THE NOWHERE MAN: By Graeme Reynolds

The old man sat alone in the bar and watched the people around him going about their lives. A young couple, sitting at the table across from him spoke to each other in whispers, intent only on each other.  The girl’s clothes and makeup were immaculate, despite the hour. Seven in the evening, which meant that she’d gone straight home from work and gotten herself ready. Her eyes shone as her partner, a good-looking man with a carefully disheveled appearance, spoke to her in a low voice. The old man watched as the strings of their lives streamed out into the future, intersecting with other bright blue lines of possibly in bright bomb-bursts that created new lines of life in trails of orange, green and scarlet, each extending off into their own infinite possibilities.

He smiled to himself.  A small, sad expression.  Gratified to witness the potential futures unfolding before the young couple that contrasted the fading, lonely line of his own existence – stretching out for a few short years until it faded to nothing. His own line brushed against others; a brief brightening that created a few vague, quickly forgotten interactions on the futures of those that he came into contact with. A smile. A couple of choice words, or a phrase uttered in passing conversation that would be remembered at some point in the future, without the person remembering where they had heard those words before, or who had spoken them. Small, meaningless intersections with other lives that had little effect beyond the immediate future.

It had not always been that way. In his youth, the man’s life had been filled with possibilities. A spider web of interactions that had affected the lives of those around him. Chance introductions between acquaintances that had blossomed into love, marriage and children that blazed their own bright lines upon the future. Random meetings and discussions that had erupted in a cascade of potential futures, where the world had belonged to him and those he met. All of that was in the past now, though. He’d made a decision, years ago, that the small bubble of reality that he’d created with her would be enough. That he needed nothing else. He’d moved away from those who knew and loved him, holding their shared reality close as they chased a dream. Until that dream had faded and he found himself alone in a prison of his own making, the interactions with others reduced to little more than fleeting illumination along a progressively darker future.

He sighed and made his way to the bar for another drink. Another small dose of oblivion to numb his breaking heart and pass the empty hours. To dim the awareness of the lives extending around him. He smiled at the young girl behind the bar, aware of the shy, veiled glance that she gave to her colleague and the intertwining dance of the lifelines – a dance that in seven or eight months would have another partner – the child in her stomach hardly the size of a pea at this stage but already coloring their combined futures with an incandescent golden glow.

The shove came from behind. Unintentional but still with sufficient force to make him stagger, sloshing the contents of his glass across his shirt. A young man in grey tracksuit bottoms and a faded baseball cap, stumbling forward and forcing his way to the bar. He did not even apologise. Hardly even seemed aware of the contact. The barmaid frowned at him and shook her head. “Go home, Billy. You’ve had too many. I’m not serving you.”

Billy snarled, and the vinegar stench of his unwashed clothing assailed the man’s nostrils. A few slurred insults hurled before he staggered off towards the exit, watched by the barmaid and her partner, who now stood beside her with his arms folded.

The man saw the lifeline of the drunk stream out before him. A diseased, sickly thing, filled with undirected anger and bitterness tainting it and everything it came into contact with. An intersection with the young couple in the corner. Three lines coming together in a dark eruption. Only one line continuing on.

The door to the bar slammed against the wall as the drunk left. The young couple in the corner’s hands touch. They smile and finish their drinks, then retrieve their jackets from the chair beside them.

The man was barely aware of the barmaids voice as he stepped away from the bar, leaving a crumpled ten pound note behind him. The possibilities drained away before him – his vision narrowing until only a single path remained. One last choice. One last mark he could leave on the world.

He reached the door at the same time as the young couple. He smiled at the woman, then said “Is that your mobile phone underneath the table?”. They paused, instinctively patting their pockets. That second was all the time he needed. All the time he had left.

The man stepped from the pub into the dark car park. Felt, rather than saw the glare of the headlights. The pain was agonizing, but mercifully brief as the car impacted his body, shattering bone until fragments carved their way through nerve and muscle. For the briefest of moments he was flying – all pain forgotten – defying gravity until it regained its hold and drew him close once more in a final crushing embrace.

The young couple stood at the door to the bar, their lifelines blazing. The drunk leaving his car, slurring “I never saw him. He just came out of nowhere.”

As the light faded from his eyes and his body grew cold, the man smiled then breathed his last.

_______________

©2015 Graeme Reynolds

Graeme Reynolds is the author of the critically acclaimed High Moor series of werewolf novels and owner of Horrific Tales Publishing. By day he breaks computers for money but when the night descends he hunches over a laptop and searches for new ways to offend those with delicate sensibilities.
You can find Graeme at http://www.graemereynolds.com http://www.horrifictales.co.uk and the websites of anywhere that sells novels.
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EVERY TRAVELER WHO RETURNS IS LOST: by Robin Wyatt Dunn

Every time I come home I rediscover myself. And I remember why I left.

To describe my home I must describe my own body–we are ascended which
means we don’t see ourselves as separate from the city, though we can
leave, and return.

Here now, on the terrace, I remember these long years, the wake of the
years now treading its long pull at the back of my head, because…

Because because because. I know I should avoid explanations. Tell only
of the experience. I was elsewhere, I have returned.

This transmission, if it reaches you, which it will not, but if it
could, it is my diary. For history. For my mother.

Here the asphalt is cool against my legs, where I squat hunched like a
dwarf, under the leaves, carefully maintained, this terrace suspended
above Broadway five hundred feet, but so calm–things are calm here.

You know that. If I can say things are calm I can say other things,
but I would say them with my head. No judgment of mine should be
recorded–please, is this permitted? Do not let my judgments be
transferred into your awareness, only the experience, so that there
might be no separation.

I am returned, here in the pagoda, the garden for the returned, those
unmeshed from the rest, for a time (and the truth is we are not so
different, only by degree, even as lovers join their bodies, or
friends their minds in conversation)

But I am doing it again, offering explanations. Excuses.

I hate it here, you see. I should have said that at the outset. The
calmness is not right, because of the pull at the back of my head,
which is a generator. Nothing uncommon, a generator.

Perception is funny, what we tune out, the sound of a generator is not
supposed to be heard and yet I hear it. It is more there than anything
else and I know it knows me to be here, a musical note in its chorus,
choral, toroidal . . .

You are a body, Robin, you are arrived, into New Haven, into the
porthole, into the terrace, the leaves near as penitents, the
corridors of ashalt–I mean the sidewalks, they are sidewalks Robin,
they are fantastic, truly wonderful–

Well, no. No no no. All that I speak is a disease. I have killed my mother.

As I will murder you.

She made me come back!

You persist in the belief that your fair city, your fair city, your
fair city will be–not resonant, no, no, not quite, what is it that you
believe about this damned place

WE BELIEVE IT IS HEAVEN ROBIN

Yes, heaven, that’s it. What is that.

THAT EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE.

The same old story, yes. Ecclesiastes. My mother is like you. A time
for everything and everything in its time.

YES.

A shit for every pot.

YES.

A crap for every dog.

WHAT?

But we know all this. Its immanence is its horror. The railings. The
translucent memory patterns on the water. The sound of the generator.
. . thrumming its humdrum lovers (us) into action.

I am a student. I am a student of your reality.

Your reality means nothing to me. I am above it. I am defeating it!

I am–

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME, ROBIN.

You don’t know anything about last time goddamn it!

DESCRIBE WHAT YOU SEE.

My metal donkey. Blue and black. My satellite, black. My escritoire, silver.

YES ROBIN.

My blood…

YOU ARE GOING TO THE HOSPITAL ROBIN.

Make me not remember.

___________________

© 2014 Robin Wyatt Dunn

 

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