Grayson Interrupted

The day before I got fired, I bought a TV. A huge one, that I couldn’t afford. I bought it on credit. I bought it in the good faith that I had a steady income. I bought it like how regular people buy stuff. I walked into a nice shop, in a nice shirt. I combed my hair. My knuckles were not bleeding. I exchanged niceties, even banter with the assistant.

I was in a good mood.

‘What do you need it for?’ The guy asked.

‘You watch a lot of films?’

‘Something is about to start that I intend to see in good colour.’

‘What?’

I smiled.

‘Have you heard about the LRI Trials?’

‘Is that the research facility that fucked up all those kids?’

‘Depends what side your sitting on, but it’s that. That’s what I’m going to watch.’

‘On a three thousand pound TV?’

‘Yes.’

‘You’re daft, mate. Think of the porn you could watch!’

We laughed.

As he was drawing up the contract, he asked me things about myself. Where I lived, what I did for work. He asked me what my name was. I think I paused a little too long because then he said:

‘You’re not in witness protection, are you?’

I smiled.

‘You’re not one of those kids?’

I didn’t break.

‘Watch the trial. I think it will be interesting.’

He nodded, and handed me the paperwork.

I left with a spring in my step and my TV in the back of a van.

I had to make the place nice you see. I needed to prepare for V.

The Regime: Pause

I slide out from under Partner in the middle of the night. Drag feet as I walk into the bathroom. Sit down to pee, and then realise I don’t need to. Go over to the sink, look at myself in the mirror.

Not Verity anymore. To my astonishment.

Just little old me. Jet black eyes, stern mouth. Special.

I think I’m hungry. Or thirsty.

I think I need to get out of this flat.

Pull hoodie on over T-Shirt and slip out into the night. Walk along the street searching for a light. I think about running away. But where would I go? I don’t know where-

I can’t go home, so what’s the point?

I decide I am hungry when I see a petrol station up ahead. Bright light flashing snacks.

Two cars parked, but apart from that, empty. Quiet. Door chimes as I enter. Boy (Man?) looks up from phone. Nods at me. I nod back.

I peruse the aisles. Chocolate. Wrenches. Crisps. Plasters. I pick the colours that I like and head to the counter. He rings me up.

Fourteen pounds.

I blink at him. Startled, like I’ve never heard of currency.

I don’t have any money.

What?

I look down, hands in pockets. I don’t have any money. I didn’t think-

How much did you say it was?

Fourteen pounds.

I feel about in my pockets still, knowing that I have nothing in them. I could put the snacks back…

But I don’t want to.

I want the snacks. And I used to only do things that I wanted. So, I decide to try that again.

I look up at BoyMan. Smile. He doesn’t smile back but he does watch me long enough for me to form a connection. I reflect his eyes back at him. It’s a weak line; I haven’t practiced in a while. But he’s not a challenge. He works in a petrol station after all.

Let me off this time.

He blinks.

I’ll let you off this time.

Really?

I…think so, yeah.

That’s so nice of you.

I smile.

So, so nice.

He nods, a little dazed. I pick up my treats and begin to leave.

But I can’t. I’m wide awake now. I want to play.

Hey.

Yeah?

It’s easier this time to connect. He waits, slack jawed, for my command.

Empty out the till.

He reaches into the till.I act surprised for the CCTV.

What are you doing?

What does it look like I’m doing?

Put it in a bag and give-

Wrong move.

Put it in a bag and leave the bag in the wheelie bin outside 23 Burns Avenue.

He continues to fill the bag. I head out.

I run, actually. All the way home. I dump all my snacks on the kitchen counter and stare at them.

What have I done?

What a stupid-

What if he can’t find my address?

I stay up the rest of the night, sitting at the living room window, overlooking the drive. I brace every time a car goes past. An hour later, maybe four, I see a figure in a hoodie walking up. He opens the wheelie bin, my wheelie bin, and drops something in it. He looks up at the house and I duck. I don’t know if he sees me. But when I next look out, he’s gone.

I go back to bed like nothing has happened.  Five minutes later Partner’s alarm goes off.

We get up, start our morning routine. I take my pills and the night before fades like a dream. Like with every day, I take the rubbish out to the bins. But when I look inside: There is the bag, full of cash, and what looks like a hand gun.

The Supervisor toots the horn of the car. I drop the rubbish in surprise and go towards him.

I should tell him about the cash, but I don’t.

For the first time in a long time, I lie.

For the first time in a long time, I can see the exit sign.

Not in this timeline

When I finally got out, the world was…It wasn’t the same. Everything was painfully dull. After you watch so many people die, it’s hard to be focused on washing dishes, or brushing your hair. The world is flat and heavy but I feel lighter. Like something otherworldly, floating through it. I have no roots any more, nothing grounding me. Everything I was before, everything I became has been erased. And the weirdest part is, I have no desire to start again. I’m spent. I’ve had enough of trying. I just exist now. Living my life on mute. So when it finally comes time to take me out, I’ll have nothing to miss.

When I meet people their mouths move but I can’t hear anything. When I’m working, I turn the keys and I stack the shelves and I walk up and down with my clipboard, but my mind is elsewhere. I just do what I’m told and live in my head.

I can’t really describe it. This french guy who fixes the vans told me about the idea of multiple timelines. I think that’s close to it. In my head, there are many timelines and I can tune into whichever one I want. There’s this one, where I’m siting in a four by four room with no furniture, smoking cigarette after cigarette until I fall asleep. And there’s another one, where I’m living in a log cabin. Or another, where I have a dog.

My favourite is the one where V and I- I suppose actually we have normal names in that timeline, names like Ben and Rebecca – but we make it. We meet for the first time somewhere normal, at work or at church maybe. We fall in love in a romantic way. Candlelit dinners and picnics and holidays and smiles. We get married, we buy a house. We have arguments, sure, but they’re about such inconsequential things, like what colour to paint the hall or where to host the wedding reception, that they’re more fun than destructive. We get pregnant. Have a child. Have four. We’ve got photos on the walls. Family videos. Tricycles are lined up next to bicycles int he garden. Little clothes hand on the washing line. When we go out we walk hand in hand, kids running ahead.

It is the best part of my day, visiting that timeline. It’s always warm in the house. It smells like pastry. There’s always chatter, always giggling and excited exclamations. As I walk into the living room, someone runs up to me. The youngest, maybe. She has my eyes, and V’s smile. When I hold her, she smells like baby powder and biscuits. She clings to me and I choke up. She’s lost her first tooth, she tells me. Asks me if I’ll stay up and make sure the tooth fairy knows where to find it. Eventually she falls asleep on my lap, and V is beside me on the couch, and we’re just watching TV. It’s getting quiet now. Calm. I carry her up to bed. Swap her tooth for a two pound coin.

Then we’re finally alone. I play those scenes out slowly. They’re part foreign, part memory. I tell I love her over and over. Sometimes she says something back, sometimes she just looks at me. It doesn’t matter. She’s here. She’s here with me. We are wrapped around each other. She’s so soft and warm and mine. Mine, mine, all these things are mine. And no one can get to them. Not even me.

I would never be sick there. I would never be high. Never think about my adopted father, or my dead brother, or all the shit and piss and pain and blood I’ve seen. I’d never wake up in the night screaming. Never hurt anyone. Never leave V.

I’d just enjoy it.

Really, finally, enjoy being alive.

Third Deposition

CERTIFIED EXCERPT

Transcript of Witness G.

Date: May 27, 2012

Case: The Royal London Research Institute -v- European Court of Human Rights

 

ON BEHALF OF PLAINTIFF:

LAMIA GRAHAM, ESQUIRE

JAMES F. BROOKS, ESQUIRE

MICHAEL GEERHADT, ESQUIRE

ROMILY J. ORFANEDES, ESQUIRE

THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

 

ON BEHALF OF DEFENDANT:

ILANA WILKINSON, ESQUIRE

RONAN BERMAN, ESQUIRE

STEVEN A. MYERS, ESQUIRE

LORNE NICOLS STERLING, ESQUIRE

ROGER ABRAMS, ESQUIRE

CARROLL NOBLE, ESQUIRE

THE ROYAL LONDON RESEARCH INSTITUTE

 

VIDEO SPECIALIST: The court reporter today is Brenda Huff. Would the reporter please swear in the witness.

WITNESS G. having been duly sworn, testified as follows:

 

EXAMINATION BY COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF BY MS. ORFANEDES:

 

Q: Good morning, G.

A: Good Morning.

Q: Due to the sensitive nature of the information you have, your identity has been changed a few times, hasn’t it?

A: Yes

Q: I imagine that has been quite troublesome.

A: That is an understatement.

Q: But on the scale of things you suffered while at the Institute’s facility, probably not the most painful.

A: I don’t have a scale. I live in a constant state of wretchedness.

Q: Of course. I apologise. For what it’s worth. I ask you to think back to point where you were rescued form the Facility. Or more, the point when you thought you had been rescued.

A: Which time?

Q: The first time.

A: Okay.

Q: You had been living in general population, at this point?

A: I was living on the cell block, yes.

Q: And what did your days consist of?

A: Psych tests, Memory exercises, torture.

Q: Torture?

A: What I considered torture, Yes.

Q: And can you clarify what that was?

A: I had arrived at the facility with my brother. I was told, if I participated in the exercises, we would both be allowed to ‘return home’. It was not my own desire to participate in those exercises. In fact, they hurt immensely. But they said I could see my brother again. They kept saying that, even though my brother had died 3 days after our capture.

Q: And what were these exercises?

A: The supervisors would bring people in and have me mine them for information until I was physically ill.

Q: And how often would this happen?

A: That I would be sick or that they would bring people in?

Q: Both.

A: So, if I mined 5 people a day, I would be sick by the 7th day.

Q: And what would happen when you got sick?

A: They would give me a break.

Q: For how long?

A: A couple of hours.

Q: Sorry?

A: A couple of hours.

Q: So, you’d still see people that same day?

A: Yes. Sometimes, we wouldn’t even get a break. They’d just mop us up and tell us to keep going.

Q: We?

  1. BERMAN: Objection, beyond the scope.
  2. ORFANEDES: Your honour, I am establishing the witness’s routine.
  3. BERMAN: You’re supposed to be asking about the escape.
  4. ORFANEDES: You mean the faux escape that your clients orchestrated.
  5. HOLMES: Enough. Ms. Orfanedes, continue with your questioning.

BY MS. ORFANEDES:

Q: G, who did you mean by we?

A: All the subjects with mental abilities. The had us work on the same corridor. If one of us was unsuccessful with a test, they’d pass the test to another. We would have lunch together. It’s how I met-

Q: G?

A: Sorry?

Q: It was how you met who?

A: It’s not important.

Q: We’ll decide if it’s important or not, G.

A: It’s how I met [Witness F].

Q: I see. Were the two of you friends?

A: When?

Q: While at the facility?

A: No. None of us were really allowed to talk to each other.

Q: But you ate lunch together-

A: Under supervision, yes.

Q: So, did you not talk because you didn’t want to or because you didn’t want to be seen?

A: Sort of both. Everything was being recorded.

  1. BERMAN: Objection, beyond the scope!
  2. ORFANEDES: How?
  3. BERMAN: The witness could not possibly know that.
  4. ORFANEDES: He was there.
  5. BERMAN: Your Honour, it has already been established that information from this period is unreliable. The subjects were purposely misinformed to keep the experiment unbiased-

WITNESS G: I know what I’m talking about.

  1. BERMAN: I’m sure you think you do.

WITNESS G: I know I do. I mined members of staff throughout my time at the facility. Seeing as the only other person with the ability to manipulate memories was murdered at the facility, I am confident that the memories I gathered were authentic.

  1. BERMAN: G, you have no way of knowing if your brother was murdered

WITNESS G: I saw it. I saw it in his supervisor’s memories.

  1. BERMAN: A witness whom you murdered before they could testify, so how can anyone really know.
  2. ORFANEDES: Your Honour, Mr. Berman is hijacking my examination of the witness.
  3. HOLMES: Mr. Berman, you will wait your turn, or you won’t have one. Have I made myself clear?
  4. BERMAN: Yes, Your Honour.
  5. ORFANEDES: May we continue, your Honour?
  6. HOLMES: Please.

BY MS. ORFANEDES:

Q: How did you know you were being recorded?

A: Because I knew, despite what we were being told, that we were the subjects of the experiment.

Q: And how did you know that?

A: how do you think I knew that?

MR HOLMES: G, please just answer the questions. We don’t need you to pose them.

BY MS. ORFANEDES:

Q: How did you come to know that you were the subjects of the experiment?

A: I had mined it from a Supervisor.

Q: And how often were you doing that?

A: At first, all the time, and then after we moved to cell block, only when I could get away with it.

Q: And when was that?

A: During breaks, meal times. The kitchen staff and orderlies were not…the brightest. Sometimes, I’d take memories from the others.

Q: The others?

A: The other-

Q: G, please answer.

A: The other people like me.

  1. GRAHAM: Your Honour, may I request a recess?
  2. HOLMES: Ms. Orfanedes? Mr. Berman?
  3. ORFANEDES: I’m fine with that.
  4. BERMAN: Yes, same.

VIDEO SPECIALIST: We are off the record at 12:35.

(A recess was taken.)

VIDEO SPECIALIST: We are back on the record at 13:40.

BY MS. ORFANEDES:

Q: Let’s jump forward a little. At the point, when you thought you were being rescued, how many people were left in the facilty?

A: I don’t know. I only know who was in my cell block.

Q: How many was that?

A: Seven.

Q: What had happened to the others?

A: What had we been told or what had actually happened to them?

Q: Both.

A: They told us they had been reassigned to another cell block. That’s what they had told me about my brother too.

Q: And what had actually happened?

A: (No verbal response.)

Q: G?

A: I heard 0504 die. She had been glitching all afternoon-

Q: Glictching?

A: It’s um- It’s a thing that happens to people with mental abilities. Sometimes it’s nose bleeds, blackouts. It’s the wear and tear we suffer for using our abilities, only it can become- I don’t really know how to describe it- It’s different for everyone. For me, I can get trapped in memories. For- For Witness F, She has episodes of dissociation. It’s basically like your ability takes over and you lose control of yourself.

Q: Hyper Disassociation.

A: Yeah, but we call it glitching. You know, from when we thought that we’d had these abilities implanted in our heads.

Q: I see.

A: Community slang.

Q: So you heard 0504 die and then?

A: And then in the morning, we were told she had been reassigned.

Q: And what did you do once you made the link?

A: Nothing.

Q: Nothing?

A: What could I do?

Q: Were you worried?

A: No. I am not afraid to die.

Q: Is that why you went along with the escape plan?

A: To a degree.

Q: What other reason was there?

A: If I was out I could find the Good Doctor and do to him what he had done to me.

Q: and by that you mean kill him?

A: By that I mean find him, bind him, torture him and kill him. Yes.

  1. GRAHAM: Can we have a sidebar?
  2. HOLMES: You’ve just had a recess. Either continue with your line of questioning or release the witness.
  3. GRAHAM: Okay.
  4. ORFANEDES: No further questions, your honour.

VIDEO SPECIALIST: We are off the record at 14:00.

(A recess was taken.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost Clause II

Losing the house didn’t bother Caldwell. It had been chopped and changed so much since the divorce that it no longer resembled the house he had grown up in. What did bother Caldwell was what exactly his mother was selling. Was it the ornaments? The wood panelled flooring? The whole thing? The very land his summerhouse stood on?

Caldwell’s mistake, of course, was thinking that the summerhouse was his at all. In truth the glorified shed had not been gifted to him, or even loaned to him as a kindness. His mother was almost permanently abroad, and when she did vacation home, she spent most of her time staking out his father’s new bachelor pad. She had not noticed he was still there until he sat down at the dining table to confront her.

Mother, He began, quite ceremoniously.

Oh. Yes. She replied, taken aback.

Caldwell, isn’t it?

I’ve seen the sign in the driveway.

Oh, good. I was worried no one could.

What does it mean?

What do you mean what does it mean?

What does it mean for me?

Well…nothing, I imagine. You’ve got your own place now.

I’ve got-

It was at this point that Caldwell realised his mother had not gifted him the summerhouse, or loaned it to him as a kindness. He also assumed that the binoculars on the table were not a gift for him either, but for something much more sinister.

I see. So you’re selling the house?

Yes.

And the furniture?

Yes.

And the land?

Yes. If someone can afford it.

And how much would it cost?

His mother then suggested a price that does not bear thinking about and honestly made Caldwell break out in a cold sweat.

Why? Are you thinking of buying it?

He had been.

No. I was just…curious.

Well. This was nice. Shall I show you out?

She then, in a almost farcical manner, proceeded to escort him through a house he knew inside out, and out into the driveway where he pretended to walk along the country lane for five minutes before crawling back into the property through a makeshift entrance he had built eleven years prior.

Taking Liberties: Julius Caesar

So recently I watched a production of  Julius Caesar and it struck me that Shakespeare, who I thoroughly enjoy, can be a bit, well, verbose. I think it’s something I struggle with too, but it’s much more noticeable when peppered with doths and thous.

I usually have an unfair advantage with theatre, in that I’ve read a lot of plays. But I have not read Julius Caesar, and for the first time in a long time, I found myself noticing the play and not following it. So it got me thinking:

Why is it when theatremakers want to ‘modernise’ Shakespeare they always just end up changing the setting, or the  costume, or the genders of the characters?

Is there a way to keep the imagery and metaphors while at the same time, making the play a little easier to follow?

As a generally muted person, how can I relate to the overwrought emotions of a Shakespeare performance?

So I decided to have a go at tackling those questions by rewriting the scene where Cassius visits Brutus after the death of Caesar. Read on.


 

I want to leave, Brutus.

(Approaching him) Now, Cassius. This is the time for us to stand together, brother.

I’m not your brother! Okay? I’m just a member of a conspiracy you happened to get involved in! One that should have ended a long time ago, but, for some reason, some oversight, has twisted into this- abomination that I don’t recognise. I don’t want any of this! I did what I set out to do and the results are what they are. There is nothing I can do about it now, so let me go home. I need you to let me go.

This feeling will pass.

You don’t understand! If I stay here any longer, I’ll lose my mind.

You’re exaggerating.

And you’re not listening!  I shouldn’t have come this far in the first place! Let me go. Please. I’m not doing you any favours by being here.

You’re doing me many favours, actually, without even realising.

Then, let me rephrase: You’re not doing me any favours by keeping me here. We will lose-

(Turning away from him) Stop it, Cassius-

We will, though, unless you send me away! I am not a warrior, Brutus. I’m not a commander. I’m a man. A man who spoke too rashly and acted too quickly. You will lose if you continue to take my advice.

Then don’t consult me about the war! We can talk about something else.

What else is there? The games? The Lupercalia? Should we sit and discuss the murder we committed? Run through it scene by scene, like a play? (Forcing his knife into Brutus’ hand) You take this knife, and I’ll pretend to be Caesar! (Kneeling) Put me out of my misery, Brutus.

(Throwing the knife aside) This isn’t a game, Cassius.

(Jumping up) Yes! Exactly! It was never a game. What we did with our two hands was snatch a life. We took control of something that was never ours to control.  We were stupid- I was stupid to think that killing Caesar would be a quick fix, an reversal, a slight shift. What we have created- What I led us to create, and I can take full responsibility, is worse than what came before. (Turning away) We thought we were liberating Rome by killing one of her fathers but what have we given her instead? Freedom or Chaos?

Chaos is not something to fear. In the beginning, there was chaos.

Yes and nothing else. For centuries. Is that what you want? Is that why you plunged that knife into his heart, so we could be ravaged by war for centuries? In the beginning there was chaos, yes. But this is not the beginning. Life has already started. We have this great land, this spirit, this history. To return to chaos would be backwards, would be wrong. A sin against the very state that we made Caesar bleed for. What we created, what I missed in my patriotic mania, my jealousy even, was that we are a civilisation now. And we damage our own foundations when we behave in uncivilised manners.

What should we have done then, Cassius? Do you think democracy would have saved us? Do you think we could have talked Caesar down?

Down from what exactly? From ambition? From pride? From our pride? Our ambition? No, Brutus. It has never been the task of men to judge their peers and cut down those whose senses are heightened. That belongs to the gods. That is why we have the Fates. Caesar’s crime was being beloved, and being beloved is not so great a height, when you remember how fickle the rabble is. I was beloved once. You were beloved once. And now we are here. Called traitors and conspirators. (He paces the room, distracted)  Nothing is permanent, Brutus, and if we had practiced patience- (He changes direction) Who would have thought that such a quick act would have led to these long and tumultuous years? If I’d known- (He turns to Brutus) But isn’t that always the way?

So impatience and jealousy led us here?

That is what I have finally understood. At my very core, I am impatient, I am jealous and you must not let me lead you again. Send me home, Brutus. Or better still, don’t send me home. Don’t let me face my mother, my children, my countrymen while I  wear this shame. Exile me. Exile yourself! It’s what we deserve for robbing Rome of a father, and robbing ourselves of Rome as we knew it. For after this nightmare will come another and I would sooner gouge my eyes out than witness my city burn.

Lost Clause I

In moments of high drama, some things will inevitably fall by the wayside. One might forget to wash their hair, for instance, or to iron their clothes. One might forget their wallet at home, or put on two different socks. Sometimes, one might forget a child they had brought into the world. Such is life.

We find Caldwell, our hapless protagonist, in that very situation. After 12 years of uncomfortable family holidays, and gatherings and photos, his parents decided to loudly and publicly uncouple. Many depositions were recorded, many articles were written and many gold bars were hidden in almost cartoonish fashion. Yet, somehow, when the final list of assets had been drawn up, Caldwell had not been included.

It wasn’t the first time that someone had forgotten about Caldwell. For the first three years of his life, he did not have a name because his parents ‘never got round to it’. The name Caldwell had been made up on the spot, on his first day of school and since no one could be bothered to protest it, it had stuck.

But having a name did not improve Caldwell’s luck. He just had, it seemed, nothing much about him. His eyes were very eye like and his nose could only be described as ‘on his face’. In fact, Caldwell’s invisibility had become lore. Locals would swap stories of how, one minute, he had been in the sweet shop and the next, right before there eyes, he’d still been there but it was ‘kind of like he wasn’t.’

The divorce only served to strengthen the myth of Caldwell. His two filthy rich and petty parents squabbled over door frames and window panes, while their son, if he indeed existed, continued with his day with only a set of earplugs to keep him company. That’s why he wasn’t at all surprised by being left out of the settlement. What did surprise him, though, was how reluctant his parents had been, once the mistake had been noticed, to  to fix it.

Well, they each said.

Well.

Seeing as you’ve already packed up-

Perhaps it’s time you stood on your own two feet.

But I am standing on my own two feet, he reminded them. And also, I’m twelve.

If this was the Sudan, and you were a girl, you would be married by now.

Caldwell could only agree.

So you see, this is entirely possible.

You’ve got to start out sometime. Why not start immediately?

Then they both got into their respective sport cars and drove away.

Surprisingly, Caldwell did not make it very far. Twelve year olds do not possess things like money or life skills. At least, this one didn’t.  He could just about drag his Goyard trunk to the summerhouse at the end of his parents’, now mother’s, home before he collapsed in a  pile of gilets on the floor out of boredom and frustration.

There he remained. For 12 years. Scavenging for whatever food his mother left in the fridge while she was abroad. He foraged for whatever he needed: water, warmth, all the episodes of Game of Thrones available on Sky Catch Up. He was a warrior, a survivor. A ghost even, depending on what the locals continued to say.

Until of course, our inciting incident takes place: Caldwell’s Mother decides to sell the house.