I mustn’t have been home long before I heard the banging on my door. There was something on that night which celebrated the seventh anniversary of the end of the European Civil War.
Earlier that night I had finished work at the Orgcyce Factory. Boarded a train and stared at sixteen different pairs of footwear. Got off at Wallgate and scored some Brick Dust from a blackened window. Using a free newspaper for shelter, I ran across the road. Narrowly avoiding a howling car, I made it to the other side and made for the alley in a dimly lit corner. The red rocks flickered in the light as my Clipper reduced it to a manageable dust.
I dabbed my finger in it a laid it on my tongue. It was sharp and felt as though my tongue smack against the back of my eyes.
The brick dust did not kick in until I navigated through the crowd to make for the ASTES Local. There, a speaker let out the noise of an old shop bell. There were four of us in the shop. Two teens deafened to the tedium of rejigged lounge music, and an old woman scanning the spirits as the young shop keeper stared deeply into his glowing palm.
I found myself at the magazine section before I felt a little wobbly. Flicking through a copy of Sweet ‘N’ Sour, I paused at Kimberly, 29 and saw her face beginning to droop. Was she having a fucking stroke, I thought to myself. I covered my mouth and my pupils shot open as wide as they could. Turning for a flash, I caught the glimpse of what was coming.
Kimberly, 29 continued to droop and the magazine fell to the ground with a splash as Kimberly spilled out onto the shop floor. Steadying myself on the wet-floor sign, I dragged it towards the puddle that had formed from the magazine. There was no doubt at all that there was more than just Kimberly, but I couldn’t be certain.
Blinking, I found myself before the shopkeeper. His glowing palm with a soft blue shone a soft blue which hugged his face and tickled his eyes. I asked for Twenty Woodman’s and in a swift flowing motion he stretched out his left arm, trough open the shutter with a flick of the wrist to which he followed its journey upwards before stopping at the exact packet I asked for. In the same fluidity he brought his hand and the cigarettes to the counter. All the while his eyes never budged from his palm. I stood in astonishment for an unknown amount of time. There was no real way of knowing, and have you ever tried looking at a clock when you’re on the stuff?
The crowd of commuters dipped watercolours from their rain splashed faces. Umbrellas whizzing it like a Catherine Wheel into the night sky. There was an opening and I hoped for it.
I tried to grab the shoulders of these slippery bastards, but it was useless and I almost tripped over. That is the last thing that you want, I thought, some people don’t get found for hours. All the calmness that I had felt washed away with the watercolours. There was little doubt that I needed to get out of there, but how? I couldn’t see shit, except for the harrowing figured which pour black smoke through the nostrils. A girl with iron crossed eyes.
After some negotiation I must have made myself safely to my apartment block, owned by a body lotion company which changes its name every two weeks. Makes for a hell of a lot of mail but I’ve managed to put it to some use by stuffing them in the walls and ceiling for insulation. Climbing slowly from my peak I could still feel the brick dust. The steel elevator was not an option. The light was blinking with the overwhelming smell of piss and shit emanating from within. Despite living on the twenty-third floor, I wasn’t going to ride that thing. The crowd I could bear, slightly. This would bring about the worse, and if I got stuck then I would perish in a head of the crud of others.
Vomiting slightly brought on the brick dust as I clutched the handrail. This feels unbelievable, I thought, not looking back at the elevator. If I couldn’t see it, then it couldn’t be part of reality, I told myself with a solipsistic grin on my face.
Each of the floors has a corridor and on them tends to be the young adults and the youths of all ages. Most of the time they are fine and keep it amongst themselves but every now and then somebody would get caught in the crossfire, so I just bury my head. The unpredictability is unsettling. VI News had their own opinions and they’re pretty convincing. However, I can’t say that I am surprised at all. A lot of them must have served in the European Civil War and now they’re all messed up. We needed any able bodied persons, men and women, girls and boys from the age of twelve and above.
Some of them still have their armbands, albeit torn in some cases and pinned to their jackets the world Biel. They had the deep and empty gaze which I assumed accompanied the feeling of enacting death, but at that age? Not our finest hour.
The sensation of crusted hand emerging from the matted carpet forced me to stop on the stairs. It had been a while since I was this up and down and there was no way to tell how I felt about the whole thing. The hand rail has been a long standing friend. Mr Folkner, the old spy from across the way made his way passed me on the stairs and arrested my eyes in his own. Folkner’s moustache was gelled to perfection as always, but on closer inspection I found that he had acquired a couple of slugs and placed them on his lip himself. Where did he get slugs from? Whether he was a spy or not is debatable.
The current theory stand that he deliberately makes himself look so absurdly like a Cold War Agent to throw me off guard, so that I think that his attempt to be over the top is so that he thinks that I believe him to me an everyday person. But, if he was a spy then that is exactly what he would do, and he always left the apartment at the same time as I did. Well, apart from this time. He was going to see the elevator and then all of a sudden it would materialise. Even the thought of it was causing a sort of rift. Was that look of unstill disgust on his sluggish face reserved for me?
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It was a struggle to lift myself from my chair. After finding myself in my apartment I spliced well and truly with comfort as the leather seemed to bond with me on a molecular level. There was not much else I could do other than watch the ceiling recede with each drag of the cigarette that cloaked the air in a thick smog. The sweats had stopped but my hands still felt elsewhere as I tried to play with the cigarette in my fingers.
Amongst the trails of lights a heavy bang moved through my apartment. I sat there, clung to the chair with my head submerged under water and the faint dull bangs continued to ring out. Unsure at first where the noise emitted I tilted my head towards the television screen which displayed a girls who’s face wouldn’t sit still long enough for me to register who it is. It couldn’t have been her because she disappeared into an advertisement for razor blades and the pounds got more erratic.
My mind wandered to darker plains. I felt a familiar sensation that rose me from my chair and backed me into the corner of the room where I slumped and cradled my frightened face in hands that weren’t my own. As I crouched there the door began to spread out with each passing bang which was now being redirected by the wall to the corner where I lay. There was no knowing who it could be and there was no way of knowing what they wanted until I opened the door. I couldn’t just go and do that. There were far too many risks to consider at this time of night and frankly my head wasn’t up to it. Instead it propelled images of droog-ish individuals ready to raid my apartment for the few pleasure that it houses. Perhaps they didn’t want anything at all, perhaps they just wanted a kick about and my head was the only viable option at hand. The red rocks brought the police into view.
‘Hello, hello, hello! What have we here?’
Two heavies cautiously approaching with a black sack and a night stick to hand. I always thought this wall could do with a lick of paint.
The door kept wailing.
I brought myself to my feet and approached the door taking looks back just in case. Pull yourself together, Jack. I pleaded to myself. I had to control this before it got out of hand.
The peep-hole showed nothing.
I returned to my chair to inspect the bag of red sand in the light. It certainly played with my curiosity as I sat back and considered placing some in a folded up rolling paper. Are you crazy, I though as I opened the seal of the bag to allow the synthetic aroma to tickle my nostrils. Sharp. Whatever it was I seemed to enjoy it, and now that I knew what to expect I felt more comfortable about diving in and having some more despite my reason saying otherwise. The glow from the television slid across the glass coffee table and projected the images of frantic state officials who felt that we were all in a morbid state of disrepute. Rebecca Gordon drew on her E-cigarette long enough to provide a suitable response with undertones of wishful thinking and ignorant idealism.
‘Self-improvement, Harvey. That is the answer to their call. They need only look to themselves and all the problems will become abundantly clear.’
‘Don’t you think that is rather simplistic, Rebecca? I mean one only needs to drive though any number of these sectors.’ Harvey Burnham gestured to a map of the former United Kingdom. ‘Particularly in this region where we can see staggering levels of social degradation that has been allowed to grow and take a firm hold of the population. It is clear to me that the CC has failed these communities and in doing so have crowbarred a completely new set of social issues from the wood worm infested pillars of the past.’
‘What do you suggest, Harvey?’
‘Well we can stop referring to them as subs for a start and begin to see these people for who they are and then cater towards a better future. You don’t have to be an economist to figure out if you increase spending and develop these areas then there would not be nearly half as much of the problems that plague our community.
‘Oh Harvey, my dear. That has been tried before and don’t deny it. Now if you wish to input your concerns onto a touch pad and take to the streets with it, then be my guest. But self-improvement is one of the guiding principles of the Corporate Collective and you cannot deny the positive impact that it has had on those who strive to better themselves and their communities. They need not remain subs forever, Harvey.’
As I sat back and watched as the two of them had a verbal jousting on my coffee table I felt a peculiar draft from the door that sent a chill through my thin layers. The rain was beating hard against the windows and I heard more pounds from outside the door. Steadying myself, I lifted myself and reached for the stained brass handle and fiddled with the latch until I heard the snap of the lock opening.
‘You’ve got some nerve!’
The door swung open as soon as the latch was removed and a figure burst through swinging their arms around. Each punch they landed sent a sickening floods to seep through my body. I protected my head as best I could but the shifting floor caused me to stumble and catch it on the corner of the table. The muffling shouts swirled in dizziness as my eyes attempted to focus on my attacker.
‘Well. Answer me!’
‘I don’t know what you want!’
I scrambled about on the floor as my eyes moved about the room. I could feel another rush coming along and my body shook once more.
‘Who are you, and what have you done with Jonathan?’
I turned to face the invader and noticed her mascara stained face. The lines like the stairs and everything else refused to remain still and began to form intricate patterns that collided through the wrinkled cracks on her face. There was a mixture of pain and anger in her brow which came together in a sadness the leaked through her windows.
‘Please, lady just give me a-‘
My head was going at a hundred miles per hour and I vomited onto the floor. The sudden rush of excitement had brought on a sickness in the form of worry and bewildered confusion. One moment I was seated taking in current affairs as best I could and now I’m hunched over emptying the contents of my unsatisfied stomach in view of this hostile stranger. I couldn’t be certain as to whether or not I had taken more of the red stuff, but my arm shifted from left to right in quick, jaded succession and it felt as though the individual atoms were leaving me to enter the mouth of this barking assailant who now stood very still in the centre of my apartment.
‘What are you doing here?’ I asked calmly now that the initial shock waves seized to race through my arteries.
‘You know why I’m here. What have you done to Jonathan?’
‘Jonathan?’ I asked with a puzzled expression.
Do I know this Jonathan? My drug addled mind struggled to thrust out any point of reference and despite being emotionally provoked, this woman seemed more equipped to make this assumption.