A shameless rip-off of a hit TV programme, all in the interest of taking cruel and unnecessary jabs at Audley Harrison.
I don't know why I wrote this, other than because it amused me to do so and I needed a reason to stay out the pub. I hope you enjoy it and if you don’t then you’re a stupid face and your opinion is stupid too.
Note - I realised after writing this that it could be taken as disrespectful and insensitive to the plight of Mago and other seriously injured fighters. I can only promise that this wasn't the intention and the only people I meant to disrespect are mentioned by name (and Holly Willoughby's only in there because she refuses to rescind that restraining order).
It was the end of humanity. All the greatest monuments we have ever erected had been torn down and any decent things we had concealed within ourselves had been ripped out. A clawed hand, a heinous, bloody talon had reached down mankind’s throat, wrapped itself around whatever it was that sparkled, whatever tiny fragment of light that we had inside, and pulled. Our species and our world lay in darkness.
The sunlight though, which gives little thought to narrative compliance, shone as brightly as ever and bounced off 3 walls, a water jug and the screen of a dormant television before igniting a flame within Audley Harrison’s crusted eyelids.
Every part of him hurt. His legs and ribs and shoulders and neck let out a low murmur of discontent. His funny bones were distinctly unamused. His jaw and his skull tried desperately to out-scream each other as he scratched his brain (metaphorically) to remember (literally) the cause of this cacophony (metaphor) of pain (literal).
With a grunt and a curse, he opened his eyes.
Audley Harrison had spent a larger than average portion of his life in hospital rooms. A combination of a career in which large men punched him in the face, and a healthily adverse disposition towards being punched in the face by large men had led to him being all too familiar with waking up in a sea of disinfectant and paper curtains. And yet he was still nagged by a feeling that this time was different. As his whole universe was filled with the yelling and hollering of a thousand different agonies, one whisper made itself heard.
To the right of Audley’s metal bed frame, pushed at an angle into the wall, was a standard issue NHS dinner tray on wheels. Strewn across it were the usual hospital accoutrements; an uneaten shepherd’s pie, a crossword book with all of 3 answers filled in each puzzle and a well-thumbed woman’s magazine (that is, the magazine was well thumbed, not the woman). He reached across, ignoring the protests in his shoulder, and wrapped his fingers around it.
Sitting back, with his nose deep inside the woman’s magazine, (it smelled well-used, but not unpleasant) he scanned from one story to another, embedding himself back into the world of the living, conscious human, as only god-awful faux-journalism can. It seemed nothing had changed in his slumber. Holly Willoughby was still pregnant. Justin Beiber was still a cock. Kim Jong Un was still the defending Olympic triple jump champion. Nothing he saw gave him any clue; nothing would quieten the voice that told him all was not well.
To one side, he softly lay down the woman’s magazine (leaving one finger inside so he wouldn't lose his place) he looked to the ceiling for an answer. Audley Harrison had spent most of the second half of his career either falling down or walking up and still he had something telling him, a crescendo building somewhere deep inside, that this was not just any old run of the mill bout of sudden unconsciousness. A tapping sound invaded his thoughts. The staccato rapping of a sparrow’s beak on the other side of the window pain.
And then Audley remembered.
He had been washing his car on a warm summers evening. A pleasant, cooling breeze at his back he lazily pulled a soapy sponge from one side of his Bentley’s bonnet to the other. A patch of rust remained at the top of his front left wheel arch. Audley had tried pawing away with his wet, dripping right hand, convinced he could get the job done despite clear evidence to the contrary. He had smiled, fully contented under a reddening sky, wrapped in a cosy blanket of self-assured inattentiveness. Standing up to stretch his back, his gaze had drifted to the telephone line draped between pylons on the other side of the street. The entire length of wire was coated in tiny black birds all chattering, whistling, and thinking about whatever it is that sparrows think about. All but one. Just one bird, almost hidden in the mass of his brethren, was giving Audley the sternest look he had ever seen.
Suddenly, Audley felt very woozy. He had kept himself in great condition and prided himself in his fantastically well-honed skills in the art of self-defence but he just hadn’t prepared for this. Nobody could have predicted he would get this stern a look from this formidable a sparrow.
The sponge had dropped unceremoniously from his fingers, a small gasp of horror and disbelief had escaped his lips, and the floor rushed up to meet him.
As the light dull white light and chemically hygienic smells of the hospital room re-established his world, Audley looked back at the woman’s magazine (he hadn't done the job properly the first time, so it was only right to try again) and saw the issue date in the top left corner.
It said October 2019.