The Face That Must Die

Ramsey Campbell


I Am It And It Is I

There can’t have been much stuff in that cake. Or else it must have been all seeds. I must have had the best of it last night.

I don’t want to think about last night. Maybe I should listen to some sounds.

So why shouldn’t I think about last night? I’m not going to be stoned on this stuff. There were some nice sounds going, and I was listening to them, and that must have been when everyone went out for a walk. Sylvia went to crash with Den and Heather. She’ll be back. It was just a temporary thing. I wish I could remember exactly what happened. She wanted to turn the sounds down, that’s right, because the gays upstairs were banging on the floor, and we had an argument. I forget what I said. I know I told her to fuck off, and she went out crying with Den and Heather. They’re not on the phone, or I could tell her I’m sorry. I mean, I am, but it was weird because at the time I felt bad about it yet something told me I had to be on my own for a while. Weird.

I can’t suss why I’m not stoned now. It’s nearly two hours since I ate that cake. It was the last piece, right enough, and I know it was full of seeds because we didn’t spread them out properly. But last night, I mean, wow, that was cake. Den had brought along some Debussy. I said shit when I saw it, but they were really some sounds when he put it on. That’s right, I had my eyes shut, and I was sailing down out of space through the clouds into this ruined temple, and just as the sounds were really freaking out there was light, brighter and brighter. Had Sylvia gone by then? No, she couldn’t have, because Den didn’t leave the sounds. I can’t remember.

But that was good dope. A friend of Den’s was growing it in Sefton Park, right in the middle of all those streets. I mean, all those straights in the streets never knew, that was the incredible part. Just beautiful. And he was making it to Amsterdam, so he sold his plot. Plot of pot. Wow, must remember that. He sold it, half to Den and half to me. Last night was the first crop. Said he scored the seeds in some little village with a ruined temple in the background. It sounds like William Burroughs, I know, he said.

It sounds like William Burroughs, I know he said.

My God, I’m slowing down. It’s coming on.

Right. I’m going to listen to some sounds. See if it’s as fantastic as last night.

This room’s too purple. Look at those velvet curtains. It’s like your spit thickens when you’re sick, they’re thickening the sunlight. So are those cars in Lodge Lane. Grinding away and throbbing and rattling – they’re interfering with the sunlight. No, they can’t be. Who said that? Come on, come out wherever you are.

I’m going to hear some sounds.

Look where the records are. I’ll never get over there. It’ll be a miracle if I can stand up. Jesus, look at that! My purple shadow! It’s turning to look at me! You’re turning to look at yourself, you mean. Who’s saying these things?

Oh Christ, there’s Sylvia. I just flashed her. In the doorway with tears running down her face. Trembling like she wants to shake herself to pieces and never be put together again. Oh I’m sorry, love. I didn’t want you to go. It was the shit talking. I never wanted you to go.

– Why do they call it shit?

– Who’s there? Oh Jesus, it’s not Sylvia who came apart, it’s me. My mind’s splitting down the middle like a cleaver’s gone through it.

– Of course. There’s a calm side and a paranoid side. You’re on the paranoid side now, man.

– I’ve had this before. Like my mind’s a battleground between the strong and the weak. Vietnam in the head. Like that book by someone, Aldiss, Barry was reading us last week. All right, I can play it. What did you say back there?

– What? What did I say? Oh, I was wondering why they call dope shit.

– Weird question. The colour, maybe, I don’t know. Listen, however many of me there are, we’re famished. Let’s make it to the kitchen. You take this leg and I’ll get the other.

– Go on! You can do it! Listen, you aren’t turned on to this scene at all. You’ve got to become me, man, you’ve got to become the strong calm side of this mind we’ve got, then there’ll be no more paranoia, no more weakness. Merge, man, merge.

– Maybe, but how long have we been walking towards that door? The purple’s pulling us back. We aren’t going to make it. Anyway, listen, we don’t even know what’s on the other side of the door. Let’s just lie down and maybe hear some sounds.

– You crawling cowardly bastard. I could show you things that’d make your experiences look like shit, if you had the courage.

– All right. All right! We’re out. Don’t ask me how I got through that shadow. Felt like cobwebs. My God, is that the bedroom over there? All that way? Oh wow, that orange door is my scene, though. This whole hall, it’s like those comics Barry had last night, what were they, Marvel Comics.

– We aren’t going over there. Just in the kitchen. There, you made it. Fantastic.

– Look at those pans hanging up. What are they, mouths? Mouths on sticks! Sylvia used to feed those mouths. She loved having her own kitchen.

– Forget that. Forage, man. What’s this? Duck pate. A duck made into paste. Don’t know how you could think of eating that, even if you weren’t stoned. Sylvia bought it, don’t forget. She bought it and you were supposed to eat it.

– Don’t you say that. I used to walk around the block sometimes when I was stoned and think of coming home to Sylvia when we were old and we could just sit together.

– She stuffed a crushed duck down your throat. She didn’t care.

– Don’t you put her down, you fucker! I want to see her! I want to tell her I’m sorry!

– All right. There’s nothing good here, anyway. Let’s take a walk.

– See Sylvia?

– If you want.

– Just so you know who’s running things here. Clump. That door sounded satisfied. It wanted me to come out for a walk. There you are, Croxteth Grove. That means all these trees and look, on that wall, that cat sitting like a gargoyle. All its fur with the sun running off like water. Summer is to sit with Sylvia, like that kids’ book I was reading.

– Maybe so, but look: Lodge Lane. Main roads aren’t good for the summer.

– For once I think you’re right. There’s something bad about those cars. It’s like the cars are using people for parts, you know, cogs or valves. My God, look at all those cars sitting at the side of the road waiting to catch someone! That’s right, they draw off energy somehow and drive about on it.

– But what about all these people walking around?

– Well, what about them? Look, look at them jerking about! There’s that guy tapping his umbrella, there’s a woman brushing her hair back from her face, look, she’s doing it again, there’s some kids kicking a can. “Yes, that’s right, they’ve been thrown out by the cars because they’ve got too much excess energy. But the cars will get them again. Am I walking along Lodge Lane talking to myself?”

– “Yes, I think you probably are. We are.”

– “I thought that guy with the umbrella was looking at us weird. Fuck off, cog! Listen” – listen, the cars won’t get us on the way to Sylvia, will they?

– Those cars waiting at the lights look pretty bad. If we run we can make it across the lights and into Sefton Park.

– “But we’re going away from Sylvia.”

– “That’s true. Well, it’s your scene, but I can tell you I don’t like those cars. Half an hour in the park and I’ll take anything, but not right now. And remember this, man: you need me.”

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