Mr Volinov is the first of my Tales of the Strange and Grim, my debut collection of dark short stories. It’s available now on Amazon as a Kindle e-book, and is free to borrow from the lending library for members of Amazon Prime.
In the world in a country in a city in the park old Sergei Volinov was drinking juice. Not just any juice in fact but Doctor Waltzfelder Armorgrade’s Patented Day-Glo Vitality Hyperjuice, the elixir for those without a spark in their plug. He’d sold his house to buy it, because Mr Volinov wanted to be liked again. He didn’t want to be lonely. He wanted to be young and hungry, to get away with what was passing for fashion. He wanted veins on fire and eyes wide open to own the waterblue sky in a glance. Body on fire and hands wide open to enrapture a woman and get in her pants.
The world had gone alien. Marriage and family and a hard day’s work, nothing but dusty relics. Seemed now like the young just slept around and danced ‘til they were sore, drinking electric-coloured drinks. He wanted to be young again, and he wanted all that and all that.
His body was alien too: it was once a strong body with arms like iron, with a hardness and a purpose to match. But the world had gone soft around him. The hunt had melted away into mist. There was nothing left to fight or drink or die for. These days, people only did things for the damn sake of it. His life of strength and purpose had aged and withered and flaccidated into an infantile sequence of mind-numbing events: being stared at by the stupefying, unblinking eye of Television; pottering halfway through the park but having to get back for the man with the meals on wheels; sitting down to a kingly feast of clammy-cardboard steak in dogfood gravy, served on a plastic tray. Sometimes he’d catch the bus into town to share a piss-stained tea morning with the elderlies before nap time. But Mr. Volinov wasn’t an elderly, not him. His brain was too fast and formidable for his bones. The mind was willing; it was the flesh that failed him. He was a thunderstorm locked in a coffin.
Hence: in the world in a country in a city in the park old Sergei Volinov was drinking juice. Not just any juice in fact but Doctor Waltzfelder Armorgrade’s Patented Day-Glo Vitality Hyperjuice, the elixir for those without a spark in their plug. And know what? The damn stuff worked.
He felt an oncoming hardness and vitality of fibrous monolithity in his arms and legs and chest and back and dick. His cloudy cataracts clattered to a timely shatter. Some young, euphoric angel threw a secret brick of cosmos through the window in his mind, a shit-smeared windscreen that was no more. His blue eyes stared and burned and glared afresh like pools of flaming gasoline. His crawling cobweb-clouded mind blew clean away on the gust of youth. Life and light flooded in like a torrent on the rainbow-creamy winds of a flower-scented, wild demented technicolour blitzkrieg.
He stood up from the park bench and scattered the crowded cooing pigeons with an athletic kick. He ran to the pond like a giddy child, fell to his knees and stared into the dirty water. Peering back at him in the reflection, a handsome young man, etched in a scummier tint of sepia tone, the same face in the ancient age-bitten photograph in his wallet.
The world wasn’t old any more. No more dusty decrepit grey vagueness of a grim misunderstanding with age. He walked through town, pulled his pension from his pocket and blew it on new clothes. He saw the world like a newborn baby and walked it with a young man’s body. Life was a multi-tonal fizzy meltitude of candy stripes and names and types and pouting women, a bright happening pool for the swimming. Job centre. Bank balance. Crunching fistful of money. Friday night. Fast car, loud bar. Pub, club, electric-coloured drinks. No chat-up lines, just an age-old wealth in charisma. Arm stroked, ego stroked and no more sleep ‘til ten a.m. A young woman’s lips and breasts and hips and ‘you’re not like other men’. Screams of delight. A sea of life in the night.
Hangover, my old friend. Mr Volinov relished it, the sickness and the guiltlessness and the unforgiving battered head. A sprint down to the shops for eggs and fresh-baked bread. Saturday morning: the time to stop, take stock and feel the aftershock. Saturday morning, for peaceful deathly rest in the bachelor nest. To regret and forget, to count the purse. To nourish the body, to nurse and coerce.
Saturday night had never seen a thing like Volinov. Bouncers bowed before him, their breast pockets fat with his cash. He prowled through pillared palatial clubs. Charmed his fast friends and stood amongst them like a suited statue, a Baroque demonic masterpiece. He whispered honeyed oak into ears hung with diamonds, drew wedding-day smiles from angels in black silk. In a cloud-cloaked tower in a penthouse suite, Aphrodite herself shrugged off her dress with a smile. His stone arms took her. Her screams shook the windows. When she sighed and shuddered and her wide green eyes searched his, and she bared her very soul, he devoured it.
Later that night in the booze-stench bars he brawled and bellowed with a bellyful of beer. He drank his new friends under tables. His new enemies, he punched and kicked and gripped and bit and gouged into the dirt. He staggered and stumbled and slammed the bar, a Norse god made of chiselled wood in a torn and bloodied shirt. He sung a thunderous song to his new lady love who slept in her tower, showed everyone her pictures on the new phone he couldn’t use. The laughing faces around him said he’d bedded a movie star. One man came forward and said just what he’d do to her. Volinov stopped smiling. Then the man spoke of another goddess, another evening-star who burned brighter than his. Volinov took him outside, beat him into a heap in a piss-puddled doorway, and pub-crawled his way back home.
Sunday morning. Mr. Volinov woke up, sat up, got up, chucked up, sparked up, sparked out, woke up, cleaned up, went out, spent out and fried up. He pissed out the booze. Shower, coffee, press-ups, coughing. Opened the window. Let a gust of life sweep through this old house, he thought. The house he’d sold for another taste of youth. He’d already signed on the dotted line and now his life sat around in boxes, waiting to be moved to who-knew-where. He hadn’t thought about where he’d live, but why worry? He was young again. He could sleep on park benches, start life from scratch. The sun seared in the glaring waterblue sky. A cool breeze ushered in the breath of Light and Life. It was all happening out there. The world was rich and vast and happening. Life was ripe for the plucking, the sucking, the fucking and the chucking. No more sitting by the window in a dust-smelling grump. No more grandfather clock to count his life away. No more sniffing at vintage wisps of her long-gone perfume, so different to Aphrodite’s. No more his sole ambition to make the world understand he didn’t like it. Kids played football in the street. No longer did he want to shoot them with his air rifle. May they play and grow, grow up and play, he thought, drunk on life ‘til their Headache Judgement on Hangover Day.
Grinning, he looked in the bathroom mirror. Wiped the dust and grime to a dazzling shimmer. Peering back at him, a bitter old man, etched as if in a super-accurate hundred-thousand-megapixel picture, the same face as the newish passport photograph in his wallet. Sometimes the hyperjuice didn’t last, they’d said. Most times it did, but not always, they’d said. Sometimes the genes didn’t take it too well. It was a gamble, they’d said. He knew the risks, he’d replied. Life was a gamble anyway, he’d said. He signed their dotted line too, handing over his house and every penny for another shot at youth. It hadn’t lasted. Saddened of a sudden, Mr Volinov sighed into the sink. Bawled into the bath. Screamed and raged and blubbered and boiled and biled, and riled and wrankled at his aching ankles and wrinkles. He grabbed his coat and stormed out the door in a fit of shouting and coughing, checked and cheated and locked once more, like a thunderstorm in a coffin.
In the world in a country in a city in the park old Sergei Volinov was broke, and searching the bins for a bottle of juice. Not just any juice in fact but Doctor Waltzfelder Armorgrade’s Patented Day-Glo Vitality Hyperjuice, the elixir for those without a spark in their plug. Maybe there were some drops left in the bottle. Maybe, second time round, the changes would last. He wanted veins on fire and eyes wide open to own the waterblue sky in a glance. Body on fire and hands wide open to hold Aphrodite and get in her pants. While youthfully yawning early this morning, all around him and all of a sudden, the world had gone alien. In the park in some city in some country in the world, a man who looked like a filthy old tramp was ratching through a bin.