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“Dernière Torture” / “Last Torture”, an oil painting by Belgian artist Tony Louis Cypher Rocmans

In the span of a hundred years we eradicated all known diseases and achieved effective immortality. We’d fought long and hard amongst ourselves to gain access to the means and methods, to scale production globally. It felt worth it back then.

Wars broke out more readily over limited food and resources. 

In the span of another hundred years, we made impossible all forms of suicide and murder. The prospect of a true death was stolen from us – was made as impossible as tax evasion. All newborns were fated to eternal yokedom. 

Our hungers transfigured into an unquenchable thirst for death. The institutions of the predecessors eventually crumbled to dirt, but it was too late for our species. Civilisation had died the day we no longer could.

Within another hundred years we had concocted a thousand new sadistic tortures of the mind and body to inflict upon one another, but we could not find an antidote to life. Such respite we had evolved beyond and could no longer return to.

You do not know true suffering – cannot know true suffering – until you have spent millennia alone on a barren world scurrying, broken and bereft. That is how our race live now, scattered amidst the stars. We hide from one another in fear, knowing what one would do to the other. Captivity and a moment’s joy in companionship at last. And then, always the unfolding of horrors unimagined, unique to the damaged psyche of that specific captor. Both roles blur into one. We bore of our play-things, of the perpetual mind-rape and bodily destructions, and toss them aside, and in turn are ourselves caught and tortured by fellow men.

Such is our existence. Vast epochs of lonely wandering, given meaning only by the briefest opportunity to inflict pain upon our kindred kind.

Predecessor. You who have found my scrawling, whenever you are. You do not know what lays ahead for mankind. You do not know true suffering and despair. You can never know the delights of unmaking a mind as you please. And you will never know what it means to feel time.

Artwork: “Dernière Torture” / “Last Torture”, an oil painting by Belgian artist Tony Louis Cypher Rocmans
(click the image for more)

I wrote over a hundred mediocre bits before my grandfather died just over three years ago. I wasn’t particularly close to him, but I think the piece I wrote in his memory in the days that followed his passing was my hands down best.

And since then I’ve managed to sputter out a meagre six.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that attempting any more poetry somehow trivialises him or his life and/or death. Or that I can encompass any topic as wholly or honestly as I felt I did with that piece. Or that any other topic will ever compare to such a man, who was – in his own way – a giant in his day. I find myself thinking about him more than I assumed I would, post-demise.

It’s strange. I wouldn’t have considered this greaving. But what else can it be? The man has complicated an entire artform for me in his wake.

‘So you’re like the grim reaper? The angel of death?’

Ib looked up from the document in front of him. The woman caught herself playing with her hands and stopped.

‘Nothing quite so grand but you’re free to look at it that way if you’d like.’ The woman looked young and visibly nervous. An inexperienced face putting on a confident front. Ib was more than familiar with the look.

He said nothing. The silence seemed to bother her more than him. She buckled under his gaze and continued on. ‘Think of me as an associate or representative if that helps. It’s not within my job description to be usually making calls out like this but we all do what we can to keep the train on the tracks.’

Ib stared at the woman a little longer, hoping she’d whittle on. She didn’t this time. She had introduced herself as Mag something-or-other but it seemed wrong to refer to her as such in his mind. ‘The woman’ seemed appropriately impersonal so he stuck with that.

‘So he exists then? Death?’

‘So far as a void can exist, yes they exist.’ The woman’s fingers lightly rapped on the tabletop.


‘They, he, she, it. All of the above can work.’

‘But not you.’

‘Like I said, consider me an associate. What I normally deal with is actually a lot less glamorous.’

Ib couldn’t help snickering. ‘You have a desk job.’

The woman stabbed at the paper between them with a brown nail. ‘Sign it.’

Ib looked at the very bottom of the statement, beside his printed name IBRAHEEM YAHYA, at the blank line. ‘Why? What makes me so special?’

‘There is absolutely nothing special about you Ibraheem, I promise.’

‘Nobody else has to sign a consent form before dying. You’re literally asking me to sign my life away.’ Ib wondered if that was the right time to use the word ‘literally’.

‘If all we wanted was you dead, don’t you think you’d already be dead? Please Ibraheem just sign the form so we can both get going.’

Ib picked up the piece of paper and glanced over it. He knew the letters, it felt like. They weren’t in English but nonetheless there was something homely about them. The words almost hovered into comprehension every time he strained his eyes. Almost. ‘You expect me to sign but I can’t even read this hieroglyphic bullshit.’

Mag – the woman – plucked the paper back out of Ib’s hand and waved her own over it before returning it to him. ‘There.’ She said. The paper hadn’t creased at her rough handling. The letters danced, blurred, unfuzzed, into the Queen’s own English.

Ibraheem Yahya, a young man of twenty-three, took his time to read twice the page which detailed fully his current situation and dilemma. He cleared his throat uncomfortably and on cue, a barista re-filled his glass of cucumber water. Someone should tip her, his wandering mind thought for a second.

‘Will I remember any of this?’

‘Nothing from when I contacted you up until the moment the ink dries on the form.’

‘And then I die.’

‘You will walk out of this café and collapse after taking an undisclosed number of steps.’

Ib scratched the bristly shadow of his face and picked at his dry hair. If he had gone to the barbers, he could’ve left a fresher looking corpse behind. ‘And then my family will cry over me and bury me and mourn me. And then I’m just supposed to climb back out of my grave as if nothing ever happened?’

‘As if nothing ever happened. We anticipate some media attention but nothing sticky. The news cycle is shorter than ever.’

‘I still don’t understand why you can’t just let me stay alive. You want to turn my family’s life upside down and then put them through the circus show for what?’

The woman – or girl; she looked much younger now – looked down at her hands. ‘Executive mistakes were made, it is true. Certain cascades were initiated that cannot be rolled back at this point. All we can do is let them run their due course and then fix things afterwards. This is a momentary blip in the system. You can still live a full life.’

Ib found himself staring at the girl’s hands too now. Her fingernails seemed perfectly cut, perfectly coated in brown. ‘Was this what happened to Jesus? That was a joke.’

Mag bowed her head. ‘Please sign the consent form, Mr. Yahya.’ She presented Ib with a ballpoint pen from the inside pocket of her suit jacket.

‘I want an apology from whoever’s responsible first.’

Mag bowed her head lower until it almost hit the coffee table. Ibraheem Yahya of Claremont Road, Moss Side signed his name in red. The girl lifted her head and smiled.

Ib stood up from his table, with only the thought in his head of getting some fresh air. He excused himself to the pretty girl with the nice hands as she asked for their bill. Then Ibraheem Yahya, 23 years old of Claremont Road, walked outside and died for the first time.

The frenzied feeling that time is running out for you to make something of yourself. Ugh.

comes the mania

it’s coming
do you hear it?
for you
all of us

the colour of the sky turns
a shadow creeps across the wall
the tock strikes deep within the heart

weep for your loved ones
there is little else to be done now.

abdul j

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