Dan Kelsall


As the clock struck two, Henry Duchamp made his way to the window of his second-floor flat, glanced briefly around the room at what his cousin, Clerice, had described as ‘your meagre set of worldly possessions’, and hurled himself inelegantly out of the window.

Two flights down, in the entrance foyer of the building, Terence Shogun collected his mail, and sifted through the usual collection of tax returns, Penthouse subscription offers, and used Branston Pickle lids, posted there without fail every Thursday by Frank ‘the prankster’ Dotte, the wickedest man in the neighbourhood. The lids had been appearing in Terence’s mailbox for around six months, ever since he had failed to greet Frank with ‘an appropriate degree of alacrity’ at the bi-monthly informal get-together of the Hoffingham and Bywater Tradespeople’s Fair to Promote Wellbeing and Carefree Slovenliness Among Those of an Arabian Disposition. He had cycled through the most common and predictable reactions known to be experienced by men of Terence’s disposition, including anger, bafflement, incredulity, rage, and more recently, a kind of delirious apathy brought about by the realisation that if the trend were to continue for much longer, his neighbours would begin to talk, and that there was a great likelihood he would become known by some kind of moniker, or worse, to be known as Monika, his childhood nickname. Not one of the boys in Claringsbourne Primary School ever gave Terence a satisfactory explanation of his nickname, though it stuck with him from the third day at the school, through to the very day he left. During all his time at the school, apart from those blissful first two days, the only boy not to refer to him as Monika was Archibald Brent, a thick-faced boy with nostrils like railway tunnels and a propensity for mackerel, who attempted to write in the school magazine of the exploits of one ‘Turnpike Terry’ on the school playing field the previous week. Archibald was expelled within a week of the incident.

In a surprising narrative twist, Terence, his mail tucked beneath his arm, turned to walk back into the building and failed to notice the human stone that dropped to earth with a sickening thud and resolved to remain where it struck, as jam-like substances are wont to do. Feeling somewhat thinly drawn, under-developed and under-appreciated, Terence left the foyer, blissfully unaware of Henry’s recent and tragic demise, and looked in vain in the darkened stairwell for the stairs that led back to his flat. The stairs had never existed, and Terence ceased to exist in the same moment, causing no amount of consternation in the minds of anybody concerned.

Meanwhile Henry’s pulped remains lay on the freshly tarmacked turning circle, a few viscous droplets adorning a nearby spider-plant, but otherwise causing no untoward effects on the surroundings. There was nobody around to notice, and life was the better for it. The birds continued to sing in that indubitable way that birds do, and a field-trip of young otters made their way across the recently trimmed polo lawns that surrounded the building with the kind of effortless grace that only an otter can display, though many have been known to attempt similar feats of style and élan on venues as varied as Yugoslavian battlefields, the headquarters of the UN primate division, and the Schweppes Internal Affairs vegan canteen, which is of particular note as the only vegan canteen in the Western hemisphere to have posted three successful entries into the Guinness Book of Records, though unfortunately there is no room here to go into details.