They don’t make a sound.
Not one that’s audible from five steps behind her, anyway,
but your mind inserts subtitles. And her hand is invisible
and the movement is quick as a flash
though all that’s visible is her black fur coat and streaming blonde (presumably fake blonde) hair.
And she carries on walking ahead.
on ponderously high heeled boots (also black).
And somehow in that movement,
leaning down to place coins (one? two?) in a cup held out by a homeless man,
and continuing in that slow walk down the street
in the dead of night
and when a bouncer says
to another bouncer as she passes,
it’s hard not to wonder,
but somehow harder to guess.
Fuck. It’s happened.
She nearly swore aloud as she opened the envelope and saw the imperious words in a big, disarmingly neutral font (and in a strange shade of pink).
The carriage shudders, like it’s laughing. Opening her post on the Tube has become a habit, and she feels it must have somehow tempted fate.
She skims the letter cursorily, but finds no mention of a crime. Maybe they tell you when you arrive at… Oh, they do, right there.
She exhales, blows the same strand of hair from her face that always flops down in sympathy in moments like this.
Time off work. A room full of fuckers. Public sector tea and a plate of stale biscuits. Bored deliberation.
Hopefully it’ll be open and shut. A nice, simple burglary.
But what if it’s fraud?
She sighs again. It’s bound to be. It’ll be financially complex and a billion degrees of obscurity.
The hair strand flops down again and she leaves it there.
Miles below the surface.
emerging into sudden light. Its glare.
And a constant roar.
And a belly full of strangely flavoured meat.
Consumed again. Its great stomach refilled.
And now it’s rising towards the surface,
towards the natural light.
now. It breaches the surface in Farringdon,
the great beast rising nearly to street level in the middle of London.
Regurgitates meat, devours people,
who flock into its belly,
and onward the train flies on the Circle Line, back suddenly into darkness.
Onward to Barbican.
Charing Cross Station is empty.
The colours in the great cavern are washed away by a hideous alliance of penetrating strip-lights and the impenetrable sheet of cloud that smothers England like tarpaulin.
The place feels unused. There aren’t any trains. No feet. London is subdued.
Then a person.
Then gone, barely able to make a mark on the emptiness.
She marvels at it.
Walks the perimeter.
Past gaudy posters
Adverts that have nothing to offer her.
Cafes that are nominally open
but as empty as the station.
She looks up.
Through the brick
and the steel
and odd piping
she looks at the grey clouds.
Wants to be nearer them.
And so she flies.
Cooing on grey wings.
It was always easier on Thursdays. For some reason the 5.34 was less packed. He could squeeze the wheelchair on without too many angry glances.
Only four weeks left now and it’d all be over. He’d been lucky to have access to a wheelchair throughout. It would’ve been a pain to find one that he could use for such a long time.
He knocks it as he navigates the corner.
Metal scrapes briefly against brick.
The train station.
It’s more crowded than he thought.
He knocks it against a shin.
A pointed cough.
A stare he feels but doesn’t see.
Not many more sessions now.
Lucy has promised to show him the piece once it’s complete. And last week she suggested that she’d pay him a litle extra for the trouble.
“I feel a bit bad about your fall last week,” she said. “I thought the wheels were stable. I know posing in a wheelchair’s probably difficult, but I promise you the picture’s worth it. I might even ask you to pose again soon.”
James hopes not. She doesn’t pay any more per hour than a regular life modeling class.
Five o’clock, a discreet scrabbling at the desk.
Belongings swept into the bag hurriedly, but without wishing to attract too much attention. He always leaves on the dot, always catches the same train, and when he gets off at Brockley, turns the corner, up Coulgate Street,
he sees him:
the man pushing the empty wheel chair.
He always passes him half-way home,
sees him for a moment,
wants to look back, to scrutinise.
It would be rude.