Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Night Swallows West.

"As Peeps vehicle climbed onto the elevated roadway, the sun reflected in shooting flashes off the lines of the skyscrapers on either side. On nights that had no moonlight, even these cold, great and empty forms disappeared into the vast ink".

Dear sports, this is my feeble and rather amateur attempt at the first part of a short story that I'll er, publish entirely online. You know where to send the briefcase of cash! I first posted this on Sunday 23 September 2007. I really liked Richard Matheson's freaky and eerie classic, I Am Legend. Though I thought the vampire angle was a bit naff, while disturbing and beautifully well done. I just can't believe in 'em at all.

In fact, I often find horror fantasy neither scary nor fantastic. More a neat allegory, or a preposterous and poor second to the harsh and disturbing facts of er, our current reality. No, really. And I found the I Am Legend film a disappointing, utterly unconvincing and shallow CGI mistaken bore. But what do I know?

Now I thought that the idea of being the poor last bastard on earth and why, would be frightening enough and without the vamps. But what do I know? I hope you get a laugh out of it.

Chapter 1. A Figure On The Landscape.

A light breeze snaked past the open doors of a balcony and through the space between two heavy curtains, pushing them slightly inwards. There was almost no sound from outside and nothing passed within as the cool air drifted softly over the body of Sam Peeps who lay asleep in the half-light of the room. Suddenly the sound of his own voice brought him to a kind of semi-consciousness with the partially shouted words unfolding rapidly in the shadows. He sat up with a wired jolt and his arms pushed out straight from his sides pressing hard into the bed.

"There is no such thing as the Devil", he said.

"Hey, day or night?" he wondered vaguely for a moment before falling back into torpor. Several phrases fell from his half opened mouth as a catechism. "All failure is a lack of concentration. God never interferes in our lives. Energy can only go in one direction at a time" he said in a continuous mumble.

"They're not listening. I tried to.." he growled to no one. "It's all a little late, sport. Yes endurance".

Flattening out on the damp sheets with a deep exhale, Peeps knew these words to be so and that they were a test and difficult to apply. He recalled offering long ago in explanation to someone he could not remember, that in understanding the true meaning of the first, you achieve the simplicity of the second and reveal the clarity of the third. The fourth provides the strength and flexibility to continue. Now as he tried to concentrate he knew that he was alone.

Slipping deeper into exhaustion, Sam Peeps tried to gauge if he was awake, asleep or somewhere in between. At these moments, it seemed that Peeps could think clearly and that there was time in which to do so. In the last of his wakefulness, he saw that they were only sensations, the idea of thought much as vanishing pools of light.

Like his memories, they appeared in a fractional split within a second or were spread over hours in broken pieces. It was sometimes as if nothing had ever really existed, and there was now only Samuel Peeps alone on a silently turning earth.

With an odd and slight smile, another peculiar statement came to him as they often did. "In the sharp sun of midday and the deep drop of night, fallen angels, a false prophet and the Son of God".

Between the long days and a murky sleep that felt like being pulled down into an enveloping and sucking fold, recurring thoughts like troubling and formless insects continued to move and float through Peeps mind. A persistent theme that would rise up in this half-state, was of how Indian people of the Americas once believed that a human being could only truly exist and be complete when they had found their own place within their own part of the world.

If this was never found or was lost, a soul could drift and slowly disappear to the living like a fading echo or as a vapour fades in the sun. Like a figure on the landscape. And then he was gone.

Under the early morning sun against a sky of intense blue, a single vehicle drove towards the crest of a great and ruined bridge that was sprung between the docklands and downtown of a quiet city. High above, thin distant clouds drifted over an almost silent world and the lack of any wind or background noise allowed the slow sound of waves from the beachfront to be heard in the distance.

With an easy curving two mile run up from each end, the massive multi-lane gate led out to the west and beyond. The decaying arc of concrete, steel and tar that formed the bridge crossed a river that flowed through town to the sea. From its mid point, two enormous pylons stood high above the road surface.

The grime covered shafts more than doubled the height of the bridge, each one supporting two giant blistered cables that sweated and dripped a brown rusting drool. The heavily scarred cords followed the line of the structure and draped down to the spine of the arch, from where could be seen the whole of the city, which was almost a kilometer away. The sweeping bay was less than half that distance. Across the river, the adjoining freeway cut through the stillness of corroding industrial areas and dead suburbs. Further into the clear distance were the mountains.

On many occasions he had thought about them and how to the eye they did not seem to change, appearing so separate from the uncontrollable slipping away of things. There was the impossible thought that if he focused intensely enough on their perfect and remote forms, everything would stop, remaining as it was. The distant peaks were so unlike the metropolis, left to its relentless breakdown and decay.

Seeing how rapidly almost everything altered and yet nothing happened, gave the feeling of being in a vortex, where everything is breaking up and swallowed down. It seemed clear that whatever he did and however he held to anything, everything would still collapse and drain away, forcing him off-balance and dragging him into the void.

Walking across the full width of the roadway, Peeps gaze was drawn down to the movement of the water below as the twisting filth formed bent circles of grey. Light on his feet and of medium build, Peeps movements gave a startling sense of alertness and energy against a land that was almost a still-life. Though he appeared at times curiously at ease in the emptiness, Sam Peeps was possessed of a deep and swirling energy. And when in repose, he could seem so oddly at peace that he almost disappeared into the surrounding stillness.

In recurring dreams, Peeps saw himself as a single spinning top on a vast, cold and infinitely flat plain, and as he turned, it was as if he was being overwhelmed, then slowly crushed by a great weight. Those he had known pushed through a broken sleep in noiseless columns as he lay immobilized for hours that could turn into days. When he arose, he remembered them reflected in all that he could see and taste in the cool air.

Standing upon the giant span, the river pushing out beneath him, he felt his legs becoming lighter as his weight seemed to shift to his upper body. For several seconds he thought he would fall, turning over and down into the muddy rush. Jerking back from the railing with a snap, he returned to the vehicle where he sat on the hood with his back against the windscreen, his lone figure stretched out while absently fondling an automatic pistol.

Sliding the gun smoothly into a shoulder holster, he found its form comforting as it embraced his torso with an almost liquid, leather affection. From a pocket, he took out a worn black leather wallet and opened it, the sun glinting off the chrome of a small shield, bringing into sharp relief the digits of a serial number embossed on its metal face. His eyes came to the number ten and his thoughts fell to how it had been that many years since the beginning, as the light bent across the words Detective Samuel Peeps.

With a rip of thin metal, he opened a container of bitter drink, a small breath hissing from the can, and he smiled his strange smile as he considered the possibilities of the day. At a distance, the shimmering urban expanse seemed almost alive. He lifted a pair of high-powered binoculars to his eyes.

"Ok", he said. "I can't save anybody". As he spoke his arm knocked an unopened can that rolled off the vehicle and dropped down onto to the asphalt. The cylinder punctured, began spraying liquid and as it gained momentum, cracked against the concrete gutter and bounced onto the gantry running alongside the bridge rising into the day.

Standing up, he pushed his open palms down hard and said "You can't control your environment, kid. You..." For a moment, he swayed a little, with his head held forward, twisted his shoulders from side to side, and breathed deeply. "Right. Wait".

Sliding into the open vehicle, Peeps turned the key and the engine growled as he closed the door with a soft upholstered thud. Moving smoothly into gear, he accelerated rapidly, making a whirling dust devil. The momentum and flow cleared the mind a little and he considered the ordinary in his extraordinary circumstance and the incredible in the commonplace. As the movement of cold air fell across his hot brow, he repeated a drum upon the steering wheel. Save the world. Save the world.

"Ah, the world. I couldn't.." he said as he looked at a photograph on the rear vision mirror.

Roaring down onto the freeway straight, the drag of the vehicle violently stirred up the endless waste that was scattered over the bitumen and collected in thousands of melted drifts. Paper, dust, mud, flood waters and trillions of insect bodies, formed a putrid blackening goo in anything that acted as a catchment.

As Peeps vehicle climbed onto the elevated roadway, the sun reflected in shooting flashes off the lines of the skyscrapers on either side. On nights that had no moonlight, even these cold, great and empty forms disappeared into the vast ink.

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