agent. I cried for the first time since my cousin had broken a perfectly well loved Jeff Wayne record over my head, its pieces shattering and splintering around me and small pieces falling out of my hair for days afterwards. The following day I bought the poster and stuck it above my head on the ceiling, my cousin being the first person I exacted revenge upon. Two karmic faces, one shrouded in red and the other, me a soldier out to control Death as much as I could. The very best of jigs!
The kill was easy; living with it was killing me. The batteries to both cassette player and radio started to go down and die. The cassette player first then the static kicked in on the radio. It was abrupt and incessant. Two inches from the top, from freedom from a grave of my own making and the radio continues to make a sound like a pig being chased round a farmyard by an over active schoolboy. I needed to be around people. Two weeks of static, fuzzy, faded and annoying was wishing that I had just left well alone. I was losing my mind, losing it, it had snapped completely. Who cares if they knew my death was faked, that my parents stooges who were hired for the price of a free meal to stand at the graveside and act as if the world had fallen apart at the seams. I was in the safest place in the world and I was dying, I was going insane. I needed air to breathe, shallow breaths, deep ones, I needed to sit underneath the willow that hung over my imitation grave and I needed to break silence. I hadn’t spoken for the first week I was down there. There was no need, every conversation I wanted to have could wait. I just sat and listened to the news on the radio, I felt grief rising as war escalated and then finally the signal died and I started to talk to myself.
I had never been a man for arguments, too consuming, to full of effort. It was better to watch, be patient and then when fate determines, to pull the trigger and depart. Who controls the Devil after all?
Finally my senses left me, food ran low, water was becoming stale and the constant torture of the static shortwave and I saw the only means of escape from a safe prison being the one I had come down in. I grabbed the radio and put it in my trouser pocket, I left it on so that I could at least hear another human voice before the Willow Tree became my new best friend. I wanted to lie down in the damp morning grass and let the ghosts who roamed such graveyards shake me by the hand. Please God, just this once I repent.
I pulled the carcass of the shattered coffin out of the wall and watched as a foot of loose Earth crashed to the stark floor. A dark, blood red spider, fat with children and possibly as toxic as my thoughts, ran for cover under the wash basin and possibly resides there still, a Queen of its own private realm, its subjects easily obtained food.
I scrapped through dirt, mud, the very ground we take for granted and at times I slipped back an inch or a foot. I nearly suffocated as dirt tumbled willingly into my mouth and my lungs groaned hard. If I died here, my lungs bursting at the seams with the stale breath of the long since departed then what would it achieve, how could I ever atone, how could I ever stop the voices that had taken control?
A wisp of air tickled my fingers and I hurried, my soul was to be reborn and I wanted to scream my lungs off and I didn’t care of the small flash of light went off.
Finally I crawled out of the Earth-like womb, the static loud and resounding and I saw the reason for it all. My madness was real, it was complete and I was the instigator of it all. Around me the charred remains of a dying planet was more punishment that I could bear, the black and white of a world that I helped destroy, my fall into the pit that the Prime Minister had warned me about complete and forever damned. The static of the radio echoing the jury’s verdict, I was guilty. I had been safe but now I was truly going to die. I had been reborn into darkness.
Ian D. Hall