Authors: Joe Stretch
Are you ready to come together?
Are you tired of typing out your interests and hyping up the details of your everyday life? Imagine then a social network that touches and loves, sweats and farts. Imagine romance in real time. Imagine humans licking rather than double clicking each other. Imagine the Wild World. Are you ready to come together?
Lonely, horny and young, Janek, Anka, Roger and Joe find themselves being dragged out of their isolated existences and towards the promise of a perfect future - in the Wild World. Sex lives and real lives and written lives merge and tangle like wires until reality begins to crumble and the sky falls in ...
Joe Stretch was born in 1982 and brought up in Lancashire. He moved to Manchester at the age of 18 to study politics at Manchester University. His band, Performance, in which he is the lead singer and lyricist, released their debut album in 2007. His first novel,
, was published in 2008.
âWe are not free. And the sky can still fall on our heads.'
The Theatre and its Double
THE COMPUTER WAS
sleeping. Liv Moberg only had to disturb the mouse to wake it and bring its screen to life. She bit her bottom lip and placed her fingers on the keys.
She began by watching videos because she liked to keep up to date with the world of entertainment. But when Liv began to watch videos online like this, watching one would invariably lead to her watching another and she would soon find herself whiling away two or three hours.
Because the videos came constantly. Events came quickly. It was like watching blood run from a cut: wars, erections, shocking interviews, embarrassing accidents â all recorded with shaking hands and camera phones by psychos, soldiers, funny fuckers, brimming tosspots. It often happened that Liv Moberg, once she started to watch these things, couldn't tear her eyes away.
And even when she had told herself sternly that she had been at the computer for long enough, she would still find one or two other things to do. She would check her emails.
She would tinker a little with her profile on whichever social networking site she was enjoying at the time. There were always things that needed her attention.
On this occasion, Liv decided she would edit her âInterests'. She decided it was high time that she listed the things that genuinely interested her on her online profile. This way the world would know for certain what Liv Moberg liked and there would be no embarrassing confusion. She held her breath and stared at the ceiling in thought. And just a few minutes later she walked away from the computer with a satisfied spring in her step. Under âInterests' she had listed three things. She listed: Fun, Sex and Events.
I AM A
young man and I know my bollocks off by heart. The past is in my head and it's moulding like a slice of birthday cake, and although I'm not desperate to remember, I can. I can remember everything and can even write it down.
I remember people were amazed by each other. They met. They were astonished. They said, dear me, you look incredible, fuck me, you
fantastic, you've got genuine guts and your soul's elastic. You are. Suddenly. Speaking as a human. It's unreal to finally meet you.
I remember there was talking. More than anything else, people talked about the Wild World. You couldn't go down the shops or flush a toilet without being reminded that something called the Wild World was coming soon. Are you ready to get excited? Apparently we were. We always are. We start talking. The Wild World this. The Wild World that. No more piss and hardly any crap. No more struggle or huge disappointment. None of that! The idea of the Wild World was everywhere. It stretched above us like a new sky.
You should know, I'm calm. It makes me nervous I'm so
calm. You could tell me that aliens are tentacle-fucking in the White House and I would only turn my head to one side and breathe. I would only think of home, of birds and fishes, of rain, of love. The Wild World meant nothing to me. I like wildlife and that's what's so sad.
It would be quicker to just spew it all out like this, in one go. I could just hack it all up over your shoes. But you would only sip from some drink and hiss âAs if' and that would piss me off, make me groan, make me rattle like the skeleton of my broken year. What am I saying?
I'm saying this: I could spit this story at your feet. But I won't. Because I don't. I can't. Because you and me, we need, let me whisper it:
And, of course, the truth is simple. I see that now. The truth is desperate and just because girls like Liv Moberg love fun and love sex and love events, it doesn't mean life's going to be one long goal celebration. It might just be a bit of a joke.
The living are haunting the living.
âA Wild World will come. And with it the end of our days. Finally, armed with our future, a Dickhead will rise.'
Extract from a press release issued by Wild World UK
JOE ASPEN SPENT
New Year's Eve staring into his toilet. Rather than going out and going absolutely mental, Joe just stared into his toilet for hours and then listened as, around midnight, his heart croaked like a Coke can.
It's New Year's Day and Joe's lying in bed. New Year's Day arrives looking weatherless. Fresh light and air so still you'd have to breathe to know it's there.
On the chest of drawers above the bed two stuffed puffins are kissing each other. I could fall in love with a puffin, thinks Joe, opening his eyes. I could be a puffin and peck the beak of my puffin lover. I could build a nest in a cliff. I could do all that so easily.
Above the puffins, hanging on the wall, is a calendar. It has hung here since Christmas Day, waiting patiently for the new year to begin. January is a blank grid, untouched by pencil or pen. Above January is a photograph of a leopard, its body wound and tightened, ready to pounce down on its prey.
Joe Aspen gets out of bed and shuffles with socked feet
in the direction of the window. It's there, he thinks, peering out. The world, he means. Or, more precisely, Rusholme, Manchester, the junction where Platt Lane meets Wilmslow Road. The traffic lights flick through their cycle for their own amusement, in the absence of cars. Both roads are New Year's Day dead. Colourful lights changing in a cold light. Joe turns away from the window because it is time to piss in the sink.
Joe's been pissing in his sink for a week. There is already a very yellow stain around the plughole. The reason for pissing in the sink is simple. A week ago Joe's girlfriend left him to work in London. She wanted a better life. Wanted to pursue a career in events management and get away from Joe. She took everything with her apart from the wildlife calendar and a small crumb of shit which she left clinging to the grey porcelain of Joe's toilet. Joe knows, like all men know, that were he to piss in his toilet he would be compelled by God to piss this morsel of shit away. He would, as a man, simply have to fire it off the porcelain with a forceful jet of urine. This can't happen. This piece of shit is all he has left of the girl he adored.
Taking a crap is out of the question, too, because of the inevitable flushing. The little crumb would never survive. It must be given enough time to dry and grow hard, to tighten its grip on the toilet bowl. It's true that the day she left, Christmas Day, the little crumb had survived two flushes. But Joe knew that it wouldn't survive many more. It would eventually disappear, leaving, at best, a stain. It was as he ate a nut cutlet alone on Boxing Day that Joe decided that, from now on, he'd have to do his poos publicly.
After pissing, Joe runs both taps simultaneously. He rinses his fingers and stares at his reflection in the mirror.
He has made one New Year's resolution: to stop dyeing his hair black. He's been dyeing his hair black throughout the five years he has spent in Manchester. At the age of twenty-four, he feels it's time to stop. New year. New ideas. No more dyeing.
Joe leans in towards the mirror and pulls two clumps of hair apart to get a close look at his roots. So far nothing. Still black. He can't actually remember what his natural colour is but he suspects it is a mousy brown.
Joe's girlfriend came from the Faroe Islands and was called Life. Her real name was Liv, pronounced
Only no one in England pronounced it like that and she disliked the imperative bluntness of Liv. She decided to translate her name. In Faroese, Liv means Life. Not surprisingly, everyone enjoyed the opportunity to call a beautiful young girl Life. Though some called her Lie for short.
Joe returns to his bedroom to where the puffins are still kissing. I want to be a puffin, thinks Joe, instead of a human. They eat puffins in the Faroe Islands. Joe has seen it for himself. He'd visited the previous Christmas and Life's grandmother had slaughtered seventeen birds for a feast.
The beauty of Life cannot be done justice. She is five foot ten, has golden hair and large human breasts. Her face is slightly generic, as if, with its blue eyes and full red lips, Life is staking a claim to possessing the definitive female face, the only face that matters. Her perfection goes on. In millions of years, metal robots will discover the remains of Life's backside and ejaculate instantly into their silk underpants because Life is the next generation, the next type of human. Life is so successful socially that she demands a new form of reality, where it rains vodka and coke and where wankers are punctured at birth. Life is funny.
For such a beautiful girl, she's caring. She's a shit cook. She can take her booze. She bleeds honour. Life likes being spanked on her naked arse. She makes this fun and liberating. Life likes sex in public places. Her favourite film director is Nicolas Roeg and, in truth, Joe Aspen was lucky to have ever known her.
Christmas Day was dead to begin with. Joe woke up with his face held against Life's arse. This was normal. He did this every single night. He would stir at some blue-lit hour to discover that Life had disentangled her body from his. Respecting her decision but also desperate to feel her, Joe would sneak beneath the covers to where the air groaned with the smell of sweat and yet tingled too with the scent of vagina and cock. Joe would hold his face against Life's buttocks and smile himself back to sleep.
But on Christmas morning something was wrong with Life's arse. It's hard to say what exactly, but something was certainly different. It was almost, Joe had thought, it was almost as if her arse contained emotions and that these emotions were sour towards him. As he kissed Life's arse in the dark, kissed it cos he loves her, he had sensed red anger burning in each cheek.