The room is dimly lit, within its depths, a baby whimpers atop a nest of human skulls.
This macabre tableaux is captured forever in celluloid form. Immortalised he lies with pudgy little arms battling invisible demons. His whimper turns into a howl. The unwilling star of the show. Seriously, what do you expect? Would you enjoy being photographed butt naked in a dank basement?
There are three adults huddled behind the camera: two men and a woman.
The woman is smoking a White Butterfly joint, as she calls them. The room isn’t exactly well ventilated. Lightly fanning the plumes of acrid smoke away from his direction is a bit of an exercise in futility. But hey, he’s a baby at this point. He hasn’t yet formed opinions on governmental drug policies or recent studies into the long term harmful effects of marijuana and heroin on infants.
And no, this isn’t quite as sinister scenario as it sounds, albeit irresponsible as hell.
Both his parents are here to chaperone his big debut. The first nude photo shoot.
Oh god no, it’s definitely not what you’re thinking…
Throughout his childhood he will come to accrue more than a few issues at their unique parental style. But one of them is most definitely not pimping him out to pedophile rings like some kind of fucked up party game. Kiddy porn dungeon pass the parcel.
So what is it exactly that they are up to; Some kind of occult sacrificial ritual? A twisted novelty family photo? A plagiarist depiction of a scene from the Tomba Emmanuelle, the mausoleum to the Norwegian artist, Emanuel Vigeland?
Well, that’s a bit more likely, given his mother’s heritage and tendency towards the morbid.
However in the case of this intimate little set, he is being used as the literal poster child for the latest cause they have picked out of a hat to fight for. Pro-life or pro-choice. They have probably fought for both at one point or another. Slightly tasteless to use their own son in some people’s eyes, but they would just say it was for the greater good. Their unwavering war at the perceived social cage they were born into.
The very perceived cage that will lead them to imprison their only son. The one they are trying to save.
Always the same lecture. Now, Cloudberry, there is a good that is greater than our personal discomforts … blah blah.
Cloudberry? Oh the name right… They can be unbearable hippies at times, but that is just a nickname they’ve had since he was in the womb. Something to do with his conception up in the mountains, the only place that cloudberries grow. It was during one of their visits to Norway to see his mum’s side of the family. They took that fateful hike into the mountains and their animal urges kicked in.
Once when he was just a toddler he wet himself at playgroup. As toddlers do. His mother had been called in to bring a change of clothes under a hail storm of muttered Norwegian curses.
Helvete, faen ta…
She had been planning on attending an open lecture in London subtly titled Evil Capitalism that day. Subtle as a brick to the face of a cop. As subtle as her. If the women at the playgroup had been expecting a thank you for having to don plastic gloves and disposable aprons to wipe down her urine soaked child then they were in for a disappointment.
There is no word for please in the Norwegian language.
She had swept in ignoring the staff and strode straight towards him with a mile of kisses per minute. Her long blonde hair always smelt good to him, like strawberries.
No sooner had she pulled a fresh t-shirt over his head, a Che Guevara print, naturally; then she was congratulating him.
His shamed face looking up at her had turned to one of puzzlement closely followed by relief that he wasn’t in trouble.
According to his mum, what had occurred was not an embarrassing moment of a childish lack of control over his bladder. It was a dirty protest in defiance of the corrupt regime in which his playgroup was run. Back handers from affluent parents leading to special treatment for certain children whilst other less privileged children suffered without.
These were nascent signs of the great man that he was to become. Apparently.
With one hand his mum had gently ushered him to the exit whilst brandishing the other with a stiff raised middle finger in the face of shocked staff and parents alike.
A gesture that little Cloudberry copied behind her gleefully.
He was home schooled after that.
“The theory of communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property” his dad had told him another time. With a smile.
He was reciting one of the litany of Marxist prayers that were always cascading from his lips. Like political pamphlets.
“You’re getting a bit too old for Mr Wiggles anyway. Dontcha think little man?”
Cloudberry barely felt his hair ruffled. All he could do was stare at his feet still clutching his beloved teddy bear. The bear’s namesake under-stuffed behind drooping sadly between his trembling hands.
All your life, you cry and your parents come running. Then one day they don’t.
“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” Along with the ruffled hair, his father’s words also had gone straight over his head. With a gentle nudge he was ushered forward.
The orphanage reeked of disinfectant that stung Cloudberry’s nostrils and added to the burning in his eyes. The banner loomed over head welcoming the local children in with garish painted smiles.
The idea of the scheme was a great photo opportunity for the local feel good columns. Local children marched forward at gun point under the self-righteous gaze of their parents to relinquish their old toys to those less fortunate than themselves.
For children from particularly broken homes.
Another nudge forward and helplessly he held out Mr Wiggles.
In a flurry of greedy fingers the bear was ripped from his loving grasp.
That day would replay in Cloudberry’s mind. The day that he watched his best friend in the whole world literally torn to pieces before his eyes. There had been guts of fluff spattered across the playroom floor.
Ashes to ashes, fluff to fluff.
He never even got to say goodbye.
Even with no other life experience to compare it to, Cloudberry grew suspicious of his home teaching. Hey, he was allowed TV, the internet, it’s not like this was some kind of twisted Fritzel-esque imprisonment scenario.
In this age of information, ignorance is a choice after all.
Human history is a dark and violent thing. Massive political repression, Genocide, Indiscriminate killings of civilians, mass internment, slavery, mass expropriation of property…his father spared him from none of it in his lessons.
Cloudberry would recoil in horror at each harrowing new revelation of the grim world to which he had been born to.
That was until he recoiled no more, numb to the endless suffering.
Eventually he even forgot Mr Wiggles.
Cloudberry was learning about the likes of Beeldenstorm (Iconoclastic Fury), the complexity of the English War of the Roses. Bloody revolutions and the grisly sacrifices of martyrs. All seemingly pyrrhic victories though he kept these beliefs a secret.
Religious studies with his Mother? Try Anti-Religious studies.
Organised religion is one of mankind’s biggest killers…
Renewable energy and sustainability along with large doses of psychology dominated his Science lessons.
That and the chemistry involved in making homemade explosives. For the revolution.
And enough Maths to know that something didn’t add up.
So as far as Cloudberry’s education went he had all the information he could possibly need to save the world.
In his big bright future.
All he lacked was the reason why he would want to.
“Cloudberry, we’re ready to leave!” His Mother never felt the need to be in the same room as someone she was conversing with. Not when she could just bellow through the walls.
With a sigh, a teenage Cloudberry shut the book he was reading, returning it to the battered old shoebox that he kept stashed under his bed. The sort of place most teens hid their porno magazines before the internet was invented.
His stash held contraband fantasy literature as well, but not of the seedy, erotic nature. Not that his parents would have held it in any less contempt.
Worse perhaps despite their staunchly feminist views on most forms of pornography.
Yet hideously brazen celebration of others…
Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales and his current favourite, The St James Bible.
Cloudberry left Jesus Christ as all his disciples did. Sitting alone in the Garden of Gethsemane and went downstairs. Both their fates were as seemingly inevitable.
That night turned quickly into so many nights before with his parents and their friends. All sat around on an embroidered cushion strewn floor. He would spend the evening politely refusing smouldering joints or noxious liquids as they went round the circle.
“Fuck the system,” He offered in his lethargy, just to join in, red eyed and passively stoned.
Never call something you are against ‘the system’ darling, it just brings up connotations of angry adolescents and infected nose piercings.
There are a few chuckles at his Mother’s quip.
Closing his eyes he drifts off into the hazy fog of the evening. Eventually, after their heated political rants and ethical debates, they would come full circle, creeping back up to him.
They would have desperately overly friendly grins and pin dot pupils from the night’s inebriation. They would remind him that it’s down to his generation to sort out this mess. Achieve where they failed.
Save the world.
He however had a different idea at this point. At home he had circled one word in his little dictionary like an excited scientist having discovered a new formula. He thought maybe he had finally worked out how to fulfill his parent’s wishes: To set them and himself free from their zealous belief (their almost religious fervor). Their cage within a cage.
1. A person who destroys religious images or opposes their veneration.
2. A person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions.
Step by step Cloudberry climbs up the sparse rocky out crops beneath a cool sun. The view from Mount Besseggen drops deep down making the wide green glacier river below appear tiny.
The wide panoramic view of snow-capped Norwegian mountains looks almost like a painted bluish backdrop as the eye struggles to find perspective.
He feels a tranquility that he has never known before. He stands in the silence except for the wind rushing past his ears. A mountain never felt the need to speak.
Then he climbs onward, resolute.
Whilst on holiday in Norway, he had grudgingly agreed to being carted around to see various relatives. Each of which meant being stuck in the car for long car rides with hours of dated country music on the radio. Or worse his parent’s CDs … and crossing at least one mountain per relative. None of them seemed to live anywhere near each other. Each visit meant yet more views from family members on how he should lead his life.
He supposed it was the right thing to do though. The last few steps of his arduous cross to bear.
He liked having the time to think though, staring at miles of dark green forest and mountains passing behind the glass.
As a compromise he had insisted on being allowed to make a solo trip across this mountain. It was well walked by hikers and tourists. So with his parents safely holed up in a mountain cabin on the other side, awaiting his arrival, here he was.
At Besseggen’s peak he stops. Taking out a tent pole from his back pack, he thrusts it hard in to the rocky ground. Next he takes out the reel of razor wire and ties a slipknot to the end of the pole.
He offers a silent thanks to Isokelekel for his guidance. His mythical warrior spirit from 16-century Micronesia now entombed in the shoebox back at home.
He hauls the tent pole towards himself straining it taut to his waist. With the other hand he unzips his flies and lets his penis and testicles fall out.
The cold mountain winds burns cruelly into exposed skin.
Marx once said the only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain. Listening to himself he sighs. A true product of his parents.
He loops the razor slipknot around himself, eyes closed.
The mountains never felt the need to speak.
He is their false idol.
Mr Wiggles will have his revenge.
Suddenly he releases his grip of the pole.
There is an almighty crack as the tent pole whips forward
Like a hot knife through butter. Only butter does not have gristly flesh and blood spraying from it.
Cloudberry falls to his knees. He’s bleeding out terrifyingly quickly. Not quick enough. Agonizing pain roars and every nerve ending in his body is ablaze.
The last thing he see is a fleshy comet shrinking off in to the distance and down the mountainside. With it his seed, the future and a trail of blood.
The hope of all mankind.
Mr Wiggles died for all our sins.
They’ll have to figure out something else now.
He only wishes that…
Then blackness descends, soothing his scorched soul.
He only wishes that…
Sam Pickett started off writing music articles which were published in GodIsInTheTv Fanzine and RAW Ramp Magazine. He then moved on to writing transgressive fiction and horror amongst other genres.
He is currently finalising the completion of his debut novel ‘The Atheist Second Son’. In the meantime he is also completing a collection of short stories under the working title of ‘Rot’.
All of his writing is under the teachings and necessary close eye of Jacque Creamer, the guru of grammar, the princess of POV and the fine line between Sam and illiteracy.
He is also the singer and guitarist in rock band, The Wicked Venetians (Glasstone Records).
He lives in Surrey, UK.
Cover image: Chrystal Berche