Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Backseat Dreamer

Many of the vehicles had been abandoned with no regard for the white lines that marked out the allotted spaces in the carpark. The snow that had covered the area had subsequently melted, thus giving an excuse for careless parking.

A shapely woman in a scanty frock approached the barrier, whereupon the ticket-dispenser machine thought she was a thing on wheels and handed her a reminder of the date and time printed on a stiff hard-to-lose card. She forthwith flicked it away into the darkness, as if participating in one of those ancient school-playground cigarette-card games—the blind-man's buff version.

She remembered that she sought a car (one with its headlights switched on) and a registration-plate matching the letters and numbers tattooed on her left breast—a combination she'd meticulously memorised the night before. If she ever turned into a nameless corpse, her compatriots would be in no doubt that it was her. The whereabouts of such a corpse would indicate the successful outcome of her mission—or not.

Yet none of the cars were alight. They simply squatted there like extinct baby-pods of prehistoric monster berserkers. She wandered in and out, unworried as to the floweriness of her own thoughts' language. She had been brainwashed only to take the illogical for granted. Amid the haywire aisles of scattered metal, she peered through the windows to ascertain the nature of any occupants and, if there were any, whether they were still alive and communicado. Not that she really wanted anything but an empty car. But the confusion derived from her training to seek that for which she did not seek, in the hope that such obliquity would lead her—by accident—to the thing she actually sought without knowing she sought it.

The sky had just started to activate sprinkler-systems of disabled snow, which seeped as sleet into her skimpy clothes, making her shiver...

The headlights came on suddenly. Not merely one or, even, two. All the cars broke their vows of silence and erupted into a life which, if the very beginning of the world had been witnessed, this would appear to be its obverse at the very end of time. An abrupt awakening as a prelude to death. She was caught in the cross-glares, eyes blinking, heart thumping, her mind full with memories of those shafts of twirling lateral light stirring the war-stricken night of her youth.

Having used confusion as a subterfuge for clarity, she could hardly recall how she had clambered into one of the cars and driven it from the car park. Even without the all-important card, the barrier had lifted of its own accord, knowing that, if it had not, it would have been smashed to smithereens. Even stones did bleed in certain phases of the cold blue moon.

She steered quickly through the slanting icicles of rain, her high-heeled feet playing the engine like a bass organ. She knew the bomb in the boot may also have had a life of its own, its short fuse matched to her own feminine one.

The streets through which she drove were completely unfamiliar but, at the same time, she knew exactly when to take certain turnings. Glancing in the rearview mirror, she thought she could discern the dark shape of someone sitting in the backseat. Yet, darkness, when it saw fit, could take whatever fumbling form it wanted.

Ah, there was a bridge: a mock-gothic affair which the street lighting moulded from almost nothing, so as to allow the river (or was it a railway track?) to be traversed as the crow (a very special crow) would drive. Was she mad? She felt an embodiment of someone else's dream. She felt calm, as she was certain that she had been warned about the encroachment of such madness. Madness was what made the job so dangerous. She would need to compare notes.

Driving to a halt at the brink of the bridge, she turned to see who may have been backseat-driving. But nobody there, only a pile of what appeared to be unwanted rubble from a building site.

She left the car and walked round to the rear where she could see tyre-tracks in the snow leading up to the back-wheels. The sleet had in fact resumed its snow disguise after settling. The marks were more akin to skids, as if she'd screeched to a halt and, on returning to the front, she saw why: the inky cut was just out of sight beyond the gaze of the headlights. The bridge was a cartilaginously cantilevered mass of pulsing flesh, ribbed further with engorged veins, parts fluted with perfectly linear tumours, other areas haphazardly sown with knobbly cancers beyond even the manufacture of crazy modern sculptors in clay or any other medium, and the pinions and stanchions upholstered with scarlet haunches of clumsily sawn meat—all being wrapped by snow and, conversely, dyeing it.

Tentatively, she first-footed upon the near edge of slimy gristle. It moved under her, as if hurt by her stilletoes. She shuffled forward, testing all the time, because the snow made nonsense of the structure's hidden strengths—like walking on a hammock, but with underlays of breathing, if not burping, animal-fat.

Halfway across, she looked back at the car, which immediately doused its lights as it trundled engineless in her wake. She was thus left invisible to anybody keeping watch. They could only guess whether she had reached the other side, before the boot blew...

Morning brought communal waking, with news of yet another car-bomb outrage. "Carnage leads nowhere," said the Prime Minsiter on the wireless. Nobody, however, appreciated the kindness of the terrorists in arranging for the mayhem to pre-date the bombblast. It lent a certain inevitability, if not an excuse.

Beneath the snow, there was a conical piece of rip-edged flesh with a coded message (D679 BBY) branded upon it. It was never discovered, so nobody would have to face such mystery; nobody would need to explain how a dream could leave bits of itself in the real world. Whatever the case, no party admitted responsibility.

(published 'Rictus' 1994)

1 comment:

Paul Dracon said...

Unwise to cross a bridge, unless you know where it leads.

(I commented anonymously on the earlier pieces on this board-- so I'm to blame for the remarks, both intelligent and otherwise! Now I'm off to board 11, which I still haven't touched yet.)(I have extensively touched boards 2-10...)