A sudden sharp intake of breath.
Oh God! Oh fucking God! What is this? Where am I?
Light dapples through the darkness, turning into thick, white, distorted laser beams as the rays are captured and bent and twisted by my mangled eyelashes and my thick, crusty eye-goop.
I roll over and push my face down into the pillow. Force myself back towards the warm world of sleep, of dreams of exotic sports cars, and roller coasters built in strangely familiar places, of sex with fat women. Anything to avoid having to think about what awaits me beyond these eyelids. If only they could be locked down and used to keep the outside world away, like a couple of sturdy rusted portcullises keeping me merrily oblivious to the land outside of this fogged, befuddled head. I consider, for a second, that that may be the experience of coma sufferers. Cut off from everything in front of the eyes, and left floating in a strange galaxy of dreams, limited only by the imagination of the vegetative party.
Oh fucking hell I'm dreaming about people in comas now, and hospital beds, and surgery, and cancer. This isn't working as planned.
'Fffuck...' I loudly slur.
The motion of my mouth causes my tongue to twitch and detach from the exact place it landed six hours ago, my dry, sticky, caustic spittle having caused it to become welded to the back of my teeth. A layer of tongue-skin is torn away, and I can taste thick blood. It's the only wetness to exist anywhere near that arid cave. My eyes dart and flick beneath the lids. I'm not giving in.
I know that it's light outside, which is bad. But my alarm hasn't gone off yet, which is good-ish. I'm in the danger zone, though. That siren could hit any minute, and honestly I don't know if my heart will be able to take it.
I focus on my heart.
Bu-dum. Bu-dum. Bu-dum. Bu-dum.
It feels shaky and off-beat. And too quick. I feel too hot, but I'm shivering. I try to lick my lips, but it just feels like rubbing sandpaper on sandpaper. I can even hear the friction echoing through my head. Ssssscccccrrrrrrrrrrrrzk.
Must. Return. To. Land. Of. Sleep.
I snatch at the bed covers and pull them tightly around me as I drill my aching forehead hard into the pillows. This pillow fucking stinks, but should I be surprised? Probably not, given that I'm coated in thick, sticky sweat. I’m excreting dangerous neon yellow toxins from each of my oily, overworked pores.
Why. Isn't. Sleep. Happening?
I roll onto my back, and the insides of my eyelids glow red where the sunlight is trying to push through. But I'm not opening them. I fucking refuse.
I'm expecting the alarm to hit at any second, as I have been doing for the last five minutes. Or has it been an hour? My internal clock is ruined. I have no concept of time. Maybe it's lunchtime? Maybe my alarm did go off, but I couldn't hear it because my phone is in a puddle somewhere, or in the back of a taxi.
Did I even get a taxi last night? Don't even think about it. Don't think about last night, Jon. Don't think about any of it.
Or maybe my phone is on the bedroom floor where it usually is. And maybe the alarm just hasn't gone off because it's not 7am yet. Should I look?
I need to escape back into my own head. I desperately need a distraction from this hot, shaking, sweaty, mangled reality. My guts ache. I feel sick.
There is a glimmer of hope, and my world suddenly feels slightly less terrifying. Maybe, just maybe, I will manage to shower and dress myself, and scrub away the taste of black death with some minty Colgate. And maybe I'll manage to complete the long walk through this grey miserable town and into the train station.
Maybe, just maybe, I'll manage to elbow all of the other suited cunts out of the way today, and find myself a nice window seat next to a friendly young woman who doesn't want to speak, but just wants to sit quietly smelling of fresh roses whilst she fingers through her medical textbook.
And maybe, hopefully, fingers crossed. Oh, dear God, please let it be! Maybe... if there is any fairness and compassion in this world. Maybe it will be my lucky day.
Please, I pray to the universe, please let it be today that it happens.
Please let today be the day when the pendolino comes unstuck.
The first clue will be the coffee cup moving in slow motion past my face, the sweet brown globules glistening and stretching and mutating as they spill sideways into the window, followed closely by their cardboard counterpart, which is splattered thinly against the glass by the immense sideways force.
Bloodcurdling screams and cries can be heard as laptop cases are hurled with enormous velocity at the faces and torsos of the terrified commuters, breaking bones and crushing expensive prescription glasses. Brand new iPhones are scatter-gunned at bright white dental work, removing teeth and smashing windows. A smart-looking young lady, probably a business professional working for a city centre estate agency, is frantically trying to brush glass shards from her hair with her fingers, blissfully unaware of the umbrella about to skewer her right lung.
All of this takes place in just a few seconds as the train slowly peels away from the track, leaving the corner at high speed as it hurtles toward Little Monsters; a small children's nursery building adorned with colourful murals depicting cute fuzzy pink and green beasts. One of them looks like a furry pom-pom with arms waving menacingly in the air, and three huge eyes above a large smiling mouth exposing an impressive set of sharp looking fangs.
“RAAAAWRRR” says the speech bubble next to its mouth.
Raaaawrrr indeed, I think to myself as the children and nursery nurses, playing excitedly in the playground, become aware of a dark shadow sweeping across the sandpits and climbing frames.
Raaaawrrr indeed, as the hulking mass of the TransPennine Express 7:34 from Huddersfield blocks out the morning sun, and floats in a shallow arc across the dewy lawn towards Little Monsters, beginning to roll roof-first as it does so.
Raaaawrrr indeed, as the screams of one-hundred-and-fifty train passengers are spliced with those of thirty-one pre-school children and four nursery nurses.
One of the nurses, Holly, has veins coursing with nothing but good. Her default position is to help people, which is why she chose this job over much better-paid options. Her life is dedicated to helping and protecting others, and had she gotten the chance to live beyond 22, she would eventually have been the founder of a nationally renowned cancer respite charity. An MBE at 32. It's already written in the stars. However, none of this will come to fruition if I get my one wish. Instead, Holly’s skull, and then her spine, and then her legs will be splintered and smashed into tiny pieces as she rushes to protect two little girls from the looming train. Her efforts in vain as her young protectees are also killed, alongside every single one of their friends at Little Monsters that morning.
As my body is pulled from the twisted wreck, broken, hungover, but alive, I contemplate exactly what this means for me: A week in a hospital bed being allowed to sleep off the alcohol, whilst being brought food and drink to help me recuperate. If I play up to my injuries I can probably get at least a month off work, and if I get enough compensation then maybe I'll never have to work again!
I huff and puff as I rearrange myself once again, feeling my hot sweaty legs stick to the sheets. I need to be realistic. I need to accept that God, or whatever higher power governs us, may not be willing to kill a load of children and commuters so that I don't have to go to work hungover again. But I live in hope.
Fuck those kids. My selfish plight takes priority. This is no world to grow up in anyway, so I’d be doing them a favour.
Sleep isn't working. I need to go to plan B. I need to masturbate.
I reach down under the hot, stinky bed covers. I'm hyper-aware of my hands shaking due to alcohol withdrawal, as I peel back my soaked boxer shorts. There's nothing remotely sexy or romantic about this whole process. It's purely functional. Purely escapism so that I don't have to think about what happened last night, or how I got home, or where my phone is, or how in holy fuck I'm going to get myself into work today. I scrunch my eyes up tightly and begin to search my dulled, pickled brain for memories or images that will take me away from this horrible place, and into the arms of a beautiful naked woman. I run an entire mental inventory of the fantasies that got me through puberty. Nothing. Just fuzzy static like a fucked telly. My wank-bank is empty.
No movement downstairs either. Not a twitch. The smell of stale booze and fags and sweat isn't helping.
What about pornography? Guess I'll need my phone after all. This means opening my eyes though, for fuck's sake.
Three... Two... One... Hnnnnnnnnng!
The light burns my sensitive retinas, and I blink and glance around the sparse bedroom as I rub sharp bits of sleep away from the corners of my eyes.
Water! I need water! I throw my glasses onto my face, and grab at the cup sat on the floor next to the bed, knocking it over with my shaky hands. Empty. Bone dry. Just like my sore, bleeding mouth.
How the fuck did I end up in such a state? I hold my hands up in front of my face and concentrate hard on steadying them. It doesn't work. The more I focus, the more they shake. If it was a weekend I'd be considering opening a beer to stop this nightmare. To calm my nerves, and restore balance to my damaged system. And then that would lead to more beers, and probably a bottle of wine or two. By 3 p.m. I'd be asleep on the kitchen floor, saving up an even bigger hangover for tomorrow. I've been here before, and I know exactly how it goes.
Right, then! Pornography!
I look around the room and spot my jeans lying in a twisted pile, legs akimbo with a big grimy black stain up one knee. I grab the mucky leg, the one nearest to me, and pull them towards me, groping at the pockets.
BOOM! Wallet and phone both intact. Time for a wank.
With shaky fingers I go to access my phone, leaving a greasy smear on the screen as I draw my unlock pattern. I'm instantly met with a text message from my ex girlfriend:
What the fuck is wrong with you?
Oh shit. Oh shit oh shit oh shit. Oh fucking shit. What the fuck did I do? What the fuck did I say?
I open my sent items. Nothing. Did I see her? I can't remember anything. My mind is racing, and my already-speeding heartrate is cranked up even farther. I'm in the red zone. Beads of sweat are forming on my forehead, and I feel my heart sink into an oily tar-pit of dread and paranoia.
I sit there stunned, thoughts flying as I try to remember what happened last night. I look around the room for clues: an empty wine bottle sits in the corner. I must have picked more wine up on the way home. No wonder I can't remember anything.
I can still taste blood. My stomach gurgles and groans. I hold my head in my hands and start to weep like a fat spoiled child being told he's too big for the buggy. Huge, painful wailing noises escape me as a feeling of absolute helplessness encapsulates me. Tears stream down my face and are caught in my beard, where they form salty little hanging pools.
BLAAART BLAAART BLAAART! BLAAART BLAAART BLAAART!
My head jolts and I crick my neck as the alarm on my phone jumps into life!
'Fucking... FUCK!' I spit, and I throw the covers back and set my feet on the floor, struggling to stand on my jittery, unsteady legs.
I take another long look at the text message...
What the fuck is wrong with you?
...and then I hit DELETE.
It's a fair question. Pertinent and well positioned. What the fuck is wrong with me?
This has to stop. This can't happen again.