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„The Great Nihilist Swindle“ written and illustrated by Sebastyan Armero

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„Life is futile, therefore I must destroy“ she hastily wrote on the wall of an old, smelly underpass somewhere in North Birmingham. „The writing definitely needs more work“, Maggie thought to herself „though the sloppiness definitely gives it some charm, I’ll give it that.“ she grinned. This was undoubtedly the highlight of another tiring, boring and pointless day in the life of Maggie Jones, an avid music fan, part-time deviant and professional mean-look-giver. As Maggie stared at her messy scribble, she felt a sudden outburst of joy and satisfaction. Leaving these messages was Maggie’s favourite pastime activity, which she took very seriously. People were undoubtedly going to read it and think about it as they walked by, after all it is quite hard not to notice a giant red text on a blank gray wall in an otherwise dull and monotonous tunnel. After the job was done, Maggie decided that it was high time to head back home, since her mum had promised to bake an apple pie. She jumped on her skateboard and rolled off into the moonlit city.

maggie 001

Margaret Jones and her mother lived in a small, dirty apartment. It consisted of two small rooms, a bathroom and a living room with a small kitchen unit crammed next to one of the walls. Her father’s death had been as pathetic and miserable as his life, if you could call it that. One rainy day, when the stress and hopelessness finally broke him, Maggie’s “Pops” decided to hang himself. Since he didn’t want Maggie to witness such an unsettling scene, or look into the eyes of his oblivious, happy wife, suicide at the workplace seemed to be the only suitable option. But it all went a bit wrong. Though the end result was, as desired, death, the process was slightly more gruesome than originally planned. One of the few, hidden spots suitable for hanging was above the chocolate melting machine. Unfortunately, the rope had snapped, and the skinny, depressed and overworked man fell right into it, melting away along with the cheap, bad tasting goo that would later become delicious Cadbury Double Deckers. His screams were silenced by the chocolate that had filled his mouth and, like a sweet-tasting swamp held him by the arms and legs. As compensation, Maggie and her mother were given a small statue of the father, made entirely out of chocolate. Ever since then, Maggie’s mum had been juggling between being a depressed alcoholic and acting as the backbone of the „family“.

maggies dad drowning 001

The way home was uneventful as always. It was already dark outside, and Maggie wanted to get back as fast as she could, so that she could crawl into bed, eat apple pie, put on the brand new, freshly released Black Flag record, throw things at seagulls, and enjoy her Saturday sleep-in.
However, instead of the promised and strongly desired apple pie, Margaret got a smack across the face, followed by an awkward kick in the rear. -„Maggey! Do yew know what bloody toym it is?!“ her mum shouted in a strong, brummy accent, supporting the gravity of her worries by waving a half-empty bottle of cheap rum. -„Were you out with a boy? These men, I’ll tell ya! You stay away from them“, she said, exhaustedly dropping onto the old couch that’d been standing in the corner of the living room for god knows how long and probably had a cockroach metropolis located underneath it. – „Mum? The pie. Where is it? I’m hungry. Mum? Hello?“ Her mother’s response was a loud snore, one that could only be compared to the sound a walrus makes, an animal which Maggie’s mother also resembled physically. The snoring was a clear signal that „mum“ wasn’t getting back up again until morning. After this failure, Maggie got discouraged and decided that it was time for her to retreat to her tiny room. Since nobody else was home, Maggie turned off the lights and fell on her bed, floating off into the world of her wildest dreams and fantasies, where she was dating Mick Jones and giving interviews about their wild rock star lifestyle to BBC Radio.
The next morning Maggie spent around two hours lying in bed, looking at her moldy ceiling (a photo of which, undoubtedly, could have very well been part of a depressing modern art show some 25 years later), listening to her window repeatedly banging in the wind and trying to come up with what she was going to do on such a beautiful Sunday. She obviously wasn’t going to sit at home doing school work because, obviously, life didn’t matter and all her worksheets would wither into oblivion and were thus not worth her precious time. She often had a tendency to make a schedule for the upcoming day, as encouraged by her mother, who had by the way, already left for work. However, nothing Maggie planned ever worked out or actually happened. She looked towards the record player, not sure if it was yet worth getting up. Suddenly, a pigeon smashed into her bedroom window. – „Percy! Is that you? Get out you wee bastard!“ She shouted at the bird that seemed to be stuck to her window. „Wee“ had been her favourite word ever since she started hanging out with the Scottish kids from down the block. Percy the Pigeon was an old, fat and certainly not wise, yes, that’s right, you guessed it, NOT. a. Pigeon. Well, he actually was, at least partly. He seemed to be a rare crossbreed between a pigeon and a seagull. Percy was known for his unsettling appearance, and, as a result of such notorious popularity, had rocks hurled at him by little kids whenever he decided to descend from the skies and eat some breadcrumbs at the local park. Every Sunday he crashed into Maggie’s window, almost as if he was sent by Jesus to remind her that it was a holy day. Or maybe he was just trying to kill himself. After chasing him away, Maggie picked up her school bag, emptied it on the floor, and filled it with her spray cans, lighter, pocket knife and sandwiches. She spent about an hour figuring out which badges she was going to put on her leather jacket, which was a tedious process considering the fact that they all had to match her overall colour scheme and had to be different in size. As she finally had got dressed, put on her old dirty boots and got her bag and skateboard, Maggie jumped out of the flat, slammed the door behind her and ran down the stairs, to freedom.
She went back towards the tunnel she had tagged the night before and lit up with happiness. It was full of people. Assured that her message would not go unnoticed, Maggie got on her skateboard and headed towards the city centre. As she was passing by the city hospital, she remembered that her friend Stephen was currently undergoing cancer treatment inside there. Seeing as she didn’t really have anything better to do, Maggie decided to pay her friend a visit. She vaguely remembered where he was located from the last time she went there. The room was relatively small, with two beds squished against a wall, separated from each other by two IV poles. The walls were decorated awfully by various obnoxiously smiling faces, cardboard suns and cartoon characters as well as a small yellow clock. All of this looked painfully ironic, seeing as instead of some happy, cheerful dwarves the room was inhabited by two pale, bald and skinny boys with needles sticking out of their forearms. Stephen was a relatively tall individual, who used to play football competitively before being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Luckily for Maggie, he and his roommate were currently up playing chess on one of the beds. Stephen and Maggie had known each other since kindergarten, which was the only thing that was holding their friendship together, considering that they had next to nothing in common. Maggie described herself as an existential and moral non-believer. All of this denial and indifference began, when, after her father’s tragic demise near the candy cone machine, Maggie decided that she was going to go through his books, which he never allowed her to touch. Amidst all the boring detective stories and magazines, Maggie found an old, dusty book called „Fathers and Sons“. She very much identified with the book’s protagonist, who had a very cynical view of society as a whole and opposed most of what was old and irrelevant. This led her to her current, apathetic „rock’n’roll“ lifestyle. Margaret’s entire life was limited to the expression of heavy rebellion and anarchy, such as skipping class, writing on walls, stealing sweets from a small store downtown or kicking stray cats. Stephen, on the other hand, firmly believed that one must dedicate their life to being an honourable member of society. He was quite mellow and peaceful, always friendly and ready to give anyone a helping hand.
-„Oi,Stephen!“ Maggie exclaimed from the doorstep. „Who’s winning?“, she said, hopping closer to the chess board. – „Not me, obviously. Only time I’ve ever won was against my grandpa when he started falling asleep midgame“ Stephen mumbled, his eyes focused on the board. -„You got treatment today?“ Maggie asked loudly. -„Not anymore. I’m supposed to go home tomorrow for a couple of weeks“ Stephen answered with a soft voice. -„Wanna go get sumfink to eat then? Don’t know ‚bout you but I’m starving.“ -„I’m not really allowed to leave though…“ Stephen finally turned his head towards her. -„Don’t worry about it. We’re only gonna go for a wee bit. Nobody’s gonna know. Or do you want to play chess all day instead?“ Maggie teased him. -„Alright, alright. Seems like I’ve lost anyway.“ Stephen let out a loud sigh and flipped his King on the side. „Well done Jim. ‚ave fun then. And don’t snitch on me, ye? I’ll be back in a bit“ he said as he took his jacket off the hanger. „Right, let’s go then.“ Maggie said excitedly. Seeing as Stephen was already standing in the middle of the corridor, Maggie used this moment to further intimidate his pale roommate – „don’t you dare tell anyone. I will find out, you know“ she whispered menacingly with her eyes wide open and shut the door.

steven 002


-„So what’s up with your uhh… y’know“ Maggie suddenly blurted out. -„You mean leukemia? Don’t know. It’s not getting any better really.“ Stephen answered, his eyes glued to the wet asphalt below him. „I’ve actually been thinking about stopping treatment. It’s not making me any better anyway“. -„So what are you gonna do then? Just wait until you die?“ Maggie hissed. -„Well I’m definitely not playing football… or chess…. I don’t know. Probably gonna play games all day.“ -„So you’re fine with dying then?“ -„Yeah right. Why would I be? I’ve got a lot of things to do.“ -„Like what?“ -„Well, y’know. Go to uni, get a job, settle down, have kids, build a house, blablabla you know how it goes.“ -„But why?“ -„What do you mean why?“ -„What’s the point?“ -„The point? Well uh… enjoying my life? Helping my parents? Oh and umm… isn’t having kids the purpose of life?“ He exclaimed triumphantly. -„Yeah I guess. But you’ve got to look at the bigger picture here. What’s the purpose of anything at all? Like why do humans exist? Why does our planet exist?“ -„There is no purpose. It all just sort of exists, I think. I mean…“ -„Nancy? Oi Nancy wake up. Oh for f**s sake! Get up luv!“ The kids turned around. In a narrow side street, a skinny man in a short leather jacket was violently banging on the side of a dumpster using an old bass guitar. His black hair was pointing in nearly every possible direction. What appeared to be sticking out of the dumpster were two legs, one of which was wearing a boot. -„See? D’you wanna end up like that?“ Stephen asked. -„I don’t know. What’s it matter anyway? I mean, it’s not like I’m gonna spend my precious time doing bollocks like going to uni or starting some family.“ -„Never mind the bollocks! Just do what you want, Maggie. Otherwise you’re just throwing a perfectly good life away.“

no future 001

They’d already gone a considerable distance away from the hospital. Passing by the “Fat Rat” pub, Maggie recalled this place as her father’s favourite place in the entire town. He would often find himself there, downing as many pints as possible, or, as he called it whenever Maggie’s mother told him that it wasn’t healthy, „consuming liquid bread“. „I’m tired. Let’s sit down somewhere.“ Maggie said, as she dropped inside an old boat. „It’s pretty shaky.“ Yeah just sit down, will ya?“ They’ve spent around half an hour eating some noodles they’d bought earlier at a shady Chinese fast food restaurant and staring at the river. -„I feel kinda funny, you know?“ Stephen said suddenly with a worried look on his face. -„Probably the noodles.“ -„You reckon?“ -„Yeah. I don’t feel very good either.“ -„You never do.“ Stephen cringed, his face filled with discomfort. -„Get out of the boat, Mags.“ Stephen’s face changed in an instant. The eyes were empty, yet he looked determined. He stood up completely straight, like a toy soldier, looking down at Maggie, who was lying inside the boat with her legs hanging over the edge. -„You alright mate?“ she asked, starting to feel weirdly sick. -„Get out. Out out out. Come on.“ Stephen whispered as if he was petting a dog. Maggie climbed out of the boat, more confused than she’d ever been in her short, meaningless (as she described it), life. As soon as she got out, Stephen began untying the rope. -„What are you doing?“ Maggie asked, looking at her now very lively friend who was hurriedly trying to free the boat from the confines of a solitary rope that held it in place against the fairly strong stream. -„I’ve gotta go.“ -„Go where?“ The boat took off. -„What the hell are you doing you maniac?!“ Maggie’s vision was getting blurry and her legs suddenly collapsed, as if someone dropped a cow on her back. She watched as the boat got smaller and smaller, until it finally disappeared under the bridge. Margaret passed out.



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