Summertime, and those last few days of school term left before we broke up for the holidays. Weeker time. Even kids that hated each other always reconciled, however temporarily, when this time of year came round.
That last week, Teacher would bring us all into the assembly hall and put on Jaws or Transformers: The Movie or Star Wars on the big old Panasonic widescreen TV that sheâd roll in with the help of our weird old caretaker Mr Henderson.
I thought that Mr Henderson were weird because Mr Henderson used to stand and lick (and sometimes sniff) the palms of his hands while staring hornily at me and my playfellows. Around his neck he wore a little vial which contained the ashes of his long dead old wife. Now and again heâd open this vial and take a sniff of these ashes also.
It were said that Mr Henderson, a few years ago in the school he used to work at, told a little girl that if she were to put her hand in the pocket of his workman overalls sheâd find a sleepy snake he kept in there. He told her that if she tickled his belly heâd wake up and do a big hard stretch, and as he were so happy at being tickled awake, lots and lots of sweets would rain from the sky. I remember thinking, when I heard this, that any child over the age of 4 should be not only molested but hanged for believing a story like this.
Anyway, Mr Henderson were not put in jail for this crime, and after doing some street sweeping and things like that for a few months as way of punishment, the law said he were allowed to go back and work in schools again. I remember one of the angry man Teachers said it were all the fault of the Tories, that. It were like putting a proven carnivore in amongst the lambs, he said. Whatever.
It were the day Teacher had put Jaws on that I noticed Mr Henderson staring at Brian Olivierâs legs. He were licking the palms of his hands and smelling them, crinkling his nose up and jerking his head ever so slightly to the left, sort of like youâd do if youâd just taken a quick sniff of fresh new dogsâ shite and recoiled. He had deep yellow stains on his overalls, and I checked to see if there were any bulges in the fabric, if his big, dirty old member were stiffening in hopeless anticipation. It were peculiar to note, taking a gander myself, that Brianâs leg skin, and exposed skin in general, was emitting a brilliant, bright and unmistakable…sheen…in the bright June sunshine percolating through the tatty assembly hall curtains. It give him the appearance of being made out of latex or general old action figure plastic. Like heâd just been taken out of the box.
Brian was a little twat. A master of trivia and how to do algebra, Teacher thought he were a wonder and model future citizen. So I took with great relish the new and strange-feeling intuition I had when it occurred to me that, somehow, Brian would never to return after the summer holidays.
As I told my friend Bob Rose, âBrain will get cancer!â
And isnât it the bomb!? After the holidays, us all gathered in the assembly hall for Teacherâs back-to-school speech, Brianâs ma takes the lectern instead and tells us Brian died over the summer. Leukaemia…!
After, in the playground for elevenses, Bob Rose told all our mutual playfellows what I had predicted. I expected wonder and not a little fear. To be lauded and graciously handed lunch money and the toys of othersâ to play with.
Not a bit of it.
It wasnât till I predicted that Deidre (from popular TV soap opera Coronation Street) would get cancer – an intuition prompted by the increasingly bulging sinews of her C-3P0 neck – did the crazies in The Unit (at least) take a shine to me. Turned out a lot of them were big fans of the show.
The Unit were a class for spogs, segregated from the regular kids by the Teachers due to their violent and sometimes sexually suggestive behaviour. There was âScattâ, who in P7, while being ferried to school by an Education Board commissioned taxi, stabbed the driver in the neck with a compass. After that theyâd to insert a cage to divide the front and back seats. Then there was Danger Mouse, whose main claim to fame were repeatedly, over a course of weeks, attempting to make one of the girl spogs pregnant by forcing her to let him stick his dick in her bellybutton. It were this and his steadfast, primordial refusal to learn how to read and write that made him the most hated spog amongst all the Teachers, even the sound ones. Then finally, among so many other forgotten ones, there were frightened little Billy, trembling and shy, and he were the first one anointed by me in my capacity as a prophet, and I called him âTrembling Billyâ.
And so he and the rest of them, they became my first people, my chosen ones, like the tribes of Israel weâd been learning about in Divinity. But that wasnât it; I wanted the whole of the school, every soul encaged, rapturously, by my strange and beautiful powers. So I set Bob Rose to work, spreading the Coronation Street Deidre- cancer-prophecy about the rest of the school population…then it happened. A month or so later she appears on the front of The Sun with her best gurn-bake on and talking about only having months to live. I went supernova…
Like a triumphant king returning to his subjects having won a bloody war, I was feted wherever I went. Even kids from the neighbouring schools came to get a look at me â The Prophet of Paddington Primary, some being dragged along by their elderly grandparents who too had heard of and bought into my powers, and who brought with them fistfuls of lollies that theyâd stolen from the local dentistsâ surgeries in honour of me.
I did a little book swotting on prophets of old, deciding Rasputin was my Top of the Pops. I dressed and went about as he did; stopping getting washed so Iâd smell of shite as he did. I stopped wearing school uniform, instead coming in in an old moth-eaten brown housecoat.
Finally Teacher had had enough one day and sent me home. She said, âBeing a prophet does not preclude you from wearing school uniform, Daniel Pongo! Why, some of your playfellows think youâve upped and joined The Unit!â The fromage frais flaps sphincter nugget; the bastarding bitch!
But my status as prophet did not diminish when I returned in proper school uniform. In fact it give me greater access to the rest of the school in spreading my missionary, especially to the straggling non-believers who before had seen me as some aloof and filthy mystic. Now I dressed as they did, and appeared the same. It wasnât long till I had the mind of every child held in the palm of my hand, just as I had wanted. I walked among them all, my flock, one of them yet far apart, with powers of prophecy they hitherto believed only existed in Sunday School fairytales.
In the following weeks I officiated over two cute little playground weddings, first between a P5 couple and then a P3 couple. Many asked me to tell their fortunes, including a couple of the Teachers.
Then, after Trembling Billy had had a seizure, I declared that I would perform an exorcism on him, a magickal ceremony that would, I claimed, rid him of the devilry that had possessed him. I made a big production of it, slapping his face and tearing out big clumps of my own hair. I contorted my face so it resembled a medieval gargoyle and screamed out with an evil high-pitched voice (having sucked up a helium balloon first, before starting my divine task). Then, when Trembling Billy pissed himself, and then started having another seizure, everyone (myself included) reacted with shock and panic, prompting me to declare it as a sign the evil spirits were leaving his body. With authority I ordered the hard-nut Unit spogs, my Elite Guard as Iâd come to call them, to jump up and down in the pool of dark yellow piss so as to make sure the discarnate spirits couldnât possess anyone else. Afterward, after the ambulance men came and took Trembling Billy away, everyone were truly amazed…and truly worshipful. Were my shoelace to come undone, say, Iâd hardly have time to notice it before some boy or girl were at my feet, tying it for me.
Though, while the coolest kids in school were all scrambling for my attention, I still remained close to my Unit vassals â my first people. It were one part vanity two parts their obedience and gullibility, I suppose.
It were being in their company so often that allowed me to observe how much dirty old Mr Henderson hung about them. It were maybe he knew that The Unit spogs didnât matter; that their complaints of his strange advances would be ignored. Now, say it were it a little fucker like Brian Olivier making complaints – Teacher herself wouldâve called for him to be hanged. As it were, the Teachers probably wished The Unit spogs dead, and that Mr Henderson would be the one to kill them…two birds, one stone and all that.
So while I could depend on The Unitâs 100% loyalty, I still didnât like the apparent hold Mr Henderson had over them. He stood right in amongst them, mesmerizing them all with the little vial full of his dead wifeâs ashes. Now and again he let the odd spog sniff them as he did. He appeared to me as like a black hole surrounded by fiery, raging, volatile stars, ferocious bodies all pacified, one by one, in the face his murky vortex. But the one Mr Henderson had set most firmly in his sights were Trembling Billy, – the most peaceable and therefore the softest target of all The Unitâs forgotten children – the weakest of a weak minded bunch, but, unlike the rest, weak too in the body and in the spirit.
A year had nearly passed since I had first declared myself as the Prophet of Paddington Primary. My surveillance of Mr Henderson continued unabated, and it were as if a mutual awareness had arisen between us. I watching him, and he, in watching me watch him, having a go at frightening me with his sinister, kinky leering. What I noticed most of all though were the keenness in his sniffing about Trembling Billy, loading him up as he did with sweets and comics, gifts that only made his life worse when the stronger spogs beat him up then stole these things. Yet a change in Trembling Billy were occurring; something beyond the beatings from the spogs or the belittlement by the Teachers. It were something unseen, yet glaringly there in its absence, it were something that were gone in him and were not coming back. His soul has been razed, but oh, so gradually. And always by his side that Mr Henderson, that dirty old bastard, reserving the bonbons and football cards just for him. A grinning balefulness clouded all the way around Trembling Billy then, so it got that what could formerly have been seen wanting in him went unseen, even by me…
It were the first real hot day of the year. By now Trembling Billy were like a ghost in the snow. He occupied, bodily, the space he stood in, but that were all. On this day, and to my shame, I too took advantage of him. It were an act of ultra-lazy complacency, a regality borne out of the type of power only the Cult of Personality can grant you. What were, at the time, a little thing, a gross indulging in convenience at best, near brought my end. They say that it were down to rumours that they decided to assassinate my hero Rasputin, well, from little acorns, as it goes…and just like Rasputin, my little acorns were the seeds that sowed my downfall.
I were lounging under a big fairy tree, out in the fields behind the school, thinking of my prophecies and the people I would touch with them. All around my little Unit disciples ran and frolicked, with Trembling Billy uncommonly conspicuous that day by his being in the middle of things, the other spogs pushing him from one to the other and spitting on him. Feeling tired after trying to muster a vision, I put my hand down my trousers and decided to start touching myself, one of those early, enchanting forays into the Everlasting Gobstopper world of masturbation. When I were done I were really, totally knackered then, but more than that I had the overwhelming need to take a slash. I looked down toward the school, feeling downhearted at how far away it seemed and how hot the high summer sun was. I knew I couldnât go openly, behind the fairy tree say, as some of the girl spogs screeched like hyenas at even the mention of the word âwillyâ, something that were sure to attract the attention of the Teachers. Though I wasnât going to go there anyway, even if it were the only hiding place around, as I didnât want the smell of piss lingering when I sat back down to prophesy once more. Yet I needed to go so bad, but was so lazy I couldnât muster even the dimmest spark of energy. Still, I refused to allow myself to plumb the depths I had in years previous when I just let myself go down my leg.
So, after some brainstorming, I gathered The Unit around me and told them to go into the woods a few fields away to find me a wild rabbit to sacrifice. I ordered them all to go…all but Trembling Billy.
When theyâd gone I took him behind the tree and pointed to a spot just in front of me. Â âKneel before me…kneel before your prophet and Grand Master, Danny Pongo, Trembling Billy…â I said. Like a Project Monarch* sex-slave, Billy dropped to his knees and went to open his mouth.
âNot yet, young thing,â I told him, slightly perturbed by his overt sexual nous. âNow I will urinate in your mouth. You must not swallow. You must run down to the school and spit it into a toilet…â Trembling Billy nodded obediently and opened his mouth once more. I inserted my flaccid, aching member in there, stinging inside, all along the piss pipe, from holding it in so long. I drained my little spuds into the dead-eyed head of him then, and it felt real good, with his tight, shallow little mouth so sticky and warm around my thing. I imagined this was how it felt like giving a dry anal to bum bleed.
When I were done I took a good look around to make sure nobody had spotted me. Thatâs when I saw him, his seedy face tucked in between some gorse bushes at the far end of the neighbouring field. Mr Henderson, that dirty old bastard. He rose up then, sniffing his vial of ashes and smiling at me imperiously.
Urgently I told Trembling Billy, âNow run as fast as your legs will carry you down to that school, and donât stop till you get to the toilets. Then spit the pee into a sink or bog or whatever. And if you tell anybody I did this Iâll chain you to a radiator and burn your family alive in front of your very eyes!â
Trembling Billy, his cheeks bulging with my piss, nodded and rose immediately, taking off toward the school. I took a look back at Mr Henderson and showed him the one-finger. He stood there like a shiftless golem, sniffing and sniffing those ashes, but I were still not afraid of him.
I returned then to my fairy tree and some unquantifiable yet blissful time spent prophesying to myself had passed when I then heard my name bellowing from the school bullhorn. It were the voice of Teacher, her crone squawking reverberating through the fields and the hills all around.
âDaniel Pongo! Return to school at once! The police are on their way…â
With great haste I ran and called The Unit out of the woods. When I had them gathered around me I fed them a cracker.
âThe powers of evil have amassed at the school. They want me to stop my ministry and take you all away forever. We will not have it! Advance toward the school and attack wildly any teachers or police you encounter.â
They turned and ran schoolward, while I checked to see where Mr Henderson was, which was still among the gorse bushes, only now heâd his arm raised, beckoning me over toward him. I summed up my options: surrender to the forces railed against me, or go off and find refuge with a nonce. The latter option at least give me a hope, however slight, that if I could escape his clutches I might escape all this intact. So I surrendered myself to the gods and headed in his direction, and as I went I swore that I would, in a cruel and deadly act of vengeance for his presumed squealing, murder everybody, from the pet goldfish up, which belonged to and was beloved by Trembling Billy.
On reaching him, Mr Henderson scooped me up under his big, muscular arm and carried me to his work shed. When inside, and after heâd locked the door, he put me down on his holey old sofa and switched on a dim, bare bulb hanging from the manky ceiling above. Finally he took a slim manila folder out of his desk drawer and sat down beside me with it. From the folder he produced many, many grim photos, all of them showing poor Trembling Billy in a series of revolting poses with himself, an Alsatian and various assorted hooded men in dark robes, – images so horrific and disturbing I canât even bring myself to describe them now, even after so many years have passed.
âI see we share a passion for a particular trembling little spog, Pongo!?â Said Mr Henderson, sniffing his palms.
âNot like this I donât!â I said, nodding at the photos. âYouâre a sick nonce. You know, were I to tell people what Iâve discovered here Iâll probably get immunity from the Teachers for what I done to Billy!â
A strange and ominous shift occurred in his aura then, and some sort of soothing, transcendental balm filled the atmosphere. He moved toward me grinning benignly, and I, for my part, sat motionless under his gaze. Then he pounced, grabbing me hard round the throat and bollocks and throwing me across the room against the opposite wall, near braining me. Quickly he put the photos back in the folder and tossed it into the little potbelly stove burner, glowing dimly in the corner of the dingy little shed. I lunged forward trying to stop him, but the pictures were all gone.
âYou were saying…â he said, the melting photos that nourished the fire reflected in his monstrous eyes.
Mr Hendersonâs grip were tight on the back of my neck on the way down the field. I imagined this was how he held Trembling Billy as he escorted him to whatever sick production he had arranged for him. I began to feel sorry for Billy then, and resolved to kill only him and not his family in revenge for his squealing. But then it came to me that I wouldnât need to kill even him, and another prophecy started to form in my mind.
Down in the playground The Unit had put up a strong but fruitless fight against the combined forces of the police and Teachers. Mr Henderson played the hero of the hour, saying heâd caught me just before Iâd got into the woods. Down at the station I were told that they were going to put me on some sort of juvenile watch-list of sex predators, but that I didnât have to worry about being charged with a proper crime as I were too young. Paddington Primary wrote a big deal formal letter to mother, informing her I were to be expelled due to practising Satanism and abusing Trembling Billy.
A few days later Bob Rose called round to mine to tell me whatâd happened.
âOne of the Teachers had stopped Billy in the hall, and noticing he were âthe colour of an unwashed carâ, told him to spit out what was in his mouth into her hands.â
âWould you fuckinâ credit it?!â
âI hope you wonât kill Billy now, Pongo? He was gonna do as you told him. It werenât his fault the Teacher intercepted him as she did.â
âYouâre right, brother…â
So after 3 weeks languishing at home I sat down and composed what were to be my final prophecy. In it I described the suicide of Trembling Billy and the subsequent arrest of Mr Henderson. The prophecy went in an envelope and that I sealed with wax. On the reverse I wrote:
THE PROPHECY HEREIN CONTAINS INFORMATION THAT SHOULD BE TREATED WITH THE UTMOST URGENCY. IF ACTION IS NOT TAKEN IT WILL COME TO PASS V.SOON…MR. HENDERSON IS EVIL â DANIEL PONGO.
Then I sent it to Paddington Primary. Unsurprisingly there were no word back.
Two months later I still hadnât found a school that would take me. Mother told me if I didnât get an education Iâd have to start earning a crust instead. So I went downtown and started hanging round the public toilets on Bradbury Place, ending up eventually turning tricks for old men Freemasons. One day, coming out onto the street after giving a masterful blowie, I spotted some of the shadier, more badly brought up kids from P7 coming along. They spotted me too and came over. They seemed keen to talk.
âTrembling Billy hung himself from the Jungle-Jim the other day, Pongo. Nobody knows what for.â One of them said.
âI know what for,â I said. âMr Hendersonâs been doing stuff to him. Mr Henderson will soon be arrested.â
The P7s were greatly taken with this, and I were chuffed to think I werenât only the talk of the older kids but the Teachers as well, now theyâd probably opened my prophecy.
One of the other P7s suggested I apply my powers beyond the playground and onto âthe streetâ, whatever that meant. But I declined, warning against the temptations of the world outside, the adult world, full of avarice and mendacity.
âDonât grow up too fast,â I warned them. âThey say the best years of your life are your school years…well believe them, for I know it to be true…and so will you all, one day…â
Though what I really knew to be true were that these were lies I spoke. That I were the grand architect of an entirely treacherous conceit, deceiving myself as much as anyone else.
A prophet? Pah!
Take the first prediction, shiny skinned twat-attack Brian Olivier â youâd to only look at him to see he wasnât long for this world. Iâd just chanced upon the leukaemia. Maybe the reason Mr Henderson were staring at him that day Teacher put on Jaws was because he knew that too, and were thinking how much heâd like to slice him before he kicked the bucket.
Ditto for Coronation Street Deidreâs sinewy neck, what looked like a droidâs with its wiring showing underneath. Anyone could tell she were for it, too.
Trembling Billyâs exorcism were a production, and the rest, like those words of wisdom to the P7s, just the reprocessed homespun wisdom of a million old women. Add into the mix a gift for weaving a crude turn of phrase, some well selected loaded words generously cast out upon the tic-tac-toe of The Unit spogsâ inner-minds, and you have all the constituents of a fraudulent, yet lordly, child-prophet.
At the end, critically, and when I thought it mattered most, I chose to maintain this guise. In believing I had, as I had always wanted, âthe whole of the school, every soul encaged, rapturously by my strange and beautiful powersâ, I composed my final prophecy in the hope that this, coupled with the urgency of my message on the envelope, would be the thing that saved Trembling Billy, my first anointed one, from the end of a noose. But mine were a tarnished commodity now, and nobody listened.
I realised then that this well-worn counsel to the P7s were to be my last – my last glib pronouncement and the end of my vague portents, too. For, as I said, the one thing, the only thing, I did know to be true were that from out of these lips of mine those words I left them with that day were the falsest I ever give voice to.
* âProject Monarch is a US Defence Department code name…of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Operation Artichoke…later becoming Project MK Ultra…Project Monarch is a genealogical approach to define…behavioral modification through trauma based psychological mind control.â
â Mark Philips, Operation Monarch