* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

Drop Dead Letters

18 February 2002
James believes the medium is the message.

Interview commences six thirty am on eighteenth of February two thousand and three. Present are the suspect, reference ninety four A two J X, and interviewers reference two three four F P and one nine nine F P.

The first turn was mine.

As with all good ideas, this one began in the pub. The idea was simple: I would leave a message in a Dead Letter Box, somewhere in London, and then provide clues to the other two until they found it. The turn would then move on. All very simple and innocent and more or less straight out of the Usbourne Spy's Guidebook. The only thing I had to do was to find a suitable Dead Letter Box, and compose the message to be hidden. Easy Peasy, lemon squeezy.

And so the game began. The main challenge to begin with was to find a suitable place to secrete the letters. I had managed to find a loose brick in a train station wall, and had written down a dirty limerick for the lucky person to find. The clues were not that sophisticated - a photo of the offending wall, some map grid references, a cryptic message (cut out of newspaper headlines, naturally) shoved through their door. They found it quickly, and after that the game picked up. Sometimes it would take a while to find the Box, especially if it was further out, under a rock in a park somewhere, or the clues were too cryptic.

And since treks out to suburbia got a bit tiresome, and since it was much more fun if your Dead Letter Box was somewhere hyper-public, the game soon centred on the city and west end. I found myself noticing potential places all the time, and keeping a small notebook of where they were (loose floorboard in pub loo, slotted in reference section book of public library, under potted plant in lobby of hotel, park bench overlooking the Serpentine) so that I would not be stuck for the next time it was my turn.

As we were finding it easier to locate good dead letter boxes, and we became better at working out each other's clues, the main interest came from the contents of the messages we left. These started from being jokes and invitations to the pub, to coded messages, mysterious instructions, and yet more hints to other drop boxes. The form of the game started to break down. We'd leave each other the occasional clue, but the main method of leaving clues came in the form of the dead drops we'd already established. I found myself a routine on the way to work picking up the drops, compiling new messages during the day, and leaving the new set on the way home. It was more fun than Messenger.

In the pub, we were all still just the same old mates, making ridiculous plans, and having a laugh. But we never spoke of the Game. That was done through the Messages. After a while, we didn't even meet any more. I found myself hiding around the corner if I saw one of the Other Two checking a box. Sometimes it was quite fun to tail them, see if they'd established any boxes that I didn't know of. We became good at this. To anyone else, we appeared normal, just blended in. Soon we were using only the cleverest Drops - those where you were momentarily out of view when you checked, dropped or collected.

Interview paused seven forty two am...Interview resumed seven fifty seven am. Those present same as before, plus medical assistant reference M A fifty eight Y. 94A2JX: "What's she doing here?" 199FP: "She's suspected as long as we have. She's here to help you answer our questions."

I was in the park, sorting out a new, permanent drop. I'd got a green jumper and some wellies, and was lying on my back under a park bench with a tool box next to me. No one noticed me, I was part of the surroundings. I had intended to fit a small bracket on the underside of the bench that would hold a message out of sight and secure. Nice idea, only one problem. There was already one there. With a message in it.

One of the other two had got there before me. It was a fairly obvious place - the bench was obscured from three sides by thick bushes, and it was in a relatively remote area of the park. Well, I wasn't going to stand for one of them nicking a place I've been scouting for the past week. I decoded the message sitting on the bench, breathing in the early morning view over the pond. The Message was notice of a meeting, but this one was different. Normally we just met in a pub or on some grass under a tree or something. This one said to be at a bus stop at Marble Arch, and the deadline was only in twenty minutes, so I pegged it across the park.

Your car turned up. I was pulled inside and blindfolded. I smelt solvent in the cloth pressed over my face, and passed out in a blaze of fireworks. It seemed I was the last one to realise that It had gone past being just a game.

Interview terminated four seventeen pm. Next round scheduled in forty eight hours, after subject ninety four A two J X has made sufficient recovery. Request continued assistance from medical assistant reference M A fifty eight.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
16 October 2003. James writes: Jakesy's School of Urban Driving
24 September 2003. James writes: Chapter One
4 September 2003. James writes: The Silicon Soul
14 August 2003. James writes: A Room With 100 Seats
24 July 2003. James writes: English For Beginners
3 July 2003. James writes: Coldplay are crap. Discuss.
9 June 2003. James writes: It Takes All Sorts
22 May 2003. James writes: Lesson 2: Buying his Gran for a tenner
1 May 2003. James writes: Rosencrantz and Leytonstone
10 April 2003. James writes: Character Building
20 March 2003. James writes: So This Is It. What Are We Going To Do About It?
27 February 2003. James writes: Street Level Zero
6 February 2003. James writes: Reference: James Noteworthy
16 January 2003. James writes: Kissing George Clooney for just £99!
26 December 2002. James writes: Hongkong In Four Tableaux
5 December 2002. James writes: We Are Your Idea
14 November 2002. James writes: The Knight Of Spring Fervent
24 October 2002. James writes: Go On, Be Honest
7 October 2002. James writes: Cold Comfort
12 September 2002. James writes: Peas In A Pod
22 August 2002. James writes: Seed Investment
1 August 2002. James writes: We Are QPR
11 July 2002. James writes: The Road to Ossuna
20 June 2002. James writes: Pret A Teleporter
27 May 2002. James writes: A Play On Words
2 May 2002. James writes: Labour Saving Device
8 April 2002. James writes: Beggaring Belief
14 March 2002. James writes: Small Things
18 February 2002. James writes: Drop Dead Letters
24 January 2002. James writes: High-Rise Rhapsody
27 December 2001. James writes: My drift's too hip to resist.
6 December 2001. James writes: My Lord Has No Nose
12 November 2001. James writes: A Job For Life
18 October 2001. James writes: Which is the cleverest animal?
24 September 2001. James writes: Interview With An Automatum
30 August 2001. James writes: Each To Their Own
6 August 2001. James writes: An Escape, In Sonata Form
12 July 2001. James writes: Truckloads Of Goodies
18 June 2001. James writes: There's No Such Thing As A Coincidence
24 May 2001. James writes: It's All True - The Paper Says So
30 April 2001. James writes: A Letter From Prisyn
16 April 2001. James writes: I Quit
15 March 2001. James writes: An Essay In Procrastination
15 February 2001. James writes: Confessions Of An English Sand-Eater
22 January 2001. James writes: The Future And The Pasta
28 December 2000. James writes: Never drink with men in red
4 December 2000. James writes: The Underground
9 November 2000. James writes: Right answer. Wrong answer
16 October 2000. James writes: The March of Proudfoot: Part I
21 September 2000. James writes: You haven't got a chance
28 August 2000. James writes: Bad, man. Wicked
24 July 2000. James writes: I play games with street lamps

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