A Lost Chapter

On the 8.05 train I try to sit and think of nothingness. It doesn’t help when everywhere I look, people are rushing.

Back and forward like ants, here and there like wandering nomads. Going everywhere, getting nowhere. Never stopping, always moving, always plugged in. The mouths are busy talking, the fingers busy texting. Ears plugged into ipods, noses lost in paperbacks. Eyes locked on laptops while the fingers rush to tap, tap tap a ryhtmn out on the keys.

Because the world is speeding up, you know. Time is ticking faster. No one takes the time to sit and think of nothingness anymore because no-one can. There isn’t time. That’s why it feels like your brain is crushing under the wait of time when you try it.

And just to make sure you don’t think about nothingness too much, they are in the background, watching. Cameras on every corner, in every nook, in every cranny. They watch and wait for anything out of the ordinary. Like someone worrying their nails to the quick on the 8.05 train every morning.

If you’re one of the lucky ones you don’t notice them anymore. Too caught up in your own little lives. I used to be you. We’re the most watched country in the world but we don’t care. We feel safe.

Such a false sense of security. Because I know something’s not right. I used to feel safe. But it comes to me in the dreams now. The ones I try to blank out because they are so far away from my soft and simple life I don’t want to see it, I don‘t want to hear it. I don‘t want to think it.

So I think of nothingness.

I know I’m not the only one having the intense dreams every night. I see the other eyes on the train. The ones that are dark and haunted, still trying to remember the glare of the dream that kept them awake half the night.

I try to look busy on the train, I try to plug in but it’s hard. I always take a newspaper with me, I open it up and everything. But the harder I try to read it, the sooner the words seem to slide into shapes of a different language and I have to fold it up and drop it down the side of my seat. Then the other haunted eyes will stare across at me, shifting slightly before looking back out the window. You always notice the ones who are having the dreams. They are the ones who are not plugged in.

Everyone else has their agenda for the next 30 minutes. Whether it be painting nails, reading The Times, checking their mail, or replying to texts…they’re different. They’re occupied. Me, the other unpluggeds, we aren’t. We can’t get occupied. You see the fingers in the mouth a lot, chewing on the nails. The train swerves and we rattle, shaken skeletons in unsure bodies.

I want to ask them so many questions, but this is not the place. Possibly half of them were talking to Kyle last night on the dark side. If I see him again I’ll have to suggest to him a new thread – intense dreaming. If I see him again…the words stick in my gut and suddenly I feel a tangle of nerves collect there. What if I never see him again? I feel a panic akin to an impending apocalypse. It swells into a sickness as I step off the rattled train.

Outside in the choking street I throw up on my shoes. Excellent. An older man stops to ask if I am alright. It’s always the older ones who stop. My generation couldn’t give a shit. I can’t reply as my mouth has ran dry, my throat choked. He thinks I’m ignoring him anyway and walks away.

I’m not just throwing up because I am realising I might be falling in love with Kyle. I’m throwing up because I just remembered my dream. I want to call after the man and buy him a coffee. I try to follow him but he’s gone, lost in the swarm of busy ant-people building and working on their philosophy of life.

Standing stationary in a river of people is not a good experience, especially when you stink of vomit. I retreat into an empty doorway and watch the world for a while. It’s amazing the people that don’t notice you. I start to feel like one of the cameras on the wall.

I can still see the black hand and long thin arm as clear as it was in my dream last night. It was wispy as though it was made of smoke, so that whenever you tried to grasp it, your fingers caught only air. But somehow this didn’t stop it from gripping onto you.

I’m sure I could find that old man, maybe if I started walking now, I might still catch him. There are not enough good people in the world. I need to let him know he is still one of the good ones…

I remember running from this black hand, the long arm that seemed to stretch on forever, no matter how far I ran. Kyle was with me. I remember he never left my side. I can never tell him about this dream.

I can’t believe I’ve been sick on my shoes. I wonder for a moment if I should go into work, or if I should turn back and go home. Go to bed. But then I might have the dream again…

I had thought the hand was after me but I was wrong. It wanted only one thing. Kyle. I tried to stop it, I tried to fight I but everything I did proved useless. It was choking him, it was killing him and a million voices were shouting at me, a million faces I didn’t know but seemed to know Kyle. You were supposed to protect him, they said. You were supposed to keep our Kyle safe.

I gaze out at the rush of bodies passing me. None of the faces are out there. But they were from somewhere. How can you dream a million faces, imagine a million people that don’t exist? They still seemed so real, so many. I definitley can’t tell Kyle about this dream.

I’m startled by a figure who approaches me seemingly from nowhere. ‘You looked like you needed this.’ He is handing me a polystyrene cup and some paper napkins. It’s the old man. He’s came back and he’s handing me coffee.

I take the cup with trembling hands as I finally find my voice and thank him over and over. It’s just what I need, I tell him, it’s exactly what I need. And it’s true. The bitter coffee gets rid of the burning vomit taste and I wipe my shoes clean with the napkins. I explain to him I couldn’t talk when he first approached me. I wanted to thank him for his concern, I really did.

‘That’s ok.’ he replies. ‘You’re glad now that you got your chance.’

‘Yes.’ I nod as he walks away, seeing the reason for it now. ‘Yes I am.’

A second chance. I couldn’t save Kyle in my dream, but I would get a second chance to save him in real life.

Shit.

I have to tell Kyle about this dream.

I can’t go to work. There was a reason why I was sick. I have to find Kyle and tell him what I think. That I have to protect him, save his life, stop a black arm strangling him…fuck sake. As if he didn’t think I was mad enough. I light a cigarette and wait until the rush hour dies down a little.

I call my perfect boss who never has an off day and tell her I’m having an off day.

‘What’s wrong?’ she barks.

‘I’m sick.’ I tell her.

‘I have a remedy for that.’

‘Great.’ She has a remedy for everything.

‘Flat coke.’

‘I don’t have any flat coke.’

‘Well I’m sure the corner shop does.’

‘But it won’t be flat.’

‘It will if you shake it.’

‘I won’t be in today.’

She pauses, sniffs in my ear. ‘Flat coke always works for me.’

My boss is so self-centred she really doesn’t understand why anything that works for her can’t work for everyone else.

‘If I get the chance, I’ll try it.’ I know this is all she wants to hear.

‘Excellent,’ her voice brightens, ‘Hopefully we’ll see you later then.’

‘Yeah. Sure.’ Fuck off and die, I think as I click the phone off.

I have to get my head around this dream. It’s not like I think it’s a premonition but it wasn’t a normal dream either. I stare at my mobile for a while wondering why the hell Kyle doesn’t have one. He doesn’t have a lot of things normal people have.

I make my way back to the station. There’s a train leaving for the City in seven minutes. The next one is over two hours. There are always plenty trains to get you out of the City but fewer to get you back in. Luckily I make the 9.07 and hop on to the rattled tin can, risking my life one more time all in the name of gut instinct. Never mind Kyle thinking I was mad, I was beginning to think it myself.

To be continued?

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