Mayday

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Mike caressed the worn woodwork in a way that he had never caressed his wife. Each dent and patch of sticky varnish rekindled memories beneath his fingertips; the chip where the ladder had fallen whilst decorating for Paddy’s Day; the dark red stain where Beth had dropped an entire bottle of rioja over a customer; the shreds of silver tinsel still stapled to the underside. He looked around the empty pub with tired eyes.

He had purchased The Captain’s Wife when he was just thirty years old; a derelict pub on the brink of demolition. Mike remembered as a child sliding on his knees across the hardwood floors, begging his parents for another coke as they contributed to the heavy smog around them. The pub had been a regular scene of his childhood. But time had eroded the decor and the owner until he could no longer maintain it. Mike, on a whim, decided to buy it, and with love and hard work restored the bar to its former glory.

The Captain ran in his blood like his current dose of morphine. It was the reason he got up in the morning and he could never shake it from his mind. But it was also a disease, eating away at his brain and crippling his brittle bones. The Captain was an addiction, and without his permission, Mike was being thrown into rehab.

He heard banging outside and looked away from the empty optics. Outside, a man in a suit was hammering a sign into the flowerbed, its crude letters sending a stabbing pain through his chest. It was like an invitation for the world to come and peer at his loss. A few weeks ago his wife would have been ecstatic at the sight. Well, he thought, you got what you wanted after all.

“You got everything, dad? This is the last from the cellar.” Paula plonked a cardboard box on the bar and began sifting through the pile of mail next to it. He smirked at the irony of her question, but didn’t have the heart to make a joke. “Yes, thanks love.”

Paula tutted. “More of the same,” she said, holding up several envelopes with “URGENT” stamped across the top. “I wish they’d just leave you alone, they know the situation.”

“It’s fine, love.”

“It’s not fine, everything’s-”

“It’s fine.”

Paula sighed. She squeezed his shoulder and said, “I’ll be in the car when you’re ready.” He smiled gratefully as she picked up the box and backed out of the front door. Silence engulfed Mike, and he loathed it. This was a place of noise and raucous laughter; the clinking of bottles and the smashing of glasses, the roaring chants of football fans, the tinny din of the outdated games machine. He’d give anything to have those back. But the iceberg had already been hit. The ship was sinking with its captain, neither steering through the storm without the other.

With a resigned sigh, he flipped the lights off, gave a last fond gaze and locked the door.

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The Hypnotic Ham Dream

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I don’t know how I’d gotten to this low point in my life, but I was suddenly conscious I was working and living in an old lumber mill. (If you’ve seen Netflix’s new series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, this will give you a visual idea of how my dream looked, as this was the last thing I saw before I went to bed).

Our uniforms were khaki green and pyjama-like. They were ill-fitted and made of basic, itchy cotton. My boots were already worn in at the toe and slightly too big. I hated to think what had happened to their previous owner.

Our tiny bunks were made of leftover timber from the mill, meaning you were lucky if you didn’t wake up with splinters in your hands and feet. Our bedsheets were of an identically horrible material to our clothing, ensuring even rest periods were hell. The only decency we were shown was in the form of bacon. Every mealtime our plates were stacked with crispy pink meat. The mouthwatering smell was almost the only thing to persuade me out of bed each day.

After a while of being conscious to this world, I started to realise that everyone else was strangely subservient to the boss. Considering we outnumbered him fifty to one, and the poor pay and poorer conditions weren’t fit even for a criminal, I’d have expected a riot by now. Yet each worker kept his glazed eyes on his task, working swiftly and efficiently and never ever talking. I decided some digging was in order. Maybe it was because in his spare time, our lumber mill boss was also a scientist. Scientists could be scary.

Shortly after clocking in I hid outside the boss’ cabin and waited. Nobody seemed to noticed my absence or raise any alarm. It was beautiful sitting outside, breathing in the fresh air without the sawdust clamming up my lungs. If it wasn’t for the ten foot high wall surrounding the mill, I’d have turned my thoughts to escape.

Eventually the boss returned to his cabin and headed straight for the kitchen. I peered in through the window and watched as he pulled out a massive griddle pan and whacked it on the stove. He started piling bacon into the pan and whistling to himself. Surely he had a chef? His cabin was certainly fancy enough to suggest so. I was still perplexed when he pulled a small vial out of the top pocket of his lab coat, uncorked it and emptied the purple contents all over the bacon.

Oh, so that was how he controlled them. There was a hypnotic substance in their food. Let’s be honest, it was a genius plan; nobody could ever turn down bacon.

But I’d been eating it for days and I hadn’t been affected. How was that possible? Did it only work after a certain time, when the spirits of the workers had been broken? Unfortunately I found that out much sooner than I would have liked. I hadn’t realised the boss had seen me, and before I could react he was dragging me inside. He dropped me down into a chair in his office and paced in front of me, deciding what to do.

“How come I can eat the bacon and not be hypnotised?” I blurted out after a minute, sick of the silence.

He smirked and stopped pacing, completely unsurprised I’d fully figured it out.

“Because child, you are an orphan, and orphans are exceptionally good at not doing as they’re told. Which is why you’re here, of course. I’ve written my whole scientific theory on the defiance of orphan protagonists.”

I almost physically saw his lightbulb Eureka moment.

“You shall be new subject! Somehow an orphan of my own has always eluded me. How do you feel about electric chairs?”

 

So there you have it. Bacon is the way to a man’s heart. Unless that man happens to be a main character who also happens to be parentless. Then, they are invincible. (Go Batman!)

You guys learn so much from my dreams.