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LAND-LINE

posted Thursday, 13 November 2008

first published in this form here today.

 

LAND-LINE

“There are fewer ways to be born than to die,” said Gary, in a rare moment of reflection.

He was talking to his sweetheart on a mobile phone as he and the car sped along the enormous M25 ring motorway, one of his hands on the wheel. The wheels were a weapon as well as a means to an end. He was already late for the important business meeting – so he floored the gas-pedal.

Through a quirk of hindsight, what he had said into the phone had been translated by his own ears as something quite different to the actual words formed by his lips – with meanings like cough drops upon his tongue.

He glanced into the rear-view mirror beyond his own ice-blue eyes … and just at that precise moment, a previously camouflaged vehicle sprouted a blue pulse upon its roof. The sudden siren blotted out the reply to whatever words were heard at the other end of the land-line, if mobiles indeed had land-lines which, presumably, they didn’t.

Inside the pursuing “police” car, there were no policemen. Whoever they were, the driver and passengers were hidden to the world by black reflective glass.

The driver was dressed in a black cape and he drooled over the wheel as his hand stirred the gear-stick with a seething relish. Two shapes in the backseat remained – at least for the time being – as shapes.

“Get it?” hissed the “police” driver: hissing being a remarkable feat, perhaps, because there was no potential sibilance in the words he used. He wrapped them in spit: sweet, treacly meaning swaddled in saliva.

One of the shapes nodded – a nod that was noted by the “police” driver in the rearview mirror. The other shape spoke, but this shape’s words were so dissimilar from an articulation of tongue, lips and teeth that they remained inaudible to most ears.

Buoyed along by the shuddering blue, the protruding wing-mirrors of the “police” car reflected nothing but the smears of speed. The “police” driver’s eyes needed very little sight to weave between the cringing motorway traffic, as if the other cars were mere belief-systems whereby the “police” car was simply an icon of everybody else’s crazy religion.

“We’ve locked on to the person at the other end of his phone,” were words washed by the “police” driver’s sodden tongue.

“…………………….” said one of the “police” car’s backseat shapes.

Gary’s sweetheart, it seemed, would be receiving a visit before long from that very shape.

Gary drove towards his own meeting in a slightly less dark quadrant of the motorway. He wondered if even sweethearts were strangers to each other. If the truth were known, everyone was probably disguised as somebody (or something) else. Or vice versa. Thoughts he thus thought without thinking.

The “police” car – siren doused – drew up at some City flats. Only one of the backseat shapes got out, then shadowed itself to the front entrance.

It pushed a chosen button and waited for the door intercom to break into words.

“Yes?”

The word was crackly with electric power.

“Gary sent me.”

Having homed in by means of Gary’s earlier call on the mobile, the shape had also read many other things from the concertina conversations on the oral internet – past and future as well as present.

Meanwhile, the “police” car had slid away silently into the back-doubles and rat-runs of the City, slick driver and residual shape in the backseat along with it. Their job – presumably – had been accomplished in the very act of delivery. They sought another slipway to the M25.

Gary switched on the stereo system in his car, which – if it had been the dead of night – would have woken the neighbours with rhythmic thuds. On the motorway, however, the sounds blended with a Machine-called-traffic and with the incessant whine of tyres upon concrete.

He hummed along in transverse logic to the beat, tapping his fingertips on the wheel which they lightly steered, while his feet pumped up the volume.

Frequently, he took his eyes off the road and gazed at the mobile phone in its socket – primed, as such contraptions were, to set motives in motion at the slightest word.

He grinned. Power was in his fingers. Power was in his feet. Power was in his tongue, too.

The door opened as the intercom buzzed excitedly to the remote control of Gary’s sweetheart from five floors up.

The shape shook itself of sooty snow and, without a glance, entered the huge hallway. The shape’s side was raw from untwining itself from the other backseat shape now being driven, no doubt, to another, perhaps darker, part of the traffic-ringed City. Yet, at night, everywhere, in reality, was equally dark, whatever the wattage.

The shape chose a different finger to push the lift-call button.

And a third to push the floor-number button once it was within the up-plunging lift.

No finger was required, however, to leave the lift through the automatic sliding open of the doors.

And, there, in front of the shape, was the wood in the space behind which Gary’s sweetheart lived.

Gary himself was gutted.

The Machine-called-traffic had ground to a skid-marked halt.

Everything fretted and fumed.

Including Gary.

He’d be late for his important meeting.

Probably a pile-up ahead or something.

Perhaps the biggest shunt known to man, to machine or to beast.

He looked lingeringly at the mobile phone and wished himself inside it.

He laughed.

Better than crying.

“Gary sent me,” the shape said with a large humbug swallow.

“I know,” said the blonde woman in high heels, tight dress and homely smile. Beautiful, yet ordinary. Big blue eyes, yet someone with the look that thought she knew there were prettier people than her.

Whether she was hypnotised or not, she beckoned the shape to enter her flat. Trust was the most powerful emotion that any two beings could share.

And a tail-back on the M25 was also something that any number of beings could share – a Worm Ouroboros of road rage.

Gary was no exception.

He felt the need to abandon the metal of his outer casing and make the rest of the way on feet.

He turned to his side and saw a vehicle beside him with black windows. It looked remarkably like the erstwhile “police” car that had appeared in his rearview mirror by virtue of a blue pulse on its roof.

Gary stared at his own reflection in a variety of side-mirrors and windows, including the black shiny ones in the neighbouring lane. He poked out his tongue and saw that it was furred up with words he hadn’t spoken.

That was how the tail-back had affected him. He was speechless with emotion.

Five floors up, Gary’s sweetheart was conversing with an entity she had taken for a person whom she had known all her life. She did not dream that the ether had become infected with some fraudulent computer virus that could live outside a computer screen. She did not dream this because it was impossible even in dreams.

“I am pleased you could come,” she said, moving a blonde sprig from her bright eyes that sparkled with an unbroken mass of teardrops.

“You are a vampire?” she asked.

“Yes.”

The creature was man-shaped to her eyes and took on a sympathetic cast as it put a hand on her shoulder … as if the steadying of a body’s shaking was tantamount to steadying the emotion that caused such shaking.

“But you look so ordinary … so kind.”

“Vampires are the kindest creatures in the world,” it answered.

The shape’s masculine face seemed fleetingly bewildered as if it was at a loss for words, waiting for one to spring to its lips like a regurgitation.

“But you suck blood, don’t you?” she posed.

Her innocence was not buoyed by hypnotism but by a deeper trust that tied the soul, socket to socket, as it was, with the other soul. A direct current. Person to person across the universe of non-existence. So much better than an eye to eye remote control.

“We love the one whose blood we suck.”

Gary picked up his mobile at last. He was determined to discover how long the jam was likely to last and what had caused it. Until now, for at least an hour, he had been restrained from this by some deterrent force he couldn’t fathom as if he’d discover the world had ended. The longer news like that was postponed the better.

He had earlier madly twiddled with the radio tuner but could only reach stations with endless dirge-like music or loud rhythmic thuds with inexplicable chitter-chatter and melted mutter between each set of thuds.

Gary’s sweetheart thought the shape was as human as she was but, unlike most other humans, it looked as if it had her best interests at heart.

“Can I…?”

“Can you kiss my neck? Of course, you can.”

“Can I…?”

“Fondle me? You will probably fondle me more tenderly than anyone has ever done.”

“Can I…?”

“Drink my blood? That’s something I’ve never had done. I never let anyone near me at certain times. But you can, because I’m sure you’ll do it thoughtfully.”

Nobody said it, but it was true that blood supped through punctures deliberately made for that very purpose was ever so much more natural, in a paradoxical way, than through natural orifices.

“When you’ve drunk my blood, you may do whatever else you need.”

“I need nothing else. I’m more gentle than most of my kind. You see I do not invade what should be private areas, even if invited.”

“The thought of such unutterable kindness is sufficient to give me pleasure without the necessity of penetration.” Those were not her exact words, but the words she might have wished to say given the ability to do so.

That falsely-named penetration was not, in the end, what either had in mind. Only vampires could truly penetrate.

All bodies were covered with a single stocking-membrane or hymen of skin.

And the shapes were two enfolding shadows, prickly shadows that penetrated towards each other’s soul of blood through every pore.

Gary pushed numbers on the mobile…

There sounded a roar of black noise as darkness slicked his windscreen, side windows and various mirrors with encroaching continents of oily black blood.

He was lost, he realised, on the Super-Highway with no land-line between life and death – and, as soon as such realisation dawned, he floored the gas-pedal, his blue eyes pulsing with remembered pain…

And the voice which he finally managed to summon from his mouth whispered socket to socket into his own ear that he was merely just another creature in shape’s clothing: a single whisper soaked by a treacly hiss.

“……………………………” said one shape in order to thank another shape for its sweet template of a heart, thanking it for thinning the impurities of humankind, a thinning close to non-existence, thanking it, too, for unlocking the prison of language. He was just one of these shapes, having sent his own car-crash of a body disguised as a ghost or vampire – so as to wreak revenge on his sweetheart for allowing fateful circumstances to conspire in creating the love-speeding monster from what had once been a simple nice slow-moving laid-back man called Gary. Only remembered love could summon the life-line of hate needed to bridge the empty whispering.

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