An old friend gone

This was a friend of mine from before I understood there were so many people in the world. Maybe she was ten years older than me. She remembered me coming home from the maternity hospital, as she would often tell me. She was there in Jersey for some reason, when I was from my mother’s womb untimely ripped and there was all the worry and concern about the cord being round my neck and then me not breathing without help for a while after the last one (I think actually two on a row) were stillborn and messy messy messy for mum but somehow I made it. I had tubes down my throat which did weird things to my bronchial tract but I’m COMPLETELY NORMAL NOW YES YES? And when I came home, my friend was there.

Dad bought my friend’s father’s house privately when he had to sell it. Eyreton. It was where I spent much of my adolescence to my early twenties. A big house. Bigger than that. Bright yellow. Herons and stained glass windows and turrets and steeples.

Aged nine I heard my mother howling in anguish after putting down the telephone in the kitchen. I ran out into the stairwell. “He’s dead!” she screamed. She came into the hall below me. “Who is dead?” “He’s dead!” she repeated. “Who? Daddy? One of my brothers? Who is dead, mummy? Can you tell me who is dead please?” “He’s dead! He’s dead! Dudley. Dudley is dead!”

My friend’s father. I loved him. I remember that odd feeling of trying to unpack the reality of death, there on the stairs. I remember trying to comfort my mummy and us realising together. That person, gone. Gone for good. Never see them again. No takebacks. No sorting out the last interactions. Done.

I went to his funeral as a child. I stood there solemn in black. Daddy used to praymatically use the lesson of his death to teach me about mortality. Dad was brilliant and relentless and practical. He made fucking sure I knew he was mortal and, by proxy, that everything will come to nothing no matter how hard we love it. He prepared me for the deluge. It’s like he knew that I would experience so much death too early… But Dudley was the first.

Dudley used to give me dreams.

I occasionally continue the “I will give you a dream” tradition set up by Dudley. There’s one child I know who now waits up for it when I’m in the house. It’s a sweet thing to do for a sleepy young one where you enter into a goodnight story with them. Dudley was excellent at it. “I was taught this by a wonderful man I know called Dudley,” I will tell the dream recipient. Then we will gather the bits of dream dust together. It’s a complicated, relaxing, flawed process involving the palm of their hand and errant bits of dream dust that they haven’t been paying enough attention to. He would gather it all together with me, half pissed and stinking. I could hear everybody downstairs at Eyreton roaring with laughter as he did it. The effort we shared to gather the dream stopped me going downstairs later to see the party. He made me want to sleep despite the fact I could hear the grown ups having fun. My part of the contract was to have the dream we had gathered together. So I would try.

For as long as daddy lived, Eyreton was open to Cuddly Dudley, to his wife Jeannie, and to their children. The house continued to be a hub. Daddy built a bar below the stairs where I had stood to hear of Dudley’s death and watched my mother collapse into the hall carpet. Ten years later after Dudley went I served drinks from that bar at daddy’s wake. It was more for fun than anything else, that house bar. And it was fun that night. I got whatever people wanted from the long standing stock. And I’m sure my friend Sophie made a few orders that night.

I last saw her when I got some shopping for her in lockdown. She was staying in a mews house just up from me in Kensington.

She tried to get me to Boisdales for a book launch the other day. A friend of hers who is also an actor had written a children’s book. I was working but I was very aware of it. Her particular talent was to make people care about parties. She was on the junket for her good mate.

For most of my adult life she was the one who told me about people dying. “Darling, have you heard? X is dead.” She kept me in the loop.

Now she’s died quite suddenly.

I don’t like to contemplate it. She last checked her WhatsApp at 21:16 last night. Normally she would be the one to tell me of these things. Like our chum who used to like to slide his motorbike under the level crossing if it was down. But she’s the subject of it this time.

Fuck.

There is no way the number at the start of her age is more than 5.

It’s all such a fragile fucking soup. We only get the time we get and we cannot control the time and manner in which we leave.

I’m a bit sideswiped. So sudden. Screw you, death. Farewell old friend. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

Using an internet photo of her as I suspect it met her approval

Tidying

I’m knackered. Much earlier than usual.

I’ve been shifting things around in the flat and trying to reduce clutter. It’s a very big job. There are many oubliettes. It can be quite satisfying to sort things, but it can be tiring as well. Is this your jumper? Once things are a bit better organised I might shinto the fuck out of it with Marie “definitely something fundamentally wrong with that human being” Kondo.

Sometimes I hit on a huge pile of papers that can pretty much entirely go in the bin. I salvage the one single item that I don’t need to throw away, and chuck the rest. That can be satisfying if I don’t spend too long wondering why I didn’t do it years ago. Other times I find things that are memories in one way or another. Cards or letters or trinkets or what-have-you. Sometimes I can be ruthless with these – I can hold them for a moment and think of the happy time long gone, and then I can put them gently into the bin. Other times they carry too much. They go into the “for later” pile… There are some items that have survived several such purges over decades and will likely continue to defy me until some poor fucker has to come and work out what the hell I’ve left lying around once I finally kark it. Then they’ll go in the bin, so its worth remembering that that’s their eventual destination. It occasionally helps with the need to be ruthless. My uncle Peter left me with the job of sorting through boxes and boxes of his filthy papers and rennies. Occasionally I would find a little gold cufflink. I didn’t even keep the best of what I found. It took me most of a week to sort all his junk and it felt like closure. I remember thinking at the time that I wouldn’t wish that job on anybody. Hopefully it’ll be a decade or five yet before somebody has to do that with my stuff and ideally it’ll make a lot more sense by then than it does now.

I’m in bed. This Covid has not helped my energy levels. I’m so tired. I’ve been used to fighting a pathogen with all of my immune system. And I am punchdrunk. I’m not used to doing much at all recently. Thankfully I was fit as a fiddle after a month of Carol when it kicked off so it’s just a tidal slide. I’ll be back to fitness in no time. I’ll have to be. Because the world is gonna wake up and I’m gonna run with it when it does…

Meantime I’m guiltlessly going to have both an early bed and a lie in.

Negative positive

This morning the little plastic test couldn’t find any Covid in my snot. I’ve been wondering when that would happen. I’ve been trying to keep my usage down with those lateral flow tests as they must be generating tons and tons of plastic waste. But this morning I was very happy to come up negative at last. I might allow myself out of the house tomorrow and I might start plugging back into the world shortly thereafter. It’s been lovely not having to think about anything much at all for a week or more. I’ve enjoyed taking myself out of the running. But maybe its time to plug back in to that old world again now. Maybe…

I’ve been playing The Ashes on the radio as I write. I thought maybe the England squad might just be able to do something half decent. Turns out they can’t. I switched it off. The Aussies are playing skittles again. This is what comes of the world. Disappointment. Bah. I’d be better off watching David Attenborough talk about frogs. David Attenborough and those frogs would be better off in whites playing for England. Although it’s only a matter of time before we lose David…

It was cold in the world today. Proper winter. I found myself shivering in the living room. I don’t even want to think about how much money I’ve spent this week on heating and how much carbon I’ve made. At least I’m warm again now after cranking it. And I have nice things, I guess. This hasn’t been a bad place to isolate. But I did some reading for my tax return today and tracked back over a year of blogs. Hard reading, even at a glance. I was convinced we would be out of lockdown so quickly. None of us could’ve predicted how completely fucked this would all get. There won’t be any more SEISS and nobody can do anything right now in theatre. It’s all shutting again or shut. Our industry is in the pinch, and the government wants us all to retrain in cyber. None of those plastic people have the slightest clue how important it is even to have things as basic as this unpaid daily braindump made possible. Even shit stories are better than no stories at all. I don’t know how we fix this. We have so much ground to cover. We are gonna lose more and more valuable artists right at the start. Nobody comes out of the gate fully formed. The entry level jobs are the ones suffering the most, and they are the ones that are becoming impossible to run.

I might have to find a way to step in and fill some sort of gap… Somehow. It feels like its time to stop watching and waiting and time to start putting things into the arena. I’ve got a few decent ideas. It has to be time to take risks for the good of the audiences everywhere. I’ve got some solid views on company building and how to go about it. I just need a consistent space. The dream. The dream. The dream. A room where I can bring people who haven’t had to pay loads to travel. If only I had that £13 million…

Things are going to be ok. I’ve had a negative and that is a good thing. It’s all about the angle you look at things from.

Smog of smug

I’ve kinda loved being on my own lately. It’s lovely. I have been very sick with this shit, and I’m still not testing negative. I live on my own. I don’t have to dance around anybody else. I wake up when I need to, I go to sleep when I want to. I have it very easy. Some of my friends have been climbing the walls. Tristan tested positive on the same day as me across town, and when I speak to him he’s missing the world. I just finished Christmas Carol where I have to be the heart of the party, so maybe that adds to it. I’ve loved not having to communicate with others. I’ve just had a month of managing rooms full of strangers. Now I have no choice but to be alone. I’m very happy not to have to engage with the world.

Maybe in a normal January I’d already be getting anxious. “Where are my spring shows?” etc. But it’ll all take care of itself. Spring will spring and I will find work or make work. And all will be well. I really feel that.

So right now I’m basically getting a free week, the likes of which I haven’t had for decades. A week where I don’t have to wake up and worry. A week where I have just finished gainful employment so the wolf is a few streets away from the door. I can just look at my home and relax and be warm in the winter. There’s not much happening anyway.

I was just halfway through writing when I ended up having a massive row with a friend on WhatsApp about framing of ideas. This is the downside of the solitariness I’ve been celebrating. The more time we have to only bounce our thinking off the inside of our heads, the more we start to think we’ve got the right thinks and the less compromising we can be when something challenges what we’ve constructed. We were both bastards to each other. Apparently I never apologise. So I’m sorry.

This whole pandemic has broken so much. We all know that the business of government is to manage the masses. I just finished watching The Hunger Games which is a good little allegory for when things go too far. People are being just so unforgiving and unforgivable. “Oh ha ha ha ha ha Novak Djokovic is being returned from Australia and be can’t play tennis.” No. Fuck you just as much as the idiots who are calling you sheeple for being so smug about it. Science is science, but there are lots of people doing lots of things for lots of reasons. It’s never as simple as you want it to be. People are being cruel and simplistic on both sides of a debate that shouldn’t even be a debate. And I really properly see both sides. And I will not wade in, I will not, I will not.

But stories are being built on stories. It’s the old game. Start with a fact. Then extrapolate. If somebody disagrees with the extrapolation, refer back to the fact not the extrapolation. You can build a huge tower out of skin if it’s based on one fact, even one as simple as that the government doesn’t tell us the whole truth, something that I was taught in school and it was called management.

Anyway. I don’t do this here. This is meant to be an escape. I’ll go back to pretending to be a megalomaniac magus if I keep drawing myself into this. It’s the new polarity. It’s horrible. It is absolutely redolent with smug. And there’s nothing I hate more than smug even if I stink of it myself sometimes…

Fun with Covid

So. Here I am. Recovering.

There’s this disease about, kids. Be careful. It’s contagious.

First of all, the observable things from inside being me on this rollercoaster.

I know exactly how and when I got it, and who transferred it to me. I can track it back 100%. This is not a test. This is not an exaggeration. I KNOW. I’m not going into details because all the people who want to tell you it’s the foot-rot of an Aztec God never go into details either.

Ya it hasn’t been superbad for me. But we all expect it be bubonic fucking plague. I had a horrible sore throat, I’m still coughing loads, I’m generating all the mucus, I’m tired, I’m woolly headed. I never lost my sense of smell but I felt like I’d been beaten up for days. The first time round I lost my sense of smell on top of everything else, so it’s a mercy I didn’t this time.

This time it’s like a bad flu. But it’s NOVEL. That’s the worry.

That’s why everybody appears to be overreacting. That’s where the anti-science crowd can drive their wedge. This Omicron variant is probably the best road towards some sort of herd immunity because it’s bollocks to have but its not as bollocks as the one I had at the start. It’s novel but I’ve had it twice now. It’s never been in the human system in all of creation until a couple of years ago. Scientists are going to have to be cagey when asked direct questions because SCIENCE TAKES GENERATIONS. And this is a new virus to humans.

So I’ve been writing a creative writing thing the last few days because I am genuinely sick with this illness and I have observed it working through my body and it feels like other illnesses that I’ve had before in my life and I’m aware that there are people I know who are close to me who are plugged into a very very different narrative about this. I thought I’d confuse you all with a spot of something different. And keep myself entertained in the process.

I’ve been sick. And loosely feverish. And I would prefer to put a narrative out into the world that keeps me entertained. Rather than just repeatedly telling you all how shit I feel.

Now I’m at the end of it my body is flushing all the dead stuff killed by my immune system. I’m leaking again. And I feel like I’ve been boxing. It’s 10pm. I’m done. Writing this just so I can go to sleep.

It’s complicated enough that we have a brand new virus that is extremely contagious – (and that didn’t show up on the home tests we have for two days when I knew I was contagious.) We will likely all have this fucker at some point, vaccine or no, probably more than once. “It’s Covid season” will become normal.

But let’s all stop being arseholes about how we think it works, how we think the science works etc etc. This is new. Our generation will just experience this. Only in retrospect can it be fully understood, long after we are dead despite all our strident opinions.

Which makes me feel bad as I went and ordered a PCR test and then when I started showing up on lateral flow I didn’t take it to the post office as I didn’t want to go into my block corridor so I will be adding nothing to science and the NHS will continue to think I have never had this thing. Hey ho.

Bedtime. The one great thing is that I’ve been sleeping like a baby. More of that tonight please.

Covid Isolation Day 6

Dear Minty,

So. You and the professor. I see how it is. I draw my plans and there in the background you undo them. It’s like that day last time in the park. “For my own good…” And how, pray, do you know what is for my own good and what is not?

Why give me the chance to try at all knowing you and that damned smug academic were going to pull the rug? Why leave the sabotage until I have committed to the rite? You could very well have just not sent the mandrake instead of doing whatever you did to it first…

So I didn’t explode. But I didn’t ascend. I just got cold and discovered how my sister had betrayed me and then a plant started laughing at me. It was already between my legs when all those wretched chitinous bugs started pouring out of it with a sound like laughter. Have you any idea how unpleasant it is to be pinned to the ground by so many little bugs? Every inch of my flesh is covered in bite marks. And then to be lectured by that witch I kept in the sinkdark for so long… That’s why I trapped her! That unstoppable didactic impulse she has. Any chance to teach. God. People like that need to keep away from people.

So… now I’ve got a choice, have I? And you aren’t even here to supervise. You just send the tainted mandrake root slivers for me to plant. Then you let your moralistic friend get all high and mighty about how dangerous the rite is for humanity and how dare I attempt it in an urban area considering the explosion risk and “bleh bleh bleh bleh”. And then this binary choice.

Total annihilation is tempting when you consider the alternative.

You couldn’t let me choose an existence could you? You had to invent this ludicrous what is he an actor? A writer? A driver? Do you really think you can embed him in the timestream well enough that people won’t notice that he’s completely out of place? He will stick out like a sore thumb. And do you really think you can meddle with my memory enough that I won’t remember on some level how I came so close to apotheosis?

So I’ll be living in my garret and you’ll explain all my ceremonial robes away as costume? Piles and piles of it everywhere? And all the objects of power and significance as just randomly gathered gewgaws? Are you insane? Nobody in their right mind will believe I’m a real person in that identity. What are you gonna do with my writings? Give him some sort of endless daily blog where he goes off on flights of fancy, so if he ever discovers anything he’ll just think it’s part of his creative pursuit? And you expect me to channel my genius into an unpaid daily account that hides in the back of the internet like a shy kid at his first sacrifice orgy?

And you tell me all my old friends are happy to pretend they have only known me as this bumbling twit?

What you are suggesting is insulting nonsense. I am a magus. I have devoted my life to power. I have studied deeply.. I’ve even done my YouTube research. You won’t catch me prancing around in tights. And if she thinks she’ll succeed in manipulating my personality with this “humility” she keeps giggling about… I AM NOT YOUR PROJECT. MAKE A MORE DYNAMIC OPTION FOR ME! In the name of all the Gods!

If I choose this existence you both are so amused about foisting on me, it won’t stop my “narcissistic pretentions to godhood”. So help me I will subvert you somehow. I will find a way to resurface wrapped in burning power. I will whip this benign fool you want me to be to the heights of … of something. And then I will remember. And I will find you. And I will make you watch as I ascend. Sister.

Oh Minty. Minty. Faced with this, I’m honestly thinking of just going with oblivion.

But no. I’m not gonna beg. I’m going into this weirdo. I’m gonna make the best of it.

I shall be an actor, darling. And all the rest of that shit too. And I’m gonna make him fly. Not even to spite you. Just because I can, Minty. Just because I can.

Still your brother somewhere,

Al

Covid Isolation Day 5

For any who might follow me.

It is the third day of the new cycle. Waxing crescent. Year of the ox. A time of plague. Soon I leave the shackles of time and ascend to Godhood.

I have not been alone in the research bringing me this far. Most of it is adaptation from those who have come before me. We build on the ancients. Then we simplify it on YouTube. Then we forget it all and start again. Then we shout opinions like they’re facts. But I’ve been looking at the ones who came before.

Trismegustus and Flamel and the usual suspects. More recent jokers like Crowley but what did he ever say of use? The writings of the modern mystic Murphy Stigpole go before us all, particularly “Muci et Radices in Tenebris” and of course “Pueri Pueri Libri de Deo Fiendo” of which I was very kindly given a first edition. A birthday gift from my uncle Moloch. I was 12. A Child’s Little Book about Becoming a God.

Stigpole himself exploded in Tunguska in 1908. I believe firmly that his mandrake was not fresh or he would’ve ascended.

He insisted he had to be far from civilisation. This is not important unless you think you might explode, and it was the travel that cost him. Classic procrastination. He didn’t have the temperament to succeed. The mandrake CANNOT go more than 48 hours from harvest to use. As for avoiding civilisation, you just have to be undisturbed. I know a walled garden in Battersea Park. It’s where my sister stopped me the last time. Nobody even goes there in midsummer daytime. A winter night in plague and it’ll be empty – even of doggers.

Place the roothead between your feet. Make sure the burning torch is ready and you have memorised the order of the rites. As the power comes into you you will start to inhale that power. Finish the ritual as well described by Stigpole. Start the burning. At the correct moment breath out your final breath as a mortal.

Begin to inhale. So long as the connection with the mandrake is fast you will not falter in that inward breath for three long hours as the power comes into you. The rootbound head will scream your mortal breath out for you and you will take on the spirit. If the mandrake is too old it cannot sustain this unfaltering suspiration. If the mandrake explodes, you explode. This is what must have happened in Tunguska. Stigpole’s mandrake failed him. It was too old to hold the force of screaming that long. Similarly I believe if you lose faith in your ability to aspire ceaselessly for perhaps three hours while concentrating, remembering and inflicting pain on yourself as the mandrake screams at your feet, you might hitch breath for a moment with taking in the power, and you might implode, exploding the mandrake. I feel this is what recently happened to my old rival in Beirut.

Enough of this talk of explosions though. I will not blow it. Neither I nor the world will end at midnight.

I am ready. All it requires is breathing in ceaselessly for three hours whilst setting parts of yourself on fire, silently remembering each word of the six volumes of Carth and ceaselessly tracing the Natrax course with your finger in the honeycomb. With the correct preparation, with memory and strength of will, I cannot fail. I have done the work. Now for the reward.

I harvested the mandrake this morning. A perfect round head, surprisingly eloquent in feature, rolling mad eyes, funny, dangerous and vegetative like a politician.

The professor did not make herself known when I opened the portal to collect it. The sinkdark crunches underfoot now though everywhere, carpeted with the carapaces of bugs both alive and dead. I had to watch behind me, and shake them off my legs before I left. Those bugs have multiplied beyond any imagining. That damned professor is encouraging their propagation, but for what cause other than food? It is no matter. I ascend at midnight.

So. Yes. For those who might follow me. My final meal was overcooked Ambrosia rice pudding. Food for the gods. I cooked it forgotten on the hob for a good long hour. I’ll never get it off the pan, but Gods need not do the washing up and I was able to eat the bits that weren’t black. I then accidentally dumped a whole bucket of salt in the bath and got in anyway. My skin feels acid dry and pinched. Clean and burnt and purged. Ready.

In case I explode but the explosion is small enough that you all still live, as with Stigpole at Tunguska and that idiot in Lebanon and the other five before them, use this as a starting point. The work is complete though I feel. Now it just needs the moment. At midnight tonight as the clock turns, trust that you will not hear an explosion from Battersea Park. You will not. Be faithful.

Did that mandrake root head just wink at me?

Covid Isolation Day 4

Minty! My sister!

I am leaking.

Is this some sort of curse?

Vile noxious goo excretes from every orifice. As I write I weep. Great fat round meaningless tears. Sickness? Regret?

I regret nothing!

I received your little package, Minty. And you sent me the mandrake. You sent it! I am so sorry to be a disappointment to you, but I lied. It is for the ritual. It is already planted deep in the mucus of the sinkdark, ready to be harvested tomorrow at dawn for the precursor. This time you will not stop me.

As I write I am sitting in a tepid bath, Minty. Since I am made of liquid I thought I should be in my element, and I have been here for hours now. Five minutes hence I left for a moment, unceremoniously hacked off the beard I have nurtured for months, and returned. No more do I feel as if I have a damp sponge clinging onto my mouth. I look young again, Minty. And tomorrow perhaps I will be young again! Or old. Or all things, for tomorrow time will no longer exist to me and I will fly with the angels.

I crept into the sinkdark this time – I did not seek detection. I chose today because my body is almost entirely mucoid anyway. Even the chitinous bugs didn’t detect me. Certainly the professor did not detect me, although I could hear her talking with the bugs. She’s planning something. The bugs were talking back. They have reached some sort of an alliance I fear, but all of this will be nothing once I have ascended to Godhood. I planted your mandrake in a distant polyp, precisely as detailed by Stigpole in “Muci et Radices in Tenebris” – just a single drop of blood and the incantation thrice. Tomorrow should yield the screaming head. So long as it escapes the notice of my old professor and her growing bug army, tomorrow at midnight I will prove once and for all that the rite of Carth-Natrax can be successfully performed without destroying the world. I will ascend.

For now though, I must sustain this weak leaking body. Sausages and beans, and I’ve even put some in the fridge for tomorrow. Just in case, you know?

This plague has not left me yet. I long to see the sun again, but I fear in my current state I will dissolve should I be exposed to its rays. Instead I plan to tidy up tomorrow. It wouldn’t do for a deity to live in a flat with pants all over the floor. I will begin to wash my raiments, clean my surfaces, pass moving air through my space and make this garret an appropriate space for a ritual that has almost brought about the end of the world six times, and has exploded six of the greatest thinkers. None of them understood the importance of the mandrake precursor. With it in place, I surely cannot explode. Stigpole was almost correct – it was his bad math that ended him. He paved the way.

Thank you for the mandrake my dear sister. Once I am a God you shall win the lottery.

Now I must continue to experience this deliquescence that nature has chosen to bestow upon me. I have been earth, I am now liquid, tomorrow I will be fire. Then air.

Goodnight dear sister.

Have no regrets,

Al

Covid Isolation – Day 3

Dear Minty,

My innocent slumbers were interrupted time and time again last night by the sounds of revelry. So many people just … out there doing fun things still while I must be confined. The sound of their happiness could not be dampened by the firmly shut windows, the drawn blinds, the covers pulled over my head. I could still hear their companionable singing and their inebriated laughter. So close. It would be the work of just a moment to rush out in my pantaloons clutching a bottle of aqua vitae. “Behold, I have chosen to join your revelry, strangers! Fear me not, despite my power. Come, partake of this fine bottle with me, and let us orgy wildly here now while we still live!” 

I would sleep so much better with just a tiny sliver of mandrake root to add to the sleepy infusion. Remember I mentioned it before? Help your poor brother sleep. I promise not to use it to attempt apotheosis again. I woke several times and felt that need to just … go outside. Without mandrake I’m a danger to myself and others. I am long past even thinking about the rite of Carth-Natrax.

This morning my throat hurt terribly, almost as if I had been screaming out the names-that-cannot-be-spoken-softly in my dreams. I awoke and I didn’t want to do anything. I attempted to speak to Lou by telephone I could barely talk. My cough had gone deeper. It was worrying. I sounded like a squashed frog. My voice is deep enough anyway.

Now, strangely, that pain and discomfort feels like just a memory, entirely replaced by a stuffy nose and constant tinittus. Just the high pitched sound though, Minty. There are no voices telling me to do bad things. I never hear them these days, and if I do I don’t really listen to them. The cough persists but it feels that my immune system has kept this plague from my lungs once again.

I have a sensation that the worst of this disease will be over soon now, for me. This doesn’t mean I won’t need the mandrake root to sleep. I’m allowed to be cautiously optimistic, yes? Send me the root. Send it.

I have been craving company so much that I have constructed a whole artificial world that I can access through the portal in my head. Not the sinkdark of course, no. I never think of that empty place. Ah ha no. This is the Bitter Coast – perhaps known better as Morrowind. I go there and I am Dunmer and I can go where I please and cast spells. It passes the time, but it is not true human contact. When they speak they repeat themselves. And nothing I achieve there means anything in the real world. It gives artificial dopamine. It keeps me down.

I instructed a local grocery to send me essentials, and a bottle of wine. Much of my long lasting food supply here has been here so long it is no longer edible. I almost poisoned myself for a second time this morning with a can of lethal sausages and beans. Instead now I am calm and warm, full of ravioli and cheese, hoping that my dear sister is well and is packing up that mandrake for special delivery.

Ah my dear sister… I have no idea where all this is going. But I’ve started so I’ll finish. Just know … it will not end with me attempting to ascend to Godhood again.

I feel unusual. I had a fever most of yesterday. It’s almost as if I’m not in sound mind. But was I ever?

Send me that mandrake.

Al

Covid Isolation Day 2

Professor Amarinth,

It may be customary to open a letter with the word “Dear”. You are not dear to me.

You will likely never receive this letter, confined as I have you in the sinkdark. There is no light for you there, Amarinth. No postal service but the chitinous bugs. No release until I choose it.

You underestimated me, Amarinth. “You’re an idiot!” That’s what you told me, so many times, and before you and your cohorts had me expelled. For what? For allegedly infecting the whole upper school with spellplague? THEY CHOSE TO BE INFECTED. By attempting to protect themselves they merely exposed themselves as being fearful. Even as I felt the first flashes of sickness I ran wild amongst them laughing. Yes, I urinated in the water supply. Yes, I licked every fork in the lunch hall. But it was not me that gave them spellplague, it was their slavish adherence to the doctrine of casting “sanctuary” on themselves as they started the day. The sanctuary spell has existed for hundreds of years, if not thousands. But it is designed to infect, not to protect. To track and to infect. I understand things better than people who have studied and passed down knowledge over generations because my knowledge is FRESH. Had my fellow students not cast sanctuary, they would probably have been immune. Or something. Sure I refused to cast sanctuary on myself and I was infected but that was just … that was just just bad luck. Or somebody infected me ON PURPOSE because I knew things. Yes! Ha!

You will never understand. Even though everybody always called me an idiot, I knew then that I was cleverer than everybody. That is partly why I trapped you in the sinkdark. And it is 100% how I trapped you. Ha! Ah ha ha! Because I am cleverer than you! Ah ha ha hahaaa.

But I digress.

Once again I have a plague. Not the spellplague. A more pedestrian plague. Almost a nothingplague, but one which has caused ideological conflict and economy damage much greater than anything I could’ve done to upper school with what you told me was my “cavalier and narcissistic belief in [my] own constructed worldview”.

I am alone with just a weather loach, a clown loach, and a horde of uninteresting loaches and tetras for company. Outside, in the park I so loved with my sister Minty, I hear fireworks being set off – maybe even illuminating the spot where we did the deed – and before Minty stopped me. I might have been a God. Maybe she was right? Even as I write I hear the sirens of the law enforcement on the street below. Not for me this time.

Maybe even dimly, through the haze between dimensions, I hear your screams as well professor – your pleas, like the last time I saw you: “Free me! You’re clever! You’re really really clever!” I know you’re lying. Well no, you’re not lying, because I AM clever and it wasn’t just blind luck me trapping you because you underestimated me. Nevertheless I know you’re only SAYING I’m clever now because you want to be freed. Because I’m not cle… Well no I am. I AM clever. But… Oh shut up. This is too confusing even for a man of my intellect.

I’m writing to you, you fool, because here now with the fish I’m considering once more attempting the rite of Carth-Natrax. You first made me aware of it in your lecture “Carth-Natrax and the end of the world: a treatise against hubris.” Then there is your books “Why nobody should ever attempt the rite of Carth-Natrax,” and “Murphy Stigpole and six other notable deaths on the road to Carth-Natrax,” both of which I read. I didn’t literally actually read them but there was a guy who I agree with who summarised them for me. He’s a qualified professor as well as you, and he has the certificate to prove it. Plus he’s 40 years younger than you from privilege and good looking so he probably knows more than you and if he doesn’t he’s nicer to look at and he has nice things and can buy reach. His summary of your books, written as you say in your introduction “over many sad decades of work, poverty, loneliness and thought” – his summary made me think you were wrong. Maybe you’d have been better off having money and being good at volleyball. He was very good in bed.

Problem is, Amarinth, that the plastic snotdoctor is making me stay at home now. Add to that the issue that I have no mandrake root for the precursor, unless my sister sends me some. And of course there’s the issue of you being in the sinkdark which is partly why I’m thinking of you now. You don’t come into my thoughts very often.

To even begin the initial preparation I must plant the mandrake slivers in the sinkdark, as suggested in Stigpole’s treatise: “Muci et Radices in Tenebris”

There is every chance though that you will uproot it were you still to be there. Perhaps I should wipe your memory and release you? But then you will quickly start to call me stupid again. And I am not stupid. I am clever.

I will work the rite of Carth-Natrax. My fingers have the power. I will transcend time and become a God despite you and despite my beloved sister. Oh God the thought of her again and perhaps I must change my course.

Oh how I wish I could be with my sister for new year, or with Lou, confined by the sea in Brighton. But here I am with the loaches. With their tentacled mouths so reminiscent of the face of the elder one so long buried.

No more. Farewell professor. I must try to have a happy new year despite the plague and the insane thoughts that fill me every waking hour. I hope I have the strength not to open they portal in my head and sink once more to where you lie. I hope that everybody has a happy new year. Despite the plague and the opinions and the clevernesses. Happy New Year, professor. And also to the chitinous bugs, your company and your food. Hopefully I will not see you shortly.

Al