Last week I was at home with a recuperating old dog. I’m decluttering the place. We’re living in a terraced house beside a wide, busy city street. I put the section of concert seating that was used in a famous recording (John Lennon and Jagger/Dirty Mac?) into the front garden, thinking maybe I ought to get rid of it. I changed my mind and went back out, but a clownish Beatles memorabilia merchant and assistant had already loaded it into their van. I explain that I’m not discarding it, look inside for a minute and ensure the dog won’t get out, but when I return they’ve already gone. And a little way along the road, they have left a long panel they didn’t want. It’s sticking out in the street, a hazard to cyclists etc. I walk there and move the panel straight alongside the kerb. The dog has managed to get out but he’s pottering about in the front garden and goes back in with me, safe and sound.
There are big bales of herbal marijuana here. I’m not too worried. Dad is game to try some and begins working on rolling up a spliff, something he has never done before, at the table. But then someone’s boyfriend is coming in. I hope he’s not a policeman, looks a bit like he might be, a big guy. I ask him and he says he is. He stands looking out our window. I assume he won’t bother about us having or smoking dope but no, he says he cannot overlook it.
In the workplace, there is no desk in the empty office, nothing. In the other two offices, there are meetings of men in progress round the desks. So can’t work there either. I have forgotten to bring even a basic notebook and pen or pencil, so I won’t be able to work here today. Back into the street, beside a very wide road, more than eight lanes, possibly twelve or more. Not much traffic though. I meet the king at a bus stop, a famous actor, recognise the face. I’m not sure if it’s Jack Palance, or could it be John Cassavetes? But he’s in a bad way, tall but stooped, dirty. The back of his parka is filthy across his shoulders. I will help him to cross the road. He leans on me and we set off to cross when there’s no traffic. It’s a very long way. We haven’t reached the other side, haven’t even seen it, when he decides he wants to go back. It’s a bright day. The concrete looks more like the expanse of a car park than a road, it’s so wide. As we’re about halfway back, a small, odd vehicle is approaching from the wrong side (our right). We will have to be careful. But its course is wavery, uncertain.
In jail in NL (?) for not paying hospital bill. Finding my cell. Read a vague label. Can make out my name & name of hospital. (I thought I said jail.) So this really is it. It’s rather cosy, cluttered. But I check further along the corridor to get my bearings. Passing a narrow way where prisoners are socialising. A bit worried they’ll pick on me, but no – okay. One guy’s jacket or jumper almost blocks the way. I get by but they ignore me. A civilised kind of jail. (And I will only have three months to do. It’s on my door label.) I want to take pictures for Facebook but guess it’s not done to show other inmates. I will only show my own cell. Not as bad as I feared. Still, to be locked in is not good – scary.
The sound of a car sweeping by, into the next empty room. I go in to investigate and there are a man and a woman looking around and a small child somewhere. I ask what they want. The man is very tall and stocky, whereas I seem to be far below, near the floor. He says something but I can’t make out the words. I tell him I can’t understand what he’s saying. The woman takes a step forward. She is even bigger than him. The child whizzes by below, out of sight, with the noise of a car. She speaks to me but, again, I can’t make out the words. Except the last one might be “religion”. The man starts to speak again. I am getting a little agitated, because I don’t know who they are or what they want here in my house. I say, “I can’t understand a word you’re saying!” Then, “I want you out of here now.” I repeat it but they show no sign of going. So I call upstairs to my wife to phone the police. But my voice won’t work right. I try again.
I went on a big demo with Dad. He’s one of the leaders. On the way back there was a bit of argy-bargy and an obstreperous kid got hauled away. Back to our home in B-. It’s crowded, with so many of the activists here. I think they’ve taken the interloper outside, and I’m worried they may have killed him. It’s night already. I go out front to see what’s happening and they are just in the process of launching a nuclear missile from the field outside our house into the city. The flames of its rocket engines fire in the dark.
Inside again, beside the wall in the crowded living room. I go out the back with my acquaintances, with my overcoat on. It’s a sort of cul-de-sac with the back gardens around it, and it is crowded here too. Police are arriving to look for the missing kid, a youth really. I say I’m worried I will be mistaken for my father and blamed by the crowd. “I’ll be lynched.” In the distance the city is a conflagration, with fires everywhere, but the police arriving have not seen it, as they’re coming from that direction and facing this way. People try to tell them about the nuclear attack, but they are officious and insist they must follow-up their search for the kid, one thing at a time.
But they soon realise they must investigate the source of the nuclear missile, as people are telling them it came from in front of my house. We go inside, and I feel I must tell them about the murdered kid, as I think it’s only right, and anyway, it would be worse for my Dad to be blamed for the nuclear missile. Nobody knows where the kid is. They’ve got Dad in handcuffs now. I don’t feel I have done anything wrong, but I’m not feeling righteous, it’s just something I had to tell them. He’s brought it on himself.
But now the floor of the room is flooded about a foot deep. Everyone else has gone. Somehow they drain it. I don’t know what’s happening. The floorboards are lifted. It’s not the kid. There are what looks like two sacks there, possibly the size of a big person and a smaller one but they’re shapeless, so it’s not certain, it might be something else. I am seized with anxiety and guilt.
Getting to the place is alright, it’s finding the way back afterwards that’s difficult. I see a station down that way and set out. But I’ve gone down the wrong side somehow and now I’ve lost sight of it. And I’ve forgotten my phone, so I can’t check maps. The further I walk, the bigger the streets. This is a big city, I know. Office blocks, etc, vast expanses everywhere I look, but no sign of a station. I am totally lost.
It’s later. Running, we leap into a sort of silo, as big as a huge barn, half filled with whatever. We go out onto a little outside balcony on the opposite wall above the huge pit. It’s barred above with giant beer pump handles. Dad doesn’t have a care, chatting away. I can jump and pull one of the giant handles down a bit but that’s not going to get us out of here. Dad is in a good mood, talking and, in that way of his, making himself laugh, while I realise we’re never going to get out of here.
Up in the office block. Briefcase? To the top floor to get something that’s mine, while the boss is not around. Was that a sound, is he here? To get away, go out and back to the past.
The woman in a big dress tags along with the others. I wish she wouldn’t. At last she has drifted away, I can see her float down the landings. This building is mostly glass.
There’s nobody else on the stairs or in the corridors in this block. I wonder if there is anyone inside behind some of the doors, as we reach the end of the corridor where my apartment is. The others are still just behind.
The apartment is modern, spacious, open plan, minimal. There is a small saucepan sizzling on the electric hob. Further on in, another identical little saucepan, steaming, boiling. And there’s another one ahead on the next worktop too.
I realise that no one else I know is here, no one else can be here, because this is the past and they’ve all gone. Everyone else is in the future.
But the ones who tagged along came into the apartment behind me. I point at them. My speech is feeble, so I strain to raise it, but it’s rough and fluctuates. I say, “You are in the twilight zone.”
Back with the B…..s again. This time I did meet E…. but also the others and even B……., whom, ostensibly I was there to see. In fact he left me alone for a while and who should come in only E-, and we got talking. She wanted to make some point, to harp on about abortion, and there it was, the same old religious incompatibility. It soon became clear that I had to go. It was raining hard outside, but while dressing I couldn’t find the coat I came in with. I was looking for it – they have so many clothes strewn around – and eventually took something I’m not even sure was mine, which was only a vest, I think. After that fuss, I thought better of trying to find a box of chocolates that B- had given me earlier, which I had since lost sight of. It might seem selfish to ask after it, and there was still no sign of B-. As I was leaving, going out into the rain, ill-clothed and with a long walk ahead, most of the family, though not B-, was there in the hallway to see me off. Even the reverend himself – tall, smiling, happy. I couldn’t really say anything, not about what had transpired, neither the missing box of chocolates, my difficulty with clothes nor the unwanted topic with E-, on my way out the door.
I carry someone back to the flats. The shrilling of evil is all around. One kind friend guides me by, towards the entrance. Another cheerfully leads the way. She has only a clean robotic mechanism exposed across the shoulders and nothing above. But the dreadful shrilling of evil is all-pervasive.