Edgar walked through the numbing rain down lonely, nameless streets. The pavement, ragged with countless steps, was forged by time in blood. The city was close and surreal, cold buildings, like damp headstones, stretched passed the mask of cloud which dissolved the tower blocks into infinity. Even the fatal fire escapes hung profanely against their gothic fathers like a forgotten limb. All around there was a hunger, a merciless aggression that fed the city, keeping it alive.
There was no wind just voices impaled on the air haunting every crevice, every crack, every flaw, every defect with misery and distress. It was a foul breath filled with countless defilement’s rebounding off the callous walls into obscurity. Bedlam, downtown where night and day are indifferent to the spiritless shades of tears and darkness smiled with a bitter irony.
Edgar walked on, unmoved. This was where he was born with an unfeeling heart and a soul that was never his. Everywhere, on these decaying streets, people suffered; the blind man, who crossed his path, hounded by a pack of wild dogs, the battered general unable to pick himself out of the gutter, the woman covered in sores who begged for mercy, the letters, written in blood, on the side of a wall crying for HELP. All of it left him blank, there was nothing he could do, there was nothing new in yesterday’s silt; the city was far beyond any redemption.
A man, dark in complexion, grabbed his arm and then backed away, eyes full of fear. “I’m white,” he screamed scratching at his face, “I’m white!”
“Not in this light, mate” Edgar replied, “not here.”
The man gave an insane laugh and ran off down an alley leaving a shoe in his wake. Three men grew out of the shadows, dressed as ghost, hunting their prey with deliberate noise and excitement. They passed Edgar but one stopped and turned back.
“Edgar, hey Edgar, wait up it’s me, Firkin,” he said removing the hood, “hey, where’ve you been, out of town?”
“No, just waiting.”
“Oh, man, what a bitch! Still, bet you’ll get some excitement soon, eh? I can’t wait, ‘till I get sent on a job. Don’t get me wrong, I love the work here, I mean the challenge and everything, but boy, to be out there on a contract, I mean, that’s where it’s at, that’s where I’m going, one day.”
“One day, kid, when you grow up.”
“Piss off.” He put the hood back on. “Hey, pretty scary, eh?”
“Hey, fellers, wait up, leave me some!”
Firkin ran off, briskly, to where the others had cornered the unfortunate quarry, Edgar turned and continued his journey through the arch of Sodom and Gomorrah. The rain had stopped shitting on the streets and in the murky distance he heard music above the screams. He followed its rowdy discord and pushed his way through the line of impoverished alcoholics to sit at a table in The Ram. It was an unruly place, more spit than sawdust, basic and hopeless and even the piano player couldn’t fill the void with his half-hearted attempt at a tune.
Edgar ordered and sat quietly in the corner looking down at his dusty glass. The amber liquid seemed out of place, wasted in this misery of despair and rage. He moved it around hoping to catch some light on its surface but all there was was sadness and grief. He drank it down quickly, it was bitter and grimy. His phone rang above the noise of someone’s arm breaking, he got to his feet; he didn’t have to answer it.
The estate was on the East side of town, where all the sunlight was hidden and all the shadows were created in marble splendour. It was cold, for all its pretence of daylight and meadow flowers, there was no brightness, no warmth.
Edgar walked along the courtyard, each step acknowledged his presence while fallen statues watched his coming. Something guarded this pathway, something hidden in the thick walls, under the ground he was treading on. He’d caught a glimpse of it once, he had looked into its stony eyes and wished himself somewhere else. Edgar still knew fear.
The great door was open, it always was.
Inside the walls were painted with erotic, lifelike murals, snakes, flesh and thorns. Dead eyes stared back from cracked plaster and sometimes they moved. The sound of empty laughter echoed down the passageway and it was easy to pretend, for a moment, that it was sincere and the party was real; but only for a moment.
Edgar entered the main hall and tried not to mingle with the guests in their thousand dollar, custom suits. He had seen it all before, networking, the greedy and the ambitious willing to break bread to reach their pinnacle. He had witnessed the secret handshakes, the side stepping and the bones cracked along the way. He wondered if they ever saw through the façade of the revelry, the sour taste of Moët, the entertainment of fragile youths and plump women that were just shades and bone, the rich assortment of rare dishes rancid on the table. Maybe they did but chose not to.
He walked passed those adrift on temptation to the man with many faces. The man smiled and greeted him with an arm around his shoulder like an old friend. Edgar followed him to an office, a small and unassuming room with a deer head trophy on one of the oak walls. The door closed behind them.
There was a scale model of the city in the room, it still reminded Edgar of a graveyard from his bird’s eye view, even the words he saw early, scrawled in blood, was duplicated with stark realism. The man laughed, “maybe they got the ‘p’ wrong”, he said waving a far reaching hand over the letters.
Edgar smiled, though it hurt to do so.
The man reached into a desk drawer and handed him a file, just like all the times before. “A new contract,” was all that was said.
Edgar opened the file and thumbed through the pages nodding. The ink hadn’t dried.
“Go,” the man commanded, “take the back way, I have guests.”
The smile inside Edgar was concealed as his car left the despair of the city. Freedom. To breathe colours and taste raindrops; to know light. He put on his sunglasses just passed the sign which read, ‘You are now leaving Hell, body count still rising.’
Copyright RMC Nov 2017