Someone decided to replace the klaxon with music.

I wish I could meet that asshole and shake him by the throat. I used to love music, but now it makes my skin crawl. The sound of blaring horns and ringing bells should warn us, not the sweet harmony of a string quartet. But that’s just how it is these days. You wake up, the neighbours are scattered in bloody pieces over your nicely mown lawn, and some ratbag is playing Mozart on the radio.

It must have been eight generations back when the sirens were loud. Back then, the sound was telling you to run – to dig, to crawl, to do anything ­– to get under cover. People would start screaming and shoving at each other as if the bombs cared who got closest to the shelter before it collapsed. There had to be a clever mind behind that one, as well, weighing up the pros and cons. Will the Loft-wafer do more damage than a pack of rioting cockneys? Some of those women used to carry bricks in their handbags. If that Hipster man had landed in England he would have been bludgeoned to death with a designer leather trim.

We don’t riot, now. It’s not that we know any better. A couple of centuries isn’t enough time to fix a boiler, let alone a species. For a couple of years now we’ve had a bit of a managerial turnover, but we still go home and kick at the fridge door when the sod won’t shut. You know, the stuff people have always done. And we used to watch telly and listen to music, but we can’t do that now, because when the sirens go off we have to - - -

One time, Sid told me they could catch you out by sniffing at the garlic in your breath. Everyone knew that Sid was full of hot air, but one day he didn’t come into work. I heard his nametag was found in a duck pond. Nobody ate Italian for a few weeks. It’s just how people are, you know.

I tried telling Ellen that it was risky to sleep alone, but she said she’d heard that one before. The secret to a long life, she said, was to drink cider vinegar and to wear a raincoat in the winter. God help us all, but she could be right. The shiny-robed gaudette is still walking among us. Hell, the static in that woman’s hair could probably bring down a jet all by itself and eat a satellite for pudding.

I’m not superstitious. Never have been. I never used to put teeth under my pillow, or mince pies under the tree, even though I knew that my parents would give me a coin or a present in exchange. Nobody knows for sure what will happen if they don’t drink pickle juice, but I’m damn sure it has nothing to do with ending up in a pond.

Maybe the solution is to be a duck. They’re doing alright. After the first few years I started seeing wild animals again. They’re thriving on all the fresh food out there. It’s strange - I always thought they were vegetarians.

My radio has started to crackle. They haven’t played music for weeks, now. I climbed up the speaker tower to see if it was broken, but I got shouted down before I reached the top. Sturdy things, those pylons. When I was a kid mum told me not to touch them if I didn’t want to get struck by lightning. That’s how it was, back then. We were scared of things that didn’t move.

I never heard the end of that symphony thing with the oboe farting out the tune. I can’t remember if it was good or not, but I’d like to hear the ending. It gives you something to think about, doesn’t it? While you’re clinging to the table legs and trying not to piss yourself it’s good to have a bit of culture. That’s what makes you human, sophistication and all that.

If you sing any of the warning music at work you get written up. It’s ‘disturbing’, they say. I remember once they played the Blue Danube Waltz. People were whistling it on the streets, babies were crying… it was chaos. I was the only one who laughed. People don’t really smile these days unless they’ve cracked.

Whatever cider-sparked battery you have turned yourself in to won’t matter. You don’t look any different to the ones who are caught after you’ve jumped or swallowed or tied the rope. We all go sooner or later. Ellen is the most flammable person in the world, so I figure she’ll drown. I like the thought of jumping, myself. Not in front of something, but off a cliff or a tower. I don’t get to see open spaces and that very often. They say it’s safer to be locked away.

I guess if you’re running off to Dover to pack it in then you wouldn’t mind so much, but I’d be begging them for death if I was caught. Not their death: mine. Off the chalk like a pretty bluebird, thank you very much, and you can keep whatever you want to peel off the rocks afterwards. Just drop my name badge into work before you leave, or else I’ll be written up again.

They didn’t believe that I was dead the last time, even after I came into work all covered in blood. They made me pull up my sleeves before they phoned an ambulance. I reckon that demonstrates a ‘lack of sensitivity’, as they say. I should report them to HR.

I don’t need the radio. I can always tell when they’re coming. I can feel their eyes inside my skull.

I’m ready.

December 13, 2019 17:47

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Rima ElBoustani
22:56 Dec 16, 2019

Beautiful but a little confusing...is that intentional? You have a way with words that inspires feeling in the reader. Consistently some of my favorite stories...good job!


00:07 Dec 18, 2019

Thank you for all your kind reviews! It is supposed to be intentionally confusing since it’s about someone with a tenuous grasp on reality... I haven’t really done it successfully, but I don’t want to mess with it much more because I kind of like it being messy. I’ve taken it as a lesson for the next time I try something like this.


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