She fell asleep worrying about the tremor in her heart. She awoke wondering about the tension across her skull. Maybe she really was critically ill. Maybe she should see the doctor. Those late-night and early-morning hallucinations of gunshot riots, rabbiting politicians, redactive summit meetings, those rabid howls of the naysayers and cynics and dreamers and do-gooders, the sheer wall of white noise as rhetoric reflects ceaselessly around an almost voided mind and beats hard through the bloodstream in a fast, mounting surge. She was dying. She went to the doctor. The doctor confirmed her suspicions. Everyone is dying, he said.
The off-stage scream terrorises.
We are caught off-guard. On-stage actions cease.
Whose scream is it? Why has it occurred? What will the consequences be? What awful truth awaits us?
What does it mean?
It means things occur elsewhere.
It means we have been diverted.
It means we have been looking in the wrong place.
It means we are unready.
It means there are things we do not understand.
The writer or director has held back information. Or lied.
For a few moments we are convulsed with the realisation and horror of our own not-knowing.
The beheading was not filmed.
The little man at the side of the road where the hearses do their U-turns is pointing at passing pedestrians and shouting ‘You’ll never get out! And you’ll never get out! But you’ll get out! But you’ll never get out!’
I fall into the ‘Never get out’ category.
My coffee has gone cold and I am hungry, having skipped eating again. A caffeine/calorie trade-off. I should know.
Later, as I leave for home, water gushes from a pipe, soaking the reinforced concrete embankments by the train station where I spot a new piece of graffiti. It says, ‘City of sludge’.
The bear had arrived in the story again, big and brown and powerful. It followed us to the dilapidated house that was meant to be a home and tore apart some rabbits in the pasture out front where it was always spring. It pawed open the front door and licked at the living room as we sneaked up stairs and exited by the rusting fire escape, fleeing up the hill to avoid the bear’s attack. We had heard no real news for days. The world had disappeared. I thought the bear signified the past; she thought it represented the future.
That ol’ London thing, waiting at a crossing in rush hour between showers and a book falls out of the sky, lands at the side of the road, hardback, heavy, with a thud, the biography of a sports personality with late-career broadsides to discharge, and you look up, and there are only clouds. A day or two later and the same pavements are rammed with the supporters and opponents of President Kagame of Rwanda who is due to arrive at The Savoy. All morning the air vibrates to the sound of horns and singing. A limousine arrives, above it clouds.
The grey months are back. The river is a monochrome line through a commuter town. Shrieking magpies hop across the railway sleepers; five for silver. Wheel rims slash the gutter puddles of a wet street. City towers wear loose shrouds and leak osmotically into the concrete sky. Coats are zipped, umbrellas black dots streaming past the tarmac and taxis. Fallen leaves darken and roadside sludge deepens. A thin Biro line traces the schedules towards the end of a year. Daylight fades earlier and the dawn unfixes itself from waking hours. I see my eyelids’ insides. The cloud billows over Kobani.
Out he went again, tearing down the road with his mother shouting for him to stop and stay. He ran to the wooden bridge over the stream, gathering pebbles and gravel along the way and filling his pockets with them. Leaning over the wooden handrail, he gazed into the water, which was made murky by recent floods. Then he dropped the stones in, one by one, hearing them plop as they hit the surface, watching the splash, and seeing them disappear in the blink of an eye, never once asking himself why he had ever begun to play this game.