The Journey

Everything was prepared. Military precision had gone into preparing the perfect evening of solitude. Earlier that Saturday afternoon, on his way home from work, Mark had procured himself a nice looking lump of hashish, twelve bottles of Stella and two grams of sniff. After attending to his spiritual needs, Mark had popped into Jaks records and blown a hundred quid on new vinyl.

‘Are you going to see Paul dj tonight?’ Kev, the owner, asked as Mark was handing over the money.

‘Fuck, I’d forgotten about that.’ Mark replied, Paul was one of his closest friends and djing accomplice. He had originally said he’d go to see his set but now he had planned a night to himself, playing his decks, he was reluctant to give that up. ‘I’d like to but I’m a bit skint. It’s your fault, you take all my money!’

Kev smiled, sarcastically as he handed over Mark’s receipt and records. ‘Yeah, yeah. Give that scouser a call and go and support him.’

Mark internally grimaced, ‘Yeah ok, take it easy.’

 

Walking home, Mark knew he should call Paul but his girlfriend was going so he wasn’t going to be alone, and he really couldn’t be bothered, and he was skint and……nah, fuck it, can’t be arsed.

Problem solved.

 

So the scene was set. Bootny, Mark’s flatmate was away for the night. They lived above a funeral parlour in the middle of the town centre and they had no adjoining neighbours so late night noise wasn’t a problem. Since Mark had recently bought his first set of technic 1210’s, he made full use of this. Mark lit a spliff and pulled the first new vinyl from the sleeve. Static made the hair on his arms stand on end. He placed the black record on the left hand deck almost reverently and just then, at the zenith of Marks satisfaction, his mobile started to ring.

‘Rat’s cocks!’ Mark exclaimed loudly. ‘I fucking knew I should have turned it off.’ He looked at the phone praying it would be his mother with something trivial, preferably something that didn’t involve him leaving the flat for the next sixteen hours. No such luck. Paul.

‘Evening mate, how are ya.’ Came Paul’s liverpuddlian drawl.

‘Not bad mate, just settling in for a night mixing. What ya up to?’

‘I’m playing at Enzo’s tonight, some dj competition. You coming down?’

‘Wasn’t planning too. I’m a bit skint and I’ve got some shiny new tunes. Isn’t shit face going with you?’ – Mark wasn’t hugely keen on Paul’s girlfriend.

Paul’s grin showed in his voice. ‘Nah, shit face is staying home with hubby tonight. Come on ya bastard, don’t make me go on my own. I’ll buy you a couple of drinks, I’m only on early. We’ll have a couple, I’ll do my set then we’ll leave. We’ll go back to yours, get battered and have a mix’

Mark sighed and rolled his eyes skywards. ‘Yeah, ok. Come by mine when you’re ready.’

They said goodbye and put the phone down. Mark sighed again, ‘Better have a shower I suppose.’

 

Mark completed the fabled three S’s in record time and started going through his new records before Paul arrived. He’d picked up some nice stuff, some quite techy house, a couple of breaks tunes and a trance classic he couldn’t resist. The doorbell rang as Mark was dancing to the trance tune. He put his splif down and went to answer it.

 

‘Paul you dirty, old, scouse twat. How the devil are you on this fine evening?’

‘Devilishly well Marky Mark, how are you?’

The bullshit greeting continued as they walked up the dusty stairwell to the flat. Paul saw the wraps of coke on the side as soon as he walked into Marks bedroom. One might say he had a nose for that kind of thing.

‘Oi, oi! I spy with my scally’s eye, something beginning with C!’ Paul exclaimed with undisguised glee.

‘Well, I thought we’d celebrate the event.’ Mark lied. ‘Got a bit of hash as well.’

Paul handed Mark a beer from a carrier bag. ‘Well take it with us but we’ll come back early. I can’t be fucked to stay out all night. I’m driving anyway, so I can’t get too pissed.’

‘How many have you had?’

‘Three and they went down nicely. I had a big dinner so I’ll be fine.’

Mark shook his head. ‘You really are a twat. Here you are, sniff that and wake up a bit. Paul took out a ten pound note and rolled it up. He lent over the mirror Mark had been chopping out on and made a noise like a drain clogged with fat as he inhaled the drugs. He sat up sharply and looked at Mark with a crazed glint in his eye. ‘Let’s go and fookin ‘av it!’

*

 

The journey to the club took around an hour and a half. During this time Mark and Paul smoked three spliffs, drank a four pack and snorted one of the grams of coke. Mark chopped the lines out and held a road map up so Paul could sniff while he was driving. This wasn’t the cleverest of pass times as the car swerved dangerously every time he did it.

 

Paul pulled into the car park of the club, found a space and stopped the car. Mark surveyed the exterior of the club for a moment as Paul lent in the back to find his record bag.

‘This better not be another one of your gay nights, poof boy.’ Mark said with a grin.

‘Fuck off and chop out another.’ Paul retorted, refusing to be drawn in to the long running debate over who was more gay/ugly/unendowed.

Mark obliged.

 

They got into the club with no hassles; entry was free as Paul was playing. Inside, there was a main bar and two separate rooms to choose from. Paul went off to find the manager and stash his records while Mark stood at the bar and ordered a couple of pints. It was still quite early and the club was quiet. The place was decorated in red velvet and purple balloons. Everything looked reserved, normal, as yet unscathed by the evening’s debauchery. Mark chatted rubbish to an impossibly skinny girl wearing fairy wings.

 

Fairy wings had to leave and Mark wandered off to find the toilets, he weaved his way through the small pockets of people that were starting to gather. Everyone seemed to know each other and the cocaine teeth of paranoia bit on Mark’s psyche.

 

He rubbed his nose as he made his way back to the bar. Another line had taken the edge off and he ordered a pint. Typically, Paul appeared just as Marks pint did.

‘Where’s mine ya tight cunt.

‘You weren’t here.’

‘So what, I’m still in the round aren’t I?’

‘I bought the first round, you cock.’

‘Oh yeah.’

‘Shouldn’t you have a coke? You’re driving don’t forget.’

‘Coke…now there’s an idea…give us the gear, I’m going to the toilets.

‘For fuck’s sake, that wasn’t what I meant. Here you are, don’t do it all.’ Paul had an almost mystical ability to make drugs disappear into thin air.

‘Back in a mo.’

Mark was alone again…for fucks sake. ‘Shot of tequila please love.’ The drink arrived and he downed it, enjoying the warm feeling that spread through his chest, hating the taste that made him baulk. Paul returned, bought more tequila and left again to play his set. Mark wandered through to the main room to find somewhere to have a dance and watch his friend play. Paul must be approaching the alcohol set threshold of his mixing abilities and it would be fun to watch him sweat.

 

The dj booth was up high and commanded the room. There was a recessed dance floor in the middle with a dozen people writhing to the funky house dj that was playing before Paul. Mirrors around the outside of the room gave it a deceptively large feel. A haze of cigarette smoke and dry ice added to the effect. Mark strategically positioned himself near enough to the dj booth to see Paul and take the piss and close enough to a shelf for his pint. More people came into the room and Paul dropped his first track, a brooding tribal house tune with a rumbling bass line and some deft dude on the bongos. A bit too rumbling actually. Mark gestured to Paul to turn down the bass; he was rewarded with two fingers.

 

The room began to fill up, lots were dancing and Paul was playing well. Mark couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy; he had started mixing six months earlier – a year after Paul. He was ok but no where near good enough to play in a club, not just yet. Paul cocked up a mix. The crowd cheered, Mark felt better.

The set was over quickly. As it was a competition they had four more dj’s to get through before the night ended. Paul came and found Mark and they decamped to the bar for a debrief.

‘I thought I played ok, whadid you think?’ Paul was slurring, not a good sign. When he was drunk, Paul spoke like a Merseyside docker.

‘Yeah you were good, mate. I hate to sound like Mum but you’re battered, how are we getting home?’

‘We’ll just sleep in the car ‘til I’m sober enough to drive.’

‘Fair play, we might as well get some decent drugs then, this coke’s shit, and I’m getting paranoid.’

‘Sorted, me hearty. Some matey just sold me four pills.’

‘Good work fella! Let’s double drop so we get more fucked…..oh, you’ve already done that. Ok then….’

The pills vanished, never to be seen again.

Mark looked at Paul and grinned. ‘Your round, knob chops.’

 

*

 

An unspecified amount of time later. Scarlet velvet softly frames the scene. Everything is fuzzy, not quite in focus. Lines that were sharp are now blurred. Images seem to fluidly melt together in a subtle smorgasbord of colour. Silhouettes of people pass by like ghosts, leaving traces, contrails of rainbow behind them. The beat is the only constant. The sharp crack of the metronome controlling all. Hypnotic drums roll and thunder through the bass bins. A female vocal, ethereal and floating, raises three hundred hands to the ceiling. The crowd sighs a sensuous sigh.

Mark has retreated, deep within himself. His conscious mind no longer controls his body. He is the music’s marionette, belonging to his sub-consciousness. Paul jumps about like a demented Zebedee on angel dust, asking random strangers, and a doorman, for pills. Curious events map out, conversations are shouted. Love flows. Sweaty flesh, neon colours, handshakes, smiles, euphoria. The room moves as one, a fatuous phalanx of joy and soaring emotion.

 

An unspecified amount of time later. At the bar. ‘I’m coming down off that double drop.’ Paul’s jaw swings as he talks betraying him.

‘It’s your round. Get me a vodka. I can’t deal with a pint.’ Mark replies. Mentally he’s relieved the world looks slightly more normal. He turns and surveys the scene in the bar area. The door to the main room glows from the other side of the room. Smoke and flashing lights make it look like an Arabian cave from a fairytale. The place is like a zoo. A hundred misfits gathered in a room looking for the head that they have stuck up their own arse. Angels cry, devils laugh. Some guy dressed as a duck billed platypus asks for a light. ‘Paul; am I really seeing a duck billed platypus smoking a fag?’ Mark turns back to the bar.

‘Look what your fucking mate did.’

‘Ay?’

‘Your mate, look at my fucking bar.’ The eyes focus. Where’s Paul? Mark looks dumbly at the bar. A steaming pile of beer, kebab and pill froth sits smiling up at him.

‘What are you going to fucking do about it?’ The bar maid spits at him. There’s no humour in her small eyes. Her face looks fat and contorted.

‘Me? It aint my puke.’

‘He’s your mate. Clean it up.’ Mark starts to reply ‘fuck off’ but he notices out of the corner of his eye an impossibly big man wearing a suit. ‘Clean it up or you and your twisted mate are going home.’ The bouncer says, smiling. Sadistic bastard. Mark takes the grey, smelly cloth that the barmaid proffers. He tries to wipe it up but the greasy, stinking mess just spreads across the bar. She can’t keep the evil joy from her face as Mark gags, feeling sicker than he ever has in his life.

 

The vomit episode left Mark feeling almost straight and very harrowed. He pushed through the crowd to get to the toilet, longing to wash his hands and be free of the vile stench that rose from them. The toilet was tiny, there was maybe room for four people but eight were squeezed in. The air was moist and hot, every surface was wet. Mark manoeuvred himself to the basin and took great pleasure in lathering up his hands. He rinsed off then decided he needed to use the facilities. It took ages for it to be his turn and by the time it was Mark thought that he was in trouble. He fumbled desperately to undo his jeans; the buttons provided a Gordian knot of unfathomable complexity. He was convinced that he wasn’t going to make it but they finally came undone. He reached inside his boxer shorts and clawed at his shrivelled penis, dragging the pathetic looking drug dick to the sacred opening. He looked to the heavens, the promise of relief spread through him and he smiled feeling a resurgence of the ecstasy rush at the anticipation. Nothing happened. The unquestionable need to urinate was still with him but his poor beleaguered kidneys wouldn’t give up a drop. He closed his eyes, and tried to relax and think of running water trickling over rocks, a waterfall, a running tap, anything. FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST WHY WON’T YOU WORK? Still nothing. He started to sway so he opened his eyes, not wanting to fall against the piss covered wall. He tried another tactic; he pushed with all his will, pressing his stomach muscles down on to his bladder, trying to focus on the job at hand. He was nearly there, he could feel the flow entering his penis. He imagined it gushing down his urethra. This was it and it was going to feel better than any fucking piss ever had….

‘Having trouble there mate?’ A camp looking teenager in cyber gear asked Mark. The feeling left him. Any hope of going had vanished with one comment. Mark looked at the well meaning distraction, pissing away like a race horse. He felt a surge of jealousy; he considered calling the bloke a cunt but instead gave up and went back into the club.

 

Mark found Paul sitting at a table in the bar. He was talking to a pretty, shy seeming girl who looked sober and out of place. Paul was smoking her cigarettes and relentlessly lecturing her about bass guitar players and their similarities to coked up bunny rabbits. Paul introduced her as Gabby and Mark shook her hand and introduced himself. Gabby looked at Mark with big brown eyes that tacitly cried out to be saved from the mad, raving scouser. After cleaning up his sick, Mark felt a little that way too. He thought about tactically removing Paul and letting the poor girl get back to her friends…but then he just thought bollocks to it and got up to get a drink. Paul followed and Gabby ran for the hills never to be seen again.

 

At the bar Mark ordered himself a bottle of water, ignoring the smirk on the barmaids face ‘You are a prize cunt mate.’ He said to Paul.

‘Why?’

‘I had to clean your puke up.’

‘Ay? When the fuck was that?’

‘A while ago, you puked on the bar then disappeared.’

‘Did I?’

‘Yes, you twat, you did. Have you got any more drugs? I’m starting to feel a little bit too straight for all this.’ Paul thrust his hand into his pocket and rummaged about for an epoch. ‘Here you go mate, red Ferraris? Nothing but the best for my cupcake.’ Paul said, handing over the pills. Mark looked at him and burst out laughing. They grabbed each other in a hug and wandered off to the main room catching up on the gaps in their memories.

 

An unspecified amount of time later. Mark is on his own again, Paul has wandered off to get a drink. Can’t leave now, this tunes a banger. The beat is steady, a standard trance tune. The bass is there but not prevalent. The crowd knows what’s coming and feeds off the anticipation. The breakdown comes, hands go to the air. A girl next to Mark looks like she’s going to come. She vanishes inside herself as one hand sensuously caresses her body and with the other she takes Marks own hand that is raised into the smoke and haze above their heads. They stand together swaying, becoming part of each other; feeling the purity and beauty of the calm before the storm. The breakdown simplifies, layers of music disappear. A simple melody, stripped of any adornments, plays out. The tune drops. An explosion of nasty bass and tough beats, a cacophony of feeling. The dance floor erupts. Mark and the girl let go of each others hands, strangers, lovers torn asunder. The sense of togetherness is replaced by the raw energy that pumps from the behemoth speakers into every sinew of every person on the dance floor.

 

An unspecified amount of time later. The crowd is thinning out. Only the diehards remain on the dance floor, heckling and cajoling the dj into playing one more. Still no Paul. Mark ambles off to find him. A girl in electro pink hot pants is throwing up in a corner; her pink fluffy boots are mired with black club sludge. Two gay guys are kissing enthusiastically to the disgust of a nearby beer boy who can hardly stand up. That fucking barmaid is still smirking at me. Where is he?

 

Paul appears from nowhere looking like a demented Old Testament prophet. ‘I think there’s an after party we’re invited to.’

‘Nice one, where is it?’

‘Come with me to the club office, it’s the managers do.’

It turns out that Paul actually invited them and a bouncer is waiting nearby to escort them out. ‘That’s enough for you tonight boys. The front door. The cold air is a shock to the system. ‘How are you getting home, because I’m not letting you get in your car.’ The bouncer growls.

‘It’s ok; we’ll sleep in the motor.’

‘If I see that car move before I leave at five I’m calling the old bill.’

‘Fair enough. Later mate.’

‘Later.’

 

They stumble across the car park feeling the door staffs eyes burning into their backs. Paul fumbles with the keys.

‘Hurry up for fucks sake. I’m bloody freezing.’ Mark’s perspiration drenched t-shirt chills him the bone. His jacket is in the car. Paul opens the door and falls in. He flicks the catch and Mark follows suit, clawing frantically to warm up.

‘Skin up man.’ Paul mutters as reclines the car seat. ‘We’ll chill for a bit, let the buzz wear off and we’ll drive back to yours.’

A good plan, Mark thinks. He fumbles around trying to find his smoking box, it’s like someone has replaced the small glove box with a huge cupboard full of maps and empty boxes of Lambert and Butler’s. Eventually Mark finds it and contemplates the task ahead of him. He internalises as concentration takes over.

 

Where are my fags? Must get everything out and ready cos if I don’t I’ll have to move while I’m rolling and everything will go everywhere. ‘Give me your lighter.’

‘Ay?’

‘Lighter.’

‘Oh….right, it’s here somewhere….’

Open box, ah…I love my box, this has seen me through so many sessions, I remember when….concentrate, dick head. Open box, where’s the rizzla? Oh there they are, tear a sliver off of the pack, not too long, not too short. Roll it up, not too tight or it’ll be a nightmare. Pull out a paper, fuck, tore it. Pull out another, put in roach. What did I do with the roach? Bollocks. I’ll make another. Right, rizzla meet roach, roach meet rizzla. Fags – still in my pocket. Crumble half in, not too much or it’ll be a bastard to roll –

Mark looks up. ‘This is doing my head in.’ The car is spinning slightly, more wobbling. Deep breaths.

‘Are you all right?’

‘Yeah man, just needed a moment.’

‘Skin up.’

‘Get fucked.’

 

Deep breath. Where was I? Hash. ‘Have you found that lighter?’

‘Ay?’

‘Lighter?’

‘Wha?’

‘For the love of god you drug addled imbecile. LIGHTER!’

‘Oh…right.’

‘I hate you Paul.’

‘Hate you too.’

Burn hash; fuck that’s hot! I’m gonna have a blister off that. Mind you, that’ll be the least of my worries; I’m chewing the fuck out my cheeks. A check with the tongue. Yep ulcers for sure, good. Where was I? Burn more hash, fuck! Again! More hash…..

‘Have you done that yet?’

‘Seriously man…I will cut you up and feed you to a smiling pig called Betty.’

‘What the fuck?!

 

They descend into laughter, this lasts for anywhere between two and two hundred minutes.

 

‘Have we got any water?’

Paul fumbles about and produces a luke warm bottle from his pocket, complete with a mysterious sediment that dips and swirls on the eddies of person-heated water.

‘Mmmmm,’

 

Where was I? Water first. Fuck, my mouth feels like the back entrance to Hades. Ahhh. Christ, that water is absolutely foul.

‘Nice?’

That doesn’t deserve an answer. Concentrate now, rolling time. All that hard work, has led to this moment. The culmination of all this effort. Easy now, tuck it under. Pull it tight, don’t let the roach fall out. Roach meet rizzla, rizzla…..shut up. That’s the kiddie. Now just lick it…fuck, I have no moisuture. ‘Dude can you lick this?’

‘You’re having a laugh mate.’

Tongue, rasping on gluey paper. Some spit that has the consistency of a paste. Somehow it sticks. All I gotta do now is poke it, where’s the pokey? ‘I need the lighter again.’

‘Ay?’

‘For fucks sake….’

 

Finally Mark holds aloft the splif. It’s so ugly Bob Marley turns in his grave. Mark is delighted. He sits back in the chair and triumphantly lights it. It instantly falls to pieces and disappears in a flash of smoke.

‘Fuck man……..’

 

*

 

‘Shall we get out of here?’ Paul asked. Mark looked up and took a moment to register. Paul was looking at him, his face was ashen, his eyes moved independently of each other. He looked like a lizard on crack.

‘Wha…?’ Was about all Mark could manage. The buzz was beginning to settle now all the hard drugs were gone. This was the start of a downward spiral that would drag him through the physical and mental gutter that was a come-down. Paul passed him a splif.

‘Ay?’ When did this get rolled? The last one fell to pieces, I don’t remember skinning up again. ‘Did you roll this?’

Paul looked at him strangely. He blinked his eyes twice; deliberately like a sagacious old owl. ‘You did about half an hour ago.’

‘Did I?………How long have we been sat here?’

‘Dunno, an hour, maybe more. It’s still dark so it can’t be that long. Shall we get out of here?’ Paul’s words seemed incongruent with the movement of his lips.

‘What about the bouncers? They said they’d ring the plod.’

‘Fuck em, they’re all probably at home with a cup of tea. Let’s get out of here.’

‘Alright but lets do it discretely, just slip out of the car park.’

‘Ok.’

 

Paul turned the ignition key and the engine roared into life like a mythical beast. The sudden cacophony made them both jump. ‘Ready?’ Paul asked, a slightly disjointed smile had crept to the corners of his lips. Mark wondered if this was a good idea. Too late. The car wheel span then leapt across the car park leaving smoke and rubber. They got to the road and Paul put his foot down. Mark was pushed back in his seat by unseen hands, he had to take deep breathes to stave off a wave of nausea. ‘I thought we were going to be discrete?’

‘Where’s the fun in that?’

Mark closed his eyes; if he was going to die he didn’t want to see it coming.

 

An unspecified amount of time later Mark opened his eyes again. ‘Are we nearly home?’

‘Nuh.’

‘Where are we?’

‘Dunno.’

‘How long have we been driving for?’

‘Dunno.’

‘Give me something to go with you monosyllabic cunt. Do you know where we are?’

‘Nuh.’

‘Good. Any maps in here?’

‘Yeah but I haven’t got a fucking clue where we are so they wont be any good to you.’

‘Fair enough. How are you feeling?’

‘A bit sketchy to tell the truth, I’ve just been driving around in circles for ages. The fucking sun’s starting to come up.’ Mark looked out of the window to his left and saw it was true. He could see a faint tinge of pink on the horizon; the distant light turned the rows of crops to a palpable dark mass. The wind ruffled the plants making them undulate and quiver, like some dark ocean. Mark tripped out for a second and thought it actually was water. ‘Shall we find somewhere to pull over?’

‘I think we better, my head’s in pieces. I saw a sign for a village; I’ll try and find it.’ Mark tried to reply but his eyes were growing heavy again, as he shut them he hoped for the best.

 

The riotous silence of the engine turning off startled Mark back to reality, ‘How long have I been out for?’

‘Only ten minutes. We’ll get some kip here.’

‘Fuck that I’m awake now, let’s go exploring.’

‘Roll a splif and I’ll think about it.’

 

Mark commenced with his given task. The series of short sleeps had recovered his energy, he still felt completely wasted but the edge had gone. Between now and unconsciousness was play time, in his experience anything could happen. The splif was rolled far quicker and better than it had been in the car park of the club. Mark marvelled at his efforts, he prodded Paul. ‘Wake up you scouse bastard, let’s go for a stroll. It’s not too cold out there; we’ll find a field and chill for a few hours.’

‘Alright then, let’s go.’

 

The boys got out of the car and stretched their legs. Mark knew that in a few hours he would feel like death warmed up but for now all was good. He surveyed the place they had landed in; they were at a dead end of what seemed to be the outskirts of a village. To his right was a two story row of flats, they looked new and well kept, each one a carbon copy of the next. There were gates blocking the entrance to the property, it looked like an old people’s home. To his left were open fields, the sun peeped cautiously over the horizon. Mark thought that was where they should head.

‘Oh fuck, we’re in the shit now.’ Paul said with a tremor in his voice. Mark whirled round to see what had bothered him. A police van had pulled into the cul de sac. The van stopped and three policemen got out, they adjusted their dress as they slowly and deliberately walked towards them.

‘What drugs have we got?’ Mark asked as quietly as he could.

‘I’ve got some pills my pocket. Did we do all the coke?’

‘Yeah, shut up now. They’re nearly here.’

The policemen stopped short of them and stood for a moment appraising. One of them was huge and the other two quite skinny. The big policeman and one of the smaller ones stood slightly behind the other man. The man who seemed in charge had a sneer on his face that seemed to say he was looking forward to this.

‘Morning boys, what are you up to?’ He asked with a smirk. Mark thought his expression was probably a permanent thing. Paul spoke. ‘We’ve come from the club down the road; we’re not in a fit state to drive so we thought we’d find a field to get our heads down in.’

‘So if you’re not in a fit state to drive then how did you get here?’ The fascist bastard was enjoying this.

‘One of our mates drove the car here for us and left us to it. I wasn’t supposed to be drinking but I got carried away.’ Paul seemed to be holding his own. The copper didn’t seem to like this; he motioned to the other two to check the car.

‘Keys please mate.’ Paul handed them over without a word. ‘Are we going to find anything in there that we shouldn’t?’

‘Someone was smoking a splif; the only thing you might find would be a little bit that’s spilled out.’ This put the smile back on the policeman’s face.

‘I can’t do you for drink driving as I haven’t seen you drive but if I find a single thing wrong with that car you two monkeys are spending the morning in a cell. The nick is just up the road.’ The copper seemed sure of himself. Mark fingered the block of hash in his pocket and wished he had thrown it away when he had the chance. His paranoia was peaking now, they were definitely getting nicked. The policeman said something else; it was just noise to Mark. His mouth moved and sounds came out but there was no cohesion or meaning. Paul replied but it was the same, Mark felt a cold rivulet of sweat trickle an undulating path down his ribcage. Panic was setting in; he had to restrain himself from blabbering a muddled confession of the hash in his pocket.

‘There’s nothing here Sarge.’ A disjointed voice spoke from the car, pulling Mark back to reality. The gravity of the words sank in quickly and a grin spread across his face.

‘Can we go and get some kip now?’ He said to the policeman, enjoying twisting the knife He looked around at Paul who was wearing an identical smirk.

‘Come on mate we’ve done nothing, we just want to sober up before we drive home. You’ve seen us leaving the car; we’re not going anywhere til I’m straight.’ Paul slurred, Mark wondered if the scouse drawl would go against them. The copper’s face was almost purple with suppressed rage – or was that the warm light of the dawning sun?

‘I go off duty at eight AM. Now if that car is gone when I leave I’m going to make a call and see to it that every fucking copper in a hundred mile radius knows to nick you on sight. Have you got that?’

‘Loud and clear mate, have a good day!’ Paul’s exuberance showed in his voice, Mark had to suppress a laugh.

 

*

            ‘How the fucking hell did we get away with that?’ Paul asked as they staggered off down the road.

‘I haven’t a Scooby doo mate. Why didn’t they search our pockets? That would have given that snidey little cunt something to smile about.’

‘He really was a snidey little cunt wasn’t he? He was itching to nick our arses. He could probably see you were a raging poofter and just wanted some time alone with you.’

‘Get fucked, I could see you eyeing him up. I bet you were desperate for him to give you the full cavity search. “Oooh go on officer big fingers, don’t worry about the gloves just make sure you get right up to my lower intestine”’ Mark’s falsetto voice made them both collapse into a relief fuelled hysteria.

‘Let’s climb some trees.’ Paul said after he had recovered.

‘Why the fuck not? Can you see any?’

‘There’s got to be some near here somewhere, we’re in the country for fucks sake.’

‘You are so scouse aren’t you? You can take the boy out of Liverpool….’

‘Fuck off. Hang on, what’s this?’ Paul said with his hand buried deep in his pocket. After an agonising moment of negotiating his jeans he pulled out four small, pink pills that were battered, crumbling and covered in fluff.

‘That’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.’ Mark said with awe in his eyes.

‘I have no fucking memory of buying them.’

‘Don’t care, got any water?’

‘No, I left it in the motor.’

‘You cunt, that’s gonna hurt.’

‘Don’t be a fucking faggot.’ Paul said throwing them in his mouth. Mark considered his own parched offering and shuddered but swallowed them anyway.

Paul looked at Mark with a crazed glint in his eye that Mark knew only too well.

‘Now let’s climb some fucking trees!’

 

*

They found a small copse at the back of some houses and appraised. ‘That one looks worthy.’ Mark said pointing at a giant sycamore.

‘Ideal; let’s do it.’

‘If I break my neck and die I’m going to haunt your arse for the rest of your days. On your wedding night I will slip a cold, ghostly finger up your ring piece as you consummate. Do you understand the consequences if this is really stupid, instead of just stupid?’

‘Yeah yeah, your talking I get that much.’

‘Fuck you funny man. Let’s do it.’

The gnarly old sycamore’s twisted, moss covered branches made for an easy climb. Mark could feel that the physical exertion was expiating the double drop that he had just committed too. Paul was slightly below him and Mark knew that if he stopped for a breather the scouser would quickly overtake him – and he wasn’t having that. A sheen of sweat that seemed to leave his body at a million degrees and then quickly turn to an icy overcoat chilled him to his core. Eventually they had climbed to the highest point they could get to without going on the thin and treacherous top branches. A natural crook in the tree gave Mark a convenient place to sit down and put his feet up. This is better than a sofa, he mused. Paul joined him seconds later and found himself a suitably comfortable perch. The sunrise was in full bloom now. Through the tree branches the clouds were stained crimsons, oranges, purples and some colours Mark was sure he had never seen and maybe never would again. The silhouette of several birds passed through the sky leaving an ethereal, charcoal trace behind them like a jet planes contrail.

‘Do ya think we’ll be doing this forever?’ Paul asked dreamily. He was unable to tear his eyes from the majestic rising that most people miss all too often.

‘I wish we could man but I doubt it. Those pills are tickling me nicely now.’ Mark was coming up again. Not the full on rush that made everything so hectic that the brain hurt; this was more like slipping on your favourite pants after they’ve been on the radiator.

‘You reckon we’ll grow up? I don’t, I reckon we’re gonna keep doing this for so long that our brains will lose the ability to grow old and we’ll all become like Peter Pan and his little people and stay in Never Never Land forever.’

‘Pills are kicking in then?’

‘I’d have said so…..’

The moment drifted, not changing to the next moment. Seconds didn’t tick by but time didn’t stand still. The moment elongated, stretched but it still didn’t change to the next moment. In Mark’s mind those moments became years, the years that proceeded this night and those that stretched out before him. A bright long future punctuated by explosions of beautiful sounds and colours. A warm moist heat that could swallow your soul. The only beings in the tree that made a sound were the birds. Mark and Paul both drifted dreamily, sometimes they spoke in fragmented, slurred comments that had no cohesion linking sentences together. At some point Mark rolled another joint, it might have taken thirty seconds or three hours. The joint was smoked, forgotten. Relit, forgotten. Dropped. Fuck it, roll another one. You roll it. Fuck you you dropped it. I dropped what? The joint. What joint? You’re a twat? What am, I? I can’t remember. If you can’t remember then how am I that? You are what I say you are dammit, when are you gonna learn? Learn what? Have you got any pills left? No. Check your pockets. Check yours. I didn’t buy any. Any what. Don’t fucking start that again. Start what?

Howls of laughter send a flock of birds into flight in the bright morning sun.

 

An unspecified amount of time later.

‘What the fuck are we doing up here?’ Paul asked seeming dazed like he’d just woken up, maybe he had. Who could know?

‘We climbed up a while ago, it was still half dark and it’s pretty light now so I’d say we’ve been here a while. I’m cold man.’

‘Same as, let’s go back to the car.’

‘What about the old bill?’

‘Fuck em.’

 

The climb down out of the trees warmed the boys up. Everywhere in the village Sunday was springing into action. A jogger slowly ran past, his eyes followed them; the vision of health watching those ready for the grave. Papers were collected from door mats. Dogs were let out and cats were called in. It seemed all eyes in the village were on the two space cadets from the future who had somehow roamed far, far from home. They got back to the car and got in. Mark was attacked by an uncontrollable bout of shivering. Speech was gone now, conversation a far off memory. Idle banter a frivolity that had no place in this paranoia soaked car. Mark checked the clock. ‘It’s still only seven, if that copper comes out and sees that we’ve gone he could put our license plate out. If you get nicked for driving offences again you’re going inside.’

‘I know I’ll be careful.’

‘Fucking hell…..’ Such was Mark’s concern that he was asleep before they’d even left the village.

 

Mark woke again shortly after. ‘Alright mate….where are we?’

‘Fuck knows…don’t fall asleep again I’m lost and I’m freaking out. I keep drifting off. This is fucking awful.’ Paul’s face looked panicked in a way Mark didn’t like. His rheumy eyes were shooting all over the car at crazy angles independently of each other, his jaw was tensed and his cheeks twitched as they were chewed.

‘Fuck man…ok I’ll stay awaaake….’ It was too much, Mark had gone again.

 

An unspecified amount of time later. Mark awoke again. ‘Where are we man?’

‘On the M3, we’ve been driving about for fucking hours but I found the motorway and we’ll be home in half an hour. You owe me a cup of tea back at yours you cunt. Stay awake now, I’m seriously struggling.’

‘Ok man I will…..I will…..I will……..’ Mark was gone again.

 

An unspecified amount of time later. Mark awoke again. He turned his head to speak to Paul and smiled to himself. Ah the old scouse bastard’s sleeping. Fair play, he deserved it. Paul’s head had lolled forward onto his chest and a white, foamy trickle of drool was slithering its dehydrated way down his chin. Feeling refreshed Mark stretched and turned his head back forwards; and realised they were still doing ninety miles an hour in the fast lane of the M3.

‘FUCK PAUL YOU CUNT WAKE UP!!!!’  Mark screamed in sheer panic. He quickly realised this reaction probably wasn’t the most sensible when the car began to swerve all over the road. A horn blared next to them, it’s sound changing with the Doppler effect as the furious driver screamed past them on the inside lane.

‘I’m awake, fuck. Sorry mate. I did tell you not to go to sleep.’ Paul said in a thick voice that suggested that he was neither awake nor sorry.

‘Fucking hell man, if had any…thingy….left I’d have shit myself. Where are we?’

‘Dunno…that sign said M25….fuck, I think we’ve missed the turning for Basingstoke.’

‘Missed the fucking turning? You’ve missed every fucking turning before London you dozy twat. We’ll end up in the West End at this rate.’

‘Well if you’d stayed awake we wouldn’t be in this mess would we?’

‘No mate, if you’d stayed awake we wouldn’t be in this mess. Fucking hell man….it’s cool we’ll just turn around at the next junction.’

‘We’ve not got a lot of….fuck!’ Paul’s sentence was interrupted by the engine chugging and making a horrible desperate sound. Paul swung across two lanes of traffic with no regard for other road users. Fortunately the god who watches drunks and small children apparently helps out ecstasy fuelled headcases too and they made it onto the hard shoulder where the car died. ‘No fucking petrol man…’ Paul informed Mark with devastating accuracy.

‘This isn’t good.’ They stepped out of the car and moved up the bank to get away from the screaming road which had all of a sudden become a rushing torrent of cold, malevolent metal.

‘I’ll ring Bootny and get him to bring us some petrol.’ Mark took his phone out. It was deader than roadkill. Mark dimly remembered using the battery draining light to skin up with and he inwardly groaned.

‘Mine died hours ago. What the fuck are we gonna do now?’ Paul asked. A tone of desperation had crept in.

‘I don’t know about you man but I’m gonna skin up and go for a walk. Fancy it?’

‘Why not.’