Categories
Pirate Film Reviews

Sputnik /Спутник (2020)

Last night I got around to watching Russian Sci-Fi / Horror film Sputnik which is a clever, compelling and beautifully shot post soviet rethink of the xenomorph body-horror genre.

Sputnik, is misleadingly not about the first satellite to orbit the Earth. Instead it’s a fairly well crafted sci-fi/thriller/horror set in 1983. Russian Cosmonaut Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov) crash lands back to earth when something sinister causes his Soyuz capsule to malfunction. He has no memory of the catastrophic re-entry which may or may not have killed his Co-pilot. Colonel Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk), suspects something funny regarding his claims of amnesia and recruits unorthodox and controversial neuro-physiologist Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) to treat him at distant military facility in Kazahkstan. Of course, as the promotional poster makes clear, Konstantin did not come back to earth alone..

Ok, but is it any good?

So this film is Egor Abramenko’s full feature directorial debut and certainly marks him out as one to watch in the future. The setting of the film at the just before Perestroika and subsequent fall of the USSR is particularly interesting as it makes it feel like Post-Soviet-Soviet film! No really. I’ve always thought that period of USSR history would make a brilliant setting for a whole series of films. (A vampire film set in Soviet Norilsk anyone? Mutant Siberian Tigers terrorising a gulag?)

Anyways the Eastern Bloc has a long and storied history of producing great science fiction films. If you haven’t seen any I strongly urge you to check out the films of Andrey Tarkovsky. One of the hallmarks of the classic Soviet sci-fi films is it they push well away from convention; ‘Stalker’ 1979 and ‘Kin-Dza-Dza’ 1986 respectively being both well-feted internationally as genre breaking films that don’t rely on the conventional sci-fi tropes.

However even within the well trodden science fiction conventions i.e. space ships, robots and aliens, etcetera, there are Soviet era films such as Ikarie X-B1 1963 and Solaris 1972 that have subtle cerebral and culturally salient takes on such thematic standards. That both those films are based on Stanislaw Lem stories is also rather telling.

Sputnik also knowingly references it’s sci-fi B Movie roots.

In any event Sputnik is more akin to the latter genre of Soviet sci-fi films. For it is essentially a reworking of Alien (1979) and this isn’t a bad thing, but the parallels are fairly obvious:

For instance the main protagonist is a strong female lead and the creature is a violent, body-horror xenomorph not too distantly related to the H.R Giger vision we all know and love. That the powers that be also wish to control it in order weaponise it, and in so doing allow it to munch men in body armour like popcorn, also relates it to the second and third Alien films.

What Abramenko does do differently is add a more intimate and complicit relationship between man and xeno than we might normally expect. Without overly fetishising the creature itself as an intrusively sexual or pointlessly savage. Though visually the beast is well actualised via CGI, it’s not really anything genre aficionados haven’t seen before. But it is suitably alien both in design and behaviour, straddling the line initially between gross and disarmingly menacing. When we are shown it in full in the third act it is not disappointing as it still manages to be inscrutably intelligent and a credible threat.

VISUALS & THEMES

As far as looks go, Abramenko perfectly captures a stylised and aesthetically pleasing version of early 1980’s USSR. The sets and locations are striking and completely of the era and Abramenko makes full use of Brutalist space. The period buildings and internal sets are all heavy concrete and stained birch veneer. Their frontages and auditoriums both massive and gloomy yet seemingly empty and underpopulated. This is clearly the USSR of committees and reports. Indeed we are introduced to Dr Klimova, who is being censured for her unorthodox clinical treatments by just such a committee.

Although much of the film is primarily set inside a military base, there are exterior shots of the Kazahk steppe. Frequently Abramenko has the wide-open slate skies and distant rolling hills bisected by an almost needless chainlink fence. Which is a nice touch regarding other subtle themes about illusions of constraint and control present in the film.

CHARACTERS

The characterisations in Sputnick are fairly robust and well construed. Dr Klimova is suitably hard willed and humanistic, Konstantin the Cosmonaut is funny, rueful ambitious and sly. Anton Vasiliev as Dr Rigel provides a decent cowardly turn. But the standout for me though is Colonel Semiradov who rather than being the hard nosed military man associated with the stereotype in such films is warm, considerate and forward thinking. This also muddies the waters somewhat between whether there is a definite ‘good or bad side’ in the film, which is when it is at it’s most interesting.

My main negative criticism of the film is that I found the score un-necessarily intrusive at key moments, being thumping and fast paced. Others may not mind it so much. There is also a more schmaltzy subplot that does not detract from the film but does feel that it is there mainly to provide closure at the end. All in all I highly it’s an interesting film that provides a decent twist on the genre and it is well worth a watch.

Categories
Articles Collapse Culture

What is Collapse Culture?

Culture:- The power by which humans create meaning in their lives encompassing the total sum of ideas, knowledge, values and beliefs that underpin social action.

Collapse:- To fall, break down or fail completely.

When I was younger I used to enjoy reading and watching science fiction. Especially the grim, post apocalyptic genre. But over the last ten years what I thought were apt fictive warnings for the dangers of human hubris have increasingly come to manifest as brute reality.

So much so, that it is hard not to see life right now through an overheating montage of cataclysmic events. Images and videos of systems breaking down proliferate in every available form of media.

Indeed as I write this;

Uyghurs detained and being transported by train. Xinjiang Province.

And so it goes on. Until it feels like we’re living under a barrage of anger and despair. Now due to the current pandemic we have ample time to reflect impotently on these issues. Political corruption and oppression. Social breakdown and general disorder. Climate pollution and mass animal death. Playing out on a loop through our own individualistic lenses of collective desolation, and internalised as rage, fear and guilt. Much like the opening overture of Soylent Green. Except without the benefit of Chuck Braverman’s excellent piano composition. .

LAPD fire rubber bullets at a homeless man in a wheelchair during the BLM protests 5/06/2020

So What?

So this blog is an attempt to reconcile these latter day horrors. For myself but mainly to pin down what Collapse Culture is and how it is manufactured. I don’t wish it to be a kind of compendium of agony so much as it is a vehicle for my own work here. Which is directed at how we actively attempt to ignore the yawning abyss. Those ways we attempt to keep the capricious capitalist fires still burning in a zero sum future. And in those efforts identify how we retcon the old consumable tropes that slid down so easy all those years, into something deconstructively new. That’s what I mean by collapse culture.

Hyper-reality.

Manufacturing Collapse Culture

At the moment it feels like technology has bloated many cultural conceits, mutating values and perceptions into absurd parodies. To such a degree that it is now acceptable and rewarding to retune your face via software and surgery in order to flex Gucci at Auschwitz. Shock value catches eyes and shifts units. Maybe it always has. But now any attention is good attention as long as a person is getting a lot of it! The algorithms that measure taste, and to an extent dictate it as well, are mathematical monuments. Heavy edifices of code that grind down meaning into siftable samples. Scale is key. Ethical and moral considerations are tertiary considerations. Relegated behind ‘reach’, ‘runtime’ and enterprise. As Stalin may or may not have said “Quantity has a quality all of its own.”

Current pop culture or pop tech doesn’t just eat itself. It makes you eat it and then hoovers up your leavings, like so many chocolate hundreds and thousands, that it then sprinkles all over itself to entice you to take another bite. The process repeats ad infinitum until you lose interest and/or it withers away to be the captive preserve of self appointed enthusiasts, aka fans and nerds.

Vuitton but you get the point.

Whether we do this by seeing our folk heroes afflicted with Alzheimers and bone death. By letting our televisions exhort us to part with time and money in ever more infantile and elaborate ways. Or just by feeding into the fucking beast like your doing right now reading these words. In terms of the time-cultural continuum we are constantly surfing the bleeding edge of how we create meaning. It’s just that right now that that edge is hemorrhaging out because the beast whose belly we’re all trapped is in is dying.

Federal Agents use a futuristic teargas gun on protesters in Portland Oregon.

Categories
Short Stories

Tweety Pie

I didnae ken when it arrived like, a even how. Ah jist woke up wun efternoon an it wa thir at tha foot a ma mattress, chewing throo ma duvet. I thought it were a burd at first, cuz it had wings and a beak but it wiz some proper effed up type a burd wid sum brutal fokkin disease if it wiz. Bald and scraggy an purple, like a rotten ol bawbag. An’ wit tha few fairthers it’d gut, it wiz like something yid see on the news efter an oil spill. All torn and drippin wi greasy shite erf tha end a its wings. It wisnae small ithir, fokkin muckle in fakt. Wae mair than a seagull. Big ugly fucka wi tha radgiest eyes ah’ve eva seen in ma puff.

“Gerrootofit!” I tried tae yell, but it wiz mair of a croak and it didnae even luk up. “Git Tae FUCK!” A bit louder this time, but it still didna move, jist looked up at me, strands a dirty polyester comin oot its big black hooked beak like ah wiz tha wun thit shouldnae hae bin thir.

I wisnae feelin well. Acktually thass a fokkin understatement. Ahd pished the bed, agin, an thir wiz sick oan the floor by tha cookir and reet doon tha telly screen. Ma bedsits nae tidy at the best of times but that mornin it wiz a right fokkin state even by ma haigh standards. Me Ma, God rist her soul, wud a had a fokkin fit. She didnae approve a me guin in the services but sid tae me, eh Barry, you’ll come oot fit n mannered an reet fir a burd a yir ain.

Did ah fuck. Went doon tae Pennycook tender age a six fokkin teen and came hame at twenny-foor wi a fokkin bottle in ma hand tryna firget tha Shock an’ Awe a Helmand. An Ma, well, hir health wisnae all that well so ah did ma money for er care like, win tha cooncil couldnae put in, but Barry in tha end it still wisnae enough. God rist er soul an aw.

An noo ahm in this hafway hoose on tha nash. An it seems tae me that ah’ve got a burd noo allreet but its no tha one she intended.

Ah sat up n held ma heid, tryin no tae boak as a luked fae somat tae batter it wid. But tha jist seemed tae encourage tha wee bastid cus it cocked its heid and did this fokkin hhhhorrible thing wi its eye poppin in n oot when it luked at me. An then hopped doon ontae ma duvet. Ah fukin booked it up a that n went in n stood in ma press wi its horrible wee wrinkly face turnin tae look at me from the middle o ma beid.

Reet than and thir ah thot ah’d try tae wrap it in ma duvet. But it wisnae havin none a it. Win ah tried tae chuck it aver it, it jist fokkin grabbed it in its beak and man ah got ah gud fokkin luk aht its claws in akshun. Fokkin huge like as it mangled up tha duvet. Jist tearin easuly intae wee shreds an sat there glarin at me. Than it spread its wings an battered them hard like, sendin this broon crap fleckin off n pebbledashin tha walls an alluv tha dust rats and dog ends whooshin aroon ma room.

Well wile it wiz busy wid that ah ran roond tae thae hob thinkin ah’d crack a windae n like mek a sugary brew wid ma kettle so ah cud chuk it over this bastid. That’d fix it. It’d be reet oot wit a gud scald. Ah wiz well wary mind! An ah got tae the sink but thin as ah turned awae, I heard it flap like a fokkin B52 o sumthin an its fokkin claws grabbed me in tha back a tha heid! Luckily I had ma hoody oan so when a ducked that hood came over ma heid but still even thru that it gut me a good bastid slice reet throo tae ma scalp. Laid me open like fokkin Geronimo!

Ah divent mind tellin ya ah wis in shock! Pishin blood oot ma heid doon ma back. Ah turned as it flapped at me! God it stunk! Like a latrine filled wiv deesul. Ah goat one a its claws rakin me across tha chin, an catchin ma lip, rippin tha fucka open tae.

Ah thought I’d crack it proper yin and swung wi all ma right but this wee shite burd, noo laffin fit tae burst. Makin like this hhorrible “Hukukukkukkukkuk” soondin like fokkin Popeye. It jist flapped higher oot a reach, an ah missed. But oan that backswing, an ahm nae shittin yous noo, it had me fokin timed. Grabbed ma wrist wi its fokin talons and as a I shook ma arm like crazy tae get it off. Bit fuk me it wiz heavy!

It wiz like havin a big fat bairn swanging off ya arm, flappin its greasy shite sprayin all over ma pus an ma SuperDry hoody. Ah couldnae shake it. Yellin n skrikin as it beat me roond tha heid wid each flap. Propa hard, yer ken hoo thuv always said a swan kin break yir arm? Well ah’ve nevir beleeved it til that moment likesay? Allova sudden it stops like, wings still oot, still hauldin on ma fokken arm and looks reet at me. Wi it’s eyes doan this wird poppin thing and its still fir a mooment then casual as you like, it bent and wi’ its beak just snipped off that end ah ma fokkin index finger.

Ah screamed fae real then. Really real. Like tha time ah got zipped by seven-six-too win oot on patrol. Wurs thin that aktually. Fokkin ran roond and roond screamin, blood spurtin oot mae fucken stump while this CUNT burd hukukututktutk at me from oan top ah ma droars. Ah didnae see wit it did wi ma finger tip. Swallod it probly ah eckspekt. Then ah jist fell doan on tha pahkeh, blud all pulin in tha cracks in tha vinyl.

Trooth is ah wiz in a reet state an thank fuk it decided tae let go cuz trully it’d tha best ah me. Ah put ma hood up and cradled ma hand. Maniged tae grab a few strands a pollyester an tied oaf ma stump. Furst aid wunowun likesay.
Wile ah wiz doan tha it marched aroon ma bedsit like a wee fascist bastid, its claws all goan clickety clickety as it roamed wun way than tha ethir.

Ah wiz seein red cuz ma fokkin hand throbbed tae bursten and ah’ve claret jist pourin doon ma heid, ma back, ma arm. yelled oot.”FUCK YOUS YA WEE BAM CUNT” and chucked a fokin bottle at it. BOOF! Glass went all owa ma gaff! Clattered it reet gud tae but the wee fuck jist shook it ahf! Well that wir a mistake cos then it came runnin at me hard like. Ah’ve nevir felt threatned by ah fokkin burd before noo but it were trooly summat oot ay Jurassic fokin Park. Ah turned an ran fae tha door but didnae mek it. Ah heard it takin off an felt the flekkin shite splatter on ma heid. Thank fokk ah hit tha deck then, cos it hit ma door wi ah gud thump. Claws oot.

Seein tha skratches it left in the wood freaked me reet oot. Ken like a bat wi nails in it? It flapped oot n roond and ah wiz backpedallin like. It had tha evil bastid luk in its eye agin and a cud see it squarin its wings gittin ridy tae flap at ma nut agin. Ah needed summat qwik sharp and ah grabbed tha bin and put owa me heid like a helmet. Jist in fokin time like, cos tha next thang. BANG! Scrabble scrabble an ahm fallen back intae tha glass. Cut me gud that did too. Ahm screamin wi pain noo. An then CHOMP! An ah felt tha worst pain in ma ankle cos that wee shites bitten me in agin. Shaken it like a fokin dog. Ah kick oot an catch it square an it lets go soon and ah hear it stalk ahf. Claws a clicky clacking agin.

Ah dinna ken exactly how long I sat thir, bin ower ma heid in tha glass an ma blood an lass night’s sick. Lang enuff fae tha booze tae leav ma system cos ah wiz gettin tha shakes summat rotten. It muttered a me tha whole bluddy time too. Jist shit like repeetin tha names of fitballas, fokin like ‘JOHNTERRYJOHNTERRYJOHNTERRYJOHNTERRY.’ Ova and ova n ah don even like fitba tha much ken? Nevir mind a cokeny fokin wanka tha played for Inglan.

Then ah hear a snap an am like wat tha fok? An ah realis its tha fokin moose trap! The wee shit must ah caut itsel in tha trap. Fokin A! Ah tek tha bin offa me heid to get a luk in and fok me! Its no caut. Up on tha fokin fridg lukin doon a me. Ahf a fokin moose in its beak. Ah swear ah didnae ken a burd cud smile till tha moment but sure as shit it wiz. It tossed it aht me and that haf a moose landed wi a plop in ma blud.

“EAT!” It says tae me. I luk doon at tha moose bit. Erse end too, tail all fokin flubbery lukin. Tha bugga wiz defanatley smilin.

“SCRAN THA FATBOUY! EAT EAT BUKUKUKUKUK! EAT FAE YIR MAAA PRITTTY BOY!” Like ah wiz tha fokkin pet burd! Ah luked up at it an it opend up its fokkin beak and clakked it. It luked lke a fokin butchas cleavah.

Ah luked doon at tha moose erse. Ah didnae wantae. But ah didnae want tae lose another finger either. So ah picked it up and popped it in ma gob. Them scratchy wee moose claws n ma mooth wiz tha wirst ahvit. Ah boaked win a felt tha guan doon. It didnae feel gud comin bak up eethah. A boaked a propa whitey, nae mistaken. Propa bile tae.

“HUKHUHKUHKHUHKUK!” The wee shitter kept on chucklin at me. Ah took ma chances then. Ran fae tha door. It came efter me too. Ah meant tae slam it in tha door but ma bottle had gone and it jist whooshed it open wi its wing. Ah ran fae tha toylet, doon six stairs awcros tha middel landin. Least it hud a lock. Ah yelled oot as ah wen tae it but naw anser. Ah divint kenwir every ova fokker hud guan? Fuoor ether alkies sposed tae be in this place like wi me?

Ah slammed tha door an dropped tha hook n tha eye n sat wi ma back tae it. Ah cud hear tha soond a its claws rattlin doon tha bannister ahs it slid doon. “Heeelllloooo-OOO?” It says in that creepy wee baby voice agin “Huuuulloooo Baabby? Hulloo Babby!” An thin BANG an tha scrapin as it rattled its beak owa tha fokin door. Chills doon ma spine. Ah wrapped masel n ma woonds in toylet papir and wondered jist wat tha fok tae do? Thir wiz a windae but ah wiz still a good story up mind. Still naethin else wiz presentin itself.

Took up tha bog brush an battered oot tha windae wi it. All the while, tha burds is ootside tha door workin away, chompin oot that bottom ay it. Ah cud see tha hook jigglin. Ah droppd doon a tool owa tha brokn glass n skweezed oot ontae tha wee ledge. It wiz dark noo, bit nae bugger aroond. Ah jist assumed it wiz pritty late o summat. Wiz thinkin get me tae tha fokkin A&E an thin call tha newspapers. Sell ma story for a tidy wee sum an at least git summat ootay it. Git this bastid danger oa burd bak in tha fokin zoo, or mair like come back wi sum mates and batter tha fokker.

So ah start callin fer help! “HaaAAAEEELLPP!” Thinkin sum cuntll come at leest but nae sooner have ah opened ma gob than I herd it.

Flappin. Muir flappin.

Ah luk up an, thir, jist oan top ah tha lampost above me, an then oan evry fukin lampost and rooftap doon tha street, hundreds ah them. Demon Burds. Jist like tha wun ah’ve escape fae. An thir ah’ll lukin doon at me.

Ah slippd n fell. All tha way doon tae tha pavement. An tha wiz far enuff ken? Knocked tha shite oota me. Well nae kwite like, cos ah fell strait ontae whit luked like the body o an auld biddy. Ah leest ah think it wiz. Jist a scrap a mac an a wheely shopper. Ah saw wit luked like a propa horror show skull tae, but by tha point ah’d grabbed tha mac owa oan tap a me an rolled awae under a car.

So noo thass me. Thir wiz a mobile in tha pocket a tha biddys jaykit an ah’m recordin this oan ma socials voicemail lyin squeezed under a van parked ootside ma gaff. Tha nearist hole ah cud git tae.

Ken thit they ken ah’m here, cuz they kin hear me fir shur an ah kin defo hear them. Mutterin and shriekin aways. If any wun get tha message or finds this phone, ma names Barry an ah swear ah promise if y kin find me and get me an tell me its nae real. Pleeze. Tha none ah this is happnin, ah promise ah’ll stay offa tha hooch fir gud. Nevermuir. Ah swear on ma Ma. Nevermuir.

Categories
Short Stories

Cold Blow Lane

Apologies for all the swears and noise and carrying on and that. Didn’t mean to wake you. Yea I feel a little bit better, thank you. Now that I’ve had a good drink. I think I’ll have a few more if you don’t mind? I don’t want to get too out of it. Just a couple of drams to take the edge off eh? Honestly every little rustle or creak at the moment has me instantly on up me toes and I feel pretty flippin’ keyed up and brittle enough already. No really, I’ve still got that prickly back of the neck, eyes watering feeling.

Clenching my jaw? Christ your right. It aches like I’ve been chewing my face off. Jesus is it quarter to four? Bastard O’Clock. Thanks for staying up with me. I had the TV on for about 10 minutes while you were in the kitchen, thought it might help you know? Bring me back to normality. But nah. It’s not working. I kept muting it thinking I’d heard something. Think I’d rather sit and listen out if it’s all the same to you.

Alright. Okay. You wanna record it? For your blog? Well. Yea I guess I don’t mind. Start at the beginning? Sure. So walking home last night, well this morning actually, down the New Cross road.. Where’s New Cross? You having a laugh you know where bleedin’ New Cross is. For the blog? Oh right. Describe it? Ok Ok. Give me another drink then. For those that don’t know. My name is Malcolm I am 48 years old and I live in an area called New Cross which is in Lewisham, South of the river right? Yes in London. England. The British Isles. Happy?

What’s it like? Well it’s not a pretty area. Its not bad, but its not like a bleedin’ UNESCO world heritage site or anything. In my youth I would have said it was shithole but London prices being what they are its pretty darn cushty for the money nowadays. At the moment I live in a room in a housing co-op called Sanford, with about four other people usually but three of them buggers is out God knows where. It’s not far from Bear’s Den, which is Millwall FC’s ground, home of the Bushwackers hooligan mob if that means anything to anyone. Oh and there’s a some railway tracks for the Overground and beyond those there’s a ginormous rubbish incinerator. Beautiful place it is.

Anyway specifically I live off a street called Cold Blow Lane. Google map it if you want. If you street view it you’ll see exactly the place I’m talking about. Go on, I’ll have a another drink while you do so. So right I’m walking home about what 40 minutes ago and believe me Cold Blow lane is aptly named. Especially about three AM with this bleedin’ freezing cold spring in London in at the moment. Proper Brass Monkey weather. We’ve even had snow today haven’t we? More of a sleety hail you reckon? Yea I suppose so. Bonkers weather anyway. Christ its like I want to talk about anything but what just happened.

Stick to the story. Ok sure. Does this feel like its helping? No not really.

Right so I’m walking back from the New Cross road about what 2am? It’s a busy main road. I’m about 10 minutes off the nightbus from a night out, and its fucking freezing. I’m fucking freezing. Now to get to here, Sanford, from the direction I was coming in, you’d have to walk through two long, dark tunnels that run beneath the Overground railway. Quite frankly its bloody grim. It looks just looks like the sort of place a serial killer would dump a body like on ‘Cracker’ or ‘Luther’. I feel like such a dumb old tosser for even thinking about doing in the middle of the night. I wouldn’t recommend it during the day! Let alone in the dark. I mean I usually go the other way. Why didn’t I go the other way? Oh yea cos I got off the nightbus a stop early. Jesus wept.

Alright yea so anyway the road into Cold Blow Lane goes from being a wide open avenue with these ugly looking 1980’s new build houses on the left. Then you turn right and there’s this overgrown bit of embankment shrub that hangs down from the Railway line on one side. Then you’re under the railway bridge proper and with these tall, dark sooty brick walls on either side. That’s where it becomes a bit of bottle neck. If you go into the first of the tunnels, it funnels up into a choke point. The road turns into a single lane and the pavement just kind of dead-ends at this brick wall under the tracks.

People are always fly-tipping rubbish right at that wall. Well tonight apparently someone has dumped a load of old furniture. I saw a lot of busted chipboard. All spilling out into the road and a couple of cars have obviously gone over them because even from fifty feet away there’s all them little flakes of pressed wood caught in the asphalt. Just shit everywhere really. But right by the entrance to the tunnel proper, someone’s dumped these two big white wardrobes.

One of them is upright with its back propped up against the brick next to the tunnel entrance and there’s a big pile of bin bags and God knows what in the corner next to it. The other is lying on its side with it’s back to me, about ten feet in front of the upright one. Like it’s just been dropped out the back of a lorry, cos it stuck out off the curb and into the road at a bit of an angle.

It’s pretty dark in the tunnel but because of that one street light behind me I can see well enough. Normally I wouldn’t look twice at crap like that. I mean they were nothing fancy, just dated cheap white veneer that looked piss yellow in the glow of the sodium lamp back toward my end.

But they’ve both got great big mirrored doors, so I’m kind of half interested. A decent full length mirror can go for about £20 down on Lewisham Way so these monsters might net me close to a hundred for four of them, maybe a bit more. If they’re in decent nick of course.

The doors of the one on the ground are reflecting into the upright one and in one corner they’ve got that kind of weird infinity effect going on? But mostly because of that they’re angled I can just see all the rubbish on the ground between them. I could also see my reflection, well from about the waist up. I actually gave myself the nod, as you do. Sexy fella.

I’m not bonkers. I wasn’t that drunk and I, like its a practical joke really. Its got to be. Someone fucking about now I think about it. Now I’m sitting down here in the lounge and telling you this. Yea it sounds fucking ridiculous. I mean what else could it have been? Kids or some scaghead fucking about that’s what. And now I’m sat here nerves jangling harping on about dumped furniture at 4 o’clock in the morning. I mean are you sure people’ll want to listen to this shit?

Carry on? Alright, alright.

So I’m a good forty-ish feet away maybe? And as I get a bit closer, I can see in the reflection of the upright wardrobe that the door on the one in the road is busted at the hinges. Meaning the mirrored door on the bottom is propped at an angle on one corner and there’s a decent sized gap at the far end where that infinity effect is. But there’s a like a thing sort sticking half in-half out of that gap. I didn’t know what it was at first, it just looked like a pale little tube, like a sweetie wrapper or some other bit of litter. I didn’t even notice it at first glance, because it just you know, why would you? There’s a big pile of crap spread all around the gaff you know? But then I do notice it. I see it move. Just a little bit. But yea, it. It caught my eye, and I just thought ‘ooh issat a rat?’ but then it wriggled, like up and down.

Ok. Just let me have another glassful. Yea that’s better.

And now, for the life of me, I don’t know people are bloody stupid aren’t they? Especially when they coming home half pissed. I can tell myself that now, like hindsight is a wonderful thing and all. But I honestly thought it was the tail of a big rat. But it was moving all wrong, like it was.. crawling. Like the rest of the rat was stuck or something and was trying to get out backwards through the bottom of this crack, cos its not moving forward, its just sort of wriggling. Undulating.

Anyway I’m sort of standing in the road, moving out ready to walk through the narrow tunnel. But I’m stuck watching this, this thing moving in the reflection of the upright wardrobe. I can see my own puzzled ugly mug reflected in that mirror too. Trying to figure it because it seemed sort of wrong for a rat-tail. Like it had a sort of a hook on the end of it that kept catching on the tarmac. I could almost hear it scrape.

Suddenly there’s this rustling noise. And I half startle. I’ve been distracted by this wriggling thing and not noticed there’s a bleeding fox climbing out of the pile of black rubbish bags next to the upright wardrobe. And he stops and sniffs and has a good look at me. You know like foxes do when you catch them getting into the bins or crossing the road. We both sort of stand there still for a moment sizing each other up. Then he looks down, this skinny little dog fox. He’s seen the thing. I swear he cocks his head and I know what he’s going to do, he’s gonna jump down, have a sniff and gobble whatever it is up. I almost yelled ‘GERTCHA!’ cos I wanted to figure it out what the bloody hell it was. So I raised a hand, opened my gob, saw my reflection doing the same, mind. And then, well fuck. It happened really quickly. You know when you’re riding a bike and your realised you’re about to have an accident but its already happened? Yea that.

The fox jumped down and the.. the tail thing in the mirror stopped moving. Sat there all still. Like it sensed the fox was there. But when the fox sniffed it, whoosh it was gone. Vanished back into the wardrobe and the fox turned as if to go.

I realised what it was in that moment. Or maybe I saw it. I can’t. Fuck man. It just looked so, so strange and foreign, that I didn’t get it right off.

It was a finger mate. Not a rat-tail. A fucking finger.

And then whack. This, this.. hand, shot out from the gap, grabbed the fox by its hind leg and pulled it back through the gap in the bottom.

I screamed. Honestly all ‘WAAHH FUCK!’ Jumped up about 10 foot in the air too!

You know what it reminds me of? Just like a trap-door spider grabbing a beetle like you’d see on of them David Attenborough nature shows on the telly. Bang. Gone. Just a split second of something horrible and then everything is back the way it was.

But then I swear, I swear to you, that this fucking fox pops back up. Just saunters out as if by bloody magic. Coming out round the other side of the prone wardrobe like no biggie. Not a mark on ‘im! He sees me and because he hears me shouting, he’s off! Running up that tunnel as fast as he can. I watched him go all the way and slip through a fence into the bushes and he’s gone. Looking like, fine you know? Like a bleeding fox just does.

But it couldn’t be! I swear to you I saw it! I saw that fox, turn around, all snarling and vicious and watched it sink its teeth into that, that arm, just before it got hauled backwards beneath that wardrobe mirror. I close my eyes now and I can still see it. Hell I even remember the wardrobe rocking and shaking! I know for a fact I saw all that in the reflection. And then Mr Bloody Fox pops out the other side all fine and dandy? Explain that? You can’t mate.

Why I didn’t turn around and run? That’s a good question. Thinking back now, honestly mate. I think. I think cos there hadn’t been any noise? Like when I saw that fox get snatched there was no snarling banging, yipping or nothing. In fact there was literally nothing. No sound. When I remember it now I try and add the sounds but really when it got grabbed it was dead silent and that.. well mate, that just shit me up good and proper even more.

I need a top up please? Cheers.

Anyhow the fox is away dead quick and as daft as it sounds now, I started to laugh. And when I say laugh, it was that or start crying cos I must be losing my nut. You know when you just need to make a bit of noise? Reassure yourself? Yea that. So’s I looked back down the tunnel. Stood there for a long minute in the wind and its freezing cold. Then I looked back at my reflection in the wardrobe mirror.

Maybe I just imagined it. You know? Had a bit of a brain fart from all the gear I did back in me salad days? Like an acid flashback or something. I tell you though, I looked good and hard at the spot where the finger had been and nope there wasn’t a trace of nothing. Kept thinking that dark gap at the bottom looked slightly larger too. Like the shadow it cast was just a touch bigger. Though I couldn’t decide one way or the other. I kept my eye on it though. Still didn’t like it.

So what do I do? Do I walk the long way around? That was probably about about a twenty, twenty five minute walk or so. That’s the trouble around here in South London, the railway slices up the neighbourhoods so much, that you have to meander well out of your way just to get to a point that’d be just round the corner as the crow flies. Plus I live literally on the other side of that tunnel. A two minute walk at most. Did I bloody well dither though? Stood there for a good long while wondering what to do.

Of course in the end I told myself it was just my imagination. A trick of that sickly yellow sodium lamp casting funny shadows and that I was being a stupid sod just standing there freezing my bollocks off. That’s when I told myself to man up. You know your little inside voice? Well I let that give me a telling off. ‘Check it out’ it said. ‘That’s a hundred quid probably standing right there’ it said. ‘‘Go and have a look’ it said. ‘Your a big man, junkies, tramps and feral bloody youth don’t bother you’ it said. So off I went . One, two, three, four, five steps forward.

So of course like a fuckin’ muppet I walked right up to ’em didn’t I? Thought I’d have a decent butchers at the state of the glass, and if they’re cushty I’ll come back with a screwdriver tomorrow and have ’em away. Of course I did, that was the, er, how would you put it mate? The only ‘rational response’? And suddenly standing there I felt all very bloody sober and rational indeed. Gone all impatient with myself, standing around in the cold, playing spooky woo-woo with my fucking reflection and a load of old household rubbish.

Yea I’m empty again mate. Just leave the top off the bottle.

So it was maybe fifteen or sixteen steps between me and the wardrobe on the ground? I could see myself reflected pretty much every inch of the way in the upright mirrors. I kept looking at that gap, willing something to come out of it again. Even said ‘Hello?’ a few times like a plonker, just in case some nasty crack head did pop out but I don’t bloody know which way I would have run if I’d seen or heard anything!

For the last few yards I moved out of view of the reflection. Just so I could keep a bit of space between me and it like. I crept forward round the far edge of it. But then when I got up close and was looking at it directly what I saw was that there was no dark gap at the bottom at all. It wasn’t askew or nothing. The door was flush. Christ I was relieved! I even picked up a lump of wood chucked it so that it banged on the side of it. Just one big hollow thud and then silence. Empty.

So I stepped forward. Right between the two wardrobes. When I looked at my reflection in the mirrors of the upright wardrobe, the door on the one behind me swung open right behind me.

Just give me sec. Yea no I’m not good mate. You know when people tell you that it’s fight, flight or freeze? Never thought I’d be the type to do that last one. Yea just fill it to the brim this time. What did I see?

Alright. I’ll tell you.

Four ‘fingers’ splayed out on the tarmac. No thumb where it ought to be. Like just a big cat claw hooking out halfway up the wrist. Fingers like hooks. Too long for the arm. Arm too long and at a, at a.. funny angle. Elbow all bent. Ready to spring. All tensed up. Like it had been listening. Positioning itself like a cat waiting for a mouse all that time. The sound that came out of me. Christ. Proper screamed blue murder. Leapt forward and up and bang right into the mirror in front of me. Swung around to fight it off and, and.

And nothing there! The wardrobe door was still closed!

I turned back around and saw it all in the mirror. All weirdly out of synch. Those long claws grabbing my ankle and my reflection stumbled over backwards as it pounced out of the wardrobe on top of me. I went nuts. Just a blunt, blurred shadow as it come out. Flashed out and back. I went down. Or rather my reflection did. Because I was still standing there. Just watching.. this, this fucking horrible fucking thing. It fucking had me and oh Christ it’s face. Then it opened its muzzle. And god my eyes! I can’t forget my eyes! Like I’d been struck by lightning. Mate the terror you don’t know… Watching my own fucking death. I saw. I saw it. I saw me. Me! Looking up at me.

I said Help.

And then it bit down. It bit me! Reflection me! I ran up banged on the mirror. Try an.. I dunno help me out? Try an do something. Then it shook me and the blood. Gushed right out of my neck. Stood there watching it drag me back into the wardrobe. The look in my eyes. It was just… Saw the light going out in them.

Then it. It looked up at me. Real me. Not reflection me.

I ran. I’m so sorry reflection me. I fucking ran for it. I didn’t know I was making a noise till I’d screamed all the air out of my chest. And then some. That was when you heard me. I didn’t stop until I was inside here with the door bolted and the table up against the window.

I didn’t look back. Is that bad? I’m going to finish the bottle now. Fuck. You know mate? You know what the worst bit is? Sure I screamed real fucking loud. I can still hear myself echoing from one tunnel to the other. But it didn’t quite drown out the sound of breaking glass behind me.