Graham Caramel cheated in his exams. He had all the bases covered.
There were three inside men: Invigilator, marker, question writer. Paid, protected, and primed to pass. Notes were concealed in his watch, socks, pants, pockets, collar, and hidden in his fringe. Fellow students were bribed, cajoled and persuaded to skip a few questions to lower the pass rate. A long shot, but a precaution.
A system of hand gestures, eyebrow movements and facial ticks were devised, taught and rehearsed to communicate with his wingman George Molotov. He listened to confidence guru tapes, watched stress-relieving videos, attended concentration strengthening workshops.
But it wasn’t enough. He wore a radio earpiece linked to leading experts from several fields of his study across the globe. He had an automatic pencil that would write pre-programmed formulae with a simple click. He implanted a camera into his forehead. He created an elaborate system of mirrors, pulleys, cogs, wheels and string to provide maximum visibility of the other testees answers. He was obsessed.
He ate only tuna and banana to stimulate his brain. He lay in flotation tanks, mud baths and aromatherapy wigwams for days on end. He wore silk everything and always wore sunglasses. He took pills, potions and injected chemical after chemical into his system to enhance every aspect of his being. He was a superhuman. A goliath. A God.
Just shy of 18 sleepless nights in the workshop, many months of meticulous planning, and thousands of pounds of expense passed until the day of the exam. Graham entered the hall, took a deep breath, and opened his paper.
It was a glorious success. Graham aced the test. Scored the top mark of all students. Graduated with first class honours. Everyone in the country, if not the world, wanted to hire him. He was the talk of the industry and the buzz in his field.
But it was only weeks later, on his first day on the job, that the first pang of guilt at his cheating was felt. Thankfully for Graham the feeling passed quickly as a more pressing concern arose.
“Your plan, Mr Caramel?” asked the consultant brain surgeon.
“That all depends” responded Graham.
“On what exactly?”
“On how you get into the head, of course.”
Graham Caramel never worked again. If only he had read the textbooks.
Jambalaya (Gary) woke up with a thought in his head.
“The gap between the past and the future is but a millimeter think. Perhaps only a single pixel wide.”
This, he thought, was almost certainly the most profound and interesting thought he had mustered in his entire life, but also that he had ruined it by being quite so pleased with it.
He spent the rest of the day trying to forget it so he could come up with it another time. That time, he assured himself, he would not be so smug.
“I’ve done it! I’ve only gone and bloody done it love!”
“Done what dear?”
“Charles, I’ve… I’ve invented the computer!”
“Yes! Years of toil and planning and algebra have finally paid off!”
“Oh… you mean the big thing with the cogs and the steam?”
“Yes! The computer! It bloody works!”
“What are you calling it?”
“It’s called the Mrs Babbage Personal Computing Machine.”
“That’s nice dear.”
“Aren’t you impressed?”
“Well, I’m sure it is most wonderful my peach, but what does it do?”
“Charles. I’ve told you a thousand times, if not a million. It does calculations based on a complex set of cogs, wheels and pistons. It’s revolutionary.”
“And you say it can add up?”
“To the nearest ten. But it could be used for so much more I am sure!”
“Like internet porn?”
“What’s an internet?”
And with that Charles Babbage opened his newspaper, puffed on his pipe, and continued to ignore his wife for years to come.
“Jaffa Cakes are legally defined as cakes for tax reasons,” I insisted, encouraging her to blow out the candles through the tears. ”You see, VAT is only payable on…” But she’d already turned to leave. ”You forgot your tiny set of screwdrivers!” I shouted after her. No answer.
It was at this moment I knew that nothing would save our wedding day. Not even the Lynx Africa gift pack she’d yet to open.
I let the witnesses leave the registry office early as they looked uncomfortable.
Not even the smell of the piss-stained stairs could detract from her beauty. Emerald eyes, check. Flaxen hair, check. She had everything I hated in a woman. But together, somehow, it worked.
I strode further into the underpass, eyes locked on her form. Her top said ‘Street Stylez’ or some such across the chest. “A sure sign of a moron,” I used to say, but not now. In the flickering gloom of the underpass it all made so much sense. She lit a cigarette with the grace of a dolphin riding a swan on a lake of caramel. I was lost in her magnificence.
Her every step created a bright spark of brilliant colour like an angel walking on white-hot coals. Yes, her trainers had lights in the heel, but the effect was nonetheless captivating. I followed my eye up the lines on her tracksuit leg until I reached the slither of cream flesh peaking out at the hip. A dash of colour marked the area and my mind raced with possibilities. A rainbow? A unicorn? Both? My mind melted with the thought of one day seeing it in its full and glorious state.
Graffiti adorned the walls. Scrawled epithets that will one day form all thinking on our fallen society. I knew not what they meant. Who is ‘Baz’? Or ‘Faze’? Where are they now? What is there message? All of these questions and more were eclipsed by her radiance.
And then, as she came close enough to touch, she spoke.
“Give us ya wallet”.
The heavens themselves could not have conjured such a pure and mellifluous tone.
“Oi, prick! You wanna get cut?” she sang.
I could not believe my luck at having met such a divine creature, let alone being privileged enough to communicate. In the absence of any words worthy of her presence I smiled and held out my hand in a universal gesture of good will.
And then I transcended.
Time, space, colour, sound, smell, and touch intertwined, swirling around me in a vortex of ecstasy and delightful pain. I could only just make out her parting words as they played out like the final notes of an unfinished symphony.
“I fuckin’ told you! I fuckin’ warned you, yeah?”
The underpass fell dark. My soul escaped. And she was gone.
Goodbye my sweet. Goodbye.