Douglas knew he was going to murder his girlfriend before he met her, but he did not know why.
One Monday afternoon, Douglas was sprayed out over the sofa, his left hand scratching his balls, his right, sporadically dipping into a large packet of economy crisps. He carelessly flicked
between channels, until he arrived at the news. He considered switching it over, but the flashing red caption ‘breaking news’ drew him in. It read: ‘Meaning of life – finally discovered.’ Douglas
sat up, but his hand continued to rummage around in his underpants. He increased the volume of the television.
A bony looking man, surrounded by journalists and flashing lights, smiled awkwardly at the camera and started to speak. His name was Doctor McGovern.
“I can confirm that after several tests and strong evidence, that life is in fact a repeated cycle. Once we have died, we are immediately reborn and the pattern repeats itself. In other words
we never control what we do,” he said.
An air of excitement reverberated around the Doctor. Douglas watched with wide-eyed anticipation, shoving the crisps into his mouth.
“How can you prove it?” A journalist asked.
The Doctor smiled and pushed his glasses up.
“At this current moment we cannot release any further information because it is still early days,” he said. This announcement is met with an enormous groan. Douglas shook his head.
“Bloody nutters,” he exclaimed and switched the television off. Douglas screwed the bottom of the crisp packet, leant back and poured the excess crisp crumbs into his mouth. Some do not
succeed in meeting their target. Douglas swallowed the remains, dropped from the sofa and clambered up the stairs to his room.
Pushing his bedroom door open, Douglas traipsed in and collapsed onto the bed.
“I should really be doing more than this,” he muttered.
Douglas closed his eyes, his arms dropped down by the side of his mattress and his fingers poked under the bed. They grazed an object, which he did not expect to be there. He opened his eyes,
rummaged under the bed without looking. His arm pulled out a recordable DVD in its case. Douglas opened the container and examined the contents, trying to find some trace of what might be on it.
There was no evidence. He jumped from the bed and ran down the stairs. Kneeling down in front of the television unit, he shoved the DVD into player, pushing it shut with his hands. He opted to
watch the action unfold from where he was sitting. He sat upright when the image appeared. It was him.
“Douglas, you need to know what I’m about to tell you,” he explained, “I’ve killed your girlfriend. I didn’t mean to do it, it just happened.”
Douglas stared at the screen, his mouth wide open.
“I’m telling you now Douglas, please don’t do this,” he continued, “I cannot live with the guilt and I’m about to stop that but you have an opportunity to avoid this situation.” He reached
into his pocket and pulled out a photograph of an attractive looking woman.
“Maria Dwyer, remember the face.” Douglas then produced a gun from his other pocket, pressed the barrel firmly against his temple and pulled the trigger. The sound of bullet piercing
skin caused Douglas to jump. He reached over and repeatedly pressed the eject button on the DVD player. Snatching the disc from its jaws, Douglas threw it at the wall. It remained in one piece.
Douglas clutched is stomach. His breathing increased.
“Jesus Christ,” he cried.
Taking several deep breaths, he slowly composed himself.
A couple of years later, the contents of that DVD lingered in his memory but he worked every day to suppress what he saw. Should the thought of it enter his mind he would immediately try and
think of something else. Life around him and his own existence had changed.
Despite the ridiculing of Doctor McGovern’s news conference, there were areas of society who believed his so-called discoveries. This resulted in people desperately trying to change their
lifestyles. Those who considered themselves overweight stuck to strict exercise regimes. The bachelors and the spinsters sought each other out and married in an attempt to avoid a lifetime of
loneliness. Douglas, who had often searched for some form of meaning himself, found a job, in an office, with stacks of banal paper work.
Douglas was assigned a task of transferring several boxes of paperwork from the basement to the third floor. As the lift was indisposed, he was forced to rely on his skinny arms.
The first two trips were fine but by the third, his arms were shaking from the pressure of carrying and walking. He kicked the next box, putting his foot through the side.
“You alright there?” A voice said.
Douglas blushed at the thought of someone witnessing his mild act of aggression. When he turned to see who the bystander was, he wanted to vomit. It was Maria.
“You’re new ain’t you?” Maria asked, holding her hand out. Douglas stared.
“I’m Maria,” she continued. Douglas shook himself out of his panic and reciprocated the gesture.
“Sorry,” he said, “you made me jump, feel like a bit of tit you seeing me do that.”
Maria smiled and waved her hand.
“Don’t be so silly,” she explained, “I know what it’s like. Listen, I thought, seeing as no other sod as bothered, you might like to go for a spot of lunch.”
Douglas tried to swallow, but his throat was dry.
“You don’t have to pay,” she explained, “just down the pub, you know, couple of pints and a pizza or something.”
The lighting in the Queens Arms pub was dim. Douglas thought to himself how deserted it was for lunchtime. There was only what he assumed were the regulars, the elderly men who supped on
their one pint of Guinness for a ridiculously long time, pondering their own worthless existence.
“If we both get bangers and mash, we can go halves on the price,” Maria explained. Douglas nodded. He watched as Maria slid into a booth and he cautiously moved in opposite her.
“What do you think about this whole meaning of life thing?” Maria asked. Douglas sat back looking around with his eyes, concerned there might be some form of hidden camera watching.
“I don’t know to be honest,” he replied, “I mean, they haven’t proved it have they?”
“That is the beauty of the whole thing though,” Maria laughed, “that is the genius, they don’t have to prove it do they? I mean they say they’ve evidence to prove it but they’re not allowed
to show it.”
Douglas smiled, he enjoyed watching her speak. He had stumbled upon a rarity, a person with something to say.
“So you don’t believe in it then?” Douglas asked.
Maria shook her head.
“Course not,” she exclaimed, “load of old bollocks ain’t it? It’s just an excuse for people to do what they want.”
The barman dumped two plates of what Douglas assumed was food, onto the table.
“There you go,” the barman muttered before stomping off.
“This looks delicious,” Maria said, “the fact that it only took five minutes to cook athree sausages is a sure sign of quality.”
Over the next few weeks, the pair shared secrets, exchanged anecdotes and continuously made each other laugh. Every night Douglas would dream about Maria, frustrated at finding his ideal
woman but not being able to act upon it. Unfortunately, it was a situation Douglas was losing control of.
“You ever going to ask me out or what?” Maria asked one day over a pub lunch. Douglas stared at her, he knew what he wanted to say, the knots in his stomach tightened even further and his
palms were moist.
“Look, Maria,” Douglas said, “I want to say yes but I can’t.” Maria’s look dropped into the pile of mush on her plate.
“It’s nothing like that,” he continued, “I wanted to say yes, I wanted to ask you out, but I can’t do it.”
Maria lifted her head, making the conscious effort not to look at him.
“I’m not gay or anything like that,” he explained, “but if I ask you out...listen, I need to show you something. It’ll explain this whole thing. I mean it could jeopardise our friendship, but
I really need to tell someone about it.”
Her head moved to look at him. Douglas watched as she examined his face for traces of the truth.
“Is this some sort of sick joke?” Maria asked.
“Please, I’m not trying to be a perv or nothing.”
That weekend, Maria arrived at Douglas’s flat. When Douglas answered the door, he was surprised that her choice of clothing was not that casual. He ushered her in and led her through to the
lounge. She perched on the end of the sofa.
“Before I do this, it isn’t a windup of anything like that,” Douglas explained.
Maria stared at him before switching her gaze to the screen. Douglas pressed play. When his image emerged, he watched Maria’s reaction. He saw how the look of shock increased the further the
DVD went on. Once the ordeal was over, the room was engulfed with silence.
“I found it under my bed,” Douglas said, “just after that whole meaning of life thing was put on the tele. I’ve been wanting to show it to someone for ages but..”
“You sick bastard,” Maria said.
Douglas tried to swallow, but his mouth was like a parchment and he was unable to form any saliva.
“Maria, this is for real, I didn’t make it up, you’ve got to believe me,” Douglas begged. Maria stood up from the sofa and walked quickly towards the door. Douglas ran over and grabbed her by
the arm but she shook it free.
“Please Maria,” Douglas pleaded, “please listen to me, I’ve been wanting to tell someone about this for ages.”
“Don’t touch me, don’t talk to me, just leave me alone.”
Douglas made one last feeble attempt to stop her but she turned and stamped her foot on his toe. The force of this act of aggression allowed Maria to wriggle free, yank the door open and slam
it behind her. Douglas slid down the wall and held his head in his hands. Tears started to flow.
“What have I done?” Douglas whimpered.
He picked himself up from the floor and walked over to the television set. He stared at the frozen image of himself. He surged towards the screen and threw it onto the floor. Sparks and
little pieces of metal flew above him.
“You bastard,” Douglas shouted.
He watched as the mini fireworks display gradually fizzed out. He started to cry once more before collapsing onto the sofa. He buried his face in his hands.
Douglas wanted to move on with his life, but was eventually forced to resign from his job. The sadness of not being allowed to speak to Maria swelled inside him. He wanted to meet another
girl like her, but his search proved fruitless. Until he met Rochelle.
In his head, he knew Rochelle was the poor mans version of Maria. She bore a slight physical resemblance but the sense of humour was different and the spark that Douglas once knew was never
to be present in this relationship. Douglas accepted he was never going to be happy. He decided to end it. He purchased a gun and was ready to extinguish his life that same
afternoon. Unfortunately his turmoil was about to increase.
“I’m pregnant,” Rochelle said.
Douglas collapsed in a chair when he heard this news. Rochelle’s face was covered with delight and joy. Douglas was unable to share this.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t do this anymore, I didn’t want to drag you into it.” Douglas pulled the gun from his pocket and held it to his temple.
“What the hell are you playing at?” Rochelle asked.
Rochelle ran over to stop him. She was a little taller and able to grapple with him until his grip became too loose. The gun fell to the floor, a bullet firing from the barrel. Douglas
watched in disbelief as Rochelle collapsed to the floor. An air of calmness passed over him. He bent down to pick up the gun. He entered his bedroom and pulled open his top drawer. Inside were a
video camera and a picture of Maria.
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