Walking down the street, past the old man’s grocery shop, the smell of fresh fruit in my nostrils; glancing across the street at the stupid poster of some fanatics: “The world needs YOU!” What rubbish!
Just down one more block, and around the corner. I know what will happen, what awaits me, but I can’t stop. My legs carry me on their own account.
Turning the corner, I stop dead. Mouth dropping open, eyes staring, about to drop too. Warm fluid running down my legs, but I don’t notice. Tumbling masses of flame, a turmoil of fire. Five feet of shifting light, floating in the air like a balloon, burning my eyes, warming my face. Heat knocking the breath out of me and hurting my skin, but I advance, unaware of doing so. Glimpsing the features of a grinning, inhuman face, or is it grimacing? Warmer and hotter; the sphere charges at me. Inhaling stale hot air, my lungs screaming.
I scream with them, sitting up in the dark, eyes watery. The foul smell lingers, an afterimage, fades away, leaving me in void, panting and hoarse. I reach for the glass of water on the bedside, knocking it over and sending it rolling on the carpet.
Lights go on in the hallway, footsteps follow. The door is thrown open. doctor and nurses come rushing in. Telling me to calm down, all is well, no harm done. What do they know? Pushing me back in the bed, pressing my head against the pillow, giving me a hypodermic. ‘This will let you sleep without bad dreams.” But what else does it do? They only want my best, they assure me. So I sleep again.
I wake to a new day. A nurse is in the room, doing her best to look busy. “Oh, you’re awake again; wait a moment, I’ll call the doctor.” She leaves, dustcloth forgotten on my bedside table. A glass, half full with water, and whatever else is in it, standing beside it; nothing has changed, as if nothing has happened. Who knows, maybe nothing had, maybe all had been a dream.
“You look much better today,” the doctor greets me like he had every morning I can remember, “you need a lot of quiet and rest and you’ll be all right again in no time at all. Here, these pills will help you with it. You’ll see, in no time at all.”
No time, if he only knew what that means in a place like this. One day like the other, no Sundays to count the passage of weeks by, no television, no visitors, no change in daily routine. It’s the best way to make one lose all sense of reality.
On the run again, in a rundown bar beside some highway; an old country song on the juke box in the corner. Asking truckers for a lift, looking for plainclothes being after me, begging for a meal or a drink. I don’t know where I am, don’t care where I’m going. The trucks are leaving; time to move to another highway, another bar, same troubles, same routine.
Riding in a truck, half listening to the driver rambling on, trying to remember, trying to forget. Feeling the increasing heat, the blinding light; a huge ball of fire, its changing face unpleasantly familiar, murmuring on and on. Unintelligible but soothing. The sudden change in the voice startling me awake, “That’s as far as I can take you.”
“You look much better today; you’ll be up and running in no time at all,” the doctor greets me on another sunny morning. Up and running; that’s what I’ve just been, but where to, where from? It’s the same doctor, the same room.
“What day is today?” — “Oh, it’s such a nice day, isn’t it?”
“I want to get up, walk through the garden.” — “You need a bit more rest; tomorrow we’ll see.”
Spitting out my pills and putting them under the pillow, looking around in the dark room. Getting up, walking to the window, opening it. The fresh night air cools my face. Climbing out, I leave for the garden, sneaking away into the darkness, damp grass freezing my bare feet.
Walking past the world-needs-you poster. I turn the corner. Face to face with a tumbling, boiling mass of flame, warming my frozen face and hands. The face is changing, grimacing, smiling, speaking, “I have found you, you have found me, we have found us, I have found you, you have—”
Screaming I wake to the doctor leaning over me. “All is well now, just go back to sleep.” But is it? Wondering, drifting towards sleep.
“You look much better today, just a bit more rest and quiet and you’ll be well again.”
“But is it? Well, I mean.” — “Of course it is. You only need rest, you’ll see.”
A flame springing into life, growing and multiplying. Becoming a fierce ball of heat and fire, forming a face becoming all mouth, chanting, “Found us, found us, join us, join us, found us, join us—” Swallowing me.
The doctor leaning over him, lifting his eyelid, dropping his hand. Eyes rolled up, mouth hanging open.
“We lost him,” the doctor says, “pity; now we’ll never know what he saw.”
August 1, 1993