Sunday, March 18, 2012

9 Days of Madness Presents: Schizo Numericus by Richard Godwin

Welcome to Nine Days of Madness

Thanks for coming! The waiting is over, and the hot, bright white lights are coming on. There will be nowhere to hide for the next nine days as each day brings a new story, and a new take on the theme "Unsettled."

Right. Let's get to it!

Our first story is from someone who will be very familiar to followers of noir fiction. Richard Godwin's "Laughing City" stories over at Thrillers, Killers n' Chillers are some of their most-read tales, and with good reason.

His story "Blister Pack" was featured in last year's "Eight Days of Madness" blogfest and subsequent anthology, and was also one of the most discussed stories of the entire event. Mr. Godwin excels at presenting stories with a heady mixture of intellect and sudden, visceral horror.

Without further prologue, I'll let his words speak for him. Here is "Schizo Numericus".

~~ 9DOM ~~
Schizo Numericus

Simeon Archer rose in the leprous dawn and wandered the streets seeking relief from a violent erection. He held his trench coat around his sweating midriff and saw in the gray air the shape of the woman who would banish his feverish urges. For days now he’d heard the noise of chains at night, a steady, slow, metronomic, clanging of metal links inhumanly large and coming his way. They edged over some metal wall and he wondered where the noise emanated from. The thought of abattoirs, and mechanical hangings of slaughtered animals staring blindly at night, resided like a bruise in his thinking. It was if some mechanism wanted to trap him and he resisted it with numbers, pursuing complex mathematical algorithms down endless numerical corridors. The only thing, he told himself, that could shake it off was nocturnal sex of the kind that feeds the lycanthrope’s needs. Someone had sent a wraith his way and he would expel it with sudden coitus.

He was a neat man, precise to the point of mania. An accountant by profession, he’d lived happily with his wife Doris for years without an inch of infidelity between them. But ever since she changed her perfume he’d become obsessed by the need for flesh. Women who passed him in the street gave off a heat that stirred him in ways he found unfathomable and inconsistent with his character. He’d studied every definition of psychosis and concluded that he was not suffering from a mental problem but one which needed a practical solution. To him the urge to copulate with strangers was an equation that could only be solved by an act of sudden sexual mania.

He was caught in the spectroscope of Tarski-Banach decompositions and harnessed all flesh to the binary world he inhabited.

Maths had always been his salvation. As a boy he used to study numbers with the fever of the religious and he often thought if people knew their power they would be afraid of them.

They kept things at a distance. His love of them was commensurate with his distaste for mirrors which he refused to have in his house.

He wanted the Tessaract to govern the tidal movements of bodies, fervid in their craving for penetration and the flux of fluids.

‘You can see all you need to on a calculator’, he said to Doris.

Her need for feminine finery was to him a betrayal of reason.

‘We are all a series of numbers’, he said.

At the edge of an alley overrun with broken bottles and crushed beer cans he found her, alone and dozing in a drunken stupor. He leaned forward and lifted her skirt.

The next day as he rose from bed and found Doris making toast in the kitchen he felt he’d pulled a muscle. He was unsure how it had happened and he went to work dismissing it as an irrelevance. He sat all morning filling in his planner, adding appointments and cross-referencing as he always did.

And yet something wasn’t right. His body was not his own. It was an algorithm set there by an innumerate impostor. He felt unlike himself, as if another had entered him and mocked his daily proceedings. As he sat eating his sandwich, chewing into the white bread he heard it before he saw the blood. The splattering noise entered his head and he thought of vomit spraying the ground. Looking down he saw his planner coated in blood.

Something landed on the carpet and he saw his paperknife lodged there. He looked around the room to find it empty. He considered some automorphism was at work. As he called the police and reported the attack he saw his face in the window and the fresh cut on his cheek and he remembered how she clawed the first time he did it.  A voice in his head told him lies and he sat with his hands over his ears until the police arrived. They took him to a station where they showed him old movies in which a man walked the streets at night, a blurred shadow beneath lamp posts, passing shops. The film was about a vagrant who attacked women.

‘I wouldn’t pay to see a film like this’, he told them. ‘There’s no plot, although the actor looks familiar.’

They shook their heads and took him to a hotel. He’d worked for clients like them before. He sat in the car thinking he would put in a hefty bill.
He thought of Bankoff’s conundrum. He found his listing on the Banzhaf index, a fraudulent mirror image of him. They could not steal him from his rational clutch. They could not formulate identity.

The hotel was disappointing, cramped, squalid and unfriendly, the tenants were diseased, a miserable lot who spoke in riddles. He thought he would do the job and leave.

He could apply Galois extensions to find out who these people were who tenanted his singular world. But he realised the gradient of crime was rehearsed in space.

‘The room’s not big enough’, he said to a waiter who was dressed all in white. ‘Bring me my planner.’

But they left him alone and he sat there waiting, hearing the scraping noise of canine teeth on bone.

He decided he would re-plan himself according to an exact mathematical principle.

~~ 9 DOM ~~

Richard Godwin is the author of  Apostle Rising and is a widely published crime and horror writer. His second novel Mr. Glamour is out now and is available online and at all good retailers. It is about a glamorous world with a predator in its midst and is already attracting great reviews. 

His Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse are interviews he has conducted with writers and can be found at the blog on his website here where you
can also find a full list of his works.


  1. Richard, may I say that I find your imagination to tend towards the surly? A barbarous attack on the mind, wrapped in the beauty of numbers. Only you could've done this. This is unsettling, yes, but also quite thrilling.

    On another note, Chris--those smiley faces are hideous. I'm already afraid of them. Those alone might do me in during these nine days.

    1. Becky thank you and may your mind recover with a puppy. And yes those smiley faces are in need of a trip to the dentist.

    2. Becky - I was originally going to slowly add more and more smileys as the week went on, but I didn't want to pull focus from the stories. Besides, having just a few is doing the job quite nicely. Look at them, enjoying themselves... with their teeth.

  2. Good grief, that was definitely unsettling. I am acquainted with someone who is schizophrenic and manic depressive. He loves talking about all the kinds of things in your story.

    Me, I don't do numbers. Strange floaty things disappear right out of my head. Poof! Gone. Just like that.

    A great start to the 9 days of Madness Richard.

    1. Thanks S.K.
      Numbers can mess people up.

  3. Richard, I am enamoured with your words. As always, your use of description is exquisite. I love that even as the story starts Simeon's decline has already begun; potentially the most chilling statement concerns Doris changing her perfume, and Simeon's acknowledgement - not blame - that this is what has flipped his desires.

    The language, or voice of Simeon Archer is very disturbing; the logic he uses overrides his pre-existing obsession with numbers and mathematics to the point of mania... thus his eventual incarceration.

    Mind blowing - I loved how nervous this made me feel. Thank you ;-)


    Chris - a phenomenal start. Can't wait to read the other eight tales!

  4. Lily thanks. Simeon Archer has used logic as a means of keeping something at bay that won't stay where he wants it to any longer, an illustration of the perils of an excessive focus on numeracy.

  5. What got to me was how Simeon manages to assimilate everything that's happening and continue on his way - right up to, and including, the "hotel." Unsettling indeed.

    On another note - I had to look up Tarski-Banach - and now, understanding it, there's an additional, disturbing layer here.

    Well crafted, sir!

  6. Chris I think that is one of the most disturbing things about real madness and that is quite separate from mental illness. Insanity inhabits what is termed the delusional. That in itself involves utter certainty of the kind seen in certain dictators. So the ramifications of that in the political sphere is an interesting historical proposition and one which calls much of what we see as human rationality into question. Can a ball be decomposed into a finite number of point sets and reassembled into two balls identical to the original? The Banach-Tarski paradox contradicts basic geometric intuition.

  7. My friend, I think the doomed traveler Mr. Pinfold would greet this fellow with open arms, saying, "At last! One who truely understands!" Perfectly captures the slow and terrible drip,drip,drip assult of madness rising -- with perfect logic -- in the mind. Cool.

  8. Bill, Waugh's semi-autobiographical last novel contained all the mad humour of extreme paranoia in that instance brought on by bad prescribing by his doctor but is a hilarous read. Thank you my friend.

  9. This is yet another prime example of why writing should have absolutely no rules. Toss that book out the window and get on with it.

    The protagonist (if we can call him that) here is constantly reinventing himself, unhappy with the previous incarnation. And how he does it is completely fluid and up to his own imagination. Today, a sex fiend, tomorrow perhaps an astronaut.

    The best thing about a Richard Godwin story is that you come to it and you can never figure out just what he's going to dazzle you with next. The unpredictable nature of his work is what keeps you begging for more.

  10. Christopher that is some compliment and I hope I can do it justice. The truth is I believe styles need to be changed and merged, narratives are a result of mutation in terms of surviving and interpreting the world around us in all its dishonest political machinations and natural glory and Darwin posited that survival is based on evolotion and mutation is part of that, today's Bizarro is tomorrow's romance, bring on the dansing gnomes.

  11. Where can we find a writer who tops Godwin for taking words and arranging them madly across the page? Dostoevski would be proud!

    1. Dostoyevsky Sal. Thank you that's a great compliment.

  12. Richard,
    Not only is your writing always entertaining and unleashed, but its so full of truth & perceptive. Schizophrenia is all about the mind distorting reality & the senses & a person trying to reason with his world as it is changing. He is trying to hold on to how he/she once knew reality with how it is now (and what it may be tomorrow) with every ounce that he can, whether it be (as you used) numbers, day planners, cross referencing,the reassurance of a familiar scent. The story is just fantastic & very real & maddening. Great ending.

  13. Yes this is way brilliant! I loved experiencing the impeccable dispensation of breadcrumbs along the way that wound down to a slow wash of realization.

    1. Miss A thank you. The breadcrumbs, the knots in the labyrinth, the Minotaur and the myths, they are all part of it.

  14. Jodi thank you I think you are right, the breakdwon of identity that occurs with extreme mental illness challenges the fabric of identity. That can in turn lead to the questioning of what that fabric is made of.

  15. Always a great fresh take on the dark and calculated minds of your characters. They are complex and wrapped up in need and evolution, which is the drive in good writing.
    Loved this description, "resided like a bruise in his thinking."
    Excellent work, Richard.

  16. Wicked sharp writing. You are so awesome, Richard.

  17. Carrie thank you for all your support. Praise indeed.