Chapter One: Moonday
“We’ve got to find Miller,” says Sasha. “He’s the key to it all. Matt!”
I am groaning, head in hands. It was bad enough discussing our open marriage. And whether it was wise for her to murder my last lover. It may have been someone else’s ritual sacrifice but that doesn’t make it right. We are still speaking calmly and rationally. But it won’t take much for it to become the sort of discussion young drunks have while buying a midnight kebab. This could easily end with a call to the emergency services. And a long dreamless sleep in a wooden box.
My love’s hair stands up in little blonde and hennaed spikes. Her ever-changing eyes are little vats of simmering moon juice, maybe blue, maybe green. Her lips are red as her face is white – cute and comely in repose. Which they almost never are…
“Miller is the theory of Fascism,” she says. “And the street thugs put it into practice…”
While she stretches out that thread well past its useful life I have time to reflect that it is easy to fall out of love – especially once you get past the springtime and the shadows of responsibility deepen and darken. Huddling together through the long winter is the real test. Luckily Sasha still has cute little habits that bring spring back, even on a bitter Monday in early January. We are still in love, still committed to each other. And may the Goddess have mercy on us.
While we talk – while Sasha talks – she is working out. And my love boxing is cuter than puppies fighting over chocolate buttons on Xmas day. I lean into the punchbag urging her on, watching as a light film of perspiration sticks her red shorts and vest to her clear white skin. Her cropped blonde hair is foregrounding her lovely heart-shaped face. There is no sign of her lovely, dimpled smile.
Suddenly, and inexplicably, she is weeping again. It’s hard to say what might have caused it. We have both led stressful lives. This international fugitive business takes it out of you.
We have committed heinous crimes in two different countries and must stay out of the glare of the spotlight. Which is cruel for Sasha, who imagines that fame will cure her many diseases.
I hold her for a while, feeling the fast flickering beat of her heat. She blows her nose with a ferocity that that jangles some well-frazzled nerves of mine.
“My basil’s wilted,” says Sasha, as If she hadn’t just been sniffling and sobbing. This would have been a perfect line for Sybil in Fawlty Towers. She would have been referring to the perpetually irritated Basil Fawlty, a man as easily riled as I am. As the love of my life is American the phrase came out as, “My Baysil is wilted.”
“Supermarket basil doesn’t last long even if you water it,” I tell her, getting irritated now my homemaking skills are being questioned.
“You could nurture it,” she says. “Talk to it. Rather than talking to yourself all the time”.
That’s debatable. So contentious that I might well stroll up to Hackney Marshes where I can have a good old blather in the open air. I don’t even have to get dressed to go out . I’m already wearing a shimmery lilac houndstooth shirt by Thomas Pink, Jermyn Street’s finest shirtmaker, underneath which I have a red satin waist cincher – a gorgeous new corset which is so handy for getting into female head space and imparting a wiggle to my walk. It’s also good for forcing me to stand up straight, ensuring no creases in my charcoal trousers that seemed to cost far too much at the time. I could also wear my Ozwald Boateng jacket, darkest blue with a very fine red pinstripe…
“Stop preening!” says Sasha. As we know girls never dress up or wish to be complimented so I can see her point.
“I’ll buy you some more plants,” I say, having no other idea of how to get her off the subject of Miller.
“You’re staying here,” she says. “We have things to discuss.”
It might not be wise to argue with Sasha while she has boxing gloves on and I am still wound up too tight from recent events. And, for once, I am going to have my say.
“You murdered Kate!” I tell her, using a hoarse whisper that is ideal for quiet but intense argument. As this is a council flat in Tower Hamlets our neighbours may well have similar legal problems but we try to keep our nefarious activities a secret. I do anyway. My little Sasha doesn’t seem to care. She would rather be famous – even if it means doing thirty years – than live the rest of our lives in peace and tranquillity. Or as much as there may be available to people fleeing valid murder charges in two different countries.
“You killed her!” I say. Although I’m not that bothered as Kate tried to have us both shipped off to America to face lethal injection. In a funny way this might have been poetic justice – for Sasha once helped her first husband take a deliberate overdose. She says it was euthanasia. The Police may have different views on this tricky ethical issue. They prefer mercy killing to be practiced on old or terminally sick people – if at all. Although Spider Black sounded ill – especially when singing one of his tuneless dirges about the misery of being alive – he was in fact suffering from nothing more than terminal narcissism and chronic drug addiction. Still, he got his wish. He wanted to die and Sasha saw that he did. But that was then. I’m more concerned about her most recent donation to the grim reaper. You may already have had enough of the accumulated weight of our recent slayings – it’s hard even for me to remember it all, particularly after so much recent ecstasy and ketamine – but this is what we have to juggle every day now. It’s not paranoia either. They really might be coming to get us. Or at least they should be, by now. What do you pay your taxes for?
“You killed her!” I tell her. “You said so!”
“I did not!” she says, “I just wanted to see your face. I was coming off Zerexotine anyway.”
This Prozac derivative was called something else but I’m not surprised she can’t remember. We’ve both tried a few of these instant panaceas. And we’re both still sick – perhaps even sicker than we were before we started, now we have had our serotonin levels tweaked and twiddled by multinational pharmacists looking for a fat payday. And all that ecstasy. Even if it did seem nice at the time.
“I’m not depressed,“ she says, sounding far from jovial. This remark isn’t remotely true although she may believe what she is saying at the moment she is saying it. Whatever the veracity of this statement there will never be any space to point out the truth or otherwise. She is generally talking all the time I’m chatting with you guys.
Right now she is telling me about a new diet.
“…yeast intolerance can lead to…” Many, many things. And Sasha is about to tell me about all of them. I have to edit some bits out. You don’t want to hear everything Sasha says. She is not short of anything to say. And she is long on sudden blitzes of aggression. Perhaps being short is the problem. As she is more of a diminutrix than a dominatrix. We are all familiar with the overcompensating midget who causes millions to suffer in their quest for global domination – Napoleon, Hitler, Spike Lee. And look at Madonna. If only she had been born just a few inches taller…
A flurry of punches hit the bag, sending shock waves through my weary body. She stares defiantly – facing down any remark I might have been intending to make. But for once, she might have a point. Citing this anti-depression drug may actually get you off most things up to and including murder. Side effects include aggression, paranoia, anxiety. I don’t know why they didn’t just name it after me and have done with it.
“You finished the book yet?” she asks.
Sasha asked me to get an account of our lives down on paper – not a website, or a movie, but smudgy ink on paper – what was once regarded as at least one possible version of the truth. I enjoy doing this – the fiction that our adventures have a beginning, middle and end is a delicious invention – but Sasha is under the impression I am taking down her every word for posterity. And apart from there being far too much of this stuff, half of it usually contradicts the other half. And we contradict each other. She wants an adventure story – as she is fighting her female genes – and I want a love story – as I’m turning girly now my youth is fading.
“I’m just trying to find a linear thread to hang it on,” I say. When in actual fact I’m still trying to find out how I used to think straight. Before ecstasy, ketamine, coke, whiz, cannabis and – worst of all – the internet, destroyed any capacity for linear thought. Or it may be because my working conditions aren’t ideal. Sharing a computer with a loved one is not easy, especially when they are girls and like to make things ‘nice’… I get distracted when animated sheep crawl out from behind my documents. When Puppy-dogs tumble out from to-do lists which have been highlighted in glitter. And then Sasha’s recorded voice reminds me to do things at specific times. Before Goddess Sasha herself manifests in person to check her email. Best not start at all really, the method by which most writers work. .
The flurry of punches slows to a pitter-patter, her edgy dance round the bag becomes a slow shuffle. She pauses to look out at the white art deco factory opposite, her eyes filling with tears again. I don’t ask what’s wrong for we are both very fragile right now. I stand beside her, hugging her to me, whispering encouragement in her ear.
“Good work, champ,” I tell her. She looks up, pleased. It’s all she ever wanted; encouragement, validation, a kind word.
The art deco factory has been converted to flats for anyone rich enough to live near the City. The few remaining Cockneys round here are occasionally audible – music-hall singalongs in the nearby pub – but the area is otherwise heavily Asian. No danger yet of my little Sasha adopting the veil. Although it is the one disguise that would keep us safe from whichever Police forces may still wish to interview us.
Our rented flat is now decorated with many pictures of my dear wife and far too many mirrors. They might make a small flat look bigger – and are essential for entertaining our clients – but the last thing I need to see is my face. In repose it’s not too bad but its usual mode is betraying the madness inside me – glowering, louring, grimacing and gurning. I used to think twits like Aleister Crowley were glamorous. Now I actually look like him – and have inadvertently surpassed him in chaotic mayhem – I would give anything to be quietly suburban again. But you don’t retire from this life. It’s for keeps.
It is two weeks since we escaped from a set of fanatical Nazis – some of whom were Satanists and, what’s worse, Austrian. Then I found us a nice refuge in London’s East End, looking to lick my wounds for a while, also the sweet and savoury parts of my dear wife. Yet Sasha wishes us to chase after Gavin Miller – yet another old fruit who wishes to implement Hitler’s final solution, yet another bitter outcast calling for the liquidation of anyone more talented and colourful than his own sad, sorry self.
“Everyone knows that Miller lives in the Yorkshire countryside with his collection of choirboy pictures,” I tell her, knowing I am wasting my frozen breath. A millisecond pause tells me that Sasha was not aware of this salient fact, but she’s soon back at me, nipping at my ankles like the ferocious little attack dog she has always been.
“We’ve got to stop him putting his Nazi garbage on the internet!” she says. Where it will continue to be copied onto other sites till the end of time, whatever we do. But I see her point. Miller might just be a vicious old queen with a taste for vigorous young football hooligans but some words actually can kill. His rhetoric may have inspired some recent bombings. Young men who may be conflicted about their sexuality sometimes like to prove they are real men by bombing gay bars. It’s also likely that Miller participated in some serious violence over thirty years of Nazi activism, maybe even murder. He keeps hinting he’s done it, him and his dead hard Satanic mates. But anyone can talk a good fight on the internet. While I wouldn’t particularly miss Miller I don’t want to be the person responsible for removing him from the gene pool. My little Sasha doesn’t agree.
She wipes some tears away and blinks at me for a while. I can never tell what colour will be prevalent in her eyes – turquoise or jade, emerald or sapphire. And Sasha herself has no clue as to who or what is swimming around inside her. With the light from our anti-depression lamp bathing her face she appears to have sea green eyes, almost the match of the withering plant she is staring at. Like everything else round here our pot plants are finding the English winter inhospitable and unforgiving. Especially since our boiler packed up again. Leaving us to freeze.
“We need heat!” I tell her, “I can get us an electric heater.”
Even she can’t argue with that. Although she soon starts up again about the possible design and colour I should select.
“Make sure it’s red…”
Large parts of the world are now sick of being told what to do by Americans and, living with Sasha, it’s not hard to see their point. She’s almost enough to drive me back to AA again.
“…and not white. Definitely not white…”
My A.A. is Americans Anonymous. I’m sick of dumb fat fucks and a President who thinks appeasement will defeat Islamism. But this last whinge doesn’t apply to my little Sasha, who is small, thin, lovely and far too clever. So much so that I sometimes have cause to contemplate Adolf Hitler’s views on the appropriate partner for a man who fancies himself a bit. “A highly intelligent man should take a stupid woman for a wife,” he said, (this was pre-feminism). “Imagine if, on top of everything else, I had a woman who interfered with my work.” It is a shame that Sasha was not around in the thirties to tell him that brown is not an appropriate colour for clothes. Yes, we all know how good certain black uniforms looked. But the German army thought brown was the new black. No wonder they lost.
“…as small as possible. Minimalist…”
Her father was just about old enough to be drafted at the end of the war – an experience that did him no good at all. Watching your friends being blown to pieces is no way to spend your adolescence. Neither is finding villages full of strung-up corpses. He didn’t need the internet to commune with the forces of darkness. Neither did he have to call himself a ‘Satanist’ to be daring. Unlike his daughter.
“…black is just so over…”
Papa then worked as a spy for the Americans in Vienna of the fifties and there we lose track of his shadowy activities until he blew his brains out in front of the two of us. Fathers-in-law are a drag at the best of times but I sort of preferred the type that restricted themselves to verbal abuse. Our relationship was cursed with Papa’s dying breath – and a splatter of grey tissue on a farmhouse wall.
Well, close but no cigar, Daddy. We are still here, still in love, and still driving each other raving mad on a daily basis. We are also still married – ten times over if you include two Pagan ceremonies and a drive-in quickie in Las Vegas. It’s a hobby of Sasha’s. One I indulge because, frankly, I need a bed for the night. I am the living embodiment of that old gag about musicians; ‘What do you call a musician without a girlfriend? Homeless.’ (Yes, I know it should be ‘partner’ instead of ‘girlfriend’. I live with the Supreme Ogress Sasha. I am well aware of the need to respect women. Or die a slow and painful death.)
We have done most religious and pagan ceremonies by now. But not one I think may be the most appropriate. Instead of a priest or registry officer we should have a referee. Each party should bring a second and the happy couple should take ten paces, turn and fire at each other with a paint ball, or some other harmless but indelible proof of marksmanship. Whoever is judged to have fired the fatal shot shall then be allowed The Last Word on any subject.
Well, I can dream. But I have a feeling that, after I had won this part of the contest, the rules would continue to change in favour of My Little Sasha. Our marriage is a little like roulette. There is an in built bias in favour of the house. You can’t win so you’d better work out how to enjoy losing.
“…and don’t come back with…”
Something boils up in my stomach and chokes me with bitter steaming rage.
“Right! That’s it!” I tell her. I stumble upright and stagger out, blundering through the door after hitting one of its sides on my first attempt. Inside her voice continues, as it always has done, as it always will. I clatter down the stone stairwell and scurry through the courtyard. The streets are deserted as is the slate grey sky. I remember our last pagan marriage ceremony. Was it entirely wise to extend our commitment beyond this life time? We are now wedded in each and every one of our possible future incarnations. There is no escape. Even if I do eventually snap and wring her neck.