HARD COPY

John Minter had, ever since he was a youth, wished to become a writer, a desire which, inspired by a passion for books, and access to an old word processor, had been granted opportunity to fulfill it’s potential, permitting him grace to accede a familiarity with the various disciplines that serve to distinguish literary endeavour from those of other skills, and, after many years of practise, he became a skilled proponent of the genre, presenting books before editorial attention, and selling short tales to popular journals, an enviable vocation which, as with others of like nature, attracted it’s quota of both praise and criticism.

He had spent many years learning the rules of vocabulary, grammar and pace which may, in catching slip, bless prose with the fluency of it’s inspiration, the subtleties that allow stories to supercede their rudiment, investing dead letters with the semblance of life and, in attaining a degree a success, had fastidiously cultivated a public persona which served to qualify the character of his work, an intellectual, a philosopher, an inventor of games, who, through the liberties of objective detatchment, could anoint the mechanisms of abstract hypothesis with a motive theme, effortlessly binding notional ideology about structural continuum.

As Minter ascended the precarious summits of his trade, becoming acquainted with the many secrets which typified it’s strata, he gradually attracted the attention of opportunistic concerns, interests which may, in unwholesome speculation, seek to profit from the iniquity that success may represent, a faction that, in promising to both preserve him from the multitude of ailments which inevitably conspire to blight infirmity and afford immunity from the attentions of jealous rivals, also served to isolate him from the companionships of his youth, drawing his attentions by imperceptible degrees, away from the expedients of common expectation, and towards the mores of self-obsession.

And, As Minter succumbed to the trappings of his circumstance, confined by the subtleties of it’s regimen, he was inexorably driven from the novelties of art and towards the concerns of the mad, a condition that, in observably affecting his behaviour, served to warp his judgement, tempting him to seek power through the abstractions of his craft and soveriegnty in the status that it granted him, until, after some years of encumbant eccentricity and incidental allegation, he was justifiably branded insane, a term which paradoxically forced him towards an increasing dependence upon the factions that had fuelled his descent into unreason.

After some time, Minter was compelled to retire from public life, his business interests, commandeered by those that had once proposed their prosperity, an arrangement through which the proceeds of his work, were freely distributed, becoming contracted by extortion and implicated with crime, an association which served to complete Minter’s decline from commercial acceptability, spelling an end to all that which he had aspired to achieve.

In the first days of February as the fortitude of Spring reaped file over the thatches of sporadic meadow land which spread langorously forth from the shadow of more urbane concern, coaching bland municipality out towards the long appreciations which soften Summer months, John Minter had a dream.

A figure stood between him and the front his house, it’s back turned shy in a a gesture of concealment, it’s face masked amidst the shadows that played against the building’s innards, an eidolon of no definite persuasion, it’s aspect blessed ambiguous in the thrill of the light which wove slow filtration through the morning air.

It was only a fleeting impression, a mirage gleaned from the moments of peace that states of prolonged isolation are inclined to grant, but nonetheless the apparency of reality beneath which it chose to manifest led him to question the nature of it’s presence, for he was quite sure that he was alone and expected no visitors. 
 
He attempted to discern the apparition’s identity, it’s age, it’s sex, it’s ethnic origin, but, by the time he had collected himself to address the issue, the image was lost amidst the streams of opalescence that cavorted about his yard, it’s significance lost amidst the passage of other event.

Memory and faculty two partners locked indivisibly amidst the detail of charade, truth investing in falsehood to monopolise the frustrations that arises from it’s incident, an exchange which wagers experience against abstraction, wringing life from the assimilations of etheric relief, a madness that presumes solace in degrees of addiction, under-estimating both death and discretion for want of consequence, pursuing advancement through the illusion of significance and the abandonment of mortal concern, adopting persona that, in intellectualising frustration, casually forget that they can die, falsehood qualifying truth to secure the divisions that objective ideology may win from consequence, an investment which, in pitting thoughts of death against the drift of metaphysic, may yet finds peace in certitude.

John dwelt momentarily upon the matter of his career, the way that it turned him about the detail of abstraction, inspiring his repose with thoughts of immortality, of how the books through which he had established province were more than dead fayre, their charter possessing a manner of life, a clerical significance beyond the exclusive idealism and trusted quietude of material concern, presiding over the inattention of such interests as though announcing their salvation.

The sublimination of meaning, a passive instrument, a moderator of warm passion and cold exponency, and yet, as with all impotence, the Devil ultimately enters and spoils the game, his ruse too seductive to abide deference, his implication too profound.

Shortly afterwards Minter was called forth to receive a course of medication, a cocktail of brightly coloured pharmaceuticals which had been prescribed to him by the factions that presently presumed retainership over what remained of his business affairs, a meal pristinely presented before him upon a small silver plate by a nurse for leisurely consumption.
 
“Do you know what these are?” began John directing the nurse’s attention towards the platter.
 
“Sedatives”, replied the nurse calmly, “they will help you to sleep”.
 
“You are sure?” Enquired John examining the tablets.
 
“Hypochondriac”, whispered the nurse scornfully, “of course I am sure”. 
 
“The assortment seems rather diverse for a simple prescription”, replied John unconvinced, “I don’t want to be enslaved by addiction”.
 
“It’s better that way”, said the nurse before adding “don’t ask so many questions”.
 
“Very well”, muttered John swallowing the pills, “to Hell with it”.
 
“There has been a problem at the office”, continued the nurse, as John digested the offering, “an accusation of theft”.
 
“What?” Replied John drowsily, “is the company in debt?”
 
“No”, replied the nurse wheeling John’s chair out into the corridor to clean the carpet beneath it’s flank.
 
“So why do I stand charged of theft?” Enquired John mildly disconcerted.
 
“For incurring damages apparently”, answered the nurse shrugging, “accidents will happen”.
 
“How much do I owe?” said John affecting an air of consternation.
 
“Oh more than you will ever be able to re-pay,” laughed the nurse reproachfully, smoothly returning John’s chair to it’s initial location.
 
“I am an honorable man,” muttered John, slurring as the drugs reaped purchase over his senses, “if I have caused grievance, then I must address the issue”. 
 
“Don’t worry”, said the nurse, smiling soporiphically, as Minter lost consciousness, “we will handle it”… 
 
After some minutes of stultified indecision John drifted into a drug induced trance, his sense seduced by the effects of the medication that he had received, it’s concern sponged from the sands of foriegn shores to usurp familiar sentiment with unknown appetite, a state which shifted between qualities of myopic inconsequence, abandoning reservation to pursue fresh novelty.

John had been losing control over both the processes which bound him incarnate and the particulars of their circumstance for some time now, a respondant to stimuli and the sweep of allegations over which he wielded no authority, an innocent cast hither to answer for misdeeds in which he played no part, affairs that despite inconsequence, remained to mock his conscience and the care of it’s intent. 
 
After having slept some hours beneath the influence of the sedatives, John was awoken in the early hours of evening by the sound of footsteps measuring pace in an adjacent corridor just beyond his field of vision, a noise which jarred him from reverie towards investigation, driving him forth to appropriate it’s cause, however, by the time that he had mustered courage to apprehend the occurrance, it’s protagonist had vanished, leaving John with nothing more than the notion of intrusion against which to measure all indifference.
 
The nurse returned the following day to administer a course of physiotherapy, bending down over John’s supine body with a number of instruments peculiar to the surgical profession, a gauntlet of tools with which she proposed to effect the restoration of circulation about Minter’s dormant limbs.
 
“Did you return back here last night?” said John conversationally as the nurse tested his reflexes.
 
“No”, replied the nurse, “Why do you ask?”
 
“Because there was someone moving around in the corridor at about eight o’clock last night”, answered John relaxing as the nurse took his pulse.
 
“Surely not”, said the nurse smiling amenably.
 
“Do you think that I am mad?” said John, mildly perturbed, “I tell you that I heard a man walking around the house last night, back and forth, back and forth, as though he were waiting for something”.
 
“Do you want me to fit new locks to the doors?” said the nurse attempting to ease her patient’s distress.
 
“No, no, of course not”, replied John, “it was probably a plaintiff come to call his debts”.
 
After, having completed her duties the nurse left and John ascended to the security of his chamber in prospect of retirement, a withdrawal from the rigors of therapeutic exhilaration and the novelties of exchange, however, upon crossing the room’s threshold, his attention was distracted by the absence of a number of garments from amongst it’s inventory, specifically an old trench coat to which he had become attached whilst working as a journalist throughout his younger years, an item that, despite protracted pursuit, failed to appreciate notice, eluding his investigation like a dishonored friend. 
 
John reached for the light switch to continue his search only to discover that the circuit was inoperative, it’s charge flickering impotently beneath his encouragement, it’s function severed from recourse, a circumstance which caused him considerable anxiety, baiting his suspicions with thoughts of burglary and nocturnal intercession, until, after some hours of pensive introspection, dawn finally broke over the horizon restoring a vestige of equilibrium to the night’s events.

In due time, the nurse who had been posted to care for Minter’s health returned accompanied by a member of the consortium which had latterly presumed control over his personal affairs. 
 
“There has been a break in”, began John as the two individuals sat to discuss business.
 
“A break in?” said the nurse affecting an air of concern “was anything stolen?”
 
“Some old clothes”, replied John, “nothing of value”. 
 
“Someone who shares your dress sense”, mused the nurse humouring her patient, “at least you are still alive”.

“I am serious” replied John detecting an air of disparagement in the nurse’s voice, “someone has removed items of clothing from my wardrobe.

“Perhaps it was a cuckoo”, laughed the nurse bending over to check Minter’s pulse. 
 
“A cuckoo”, said John perturbed. 
 
“It is not beyond the realm of possibility” replied the nurse, “you are a successful man, there are people who would be willing to impersonate you”.

“I don’t like it” said John gruffly.

“Did you call the police?” enquired the nurse intrigued. 
 
“No”, answered John, “the power supply has been severed”.
 
“Severed?” Said the nurse testing the light to find it operational, “it seems alright”.
 
“That’s strange”, muttered John trying the switch only to confirm that it was fully functional.
 
“You are delusional”, said the nurse, “do you wish for me to call the police on your behalf?”
 
“No”, replied John mildly unnerved,”don’t bother, I will do that later”.
 
There was a moments silence as the two intermediaries sifted through a list of Minter’s credentials, before the nurse’s colleague finally spoke,

“There appears to be a slight discrepency in your accounts”, he said drawing a document from the morass of paperwork which had been deposited upon the table in the wake of their arrival “a series of records claiming that you have been involved in military activity, a period of service uncorroborated by subsequent catalogue”. 
 
“Are you sure?” Replied John bemused. 
 
“I would not raise issue if it were otherwise”, continued the nurse’s associate, pausing momentarily to collate evidence, “apparently you were once a rank Corporal in the British army, a designation revoked for reasons which remain hitherto unexplained”.
 
“Surely not”, replied John incredulously.
 
“You disagree with the implication?” Said the intermediary brusquely.
 
“Of course”, replied John, “I do not even know what a Corporal is”. 
 
The intermediary paused softening his manner, “That’s strange, the memorandum states that you were discharged from service”.
 
“I have never been anything more than a writer”, replied John shrugging, “a pacifist not an oppressor, dissidence and devilry play no part in my affairs, military matters are beyond my understanding”. 
 
“Mmmm”, said the intermediary, making a note in a small pocket book, “a misunderstanding… Clearly your integrity has been undermined. Not to worry, the misnomer will hardly break the bank”. 
 
The two left shortly afterwards to attend matters elsewhere, leaving John with a number of documents to sign, a declaration of his uninvolvement in military affairs, and, after some hours of protracted inconsequence, dusk reaped dominion over the horizon, veiling the exchanges of diurnal chatter with serene indifference.

As night set in John was disturbed by the same pacing sound that had previously distracted his attention, it’s meter measuring scuff at the rear of his house, the rythm of footsteps being drawn heavily across carpet, a noise clearly perceptible in the silence which had descended about the property. 
 
John rose to address the source of the intrusion, arming himself with a heavy torch to deter any phantom that should decide to cross his path, cautiously descending the building’s stairs and entering the corridor which dissected it’s structure, discerning the source of the disturbance after some moments of scrutiny, a figure seated innocuously upon the flank of a couch, it’s aspect concealed by the shadows which served to obscure the building’s innards.
 
“Who are you?” Said John attempting to distinguish the presence from amongst the confines of the chamber, an enquiry which went unanswered, the figure remaining seated silently before him as though to excuse it’s circumstance with mute implaceability.
 
“Who are you?” Repeated John vainly attempting to distinguish the apparition’s features from amongst the folds of clothing in which it was swathed, an enquiry that, as before, elicited nothing more than a sigh of incomprehension as though the issue had never been raised,

John made forth to accost the figure, deftly flicking his torch alive and directing it into the chamber. a motion which, in flooding the room with light, revealed that the interloper was garbed in the old trench coat that had been removed from the building’s upper chamber some nights before, a guise which, in inspiring a pang of fear in the pit of John’s stomach, served to obscure the intruder’s face.

After some moments of fevered indecision John advanced to apprehend the stranger, intent upon exposing his identity, however as he did so the intruder rose and hurriedly made towards the room’s doorway in an effort to escape through the rear of the house, a directive that, in discouraging physical apprehension, caused John to move aside.

Suddenly conscious of his own vulnerability in the familiar confines of the benighted residence, John reached down to claim a poker from his fireplace, an instrument that, in possessing a fine heft, could be used as a weapon in the instance of dispute, and, armed in this manner, proceeded, to assail the intruder, bringing the article in his hand to bear with a deft stroke and forcefully striking the stranger about the head, an assault that, despite impropriety, found true with surprising precision, knocking the intruder unconscious to the floor.

Issuing a small prayer, John knelt down to unveil the individual that then lay dormant at his feet, a figure of immediately unexceptional persuasion, it’s aspect still shrouded by the old trench coat, a garment that, when drawn back to disclose it’s complement, would have betokened redress, for the features that lay exposed beneath John Minter’s scrutiny were none other than his own.