Southbank Old Souls Club by Mozza Rella
She was about half mile away when I first noticed her. I had picked up her scent, smelt the tears of her wretched heart, could taste the sorrow that drowned her every day; those bitter tears dipped in a candy floss marinade.
In fact she reeked of the stuff and I licked my lips. Janice was going to be plentiful and I just knew she wouldn’t disappoint.
I got in position and waited with eager excitement. Through the crowds she came advancing towards me, drawing nearer with every step, her eyes fixed on her favourite spot.
I could feel the ecstasy begin to swell. It was going to be a tsunami of sorrow. It didn’t abate even when someone tried to stop her. They wanted to know if she had the time. But she didn’t stop and she didn’t hear them. She just continued walking towards the place where she wanted to be; had to be.
The place where her great love Malcolm first kissed her so sweetly under the moon and stars and those little twinkly lights set in the trees that lined the way beside the liquid black Thames dappled in silver rays with the man and the guitar strumming the tune to Stairway To Heaven just a few feet away as other lovers walked arm in arm in their own hermit worlds of love and joy.
Malcolm was the best joy Janice had ever had. Over and over again, he filled her with everything she had ever dreamed that love could be, a love true and deep that she knew then would last forever because it always does with that first burst, that first explosion, doesn’t it?
You know it. It did for Janice and she never forgot it. Even on a day like today, when the sun was out and the skies perfectly blue. It was always 10pm to Janice and the river was always glittering silver and black, not the murky green of day.
Janice stopped. Stared.
There was someone standing in her spot. She was twenty feet away or so. The old Japanese man was looking out towards St. Paul’s. He had a camera on a tripod. He was waiting for the perfect shot. He wanted a tug to pass by before he took the picture. He was smiling with anticipation.
Janice blinked. Some tears fell out, she sniffed them back.
I shut my eyes and drank them in. Delicious.
A tug chugged by. The old Japanese tourist took his photograph, checked the playback and was happy. He turned and saw Janice looking at him and he beamed, nodding his head frantically, pleased with his shot, pleased with London, in love with The Southbank just like we all are.
But Janice wasn’t seeing him. She didn’t return the smile. She just kept on crying and sniffing back the tears and I said to myself, Don’t sniff too hard Janice, don’t sniff too hard girl.
The old guy stopped smiling, turned quickly, his face dissipating into confusion, and he moved away in an ancient shuffle, and Janice automatically stepped forward to the place where she wanted to be. The place where Malcolm had been waiting.
In her heart he was there. He was always there. In her mind he doesn’t move. He doesn’t make the decision. He doesn’t take that jump. He doesn’t hit the water. He doesn’t never return. She often wonders, day and night, where Malcolm is. Up there with his parents in heaven or down here with us. I could tell her, because I know. He is here, with us, somewhere.
Janice approaches the place where she wanted to be and puts her arms around Malcolm to stop him easing himself up onto the railing.
“I’m here Malcolm,” she says, “I’m here” and it’s all he needs.
But it’s not enough and Janice cries some more, and sobs and for a moment screams, her agony leaping from her in time with his descent and his life flashes before her in an instant and the hurt rips Janice apart as it always does. Her own life leaves with it.
All the passers-by are disturbed, but they leave her to it. They can sense the grief of the lover’s wail. They know there’s nothing to be done.
But I do all I can to make the most of it. I drink, folks. I drink. As much as I can, quickly, urgently, frantically, consuming every single drop of that sad unrequited love until I am full like a dam ready to burst.
I live on the love of the sad and lonely. I feed on the grief and the sorrow that escapes from their pores.
It’s what keeps me alive.
And Janice obliges.
She is indeed plentiful…
Historical Fiction (excerpt)
The momentum for change gathers pace on both sides of the Free India Movement. Nehru demands Congress make a total and unequivocal break from all ties with the British Empire and publishes a resolution calling for “complete national independence.”
This is summarily rejected by Gandhi who then changes his mind and submits his own resolution calling for the British to grant home-rule to India within two years. Nehru urges Gandhi to reduce the deadline to one year and Gandhi relents. He even calls upon all Indians to fight for independence if the British refuse their demands.
Meanwhile, direct action and revolution is still in the air as far as Bhagat Singh and the youth of India are concerned. While Nehru and Gandhi take the path of non-violence and diplomacy, Bhagat is eyeing up a more audacious effort to push on with the drive for independence.
Balwinder is first to hear of it while attending a conference in Lahore.
“It’s a quite clever plan,” Balwinder says excitedly. “Genius even.”
“Well spit it out then,” says Badshah.
“As you know Bhagat is nothing if not creative… and very brave. He’s going to stage a bomb stunt at the Delhi Assembly chamber, only the aim is not to injure or kill anyone. Quite the opposite. He wants to get caught in the act so he can be arrested and go to court from where he can promote the cause and get massive publicity.”
Their plan is carried out to perfection on April 8th, 1929.
Bhagat and his accomplice Batukeshwar Dutt enter the public gallery of the Central Legislative Assembly chamber and throw two bombs into an area of the room that is not occupied, thus honouring their intention to ensure no one gets caught in the blast. As the bombs detonate, Bhagat and Dutt remain in the chamber shouting “Inquilab Zindabad!/“Long Live the Revolution” while the smoke billows, and chaos reigns all around. They start throwing leaflets into the air, the leaflets proclaiming:
“It is easy to kill individuals but you cannot kill the ideas.
Great empires crumbled, while the ideas survived.”
Bhagat and Dutt are subsequently arrested and they are happy to give themselves up without a fight. Gandhi issues strong words of disapproval of their deed, but Bhagat doesn’t mind, in fact he is elated. In response to the criticism, Singh and Dutt release their Assembly Bomb Statement:
We hold human life sacred beyond words. We are neither perpetrators of dastardly outrages nor are we ‘lunatics’ as the Tribune of Lahore and some others would have it believed. Force when aggressively applied is ‘violence’ and is, therefore, morally unjustifiable, but when it is used in the furtherance of a legitimate cause, it has its moral justification.
The trial begins in early June and lasts until the 12th when both Baghat and Dutt are sentenced to life imprisonment for “causing explosions of a nature likely to endanger life, unlawfully and maliciously.”
Three days later the HRA bomb factory in Lahore is discovered by police leading to the arrest of the group’s principle leaders. Not long after, police raid the Saharanpur factory and are able to connect together the Saunders murder, Assembly bombing, and bomb manufacture.
Sukhdev, Rajguru, and twenty-one others are charged with Saunders’ murder – along with Bhagat Singh who had handed in his pistol on arrest during the Assembly incident; the pistol that had fired the shots that killed Saunders.
As a result of his arrest for the murder of Saunders, the life sentence handed to Bhagat is deferred pending the outcome of the Saunders case.
Although public and private attention is focused on Bhagat Singh following his arrest, this doesn’t stop other members of the HRA plotting further revolutionary campaigns to keep the pressure on.
Balwinder and Badshah want desperately to help the cause and do all they can to persuade Chandra Shekhar Azad to let them join in. But Azad is reticent.
“I admire your devotion and passion,” he tells them, “but it is too soon. Your time will come in the future. We will need men like you to fill the gaps left behind when others are lost in battle, as they surely will be.”
“But then how do we get to learn?” Badshah says somewhat abruptly. “How do we get to become worthy replacements for our fallen heroes and martyrs if we are not allowed to sample and learn from experience? Yes, we are young and we acknowledge we may not do things right, but there comes a point where every young lion has to leave the pride and go out on his own.”
“We have heard about Vohra’s plan. Why can’t we go along, to watch and learn?” Balwinder suggests humbly.
“We can at least be of use carrying equipment to take the load off our great leaders, they need to be at their fittest…”
“He’s right,” Badshah chimes, “why burden our most valuable assets with heavy chores when you have us to utilise?”
Azad smiles, amused by their youthful exuberance. “I shall have a word with Bhagat, see what he thinks.”
“Let us not forget how young Bhagat was when he joined the fight,” Balwinder adds.
“And Bhagwati Charan is only twenty-five and about to go and blow up the Viceroy…!” Badshah quips.
“A true revolutionary is not at the mercy of age, as age is just a number. What matters more is the level of commitment and courage,” Balwinder chips in wisely.
“Okay, okay, enough,” says Azad, putting both hands up to quell the boys’ persistence. “You have made your point. Now get going before I call the police and have you charged with harassment!”
Balwinder and Badshah smile knowing well they had made a good pitch and couldn’t wait to hear back from Azad. The call came sooner than even they could have wished.
December 21st, 1929
Balwinder and Badshah are on their way to No. 69 Kashmir Building, Lahore, to briefly meet up with Bhagwati Charan Vohra and collect instructions. They are also to be tasked with transporting the detonation equipment Vohra is planning to lay on the Delhi-Agra Railway line on the 23rd – the day Viceroy Irwin and his wife will be passing by.
“Are you nervous?” Badshah asks.
“Me? Nervous? What of? Meeting Vohra or the mission?”
“I don’t know, both?”
“Why would I be nervous? Are you?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then why would I be?”
“I don’t know,” says Badshah. “I suppose I am a little nervous.”
“I’m not scared, nothing like that. I am nervous of making a mistake, I think. It feels like there are butterflies jumping around in my stomach fighting to be released.”
“Ah,” saya Balwinder, “then you are not alone. I have some butterflies too, maybe they are related! I don’t think it is anything to worry about my friend.”
When they arrive at No. 69, Balwinder and Badshah are welcomed by the bespectacled, slightly stocky Vohra and ushered quickly into the crumbling premises. Like so many of the dwellings of the revolutionaries, the small apartment is sparse and in need of basic repair, but such things are mere trivialities to all who devote their hearts and minds to the motherland and freeing her from cruel repression.
“You are late,” Vohra says with a hint of admonishment. “But you are here, that is the important thing. Have you met Yashpal before?”
Balwinder and Badshah turn quickly to see the refined and elegantly dressed Yashpal sitting on a chair, legs crossed, in the far corner of the room in the half-light.
“It’s our great pleasure,” Badshah stammers in awe. “I didn’t know we would be in the company of two of our most revered comrades!”
“Your reverence is welcomed my young friends, but not necessary. We are all brothers, comrades together. Tea before bombs?”
Balwinder and Badshah can’t believe their eyes. Here are two of the finest revolutionaries currently active and they are supping tea and discussing bomb-making with them. Who would have thought? But maybe this was no real surprise as both Yashpal and Vohra had studied at the National College and were still in their mid-twenties. Age indeed is just a number.
Balwinder and Badshah listen with great interest as Vohra and Yashpal recount their early experiences as freedom fighters.
“I actually left school in 1921 to join Gandhi’s satyagraha movement but when that was abandoned, I enrolled at the National College,” Vohra says. “It didn’t take me long to be gripped by revolutionary fervour. I met Bhagat there of course and Sukhdev too. Bhagat was getting into the Russian history of revolution, so we started the study circle to explore their ideas to see if we could adopt them for our own cause.”
“Yes, we have been to a couple of those,” Balwinder chimes enthusiastically. “They are very inspiring!”
Vohra chuckles, “I am glad you think so. It is hard to know sometimes if we are getting through to the youth as well as we could or should.”
“That should not be difficult really,” Badshah says in all seriousness. “With the greatest respect sir, they only need to look to your wife Durgawati Devi. What a courageous woman she is.”
“You are not wrong young Badshah,” Yashpal notes. “I still shake my head in disbelief at that audacious stunt she pulled last year, Vohra.”
Badshah and Balwinder look puzzled.
“My dear friends, surely you heard? It is the stuff of legend! Isn’t it, Vohra?”
Vohra shrugs, trying to play down the incident.
“When you have to think on your feet, you do what you can.”
“Ha ha,” Yashpal laughs raucously. “Shall I tell it, or shall you?”
“Be my guest,” says Vohra. “I’ll make some more tea.”
Badshah and Balwinder are still none the wiser and look on like 6-year-old schoolboys, eyes wide, ears flapping.
“Following the killing of Saunders last year, Sukhdev came knocking on Durga’s door. He needed help. Bhagat and Rajguru were on the run you see, so they had decided to leave Lahore and go to Calcutta. When Durga opened the door, she saw Sukhdev with another man. Sukhdev introduced this man as someone who had joined the movement and was going to help Bhagat escape. Durga was very enthusiastic about the idea and said she would be willing to help if she could. That was perfect, said Sukhdev who then revealed that the man she was looking at was in fact Bhagat! He had shaved off his beard and cut his hair short and was dressed in an English suit. The deception worked beautifully. Durga did not recognise Bhagat at all! So, what did they do next? Well, this is the even more audacious part! The next morning Durga posed as the wife of Bhagat, who was pretending to be a British Indian businessman, with Rajguru acting as their servant. Rajguru carried the luggage and Durga took Sachin, her son, with them too, isn’t that right Vohra?”
“That is correct.”
“Anyway, at the station Bhagat in his new disguise as a British Indian bought three tickets to Cawnpore, two first class for he and Durga, and a third class one for Rajguru. They had revolvers with them just in case – but all was calm and they managed to outwit the police easily who didn’t give them hardly a glance. They boarded the train, got off at Cawnpore and boarded another train for Lucknow so as to avoid the nosier CID, who were known for inspecting passengers on the direct Lahore-Calcutta train a lot more thoroughly. At Lucknow, they went their separate ways. Rajguru went to Banaras, while Bhagat and ‘wife’ Durga and ‘son’ Sachinindra continued to Calcutta. At Calcutta they passed through with no problems at all and their escape was complete. Durga and Sachinindra returned home a few days later. How’s that for fearless?”
Balwinder and Badshah are enthralled and look it.
“Indeed, Durga is quite something. An active member of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha for many years now, she has even assisted Vohra and fellow HSRA member Vimal Prasad Jain running their Himalayan Toilets business.”
“Himalayan Toilets?” Balwinder asks with a puzzled expression.
“Ha ha,” Vohra laughs, “That is the reaction everyone gives!”
“It’s a cover. The only kind of flushing going on there was the flushing of unwanted picric acid!”
“Oh!” said Badshah, as Balwinder continued to look bemused. “Bombs, Balwinder.”
“Ah! Much respect to your wife indeed sir Vohra, what a fine and loyal woman.”
“I should hope so too,” says Vohra with a smile, “She was married to me when she was eleven!”
“It is a great shame such loyalty is fast diminishing in the Naujawan,” Yashpal noted with some remorse.
He was referring to the Naujawan Bharat Sabha/Youth Society of India, a left-wing revolutionary organization founded by Bhagat in 1926. Vohra was the propaganda secretary and had prepared the manifesto with Bhagat two years later, calling on all young Indians to adhere to the motto – “service, suffering, sacrifice” in their quests for Indian independence.
The Naujawan became the more public face of the HSRA and consisted of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh members who would come together for public events, lectures and meetings to openly discuss independence. But attendances had dwindled in the wake of the Saunders assassination as feelings turned back to non-violent means of protest and campaigning.
However, non-violence was not an option for the hardened, committed revolutionaries Vohra, Yashpal and Bhagat, and a trusty nucleus of others, who now included Balwinder and Badshah.
“So, to business,” says Vohra. “We are going to strike at the Viceroy while he is on his way to Delhi…”
“Even though Azad has instructed us not to,” Yashpal adds, “We have been told that Ganesh Shankar Vidyarathi, another of our great leaders, and one of HSRA’s valued associates, advised Azad that seeing as Gandhi was meeting the Viceroy in two days’ time it would be better not to strike now.”
“Azad insisted and I agreed to the postponement… but inwardly both Yash and I felt that Gandhi’s meeting with Irwin will not achieve anything. Besides, Bhagat had gone to a lot of trouble to secure four thousand rupees for this mission, it would be a shame to waste that and all the planning. We have even had posters printed proclaiming our great success!”
“So, the good news is,” says Yashpal, “I shall get to wear my stolen military uniform and ride a motorcycle after all! Ha ha…”
The plan is simple.
While Balwinder and Badshah help unfurl the electric fuse wire, Vohra will surreptitiously place the bomb on the track and set the charge while Yashpal provides cover by riding up and down the stretch of railway line in his British Indian Army uniform. This way he can tell any passer-by or patrolling soldier that he is just on patrol himself as his local unit had received a warning that there may be an attack in this area. He can then calmly put everyone at ease while Vohra, Balwinder and Badshah keep low in wait for the train.
The stretch of rail line Vohra has selected is about ten miles out of Delhi and is as barren as can be. It’s the perfect spot, with ideal cover around one thousand yards away, under the wall of the Old Fort. The only drawback is the distance, and therefore timing the detonation.
By Yashpal’s calculation, the train is due sometime between 9pm and 11pm, so it will be dark and they will be some half-a-mile away or more. There’s going to be a lot of guesswork involved but at least they know the Viceroy’s train is the only one running at this time. They decide to give themselves at least two hours to lay the explosives so they can prepare as fully as possible and try to work out as best they can the fuse-to-detonation delay.
They travel separately from Lahore to Nizamuddin during the day, aiming to arrive at the old fort before dark. Balwinder and Badshah take a train, while Vohra is driven to an area beyond Nizamuddin, from where he walks three miles to the designated spot, dressed in the humble garb of the agricultural worker. Balwinder and Badshah approach from the other end. They have a very detailed map to help them find their way. It’s easy enough, all they have to do is follow the train track. Dressed as factory workers, they carry the fuse wire in their work bags.
Yashpal is in Delhi at this time, collecting his motorcycle and army uniform. He’s beaming like a boy. He rides the bike to Nizamuddin dressed in his usual casual Indian wear, then stops half-way along at a disused shack to change into the uniform.
Yashpal is already patrolling the stretch of line when Vohra arrives from behind some trees next to the fort. There is no one else around.
“Having fun, Yash?”
“I have always wanted to ride a motorbike! This is a dream come true!”
“Any sign of the boys?”
“Not yet, but there’s plenty of time. Here, I bought some food.”
“Excellent, I knew you wouldn’t forget.”
“Race you to the fort!” says Yashpal as he revvs up and speeds away, leaving Vohra shaking his head crying out, “How can I run when I am armed like a cannon!”
Balwinder and Badshah, meanwhile, have arrived in Nizamuddin, though their train was delayed by some twenty minutes, which had put Balwinder on edge considerably. The longer the delay the more anxious Balwinder had become.
“Will you stop fidgeting?” Badshah hissed.
“I can’t help it. Our first time and it’s all going to go wrong and then we’ll never be asked to do anything like this ever again.”
“We have plenty of time, it’s why we caught the earlier train remember, just in case. We will not be late and then we can explain what happened and then masters Yashpal and Vohra will think we are clever in using our initiative to allow for uncertainty. See?”
“Yes, yes, I see, but I still don’t like it.”
Badshah turned away and stared out of the window and they never said another word until the train pulled in to Nizamuddin. They had four hours to walk five miles and they were there with over two hours to spare.
“Hey, that must be them now,” Yashpal says noticing the boys coming over the horizon. “I shall go to greet them!”
“You and that bike! When we have won independence for India you can get a job as a motorcycle messenger!”
“Ha ha! I might well do!”
That’s the last moment of joviality. Balwinder and Badshah are in no laughing mood and when Yashpal rides up to greet them, his face is solemn, befitting the seriousness of what they are about to do.
“Balwinder, Badshah, glad to see you found your way okay. Are you ready for this?”
The boys nod. “We are, sir.”
Yashpal rides beside them as they continually check all around to ensure they are alone. Vohra appears from the trees with his holdall, carrying it carefully, and meets them at the track.
“You made it in good time, very good. You have the fuses?”
“Yes sir,” says Badshah, opening his work bag to reveal a sizeable coil of wire hidden under some overalls and cloth. Balwinder does the same, opening his bag.
“Excellent. Let’s get to work. It seems to be getting darker all of a sudden.”
It is. Yashpal is immediately concerned, looking up at the sky he mutters an expletive.
“Yes, let’s get a move on, shall we?”
The party move to the section of track they had pre-selected, an area that runs up and over a small rivulet bridge.
“This will give us an advantage in that we should be able to see the train as it rises. All we need to do is work out when to detonate allowing for the delay from the detonator to the explosive.”
Balwinder glances at Badshah, who knew setting a bomb could be such hard work?
Vohra carefully sets the charge at the track, attaching the fuse wire securely, and ushers Balwinder and Badshah to start unwinding it to the fort. This needed to be done precisely, the wire being laid as flat and straight as possible. Balwinder, being the stronger of the two, was tasked with unwinding the wire while Badshah walked behind him crouching every few feet to keep the line straight. It was a good job they had allowed two hours as this was a slow process.
Yashpal on his motorbike provides some much-needed light using the head beam. Only once is he called into action in his role as “army patrolman,” when a couple of young boys happen by with a goat. Yashpal has no trouble scooting them away with a stern voice that sets them off running as fast as they can. One of the boys shouts a string of insults at him deriding his allegiance to the Crown when they are a safe distance away, which makes Yashpal smile to himself. “Our future is in good hands.”
Vohra remains at the track to make sure the wire doesn’t come away from the explosive during the transfer of the fuse to the fort. He has to stay crouched by the side of the line for over an hour which makes his knees ache considerably.
When they have reached the fort, Badshah goes back to double-check the wire is as straight and flat as can be, as does Yashpal who rides along using the light of the bike beam for insurance. Vohra remains at the explosive until it’s deemed safe to join the others at the fort.
So far, so good. Now it’s a question of waiting.
Darkness falls. And so does the cold. It’s December, but this is turning into one of the coldest nights for many years. The bombing party huddle together to keep warm. Despite the meticulous planning, and extra layers of clothing they have all brought, no one had factored in the depth of cold that was to come.
Nor the mist, which soons turns into fog.
“I don’t believe this, damn it!” Yashpal seethes, as they all peer into the gloom.
“I can barely see the bridge,” says Vohra.
“It seems to… be moving,” Badshah mutters.
“At least it’s quiet,” Balwinder says softly.
“Yes, good point,” Yashpal replies. “We will have to use our ears to listen out for the engine. And then hope for the best.”
Another hour passes. It’s now getting on for midnight. No trains have been by all night.
“What’s keeping them?” Badshah asks no one in particular.
“They all drive slowly in the fog, probably even more slowly given the depth of this one, I have never seen one so dense!”
“Ssssh,” says Vohra. “Is that it?”
There’s nothing… and then yes, there it is. A distinctive chug-chug-chug, then the distant toot of a whistle.
“Ah, how kind of them to tell us they are coming,” says Yashpal. “I put it at about two miles away. Okay, let’s get ready.”
Vohra takes up his position at the detonator. The others stand up to watch for the train.
“Leave this to me,” Yashpal says. “No one say anything. I shall give the command.”
Balwinder and Badshah nod their affirmation.
“Understood?” Yashpal snaps, as he cannot see their faces.
“Yes sir!” the two boys reply as one.
There’s silence again, not a sound, the fog so thick it’s blanketing out the grind and clank of metal on metal, and the steam bellowing from fire.
“Come on, come on…” Yashpal checks his watch in the dimness, but cannot discern the face. “How long since the last whistle?”
“Two minutes? Three?” says Vohra.
“No, more…” says Yashpal, glancing down at Vohra.
“Sshhhh!” Badshah almost wails. “There! It’s there!”
Everyone looks up, out into the distance and there it is, the dark moving form trundling towards the foot of the bridge.
“This is it!” Vohra cries. “Say when Yash!”
Yashpal’s eyes peer into the dense dark fog trying to penetrate it like a spear. “Easy… easy… any second now my friends, any second now…NOW! Do it! Do it!”
Instantly, Vohra plunges down on the battery and keeps it there while looking up and then standing to watch the train as it creeps over the bridge.
And POW… the explosion. They can see the cloud of smoke, hear the delay of the boom, and feel the slight vibrational force of the detonation under their feet.
Everything goes quiet, an almost deathly hush.
“Yes!” Vohra exclaims heartily, punching the air. “A hit!”
Yashpal pats Vohra on the back, then clasps the hands of Balwinder and Badshah, smiling broadly. “Congratulations,” he says, “Your first bombing success!”
“Or perhaps not,” Badshah says pointing to the bridge. “Look!”
The dark form of the train is indeed moving, all be it a snail’s pace.
The four bombers look on, trying to make out how much damage they have done and whether or not they have struck the Viceroy’s carriage. It’s impossible to tell.
“Damn this fog!” Vohra exclaims.
“We hit something, we can only hope. Let’s pack up and get out of here.”
It was only later they discover they had missed the Viceroy’s carriage by a split second, it was the dining car next to the Viceroy’s that felt the force of the blast injuring two of the passengers. By all accounts, the Viceroy and his wife were shaken but not unduly troubled by the experience and were able to continue on to Delhi.
Although not the result they had hoped for, as with any bombing campaign, a result is never guaranteed, so even a partial infliction of damage is considered a partial success. Better still, none of the train bombers had been injured or captured.
Yashpal and Vohra made their way to Delhi and Lahore while Badshah and Balwinder went back to Punjab, though both went on separate trains to avoid any suspicion. They shared a quick bite to eat before separating and were buoyed by their participation in the action of the preceding night. It had lived up to their expectations but more it increased their thirst for increased activism. It had been their first truly revolutionary act and they felt both proud and determined like never before.
The Gallery by Manson
What do I remember of that night?
Bits and pieces, only bits and pieces. Snippets of truth, elements of sin, large doses of ecstasy – organic ecstasy to be clear – and oh yes, origami. She loved origami.
And now it was she who was folded into many pieces.
Lying in my bed. Dappled red. Arms folded in strange arrangements, legs crumpled in the shroud of my dirty linen. Those inquisitive, lifeless eyes staring at the moss on the ceiling. Yes, I followed her gaze, and yes, it was definitely moss. First time I had noticed it to be honest.
And there on the floor, her toe, in the tin foil tray gingerly testing the sweet and sour pork for heat, and sweet. One of the fork’s had been licked clean (but not the toe). The fork gleamed in the sunlight that was bursting through my threadbare Hessian curtains. This scene was lit like a stage show. It seemed obscene now.
It was a total bloody mess to be honest. And as usual, I had no idea how it happened. As usual? Yes, it happened a lot, this random discovery of dead people in my bedsit. Some not so random, some like Cindy here, underneath the Jackson Pollock sheet. Funny how blood can have many shades depending on the depth of soaking.
Vermillion. So similar to vermillion.
Yes this body had a name. Cindy. I remember that much. She was podgy, but cute. Wore bullbars on her teeth. Had a very short skirt, and no panties. She showed me her ass in the pub. The Pigeon’s Arms it was called. The sign was blowing in the howling wind, as the rain came down out of the blackness. I remember standing there in my vest and undershorts. And oh yeah, shit, my best brown hushpuppies. I remember looking up at the sign of the whistling pigeon with its cheeks puffed out, and thinking, “I bet it’s Good King Wenceslas.”
Or maybe the “Birdie Song,” that old jukebox fave. It was the pub’s house tune. It was playing that night. I remember I got up, irate, tried to kick the fucker off the wall. But it was too high. I collapsed to the floor. That rotting floor of cigarette burns, the carpet shagged good and proper. It seemed like it was crawling beneath me, alive with the bacteria of sticky beer
And then in she came Cindy. Dear Cindy. Fucking out of her tree. I heard her at the bar.
“Two bacardi breezers luv.”
The landlady was called Phyliss Glassup. Yes I’m sure. No word of a lie.
I watched Cindy down the first one all in one. Then the second.
“Easy, luv,” says Phyliss.
“Who says I’m easy,” says Cindy. “Anyway, who cares? What else is there?”
She pouted, and then saw me. She comes over, looking coy like a Titian cherub. She would have made a fine model for him. Very fine.
She sits down opposite me as I catch sight of myself in the wall mirror. I look like Norman Tebbit, and it makes me gasp with horror, and I wail desolately:
“If ever there was a man who looked like his soul had been sucked from his body by a high-powered Dyson, Tebbit’s yer man,” I says. “A right fucking ballbag.”
“You what mister,” she says.
But I’ve lost my train, derailed at birth.
She stares at me, I stare at her. I give her a wink, she returns the gesture only with both eyes at once because she can’t wink properly. We talked about that, about how she couldn’t wink, and I tried to give her lessons – my good deed for the day – but she was a hopeless student. A winker wanker perhaps. Maybe I hated her because she couldn’t wink. I don’t know. Maybe that’s why I killed her. Or maybe why I loved her that night.
Not that I remember doing it. The killing that is. And it’s not just being “in denial,” as the experts like to call it. I just can’t remember any of them…properly.
Sex in the shower. Oh yes, Cindy told me she liked doing it best in the shower when we were in the pub. I told her to “prooove it,” and, well, she did. I think she was 14. How the fuck did she know where all my erogenous zones were? I asked her, but she didn’t know what erogenous was. She apologized, saying she was from “up north.” I said I didn’t have a problem with that and forgave her, but I couldn’t be bothered to explain the origins of erogenous (besides I didn’t have a clue either).
Anyway, it’s hard to explain things when you’re having great sex. The words just don’t want to come as easily as…well you know what I mean…and I find it hard to talk when I’m panting through vigorous exertion of the pelvis (I’m not that fit to be honest).
And then there was the origami. She was practicing with the napkins from the Chinese takeaway while I probed her from behind (apparently she is Regional Origami Champion for Barnsley or somewhere for the past five years running, not bad eh?)
A dove, wishing well and Big Ben were three of the compositions she completed that night while bent forward on her knees and elbows. Kind of took the romance out of our bit of doggy, but never mind she seemed to have some compulsive origami thing going and would be compelled to create whenever the occasion arose, even during sex it would seem.
In fact I remember she was in the middle of making an origami replica of us fucking when I killed her. I still have it, half finished sitting on my bed side table, though I think she was a bit harsh with the size of my member; it’s not really in proportion to be fair (and I’m sure she would say so too if she were in a position to reassess her work). Other than that, the piece was coming on quite nicely. If only I had waited a few more minutes.
But then that’s the trouble with me. I have a funny turn, as it were, and just cave in to whatever it is that forces me to do the things I do. I’ve likened it to having a head full of stewed aubergine…