The Radiance of the Future

This interview with photographer Jamie Stoker appeared in 3:AM Magazine on 23 March 2007:

The Radiance of the Future: An Interview with Jamie Stoker
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3:AM: Your pictures are both out of time and of the moment. As a result, they seem to capture the very essence of youth: the living for the moment, but also the fleetingness of that moment. Is this deliberate? And to what extent is this effect due to your use of old-school materials and methods?

JS: Photography first became important to me because I realised that with a camera I could document my social surroundings, record the memories, the faces, all of that. Eighteen is an age, for me at least, where I feel like I’m finally living my life for real. My earlier teen years were mainly hanging around with nowhere to go or nothing worthwhile to do. So yeah, I guess it is deliberate, I didn’t like the idea of letting the best years of my life slip by unnoticed — so I picked up a camera. Shooting analogue is a long drawn-out process, and I like that. You spend your time engaging with the world and people around you, rather than the tiny LCD on the back of your camera. Having to spend time and work towards an image you can’t even see yet will always beat the instant gratification of digital. Getting prints back or developing a roll in the sink and seeing my images at the end feels like getting presents at Christmas (or something like that.)
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stoker73:AM: This meeting of the old and the new also reflects recent trends in photography: digital cameras and the Internet have led to a paradoxical revival of interest in film and analogue cameras. You choose to shoot film but post scans of your pictures on your blog and on Flickr (where they are viewed by hundreds of people). Do you agree that the two media seem to complement each other?

JS: Definitely. Photography is a social art. My photos reflect the life I lead and the people I know, and I like being able to share that with people. I shoot film because the cameras and the process are fun and satisfying as hell, and the end results look amazing. Combining it with the Internet and its limitless possibilities is that perfect blend of old and new.

3:AM: Your favourite camera at the moment is a Bessa R2a. Could you explain what’s so great about it?

JS: Rangefinder. The viewfinder. Small, quiet, black (looks badass, like a ninja!). Great lenses. Well built, expensive but not to the extent where I’m afraid to use it and fuck it up. I named mine Beowulf. Nice.
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3:AM: The colours in your colour Bessa pictures are beautifully passé as in ‘faded’, which lends them the wistful, nostalgic quality I mentioned previously. Where does that come from? Have you ever tried using a Holga or a Lomo L-CA which can produce similar effects? Where do you stand on the whole Lomo/toy camera phenomenon?

JS: I have film to thank for my colours (and tonality for black and white shots.) It’s really hard for me to pin down, but film just has these colours where they are both desaturated but at the same time incredibly rich. Digital looks fake. Film looks real. Haven’t tried any of those cameras although I was looking into Holgas the other day and was tempted to pick one up. I’m all for anything that can liberate your shooting style. Personally, I love Polaroids and the little cluster of photographers that still shoot with them. The old land cameras that take pack film and Sx-70s are beautiful feats of engineering, and great fun to shoot with too. A little shitty camera that you can have with you 24/7 is in my opinion worth more than a Leica that sits in your dad’s study. The other day I bought a Yashica Samurai for ten quid. It’s a half frame SLR, you get 72 shots on one roll of film and to make things better (or worse) it looks like a weapon from Star Trek. It’s great for when I’m too drunk to worry about an expensive rangefinder.
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3:AM: Which do you prefer: colour or black and white? (Most of your pictures seem to be black and white.)

JS: It’s an eternal struggle within me. I don’t know. Black and white features more because it’s cheap to develop at home. It can be great for removing the distraction of colour and creating this amazing relationship with the viewer. That being said, if you nail a decent colour shot, it can be amazing. I really don’t know, both for the moment, they have their time and place, maybe I will favour one in the future — who knows.

3:AM: How did you come to photography in the first place? Tell us about your career plans…

JS: JS: I went on a trip to Africa and wanted to take some photos to remember it (I always wanted go to there when I was younger.) So I stole my brother’s Canon Av-1 and a bunch of prime lenses even though I didn’t know what SLR stood for or how the hell to use it. 10 rolls of blurred shots later and I was hooked – I needed to know how to take decent photos. Like I said earlier, I realised that with a camera I could document me and my friends and the city around us. That was two years ago.

I used books, the Internet, friends, teachers — anything really — to teach myself all there is to know from the techniques to the execution of photography. I think I did pretty well if I can say so myself. One thing I will say was that digital was a great platform to learn on, and very forgiving with trial and error. But now that I know what I’m doing, it’s film all the way.

My plans? I’m in the process of applying to do some sort of photography course or degree at the London College of Communication. We’ll see what happens and how it goes. When I’m older I would love to be a photojournalist. To travel and meet people, try and make a difference. I know it’s over romanticised and the industry is very tough, but I could see myself happy doing it. Plus documentary photography is essentially what I do now with my friends, it is the kind of photography that I want to spend my life doing. In the summer I’m going to be assisting Nick Danziger in Monaco for a month, so I’m really excited about that. He’s a pretty big deal and a great photojournalist, so I feel very luck for the opportunity. He’s got an exhibition on at the National Portrait Gallery of shots taken behind the scenes with Tony Blair which I would definitely recommend.
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3:AM: In your blog, you mention Winogrand: are you interested in the history of photography? Are you influenced by any of The Greats?

JS: Yes, yes and yes. I study History of Art at school and, aside from far too many essays, it’s great. It’s definitely taught me to appreciate what came before. At the moment we are studying Renaissance art in Florence and the thinker Plutarch talked about “moving forward in the radiance of the past”. That’s an idea that stuck with me.

As far as influences go, I don’t have singular devastating ones, but rather a melting pot of ideas. At the moment I’m reading this huge tome on Robert Capa I bought the other day, and it’s amazing from seeing his contact sheets and method of working to reading about his personal life. A great man indeed. I have a lot of respect and admiration for war photographers, and it’s definitely something which interests me with an eye to the future. Larry Burrows, McCullin and the rest. In a week or so I’m going to a talk by Philip Jones Griffiths on his amazing book Vietnam Inc and I really can’t wait.
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3:AM: Many of the artists (Larry Clark, Gus Van Sant etc.) who document the lifestyles of young people do so from the outside. You are in the privileged position of being able to do so from the inside, which is why your pictures are revealing without being prurient. Are you afraid people will find your pictures less interesting when you grow older and move on to other subjects?

JS: Not at all. I shoot my friends because they are what I have access to, but as I get older and things change, so hopefully shall I. There’s so much going on in this world that it’s more a case of pure excitement for what the future will yield.
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3:AM: Your pictures document your life and that of your friends, so tell us a bit about that. Let’s start with where you live: Hampstead…

JS: Hampstead. It’s nice. That’s about it. It’s not very exciting, but it’s a comfortable place to live. And the heath is lovely in the summer. There are far too many mobile phone shops and estate agents which makes no sense, however there’s an awesome private old camera shop called Photocraft where the old folks who work there all know their shit and are really helpful. With uni and whatnot, I am planning to move out and elsewhere in the next couple of years.

3:AM: Westminster School
JS: It’s the most fantastic location, and the history of the school really pervades through. That being said, they are very focused on academics and Oxbridge and so I’ve become very bored with it all. I’m studying A-levels in History, English, History of art and Art — far too many essays. The art department is like this little bastion of sanity for me.
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3:AM: Many of your pictures depict your nightlife in trendy East London (333, 93 Feet East)…

JS: Well, my other main hobby aside from photography is partying. But I take a camera with me (of varying expense depending on how much I’m planning to party) so I kinda combine the two. The maddest shit happens on night buses and in the early hours of the morning in London, so I like to be prepared. Lots of interesting people and places in that area of London. London itself is another main element of my photos. I’ve travelled a lot, but nowhere compares to London. It really is the most fantastic, diverse city. I think it’s also the most visited city in the world now, and so it should be. I’m proud to live in it.
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3:AM: You are also the drummer in a band called Trafalgar. How does that fit into the grand scheme of things?
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JS: Well, things are really about to take off with Trafalgar. We played an all-expenses-paid gig in Barcelona at this huge club called Razmatazz the other week, and it was pretty much the greatest 24 hours of my life. I shot it all on Polaroid taken on an old Sx-70. Our single’s out around June followed by a 2-week-long UK tour, so we shall see what happens. It also provides me with interesting situations from a photographical point of view. I keep a scrapbook of our shows and flyers and press clippings and photos I’ve taken and whatnot so I can reminisce about it all when I’m a crusty old man.

3:AM: Where does your Tintin fetish come from?

JS: Growing up, I loved reading the books. He went on the most amazing journeys and adventures. I have original French posters on the wall of my room, and every one of the books. Plus he’s really inspirational, because if you think about it, he’s pretty much the greatest journalist ever. Plus in Tintin in Tibet he uses some sort of Leica to take photos of the Yeti. Sweet.
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3:AM: Finally, is your family related to Bram Stoker?

JS: Ahahaha, I get asked this a lot, from random old men working in the Tube to excited English teachers. The truth is I’m not sure. I know my dad looked into it. Our family (well the British side, I’m also half American) is originally up near Manchester, so not that far from Ireland where Bram was from. It’s likely there is some sort of vague link. Dracula is an amazing book and so the idea excites me a lot!
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Forty Tiddly Winks

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He found it difficult to get up of a morning because he found it difficult to wake up of a morning. The waking-up problem lay in the fact that he did not want to.

Some people cannot go to sleep for fear of passing away in their slumber. Not him, though. Unconsciousness was a state he positively aspired to, and often contrived to reach — through artificial means — whenever nature would not take its course which, truth be told, was more often than not these days.
Others can just doze off as soon as their heads hit the pillow. Not Tim, though. He needed knocking out flat by dint of drinking himself into a stupor. Otherwise, he was condemned to toss and turn till dawn at the thought of Time’s winged chariot hurrying near: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang you’re dead.
Instinctively, Tim would tune into the hypnotic ticking of his wristwatch on the bedside table. Like a clock in a crocodile, it grew closer by the minute with the implacable inevitability of tragedy until the din became truly deafening. Now, he just knocks back another stiff one and waits for the effect to kick in. The clockodial starts melting, Dali-stylee. The ticking gradually fades into a tiny, tinny background backbeat. Soon it is drowned out by Pomme’s sonorous snoring. Forty tiddly winks.

****

Tim is back in the general science class wearing his old school uniform. He cannot see himself wearing it, but a dormant sensation of itchy acrylic chafing skinny white-boy skin is rudely awakened. A remembered forgotten land of man-made fabrics.

That morning after, he emerged more dead than alive from his customary semi-coma. A Caterpillar boot had been moonstomping on his face — for ever. Nothing else could account for the excruciating pain. Straight away, Tim spotted the tell-tale stigmata: skull resonating like a flushing toilet bowl, snail’s trail of saliva smeared across right cheek, dried-up mucus encrusting limp upper lip having seeped nightly from cavernous nostrils. To think that these were the very same orifices in which the breath of life had been breathed thirty-three years earlier! It really did not bear thinking about. Really.

Behold the tiny tots sitting two by two behind dinky desks, all chubby chops and tuck-shop tums, bless ’em.

As a dog returneth to its vomit, so he looked back and noticed a saline snowfall of dandruff liberally sprinkled all over the black pillowcase. He was petrified. God knows how much of his mortal coil ended up in the hoover on a weekly basis — it was a slow shuffling off. Dust bunnies thou art, Tim, and unto dust bunnies shalt thou return along with every creepy-crawly that creepeth and crawleth upon the earth. He yawned: a putrid, piscine stench issued forth from the cesspool of his mouth, as if he had spent the night snogging a siren in the snot-green sea. Or something.

In pursuit of a good blushing, Miss Ramsay wags an incarnadined digit at some dumpling demon cherub. A few vigorous wags are enough to finger-paint him the colour of her nail varnish. Having achieved the desired chromatic merger, she surveys row upon row of wonky ties and concertinaed tights and sees that it is good. Oh, of course, there are socks to pull up, crinkly smirks to wipe off, curly-wurly minds to straighten out and what-not. But she can tell by the smarmy look on their collective face that Nobody Else has forgotten to bring his/her apple as specified, quite audibly and in plain English, on Thursday last at nine o’ clock sharp. To drive the point home, hadn’t she chalked the instructions up there on the blackboard for all to see? The writing was on the wall, for Christ’s sake! In fancy curlicue letters.

And it came to pass that Tim came to piss. Fishing Moby Dick out of his Calvins was a daily battle, a classic struggle between Man and Beast, the outcome of which seemed most uncertain, considering. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou toil in the toilets.

‘A-pples,’ she hisses as she click-clicks past Adam, sh-shaking her head from side to side and tut-tutting for added effect, ‘The lesson of the day is: a-pples.’ (She has a good mind to expel him, cast him into the wilderness.)

After faffing around his nether-nether regions, Tim gave in to what was, by any standard, a formidable, and indeed enviable, gravity-defying pull. A skyscraping tumescence and no mistake. Oh yes, it was at times like this — when up was the only way — that you grasped the true meaning of transcendence. Casting all remnants of dignity to the wind, he dropped his kecks around his ankles, and braced himself for the daunting challenge that still lay ahead. They were both bollock naked, the man and his manhood, and were not ashamed.

‘Don’t let me catch anybody eating during the lesson,’ she roars, ‘or that body will have hell to pay.’ Miss Ramsay paces the classroom, handing out the odd pre-emptive clip round the proverbial earhole.

He stepped back, psyching himself up, mentally gauging distances like a top athlete, stood on tiptoe, took aim and… shshshit. There she blows! A sudden spurt of steamy, spumy liquid came pissing down onto the lid which Pomme — silly moo that she was — would insist on using as a lavatorial fig leaf. Tim tensed his pubococcygeus to stop the flow by way of a damage-limitation exercise. Still effing and blinding, he micturated in the sink, mopped up the spillage with wads of pink toilet paper, was out of there like a flush in the pan.

Miss Ramsay’s is the mother of all fuck-off apples. Genetically modified by a Dr Frankenstein multinational to the specifications of gangsta Eurotwats, it squats obscenely on the daddy desk, complete in its ur-ness, replete in its rotundity, surfing on surfeit. And it puts the fear of God in the tiny tots, who, for some reason, are now hitting puberty. “All right! Welcome to the New World Order, kids. I’m Uncle Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, you’d better believe it baby.” Thus speaks the golden Überapfel in a global twang that tails off into apple-pie American.

Somehow, Tim stumbled into the kitchen, morning glory at half-mast dripping all over the shop. Upon thy belly shalt thou go. His mind was void and without form. His joints felt well rusty, a Tin Woodman in dire need of lubrication. Like some right divvynity, he fumbled for the switch (fiat lux!) and went to pick a mug from the tree in the midst of the IKEA table. It was a toss-up between James Joyce and Gromit. Predictably enough, given his habitual matutinal regression, he plumped for the reassuring cosiness of the latter.

The apples are drawn, quartered, dissected and analysed right down to the very last pip. Mission accomplished, class dismissed. They can stuff their freckly faces now, for all she cares.

After feeding the dog a pyramid-shaped PG Tip, Tim stood before the work surface, scratching his balls, contemplating yesterday’s dirty dishes dotted with miniature bow ties, waiting for the boil to kettle. Over to the right, the leftover soup, primordial-looking in its present enforced-gazpacho incarnation. Click: Tea for Tim. He chose to pour in the milk first although he didn’t make a religion of it. In these small matters, as in others, Tim liked to exercise his free-will.

Shifting all her weight on one cheek, Eve dislodges her wayward panties by plucking the elastic like a harp string — smack! In so doing, she bares her gleaming pearlies. Tim can smell her fragrant bubblegum breath, passion-fruit flavoured. He will write an ode to that west wind with his Magnetic Poetry Kit as soon as he gets a fridge of his own. Eve’s wide-open mouth is moist and warm. Tim’s wily willy will worm itself willy-nilly into the moist warmth of Eve’s yumyum mouth. Her glossed lips quiver over the polished surface of the apple. She dribbles a little, giggles a lot and finally puts it down.

Tim was out of joints. Paranoia was slowly setting in. He switched on the radio to catch the news before the news caught him, and felt relieved when he relived the expected sense of dejà entendu. As always, Today sounded like yesterday or the day before. Different but the same in a same-difference kind of way. Two female critics were discussing a cutting-edge novel which was causing some sort of sensation. If you hadn’t heard of E-Den, it was like, Hello-o, where have you been for the past seven days? basically.
‘It’s very gritty.’
‘Well, he spares us no details, if that’s what you mean.’
‘It’s very nitty gritty.’
As per usual, the reception was crispy-bacon crackly, but simply hearing James Naughtie’s voice in between sonorous slurps microwaved the cockles of his little heart.

Row upon row of crisp, unblemished apples looking sorry for themselves. The word ‘pristine’ springs to mind. It’s all sinking in like a body falling down its own precipice. The tree, the not-eating thereof. Tim’s classmates, their placid, bovine features. His head spins. His heart pounds. It’s like that wrinkled old lady who lives in a shoe or a cupboard or something down the road, you know, the one with the facial hair. Well, she wasn’t always hunched over that walking stick of hers you know. In fact, she was very much like Eve once upon a time, and Eve will be very much like her sooner or later. You know it’s true, of course you do, on a rational level you do, but not deep down you don’t. Deep down you know nothing. This is huge, this is, this is where Mark P meets Socrates. Tim looks round the classroom. ‘Nothing,’ he wants to scream, ‘we don’t know nothing,’ but the words remain stuck in his throat. Pause. They don’t know they don’t know, do they? He knows. He alone. He. Alone. Panic.

Apparently, scientists were flocking in droves to Azerbaijan where hundredsomethings still rear their sheep on a daily basis. The BBC correspondent introduced an elderly couple who could actually remember the Bolshevik revolution. Professor Gordon Bennett claimed that they may have some ‘genetic predisposition’ to living awfully-long lives. The locals who were interviewed reckoned that Nature was an essential part of the equation: simple healthy lifestyles, clean air and smoothies. Then it was the turn of someone else, a young lady whose voice had a very prickly quality which suggested the kind of angular looks a Vorticist would have killed for. She pointed out that even the sheep live longer in that neck of the woods. One of them could actually recall being buggered by Bulgakov, and a bloody good shag it was too, allegedly. ‘The question, at the end of the day, isn’t so much why these good people and their hospitable sheep enjoy exceptionally-long life-spans,’ Mr Bennett concluded, ‘but why they should die at all.’ Tim winked at the mad professor in the battered transistor radio. He was a bit of a winker was old Tim.

Scattergun impact of killer cha-cha heels marching towards the window: stocky stoccado, scatty scattato, click click click. Well Stacked of Stockwell looks up with heaving bosom, erect nipples standing to attention beneath tight lab coat. A plane flutters by like a butterfly high above the playground tree.

One cuppa, of course, was grossly inadequate, especially after getting trolleyed in such a reckless fashion. He needed three or four at best of times to feel halfway awake, which is as awake as he would probably ever feel now. What he knew — he alone, for some inexplicable reason — was simply too much to bear. As a result, Tim no longer rose from the half-dead: he went through life like a somnambulist on a treadmill. This is how he found himself in the bathless bathroom, face to face with a vaguely-familiar figure he couldn’t quite place.

Juicy fruit hang heavy from the branches of the playground tree. Dewy drops glisten metaphysically on the juicy fruit that hang heavy from the branches of the playground tree. Eve wants to climb up the well-hung playground tree. Eve wants to dip the tip of her tongue in the saccharine stickiness of the angel come. ‘Look, the apples are crying,’ says pig-tailed Natasha to pig-faced Saffron. Both, by the way, are ovulating wildly.

Rooted to the suppurating spot, downright rotting upright, Tim grinned ever so painfully at the imperfect stranger who was likewise wreathed in smiles, pushing up daisies. In times past, he would probably have squinted disdainfully at the random combination of atoms through a lorgnette. Instead, he unscrewed his plastic optics, slicing them in half, and dipped a rigid digit deep into the tear-filled, gouged-out sockets. Left, then right. Putting the lenses in orbit brought about a bout of briny blinking, seeing as they clung on to his forefinger for dear life. They looked like circular, ocular shellfish, but felt like spiky sea urchins. A strange thought occured to him at this juncture. Was the Sandman trying to scupper his cuppa by kicking the beach in his face? Or what?

Miss Ramsay is still gazing up into heaven, marmalade head tilted right back. ‘Sod this for a skylark,’ she whispers under her breath.

No sooner had his eyes stopped their stroboscopic lashing than high resolution replaced the impressionistic blur. Picture a Monet with the fog left out. Tim could now recognize the crow’s feet which had been gaining ground at an alarming rate since John Major’s general election victory and the release of Suede’s first single. A river of rivulets branched out symmetrically on either side of his once sacred temples, producing a groovy, deltoid-etching effect. His complexion bore a striking resemblance to a soundly-slapped bare bottom, or a ruddy red-pencil drawing by one of the lesser masters. He stood staring at this receding hair- and life-line as if it were some grizzly road accident. ‘I’m the chosen one,’ he said by way of introduction, ‘can’tcha fuckin see?’

Dappled-shadow camouflage war-dances upon Miss Ramsay’s folicular waterfall; it’s a jolly kind of jig. ‘Mark my words’ — she warns jabbing the air with a menstruous fingernail — ‘the day cometh that shall burn as an oven.’

There was a handy timing device on Tim’s electric toothbrush. You got two minutes flat of serious rotation before a little green light came on indicating that your time was up. Like the green jelly baby at pedestrian crossings telling you when to walk, he often reflected. Sometimes, he was caught with his pants down which made him come over all ubi sunt and carpe diem, unnecessarily so in the eyes of his young wife. Accidents will happen. Today, however, it was like waiting for the second coming. Tim was strongly put in mind of those times when he would pump away at his snoring sleeping beauty way into the small hours, way beyond the call of marital duty. With baking-soda toothpaste dribbling down the hairs of his chinny-chin-chin, he drew back the plastic curtain and glanced at the waterproof fish clock hanging from the shower head. Jeeeesus Christ!

She notices four shadowy figures beyond the plane, silhouetted against the sun of righteousness. Four ghostly figures beyond the pale, skimming candy-floss clouds on foot-propelled micro-scooters.

‘If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean,’ said Tim to the yellow plastic duckling in the chipped polka dot soap dish. He repeated his plea over and over again like a monotonous dirge on a loop until the yellow plastic duckling told him, in no uncertain terms, to cleanse first that which is within. ‘Yeah, right,’ he said, ‘but after such knowledge, what forgiveness, eh?’ Tim often ended up mourning absolution during his morning ablution.

Miss Ramsay’s serpentine locks start coiling and recoiling in anticipation of a summery execution.

He stepped gingerly into the bedroom, a sodden towel wrapped round his waist, mumbling something about the duck being a quack. Pomme’s black stockings lay legless on the rugged rug. He quickly averted his eyes so as not to reawaken The Beast at this crucial stage in his grooming routine. The urge to stick his tongue down her throat got the better of him in the bitter end. After all, he reasoned, it could be the very last time. As he closed the front door behind him, reeking of Escape by Calvin Klein, Tim felt that there was something odd about the apple logo on his old PowerBook Duo 210. He could have sworn that the bitten-off chunk on the right-hand side was missing. Surely it could not have grown back. No time to check.

An apple falls in slo-mo from the playground tree: Tim sees its reflection in the apple of her eye.

The pit bull in the flat opposite started howling as it did almost every bloody morning. They called it Inky Pit because a) it was as black as sin and because b) its howl was the first thing they had heard upon moving into their studio apartment two years earlier. Its real name was Cerberus. It was a he, no doubt about that. He lived at number sixty-six. They called it the six shop. Each time he walked by, Tim felt like adding the third, missing six with a chunky black marker pen: six, six, six. All he ever found at the bottom of his briefcase, though, was this tiny stump of a pencil that had almost been sharpened into non-existence.

Glass, shattered, damage, collateral, moans, despair, guts, gore, everywhere, everywhere. It’s a nightmare. ‘C’est rien, chéri. T’as encore fait un cauchemar. Allez, rendors toi’: Pomme’s soothing tones. She wanks him back to sleep. It is not the most professional of wanks, but it certainly does the trick.

A babel of babble buzzed round Tim’s head. Whenever he could reasonably expect his descent to start grinding to a halt, another flight of steps appeared out of nowhere and the ground floor receded again. The staircase was winding him up as it wound down. He would never get to the bottom, it was symbolic, they knew he understood symbolism, they were fucking with his brain, that’s what they were doing, they wanted him to jump, they did, over the banister and into the bottomless pit. Core instability. Dizziness. The World Trade Center cannot hold.

Next thing he knows, Pomme is trying to wake him up. She is less successful in this endeavour than in the previous one. She is also far less soothing: ‘Allez, debout, tu vas être en retard si ca continue. C’est toujours la même chose, fais chier a la fin.’ Sitting up in bed looking utterly pissed off, she watches him emerge more dead than alive from his customary semi-coma.

The night before, it came to pass that Tim dreamed The Dream. Tim dreamed The Dream the night before it came to pass.

He crossed the cobbled courtyard and opened the heavy blue door with the panting lion’s head poking its tongue out at passers-by on the other side. Rattling his car keys in his khakis, he walked towards the battered old banger, a Cinquecento straight out of the quattrocento that bore more than a passing resemblance to Noddy’s autoymobile. Thing is, it was not there anymore. The car to the keys had vanished as if erased by some postmodern cartoonist alter deus.
Tim stood in the vacant space left by his car like an invisible scar. He was on the horns of a devilish dilemma. If he did not call Pomme on the mobile straight away, well, frankly, his life just would not be worth living. If he did call her, however, she would tell him to go to the police station. He would then have to explain why that was simply out of the question and she, of course, would not understand. He would be convincing: Oh, for fuck’s sake, woman, what kind of fucking fuckwit would nick our fucking car in a street full of fucking Mercs and BMfuckingWs? But she would be unconvinced. He would be moving: the prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream, and Tim would tell her his Dream all over again. But she would be unmoved. He would be argumentative; she would pick an argument. He would remain calm; she would drum her nails on the table. He would be gentle; she would threaten him with the spatula or, worse still, the chopping board.

Tim walked down the street to the metro station, trying to work out how late he would be for his second lecture on Milton.
As he pontificated on auto-pilot, he recalled that vain, inglorious paper he had published in Etudes Anglaises at the beginning of his academic career. The thrust of his argument was that Adam and Eve, or rather Eve and Adam, were in effect committing suicide when they partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. It had made quite a stir in the English Department at the time. He’d even got a few extra-marital fucks out of it. Little did he know, of course, that, contrary to popular belief, Adam and Eve, or rather Eve and Adam, had never eaten of the tree at all. He still did not know why today, why was beside the point, the tree may have been fruitless for all he knew. Back then, though, he had no idea that their eyes were never opened, and that they were never as gods, knowing good and evil. If all this ran counter to received wisdom, it was simply because no wisom had been received in the first place.

Tim was walking up the street from the metro station when, lo and behold, he spotted his car in the very same spot where he had parked it the day before. Inside, there was a letter which, loosely translated, went something like this: We needed wheels, it was an emergency, a matter of life and death, we’re really, really sorry and all, please accept these two tickets to the opera in compensation, ta very much. Pomme, who believed in noble bandits and absolutely adored the opera (‘J’a-dore l’opéra’), thought it was a very romantic story. She whooped. She squealed. She even cried. She cried some more when she found out that the flat had been burgled in their absence.

Tim went straight for the bottle. This time, they were just poking and prying, trying to find out if he had any proof. It was only the beginning. They would not leave him alone. They were closing in on him. After all, he had stumbled upon the greatest genocide in the history of humanity. The genocide of humanity itself.

He knocked back another stiff one and waited for the effect to kick in. Forty tiddly winks.