Benjamin Myers


Benjamin Myers

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The details concerning the exact circumstances of your death are too banal to get into. You will not be able to consider them for any amount of time anyway. It is too late for that. That luxury will perhaps will be left to others, later.

Time. An ethereal concept for much of your life it has finally – suddenly and irrevocably - become something real and tangible. Something measurable. And it has run out. Only in its diminishing does it become something concrete, something that can be chipped down into increments and counted out like beans.

You finally see it for what it is: an infinite road upon which only a short stretch each of us walks.

And you have wasted your walk. You have frittered it on distractions and details and it has taken something loud and hard and fast and irreversible to bring this to light.

Your demise.

So now you are down to the basics. Now all you need to know is that a series of things that involve metal and flesh and velocity and wrong-place-wrong-time and broken mirrors and the sound of someone calling for help first on their telephone and then to anyone who will listen are soon to conspire to result in your heart stopping beating. That is the important part to remember. Your heart will stop beating. There will be a short amount of pain. A burst of it, like internal gunfire. Like a small brutal orgasm. And then your heart will stop beating. Your body will shut down like an old theatre. There will be a flicker of light from the billboard outside but then that too will go out.

But – again – that too is fleeting and secondary because by then you are already gone.

There will be no time to lament the frittering. Regrets will be shoehorned into a nanosecond, as will everyone you have ever known, everywhere you have been, every scent, taste, experience, sun-rise, exhilaration, anxiety or breath of fresh air.

All you really need to know is at the moment of your death you see fire on the horizon with smoke rising upwards from it in a perfect column. You see a horned sheep skull soaking in a bath of bleach. You see a boy with a wispy moustache doing a handstand on skateboard in a suburban cul-de-sac. You see Robinson Crusoe finding the foot-print of Friday in the wet sand.  You see one man punching another man in the street down the side of once was the Astoria on Tottenham Court Road and then immediately after that you see the sun illuminating a triangular patch of grass so that it looks like an abandoned kayak. You see a green plastic toy tractor filled with boiled sweets and then you see the cork fired from a champagne bottle that your upstairs neighbour was drinking from the moment before he jumped off the roof of that delapidated building in Hackney. You see Steve McQueen entangled in barbed wire. A cartoon seal spinning a cartoon ball on its cartoon nose. David Beckham sleeping. A kitten sleeping. Idi Amin sleeping.

You see broken glass. Tiny pieces of it. Cubist confetti.

You see a man with a missing tooth stepping onto a Waltzer carriage and spinning it until the lights above become blurred wheels of burning white. You see the look in Gloria Swanson eyes as she turns to the camera and delivers the line that made her famous. Your Grandad’s spare set of false teeth in a zip-lock bag. A field of hay bales in September. Saddam Hussein being pushed and shoved towards the makeshift gallows; the footage is grainy but it is clear what is happening. Your imagination fills in the gaps.

You see a flying ant landing on a car windscreen, then another, then thirty. You see a bearded tramp masturbating freely behind a bus stand near in Kennington Oval. An open drawer containing string, safety pins, buttons and blu-tack. The tail flick of trout rising to snatch a fly on a summer evening in June. A bloody apron. Francis Bacon.  

You see rats – of course you see rats. Thousands of them teeming from a sewage pipe like liquid.

You see a stump of a candle burning in a small pile of sand by a road-side in – where? – Italy.  Perhaps it’s Italy. Perhaps it is not. You certainly see dead flowers. and a shoeless foot sticking out from a drain beneath the M62. You see the motorbike riders that swarm around Diana’s car as it enters the underpass. You see the logo on the baseball cap of a friend who choked on his own vomit while on parole for attempting to rob a petrol station. You see a ‘life-size’ model of a camel in the lobby of the Sahara Hotel, Las Vegas (now closed).

You see a large iceberg slowly but noisily colliding with an even larger one; chunks of ice crash into the clear blue water below.

You see a postcard of a painting of flowers in a vase on a dresser in Spain. River Phoenix crying in Stand By Me. Raoul Moat’s face on the evening news. You see clown shoes. You see peacock feathers. A guitar with three strings and spots of blood on the scratch plate. A half-eaten plate of chips at a Denny’s diner somewhere outside of Houston. You see Ely cathedral. Electricity. Bret Easton Ellis’ first author photo.

You see an American soldier burning inside his tank as outside chaos reigns around him.

You see sixteen dusty moths mounted in a teak cabinet. A faded old Mary Millington poster. Helvellyn from Red Tarn on a clear spring day. You see a tall black transvestite on a Soho street corner in 1995. An intricate cobweb strung across the entrance to an abandoned badger set. Hitler slowly and methodically cutting up a veal cutlet. You see a burnt-out caravan. Battersea Power Station. The Brandenburg Gate. You see a silent black and white clip of a young, unsmiling Bob Dylan. He is wearing sunglasses. You see mosaic made from broken cups, plates and saucers. You see the second plane hitting one of the Twin Towers. A tray bloody skate wings ina fishmonger’s window.

You see a collection of spectacles, gold teeth and rings.

You see a cardboard Burger King crown. An oil painting of a parrot. The Wife of Bath. Scissors cutting an umbilical cord. You see frost on a cobbled street. Garlic mayonnaise on a business man’s tie. The front doors of all the houses you have lived in.  The Tyne Bridge. A woodcut drawing of a golem. The wrapper in your wallet from some chewing gum that Richard Hell gave you. You see a bin full of batteries ready to be recycled. You see The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. A young Knut Hamsun.

You see neon puddles. You see discarded, matted pornography in a country lane and the face of Captain Spock. You see the lush imagined interior of a Victorian bordello. A series of empty roundabouts and empty roads on an anonymous business park at night. You see Robinson on the opposite platform at burnt Oak station; when you a train passes between you he is gone. You see a drunk Li Po drowning as he tries to catch the reflection of the moon in an icy black lake. You see an applause of autumn leaves. Shadows creeping down the ramps of a brutalist multi-story car park somewhere in the north-east of England. Harry Styles’ inane grin.

You see Oliver Reed being manhandled out of a pub with a rakish sneer on his face. You see boy in an orange t-shirt in a vale in Kent. The glacial-paced launch of a ship seen from the top of a street of terraced house in Hendon, Sunderland. You see a collapsing bonfire sending hot embers spiralling up into the November night. Orson Welles lurking in the shadows. A gang of Japanese bikers moving at speed with the wind in their hair. Captain Scott’s clay pipe and half-full tobacco tin. You see John Lennon spinning around and punching an unidentified man in his face.

You see rotten apples.

You see a thin horse with its rib cage pressing against its translucent hide. A crowed train platform three days before Christmas. Droplets of rain clinging to a woollen jumper. A canvas tent on a remote island in the Indian Ocean at the end of the Second World War. You see copper tea urn and bodies flooding from a factory door as a siren wails – some of them are wearing luminous flak jackets. You see broken bottles poking up from the soil of the old town tip like tulips blooming in spring. The corner of a half-buried tarpaulin. An oil drum. More rats.

You see a handyman in a boiler suit oiling the runners on the large metal drawer of a mortuary in a small-to-medium sized town in Idaho. You see a nail gun. Robert Smith in a tracksuit. Don Delillo in Wal-Mart struggling with a trolley with a broken wheel. A photograph of a smiling Henry Miller in a thong pulling a handcart up a hill.

You see a chef in Manhattan spitting on a steak that has been sent back.

The cold blue light of the lobby of a skyscraper that houses a bank,  at night.

You see an ornate wooden elephant. Tony Blair smiling nervously; it looks like he has had extensive dental-work. You see a discarded carrier bag fluttering down a high street until it snags on a lamp-post for a moment and then continues rolling a further twenty metres or so until it wraps itself around the leg of a bench and stays there.

You see swastikas. Rice paddies. Used batteries.

Paul Simon’s ears.


You see Kim Kardashian crying into a bowl of cereal as strands of her hair fall into her soya milk. Kanye West is not around to comfort her. You see the silhouette of a crucifix. A bead of sweat on the brow of a suicide bomber as he turns the street corner into the main plaza.

You see fried chicken on a hot-plate. CGI footage of the White House exploding in a Hollywood film with $150+ million budget. You see a slick of off-white solidified oil in the bottom of a frying pan on a one hotplate cooker. Weldon Kees’ car keys. His car by the bridge. Absence.

You see Tom Cruise leaping backwards onto a sofa and Charles Manson leaping forwards across a courtroom. You see David Cameron licking blood from his lips and a pile of bodies at death camp Stalag V1-K. You see a prize-winning sunflower at a flower show.

You see sunflowers growing in a pot in Canterbury. A Prague side street. A naval fleet.

You see a ladies handbag in the scrubland by a train track.  Daily Mail headlines.

You see Jimmy Savile pausing on the steps of the Queen’s Hotel in Leeds to light a cigar as a gentle rain falls. A molar tooth being extracted from a ragged gum and held up to the light by a dentist. Ben Kingsley spilling a glass of Pepsi and reaching for napkins. You see an East African child in vest and shorts with an AK-47 strung across his chest. Jean-Paul Belmondo smoking a cigarette in the opening scene of Breathless. You see guests at a cocktail party admiring an antique spear. Three dead crows rotting in a jar. Milky coloured water in the bottom of a quarry.

You see prisoners. You see beggars.

You see an out-of-date passport. You see rows and rows of jars of pills and a queue of people. You a Durham slag heap grown over with grass. The beginnings of a militia. Roald Amundsen’s dog. Jean Genet’s notebook. You see a wolf walking out of a cluster of conifers into a snow-covered clearing. A CCTV camera whirring and clicking on its axis. A German tourist arguing with a London taxi driver. You see pilled mercury dripping from a school desk. You see a cat stretching and yawning outside No. 10 Downing Street. You see the wrought iron bed-head that Fred West had made from his wife Rose. You see a large warehouse full of battery hens; you can smell them too. You see a man – maybe a blacksmith – brining a red-hot poker to his face to light the stub of his cigarette. You see the blue flash of an ambulance’s siren on the wall of a studio flat on the Walworth Road.

You see a dusty piano in an abandoned house; there are romance novels piled on top of it and a beaded necklace.

You see plastic flamingos inside a shopping centre. Women pushing trolleys. A child writhing on the floor having a very loud tantrum. You see a grown man crying. A harvest moon. The old town tip. You see Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand in the back of the car in the climactic scene of The Long Good Friday, being driven away from everything he knows.

You see wet concrete being poured into a vast hole. A tiny dead featherless bird. An empty wheelchair.

You see a camera panning in. You see a dark space beneath an underpass. A fly-over. A sub-way foot-tunnel. There is traffic passing overhead. You cannot remember what decade it is or how old you are.

You see a car slowly driving around the suburbs with its lights off like a ghost ship through the fog. You see a country lane leading into the sunset. A creature crosses it, pauses in the middle, then continues.

You see all colours merging.

You hear a voice. You hear several voices.

A gasp. A sob. A siren.

You see darkness bleeding into your peripherals. And over it you see the end credits rolling. There is no music, only a dull tuneless whistling noise.

You see yourself exiting.

Benjamin Myers

Benjamin Myers' novels include Pig Iron, winner of the Gordon Burn prize, and Richard, a Sunday Times book of the year.

His new novel Beastings is published in 2014. He lives in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.