Another week had come and gone and flitted by the cobwebbed window of our one-and-three-quarter room Letchworth hovel. Not once did her gossamer wings beat the fresher airs of good fortune through threadbare curtain into our stagnant, stench-ridden domicile. Nor did she even so much as displace a mere dust mite of worthy prospects. And that is to say nothing of the unfortunate lump of soiled waxpaper that found itself nestled against the crusted hinges of Ms. Groutsnatch’s least-maintained unit.

I retrieved the foul thing and unfolded it with some semblance of hope, however feeble, to gaze upon yet another solicitation from the kindred spirits at Goiter & Crawe.

It read:

Messrs Donovan and Ian Poorley
Number two, Letchworth Commons
from the offices of Goiter & Crawe,
publishers and literary procurers

Persistent sirs,

In our relentless efforts to bestow benevolent patronage upon practitioners of the literary arts, we and our agents spend a great deal of time and effort courting potential sponsors for our many publications. Recently, however, it was instead a sponsor who sought us out, a man passionate about his product and ever on the lookout for ways to connect with potential new customers. Ruthless Rufus is an impressive individual indeed, producing more the impression of some major geological feature than of a mere man. He approached us with, in a hand thick with calluses, “Ruthless Rufus’s ULTIMATE BATTLE PASTE”, which he assures us is both “beyond maximum strength” and “seriously ultimate”.


Our initial consultation with Ruthless Rufus (during which he insisted on lifting every piece of furniture in our office in various ways) led to a discussion of just how we might best reach the audience of our publications to inform them of the virtues of ULTIMATE BATTLE PASTE. We determined that the discerning consumer of quality literature is unimpressed and indeed displeased with the crassness of advertisement shouting at them to buy such and such a product, just as we ourselves were less than overjoyed when Rufus insisted that we “make it explode the readers’ skulls like confetti”. Therefore (and here we rapidly approach the point of this letter), we concluded that the best way to meet Rufus’s needs would be to produce what those in the know are calling ‘sponsored content’ — that is, real literature produced by writers such as yourselves, which (somewhat like a commissioned painting) nonetheless has some parameters set by the sponsor.

The parameters in this case are simple: submissions are to craft a narrative (which ought to be fairly brief and to the point) infused with the values of Ultimate Battle Paste, include the product itself in the story, and write the whole thing in the second person, with especial preference for imperative utterance. Ruthless Rufus, an unschooled genius in his own right, points out that the latter requirement will put readers squarely into the shoes of your piece’s protagonist and put them on a path leading to the discovery of ULTIMATE BATTLE PASTE. Well, his exact words were more like, “This is gonna be like tearing off their faces and wearing them while we tell them what to buy!” Either way, the point is made.

Ruthless Rufus is quite insistent that we add that we are “extremely stoked” to extend this opportunity to you. Please return your best efforts to our offices as quickly as possible.

Yours in bloodlust,


I set the letter aside in disgust. What rotten luck was mine to curse! For it had been hardly a fortnight since my first and only attempt to acquire a greater-than-human average of strength and virility—or, as the so-called Rufus puts it, to ‘GET PUMPED!!!’—by way of that accursed paste.

By no small coincidence it had also been hardly a fortnight since I’d collected two broken crowns and several of my own teeth from the mudstained floors of Lord Blastings’ Pub & Gastrolaboratory.

Two summons, a haranguing, and several involuntary relinquishings of my pocket change later, I find myself at odds with the request to support BATTLE PASTE or GUT THRUST or anything else Mr. Rufus decides to purvey at the top of his lungs.

Fortunately for you, Dear Reader, my brother Ian has no such quarrel or qualm with the product (we’ll see just how he feels after a subsequent paste-up, mind…), so he has gladly taken it upon himself to write this one for the both of us.

And so without ado I shall leave him to it.


Wake up tired. Fumble your way through the little rituals of preparation you must make to appease the dark god of the coming day. Try to avoid meeting your own eyes in the mirror as you think, There has to be something more than this.

Go about your day and do your best to ignore the signs all around you that you are being held down on purpose by some massive machinery, kept small, kept in the dark. Led here and there by a carrot on a string that will always remain just out of reach.

Some revolutionary once said something like, “It’s better to live on your feet than to die on your knees”. As you shuffle listlessly about your barren living space or the office where they pay you just enough to keep you trapped there, you think that this can’t have been what he meant by that. And you wonder what he would have thought about creaky, tilting office chairs.

What choice did you make, and when, to put yourself on this path? Or was the choice made for you before you were even born? Avoid contemplating which of the two possibilities would be worse.

Consider: you want to throw something at the wall, or maybe break a window with your fist. But you never do. What would happen, do you think? Could it open up a doorway into a world where things aren’t like this? Or are you too afraid that that world might be real, available right now for you to inhabit, because then you’d have to take action for once instead of just dreaming and whining. You’d have to be strong. You’d need to be ruthless. You would have to do ultimate battle.

Pick up the chair with both hands. Raise it high above your head, then bring it down against the wall that imprisons you. Hear the smash so loud that people will come running. It doesn’t matter if they do. As the rubble falls to the floor and you stare through the hole you’ve broken, you see an arm reaching through it. In that powerful hand, a fresh tube of Ruthless Rufus’s ULTIMATE BATTLE PASTE.

You’re ready for it.

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