So I made my biannual appearance at the DVLA office today. Got stung to the tune of seventy quid, all for the pleasure of using their highways every once in a while (I’m a fan of public transport. I write a lot in the train, but that’s another blogpost). I mean, isn’t thirty-three percent of my meagre artist wages enough for these people? Or the rates I pay on my house, the VAT on my store receipts? Dick Turpin wore a mask. Adam Ant had a catchy lyric. DVLA have printed tickets with numbers and a robotic Englishman reciting the same invitation over and over and mutha-feckin’ over again (Could ticket number four million and one please got to counter number…).
Is this why I write apocalyptic horror?
Is this why you read it?
Probably not. Mind you, for all its drawbacks (of which I admit there are many) an apocalypse certainly frees us from bureaucracy. At least in the short-term. In fact, an apocalypse in its most severe sense presses RESET on any admin we do or have done to us, whether it’s our bank accounts, car loans or tax records. In the event of that pesky asteroid shower, plague of zombies or nuclear meltdown, you can be pretty damn sure you’ll never need to worry about whether the car you’ve jacked is MOT compliant or not.
I write about the apocalypse because it brings our humanity to the boil. It looks at how we measure up, for better as well as for worse. The characters in my stories are often ordinary everyday people who find themselves, first and foremost, cowering in the shadows when the doop-doop hits the fan. There’s no square-jawed heroics, that’s for sure.
But it’s not all bad. There were a few smiles in the DVLA office: the usual witty exchange with the security guard (a sense of humour must be essential criteria for his job), two old fellows sharing a warm handshake, having run into each other for the first time in years, a baby playing ga-ga with its mother. And the same would be true of an apocalypse: stripped of all the admin, all the programming which dulls our senses or those little nerve endings, those little sparks in our brains that differentiate PLEASURE from PAIN, someone might surprise us. Someone might place greater value in the simple pleasures of life: a can of beer, a packet of smokes, a quick fumble in the hay. A kiss. A touch. Words we really needed to hear. Tenderness we never thought them capable of.
All that from paying car tax. I should really just dry my eyes.
(Wayne’s apocalyptic horror, FLU is available now from all good book stores. Visit Wayne online at http://www.waynesimmons.org) .