When the brittle soul man dreams, it dreams of empty service stations; endless isles of junk food, cigarettes, change for the arcades. As he snores, the rest of the world snores with him, perhaps even in harmony. Perhaps not. Tribes of alligator skinned nightmares queue up in a special, spongy part of his future. A lizard eyed, long-legged woman pries open his chest like a tin can; jagged flesh, a small, bulging heart coughing black ink shrinks at her grin. ‘He he,’ she prods, with her talon. Carves the word ‘smile’ upon his rib-cage which expands with the force of his still functioning lungs.
Betty, pray for me. The formica table top was strewn with dead cigarettes and many bottles. The air was alive with shagging insects. Betty opened the window. ‘Shoo!’ she went.
I flicked the dead butts at her peachy backside and watched her jump. ‘Oh!’ she cried, ‘Oh! They’re on me, they’re ON me!’
The sun never really comes out. They, the rich, have stolen it and stored in their castles.
Watching the buzz, from the work house, from the gutter. High hats totter and heels clack into the elite drinking holes, kicking up the odd gutter oyster (a rats liver, half chewed, something discarded from the paupers doctor, a piece of root vegetation). A scene of hoarse-drawn carriages, each with it’s own, lush cabin, inside which virginal beauties dream of star fruits, Turkish delight, tigers, peacock feathers, fountains of wine with rubber duckies boobing upon the semillon skin. The candle light cuts through the curtains. Someone throws blue mud at red wine velvet curtain. They are shot immediately; a crack of smoke. A posturing guard. A faint smile upon his young lips. His master pats his wig.
A fight broke out over some peelings. They spilled from the kitchens. Another shot from the flintlock pistol scatters the crowd. An old man is trampled to death.
By morning, his body had disappeared, leaving only the rags he wore. A phone rang. The kettle boiled. You read this to me. I commented that I hated it. Everything about it.
The sky remained stubbornly sombre but that was exciting somehow. Better than mass hysteria, than making jam, than walks by the sea, than you and me.
The sky remained stubbornly sombre but that was exciting somehow. Better than mass hysteria, than making jam, than walks by the sea, than you and me
Slamming my head into the desk repeatedly. Ears ringing from every cracking impact. Though it’s soothing, almost. Exhilarating, definitely. Like the tickle from a dandelion upon the arch of my foot before stomping down upon an animal trap.
The scooters whinge up and down the road. The seagulls whine in the dead day sky.
They wait around a table, eager to tear apart the next creature that walks in. Toss in a steak before me lads, I smell death in there.
Thames mud, calcification, my old blood, The Gunhouse pub. We never asked for direction in them days. One says. We just knew where we was. She was old, beautiful; tatty, reading the glossy, dirty, gossip rags.
A little river of bile flowed towards the shops, past the pub. There was another, surrounded in a swarm of singing wasps. He was batty as a stick of charcoal drawing a stick of charcoal with a stick of charcoal. He waved his hands, like a conductor, and smiled as he was bitten. They were his friends, he went on, until unable to form the words properly for bites.
Old love, silt and dirty legged birds. Windows exhibiting rotten, dried then rotten again curtains; browned and quartered. A small parking space. A shared place. Forgotten key. That was the weekend you took off your mask and the bugs crawled from your eyes and ears.
A book of birds, a scarred-up knee; the talking clock chittering like robo-wren. The ham on the boil. No bread. The corner, outside, waiting to be turned. An object thrown by one object at another object for some reason.
Tributes to the Thames.
The blushed sky crept up without warning this morning. The river ran like it would never end. Like, in the blackness of space, it would still babble on, carrying its underwater carnival off to a cosmic vanishing point, where, who knows, all the reeds, swans and fish might be reborn as fireworks, astral music, birds of prey, songs of the spheres.
The dust sat snugly in the slithers of air in between the well-thumbed pages of a book once treasured, now forgotten.
Wind whistles through the open windows, smashing one shut, yanking one open. Rain hammers down. The music of phantom Taiko drummers surges through the walls of the room, reigniting the beat in the old, grey heart of the masonry. A jam session takes place between the invisible percussionists and the air pressure above this feral offspring of an island.
Half a cashew nut shell. Inside, the wing of an insect. Outside, light floods everything.
Imagine holding such a light. Every molecule in your soul, pulverized instantly. And the dog, the poor sod, would cover eyes with paws at the silent explosion, the pearl blue flash.
Soon, though, its stomach would squeal in harmony with its whining and it would clamber out of the rubble and look for food. The only remaining evidence of life will be a burning photograph of a young man wearing a graduation costume. The frame is in flames and the day, now six hours and forty-nine minutes long, bides its time. Waits for the sound of traffic to die away. For the gentle trickling sound of the river to return before taking flight to the regions of space where old radio signals lay in heaps. Where rivers curl around bonfires.
His last 50p freed itself from his thumb and forefinger and hit the tarmac on its side, before cartwheeling into a storm drain. The drain smelled of old eggs. He laughed, poured the luke warm, soupy, sickly ale from its sticky jar into his guts and walked out of the beer garden, smashing his shoulder into the wall as he tried too hard to walk in a straight line.
An open top bus rumbled slowly past. It was filled with creatures dressed in pink. They screamed and cackled and he cackled back. Then he felt spots of spit land on his shoulders and head. Once, on the side of his cheek and in his eye. The spit smelled like wax and sugar.
The weather was black and white. Above the screen of nothing there was blue sky. How high did a person need to be to reach the fresh air, he thought…possibly aloud.
The sense that time’s bottleneck was fast approaching didn’t alarm him as it once had. He was not afraid, not sickened and had no regrets. Another bird splattered at his feet; a wing waving one last time.
Heavy bass boomed from the open windows of clubs.
* * *
In the park, he sat under a large tree. He was always bad at naming things. But this tree, this thing, was old. It was so old that it seemed to transcend the time in which it existed. Its limbs seemed as though they might move, all of a sudden, and scoop him up and devour him. This thought comforted him. Cans were jammed in the crevices, these he threw away as though cleaning house. Then, he settled into an accommodating nook cushioned with leaves and reached into his breast pocket.
He’d found a strip of pills in the library toilets, next to one of the sinks. He looked up their name in a book and found out that they were sleeping pills. The foil covering the pills was wrinkled and slightly damaged. And some of the pills showed through like bone from a severe wound. He pressed out two of the pills. Saved up saliva for a few moments and took them. They tasted sour.
Soon he began to feel drowsy. His brow softened and the world opened up like an orchid blooming. The soil released iridescent spectre’s from his past. His family, now long dead, shone in their once beautiful garden. They offered him something to eat and drink. “Sit here Russ,” his mother said.
And the bows of the tree moaned like a deserted battle-ship in a thick fog of cannon smoke.
Ping, goes the bathroom light from where it lives in the ceiling; as summoned, rudely, by a demeaning, and simple, cord or string with a small plastic bell on the end of it.
The circular mirror, the same one my Rene used to apply her make-up in front of, confronts me. It tell me the black, spiky truth. Three missing teeth in the front of my face; my smile is gruesome; I look like an aged baby; all stubble, bruises, dark-ringed, blood-shot eyes and dried tears. My lips swollen; the skin stretched, it seems, to breaking point.
And the worst thing is: I can’t remember how this happened.
For days now small, dark creatures have followed me around, hovered above my eyes whilst I’ve tried to sleep. When I do manage a few hours, they sing nightmare lull a-byes into my skull bone, into stopped up, yet evil porous, ear-holes. And the nightmares are nightmares because they convince me of the certainty of an horrific, soon to dawn, future. One with beautiful animals only represented in name, and only then because they are written in a menu, and only then because the menu was retrieved, as possible food, or token for food, by a rabble of matted, yelping, half burnt victims of a nuclear war, from the stiff corpse clutches of a man who refused to believe that nothing would grow for 500 years from this sick soil, this toxic womb. Dirty tears were petrified upon his dead mug. A few front teeth were missing. His dry eyes sunken into their dark sockets.
The rabble made of with the pamphlet. Some gnawed at the edges. Other slapped the gnawers away. Maybe they, in their turn, were gnawed. In turn. That or slapped. Or left to cry ’til they die, clutching a copy of a charred TV mag like it’s the Bible.
Brace yourself. When the fire starts we all look for the water with which to put it out. He sits there, with his glass of water and wonders at the progress of the ash. Brendel plays Schubert in the background. The man listens to Brendel. He feels like a dwarf. The music is so mesmerizing. The floorboards click. No one is knocking. The water grins up at him. I’ve got you, it says. Maybe so, he says, maybe so. A cigar shape lights up the sky, briefly. He raises his eyebrow. Farts.
The day passed too much like its many predecessors. Uneasily. Like wading through treacle. Flimsy thoughts of flight copulate with Spanish dreams. The pavements of the Paseo Del Prado. The clubs containing the piano players, the guitars, the singers, the dark-skinned beauties who no one can touch without fire eating them alive.
He takes another sip of his water and ponders the journey. Wonders if he’ll see her. Wonders, indeed, who SHE is. A fragment of rock chipped from the cliffs. An old book containing the last words of a forgotten, yet brilliant, author. The thunder starts. The crackling lightning rods.
No crest fallen hero’s here folks. Just a small, old gentleman. Still baffled at the world. And in contempt at his own, forced part in it. Keep the headlines. Keep the winds, the tides, the turning of the moon and whatever lurks upon its inky backside. Keep the words away. Turn the page like a printer, a proofreader. Soak in as much as you can before wetted fingers snuff out your candle. Work like a dog and sniff at a stray crotch.
Try for more.
Leaning against a wooden post, an old man watches his young self doing press-ups. His phantom heart nearly bursts in an imitation of an ectoplasmic supernova.
Like the sun, crying itself to sleep.
A small stream of excrement. A totem of turpitude. Without gears, the machine judders and fits. Rum and coke. Lean and mean. Your rancid tit. Statues ablaze. My city, your city. Wiggle. Ten times ten equals one whatever.
Have you tasted the air after an animal has fitted? Convulsed and vomited sounds that have come back to you via de ja vu?
The sourness gathers and rises.
You, my friend.
Do my gong a bong and close the door. Make sure the air is closed; womb-like, unlike the scratch, the nub, the death of everything.
Blip. Thonk. Wheeze. Deep fried fish and good, mouldy cheese. Let the bile rise and gargle it; never allow the smile to slide from your mug. Just nod and blink slowly, once, to confirm that, yes, you agree. Honk. Hon-hon-Honk. Beep, beep, beep, beep…and on and on…a splintered flock of seagulls pretend to be made of paper. A mobile phone whips past your nose. Remember? The sound of the voice, screaming from the receiver; “Eeeee”. And he, whoever he was, stomping off down the street, his hand raised in apology. And the dumb brute, in cave language, “Soy Love”. And then you get it. You told me…on a landline…you said you realised that the buildings were peeling away…you could see people crying into their cans…and when your head became too heavy from sticky, cheap lager and you looked into the drain, you noticed the drains clogged with faces; grey, mottled and with soggy cigs stuffed in their bloated lips…Then, it was probably those ruddy chemicals they put in the lagers that you were chucking down yourself…your mascara…you’d walk to me with loaded lenses…two…welling…but ah…time to stop.