By Martin Hayes
It had been a weird couple of weeks and was showing no signs of getting any saner. Strange omens hung heavy on the air, the world seemed awash with messages which, if I could only divine their meaning, might surely reveal some profound and aeon-hidden truth; the Coriolis swirl in my toilet bowl took on immense and portentous significance.
It was only two days since I had seen a crow fly across a river with a large and perfectly-formed slice of pepperoni pizza hanging from its beak. I was pretty hungry at that exact moment, and I can now saw that I know in my heart what it feels like to be jealous of a crow. The previous Monday I had almost stepped in a dead and desiccated frog on my morning walk past Mad Dan Garvey’s farm. The pitiful amphibian looked as though it had finally been taken down – its broken body already stiff with mortis – from a tiny frog-sized crucifix. But who would crucify a frog? Who would even think of such a thing? A week before, a bizarre series of events had led to me being interviewed about modern horror for the Morning India newspaper, which was really great except for the fact that they misspelt my name “Heyes”. It wasn’t a big problem, it just added to the unusual feeling which I could not shake off. They did illustrate their article with the cover of my latest graphic novel, Abominable Glory (art by Chris Askham, cover art by Matt Soffe, lettering/design by Bram Meehan) so that was good.
There is a rare disorder of the metabolism known as Trimethylaminuria. A layperson like you would probably call it Smells Like Fish Disease. Now, I’m not saying that the gentleman who sat beside me on the 9.15 bus from Arklow to Dublin last Thursday suffered from that disorder, but I will say that he did have about him a definite and distinct aroma of the piscine. It wasn’t altogether overpowering, but as the minutes slipped by, and in such enclosed conditions, the odour seemed to permeate the very air molecules themselves. It was his jacket, I think. The arms were heavily soiled with a dark, greasy substance. Other than that he was quite respectably dressed. Surely, if you are about to take a one hour bus journey in the company of fifty or sixty fellow human beings, then the onus is on you not to smell a bit like a fish.
But I digress, I’m not sure why I brought this up at all.
I got off the bus at the top of Dawson Street, glad of the fresh and cooling air. A woman shouted “Give us back me bag a’cans” outside St. Ann’s Church, where Bram Stoker wed his one true love in 1878. It was too early for a pint in Kehoe’s so I headed straight over to Stephen’s Green to catch the tram out to Dundrum. I was on my way to Big Bang Comics to pick up my books. It’s only a ten minute journey on the LUAS green-line (an Irish tram system – pretty good as it goes, but the combination of sleek design and complete lack of planning or any kind of joined-up thinking gives the whole enterprise the feel of a public transport system from a failed state in the year 2065).
What kind of store is Big Bang Comics? It’s the kind of store that people don’t mind making a ten minute journey out to Dundrum to get to. It’s really that good. And it comes most highly recommended.
The evening passed by in a blur of nieces and nephews and beers and curries in my brother’s house. On Friday I awoke from dreams of being a door-to-door pen salesman to a most profound and debilitating hangover. I suffered and wandered all that day and in the evening found myself in deepest rural Kildare, in a pub called P.J.’s, where I almost got into a fight with a man over a tall barstool and a badly torn cushion. I met my old pal Ray and we drank until the sky grew very dark and the pub very quiet, and then the barman told us to go home to our wives. I don’t have a wife. I only vaguely have a home. I didn’t know what to do.
Saturday then, the second Mills-bomb-in-the-brain hangover in a row. I’m far too old for such hardship. My body grows weary, my spirit bereft of hope that this will ever one day cease. I woke in Ray’s spare bedroom at 8am. Lynn, his wife, kindly made me a cup of tea and no nectar every tasted so sweet. A quick shower and breakfast and we were on the train back into Dublin. We knew we were probably heading in the right direction when the Joker and Harley Quinn shuffled through the carriage in a futile quest for seats. Even psychotic villains have to stand between carriages sometimes.
Dublin Comic Con is held in the Convention Centre on the North Wall Quay, right by the Samuel Beckett bridge where the sun shone, having no alternative. It is a huge, ludicrous building. There is something about that childish, slanted façade that increases bile production by up to 75 per cent in any healthy human body. But it did not matter, for you couldn’t really see the building anyway – the throngs of people waiting to get inside all-but blocked it from view.
I was really only there to drop off some flyers to my editor, David Lloyd, who was busy sketching and signing on the second level of the convention centre. My next comic project is called Older Than the Hills and will be serialised in volume 18 of Lloyd’s digital comic Aces Weekly. It starts on September 7th and runs for seven weeks. It’s a weird little story about the English countryside and the creeping influence of ancient, unseen things. Chris Askham is on art, Bram Meehan on letters. The same crew I did Abominable Glory with, I’m very glad to say – for they are talented fellows, and gentlemen to boot.
I couldn’t stay at the con for very long, I had to go back into town to take care of some business before the inevitable late-night drinking session. But what I saw at the con on Saturday filled me with great hope for this strange industry in which we find ourselves. The building was packed, properly heaving with fans and cosplayers and children. “Busy” just doesn’t convey the size of those crowds.
In the evening we holed up in a pub across the river and, having missed the last bus home, my old mate Brian Showers of Dublin’s Swan River Press kindly let me sleep on his sofa. I conked out at around 3.30am and had to be up again at 7.30 to catch the early bus. My head was full of rusty barbed-wire and shrapnel as I made my way into town. The streets were still covered in the detritus of Saturday night and the whole place seemed surreally distant, a tetchy listless animal with eyes half-open but still not fully awake. The city was me. I was the city.
Martin Hayes is a writer from Ireland. His most recent comic work includes the graphic novels Abominable Glory (with artist Chris Askham) Aleister Crowley: Wandering the Waste (with artist RH Stewart) and Project Luna: 1947 (with artist Jim Boswell). His many short stories have appeared in venues such as Nature and Flurb. Find him online at www.paroneiria.com and @martinhayes
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