When the World Ended

Sometimes Vince dreams. Written for Challenge #21- Tangents


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Sometimes Vince dreams- strange, strange dreams that wake him up and force him to actually think, his smooth brow contorted with unwonted exertion. These are not his normal dreams, of planets made entirely of raspberry sherbet where small voles wear leather trousers and mosh around him until he is flung up into the sky to lazily talk with the stars. Those are the kind of dreams he has all the time- lovely, technicolour dreams about trees with purple bark and velvet leaves that wrap him in their branches and creepers and talk to him about what an idiot the moon is. Howard says that Vince’s dreams are like acid trips, when Vince tells him about them, but Vince just shrugs because Howard’s never taken acid so how would he know anyway?

These dreams Vince sometimes has- they are not even the nightmarish dreams he sometimes has about the tricksey old monkey king following him from the forest and demanding his face, his monkey people with their horrible wiry arms holding him down while the monkey king squats on his chest and pulls out a knife, his rank little toes wiggling in excitement against Vince’s skin, sharp nails pricking.

They stole his face once, the monkeys, maybe it was in this world, maybe another one, but somewhere there’s a Vince Noir wandering around, lost, with not a face of his own, just a horrible raw blankness, like undercooked meat, topped off with a hairstyle that used to be fabulous. There’s a Vince Noir who can remember the horrible slow pain, as the knife-tip eased under his skin, wiggled under his nose and his eyes, oh so careful not to puncture the delicate orbs with such shining blue irises, ripping through nerves and tendons like underdone angelhair pasta or elastic bands. He could feel his own blood hot and sick against his neck, and he knew he ought to smell the ozone sharpness of it, but he no longer had any nostrils to do so. He’d tried to scream, tried so hard, but then that knife had swept across and he’d had no mouth to scream with and no eyes to weep, so he’d curled up against leaf-mould and bracken- he could feel it against his lack of skin- and shaken and trembled and clutched his knees to his chest, trying to reassure himself that the rest of him at least was still there.

But that was a different Vince. Not this Vince, who still has his beautiful face and his dazzling grin. He thinks about that sometimes, whether there are different worlds, different versions of himself wandering around. That’s like something out of Doctor Who, isn’t it? Vince has a vague memory of that; he does love Doctor Who. Every time you make a decision, there’s a different world created where you didn’t make that decision, where things are changed because you turned a different way. He wonders what the Doctor would think of Vince Noir. Probably call him a silly little ape and send him on his way.

At least, Eccleston would; Vince’s always had an eye for the Tenth Doctor, though, and he likes to imagine that if Tennant appeared in the zookeeper’s hut, he’d take Vince away in the TARDIS, have him as his companion. He’d make a better companion than that tart Billie Piper anyway; at least he knew how to apply makeup properly, and the viewing public would be saved all those close-ups of her with her eyelashes practically smothered with mascara. Vince could practically hear the poor things crying out- we can’t breathe! Save us, lovely Vince, please, pretty boy; we’re dying!

That was part of what he’d done in his gap year- not that he’d gone off in the TARDIS with David Tennant, though that would’ve been genius- but he’d he’d got a B. Tech in hair design and art and makeup design. The teachers at the little school had been rather shocked at how quickly Vince had run through the lessons, but it soon became clear that he simply didn’t need the usual three years required to earn the degree. He was a natural, put simply. Which is how he managed to get three degrees in one weekend. Hair and makeup- it was just was he was good at.

Before people knew who Vince was, a couple of older boys jumped him for wearing makeup. It wasn’t much, just some spangles on his cheeks and a bit of judiciously applied eye makeup- lengthening mascara, and a gorgeous royal blue eyeliner, but they’d singled him out and sneered, calling him names like poofter and faggot and stupid little wanker, thinks he’s so fucking special. Vince was only ten, but already he was full of himself enough that he’d scoffed at them, even though they were tall and their uniform blazers bursting with adolescent muscle.

‘I’m the Prince of the Mods!’ He’d said, his little hands stuck in his sparkly, non-uniform belt. ‘I can do magic; you can’t hurt me.’

He doesn’t remember what the other boys had said, but he remembers that one of them had really horrible ginger hair in a kind of quiff that really didn’t suit his facial structure at all. Vince may have been thinking that at the time, which is why he doesn’t remember what they’d said. He’d answered anyway.

‘Yeah! And if you do anything to me, I’ll send me mate Jahuli after you!’

‘Jahuli?’ And what a horrible public school accent he’d had, mangling Jahuli’s name like that, ‘What’re you, out the jungle book? He your imaginary best friend?’

‘No! He’s a leopard, and if I tell him to, he’ll bloody eat you!’

‘Yeah, whatever, girlie.’

And they’d knocked Vince on his back and kicked and spat at him, and he’d had to curl up into himself so they didn’t hit anything important-

(monkeys stole my face, and I lay curled in the forest as they jeered and danced around me, wearing my beautiful, beautiful face)

-He didn’t cry. That would have smudged his makeup, anyway, and besides, he was the sunshine kid! He didn’t cry. When he got back to his room, though, he’d put on Roxy Music’s Avalon and laid down on the bed, alone, and stared up at the ceiling and remembered what it was like when he lived in the forest with Bryan and didn’t have to go to school.

He’s not good at being alone, Vince.

He was though, once, when the world ended. Trees and people and buildings melted into paint all around him, their features dripped and ran down deformed bodies like candle wax, or an ice sculpture left too long to sit in the sun. Things collapsed in on themselves, disappearing and melting into a vast, sluggish river of swirling, psychedelic colours that spread and spread until it was a world of sticky, chemical smelling paint and Vince, standing and watching and not really understanding. It was like some kind of mad Apocalypse, like the movies where there’s only one man left on Earth and he has to fight off zombies and monsters and then find the beautiful girl to repopulate the world. But there were no zombies, and there was no beautiful girl, so Vince picked up a brush and began to paint.

He painted the world back into how it was supposed to be; not how it had been before it all melted, but how it had always been in Vince’s mind, bright colours and oblongs and strange, twisted areas of darkness in forests and under rocks. He painting people happy and bright and fashionable, all of them with fantastic hair and effortless makeup, before deciding that everyone couldn’t look that fantastic all the time- that was his job, not anyone else’s.

He saved Howard for last and paid especial attention to him, remembering everything about Howard he’d ever loved, everything about him that had made Vince roll his eyes and comment about how Howard looked like some kind of fashion-blind supply teacher. He painted him the way he’d looked when he first brought Vince to work at the zoo, his hair unkempt and curly, his tiny little crab eyes sparkling out at Vince with that little smile Howard sometimes got, the crinkles in his forehead, the way his Zooniverse jacket didn’t quite fit around the middle. Once he’d finished, he gave painting-Howard a little kiss, and the paint stuck to his lips like a backwards kiss-mark. Howard squinted at him then, suddenly not a painting at all, and Vince felt a little bit like God-

(Howard asks him sometimes what he thinks about God and the afterlife, and Vince just shrugs and says ‘I dunno’ and goes back to playing with his hair. Howard is unsatisfied every time, and he presses Vince, saying

‘Is there anything goes on in that head of yours, Vince, or has the hairspray got to your brain completely?’

‘I think about stuff,’ Vince sometimes replies, ‘I just don’t see the point of brooding about what happens after you die, yeah? I don’t deal in that kind of bleak imagery. I’m alive now, so I worry about that.’

And Howard shakes his head and goes back to pretending to read Nietzsche.)

-but then, maybe it was just a dream. That seems more likely.

Sometimes Vince dreams- strange, strange dreams that wake him up and force him to actually think, his smooth brow contorted with unwonted exertion. These are not his normal dreams, these; in these dreams, he’s up on a stage in front of thousands and thousands of screaming fans, and he can feel his heart pounding in his chest. It’s adrenaline and nerves and excitement and exhaustion and wild happiness, and next to him onstage there’s Howard, grinning back at him with that Hey now, little man look he sometimes gives Vince, except it’s not Howard. It’s Julian, and he’s Noel, though who Julian and Noel might be he doesn’t know. And they’re performing for this crowd, enacting a journey to the Arctic and meetings with pygmies and afro’d fusion guitarists and Old Gregg, and Vince knows all of this, knows it intimately, perfectly, and why are all these people watching?

But he doesn’t mind, somehow, because Noel is happy, and Julian is happy, and when the show is over, there’s cold beer backstage and backslaps from someone who looks like Naboo but isn’t, and giddy, laughing kisses from Julian, whose moustache (and it’s the Howard Moon mocha monstrosity, no doubt about it) tickles against his lips and cheeks and neck.

But it’s just a dream, because Vince always wakes up at the end of it, sprawled out in their bed in the flat they share with Naboo and Bollo, Howard snoring into his shoulder. He looks at Howard, his face slack with sleep, hair mussed against the pillow, and he remembers the way Julian and Noel kissed in his dream. Sometimes he’ll press a shy little kiss to Howard’s forehead and lie back to watch him sleepily, wondering what Howard dreams of, if perhaps Noel and Julian have found their way into his head as well.

Sometimes he’ll slip back into dreams himself and forget until the morning.