HOLD YOUR BREATH, PINCH YOUR NOSE AND DIVE HEAD FIRST INTO THE ABSURD WORLD OF THOMAS HOWARTH’S UNI CONFESSIONS.
‘I’m dreading the Queen’s speech. I think she’ll finally give us “the talk” this year.’
‘Hale, please. I’m trying to finish this essay.’
I lifted the laptop and shook it, as the year 2003 might say, like a polaroid picture. Of course, the practice of shaking a freshly printed polaroid to aid the image’s development is fallicious; all the words of my essay fell to the bottom of the screen.
‘What’s your favourite thing about the ol’ Christmas season?’
‘Pace, come on now, I’m working.’ My two housemates, a duo of mature students studying ‘Postmodernism in Animals: Gorillas and Fractured Narrratives,’ wouldn’t leave me be. They were drunk on festive cheer and alcohol. Pace loomed over my shoulder and scoffed a mince pie, scattering crumbs between the keys of my ‘board.
‘What’s your essay about?’ he asked, machine-gunned globules of mince dressing the screen.
‘I’m supposed to be positing a practical theory of quantum mechanics whereby the Klein-Gordon equation can be replaced with a JPEG of Robert Lindsay, but I’ve got nothing. It’s nigh on impossible, I’m sure of it.’
‘Nothing’s impossible,’ offered Hale, busy at the lounge window wrestling a pigeon into a knitted Santa costume. ‘In fact, I’d go as far as saying that only the impossible is truly possible.’
‘Ahh,’ added Pace, raising a finger in agreement. I covered my face with my hands, fingertips denting my skull. ‘It’s all in the word,’ Pace said, massaging my shoulders. ‘”Impossible.”‘
‘And how do we spell “impossible”?’ Hale asked. His pigeon jingled off into the night. ‘I M possible. I’m possible. I am possible. You see?’
‘This is the weirdest -‘
‘No, shush, come on now. We’re helping you.’
Hale took my laptop and opened YouTube. He sought out the song ‘Pure Imagination’ from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The eerie chimes paved open the tune, and Pace dimmed the lights. Together, my housemates traced Gene Wilder’s words.
‘What we’ll see will defy -‘
The knackered gas fire blew into life, great colourful flames coating the walls. A hundred decorated pigeons drifted in through the window, cooing along to the melody. The picture above our settee, a poster for Der Untergang, melted into the image of Christ. The man himself stepped out of the frame, with robes of white cloud.
‘I understand you’re struggling,’ he said, resting a hand on my shoulder. ‘Show me the problem.’
‘I don’t… I don’t really know what all this is about.’ I gestured to the room’s maniacal activity. My housemates were helping a festive poltergeist climb out of the telly. Gene Wilder’s warbling rose into ecstasy, and the laptop regenerated into a typewriter. A great plume of paper licked upwards, the word ‘IMPOSSIBLE’ printed over and over again, unendingly. The shapes of wet ink began detaching from the page, rising into huge silky bats. ‘This is bat country,’ one sneered, dissolving into smoke and rolling through the window.
‘Jesus, I’m feeling a tad unnerved by this business.’ I swung around to face him, but he was gone. Everything was gone. I was alone with my laptop, essay barely started. The room was cold. I remembered that I didn’t have housemates.
The next morning I got a man round, and he told me that the gas fire had been suffering a leak. I dropped out of university after that. Well, ‘dropped out’ as in ‘just left without telling anyone.’ I’ve found myself a neat little shack made of leaflets. Had to remove a skeleton before settling in, but it’ll do. It’ll see me through Christmas. Through the snow.