We run the streets
Darkness. A physical silence. The noise of them had passed, the sudden throbbing and pulsating pain of it – all gone. A slow drip from a broken pipe. Dark puddles on the concrete floor. Broken glass everywhere. I lay still where I had fallen then slowly turned my head. Night reflections of the city. Yellow and orange, inky black.
I close my eyes, trying to feel my body. I can taste the blood in my mouth. I see one of them again, dark shadows, fist raised.
It wasn’t personal, it wasn’t me. I just happened to be there. I raised myself up, looking around. I knew they had gone. Swept on by each other, feeling the rush, railing against the world. But I looked anyway. Pale smoke in the dark distance, there was a faint smell of petrol.
I remember parking, going to the store, picking up groceries. I had talked with him, I always do. We have talked most nights for years, I still don’t know his name. I had often though of asking, but it never seemed right.
Did I sense anything? Like those machines that pick up changes in the atmosphere, tornado warnings?
There was the usual tensions, the constant backdrop of bad news. Bad TV – riot pictures. Bad radio – interviews with nervous politicians. Nothing special.
He had seemed uneasy, fidgety. Maybe he felt something.
“Tired that’s all. Just tired of it all. No energy. No business. No point.”
He looked around, scanning the street.
So did I.
“It’s late – you shutting shop?”
“Yes – you’re the last for today.”
“Well, good luck.”
I had paid and crossed the dark and empty road. Behind me I could hear him pull down the heavy metal shutters. The rattle of the chains. I didn’t look back.
I remembered reaching the car, putting my bag down, looking for the key. Hearing them in the distance, my heart jumping. A car alarm. Glass breaking. Seeing them running the street, yelling. Sweeping towards me, like flood waters channeled by the road. Dark clothes, so fast. Swarming. Moulded into a single presence, mindless, uncontrollable, powerful and full of malice. No chance of appeal. There had been nothing, then in a blur they were on me, brutal shocks, blackness and it was over.
Now it feels so calm. The storm has spent itself. No tension.
I stood up, slowly, wiping blood off my hand. Just scratches from the broken glass. Twisted wrist from the fall. Nothing broken. Maybe a tooth. Groceries strewn all over the place. Mindlessly I started to pick them up, put them back in the bags. I felt cold, alone. Helpless. I started to shake.
Notes from the Word Hoard
The way the exercise works is explained here.
protest or just run
broken glass everywhere
caught up in everything
holding up the law
break in your hands
in the noise and darkness
swarming down the roads
writing on the walls
and everything breaking
to want just you
Broken glass everywhere * Selected
I chose ‘Broken glass everywhere’ and the short story turned out to be very close to the image. I first thought of running in the physical sense, and then in terms of ownership.