A poisonous comfort is what I desire today

FICTION

I want to be sent to the furthest edges of the universe.

Words by & illustration by James Beatham


THOMAS woke with a foul taste in his mouth, “well,” he thought, “that certainly didn’t work.” The sun rose and beamed an intense fractal pattern straight into his head. “Ouch”. It only lasted a second. He flicked away the gnats and trod through broken glass to get to the closest toilet, “why is my house so big and crappy?” He pissed long and hard. It was like his penis was an overgrown blood vessel that had been split open and was pulsing out liquid with the force of five elephant hearts.

 

Later, when he’d gotten himself together, he received a visitor, “I’m Crogan Willis. I’ve been told you have a certain skill.”

“I do?”

“Yes, one for mixing various intoxicating liquids for specific effects.”

“That’s a stupid way of saying that I’m good at making cocktails”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Your name is weird.”

Crogan blinked.

“I don’t make cocktails in the usual sense. The drinks I make do not taste good in any way. If they do, it’s by accident. I mix different alcoholic liquids to make a person feel a certain way.”

“I hear you’re getting awfully good at it.”

“That’s probably true. What do you want?”

“I want to let go; I want something that will let me see the night sky; I want to be sent to the furthest edges of the universe; I want to stand on the precipice of a dark and unending chasm and to fear nothing; I want to feel the very essence of god; I want to feel like I am god; I want to be born, live, and die in a moment; I want to experience the taste of perpetual hunger; I want to be immortal.”

Thomas stood up and buttoned his shorts, “alrighty then.”

Then there was a shuddering silence that could only be described as awkward. Thomas spoke again, “as long as you’re aware that when I said ‘alcoholic liquids’ I did indeed mean ones that range beyond your conventional spirits. I’ll use anything – as long as it contains alcohol. Do you follow?”

“Yes.”

“Swell. Please be back here this time next week,” he rummaged for a photocopied piece of paper left under a pile of other photocopied papers, “here’s my fee. I’ll need half of it in advance to get going and the other half upon your return,” he gave his sharpest business smile, “please sign here. Have a nice day.”

 

The following day, work began. Thomas woke as the sun rose in a fit of sweaty excitement. He clambered to the kitchen in a frenzy collecting bottles and other containers. “No,” he thought. The kitchen was not right. After Crogan’s moving request Thomas decided that this unearthly hooch should encapsulate his entire daily routine. He hurried to the bathroom and again relieved himself in a hissing torrent. Then he opened the cabinet. It was a candy shop of possibilities. He needed to think. Unclothed, he perched on the tiles, cross-legged, staring squarely at the cabinet while brushing his teeth with intense robotic vigour. Toothpaste ran down his arm and then his chest at which point his finally remembered to spit. “Too much thinking!” he yelled and grabbed whatever he could carry from the cabinet and stumbled down to the kitchen where the counter was already smattered in the gross after-birth of other experiments.

 

He ate cereal and began mixing. “Cologne,” he thought. “Mouthwash,” he thought. “TCP,” he thought. “Toothpaste? No.” He then recalled how much urine he had produced and was disappointed that the alcohol content would be uselessly low this morning so he ruled that out completely. “Milk!” he thought, finishing his cereal, “wait, no. Why milk? Old milk? Can milk get so old that it ferments?” he stood still with his spoon in the air, “no, that’s boring.”

He went to his shelves. These were almost the basis of everything he drank; a visually shocking array of bottled poisons. He never understood their original purpose. He laughed at Cilit Bang, “what the fuck would anyone even use this for?”. He then felt cold and thought he should get dressed, “no! Terrible idea,” being in a state of nature would help things along. “Paint thinner,” he thought, “fine mist spray,” he thought, “odour neutraliser; de-icer; disinfectant; anti-fog; silver bromide; hand sanitiser; roof tile adhesive; whiteboard cleaner; insect repellent; stick deodorant; stain remover.” Resisting the urge to alphabetise, he went on mixing and producing test samples which, over the course of the week, blew him so far off the face of the earth – repeatedly – that each time he was sure he would never find his way back. “Golly,” he thought.

Thomas had rapidly churned his way forward to the day of Crogan Willis’s return and he found himself standing in front of him grasping an old milk bottle full of yellow glowing liquid. “It looks fairly intimidating,” Crogan cleared his throat, “what will it do to me?”

Thomas rolled his eyes, “it will do what you asked for last week, you pillock.”

“Very well. I’ve paid you in bonds.”

“That’s ridiculous. Please pay me in money.”

Crogan was never any good at dealing with money so he called over his accountant. This was a petite young woman with eyes the size of golf balls and a hard sternness about her that disturbed Thomas to his most central nerve, “you look like if Christina Ricci was a lawyer,” he said, “I bet you get that a lot.”

“Actually that’s the first time anyone has ever said that.” she said.

The money was paid and the swinging began. First cautiously by Crogan. Then by Thomas. Then Crogan again. Then the accountant. Then Crogan again. This terrific rondo was only lapsed by Thomas’s decision to move things into the garden. They sat on rusty garden furniture and passed the bottle around once more, “do you make a fair living from this?” asked Crogan.

“Whenever I wake up I’m always a bit surprised at how large my house is.” said Thomas, “so yes, I think so.”

“Are you in need of an accountant?” asked the accountant.

Thomas maintained focus on the sky and felt the warmth of moonlight on his face, “no thanks.”

“The air is awfully thick,” said Crogan

They sat and baked. It was unusually hot for night time. Crogan took another sip and unbuttoned his colour. Then the accountant took a sip. Then Crogan again, “is it always like this?”

“Like what?”

The moon protruded and stared at them like an old lollipop stuck to a velvet skirt. It was so close that it practically scraped against Crogan’s nose. He coughed and spat.

The accountant got up, “I’m going to get some water,” she said

“No, don’t,” warned Thomas, “You don’t want to mix this with anything,”

“Even water?”

“Especially water. I’ve never mixed anything with water,”

The accountant began to sing in an unknown language, which, roughly translated would amount to, “and they sat, their mouths dry but their appetites whet, forever, and stroked their knees,and clapped their hands,”

Thomas asked, “are you really an accountant?”

“I say, chaps, it’s downright unbearable out here now”, Crogan said, “Should we take things inside?”

Thomas insisted that this was the worst possible time to go inside. The moon had swelled so much that they could hardly see anything else, “and it’s not any closer that it was before; just bigger. We should swim”

“Our skin is porous. What about the dangers of mixing with water?”

Ignoring this questing Thomas removed most of his clothes and dipped himself into the large expanse of dark silky water before them. The moon hung in front, pressing on their faces. The other two soon followed and they agreed it was like they were swimming their way into the moon’s gaping, airy craters.

“We’ll get there eventually,” said the accountant.

“I’ve never quite felt water like this,” said Crogan, “I feel as though I’m swimming in cat furs” the water clung to him like oil.

They all sat in it and let it lap up against their armpits, and Thomas’s curiosity finally peaked as they passed the bottle around once again, “what brought you here, exactly?”

“Boredom brought on by extensive financial freedom,” said Crogan.

“Is that all?” said the accountant, “that can’t be it.”

“Yeah that comment sort of trivialises what we’re doing here, don’t you think Crogan?”

“I do apologise, but I can’t help feeling that almost everything I do is trivial of late,” said Crogan.

“Oh poor you,” moaned the accountant, and began mocking, “I have all the money in the world and I just don’t know what to do. When I wake up I feel empty, alone and useless. Blah blah blah,”

Crogan blinked, “Madam, despite your jesting I’m afraid the feelings you’ve just described are wholly accurate,”

Thomas watched this exchange with glee. The accountant went on, “I know that, you moron.

I’m making fun of you because it’s true. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You could do so much with all your wealth,”

“Yes, Thomas said, “She’s right. Engaging in these sophisticated levels of intoxication is just scratching the surface of what you can achieve.”

“But, my dear fellow, I haven’t the earthly idea of what I’m doing – I can’t do anything.”

Thomas frowned and examined the remaining hooch in the milk bottle, “how is it that you’re such a downer right now?”

The accountant jerked forward wildly throwing a surge of heavy water directly into Crogan’s face, “You are so hopeless sometimes,” she said, “all you need is an idea. Then you pay people to execute that idea. God, it’s as if you’ve only just learnt how to be a rich person,”

Beads of shiny water tumbled from Crogan’s ever-waxy moustache as he spoke, “By, Joe,” he began, “Not once have I considered such a possibility. I could damn near do anything I bloody want,” he shot out of the water in full-frontal glory with a roaring slosh and left a thick trail of it behind him as he worked his way indoors. The other two followed. They took most of the water inside with them. It soaked into the floors, the chairs, the surfaces. The accountant sat on the grandest armchair with a soping squelch and Thomas chose to take up a marble counter top, the temperature of which was in such stark contrast to his own that it took all his will and concentration not to shudder and remove himself.

“I’ve been flooded with a fire of inspiration,” Crogan said, “Thomas: you and I could open a bar together,”

“No thanks. That would be illegal. What I do doesn’t fit into a bar scenario,”

Crogan was still.

“You don’t have to come up with an idea right away, you silly man” said the accountant.

With the night laid out before them they danced and danced for a great length of time without ever truly drying off from their time in the water. And the madness began. They all laughed and spoke in hopeful tones, hardly settling on a single subject at any one time. First the music was soft and rhythmless, and then it caught fire and started biting at the three of them. They twitched with excitement and made use of Thomas’s spacious living room as best they could. They flung open the windows and noted once more the swollen moon glaring right at them, “I think this is going to be a good part,” the strings played on and what sounded like a solo trumpet howled at them to move faster.

The accountant sang again, “Liberated from the great chain, we’re left churning in a pot, like an old washing machine, groaning inside, learning how to stay alive, and staying alive forever; we will never die; we will never die,”

And then the butterflies stormed through the open windows and flooded the house. They came in waves until the house was full. Crogan took them in his hands and coerced them together into a giant tumour, and crushed them into a powder which hung in the air and they likely inhaled it over the course of their intoxication, “I’ve never seen him like this – I think he’s going to go on to do great things”.

Thomas watched as the accountant lay on the floor, the butterfly dust settling and hardening on her skin. It formed a shell and she slithered out and marvelled at the cast of her own body.

“Your eyes recall of pin-pricks in desert sands,”

The sun had fiercely swallowed the moon in an instant as they each shared the last drops of the milk bottle mixture. Crogan slurped at the sediment and turned to Thomas and said, “Thomas – I think I love you,”

Thomas smiled, “most people say that after the first time.”

Georgia Iacovou is an artist who’s approach to making is that of making collections and indexes. She has self-published a number of books, one example being a series of books which attempt to explain and analyse the lyrics of Nirvana songs.