THE INNER DARKNESS SERIES (PART ONE)
Anger fed me. No-one had bothered to return my phone calls or messages. But now I had to choose; discard the drink and squander my money, or give up because of my so called colleagues. Despite my complaints to this self styled management the vending machine once again delivered a Bovril-like solution, which I hadn’t ordered, instead of any kind of sophisticated beverages. Against the odds I struggled on with my complaint, and whilst I would never pretend to be the sharpest knife on offer, I was the most effective in this section of the company.
Before work began at 9.00am, I observed Smith as he moved through the motions of management. He offered nothing in the way of welcome to his workforce despite everyone looking forward to the day ahead, showing the camaraderie that I alone had made. But Smith’s weekly critiques rolled on without variation, and despite my best efforts I saw his face glow and eyes bulge as he spat out his words. It was clear something was wrong: but because many unwise men always manage to trip over the ruins of their own making, it seemed natural for me to move as seamlessly as possible. Soon it became apparent I was having no effect on him, which jarred when I realised how some people will always resist the possibility of their own salvation. The only thing I could do was to keep my outer grin intact for those vital seconds necessary to cobble something together: but my heart slumped when I began to feel the shock of failure. He turned around, in what I was certain was denial, and I stared piercingly between his shoulder blades of the standard grey suit, twelve inches below his balding pate, combed over with wisps of black hair. I stared at him, having formed a scheme, but as I did he span around, slammed down some orange stock books onto the desk and stormed off, remaining in his own orbit.
I paused, confused. My skin prickled and I felt a burning sweat on my face which created a smear visible to others. For whatever reason, no-one approached me for a good few minutes until I had composed myself. I was glad of that.
Later my mind began to clear as the disruption settled, and I formed a harder diamond of resolve. My usual techniques had been interrupted, leaving this part of my ordered world in greater danger. What I needed now was a positive and effective way of dealing with it.
Within an hour my plans for appeasement were afoot. I was beginning to bridge the gap to retain Smith’s friendship because much depended on it; such as my service and commitment to the company, my particular place in its chosen world and how I would develop into the expert I had been told I could become.
I decided to share an Earl Grey tea with Smith during the lunch hour. We drank it without milk and sugar served in my favorite blue and white Willow pattern crockery. I placed my nose directly over the hot ruddy tea to enjoy its delicate and soothing aroma. Smith gulped like a pig, remained still and sat in silence. I looked at him and gave sympathy to the porcines which are better animals than we give them credit. We no more discussed the source of his frustration than we engaged on matters of food or weather, not because I am an unsociable person, but because Smith is a self consumed glutton of his own excesses. His sweat formed beads which lay on his slick, lean parcels of skin. I viewed him as pollution; clearing it away was something needed by the world: it would be a conservation issue and a divine act of mercy.
A few days later I heard that Smith was suffering from a sharp pain in the middle of his back and had let the company know that he could not come to work. I smiled knowingly and took full advantage of his absence to enjoy the ogre free hours. The following day the sensational gossip circulated around the workforce that Smith had lost his job which ended his managerial career. Even more spectacular was the story that he had also left the company. My suspicions seemed to be correct that his stabbing pains were like a knife in the back, creating his own ghost.
I kept control of my mask. As the excited crowd cooled and dispersed I returned to the stock room with one of those orange books which Smith had slammed down, and stared at the first few pages. I was unable to focus on anything specific as my scheme was now in ascendency. Now that my ‘friend’ had fallen foul of some misdemeanour I could no longer imagine him being in my way.
Part of my plan is to attend the burial of this waste of blood and offal in order to offer an impression of remorse. I will sing hymns and pray like the stray members of his family who I presume will be there. As Smith was so disliked at work, I will act as the representative and save the workers the effort of a dishonest show. They may appreciate a morning off work but with Smith absent from the shop floor, little will be done anyway.
At closing time, I felt generous and ready to step up the company’s hierarchy. After being asked, I volunteered to help Mr McQueen, the assistant manager, to lock up and secure the building. The smiles of the retiring workers and their joyful voices showed their happiness at spending time with their loving partners, families and friends. After we all said cheerio, despite my instincts, I remained in the lifeless building listening to the lost song of locks and the sad retreats of closed doors.
Somehow I knew it was inevitable that I would come face to face with the vending machine. I pressed the button once again to get a free decaffeinated coffee. Whilst the dispenser clicked and whirred into action I waited for a few seconds as the liquid filled up the thin white plastic cup.
I only noticed that it was actually hot chocolate when I put it to my lips. It wasn’t the nice reward I wanted from a higher force, nor was it an indication that I had set the right course. So I took the beverage straight to Mr McQueen. “Excuse me sir, but the vendor still doesn’t produce any decaffeinated coffee, even though the button says it should”
“Who gives a shit? Who gives a shit?” the pig snorted before turning around, showing me the back of his chequered grey suit, as he dealt with someone seemingly more important.
Nine inches below his collar was a stain…
THE UNCOMFORTABLE DARKNESS SERIES (PART TWO)
THE PAEDOPHILE’S RATIONALE
She’s beautiful and good enough to follow. You will be her loving friend in a way that no-one else could be. As far as you believe, she will like what you offer, or she will simply move away to find another friend.
The media don’t like you, and you known it for years, which is why you need to camouflage everything. But under this veil, just carry on doing what you know is natural and let those unnatural perverse people call you strange.
You’re OK, just misunderstood – but only by anonymous adults, not your true friends, your lovers, the people who understand you. The little girls are the truth tellers, the real people who can keep a friend’s secret, who understand the ethical spectrum. Not for them is the crap in the newspapers.
Suzie is in red. You spy her bare arms and legs. She hops and skips along quite naturally, just like Anna, Tracey and Zoe, the other lovely looking girls who you’ve invited for tea. There is no sex, not just yet, that comes later and only when she’s ready for you. That is more pleasant for them than going to school, to put up with Mr Jones and his boring Mathematics lesson for two hours at a time.
You are the honest of people, the most natural. There is no need for God, heaven or any other phenomenon to be wary of you. Just keep going until you are found out by your enemies: and even then everyone is innocent until proven guilty. It is your place on Earth, your reason for being alive.
Now eat your dinner rather than simply staring at the steam rise from the white potatoes, green runner beans, or yellow fish fillet covered in parsley sauce. You smell the aroma, taste the four soft delights and fill your stomach before another good night’s sleep. You may be alone tonight, but tomorrow…
THE UNCOMFORTABLE DARKNESS SERIES. (PART THREE)
THE OVEN CLEANER
Nicholas had finished school to become a teenage baker before he left his home town to continue his career. Today, like other days Nicholas filled the ovens, one by one, again and again, one after the other, until everything had been well and truly cooked. He began re-stoking his own blazing stove whilst his colleagues had used up all of their allocated gas supplies in the neighbouring room carefully prepared his next batch for him. Whilst the chimney flues needed de-coating every so often, it was the oven’s residual ash which was more problematic, especially with continual heavy consignments.
His mind wandered back to those teenage years when he was so proud to finally become a working man, with Susan, his sweetheart looking on. He remembered that this is how he should fit into the scheme of things, what his place in the world would be now that he was losing his schoolboy naivety and establishing his career.
Meanwhile the managers normally left the bakers alone so that they could fulfil their own routines and daily priorities elsewhere on site, and only visited the kitchens to sort out anomalies or emergent problems. In recent months, things had gone well, so those in charge had preferred an easier life and kept away, trusting Nicholas to do his job properly. It was clear to most that he had by now developed into a fully trained expert since joining the team.
The general manager himself never really bothered to visit, except with an occasional ‘on the spot’ check to make sure that these ovens were regularly maintained. But that was only because the buck stopped with him if the bakery failed to cook their stock on time. He had always seen to it that everyone performed well enough in his organised routine and regular daily schedule.
The next day began, as ever with Nicholas having to make sure that his and other ovens had been fully de-coked, cleaned and ready for roasting. Then, as soon as the ovens were fired up they could once more begin the day’s cooking. The large room of the bakery resounded to the metal scrapings of their tools and the heavy iron ovens as they scratched away all of the burned debris of the previous load. The high pitch screeches hit the ear, but was quite unlike the dull enveloping wall of noise droning around from the fired up ovens. Thinking through his schedule, Nicholas’s experience had made him aware to play catch up before the new consignment arrived, possibly about midday.
This morning Nicholas had been the first of the group to turn up, but within minutes he was joined by the other bakers in their orderly blue and white striped uniforms. Nicholas took little notice of heir scuffling footwear and murmuring of their early morning schedule, and there were no ‘good mornings’, just a bit of humour. They immediately began stoking the coals, checking and cleaning the roasting trays and other kitchen tools for their day’s first round of cooking.
“At the double men” he grinned. “Let’s see if we can clear this lot before tea, this morning” and pointed to the pile carefully stacked in the adjoining room. “I’ll give you a chocolate if we do”
They glanced at the backlog and sniggered, “Chocolate indeed”
The bakers were aware that sooner or later all good things come to an end, and so it would be with them one day. But until that point came, they would keep their heads down and do whatever was necessary to maintain their positions.
Meanwhile the Polish winter roared on outside, with blizzards and smoke swirling around the rooftops and over the freshly laden snow. The Budapest consignment could arrive and be gassed in less than eight hours, which would add pressure onto Nicholas Kresztner and the Auschwitz sonderkommando to roast their new batch at full speed.