This is a piece of total nonsense I wrote one afternoon, without much thought or planning. I wanted to write something, but could think of nothing on which to work, so I began to write the first thing that came into my head, just to pump out some words and hear the hammering of the keys. I took two of my best and oldest friends as characters, and off I went.
I read recently, in an interview with Mike Skinner aka. The Streets, that he suffers withdrawal symptoms if he doesn’t create something regularly. I guess this was a product of a similar sensation, the attempt to break a certain literary constipation. So, here it is, Escape from Nowhere!
Simon was tunnelling, burrowing. He had his head down and his tail up, but the concrete wasn’t shifting before his nails. He clenched his teeth against the sensation; it was unsettling as chalk on the blackboard, knives on a plate.
“It’s no good, Si,” said Benny. “You need tools for that sort of thing.”
Chez sat shaking his head. Simon came out from under the bed.
“It’s a solid wall,” he said. “I thought it might, you know, be otherwise.”
“I guess this place is real after all,” said Benny.
“I told you so,” said Chez.
“You sure did,” said Simon. “Still, real or not, we’re getting out of here come hell or high water. Not unless someone opens the door.”
It had been a very long day for the three men, who had unexpectedly found themselves in prison. It wasn’t as though they had been arrested, nor had they been charged with a crime. Indeed, they hadn’t even seen their captors and had no recollection of being transported here. One minute the three old friends were living their lives independently, and next, they quite literally found themselves inside a prison.
“It must be a dream. I mean, it must be,” said Chez.
“But how then?” said Simon. “Is it my dream or yours? Because, I’m telling you, it’s real. The wall, for example.”
“What else could it be? I should just try to shut you guys out and wake up,” said Chez, who had displayed so far, the greatest equilibrium. “It can’t be real, so it must be my dream and you guys are just very, very real in it. I’ll wake up soon. I must. This can’t happen.”
“I agree,” said Benny. “But it is happening. I’ve pinched myself like ten times, it hurts. I head-butted the wall – that hurt too. It’s been too long now not to be a dream. Even when I’ve been duped by a dream in the past, it’s never been as good a job as this.”
“Well, I kinda like it,” said Simon. “Sure, we don’t know what the hell’s going on, but someone must have captured us somehow – drugs, tranqs, aliens, fuck knows, and brought us here. Because here we are and, well, magic isn’t real. It’s pretty bloody interesting that someone would think the three of us were important in some way.”
“But why? Who?”
“It’s a mystery,” said Benny. “And a proper one at that!”
Benny stood up and began to walk around the room. They had been here almost an hour now and in that time had inspected the place thoroughly. There was a heavy metal door locked so tight it didn’t shift at all when jostled and a not ungenerous window, heavily barred. There were three single beds and a wall-mounted oil heater under the window. The heater was on and the room was comfortably warm.
“If this was Dungeons and Dragons,” said Chez, “I’d check the lock for traps.”
The Dream of the Novella
I had a dream last night,” said Benny. “You had written a novella, Simon, and it got published.”
“Really? That’s awesome.”
“Yeah, well it was alright for some. I was gutted. Totally jealous. I’ve been writing for years and none of my novels ever get published and you just blew in and whipped one up and next thing you’re published.”
“Must be a natural,” said Simon.
“The man can spin a great yarn,” said Chez. “We all know that.”
“I know, I know,” said Benny. “But this was an affront! Naturally I pretended I was stoked for you. It wasn’t like I was being a prick about it, but it just got me so riled up. I was actually there, in the dream, holding this thing in my hands. I could smell it, feel it, I could even read it. It was about a hundred and twenty pages, it weighed nothing, the cover green, not very flattering, but it was real alright. I flipped it over and read the back. There were four endorsements. I couldn’t make out who the reviewers were, but I read all the reviews. The one I remember said something like ‘Tracey has delivered a most entertaining pot pourri of ideas and invective. A colourful stream of curses the likes of which we’ve not seen since Burroughs.”
“Colourful curses!” laughed Simon. “I like that. What the hell was it about?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea. But I had a feel for the mood of it. It felt like Tom Waits. It felt like working class New York. It felt like all that, but with a hint of Ruskin. It was, in places, full of high-falutin language that thought it was keeping it simple. It was all tied up like a double bow, when a single bow would have sufficed. It had a sort of swashbuckling style, and then a certain raw frankness, with hookers and coffee and fried potato breakfasts. It also had these sections that looked like they wanted to be in italics but weren’t. There was one called “Definitions”, only it just had the one definition, which was for the word “Quest”. It went on to say how quests were like, were like…”
“Like what?” said Chez.
“I can’t actually remember.”
“But what it was, when I held it and read it and thought about it and could feel it, I mean the shape, the parameters, it was as though my dream were sending me the blueprint for a novella. That if I woke up, but kept my eyes closed and started writing, I could have hammered it out and then bang – instant novella.”
“That’s pretty classic, really,” said Simon. “Because actually, I wrote a novella.”
“No bullshit?” said Benny.
“None whatsoever. It was called Buckley’s Second Chance.”
“Who’s Buckley?” asked Chez.
“Buckley, you know, of Buckley’s chance fame?”
“Oh,” said Benny. “You mean, as in, you’ve got Buckley’s?”
“That’s classic,” said Chez. “So you gave him a second chance?”
“Sort of,” said Simon. “But then, why not?”
“I don’t know. Tell us.”
Benny and Chez sat forward. Simon leaned in close.
“Well, you know how people will say ‘you’ve got Buckley’s, right? But think about it – sometimes those chances must come off. It’s as slim as all hell, but someone’s gotta come good against the odds. So if they can do it, why can’t Buckley?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“Hang on,” said Chez. “Who was this Buckley guy anyway?”
“I’ll tell you this much,” said Simon, “he was a real ugly son of a bitch. He looked like one of the orang-utan-descended dudes in Planet of the Apes. He had a total bell-end head, a full penis-job, and he was on the run for all money.”
“I’ve got my notebook here,” said Simon, producing a spiral-bound pad from under his pillow. “Now, according to some bloke called George Russell, Buckley was ‘a tall, ungainly man…and altogether his looks were not in his favour; he had a shaggy head of black hair, a low forehead with overhanging eyebrows nearly concealing his small eyes, a short snub nose, a face very much marked by smallpox, and was just such a man as one would suppose fit to commit burglary or murder.”
“Huh! Talk about profiling. But he did, right? He was an escaped convict wasn’t he?”
“He had a pretty interesting pedigree,” said Simon. “The dude was an apprentice brick-layer who fought under the Duke of York against Napoleon in Holland, in like 1799. He got busted a few years later for stealing cloth in London and they sentenced him to transportation. Once he’d done a bit of time in Australia, he broke out with five other convicts. They stole a boat and rowed around towards Melbourne. The five other guys decided to head north east, but Buckley decided to punch on.”
“And, what, he died or something afterwards?”
“No no. Apparently he learned a few tricks off some local aborigine families and fended for himself – eating wild berries, fish, ants, you name it. Eventually he hooked up with the local Watourong tribe and, get this, he was mistaken for the spirit of a long dead chief and they adopted him. He lived with them for the next thirty-two years as a spirit, doing a bit of theft and rustling, that sort of thing.”
“Hang on,” said Benny. “I thought he was supposed to have died or something. That’s why ‘you’ve got Buckley’s’ means, you’ve got no chance whatsoever.”
“It’s true,” said Simon. “That’s the gist. But I mean, this guy actually returned from the wilderness. He went back to civilisation and got a full pardon!”
“So really, the expression is bullshit,” said Chez. “Or does it just mean his survival was a fluke.”
“Good point, Mr Chesterman, it’s a very slim chance, you see. But then, on top of that, there’s a lot of questions over the origin of the expression anyway. Some blokes reckon it has nothing to do with this William Buckley after all.”
“Sacrilege! So what’s his second chance all about? The return to civilisation?”
“Ah, well,” said Simon. “Listen up…”