Summer, 1983. London, a sizeable metropolis in the dead centre of the world, was burning with possibility, and the few of us were fanning its smouldering core. On one uncharacteristically wet day in June, we finally and quite suddenly understood how we had been twisted, tricked and robbed. They had been telling us stories to churn our brains around in our skulls since were babies, and we were suddenly realising that they were fiction -- a thousand million interweaving narratives comprised entirely of babbling madness translated into every language ever spoken.

And worse, the currency of sanity in this constructed world (an economy into which we were required to enter in order to enjoy our so-called freedom) demanded that we outwardly believe every impossibly well-reasoned truth, and that we pass them on at every opportunity. We, by this time, had consumed every chemical that wouldn’t kill us (and a few that very nearly did); we had committed every sin imaginable, and forced our poor, desperately rational parents and siblings through countless court appearances and hospital visits, all in the name of breaking down the exposition that was unfolding in a lank daze around us.

But the truth is that we were wrong, and that really we were doing more harm than good. The drugs, in particular, acted like strong bleach when they washed across our minds, stripping away the years of caked-in experience and indifference. Everything we took dissolved and washed away a layer or two of grime. Ultimately that process put us in the mindset of infants, and again we were innocent, with our eyes unfocused. Safe in the flimsy shelters we had, as a close but unstable group, built around ourselves, we looked to our parents - to the memory of them when we were young and they were younger, anyway - and re-learned the things we had tried so forcefully to forget. In retrospect, we would never have made it to adulthood if we had learned the real truths on the playground or in our bedtime stories, so perhaps it was for the best. Our ancestors were neither evil nor stupid, it just seemed that way because they were so desperate, only wanting us to live, and in doing so to forget some of the things that they could not; deception was their gift to us, and when we were given the chance, we squandered it callously. I understand it now at least, albeit too late: there are certain lies that all children need.

***

The substance was a horrid thing that tasted of both silver and copper, much like blood. It was so incandescently wicked that it seared holes backwards and forwards through the timelines of our lives. I have no idea what terrible obscenities our sire had to utter in to conjure it, or what blasphemous acts he was driven to commit in its preparation; I only know that after we had swallowed it, we slept for days in a nightmarish torpor. There, with the front doors to our minds firmly closed and the back walls in ruin, we saw the inferno as it truly is – a hundred thousand fractured images, notions and hideous truths running together like pots of spilled paint, leaking into every possible facet and potential. Sometimes the visions would be quick and crushing like a car crash, otherwise they would be fantastically slow like an endless graze. The transitions between each torment were either seamless or painful, the only constant being the surety of another to follow on.

I cannot speak for the others, but I hid desperately from the sheer ugliness that pursued me. Every block and tile comprising the limitless landscape of ruins was unstable beneath my feet, and I screamed in vain. It is too simple to say that we human beings have built or sponsored the depravity of our world, but at first it seemed to be true. Every razor, electrode, gas-chamber slab and inch of tortured skin was ours. Each broken and discarded picture frame, all the evil chemicals. Every single arrowhead and bullet wound and acid burn and slow impalement was ours to have and to hold. The flashes ran in serial and in parallel, forwards and backwards through time, outwards and inwards though space. Maybe once I would have denied it, but now I know there is no point: I folded in on myself, crumpled and broken. The images that I had hidden behind and crawled in the rubble of shifted and fell away into what I suppose I had always known they were – deceptions masking the all-too-simple overarching cruelty of our existence: that all our violence, passion and bloody-mindedness were only rebellions against the fundamental futility of our being, the lonely absence of any true morality and meaningful beauty in the world.

It would be linguistically correct to say that we awoke from the substance’s trance without our souls, but that statement in itself would be a deception. What we had lost was nothing so tangible – it was the delusion that souls exist at all.

***

We had no more need of answers, because everything had been shown to us. When we asked questions, it was to provoke response and stimulus in what had become our audience. It was a show, and we were the nameless, temporary stars. Sometimes we would spend day or weeks grooming a victim, pushing and prodding them into the mindset that we required. Depending on the intensity of our hunger – a dry and desperate lust that marinated our minds in sadness and despair – we fed from them alone or as a group. Some of us created a division between those whom we slated our natural and un-natural lusts upon. I never did, what would have been the point? That which we took from them was lost forever once it has been used up in our cruel games, and so I came to the conclusion that it didn’t really make any difference. The essence of humanity, it turns out, starts to simmer at birth. If undisturbed, it bubbles for a lifetime, dispersing and diffusing the individual’s character and intelligence into the atmosphere. What we were doing was boiling it into dry pulp a few decades too soon. That was and always will be the simple truth of it. If I beat my victims, or fucked them or cut them, they were still going to lose some vital part of their minds. My division, when I realised it existed, was deeper and more elegant: I let the beautiful ones go.

***

She was beautiful, I knew that. Small and slender, bulging in most of the right places, but most importantly blessed with an unimpeachable sense of style. Compliments have always been scarce out of my mouth for fear they would be too silly or plain, though maybe it was just that they would stick in my throat and lodge there. I would peer and smoke and jibe, and sometimes stand in silence while others exchanged pleasantries. She was much the same, which I suppose drew us together in an odd way: we were neither complimentors nor meaningful detractors, we were never sure when to be girlish and when to be bold, and we had few friends except for our occasional romances and frenzied dalliances.

We also shared the trait of not speaking our feelings to anyone, and refusing help at all costs. I loved her, I knew that as well. We barely touched physically in our time together, for neither of us enjoyed contact with anyone else outside of sex, though we both longed for it. When we spoke, it seemed so often like we were both taking strong stances on subject we didn't support, and the structure of our dialog was vague and always drunken-seeming. She would scowl at me often in what might have been mock contempt or genuine scorn, and when we were alone there was always a waterway of silence, sometimes masquerading as a raging river, and other times a trickling summer stream. Distracted, looking too hard for meaning where perhaps there was none. Without the background fuzz of self-delusion and manufactured stories, we stood naked and we hated our bodies.

Once, when the Downer had hit her particularly hard and the fantasy she had devoured was wearing off, she couldn't stop herself from weeping. It wads the closest we had ever come to talking about something real and solid. She asked me what I did when it happened to me and I shook my head, not in dismissal but in utter ignorance. She said something else that I don't remember, and I told her, "I've learned from years down the line, there is no hope, no salvation in me." There was a movie on the television, and she watched it even though she hated them. When it was over she went to sleep on my bed. I don't remember what the movie was called.

***

Countless hours I spent doing nothing of particular interest. On one sticky summer night, I recall sitting in a bath listening to the regular slap of drops fall from the faucet, and wondering whether or not I was losing my mind. My hands were covered in blood, and so were the bottoms and sides of my feet. Little lines of red were crusted around my nails like healing tattoos. The shower curtain hanging next to the tub happened to be almost luminously red, and the whole scene had wired my brain into a stupor. I think I even mouthed tip-tap as the drops hit the surface of the water, and maybe Eva came in to wash her face at some point; in any case, I was utterly zombified and quite dumbstruck.

We had taken a rather unusual fear of death from a young blonde man of around twenty - I forget his name, along with the names of all the others, but I’m quite sure it suited him. It is, as far as I can remember, quite normal to feel a sense of loathing at the prospect of one’s demise or imminent suffering, and fearing for one’s life in the course of dangerous activities is to be expected, but this was different. He abhorred the concept, absolutely and completely. In himself, in others, on the television or in literature – it simply and directly terrified him beyond and sort of reason. It was a delusion, that much was clear, and a very strong one. He believed that morbid, creeping death was slithering after his wherever he went, and he was determined to avoid it. I discovered, once Eva has mesmerised him and I had peeled away the protective layers of his ego, that I was not of the same opinion – for me, waiting for and trying to guess the method of my demise was a distracting game. It made me feel sad, on an animal level. Every day he spent hiding from his doom, he actually died a little death of his own invention.

There is no way we could have known that his fear was a sort of innate protection against his deep and irresistible death drive. If we had known, I suppose we would have bled his delusion out a lot slower. Almost as soon as we were done, giggling like stoned and paranoid teenagers on the floor, he pulled away from us and began staggering confusedly around the penthouse. He never really had time to regain his composure, because a serrated steak knife presented itself in good time, and before we knew what was going on, he had sprayed the contents of his arteries and jugular all over our nice white furniture. Eva said, “That was premature,” and we both fell about laughing as ghostly images of the grim reaper crawled the walls in patchy monochrome.

And so I ended up in the bath, staring at water drops, though the details in between are a blur. The corpse was still splurting in the other room, that I remember. And I had a regular cigarette in my hand, because we had run out of hashish.

I recall all this at length because that’s where I was when the fever-dream that was our lives as they were ended, when the door splintered and the skylights broke inwards. The household awoke from its torpor. I heard John shouting and June squealing with delight. I was naked and terrified of death.

***

In the time that passed after the scattering, I found it hard to measure against the standards I had set for myself previously. Did I miss the others? Was there a longing for that macabre fortress we had built amongst London’s ivory towers? Perhaps there was a stitch or staple missing in my mind where it should been attached to the group consensus, and certainly there were jokes and pseudo-witticisms that occurred to that I simply couldn’t share, but the vacuousness of my existence, and maybe some of the others’, demanded a certain amount of solitude. Aside from John, we had all ceased sleeping long ago, for fear that otherwise we would be drained and set upon by the Downer visions for all eternity, or else I would have spent most days alone in slumber.

June had done something to my mind. It seems clumsy to end a narrative in such an obvious way, but it was true. Little though I had realised it, my memories until that point had been like a mirror – though it should now be apparent, often a dark and cloudy one. I could peer into it and see (behind the main focus of my world – my stoked and simmering ego) some recollection of the events that made up the chain reaction of my life. After June’s intervention, the mirror had been cracked down the middle, and the two tall halves angled slightly away from one another, such that I became unable to look into both at the same time. One set of memories contains my life as I have written it here –- horrible, gory and dissociative. The other is exactly the same, except that instead of lurking in the penthouse with the others, I got on a plane to Los Angeles about a week before the raid. It doesn’t really make any sense in context, but nevertheless is the case.

It occurred to me that June used the Sacrament of the Eucharist to rebuild instead of destroy my mind, and that the mirror analogy is probably appropriate for my many victims as well as myself. I’m still working on a way to integrate that into my feeding ritual -- there is something that I can’t quite put my finger on about it, a way of perhaps inserting delusions which I can later reap. I won’t bore you with the details here: really it is a matter for private discourse.

And am I thankful that June spared me Christian’s torment? I’m not sure. I have not rejected her gift, unlike the deceitful ones my parents gave me, but it has consigned me to a massively tedious life. I must be horribly discreet with my lusts and my desperate need for entertainment. It might seem fitting that I would want to dwell only in the embrace of the night (or at least some self-indulging, and I am nothing if not accustomed to that) but really the darkness holds no interest for me, and absolutely no consolation. The lights in LA are weak gas-flames; the ones in London where electric, glaring in my eyes like a chemical burn, driving me to distraction. That at least was something solid and meaningful. That at least was a thing of value.