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Tangle Man - Martin Horton. (c)2005

Once, many months ago, I nearly caught the bastard. Oh I was so very close. Glory was near! The creature that has occupied my life for so long now, my nemesis, my torturer, the one who calls himself my friend. I name him now for all posterity, so that if I fail in my task those that follow my lead may succeed. His name is Tangle Man.

You all know him, or have at least fallen foul of his miserable deeds. He is the evil that lurks in your pocket, or behind your Television, in your cupboards and under your bed. Wherever there are wires, leads, pieces of string, loops or cables, his is there, always. I?ll wager what is left of my sanity that every single one of you has, at one time or another, shrieked with frustration upon finding some previously untangled quantity of length supernaturally tied into a bow. Is this the mutterings of a madman I hear you ask? Perhaps, perhaps so. Perhaps I cannot talk with authority on the Tangle Man, as I?ve never even seen him and have no tangible evidence of his reality in the flesh, but ? I swear on my dying heart, I have felt him brush against my skin, felt his breath on my cheek, smelt his syrupy scent, and seen his ethereal footsteps on the traps I?ve lain for him vanish like sweat in a breeze. Believe me, since the first scrapings in clay of linear cuneiform by the Babylonians, he has been there, with us, with you. But no, it is the proof of his conduct now that unites us all and is evidence enough.

Now, as I lie on my bed, a wreck of a man, exhausted by the chase, and if as I tell this tale it becomes my last breath, I, like Ahab before me, fellow crippled adventurer, scourge of leviathans, spit on thee, Tangle Man, I cast my mind back to the moment of first awareness, the instant of clarity where I recognised his wretched existence. It was a glorious day, nearly six years gone, and I lay on my side watching the pelicans waddle around the serpentine in Hyde Park. A mood of sentimental reflection was upon me, so I reached into my backpack for my ? what are they called, my memory is so shot, ah yes ? CD Player, to listen to some suitable overture by Luca Marenzio. And behold, the leads that connected the machine to the earpiece were snarled and tangled to an impossible degree, into what was not less than a little knot of rubbery stone. I stood up, angrily, and examined the knot. The twirls and loops defied method; they could simply have not become so twisted on their own ? however much they were thrashed and jumbled during my journeys. An almost, yes ? outside influence must have been at work. It came to me that suddenly, a strange epiphany for one not prone to castles in Spain. I slipped into a stream of elation; I was standing under a frozen waterfall eating a bowl of rice sprinkled with ice. I would have jumped for joy at the realisation had my stream not abruptly become polluted, had not the waterfall gushed poison and spoil onto me, as recollections of past encounters, too numerous to mention, maybe starting in the womb when he twisted the umbilical coil around my neck, flooded back to me. Elation turned to rage, my fists clenched and unclenched with murderous regularity. But, dear reader, as is the suffrage of all weak men when faced with the faceless known, rage turned to fear. Was he with here with me at this moment, working his evil magic? As I stood there, that glorious day, everywhere I chanced to look spewed indication of his labour. There, were not those branches of a tree not gnarled beyond nature?s intent? Should not that strangled cry of an infant be as smooth as a cherubs skin? Even the grass beneath my feet was yarn, bonded to it?s neighbour in an eternal embrace till they yellowed and died. Was the swaying of the flowers not the fruit of his labour too? His scheming attempt at binding them to a motionless imprisonment? Ah my god let them sway as you intended.

I resolved to stow my emotions, shameful or not, and hurry to set about this beast. But where to start? Surely no authority would recognise my ravings. No, it seemed that the burden was on me. But, following an age of research and inaction while he continued his satanic work all around me, it seemed I had found an ally. A profession of poor souls whose lives were a continual battle against the tangle man. No wonder that this group of brave men, so haunted by my foe, consequently and often took their own lives, or threw themselves into the merciless seas from where their bounty came, helpless at his hands. Yes my friends, Fishermen, with their miles of ordinarily taunt nylon line, were to be to my first port of call on my struggle with the swine. Ahab indeed; perhaps it was not the white whale that drove him to madness, but the eternal struggle with the rope and chain as he tore across the oceans. Who is to say? The metaphor was enough for me.

Alas, they ignored me. My initial pleading feel upon deaf, salt scoured ears. I was ridiculed, abashed, despite their vehemence when a spool of perfectly smooth line become entangled beyond repair. I stood on many a stern, screaming into the wind, grabbing a seaman by the arm and pointing to the Tangle Mans work in progress - a fouled anchor, a dolphin suffocating in a net, just to be shunned, ignored, defeated. A crow?s nest, I would cry, a nest!! What is a nest if nothing less than his idle plaything?

To hell with them, I thought, or wherever men of the sea go to die, and retired to my home, now devoid of anything that might tempt his predictability. My house became a refuge of the horizontal, the flat, the even, where I could arrange a meeting with the him on my own terms, and ensnare him and hold him up to all the world, to show him for what he is. To begin with, I must confess, my attempts were amateurish at best. A simple mousetrap baited with a piece of string, or a stack of heavy weights balanced from a strand of hair ? my Damocles sword above his head. But all to no avail. I would awake from my slumbers to find the trap empty, but with a boy scouts knot in the string, the sword still hanging but with the hair slightly kinked, just a bit ? enough to arouse my rage. Once, no doubt for his perverted amusement, I arose to find my normally straight hair twiddled into a spider?s web, wet with dew. Just a bad hair day, he would whisper, nothing more. Curse him? After weeks of failure my fury was boundless, but I will spare you, kind reader, the shades of my hate.

Thus I regret to inform you that I dropped into misery, a broken man, and let him continue his chaos around me. Whereas in the early days of the war I would expertly remove any stray thing that he could distort, now my previously immaculate realm became his parlour; a place for him to relax and tangle with leisure after a hard day of petulance. Send me to Hades, I thought, because in spite of my efforts I had created a paradise for him. It was as at that moment, in my darkest hour, my bed sheets wrapped expertly around my feet, when I discovered his creed. You cannot chase the Tangle man, my friends, for he is forever one step ahead; your next cunning is a memory for him. No ? you must lure him into complacency and then, when he is dozing on a reed of his own creation, that is the moment you snap the trap shut.

So, as you might expect, I let my abode descend into such disorder that the brute felt at home. His dreamy speculations were just another twist of the shadows that danced across my walls. His sleepless writhing, which I dare not imagine, left my veins in a state of permanent aneurism. The body, which I expect is a journeyman Tangle Man?s ultimate goal, I offered up to him with secret contentment. For I knew that the moment would come, as I lie prone, when my archenemy could not resist a contortion of the vital organs of my soon-to-be cadaver. Gone were the days when he would content himself with a quick flourish behind the curtains, a subtle twisting of the hairs on my arm. Now was the time. I could feel him at my side, watching my blood sift freely through the chambers of my heart, aching to twist the aortas and to hurry my end. By now I was hospitalised through neglect and malnourishment and such was his excitement that he ignored the tubes and feeds that kept me alive ? he wanted to touch what was inside of me, to deform and tangle my entrails. Then, and only then I fancy, would this piece of spittle become whatever its destiny had decided for it. But I was ready.

Although in my incapacitated state I was unable to speak, I made an unconscious pack with the Tangle Man that he could take my life as long as he, at the moment of my death, revealed himself to me. The deal was made. He licked his lips and gripped my heart. My skin became transparent to me, and I could see my arteries starting to bend to his will. Show yourself, I demanded. Show yourself.

But again, failure. At the moment of flat-line he relaxed his grip. As the nurses and doctors fluttered around me in my death throes I nearly had him. Just one more throttled heart beat and he would have been mine. But he faded away, the bastard, leaving me thrashing in my bed and pumped with adrenaline. I survived.

So here I come to the end of my tale of the Tangle Man. Because of the battle I am a frail man, near death certainly, so I implore you, keep your eyes open. He is with you now.

Look around you.

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hey martin thought id just say another great read so thanx for sharing this. I really enjoy the journey of your words.
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