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Ron F Berisha is a London-based freelance Interpreter.  He has written verses and a novel but feels the short story to be the right genre for him at present. The stories, some of which have appeared in Literary Heist magazine, take place in and between two countries: England and Albania. Ron has also a keen interest in cinema and has in the past worked in several short films.


Trigger Warning

Georgina looks at my black eye and damaged face with appalled concern but is too polite and professional to ask.

I wince as I sit down. My sunken eyes fall on a medical poster on the wall: a flayed gutted human body, pierced by little arrows with Latin names at their ends. —Martyrdom.

“I have the impression you are being unnecessarily cruel to yourself, Mr Aquila,” says Georgina, her hands on her impenetrable skirt. “I dare say that, maybe, what happened to your face – whatever happened to your face –, can in a way be seen as a reflection of this inner torment, which is often exhibited in such ways—.”

My head and ribs ache. Flashbacks from last night bonk my brain without mercy. Me—on the ground; two white thugs hitting me – yelling abuse. I got elbowed in the smoking area outside ‘Revolution’ bar, then one of them calls me ‘a fag’; — I challenge you, I said, to a duel; choice of weapon’s all yours. His dwarfish mate laughed and said I lived in the past; thoughtful chap. But the tall one scoffed and called me a ‘foreign fraggle’. Boom! Fell my hand on his face.   Could not tolerate the foul-mouthed cunt any longer. Oh the crack on that jaw! Sound of nobleness and precision, triumphing over ignorance and drunken crudity…

“I understand the frustration of wanting to be a successful filmmaker,” she carries on, crossing her edible legs. “I appreciate that. And a wonderful thing it is, to be creative. But you cannot let your happiness – your health, mental and physical – depend on that; it is extremely reckless, and I fear you may be suffering terribly—”.

She arranges her elegant spec-savers glasses, as if rethinking a strategy. Her short blond hair, meticulously coiffured in chicken-style, stand for modernity and sophistication. But inner torment prevents me to enjoy her looks and soft manners. The cruel hangover, mingled with a customary misery, press on me – like a fat Turkman ironing my cranium, while laughing perversely at my agony.

“I understand the current climate is not exactly in your favour,” continues Georgina. “With Brexit, and everything else that’s going on in the world at the moment – it is hardly in anyone’s favour, really. There’s much uncertainty in the air; hate crime is on the rise, our society is more divided than ever; and it’s only a matter of time, I believe, before the economy—”

A dog barks viciously outside, and I try to guess its breed. A book on the shelf – ‘History of the World’ by Andrew Marr – goes slowly out of focus. Two naked witches dance wildly before me, luring me to a despicable orgy…

“And I appreciate the fact that you are directly affected by all this – status-wise and jobwise and whatnot.   Still, I dare say; the issue here, lies mainly in the mindset.”

The seven deadly sins, like seven Soviet commissars in military breeches, have got my mindset surrounded – and are dancing around it Cossack-style.   Fighting them off – a herculean task.

“The heart of the matter, I believe, is in this – forgive me for saying so – obstinate approach of yours, this Caesar or Nothing attitude—”

I rub my eyes, clear my voice, and try and straighten myself on the chair.


“No, not scissors – Caesar; the Roman Emperor. It is an expression, a manner of speech – Caesar or Nothing. Meaning, you either want to be absolutely great, number one, or you consider yourself completely useless in the world. This is quite common in people with depression and bipolar disorder. This is the point, I believe, we need to focus on. Because, most of us, are somewhere in between – and we are fine with it.”

She touches her left cheek with her hand, making sure its smoothness is still in place.

“We can’t all be like, erm, George Lucas, or, Ken Loach, or Mike Leigh – or other people you may admire; but this doesn’t make us any less important in the world; certainly doesn’t make us useless. This obsession with being someone, can at times have disastrous effects. You have to say to yourself, remind yourself constantly, that you are someone already; even without making a film, or winning a BAFTA award, or-or, writing a great book like ‘Lord of The Rings,’ or ‘Harry Potter.’ We are all someone; we have our lives, our loved ones, our jobs, our homes, our day to day activities and responsibilities that keep us going. We must sometimes learn to accept, that the main cause of our suffering, is being nurtured by ourselves, our mentality. Like the image of the snake eating itself. I personally think, that unless you yourself decide to break this vicious circle – by starting to set yourself realistic goals, first of all; by becoming less egocentric and more accepting of yourself and the world around you; by starting to love yourself for what you actually are, and your life for what it actually is – starting now, at this very moment; unless you yourself initiate this healing process, I’m afraid medication, even healthy diet and exercise, would benefit you very little.”

I am smitten, by her heartfelt yet scientific sermon; no denying it. Gradually, all my aches, and pains, and boozy misery, seem to want to leave; miracle. The naked witches, the laughing commissars, the fat hammam eunuchs, the tail-devouring serpents –, away; crawling away. The steely clouds in my head – away; melting away. I feel my mindset changing…

Before me one image—Julius Gaius Caesar.

Commander, political leader, soldier, writer, good husband, great lover to his many mistresses. Fine sharp mind combined with gigantic balls.

That’s exactly how I’d like to be – expenses be fucked.

Now things become misty in the therapy room; the floor under us trembles, the medical posters with Greek and Latin labels crack in the middle.

I ride a beautiful brown horse, ahead of a band of colourful soldiers—mainly from central and eastern European tribes I’m told – some of them properly clothed as Roman soldiers – others unshaven, with leather jackets and cowboy boots – some even wearing boxing gloves on one hand only and spitting repulsively on the ground.

I lead them through a green prehistoric High Street, full with bronze-age ‘Halifax’ banks and ‘Marks & Spenser’ stores – belonging to the idyllic village of Pissenhead. The confused public of frightened ducks, scrawny Brits and healthy Celtic girls – wrapped mostly in fair-trade clothing – look in wonder at this bizarre army squad, led by this rather dashing man in Roman uniform and Roman-style haircut: me.

I am not any commander – oh no; I am him – the great VIP himself – the original Veni-Vidi-Vici fellow – arguably the greatest military genius of all times – the one and only: CAESAR.

Amidst the anxious females, I spot a therapist type, with blond chicken-ish hair and light-brown eyes, wearing Spec-Saver glasses on a chic nose. She hasn’t got her usual pink blouse and black skirt on – but one of those ancient dresses – revealing a good sixty per cent of her hyperborean tits. I, Caesar – absolute lord of war, the man who brought to merciless destruction the unruly tribes of Gaul, who defeated the insolent rogue-warriors of Moesia, and crushed the migrant-hating vultures of the Italic peninsula – throw a meaningful look at her, and she responds – shyly but surely.

Then I look back at my troops, and in a soft but imperial tone, I command:

“Proceed with the collection of taxes.”

One of my boys approaches a tall Englishman with neck tattoos, who looks a bit like the unmannerly fellow from last night. A dog is barking on the background, irritating my good soldier.

“Give me taxes, dick,” he says, in passable grammar.

“I swear to Jupiter, mate, I ain’t got nothing left; me and me missus have been unemployed for six months now, swear on me life—”

A swift punch in the stomach interrupts the Englishman; he folds. The soldiers laugh. His ginger wife yells on the top of her voice, and starts having a frantic go at my man.

“Shut de fucking mouth, bitch!” barks the soldier. “Or I give you one and all! And shut that dog up – or I swear to fucking Mars I’ll make kebab out of him!”

The dog whines for a second then becomes more silent than a scholar in a library. My soldiers laugh again.

It is time for me to play the good cop – the great and noble General that I am.

“Enough,” I say to them. “Comport yourselves like soldiers, not peasants.”

All my men freeze still, while the crowd of Brits listen in silent awe.

“We have not come here to vandalize but to civilize. To help this country achieve its true potential. Now that it has surrendered to us, the real conquering begins: that of hearts and minds – by means of culture, charm and wild imagination – by bringing new colours and styles to this green and pleasant land, and this godly herd here who’s longing for a true leader. Have you heard the expression ‘Conquer by Design’?”

The soldiers look at each other.

“No, boss.”

“Well, that’s what we’re going to do here; conquer by design and construction. New roads will be built; bridges, museums, arthouses, massage parlours and a new TV station. Taxes will indeed rise, but the end will justify the means. The culture we’ll bring, will make it worthwhile”.

Only the wind blowing gently in the hairs of the gobsmacked crowd can be heard now.

“Brothers and sisters of the island!” I address them, my tone oozing authority. “This is the start of the new era. Republic will be abolished and Rome will be proclaimed an empire – and I its Emperor. Because let’s face it: as it is, it’s not really working. We need to take control of the borders of our forthcoming empire. That is why you voted out,because of inefficiency of the Republic, the bureaucracy that has plagued its ranks. You were also a little misled by Doctor Fukrage – that biased counter-continental beast, who will soon be put in custody. That aside – I vow to you: I will rid the new Empire of its Junky bureaucrats, and all those infected by the Zorostrian red plague coming from the East; I will make it a place that works for everyone – regardless of their tribe, religion or homosexuality. Restoring law and order may demand some harsh measures: numerous fanatics from the sand-tribes of Moabstan will have to be crucified along your green and pleasant streets – until the full fear of Mars is instilled in that community. That sorted, I will take personal charge of the reformation of the Media and the Arts – before more hearts and minds are Marred. I will abolish the Brit-Broad Castration channel – you won’t have to pay its licence any more. Its owner, together with Andre Karr and some other journalists, will be thrown to the lions in O2 arena, for their Darwinist propaganda. The ‘Daily Mist’ headquarters with be razed to the ground – the angry epicures that manage it, will be forced to eat their own tails; Myke Lee will be publicly flogged for poor taste and obesity – Ken Roach exiled to North Korea for his political views – Georgis Fucas will hang by the balls in ‘Triangular Square’ and left there until he repents for his cinematic sins. Carlos Saatki will be tied to Kasey Femin, stuck in a big Turkish canon, and fired off to Greenland. Their galleries will be burned, and those who object, guillotined, under the supervision of some exceptionally cruel French anarchists, whose acquaintance I made while in prison. This, brothers and sisters, is not the ranting of a lunatic; these are the promises of a soon-to-be EMPEROR, which will be kept – to the letter. I will make this village great again, if it ever was.”

One timid clap breaks the silence, followed by another one, turning gradually into a thunderous applause of joy and gratitude. I know how to handle this kind of attention – I am very much used to it.

I turn to my ignorant but dedicated soldier.

“Now proceed with the collection of taxes – but under a different mindset.”

“Yes, boss,” says the soldier. “Whatever you say, boss.”

He turns to his pals and makes that base gesture with his right hand, the ‘what-a-wanker’ gesture, but I cannot see it, otherwise he would have to be crucified.

My eyes rove the crowd once again, seeking the woman with Spec-Saver glasses. She is there – her smile more tempting than ever – retreating towards a mud hut in the corner, right behind a rundown ‘Pizza Hut.’

I slide off my horse and follow her solemnly.  People on both sides bow at me; a man says: we are but a bunch of shopkeepers around here, Kaiser! Help us to regain the instinct! People are taken with queueing and say killing animals is cruel. Inject us with your foreign barbarous strength! Infect us with your continental creativity and joy de vivre!

I salute them in the Roman way, and, touched by their honesty, promise to do all I can. But I’m needed elsewhere at present, and I walk towards my short-term realistic goal…

I enter the hut; there she is, trembling with anticipation. Words are pointless at this point; too much of those already. I just slip my armour off – revealing my regal chest and six-pack stomach – and a little tattoo of an eagle on my right shoulder and that of a wolf on my left – and get close to her, real close. I fling my armour over my shoulder – scaring to death a goat and two noisy chickens – and unsheathe my gladius. I grab her ancient Cornish dress and rip it off – baring a flaming-red Armani lingerie. She moans in pleasant surrender. “Take me future Imperatore,” she says; “take me all.” “May your wish be granted, madchen.” “Oh yes, fuck me Caesar – you bipolar prick; you crazy manic dago. You’re so, er, elegantly rude…” (then, turning to the audience, she adds) “the loony sonofabitch may yet prove us wrong!”

Thus was my hangover and misery cured all right. One has to master them all – images, words, money problems, tail-eating serpents, the chaos in your head (and in a filming site), the writer’s block, the seven deadly sins, the messed-with mindset – master them or die. And I owe this sudden epiphany to my prised gentle-mannered shrink and her softly nullifying homilies. In the end, the end justified the means.

But then, the Leninist knives of Brutus and Cassius appear, fluctuating in the air – I see them still.

Georgina senses my momentary dimness and decides to increase the dose of my medication…

The battle goes on…

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