Tuesday, September 27


The night drifted across a frozen landscape of motion. Stark, burning lights icily glazed the world into lines, and dusty clouds breathed past the moon in thick, pallid gusts. Beneath, a city found itself barren. Few now remembered it’s more pleasant days, and fewer still its pleasant nights. Safety and caution replaced cooperation and companionship, security and providence replaced labour and enjoyment. The sensuous had long since blown away, leaving only dull, thick sounds, soulless music of machines and the spiritless rattle of old, abandoned schools.

Clutching a small pile of books, he wove his way through the intermittent traffic to the pavement. Scolding himself about walking through side streets to make shortcuts at night, and then about it being no time to stop and think, he moved on hurriedly past a low pile of fabric blown against the steps leading up to his front door. Fumbling around in his pockets, his head blown open by fears and anxieties, full of his day, the following week, next year. Key, lock, push inside, lock, bolt. Feeling around in the dark he traced the wall to a light switch and flicked it on.

Outside cars and motorbikes shot past, bleating their deep, ungainly clatter against the walls of the house. She stirred, breathing in the waking air from the other side of her dreams. Looking about her, she began to focus herself back into the moment. Slowly she moved herself forward, lurching slightly to the left as she felt the wrench in her abdomen that had buried itself their days before. There were a few spots of rain in the air, and she fought her way out of her blanket. Her fingers were white, slender bones against stiff and coarse cloth.

Somewhere on the horizon, a city breathed out suddenly, and it rained. The streets became oil, slick and deadly, the windows danced with yellow light. The newly painted walls dripped and ran, red and blue. In the parks leaves shook the trees, and the paper river tore itself open towards the sea. The traffic was hushed in a din of thumping water, falling in sheets upon the concrete and meeting the stagnant pools and ponds it had blown across earlier.

The chatter of a television gushed downstairs on him as he pulled frozen plastic slabs from his freezer. No time, no time, I though I’d saved… never mind. No time, no time… he muttered low curses to himself, to his colleagues, his family and his friends. Ah, there it is. He pushed the long black tray into a microwave, set the timer and slumped into a chair, still and quiet for four minutes. Slowly, slowly, his head dropped slightly, more, a little lower… a metallic beep shook him upright with a start. He pulled the door open, and poured the contents of the tray onto a plate, snatched up a fork and carried it up to his bedroom and the cold glow of the television.

She pulled the sheets over her head, searching left and right for a spot of shelter. Only blank-faced buildings all around, nothing overhanging but pylons and street lights. She rushed across the road, past traffic which now roared across her path even more urgently. Almost losing her footing, she gained the opposite pavement and dashed down a side-street. As she looked behind, the street became more and more vague, obscured by the brown cloud of rain. She came to a doorway, slightly set back against the rest of the street, and curling herself up tightly she pulled herself into the thin space, clasping her soaked blanket about herself, and waited for morning as her breathing slowed down.

The sun rose, at first a subtle glow on the edge of a cloud, until it became a full ball of light, burning through the mist of rain, scattering and thinning the last remnants of the night’s storm. The streets flooded with people, vibrant colours and bare skin in the hot morning.

He felt better this morning, as usual, as he set off for another day’s work. Picking up his books, he stepped outside and locked his door. The air smelt odd today, like copper or magnesium… in the broad white reflection on the street he could feel the heat of the sun. Walking up the road to a crossing, he waited with a few others for the lights to change. It must’ve really come down last night! He listened to their conversation, but couldn’t really follow it. Looking left and right, he saw an opening in the traffic and dashed across to the other side. He turned back on himself, and down the little side-street he sometimes took to work. Half-way along it he noticed the same sodden rag which had been at the foot of his steps the night before. Someone should really clean this city up, he thought, and his mood gradually turned as he continued to work.


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