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"Never more than three metres away from a Dan Brown novel"

London, UK -- Official estimates released today confirmed that, if you live in London, you are "never more than three metres away from a Dan Brown novel".

More than 40 million copies of the novel have sold worldwide - much in excess of the estimated number of rats in London.

The novels are said to proliferate most readily on the London Underground, due to the conditions being particularly suitable for the breeding of fiction. London mayor Ken Livingstone said the books were "like pigeons" and announced a clean-up initiative to be launched in consultation with the local community.

| fiction |

A Pessimistic Fracas

Alan Ginsberg and I had a pessimistic fracas, one overcast afternoon on the cathedral steps. He was one step down from me, and he turned around: so I punched him in the face.

Holding his nose in his hand, he said, "I suppose you're going to keep doing that."

"No," I said, "I don't have the strength of character for that sort of thing."

So Ginsberg leapt up a step and flew at me with a headbutt. As I recoiled from this, he muttered, "I wish I'd known my mother better."

I leapt upon him. His hat flew off, and we both fell to the ground, as I said, "I wish I hadn't." We rolled down the cathedral steps, scratching and pulling each other's hair; some way down, I remembered to add, "My mother, I mean," which Ginsberg ignored.

We stopped rolling when we hit the bottom of the steps, Ginsberg kneeling on my ribs. He seemed to be about to hit me, but then he stopped. "Oh, what's the point?" he said.

We sat down and decided to become best of friends.

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We shouldn’t have stopped. We were walking along, edging through this unpleasant land, and I know we shouldn’t have stopped.

We’d already made the decision to stop for no man. This, however, was an animal, and I don’t know why, but we felt moved to investigate. The dirt path held some measure of righteousness, straight and clean, through the innocent-looking grass moorland, and maybe it was our straying from the path which did it.

We were edging along the path, terrified but gaining courage from the shotgun I held before me; my colleague edging along behind me. At first it looked as if a man was approaching in the distance, but we were frightened because he seemed to be approaching about ten feet to the right of the path. What kind of man strays from the path in a place like this?

As it drew nearer, we realised it was animal. Oh, if it had been human! It was a curious goat-like creature, but raised up on its hind legs, and walking along as if sleepwalking. As it drew nearer, I gained the feeling from somewhere that it was OK, that it was trustworthy. “It’s OK,” I remember saying.

The goat-thing came towards us. It liked me, coming up to me and standing too close to me in that way in which animals will. This close up, I thought it looked more like a wise old man, in the face, than a goat. It moved around me, occasionally coming between my companion and myself, but it seemed benevolent. I tried to relax, and work out what we could learn from this creature.

I looked around. There were no other such animals in view, despite being able to see far and wide, except where the ridge ahead restricted our view. We were closer to the ridge than I had realised, and craning my neck upwards, I could look at the dark old shed-like construction atop this ridge. It was not a pretty sight, and it filled me with a tangible kind of fear.

The goat-thing was by my right side, and it seemed it had been looking at the building on the ridge too. “Blehh!” it suddenly bleated, raising a front leg to point at the building. I turned back to look, and saw a dark object moving in the one window which was visible. Instinctively, I raised my shotgun, and fired a single shot.

It was all that was needed. Time slowed down as I saw the shot flying towards its target, and as the shot flew the sickening realisation dawned on me. Whatever was in that shed was innocent, not a horror of my imagination; a terrible, terrible thing was about to happen. The goat-thing was the real evil presence. I turned, only too glad to look away from the scene of my fatal error, but it was too late. The goat-thing was kneeling on my compatriot’s stomach, had covered him in some sort of slime, and was already ripping his innards out with its teeth.

| fiction |