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thought. Take loans, for instance, the bank will always give you loans when you have money, but if you donít have money and you really need a loan they donít want to know. It was the same with love. His account was too overdrawn and closed down. Frozen. It was frozen. He wondered if he smelled of desperation. Did he give off an aura of neediness that repelled people? You can always have what you donít want.

His head was throbbing. Really throbbing. Really throbbing. He kept saying it to himself. Like a mantra. Really throbbing. It didnít help. It didnít make him feel better. It just concentrated his mind on the pain. His mind huddled itself around the pain like a wanderer around a campfire. People think campfires are there to provide heat but theyíre really there to keep the demons at bay, to keep away the monsters that lurk in the darkness beyond its penumbra of safety.

How did I get like this? he said to himself. How? Why? Nobody answered. Not even himself. He looked down again and the maggot was gone. No trace. Not a sign. As if it had never been. Perhaps he had imagined it.

The telephone began to ring. It rattled his mind. It rang and rang, issuing summons after summons to get up and walk to the instrument, take it up and speak. But he couldnít make that walk to the phone. He feared it as one might fear an instrument of torture. There was no point anymore in bothering with niceties like telephone conversations. He should have it disconnected. But they would probably do that themselves soon, if he didnít pay the bill. We pay for the privilege of giving other people, often complete strangers with something to sell, the ability to intrude on our lives without a momentís notice. Be there. Instantly. It stopped. Thank God, he thought. Thank God itís stopped. He looked at his hands and they were shaking. Shaking. No reason. Just shaking.

He tried to remember what had happened last night. But it was difficult. It was hard to piece together. Like a shattered cup there were fragments missing. He couldnít put it together the way it had been. It wasnít possible anymore. Not now. Reality was forever lost in the past. And now there was only versions of it, their versions, his versions.

He remembered seeing Lindsey again. Looking happy. Looking so bloody happy, with that preppy bastard Charles. Charles looked smug. Lindsey looked happy. But Charles always looked smug. He just looked extra smug now. Drink. It was a drink he needed, that he knew. A drink always promised to change things, make them better, but it didnít, it just left things the way they were, only more so - more so.

After a few more drinks Lindsey just looked happier. Charles looked even smugger. Lindsey and Charles. Charles and Lindsey. The smug couple. Spike wondered why he was there. Putting himself about. That was the idea. He was putting himself about. But nobody was talking to him. Heíd taken an invisibility tablet. He didnít appear on their social radar. He slipped through their sensors. Having slipped past their radar he could make a surprise attack. Nobody would be expecting him to do anything. Why should they? After all, he was just that man in the corner. That lonely man with his back to the wall to stop himself falling over.

In a little while. In a moment, he would be able to unclench his hands. He would be able to get his fingernails out of his palms. Yes he would. the


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