Hot Fog

More Ministry of Propaganda; Apparently I wrote this one in November last year, and I just found it now whilst digging in my documents. Presented for your enlightenment (I actually feel fine right now).


The Klaxon


The woman in the severe grey suit looked, frankly, worn out already. Her horn-rimmed glasses hung on their decorative chain around her neck, and she was picking compulsively at the chipped enamel of one of the links.

“Remind me, citizen, how long has this been going on for now?”

“It’s been…” the citizen paused, then he resigned himself to at least being able to circumlocute around not-knowing; “At the current intensity, forty three hours.”

The crisis was immediately obvious to everyone in the room. Every thirty seconds, across the entire nation, the public announcement system was making an incredibly loud wailing noise. Everyone knew what it was – It was the Suicide Klaxon – and thus the entire populace was vacillating between doing literally nothing, and bursts of frantic, pointless energy. Nobody was working, the schools and universities were empty, even the public baths and hotel bars were silent, lightbulbs blazing over empty rooms and radios playing too-loudly without the chatter of people to mellow them.

The woman – she’d been a playwright once – knew how to start a meeting like this, even if she’d been privately hoping that the Klaxon would just stop on its own.

“Reluctant though I am to call emergency meetings of the Ministry, I believe that this is close enough to a national emergency that one is justified. Comrades, you all recognise the Suicide Klaxon, and I hope-” she paused for effect and put her glasses back on, drawing herself up to her full height “-that you all know that it is simply a malfunction in the system which governs the Klaxon.”

The Engineer looked nervous, immediately, and pulled a sheaf of papers out of his briefcase to defend himself with. The Playwright looked at him with immediate, real sympathy, and continued;

“This isn’t the Engineer’s fault. This isn’t, in fact, anyone’s fault. The Engineering corps are a brave, resourceful organisation, and they have been doing their absolute best to maintain equilibrium through some trying times for our sacred nation. In fact, Engineer, there has been real progress made this year as well, has there not?”

The Engineer looked as if he’d been thrown into the squid pit, only to discover that it was actually full of delicious gooseberry fool.

“Ah, yes, Comrade Minister.” He coughed, “This year alone, the Engineering Corps has made great strides in both solidifying our position as it stands with respect to education, in progress in transport, (where the Great Leader is putting one hundred percent of his effort into securing a better, more motorbike-centred, future) and in preventing a complete collapse in housing due to the natural lifespan of the existing structure.” he finished, looking genuinely proud.

“So” said the Playwright, picking her words carefully; “Along with all of that, as well as the usual day-to-day running of the Nation, it’s actually a great testament to your department’s skill that the only catch that you’ve dropped, so to speak, is one tiny, insignificant, Klaxon.”

The Engineer’s cautious pride broke into a genuine smile.

“Yes, Comrade Minister. All in all, it’s been a very successful year.”

“Good.” she replied. “Now. We have definitely confirmed that this is just a malfunction in the Suicide Klaxon system, and it’s important to let the people know that. Artist, what are you working on?”

The Artist looked up from her sketches; A proud figure astride a motorbike, applying ear defenders before their helmet, with the caption “Some noise is meaningless”. The second cartouche contained a smiling worker sat at a sewing machine, with the subtitle “I can work listening to the radio, I can work listening to the television, I can work listening to my friend’s stories, so I can work listening to the Suicide Klaxon”.

“I think that the key message to get across to the public is that the noise is unpleasant, but not dangerous in its own right, and that if they ignore it, it won’t do them any harm.”

The Doctor coughed.

“It is doing them harm, though. Nobody is sleeping. Nobody is eating properly. Everyone hates the Klaxon, it makes them nervous and eventually it will make them ill”

Both the Engineer and the Playwright fixed him with a glare that fulfilled the five-year-plan for heat generation in five seconds.

The Engineer slammed his fist down onto the table.

“You mean to say, Comrade Doctor, that worrying the citizenry about the Klaxon will make my engineers fix it faster? Or that worrying about it will make it quieter?”

The Doctor looked abashed.

“I only meant that, in general, the Klaxon is bad for us, in the long term”

The Playwright had lit a cigarette and was now watching the match burn in her fingers.

“The citizenry know that the Klaxon is harmful, but what they need to do right now is to find ways to make it less frightening and more bearable, until our engineers can switch it off.”

The Artist held up another sketch; A locomotive driver on the footplate, the boiler belching steam, the fire glowing vivid red, hurtling through a beautifully luminous night under starry skies – “The sound of the engine will drown out the Klaxon – I continue my work so that our brave Engineers can continue theirs”.

“And it has the important counterpoint -” another drawing; A figure in bed, with a dog curled up next to them, reading from a paperback novel, with the legend “Two days of good rest can lead to five days of good work. Two days of bad work can lead to five days of painful recovery. Help the Engineers by staying at home”.

“I like this one” she said, and perhaps even” – she slid a drawing across the table to the Engineer himself;

The engineer’s eyes welled up with tears.

The sketch showed a team of engineers, in full working-dress with tool belts and torches, clutching mugs of hot tea, with home-made scarves and and plates of food around them; “Thank you, citizens! Together, we will turn off the Klaxon!”

The Playwright authorised a print run of two hundred thousand of each poster, and planned a radio announcement. The Klaxon is malfunctioning, the engineering corps are going to repair it, the reason that it was in disrepair was because of the great strides that our sacred nation has made in the previous year and thus the corps were needed elsewhere. Citizens can continue their business safely, knowing that they do not need to take action based on the Klaxon.

On the way out of the meeting, the Doctor accosted her;

“You’re the only one of us with the ear of our Great Leader.” He said, “How is he faring, under the onslaught?”

The Playwright shrugged.

“He’s tired, as we all are. I think he’ll enjoy seeing the posters though.”

Like a Stone

Chris Cornell died today.


Many many years ago, when I was a very mentally ill young man, I was sectioned for a week. That week of sectioning happened to coincide with Audioslave playing, and I had tickets to go with my partner. I could not go. I gave the ticket to his best friend, and the two of them went, and I stayed in the hospital.


At nearly 2am I got a phone call. Not a voice I recognised, or rather, not one that I recognised on the phone. A voice a bit knackered from singing a set, but still full of crackly good humour and encouragement.


My then-partner had got backstage, found Chris Cornell, and Chris Cornell’s response to “Actually, my partner was meant to be here, but he’s been sectioned” was to phone me and say hallo, to tell me to keep my chin up, trust the doctors, take my meds, and to reassure me that I was doing the right, responsible thing. Apparently he did that a lot – Just generally encouraged his fans to look out for their mental health.


A couple of years ago, Terry Pratchett died. He was an old, old man and it wasn’t a shock to anyone, not least to PTerry himself. I still get a bit misty-eyed reading The Shepherd’s Crown, but it’s with the acknowledgment of a life fully lived, that reached its close, and thus ended.


As far as anyone can tell at this time, Chris Cornell made his own way out. He was fifty two.


If Chris Cornell, who was grounded enough fourteen years ago to be able to chat to a suicidal stranger and make them feel like they could keep going, who had all the money and physical health and ability to access treatment that’s available in the world, who had all the biggest, loudest, most amazing distraction techniques available to him, who spoke up for years about what it was and how to face it head-on, was still killed by the terminal illness that is depression, what hope do the rest of us have?


I have more to write about. I’ll write later. Today I want Soundgarden and a nice wool blanket and to go back to yesterday and somehow persuade someone to ring Chris Cornell right after he finished playing his set.