from the archives of Essex Terror: The Laughter Never Dies

[Notes: This was from one of the printed Essex Terror’s, rather than an onle Essex Terror. I can’t remember if it made more sense in context but it’s still the most frightening thing ever written. And every word of it is true.]

***

The Laughter Never Dies

THE CLACTON CLOWN has been horrifying the children of Essex for most of their lives. It is described by some as Ted Vaaak’s most disturbing creation. Yet it lives out in the open with impunity. We sent Karen Parallax to investigate.

It sits unassumingly at the entrance to the pavilion. Looking to the casual observer like any other glass box of seaside entertainments, the Clacton Clown has managed to evade the notice of adults in the town for what feels like decades. Only children appreciate the true horror of its existence, and the malevolent hold it has on their dreams.

The first, and so far only, product of Ted Vaaaak’s entertainment and leisure devices corporation, VELDC (pronounced Veldoc), the Clacton Clown has been designed to horrify and unsettle the young and the timid to the maximum possible level without ever inducing within the victim weeping, flinching, spasming, biting, fleeing, or any other overt external manifestation of terror. Ted claims it has been a complete success, and that the longer it stays unnoticed by adults, the greater its victories must be.

The clown sits in a glass box, which is to be its prison for all eternity. Faced with the horror of its fate (that of being bound to Clacton until the end of time to be glared at or ignored by the Essexmen and Essexw’men and the mutated offspring that are forced to follow them), the clown chooses not to despair but to do what clowns are designed to do — laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh, its hand pressed up against the glass, its body rolling back and forth and round and round as it is overcome with mirth, its head lolling wildly yet with eyes that never ever stop staring straight at you, until its suppressed anguish at the horror of existence is radiated out from deep within itself across the ether into the young hearts of its victims (the frequency of the laughs is such that they are mostly inaudible to the adult emotional system, sounding like nothing more than the regular chuckling of the commonfolk, aggressive and tinged with contempt but containing nothing sinister).

The clown is purged through this desperate laughter while the victim is stricken, often terminally. On a quiet day particularly susceptible children can receive these dread transmissions from as far away as nearby Frinton, and often do.

I ask Ted how he and his team managed to create such a lifelike facsimile of a living clown for imprisonment within this Amusement. He looks at me and pauses for a second, pondering whether to lie or admit to me his crimes. He opts for the latter and it all comes tumbling out of his cracked lips in a rushed jumble.

“Clowns, clowns, more than us, more than anyone, are immortal. Both metaphorically in that they live on in our minds frightening us with echoes of their cries long after we are immune to their actual vibrations, and physically, in that clowns cannot truly die. They do die, obviously, but whereas with people when we die our flesh and blood rot and crumble away while our core of bone and claw solidifies into permanence, a clown, an inversion of humanity in spirit and in flesh, rots from the inside upon death while the outer flesh solidifies in defiance of natural law. Instead of intricate bonework they leave behind a leather skin filled with ash for us to find and fetishise.

”It is common for a person, upon finding an intact clown skin, to obsess and marvel over it, hiding it from friends and family, caressing it in privacy and seclusion, eventually donning it yourself, and thereon surrendering your soul to its legacy, eventually becoming clown yourself, living as they do, unendingly, until your own eventual murder, leatherification, discovery, possession, the cycle continuing onwards throughout time, one clown making one new clown, no growth but no diminishment neither.

“I must admit on discovering this specimen that I too became obsessed for a time, but knowledge is innoculation, and I knew what I must do. Levers and tentpoles and pipes became arms, legs, spines and more, a teapot a skull, butterknife fingers, an old tobacco tin heart, a shoehorn tongue. Over this skeleton I slipped the skin, and it fitted, perfectly, just as my measurements suggested. Its memories poured into the teabags left rotting in its head while its malevolence seeped into the dried and clotted tobacco that cluttered its heart.

“Awareness came before movement fortunately and I had time to erect a glass prison for this monstrosity, this undying abomination. He sat on his nest staring out in horror at me. But then came the cries, the gyrations, the never ending laughs.

“I abandoned it in Clacton, by the sea, where the people come, where the children come. For twenty pence you can amuse yourself in this town, the flashing machines and the grasping claws and the guns, the guns, simulated and real, water and pellet and cork. Yet for free you can feel his pain. And you cannot avoid it. From this each child will be hollowed out, emotion eaten by the maggots and worms of his thoughts until nothingness is all they have, empty husks lost and vacuous and insane, our county forever changed. Yet unchanged, too, still here maintaining ourselves as a void of horrors to buttress against the sickening disgustments of the civilisations beyond.”

Ted begins to laugh and his chuckles and guffaws mingle with the desperate laughs of the clown. Up close you can see the sorrow in its eyes. The clown stops laughing for a moment as I hold my hand up against his, the cold glass seperating our palms and undoubtedly saving my skin from his frosty touch. From beneath the unit a wave of scuttling sea bugs emerge, miniature trilobites with extrajointed legs. Are these physical manifestations of the clown’s dreams? Or just mutations hurled here by the crashing waves of the sea against the sea wall? I do not know. I catch my finger on a splinter on the wooden edging of the clown box. The sudden jolt of pain shocks me and I involuntarily stamp at the creatures, my DM clad feet crushing relentlessly down upon them. They burst under the harsh soles of my boots in a spray of grey mucus and a satisfying crunch of shell and bones. A single drop of my blood falls from my finger and mingles with their remains.

“The clown will never die,” Ted jabbers at me later while I run my welling hand under a tap in the toilets. He shouldn’t be here in the Ladies with me but he is. “One day the children will be old enough to vote, to work, to join the council and decide its ways. The clown’s secret will be known and they will have it removed, buried like the rest of its kind in a skip full of rubble and old furniture, everything rusted and moldgrown in the rain.

“But someone will find it, rescue it, take it home and sit it on their settee, nurse it back to health. Knit it a new uniform, stitch its eyebrows back to its face, replace its hat, mend its bones and warm its skin until it begins to awake.”

He looks me in the eye for the first time this afternoon. “This time it will be uncaged.”

***

The Clacton Clown can be located at the entrance to the Clacton Pavilion, Marine Parade, Clacton, Essex. The Clown can be seen at any time during the day throughout the year, but it is usually taken inside at night in the winter months for reasons of safety.

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from the archives of Essex Terror: Essex Terror #4 (The Moon Issue)

[Notes: This article and the accompanying pictures were originally published on October 21st, 2010]

***

Essex Terror Issue Four was a departure from the standard issues, containing no news, reviews, interviews or even horror, instead just consisting of a short story by an unattributed author. This edition was so unpopular with readers it is alleged that less than 2 copies were ever actually sold, making this perhaps the rarest of the Essex Terror issues, even though 8 more issues so far remain unfound.

This issue was discovered and supplied to us by Thomas Morton, author of “Vok: Unbound”, a collection of sheets of paper detailing aspects of the life and times of Toby Vok, a scientist.

__________

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from the archives of Essex Terror: The Crabbus Man

[This is a collection of articles and other media concerning, sometimes obliquely, the compelling Crabbus Man myth of Maldon, Essex. What the truth behind the legend truly is has never been ascertained]

***

The Crabbus Man

‘As any fool know, to walk after dark through Promenade Park is to walk in the shadow of death; for there the Crabbus Man lurks and scuttles, with his clacking claws and twitching eye stalks, ready to leap upon the unwary and clack at them, they whose souls shall know no peace for all their remaining days upon the Earth…’ Or so wrote the Reverend Joseph Arkwright in his diary for the year 1863. Arkwright never saw the creature himself, though his borderline obsessive documentation of the Crabbus Man, including many incidents of its manifestations as sundry simulacra throughout Maldon (be it a cloud that ‘rather resembled a crab’s claw’ or a shadow upon a grass verge that ‘seemed to scuttle most unwholesomely’) has become the go-to source for Crabbus lore.

***

The Ballad Of The Crabbus Man, by Thomas Morton

***

The Persistent Myths Of Maldon

The cultural worth of a town can perhaps be measured in its myths. As part of my research into the viability of Essex towns in this new millenium, I came across the following three tales repeatedly, uttered with barely any change through over a thousand years of paperwork and quilting.

The Crabbus Man was a child born with crab claws for hands and taken by the sickened residents to the river to be drowned. While the mayor was holding the child underwater it is said that he slipped from his grasp and fell to the bed of the river, but no amount of searching could yield a corpse. The whispered implication at the end of the tale being that he escaped down through the mud into the crab caverns below, where even to this day he weeps and plans and one day will have his revenge. To this day, crabs are caught and smashed to pieces by the townsfolk in the hope of catching and destroying him before he can return.

The Crow Child was a child born with the blackened skin of a crow. Thought to be a golem crafted from the muds of the marsh, he was hauled up into a tree and placed in the nest of a rook. It is said that eventually he flew away to the moon, and to this day the people of the town are afraid of crows and the moon.

Susan Swan-Neck was a child born with an exceptionally long neck, thought by the residents of the town to be the reincarnation of King Harold II’s wife Edith Swan-Neck. Still believing that Harold’s descendants were the rightful heirs to the throne, Susan was quickly made Ealdorman of Maldon. When next spring she laid several eggs of her own it was clearly revealed that she was an actual swan, and her and her adoptive mother were driven from the town by an angry mob. Their ultimate fate is unknown, but to this day swans are not allowed into the town hall while council meetings are in progress.

As can be seen above, there is a strange monotony to their legends which matches the drab uniformity of the town. It is with little regret that I announce here that the entire Maldon district is to be abandoned to the sea.

***

Dear Crabbus

The Crabbus Man Of Promenade Park has long been one of Essex’s most fearsome foes. Although no direct sightings of the Crabbus Man have ever been verified, he is known to be more than mere myth by careful observation of the aftermath of his actions. Periodic crab massacres litter the history of Maldon (but never Heybridge, almost as if the beast is afraid to cross the river and risk the wrath of the subhuman inhabitants of the northern bank); frequently the town wakes up to find the trundleways and amblepaths of the town are covered in trails of fresh gore dripped straight from his ever-bleeding claws; signs warning visitors to beware of the mud being gnawed upon with frightening regularity; all of these and more are all the proofs we have or need.

The atrocities and activities of the Crabbus Man ebb and flow, sometimes fading almost out of memory before coming crashing back into our reality in a storm of shattered shells and a puddle of rotting crab flesh festering in the sun. Residents have described the events of this summer as “intolerable”, with a new outrage at least once a week. Concerned locals, after a series of hastily arranged town meetings where they dicsussed ideas for combatting this menace, have now begun to post a series of notices across the town, beseeching the returned Crabbus Man to curb his rampages and display at least a modicum of respect and civilised behaviour.

The notices, written in the terse and economical Essex way –

[an historical aside: in 1990, Essex County Council, having been impressed with Microsoft’s fledgling Powerpoint software, and realising the superiority of its methods of communications, banned the use of paragraphs and words of more than two syllables in all internally produced memos, notices, signs, posters, leaflets and other forms of written communications, eliminating the wasteful use of language and distilling everything down to the most salient points. This lead to clearer communications facilitating an increase in decision-making time savings of over 95 man hours per person per year, as well as the reduction of ambiguity-based misapprehensions and confusions by over 40%, and 75% lower paper purchasing costs.]

– have been tied to several railings that mark the boundary between the town park and the hallowed crablands of the Blackwater. The notices, addressed directly to the Crabbus Man himself, read:

“DEAR CRABBERS [sic]

PLEASE BE NICE TO CRABS

DO NOT hurt or damage them

DO NOT leave them out of water

DO put them back in the lake when you have finished

DO wash your hands when you have finished

DO enjoy yourselves”

Although the Crabbus Man’s name has been mangled by the rigorous adherence to the council computer’s spellchecking device’s suggestions, scholars think that this notices clear instructions to the man could appeal to the creature’s better nature and help work in pacifying the beast, although it is possible that his dual nature as part man and part shambling horror (alluded to in the “enjoy yourselves” directive) could be beyond rational control. At this stage, however, it is our only hope.

***

Huge Horror Brings Terror To The Marsh

Residents in the Essex marshlands were shocked by the discovery of a huge crab said to be the largest ever seen by crabbers in Maldon this week. The terrifying beast (an artist’s impression of which can be seen above) was found scuttling around near a child’s bucket by the ruins of the town’s hythe, which tragically collapsed earlier this year in an unrelated incident which caused the death of 72 tourists.

“It’s utterly terrifying,” said unemployed localson David N. Guy (no relation to the reporter). “No doubt it has been feeding on the bodies down there, growing fat on their unfathomable flesh. I said at the time that we should send them back to wherever it was they came from, but did the council listen? No. They didn’t listen to me at all. They never do. Perhaps when it’s one of their children’s fingers getting savagely nipped they’ll finally start paying attention. But by then it’ll be too late.”

Councilw’mn Eliza Dredgeland dismissed this as ridiculous scaremongering from an ignorant oaf. “As readers of your site will no doubt know [cf. The Ballad Of Shitpant N. Guy], this man is a shambolic mess who can’t even control his own gastric functions, so it is no surprise that he has no understanding of this complex situation whatsoever. It would be a gross dereliction of our duties to the council tax payers of this district to allow the financial burden of the removal of these corpses to be placed solely on their shoulders, when it wasn’t any of them who died. Is it too much to ask that those coming from outside pay their own way rather than expecting others to pay for the consequences of their frivolous gallivanting?

“Coupled with this, the idea that the crab could grow to monstrous size on a diet of human flesh is a simplistic and naive one, with no basis in the physical laws that underpin our universe or any of the known processes of accepted biology. Furthermore, I would question whether this crab really is the biggest ever. Our records only go back to 1604, so who’s to say what size crabs you had back then. 400 years may seem a long time to us, but it is utterly insignificant when you think of the 700 million year reign of crabkind. Crabs of this size might be a perfectly natural part of the crab lifecycle, and therefore nothing to do with these corpses in the river.”

The previous largest crab, dubbed Great Big Barry by locals, measured 5 inches from claw to claw when splayed out like a paper angel. Discovered on June 16th, 1978, postcards of Great Big Barry laid out before his captors still do a brisk trade, selling for upwards of 30p at local kiosks. And some people hope that this new find – or fiend, as the Mayor has claimed – will bring much needed economic growth to the town.

The Crab – as it has so far been called by the shocked populace, the “The” said in an exaggerated fashion that suggests a mix of reverential awe, horror, incredulity, terror and even arousal – has not yet been accurately measured, although eyewitness accounts state that it was at least as wide as a pretty wide shoe. Indeed, official measurements may never be known, since under Dengie law the crab has been quarantined at the customs hut since discovery, and if tests indicate even a hint of rabies then it must be incinerated immediately from afar, untouched and alone.

***

The Crabbus Man (a children’s book)

__________

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Dolerotica

David entered the job centre building and looked around, trying to get his bearings. It had been five years since he’d last been here and everything had subtly changed. Amidst the crowds of people it was hard to see where he was supposed to go for his appointment.

Having located what appeared to be the reception desk a single lectern with a well dressed woman standing beside it, her hand resting on what appeared to be a glossy travel brochure, he made his way through the milling throngs toward it.

“Hi, I’m Margaret, how can I help you?”

Margaret (36-24-36, with bountiful DD breasts) stood approximately 5 foot nine (two inches of which were her heels) and wore a smart pale blue blouse and a navy blue brushed nylon skirt. Her hair was a lustrous red and tumbled down over her shoulders in waves.

“I’m here to, er.. I’m supposed to sign on, at, er…” David looked at his appointment letter. “…at 9:30.”

Margaret stared at him.

“You’re late,” she hissed.

“But it’s only 9:15,” David said.

“The appointment is at 9:30,” she said, carefully intoning the word appointment so that is sounded almost lewd. “But you have to be here at 9. So as to make sure there’s no delay.”

“Oh, sorry. I, I didn’t realise. It’s my first time,” he said. “Today,” he added, uselessly, into the terror of her silence.

“This was all clearly laid out in your ‘Welcome’ package, along with all the other rules and regulations. It’s part of your agreement with us that you will have read these before arriving for your session.” Margaret looked down at his shoes (a fraying pair of red dunlop tennis shoes that he had bought from Sports Direct for £12.99 the week before, and which gave his overlong feet a strange resemblance to those of a circus clown’s). “And, well, I can see, quite clearly, you didn’t even get to the dress code section.”

“These are the only shoes I’ve got,” David said.

“Indeed.”

Margaret drummed her well-manicured fingers on the top of the lectern, her nails clacking against the lacquer. The book that rested there, David could see clearly now, was entitled “Job Centre Plus: For You, From Us” and on the cover there was a number of well dressed people, all of them beautiful. All of them smiling. David looked away, vaguely embarrassed. He was, he thought, probably frightened of smiles.

When he looked back at Margaret she was holding two red cards out for him to take.

“Your appointment is at lectern #7,” Margaret said, in her clipped, precise tones. “Hand these tokens to your overseer when your name is called, along with your letter of introduction, two forms of photo ID, and a reference from a professional associate, such as your doctor, solicitor, or pastor, or a member of the House of Lords.”

David took the cards from her hand, his finger momentarily grazing hers. It felt smooth, clean, and he jerked his hand away, embarrassed at how his calloused claws must feel to her.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, but she had already turned her attention to another, and his apology went unacknowledged.

At lectern #7, at precisely 7 minutes past ten, David’s name was called and he stepped forward.

“Hi, I’m Margaret, how can I help you today?”

Margaret, 27 years old, 5 foot 4 inches tall, (26-46-86), cupsize: HH, wore an off-brown cotton shirt above on-brown cullottes that hung just below the knee. He could not see her shoes. Her hair was brown in a style the name of which he did not know, but that he had definitely seen before somewhere.

David handed her his letter, his identification documentation and the two red tokens.

Margaret looked at the red tokens sadly, shaking her head and tutting and sighing simultaneously, somehow.

“Now that’s not a very good start to your claim, is it?”

“What’s wrong?” David asked.

“Two negative actions against your account already. Very disappointing.” She shook her head again, her hair swaying as if in slow motion. “Very disappointing for you.”

“But I haven’t even…” David trailed off as Margaret put her finger to her lips and shushed him.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I’m here for you.”

She patted him on the arm.

“Now, just tell me your details. Name?”

“David N. Guy.”

“Date of birth?”

“The 16th of June, 1978.”

“Height?”

“153 Conduit Ro-”

Height!

“What?”

“Height.”

“Oh. 6 foot 2.”

“Very good. Weight.”

“I… What does this have to do with… Do I have to tell you this?”

“Yes. It all needs to be filled in. Look!”

She turned her ipad round so he could see the screen. On it there was a picture of him in his underwear. Well a picture of someone in their underwear. It was a sort of indistinct blob mostly. A number of text fields down the side were still waiting to be filled with information.

“I’m about 20 stone.”

“About?”

“20 stone 7.”

“Very good.”

“Bust, hips, waist?”

“I, don’t know. I wear a 44 inch per of trousers usually.”

“I’ll just put, 44, 44, 44 for now, is that okay?”

“I suppose.”

“Cup size.”

“I don’t wear a bra.”

“But if you did?”

David looked down at his shoes and mumbled, “A B cup.”

“See that wasn’t so hard now, was it?”

“No,” David said. “I still don’t really understand why it’s necessary, though.”

“All information is necessary,” Margaret said. “For our records.”

There was a moments silence. David wished he was dead at least three times.

“So it says here,” Margaret said. “That you wish to sign on because you’re a failure of business.”

“My business was a failure,” David said. “The letter says my business was a failure.”

“Do you have the necessary documentation to prove this?”

“Only that letter,” he replied. “I didn’t consider my business a failure.”

“Was it a small business?” Margaret said. “A very small business.”

She held her finger and thumb an inch apart and tittered slightly.

“Anyway,” she continued. “You know the rules.”

“What rules?”

“The rules on the size of a business,” she winked. “Your business was too small.”

“Well, I don’t agree, obviously.” David was shocked by his momentary moment of assertiveness. “But anyway that’s why I’m here. Because my business was too small-”

Margaret interrupted with a giggle.

“-my business was too small to qualify for working tax credits,” David concluded. “And also the new rules state that any business too small for working tax credits is too small to register as a business at all. So they sent me here.”

We.”

“What?”

We sent you here. The Conservatives,” said Margaret. “You’re not a Conservative. So here you are.”

“How do you know I’m not a Conservative?”

“Are you?” she asked.

“No.”

“See. I knew it. Our detection system is foolproof.” She paused a moment and then said in a singsong voice, “We’re the party of workers, not shirkers.” She pointed her crimson-nailed finger directly at David’s heart. “You are a shirker.”

“But I was a worker!”

“A very small worker,” Margaret said. “Barely even profitable.”

She scraped her nails down the screen of her ipad.

“Now, let’s find you a job!”

She clacked at the screen as if she was typing on it, an elaborate and pointless charade on its capacitive screen.

“Well, there’s only one job. You’ll have to have sex with everyone.”

“What?”

“It’s the only job available.”

Everyone?

“Everyone here. It’s the only role available.”

“But… Well, isn’t there anything else?”

“No.”

“Surely there’s a-”

“There’s nothing else.”

“Well, I’m not going to take it.”

Margaret gave him a long hard look and then slowly pushed a red token across the lectern towards him.

“That’s three now. You know what that means.”

“I don’t.”

“It wasn’t a question.”

“I still don’t know what it means.”

“Your account has been suspended, and sanctions placed upon it. You will have to contact your local job centre every Friday to see if they have been lifted. Sanctions usually last from between 4 weeks to 26 weeks. Failure to enquire as to whether your sanction has been lifted is a sanctionable offence. Once the sanctions have been lifted, you may re-apply to the job centre within 28 days to receive an application to apply form, which may take up to six weeks to arrive.”

“But…”

“No ifs, no buts,” Margaret said. “But…” She winked at him, in a sort of sexy way.

“I’m not taking that job,” David said. “It’s against my beliefs.”

We’re the party of florals, not morals,” she sang.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” David said. “It doesn’t even rhyme.”

“It does.”

“It doesn’t.”

“It looks like it does.”

“Well it doesn’t,” David said. “Just listen to yourself saying it.”

Margaret soundlessly pushed another red token across the desk.

“Four,” she mouthed.

“I suppose that means you’ll have me killed now?” David sarcasmed.

“No,” Margaret replied. “It means I’ll have to call my supervisor on you.”

Margaret pressed a button on her desk and a klaxon started blaring and all the light sin the room went red and smoke rose up from the floor and suddenly a supervisor apparitioned out of the murk.

“Hi, I’m Margaret, how can I help you?” said the supervisor, who was 4 foot 8 tall, with KKK breasts and a cloak made out of ermine. Under that she might well have been naked, or possibly she was wearing a smart black trouser suit from Debenhams.

“Four,” Margaret mouthed at her, and shook her head. The supervisor looked at David, a ferocious fury blazing in her eyes.

“It’s people like you who ruining it for the rest of us,” she said, picking up David’s passport, his driver’s licence, and his signed letter of acknowledgement and approval from Lord Puttnam and ripping them slowly and deliberately into thin strips, each one exactly 0.25 centimetres wide. “We’re the party of citizens, not clucking hens.”

She threw the strips of his identity up into the air and David watched, mesmerised as they fluttered off like paper butterflies across the room, caught oddly in the unpredictable eddies of the air conditioned atmosphere.

“If you want an identity, you’ll have to take this job,” the supervisor said. “Then, you’ll be one of us, a worker not a shirker, and we can assign you a new one. Otherwise, you’re no-one, nameless. Nothing.

A strip of David’s passport fluttered down and landed in the supervisor’s hand. She looked at it and read the name written there. “And you had such a nice name, a Conservative name. A pity.”

She shook her head and vanished back into the smoke.

“Now, you saw that Margaret there wasn’t very happy,” said Margaret. “And you’d like to please her, wouldn’t you? Please her very much. She would… make it worth your while.”

(The salary met precisely all National Living Wage requirements.)

“How come you’re all called Margaret?” David asked, in an attempt to change the subject.

“It is government policy,” Margaret said. “The only women’s name on the list.”

“What list?”

“The list of approved names.”

“So, every woman here is called Margaret?”

“Yes.”

“So she’s called Margaret, is she?” David asked, pointing at the woman working at lectern #64.

“Yes.”

“And her?” he asked, pointing at the woman at lectern #1.

“No, that’s Winston,” Margaret said. “Transgender women are considered men for the purposes of naming. And marriage. And most other rights. In line with government policy.”

“What about her,” David asked, pointing at the short-haired woman working at lectern #846476382. “I know her, and she’s definitely not called Margaret.”

“You’re right, that’s Harold.”

“But she’s not transgender. Her name’s Angela. We used to do some art shows and stuff together.”

“The arts.” Margaret rolled her eyes. “She doesn’t do that sort of thing anymore. Also, lesbians are now considered men. For the purposes of naming.”

“She’s not even a Conservative,” David insisted.

“She works, therefore she is,” Margaret said.

“What would you call a transgender man?”

“Margaret, obviously.” Margaret said. “Transgender men do not exist, according to government guidelines. And they are forbidden from trying to claim an official designation of lesbian, before you try and think you’ve found a loophole.”

David tried changing the subject again. “So, you’re working for the state. Surely that’s the least bloody Conservative thing you can do. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.”

“We’re destroying the system from within,” said Margaret firmly. “So, about this… opening.”

“I don’t want it.”

“You can’t not have it. It’s the rules. Our rules,” Margaret told him. “You have to take a job. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

“But I don’t want it,” David said. “I don’t. I can’t. I don’t want to have to have sex!”

The entire job centre fell quiet at this outburst. Margaret looked disgusted.

A bare chested man at the lectern next to them turned round and said, “What the fuck, mate? What sort of fucking gay sort of thing is that? The fucking state of you.” The man turned back to his overseer and said, “This is Essex. We shouldn’t have to put up with that sort of shit round here. It’s disgusting. There’s kids round here.”

David crossed his arms and said, “I’m not taking it. I can’t. I have a phobia.”

“I don’t see any medical exemptions listed on your form.”

“Look, I have a letter, from my Doctor.” David removed it from his trouser pocket and passed it across the lectern to Margaret. “See. Ubbtophobia. A fear of breasts. I can’t possibly take this job. I’d be too scared.”

“I’m sorry, but Ubbtophobia isn’t on our list of medical exemptions,” Margaret said. “The current list of accepted phobias, in line with government policy is as follows: islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, pedophobia, arachnophobia, xenophobia, and taxophobia.”

Margaret put down her ipad and looked at David lasciviously.

“Is it true that, well, the things you’re scared of look bigger to you, when you see them? My sister’s scared of spiders and she’s always saying how huge they are.” She thrust her breasts forward and David drew back, nodding.

“How much bigger?”

David started stammering some fucking nonsense, and she cut him off by saying, “How big do you think my breasts are, David?”

“Don’t. Please, don’t.” David wept.

Margaret pushed her breasts closer to him, closer and closer, until they knocked all the red tokens off the lectern and came perilously close to touching David’s belly and he pushed out with his hands in a panic, as if he thought he could swat them away. But they were too hefty to be moved aside.

“You touched them!” Margaret said. “You touched my breasts.”

She put the ipad down on the lectern and said loudly, to the room, “He touched my breasts.”

The supervisor rematerialised and said, “You touched her breasts.”

“Ubbtophobia my fucking arse, “ said the Margaret from reception. “If you can touch them you can’t be that scared of them.”

The three Margaret’s stood round him in a circle, the Supervisor’s incredible breasts having already knocked the lectern onto the floor. Margaret’s ipad screen shattered as it crashed to the floor.

David tried to turn away but everywhere he looked breasts pushed in towards him. Closer and closer and closer and closer. He screamed.

“Join us,” said Margaret. “Take the job.”

“Become a worker,” said Margaret.

“Become a Conservative!” said the final Margaret. “And never worry about anything again.”

David felt a nipple brush against his beard, and then push further and further in, down into the tangle of it, deeper and deeper until it almost seemed to be inside of him. And then the pressure of it against his skin, the caress of it against his cheek.
_______________

David took the job, and was assigned the name John. He has recently set up a campaign group devoted to the abolishment of the European Convention Of Human Rights. He lives in Chelmsford.

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Notes:

1. Written in May 2016
2. Obviously, every word of his is completely true
3. And now, two years later, even more true
4. Although I suppose the list of acceptable female names has now doubled in size

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