The clock ticks, but nothing changes. Just empty faces, empty lives, unnecessary dreams, work without real reward. We are a world obsessed with failure. Obsessed with repeating the same mistakes again and again. Police watching the streets. Telephones watching our minds. No one caring. No one wanting freedom, or the questions that come with it.

Chewing on cheap spaghetti. Watching the cockatoos work away at the tiled roof across the street.

There’s a knock on the door. It’s James. James writes poetry but isn’t very good. He believes he is, though, which is even worse.

It is a real shame. His head is as hard as an ancient stone. I saw three big football players have a go at him one night. I felt sick watching. Knowing those silly bastards would have dirty asses for months.

It’s a pity he lost himself to poetry. He would have been a great fighter, much better than most the poor excuses parading around these days.

I let him in. We sit on my too-old sofa. If your back wasn’t wrecked before you sat on it, it was after.

“When you gonna get a new sofa?”

“When you stop coming around.”

I put on “Tristan und Isolde.” I originally bought it because it was Nietzsche’s favourite.        But over the years have grown to love it, more now than most Nietzsche.

James looked wired. He kept staring around the room like a detective.

“What the fuck is wrong with you!”

“Oh, shit. I did some coke before I came.”


“Yea, none left.”

“I’m sure.”

He stopped looking around and began tapping his fingers on his knee instead. Just what I needed!

I got up and poured two glasses of whiskey.

“I don’t want it,” said James.

“Great. More for me.”

We sat in silence for a while. It was nice.

James started talking about this “clean-up squad” that had been put together by the local council to rid the community of all the radicals. As he put it, they were like a scab on an otherwise good leg, that with a bit of attention could be perfect again. The thing is, though, their idea of radicals is anyone that isn’t exactly like everyone else, if you differ even slightly, you are wanted.

“Jesus man! I am goddamned glad you don’t have any of that coke left,” I said.

He had an anxious look on his face. Stood and had a quick peek out the window, then sat on the edge of the sofa.

I ignored him and started singing along with the opera.

“They’ll be coming for us,” James said.

“Have your drink and stop talking shit!” I said, picking it up and handing it to him.

He knocked it out of my hand.

“I am serious, Bill! Why won’t you listen to what I am saying. Those fuckers are out for everyone. Everyone with a goddamned heartbeat! They want every single one of us gone so they can have their perfect utopia of conformity. Where freedom and individuality are nothing more than uncomfortable memories.”

I got up and poured another glass, shaking my head.

“Answer me this then: have you seen Mike or Jim lately?”

I thought about it. I hadn’t seen either of them for weeks. Which was really strange. Mike would normally come over every few days for a drink and a talk, which normally ended up lasting until 5 or 6AM and took us a day or more to recover from. I owed Jim 50 dollars. It was really out of character for him not to be hassling me about it. He was the tightest bastard I have ever known.

I pulled out my phone and called them. Both their lines had been disconnected. I had a close look at James. Maybe he wasn’t lying. Maybe the hard-headed bastard was for real this time. I felt a tightening in my chest. Thinking of all the empty desperate faces I’d encounter on a daily basis. All the dirty looks. All the reprimands. All the disgust for anything other than their own. This was possible. This was definitely possible!

“Both their lines have been disconnected.”

“That’s because they GOT them! And we will be next. We need to get the hell out of here! This city is no longer the place for our kind. Our time here has finished.”

A lightning bolt bit right in my spine.

“Jesus Christ! Sure sounds that way,” I said and moved to the window and had a quick peek. “What are we going to do?”

“Don’t worry. I have the solution. I put a lot of thought into this. Those fuckers aren’t getting us! I can’t do anything right now, though. I have to go to my place and get some stuff we will need, which won’t take long. Just stay here. I’ll be back in 20 minutes and we will escape.”

“Man, we are finished!”

“Don’t be overdramatic. Pull yourself together. It isn’t that bad. We will get out of this. Then find out what happened to Mike and Jim and save them, too.”

“Okay. Be careful!”

James left and I looked around my room thinking about what I should take. I got a large garbage bag and put all my notepads inside. There was 15 years of work there. Some good, some bad, but all too good to leave.

I got a glass of tap water from the kitchen and drank it slowly. Thinking about what was happening. I was going to watch some fights tonight on television. But instead, I’ll be running for my life with a coked-up crappy poet with a harder head than the sphinx from the government. Just my luck!

James is a good friend, though. Without him, I’d be fucked. He really saved my ass! I’d have to be nicer to him from now on.

20 minutes passed. He hadn’t returned.

I had another peek out the window. I saw him at the entrance gate to my building next to a large white van. He was talking to the driver.

I opened the window. They looked at me and the driver yelled something. It sounded like a military command. All the doors opened on the van. Half a dozen armed men got out and ran towards the main door to my building.

I smiled. Surprised it had taken this long.