“Some men just want to watch the world burn”

I was such a little pyromaniac as a kid. Loved to set things aflame – toys especially. Matches, lighters, firecrackers… All could and would be used in my nihilistic hobby. One of my favourite tricks was to steal a can of deodorant – from my brother, say – and combine it with a disposable lighter in order to create a flamethrower with which to immolate some poor defenceless household item.


Basically I was Sid in Toy Story, only with longer hair and worse dental hygiene.

One time I bit off more than my fuzzy green gnashers could chew: Don’t recall exactly how it happened, but somehow a sequence of events led to a plastic bag, full of clothes to be donated to charity, being set alight. I remember being gripped with panic, and sprinting outside to the patio – yes, we had a patio, I had a bourgeois upbringing, that’s not the point – where my mum was relaxing with a cool drink. Alcoholic, doubtless. Anyway, I begged her not to go back into the house, clearly fearing that the small conflagration would spread through the entire manshion-like structure – yes, yes, privileged, whatever – and raze everything to ashes. My mother still has the scar on her hand from putting out that blaze.

Given the multitude of things I tried to ignite, and the incredibly reckless creation of the aforementioned flamethrowers in particular, it is almost miraculous that I didn’t manage to blow one or both of my hands off. Yet, I never so much as singed a hair on my pretty(ish) head. Perhaps this fortune signified that it was my true calling; I should have become an arsonist.

Molotov cocktail, anyone?

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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“One of the things most people take for granted is the ease with which they can clear their nasal passages. Jammy bastards… Walkin’ around, with their handkerchiefs and tissues, happy as Larry with the tools to deal with any blockages. They make it look so easy, the fuckers.

You see, I’ve never been able to blow my nose. Seriously. You know when you were a kid, and your mum might hold a rag or wipe to your face while saying ‘Blow’? Well, everything that came outta my nostrils on such occasions would go everywhere but the damn rage – and my conk wouldn’t be any less bunged up than before! So I sniff and snort and so on.

People often get irritated by my constant sniffling when I have a cold. My siblings would give out to me; ‘Just blow your nose, for fuck’s sake!’ Would that I could, my kin. Would that I could.

This is why the sneeze is just the most blessed, cathartic relief. Sneezing is the only way I can, in a socially acceptable fashion, clear my snout. Alas, the dreaded sniffles always begin again…”

There was silence for a few moments. Then the Right Honourable Sir Bassett Gormley-Featherstone cleared his throat.

“That is all very well and good, Lord Collyflower, but the questions put to you were, on point of fact, ‘How did the considerable amount of cocaine end up in your possession, why was it in your possession, and what were you planning to do with it?'”

Solidarité, fréres & soeurs…

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Point of Divergence

In counterfactual fiction, otherwise known as alternative history, there is by necessity a moment at which the facts of our existence end and the speculation of the author kicks in. You would think that this turning point would have to be in some way plausible, to maintain the reader’s suspension of disbelief, but anyone who has seen the likes of The Final Countdown or The Philadelphia Experiment movies will attest to the mistaken nature of such an assumption! Similarly, the series of really rather dreadful books penned by John Birmingham, which essentially runs with the premise of the aforementioned Final Countdown by sending an entire fleet of super-modern military ships back to the Pacific on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

A better example of AH would begin with the death of an important figure ‘before their time’. Adolf Hitler assassinated in 1939, for instance, or Winston Churchill killed in a New York traffic accident in 1931 – both events which very nearly took place in actuality. These are always interesting tests of the mind because they encourage us to consider just how important, or not, these people really were. The ‘Great Man’ theory of history – whereby the progress of humanity is defined by a tiny group of Monarchs, Militaires, Megalomaniacs and Moderates – particularly enjoys such thought experiments. However, those of us who attribute the developments of humankind to the great swathes of individuals collectively referred to as ‘the masses’ also have use for this type of study. We can use it to prove that, then as now, the People had the power – and the so-called ‘Great Men’ only acted in accordance with, at the very least, their acquiescence.

One of my favourites…

Anyway, enough of that lecture. I’m talking about this form of art because it’s occurred to me to apply this to my own life. Once you start thinking of how different things might be if certain events or interactions had transpired a little more or less to your advantage, well… As a certain bombastic statesman once wrote; “The terrible ‘ifs’ accumulate.”

Pinpointing one instance from whence everything subsequent would have been changed utterly is trickier than I would have imagined. There is that strong possibility that small alterations to the timeline, in and of themselves would not have dramatically changed the direction of my destiny. Might an earlier first kiss – at 14 rather than 18 – have given me confidence to propel me towards maturity at a far speedier rate than occurred in reality? Well…perhaps…but that just means that everything in my personal life that did happen would have happened anyway, only a few years earlier. Not a big deal, really.

This is the case for a lot of potential Points of Divergence; events which seemed, and still feel, incredibly seminal don’t seem likely to propel me in a completely new trajectory if we amend their results. How about that more fantastical type of alternate history; a person, a time-travelling cipher for my present-day ‘wisdom’, puts his arm around my adolescent shoulders and doles out a few pieces of sage advice… Sure, it would have been reassuring, and probably would serve to help me in reacting more healthily to various setbacks along the way – but it doesn’t look like such an intervention would have fractured the space-time continuum one iota. Sorry Doc.

I guess I could have died… Now that really would have changed everything.

Surprisingly chilling…

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Force of habit, or deep distrust?

Can ignoring eachother be considered a family tradition? Not being facetious, it’s just that we don’t – or can’t – get in touch very often. The Zukics have never been the sort to avoid clannish intimacy or seasonal gatherings, but nor do we maintain contact outside of those events when we are physically in the company of one another. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’, you might say. The more I think about it, the more I remember that even on the rare occasion that we do get together, the atmosphere is more cordial than comfortable. We seem to erect walls between us that withhold our true feelings and keep honest interaction at bay.

Given my experience with other families – my fiancé Radmila’s, for example – it has gradually dawned on me that this sort of distant relationship is actually quite peculiar. Abnormal, even. In fact, certain friends of mine regard it as a running joke that I never know where any of siblings are at any given time, and take great delight in my hapless ignorance every time I’m unable to say what my kin do for a living. I only have two sisters and three brothers – pretty average for a clan in Sarajevo – and our father Feda died in the war when I was five, yet even this small number of people are unable to interact regularly enough to have even a rudimentary knowledge of eachother’s lives.

What is the reason for this? Maybe we just don’t like one another. Maybe we don’t like the feelings that arise when we communicate. Maybe we are not interested. Maybe we do not value family in the way that others do. Giving eachother such a wide berth may be unusual, but perhaps it is just advisable. Why rub shoulders with those you disdain?

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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A Tragedy of Tardiness

Wind whistled through the Doctor’s wispy white hair. The sense of release flooded through him, filling him with the ecstasy of liberation. One, last, deep intake of air…

He jumps.

In this one most of almost weightless freedom, Dr. Rackenbach knew that he had made the right choice. Mere fragments of a second passed as he fell ten storeys from the 40th floor balcony, and in that blink of an eye he was able to look over his entire life. To say it flashed before him would be a trite cliché, but the fact is that the more defining instances  of his existence did indeed appear; his award-winning contributions to the fields of anatomical physics, bio-chemistry and neurology, his illicit second career as infamous pornographer ‘Doc Tianay’, his eventual exposure at the hands of the media and the subsequent public revelations regarding his obsession with discovering and avancing the ‘perfect’ body-shape ratios…

Inconceivably, this millisecond of reverie was made even more brief by the interruption of a ringing telephone. The disgraced Doctor caught the sound for only the most fleeting of moments, but he grasped its significance immediately and his mood fell with him; avuncular attorney William Bailey had promised to call if there were any chance that Rackenbach may be able to salvage his reputation. The lawyer held out hope for an opportunity in cosmetic surgery, or a government contract, or some military application…but the Doctor had gloomily presumed that his irrepressible and, not to put too fine a point on it, incompetent legal advisor was merely attempting to look on the bright side (as was his wont).

Only now, having passed his corner office on the 28th floor, speeding towards the ground with what must have been approaching terminal velocity, did Dr. Rackenbach aka Doc Tianay realise just what a fool he had been.

His last gesture was to shudder at the thought of what the pavement would do to his body ratio.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Social Minefield

Conversation is a test. Always. An exam which you can fail at any moment. The key, I find, is to get into the mindset of not really giving a shit about any of the stuff you say; just fling every thought you have into the ether and see what happens. Weighing the consequences will only weigh you down – and your chances of chatting in an entertaining fashion will sink like a stone.

‘Think before you speak’? That spells disaster for any budding conversationalist. A moment’s pause to consider the right words can turn into an awkward silence with alarming alacrity. That agonising quiet, wherein you slowly die a thousands deaths while desperately searching for anything to air, is to us what Raid is to wasps – poison to be avoided at all costs.

‘Choose your words carefully’? This is the mantra of the strong, silent type. Don’t be that type – most people just deem him a weirdo. Those of us desperate to keep the back and forth flowing, we prefer to talk loudly and incessantly. It doesn’t matter what you say – just say SOMETHING.

In the words Robert Frost, “Have nothing to say and keep on saying it”.

I don’t know…but I haven’t posted anything in a while so… Enjoy!

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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La Tormenta en un Teacup

Their faces showed confusion, bafflement and uncertainty. So he put down the prop and explained.

“This cup…what does it contain? Tea. Brought here by the British, from their trades in the sub-continent. The East India Company, indeed. The cup itself also comes from one of their old outposts, does it not? Made of china, made in China… Is there anything more British than a tea cup?”

A few heads nodded here and there, though most still failed to grasp exactly what their union official was getting at. They had gathered in the hall, these paid-up members of the Unión Cívica Radical, to debate the recent Roca-Runciman Treaty, not listen to bizarre tangents on the national identity of inanimate objects. Their jobs, their livelihoods, their very existence was at stake, and here was UCR shop steward Miguel Alcácer waffling on about cups of tea! The frustration was almost unbearable.

Miguel felt it too. Nevertheless, he pressed on. He had to make them see!

“This cup…it and what it contains, what it represents…has doomed us. It has damned our country. Did you hear what Roca said, after the Treaty was signed? ‘By its economic importance, Argentina resembled just a large British dominion.’ A mere dominion, brothers and sisters!”

Pandemonium broke out. The trade unionists present still could not fully grasp the damage wrought by the Treaty, nor Alcácer’s efforts to illuminate the issues, but they knew how they felt about being subservient to the interests of an imperial power. A few of the more politically savvy activists were aware of the global situation though; they recognised that they were living through a tempestuous period in world history, with fascism on the rise in Europe, communism establishing itself in Russia, and the Great Depression still crushing the people of North America.

Miguel waved his hands, trying to get the assembled mass to settle down somewhat so that he could proceed. It took several minutes, but eventually he could be heard once more.

“Lisandro had it right. He was right to mock this, this…this vicious parody of diplomacy! He said, my fellow workers, that ‘In these conditions we wouldn’t be able to say that Argentina had been converted into a British dominion…because England does not take the liberty to impose similar humiliations upon its dominions’!”

Outraged noise again erupted, with some silent individuals shaking their head at the ignominy of it all. So this Treaty left Argentina in a worse position than the British dominions?! It could scarcely be credited, yet Roca’s opponent Lisandro de la Torre had put it as crudely as that, and clearly Alcácer concurred. What a scandal! What outright villainy!

As Miguel yet again tried to bring the horde under control, he felt no joy at the fact that his words finally seemed to be making an impression on the comrades around him. Like the other far-sighted members of the Union, he could tell that this was the beginning of something dark, something dreadful… It was mere months since the conservative General Justo has been elected – everyone knew that it had been a sham, a fraudulent ballot – and already the upper class were benefiting at the expense of the nation, with corruption rife. The UCR was being suppressed like never before, and senior officials like Ortiz now sincerely feared that they would be lucky to see 1940.

Miguel swallowed the lump in his throat before he continued.

“Comrades…It is my honest belief that we are sinking into a ‘Decade of Infamy’… Look at what has already happened this year! Justo seizing power, harassing us, robbing from the poor to pay the rich, and now handing over our nation’s wealth to that inglorious empire. This cup, my friends, symbolises what we are beginning to be crushed beneath; international capitalism and imperialist global trade. We must stand strong! We must ride out the storm in the tea cup!”

So began la Década Infame.

Solidarity, brothers and sisters…

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