Untitled

March 6, 2010

The boy pressed his nose flat against the glass of a display counter that rose to a height just above his head; behind it was a rocky landscape of sweets and toffees in just about every shade of red, blue, green and pink, glittering with a crystalline galaxy of sugar. His eyes flitted around the lurid display that shone like treasure, each flavor of confectionary was inside its own unique tray with a miniature trowel dug into its contents, but the overflowing surfaces seemed to blend together to form a single, twinkling carapace. Amongst the crowd of sweets he could see faces like that of a bear or a clown that smiled at him and he smiled back. The boy was salivating like a dog with his eyes wide open and his hands left greasy traces of themselves on the glass. He noticed an icy mist traveling across the stones that seemed to dissipate whenever he looked directly at it.

He couldn’t actually tell any difference between the colored sweets displayed before him except for the color and shape but he was still, at that moment, compiling an order of his favorites to be collected together in a single bag and eaten at his leisure.

He was yet to be told that it was customary at these types of places to order only a single flavor, and that this would be supplied in a small paper bag that could hold only a few small handfuls, so he continued looking and adding whichever sweets caught his eye to his list. Once he was ready for his father to relay his instructions to the man in charge, he turned to him and tugged the sleeve of his jacket. His father’s jacket seemed different from before, heavier and smoother, and there was something about his general presence that seemed distinctly alien, like he’d been replaced with a different person. He wanted to ask his father about the jacket so he tugged harder at his sleeve, calling ‘Daddy? Daddy!’ but the man didn’t respond, he just stood staring impassively over the counter of the four-sided market stall towards where you would expect to find a smiling shopkeeper wearing a paper hat and a colorful apron, crouching down to tell you about all his marvelous sweets and slipping them into a bag that was lined with sugar, but that man wasn’t there either. The stall was empty, the boy noticed, and it now seemed obvious to him that it was empty because there was no way in or out, the counter continued around each corner in an unbroken square with no obvious entrance or doorway, and above the counter was a separate four-sided display case hanging down from the roof of the stall with a space of only a few feet between the two. The few floor tiles that he could see in the centre of the square seemed so impeccably clean that it was likely nobody had ever been there.

The boy started to tug harder at the man’s sleeve, he could see his head moving when he pulled his arm so he was sure the man knew he was there. The boy took a moment to look around him, and he noticed that there was nobody else there except for some shapes that seemed to move like people, drifting behind him at a slow, deliberate pace and then disappearing out of sight. He couldn’t tell if these shapes were watching him or it just seemed that way.

He carried on pulling the sleeve until the man finally turned to look at him, but the boy didn’t recognize his face at all. It was similar to his father’s but altogether darker, with sharp whiskers of stubble adorning his chin and hollow cheeks. He had thick, coarse eyebrows and his hair looked the same as his father’s – short, dark and curly – but his facial features were more angular and pronounced, they were contorted into an expression of scornful derision as if the boy’s whole giddy, overexcited life was nothing more than a nuisance to him. His eyes were like two small portholes that looked into an infinite void so vast and empty that the boy couldn’t bring himself look into them, as though if he did they might draw him in.

He let go of the sleeve in terror, having never felt so unwanted in his short life. He almost felt like removing his own existence simply to appease the man, who returned his gaze back to where it was. The boy followed his line of sight back to the pane of glass that now seemed much higher, the sweets now completely out of sight except for the glow from the smiling faces that shined above his head, and he watched as the latent shapes of his hands on the glass slowly shrank and then disappeared, and the boy felt upset that he had caused the man any trouble.

01/01 – A Bioterrorism Attack By London’s Forgotten Underclass

The noughies were a decade of perpetual decline. Unrelenting political conflict, war, unemployment and a monolithic global economic recession meant that if you were to chart the collective happiness of the public throughout the decade, the last few years would begin to resemble a giant, wilting penis. An apposite metaphor for how most of us felt: Powerless.

With jobs being axed and prospects growing slimmer by the day, the public sentiment was one of abject pessimism and despair, and in the spirit of escaping this, if only for one day, my friends and I decided to drive to our nation’s capital to see off the decade watching the world-famous New Years Eve fireworks over the River Thames.

New Years Eve was like one long que that snaked back on itself ad infinitum, thousands of people were crammed into every street and avenue which were bookended by rows of police, every small journey took hours. We were packed into the riverside with such density we ceased to be individuals and instead became a single entity, a giant hive-minded swarm, moving and thinking as one.

The morning after, we were understandably worse for wear, while my friends slept off their hangovers I decided to lick my wounds in a nearby café. It was a deceptively middle-class establishment on a second floor, the nondescript steel staircase betraying nothing of its poncey cosiness upstairs. It was filled with impassive businessfolk sipping cappucinos and reading broadsheet newspapers, they looked as fresh and sprightly as a room full of newborn babies. Feeling slightly ashamed and out of place, I limped pathetically to a table in the corner.

I ordered a full English breakfast but was told the wait for food would be at least half an hour. That’s fine, I said, and watched footage of the fireworks display I had qued for hours to see the night before on the television on the wall next to me.

I often feel out of place amongst stuffed-shirt business types, but my truculent hangover that day intensified my alienation, I felt a sort of envious comtempt for the affluent, comfortable people around me. Public school twats! One of them had left an Observer on my table, and I felt a strange urge to pick it up and toss it, aimlessly, at the metropolitan urbanites eating lunch around me, the pages fluttering in midair creating a general, polite but rebellious mess.

New year; new decade…. new me?

Fuck it, I’ll do it! This could be the catalyst for a new trend of pointless social rebellion, I thought. The impotent rage most of us feel towards the City’s uncontrollable financial traders finally tipping over into tangible revenge. A peasant’s revolt!

I gripped the paper like a baton and looked around me to see if there were any police or security staff. Just middle-class white people. Bum. Middle-class white people.

Wait a minute, what’s that tramp doing sat over there? A grinning, filthy tramp with in an outfit so cartoonishly layered and practical as to make him resemble something out of Top Cat was sitting alone in the corner of the room clutching a bottle of budget vodka and a plastic bag with indeterminate content.

I wonder why the waiters haven’t removed him yet, I thought to myself, poncily, before realising my complete and utter hypocrisy. Some peasant I am! I’m no more a member of the disaffected proletariat than these contemptuous business twats sat around me! Feeling guilty and ashamed, I dejectedly returned the Observer to the table.

Two waiters approached the hobo and politely asked him to leave, which he did, to another table. They repeated this charade about four or five times. The waiters powerlessly trying to goad him towards the exit like a frightened child trying to make a wasp fly out an open window. They kept their distance. He was having none of it.

Much of the room had begun to take notice now. I noticed the horrified looks on the faces of the people whose tables he had approached and then deserted. Their faces screwed up in contempt. I felt angry now. Who are they to look down on him!

It wasn’t until he passed my table that I realised that it wasn’t his presence that so horrified them but the acrid stench that followed him around. Being old, homeless and probably senile, he didn’t look like hygiene was one of his main priorities, and from the smell of it his underwear must have had layer upon layer of dried exrement woven into the fabric, being further compacted whenever he sat down. A filthy lasagne. A turgid tapestry that created a cloud of effluvium so thick that I swore I could see an actual brown image of the man trailing behind him like a latent brown ghost.

The tramp continued his sensory assault on London’s business class, moving from table to table, attracting more and more attention, until he reached a particularly posh looking woman who was wholly unaware of the developing scene. She had her back to him and quietly slurped her tomato and basil soup. Her husband, sitting opposite, had taken notice but seemed to be in a state of impotent anxiety, unable to warn his wife.

Suddenly she felt the shadow of a monsterous entity creeping upon her from behind. The tramp slowly stalked closer, his eyes trained on his prey like a wild animal, being careful not to make any noise or unnecessary smells. She glanced at her husband who was now tranfixed with fear, gawping over her shoulder.

The tramp paused for a moment, observing his surroundings, the waiters had by this point left to find security staff, every person in the room was now looking at the tramp. He sensed his opportunity, and with wild ferocity he threw his head back and let out his battle cry:

GAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

The poor lady flinched so hard she dropped her spoon and it fell back into the bowl with a loud clink. Her hand trembling, still holding the now invisible spoon to her mouth, a single tear ran down her cheek. The tension in the room reached boiling point. Everyone was filled with horror and fear and curiosity, every muscle in the room was clenched apart from the two filthy bumcheeks of the predatory tramp, who was at this moment producing a new addition to his already crowded underpants.

He forced out a sickly black sausage that seemed to groan upon exit. It came out slowly and directionless like a machine producing sausage. His smile widened in self-sacrifial glory. The air around him seemed to divert itself away in disgust; the atmosphere became violent and deadly.

As she whimpered, paralysed with fear, hoping that the inept waiting staff would come back and miraculously save her in time, the tramp, sensing weakness, licked his crusty lips which were outlined by a thick, wiry yellow goatee that looked like a wire wool pad coated in sick. He decided it was time to play his final card. He scuttled round to the side of her table, she sat looking straight ahead, daring not to move, he took his first good look at her face and then turned his back. Without hesitation, he unbuckled his trousers and pulled them down to his knees. With his hands, he pulled apart his arse cheeks revealing a black hole surrounded by lesions, mud and hair.

She looked into the hypnotic abyss pointed at her face, she stared at it, transfixed and calm, like a hostage staring down the barrel of a gun. People started to leave the room at this point, sensing an explosive situation was at hand. The stampede knocked down the waiters and security staff who were finally returning to subdue the beast. He sensed his time was drawing thin.

He bellowed out another battle cry – GAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHA!!! – and then blew out another brown shaft of dynamite, shaped like a fist-sized nuclear warhead, at such speed it rocketed into the bowl and sent tomato and basil soup all over her face and clothes.

Splish.

Snapping out of her paralysis, the hysterical woman fled the room in tears followed by her husband. It was at this point I realised that I was now alone in the room with the victorious tramp, who looked at me with joyful fulfilment. In that short moment that we shared a glance I realised that these were not the actions of a wild, crazed lunatic, but a calculated and symbolic act of rebellion, a bioterrorism assault from London’s homeless underclass against the elite bankers and traders who had subjugated him to the streets and ignored him. He knew exactly what he was doing as he parted those bum cheeks in that innocent woman’s face, his puckered anus practically whispering: “We will no longer be ignored. We will not be slighted. We will not lie down in the streets and die. You can ignore us no longer. You cannot fight us. For we are Legion. And this is our weapon”.

——————————————————————————————————-

The unfortunate lady who had fled into the crowded streets of London on New Years Day covered in a thick red gloop like someone fleeing from a suicide bombing never recovered from the attack, spending days in a catalytic, monosylabbic state, her first coherent words were:

“What an absolutely awful start to the year.”

The tramp was never seen again. I presume his departing thoughts were:

“What a absolutely terrific start to the year!”

I sat in the café, dazed and shellshocked, for several hours afterwards, staring at the Observer newspaper that had been my pathetic intended weapon of subversion, feeling ridiculous, thoroughly outdone and outclassed. Business slowly returned to normal and a waiter finally brought over my breakfast, I took one look at the black pudding on my plate and nearly fell back off my chair. I got up and hurried towards the door, shaking my head in disbelief and thinking:

“How the fuck did a homeless man manage to shit so much?”

A Black Flag

January 18, 2010

A note regarding the death penalty.

As I write this, I do so with great relief that the country in which I live has abandoned the infantile barbarism of capital punishment, joining a coalition of nations committed to the pursuit of a modern civil functionality. Such callow acts of ordained sadism should exist now only as a grave and somber lesson from the bloodstained pages of history alongside the tortures and public burnings inflicted upon those falsley accused of witchcraft.

I’m also deeply aware that there are many who do not share this view.

A recent poll showed that over half of the British population, a country of democracy, is in favour of the reintroduction of the death penalty in some cases. A passing glance at certain newspaper websites and messageboards reveals the true, gruesome extent of their bloodlust.

Were the death penalty (this is the single name by which it should be known and by no other diplomatic euphamism) to be wrenched back from the dark ages and thrust upon our modern society, I have only one wish:

The first action to be taken would be a comprehensive study into the likelihood of an innocent man being dropped from the gallows (or led to whatever weapon chosen by the state), do this by investigating past reports of exonerating evidence brought to light after the event, known cases of men put to death under dubious legal circumstances, convictions borne of corrupion and prejudice, and behaviours demonstrated by the accused which we would now retrospectively diagnose as mental illness and therefore those of a person legally unfit for execution.

The number should be a small one in comparison to the number of overall, “successful” executions, but substantial enough to warrant a strict tightening in legislation regarding the criteria for the death sentence – but that is not the outcome I’m suggesting.

You would then take this data – for the sake of this argument let’s assume it is one innocent man hanged for every hundred guilty – and pass it along to whatever team of scientists you have assigned the unfortunate duty of creating the deadly serum (I’m assuming this Orwellian regime will have the humanity to opt for the lethal injection over more sensational methods) which will be used to end the criminal’s life.

They will then use this information to create a chemical that when administered will be scientifically proven to kill humans in exactly ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, leaving behind a margin for error which, by the logic assumed by the state in reinstating the death penalty, is the unfortunate gamble we take in pursuing justice. One in a hundred.

In the event that death is not brought upon the condemned, the side-effects will be devastating. Paralysis. Searing, flesh-burning pain. Unrelenting agony. The prisoner’s body contorted in a hideous caricature of a man drowning in endless torment, screaming only with his eyes. But not death.

The unlucky criminal – a victim of probability, regardless of whether he is actually innocent or guilty – will then be deemed a ‘black flag’, and wheeled into a new cell, a more open, visible room on the outskirts of the prison where floor-to-ceiling windows allow the public to see in from the roadside at the man now being kept artificially alive by machines until he expires of natural causes.

A perpetual reminder of the decision they have made.

The Fallen Golfer

November 29, 2009

“Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle.” – JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL

 

In America, the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year, its close proximity to this most disingenuous of national holidays usually means that most Americans will have this day off work, giving them the perfect opportunity to carry out all of their Christmas shopping in one trip. On this day, shopping malls are swamped, car parks are gridlocked and festive cheer is at its most terse, to the Americans this day is known as ‘Black Friday’.

 

But on this day in 2009 the cheeky, ironic knowingness of this title was to be respectfully withdrawn and replaced with the sober literalness that accompanies other national days of infamy such as ‘Black Monday’ and ‘Black Thursday’.

 

In the early hours of Black Friday, 2009, Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods was involved in a serious car accident outside of his Florida home, which left him lying in a semi-conscious state with injuries to his face. His wife, Elin Nordegren, managed to free him from the wreckage by smashing the rear window of his luxury car with one of Woods’ own golf clubs. The accident happened at 2.25am local time, as his neighbours slept peacefully, and during next few hours Americans nationwide would awake to this terrible news.

 

“Tiger…Woods? Involved in a car crash in the middle of the night? How?” they thought, a drunken celebrity DUI being an unlikely turn for one of the sporting worlds most reserved and stoical fellows, “…is he okay?”

 

Yes, the news would reply, he is going to be fine, and the drowsy American public breathed a sigh of relief, and then “his wife got him out….with a golf club?”

 

People worldwide spent the morning making jokes: What if he had been a bowler? Would she have bowled through the window? What if he were a baseball player? Would she have baseballed through the window? What if he were a javelin thrower? Would she have thrown a javelin through the window? He could have been killed! Ha ha!

 

Tiger Woods’ face was not the only thing bruised on that cold November morning.

 

I thought this was an absolute disgrace! A once-revered sporting legend, the greatest golfer the world has ever seen, lay bleeding and dazed in a hospital bed as the nation who once loved him subjected him to their cackling scorn and mockery, “HA HA HA”, they scoffed, “she saved his life with a golf club! What deliciously pathetic fodder for our Internet and our Conan o’ Brien and our coarse, seething wit. This accident will serve us well.”

 

An absolute disgrace. Tiger Woods being injured is not funny! His wife saving his life with one of his golf clubs is not funny! But what is funny is the fact that he managed to crash his luxury car outside of his own home in the middle of the night in a manner that, as the news reports informed us, somehow involved a fire hydrant and a tree.

 

A fire hydrant and a tree. A fire hydrant….and a…tree. How did this happen?

 

Was he reversing out of his gated driveway, carefully switching his attention from his diamond-encrusted rear-view mirror and his gold-leaf monogrammed side-mirrors, when his solid gold mobile phone began vibrating in his pocket causing him to panic, set foot on the accelerator, and accidentally reverse up a child’s makeshift skateboard ramp and into a nearby tree?

 

Or was he perhaps reversing out of his gated driveway, racked with anxiety about the forthcoming expose on his adulterous private life, when a stray golf ball rocketed through his windscreen hitting him in the face, causing him to step on the accelerator and reverse up a makeshift skateboard ramp and into a nearby tree, which was at that moment being cut down by a lumberjack, sending him falling onto a fire hydrant?

 

Or was Tiger Woods driving around in circles in front of his house, cackling with maniacal rage while wearing his green Master’s jacket and gripping tightly all of his golf trophies and piles of cash as Queen’s “We Are The Champions” blasted out of the stereo, in a frenzied state of ecstatic psychosis brought about by alcohol and methamphetamine, when he clipped a fire hydrant and accidentally drove up a makeshift skateboard ramp to the tune of an onlooker’s slide whistle, sending him flying into a tree that was at that moment being cut down by a lumberjack, causing the car to fall down onto a small dog?

 

At this point, all we can do is speculate.

 

The only facts that we know for sure are that Tiger Woods was somehow involved in a vehicular misunderstanding between himself and a fire hydrant and tree, at 2.25am local time, at which point his wife ran outside to find her husband lying in a catatonic state inside his luxury car. Shocked and panic-stricken, she then tried to free him from the smoking wreckage but could not open the doors, her natural instinct as a Golfer’s Wife took over and she grabbed his solid-gold Arnold Palmer Invitational commemorative 9-iron from inside the house and returned to adopt a wide-legged, amateur golfer’s stance. Her trembling hands then drew the club into backswing, and she swung at the rear window causing it to shatter, at which point she pulled her husband away from the fuselage and performed basic first aid while keeping his head in the correct recovery position with a golf tee.

 

The accident drew the attention of HATCASN, the Hydrant And Tree Car Accident Survivors Network, who issued a public statement on the matter:

 

“More than one hundred professional golfers each year are involved in some kind of accident which involves either a fire-hydrant or a tree, there is currently no governmental financial support structure in place for the victims of these accidents, and they are often left to pay for the costs of their own medical care and vehicular damages. This often causes them having to consider traveling on commercial airlines, competing in tournaments on courses of no historic significance and becoming the spokesperson for companies offering luxury properties in Spain. The Hydrant And Tree Car Accident Survivors Network was set up to provide a voice to those forgotten victims of hydrant tree car accidents, who are without a doubt some of the most vulnerable and helpless members of our society.”

 

It is unclear at this point whether this terrible accident will affect Tiger Woods’ future career, but many of his corporate sponsors have already deserted him, not wanting their brand image to be tainted by any association with failure.

 

Could this cruel twist of fate spell the end of a long career as the ubiquitous reigning champion of golf? Gary Player once likened the life of a celebrity golfer to that of a double-sided golf club:

 

“Eventually it takes away with its backswing that which it once brought with its forestroke. An seductive cycle of falsehoods and wealth punctuated upon your first car tree fire-hydrant car crash, when the cooing doves of mercy are thenceforth replaced by rapacious jackals.”

I believe the only reason anybody owns a dog is because they quite like the idea of discovering a dead body on their walks.

Now that may seem like a bizarre statement for me to make, given that the number of people who own dogs but have never discovered a corpse greatly outnumbers the people that do and have, but I often wonder whether those who do own a dog and still haven’t yet discovered a corpse ever turn on the morning news to find that another missing person has, tragically, been murdered and their badly decomposed body has been discovered by an anonymous member of the public while out walking their dog, and I wonder whether at this moment in some deeply subconscious place within a deeply buried corridor of their own horrible, disturbing brains, they see the words ‘dog-walker’ crawling across the television screen beneath a live feed of the crime scene and think to themselves…”I sort of wish that was me”.

I know that I have sometimes, in my more macabre moments, wondered what it would be like to be the person who made such an appalling discovery. It’s an unsolicited yet deeply important role that you fulfill, being the first person on a murder scene, and you become the focus of some kind of dark, morbid attention for a brief period of your life in the capacity of an innocent, completely innocuous observer; questions are asked of you, statements are taken, interviews are requested. It’s a pathetic kind of short-lived secondary fame that comes as a result of being the sole witness to any important news event, but it’s attention nonetheless. But is this really such a disturbing thought?

Dead bodies are only frightening to us because we are, as a species, terribly afraid of death. This is perfectly understandable since all that we know for sure is that when somebody we love dies they never return, ever – unless they were sent to us as a martyr to be to be sacrificed in a symbolic act of the absolution of all of mankind’s sin, in which case we are allocated the luxury of a bonus round.

We know nothing of what happens after a person dies, and so the idea they continue to exist in another form in some kind of spiritual afterlife is very comforting to us. We are, at this point in our evolution, wholly incapable of feeling completely at ease with the idea of our complete and utter annihilation, the state of being nothing, non-existence, although as some philosophers have noted, we reserve our misery only for the time following our death and not for the time preceding our birth.

Even the most ardent of religious devotees are unable to obviate the feeling of pain and sadness and grief following the death of a loved one who, according to their beliefs, is now in a place of eternal, peaceful bliss. No man is exempt from feeling this; grief is an essential function of any self-conscious being which has evolved alongside other corollary emotions such as empathy, compassion and love. The fear of death is as natural, and essential, as the evolutionary function of pain, which is a required factor for the preservation of our species.

Throughout history many people have tried to cheat death, or prevent it, or postpone it in many, many different ways from spells, potions, obsequious rituals and sacrifice to prayer and dubious experimentation within every culture in recorded history, from ancient eastern alchemists to hoodoo witch doctors in Africa to modern scientists working to eradicate disease. The only shared goal that has ever united all of humankind is the desire, and the wish, for immortality. Buddhists may believe in a physical reincarnation of the soul (a spiritual immortality) and Abrahamic monotheists may believe in an eternal afterlife, but we are still, at this moment in time, selfish, narcissistic mammals in the crying infancy of our species whose brains are still entirely incapable of preventing this yearning for our own personal eternity.

It always struck me as suspicious when somebody described heaven as a place of social congregation with all of their favourite humans and pets.

In ancient Rome, the eldest surviving male in the family was summoned to his father’s deathbed where he would attempt to catch and inhale the final breath of the decadent, so that his father could, at least partly, live on inside another vessel. The Epic of Gilgamesh – the discovery of which is dated back to the 22nd Century BC, making it one of the earliest known works of literature – is an epic poem about a King who searches for immortality following the death of his friend Enkidu. British historian Joseph Needham compiled a long list of Chinese Emperors whose own demise was brought about by “elixir poisoning” after ingesting one of any number of potions thought to bring immortality to the drinker only to kill them with their often highly toxic ingredients; jade, mercury and liquid gold being three of the most popular.

Our emotional and physical struggle against mortality predates any known religion or culture, and so religion came to appropriate the battle as its own later on – a highly effective marketing strategy – offering eternal salvation, reincarnation and even deification to those who seek it. There has never been a shortage of belief systems that provide, with absolute certainty, a spiritual perpetuity in an afterlife packed with earthly, human pleasures such as power, lust and friendship. The believers have tentatively won their fight against nonexistence, as far as they’re concerned, but there still exists much of our primitive mortal anxiety in even the most pedestrian aspects of modern society: anti-aging products, a shared avoidance and fear of the elderly, the human compulsion to create perennial works of art or to document and record ones existence with photographs and video, society’s predilection with youth, and the use of the word ‘eternity’ in modern parlance and marriage vows.

“‘Til death do us part” is a more than sufficient sentence.

I myself am terrified of death, but even more pathetically I am afraid of a violent or painful death, an agony that, by definition, I would only experience for a short time.  But this nevertheless affects many things in my life, I feel a general unease when driving on a motorway, and like most people I tend to avoid violent confrontation and unnecessarily dangerous situations.  But I do have a fascination with death, we all do – the common cliché being that of a horrific car crash that you can’t bring yourself to look away from – a vague, sedentary preoccupation with the grotesque. A cursory glance through any newspaper, though, would seem to suggest that we are more than just fascinated with it, we’re obsessed with it. The body count in a daily newspaper is high enough to warrant a strict parental guidance warning: suicides, murders, war atrocities, bizarre accidents, mutilations, kidnappings, tortures, terrorism, and our troubling habit of broadcasting obituaries.

There’s an aspect of morbid voyeurism at the death and suffering of those with whom we cannot reasonably empathise, those so far away from our own spheres of existence that they exist only as a statistic or a footnote in a newspaper filled with hundreds more, this indifference again unites much of mankind. It’s simply impossible to react with the appropriate grief and respect deserved to each victim of each individual tragedy that happens every single day, if we did our own lives would be a relentless cycle of despair and bereavement.

Every one of us is capable of the kind of callousness and emotional detachment that we deplore when inflicted upon us.

Society has allocated us several acceptable outlets for this grisly fixation. We read violent literature or see scary films, the characters in which, again, receive only a shred of our real compassion; many of us actively perform violent acts in video games in which we are rewarded for our excessive coldness and brutality. Those who consider themselves above these trigger-happy hobbies can always indulge in any of the Abrahamic holy books to satiate their own bloodlust.

From this I assume that many people who are otherwise perfectly stable and admirable individuals share this dark curiosity about death and what it might be like to see a dead body. An event that, in most circumstances, would be one entirely devoid of gore or violence, just a person (with whom I hopefully have no personal relationship) who no longer lives, their shell found in the last place of their earthly inhabitance, and nothing more: a human whose state of non-being is, although quite eerie, entirely natural and – regardless of the whereabouts of their former soul or consciousness – peaceful.

An event that our future species might not regard as disturbing or frightening at all; it’s just a person that’s no longer a person.

We become more interested in death the older we get, it being a likelihood that becomes ever more realistic with each passing year, and we are statistically more likely to require the companionship of a pet in our less active and less social middle-aged period onwards.

Numbers would suggest that the domestic dog is the most popular choice – nature’s bloodhound.

Now I am not, in all seriousness, suggesting that the only reason people buy a dog is to fulfill a subconscious desire to investigate crime-scenes without themselves having to perpetrate a violent act, I am merely positing three things: 1) dog-walking is good for your health, 2) the dog likes it a lot, and 3) you might get lucky and find a corpse.

Man’s best friend, indeed.

And I am not, in any way, suggesting that the reason the domestic dog is the preferred choice of pet for most families is purely because of their refined sense of smell and their effectiveness in seeking out contraband in difficult to reach places. I am just saying that it’s understood by most people that one of the supplementary functions of a dog is that of a discrete corpse-locating device, and…well, they do say “curiosity killed the cat” don’t they.

And I am certainly not suggesting that the biggest selling canine accessory is a chewable, distinctly human-looking bone because the owners are, subconsciously, training their pets to become unwitting gatherers of actual rotting human bones, taken from the skeletons of severely decomposed corpses, which lay undiscovered in their shallow graves, to be returned to the owners for their own perverse amusement.

Throw a dog a bone, here.