Roy Orbison’s dog

Roy Orbison‘s dog used to sing ‘Only the bonely.’

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Roy Orbison‘s dog was called Roy Corgison. He was not a corgi.

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If Roy Orbison was singing ‘Pretty Woman’ and Roy Orbison‘s dog was in the audience he’d have to spell out ‘W-A-L-K-I-N’ every time or Roy Orbison‘s dog would go nuts and disrupt the show.

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Roy Orbison’s dog’s favourite Roy Orbison song was ‘Crying’ because when Roy Orbison sang it to him he would always sing, ‘Fry-eye-eye-eye-ing sausages.’

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Roy Orbison‘s dog formed a supergroup with the dogs of George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, and the other feller. They didn’t call them themselves a stupid name because they were dogs and lacked the faculty of speech.

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Bob Dylan‘s dog was called Lab Dylan but he was not a Labrador he was a research chemist and worked in a laboratory.

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When Roy Orbison died, Roy Orbison‘s dog would only sleep on his grave. His legs would twitch and tears would run down his cheeks of fur.

We Are Living Inside The Elephant In The Room

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I think it was David Bowie who said, ‘We are living inside the elephant in the room, but some of us are deploying its trunk as a telescope and are thereby looking out of the window at a deckchair on one of the moons of Mars.’

I think it was him.
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I believe it was David Bowie who continued, saying, ‘There is a puffin sitting on that deckchair, smoking a cigarette, though I don’t know how.’

Yes, I think it was Bowie. And the moon was Phobos. And am I right in saying that the puffin was called Billy, David?
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‘Yes,’ said David Bowie, ‘the puffin’s name was Billy, and this was in the Stickney Crater, where all sorts of cool stuff happens. Don’t be afraid.’

Okay, David. I’m not afraid now. I feel safe inside the elephant. Which room are we in?
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‘We are in the upper bedroom,’ said David Bowie, ‘but it hasn’t been slept in for years, not since the girl with the mouse in her hair… what, what were we talking about?’

The mouse that went to live in a mussel shell.
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‘Ah, that’s right,’ said David Bowie, ‘And the mouse’s name was Zero Musculum, because it had no muscles – space travel saw to that. What I want you to imagine now is a London omnibus, but it is either embedded in, or is turning into a whale. Can you do that?’

I’m trying, David.
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‘In the smaller cetaceans there are 1960’s minis and bubble cars,’ said David Bowie, ‘but in the head of one very special whale…’

Is the whale called Herman, ah, Munster?

‘I can’t remember yet,’ David Bowie replied, ‘but in its head lives an elephant…’
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Wait. Is this the same elephant, the one in the room?

‘No,’ said David Bowie. ‘This is another elephant altogether. We should know more about it soon. We’re just waiting for the news on a little TV in the elephant’s eyeball – can you see that? It’ll be tonight, I’m pretty sure.’

The Ghosts of Buildings

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The ghosts of buildings grow wheels in the afterlife and go rolling along on journeys aimless as jellyfish.
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They are most high-minded about this, and consider themselves ‘on pilgrimage’, but in actuality all the streets keep changing and they have no idea where they’re going.
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If you could see streets as the ghosts of buildings see them you’d realise they’re like tentacles vaguely waving back and forth, and towns and city centres are like anemones through which the people swim like shrimps.
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In the old days, the ghosts of buildings didn’t understand about wheels, and grew sort of ectoplasmic stumps that they could hop about on. Very few were bipedal, and those mostly grew the legs of chickens.
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To this day, most buildings can only grow one or two wheels in the afterlife, and so career about like see-through clowns on monocycles and pennyfarthings.
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The ghosts of buildings go on picnics in the countryside, which they never got to visit while alive, and consider most marvellous.

‘Where are all the libraries?’ they ask.

‘See those things,’ they say, ‘Those are farmhouses.’
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When you have a sort of shivering sensation while walking about in town, and yet you’re wearing a warm coat or it’s sunny, you are in fact walking through the walls of ghost buildings. Now you’re in their kitchen, now you’re in their hall. Now they’re gone.

Gawdy & Kietzsche

We do all our furniture shopping at Gawdy & Kietzsche! Of course we remember when it used to sell artefacts, relics, vestments and liturgical instruments. That was where many of us bought our first agnostic dog collar.

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You used to be able to order inflatable apostatic fonts and everything! I can still smell the unheady scent of Nonbelievers’ Dawkincense.

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Us Mutant Kids would hang around the perfume counter and not just for the weapons grade concealer: who else remembers the mechanical Corpse Flower clock? – Nobody knew when the hour would strike for it to open, and we’d all be knocked out by the stench!

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The toy department was something else: hip-high golden elephant robots you could programme to stomp on anything! Ray guns that actually worked on Ray…

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I remember when Dad-Thing brought home the G&K Child’s First Apocalypse Kit, with breakable seals and real final trumpets – Happy Ends of Days!

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Gawdy & Kietzsche had the last working Paternoster lift in Chimeropolis: they used to hang wax models of monstrous parts supposedly lopped off by its ascent and descent on the walls like trophies. When you were a kid you never really knew whether they were real or not…

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The last time we were in there was to buy a Chess Longueur, which is that chair you sit in when a pause in your game of chess has gone on slightly too long. If you’re thinking that’s a bit niche, it also works for Hardscrabble.

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For duration-specific furniture you have to go to the Horrorology Dept, which takes a little time – usually 0.75% of the time they estimate you will use the product is deducted from your lifespan, but there are indications this may increase, so get in early!

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It was a instore legend at Gawdy & Kietzsche that there were customers who never left. These were called Indwellers, and were supposed to maintain a shadowy interdepartmental existence, using brilliant improvised disguises to stay one step ahead of the store detective agency.

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Indwellers would sleep in the Bedding department, dress themselves in Clothing, eat in the cafeterias, and wash in the toilets – all while appearing to be invisible. They knew the security cameras’ blind spots and operated according to randomised time schemes.

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Security staff took to living in Gawdy & Kietzsche 24-7 (or whatever time scheme was currently mandated), attempting to shadow the shadows. Guards would often go PWOL (Present Without Leave). Frequently, they would arrest each other. No Indwellers were ever caught.

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My favourite department was the Looking Glass Library, a bookshop where all the texts were in mirror writing. You entered through a ‘mirror’ – actually a heavy felt curtain with a reflective coating. It was like pushing through a crowd with their backs to you.

MacMoth

MacMoth is a myth, that much is sure, or so his sister says.

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It just seems so unlikely that a mammoth can be both a moth and Scottish, is all she’s saying, surely that’s not so hard to understand?

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He lies quietly in the souterrain the shape of an ear in Tealing-yet-to-be and dreams: I am a chrysalis. That’s just how it is.

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The rain hasn’t had enough of him yet but his sister has. She stomps off back to the herd tearing up some rhododendrons if that’s what they are with her tusk as she goes.

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They would have had to come here from Rhodes-yet-to-be he figures, wincing as the cold rain slaps and stings his hide. But then this souterrain itself won’t be dug for thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of years.

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Neither mammoths nor moths can count too good, he knows that much.

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One day he will dig his first tunnel and put down his first rail, and from then on the McMoth Railway Company will spread across the land even to the tundra.

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Then he remembers he’s a moth, and moths don’t tunnel. It’s all this rain and no moon, that’s what’s driving him nuts. That and his sister, wherever she’s gone.

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At least the souterrain, although undug, is in the shape of both an ear and the moon.

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He splashes his tusk in the mulch, and dreams about the patterns on his wings.

Running Upstairs

While running upstairs (again), my advice is: never think, ‘How do I run upstairs, again?’

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Also, while running upstairs, never read any advice about what to do while running upstairs.

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For these things are like trying not to think about the blue elephant.

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Try not to ask yourself either, ‘Is this because one should never mention the blue elephant on the stairs?’ or ‘Why is the blue elephant running upstairs?’ 

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Nor, ‘Which blue elephant is this, exactly?’ like you know a lot of blue elephants. Who are constantly running upstairs.

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Neither should you enquire of yourself, while running upstairs, ‘Why do all these blue elephants only run upstairs? Where are they all going and how shall they fit in what is inevitably a more finite space than downstairs?’

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Never think of ‘downstairs’ while you are running upstairs! 

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Now, thanks to you, we have all fallen downstairs, and we can only be thankful to have landed on some blue elephants – not that we should have mentioned those. 

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Of course, given the likelihood of all of the above going through their heads as they run upstairs – with the exception of those which get jammed in place while turning corners – we can expect more blue elephants arriving shortly from above.

The Elsie and Nora Dialogues, 5: Central Soup

– As soon as I heard we were in a story I went into the first shop I saw and asked the character behind the counter, ‘Is this soup real?’
– I’m trying hard to hope he sold soup.
– He did!
– I get this sense you want me to ask, ‘What did he say?’
– He said, ‘I don’t know – green?’
– OK.
– So I said, ‘Could it be pea and mint? Or maybe broccoli?’
– Wait. There’s more?
– He said, get this, ‘I don’t know, it’s not central.’
– Now I’m supposed to ask, ‘Central to what?’ when we both know what…
– Central to the story!
– Couldn’t ‘central’ be a flavour of soup?
– What do you mean ‘a flavour of soup’? ‘Central’!?
– Well, we’re in a story, right? So in the story world, soups may be named, not by flavour, but by proximity.
– This is the stupidest…
– Or distance. You could have ‘Faraway soup’.
– But he said ‘green’.
– Oh, right.
– Don’t you care about the lack of care?
– Maybe it’s colours and distances?
– Shut up about the names of the soups!
– Your whole whatever-it-is-you’re-mad-about hinges on the name of the soup.
– No, it’s the indifference to the peripheral.
– You could have Hinge soup.
– Hinge soup is worse than Central soup!
– Henge soup?
– Can we talk about the author?
– Well, it would hardly imply indifference to our plight if they’d made ‘story’ soup totally different to ‘real’ soup.
– But you’re just making those flavours up now.
– Or am I?
– No, you don’t get to do that!
– So you’re refusing me the right to deny my autonomy? Who put you in charge?
– According to you, the soup-obsessed author. But they are clearly more concerned with their main plot, which is far away.
– How do you figure that?
– The greenness of the soup. We don’t even have names!
– Of course we have names: you’re Elsie and I’m Nora, same as we’ve always been.
– Unless I’m Elsie and you’re Nora.
– Whatever flips your wig, baby. Oh look, I’ve found a note that says I’m Bill and you’re Bun.
– No you haven’t. This is your handwriting.
– Whatever you say, ‘Bill’.

The Which Chin? Hour

It’s the Which Chin? Hour where we sit in the dark and try to guess which chin is which?

Sometimes someone will stroke a chin thoughtfully, then we have to guess whose chin it was and who the chin-stroker was and were they even there?

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No-one wants to play Which Chin? And especially not for a whole hour, but no-one can remember how it started, nor does anyone know how to stop.

Is it Which Chin? Hour now? Nobody has a watch or if they do it’s too dark to read it.

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Sometimes to vary the monotony of Which Chin? Hour we play Find the Lightswitch, but we never can.

The one time someone found the lightswitch there was a row of them so we had to play Which Switch? for an hour.

If only any of the light switches had worked…

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Once someone had a wristwatch with luminous hands but that was so long ago the luminosity has faded entirely.

Once someone had luminous hands they weren’t sure why, but that was fun, then it wasn’t fun it was just scary.

Then it was Which Chin? Hour again.

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Once we knew how many of us there were because we could count ourselves on the fingers of one hand. Then we couldn’t find the hand.

Every now and then it strokes one of our chins and we yell, ‘That’s the hand – let’s find out how many of us there are again!’

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I say ‘yell’ but of course since the sounds of our own voices began to frighten us too much to listen to them there has been the ban on speech.

We can still yell, of course, but only wordlessly, in panic. How comforting the others’ screams are! How familiar!

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‘How do we know what the others are thinking?’ I hear you think.

Surely you remember that day or night when we began to hear either all the thoughts in the cellar or all the thoughts in the night.

Or are you new? Just in time – it’s nearly Which Chin? Hour!

Rat Origami

A down on his cash man finds a wallet full of luck. He throws the luck away and crawls inside. Now he is flat and warm!

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Some down on its luck cash lies on the pavement of a deserted street. They’re constructing a wall across the end of the street. Soon, it imagines, a rat will creep up, lick off the human sweat, and chew speculatively on it. ‘I will be,’ thinks the cash, ‘a walled-off salad.’

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A fantastically wealthy wallet suns itself on its own private boulevard. It begins to rain. ‘Oh, rats,’ thinks the wallet. ‘Never mind, I’ll just summon a peasant to take me indoors.’ Then it remembers it can’t talk. Also, it isn’t raining, it’s rat piss.

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A wallet made of rat leather spontaneously develops four legs and scurries off down a boarded-up street. ‘Surely, if I eat people,’ it reasons, ‘I will shit money.’

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Inside the abandoned wallet, several The Queens lie cheek to jowl with a Mr Turner and a Miss Austen. Churchill sprawls on top of them all. ‘There ought to be a protocol for such matters,’ one of Her Majesties remarks. ‘I have nothing to offer but light reading,’ Winston replies.

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Rats have developed pouches à la marsupials in which to keep rat currency, which is basically anything papery they can fold, though parking tickets are especially valued as they cause the most inconvenience when purloined from unsuspecting cars.

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To be legal tender, rat currency must have an image of the Rat King on it. As most rats can neither hold a pencil, nor recognise any markings, forgeries are rife. The Rat King has ordered his finest artists to police the matter, but they often indulge in obscene caricature.

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Rat Origami is a popular pastime among younger rats, who fold the notoriously unreliable ‘Rat Dollar’ into a dazzling variety of shapes, using the Scrunch fold, the Rip-it-up, the Chew fold, and the Shitting-on-it (also known as the Sewer fold).

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Humans are unable to distinguish Rat Origami from waste paper, and yet unconsciously recognise pattern in the classical forms of Dockside Crane, Ex-Pigeon, and Crashed Cab. They therefore experience a sense of disorientation akin to pareidolia called ‘Uncanny City’.

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Street Origami: the art of folding a city as though it were its own map in order to move swiftly from area to area. The main difficulty is how sharp to make the creases – one often comes across main thoroughfares compressed to back alleys, or narrow lanes only navigable by rats.

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The great masters of Street Origami have fashioned entire metropolises into a variety of shapes both harmonious (Venice as a gondola) and satiric (London as a rat). Their inhabitants, unless they can levitate, rarely suspect a thing.

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A levitator will often discover several Street Origami Grand Masters sitting in the clouds laughing hysterically or nodding in grave admiration over the chaotic effect of some tricky fold. Meanwhile, citizens below unthinkingly accept the latest inconvenience to familiar routes.

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Cities have been forced into lengthy and expensive litigation to get their thoroughfares unfolded in a manner that allows the flow of both commuters and commerce. Out of court, cash-only settlements often take place in specially-created ‘island’ streets, inaccessible to traffic.

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On occasion, a levitator on their way to a drop-off may accidentally drop the official wallet, thick with banknotes. Such a phenomenon coming, as it were, out of a clear blue sky, is known by the beggars and indigent people of those parishes as ‘Lucky Rain’.

Chimeric Hide & Seek, 2: Where is the Monster?

We looked in the lake but could not find the monster.

Because the lake is the monster.

We looked on the island and could not find the monster.

Because the island is the monster.

We looked in the cabin and could not find the monster.

You’re not really listening to me are you?

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We looked in the cutlery drawer and could not find the monster.

Hello, I’m standing right here telling you where it is.

We looked in the breadbin and could not find the monster.

I suppose you think this is funny.

We looked beneath the stairs…

I’m just going to leave you to it.

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We looked beneath the bed and could not find the monster.

I can still hear you.

We looked in the attic and in the cellar.

OK, this is weird because I’m at the jetty

and you shouldn’t really still be audible.

We looked in the wood and could not find it.

I’m taking the boat. Bye.

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We looked under each pebble on the beach

and could not find the monster.

I know, I’m standing at the lakeside watching you do it:

why are you so loud and yet so far away?

We asked each fish in the lake but they had not seen it.

OK, don’t just walk under the water like that.

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We searched each lake and every tree and could not find the monster.

I know. I’ve been driving for seven hours and it’s like you’re on the radio.

We searched for years and years and could not find the monster.

You keep going. It’s a big archipelago and I’ve got a plane to catch.

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We searched from shore to shore and could not find the monster.

Not you again. It’s been ten years. Couldn’t you take a break?

Now we are many it is time to enter the seas.

Make sure you look in all the caves and trenches.

We will look in every crevice.

Now you’re listening?

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Now we have crossed the sea we recognise this harbour.

Welcome back. Have you noticed the pillboxes yet?

We shall return to our home. Perhaps the monster has taken up residence therein.

Perhaps. But first this hail of bullets. Then, I hope you like what I’ve done with the place.