Spoiler

20 June 2014

He was a monstrous black giraffe of death. In a cape.

This story was inspired by Game of Thrones (the TV series). Specifically, a Facebook “friend” thought that spoiling revelations in the show was a just bit of fun, rather than the deadly serious matter that it in fact is. We are no longer Facebook “friends”…

[WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILER FOR SEASON ONE OF GAME OF THRONES]

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Spoiler

My name is Michael Harris (otherwise known as inmate number 44628) and its from here, my dank prison cell, that I intend to recount the exact set of circumstances which led to my incarceration. Just to be clear, this is no ordinary prison, this is a psychiatric facility for the criminally insane. While I write this I’m in the process of emerging from a twelve hour semi-catatonic state, courtesy of this facility’s pharmacy. I have a small window of about two hours to tell you my story before I’m sedated for the second time in twenty four hours. So I’d best get on with it. But first a title, something snappy, let’s see, “The Murder of Caden”. Too simple. How about “The Inevitable Murder of Caden Borwick”. It certainly has something, and let’s face it, if I didn’t kill him someone else would have got round to it eventually. He was a monumental git after all. Now, I’m a little conflicted about using the word “murder” in the title, after all I had no intention of killing Caden prior to my arrival at the office that morning but it makes for a better title. So for the purposes of this story, yes, I murdered the motherfucker.

I first met Caden Borwick formally in 2010 when he joined the company I worked for. Despite my workplace at the time being one comfortable with casual dress no one was prepared for what walked through the door that day. Caden was a goth. He was the kind of goth other goths would give funny looks to in the street. As he walked into the office on his first day, with a confidence inappropriate for a new hire, heads turned, jaws dropped and someone sat amongst the sea of open plan desks broke the silence with a “What the fuck?”. What the fuck, indeed. I stared at Caden, completely unable to look away, his corpse painted face and black lipstick like a slap in the face of normalcy. He wore black PVC trousers that reflected the fluorescent lights above him as he walked. His head was barely six inches from the ceiling thanks to the most enormous black platformed boots I’d ever seen. He was a monstrous black giraffe of death. In a cape. I was so torn on this point, I almost wanted to shake the guy’s hand for wearing a cape to work on his first day but there was a solemnity in his face that made me and every other person in the office wary. Caden approached Colin Schwartz, his new boss and the man responsible for hiring him, and said “Hello, Colin, I hope I’m not too late”. Colin spun around from his desk having been fully immersed in the same spreadsheet the whole morning. He found he needed to angle his head upwards to an unnatural angle just to make eye contact. Poor Colin, I thought, his first direct report ever is ninety minutes late on his first day and looks like that. I could have sworn I heard a squeak as his testes receded into his body. Poor Colin.

“I didn’t recognise him at all”, Colin told me over a cigarette later that day. “The guy wore a suit for his interview. He had olive skin and eyebrows!”

“Jesus,” I said confounded.

“Listen, he’s hot-desking right now but when Mike leaves your pod I’m going to have him sit there so you can keep a little eye on him for me.”

“You don’t need me to do that man, you’re his boss remember, you can keep an eye on him all by yourself.”

“Well, I’m hoping sitting near you will rub off on him.”

“Fine”, I said. I really didn’t mind, I always worked best with my headphones on anyway. I could just ignore him if I had to.

A week later and Mike was gone, the cleared desk opposite me beckoned Caden over and I formally introduced myself. “Hi Caden, I’m Michael. Let me know if you need anything.”

“I don’t need anything”, he said without hesitation. I couldn’t quite infer his meaning from the inflection but I thought it was odd. I let it pass.

I noticed he carried a very large book under his arm but I couldn’t see the title, out of curiosity I asked, “What’s that?”

“It’s a book”, he replied with disdain.

“Well yea, obviously, ‘what book?’ I mean.”

“Here”, he thrust the book at me. It was a weighty tome called Helliconia, thirteen hundred pages long but technically three books in one volume. I had read them a few years ago.

“What do you think of it?”

He glared at me and snatched the book out of my hand.

“Whatever, man” was all he said before he sat down and stared at the screen of his already booting laptop. I guess he thought I had never read it and was just being patronising. Fine. Whatever yourself, Caden.

Sitting across from Caden was very unsettling. He was slumped low in his chair and he stared at me from across the desk, his gaze finding it’s way through the panoply of crap I’d accumulated on my desk during my tenure at the company. I found that after a couple of months I’d strategically moved most of the items on my desk as to obstruct his penetrating glare. One day I went to drink from the bottle of water on my desk and one black eye was staring out back at me. I lost it. I jumped up from my desk and looked down on him “What’s your deal man?”, I said, loudly enough for others in the office to turn around. He ignored me. “Hey, Caden!”, he looked up, “yeah I’m talking to you – what are you fucking staring at?!” He looked back down at his screen. I wanted to scream but resisted, “Listen you cape-wearing fuck. Keep your eyes to yourself, if you have something to say, say it. Otherwise don’t look at me.” He just kept looking forward, tapping at his keys with his pointy nails.

As you can imagine I got a stern warning from my manager later that day but the whole thing was dropped in lieu of “keeping the peace”. I was made to apologise to Caden and then shake his hand, my stomach knotted as I was reminded of having to do the same thing at school with one of the resident bullies many years earlier. Caden was a man-child and I’d been brought down to his level. I felt like a complete idiot for having let him win in such a way. So I vowed not to lose my temper again.

Over the course of the next few months I kept my interactions with Caden to a bare minimum. During that time Colin would give me the inside scoop on Caden’s work performance, he’d received a couple of verbal warnings but was doing just enough to get by. It didn’t look like he’d be going anywhere any time soon. There was a growing undercurrent of dread that carpeted each moment of every day and I had to force myself to keep it under control. The best days were the ones where Caden was sick at home, I could stretch my legs out under my desk without accidentally kicking him. I could talk with other colleagues without his oppressive eavesdropping. Most importantly I could take my time on “Cake Tuesdays” without having to rush my selection before Caden started fingering all the pastries. This, only moments after I’d spied him picking his nose at his desk. Personally, I would have thought the pointy fingernails would dissuade him from pursuing such an activity but perhaps he valued precision over safety. I found myself dwelling on many of his flaws and I spent a lot of time, an unhealthy amount of time, pondering over the ones that bothered me the most. I guess the item that topped the list for me would be, let’s see, his entire fucking personality. And I wasn’t alone. In fact many of my colleagues bonded over this shared hatred and it was a source of comfort in an otherwise hostile environment, like a complimentary hand-fan handed out at the gates of hell.

It’s at this point in my story where I feel I should mention the catalyst that led to Caden’s inevitable death. A casually arranged work gathering at the local pub was getting messy, I was on my sixth whiskey and Colin was on his fourth pint. Mike was also with us, telling us about his new job and reminiscing about times gone by. I put my arms around both of them and pulled them close, “Fuck, I miss this!” I said enthusiastically. I turned to Mike, “Mike, mate, come back man, I’m fucking lost without you son. I’m sitting opposite this fucker now” I motioned towards Caden who was sat in the corner alone staring into space. A straw was planted between his lips and he sucked periodically from a pint of Guinness. I guess he didn’t want to smudge his black lipstick.

“Which fucker?” Mike replied.

I motioned with my head to Caden again, more vigorously this time, “The one in the PVC man, that’s Caden!”

“Shiiiiit, that’s Caden? I thought Col was exaggerating.”

“No man, how can you exaggerate that?!” I said.

“True”, Mike nodded thoughtfully.

Colin jumped in, “He could be carrying a sword, he loves his fantasy doesn’t he. He’s always got a massive book under his arm.”

“Well, let’s be thankful for small mercies, that’s all we need, a seven and a half foot, black PVC clad, sword carrying misanthrope with a personality disorder.”

Mike took pity on him, “Ah, I’m sure he’s not that bad! Each to their own and all that.”

“Nah, I forgot to tell you what happened,” Colin said, about to refute Mike’s statement. “He gave away the ending to Game of Thrones. We were having our monthly one to one, it used to be weekly but it was like getting blood out of a stone, and anyway I guess he was pissed at me for having given him some extra work, and he must have heard us talking about the show, and the bastard told me what happened.”

“What the fuck!” I said.

“Yeah, I guess he’s read the books and he was trying to get back at me.”

Mike and I looked at each other and in unison said “Motherfucker”.

“Well don’t tell me anything”, I said “I’m only up to episode five, got two to watch this weekend.”

“Nice, don’t worry, I won’t say a word but man, I wanted to knock him out when he told me. Literally as he was walking out the meeting room he turns around and tells me, before it could even register he was gone.”

“This guy sounds like a complete cunt”, Mike said sympathetically.

Colin and I looked at each other and said as one “He is!”.

The next morning I rolled into work a half hour late with a moderate-to-severe hangover. I figured that the others must have had a messier night than me as the office was practically deserted. Armed with a bacon sandwich in my pocket I sought out the first available dispenser of caffeinated beverages and jabbed at the buttons like a primate. The coffee machine clicked and buzzed and began to pour black nectar into a paper cup. Caden sidled up to me and looked down at me with towering contempt, his mouth a half-formed snarl.

“I hear you and your mates were slagging me off last night…”

The small, intimate, but non consensual orgy between small mammals taking place in my head prevented me from forming a cogent response. “Huh? You mean… What? In the pub?”

“Yes in the pub, you and Colin and that other guy. Slagging me off.”

“But, who? Who told you that?”

“All three of you were casting evils at me all night!”

Rumbled. “Caden, honestly, sit down man, I can’t have this conversation… I think… I might be sick.” I squatted to the floor having already broken into a sweat and steadied myself on the coffee machine.

“Pussy.” He kicked me with his massive boot like he was checking a car tire. “Oh, and Ned Stark gets his head chopped off by Joffrey!”

The nail in the coffin. I began to retch as he walked back to his desk, his cape trailing behind him.

“Oh my God”, I mumbled to myself. Saliva dripped from my mouth as I continued to fight the vice like grip that had taken hold of my stomach. Thank fuck it was Friday.

I gathered my strength and made my way to my desk. I was hunched over with my hand clutching at my abdomen. By the time I sat down the cold sweat had subsided and I was now experiencing a hot flush, rage had conspired with the hangover to trigger the male menopause. The fan behind my desk was blowing gently and I cranked the knob to maximum. Heaving a sigh of relief I entered my password on my computer and set to work. A loud tutting noise struck me from Caden’s direction, I peeked over my screen and caught his eye. Again I saw and felt his schizophrenic gaze upon me.

“The fan”, he said.

“What about it?”

“Turn it off.”

“Man, I’m hot, let me cool down.”

“It’s not my problem if you can’t handle your drink”, he looked away from me dismissively.

“Says the bloke who sipped a single Guinness through a bloody straw the whole night!” The thought of Guinness made my stomach heave and bile squeezed its way to the back of my throat.

“What I do is none of your business!” His tone was getting more aggressive and I was not thinking clearly enough to try and bring the intensity of this most ridiculous of conversations down.

“It is my business when it affects me! And why the hell would you choose to act like such a dick to me and everyone around you? ALL THE TIME.”

“D’you call me a dick?!” He stood up thrusting his chair backwards and it rolled away before tipping over. I was incensed. I was as angry with him as my digestive system was with me.

“Yes, Caden. You are a dick. A mammoth, dripping, syphilitic penis.”

Caden’s fists clenched and his cheeks reddened. At that very moment I knew I’d crossed a line and I regretted my actions immediately. But part of me was immensely proud that I’d managed to spur a reaction so strong that it was visible through layers of corpse paint. For the briefest of moments I revelled in ambivalence but was quickly forced into adrenaline induced readiness. Caden was coming for me. He made his way around the desk with resolute purpose. The unrelenting roar of the fan on its maximum setting had his cape billowing and flapping behind him. Before I could catch my breath and decide on a counter move to his inevitable attack he was upon me. Like the demented bastard child of a super-villain and dominatrix he pounced, bringing me to the ground with such force that I thought I heard a car backfiring. The first thought to enter my mind as he straddled my pelvis and throttled me was that his dominatrix mother would be ashamed of him, for there had been no mention of a safe word. I felt my tensed neck muscles weakening as I flailed and clutched at his face, the white paint rubbed off on my hands leaving his face smeared. He moved his head left to right reactively and managed to dodge my aimless attacks. I was starting to lose consciousness. Through the muddled, swirling colours beginning to overwhelm my eyesight I glimpsed haggard and pale-faced Colin careering towards us – that brilliant bastard had made it in! A moment later Caden’s head whipped backwards as the collar of his cape lodged underneath his Adam’s apple. Colin was pulling Caden off me by his cape. I felt Caden’s grip on my throat loosen and I managed to take a stunted half-breath. The psychedelic blotches in my vision began to give way to the real world. I can only imagine how ridiculous we looked; Colin garroting Caden via cape and Caden desperately trying to strangle me. All of our faces a different red-ish hue. I took advantage of the reprieve and brought my arms under Caden’s which were still gripping at my throat. I used all my strength and simultaneously thrust both my arms into the soft skin of his inner elbows. He buckled slightly and I heard a tearing sound as Caden’s cape began to rip from the tug-of-war Colin was engaged in. Suddenly Caden let go of my throat and reached quickly for the cape at the base of his neck. He moved with panic and desperation but managed to grip it tightly. He pulled forward and moved his body with it. The cape ripped completely and the immediate loss of tension brought his head down on mine. I turned to the right and he smashed his nose just above my left temple. There was a squelching and crunching accompanied with a fine red spray of blood as his nose exploded against me. I pushed a disoriented Caden off me and saw Colin slumped on the floor a few meters away. He must have hit his head after the cape tore.

Caden managed to make it to his feet and he steadied himself on the nearest desk. He wiped the blood from his nose and mouth with his hand and then looked up at me. Any remaining disorientation had lifted and his stare was now seeped in malice. He was about to make his move and I was still helplessly sprawled across the floor. With very little forethought I crawled backwards on my elbows as fast as I could, but within a few strokes I’d hit my head on the far wall. I was trapped. Caden exploded into motion. He roared at me with his arms in the air like an angry Scot going into battle and I scrunched my eyes closed. I was sure that I was done for. But nothing happened. One, two, three… I started counting, I got all the way up to ten and still nothing. Was I dead? I could still hear the commotion around Colin, I heard a mechanical whirring, some tearing and in the distance the repetitive clunking of our office printer. I couldn’t be dead, not unless I’d made my way directly to Hell. The thought of an eternity of office work forced my eyes open. Caden had not moved, it was as if he’d entered suspended animation the moment I closed my eyes. But then his towering stare faded into one of confusion because despite all efforts to cross the small distance between us he was actually moving backwards – one shuffled mis-step at a time. His outstretched arms which only a moment ago were flailing for a place on my neck were now clutching at his own. His red complexion gave way to purple and his head began to tilt backwards. He took one more half step backwards but in doing so scraped his platformed heel against some grey office equipment. It was an industrial shredder and his cape was already two-thirds swallowed. He tried to drop to his knees but there wasn’t enough slack in his cape, instead his neck was forced farther backwards and he let out an almost inaudible choking sound. It was only once his back had arched to an impossibly acute angle that I realised I was out finally out of danger. Caden, however, was not and within moments his cape had disappeared completely. The back of his neck was pulled tight against the shredder and his collar was successfully asphyxiating him. I sat and watched while my stomach rumbled. Note to self: a fight to the death really works up an appetite.

I noticed a small smattering of my colleagues had amassed around Colin and they had just succeeded in bringing him round. Just as the sales guys, Alan and Nicolai, pulled Colin to his feet they spotted Caden’s predicament. They rushed over to free him but immediately began to panic. They shouted for help and frantically tried to switch the shredder into reverse but instead of spitting out the chewed cape the power died leaving Caden anchored at the neck and without breath. Panic descended into hysteria as others huddled round the unresponsive shredder. Even Harry the perverted IT guy was getting stuck in. The only other time I’d seen him in the vicinity of a piece of office equipment was when Nicolai swore on his brother’s life there was a dick shaped hole in the finance printer. Caden disappeared from view as more people moved in to try and help. I angled my head left and right trying to spot him through a sea of legs but gave up almost as soon as I’d tried. My stomach rumbled again and I smelt bacon. The sandwich! I knew that once my stomach had settled the salty meat and fat soaked bread would cure all ills. I heard someone shouting for a pair of scissors but my attention wouldn’t be swayed. I’d earned this. Carefully I removed the still warm sandwich from my pocket and unwrapped it from the foil-lined paper. I began to salivate. I tried to take a bite but opening my mouth was agonising. Caden had inflicted some serious damage to my neck and throat. Without thinking I licked the bread. Admittedly, it wasn’t entirely satisfying but it was better than nothing. There was a lot of shouting but I only picked up a few words… “ambulance”… “scissors”… “help”… “suffocating”… “hurry”… “dead”. I licked the bread again, almost convinced that I could polish the whole sandwich off in this manner. Then as quickly as they had amassed, my colleagues dispersed and formed a wide broken circle around Caden’s sprawled body. By now I’d moistened the bread enough to pull some off with my teeth. I swallowed but the piece of saliva and fat soaked bread became lodged in my throat. Panic broke my stupor and I hacked up the obstruction in one sharp exhalation. The mushy ball of bread was airborne, it arched beautifully and came down with a wet slap upon Caden’s crotch. All heads swung towards me, mouths agape while police and paramedics piled through the office door. Caden was declared dead on arrival and I never got to finish my bacon sandwich.

The rest of what happened was a blur, a collection of images and sounds. The click of the handcuffs. The looks of disbelief as I’m hauled away. A feint trail of HP sauce connecting my shoe with the lonely bacon sandwich, my thinning tether to reality. The slam of the police car doors. The smell of urine in the interrogation room. My lawyer’s face as the police explain to him the state in which I was found. I’ll never forget that face because I knew then that I was completely, utterly, royally fucked. Apparently, nonchalantly licking bread while the man whose nose you just obliterated chokes to death doesn’t go down well with a jury of your peers. And that, ultimately, is what let me down. I’ve got to hand it to the prosecution, they took the facts and painted a fantastically macabre picture of what made me tick. By the time I was called to testify they’d made it look like nothing I said could be trusted. My attempts to convince the judge and jury that the whole thing was self-defence were blown apart by opposing counsel’s secret weapon: Caden’s diary. This warped tale littered with expletives was a rich fabrication. Every interaction we’d had over the course of the year was twisted to make me look like a psychopath and him like a victim. Of course, I wasn’t the only character to feature in his diary, Colin was there too, referred to as an “epochal wanker”. Nicolai and Alan were described as “a pair of masectomised tits floating down a congealed river of protoplasm” and the girls from human resources were, well, they were just “sluts”. Ever the charmer. But he saved the best for me. There were many, many insults that I won’t drone on about but my two favourites are worthy of mention. One: “Michael talking was like watching someone gargle the contents of a colostomy bag”. Two: “His fat fucking cunt of a face continues to squawk incessantly”. Not sure why I like that second one so much, but it’s probably to do with the imagery it conjures up. For me it’s Igor from Disney’s Aladdin genetically fused with a vagina.My lawyer did his best to get the diary removed from evidence, stating that it presented a biased view of me. But he failed. It seems that people put a lot of credence in the words of a dead man. Even Colin’s testimony couldn’t help me, his was a lone dissenting voice in stark contradiction to the already cemented opinion that pervaded the courtroom. When asked to describe me almost all of the other witnesses said that they really didn’t know me well enough, that I kept to myself and that I was generally a bit of a loner. My lawyer was over his head and despite his efforts to regain some control of the courtroom and shift the jury’s perceptions I think deep down he knew he’d been dealt a losing hand. By nine-thirty AM on most trial days he was already dripping in sweat and I can’t count the number of times he asked for recess. Those requests were usually preceded by bouts of the most putrid silent-but-deadlies. These five days were some of the most important in my life and my hopes rested on a man that was literally shitting himself throughout the proceedings. So I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that the whole self-defence angle didn’t pan out.

My lawyer was the dumbest smart person I’d ever met. His education was impeccable for a public defender, he had a strong chiselled jaw and the white wig all the lawyers wore in court looked fantastic on him. Everyone else looked like a imbecile but Gordon Letts, my lawyer, looked like he was born to be in the courtroom. Within the first minute of meeting him I had thought to myself ‘this isn’t the kind of bloke who has a father, this man has lineage’. I thought he was a class act. For the first time since my arrest I felt safe and the knot in my stomach eased. I should have known better. He was the guy that showed up because I couldn’t get someone good. He’d always been that guy and that safety I felt was drained from me each time the buffoon opened his mouth in court. And every time he broke wind. By twenty passed nine on the first day of my trial I’d abandoned all hope so you can only imagine my state of mind on my trial’s penultimate day when, during afternoon recess, my lawyer sat me down to “have a word”.

“What is it, Gordon?” I said. I was (justifiably) irritable.

“Michael, allow me to be honest with you here.”

“I’m listening.”

“I must admit what initially appeared to be a simple case of self defence has spiralled into something I was not prepared for. Not in the least.” No shit! “Let’s review the facts briefly. First and foremost, we have a history of tension and disagreements between yourself and Caden. Now, regardless of whether Caden’s diary does indeed paint a biased view of those interactions is, at this stage, wholly irrelevant. The man is dead, he cannot be questioned and the validity of his assertions in the diary cannot be challenged. The jury will always side with the victim in these circumstances. Secondly, there are the character witnesses. Colin was the only one of these whose testimony was actually convincing, and it would have done you some good had Colin not been involved in the altercation, but as it stands the prosecution have done a marvellous job of casting doubt on his integrity. Thirdly, and finally, there is the matter of the bacon sandwich. You eating a bacon sandwich as a man died in front of you has… has made you appear a callous sociopath. If we do not deviate from this path, tomorrow you will be found guilty of murder.”

“But…?”

“There are no ‘buts’ I’m afraid, you will be found guilty and you will spend a decade, at the very least, banged up.” I found it strange that he’d used that colloquialism. Almost immediately my mind conjured up a prison rape scenario and just as quickly I suppressed it. “The best we can hope for now is damage control…”

Gordon had been speaking to opposing counsel for about fifteen minutes and I’d been left in a holding cell gasping for news. When he finally returned he was beaming. His smile was ear to ear and he looked supremely chuffed with himself.

“Brilliant news lad!” He was trembling with joy.

“What! What!? Tell me!”

“We’ve made a deal, Michael. We will change your plea to guilty by reason of insanity and the prosecution will be lenient with sentencing. They’ve agreed to 5 years in a state-run facility.”

“What are you so happy about then?”

“It’s a good result, Michael. We couldn’t have done any better.”

“You mean you couldn’t do any better.”

“Now, Michael, you know I’ve worked my damnedest to get you off. Considering the circumstances you’ve… well let’s just say there’s a good chance you’ll get out sooner than that and these places… they’re not that bad. You’ll have your own shower, en suite. Three squares a day. Regular visitation privileges. You can’t say fairer than that!”

I was just about to protest but the buzzer sounded indicating that my trial was due to resume. My time was up. The guard’s keys jangled as he unlocked the cell door. I was escorted out and in a moment of absolute resignation I looked back at Gordon and let out an unconvincing, “Fine.”

I realise now I had no choice but to go with Gordon’s advice, but there was a time, probably the first six months of my incarceration, where I looked back at the trial and felt nothing but rage. Surely I could have done something. I could have fired Gordon or represented myself or thrown fecal matter at the judge and jury. I could have done anything. I should have done something. But what gets me now, more than the anger, is the regret. If I had to spend the next few years in semi-catatonic isolation for murder I should have at least given myself the pleasure of choking Caden to death rather than letting a piece of office equipment do it for me. But it becomes hard to hold on to the hate and the regret when you’re in a place like this. Everyone who works here is on a personal mission to calm you down. One wrong word is all it takes. Even less, a right word delivered badly can get you put you on the ‘naughty list’. And there’s one thing you do a lot of when you’re on the ‘naughty list’. Sleep. I still dream though. Sometimes I dream of Caden, his face, the fight, the blood. But more often than not I relive those final moments in the office, a lone bacon sandwich staring back at me as I’m dragged off by the pigs.

THE END

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