It’s a Saturday night and all the people are out. It’s December, and there is a Christmas air to the world, even though it’s stormy. People are wearing their best clothes, new jackets, scarves, and it’s pouring rain, coming down so hard it’s running in streams down the street. But they are all managing fine, standing there, behind their glass fronts. Tinsel draped across shoulders, fake snowflakes in the line of their glassy-eyed mannequin stares.
Reality blurs and shifts and I can feel the way this alien world makes no sense, the way it tips away from sensible meaning. I try to keep my voice down low, talking to myself again as I stalk this night. The last man on earth is talking to himself. Me, paranoid? Don’t be silly. I mutter it low, hoping that I don’t draw any attention from the strange shapes that lurch and stagger around me. Women wander the streets in scandalously short cocktail dresses, carrying precarious heels in their hands, the rain water washing over their bare feet. Huge men baying at the sight, men old enough to know better slapping their guts in a preposterous failed mating ritual. Please god, I mutter to myself, swaying by degrees as I walk, please god, let this be a dead end species. But they are vile breeders. I purse my lips on those words, but no one pays me any attention. I’m the invisible man.
And I’m the mad one? Wrapped up against the howl of wind, the lash of rain, wavering amongst the shifts of this bad trip. Animals, speaking in tongues, barking and braying, senseless in their alcohol-fueled chatter. It is the season to be jolly, but aren’t they all? Keep the twitching to a minimum, friend, I tell myself, a startled whisper. Keep it cool – they can smell fear! Slightest thing and they’ll turn, belligerent pig eyes, with squealing, foaming mouths. Keep it cool, keep the twitching to a minimum, keep your head down, don’t meet their eyes, don’t stop walking.
Artificial images trapped by glass seem faked, but somehow preferable to the taint of reality. They pitch some kind of proto-reality, a vision of something idealized and ludicrous in the light of the street vermin. Sometimes I get a little lost, a little trapped in this lost mind, surrounded by the senseless, by the fear and loathing. Keep breathing, keep moving, stifle the fear and loathing, don’t panic – harpies and jackals – carrion eaters, spewing waste to stain the streets – don’t panic, I tell myself again. Glass eyes mark my progress. Hands buried in pockets, hiding in a hood against the backlash; corruption slicks the streets.
The chords cut through it all, a busker on the street corner. Not the child trickster and his Oasis loop, inviting the feral to sing along at the chorus, how they howl tunelessly caught in the delusions of the masses. Not the jazz trio who nod along to all weather for all comers, down-beat and carefree. No, it is my spirit guitarist, lurking in a doorway, playing through feedback and discord pedals; he only comes out after dark. Ground down punk strains a siren call of relief. Close your eyes, it says, let the world stop in its motion. I float along, carried forward by this lowing hum. The snarl of a voice delivering fallen angels, a whisper stream of breathless contagion, weaving around my head. A woman walks in front of me, knee high boots, a heavy jacket, a woolen hat atop her long, dark hair. She pauses at that street corner, rifles through her pockets, finds some change, drops it in his guitar case. Alms for our spirit guide – I follow her example – as she walks on through the rain and I feel human again. I search for coins and pay tribute for salvation.
Photograph by Peter Morrison, used under a Creative Commons license.
Peter Morrison has been a blogger for well over a decade now. In one form or another, he has been documenting and exploring our culture. At various times he has been a DJ, a musician, a promoter, but above all he has always been a writer. His fiction work falls into the category of odd, often with a science fiction influence, and a horror leaning which he continues to find surprising.
Other stories by this Glasgow-based writer can be found online at Mythaxis, Weaponizer, Telling of Tales, Dark Fiction and of course Giant Chicken Stories. He jumps on most Internet bandwagons but can mainly be found at www.remotevoices.co.uk and tweeting @remotevoices.