Big Mouth

‘Make way! Make way!’

Teddy wrestles through the crowd, brandishing his police badge. No one turns round to see it. They are all fixed on the woman in the centre, pinned down by some ‘good Samaritans’.

‘That’s enough!’ He yells, but it disappears beneath the din of the spectacle. He reaches the heart of it, where three men and one woman use all their weight to keep the woman from escaping.

‘I’ll take it from here!’

The woman is still writhing on the ground as they slowly release her. The pocket of her jacket is torn. Her two thick braids have come undone where the concerned citizens have trampled on it. She can’t be more than 100 pounds, and the pressure of four bodies on top of her has winded her.

Teddy kneels down, pulls her gently upright.

‘Wren, it’s me.’ He says quietly.

She either doesn’t see him or doesn’t care. She shoots up and attempts to run, only to be shoved back to the ground by the wall of people. Teddy pulls her up again, this time restraining her.

‘If you don’t stop fighting, they’ll call back up!’ He spits into her ear.

‘I haven’t done anything!’ She shoots back

‘I saw you!’ Yells someone from the crowd, ‘You were there, at the crossing. I saw you move the bus!’

‘I didn’t touch it!’

‘You moved it! You moved it with your mind! I saw you make the gesture.’

‘I was flagging down a taxi!’

‘I saw your eyes.’ He states, striking the condemning blow.

‘He’s lying,’ Wren appeals, turning to Teddy. Her eyes are filling with tears.

‘I didn’t do anything. Please!’

‘I’m taking you in,’ He says, firmly.

‘Teddy-‘

‘You know the rules.’

He slips a pair of cuffs out of his pockets and forces them on her. She whimpers as the metal closes around her wrist.

‘You.’ He says, turning to the bystander who spoke out,  ‘You say you saw her?’

The bystander nods.

‘Can you swear to that?’

The bystander takes a moment and nods again.

‘Come with me.’


The bystander walks behind the Police Officer, as he marches the Woman towards his car. The doors hang open from where he must have shot out in a haste.

It is not a typical police car, something nondescript. The bystander concedes the officer must be CID or undercover.

Some tools have spilled into the road from a black wallet lying across the driver’s seat. The bystander can’t work out what they are. They look complicated. Sharp.

The Police Officer puts the Woman in the front passenger seat, then opens the back door for the bystander.

‘Am I supposed to sit in the back?’ The bystander asks, unsure of the procedure.

The Police Officer looks at him sternly.

‘Are you the police officer or am I?’

The bystander hesitates, and the Police Officer’s face grows darker.

‘Get in.’

The bystander gets into the car. The Police Officer gathers up the tools and then gets into the car.

‘Teddy-‘ The Woman starts. The Police Officer shakes his head. He puts the key in the ignition.

‘Teddy, please, you have to believe-‘

The Police Officer reaches for her face. Both the bystander and the woman hold their breath. The Police Officer gently brushes gravel off the woman’s cheeks. There is something in his eyes. Familiarity? Care?

‘Teddy?’ The bystander repeats, incredulously. The Police Officer finally looks at him through the rear view mirror.

‘You got a problem?’ He asks.

‘No.’ Stammers the bystander.

‘Would you like one?’

The bystander’s heart stops.

‘No.’ He whispers.

‘Well, then.’ The Police Officers says, turning the car around, ‘You shouldn’t have such a big mouth.’

The click of the doors locking rings in the bystander’s ears. The Police Officer reaches over and, with one of his steel tools, unlocks the Woman’s handcuffs.

‘You’re going to have to help me get rid of him.’ He says, handing her the tool.

The Woman looks at the bystander through the mirror, her face changing from nervous to resolved.

‘Of course.’

The car creeps out of the city, as the the bystander’s muffled screams reach no one.

 

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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.

Regime

Wake up in the morning. Can’t recall dream because it’s always blurry and also I don’t actually want to. Slide out from under the human I’ve tricked into loving ‘me’ and head into the bathroom. Stare at self in mirror. Actual self. Verity self. Wait to see if this is the day I get a handle on my shit.

My name is Verity and I-

A vision comes in, blinding and jagged. A lot of blood. All over me. And I like it.

Concede that this not the day I get a handle on my shit. Open cabinet, take out pills. Count them into my shaking hands. One, three, five, nine. Swallow them with a handful of tap water. Lean on sink to steady myself. Wait for the calm to set in. Thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight. One more vision, duller this time. The sound of metal connecting with bone. A scream. Or a laugh, then a scream. Three, two, one.

Silence.

Verity who?

Get towel and begin traditional ‘getting ready’ configuration. Become ‘Ivy’. Shit. Shower. Human comes in. Shaves while I clean my teeth. Discuss ‘plans’. Make breakfast. Eat breakfast. Change channels when news about the investigation comes on. Take bins out before we leave. Black car rolls into view. Walk up to it and tap on the window. Handler opens door. Get in.

Have you eaten?

Yes.

Open wide.

Handler puts the worst pill in mouth. Like a battery has exploded on my tongue. Wretch at least once.

Swallow it.

Wretch again.

Have you swallowed it?

Yes.

Look at me.

Look at him. Deep in his hazy green eyes.

Tell me to what to do.

Kiss me. Slide your fingers inside me. Make me moan.

Properly.

Shoot the driver.

Nothing happens, except the blood trickling down my nose. Handler nods and hands me the same old blood monogrammed handkerchief. Wonder why he keeps, what he does with it. Know, deep down, what he does with it.

Enjoy the rest of the day.

Get out of the car. Call him a cunt under my breath. Wretch again one more time before I back into the house. Put on my coat. Wait for human partner to finish charging his phone.

Ready.

Ready.

Go back out into the world. Walk side by side, in time. Remember to blink. Remember to nod and smile. Remember what stop to get off. Remember to kiss him before I go. Remember pass. Remember seat. Remember lunch time. Remember to eat. Wonder what the real ‘Ivy’ would have eaten, would have worn. Remember to go back to work. Remember to get a coffee. Make small talk. Spot dealer. Remember not to follow him into the parking lot. Follow him anyway. Listen to him talk about Rembrandt, Bach. Snort a line off his wrist. Lick his wrist. Let him kiss me, but not on the mouth. Think for a second I can see-

Go back into work. Back to my desk. Become the master of spreadsheets. Leave when the clock hits six. Meet human partner for a drink. Flirt. Touch his leg. Think I see-

Kiss partner on the platform. Barely make it through the door. Clothes in the hallway. The bathroom. Afterwards, put on partner’s sweatshirt. Eat the takeout I don’t remember ordering in bed. Watch a film with my eyes but not my brain. Switch off the lights. Never close eyes. Stare with purpose. I know he’s not really here, but I feel like he is. Will him to be. In the corner of the room, at the window, on the ceiling. I can see him. If I remember him, I can see him. Grayson. I whisper his name over and over and over and over until I fall asleep.

Grayson. Thia. Asher. Blake. Me. Can’t forget.

Won’t forget.

Over and over and over.

It’s morning. Wake up. Can’t recall dream because it’s always blurry and also I don’t actually want to, and also it never happened. I don’t really sleep anymore. Not since they split us up.

Minutes 1517

 [REDACTED]

(the Company)

(Company no: [REDACTED])

Minutes of a meeting of the directors of the Company held at [REDACTED] ON [REDACTED] at [REDACTED].

  1. Preliminary Matters
    [REDACTED] was appointed chairwoman of the meeting. The chairwoman noted that the meeting had not been duly convened and that only a handful of board members were present. Chairwoman noted that on any other occasion this meeting would not have been authorised, but given [REDACTED]’s, (hence forth known as Dr. A) concerns, the meeting  was declared open.
  2. Business of the Meeting
    The chairman reported that the business of the meeting was to:
    2.1. Discuss the recent spate of  incidents in the East facility.
  3. Incidents
    Dr.A acknowledged that the incidents that have occurred are not common to the experiment and that the volatile situation in East Block may be because that facility houses the longest running test subjects. As a result, the statistics are skewed dramatically in that direction. Equally the test subjects involved (17 in total) have reached a level of maturity that previous test subjects had not. He asked that the board consider whether the facility is equipped to deal with the condition in this adult stage of its manifestation.
    [REDACTED], hence forth known as RDG, enquired as to why Dr. A did not submit incident reports until the most recent incident (in which 1543 was subdued and detonated. See Incident Report 1543 9C). Dr. A informed the board that East Block Management did not want to jeopardise the experiment.
    Dr. A urged the board to seriously consider removing East Block from the Experiment, or at least from the control of Senior Management.
    It was agreed that the experiment would continue, but concentrating only on East Block.
    It was not decided whether the other Test Subjects in Blocks North, South and West would be let go or destroyed.
    Dr. A reported growing concern amongst the facilitators about the length of the experiment and whether at this point the extended incarceration of the test subjects is leading to the volatile situation. He argued that this was jeopardising the work done so far. RDG stated that overall the board was not happy with the facilitators in East Block, since the projected progress of the experiment has not been met.
    [REDACTED], henceforth known as QA, suggested gutting the staff of East Block completely and starting again with fresh eyes.
    Dr. A strongly condemned this form of action, stating that a huge change like that could make the situation in East Block even more chaotic. He added that, given the nature of the experiment, the time and effort it would take to find and train a new set of facilitators would extend the experiment beyond its three year projection and push the test subjects to breaking point.
    RDG reminded Dr. A that the test subjects had forfeited their rights when they signed up to the experiment.
    Dr. A then disclosed some information about the East Block test subjects that led to the meeting being promptly adjourned.
  4. Close
    Given the information discovered, concerning the ethics of the test subjects in East Block’s surrender, the chairwoman declared the meeting closed. It was agreed that a meeting would be held once a an investigation into Senior Management at East Block was completed.

Observation 151

41fc8b2c15c1269363d1f1975abd3215

Subject 2514

  • Subject has reached Stage Four of observation: A Game.
  • Subject has been docile throughout process and condition appears dormant, if not non-existent.
  • This is the last observation before subject is potentially struck off from register.
  • Subject is seated on the bed, reading, when Supervisor arrives.
  • She responds cordially to his small talk, but reveals nothing about herself despite pointed questions.
  • Supervisor asks Subject if she would like to play a game. Subject obliges and asks what game they will be playing. Supervisor states that she will pick it up as they go along. Subject seems tense for a split second.
  • Supervisor and Subject begin card game. Supervisor wins first round. Subject asks if the game they are playing is Snap. Supervisor says the game they are playing is the game that they are playing. He asks Subject if she would like to continue playing. She agrees.
  • Supervisor wins second round. Subject states that this was an illegal move. Supervisor insists that it was a legal move. Subject asks for a list of rules for the game. Supervisor states that the Subject will pick them up as they go along. He asks Subject if she wishes to continue playing. She hesitates for a moment but agrees to continue.
  • Subject thinks she has won third round. Supervisor tells her the move was illegal, and therefore he has won the round. Subject firmly asks him to tell her how her move was illegal or how he has won the round because of it. Supervisor states that the rules are obvious, if Subject is paying attention. He asks Subject if she wishes to continue playing. Subject takes a minute and through gritted teeth agrees to continue.
  • This goes on for eight more rounds, Subject is visibly growing more and more tense and angry. She slams her fist on the table, swears profusely and one point sweeps all the cards off the table. However, whenever asked to continue she agrees.
  • Subject has a hard time admitting defeat?
  • At the commencement of the twelfth round, Subject asks the Supervisor again for the rules of the game. Supervisor states that the rules are so simple, even a child could pick them up. Subject calls the Supervisor a cheat. Supervisor suggests that maybe she is just stupid.
  • Subject falls silent. Pulls herself to her full height and stares at supervisor. She says the following: You are the stupid one, coming into this room alone with me.
  • Supervisor asks her what she means. Subject continues to stare at him.
  • The rest of these notes are pieced together from eye witness accounts and surveillance footage.  Observation was disrupted by the following incident (See Appendix titled ‘2514 Overpowers Supvisor’).
  • At this point, on the tape, we notice that her eyes have changed from a dark brown, almost black, to hazel. She whispers something to the Supervisor, which, after viewing the surveillance footage, we believe to be a command to drop the cards he is holding. He does so.
  • She tells him to get up, according to what could be made out from the surveillance footage. The Supervisor does as he is told.
  • Subject tells him to run headfirst into the observation widow until, direct quote: Either the glass cracks or your skull does. He does so.
  • This entire exchange takes less than 30 seconds. Supervisor is running at the window for at least 2 minutes before we think to intervene.
  • When we enter the room and ask him to stop, he does not. It is like he cannot hear us. Attempts to get his attention are useless.
  • Against protocol, we address the Subject.
  •  She is nonchalant when we ask her what she has done. She shrugs and places the cards in neat pile before getting into the bed and facing away from us.
  • Security is called to restrain Supervisor, who at this point is bloody from the effort, but will not stop.
  • We attempt to engage the Subject again but she has fallen asleep.
  • Without empathy?
  • Supervisor is finally subdued, strapped to a stretcher. His hazel eyes appear vacant.
  • Observation is paused to attend to Supervisor.
  • Final Thoughts: As of now, we have no research on this manifestation of the condition. This is the first time we have seen anything like it. We are referring to it as ‘Submission of Will’ until we can study the subject further.
  • The board have signed off on keeping Subject 2514 for further observation.

The Visitor, Part IV

I didn’t get much sleep that night.

I’m being generous. I didn’t get any sleep that night. I didn’t do the traditional thing of tossing and turning. I just lay in my bed, poker straight, staring into the dark. It was like I didn’t want to sleep, and wouldn’t want to even if I could. I kept thinking about the old man.

The old man that wasn’t that old.

I’d given up on trying to recollect the hours I’d forgotten. They were lost now, that much I understood. But there was something in that exchange, there had to be. Some sort of clue. Something to show us how and when, maybe even why, that time was taken from us.

The old man. At first I thought he was unsettling because of how he spoke. How he seemed to not understand our answers or be able to follow the conversation. But now…his face. His face wasn’t right. His skin was taut, youthful, healthy looking. His hair was a solid mass of black. He was tall and, in his trendy suit, he cut a broad, toned figure. There was nothing to suggest he was old at all. But I’d been so sure of it. Maybe it was his slow, deliberate walk. Or maybe it was his shadowy eyes. Or maybe it was that he looked too youthful. Too artificial. Studied. Like he was an old man masquerading as something young.

I was pissed at myself for not getting his name. I was pissed at myself for not pressing him further. A man doesn’t just walk into an office by accident. He came for something and it seemed as though he didn’t get it.

Chaim Woodbine and Bethan Hardy.

Who or what did he want with them?

If they were his friends, why didn’t he ask for a forwarding address? If he was a client, why didn’t he ask for their replacements? He seemed sure that he’d gleamed all the information he needed from Ward and I. Had he come to make sure they were no longer there? Was he some kind of…hitman?

By the time first light streamed through my window, I had completely given in to the idea that the old man was an FBI agent undercover, who’s sole mission was to seek and destroy Woodbine and Hardy, who had used Ward and I to get information and then made us forget, Men in Black style. It wasn’t entirely implausible. But what had he possibly gathered from three hours of us seemingly going about our daily routine?

The next day was probably the most haggard I’d ever looked at work. I waited semi anxiously, semi excitedly for Ward to walk through the foyer so that I could tell him my theory.

But he never did. From my desk I could see shadows moving about in the post room. At times the door would swing open as someone else left or entered, and I would hear his muffled tones. By mid afternoon, I had figured out that he was avoiding me.

I could see where he was coming from. I was his only real link to the bizarre and random events of the day before. Avoid me and he could avoid it. But that didn’t suit my needs at all. I’m a talker. I need to talk things through. I’ve got an overactive imagination and the only time I can quiet it is when I’m talking, when someone else is talking to me and making sense.

So I opened my draw, chose a random item of stationery and shoved it in an envelope addressed to me. Totally out of company guidelines, but so was a weird man erasing my memories. That’s how I justified it anyway.

I called the post room. Much like I expected, it wasn’t Ward that picked up.

‘Hello, Post Room.’

‘Hi, I have a courier to go down.’

Ward’s supervisor, Mike, groaned.

‘I’ll be out in a second.’

I rolled my eyes at the hiccup in my plan but I was not disheartened. As soon as he took the parcel, I created another one.

‘Hi, I have a courier to go down.’

‘Another one?’ Ward’s desk mate, Fletcher, asked.

‘You know what the secretaries are like. Any excuse.’

He came out and took the package. So I made a third.

I called the post room. No one picked up. When the line cut off, I called again. No answer. I was calling a third time, when the phone was abruptly answered. There was a pause. And then Ward’s exasperated voice.

‘What?’

‘I have a courier to go down.’

‘I know what you’re doing.’ He said, quietly.

‘I’m trying to get a courier sent down.’ I replied, firmly.

There was another pause and then Ward sighed deeply and hung up the phone. An agonizing minute later, he stepped into the foyer.

He did not look haggard, like I did. More rugged, if anything. Like the stubble was a style choice rather then a drowsy oversight. If I hadn’t been up the night before myself, I wouldn’t have guessed he had.

‘Where’s this parcel then?’ He asked. He wouldn’t meet my gaze.

‘Why are you avoiding me?’ I asked, gripping the parcel in my hands.

‘Can I have the parcel or not?’

‘You’re going to have to talk to me eventually.’

‘If you won’t give me the parcel, I’m going to go back to my desk.’ He said and began walking away

‘I think I know what happened-‘ I started, l

Suddenly, Ward spun around and leaned over my computer screen.

‘No, you don’t!’ He spat. ‘If you did know, you wouldn’t be talking about it here!’

His fingers gripped the screen so hard his knuckles were white. I just stared at him.

‘Do you know something?’ I whispered. His eyes darted around the room.

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘You do know something. Don’t you?’ I pressed. Ward opened his mouth.

A member of finance came stumbling through the foyer, with a tray of coffees. She glanced in our direction. Ward let go of the screen and straightened up.

‘Can I have the parcel, please?’ He asked.

I handed Ward the parcel and he walked away. For a while I sat stewing. How dare he freeze me out of his investigation? How dare he let me fester here, alone in the dark, while he had all the answers?

I had begun to type a strongly worded email when he came back, parcel in hand.

‘The address is wrong.’ He said.

‘What?’

‘The address is wrong.’

‘It can’t be. It’s my own-‘

He shoved the envelope at me. In between the lines that I had written was another message so small it was almost illegible. It read: Something happened to Woodbine and Hardy, and I think the company is involved. Unless you want something to happen to us, we have to stop looking for answers.

I looked up at Ward. He looked from me to the camera above us.

‘Oh right.’ I said, eventually. ‘I’ll get a new envelope.’

I tore the envelope apart and shoved the shreds in my bag instead of the bin. Ward saw the large roll of cellotape that had been inside and rolled his eyes, but he didn’t leave. I put it in a new envelope, wrote the address and handed it over. Ward took it with a slight nod and walked away.

I went back to my work. But every so often, I’d glance at the camera above me.