The wind sings in the darkness, its breath caressing the lips of several glass bottles, their necks slick with the dew of condensation. A heap of rags dozed beside the panpipe lullaby, shivering and stirring against invisible hands. A loose fold colliding with a stray note, sends a delicate vessel crashing to the road and spilling its musical blood.
The rags groan, moving with purpose, grasping at the fraying strings of its life. And the death of this creature’s lullaby was sealed with a kiss; the precious fluid that gave birth to tones, gulped down in an instant of parched lips.
Clattering bottles burst across the ground as an invisible bowling ball claims its spare. The rags, a blanket cast down over the face of a sodden bum. HE has emerged, triumphant, slayer of multicoloured demons that occupied the shelves of Bargain Booze, like an opposing force. Striding with giddy pride down the road, littered, with confetti.
Letting loose his mighty battle cry, this hero, lined the streets with gold. And his songs of victory brought illuminations upon him from the very heavens themselves, as he limped, basking in the warm glow of recognition and the cheers that followed. But all too soon, his carriage had arrived, dragging him away from adoring fans that cried and grasped out for him.
With a jolt, the carriage began to move and he cried ‘Home James!’ in a language so ancient, all manner of men were struck dumbfounded…and jealous of his linguistic skill, that it rendered all others silent.
And so the carriage came to a halt, escorted by his armed guards, he entered his room and collapsed into bed.
“Let me out!”
I watch from a distance as the man pounds fists against the steel door. He seems quite frustrated, but then, I would be too.
“Let me out, damn it….damn you!”
I’m not usually one to judge, but, it is your own fault… A thought that frequently entered my mind as I yawn and observe the aftermaths of over indulgence. I would be angry too…after all, awaking to find yourself in such a state of blood, vomit and piss would make anyone rather uncomfortable. Especially when said things have now had time to dry out and effectively glue your clothes to your body.
“Let me out of here! Don’t you know who I am!?” It was about this time, that an officer would open the door.
“And how can we help ‘your grace’ today?”
I always had to laugh at this point, it seemed to be a conditioned response, it happened so often that if I didn’t find it funny by now, I may just lose my sanity…
“I demand to see my lawyer, you have treated me….most unkindly”.
I always wonder though…how could someone get into this much trouble, so frequently – that, it would be unsurprising if a room was pre-booked and ready for frequent visitation.
“I’m sorry, but all your lawyers are busy right now. Though I DO apologise if you feel mistreated”.
“Well, in that case, be off with you, I shall return home to clean myself up”.
The Officer is a regular. He steps aside and closes the door behind ‘your grace’ to try and cut off what stench had already leaked out from the room.
“Try to be more careful, your subjects don’t like to be woken up”.
It was obvious to anyone, even to me, that things were bad…but…he never did learn. To this day, I wish he could have listened more and didn’t succeed so masterfully at suicide. Nobody would have guessed, that what lay beneath the filth that clung like a second skin, could be a man.
He gathered together aching limbs using his equally afflicted brain, it hurt to think and thinking often led to remembering. He loathed them, memories were to be buried and forgotten, but, they never left him alone, not without help anyway. He pushed his memories down repressing them by concentrating on lumbering himself forth through the Police station, he came upon the exit and pushed forth through the doors into the concrete wilderness.
It was light outside, the night before just some distant memory…fantasy…perhaps even just a dream, a delusion. I knew he was so much more as I watched him; when you study someone closely, you can sometimes get a sense of what they are or…could be. But when someone has shut off their mind to all hope, they scarce ever listen, not even to someone close to them.
It’s summer…the sun is warm, the birds are joyful and people are out to enjoy the weather. It was time to strike. He was somewhat a master of his…craft…he would not wait for people to come to him, he would go to them. He would beg and scrape, cough and whine, all in attempts to get some money from the passing joyful masses.
Today was slightly different though, today he had a story.
“Excuse me! Sir! Madame!” He beckoned to people as they dodged by, like they were being attacked by a low flying pigeon.
“I was beaten up and mugged last night…and…”.
He sniffed and held back dramatic tears.
“And…when they finished beating me so savagely, the brutes pissed on me!”
He would explain to those he could stop long enough, barraging them with gory details and amateur theatrics. And often, to his and others surprise, some people would believe him and give him a modest sum to pay for a phone call or taxi home…wherever THAT may be.
But, all too soon the day drew its curtains and night demanded its turn. And I was there to witness what was to come…what was always to come.
The money…it was enough…another drunken stupor beckoned form beyond the closed doors of Bargain Booze, singing out the echo of lullabies past. Haunting the air with the scent of a much needed thirst quencher, he trundled onward through the door. Where, he was met by the stern faces of youthful adults in caps, baggy clothes and the assumption that they must have all been kicked in a certain place…to explain such rude behaviour.
He approached the shelves, picked out extravagant coloured bottles and set them atop the counter with a self-satisfied grin toward the female cashier…who was none too impressed as she arched back the best she could to fight against the stench that exuded from his presence. Offering a hesitant hand to take his money and close it safely in the till where he could no longer torture the already dead trees.
Bags in hand and youths in tow, he left. Now, I like to think I am a smart person, but not even I could fully predict what was to come, though of course I had a vague idea…which was soon to be dulled with the vast consumption of alcohol, which the vapours of which, would hang so heavily in the air, even bacteria would get a buzz.
The alley crawled up to him, a friendly stray animal that he liked to visit frequently. It was warm, comforting and welcoming to him, unlike the rest of the world as he saw it. He settled near the opening maw of darkness, not too bright, but not too dim either. Enough to see what he was doing and not be able to see his reflection…oh how he never wanted to see his reflection.
Carling hissed, a cat arching its back in warning as the can cracked open. He was too thirsty. The world was nothing new, the hiss was now too familiar. The first can was gone in an instant, but the thirst remained and he continued on the path of self destruction.
The cans piled up, one by one, the youths approached and blocked out the light. A can in one hand, the tarmac in the other as he propped himself upright to look up at the youths.
A foot flew in and connected with his chin, sending him back instantly into the embrace of darkness that the alley provided.
The owner of the foot led the gang, he was in his mid twenties and roughly shaven. It could be seen that the young man had no care, not only for his appearance, but also not for anyone else who could be his victim. With a cigarette hanging from his lower lip and a body clad in a tracksuit, steel toe cap boots and puff jacket combination, the only intimidating feature of this boy was the similarly uniformed, and minded, group of terrorists that he led.
“Give us your money and booze, you worthless shit”. The leader demanded.
All three of them seemed to dive into his bags looking through the bottles and cans of alcohol to see what haul they had obtained.
“Bastard’s drank most of it!”
“Where’s your fuckin’ money?”
He’d backed into a corner, clutching his can like a new born child and I, I was helpless as they approached him.
“Give us your fuckin’ money!”
I can’t blame him for locking up, clutching the only thing he felt he had in life…after all, if he had money, why would he be here, of all places…it made no sense…why were they bothering him? It brought me great distress. And when one of the youths reached in to grab his arm, he lunged forth and bit the teens hand, breaking the skin, as the lad pulled away in pain.
“He fuckin’ bit me! Let’s get ‘im!”
I wish I knew what lead me to influence him now…I cannot say why he let me. After all these years of letting himself die little by little. Murdering his dreams and hopes in the acids of liquor as he roamed the streets, today, in these last moments, he opened himself to me. He listened as I screamed at him ‘fight for life, make it worth living, and never regret a thing’.
But it’s all too late. I am finally back where I belong, to enjoy my last moments of life, watching as three youths who are yet to waste their lives, run. Fleeing from my body as it crawls forth from the darkness into the street, like a Halloween snail, leaving a trail of blood.