In which The Author discovers something on an old flash drive
Back in the good old days of Aberdare Online (before it was largely taken over by trolls and BNP apologists), a gang of us decided to write a spoof ‘Western by Committee’ on the forum.
There’d been a long-running saga called The Magnificent Seven, written as a sort-of Exquisite Corpse story by seven of the original members. The story was extremely surreal and bizarre, but came to an abrupt end when Andrew T.’s server died and all the information was lost.
A few months later, we started again. The original inspiration was the appointment of a crime prevention troubleshooter in Aberdare, who’d promised in the local paper to ‘clean up the town.’ We decided that this self-proclaimed sheriff was too good a target not to take a shot at.
While I was on the phone to another Aberdare Online regular, talking about this hilarious news story, I was (unknown to her) typing the first instalment one-handed. A couple of minutes later, a posting appeared on the forum entitled ‘Wanted – Alive and Preferably Thinking.’ Thus, on a quiet afternoon when nothing much else was happening, Dodge This
I took the title from a line in The Matrix. There’s a terrific scene where Neo and Agent Smith have been dodging each other’s bullets on a rooftop. Just when it seems as though Neo is done for, Trinity puts her gun right up against Smith’s head and says, ‘Dodge this!’ It seemed like the perfect name for a run-down Wild West town with a few hundred inhabitants, a couple of struggling stores, a saloon or two, a hotel, and some farms scattered around.
We had a rich cast of stereotypical Western characters, including: the outlaws (based very loosely on ourselves); the sheriff himself (whom nobody ever saw); the crooked mayor in league with the local land-grabbers; the newspaper editor who was plagued by typos; and a mysterious guitar-playing prophet of doom. Just about all of the other characters were based on people we knew in Aberdare, and we wrote in loads of our friends, hoping that they’d take the invitation and join in the fun.
It quickly caught on, and the first ‘season’ notched up over two thousand hits on Andrew’s site. It was only because we feared that the server might crash again that we decided to split the story into ‘seasons’, a practice which we continued until we ran out of steam about four years later.
At some point during Season Two, Vicki F. knocked my front door one Sunday lunchtime. She’d been to a party in Treforest the night before and had got incredibly pissed. In desperate need of sympathy and coffee, she’d caught the first train to Aberdare, got a taxi to my place, and arrived looking more dead than alive. I poured coffee into her and she told me about an idea she’d had the night before.
One of our characters was the town’s preacher, who’d fallen in with the gang of outlaws and anarchists (our heroes and heroines) earlier on in the story. She wanted to write a dream sequence, based on what went through the preacher’s mind after he’d spent a lively evening in the saloon with the rest of the gang. Without his knowledge, one of them had slipped something into his drink, and this was where Vix wanted to pick up the story.
She asked me if I had a copy of the Bible handy. As it happened I had two copies, which turned out to be ideal. Between us, we skipped through the Old Testament and made a list of ‘edited highlights’ which we needed to include in that day’s instalment. Then we got to work.
Vicki was a huge fan of James Joyce, and she wanted to try and write something in a Joycean style. She’d already written one dream sequence early on in the story, but she wanted to go a stage further this time. I thought we could probably aim at something approaching William S. Burroughs’ style if we put our minds to it.
We were both reading a lot of Robert Anton Wilson as well – the psychedelic dream sequences in Masks of the Illuminati were another influence on our end product. That’s why we incorporated the Masonic symbolism towards the end. Earlier on in the story, the preacher had acquired a copy of Albert Pike’s book Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. We knew that that had to turn up in the dream somewhere.
Between us we played with words for a couple of hours, following the rough chronology of the Biblical events, before reaching the inevitable punchline. Shortly afterwards, we posted what we described as ‘a drug-free joint effort’ on the forum.
Soon afterwards, Ross D. and Richard B. were visiting from London. I thought I’d print out our dream sequence and show it to the boys. Over Sunday lunch in the pub, Rich read our bizarre prose with a mixture of hysteria and horror, occasionally blurting out, ‘This is so blasphemous!’ before reading on with tears rolling down his face. Rob H. told me he thought it was more reminiscent of Dylan Thomas than either of the targets we’d been aiming at. Even so, we still took it as a compliment!
I found the full text version of Dodge This on a flash drive a couple of days ago, so I thought I’d give you a little taste of what we were up to in those days.
The preacher had a bad night’s sleep after he left the Crippled Frog, whiskey-sozzled and groggy, dreaming selected highlights through a haze of the best Irish…
In the Garden Adam came to the preacher, the serpent’s figleaves throne down, crying, ‘I adore thee, Eve, oh I adore thee.’ Their sin was fruitful, Cain toiled in the fields unable was the first casualty. Beget and beget and the preacher romed passed nude Noah hungover outside his tent. He had no shem, ham was unclean, he stood japethetic on Mount Sin I while the waters rows aboat him. Beget and by glory he beheld a tower of babbling felled by the shocking awrth. Beget and by Geb he saw Abram and Sarai go to Egypt. Officious praising Sarai’s beauty spoke to Fairoah who covenanted her for his own. Plagues came to Phawhorehouse and Abram went on his way. Abram set up an alter ego in the desertion and called Him the Lord. The Lord made a covert with Abraham and briskly set out His terms. Angels came to Abraham’s nephew in the city of sin, there was a lot of trouble in sodden begorrah. Isaac was spared the knife, thou hast lost that ovine feeling. The old ram rodded Rebekah and beget and by golly Esau the twins born, hairy and smooth, their brotherhood in a stew. The preacher saw Jacob’s slander and the angel ass ending. Beget and by gosh Joseph dreamt his technicolor sheaves and stars [can you dream about dreaming while dreaming? the preacher wondered lucidly] and was souled into Egypt, where he lived on rice. His brothers came to him for their daily bread and he served Pharoah until he died. The Israelites bode in Egypt and a new unfairoah decided to kill the children of Israel. He saw Moses placed in a basket Osiris-style and was saved from a watery grave by Pharoah’s daughter after Isis herself. When he was groan, Moses killed a forearman who had been beating a Hebrew slave. Covenant blown of coarse he fled to Midian until the Lord came to him in a bush. Moses went and said to unfairoah, ‘Let my people go’, and Pharoah said, ‘No’ so the children shaved their stubble to make bricks. Beget and by God’s will plagues fell across the land, and Pharoah’s hard heart on the building project softened. When the firstborn of each house died, unfairoah told them to go, then changed his mind. The preacher saw the waters of the Red Sea part and the army all washed up. Their sojourn in the desert taught them good mannas, while on the mount with the Lord, commanded and stoned was Moses. The Lord gave Moses the blueprint for a chest of acacia wood to hold the tablets, ark the horrid angel’s wing. When Moses descended to revelry and ribaldry and golden idolness, the lewd punished the people with another of his popular plagues. Then Moses sat down and wrote a great book of Thou Shalt Knots to bind mankind forever and ever amen. Beget and by Joshua there followed a long earthshaking, judgemental and ruthless part – fortunately in dreams, subjective time telescopes – but samuel years later Solomonarch was building a temple of cedar and cypress to house the sacret ark. Hiram, tyred of working for his father, came to Solomonkey. He crafted and mastered two enormous broanz pillars, and a cast sea that held two thousand baths. Apocryphally, Hiram was asked for the secret of his succession by three brothers named Fubar, Snafu, and Tarfu. They asked Hiram for the word. A man wearing glasses shouted ‘Don’t tell him, Pike!’ Just before the preacher awoke he heard a voice saying, ‘Now look what you’ve made me do!’ The preacher saw the two bronze pillars blaze in the early morning sun.
The preacher’s mind surfaced through the hangover and he sat up, reeling from the dream. He picked up the pencil and notebook he kept beside his bed and wrote down the outline of the dream as quickly as he could. He drank a glass of water and stared at what he had written, almost comprehending its deeper meaning – but not quite. He decided it was about time he sat down and had a serious chat with ‘Miss Wolf’ – he was sure that the mysterious redhead knew more than she was saying.