The Great Western Pile

Well, I’ve just finished second draft of my new story ‘The Great Western Pile’. Its a bit strange and I have no idea where I’m going to sell it but I like it. Extract below.


From the galleries of Westminster the Thames, that sick river, slides along at pace with history. The parliament stones, made filthy by the smog of industrial revolution, bear the weight of Empire. The hands of Big Ben touch the hour, clockwork tips the bells and through the City of London, pigeons and other scavengers take flight.

Cavannagh straightens the seams of his pinstripe suit before entering the cell. He recounts the mistakes that brought a once promising career in civil service to the depths of the Basement. He sat upon the Very Private Committee that expanded the classified facility through levels nine to fourteen. Had he thought for a moment he would have had to work in them, he would have pushed for a higher standard of decor.

He places a large stack of manilla folders on the interrogation table and then takes his seat. Opening one folder and laying it flat, he pulls his spectacles onto the bridge of his nose and rereads the contents perfunctorily before finally looking up at the agent. So it really is him, he thinks.

“Subject presents in accordance with case notes.” The spools of recording devices spin silently in a distant room. “Medical reports no major trauma. Minor lacerations to face and hands consistent with close combat. Visual inspection confirms this assessment. Note – light levels in Interrogation Room D still below suitable despite previous reports to Maintenance. I do hope these comments will make it into the written transcript this time Martha. Do you need anything?”

“A bourbon. And a blowjob.” The agent replies with a smile.

“Psychopharmacy assess the subjects mental state as in line with base standards. Whilst this assessment is correct, it says more about the base standards of current field agents than the subjects own sanity or lack there of. Other than alchohol or sexual favours, is there anything I can get you before we start?’

“Other than those, no there is not.”

“Excellent. Do I need to recap our aim here?”

“To justify your salary grade?”

“That was not my question agent. I will assume the answer is yes. This is a debriefing session. You will recount the events of the last fourty eight hours, leading up to the destruction of the Great Western Pile, in every detail and specific. I will ask questions which you will endeavor to answer as thoroughly as~”

“~I am able. I understand better than you know.”

“The proper term to address me by is sir. Lets start at the beginning.”

“Yes, of course. The Sheraton Grand Hotel, whilst notable for its spacious rooms and the high quality of its cuisine is most remarkable for its toliet facilities. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the lavatory paper itself, which one may assumed is hand woven by expert artisans, at least such were my thoughts as I wadded a handful of sheets into the crack of my~”

Where do they find these people? Cavannagh wonders. Uniformly beautiful, naturally athletic and exceptionally intelligent, but no more sense then a juvenile chimpanzee.

“That’s quite enough of that agent. Do you have any comprehension how much trouble you are in here? A little over a day ago a chain events led to the destruction of this great nations most powerful computational facility, putting in jeopardy every essential service linked in to the grid, a chain of events that appears to start and end with you. Does this really seem like any time for toilet humour? No? Then lets stick to the relevant details, shall we?”

“Oh yes, absolutely. Why don’t you tell me where you would like to begin?”

“The girl you killed. Lets say we start there.”

Cavannagh takes some pride in the flash of anger that colors the mans features. Inciting an agent takes particular skill.

“Actually I’ve just this moment thought of something I want.”

“And what might that be?”

“Say my real name.”

Touche, thinks Cavannagh bitterly. The process is supposed to be anonymous. They both know that there is no way Cavannagh can be ignorant of the agents public persona. Anyone who had even walked past a newspaper stand in the last two years would know him instantaneously.

“And what real name would that be?”

“Oh, you know. The one they engraved on the Nobel.”

“Yes, but my question is why you think that name any more real than any other we have created for you?”

The agent simply smiles at Cavannagh.

“The woman then. Early intelligence reports indicated the possibility she would allow us to gain access to the installation. Was this the case?”

“Yes. She was every bit as compliant as expected.”

“Lets start there then, with your journey in to the pile.”


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

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