As we’ve made it safely into the new year without the world ending (at least, not noticeably) I thought I’d stop by and post the following piece. This is something that I originally wrote as a piece of flash fiction just to clear my so-called mind between projects, but that I decided I liked enough to expand upon. It now looks as if this may become a full-length novel if I can ever scrape together enough spare time to actually finish it. Currently, I’m only a couple of chapters in, but I’ve been finding it hard to commit firmly to anything of late, so this might not actually be the next thing I produce. My next novel could at this stage just as easily turn out to be either a crime thriller, a space opera or steampunk. I know that’s irritatingly ‘artistic’ of me, but I’m a slave to my own fickle nature, sadly. I like to keep as many plates spinning as possible, I guess.
Anyway, enough waffle. I hope you like it!
I stuff the tobacco and rizla into my pocket, left-handed, mumbling thanks. The rizla jump out when I withdraw my hand, falling to the counter-top that separates me from the cashier. Quick as a striking snake, my hand lands on top of them, seizing them again. Back to the pocket, where they stay this time. I zip it up to make sure, then look up at the woman. She is staring at me oddly, stunned by the speed of my hand. I should have masked it, I suppose, but the motion was an instinctive one. I try to smile.
‘Thanks,’ I say, moving away.
I grab a basket, clueless as to what exactly I intend to put in it, and head into the supermarket proper. I wander through the vegetable aisle, picking things up at random, sweating, eyes darting of their own volition.
There is a woman coming the other way – pretty, brunette, hair that reaches to her waist, dressed smartly, younger than me – and she has a green imp following her. It’s a fat, hairy little thing, and it’s touching the vegetables, picking items up, licking them, putting them back. I shudder and look down at the random assortment of items I’ve placed into my own basket. It sounds like the imp’s going murmurmurmurmurmurmur continually under its breath.
‘Where did you get it?’ I ask the woman, homing in. I’m trying to be casual, but it comes out almost in a shout. Desperation rages in me. The light is too bright.
‘The imp?’ she asks, looking up. I wipe sweat from my brow with one sleeve. ‘You don’t want one – it’s quite selfish.’
‘Selfish?’ I ask, incredulous, my face a scowl, unable to help it. ‘Not the fucking imp – the fader!’ I scream, trembling. ‘I know where you got the fucking imp from!’ I realise I’m brandishing a red pepper at her like a weapon.
She nods, as if she hadn’t expected any better, not really, then she backs cautiously away and walks off, checking over her shoulder that I’m not following her. I honestly don’t blame her. I put the pepper into my basket, my heart racing. The imp follows along behind her, keeping that same distance, licking a bunch of spring greens where the leaves protrude from the top of the bag, putting it back.
I stand, shaking, gripping the basket white-knuckled, rubbing my eyes with my free hand. Coming unintentionally to a conclusion, I head to the automated checkouts, dropping the basket on one of them and walking off empty-handed. A thirty-something man in a grey tracksuit is standing at one of the checkouts holding a bottle of wine and the machine is repeating call for help – call for help over and over again. This sends me into fresh panic and I accelerate my pace, running out of the automatic doors which open for a woman pushing a baby buggy. A supermarket worker is cleaning up broken glass in the entrance. I pass without slowing, hands to my head.
The sunlight blinds me and I reel into the street, blocked by a crowd at the bus stop. An old woman grudgingly lets me pass, having to take a step – a whole step! — backwards in order to do so.
‘Thank you!’ I call over my shoulder. ‘So very much!’
I stumble up the street, or down, envying passers-by their demons: a teenager with wings; a tall black guy with a whole harem of identical blonde girls; a hippy-chick on a unicorn. A fucking unicorn! A Merc whispers down the hill and turns onto the main road. It speeds towards a red light then silently takes to the air, soaring over the traffic and away into the summer sky.
I don’t know where I’m going. But I need my crutch. I need fader. My body takes a left. My mind races and rages and flies along tangents. The sky is a crashing racket of light. The ground slopes away. I struggle against gravity, unable to climb the hill, unsure of where I am. I stumble and fall. And sleep. I dream of fader.