Saturday, February 18, 2006

gently down

"What do you sell, old man?"

This question asked of a stranger on my door step. An old, old man in a tatty leather duster, clutching a battered briefcase in one knotty hand. Snarled beard. Bloodshot eyes. Rotten yellow teeth. He just stood there for a time, exhaling noxious breath in my general direction. Wheezing, strained, breath. Putrid - like spoiled meat.

"Excuse me - sir? Can I help you?" I asked this question though I didn't even want to. My coffee was growing cold on the kitchen table. The newspaper was only half-read. My toast had popped. "Listen, if you're not going to-"


I'm a million miles away, with my consciousness shattered into a billion tiny hyaline shards, each screaming away at light speed. Breathing hard, wind rushing past my face, tears streaming from my eyes - I try to open them, but I can't for the wind. Nothing more than a squint, and the too-bright light of the future hurtling past at nearly three hundred million meters per second.

Sudden stop.

Open eyes.

Desperate junky. My heart is pounding in my chest, and there's the startling realisation that where I've landed is not the future, but another present. Voices voice, but no-one's at the door, so I just stand there for a second feeling the cold winter air jostle past me, uninvited, into my squalid apartment. It brings me down for a moment. Makes me feel almost sober. "Fuck all y'all," I yell out into the dirty hallway.

"Mind playing tricks on me," I say to no-one, and slam the door.

I pick at a sore on my face, and scan the scene. All my friends are here, boiled down into nothing more than shadows huddling in every corner. Butter knives glow white-hot in a stovetop element, and a pile of powdered Prozac sits on the filthy kitchen counter. But it's a colourless crystalline cube which calls my name presently.

Ladybird's got the oven mitts, and she grasps those blistering hot blades, her eyes closing as she registers the heat through thinning burnt fabric. A thin sliver of ice dropped onto hot, hot steel. A thread of oily white smoke, and I'm sucking it all up through the congested shell of a Bic pen.

"Take it all," she purrs.

Everything's all black, and my lungs are full - more than full, bursting. Tiny yellow stars explode ever so slowly from my chest into the great beyond, and I'm making a solemn promise never to exhale.

Have you any dreams you'd like to sell?
Dreams of emptiness,
a drumbeat, hypnotising,
like a lifetime of slowly realising
you've found a different kind of hell.




"I'll ask you one more time, old man: what are you trying to sell me?"

A rotten yellow grin accompanied a throaty laugh. He set that briefcase gently down.

"I'm not so much selling or buying as I am repossessing," he said. "And it looks like you were pre-approved for more than you could handle."

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