November 11th, 2020
Knaresborough House3. A Sliding ScaleThe doors were closing as he came off the escalator and he made a half-hearted attempt to get to the train in the vain hope of someone sticking out an arm. He heard the hissing, the beeping then saw the door bumping against their arm, as the man frantically gestured, come on mate, hop on. Something about them, tall, bearded, with a handsome swathe of black curls tumbling to just above his shoulders, something unusual, in a way he liked. This was no clogged up coffee whore sucking on the corporate breast, spewing his mental head life into the galactic pot so he could buy a car and drive it. This was a human of the realm he had recognised once, the smiling with your eyes sort who said things worth listening to and meant them, having considered them for more them half a second before letting the storm of outrage and incredulity come steaming forth like the mile and half of unstoppable freight gunning down the highway of intellectual conversation crushing under its immense heat and weight any semblance of heart-to-heart, or just a friendly nod and a how are ya that didn’t make him feel for his kidneys to check they weren’t already on the market table. This man was, actually, now he’s up close, breathing his hot musky scent into Mack’s eyes and causing the already weak knees to become further undone, he is, what might be called, beautiful. Beautiful, he thought, feeling the word roll around and sing in his otherwise cavernous mind, I haven’t thought of anything as beautiful in a while. Tearing his eyes from the God-send who had pulled him from the shadows he threw a cursory glance over the carriage inhabitants and there he saw a congregation come to worship, on their knees, swaying with the rhythm of their lullabies that rollicked over the train’s canter, leaping and falling with the beat of the tunnel’s twists, turning now and gliding then, a song mustered from a deep place of pure admiration. The platform hummed for a while as the train slid away into the darkness, and then, with a rattle, was quiet. Mack wandered the length of broad tiles, mind off the banner ads that sold Social Connectivity and Mortgage Trust Associates. The woman on the train pursued him like a city-suited shadow. The intensity of her gaze bored into him still, mixing with the tail-lights of the train, a tie-wearing grime reaper with blazing pupils like an eclipse. Purple was in, he noticed, not reading any of the text. Last year it was light blue. He kept walking, taking in the promises as they screamed at him, in their silent way, to consume themselves at his tyrannical bidding, throwing themselves helplessly at the boots he wore to pace the throne room. Courtiers trembled as the strangers flung themselves to the floor in their placid purple tunics, their fingers outstretched to him in a wordless cry. He looked down on them, snarled, lifted his mighty sword from where it leant against his throne, and swung it high above his head to come screaming down on the necks of these false prophets, firelight glinting on the blade’s broad edge. At the last second he relented and let them scurry back into the shadows, a pack of drooling dogs straining at their leads. When he turned back to his throne a flash of colour caught his eye and he looked into the rafters, to where hung the body of his mortal enemy, strung up over the aisle as a reminder of his ruthlessness. Blood spattered across the light blue of his embroidered puffs, that still glinted with secret gold. On his throne again he surveyed his court with a satisfied glee, but what he didn’t see was the wool being spun in his own halls, the quiet whispers of the drapers and milliners as they were handed a new blend, a deep, rich, placid purple, spun into all the king’s clothes, his linen braies and stockings, his girdle, his woollen shirts, his cowls and cloaks, even into the fabric of his crown, which now he wore, blissfully unaware of the seeping, insidious mauves and violets that had wormed their way through the court. Another train came and he let it go too, full. The board turned over to six minutes, and he found a bench to rest his grateful body, which sagged against the wall, the package on the bench beside him. He looked at it, sitting there, unassuming, disinterested, rude. Perhaps he was on the wrong path, the fates had split him a bad route and the simplest solution would be to simply sling the wretched thing into the path of the next train, turn from the inevitable debris and let the sliding stairs carry him away from the world, sailing up into the fresh afternoon with a smile. Perhaps though, this was the only option, carrying on that is. Perhaps, he thought, there was no solution, and he would spend the rest of his days caught in a circle of dreams, the box and he, turning, turning together forever, two best friends, the box and he. Will you be my bride, he wondered, and the box replied, no. Apologies, it whimpered, but my heart belongs elsewhere, and besides, you haven’t got a ring. What do you call this then, he jeered, pulling the diamond from the breast pocket of his waistcoat, and standing to kneel, presenting the jewel in a princely manner. The shock of the sudden proposal was evident on the face of the other whose cheeks radiated a scarlet embarrassment, tinged with the heat of desire. Will you be mine, he asked, of course, they replied. All smiles he leant forwards and carefully slipped the ring onto their outstretched finger. The thing slipped on with ease, but not perfectly, in fact, not well, not well at all. It doesn’t fit, said the other. I can get it changed, said he. Why doesn’t it fit, asked the other. I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking, he replied. Then, with tears streaming down their whitening cheeks, they tugged the loose ring from their finger, and tossed it to the edge. Mack dove to the cliff’s end but just as he was about to leap down for it he heard the ominous rumble of the oncoming thunderstorm and fell back from the precipice, the dizzying fall spinning away as the train slid squealing into the platform.
©2007-2021 Benedict Esdale