… the dead will walk the earth
Do you know this experience when, after a certain period of wallowing in escapism by swallowing heaps of fiction and movies, let’s say e.g. cyberpunk material …, the consciousness-contents induced by digesting fiction suddenly backlash into what you take for granted reality, real life—however you’d prefer to call that illusion? You do not know this kind of experience? Ok. Anyway.
Some nights ago I left my office at half past midnight. Head full of story-snippets [Bryant: I need you, Deck—I need the old Blade Runner—I need your magic … a goddamn one man slaughterhouse], pictures, moods, and ambiences, I strolled along the completely deserted, perfectly calm streets. Neither did I know if I had missed the last tramway, nor did I care for it. I needed the walk, to walk alone, as sometimes oxygen helps.
Usually I walk along the tramway-tracks. That’s not exactly the shortest way home, but leads through nice neighbourhoods, filled with 19th century architecture. What Harris the Slaughterer has left thereof. And when I am fed up with walking, I always can take a rest at the next tramway station, waiting, hoping for one more train being on service.
At the next tramway station I wasn’t alone anymore. There was a man sitting on the waiting bench. Mid-aged. Glasses, no hat or cap, jacket wide open, only a shirt beneath. Head slightly tilted back, mouth gaping, eyes closed. “Man, the bartender has done a good job on him,” I thought as I passed by. Thoughts trailing on: “Drunk as he is, he won’t wake up before hell freezes over … Hell! It’s four degrees centigrade below zero tonight!”
So I turned around 180 degrees and walked back to the lonesome sitting figure. I bowed down and spoke to him: “Sir! Sir! Are you all right, Sir?” I repeated that, or similar sentences a couple of times. Each time louder. No reaction. So I laid my hand on his breast. Nothing. Can’t be! Hand on other spot on the breast. Nothing. So I grasped him at the shoulder and shook him, while shouting some Sirs into his face. No reaction. So I let go his shoulder, and he slowly slid to the side, coming to a halt in a perfect theatrical pose. I took a step back and said aloud, believe me or not: “Fuck me sideways!”
My mind already ran along the storyline that would unfold. Spending the night with the cops, answering questions like: “If you don’t know the man, then why did you kill him?” Paranoia? Well, just for suspense’s sake allow me to insert another little tramway story of mine, which happened a bunch of years ago.
I was at my city-sector’s main post office, had done my business there, and intended to go back by tram. The tramstop there is like an island between busy lanes, cars rushing to and fro all the time. Nobody coming out of the post office cares to go the long way round to the pedestrians’ crosswalk. It’s just uncomfortably far off. So everybody walks the street, using the gaps between the cars. Elderly people do so, too. That’s ok by me—why should they take the detour? Well, maybe because sometimes crossing a busy street can be quite a task.
Some meters in front of me an elderly lady just undertook that very expedition, and she was fully preoccupied with it. Safely she reached the tramway’s island, a train was just arriving, still in motion. She already had crossed the street, but obviously still was preoccupied with the task, looked into the wrong direction, and stumbled on.
She ran right into the flank of the incoming train, bounced back and started her descent to the cobblestones. My head instantaneously filled with pictures of her head cracked open, of blood seeping into the grooves between the cobblestones. Meanwhile, when she was right in midair, I was close enough and caught her. The cobblestones beneath hissing and cursing, because I had taken away their bloodright.
When she fell into my arms she already was unconscious. Cautiously I laid her down, held her head with the left hand, simultaneously unknotting the pullover around my waist one-handedly, folding it, and comforting her head upon it. A cluster of people had gathered around us, silently staring. I spoke to her, patted her cheek, and after some moments the eylids started to flutter, the eyes slowly opened. She looked right into mine and in a weak, accusing, but already kind of forgiving voice—perfect impertinence—she said, head slightly shaking, tears starting to fill her eyes: “Why, oh why only did you throw me against the tramway?” Immediately the bystanders’ hostile stares burned my face and neck. “Me?!” I cried out, maybe a few decibels too loud, judging by the even more hostile stares that now hit me. If I only hadn’t interfered with the cobblestones’ right to crack her head open. Asphyxiating her now with my pullover wouldn’t have done any good. Well, maybe a little good.
Can you now feel some empathy with my picturing me with the cops while I stood in front of a dead man? No? Hell, don’t you see what would have happened? The cops would have arrived, complete with CSI unit and all. Some forensic doctor would have examined the man and finally would have stated that he was dead. In that very moment the dead man’s eyes would have cracked open, he would have stared at me, would have raised his dead cold hand—the one from which you can pry Charlton Heston’s Winchester ’73—would have pointed straight at me, and would have said in his hoarse voice from beyond the grave: “That’s the bartender who intoxicated me so badly!” For sure.
Oh, it’s way past midnight. I guess I’ll take the stroll along the tracks.
Bail me out, please. Will you?