For Morris Claiborne life is a fiction, a strobe light flickering from on to off to on again. From day to night to day again. Each one the same, each one in competition with the next for which could be crown the worlds shittest day. Claiborne has slowly, for the last few years evolved from active participant in his own life to merely a function on somebody else's keyboard. He hasn't realised what has happened yet, and maybe he never will, but as far as he is aware the pain in the pit of his stomach 24 hours a day is due to him not hitting his targets regularly enough. Not, in fact, the slow caustic burn of anxiety from not existing outside of an employee number on an HR managers spreadsheet.
"Good morning" say Morris, with all the gusto and feeling of a warm up act at tv show. "Is that Mr Mason Wood?”
The phone hangs silent for a moment
"Who is this?" From the darkness of the phone line
"Hello, Mr Mason Wood, this is Morris Claiborne calling from NCR insurance and claims, we have on our records that you were involved in an road accident in the last 3 years and you might be entitled to some compensation."
"No, sorry, no accident.”
"Oh ok, our…..”
"I'm sorry that this is your job" click
"So am I..." Claiborne whispers to nobody
At the front of the battery farm of desks his supervisor Janice looks up and across at him, her hands cupped over her earphones, listening in on her chickens squawking for feed. That is all she does, that is her sole purpose for existence. Sitting and clicking from one channel to the next, quality assuring the emptiness inside them all. She scowls and clicks on, not quite sure if she heard what she thought she heard.
Claiborne stares back down at his monitor and hits on the next name, it is only 9:15 Monday morning , he has another 4 days 7 hours and 45 minutes of this. He is a gag reflex of the end of times, he can feel it but he will never know it. Slowly he will be crushed beneath the weight of being until on day, somewhere down the road, he will finish being all together. Flat as a pancake, ready to be cooked on the other side.
And so it begins, the script flows like a river, a surreal dream of abusive deja-vu’s one after another, a reoccurring nightmare that starts the same but could end anywhere.
"Hello is that Mrs Andrews?" "Speaking"
"Hello, Mrs Andrews, this is Morris Claiborne calling from NCR insurance and claims, we have on our records that you were involved in an road accident in the last 3 years and you might be entitled to some compensation."
"Hello is that Mr Danus?"
"Hello, Mr Danus, this is Morris Claiborne calling from NCR insurance and claims, we have on our records that you were involved in an road accident in the last 3 years and you might be entitled to some compensation."
"Fuck Off, you slimy little cunt." 'Click....'
"Hello is that Jane Canning?"
"Hello, Mrs Canning, this is Morris Claiborne calling from NCR insurance and claims, we have on our records that you were involved in an road accident in the last 3 years and you might be entitled to some compensation."
"Listen, right, I know this isn't your fault but I'm fucking sick of people like you calling me up and telling me I am owed money, Gary's been dead 15 months now and the court have already ruled it my fault. Can you please take me off your fucking data base, I'm...." she begins to cry, "I'm just so sick of it all."
"Aaaahahahaha, stupid fucking prick." 'Click'
"Hello is this…"
Ring ring...ring ring
'Click' "FUCK OFF" ‘Click’
"WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!" 'Click' 'Click' 'Click' 'Click'
One after another the freight train passes through a station carrying matching car after matching car after matching car. 'Clickety click, clickety click'
Morris stares out of the window, the bright sun bounces the glass fronted buildings all the way down the street turning those gold fish bowl apartments to mirror balls, the dancing reflections blinding the traffic and pedestrians below.
"I'd be any single one of you" Morris thinks looking down at the human herd marching rank and file to god knows where or why.
"CLAIBORNE!" Morris turns with a start, its a bust, his hand deep in his mothers purse. Caught thinking his own thoughts on the company dime.
Janice stands at the end of his row, face like slapped meat!'
"What are you actually doing? You are not paid to stare out of a window! You are not paid to look or think or feel at all. That is what your break is for! That is what your evenings and weekends are for. Do I have to move you away from that window Claiborne? People who can be trusted get the window seat. Can you be trusted Morris?"
"Don't bother answering, you'll either get it right or you'll be working somewhere else."
Janice is gone, back up to her pulpit at the head of her church, to survey her flock as they do the lords work, each one of them a messenger carrying the word, carrying salvation. Janice puts on her head phones and starts to flick between calls, gotta make sure they're spreading that message right.
Claiborne closes his eyes for a brief moment the negative imprint of the office is a black hole and he is tipping forward his face then his body being sucked and stretched into an infinite line. He feels like he might never open his eyes again....but then he does and that moment is gone. He is still in that room, still surrounded by single purpose human beings chanting there mantras over and over "you could be entitled to compensation" "you could be entitled to compensation" until one day each one if them will transcend into nirvana at one with themselves and the universe.
"Who is this?” The voice on the other end says
Somewhat thrown out of whack by the directness Morris stutters
"A..a..a... this is M..Morris Claiborne, NCR insurance and clai...."
"No.. Fucking.. way" says the voice on the other end, "NCR insurance?”
"Woah! you're building is right opposite my apartment, I stare at your offices from my balcony all the fucking time. Come to the window.”
Morris has already turned to look, glancing across at Janice to see if she watching. She is not.
"I'm here," Morris says waving at the window.
"Shit, I see you, fuck this is wild. I always wondered about you poor fucks sitting there every fucking day all day and now I know. Shit, what's your name?"
"M..my name is Morris, Morris Claiborne."
Morris has seen this guy before, everyday in fact. Sunning himself on the balcony, drinking midday cocktails, throwing out one night stands before the maid arrived to clean up the used condoms and empty champagne bottles. He'd been the background to his daily grind, the clouds drifting through the sky behind that mountain he was rolling his boulder up. He was in and out of Morris's field of vision, a sweet distraction to look to in his times of need.
Morris transfixed in surprise and confusion was still waving, looking bemused the man starts to laugh, mimicking Morris flapping arm from his the balcony.
"Shit, its like i'm your mirror, man. Except i have a sweet life and a bunch of money. Am I right Harris? Look I gotta go, this was fun."
"W..w..were you in a road traffic accident in the last three years?" Morris blurts as his CPU reboots in safe mode.
"You're just so professional, they're lucky to have you. You should ask for a raise. Go get em Norris. See ya.”
The line falls silent Morris is looking out of the window, still in a state of shock, a dog waiting for its master. Morris is still waving and hasn't even noticed. The man, the Mirror Man, starts doing karate moves on his balcony, kicking over his breakfast table and raising his arms like he's the champion. The guy is clearly a dick. A rich, happy, dick, pumped full of bull cum and champagne. Morris you poor miserable fucker, stuck in a pig pen being fattened for sausage meat. Brain stewed by repetition and untapped sadness. Get a fucking grip.
Morris is falling forward into that black hole again, his soul stretching outwards.
"Claiborne....." Janice snaps,
His stomach twists, slapped back from infinity. Morris, without looking up clicks his mouse on the next line
Ring ring ring ring
The next day Morris arrives at work 30 minutes early, telling himself he just wants to make a good impression, but he is kidding nobody, not me or you and least of all him. Mirror Man is already out on the balcony. Dressed in only his underwear, a pair of giant wireless headphones, some neon
green wayfarer sunglasses and a cowboy belt with a champagne bottle upside down in its holster. He is dripping in sweat, clearly fucked off his balls, cutting shapes and showing the world how much bigger his big fish is compared to his little fish and his cardboard box. Through the double glaze of the offices he can hear the muffled deep boom of bass of hard house pumping out of Mirror Man’s apartment. Above and below his apartment Morris can see other tenants screaming at him from their balconies. But MM seems oblivious, caught in the slipstream of whatever loony juice he is full of.
'What's with those stupid headphones?' Morris thinks "maybe he's listening to something totally different; something ambient maybe and the house is just for the neighbours." Morris laughs to himself, he likes that idea, he's pleased with himself while switching on his work station.
Morris makes himself a coffee and sits at his desk a watches. Morris can see a couple of other people swanning around in the apartment clearly as messed up as Mirror Man. A woman wearing a Native American head dress is jumping up and down on a table in his living room and there's some guy carrying around a large house plant scurrying back and forth. There is shit all over the place, strewn beer cans and wine bottles, upended furniture. Whatever has been happening has been quite the party. Mirror Man is still inside his little coke hole when the police arrive on the street below. The lady with headdress is still pogoing like she's bouncing on an imaginary trampoline. Arms by her side, straight up straight down her face as bored as a shop front mannequin.
Around him the office has started to fill up, one lost soul after another filter in, to sign in and log out, a script with a voice. Janice is here making herself her morning tea, counting the biscuits in the biscuit box making sure nobody has over eaten their quota. Morris is getting anxious, work will have start soon, any minute in fact and he won't get to see this thing with the Mirror Man play out.
Morris imagines that the police are at the door probably hammering at it but the three stooges are far to fucked and the music is far too loud to make a difference. All around him Morris' co-workers are booting up, clearing their throats, putting on their stupid headsets. One guy, Dale Evans, Morris thinks his name is, is actually doing vocal warm ups. Ma ma ma, mi mi mi, fu fu fuck off Dale. Morris is willing the next thing to happen, willing the police to kick down the door and shut the hole thing down. Willing Mirror Man to resist arrest, be wrestled to the floor, maced, tasered to sleep. And then it happens, just as Janice takes her perch at the top of the table, the door flies open and three police men come bounding in. One walks straight over the the Hi-Fi, presses something and the booming bass soundtrack to this whole affair stops abruptly. This throws off Morris's equilibrium and he feels like he is falling toward Mirror Man, like a the void left by a train leaving a station, all space needs to be filled. The guy with the plant drops it and stops, frozen and petrified, the lady is still bouncing. Mirror Man is turning on the balcony, he is shouting and gesturing. The police have their hands on there pepper spray, Mirror Man throws something heavy and stone, maybe an ashtray, at the wall, he is crazy. The police draw their sprays and all three spray him right between the eyes. He falls to the ground, hands on his face a merciful sinner ready for redemption. Mirror Man is cuffed and half carried to the door a beaten ma…..
"Did we not talk about this yesterday?" says Janice's spitting caw.
Morris spins on his chair to face her,
"Sorry, sorry, I just lots track of time Janice, I'll get to work.”
"This is your last warning Claiborne... I'm being far too kind here, you know that right?"
“Yes I, i mean thank you Janice, i mean yes and thank you."
With a final glance out of the window Morris can see the other two party guest being led out into the hall. The broken door swinging behind them.
Morris clicks the first name on the list. Peering out onto the street below, hoping for one last look.
"Hello....who is this?"
The rest of the day passes by and Mirror Man doesn't come back. Morris stares longingly at the apartment out of the corner of his eye, wishing for a little more action, a little more of that strange to give him that rush of blood. But with a little extra something left over from that mornings little scene, he confusingly has a more pep than usual. In fact he has the best working day he's had in a life time. Customer after customer fall for his snake oil sale, he is unstoppable. " Yes, I was in an accident in the last three years and yes I do feel entitled to compensation" They are literally lining themselves up into a neat row and then walking themselves off the cliff. "Our law department will be with you in a few days to start proceedings." He feels elated, a new man, this is what those high flyers at the stock exchange must feel like all the time. At one point he catches Janice's eye and can swear that she was thinking about fucking him. He shudders, then thinks about it a bit more. Maybe it would be wild and dirty, maybe she would do things that would chill him to his bones. He shuddered again, but felt the gentle swell in his underwear. "Oh god”...
By 4 Mirror Man was still not home and an idea that has been collecting like a bead of sweat on the nose of destiny finally splashes down sending seismic shocks through is soul. "I could go over to his house. I could walk through his front door and I could just walk around." His whole body shimmers with adrenaline, he feels more alive than he may have ever felt. "I can just go over to his house and do whatever I want. Lie on his bed, eat the food from his fridge, maybe take some of those drugs he's always messed up on."
5 o'clock can't come soon enough, in fact it can't come at all. Minutes drag, tired and reluctant, scared of whatever Morris is about to do, playing for time or an idea of how to talk poor Morris out of it. But eventually it can't hold out any longer and Morris clicks log off on his computer, throws his headset onto his workstation. He takes one more look over at Mirror Man's apartment, still empty, and heads for the door with a spring in his step. Just by the door a hand clutches his arm, it's Janice with an intense gaze and peculiar expression that might be a smile, on her on swollen face.
"You were really err, really something today, Morris, I mean, I've never seen anything like it. It was, I mean, what came over you?"
"Thanks Janice, the stars must have aligned. i have to go now." Morris smiles and reaches up to Janice's gripping claw, gently teasing her hand free from his arm. Like he is giving her a gift he places her hand, back by her side and smiling heads out the door. Janice is still staring at him as the door swings shut behind.
Out on the street Morris hurries his way over to Mirror Man's building. Through the glass entrance a door man sits on a desk watching the flickering cctv monitors rotate through floors and corridors. He's face shimmers in its glow. Morris is not getting in that way on charm and looks alone. But people are by and large idiots and simpletons and this security guard is no different. Morris heads to the back of the building and starts trying the exit doors, quickly pulling at them and moving on to the next. As he gets to the corner of of the building he begins to sprint, round the building and back to the front. As he expected the guard is gone, Checking the doors at the back of the building no doubt. A one task robot must complete it's one task at all costs even if it is a stupid task. Claiborne is in the elevator accelerating upwards to the 20 somethingth floor. The door opens onto a small landing, with one solitary door swaying gently back and forth on its hinges, a hole where the lock had been. Morris's heart is pounding, his heckles high, his breath shallow and fast. "Hello" he
shouts out just in case anyone is in there, aware of his plan, springing a trap. No answer, he pushes on the door and like that of a saloon it swings open for a second before swinging back towards him at such a rate Morris has to jump backwards out of the way, as the door swings pendulum back the other way Morris takes a deep breath closes his eyes and steps into the apartment.
The place is cold and fresh with air pouring through the open balcony door. The sun has dipped low in the sky dying the apartment a dulling purple. Morris walks across the ramshackle post party chaos, cigarette butts, broken bottles. The floor is sticky with that morning after smell of sweet liquor cigarette ash. There is vomit in one of the corners. In the centre of the room is a coffee table, the streak marks of white drugs thumbed off and rubbed into young firm teeth all over it, surrounding it are two L shaped sofas one stained with win and crushed tortilla chips just behind it is a mannequin arm and torso turned in to a lamp. It must have cost a life time Morris thinks..
Morris walks to the balcony and looks across at his work, the cleaners are in, making ready for it all to start again tomorrow. There is his cubicle, his workstation, his life's work, right there in a 4by6 square. Row on row of them, one in front of another. Identikit jobs for identikit people, living identikit lives, in identikit apartments. They are AAA batteries, each and everyone of them, draining till you can't change the channel on the TV no matter how hard you press the button. Morris can't look. He is staring at a road map to failure. He can feel him self stretching out again, falling forward being pulled outwards. His stomach churns milk to butter, he is going to be sick, he backs away from the balcony door and crouches into the corner where the pool of someone else's sick is drying thick and sweet, chunks of digested glazed vegetables shimmering in the sunset. Morris heaves, nothing at the first shot. Again, and again his body bucking like a rodeo steer. There it is, the stream, is a river, is a flood and for what seems like a forever Morris drains what is left of his lunch time super food salad all over that drying lake of whoevervom.
He sits on the floor a while, panting and sweating. Feels his work clothes saturate, his head pound, his eyes are stinging raw and shot with blood. He shivers orgasmic shudders, his body changing from the shock of a purge to the sweet warm after glow. He feels calm, more than calm, free. That boulder in the pit of his soul is gone, that pain at the base of his skull, the one telling him how wrong he is disappeared. Morris gets to his feet, opens his arms wide, he has arrived, the king of his castle. He starts to swan around the apartment like a dancer. The rooms feel familiar, comfortable. His Egyptian cotton sheets. His copy of Magritte's 'The Treachery of Images' on the wall, those are the glass statuettes he bought at Sutherby's last summer with the help of Angelique Millington, oh the fun they had....and how much money did they throw away on that broken vase lying shattered on the bathroom floor? Morris laughs kicking the shards into a pile in the centre bathroom floor. The maid will get that. Poor lamb, she is in for quite a day tomorrow. In the kitchen, Morris opens the fridge and pulls out some pre-sliced sandwich meat, a bottle of champagne and a jar of tiny fish in oil. Sardines or anchovies or something. He sits on one of the couches opens the jar, and like a performing dolphin at sea world he lowers each tiny fish one by one into his gaping mouth. He pops his champagne whooping as the cork flies across the room bouncing of the glass that leads to the balcony. The champagne erupts from the bottle in a large plume of foam and gold fizz. Morris lifts the bottle high above his head opens his mouth and begins to pour. The booze is a power shower and Morris basks under its flow like a shampoo commercial. Half soaked he sits in the dark, stinking of expensive bubbles, a grin on his face ear to ear. This is the life, this is his life. All meat, no fat, no gristle. 100%, everything turned up to full. He picks up a half smoked pink tipped cocktail cigarette from the ashtray. Striking a match of the mannequin light's armpit, he sparks that bad boy up taking deep long draw. He drags that smoke kicking and screaming to the belly of his lungs. Holding it there for an eternity.
"Fuuuuck yoooooou" he exhales and a thick plume of smoke fills the gloom.
He wonders what Angelique is up to. Squeezes his cock and balls with his none smoking hand.
"Maybe I should give her call.” Morris thinks "See what she's doing, she was so baked at the party last night”.
He gets to his feet and saunters to the bedroom, thumbing his way through the tie rack, cigarette clamped between his teeth, smoke wrapping tentacles around his face. He holds one of the ties up to his neck and admires himself in the mirror.
"You are the bell of the ball"
Morris can feel it as if it were his life and maybe it is. Taking a dressing gown off the back of the bedroom door he starts to waltz with his towelling partner, maybe it's whoever Angelique is? I'm sure she's a laugh riot. He hops onto the bed, twirls around, throws his head back, laughs. He leaps from the bed, spinning over and over he wings his way back into the main room. He holds the dressing gown close, moving back and forth in total unison.
"You look so beautiful tonight" Morris says to his partner, dipping her to the ground
"Thank you" Says a voice from the doorway.
Morris is frozen, mid dip. The dressing gown falls like a dead weight from his arms to the floor.
"I'm calling the police,"
"Please don't," says still facing the ground motionless, a statue.
"What the fuck are you doing?"
Morris rises slowly, dropping his arms to his side and turning in one motion. There at the doorway, like a horror movie silhouette is Mirror Man
"It's me, Morris Claiborne”
"Morris Claiborne? What the fuck is that supposed to mean to me? Do we know each other?"
Morris doesn't know what he was expecting, a high five? A hug? A confession of unrequited love? He feels that pain in his belly again, he feels that headache at the base of his head gripping his skull. Part of him had expected there to be a connection, that thing that had given him cause to wake extra early that morning and skip to work. That thing, whatever it was, that had made him super human that day, that had made him the queen of the ball.
"Yesterday, we spoke, we spoke on the telephone, I work over the street."
"You said it was like looking in a mirror?”
"I work over the road, I saw what happened this morning, I just thought, I'd, id come over and see if everything was ok!"
"Right! I see, so let me get this straight, your name Hamish Trainer, you rang me on the telephone yesterday about something"
Morris is nodding furiously, his face flushed with fear
"Then today you saw me get arrested by the police and now you're in my home looking at my stuff?"
"Morris, my name is Morris"
he blurts in some kind of half whimper
"I don't give a fuck"
Mirror Man's shape is reaching into his pockets. Morris doesn't think, but he is moving, his hand grasping that broken beer bottle on the waist-high block of concrete Mirror Man calls a centre piece. Mouth open and screaming, Morris and that bottle and his lunging arm collide with Mirror Man. He puts his hands up protect himself, grabbing Morris's bottle arm. They fall backwards into the hallway, the bottle smashing on the marble floor. Mirror Man turns Morris onto his back pinning him under his weight and begins to punch into his fleshy weakling face. Morris has never been punched before, not since school and the pain and shock start to make him cry and beg.
"Please," smack "Please don't" thud
He feels a few of his teeth hit the back of his throat and the blood teeth combo cause him to gag and retch. Mirror Man stops, fist raised, cocked for the next punch his other wrapped around his throat. Then he is up on his feet, wiping the sweat from his brow and inadvertently dragging blood from his knuckles like war paint across his forehead. Morris turns onto his side and starts to choke up his blood and teeth, retching and wrenching for breath. Mirror Man is pacing back and forth hands on his head, Morris is panting and spitting blood and tooth chips into a pool on the floor.
“i’m calling the police now, ok? you can tell them that story and then i’ll add bit where you try and stab me to death with a broken bottle.... What the fuck?!? You broke my fucking phone.”
…and Morris feels the hard heavy bomb of a kick detonate in his belly. He retches, more blood spurts out of his mouth, he is crying again, gasping a bit and then crying some more.
Mirror Man kneels over him grabbing his face and squeezing
“Look!! its fucking cracked!” Shoving his iPhone into Morris's squishface "You cracked my fucking phone!"
Morris is sinking into a dark void, blackness creeping in from without, he is floating up expanding out, he is particles, a spraying mist, a dust storm. He is everywhere, everything. He is somewhere else, the outer limits somewhere far far away he can almost taste it.... and then BANG! He slams back into that Morris shaped flesh pie he hates so much. Up to his feet. Mirror Man is turned away, phone to his ear.
“Hello, hi, yes i would like to report an attempted ro…”
He turns around, seeing Morris standing in front of him.
“Sorry, i’m going to have to call you back.... yes, yes everything fine, i just have to deal with something.... no really everything is totally fine, i’ll call back…yes..bye.”
Mirror Man hangs up the phone, placing it on the concrete block.
“Why did you get up?" He spits with piss and vinegar "Huh? Why? Now i’m going to have to put you down there again.”
Morris doesn't say a word, Mirror Man raises his hands and pulls the Kung Fu stance of a shit Bruce Lee. Morris runs forward, they tangle again. Up close Mirror Man punches him in the stomach, again and again, punch after punch, hammer blows to the fleshy sides of Morris's play
dough belly. Morris is unmoved, unhurt, those blows are nothing but rain battering a window pain. Morris is not in. He has Mirror Man by the head and he bares those jagged shattered teeth of his. They eyes meet, maybe for the first time, maybe not, but this is only time that means anything. Morris, poor old office monkey Morris simply bites down on Mirror Mans neck. MM screams and tries to push Morris off. But Morris is clamped fast, blood pouring into his mouth spraying out across his face and onto his shirt. Mirror Man’s hands are clasped around Morris’s neck, squeezing with all he has. Morris holds on pulling Mirror Man closer, taking another bite. Mirror Man’s grip begins to loosen his knees buckle and minutes pass and in slow motion they collapse to the ground. Mirror Mans hands release left then right and flop outwards in a Jesus Christ pose. Mirror Man lies gurgling, his eyes rolled back and bloodshot, pulsing fountains of blood bursting from his open neck. Morris is straddling him soaked in red; flesh and thick clotting blood dripping from his chin. There is no thought now, nothing human, a empty vessel, no limits at all. Morris curls like a wave, back down to Mirror Man and begins to eat. He starts with his neck and face. ripping off mouthfuls of elastic flesh and muscle around his jaw and mouth, chewing up Mirror Mans cheeks, bursting the eye balls like cherry tomatoes. He rips the scalp from his skull rolling it into a long cigar then eats it like a chocolate eclair. Slurping all that head goo out of the centre first and devouring the rest. Methodically and systematically for the next 6 to 8 hours Morris, piece by piece, consumes. hands, feet, liver, dick. each part bitten, chewed and swallowed. Each part savoured, each part absorbed.
As the sun rises over Morris’s work building, shining that warm morning light through the apartment glass front, Mirror Man is just bone picked dry. An archeological dig exposing a ancient sacrificial site. Morris is curled foetal in their centre. blissed out on meat drugs, rust brown from the drying blood. A phone is ringing, maybe it has always been ringing. Morris slowly slides back into the world, backing into his body like a reversing truck. He stretches out his bones and muscles. A phone is ringing, he gets to his feet. A phone is ringing, he scrapes his tongue along the top of his mouth, that iron taste of salty blood in his chops, his saliva thick and viscous. A phone is ringing, the cracked screen flashing on the concrete block in the middle of the room. Morris walks over to it yawning.
He puts it too his ear, looking casually over the the bones on the floor and over to the office block across the street. The suns is a halo, light beams exploding, biblical, a burning bush.
“Hello, is that Morris Claiborne?”
“Hello, Mr Claiborne, this is Hamish Trainer calling from NCR insurance and claims, we have on our records that you were involved in an road accident in the last 3 years and you might be entitled to some compensation."