I’m downloading these last thoughts direct from the gallows in The VirginJustice Trafalgar Square®, so I will endeavour to be brief, as my time is nearly up. It is a cruel irony that I watched the last live hangings on the office holo-screen the day all this began. Or should I say half-watched, for although I enjoyed a good hanging as much as the next man, I do feel they’ve become dreadfully commercialised since The Law was privatised.
Call me a snob if you like, but the sight of a gaudy clown representing some ghastly fast food outlet pulling a big yellow lever then holding his sides in mirthless laughter as the condemned do the Tyburn jig… well, I always did find it a bit tacky.
I was murder critic for The Daily Telegraph (incorporating Mature Babes XXX.) That whinging old leftie Orwell once claimed that the English Murder was in decline. Nowadays, whilst it is still true that most murderers have no flair, style, or panache, a vanguard of talented young killers are consistently pushing back the boundaries of the art form. So The English murder is in a healthy state. Indeed, I would argue, it is entering a new Golden Age. I just regret that I will not be there to see it.
I left the office early, bidding good day to the dusky and devilishly pretty young cleaner as I walked over the wet floor. She just gave me a surly look, and continued scrubbing.
Doubtless she was one of the countless so called environmental refugees that have evaded the Virgindefenseforce® machine guns to be taken into the bosom of our obscene unpleasant land since the darker continents became desert. Some people just have no sense of gratitude.
I walked out into the sweltering November sun, and hailed a cab.
“Chelsea,” I said, as I got in.
“Don’t usually go north of the river this time of day, guv,” he said, as the taxi began to hover off. “You worried about the old Chelsea Ripper?”
“Please.” I said. I had recently, reluctantly, devoted many column inches to this inexplicably popular butcher. “A mere hack.”
“I dunno guv,” he said. “I was saying to the missus the other night, you can’t beat a good old fashioned ripper.”
“Really?” I said, but he ignored my tone of weary condescension, and continued to rattle off his ill informed opinions.
At least, I reflected, some things never change.
I paid the taxi driver without tipping. He glided off, no doubt chuntering to himself, and I wondered: if a taxi driver rants in a empty cab, does he still make a sound? Chuckling at my own wit, I saw nothing amiss as I entered the flat.
The Holo turned itself on when I got in. The Prime Minister was addressing The Endomol/Pepsi Max/Orange House of Fun®, as we are obliged to call the Commons these days. She flicked her bleached blonde hair from her vacuous orange face, and spoke for England: “I dunno, I think like, people should just, get on with each other better, and not like fight and all, y‘know?”
I suppose it was inevitable that The Celebrities (being in the majority since 2032) would dominate The House after it was decided that the great unwashed should directly elect MPs by phone vote on Friday nights. Still, at least it has improved the quality of debate.
I flicked through the channels. It was children’s hour, so the pornography wasn’t all that strong. I settled for the Murder Channel® (previously Channel 5, one of the few things in this world to have moved upmarket.)
“Who are you,” said a voice from behind me. I almost jumped out of my skin. “To criticise me?”
I turned, scrambling to my feet. There, in the shadows of my flat, stood a man.
“You said my work was derivative,” he spat, stepping from the darkness.
He had obviously been preparing his entrance, and I have to admit it was impressive. The only thing that spoilt it was the appearance of the man himself.
He was thin, poorly dressed and rather non-descript. The next day his neighbours would, with dreary inevitability, describe him as ‘having kept himself to himself.’ The only thing about him that was in any way notable was the large serrated knife in his hand.
“I‘m sorry,” I said, trying to brazen it out. “But, who are you exactly? And what are you doing in my flat?”
His hand tightened on the knife.
“You don’t even…?” He stopped, and smiled a thin, bitter little smile. “Of course, you have no reason to know me. At least, not yet.”
He advanced on me, and the face did seem familiar.
“But soon the world will know, and fear, the name of…”
Or half familiar, as if I had seen a drawing of it.
Or an E-fit.
“The Chelsea Ripper.” I said.
“Don’t call me that!” The knife slashed down. It tore into my shoulder. “I hate that name!”
I crashed to the floor, screaming. He ripped out the knife. I remember thinking that to be killed was bad enough, but to be have the deed done by such a mediocre imitator would be galling, to say the least.
“‘His work is derivative pastique (sic) of that over-rated Victorian hack,’” he (mis)quoted me, “‘adding absolutely nothing new or original to the art of murder’”
“Do you know how much that hurts?” he screamed, as I tried desperately to stem the flow of blood. “Do you?”
I was too busy begging for mercy to point out the irony as he stood over my whimpering body.
“Please,” I begged. “Please don’t, (etcetera.)” In my defence it is not easy to be original or articulate in such circumstances.
“Perhaps I can teach you to appreciate the work of a true artist?” he said. Part of me was aware that his patter was at best second rate and the delivery insipid. The part that was not screaming in pain.
“An artist?” This was too much. I laughed, for what else could I do? “Your work IS derivative and agggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
I screamed again as he stuck the knife in, and again as he twisted it.
“It‘s supposed to be ironic! Why does no one get that?”
I really don’t know how I managed to stop myself from laughing.
“It’s so easy isn’t it? Criticising from the sidelines. What have you ever done, actually done, that gives you the right to criticise me?”
I have to confess that his words cut deep (although not, at the time, as deeply as his knife.) He did, I must admit, have some skill as a torturer, if little finesse.
“You think you‘re so superior.” he screamed, raising the knife, “Well, you won’t look so superior when you’re… dead!”
“Time to die.” It wasn’t fair, I thought, for the last thing I hear to be such a cliché, and a poorly executed one at that.
Suddenly, the door exploded inwards. The VirginPoliceForce® burst in. The so-called Ripper ran for the window.
They shot him down.
The force of the bullets slammed him against the wall. He slid down, his blood smearing the wall behind him. He couldn’t even die in an original or interesting way, I reflected, as I passed out.
It turned out the taxi driver had raised the alarm. I had apparently left my mobile ECD in his cab. He was returning it, no doubt hoping for some reward, when he heard my screams and raised the alarm. He basked in his fame and reward money, until his brutal and untimely death.
The so-called “Ripper” (a failed Reality TV candidate called Brian Smith) was right in one respect, though. It is too easy to criticise from the sidelines. The next morning, after waking up in hospital from a dream refreshingly free of Spam, I had already decided on a new career path.
“It’ll only take a minute,” I said, as I ushered the surly cleaner into the office a week later, and I did not lie.
The knife gleamed behind my back as I closed the door.
And that was how I stopped being a critic, and became a artiste. The taxi driver was next. Then I had a couple of supercilious young researchers from the paper round for tea. I was not to know that one of them was the daughter of a cabinet minister (a former Eastenders star,) and my capture and exposure became inevitable.
During my trial (and if you think watching Lord Chief Justice Edmonds III preside over Guilt Or No Guilt® is a chore, try being a Defendant) I almost wished that I had just stuck to criticism.
Now however, as I stand in front of the jeering masses in Branson Square®, the noose is tight around my neck, and I wish for nothing more than for that damn Clown to stop drawing it out, and just pull the le –