There’s not even any Christmas cheer.
Christmas in a seaside town in England is wet and windy and grim, and Jack mused that he would have it no other way. The seas are rough, with towering waves crashing into the pebbled shore. The smell of salt is everywhere. It can be tasted on the skin, and on the skin of others, like a cold fevered sweat.
And here he was – up to his waist in it.
The trip to the hospital had affected Jack more than he cared to admit. He was in a psychedelic dream, he told himself; he wandered the earth like a ghost, unfeeling and untouched by the passing of events, filtered from the pain by a cocktail of drugs and alcohol, his vision skewed to an angle of utter obliqueness. But still the reality of existence had broken through.
'Say hello to Mother Superior when you see him.'
The plight of his one-time friend Steve Pollard had disturbed him, the sight of sickness and despair, the sound of false bravado and uncontrollable coughing fits, and the smell of something fundamentally rotten slowly rotting to the core. It was like looking at himself, a future Jack in pyjamas begging for relief from the inevitable conclusion of a dangerous hand of Russian Roulette. And it was these thoughts that followed him as he wandered in his trance-like state, these thoughts that stopped him in his tracks and made him feel again, clinging on with bloody talons as he miserably made his way back to his damp empty flat in the tower block that overlooked the city of perpetual winter. And there Christmas was spent, naked and huddled in a corner, locking in the addiction and locking out the world.
Too dumb to run, too dead to die...
Jack could have run at the beginning when he strayed from the path, running blindly from the life he had chosen when the awful mistake was realised. He could have escaped the clutches of the Mother Superior before the disease of addiction had taken hold. He could have run when he found out the terrible price he would have to pay, his craving sated by the cravings of others. He could have done many things but did nothing instead. Nothing took no effort, it could be eased into and done without conscious thought, like breathing or blinking an eye. Nothing was simply easier.
Jack gathered together his stockpile of drugs from all their various hiding places within the flat, from beneath floorboards and behind power points, from inside a stereo system and the dead pipes of a water heater, and took them all in one final hit. "A grand gesture in futility," he whispered to his Frank Capra-style guardian angel as he lay down by the window, watching the rivulets of rain come down from a stormy sky, watching as he sank deeper and deeper and dreamed in colour of an unknown house in an unknown street and an alternate reality… The house, perhaps no more than a rundown semi-detached, was not Jack’s but jointly owned in a communal sense by the others who shared these four walls, and it was night and the curtains were closed and a soft lamp - the only light of the house - was switched on in the lounge, soft and yellow and warm. And draped on the floor and settee were cushions, decorative pillows and throws, softening further the corners of the room. No points or sharp edges here, no hardness, and nothing from the outside world to spoil this melodious hideaway. Jack saw that the lounge is not empty; the floors were not bare, for congregating like so many lazy moths around the warm light were the inhabitants of this house. Two were residing to his right, a man in his forties with a very familiar television face and a woman whose voice he heard with gentle affection. They are cuddling on the low settee and laughing. Jack was sprawled on the floor with a large cellophaned packet of pure white cocaine, which he handed out to them in great sifting scoops. He is not careful; much of what he hand out falls wastefully on the Persian-style carpet. There is so much cocaine in their possession that there is no need to be careful. Jack stretches over and passes another scoop to the woman relaxing before him on a chair. She also has a television face. Her name is Marina Sirtis and in a time beyond this time, in a galaxy not yet explored, she is an empathic counsellor on a ship the size of a small city. Marina is an empath here on this world too because as she licks the coke from her fingers she looks into Jack’s eyes and knows what he is feeling, and Jack must also be an empath because her dark sensual eyes easily betrays her own deep passions. They smile. Everyone smiles. They talk of the future and how nothing before or since can beat this moment of pure unadulterated bliss. And then they fall silent as the record player in the corner softly turns itself on and begins to play the mellow West Coast sounds of Rumours. This blissful encounter, this perfect moment dusted with cocaine has somehow just got better. They are high, they are happy, they are listening to Stevie Nicks beautifully singing Dreams.
...too dead to die...
The attempt at reaching a painless plain of oblivion had failed. Jack had woken up, crying, clutching his aching stomach, longing to return to a universe where music was love and life was easy and addiction was an unheard of malaise, a Grimm fairytale told to scare gullible children into becoming better citizens.
And then there was the other dream, the waking dream, where he left his empty flat in the crumbling concrete tower block and disappeared into a moving wall of humanity shuffling to the January Sales below, pushing and being pushed, bumping into shoulders and shopping bags and being knocked to his feet, hearing the sound of shouting voices and blaring car horns, each used in anger to redirect and hurry his unstable progress out of town towards the coast. A dream where he walked between the diverse streams of traffic on the duel carriageway, barely recognising the shapes of cars and trucks and juggernauts and the cold steel chassis of buses filled with the blank, starring faces of the damned, but seeing the colours so vividly, smiling at the watercolour wash of reds and blues and whites and greens, and the flashing lights and sirens of those rushing to arrest or cut free the guilty and the maimed. A dream where he stood outside the seaside bungalow, knocked on a door and waited, where a misshapen limping form welcomed him in with hunter’s eyes to a lair where he had debased himself for the pleasure of another, where he had stripped and bent and been entered for the sake of a momentary peace and respite from the addiction, smelling the familiar smell of another man, hairy and clammy and unwashed, the insipid taste of something warm expelling itself before him or behind him, splashing, dripping, sticking, the groans and muscle spasms, and the passing of a hidden disease, carried by the hunter and growing unchecked in others in an ever-growing empire of disgust. A dream where he gave not his body as an offering to the cave-dwelling creature standing there but the blade of a knife hidden within his jacket, its stainless steel edge flashing briefly but repeatedly in the gloom, the expression of the other dropping, the mood swinging, the sacrifice changing, the insipid taste of something warm expelling from another place, and another and another as diamond-shaped holes opened up in shoulders, arms and outstretched hands, in the running back and falling legs, in the plump cushion of stomach and thick carpet chest, in a tendon-taught neck and bearded face, slicing through ears and eyes and mouth, cutting into the fatty residues and bouncing off bone, hacking and skinning and ripping into something that was fast becoming unrecognisable as that terrifying figure of evil. A dream of standing in a darkened room puddled in blood, of a bungalow’s interior that would soon become a crime scene, surrounded by more flashing lights and wailing sirens, preserved in the minds of some as a butcher’s yard and to others as a museum of retribution.
And then that dream too was over. Jack woke by the sea, on a pebbled beach some yards away from the undiscovered horror show. The waves were rolling in high and fast, the air ice-cold, bringing with it the taste of salt from lands evermore unvisited. Christmas in a seaside town is wonderful, he thought, because here there is no pretence of it ever snowing; no snowmen, no sleds, no icicles hanging down from white-domed roofs, no snowball fights, no…and then Jack spotted a single snow flake floating down from a heavy slate-coloured sky, a touch of purity, a single flake of Christmas cheer that melted in the roll and wash of the sewer-filled sea, forthright and strident, and vanishing because it stood alone against the great vastness of the English Channel.
Jack began to wade out to where it met its demise, his breath short and sharp, the cold spreading to meet the tide rising around him. He thought about Buddhism and an unknown angel giving him the chance to start his life over again.
Yes, to be born again into something else, something new, something better...
Current Mood: in need of nothing