Found in the ruins
Trevor was a hard worker, but his behaviour was eccentric to the point of being reckless. He would keep a bottle of ‘magic solvent’ under his desk, and if a batch of resin had been produced at the wrong viscosity then the addition of a few drops of this stuff would bring it into specification so that the production cards could be signed off.
The faulty material could then be shipped off to customers around the world who would use it to manufacture their own products which would in turn suffer from compromised performance and stability.
When the resin plant caught fire in 2003 we had to evacuate the factory and pay hefty compensation to the nearby residents whose cars had been damaged by the fumes.
While clearing the debris, we found the Quality Control book – a hardback A4 notebook with red-and-black covers, used to record the technical results from each batch. Trevor was on duty in the plant for two days each week. The job of QC resin technician involved long stretches of boredom, and he had responded to these by doodling in the book – at first in the margins, then later taking up whole pages at intervals through the book.
Most of the images were simple, crude sketches of cars, houses, and female nudes; but then we arrived at a series of pictures which all included the circular stain from a coffee-mug. He had etched an outline round the ring, and transformed it into planet with a ring system. Another sketch had a rubbing of an Arabic coin at the centre of the brown disc, from whose edges radiated long narrow stalks with eyeballs. And the last one was a kind of mandala, with squares resting inside circles all converging on the Sanskrit symbol ‘Aum’. The stylised ringed-planet pictures were scattered a dozen times over the page, with twisted snakes joining them to form regular hexagons. We later discovered that this was supposed to represent the structure of LSD.
Around the edges of the circles he had drawn alchemical symbols and the zodiac signs together with some assorted hieroglyphics.
And then, around the whole page, with some words in capitals, and some in mirror-writing, he had inscribed the following text:
[“QUOTE”] “So anyway, like yesterday I went to a job interview and it was like totally groovy and just a sort of informal chat, y’know, about like what I did in my spare time and what was my favourite chewing gun flavour (yeah, I just so cannot believe they already heard of Southern Comfort xylose-free!) and anyway, at the end they said:
‘Right, just gonna let you do a couple of little test routines here’ and they sit me in front of this computer (OMG I thought, what kind of scuzzy chav bitch has been using this keyboard before me, I might catch something awful from this spacebar and die writhing in agony on the floor of the number 67 bus) but anyway, I bravely took the plunge and began answering the questions on screen. And it kept saying, like, ‘Which of these words is most like you? And which is least like you?’ and I just wanna scream that all of these words describe my personality cos I just lurch from one psychotic interlude to another, and I thought I can’t answer these stupid idiotic questions without killing someone and if I don’t get a drink in the next 15 minutes for god’s sake someone is gonna pay big time!
So anyway, I splurge through the moron-o-meter questionnaire hitting keys at random, trying not to fall asleep, and then when I’ve finished and I think ‘Great, I can go out now and get smashed to recover from this ordeal’ when bozo-man staggers back into the room armed with some pretty coloured tiles and says he wants me to arrange them into the correct sequence. Like, I just roll my eyes at this, cos he’s obviously got some kind of disorder – probably a neurological condition caused when a mercury thermometer snapped inside his urethra during a spasm of erotic drama – and I look at these tiles and the colours are just so stupid, I mean:
What sort of drunk bag lady would even think of putting this stuff on her walls? One colour was like a dead alien corpse, grey-green vomit colour, while the other was a disgusting slimy bruised jockstrap colour. And there was a whole series of tiles gradually changing shade from one to the other, and the ones in between were even more hideous than the two at the ends which is like saying something and anyway, I couldn’t face any more so I walked – honey, even without the proper heels on, I mean Walked – straight on outta that god-forsaken hole and into a nearby pub where I made frantic efforts to delete the memory of the past two hours.
And then, OMG, they asked me if I understood anything about alkyd technology. ‘Yeah, don’t make me laugh, know about alkyds, right?’ They paused, a menacing neutral silence waiting for me to come adrift and slip over the edge of the path, into the mud along with the dead rats and the broken bottles and the beer cans and the bitter memories of young men who walked out of theology studies before they could hear the magic word that would catapult them into the maelstrom of permanent success. ‘Alkyds? Listen to this – you’ve got all these little molecules, right, and then they react with oxygen in the air and then they react with little blobs of blue cobalt – or is it cobalt blue? – anyway, they get gently knitted together into a lovely undulating fabric.
But then, the little knitterings carry on, so that even after the paint has completely hardened, the tiny objects swarm here and there like the nanoscopic weevils that scoured away the robot and the people and the cars and the buildings in the remake version of The Day The Earth Stood Still. So over the lifetime of the object, the coating will continue to perish gently, and become tarnished by the rolling grains of time. Some units of the resin matrix will be joined together, while other segments will be cut loose and render the material more prone to fire.” [“UNKWOAT”]