Chapter 8: Dragonfish

My cheek is wet from dribbling and it’s numb, I run my hand across my skin and feel the pattern of the grooves that have imprinted on my face from sleeping with my head on the tiled floor. I run my tongue over a sore spot on my inner cheek, running my hand over my head I jerk up right at the sensation underneath my fingers. I look into the mirror with a start at my shaved head. And then it comes to me, I remember seeing her in the reflection behind me, her knickers around her ankles as she sits on the toilet. The sound of the buzzing as I took the clippers to my head and then the gushing of her pissing behind me. Remembering how I looked into the mirror feeling radiated as well as aroused. She stood from the toilet, her legs apart as she wiped herself before slithering down and taking me into her mouth. Her face looked up at me, her hair everywhere in the bath as I moved up and down on top of her, my knuckles going white as I placed my hand around her neck. Her red lips puckering, mascara running down her face. I inspect my head and face in the mirror, trying to get to grips with my new look before looking to my right and seeing her lying there lifeless in the bath. My heart pounds hard against my chest, a rush of blood to my ears pulsating and the bathroom light suddenly too bright. A cartoon plays out in my head of my heartbeat being visible in my chest and then bursting out and flinging out as if catapulted from my chest into the mirror with a splash of blood splattering all over the room and on myself. The room starts to spin, I look at her pale body until I feel the bile rising from my stomach and lurch towards the toilet bowl. I draw an O for a mouth on my light bulb head along with big round eyes that have reels of a film playing out a nightmare, all while the light flickers in and out. I breathe in sync with the flickers, gasping with horror every time the fish flashes into my consciousness. Water starts to drip down until my head is almost submerged, but the light still flashes. Blinking on then off again. It only just occurs to me as I run out of the bathroom that I’m still naked. I close the door to the bathroom and run into my bedroom and get dressed. I’m dripping wet with sweat or the sea. I’m drowning. I take a quick peek back into the bathroom, catching my breath at the sight of her before closing the door again and rushing out of my flat and off to work. Images of us having sex in the bath plague my mind, my hands around her neck. The taxi driver is listening to the radio, a song about going to church is on as if the radio knows my sin. The driver looks through his rearview mirror at me, his lips contorting into a grin I could only be dreaming up. “Are you okay?” The driver asks me. Now I notice he’s actually frowning in concern. “Yes,” I lie. The silence hangs heavy over us.

The tap in the kitchen is rhythmically dripping, filling the empty silence and my heart is pounding against my chest again, the gush of pulsating in my ears syncronised with both the tap and my heartbeat. The water and I, we’re always in sync and we’re always playing cat and mouse. My phone is ringing out in the hallway between the bathroom and the lounge. The light illuminating the hallway. The ringing and the drip, drip of the tap seem to have the same rhythm, filling me with dread. By the time I get to my phone, it stops ringing and the screen flashes a missed call from Jasmine. My fingers smudge the screen as I press to call back, “H…Hello?” I stutter. “Hello.” Her voice sounds hoarse. “You…You phoned,” I manage. My eyes darting to the bathroom door across from me, the room seeming to shrink, closing in on me. I open the bathroom door and peer cautiously over the rim of the bathtub. My heart jolts at the sight. The bath is empty. “Yea just wanted to check you were okay. The comedown from those pills I gave you, it can get pretty bad. Especially the first time.” “The comedown?” I ask blankly, still not convinced it can really be her. “Yea, the hangover is always a bitch. But you got through it obviously.” “You’re…” I take the phone away from my ear and look back at the screen, it definitely says Jasmine, “You’re alive!” I can hear a sharp intake of breath on the phone and then laughing, “What you on about?” “When I left you…” “Oh, yea!” Jasmine blurts out, “Why’d you just up and leave this morning?” “What?” I swallow, “I..I had to go to work. I…You were in the bath…” “What did you think had happened?” “I don’t know,” I lie. How can I tell her I thought maybe I’d killed her? “I think I better come up and see you.” “I’m fine, honestly,” I say unconvincingly. “Be there soon,” She says ignoring my words. “But…”I Start but she’s put the phone down.

Chapter 7: Dragonfish

“What are we meant to do now?” The cartoon cinema inside my mind reels an image of me as a lemon stood at the bar looking clueless. Everyone else around me appears to be going bananas (cue a cartoon of dancing bananas in my head) dancing to the noise and different colours light each expression they pull. Jasmine cranes her neck back as she looks at me, and I have an urge to ask if she’s a brontosaurus but feel it won’t go down too well, it’s too much like asking if she’s an elephant. “What?” She shouts over the music.
”What do we do now?”
”What?” She grins, her yellowing teeth somehow managing to glow, “You’ll have to speak up! I can’t hear you over the music!”
I swallow hard before opening my mouth to speak but the words won’t come out. My words are stuck in my throat, in my brain like razors cutting through me reminding me I’m not normal.
I find myself fidgeting on my feet, compelled to rock on the balls of my feet.
Jasmine looks across at me like I’m an alien and I feel sick.
”Gilly?”
I hear her voice a little but the music is vibrating through my body and I don’t like it. All the faces are flashing their different hues as they dance and everyone appears monstrous to me.
I run to the toilets a fluorescent strip flickers intermittently, this club has an obsession with flashing lights, or is it I that is obsessed? My light bulb head flashes between the flickers above. Artificial suns, artificial light. We sacrificed the stars; the sky is bloody with murder! We sacrificed the stars! The white tiles are yellowing, and the long silver gutter like urinal is orange with hardened piss that had failed to reach the drain. Clumps of chewing gum seal cracks in the walls and stick to the dotted floor tiles, people have left their mark in the form of grooves from their shoes in the gum. Artificial suns, artificial light. I breathe heavily.
“Gilly,” A female voice enquiries in a conspiratorial whisper.
“Jasmine?” I find myself mimicking the conspiratorial tone. The door opens and the music blasts through like an unwelcome draft.
“What, you can’t come in here!” I look at her puzzled, “It’s the mens!” I explain as if she doesn’t already know.
Her shoulders lift in tension, and she folds her arms as if cold, “I’m just checking you’re okay.” She chews her gum loudly and I find myself clenching my fist at the sound.
“I’m alright.” I’m so used to these lies now.
She leans against a stall door, and the door opens inwards, pushed by her weight and she falls in with it. She just about holds herself up via the stall wall. After a moment of what felt like impenetrable silence she laughs and I find myself laughing too, “You’re anxious.” She decides out loud.
“No.” I lie. “There are too many people. And the lights, all the lights, all the dust. Everything.”I knead my hands and visibly shake.
”What if I was to….” She pauses and licks her lips seductively. I blink and hear my blinking inside my head as my eyelashes meet. She’s walking over to me and shimmying her butt, bulging her chest out to emphasise her breasts. She pouts her lips and slowly wiggles her way down on her knees rhythmically, and her head is right at my crotch. I gulp. The light flickers above us. A tap drips. and the light clicks and buzzes in sync with the drip, drip, drip.
The light has flickered off for a longer second than usual when I hear her giggle. The light comes back on, and she’s stood in front of me. Her mint breath in my face, “I know what you need!”
“Whats that?” I step back a bit, my back meets the rim of a sink and digs into me. She takes some pills from her pocket and holds out the palm of her hand. We just stand here in silence, blinking again, the light clicking and the tap dripping.
I’m claustraphobic. I’m drowning.
“Go on.” She shoves her palm closer to me, “Take two,” she smiles, “You’ll be right as rain.”
“Okay.” I gulp down the tablets trying not to heave them straight back out.
I look in the mirror looking for some change in my face, though I don’t know what that change would be. “What now?”
Her eyes light up behind me in the reflection, “Now,” she wiggles her eyebrows, “We have fun!”
She grabs my hand and pulls me out of the toilets and into the horde of zombies being lit up different colours.
She moves her body near mine, shimmying her body up and down her breasts brushing against me. The music that is playing has some classical music I recognise underneath it. Sweaty bodies are dancing all around me, invading my personal space. My light bulb head flashes on and off in the middle of this berserk crowd of rainbow people. People pull strange faces and back away from me as the Anglerfish in my bulb greets them with its toothy grin. I watch dust motes floating in the light streams from where the light source is on a balcony, shining down on us all like infected ants.
The lights are brighter than ever to my eyes and as I look around me I feel like I’m at a mass exorcism. Bu I can’t connect to their delirum, their sense of fun.
The music is making my skull ache, “Can we leave?” I find myself shouting it over the music, shocking myself by my own voice.
“Just wait,” Jasmine replies with a knowing smile.
For a while I don’t notice anything different, deciding she’s just given me a sugar pill I smile to myself with the knowledge. “You can’t fool me,” I whisper.
She moves her body to the music, “What are you on about?”
“You think you’ve got one over me, but you haven’t.”
She frowns but carries on shaking her arse to the music. The music seems to get louder which at first makes me panic and flail about, storming back to the bar trying to wave the sound away from my ears. People look at me weirdly, but I figure it’s the scary Anglerfish inside my head. men and women are dancing bathed in multi-coloured lights, some dancing together with sexual tension almost visible as an aura around them. I float back to the crowd of dancing zombies to find Jasmine, and she’s dancing with a surreal smile on her face from ear to ear. Her body shimmers with its own source of illumination, the grin still splitting her face she beams, “Unicorns are just horny horses.” and giggles.
The music vibrates through my body, the music and I are one together. “I’m a…” A wave of green light shines on me and I bathe it in, spreading my arms open wide like an Eagles Wings, “I’m a dragonfish.”
She gives me a questioning glance.
“It’s an ugly little fish that lives in the depths of the ocean. It lives in the darkness.”
“Cool!” She says with real enthusiasm, “wow that’s so cool. Actual dragons in the sea!”
“No, they’re fish. Great fish.”
She gasps, “Oh my god!”
I think something is behind me; I check over my shoulder. “What?”
“Gilly!”
“What?” I grasp both her shoulders and shake her, “What is it my glowing angel?” I laugh loudly. A woman with a purple face glares and pushes past me.
“Gilly! You’re a dragon FISH. FISH. And you’re called Gilly. It fits.”
“I’m not really called Gilly!” I argue.
“People call you that more than Jacob, so you are!” She beams her massive Cheshire Cat grin.
“It fits!” I find myself agreeing, a wave of nausea caused by little butterflies in my stomach. “I think I ate some butterflies.”
“And what did the butterflies eat?” She asks, genuine curiosity on her face.
“A dinosaur.”
“How does a butterfly eat a dinosaur? Nincompoop!” She slaps the back of my head.
“Well, they fold the dinosaurs to an edible size first, obviously,” I roll my eyes. Another song comes on with classical music as background underneath all the added shit. “We fold what we know into our brains so that means a butterfly can eat a dinosaur!”
Jasmine has wondered off amidst the crowd; I barge through the people and their barriers radiation. “Jasmine,” I stop in my tracks because a man gives me a dirty look, a sheen of green over his face which then turns to purple. “Wow!” I find myself saying out loud as I usher him out of my way, “Jasmine!” I make way through the crowd till I’ve come full circle and I’m back at the bar. I turn back to the dance floor to watch everyone and their radiant faces, and I stick my tongue out to taste a trace of the dust particles I can see in the split streams of artificial light, artificial suns and moons beaming on us all. “It tastes like a lighthouse in here.”
I feel a presence close to me and then a hand on my shoulder; I look over my shoulder to see Jasmine’s face hovering above me. An unfamiliar expression crosses my face, “I just had an epiphany,” I start,
She drags me outside, “And what’s that?”
“Dragonfish have to be their own source of light!”

Chapter 6: Dragonfish

I’m in the maintenance cupboard; I can smell bleach and something else that is stale and musty. A lone bulb, not long for this world hangs from the ceiling above my head with cobwebs above it casting shadows on the yellowing ceiling and walls. I cast a shadow across the hard concrete floor, overflowing onto the wall like I’m a giant. What I’d give to be a giant under this dark sea! The door creaks open slowly; she peers around then steps in closing the door behind her.
“Gilly?” She squints her eyes in the dim light.
“Sam?”
She shrugs her shoulders and just stares blankly over in my direction, the light bulb hanging between us. “What are you doing in here?”
I could ask you the same thing,” I whisper conspiratorially. “Damn it!” I hiss.
“What?”
“I missed the best opportunity to say ‘I’ve been expecting you.” I sigh, “Go back out and come back in.”
She sighs now and looks around the room, her hands open in question.
“I come here for a break sometimes.” I finally answer.
“I came in to get a mop. There has been a spillage.”
I look at her sceptically, “Since when has cleaning been your job?”
“Since Rob decided to call in sick for two weeks running.” Her shoulders slump as she leans against a wall. She chuckles to herself.
“What?”
“Nothing.” She smirks more.
“Come on!” I ask eagerly, wanting in on the joke.
“It’s just…” She looks down at her shoes then at the wall behind my head, “Being in the maintenance cupboard kinda just reminds me of story lines in films. It feels like there should be a camera here and this is the scene where we kiss.”
I stare at her, blinking. I can hear the sound of my blinking in my head like I’m a cartoon. Clink, clink. “Um…”
“I mean because” She starts defensively, “it’s like we’re sneaking around.” She shrugs her shoulders, “I’ve seen it on Scrubs.” She laughs.
“Okay.” I mimic the action of undoing my belt.
She covers her mouth to stifle her laughter.
I have an urge to kiss her, and in haste, I launch towards her like a man on a mission, all my instincts never to share bodily fluids with anyone have evaporated, and I kiss her hard on the lips.
She pushes me away, “What?” She gasps, startled, wiping her lips “What was that?”
“It’s called a Kiss,” I shuffle uncomfortably on my feet and feel at the back of my neck, “What do you call it? Did I do it wrong?”
She closes her eyes a moment and shakes her head, “This is…” She reaches the door handle “Gilly…” She murmurs and fumbles with the door handle, “I bet you don’t even know what colour my eyes are!”
”Blue.”
”You notice no one but yourself in this world,”  She hangs in the doorway hesitantly, looks back at me with a sad expression lit on her face.
“Sorry,” I whisper to the emptiness of the room as she leaves and the door closes.

The clouds loom low over town hiding the stars. Sometimes the weather just syncs up with how you feel. We never see the stars in Shademore anyway; we’re much too deep under the ocean, lost in our artificial lights, our artificial suns. Jasmine is at the bus stop; legs stretched out in front of her. “Gilly!” She pipes up, gum churning between her teeth and a cigarette between her fingers.
I nod to aknoweldge her presence.
It’s started to rain that summer rain; the road has a sheen to it reflecting all the different sources of light.
”You notice no one but yourself,” Her voice repeats in my head, “You notice no one but yourself.” Everyone seems to think that, but I swear it’s not true.
“Get a bus with me.” Jasmine asks pleadingly.
I look down at my shoes blankly. You notice no one but yourself. No. Sometimes I notice so much it coalesce to noticing nothing at all!
“I’m going to The Insider.” Jasmine’s voice finally burts my bubble
“The…The insider?” I ask
“It’s a club,” she tilts her head and smiles, “You ever been?”
“No,”
We watch a few passing cars, watching as they spray water under their tyres.
“You called a taxi yet?” She interrupts the swooshing sound of traffic.
“Might have.”
She smiles furtively, “I’m betting you have.” She flicks the stub of her cigarette onto the path, “Fuck the taxi. Get on the bus with me!”
Why do people get on buses but get in cars?
She winks and chews the gum hard with new found enthusiasm.
My taxi arrives just in the nick of time.
“Go tell him to bog off,” Jasmine laughs.
“Nah.” I go towards the taxi and behind my step I sense someone close behind.
“Okay, we’ll get a cab.” She grins. She walks around to the other passenger side.
The driver smiles at me through the rearview mirror, “Going home?”
I look beside me at Jasmine feeling as though she’s an intrusion.
“We’re off to The Insider. You know it?” Jasmine butts in.
“The club?” The driver starts typing a postcode into his sat nav system
“Yea.”
“Near Blackpond Avenue, right?”
Jasmine nods.
“Okay,” The car jerks forwards. The driver’s teeth appear to glow, “Never took you as the clubbing type.”
Jasmine rolls her eyes, “This one here,” she points at me, “the clubbing type,” she laughs, “I know right!”
“I’m a club virgin.” I pipe up.
The driver laughs as does Jasmine, “You’ve got virgin written all over you,” Jasmine raises a brow with a smirk.

Chapter 5: Dragonfish

My manager is in my face pointing to the spreadsheet with an accusing finger, “You haven’t even logged several sales we had on Friday!” Spittle is spraying from his lips until he glances at something or someone behind me, then he suddenly eases up and practices restraint. I follow his gaze and Sam is stood there, her cheeks blush a little as she tries to make herself look busy, her eyes sliding down to some chocolates on a shelf and starts ‘neatening’ the stack. The manager takes his accusing finger away from the screen and places his hands in his pockets, “Just make sure you log all the ticket sales before you leave in the future, okay?”
“Sure,” I nod in response. The screen glows against my face like a replacement for the sun. I scan the food section seeking Sam’s face, and she looks up over at me, I give her my best glare. She saunters back to the snack counter as a customer comes in, has another quick shot at me, bites her bottom lip and then averts her attention to the customer and puts on her best smile.
After work, I sit at the bus stop with the neon sign from the cinemas glowing behind my back giving me a green halo. I cast my eyes down onto the pavement, noticing all the lights reflecting on the wet tarmac, including the green neon sign, my artificial moon shining under all this water that I’m drowning in. Night time shoppers walk by, the constant tack, tack, tack of feet in light shoes as people take it easy with their shopping bags of artificial moonlight. An image pops into my head of Sam dancing to the beat of some music I can just about hear from someone’s headphones as they lean against the glass pane of the bus stop. Halos of green light outline her curves, and I’m taken deep into my head where the bus stop has disappeared along with everything and everyone else it’s just Sam and I.  She’s dancing, and I’m trying to move to the beat but coming off as awkward with two left feet. Her blue, blue eyes are looking at me enticingly, and an extra hollow layer makes its way into my psyche as I try to feel anything other than the water in my lungs.

“Hello,” my head flashes on, off, on, off and Sam just keeps on dancing, slowly shimmying closer to me, gesturing with a ‘come hither’ gesture. But just as we appear to float closer together my head flashes on, and the fish with  all it’s teeth greets her with a grin. She steps back, her eyes wide and horrified. “Hello,” I repeat as if she’s still somewhere near, even though she’s disappeared from my visions. “Hello,” I say again to the darkness.
“He speaks!” A woman squeals breaking me from my trance.
I freeze on the spot like a deer in the headlights. I knead my hands and flick my tongue on the roof of my mouth making a clicking sound, a nervous tic I get sometimes.
“What? Are you trying to call a dog?” Chewing gum woman asks, sitting next to me on the bench, too close.
I get up from the bench, and I run my hand over the back of my neck and hone my vision on a bit of reflected light in a puddle in front of my foot. “Hello,” I whisper.
She tilts her head “Are you speaking to me?”
I nod
She claps her hands together, which draws the attention of other commuters. I knead my hands nervously. “He speaks!” she screeches again.
I recoil inward a cartoon image of myself as a turtle going back in it’s shell plays in my head. I Remain still like a statue till all the attention is away from me.
I click my tongue on the roof of my mouth, “I’m J.J.” I mumble as fast as possible.
“What was that?” she leans forward on the bench
“J.J,” I try to speak more clearly, “I’m J.J.”
“Thought you were Gilly?” She chews gum loudly.
“No, No. I..I am Jacob James Gilbert. Gilly is a nickname people use, my surname shortened.”
“Ah,” she takes her phone out of her pocket, her artificial moon glows against her face, then she puts it back in her pocket, “I’m Jasmine”
“Both our names begin with J.” I notice out loud.
“Yea.” She lights a cigarette with a flick of her lighter and I step further away from the bench. “Whats up? Do I smell?”
“Y…Yes”
I can almost hear the turning of her neck as her body tenses up in some mental restraint and, the tension then flickers into to amusement, “Wow.” She stares ahead.
“Cigarettes” I nod my head towards the smoke
She looks at the end of her cigarette, watching the ash pile up with a puzzled expression on her face until it dawns on her, “Oh!” She beams, “I see!”
“I’d smoke if it wasn’t for the smell,” I remark.
“Why?”
I shrug
She stares into the distance, clearly thinking, “e-cigs,” she mumbles.
“What?”
“e-cigs, you can smoke them without the smell.”
“That isn’t the same.”
“So…” She sucks in some air and smoke, “Ya finally speak!” She starts excitedly.
I shrug again.
“Shit,” she flicks ash onto the pavement, “Don’t go all mute on me again!”
She continues to sit, and I continue to stand in silence till the bus arrives. The buses lights are glowing on the inside, and its headlights glare like eyes. I look at the faces in the windows, the bus turning into a submarine in my imagination. “You waiting for a taxi?”
“Yea.”
She starts towards the bus, “Hey,” she says over her shoulder, one foot on the platform, “How come you get taxis at the bus stop?”
“Bye”
She scoffs, “You’re a funny guy,” she hops onto the bus, “See you around, then, I guess.” She shouts over and drops her cigarette on the pavement and then shows a pass to the driver.

Chapter 3: Dragonfish

I’m standing at the bus stop envisioning my head flickering on and off with that electric fizz in between, and people are looking at me. Some manic guy with OCD is trying to stop his eye visibly twitching because he wants to change the broken light bulb! I’m stood here flickering on and off like an occasional beacon of light, but the light only shines to show you the monsters in the dark. If someone were to ask if they could paint a representation of me, I’d ask them to paint a human body with a light bulb head. It would have a gruesome-looking fish inside bearing sharp teeth, and it would be electrocuted every time the bulb flickers on and then disappears just as suddenly, the last thing you’d see would be its eyes bulging from the electricity.
“Gilly,” An unfamiliar voice interrupts my imagination; I turn my flickering head towards her with a zig-zag mouth and crosses for eyes.
“Are you stunted or somethin’?”
I imagine her breath smells awful with its mixture of stale cigarettes and minty chewing gum.
“I’m talkin’ to you!” She screeches waving her hand to grab my attention. “Earth to Gilly!” She giggles and sits back down on the bench stretching her legs out, “Do you even talk?” She scowls at the pavement in puzzlement; hands dug deep in her pockets. “Oh,” her body becomes animated with new insight, “Are you deaf?” She smiles proudly at herself.
An old man with a walking stick joins her; she gestures towards me with her thumb and says, “I think he’s deaf.”
“Have you asked him if he is?” The old man says in a grainy voice, a smoker’s chuckle following.
“He don’t talk.”
“Maybe he has headphones in.”
She leans forwards on the bench and looks at him, shakes her head, “Can you see any damn headphones, Grandpa?”
“I dunno,” his coat makes a shuffling sound as he shrugs his shoulders, “They’re tricky these days with all this technology.” He nods towards me, “Especially these youngsters.”
She opens her mouth wide with chewing gum squashed on her tongue, eyebrows raised, “He’s about the same age as me I reckon.”
“A bleeding baby then!” Her grandpa replies with another hearty chuckle, “Ya bleeding babies you two!”
She rolls her eyes and sits back, her back resting against the glass pane and folds her arms, her denim jacket tightening at the elbows and rolling up a little at the wrist. She has a small tattoo on her wrist that I can’t quite make out.
“How do you two know each other?” her grandpa asks, “Are you two an item?” He winks and chuckles again.
“Grandpa!” She spits, “I don’t know him,” she chews her gum loudly, “He’s just always at the bus stop.”
“What are we talking about him for, then?”
“I’ve been trying to get him to talk to me.”
“But he’s deaf.”
“No, Grandpa. I said I think he’s deaf; I don’t know if he is!”
Her grandpa waves his hand nonchalantly, “Ah,” he shakes his head and tuts, “Leave him be. He don’t need you mithering ‘im.”
They fall silent for a few moments then I hear the rustle of a bag of sweets, and he offers his granddaughter one.
“Thanks,” She takes the chewing gum from her mouth, holding it in between her finger and thumb. She pops the sweet in her gob, and I wonder how it must taste after that minty fresh gum contradicting the cigarette taste. I hear rustling get closer to me, just at my shoulder, the old man holds the bag out towards me. I look at the broken zipper on his coat and turn to look out the glass.
“I don’t think he wants one.” I hear him say as he shuffles back to the bench.
“Fucking rude.” She screeches.
“Leave him alone, Jas”
“Well,” I hear her sigh, “Still.” She continues, “Just so rude.” She whispers.
Her grandpa leans in close to her ear and whispers something. She sighs with an air of resignation, and then their bus arrives.
The old man waves at me through a window on the bus. A submarine comes to mind, his wrinkled face looking through the circle window waving at me in that illusion of safety inside all that metal. I find that I’m waving back, looking at the old man’s lips. People’s mouths are windows to the soul for me; I shall never cross the threshold of eye contact.
Another woman takes her place on the bench, she stares straight ahead through everyone passing by, a big smile on her face and occasionally mouths something at someone only she can see. I’ve seen her around before; I saw her on the psych ward once. I don’t feel sorry for her, she’s in her own world, and she’s comfortable in it. People say she’s ill, I say that may be so, but she seems better off than everyone else I see.

I’m wearing a suit with a red noose (a tie) contrasting against my whiter than white shirt. I even envision black socks in shiny black shoes. My bulb flickers on and off, the gruesome fish inside shimmering into vision every time the light comes on,
“Earth to Gilly!” Her voice echoes in my head, I’ve heard that voice before. “Earth to Gilly!” Her face is a blur in front of me; I blink hard and open my eyes again. Sam stands in front of me, “Ground control to Major Gilly!” She grins.
“Hey, Sam.” I finally manage.
“Where were you just now?” she chuckles
“Here,” I say dryly.
She rolls her eyes, “you know what I mean.”
I take a peek at the spreadsheet glowing in front of me, inviting me to boredom. She puts a finger to her lips feigning surprise, “I know! Have you got a girl on the mind, Gilly?” She winks.
I look at the spreadsheet before me, inwardly sigh at the grotesque task of looking through all the tickets sales this month and editing any stupid fucking errors. Kill me. Shoot me now.
“Gilly?”
This artificial sun glowing in my face, this nothingness disguised as something.
“Jeeze you are really out of it today! Are you okay?”
Her words are bubbles popping into nothing, just white noise inside my head. She’s looking at me through the window of the submarine and we departed from each other’s lives years ago, she just doesn’t know it yet.

 

Chapter 2: Dragonfish

Part 1 

Part 2

 

“Gilly,” Samantha asks me at the ticket checkout, “do you still play the guitar?” I’ve known Sam since primary school,
“no,” I reply numbly.
Sam sighs as if feeling defeated, her cleavage resting on the edge of the countertop, “Aww,” she moans, “I was hoping…” She stops short and looks at me; her eyebrows raised, “Wait, why did you stop playing the guitar?”
I shrug my shoulders
She tilts her head, “But why?” She’s nothing if not insistent.
“Because…” I let the word roll on my tongue as I move the mouse tiredly on the mat and click another cell in a spreadsheet, “reasons.”
“Should I be worried?” She bites her bottom lip.
“No.”
“Are you okay Gilly?”
I yawn from boredom at the spreadsheet glaring at me, “Yea.”
“Tired?” she giggles.
“Bored.”
Some customers make their way over to the confectionary counter, and Sam runs across to be of assistance.
The Beatles were right you know. We’re all living in a yellow submarine, well the majority of people are. I look over to Sam and imagine us swimming away from the submarine holding hands. I’m already out of the submarine; I fell out. Sometimes I look through the little round windows, and sometimes you look back at us from inside and some of you sneer some of you smile that sympathetic, pity smile, but most people just look through us. Sometimes I think maybe you’re all sad too, confined and claustrophobic in there. It seems everyone drowns in the end. After the customers have got their chocolate, popcorn and fizzy drinks they saunter on over to me, the tickets guy. I’m the guy that changes their life with a ticket to a new perspective for a couple of hours. The fact we’ve only had these five customers is why I take the evening shift.

A ribbon of steam curls under his nose, the froth from his cappuccino staining his upper lip. Plates and cups clatter behind us with the gush of the coffee machines. The lights above our heads have a monotonous hum, and one strip of fluorescence light near the entrance keeps flickering. My social worker pours another sugar into his cappuccino. “How are you doing?”
I shrug my shoulders, my staple response. I watch as a woman walks in with an empty pram, pushing it with one hand while holding the baby in the other, the baby’s head is on her shoulder, and he or she flails her arms about and wails loudly.
“How is it going at the cinemas?”
“I’m changing lives evening by evening!”
“Sorry, I can’t hear you?” He leans over the table to hear me better.
”I’m changing lives evening by evening,” I repeat trying to raise my voice over all the noise.
”Oh,” I’m unsure if he’s heard me. His NHS Identification badge that tells you he’s a social worker with ‘Shademore NHS services’ with his name ‘Gregory Davies’ dangles down a ribbon around his neck, with a picture of him looking a bit young with a bit more hair.
“How’s the guitar going?”
“I dunno,” I gulp down some of my orange juice.
“Are you keeping to your practising schedule?”
I shake my head
“Is there any particular reason why?”
“Don’t have my guitar anymore.”
He looks at me questioningly, “Sorry,” he winces a little at the sound of the baby crying right behind him now.
”I don’t have my guitar anymore,” I repeat.
“why? what did you do with it?”
“Sold it.”
He takes a sip of his cappuccino, “Why did you sell it?” He asks, his voice rising with surprise.
“Just felt like it.”
He puts the cup down gently on the saucer, “I’ve known you long enough to know you don’t do things on a whim.” He looks at me sceptically, “you usually have reasons, a plan.”
“My plan was to make money from it.”
“I see. For anything in particular? A new guitar perhaps?”
“Maybe.”
“Hmm,” He wipes the froth from his upper lip, “It seems odd if you ask me.”
“What can I say, I’m a weird guy.”
We sit in silence amongst all the noise; the baby has since stopped crying.
“Any negative thoughts and feelings?”
“Since I last saw you?” I ask, as a way to be evasive. “Isn’t that like asking if I’ve taken a breath since?”
A little smile creeps his face, “Any I should know about?”
“Not any out of the ordinary, for me anyway.”
“So yes you’ve had the usual negative thoughts, but anything more serious?” He looks at me, expecting an answer like the previous one he quickly utters, “You know what type of thoughts I’m speaking of.” He gives me a pointed look.
I consider how to answer this one because If I appear too confident, he’d know I’m lying, but I can’t tell him the whole truth either. “I’ve had, you know, thoughts.”
He knows what I mean. “And have you wanted to act on them?”
“I’ve wanted to..”
“Do you have any plans?”
“No. It’s just a passing thought and feeling.” I lie.
“So no plans?” He asks again as if not quite hearing me.
“No, no plans. Just thoughts and feelings.” I lie again.
“What stops you acting on those thoughts and feelings?”
“Fear.” There is some truth to that, “The idea of those it’d hurt.” I lie.
I don’t believe in the long run the particular actions in question would hurt anyone. To the contrary, it would bring relief to a lot of people. But I learnt that this is the response they want. “You know what people like me lack?” I ask him.
“What?” he peers over his cup curiously.
“We lack a fundamental part of the functioning human’s psyche,”
“And what is that?”
“Delusion. Illusion. Whatever you wanna call it.”
“How so?” he puts his empty cup down with a little clink.
“See to function a human needs delusion. It’s like what that writer Albert Camus said about suicide being the most rational answer.”
“I see.” He tilts his head, the light flickering behind him at the entrance.
“If you go too high on the scale with delusion you get the mental illness label, if you never even get on the scale you also get diagnosed with mental illness! My problem is, I see that life is meaningless and I have no illusions to put a veil over it. It’s just there, bleak as it is staring at me.”
“What if your delusion is thinking you’re not deluded?” He chuckles, “A common delusion,” he winks, “I find.”
“But objectively speaking there is no purpose. I’m rational in an irrational world. It’s perfectly rational to be depressed in this world, to see that life is meaningless.”
“But if life itself is so irrational, then why bother spending time being so rational?”
“Rationality or lack of it isn’t a choice.” I gulp down the last drops of my orange juice, “Plus, without any rationality, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
My social worker tilts his head to one side, “But according to your theory rationality is, in fact, an illness.”
“No. Too much rationality without delusion is an illness. You need an illusion to drive the rationality you do have into something that can be used to thrive. You take away a delusion that propels that rationality then you have no wheels to spin the thriving.”
“So delusion is like the wind to a windmill?” He picks up his empty cup and looks down at the emptiness then puts it down again.
“Yes. Or water to a watermill.” I squish the bottle in my fist.
“Interesting.” He rests his chin on his hand.
“And that’s the problem with trying to treat people like me.”
“I gather you’re feeling hopeless.”
“I guess,” I shrug my shoulders, “I mean I suppose I feel that way but I also know that feeling is bullshit because hopelessness necessitates that hope exists somewhere or did exist at some point.”
“You’re a very deep thinker, I think to your own detriment.”
“Detriment to what?”
“Objectively to your survival, to your own thriving.”
“What happens once a person has seen how an illusion works? You can no longer see past the fact it’s an illusion! So any treatment is simply about installing illusions and some mild delusions of worthiness, meaningfulness. But what if you can’t unsee the truth that it’s all just lies we have built into our psyche purely for survival?”

Part 2 of Chapter 1: Dragonfish

Read part 1 of this chapter

The neon sign glares through the bus stop and reflects on the night washed pavements; it’s raining that summer rain, and it’s humid as hell.
“Gilly,” A voice beckons to me, loud and boisterous, “My man! How are you doin’?”
I turn to see who it is; it’s a guy I used to know from school, I nod in acknowledgement of his presence, hoping he doesn’t wish for any more conversation.
“How’re ya doing?” I know this is just that thing people call small talk, and he doesn’t give two shits about me, I turn to look at the bus routes.
“Have you heard the news?” He continues on
I nod and I look down at the shiny pavement, closing one eye then closing the other watching how the reflection of lights appear to change their position.
“What do you think?”
I look at my shoelaces that I’ve just noticed have come undone, I find his topic of conversation to be too vague, I shrug my shoulders.
“Ah man, you’re still as awkward as ever.” he smiles, and fist bumps my shoulder.
He used to do that to me at school ironically to take the piss out of my supposed social incompetence.
“But yeah,” he leans against the glass, “Shademore high is closing down.”
“Oh” I manage
“Yeah.” He shrugs his shoulders, “It’s a real piss take because my auntie was gonna put my little cousin in Shadmore.”
He runs a hand through his hair, “She’s ranting at us all the time now, man!” he leans his head back against the glass, “We can’t move again.” He says, trying to mimic his aunties voice.
I nod to show I’m listening as I watch rain drops on a reflection of a green neon light. “Ofsted closed them down, said they’re not up to scratch,” he laughed, “They’d been threatening that all the time when we were there,” he looks at me, “do you remember?”
I can only nod, I remember it well because every time rumours got around about Shadmorehigh closing I was fucking buzzing! But then I’d consider the fact my mother wasn’t just going to keep me out of school if it closed down, she’d just take me to a new one. And then I’d get angsty about Shadmore high closing.
“I mean,” he continues with himself, “It’s not like we turned out bad is it?” He laughs, though it’s clearly fake, “I mean we’re still alive, right?”
He asks as if needing reassurance.
I take quick glances at him as I take in all the changes that have happened to him since school, never crossing that threshold of looking at his eyes. He’s filled out since his school days, we both have. He has a goatee and is wearing long shorts and sandals with white socks.
I never thought he’d be one to dress like that, sandals and stuff. He’d have pulled a mooney through the bus window at the guy he’s dressed as now. “It’s gonna start lightning soon,” he lifts his bag from the bench,  and points to the sky “got all my camera gear in here.” He grins.
A woman about the same age as us; in her late 20’s comes and sits where his bag was. She’s chewing gum and smoking a cigarette.
“What you doing nowadays, anyway?” Nick asks, his eyes subtly glancing over at the woman.
I shrug.
“Nothing?”
I shrug again, close my eyes tight and try to unleash the leash around my throat, “Work.”
“Ah.” He nods his head, “Yeah, life got old quick after school and all that shit, eh?”
“I…I guess.” It’s like he read my mind, then again life got old way before leaving school if you ask me!
His bus arrives, and he rummages in his big pockets on his khaki shorts, “Nice seeing ya, Gilly.” he steps on the bus and shows his pass, the driver nods his approval and Nick walks on and is still walking to a seat as the bus starts moving.

“What kinda name is ‘Gilly?'” She chews loudly in between her words.
I feel my body go more rigid, wooden. I freeze up inside. A stranger is talking to me; I don’t like the intrusion.
She scoffs, “Cat got your tongue?”
My taxi arrives just in the nick of time, my saving grace. I go to open the car door when her voice, shrill behind me, “Eh, are you ignoring me?”
I quickly get into the back of the car, tell the driver my address and the car jerks forward.
I find myself looking out the rear window at the woman chewing gum.