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11. Haystacks 13. Empires Rise

August 13th, 2020

A Man Called Blake

A man called Blake walked to the counter, looking around to see if anyone had noticed the unusual name, but nobody seemed to care, or in any case, nobody looked up to watch him collect his drink, give the barista a smile, and walk to the door. On the street the morning crowd trudged swiftly in the early simmering haze from corner to corner, sweating and muttering as their shirt collars rubbed red lines against the back of their necks. They're all waiting for the heat to break, the sweltering, endless summer to crack into a hair-raising storm that will shake the city, flashing floodlights over the skyscrapers, thundering rumbles cascading across the bridges, hurricane gusts blowing fresh life through the streets, gathering up the world into one torrential tidal wave of fresh new growth. The man called Blake stood by a statue of some mysterious elderly gentleman and watched the people racing left and right, some looking up at the lights, most watching the person in front, stepping in time with the masses, willing themselves to take another step only through the promise of escaping at lunch and getting away for the weekend, brunch next Saturday with the old school gang, making up for lost years with an afternoon of french toast, avocado, and light drinks. When the man called Blake looked around he saw milling minions of Big Money Crop, the denizens of Streets named after Big People who had made Money a long time ago, and cared about their corporations with an irrational fervour, only embellished since parts of the empire had been sold for continuous sellable profit. They had danced till they dropped in the rain which did not touch them but made the ramp slick with water so the ones with sticks and wheels feel and rolled away, but it wasn't their fault, and those that tried to climb the outside were crushed by the weight of heavy clouds. Earlier that morning the man called Blake had walked out of the hospital with a piece of paper that told him the price on his life. The nurses had watched him try to hide his tears and looked away to spare his shame, but he felt them whispering about him as he tucked his chin into his collar and strode away, his hands thrust deep into the pockets of the long coat that he wore despite the hot weather. A cursed man called Blake cuddles himself in a small room where he lights a candle that smells of opal and lavender. The bed sheets are crumpled and loose from one stray corner where the mattress bobbles underneath. In some mind he goes to the bar and orders a drink to steady himself; a glass of something cool and sweet, maybe he drinks it with a straw or picks out a little piece of fruit with a cocktail stick. Maybe he orders some food, a whole tray of ribs, sticky so his fingers stick to the paper towel and he wipes them clean with a lemon towel, sucking on each finger with a little love. Next door some musicians are striking up a tune, or tuning, giving their bells and whistles a tootle to get the room interested. Some leave straight away, not realising it was that sort of bar, some don't take much notice, alone as they are, happy with whatever's happening, the rest turn to the small stage, taking different seats and going to the bar with excitement and curiosity. This extraordinary man called Blake earns his keep in a way that he hates, selling himself before anything else, giving up his morals for rent, winning in his own way by telling everyone he can two much he hates what he does, and is only really in it to learn how to examine the ordinary world from the inside. He talks with all his faceless friends about their shared doom-fun lives. Quite tired, Blake, a man, walks through the brightly lit empty streets listening to the motors and foxes, feeling the weight of the crumpled papers in his back pocket. Except he didn't feel them anymore. Panic blew up inside him as he scrabbled at his pockets, checking and rechecking. Sweaty palms fumbled for the papers that he started to accept were gone. He looked around at the floor beside him, desperately tracking through his walk from the hospital, to the coffee shop, did he have it there? He had thought about it constantly, but had he checked? Had he touched them in his pocket, and if so when, and if not why not, why hadn't he taken them out just to be sure, to feel them in his hand, the weight of them folded into themselves. He sat on a wall. He got up, and sat on he wall again. He hated his stupid name, he wanted to change it. Blake. How was he ever meant to fill that, Blake. He wasn't unusual or interesting, he wasn't disguising something (except he was now) and he didn't have an intriguing back-story full of hardship and derring-do. How could he have been so stupid, so unbelievably idiotic. The most important piece of paper in his life and he'd just lost it, he'd thrown it out of his life and probably thrown his life away with it. He trudged home. Went straight to his room and lay on the bed. He didn't want to cry but did. His mum called him down, the words sounded unfamiliar, the voice strained and sad. He stood up, still feeling around in his pockets, poking right into the corners to find a few folded sheets of paper that weren't there. 'How did it go, love?' 'Fine.' She looked at him. 'I might need to go back.' 'Okay.' He looked at her. 'I lost the sheets.' 'Which sheets?' 'The ones from the hospital with the... with the stuff.' 'I'm sure that's fine, they'll have your details and records.' 'Oh. Yeah.' They'd have records. Yeah. Of course.

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