“You exposed your penis on national television, Max”

“You exposed your penis on national television, Max.” is a phrase we are all used to hearing during the festive period. Or maybe not. Maybe if your name is Thomas the sentence will end slightly differently. But yes, we have been there, having all done regretful things in the Christmas period, perchance slightly intoxicated. But luckily, it’s coming up to a new year and we all know what that means. A NEW YOU! Or does it?

The premise of coming into a new calendar year -2019- is always attractive. It’s nearly Christmas and with great Christmas celebrations comes a great number of chocolate and mince pies. Also known as weight gain… and whatever emotions accompany that.

Having said that, maybe some people have self restraint! Do not worry, there is something else to bring you too- the general moodiness that winter can bring to those in the gloomier countries, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in its most extreme cases. It doesn’t help when everyone, be it in the family or at work, is crammed into a room together and everyone is tired. So arguments or sly comments can ensue: resulting in a generally negative atmosphere. Therefore by the time Christmas itself comes around, you are probably regretting buying a present for Brenda after she told Kathy last week that you are always late handing in news reports, even though that’s not true. And now, you are wondering if it’s too late to stay with your sister, because you accidentally told your boyfriend that his parents were the worst at Christmas, except you haven’t bought her anything yet. Or spoken to her in half a year. You see how it goes. By  New Year’s, some relationships can become patchier than the elbows of your favourite jumper. Have you even seen When Harry Met Sally?

So there will be some regret by the time the 1st of January comes around, and the subsequent resolutions can be split into 2 main categories:

Self-improvement and relationships

In the self-improvement area, it will most likely be joining a new gym, or becoming a bikram yoga instructor after that semi-delirious chat the night before (I was joking about the first one, no one ever seriously commits to joining a new gym.)

In terms of relationships, it could be anything from: I will call my family once a week, to meeting up with old friends more frequently.

You get the gist. There are however issues arising with New Year’s Resolutions. The first one in the lack of realism. Most people do not suddenly lose all their fitness in the 14 day festive period. The mince pies did not magically eat your six pack and leave behind many evenings of mulled wine regret. Oh no. Many of the problems that people have been facing, like estrangement from family, or an unhealthy regime, have existed long before December (and eventually themselves) rolls around. So there a magical idea called


This means writing all your New Year’s Resolutions now. Right now. Why are you still reading this- you are meant to be writing! Yes, you write them now, and then you start doing them straight away. Want to go for a run everyday- there is some daylight left, so get going. All the things you want your future self to do should simply be enacted today, before the Christmas/ New Year lethargy gets into full force. This way, even if you slip up once or twice, not only will you be generally making a step in the right direction (i.e if you only eat one mince pie at every party, instead of the usual three, plus brandy, plus eggnog, candy canes, christmas pudding and the sad crusty gingerbread of regret at 1 AM when only your boss is left, swaying in the corner). Another benefit is that many people have a “do or fail” mentality, like: “I will not eat chocolate this entire year”. And then on the fourth day they accidentally eat some, and that is it for them, because the streak of 365 without chocolate is now ruined so they might as well go back to their old habits. No, Pre-Year’s Resolutions allows you not only to ease into your habits, so that you don’t go cold turkey (as it does on by roughly 5:53pm on Christmas day), but so that you can spot flaws in your plan so that when the New Year does come around you have a plan which you can feasibly stick to.

Then again, vive la gluttony! What is not love about the self-loathing that inevitably comes with the cold, harsh light of January anyway…

We Just Did What Needed To Be Done

Since it’s Sunday and it’s stopped raining, I think I’ll take a bouquet of roses to my grave. It’s been a while, and that mound of earth, crowned with a slate of grey and my name, is looking a little drab without them. Why pick roses themselves? They are a tradition. And traditions must be kept, at all costs. Even if the others, mourning, see that spill of white on my grave and disapprove. We all know that somebody will disapprove, at whatever you do; it is just who is doing the disapproving, you see, which is the crucial part.

As for me: I died 2 years ago. Some people disapproved of my existence far too much, I am afraid to say. It was better to be dead, though. For myself, for my family -for everybody. It gave the newspapers something to chew on for a while, something for people to riot about, and then they all spat me out and I was happily forgotten. When I had just been killed, I was worried about the amount of time I would have to stay in my flat. How pale I would become. Everyone knows my face and I face charges for violations of international human rights, and somehow I still managed to be vain. Worrying about being pale, when lifetime imprisonment could lay before! I made sure to sit near the kitchen window everyday, though. The blinds were closed, obviously, but sunlight would  still seep through the corners and douse my skin. Because although venturing outside would be an unnecessary risk, I would rather not look like corpse if I could help it. Even though I was to meant be one; my funeral was on national television, after all. Out of spite, not because they wanted to commemorate me, but let’s not dwell on that. Little old me on the BBC; my mum would not have believed it. She would not believe that I was not really in that casket, either, but that it was actually waxy version of myself. Nobody checks corpses anyway. And it helps to still have political supporters on the inside, to orchestrate the fake funeral. They were hoping, I am sure, that by helping me I would come back and revive the Revolution again. I am not so sure.

Now that I was dead, I could do what I wanted, as long as it was inside my flat, and I did not use the internet or the phone. I found letters to be best, actually, to communicate with my family. Whilst the time passed, I read all the books that were in my living room. Until the day of my death, it had been at least two years since I had any free time. So I departed, intellectually ravenous, for those bookshelves. I found my old medical notes, from University, and looked over them. Rubbed my chin. It was coming, like a winter storm. Like a flurry of snowflakes, soft white hair was erupting onto my skin. Soon, I would be safe. Soon. But whilst that beard came, I memorised everything I had forgotten between going to University, becoming a failed medic, then a failure of a son and soon after a failed businessman. And then, as you all know, a failed revolutionist. In all honesty, I think my last career did not end abominably. I was martyr, after all, and that is better than dying slowly into oblivion. If celebrities die young, then everyone weeps for the talent that is now decaying in a box under the ground, and they are forever remembered as being “stolen by time”. But when artists grow old in the public eye, and cannot maintain that talent, that vigour, that beauty- that is when people mock them.

It is a funny world.

Which is why I grew a beard and watched films with northern characters. That accent needed to envelope me and become me, for the simple reason that it opposes my natural one entirely. Born in Brighton to poor parents, pretending that I am from Newcastle would be exactly what I needed to stay disguised. My daughter and wife still live there, today. In Brighton, I mean. It would be painfully obvious to stay with them, and I would be sent to the Hague immediately. No, whilst the old adage of hiding things in plain sight may ring true, unfortunately this would be fatal for me. Not too much in plain sight, at least. I was not going to stay in my flat forever. No, that would be a bore. Instead, with a thick white beard, a crown of long hair and a northern accent, I would look entirely different and be able to walk freely in public. I would start a new life, as a doctor. And speaking with hindsight, I can say that the northern accent and large, billowing beard truly did work. They work well enough so that I can put roses on my grave today, at any rate.

Looking back on those days, I am surprised that I even survived. Putting myself under house arrest was more excruciating than deciding the logistics of destroying the House of Commons. However, I did garner much satisfaction from watching the news unfurl on the BBC, months after I had died. The news reporters and their horror, the documentaries about that sacred building being nothing more than ashes and the arguments which ensued about what to do next. In all these things, my face was plastered onto the screen. It was my fault, they would cry. Which is all very ironic, I will have you know, because it was not even my idea. No, after Brexit actually happened in 2021, (pushed back due to negotiation issues), there was civil unrest. Meanwhile I joined the Lazarus Political Party. They believed in radical change; overturning the existing government and creating a fairer society. Not equal, though. This was far from Communism, before you get any ideas. We learnt from Brexit that if you give people a voting slip, all they will do is set it on fire. So the Lazarus meetings started, quietly, in friends’ houses and then town halls as we grew. We decided we needed to remove the current government, because whilst Lazarus expanded, there were no longer bananas in our shops. Or coffee, or chocolate, or oranges or anything else that you could possibly need. Walking into a supermarket was like walking into a joke. You do not understand where you are going, and then when you realise the destination, it is almost laughable. They used have every shelf overflowing, these places. I would think that was impossible until I remembered that it used to be like that all the time when I was a child. It made me realise that Lazarus wanted something genuinely beneficial for the British people. So I joined them. I spoke to their members, and after talking at meeting a few times about the state of affairs, it turned out that I was a great orator. There’s no other way to put it. It became my everything, those weekly party meetings. You must have watched the documentaries about me by now, so you would know that I was failing at my job at this point, too. It was soulless, a simple check-in and check-out every day for six years of my life before I found this party. Lazarus was the spice to the stew of my life. So what else did you expect me to do, other than dedicate my life to it?

Yes, it became a passion of mine. An obsession, even. As the anger of the nation grew greater, as bricks were thrown into buildings because food was running out, nothing brought me more pleasure than being elected party leader. It had been my goal for the past six months since I had joined. And all the senior members agreed that Lazarus should be in power. We all had different ideas how to go from there, though. I had suggested we wait until the next General Election, which was now every 12 years instead of 4, because the Tories realised that they would never be voted into office again and wanted to maintain their current power as long as possible. But every senior member thought, surprisingly unanimously, that this was far too distant a prospect. That action needed to happen. That it needed to happen now, more than anything else. Weeks of debate, arguments, papers scattered onto the floor. We voted as a party. I made them vote twice, actually. Just to be certain that was what they wanted. They decided, and I quit my day job. This was it. I was going all in, because on May 7th the Lazarus party voted to destroy the Houses of Parliament. But not Westminster Abbey, they said. That was too beautiful, even for them. But Parliament would be fine to burn to nothing but a memory.

So during a sudden snowstorm in November, November 23rd, 3pm to be precise, five bombs exploded. My insides flinched slightly, as I looked at my watch and saw a plume of smoke outside my window, several miles away. Our party had gained momentum now: over 1.2 million members. Obviously not that many people knew about this operation, or we would have been arrested. But the devices had our party logo on it, so the police would know who to credit. Such a pity, really, that old architecture crumbling into flames, but I suppose it had to be done. For the good of the people. To make a statement. At the same time, all ordinary members of Lazarus destroyed statues of any person with any political affiliation. At all. If they had gone to a single Labour meeting, then the hammers came out. Or Lib-dem, or anything else. If a marble statue was linked to a political opinion, it had to go. And at 3pm on that same day, a pre-recorded video of myself was released. Pre-recorded and sent from a computer in a derelict building, so we couldn’t be traced. We decided that it would be a neat ribbon to wrap up the day’s momentous events. It was simple; I introduced myself, the party and then my authority over everybody in England. For their own good. It made a lot of sense, actually, because public opinion is a dangerous thing. See the damage and destruction it has caused in the past. Slavery. The oppression of women. Brexit. Without public approval, these things would not have occurred, despite the few enlightened speaking out. Lazarus, the public were informed, is a party of those enlightened and who speak out against the wrong. Suffragettes were not well received at first, but they turned out to be the few right-minded people amongst the nation. That is what Lazarus is. We  can make the right decisions for England, and take the power away from those who can not.

My rule had started so well. I did it for 4 months. More buildings were blown up,  laws passed that were stifled by bureaucracy before, and some people were killed. We just did what needed to be done. Some people hold back society, and they just had to go.

Then they found me, hiding in the countryside at my base. Not everyone was so accepting of my authority, unfortunately. So I faked my own death, and now I walk among you. As a doctor; somebody you trust. It is surprising what a new accent and a full beard can do. Now I walk among you.

Dear Anyone Who Finds This, Do not blame the drugs.

Dear Anyone Who Finds This, Do not blame the drugs. Do not blame their little pink selves. Do not look at them in my pocket and then tell me that this did not happen. You know it did, and that they’re irrelevant to the voices. And, I hate writing. I wouldn’t do this for some fake kid’s story. So there.

It was yesterday. I am at home, not alone, not really (because I know Bobby is coming back soon, and the thought of someone going to enter your life is almost as comforting as them being there already). I shouldn’t be- alone that is, because isn’t it illegal to leave a 13 year old alone in the middle of New York City? Isn’t that the case? It’s a stupid case, as I’m fine. But still alone, and this evening I had some work to do. Bobby had told me to write down everyone who had bought from him so far, so I had all these scraps of paper in a neat mess and a notepad to write down my findings. Ollie O. has appeared no less than four times, that cheeky guy, and I’ve only just started! Well, if he and his insides can afford that many orders, then it’s not our problem. It’s what keeps this dingy apartment going, right? We have a TV, obviously (we ran away from home, but we’re not animals, okay) and a sink where we sometimes wash things up. No, that’s not true. That’s where Bobby sometimes washes things up, after the tabletop overflows and one of the shiny take-away cans finally crashes onto the floor. That’s when he knows it’s time to take out The Soap. Eugh. I don’t watch him do it; it makes me sick.

You know that feeling, right? When you’re watching something simple, and it takes you back way back when, to place for hell you’re not ever going back to. You claw at the present, your nails catching on the furniture around you to keep you grounded alright, but no. That sight, or smell, or even someone’s voice sends you whirling right back. Well that is the case with me and dishes. You see, I am not a dirty person; I sometimes wash my own clothes in the sink with The Soap, and the shower and I are familiar enough. I’ve got to look respectable, don’t I, because if I’m too grimy or dirty then Those People will sniff me out good. They’re like high-schoolers, who can smell your weakness from afar and know just how to bully you. Except these guys kidnap you and take you back to where they think you belong instead. The house of your bio-logic-cal parents. Hell, do you think I snuck out of that lousy Pennsylvanian town 6 months ago for nothing? Christ (how I don’t miss those daily services), I left for a reason, and helped you cops do your job so that you didn’t have to investigate our house! No, the mere whiff of that squeaky green soap makes me think of the days where all I’d do for hours was wash up in the kitchen and make food. Oh, that’s so not bad, buck up you’d say; but you weren’t there. Bobby knows. I’d finish school and come home, happy as anyone, when Mom would turn on me, snapping her jaws like a dog at a fly, and send me straight there, to the kitchen. Or to the living room with a mop. Or the attic with a duster. She’d say, do it in your uniform, so if you make a mess you will have to deal with it tomorrow in front of everyone else in the classroom. So I didn’t make a mess. I don’t know why she made me stay inside all those long afternoons after school, whilst the others played outside. For years. My childhood is just a picture of the inside of that goddamn awful house. And I mean it! I learned quickly that there was no point signing up for after-school classes, either. I tried everything. After-school assignments (she even called the teacher and made me come back early so I didn’t miss my chores) and friends’ houses (a plain no) were no excuse. I tried to sneak home late once through the window, about three years ago. To avoid having to sit and stare out at my neighbour’s playing ball whilst I chopped some vegetable. But when I came back, she was waiting for me. She made me eat dog-food. Slowly. Eyes gleaming with the sort of delight which seemed – which seemed damn cruel, okay. I don’t like talking about it. I left there for a reason.

Bobby understands.

So now I’m sitting here in the apartment, happy as can be, with two simple instructions: don’t open the door, and don’t answer the phone. Not while Bobby is out tonight on business. So I don’t. I do get bored though, damn it. I watch a whole episode of something stupid, some girl trying to flirt with a guy but god it’s trash. So… I go and find The Stash somewhere in Bobby’s mattress. The first time he got those little pills and puffs of powder, he slit that mattress sharp with a knife. Somehow he got it just above the springs, and so he slid them into that little bit of foam there. The cupboard, he said, if the cops ever looked, was too obvious, as was under the mattress. No, he said, with that little bit of a smile, they’ll look under the mattress and think they’ve checked. And that’s when you win, because it’s inside it.

I picked my way over the pile of clothes and magazines and old food tins. I can’t believe we don’t have rats yet, but I guess we’ve already had the alloted run of bad luck in our lives, and the rats know that. It’s weird, I never go into Bobby’s room and I don’t really like that sneaky feeling. Like I’m a robber. But boredom is worse, so I peel back the sheet and feel along the mattress’ side. There! I take out one plastic packet. No label, nothing. There are sweet little pink things in there; I think I’ve seen the guys take them before, so I know they’re fine. Right? There are, what, fifty of them- Bobby will never know if I take only one or two. I take five, just… just to be on the safe side, then stuff the packet back inside the mattress, and redo the sheet. Run and jump onto the sofa. I would be screamed at like nothing before if he knew I was taking this stuff. But I’m doing the list of names, so there. Water, or no water? I put one in water; I think that’s what the others did. But there are so many pills, in so many shiny colours, that it is hard to keep track. A commercial for detergent comes on. I sip, excited like at the start of a movie when you know it’s going to be good. Another show starts, one about a little girl who can’t tell the time and goes to all the wrong places, and her parents follow after her, half-laughing, half-fake serious. Nothing yet. I’m going to need to take more to make this fun. Refill glass at the tap. Three, two, one- there. Two down. I should probably stop, yes, pick up the pencil, look at sheet. Have I read this one already? Well I don’t know, all this handwriting looks the same to me.

I throw my notepad across the room. I’m his sister for Christ’s sake. He can run his own cartel. I want none of it! If he has to make me do it, then he can’t be very good at this business. When is he coming home tonight? With another black eye, like last time? I used to stay up, my arms wrapped around my knees like I was trying to keep myself from exploding. I learned quickly there was no point in waiting for him. Sometimes it would be days and I would have to go to the cafe underneath us and try to steal something to eat. Something small; I would pay them back when Bobby gave me money again, leaving enough of a tip to cover what I owe. That’s fine, right? It’s just that I get hungry and when Bobby just leaves sometimes he doesn’t leave me cash, and what am I going to do, huh? There isn’t even a fridge here. I take off my jumper, because suddenly it’s really hot. How I did not notice this before? I don’t know, but sweat is like a fat blanket across my face now. Too much. I drink more water. Did I accidentally take two more pills in that second round? They’re so small… I walk back to the pile on the countertop, then-

What. A knock at the door. Hell, it’s 12am. I may be living out of whack, waking at 2pm and going to sleep at 4am, but other folks sure don’t. Why are they making such a racket? They don’t stop. Bobby said don’t open the door. I freeze, my foot still midair, my mouth a little bit open like a fish. There’s a few people outside, that I’m sure of. A guy, and maybe a girl. No, maybe two adults. Bobby said don’t open the door. My face is pure heat. They’re saying something, telling me that if the door doesn’t open, then they’ll have to take action. Oh Lord above. Little blue dots bounce in front of me. I don’t know what to do. I know what to do. Hide the evidence. I grab the pills from the countertop, shoving them in my pocket. The balls are getting larger, blocking my view, but I can’t bat them away. I can’t feel them. I can’t see because of them. I run over to the scraps of paper and throw a couple jackets over them and a pillow. It’s a rushed job, but the floor is such a mess this won’t look too odd. They’re growing louder. I run over to the door, undo the double lock (Bobby added another one after we moved in). Bobby said don’t open the door. I’m sure that Bobby will kill me when he hears of this, but he will kill me even more if the door gets kicked in. I open the door.

I am wrong.

Breathless. There is a small little nothing before me. Nothing. Nothing in the large space that is floating before me, outside my door. Nobody, that is. My heart catches in my chest: it would with some horror like that. Where did those people go? They were my parents’ voices I heard. I know it. And worst of all, I wanted them to be there when the door swung open. I shouldn’t have wanted it, because they would’ve taken me away, and there is a darkness now, so thick I can barely see. I had just wanted to see the effects of Bobby’s matches on them. Well, the effect of Bobby’s matches on the living room curtains in my childhood house. I wanted to see if they were goddamn sorry now. My skin has a bubbles of rashes now ,too, screaming for something. I don’t know what. Yes, Bobby had set fire to the curtains in my home, just before we left. That is what happened. Burning in my cheeks and the back of my neck. It seemed like it would be a good idea at the time. Of course, the fire would distract them whilst he escaped. I was already waiting at the train station. We both knew it would maybe destroy the house, maybe not. We did not know if it would destroy our parents, though. We hated them: true. We didn’t wake them before we left: true. Bobby still had the bruises on arms and back when he struck that red little soldier: true. But we did not want to see them die. A cover and distraction was all we wanted.

Later, I did not really search on the news for a burnt down house in a lousy town in Philadelphia. We were being smart, by not asking. They were probably looking for us, for arson, Bobby said. So we could have no connection with that event, not even with questions to strangers were allowed, to see if they’d heard anything. They could be secret cops, he said. They had them here apparently. But the fire did not make any New York newspapers. I know because I sneakily looked at the headlines in the stands as we walked by them. I tried to be sneaky, that is. So either they were fine, or that goddamn terrifying house is nothing more than a pile of ashes and there is no one left to speak about it. Or no one left who cares; the town certainly hated my family.

I lean over the stairwell, quickly, just to check. Maybe I would see them running away, suddenly shy. Unlikely. But I do check, and I do it quickly because the stairwell ain’t a place where folks want to hang about in. Just to see if they were there. There are only rings and rings of steps though. I twist my neck up: the same. Then my face flushes, hard, the dizziness setting in like a glazing on a cake, and I can’t- I try-

I crumple onto the floor.