I woke in the fourth dimension with a hangover extending out in all directions, not least of all time. I slipped out of bed like a globular mass of phlegm onto the floor and was almost sick by that single movement. It was early afternoon as far as I could tell from the light shafts shining through the blinds like little cut slices of heaven. I wandered blindly to the bathroom and went to pull out my manhood to take a leak then realised I was completely naked and felt the chill air on my skin. After the pee which lasted an inordinate series of seconds and burst out of me like a fountain sending cool shockwaves of relief throughout my body and up my spine, I shivered and went back to the bedroom to find my clothes.
My eyes now open I could see the state of the room. The duvet was on the ground so I tossed it over with my toes looking for my clothes.
They weren’t there.
I walked around the whole room, 10 feet by 10 feet, and found no clothes, no cigarettes, no phone, nothing whatsoever except for a few clumps of discarded hair and some renegade toe nail clippings. My temples started to feel as though they were crumbling in on themselves and my head was just about to collapse inward and ruin the interior.
Where is everything?
I walked out onto the landing and down the stairs to the hall, still expecting to find an empty jeans and T shirt strewn somewhere around the landing, then the living room, the kitchen. I went outside to the back garden and noticed a blue tit nibbling on some nuts in a bird feeder by a small plastic fountain with a Greek statue of a manic looking cherubim pissing water into it.
How bizzare, I thought, then realised that I’d never seen that bird feeder before. Then that I’d never seen the fountain before either but recognised it from some old film I might have watched once but couldn’t remember the name of.
The birds tweeted with a truly terrible cacophonous intensity, rising and falling like haphazard arrhythmic waves in an incoherent imperfect storm. I was dazed and mentally convoluted, deranged by the sunlight and the movement of the branches and the green leaves of the small tree twitching in the air like a multi-armed, many-headed, paraplegic deity.
This isn’t my garden, I thought. I’ve never been here before.
This thought brought with it a feeling of obscene serenity, as if at any moment a sinkhole would open up and swallow me whole, leaving not a trace of my existence anywhere on the surface of this earth. I felt eyes watching me now and noticed a neighbour over the low fence between the houses. She was watering her plants but had stopped to stare in horror at what she saw. Only then did I feel the air on my testicles and noticed again that I was completely naked. I smiled weakly at her, twisting my face and squinting under the harshness of the light. She shook her head slowly as I retreated into the house, walking backwards so as not to bare my rear to her, thinking that the most socially acceptable way to manage the situation. Back inside the house, I heard the front door open and firstly felt relief, thinking that whoever it was would surely know me from the night before and then a grave dread reared itself as I toyed with the idea that I had somehow managed to end up sleeping in some stranger’s house while they were away. My fear was confirmed when the teenage boy came into the kitchen with his schoolbag on his shoulder and recoiled at the sight of me, immediately shouting, “MUM!?”
When I heard his mother shouting down from the top of the stairs, I bolted back out the back door and into the garden, heading around the side of the house to the front.
It was all like some dangerous dream engendered with the substance, fertility and entangled motion of reality itself, as I ran barefoot out into the façade of the housing estate. Out there, there were cars passing by, other children heading home from school, shocked faces everywhere now. I covered myself up as best I could and started to manoeuvre along the path, keeping my head down as I passed people, who stalled, covered their children’s eyes, and moved aside as I passed.
I tried desperately to remember where I was, how I got there, where I lived in relation to there, how I could get home. It was then, coming to the end of the row of houses, heading for an even busier road with a roundabout ahead, that I realised I didn’t know where I lived or what town I was in. I then extrapolated outward and realised I didn’t know what country I was in and then collapsed in on myself and came to the incredible conclusion that I didn’t even know who I was.
I had awoken in the morning with no sense of myself, just an aching head, full bladder, and a strange sensation of not being anywhere in particular.
And now, as if my delirium had been given life by some higher power, it was all true.
It was real.
I was no one in particular, and I was naked and flushed and dehydrated and confused and starkly and conspicuously alone while surrounded by a moving mass of human beings, all dumbfounded by my appearance among them.
I staggered, my bare feet already bloody as I stubbed my toe on the hard, cold concrete.
Just then I saw a police car rounding the roundabout up ahead. One of the cops glared at me, so I darted to the right, covering my shameful appendage as a middle-aged lady screamed, recoiling at the sight of me. I ran through a gate into a church car park, noticing the cross on top of the church was missing the top part so it looked like a giant T, and then, hearing the siren blare behind me I bolted up the steps of the church, seeking refuge in the last place I would ever usually be, hoping against hope for a miracle.
The door swung open and I ran onto the cool tiles, leaving the siren wailing outside as the door clattered shut and the priest at the altar stopped talking. The whole congregation slowly turned, following the eyes of the priest to where they were, securely planted on my naked body. I smiled cheekily as one by one the congregation’s eyes fell upon me. I had never felt so truly scrutinized as at that very moment. On the street I could move but now I was frozen still with nowhere to go. Behind me I could hear the door open and close again. I turned to see the two cops standing there, arms folded, heads down, as if deferring power to the priest. I glanced back up the aisle at the wild grey-haired man in the white gown and only then noticed he had a gold T on his gown where there should have been a cross. Hanging above him was a giant steel beamed T, suspended from the roof with chains.
This perplexed me and I momentarily forgot my problems and started to mumble, “T? Why a T?”
A gasp echoed through the crowd when I spoke.
“Come,” a deep voice rebounded off the high roof. “Please.”
The priest had stepped forward to the edge of his altar and was beckoning me to come hither. He waved me toward him genially, a stark look of bewilderment and pleasure growing on his face. I took one last look at the cops who both averted their eyes and then shuffled uneasily up the length of the aisle, unsure of whether I should be nodding toward the parishioners as I passed, but I did anyway. They seemed to be in awe and some reached out to touch me, a murmuring fever rising as they chattered amongst themselves. I smiled awkwardly as they grabbed my bare skin, some pinching at it mildly.
“Ouch,” I said, laughing nervously. “Careful now.”
The priest commanded their attention.
“Silence!” he ordered, putting his hands out to his side in the shape of a T. The noise ceased immediately as I reached the end of the aisle, tottering at the foot of the three steps separating me from the priest.
“Come,” he said. “We have been waiting for you.”
He reached out his hand and I hesitated a second before taking it but felt there was no choice. Maybe he did have the answers to the questions I had – like who and where I was?
The priest’s hand was sweaty.
He guided me to the pulpit and placed me alongside him, then pulled an old leather bound book from the shelf inside the pulpit. He looked at me once more and smiled.
“I knew you would come,” he whispered, his eyes shining with joy.
Before I could say anything, he turned his attention to the crowd. I looked down and saw that the cops were now sitting at the back of the church with the rest of the congregation.
“Behold!” the priest proclaimed. “T is the prophet!” He gestured toward me with a grandiose swing of one arm. The crowd gasped and cheered, some people bursting into tears and crying, “Praise T, Praise the Prophet of the All-Soul! From his head, all things do come to be!”
Eventually, the priest managed to regain order – this time using only his hands – and opened the book to read to the parishioners.
“T, the All-Soul, left this earth in name only,” he said, his amplified voice bouncing from the walls. “T is the prophet that speaks its name. T will return to material knowing through the prophet. T will inhabit the human form…” he gestured to me again and the crowd clapped and cheered as he continued to read, “…divested of all other vestments. The vestment is the human form!” he announced triumphantly, now shouting to be heard over the melee of the overjoyed congregation, “T is the head of the human form where the soul resides, and from thence, T will be freed!!!”
The cheering and screaming had now reached a fever pitch, resounding from the arched roof.
I was more confused than ever but was beginning to get swept up in the excitement and racket. I started to laugh in spite of my predicament and even forgot about my bare appendage long enough to wave at the loving audience, some of whom were throwing flowers and prayer books at my feet.
The priest put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me close, kissing either cheek and then the forehead where he lingered, his spit dribbling down into my eyes.
“Oh god,” I muttered.
He pulled back, raising a hand to silence the crowd who gradually quietened.
“He wishes to speak,” he said, guiding me to the pulpit microphone. I stood looking at the expectant faces a while until the priest patted my back.
“Speak,” he whispered. “They wish to hear your wise words.”
The pressure was enormous and I felt it instantly bear down on me from above. The sweat on my forehead mingled with the priest’s spit.
All I could think of to ask was, “Who do you think I am?”
“T!” they cried in unison like one reverberating entity. “T, the All-Soul, who left this earth in name only. T is the prophet that speaks its name.”
I recognized the verse that the priest had read and scanned the book on the pulpit. The lines were written under the heading: The Seventh and Final Scripture of the Prophet.
As the congregation continued reciting the lines, I tried making sense of the words.
It didn’t make sense to put the letter T at the beginning of sentences, I thought.
Then the solution struck me and became obvious as I read on. I tapped the priest on the shoulder and he raised his arms again to quieten the crowd.
I smiled and spoke rapidly with import as if I’d just been privy to a divine revelation.
“I know what’s happened here,” I said, pointing at the lines in the book. “You’ve mistaken the abbreviation of the word It written at the beginning of a sentence for the letter T. Usually, there’d be an apostrophe indicating the missing I and this would be followed by the capital T. The sentences only make sense if the word is an abbreviated It rather than the solitary letter T.”
The faces stared up at me looking lost and forlorn, some furrowing their brows. I continued in the hope that I could enlighten them.
“You see, in earlier forms of written English people would write with a capital T preceded by an apostrophe instead of writing the full word It. This would then conjoin with the following verb connoting a state of being – usually is or was.
So, you might say ’Tis hot instead of It is hot or ’Twas a lovely day or ’Tis imperative to turn the stove off, and so on. I think that’s what’s happened here.”
I wasn’t sure how I knew what I knew but all the same, I was sure I was right. I was certain I was deconstructing a crucial error built into this church’s scripture, and their consequently flawed concept of the letter T as the sign of a divine creator. Still, the faces of the crowd seemed off put and perturbed, so I tried making it clearer for them.
“So, the Scripture you have here,” I continued. “It, the All-Soul, left this earth in name only. It is the prophet that speaks its name. It will return to material knowing through the prophet. It will inhabit the human form, divested of all other vestments. The vestment is the human form. It is the head of the human form where the soul resides, and from thence, it will be freed.”
I looked up to view the congregation, glad that at least one thing in this surrealist of days now made sense to me. The crowd were slack jawed and instead of looks of understanding or thankfulness, most looked angered and sorrowful, some grievously concerned.
The priest took me by the arm, yanking me from the pulpit.
“Why would you blaspheme?” he asked sullenly. “Here, in the house of T, the very T who chose your mouth to speak through.”
I shrugged plaintively.
“I genuinely think you made a mistake. You should probably have put a giant IT hanging from the ceiling.” I smirked and glanced up at the T hanging above us. “I think you just misinterpreted an old text, that’s all.”
“HE BLASPHEMES!!!” the priest shrieked, pushing me from the altar so that I toppled down the steps. I landed on my face on the cold tiles and yelped “ooooohhhh” as my balls were crushed between my legs.
“This,” the priest continued, his voice turning raspy and sour. “This is a false prophet! One of the workers of evil on earth! A representative of the ominous OOOOOOO!!!!”
The congregation gasped, this time with fear and loathing, starting to scream and shout, spitting words of spite and hatred at me.
“OOOOOO!” they chimed. “The ominous one lives. O the spiteful! O the hateful! O the dreadful plague! O the heartache! O the fire! O the evil one’s desire! OOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”
Before I could get on my feet I was lifted and carried by the crowd, still chanting the mantra of the ominous O as we left the church and continued down the street. I struggled to look and see where we were going and what was happening, but I was powerless against the single minded motion of the mob. I tried to reason, I tried to plead, I tried to tell them that the O they spoke of was likely an old variant of the modern Oh! – a word indicating exclamation and not an evil entity that sent me to fool them, but they wouldn’t listen.
“Silence evil One,” they chanted which quickly turned into, “Silence the evil One, silence the evil One, silence the evil One!!!”
Eventually, they stopped and lowered me onto a wooden platform, splaying my arms to either side, binding them to a wooden strut. They then bound my legs together. My head hung off the back of the wooden structure which I guessed must have been in the shape of a T. I glanced around, my heart beating fast, recognizing a lot of the same faces I’d seen that day after I first left the stranger’s house. I even saw the teenage boy and his mother standing close by, observing with burning hatred and eager anticipation.
I gulped and searched for the right words to say, words that couldn’t cause offence.
“Please,” I pleaded. “Have mercy. Mercy?”
I looked around pleadingly but the crowd had now settled into a swaying motion, chanting, “silence evil One, silence evil One” over and over – their eyes glazed and deadened, lost in the comfort of the ritual.
My throat was so dry I couldn’t even gulp anymore, hearing the sound of iron scraping concrete as I peripherally glimpsed a burly man approaching dragging an axe.
His eyes were the deadest of all.
The priest was standing right by me so I directed my pleas toward him, but I seemed to be invisible, my words hitting a wall which they couldn’t penetrate or climb over.
I was alone, truly and completely alone.
Realising this, I searched the sky and clung to the image of a passing cloud, finding comfort in the way it seemed to shift from one shape to another.
“T has tested our faith once more,” the priest announced to the gathering crowd. “T has allowed a false prophet bearing the signature of the O in him to manifest on the earthly plane.”
“O the suffering,” the crowd chanted. “O the spiteful, O the hateful, O the evil One.”
“In the name of T, the All-Soul, we do what is most humane and benevolent to do. Thus, in the name of T, do we make this sacrifice. Knowing, as the true prophet that one day shall return has said…” then, as the axeman raised the axe, its metal head glimmering in the sun, the crowd joined in to recite the lines which I knew connected up the letters that spelled out the words that solidified into the final sentence of my doom:
“T is the head of the human form where the soul resides, and from thence, T will be freed!”