She was outside looking in through the open door of the shop. He was inside. Stood clumsily, as though not used to wearing his body, or at least, not enjoying it. She smiled, and he looked nervously down, dying inside as she walked on.
They’d survived. Another year, another party, another full night of summer with everyone in the house. Even them.
The morning after the night before was, as ever, littered with regret. Bottles that had contained hope lay empty. Flat surfaces sullied. The smell of poor choices in the air.
Alice looked across the room to the mirror. Her reflection looked aghast to see her assessing it.
Dawn had yet to be smashed to bits as I entered the field. The farmer looked at me, as surprised as the cow to which he was tending, as I ran from, then back to, the path. Can’t wake the rest of the creatures. Besides, over in the distance I could see a man walking his dog, so there was little time left to make good my escape.
He sat in the car, studiously avoiding the newspaper for fear of missing her pass. On her way home. It was a good day, and he’d finished work early which gave a nice opportunity to catch up. Always the socialite. Maybe they could have a pint. Or a cup of tea.
The waiting game was relieved to an extent by the radio, but there was only so much inane chatter with which he could cope. Let it go on, let it go off… the sounds of 60s pop faded to nothing as he turned off the radio, snapping into silence unlike the valve sets of the music’s own era.
Twenty four minutes.
That’s not too bad, he thought. She must be due back any time now. Any time. Time was forgetting to pass, in the main, but at least it seemed now that it was getting to the point of coming home. So here he was. And there she’d be. Soon, he hoped.
The sound of a truck horn startled him and he wondered if he’d dozed properly. Had he missed her? Could be. He’d been sat for three quarters of an hour now, and he knew she was nearly always on her way back by now. The window whined as he let it sink and enveloped himself in the stale city air, to keep himself fresh.
And so she was. Walking. Past. No stopping. Perhaps she’d not seen. Perhaps…
He picked out his phone and dialled her number. No reply. Looked at his phone again. There was just the text from earlier. Only now did it seem true.
There were no marks to distinguish the package. At least, nothing out of the ordinary. THat was always key to a successful delivery. He wasn’t there to see the results, but imagined it being opened, an unexpected prize to his achievement. Once again.
At the end of another day, in th equiet off the alleyways, the side streets, and in the ginnels – and in the most lonesome and empty rooms of the houses – the universe unwinds. The noise is like the all the conversations you’ve ever heard, all the sounds of the day, slowly being reversed, out and in again, the sound of a giant’s great slumber. You mustn’t wake the giant, for he needs his rest
Some forget this. And when it happens, the giant deals with interruptions – say, the child who wonders about his parents’ house after they have gone to sleep – with quiet efficiency.
21 days after the first meeting with the Colonel, I found myself astride his still warm corpse, the beaten heart ripped from his chest and held aloft as a cheer leader holds a pom pom. Those about me gave noises of appreciation, but the loss of this once great man made me sick to my stomach, a wretching worstened by the inevitablity of his decline.
Wednesday sees the dustmen powdering the road. The noise of the lorry wakes me and, as usual, I have to run outside to place the bin on the pavement else it will be missed.
This morning it is heavy, and groans as I tilt it towards me and bounce it down the steps.
I open the lid, and look inside, forgetful of what rubbish I have collected over the past week, but confident enough that none of it should be shouting at me.
The bin seems empty to its depth, but darker than normal inside. And deeper.
That’s strange, I think to myself. I can smell sulpher, and the cries when the lid is flipped open seem to be those of tortured souls. I wonder, briefly, whether Guantanamo Bay has been relocated to my wheely bin, but it seems unlikely, as there are no protesters nearby.
No option, then, but to leave it out for the lorry and see what happens. I only half hope that it won’t empty out the contents of hell outside my house, but its a risk that I take, not having yet had a coffee or being properly awake.
You see a boy get knocked off his bike. He dies in your arms. The accident wasn’t your fault. You can’t explain what happens afterward. The dead are visiting the living. The dead love the living. Even if they don’t love you. They want to cling on. Take an influence in your life. Complete the trials of their earthly life, or repeat challenges that they believe they have failed. And one of them wants you, innocent you, who held him as he died.
Surprised, I turned around, and saw my reflection beckoning from the mirror into which I”d just stared. The eyes were more red than a moment ago, and it seemed as if my reflection had suffered even less sleep than I had recently. But this wasn’t really much of a concern, and as my eyes made contact with themselves my legs made it clear that they wanted no part in this reunion.
“You can’t reun, you know. How can you possibly avoid your own reflection?”