These days, many of us wake up every morning and find ourselves wondering just what is going to go wrong today. Even before breakfast you've probably fallen over twice, almost choked on your own saliva, set off the smoke alarm thanks to a recalcitrant toaster, and had a cold call from someone trying to convince you that their electricity is the best electricity, a lot more electricity-y than any of their competitors, and cheaper than other electricity because it's from Aldi or Lidl or something. By the time you've sat down with your burnt toast and dug the Lego bricks out of your heels, you're already pissed off and ready to go back to bed, which will, if you're lucky, still be nice and warm and away from the perils of modern-day life.
But you soldier on, because you're an adult, and adulting in this world requires tenacity and backbone, even though you've almost broken yours twice already this morning. You decide to turn on the morning news, "Just to see what's going on in the world," because it's good to know these things. An uninformed person is an idiot. What if someone asks your opinion about current events in the canteen at work? A simple shrug or nod might be enough to make them go away and quit staring at your sandwich -- yes, it's just bread and butter, the fucking crab paste was fluffy -- but you might have to provide them with a more profound answer, and how can you do that if you don't watch the morning news before you leave?
Firstly, though, you've got to get the kids up and make their breakfast. They have three choices. Burnt toast, cold toast, or bread and butter, the last two being the same but they're kids and haven't developed enough yet to realise it. They both want Coco Pops, but you ran out yesterday. And the milk's soured. And there aren't any clean bowls. And the water's been cut off because apparently that's something else you have to pay for. After moaning about the charred toast, you tell the kids to get dressed. Today's an important day -- it's not really, it's just Wednesday, some point in July or August, no one really knows any more -- and it's not going to royally screw you in the arse until they've got ready for school.
The news is, as always, one big clusterfuck of atrocities. Wars, pandemics, unemployment figures, recessions, racism, death tolls. You wait for the weather report, by which time you're exhausted by all the terrible things happening in the world, but when the weather comes it's announced by some poor, piss-soaked woman standing in the middle of a field while a cow lows miserably behind her. "It's expected to be the wettest summer since records began," she tells you, and you don't doubt it because this is 2020. The only thing missing so far is Bruce Willis in a spacesuit while Aerosmith sing a love ballad at you from somewhere nearby.
You've had enough of the news, so you decide to drop the kids off and go to work, but on the way to your car you realise it's been mugged when you were not looking. Your stereo's gone -- it was probably only Aerosmith anyway, you remind yourself -- and for some reason they've even taken your soft mints from the glove compartment, the thieving little shits. Also, it's not raining. It's the hottest day of the year. You're already sweating into your own butt crack when you realise the cheeky little fuckers have also stolen your air-con.
By the time you get to work (three people have gone into the back of you, and you've been stopped twice by police because, not only have they taken your stereo, your air-con, and your soft mints, they've also taken your indicator bulbs) you're ready to face the long, hard day ahead.
"Did you see what Trump said yesterday?" one of your colleagues asks, face-mask muffling his voice. You nod, because you know you can wing this one: something about drinking bleach, or nukes in tornadoes, or how he's going to intercept mail by following every mailman around the country like Pokemon and catching 'em all. "Unbelievable!" you exclaim, and that's enough to get away with it. Your colleague, satisfied with your informed response, returns to their desk and spends the rest of the day making shit ghosts and stinking out the office.
Work goes about as well as planned. Only three people die in the office that day, which is considered to be 'good numbers' considering everything going on, so you go home happy you weren't one of the unfortunate ones, who shouldn't have been anywhere near that leaky gas line in the first place.
The evening news is much of the same, only now something in some faraway place has blown up, but thankfully it's far away enough not to affect you. You mutter to yourself how terrible this is, and make a mental note to #thoughtsandprayers later on, if you get around to it. You make some toast, setting off the fire alarm once again, and watch a documentary about Women Who Kill, just to cheer you up. Turns out most of the men deserved it, and you find yourself rooting for the murderers and hoping they're not having too much of a bad time in prison.
Time for bed. You made it through another day. You survived work and the myriad idiots out there concocting conspiracy theories about how 5G is going to melt your skin off, but not before it shares everything you've ever thought about on Twitter, with the hashtags #yourgranniesnext and #4Gsucks.
You sigh with relief as you climb into your bed, which you now have to share with half a dozen cockroaches whose names you haven't yet learned, although one of them looks like a Dave. That's when you remember you forgot to pick the kids up from school, but it's okay. They'll still be there tomorrow, albeit teary-eyed and wearing a pair of pants with the wrong day of the week printed on them.
Life is perverse. It is challenging. It is hectic and scary and filled with tribulations, but it could be worse. We still have art to enjoy. This month alone saw the release of new work from Josh Malerman (Malorie), Stephen Graham Jones (The Only Good Indians), and Paul Tremblay (Survivor Song). Even during lockdown, creators have continued to create -- I point you in the direction of Shudder's HOST which is a remarkable piece of film-making, and even more so because it was filmed after Covid became the most used word EVER and 19 became everyone's least favourite number, knocking 666 off the top spot.
Toilet paper is back on the shelves, which is handy if, like me, you like to clean up afterwards, and Ghislaine Maxwell is in prison, where she is either going to face trial or get 'Epsteined', either of which suits me just fine but preferably the former, so that her victims can finally find some kind of peace and the whole damn ring is exposed.
People are finding new hobbies, things they've never had time for before, and many of them won't return to their old jobs because there's money to be made from inventing trainers that are also treadmills or knitting spaghetti socks. By this point, many of us could open a hair salon and call it The Wonky Bob or the Down to the Bone, and there are now at least a million people out there whose lower body and weaker arm are now covered with rudimentary, self-inflicted tattoo designs that should have instead been sellotaped to the fridge, but at least they tried something new. And besides, wolf-cat-dogs howling at the moon might be the in thing in 2021.
The earth has miraculously begun to heal from its years of abuse. Pollution levels have plummeted, and while it may only be temporary -- that Hummer parked outside ain't gonna drive itself and we're all so desperate for a holiday that we're booking four flights, just in case one or more of them falls through -- its effects can only be a good thing. Animals are joining hands and dancing around the forests and pandas have started fornicating again. There is significantly less roadkill, thanks to a decrease in traffic and the fact the badgers are all doing the Macarena in the trees. Mother Nature is doing her bit; it's time we met her in the middle, at a distance of 2m, of course.
Life is perverse, for sure, but it could always be worse.
You could be a porn addict with no dick. You could have constipation and diarroeah at the same time, resulting in some sort of inexplicable Inception of the bowel. You could come second in a 'You' lookalike contest. You could be in North Korea, and if you were you wouldn't be able to read this right now (suck it, Kim!). There are a million ways it could be worse, so continue to power through each day as if it is your last, do the things you've always wanted to: write those stories, paint those paintings, have a threesome with twins, get abducted by aliens, swim with mermaids, change your name by deed poll, marry a mannequin, shave your eyebrows off, learn to enjoy avocado, read a book about pencils, divorce a mannequin, binge-watch Eastenders from the start, whatever makes you happy.
Life is perverse, but it's ours, and we've only got one shot at it.
Let's give it all we've got.
(apart from the book about pencils).
Returning to Work in a Pandemic (or My Goddess and the Tale of the Turgid Flaxen Clown on a Santander Bicycle)
As of the time of writing this, I am over halfway done with a new novel. Has it been easy in this strange and often terrifying new world we find ourselves living in? Hell no. There are times when it seems impossible to be productive, instances when, after watching a particularly jarring news report or stumbling upon a shocking social media post (anti-maskers/anti-vaxxers/someone from the horror community whipping their dick out and being rightfully screenshotted for their efforts/Fascism - delete as appropriate) all motivation to write is stripped away. Instead you find yourself sitting there, angry at people, staring at Boris Johnson's bumbling balloon head on the TV screen and wondering whether things will ever return to normal.
For me, things are returning to some sort of normality. Before last month, I had not composed anything longer than a few incoherent sentences, a silly poem here or there, a shopping list, a 'LOVE YOU' note to the woman keeping me sane. Fuck, just a few short months ago things were much worse. I was without a home just as the pandemic was back in the changing room doing stretches, limbering up for its big moment. I was about as productive as a chicken with sellotape covering its arsehole.
Something had to be done. Something drastic that will henceforth be known as 'The Right Thing'. I have spent much of my life doing the opposite, which has led me into various troubles along the way. I drank too much (enough to put most sailors into an early grave), was far too promiscuous (enough to put most porn stars into an early grave), and had become a misanthrope. Why bother with reality when the world was inherently broken? I had convinced myself that I had no place here, that I was being shit on from a great height; my writing career was over, I had lost a Goddess who had meant more to me than anything, and was living my best life in an alleyway at the back of a Greggs bakery. And now there was a virus on the loose, and selfishly I wanted it. That's how bad it got back there for a moment, but I don't want to dwell on that. As I said, normality is resuming, and I am once again happy. Let me tell you why.
When I was homeless, a family took me in. I was spending much of my day in the pub, just to get out of the cold, and it was there that one of the barmaids offered me a sofa. For months, without asking for anything in return, they put me up, fed me, and we played board games late into the night. We were on lockdown together, all with a severe case of Stuckhome Syndrome. But it got me out of that alleyway and back on my feet.
I cut down on my drinking, eventually stopping altogether, and the Goddess returned to my life. When it was safe to do so, I moved to Birmingham so that we could be together more, and in the months since we have enjoyed each other's company almost every night.
I did 'The Right Thing' and it paid off handsomely, and the Goddess continues to encourage me to write every single day, because, "Isn't that what you do? You make things up and people enjoy them and then you make some more things up?" She tells me daily how proud she is of me and what I am doing, and I tell her how proud I am of her (she is currently putting the finishing touches to her thesis and will be published herself shortly, albeit as a Dr., which is a little bit intimidating as I've always fancied having letters before or after my name).
So in this age of the pandemic and with maniacs seemingly running the show ("Do go out, but don't, but if you have to, wear a mask, or don't in restaurants, but don't go to restaurants, here's 50% off, you fat bastard!") life is still a beautiful thing, and it is made that way by the people around you. By the families who help you to get back on your feet when you're drinking rainwater from the gutter (slight exaggeration, it was piss wrung from a fellow tramp's chinos), by the Goddesses who, despite all your shortcomings, have never stopped loving you and continue to love you, by the men and women out there doing everything in their power to save lives, by the people who wear masks even though their breath smells and they're only just realising it, by children and babies who are having to go through this with us and don't know if or when they'll see their friends again or whether it's even safe to do so. Life is beautiful because, well, one moment you're drinking vagrant piss (slight exaggeration, it was arsenic from a leper's shoe) and the next you're safe again and in love. Not only that but you're halfway through what could possibly be the best thing you have ever written and can't wait to get it into the hands of your readers.
Covid-19 is a horrible shit-show. Boris Johnson is a turgid flaxen clown on a Santander bicycle. Fascists can suck my dick, which will never be making its unsolicited way into anyone's DMs anytime soon (believe it or not, gents, no one wants to see it. If your wife or girlfriend were being truthful, they would say it looks like it crawled out of the ground in Perfection, Nevada, and Kevin Bacon blew it up).
Will things ever get back to normal? Who knows, but I for one am taking everything one crazy day at a time. And that is all we, as a people, can do for now.
Now, back to work, while the homeschooled kids are still trying to figure out where I hid the Netflix remote and the Goddess stares lovingly at me from across the table, blissfully unaware that this is what I've been working on for the past half hour.
Writer of bestselling "The Dead" Series. Author of paranormal novels, The Susceptibles and Deathdealers, and bizarro novellas Larry, Hamsterdamned!, Vinyl Destination, and The Human Santapede.