After the first month of my sentence, I realised alcohol was my phantom limb. By this, I mean envisage an old amputee; one long leg coated by wiry hairs an inch long, and the other a wretched stump ending above the knee. The stump is bruised and scarred by all those fancy modern-age prosthetics, the ones murderous athletes prances around on. He is in bed, utterly naked; his skin has started to sag with age and his eye sockets are a deep mahogany colour due to the lack of sleep he has been getting. You look down his abdomen, past the grey wisps of body hair, and you practically see his bladder bulging, bursting. So the old chap arises, clutching his groin with the realisation he is going to soil himself, and swings out of bed, only to tumble straight to the floor. His itchy limb was never there, so he lies on his carpets, and pisses over himself.
They cut prison funding before I went in – probably three years before. Of course all the old pompous la-di-das grumbled and signed petitions, as though their hands weren’t covered in blue Tory semen. My old man voted for the Green party, and then he died from an aneurysm. Things like that happen.
They removed prison healthcare, and a lot of the real psychopathic animal raping kid killers were suddenly being shot on sight. Clearly, the old criminals were dumb for being caught, but we’re all shifty buggers, so we started getting hurt an awful lot – falling down stairs, stabbing ourselves, the like. We had to pop into the lovely NHS mausoleums – the hospitals for those patriots still looking through EDL-tinted glasses – and then it was easy enough to slip out a back entrance and be off again to do all those lovely criminal things, like rob the poor and beat women to a pulp. After this revelation spread to prisoners everywhere, the government needed a way to identify us after we’d run out and ruin the cities and towns of Greatest Britain. They branded us, like farmyard friends, bubbling and boiling our flesh until a triumphant purple number scarred there.
When prisoners escaped, the few rehabilitated hooligans would apply for jobs to support their freshly impregnated underage girlfriends, only to be ostracised upon seeing that vile four digit number permanently smouldered into their flesh.
Consider how it felt for a fresh faced fellow, nineteen, decent jawline, 5”11, blue eyes and one of those smiles to roll into prison. For the first month I clenched my buttocks together so tight in the shower, I couldn’t sit down.
There’s a seven foot Nazi body builder who’s taken a right fancy to your little Aryan aesthetic and fancies invading the Rhineland. What are France meant to do when their defence consists of politely asking Hitler to pull his tank out from between their cuisses de grenouille? What does Poland have against a rapist who’s over near them because he ate his girlfriend’s face after injecting heroin into his eye?
When I was around seven, I was a real wet dream for any school bully. Speccy little weasel child, with tufty blonde hair and spider leg lashes batting like a little girl. My old man reckoned I had one leg shorter than the other, and anyone with a face could see that. I used to read a lot; the only time I ever read that much after that was in prison. One of my cellmates used to touch himself and leave me a mess in-between the pages of Das Kapital. He said he was thinking of my mother. Rather her than me though.
I really missed heroin for a while. I never did heroin. I was just quite annoyed that when I’d had the chance I didn’t take it. Always good to have the option to shove a rusty needle against the crevice of your arm until it pops through the first layers of skin into a throbbing vein, where you can infuse chemicals with the thick liquid coursing round your entire body. Always a good back-up plan – some people have savings accounts, others have scag. You’re not here to judge, you’re here to breed and eventually die.
“With all due respect your honour, this is getting to be EXCEEDINGLY dire and don’t we all have other things to do?” I yelled from the stand, leaning back into the harsh leather seats.
There were sniggers from across the court room, mainly from the back bench, where a group of students were sat with folders making some notes on the case. I smirked at them. I looked incredible in a suit and being aware of this did nothing for my ego.
“Can you just answer the question? You’re the first witness and we still have three more to get through.” the Judge sighed, leaning back into his seat and slipping his delicately hairy fingers under his wig to scratch at the sores and scabs that festered under it.
“Yes, how did you know the deceased?” the prosecutor sneered from across the floor, snivelling.
I sighed for an uncomfortable amount of time until all the air was expelled from my lungs.
“This is ridiculous. You haven’t got quite enough evidence to pin this on Hardy and God knows you’re not getting a confession out of him. Surprise us with some evidence or, with all due respect, shut up. I’m bored of this.” I smirked in response, maintaining my nonchalant posture.
The courtroom buzzed with the cries of outraged and amused citizens.
“You keep saying with all due respect, however you’re being immensely disrespectful. You are required to answer the question.” I watched as the Judge became increasingly agitated, shifting in his seat, clicking his tongue. He felt upset and that was fuelling my behaviour.
“You know how I know the deceased. Would you dare waste honourable Judge Cliff’s time?” I clasped my face in mock horror.
The prosecutor was calm, which began to unsettle me.
“Well, you claimed the deceased was a friend of a friend, and that you hardly knew her.” the prosecutor sneered.
“Your ability to recall is really astounding, is that how you earned your law degree?” I said, arrogantly.
“If you hardly knew the deceased, why did you have her mobile number saved on your phone?” the prosecutor responded, an air of righteousness.
“I had a friend of a friend’s number and suddenly you’re getting all accusative. Oh come ON! He obviously did it! He’s psychotic!”
“Excuse me?” the prosecutor was nothing more than bemused. He had started a mind game that he was winning, to my dismay.
“Hardy’s always been a bit heavy with his hands. Kind of kid who would pull the wings off flies, except in his case it was more ‘pull the skin off cats’. Textbook psycho.” I slurred, beginning to itch with fear. I ran my nails over the back of each hand, fuelled solely by anxiety.
“Why are you so defensive? Is it, maybe, that you’re utterly terrified that Mr Hardy has some information on you that you wouldn’t want released in a court of law?”
After my first three months in prison I already felt the signs of insanity beckoning me. I felt slightly different within myself. For example, the feeling of another man’s foot scraping down the back of my heel didn’t provoke me to insult his entire being and spit a perfect droplet of a combination of saliva and phlegm into his eyeball. Instead, I would grit my teeth and continue walking forwards towards the canteen, where I would slowly dine on the stale sustenance thrown in front of me. Being indifferent was not what years of pop music and cult films had taught me, or they had taught me to at first be indifferent, and then bust out of detention to kiss the popular girl in a cloakroom. So that’s what I decided to do, bust out.
Deciding how to injure myself was more difficult than intended. Falling down a flight of stairs was pretty risky. An attempt at a broken bone could either result in a tiny bruise on my arse cheek or a snapped spinal cord. Getting beaten up was a bad move too, because the prison guards would have most likely jumped at the opportunity to join in a punch up involving the man who excreted all over the floor of their staff room on his first night there. It was actually Dumpy Jim that inspired my feat of real brilliance.
Interrogation rooms are very cliché. You watch three cop dramas and you think you know it all, but it turns out the people who design these rooms incidentally must also watch cop dramas.
There was a huge mirror across from me, and it didn’t take a team of scientists to work out there would be at least two pigs looking through at you.
I had been sat in that room for what felt like four hours, and more realistically had been half an hour. The door gingerly opened.
One of (what I gathered to be) the receptionists or menial workers of the office was stood there holding a mug.
I studied her intrepidly. Her pupils dilated slightly after making eye contact with me, so she was either here as a test or as affectionate gesture. I liked games, so I was happy to play one.
“Wow, what will all the girls at your book club say when you tell them you bought a criminal coffee?”
She flushed slightly, taking no real offence to my blatantly misogynistic comment. I was no misogynist; nevertheless it seemed obvious to me now that the pigs had sent her in to see how I react to women. It was either to be her, or a female officer.
“So how’d a lovely little thing like you get such a big job? Doesn’t your boyfriend miss you around the house?” I smiled at her, constantly holding her gaze.
“I, I don’t have a boyfriend…” she blushed back.
“You don’t have a boyfriend? Wowee. Someone’s missing a trick. I mean you seem dull as the mess a horse leaves behind on the racetracks, but your face, and that rack! Incredible.” Throughout my speeches of derogative slurs, I attempted to hold a dominant pose. Shoulders back, legs apart. My hands slumped on the table in front of me.
She remained speechless, which infuriated me slightly.
“Come on, speak to me. It’s okay; you can speak when you’re spoken to.”
Yet still her mouth remained pressed together, embarrassed.
She smoothed the creases of her dress downwards with the hand which remained free, evidently trying to seem more attractive. Boring.
“I like your dress, but it’s very unbecoming on a woman of your size. Maybe dress to your weight sweetheart.”
The word sweetheart spiked my eyes. Thousands of repressed memories flooded into my chest at once with a defiant crash.
I fumbled in my pocket for a cigarette. They didn’t search me on the way in, but they told me to leave my bag in the lobby.
I didn’t get my bag back.
Dumpy Jim was obviously dumpy – short and slightly obese. His stomach bulged over his waistline, and vibrated ever so slightly every time he took a step. He had long black hairs growing out of his nostrils, which were more often than not coated in thick buttery snot. Now would be a good time to indicate the strange moral compass that exists within a prison. To you, we’re all scumbags. Real nasty pieces of work. But to a prisoner, your fellow compadres can be divided into categories of horror. Take your paedophiles and child rapists for instance. No-one will associate with them unless it’s to knock the dear life out of their too often wrinkled faces. Rapists are a harder category. Dumpy Jim raped his elderly neighbour, but he was one of my dearest cellmates. He had a few companions within prison, due to his impressively low IQ. Could a man who spelt his own name “Jym” really be held accountable for his heinous crime? Not as much as the Aryan Brotherhood who raped innocent people in and out of prison. It sounds despicable, but there isn’t much of a crowd in prison. The more respectable fraudsters of the bunch tended to be businessmen or lawyers, and had no time for folk like me. It was either join the Aryan Brotherhood against my beliefs, or make a strange little friendship group out of Dumpy Jim, Bill and Paul. Bill was otherwise known as Beef, because he was a vegetarian who had the prison equivalent of meat shoved up his nose within his first week in the hole. All he’d done was rob a few offies and stabbed some geezer in a panic. Temperament of a bloody daffodil that lad. Paul was a headcase. Drowned his baby after doing a few lines of blow off his Jam records.
One lunchtime, we had a real treat – baby carrots. Out of nowhere, Dumpy Jim looks up across the table.
“You know, you could bite your finger off as easy as biting in one of them carrots. But you can’t because your brain’s like, mate don’t be doing that.”
Bemused, I put down my lump of potato, and moved my hand towards my chin in a very philosophical manner.
“That right, Jimmy? Right off?”
Through a mouthful of gruel, Jim responded, “Yeah mate. Just snaps off into your mouth, but your brain would probably freak out you know. It’d have you like, sticking it back on again. Cos you can do that, you know.”
I seized Dumpy Jim by each of his disgustingly flabby cheeks, and kissed him on his crusty forehead.
“I’ll be seeing you whenever lads. Ciao.”
“Sweetheart, are you coming down for breakfast?” my mother’s syrupy voice carried up the stairs like birdsong skipping across the dew which slumbers on clovers and single blades of grass.
I ignored her, because I knew my ignorance would spark another call.
“Come on sweetie! Have a cuppa!” her voice came again, this time it was the music that tumbles and dances from the sweet seams of the universe.
“Shut up!” I yelled back, stomach acid spurting up with my words and singeing my tongue.
“Okay darling!” the voice replied, solemn.
In order to gather my wits, I sat up with enormous turbulence, feeling my brain slide violently against the front of my skull. I let out a single groan and clutched at my temples.
My room, as per usual, was destroyed. It was littered with newspapers, books, spirit bottles, fag packets. There were empty baggies sprinkled like icing sugar dusting a fruit cake in the middle of your grandmother’s Christmas spread.
Four months ago I had watched Hardy go down from the witness stand, and now it was my own trial.
I caught my reflection in a shard of mirror lying adjacent to my bed.
“You disgust me. Drugs are disgusting. Drink is disgusting. You are disgusting.”
I met my sad reflection with a sneer.
As a rule, no, as my philosophy, I treat all beings with equal disrespect. Women and children included.
I sat in my cell, which was humid with the evaporating bodily fluids caused by the rising temperature instigated by broken heating. The horror show had to start somewhere. I began by placing my canines on the second joint of my pinkie finger. I pressed down my jaw, trying to fight my instinct to let go by clamping it down using my knee. Warm blood began at first gently flowing from the tiny incision, but sure enough picked up and got caught up in my stubble and filled the wells caused by acne scarring on my chin. My eyes were streaming with salt water at such a rate it singed the wound I was working on. I moved to my molars. It felt as though I was chewing on a ripe banana which had been beaten in a child’s lunchbox. Through the tough exterior I could feel the soft, gooey flesh cushioning fragments of bone. Whining and grunting I kept applying pressure by trapping my finger in-between my jaws by placing my chin on my knee and my head on the brittle wall.
I awoke violently, jerking upright with such force I felt the two inch IV needle in my arm rip from my flesh, spilling some translucent hybrid of blood and fluids over the floor. It was a cesspool.
The bed was stained with piss, not my own, and the walls were inhabited by damp. The halls echoed with the sounds of moaning and death, and doctors running anxiously up and down.
The 2015 election had been a farce. Some pro-Britain party had slid into power, somehow got the majority. The leader had a face like a frog’s bollock, with no disrespect intended towards frogs. He croaked on and on about Britain this and Britain that. We’re all bloody British, or we will be once we’ve whitewashed the nation as much as is legally possible. Then we’ll all pop down to the pub and enjoy our German beer. Hoo-rah chaps.
Despite the trustworthy politician’s promise, the majority of the NHS was privatised, which resulted in septic hellholes like the one I had been sent to being run on donations and prayers, homing the poor and the criminal side by side.
By the time a nurse came to fix my drip, I had almost passed out from a combination of pain and blood loss.
Despite funding cuts and general disgustingness, the painkillers they had put me on were dizzying and nauseating. The feeling reminded me of when I was just 15, addicted to alcohol and hopeless. For three years I had to see a specialist psychologist to talk me through my little drinking problem, but in the end what stopped me was going to prison and not being able to drink. A real story of human resilience.
I tried to steady myself, clutching the sides of the bed desperately. Slowly I manoeuvred myself onto my feet, shifting my weight between each foot to wake them up. My finger was reattached, but the sensation in my hand was dreadful.
I unplugged myself from the IV again, this time holding the crook of my arm to stop any blood or goop spilling out.
Shit. I had no clothes. I had a very stained, very revealing hospital gown on, and in the corner of my room was my prison jumpsuit, soaked in my blood.
Desperate, I crept down the corridors, hoping there would be a room full of clothes. In one of the rooms I walked past, there was a lad my age, beaten to a pulp. Probably a fascist. I would be doing the world a favour by stealing his clothes.
I grabbed his too tight jeans and ripped band shirt, as well as what in all fairness looked like a very expensive parka. The wallet was in the pocket.
No dignity whatsoever, I dressed in front of the napping Nazi, before double checking my officer had evacuated my room. Perfect, as with the last four hours, he was nowhere to be seen.
My heart began to pump in crescendo as I approached the hospital doors. I could smell freedom, and it smelt like uncollected rubbish bags and homeless people. The sweet airs of liberty.
Triumphantly I emerged, out onto the streets, as easy as that. I flicked through the wallet. There were two debit cards, £120 and a driver’s license. I was now Nathaniel Green, aged 24. I had his address, and in the other pocket of his parka, his keys.
The next three days were tense, and not at all how I imagined my liberation to be.
I sat alone in his flat, terrified he was going to come home and kill me.
The positive was I managed to find out everything about the poor sod. He worked for a call centre, selling printer ink. The kind of job that is so low paid (the majority of your salary is commission by the time the bastard government have rinsed you for tax) the boss couldn’t care less if you’re Nathan Green or not; he just wants you to work for 9 hours and clear off.
So for two weeks, as Nathan Green, I worked like a dog in a call centre. My sidling charm meant that I was actually pretty good at that degenerate job. I sold a lot of ink, and I got the weekly £50 bonus awarded to the best salesman/drone. In comparison to what followed, those two weeks were paradise.
Wednesday evening came, it was drizzling. I specifically remember how awfully passive the weather was that day. The door rattled. Four knocks. My heart seized in my chest; every muscle tensed and my heart became a congealed lump of muscle and tissue.
I grabbed a saucepan from the kitchen counter, and held it behind my back.
Then I swung the door open. He rushed at me like a train hurtling at unknown speeds toward a cat lounging in the sun right across the tracks. In one swift moment he was down, completely unconscious. I had to check his pulse in case I’d offed the bloke with some blunt force trauma. Still going strong.
Panicking, I dragged Nathan through to the living room; there was a radiator by the sofa. I bound him to the radiator using a variety of belts, ropes and a bike lock.
“Who are you?” Nathan cried from the radiator, as I lounged on the chair, nonchalantly snacking on chilli flavoured peanuts.
“Me? I’m Nathan Green now pal. Have been for the past fortnight.” I spoke through a mouthful of food, globules of chewed peanut spraying everywhere.
“Uh, I need to go back to hospital, I’m pretty sure I have a concussion…” he responded, dazed by the throbbing fury in his temples.
“Nice try. I’m not stupid. I’m not going back to prison for identity theft, escaping in the first place and assault. Sorry bud, but this is a temporary arrangement. I’m gunna have to off you.” I said, turning to face him.
To reiterate, I’m no killer. An alcoholic? Sure. Recreational drug user? Yeah, have been. Bloke who assaults women and men I’ve stolen from? You bet. But I was no killer. The thought of having to actually end this man’s life was something incomprehensible. I’d seen people die; I watched my own father keel over like it was nothing. But it’s always different when you’re the grim reaper.
Of course, I couldn’t bloody do it. I stood in front of him, pacing, knife in hand, at another point I think I grabbed an even bigger saucepan. His eyes were too human, disgusting and emotive.
“Are you a Nazi, Nathan?” I asked, kneeling in front of him.
“What? No!” he cried out, and at this point I find it unnecessary but still somehow important to point out he was sat in his own shit.
“What’s with the get up then?” I said, motioning to my skinhead attire plucked straight from his wardrobe like an ingrown hair on a swollen bollock.
“I really liked This Is England.” He whispered back hoarsely, looking down in shame.