Richard Godwin. ©
‘It is there always there deep inside me, my companion, my host, my parasite, my lover more demon than mistress, and then the dark dark conjurings. For what manner of love is there betwixt a man and a woman? Is it love is it that thing the name by which it is called? Or is it something else, some primal thing that hides in the word lies.’
[Extracts from patient 1, as entered by Dr. Malice.]
What is a villain I say? He is a man who does not heed moral compulsions, who achieves what he durst with no recourse to any need for justification, is he bad, or is he other?
Think of the Bankoff’s conundrum. I do not have a wife called Dorothy.
(And if perchance as here I slip into an archaic vernacular, well, reader, you know full well the reasons for that.)
I am not a madman.
Voice 1: I am the voice of God and I summon him to kill on my behalf, for vengeance is mine. I will ask him to slay them, yeah slay them all.
Voice 2: I am the voice of the Other God, the real God for there is no truer than me, and I decide the fate of mankind in the furnace of my hatred, deep as it is.
What manner of man is this? Do you know him by name?
He is yourself verily yourself. You are no God but the impostor in the garden of Eden, and by the way Eve ate Adam, and there is no apple.
Are you inhabited by good or evil?
We inhabit The Narrative.
The Narrative is the life Movie, the thing we construct as we seek to find ourselves. But what if there is no self? What then of good and evil, this old conflict?
But what if you have inside you something black, something blacker than a pitch black starless night onto which only the barely perceptible sign and sigil of a bleeding cross is etched by an unknown unseen hand in the darkness? I say that I am an Artist. I have painted many famous works which hang in galleries throughout Europe. The colours flow from my brush, they yield to my patterns, my vision.
But at night I hear strange whisperings in the voice of a man I know, my muse perhaps, or my demon. Of course, in ancient Greece the two were connected, Daemon. I believe that I am inhabited by something other. An occult Magus. He dwells within the dweller in the threshold of consciousness. He gives me ideas. It is all about Otherness.
We battle with the idea of evil, but ideas of evil may be good. A villain belongs in a pantomime, wars contain far more evil than civilised society, which is fundamentally built on a lie. The lie that we are not animals. That we are moral creatures, that is all compliance and obedience to a control programme. I am an animal. I am a beast a black black beast. With a dark dark heart. I have a really dark side and I’m rotten to the core. For that is where the light is, Chiaroscuro effects spin from my mind in kaleidoscope ecstasies. And the Magus is capable of dark matters. Fetched from the mind of god, the one he imprisoned.
[Patient is suffering from delusions, of the kind I find interesting in their application to real life; I think I will rape that nurse, the pretty one after lunch. Dr M.]
We all tell stories, especially the doctors I see, but since they refuse me oils and brushes I am going to write. After a little sleep.
When I wake I see this on my notebook, but it is not written in my hand, but in the hand of some other. They talk of conflict between good and evil but this is more than that.
‘Simeon Archer rose in the leprous dawn and wandered the empty streets. For days now he’d heard the noise of chains at night, a steady, slow, metronomic, clanging of metal links inhumanly large and coming his way. They edged over some metal wall and he wondered where the noise emanated from. The thought of abattoirs, and mechanical hangings of slaughtered animals staring blindly at night, resided like a bruise in his thinking. It was if some mechanism wanted to trap him and he resisted it with numbers, pursuing complex mathematical algorithms down endless numerical corridors. The only thing, he told himself, that could shake it off was nocturnal sex of the kind that feeds the lycanthrope’s needs. Someone had sent a wraith his way and he would expel it with sudden coitus.
He was a neat man, precise to the point of mania. An accountant by profession, he’d lived happily with his wife Doris for years without an inch of infidelity between them.
But ever since she changed her perfume he’d become obsessed by the need for flesh. Women who passed him in the street gave off a heat that stirred him in ways he found unfathomable and inconsistent with his character. He’d studied every definition of psychosis and concluded that he was not suffering from a mental problem but one which needed a practical solution. To him the urge to copulate with strangers was an equation that could only be solved by an act of sudden sexual mania.
He was caught in the spectroscope of Tarski-Banach decompositions and harnessed all flesh to the binary world he inhabited.
Maths had always been his salvation. As a boy he used to study numbers with the fever of the religious and he often thought if people knew their power they would be afraid of them.
They kept things at a distance. His love of them was commensurate with his distaste for mirrors which he refused to have in his house.
He wanted the Tessaract to govern the tidal movements of bodies, fervid in their craving for penetration and the flux of fluids.
At the edge of an alley overrun with broken bottles and crushed beer cans he found her, alone and dozing in a drunken stupor. He leaned forward and lifted her skirt.
And yet something wasn’t right. His body was not his own. It was an algorithm set there by an innumerate impostor. He felt unlike himself, as if another had entered him and mocked his daily proceedings. As he sat eating his sandwich, chewing into the white bread he heard it before he saw the blood. The splattering noise entered his head and he thought of vomit spraying the ground. Looking down he saw his planner coated in blood.
A voice in his head told him lies and he sat with his hands over his ears until the police arrived. They took him to a station where they showed him old movies in which a man walked the streets at night, a blurred shadow beneath lamp points, passing shops. The film was about a vagrant who attacked women.
‘I wouldn’t pay to see a film like this’, he told them. ‘There’s no plot, although the actor looks familiar.’
They shook their heads and took him to a hotel. He’d worked for clients like them before. He sat in the car thinking he would put in a hefty bill.
He thought of Bankoff’s conundrum. He found his listing on the Banzhaf index, a fraudulent mirror image of him. They could not steal him from his rational clutch. They could not formulate identity.’
As I stand and look at the hand I see that it is writ in blood. There is a heavy dripping noise in my cell, which morphs into a hotel room in central London, it is the tack tack, drip drip of dark stains. I stare up and see Dr Malice hanging by the neck with a severed throat, a nurse’s white tights wrapped tight as a tourniquet into his flesh. I cannot help but titter. I change out of my dress and bra and put on my work clothes. Back to the studio. I fly the black flag of myself. We all inhabit a Manichean universe seeking balance. We seek the self. As Hamlet said, ‘There is no good or bad but thinking makes it so.’ I have new paintings to create. My visions come thick and fast.
© 2018, Richard Godwin. All rights reserved.
Richard Godwin is the critically acclaimed author of Apostle Rising, Mr. Glamour, One Lost Summer, Noir City, Meaningful Conversations, Confessions Of A Hit Man, Paranoia And The Destiny Programme, Wrong Crowd, Savage Highway, Ersatz World, The Pure And The Hated, Disembodied, Buffalo And Sour Mash, Locked In Cages, Crystal On Electric Acetate, The Glass House, Android Love, Human Skin, and Insincerity. His stories have been published in numerous paying magazines and over 34 anthologies, among them an anthology of his stories, Piquant: Tales Of The Mustard Man, and The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime and The Mammoth Book Of Best British Mystery, alongside Lee Child. He was born in London and lectured in English and American literature at the University of London. He also teaches creative writing at University and workshops. You can find out more about him at his website www.richardgodwin.net , where you can read a full list of his works, and where you can also read his Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse, his highly popular and unusual interviews with other authors.