It all started after the New Year’s party I held on my yacht, Jailbird 2, just off the coast of New Providence in the Bahamas. (Jailbird 1 had been seized with all its cargo in an unfortunate incident in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago). Maybe an introduction would be in order at this point. My name is Harry Hardcore, known to friends and enemies alike as “Harry the Hammer” and I am a successful criminal from London – Streatham Hill, to be exact. Anyway, on this particular occasion I was far from my manor in South London and I was not feeling very well at all. I was in fact suffering from a particularly gruesome hangover, swallowing Anadins like they were Smarties and lolling around wretchedly on deck, hoping that the sea air would hasten my recovery. No sign of my fellow party-animals. Bloody wimps, I thought to myself. I bet none of them had anything like as much to drink as I did or as much nasal confectionary taken in (I am proud to say that my capacity to drink and take hard drugs exceeds that of anyone else on the yacht) and yet none of them had yet ventured out from their cabins. I had nothing but contempt for the whole pathetic lot of them.
I thought back to the party – which had lasted for the best part of the week – but didn’t get very far in my retrospection as I couldn’t remember anything. “Well,” I said to myself, “I must have had a bloody good time because I feel like hell.” My hands shook so badly I could hardly light a fag, my right cheek had a muscle in it that kept twitching like a bastard and my lungs rasped painfully with every breath. My stomach felt as if as if the lining had been stripped out of it with caustic soda solution and I was in the throes of being crucified by the most viciously out-of-control acid reflux I had ever experienced in my life. To make matters worse I was still as sick as a dog – the slightest movement brought me perilously close to chucking my guts up and I really didn’t want to do that because there was nothing left to bring up. Bar a few bloody shreds of stomach lining, perhaps. And to top it all there was a pain at the back of my eyes the like of which I had never known before – a savage murdering bastard of a pain, a pain with the brilliant, blinding, unforgiving intensity of a magnesium flare. “Damn,” I said to myself again, “I’m the man! No one parties like me…”
Perhaps you think I’m not for real. Maybe you think I’m just another ten-a-penny plastic gangster. Let me put you straight. If you were standing in front of me right now looking into my eyes you’d know I was the real deal. You’d know by the way your bowels start to loosen up. People generally don’t like to look in my eyes for too long. I don’t think they like what they see there – I had to do a lot of unfriendly things to get to where I am today and it shows. People have told me that looking into my eyes is like staring at close range into the tarmac surface of a road. I like that description. It is fitting as well because if you find yourself staring right into the tarmac of a road you know something isn’t right. Let me put it this way – any reasonably perceptive person finding themselves looking into my eyes at close range would quickly realize at this point that their life is not going in a particularly good direction…
If you felt that way when looking into my eyes you would more than likely be right. If you were to say to me, “Harry, your bastarding fucking eyes are cold and empty like the eyes of a cod-fish pulled up from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean” and I was in a bad mood at the time then I’d probably smack you one in the gob, and I can promise you that if I did that you wouldn’t be getting up in a hurry either. No one does. But if you were lucky and I wasn’t in a bad mood then I’d probably give you a drink and offer you a line of charlie out of my personal stash. “Well my son,” I’d say to you fondly as you were helping yourself to some of the best toot in town, “You don’t become the hardest man in South London without paying a price and the price is that my eyes look like they belong to some dead thing.”
My girlfriend doesn’t like my eyes. She says that they are bleak, cold, blank, and unfeeling. She says that I have an awful cold gaze even on a sunny day, and that when I look at babies they cry. I tell her that if she has a problem with my eyes then she shouldn’t look at them. Problems like that are easily solved. Most problems are easily solved in my opinion – if you don’t like something then you do something about it, and if you aren’t prepared to do something about it then shut the fuck up. Where’s the problem there? My philosophy of life is simple – too simple some people would say – but then again I’m a straightforward kind of a guy. I won’t say simple because you might think I’m thick and I’m not. I am far from being thick. And anyway my simple philosophy of life works pretty well: I always say there’s nothing a person can’t do if they are given the appropriate encouragement. And I’m all for appropriate encouragement…
So now you’ve got the picture. There I was, feeling like a complete bastard – wondering whether I ought to keep fighting the urge to spew my guts up or whether I should just give in to it – when all of a sudden something downright weird started happening. I started to have thoughts. Don’t get me wrong. Like I said before, I’m not thick; it’s not like I’m some kind of mong or retard or anything like that. I’m not a space-cadet. I can think faster and clearer than just about anyone else I know and that’s the main reason I’m not dead years ago. And it’s also the main reason a good few other geezers are dead, or at the very least seriously injured, by the same token. No, what I mean is that I started thinking weird thoughts, thoughts that just weren’t normal at all.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I was turning gay, that I was having thoughts of doing it with men. That’s not what I mean. I am not one of these arse-bandits, fudge-packers, batty-boys or shirt-lifters. And if you ever make the mistake of suggesting anything like that I guarantee you that I’ll put you in intensive care for a month. I don’t mean those kind of weird thoughts. I never had that type of thoughts and I never will, you bastard.
The kind of thoughts I was having were not about doing it with women either. Obviously they weren’t or I wouldn’t have said that they weren’t normal. These thoughts weren’t about sex at all. I was actually thinking about my mum. That isn’t strange either – I often think about my mum. I was remembering the story she used to tell about how she met my dad. She used to laugh when she told this story, God rest her soul. It was Saturday night and she was in the White Horse on the Brixton Rd with this bloke Greg she was going out with at the time, who sounds to me like a right plonker. My mum had just got the hump with him because of something he had said. Just to spite this gormless git Greg – who I’ve really got nothing good to say about at all – she started chatting away with the hard-looking bloke sitting on the other side of her at the bar. Greg took one look at him and copped on quickly enough that if he said anything he’d probably be leaving the pub in a stretcher and so he just slunk off like the low-life cowardly weasel he was. My mum says she hit it off with this hard-looking geezer straightaway and she never went back to wanker git-face again after that. As I said, that geezer was my dad. I don’t really remember him myself because he died of unnatural causes in Wormwood Scrubs six months after I was born. He sounds like a man of style, wit and determination though and my mum always said that I was the spitting image of him.
So there I was remembering that story, as I had many times before, when suddenly I found myself wondering what would have happened if this Greg geezer hadn’t been such a plonker. Suppose they hadn’t had a row over him being such a git and saying whatever stupid, dickhead thing it was he said to make her get the hump with him. Suppose she hadn’t walked out on him that time in the White Horse. It could so easily have never happened the way at all. As soon as I had this thought I felt all queer inside (I don’t mean gay-queer) and I had to grip the railings that go round the edge of the deck with both hands to reassure myself that I was still there. I couldn’t help myself from going over this thought. My whole life would just never have happened. I wouldn’t have ever happened. That made me feel so strange inside – I really didn’t like that feeling at all. It annoyed me and perplexed me and scared me all at the same time. I felt like giving someone a good solid punch in the face with all of my sixteen stone behind it, but I knew that this was not going to do anything to help me. This was not the sort of problem that could be solved by smacking some stupid bastard in the head.
It was as if once I started thinking this way, I couldn’t stop. In a way, you could say that it was as if I couldn’t help being curious about things that I wouldn’t normally be curious about. I suppose a lot of people might say that I am not normally curious about anything, unless it’s being curious about whether people are trying to rip me off. That at least is one thing that I am generally curious about. Having had the thought that my mum and dad could very easily not have met, and that I could very easily have never been born at all (and no one would ever have missed me because how would they know to miss me?) I started thinking that the same must be true for my mum’s mum and dad, and my dad’s mum and dad. And it wouldn’t stop there – it would also be true for their parents and so on and so forth back into the mists of time. What all this did to my head I can’t begin to tell you. I suppose you think I’m stupid for bothering about stuff like that but bother about it I did.
Maybe you don’t understand what I’m getting at here, where all this was leading me. What I am saying is that I could quite easily have never existed at all and no one would ever have missed me. Who goes around missing things that never happened or people who never got born? This bothered me no end. It gave me a strange, spooky feeling deep down inside of me. I mean, all my hopes and fears and plans and all of the stuff that usually matters so much – what does it count for if I could so easily have never existed? Of course you might say that I do exist and so there’s no point thinking that way, but knowing that I very easily might not have existed spoiled it all for me, made it all seem unreal. Something in me had been shook so bad that all the things I normally take for granted seemed like no more than the pathetic delusions of a total fucking lunatic. I was alternately angry and amazed at myself. How could I have cared so much about all that crap? What was I at? What was I on about?
It upset me that I had been so much of an air-head all my life – worse than any blonde I’ve ever been with. A real dozy git. It did more than upset me, it scared me. I don’t mind telling you (I’m man enough to admit it) that it terrified the fucking life out of me. I won’t try and pretend that it didn’t.
This still probably doesn’t make sense to you. I know it wouldn’t have made any sense to me twelve hours ago. I would have told you to shut the fuck up and said that you should try to get a grip on yourself before you embarrass yourself any further. I would have What was getting to me was the precariousness of everything, the unlikeliness of it; it’s as if I had just discovered that my life was full of great bloody black holes that I had never ever noticed but which had been there all the time. Now that I had seen them I could not unsee them. And the bastarding things unnerved the fuck out of me. My life was full of holes and the sodding things were threatening to eat me up for dinner. I’m actually serious about the holes – that isn’t a metaphor or figure of speech or whatever. At first it was a bit like having spots swimming around in front of my eyes – inky black spots that seemed more like holes in my vision than anything else. Then I realized that they were holes in my consciousness because they were still there when I closed my eyes. They were like an ache in my head that wouldn’t go away.
And then something happened and suddenly there was just the one big hole and it was a downright nasty fucker. I don’t know how to say this but it was downright malevolent – it was a bad fucker and it was taking the piss out of me. It really was. I really don’t know any other way to explain it. I couldn’t see the fucking thing because it wasn’t actually a thing, it was a gap in the fabric of my mind and it was there somewhere, unnerving the fuck out of me. I had the realization that this black spot had always been there and was always there and that somehow – in some unpleasant sort of a way, it was more real than everything else. I don’t know. I know I just said that the black holes weren’t a metaphor but in another way that is exactly what they were. They stood for all the stuff which I never noticed, never would notice. All the weird and disturbing thoughts that I had been having – they were about the stuff that I never thought about, never noticed at all, and I realized the fact that I never thought about all that stuff was what made my world normal and not in the least bit strange. Now that I could see what I normally couldn’t see my whole world just fell to pieces. It got so fucking weird that I just didn’t know how to handle it.
How do I explain it? I know you’re looking at me like I am some kind of retard. It’s like all the times you could have been snuffed but you never knew it. Lets say that if you had been a few minutes early or a few minutes late you would been killed by a lump hammer that some dickhead had left up on the scaffolding that you were walking under. But you never knew – you never knew that you very nearly got fucking snuffed. Doesn’t that make you feel weird? And then there is the other side of it – how many unsuspected events, occurrences, coincidences or whatever needed to happen in order that I be here at all? I don’t know, but there could have been millions upon millions of things that if they didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be here today looking at you. One little thing out of place and – zapp – you would never have never existed and no one would have known that whatever it was that should have happened, didn’t. No one would ever be any the wiser. It dawned on me in a big way that so much hangs, or could hang – for all we know – on the tiniest most apparently insignificant thing. Millions of different alternative realities hang on our every breath. The slightest alteration to anything and who knows what the consequences could be? It could be nothing at all, or it could be the end of the fucking universe.
Anyway, so that was what was bothering me – the uncertainty of life. And in addition to this, the creepy feeling that something mysterious was happening behind the scenes. Then everything started to become strangely clear to me. It was like I was Einstein or something and I was getting to understand how the universe works, in some kind of flash of cosmic inspiration. Ok don’t fucking laugh you cunt – I know I’m far from being an Einstein, at least most days of the week. But that’s what it felt like. What I had begun to understand was that everything was chance – that there were, and are, a billion billion ways for the universe to be, for all the things in it to happen. None of the details have to be any particular way, they could equally well be another, entirely different way. But, the point is, that by an unthinkably fantastic chain of coincidences, everything had lead to me. Everything was arranged the way it was arranged just because of me.
I know this sounds pretty bloody big-headed but there you are. I started to see it. I started to see that it was all like a plan, or something. Everything fitted in, everything led to the same inescapable conclusion: I started to realize that there was something very special about me. I wasn’t just any twat, I was somehow crucial to the whole damn thing. I was the pivot of the universe, and this was the pivotal moment. The words of a Beatles’ song from the White Album came into my head. That is my favourite Beatles’ Album as it happens. The words were, “All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arrive…”
This line kept ringing in my head, the feeling that went with it just kept building, until I felt I couldn’t take it anymore. Who was I? What was about to happen?
This was the time, the time when I finally understood the truth about my life. Whatever crap I used to believe – and it was crap, I could see that now – was pathetically irrelevant and deluded, I had been in a dream all my life and now I was waking up. What I was starting to understand was that I wasn’t just anyone, I was Jesus Christ. I was the One, like Neo in The Matrix. It was all down to me because I was the Champion upon whose actions the fate of the world depended. I was the Arbitrator – the Mediator in the cosmic struggle between the forces of Good and Evil. In short, it fell upon me to be the one who confronts head on an enemy so terrible that no one in the history of the human race had ever defeated it. I had to face off with the one they call The Adversary…
Part of me knew this to be absolutely true, I just knew it beyond any trace of a doubt. Another part of me looked on in horror, realizing that I had gone as mad as a fucking rat. I was stone-mad, totally fucking crazy. “I think that I am Jesus Christ!” I thought, but I knew at the same time, on a deeper level, that it wasn’t just a thought, it was true. This disturbed me more than anything had ever disturbed me in my entire fucking life. I just couldn’t handle it. There was no way in which I could handle it. I wanted to run away, but where can you run if you are The One? You can’t hide from that. Talk about responsibility… I really didn’t like the thought of all that responsibility. The blood was running cold in my veins, the muscle in my face was twitching so bad my whole head was jerking, and I was desperately trying to figure a way to back-track out of this mess when all of a sudden the bad side of it hit me. The really bad side.
It didn’t take long for it to dawn on me and when it I could have kicked myself for not having seen it straightaway – I couldn’t believe that I’d actually had a minute or two in which I’d missed the consequences of being ‘The One’. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe you know what I’m talking about? Everybody knows what happens to The One. Right? What happens to the Lamb of God? Just think about it for a minute. He gets turned into a shish-kebab. After all, if The One survives long enough to do his thing then it’s the end of the road for the Other Side. The Heavy Boys. The firm who really run the show, or have done up to now. And I don’t mean the Yardies or the Triads or the Lithuanians or any of those wankers. The boys I am talking about make those arseholes look like boy scouts on a picnic.
I don’t know how I knew about the heavy firm that I am trying to tell you about but all of a sudden I did. It was like everything suddenly fell into place with a click and when it did I went cold all over. By my reckoning, I only had a few hours at most before the opposition got wind of me and when they did they would snuff me so damn quickly I wouldn’t even know what happened. And even if I had my own army that wouldn’t help. In fact, I realized, I would be lucky if I got away that lightly. Somehow – don’t ask me how – I knew that being killed was the least of my worries.
As I said I went cold all over. I felt clammy as hell and I could hear my heart beating as clearly as if I were listening to it with a stethoscope. It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I have looked death in the eye many times without flinching. What kind of hard man would I be if I was scared of dying? I wouldn’t get any respect for that. And I can assure you, I have a lot of respect back in South London. Its not that I’m worried at the prospect of tangling with a crew of serious hard hitters either. I’ve met the worst there is and they don’t scare me. There’s nobody immune to a shotgun blast in the face I can promise you. I don’t care who the fuck it is. It wasn’t that I haven’t come across some right sick twisted bastards either. I’ve come across more than a few of them and you might be interested to know that most of them aren’t members of the criminal classes either. Your average criminal has got integrity, in my (admittedly biased) opinion, unlike the filth. All that stuff I can handle, but I instinctively knew that what I was going to have to deal with now was a whole different ball game. No comparison. This crew was serious. I could feel them out there. I knew that they had registered my presence and that even at this very moment they were focussing in on me, planning their move. The more I thought about it the worst my situation seemed. What the fuck was I going to do? Tendrils of darkness seemed to be wafting over the sea towards me, reaching out towards me. I could feel pure menace being directed towards me, pure undiluted malice. It hit me not in my stomach but in my very bones. That’s how deep down it got me. That’s how I knew then that it was all up with me.
I don’t know how I got through the next couple of hours. I just sat down on the deck and waited for it to happen. Something in me gave up and I slumped against a hatch, allowing my brain to shut down in the face of the inevitable. Incredibly, however, the inevitable didn’t happen and eventually, bit by bit, the horror and the darkness receded. Very gradually I went quiet inside.
I stared out over the waves for a long time, and somehow, by just quietly watching like this, I started to feel better. I realized after a while that what I had been going through had all been just thoughts. Good thoughts, bad thoughts, but all just thoughts. Too much thinking, a fever of thinking, and none of it meant anything. It had all been in my head. I was no longer up in my head but down in my stomach which felt much better. It felt solid and grounded. I wasn’t thinking at all but just watching. I was just being there. I was just being, and that being was as vast like the ocean, and fresh and clean like the ocean. There was no need for thinking, to think was to miss the point, and the point was this… this moment, this now…, this…
There was a bit of a breeze and the sea was choppy. The sun was barely over the horizon and the day hadn’t properly warmed up yet. I studied the waves intensely, observing the way in which the light sparkled off them, the way they rose and fell. There were sparkles everywhere. I could see a carpet of dancing light that seemed to speak of some underlying luminosity, as if there was a sea of pure light concealed somehow under the choppy, heaving waves of the southern Atlantic. That was rather a poetic notion for me I thought. I’m not generally given to poetic notions as a rule, being of the opinion that poetry was for queers and girls. What would it be like to sail on an Ocean of Light I wondered? And if there was a sea of light hidden under the real sea, maybe there was a ship made out of light concealed within the material ship whose deck I was standing on. And if that were true then there must be a man of light concealed within the man which was me, the man who paced up and down holding his arms around his chest to stay warm.
As soon as I had that thought I felt a prickling sensation in my scalp, which moved down the side of my face and down my side for all the world as if a zip was being undone. I could imagine that man of light stepping right out of me, just like you might step out of a dressing gown. Immediately after imagining this I got a shock because I realized that there didn’t seem to be any difference from me imagining this thing happening, and it actually happening. I couldn’t tell if I was imagining it, or if it was real. In fact, it seemed to me that as soon I had the thought then that was all that was needed for it to happen. At that point in time it really did seem to me that there was a person inside me made out of pure transparent light who was just about to step out of my body. I say ‘a person’ – it was me that was about to step out of me. I was that inner being. I was that man of light.
I started to be aware of a feeling of weightlessness. The body of light was light in more than one sense of the word – it didn’t seem to be subject to the world of gravity like everything else. I instinctively knew it could go anywhere and that nothing could restrain it or block it in any way.
But what would happen to me if I went along with this fantasy, this fantasy that seemed more real than real life? I was standing on the very edge of a tremendous experience, not knowing whether to let myself step out into infinity, or whether to turn back to the solid, dull world of restrictions and limitations that I knew and felt safe with. Did I have the bottle to do it? I stood there for what seemed like an endlessly stretched moment of time, poised on the brink of the most incredible, audacious act anyone could ever carry out. It was like a jump into the ultimate unknown.
That’s when Manchester Dave suddenly stepped out of one of the forward hatches, the fucking great plonker. Dave is one person I just don’t have patience for first thing in the morning. Or any other time for that matter. “Alright Harry you cunt,” he grinned, “I thought I’d find you here”. He came closer, peering into my face, regarding me with intense curiosity, and all the time yapping away in that annoying way that he does.
“You’re some mad bastard you are, Harry. Look at you with your mad fucking eyes sticking out of you like a fucking demented cod fish. For someone who’s never in his whole life touched acid you certainly necked enough of it last night! You ate a whole fucking sheet of window panes. You didn’t leave any for the rest of us you cunt!”
That did it – I stared at him for a second or two and then, without a word, I decked the dumb bastard and went downstairs to fix myself a coffee.