The pencil case
JOSIAS: Why is it that the feelings we have towards suicide victims are so different from those we have for other violent murderers? Why do we call them victims, not culprits?
FANNY: Max Wormwood was more than a director or mere curator mind you, he was a star of the show in his own right. What had begun life as a YouTube video, of him and some scaffolding, in a comic scrape with the laws of gravity, had grown into the hugely successful website and franchise ‘what-goes-up.com.’ His clip remained one of the site’s most popular hits and one of the funniest things you’ll ever see.
I first met Max through work, on a case. One he would caringly refer to later as ‘the pencil case’. My Name’s Fanny, by the way, Fanny Satterday, I’m a Coroner’s Forensic Psychologist. Meaning I grub around in the ugly-lobes of dead people’s heads. I’m not poorly suited to the job.
Max was being sued over a piece on the site that the plaintiff believed had led her twelve-year-old sister Effie, to attempt suicide. The piece in question was about a Japanese schoolgirl who became so desperate during an exam, she took her own life, then and there, by shoving pencils into each of her nostrils and slamming her head face first, into the desk.
This, of course, is not true! Its an urban myth! You couldn’t possibly kill yourself like that! Its insane! You could however do considerably more than just give yourself a bit of a headache.
When Effie tried, the pencils snapped. She was spared the horrors of permanent brain damage but trauma like that can leave much deeper scars. Without medication, Effie is unable to fight a morbid fascination with putting things up her nose. Mealtimes are a nightmare. I won’t ask you to picture toilet time.
The case was easily resolved in Max’s favour, of course. There were numerous references to the original story all over the web and the fact that Effie had found it on ‘What-Goes-Up’ did not suggest any culpability on Max’s part but he was ordered to put up warnings on the site, which he did. Huge, red, flashing letters, ‘Do. Not. Try. This. At. Home.’ I think he thought it was funny.
MAX: Not everybody appreciates my sense of humour. I get a lot of hate mail, most of its hilarious. I encourage it, I throw the meanest and sickest, like gauntlets, onto the site. My favourite goes “How does a one armed man cut his wrists?” Of course, this is completely wrong. You can see that. It should be ‘wrist’ not ‘wrists.’
an excerpt from my first radio play, ‘entrance of the gladiators’. the whole thing can be heard here.
FANNY: I click. There’s a brief pause before the home page climbs, stuttering, into the screen. It looks just like it did six months ago. It would. With one exception, its not been touched since then. It actually feels neglected. Lonely. If that’s possible for a website. Like its haunted, like there are electronic cobwebs in there. I click some of the dust away.
The site, ‘What-Goes-Up dot com,’ was at heart a comical collection of bizarre accidents, a little bit like ‘You’ve Been Framed’ on the telly but not so tasteful and without the fluffy animals, apart from one clip, featuring a puppy and a lawn-mower. ‘A celebration of the spectacularly stupid,’ its owner and creator Max Wormwood had once called it.
One character that ably satisfied both these criteria and who dropped in on the site with frightening regularity, was Osgood Hardbach. Its hard to know, really, how best to describe Osgood. His daughter Tory doesn’t do a bad job.
TORY: Dad has attempted suicide forty-five times. Its an official world record. The TV show ‘Never Mind the Buzz-Saws’ have named an award in honour of him – for ‘persistence in the face of overwhelming stupidity.’ There are three different websites devoted to him, he’s got two fan-clubs and is the inspiration behind a sick computer game. There was even talk of a movie.
It started when he was eight, when he jumped off the garage roof. And, as a child, if he wasn’t trying to swallow stuff from under the sink, he’d be throwing himself off it or trying to drown himself in it. I don’t think he was very happy.
He’s tried fourteen times in public, seven have been videoed. He’s been on the news over twenty times. Two attempts are records in their own right and there have been three copycat deaths attributed to his infame.
He’s only tried to kill himself in front of me twice. Once, he got me to hold the camera while he slit open his throat. They didn’t name any awards for that. I was six. Or discuss making a movie. I was all alone in the house and he just lay there gurgling, and I didn’t even know how to turn the video camera off. That was attempt number twenty, it cost him eighteen months in the loony-bin. It was my worst birthday ever.
an excerpt from my first radio play. the whole thing can be heard here.
The chromatic pacifier
Taken from my second radio play, SpaceSnot.
Despite what you might think to look at one, human beings made rather good scientists. Their curiosity made up for the lack of brain power, and any race that gets themselves into that many wars is bound to have to invent a thing or two.
The project at the laboratories near Einstein, a town on one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, was researching time travel. They were building a machine that they hoped would send just a single particle back in time by the tiniest fraction of a nanosecond. In March of 2127 they caused a temporal chain reaction that wiped the lab off the face and arse of the Universe. Along with the town, and Europa and Ganymede and Io, two of the other moons. Blasted the whole lot back in time. So far that some of the lab staff turned up in fossils.
Most species would consider the project a failure.
Most species wouldn’t dream of using such a device as a weapon, a bomb that could blow holes in history not just space, but most species didn’t have dirty, alien neighbours, like the humans did, living in the nearby Sirius system.
It didn’t matter that the Sirians were in fact a peace loving people with a written history hundreds of times older than Earth’s. It didn’t matter that their ancestors were already mapping the stars when humanity’s still carried their babies around in pouches. No, it didn’t matter, because the Sirians were cannibals.
Autocannibalism is actually one of evolution’s most ingenious and beautiful solutions to the problem of storing excess energy. Rather than lug great deposits of fat around inside their bodies, like humans do, Sirians grew fruitlike blossoms on their backs. These broke off easily and could be eaten. Early on in their evolution this served not only as a food supply in times of need, like fat, but also confounded many a would be predator, who would stop for the snack, giving the Sirian a chance to escape.
Over millennia, civilisation embraced this rich mix of flavour and texture and mood altering hormone, wove it into the social and cultural fabric of Sirian life. The sharing of this fruit could be a profound personal event, often loaded with sexual or religious significance. It was impossible to begin to understand Sirian humour without first understanding the nuances of their blossom. Fundamental to courting and to the arts, it had even ended wars.
On earth they were simply seen as filthy alien scum who ate their own children.
They called the bomb the chromatic pacifier and the Syrians, like their home planets, never existed.
Seven more things
- i am a writer and a designer and a developer and a layabout
- i have been a cartoonist and a soldier and a web designer
- i have been a teacher, an addict and a street fundraiser
- i live in london but spend most of my time in facebook
- i like to do voluntary work and australian women
- i have had radio plays broadcast and a book on programming published
- i like to type in lower case because it is easier to masturbate when you don’t have to use the ‘shift’ key
Champion by Nature
Champion by nature was a short story I wrote that I was invited to read live for Resonance FM on March 5 2010.
SpaceSnot was the second radio play I wrote. I also performed all the parts myself and created the sound effects.
It went out on Resonance FM on the 13th Feb 2009.
Listen to it here.
Entrance of the Gladiators
Entrance of the Gladiators was the first radio play I wrote. It was broadcast on Resonance FM on 15 Feb 08.
It is a dark comic horror story of bungled suicide and was performed live by Sarah Pemeberton, Jasmina Rahman, Jason Hain and Peter Savizon.
Here are some of the things that were said about it.
“Terrific. Sour, wild, moving, furious and odd as hell.”
“There’s no way I’d act in, or have anything to do with this sick shit!”
“Powerful, original and grippingly told.”
You can download or listen to it from here.