About a year ago, Nate Crowley (pronounced to rhyme with the bird, the corvids with unnerving intelligence who can recognise individual faces and, this being established, almost certainly hold grudges, and look at you as if the only thing preventing them from flying, screaming, at your eyes is that the effort this requires versus, say, waiting for you to drop a bit of your sandwich is too much at the moment but this could easily change), tweeted that for each like the tweet got, he would make up a fictional video game. Because that tweet got a lot of likes, Crowley made up a thousand games and wrote a book, thus becoming important enough that people were interviewing him. This included me.

I had arranged to speak to Crowley on the phone. Our soundproofed studio is uncomfortably warm. I turned the speakerphone function on, and the ringing sounded flat and weird, absorbed by the walls, which we have covered with squares of corrugated foam with zig zags that go in and out and then back in again, like the ships of silence making the tacks of desperation on a sea of futility. The adhesive spray we'd used to stick them up had made the room smell funny for days.

'Welcome to the EE voicemail.'


'I'm sorry, but the person you've called is not available.'

But how? How was Crowley not available? The simplest explanation was that he had just forgotten, or was doing something mundane like squeezing the tea bag to get all the tea juice into the mug properly, or he was on the toilet or something. But I remembered that this man had made up games like Seapuncher, which I'm not entirely sure doesn't actually exist, and a slashfiction game called Holmes Under the Hammer, an 'uncompromisingly graphic title' about 'Sherlock Holmes getting busy with comics hero Thor', which almost definitely does exist. He had created an entire dystopia for his friend's birthday. This was never going to be simple. The call had been planned for weeks. It was in his Google calendar and everything, and the calendar gives you a notification ten minutes before, which I knew because I had also forgotten about the call until I'd gotten that very same notification, so there was no way he didn't know.

He was watching the phone. I could just tell. I knew

Perhaps he was sitting unmoving, hands on his knees, at an immaculately clean kitchen table that gave a hollow roar as the phone buzzed. The draining board behind him empty and gleaming with the shine of metal that had recently been Cillit Bang'd, reflecting the same gleam of madness in his eyes as they followed his phone's progress, vibrating across the table and, eventually, onto the floor with a clatter. Or perhaps he was at rest in an opulent living room, a fire burning merrily in the grate as the phone chirruped and he laughed a throaty laugh.

Was it a test? A power play? Was he waiting for my reaction? Too late I remembered that the collective noun for crows is a murder. What was I to make of a Crowley? And what he of me?

'Please leave your message after the tone. After you've finished your messa-'

I hung up. I did not leave a message.

This is definitely the first time Alice Bell has interviewed Nate Crowley.