It takes a while to start. I don't even know why I'm here, what it means. Nothing matters. On the way down here, I imagined the train derailing, some idiots throwing bricks or bottles from a bridge, killing the driver, causing it to speed out of control. Fire, screams, twisted metal. Chaos and pain, then nothing.
Here, now, nothing feels real. The drugs don't matter; my brain already mangled and twisted up in my skull, the world a distant, receding dream. A few dabs of MDMA powder, wrapped up in rice paper, washed down with port. I've never taken it before, but the bitter, chemical tang at the back of my throat as the paper dissolves is familiar.
Music. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here. Half way through the album. People I don't know reminisce about events I dont remember, experiences I never lived. I interject when it seems appropriate, respond mechanically. Laughter. Sighs. Nos and maybes. Black inside. Pulsing black filth in place of my mind, my heart, my entrails, shards of bone protruding, raking me open, never letting me heal.
It's cold, the heating clanking as it fails to work in the small flat. I want to sleep. I always want to sleep, lately. Not to dream; just for darkness, for thought to stop, just for a few hours. Insomnia has ravaged my nerves to unravelling, the panic attacks of the last few months crippling. I doubt I'll have a job to go back to, when I take the train up to the Midlands.
It doesn't feel any different, doesn't feel like it's working. Others come, welcomed by the owners of the flat, the friends who invited me to stay. They introduce us. I think I say something. I must, because they smile, sit down, talk with me. Toys from childhood, old comics, politics and religion. The words come, the thoughts with them, but I'm not there. I'm dissolving in the sludge, smothering on it, devoured by it. Soon, there'll be nothing left. Just a sack that walks and talks like me, that pretends to love, but is secretly filled to bursting with excrement.
A wave rises inside, silver, scintillating, highlighted with the amber of Summer dusk. It washes my entrails, dissolving the pollution inside in a heartbeat, leaving me cleansed and hollow. And continues rising, over lungs and heart, to my throat, making me afraid that I'll drown, that it's going to burst out of my face, the same brilliant waters filling the flat, pouring into the street, reducing London to a new Atlantis.
Instead, it crests over my mind, crashing down, the sentient filth barely having time to sigh parasitic protest before it sifts away.
I open my eyes, though they aren't closed, a babe seeing for the first time. Colour pulses, magnificent, living: worms of pigment crawling and mating on the walls, the carpet. Music afflicts me like invisible knives and fingers in the air, tracing my seams, delicately caressing my spine, my flanks, my fingers. I breathe it, taste its sharpness, its liqourice depth. I see it sifting and weaving behind my eyes like trails of coloured smoke.
Everyone is beautiful. Every word is profound. My eyes ache as they widen, ravenous to devour every detail, to swallow the world. I see that, in my mind's eye: my face become a nest of mouths, the world a liquid sludge that pours into them endlessly, though it's never enough.
I don't know what we talk about after; only that the conversations seem to simultaneously stretch into forever and occur in the blink of an eye, forgotten in the next instant. Only that I am fascinated, in love with every subject, every opinion, until they burst like soap bubbles, dissolve like dreams, and are forgotten.
The sun sets, cold night swells, and the sun rises again, time elastic, contorting around us. And still we don't sleep, still the music plays, still our mouths ache with the philosophies that pour from them.
Only the words silence me. Fragments of syllable and sentence that I first see crawling across the walls, through the floral patterns that decorate them, fiery and Autumnal, then across the carpet, seething around us all like insects disturbed from their nests. Then on people's faces, the tatooed testaments of angels, of extra-dimensional beings, intent on giving us what warnings they can of potential tomorrows.
I stare, attempting to read and recognise the stories they tell. Only fragments sear themselves into my brain, and even they soon become lost, leaving behind only lambent impressions, embers slowly dying in bonfire ash.
At some point, my head becomes too heavy, swollen not with filth and despair now, but with music, with myth, with joy. The swarms around us cohere before my eyes, forming clotted, paragraph peoples, creatures and species that write wisdom with every motion, every heartbeat. Congregations and carnivals, celebrations that strew city streets, stories of themselves. I watch them play out, Dickensian tales of lost children and unlikely coincidences, folkloric yarns in which wise young girls trick wicked goblins into granting them their heart's desires. Sad stories, lovers losing one another at the height of their infatuations, when it seems the world must split open for the pain of their parting.
His face. His body. Over and over, as I knew it, as it was, before yesterday's fires, the ashes, the insincere tears.
I fight the urge to reach for him, to grasp and pull him up from those other times and places into which I've been granted windows, those other states of probability where he still walks, still laughs. Where I might still know him.
No telling how long I watch, but the sun has begun to rise again by the time I let my head fall, the time I can no longer keep my eyes open, and they close on a world that has been dead to me since it murdered love.
George Lea is an entity that seems to simultaneously exist and not exist at various points and states in time and reality, mostly where there are vast quantities of cake to be had. He has a lot of books. And a cat named Rufus. What she makes of all this is anyone's guess.