Andrew lay supine facing his muted television, his spine an allen key, his feet on his coffee table, listening to Gary Glitter's 'I'm The Leader Of The Gang' on repeat and sipping from a can of Tyskie. A cat marauded somewhere in his flat. Andrew did not know to whom the cat belonged or how it had been getting in to his fifth floor flat nearly every day but its presence was welcome as there were noticeably fewer spiders and mouse droppings about since the cat had settled in.
Andrew emptied his can of beer down his throat, crushed the can, and tossed it on to 'the pile' before cracking open a seventh. George Alagiah, looking especially solemn, was silently threatening terrible things to come. Andrew raised himself on to his elbows to better read the headline. It read QUARANTINE ORDER. The cat leapt on to the sofa and took a seat next to Andrew.
Andrew narrowed his eyes at the television and muttered 'bastard Chinese'.
'You're not meant to make that face any more' said the cat. 'It's supposed to be racist.' Andrew ignored it and tried to read the ticker.
M1ijicns vvijl D!E ÅN9R3W Th!5 IZ WH4T Y0VR 7!FE HAS L36 ÛP T0
Andrew gave up and closed his eyes. He awoke with a start to the sound of snoring and looked about him. He was at home. With Jacobean effort he rose to his feet, turned off his stereo, and staggered to his toilet. The cat was in there, its gaze fixed on something in the water of the toilet bowl. Andrew pissed for nearly three minutes and went back to his living room. The cat dipped a paw in to the toilet bowl to create delightful golden waves.
Andrew shook his can of Tyskie, splashing himself with its contents. He fell backwards into the deeply sunken seat of his long abused sofa and felt around for his television's remote control. He felt between the sofa cushions, he raised himself to check that he had not been sitting on it. Finally he groaned with the frustration and stood up to turn the channel over at the television set. On BBC Two was Jane Hill stood in front of a hospital, wide eyed and trembling. On ITV was Mary Nightingale shiny with tears and sobbing. On Channel Four Krishnan Gurumurti expertly straddled the line between professionally disinterested and oblivious, a picture of a koala in a bow tie on the giant screen next to him. Andrew switched off his television and switched on his light.
A book was splayed against the floor. Andrew picked it up. It was 'Pointlessness' by the Mediocratic philosopher William Brown. Mediocrates was a little known pre-Socratic philosopher whose scant but continuous following has endured to the present day. None of Mediocrates' own writings have survived as he could never be bothered to write anything down. Andrew fell back into his seat and continued reading from where he guessed he must have left off.
'All things eventually pass away. Nothing is forever. One must learn never to seek enjoyment nor to actively avoid suffering.
'Joy and suffering are as fleeting as life itself. When joy has passed there remains only longing and boredom. Only a fool would actively create these states for himself.
'When suffering has passed it is replaced with relief. And this will also pass.
'Even those pleasures which many, in their ignorance and quite naturally, consider enduring will pass away like all other things. Do not be an Ozymandias.
'The wise man renounces desire for meaning and satisfaction.
'Even the greatest of civilizations collapse. Where is Timbuktu? What remains of Aksum? What became of Hitler's thousand year reign? The result of his ambition was disgrace. The result of his devotion to a cause was calamity.
'Now consider the man who has never tried and who cares about nothing. He can never fail, he will never experience loss, and he will never bring suffering on himself by his own hand. Like the jellyfish he..'
Andrew was startled by the sound of a key turning in his front door and he kicked over his table, spilling the rest of his beer. The cat ran in to lap it out of the carpet, leaving acrid paw prints behind. Andrew's mother stepped in to the flat and wrinkled her nose.
'How the fuck did you get in?' Andrew greeted her.
'Nice to see you too. You left your key in the door you saft git. Put the kettle on. Alright go on, I'll have a beer' said Andrew's mother while helping herself to a can of Tyskie. She swept a pile of clothes and newspapers off a chair, looked at the seat, and decided to stand.
'So have you heard? The country's on lock down. They've blown it out of proportion if you ask me. Still means you can't get bog roll for love or money'. Andrew suppressed an urge to vomit. Knowing his mother that might not have been a mere figure of speech. Knowing his mother he was certain it was not. 'So I've come to borrow yours'.
'Only got n-newspaper for that' Andrew told her, not looking her in the eye. He hated to disappoint his mother. If she was unhappy she would see to it that nobody was happy.
'You dirty little shit' Andrew's mother sneered. 'I'll be off then. Take care of yourself.' This always sounded like a threat coming from her. She placed two of Andrew's cans in her handbag and left carrying in her hand the one she had been drinking.
Andrew heard his front door click shut followed by the slam of the door to the stairwell. He had not noticed that there had been a buzzing in his head until his mother was out of his flat and his mind was still once again. The buzzing started up again like the drone of angry cockchafers as a rapeful light plundered his peace.
'THIS IS THE ARMY. RETURN TO YOUR HOME. YOU MUST NOT GO OUTSIDE. WE ARE AUTHORIZED TO SHOOT TO KILL. I REPEAT. WE ARE AUTHORIZED TO SHOOT TO KILL' came a noise from a loud hailer. There was a yelp, the slam of a door, hurried footsteps becoming louder, another slam, and finally banging coming from Andrew's front door.
'Andrew! Andrew let me in they've got guns!'
Her voice cut through the buzzing like a circular saw through flesh. Andrew pretended not to have heard but quickly decided that it would be quieter to let his mother back in. He sighed and went to his hallway, hesitated for another moment or two, then opened his front door. His mother pushed him out of the way and ran inside then stood grasping her knees and panting until her breath came back. The flood light went out.
'I guess I'll be staying with you for a while then. Got any more beer?'
'No you f-fu-fucking won't. You sh-should have gone home like you were m-'
'I didn't think did I? They had guns. They've got a bastard tank. I can't go back out now.'
'Course you can. You're- you're not staying here. T-t-tell them you were on your way home and you pp-panicked wwwhen they th- th-'
'Well. You'd really throw your poor old mother out on to the street. Out to be murdered by that lot out there. I always said you was no good.' Andrew's mother set her handbag on the floor and removed her scarf and coat. 'No, no, don't worry about me. I'll just go take my chances with the scary men with the guns and the tank. Never mind that you're sending your dear old mother to her death, o no, don't let that concern you. It's only the woman who tore her fanny up to shit for you. Thirty six hours it was, having you. Slaved for you your whole life. Just send me out to die.' She kicked off her shoes. 'And I hope you can still look yourself in the eye afterwards.'
Andrew knew better than to argue further.
'Alright. You're having the sofa.'
'I don't think so, not with my spine.' Andrew stifled a scream and submitted.
'I'm having the sofa.'
'That's right. What's there to eat? Where's that beer?' Andrew's mother teetered her way in to his living room and collapsed on to his sunken sofa with a sigh. 'Your sofa's bost, you know' she informed him. She found his book. 'What's this you're reading? 'Pointlessness'?' She barked with mirth. 'Suits you to the ground!'
Andrew followed her in. 'Itww ww-was here when I m-mm-moved in' Andrew apologized. 'I'm only part www-'
'Suits you to the ground, this does' she repeated. 'Of all the pointless things in the world you must be the most pointless, useless, worthless fucker of all.'
Andrew walked towards his window and parted the blinds. The army was still guarding the entrance. He sat in his chair and held his head in his hands. A daddy long legs spider descended from the ceiling and landed on his neck. Andrew grabbed the spider in his fist and ate it.
'Did you just eat that spider you yampy bastard?' laughed his mother who had been watching his every movement like a leopard.
'It's the cat that eats them' Andrew explained. His mother barked another laugh.
'What fucking cat? I just saw you eat that spider. Remember when you ate snails when you were little and you ended up with worms living in your throat? You always were a nutter.'
Andrew stood up again without uttering a word and went to find his shoes. His mother heard his front door click shut and the stairwell door slam. Amused and curious she went to his window and parted the blinds. The flood light came back on, nearly blinding her. She sat back down.
'THIS IS THE ARMY. RETURN TO YOUR HOME. YOU MUST NOT GO OUTSIDE. WE ARE AUTHORIZED TO SHOOT TO KILL. I REPEAT. WE ARE AUTHORIZED TO SHOOT TO KILL' came the noise from the loud hailer again. This time it was followed by rapid gun fire.
'Yampy bastard' cackled Andrew's mother. She got up to find her handbag and pulled from it a can of beer, a packet of cigarettes, and a lighter. She looked around for the television's remote control, gave up looking, and switched the television on at the set. Sylvester Stallone was firing an M2 machine gun from the back of a truck and screaming. Scores of men were being cut to pieces by the bullets. Andrew's mother sat down, cracked her beer open, sucked the foam, and lit a cigarette.