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Nick Norton

Paranoid Raptures


Rapture number one.


Numbness and cigarettes, seeking cigarettes.

Body something to be hauled around, a target.

A body target. Too cumbersome to drag outside.

The city requires a mercurial touch, delicate manoeuvres.

Numbness clumsiness dumbness, slams one into glass,

shattered, one goes head to head with road rage,


poisoned brollies.

Social workers all begin to crowd around,

faces pushed between the cop bellies.


Rapture number two.


Not anywhere. Not today. Numbness and cigarettes.

I have not been out since.

I do not remember the last time since,

droplets of arctic perspiration pricking out a panic.

The problem was

the problem is

one encounter with the institution proves so similar to the second

encounter with the institution which echoes next

forward and backward

on and on. Papers, forms, screens, queues, the bad office lighting,

marinated underwear smells, the return, return to beginning:


Return to the ending.


The beginning is lost.

And always the sickening humiliation of being referred to as a customer.


It will add up and one day someone will decide, okay, let's allocate a tiny bit extra as regards this investigation, and there are social workers squeezing through the cracks in my door and they pull along a zealot on a leash.

It has my scent.


M scent: Must wash.


A creature born of bigotry, genetically bred for black ops. A bull necked crew cut barrel chested gum chewing fiend who will prosecute vindictively, reassigning code on the prompting of a rumour in preference to the mundane fact of innocence.


My naïve shallow innocence, reaping the rapture.


Numb, no cigarettes.

They will kill me for the sake of simplicity.


Rapture number three.


Of course a bullet is ridiculous, out of the question. Very reassuring this. Bullets are a statement. The shooter wants to exist. A recipient must be worthy of their calibre. What good am I to anyone once dead? From their point of view, they run the risk of my corpse becoming classed as ‘martyr to the cause’. What cause, whose cause? I have no idea, none to be proven. The dead are easy with their allegiances.


An unseemly tug-o-war; they want me as martyr, no he was a martyr over here, surely he is evidence and proof of this, and they will be able to say the exact opposite with equal conviction.


In this my ignoble social standing and my negligible achievement surely count.

There is no convincing case for martyrdom unless my remains happen to be bundled up in some generic large scale tragic horror outrage.


Must avoid crowds.


No, at point of departure I will merely cease to be noticed,

and for them

that is a miserable waste of resources.


The bullet is too expensive.

The auditors will need to look.

I am reassured.

Assassins fear the auditors.


Rapture number four.


Numbness in search of numbness. The rat's maze psychology of supermarket; buy poisonous provisions fit for a fortnight and then hole up here. Again. Safe. To an extent. For the time being. Waiting.

Sprint to the off-licence.

What else? No, why risk more? In the meantime,


no sleep.

Decode the static on the television screen. I have attacked it.

A little victory this. Only ever static now

a scrambled code to untangle. A secret,

my burden.


And this night, body like a target, this great clumsy meaty thing to be hauled around. I was standing. I am standing


I stand.


And I have not eaten and I have not slept and from the light of the TV I know too much.


Rapture number five.


Numbers and numbness, countless




what I dreaded but could not resist.


They are screening candidates, they are making room, they are busy, naturally enough, resources are terribly overstretched, and yet this must be dealt with


this must be dealt with


this must be, they


have not arrived.


Rapture number six.


No cigarettes and click click clicks.

Upstairs, testing the circuits again.


Rapture number seven.


Reputedly taken up.

I’ve been taken up.

I’ve been dropped.

I’ve been poisoned.

I am being followed.

I am not going anywhere.

Could not remember the last time... No; no recall at all. It must have been days ago. Impossible to say. Do not want to eat and yet my stomach makes disgusting noises. It is an agitated septic tank, its chemical reek claws at the back of my throat. Do not want to eat, need to think. Must work it out.


I have developed this trick, in the supermarket, of never selecting my goods directly from the shelves but instead lifting them from the baskets of other shoppers. Safe looking types. Establishment.


I am of course not stupid, they might learn. I have to adapt. So, to avoid their debilitating dosages I will every so often switch tactics; it might be a week, less, one can never tell. That is the problem, always.


You never can tell.


But I will all of a sudden return to the shelves: pluck, pluck, pluck. Only the supermarket's psychology of placement is a deadly weapon, silent, near undetectable. Things are stacked, packed, placed; just so, just so, and given only a minimum demographic outline – cash flow, life style, age – they will know before you even enter the store not only what product you are going to buy but also what size, brand and, to within half a dozen items, which actual tin or packet you will pick up, fondle, and eventually buy. Following this knowledge they will place tampered items, laced with certain psycho-stimulants, say, and deliver them in the form of a personalised cocktail. The victim selects their own poison for only I will process around the store in such a way and collect such and such a shopping list. This cocktail will only become effective when mixed as proscribed and it is due to this cunning that they are able, in the main, to avoid poisoning innocent shoppers.

(No one is innocent.)


It is uncanny.

No matter how aware I am of this problem they too are aware of how I am aware and thus they can still pre-empt my choice of goods. The tactic I have developed to counter this may smack of desperation, only, it is a desperate act: I make my selection as expected and then, retracing my steps, like a film going backwards, I replace each item in turn before then selecting another. Sometimes I go through this method three, four times. It is akin to thoroughly shuffling a pack of cards. On occasions I spend an hour or so going through these rigours and at the end the stuff in my basket still looks toxic so I dump the entire load and walk out, and then I rush to the next store, pelting along as fast as possible in the hope of purchasing some food before the malign forces ranged against me are able to re-jig their stock.


How can I ever cook with confidence when my only sign of success is delay?

Today I did not choke.

Today, no spasms.

Today I did not sense a fiery jolt of poison coursing through my veins and, no, there was no brain haemorrhage.

Not today, not last night.

Not yet.


Rapture number eight.


Furious numbness.

They won’t let me feel.

They won’t let me eat.

They won’t let me move.

They won’t let me die, yet.

They won’t let me live, ever.

So far I remain sane.

One can only guess at how advanced the tumour is.


Rapture number nine.


Belly glupped and kicked and its presence physically repulsed me.

This body, dragged behind me.

A plague cart.

To not eat was to be reminded of this. To eat

was to risk

to eat some foul cow disease or to sup on the rot from a punctured tin or to suffer the toxins of some weevil's labour.

Dilemma crowding dilemma, and in the cupboard only dry pasta. I snatch at the shells and swallow without chewing and next gulp down the sweet, pearly liquid; a branded and blended liquor.

Seconds later I vomit up everything in one almighty gush.


They almost had me then.


Rapture number ten.


Numbness, achness, slowness, frogness of skin, bogness of belly


this body to be propelled on spasmodic ticks and jerks.


Pick up my black crombie overcoat. It is heavy. Drop it.


Have done this several times. In the hallway. Pick it up. Drop it. Stuck.

The front door mocks: You will not go out.

Must go out.


I pick up the coat, it hurts my fingers, it tires my shoulders, and they are waiting for me. I drop the deadly garment. Of course they will not be carrying calling cards, they might not even know who hired them or that they were ever recruited in the first place. Brakes might fail, tempers might flair, or plant pots will plummet from the heavens above.


Haul up the coat. A gravity all of its own. For over half an hour I have struggled with this. Frantic. I need to... This. This... I need to silence this, somehow. Somehow, I must move so I retreat,

picking up a table lamp.

The lamp always lit.

Snap down my arm, smash the bulb, and twist the searing filament into my neck.


From burn or electricity, don't know, but find myself prostrate and on the far side of the room. A kicked apart mannequin. The walls are pumping with the furious

pace of my nervous system.

I have been turned inside out. This means that inside in it is cold.

And quiet.


Meaning that, although quivering like a terrified whippet, I can now move.


So I am standing in the hallway and the coat is wrapped around my shoulders and I am advancing on the door, sideways on.


The door is open.

Footsteps rapidly climb the concrete stairwell above me.

I am out.

Steps, down, legs scattering before me like spillikins, hands clawing at the railing. And it is raining. A cool, fuzzy mist hung like drapery, almost pleasant on my blistered neck. I flop my head to one side and allow water to pool in my collar. I limp also, not sure why. It seems easier this way.


Rapture number eleven.


The off-licence is brittle, atomically tense, my entrance is not at all convincing. The hump backed stranger. Except they all know who I am. And they know why I am here. Conversations abruptly stop. Eyes squint on my every movement and I find it impossible to locate a decent ninety degree angle. When I approach the shelving system it lurches at me, the stacked tins hovering dangerously above my head, the bottles and utensils spiky, accusing. Monsters may pass in the dark but here in the light I am barely tolerated. Mucus starts streaming from my nose. It tastes salty. I dare not sniff lest the noise bring the cans tumbling down around my head. Shy, ashamed tears are welling up in the corners of my eyes, bursting the space apart into bright, disconcerting prisms. Confused by this small cluttered space, wading through the up-turned aisles, clinging to the flotsam of my need; I cling.


Tonight there will be raptures. Raptures set at fourteen percent.

I need: numbness.

Numbness and cigarettes.

Nick Norton is the author of AKA: A Genealogy of the Saddle. Other prose can be found in The Happy Hypocrite (forthcoming), Fictive Dream, Honest Ulsterman, Brittle Star, Coil, em, Inventory - and elsewhere.

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