Chapter 1:

Jim Jim's Excuse to Die

Jim Jim's Excuse to Die

A frosty sky and blue-tinged sun—because of the cold tinge and not because this isn’t earth—provides Henry Hatch with a shivering demeaner and allows him to exhale smoke. Even with a blood-freckled fur coat and a cotton bib large as a newborn baby, he still sniffles. His tongue is a pale cyan. His nose is brighter than magma. Death would be a great save for his horrid situation. Why? Jim Jim is a pain to deal with. That’s his friend—his arch-nemesis in words and arguments. His believer and righteous objector. And by objector, I mean the person who gives Henry the most trouble in arguments.

“You’re an idiot, Jim,” says Henry.

And Jim says, “so are you.”

Both sitting on a railing of some hilltop, at a park for losers and for people with jobs and wives and husbands and daughters and sons and whatever else to say ‘good day’ to strangers—and I joke but, as I imagine this situation, two kind strangers say the same words to Henry and Jim. So, Jim tips his metaphorical fedora. He gives a thumbs up. He snaps his sight back to the sun rising over the hill. He glances at the strangers again and covers his mouth to deliver to them a silent scoff. And although they don’t hear him, they smile back.

Henry, Mr. Hatch, grabs Jim—Mr. Jim—by his face and shakes him like a piggy bank.

“What was that?” Henry, Mr. Hatch asks.

“What was what?” Jim, Mr. Jim asks.

“You said something under your breath then.”

Mr. Jim checks if the strangers are gone, and they are.

“I didn’t say anything,” he says, “I scoffed at two sad existences. It’s different.”

“Now, I don’t know who the other is, but I’m not a sad existence, Sir Jimmington.”

“Royal Henryson, my liege, I am sorry, but you are wrong.”

The sun rises. Spiralling rays of godly ultraviolet nature shoot out like a disco. Royal Henryson’s shadow and Sir Jimmington’s shadow whizzes by—in and out of existence.

So to speak:

  Shadows echo our human shape, pronounced and sharp,
  and they remind me of the soul, reflecting our bodies,
  our form and our composure. Jim is tall, and so
  is Henry. Still, their shadows hide when it’s dark. Life goes on.

Moreover, they both pretend to be philosophers. The way they talk makes this obvious, and their accents make it obvious that they’re British. And, like the stereotypical Brit, what’s their breath like? Pungent. Henry ate cheese for breakfast at precisely 3am. Before eating, he ran on his home-stationed treadmill for 30 minutes. So, in addition to having bad breath, he’s sweaty. There’s also a tangy layer of fruit to his breath: between 3:30am and 3:35am, he downed a litre of wine. At this time, Jim woke up from what was undoubtedly a nightmare. He leapt out of bed screaming his younger brother’s name. Jim’s breath currently stinks because instead of remembering to brush his teeth this morning, he started reading Finnegan’s Wake. Subsequently, he tossed the book across the room after seeing ‘the fall’. And, in this process, he pulled a muscle.

Facing the sun, he later says, “I bet you haven’t read any Finnegan’s Wake.”

A couple minutes prior to this, Henry asks, “Have you ever read the Bible?”

Ten minutes prior to that, Jim says, “God would be a boring drinking buddy.” Yet, Jim doesn’t drink. He has no right to say that. He is purely sober.

Meanwhile: “Jimmmm, my good cider bottle. God would make a fine drinker. Imagine what stories you’d hear. Dead men tell no tales, but the forever alive will never be dry of talk!”

“Henry, firstly, can I ask if you’re drunk? Then, secondly, how am I a cider bottle?”

“I don’t know. Why do you look like a cider bottle?”

He’s right. Henry is. Jim does look like a cider bottle—what with his green shirt, long neck and small bottle cap of a head. He has this sash going round him, too. ‘Allergic to common sense’ is written in calligraphy. Henry bought it yesterday at a car boot sale. He nearly bought two. There were only two. Someone nabbed the second sash. It was £350. Why it sold for that much would be a good question, and a better question would be why Henry agreed on that price. But this wasn’t even the weirdest thing he bought. Continuing to shop and browse, he passed dangling intestines of animals and fridges full of packet ice-cream—and said fridges, somehow and for some reason, were plugged into car batteries. Beyond all that, he discovered a delicacy: a blueberry muffin. Strangely, that muffin was green. It was likely food dye, but Henry didn’t care. It was selling for £10.50, and it was surrounded by a bunch of art pieces—abstract and modern—so it must have had some worth.

“It’s not for eating,” said the seller.

Henry handed out a £20 note. The seller insistently offered him change, and yet Henry declined.


3 days later: it’s Friday. Henry is sick. Jim bursts into his house, which he can do, as he has a key—he won’t break in like some crazed lunatic, because he isn’t a lost cause yet. He will be, but he isn’t at this moment.

“How’re you feeling?” Jim asks.

Coughing violently, like the violent energy of a vampire sneeze, Henry gives a thumbs down. His arm jitters. Fragile. Like, imagine someone thinner than an uncooked spaghetti noodle trying to operate a jackhammer. He’s all over the place. And he’s paler than a duck egg. His skin is translucent. His veins have the colour of a cooking plaster. But Jim’s hands are paler than Henry’s.

When the two sat on the hill on that chilly Wednesday, they asked each other what they wanted to do in life—this was shortly after Henry called Jim a cider bottle.

“I want to be a fitness trainer,” said Henry.

This was a surprising answer. Jim took a while to respond. In that time, four families strolled by, and the sun rose high enough that it no longer hid beneath the hilltop. Its full glory, hazy due to the cold air but still wholly recognisable as round, was in full display. And seaweed-shaped shadows stretched behind Jim and Henry.

With chapped lips, Jim said, “try sobering up first.”

Henry laughed with an explosive, bang boom pow of a voice. He stamped and clapped, bent back and recoiled forwards, and he pulled his hands behind his back and screamed at the sky. Then, he took a great breath.



On the Saturday, the day after eating the green muffin, Henry wakes up at 1am coughing blood. He delivers on his statement though of sobering up: half an hour later, he stumbles around his house, picking up bottles of alcohol left on the floor to garner dust and cobwebs. He tucks all the half-empty and full bottles in a kitchen cupboard, and he tosses all the empty bottles in the bin.

Some shards of glass litter the living room and bedroom. He looks for a pan and brush, which is in his kitchen by the bin. In bending down to grab it, he falls and bruises his elbow. A few minutes later, he gets up and takes the pan and brush. Every so often he crashes down, seemingly weak from blood loss; his sleeve is covered in that red stuff, and it’s also covered in vomit.

Soon, he makes it to some glass shards. Kneeling, a sharp bit beside his elbow, he wipes some of the sparkly mess into his pan. He throws up. His body wobbles. His head lowers a bit. Some glass comes dangerously close to his throat. It scratches his skin. He pulls up and, with his brush, brings the shards away from him. His body collapses. Ferocious coughing. Panicked breathing. Snot and slobbery tears gush out his dry face. This is a day before Jim goes insane, and it’s a day before Jim takes his own life.

Prior to cleaning his house, Henry had a lovely breakfast: honey and porridge. The candle at his table was out. Beneath that candle was a box of tissues. He wiped his sick-smothered, blood-smothered mouth. He scrunched the tissue and reached for another, but the box was empty. Henry would die in one hour. 

MyAnimeList iconMyAnimeList icon