Friday, 18 January 2008

Working late - the journey

Hideous sweat stinks all over me.
Summer evening, getting out of the city. I worked late. Somehow this means I have to stand home. It's a familiar journey to most. Strange to say that if you connect soon after five, when the underground throngs, you get a seat. Hell, you get a train every five minutes, six coaches long!
Now, merely 30 minutes later and we, the hard working dregs of society have to mix with the scallies and shoppers coming through from Central.
Listen hard, listen for something discernible. Listen hard, but don't throw up. You'll hear the boring, the obtuse, the obscene and the contrite. On a train you'll hear everything the city has to say. You'll see a fair amount of it if you just sit and ride for a day. I read some shite like if you sit down for long enough, everyone you know will come by. There's some truth in that to a local stuck on a Merseyrail train.
Tonight I zoned out most of the vocal fuzz. Headphones, however, where spitting out the high range into the air. A design flaw gives most of the best part of the music to one person and the flotsam to the majority who might surround him or her.
I would test myself against the bleeding eardrums of my carriagemates. Working out songs from the beat, or a guitar solo here and there. In the case that it wasn't dance music this is an easier task than it may sound. People tend to listen to a very small amount of the music that's out there. They will have been force-fed this by a radio or TV set. Does looking at the person help? It can, but generally no matter how interesting a person looks they still have the tendency to disappoint. Their ultimate lack of original thought is boiled away and stares at you through vacant eyes through the window as you walk on - bland platform becomes blander high street, and on and on.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

The nature of significance

"What did the text mean?" she asked, a purple scarf wrapped coyly around her face so that her eyes were partially covered like a belly dancer's veil.
"I don't know, or I'm not sure, anyway." That was his answer. She knew he would stare now. At the wall, the floor, out the window maybe, but he wasn't looking, just staring. But he never stared at her, he only ever looked.
She got up from the armchair were she had adopted a semi-Lotus position and immediately dropped to the floor. There was some rice from yesterday on the carpet, she noticed but ignored it. Instead, she crawled or shifted, uncovincingly, but somewhat snake-like, towards the couch were he sat and pondered a relevance, or a significance, or the nature of significance, or something else - hey was he watching the TV? No, his eyes weren't moving, though they were transfixed on the wall behind that girl. She's wearing a gold bra and a thong and he's looking at the wall. She's moving around so much and he's not even seeing it.
The snake moved toward the TV set and unbuttoned its blouse. 'He'll notice me though,' she knew.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Lost Cities

They would worship that golden disc for hours yet none understood its significance. No-one knew what it now meant, nor what it had meant to millions before them.
The amp buzzed and then clicked. It was then kicked and sounds spewed forth, fuzzing and fizzing to an almost visible degree. Strings split and skins cracked. A guitar came down upon a wooden floor and splintered. Seemingly moved by its re-union with its long lost cousin it sobbed, and its cries echoed throughout the auditorium, passing without friction between the ears of the breathless throng. Some screamed, some applauded, others lost their tears to the thirsty sloping floor. All were open-mouthed.
The damned and dishevelled ambled from their pedestal, their devices of aural torture drooping lifelessly from their arms or lying bleeding on the sweat swept stage.
The lure of the suburbs; a dog called Lydia and a wife named Lucky. Such a fly might entice the more common of fish, but it wasn’t sparkly enough to catch a pike’s eye. It was too real, there wasn’t enough lead weight on the line, and besides, most pike prefer bottom feeding.
So the phenomenon rolled on, much like the grey coach that passed through centres of culture in a haze of abomination. The fish would peer from their bowl every now and then to blink at landmarks before swimming in circles some more, their nine second memories doubling those of the angelic fry who cradled their furry image hourly via the plastic dish cemented cockle-like to the rocks they lived under.
How long the phenomenal golden light blazed it is difficult to remember. No doubt it flared and flashed for what seemed like years, but those years become but seconds to the Ray-Banned world. That brilliant energy tore through creation like at Nagasaki, and few survived. When the burning stopped we were ready to ride the pain to freedom, providing insanity grasped us meekly, but we could not escape the fall-out.
Some all but melted in the immediate wake of the atomic tide, while the unlucky lived out their days in cancer-ridden remorse. The nuclear winds sent us apart and it was upon one such draught that I was carried to this studio to face the twisted praise of an unoriginal elite who considered me their god. I had to hold aloft that shield which never rusted and was rarely dusted and explain its obvious power.
There was a reason that they failed to understand its purpose. That was of course the fact that it clearly did not have one. So I made this known to the natives with voice of thunder and lightning gaze. Thus I broke the disc asunder and cast it down before their fearful eyes.
Their sun had died and I feasted on their cries amidst the dawning darkness as one screamed: “Cut to commercial!”

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The downpour

The rain hammered down. Thick droplets of water drooped lustily from James’ hood and splashed onto his prominent nose. He hurried towards sanctuary.
As he approached the bus terminus the light from the assembled street lamps thickened and reflected off brown puddles in the road. He jogged across the doughnut-like slip road, used by buses to drop off their special cargos and then turn around, and saw the bus shelter ahead. James usually avoided walking through the bus shelter itself and tended to try and go round the side. He told himself it was to avoid people, avoid brushing against anyone in there, but he avoided it all the same when empty.
Today a local drunk leaned against the railing and blocked his usual route through to the high street. Seeing James, the bum held up a can of Tennent’s lager and purred. James stepped to the side and into the shelter.
Once inside, the rain thudded heavily onto the plastic roof of the shelter. Water ran off inelegantly into a street drain. In the empty high street a rat scampered northwards, towards the river.
Now temporarily dry, James surveyed his options. Make a dash for the covered and well-lit railway bridge and then into the station to buy a ticket for tomorrow morning (meaning an extra five minutes in bed), or just plough on into the deluge and get home. He could see his house from the bus shelter. It looked, from where he stood, like he’d left an upstairs light on.
A bang on the Perspex of the shelter. James turned in fright to see the drenched and leering face of a mad tramp pressed against the shelter. It was inches from his face, yet it was on the other side of strong casing, like a cobra in a zoo.
Still, this cobra had the option of attacking from two unprotected sides so James made a dash for it. He hurried toward the protection of the railway bridge, which was only 50 yards away. He turned in horror to see the crazed hobo floundering after him. A swift change in direction and a nice turn of pace saw James sprinting right and then left, over the road bridge, before making a sharp left into his street.
Heart pounding and rain filling his eyes he dropped his keys in his front garden and scrabbled in the flowerbeds to find them. Click, open, slam, in.
James paused for breath on the good side of the door. Then he made the journey upstairs, to his study. Here he found the light was indeed on, and the blinds were not drawn. He must have been lit up like a flash-filled portrait, for anyone outside who wanted to see.
Lurching forward to close the blinds he couldn’t resist glancing at the outside world to check the whereabouts of his pursuer.
Backlit under the spotlights from the railway station, clambering, kneeling, now staggering, was the silhouette of a man standing on top of the railway bridge. The outline of his body seemed to face the light of the window (though he could easily have been facing away from it). Blood pumped and throbbed in James’s temples as his eyes charged with available light. A slip, a correction, a slide, a drop from the stage.
James shut the blind. In the morning the trains ran on time. A half-empty can of Tennent’s Super stood at the side of the bus shelter and wasn‘t removed for three days.

Monday, 14 January 2008

An unquiet

“Sleep now, honey. It’s time to rest. The worst is over.”
The last clear thing the little girl heard. She felt her mother’s hand upon her forehead and then the hand seemed to turn white. Then it became pure sweat.
The drips of the hand covered her face and she felt alive with the flood. The water condensed around her eyes and she saw, with a new valance, the strange lights and shapes that now danced around her room. Strange that she’d never seen them before.
There flew a dandelion pig. The most remarkable piglet she’d ever seen. She tried to blow him away across the room but with the smallest breath his body disintegrated into a thousand seeds and scattered across her vision.
Everywhere the floating seeds landed, there grew another creature. A wealthy tiger, beside the bed, whose body was made of flaming pound notes; a pelican, on the windowsill, whose tail rattled like a snake’s; a red monkey, on top of the bookcase, who threw flowers at invisible enemies; a cunning anteater, in the middle of the floor, who played a ukulele and sang in French.
Katie sat upright in bed. Her mother may have been trying to lie her back down but she didn’t really see her anymore. She wanted to watch the menagerie that had blossomed in her room. She clapped with glee.
The anteater was attracting the attention of the other animals with its singing and playing. The pelican seemed to join in, rattling away an offbeat percussion, and the monkey (now blue) threw flowers gently which fell onto the anteater below.
The tiger approached the anteater slowly and the money on its back blazed brightly. It extended a paw, as if to offer the anteater a shake of its note-filled hand. Its head lulled from side to side as the music seemed to entrance it.
Then, with a sharp “TWANG!” the most tightly wound of the ukulele’s four strings snapped and the music bitterly ceased. The tiger leaped with sudden venom, biting and mauling the anteater. The monkey changed into every colour of a jellybean, flashing yellow, then white, then green and hurled its own eyes at the brawling tiger. The pelican let out a colossal grunt that made the monkey lose its balance and fall into the pit with the tiger. All of the pelican’s feathers then dropped off and turned to pepper.
Katie’s eyes widened. Her arm pointed and shook.
The tiger, now finished with the tasty anteater, turned its attention to the mewling monkey. The pelican attempted to fly from the scene but dropped clumsily instead onto the bloody carpet.
The little girl screamed as the fire from the tiger burned a terrible golden yellow, then so white that it scorched her entire body. She screamed and bit and scratched the invisible hands which held her down. “Help them,” she howled. “Help the pelican to fly away.”
Outside the room her mother was consoled as a syringe was prepared. “It may be a long night,” said a grey man climbing the stairs.