Why I Hate Public Transport

This guy sat next to me on the train, a few weeks ago.  He smelled like death, but also, oddly, of beetroot.  I looked around.  No-one else seemed to notice that he had the head of a dragon-fly.  I shrugged.  I guess it wasn’t important.

He caught me looking, and smiled, though I’m not sure how I was able to tell. He seemed amiable enough, and said to me, “Sure is cold out.” I could only agree.  He mentioned he was on his way to Frankston, to visit his daughter.  Said that she had moved out of home about eight months ago, and this was the first he will have seen of her since then. “That’s nice,” was all I could think to reply.

“I’ve missed her a lot.”

“Eight months is quite a long time.”  I resumed my silent survey of the quiet streets outside the train window.

He shifted in his seat a little.  My stand-offish attitude was making him a little uncomfortable, I think.  Before long, he turned to me again and remarked, “You look quite a creative young sort.  Tell me, do you perhaps play an instrument?”  I told him that I dabble a bit on guitar.

“Ah, yes.  I am a bass man myself.   A Gibson EB-0 is what I play.  Made in 1961, it was.”

“Oh, yes, a vintage man, are you?”

“Yes indeed, they certainly don’t make them like they used to!”

“No, that sure was some axe.”

“Hah! An ‘axe’ indeed. Yes.”  This had seemed to amuse him.  Shortly after, the train pulled into the interchange.  He stood up, nodded to me quietly, and exited the carriage with a posture of grace.  As the train pulled away, I noticed he had pulled out a bowler, and sat it upon his glistening head to ward off the light sprinkling of rain that had started to fall.

These days, I catch the tram.

Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 8:32 am  Comments (2)  
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The Egg And I

I sat up in bed and rubbed my face, unable to sleep in the heat. The same dry, electric heat. It seemed so otherworldly, an unnatural atmosphere. It brought back memories of the accident.

It was three years ago. I had been meeting my friend for lunch at a café down the street from the station, a narrow and quite busy commercial hub. I liked that particular section of street. A pleasantly complicated bubble surrounded by silent industrial backlots just a dozen metres away in each direction. She was a musician, and had just locked in her first headline gig. I treated her to lunch as a celebration. And, as our celebrations always did, a couple of brews had been involved. After parting company, I started walking down the side street into the concrete maze away from the throngs and traffic. They had been starting to give me a headache, and I only had two or so kilometres to walk back to my apartment.

The graffiti on the brick walls and rollerdoors I passed was for the most part unintelligible. The artistic talent didn’t venture this far out of the city. For all the blank canvas they had to work with, there just wasn’t an audience, and in any case the taggers had no respect for works around here. As I was ruminating on this deep theory of social injustice, and trying not to stumble in my slightly inebriated state, the usual precautions one takes when crossing streets and loading zones slipped further and further from my mind. And then, inevitably, my downfall came. I’m sure I had heard the light truck’s engine, it was moving at a fair clip after all. But the driveway was narrow and blind, and I just stepped out without consideration. Swept me fair away.

As I lay on the hot bitumen, I was amazed at how little pain I was in. Mind you, I couldn’t much feel anything, and neither could I move. The light seemed unnaturally bright and flared out, as though the white balance had been set too high. But I could feel the heat. It didn’t feel right. It wasn’t like the usual caress of solar radiation on my bare skin. It was a penetrative heat that I felt all over and all around, so dry and charged with potential. As I was gazing upwards in my paralysed state, a figure swam into view like a water reflection on a disturbed pond. I thought it was the truck driver. But as the details became clearer, it started to look less and less like a human figure at all. Too slender, too narrow. Before I could draw a conclusive impression, my vision flared entirely, painfully, divinely bright and my conscious thoughts seared away.

And then, with a startling suddenness, I could see again. And I was standing. I gazed down at my legs, standing upright, and couldn’t think in my state of surprise. As my brain started moving again, I became aware of other details. The ground beneath my feet was no longer bitumen. It had become a high grade marble. I looked up, and found myself in a marbled courtyard, open to the sky. The sky was a dull, nocturnal red, lit from no discernable source but as bright as daylight nonetheless. The lack of originating lightsource gave the whole scene an odd lack of contrast, as there were no shadows. All around this courtyard, maybe seventy metres in diameter, were coliseum-style stone seats. And every seat was occupied.

My audience were slim of build, and unnaturally tall of stature. Slender and elegant, their forms were flowing and regal. Their faces, however, were utterly devoid of feature. I stood there and regarded this silent ocean of witnesses. And without receiving any indication from any of them, I knew exactly what was expected of me.

I walked to the centre of the courtyard, and beheld my dance partner. It was an egg. A single fowl’s egg. And yet at the same time it wasn’t. It had no fixed features or proportions, its shape and size were completely indeterminate, but I never perceived it as anything but an egg. I took its outstretched hand, bowed, and smiled as the music began. And off we went, striding and twirling with the beat. I had never danced a step in my life, and yet here I moved with the grace and precision of a world champion. My movements were fluid and perfectly in time, my feet placed with a confidence and control that I had never before experienced. My spirit soared.

One by one, the spectral figures surrounding me lit up, shining like supernovas, martyrs of brilliance, glowing their approval. Brighter and brighter, till I was surrounded with a eucharistic brilliance that drowned all else out and burned away my surroundings until I was freefloating in a featureless void. The joy drained from me, the exuberance flowing out as quickly as it had filled me. And then my vision vignetted back in, and I found myself standing once again outside the café I had left not long before, my friend’s back disappearing off into the crowd as she had already done once that day. I sat down again, unable to comprehend this twisted timeline. I was completely sobered, but the headache was still there and threatening to become unbearable at any minute.

I decided not to dwell too deeply on what had just occurred, and to just make my way home as quickly as possible. I went immediately to the train station, and spoke to no-one.

I’d been granted another chance. I had pleased my audience of magnificent shining deities, and as a performance fee they had brought me back.

That was three years ago.

Tonight had the same actinic feel in the atmosphere. My head started to pound. As my vision started to flare, I idly wondered what the consequences would be if I did not meet their approval again?

Published in: on June 23, 2008 at 1:12 pm  Comments (2)  
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