Metropolitan Lines Literary Magazine, vol. 1


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Literary magazine showcasing student and faculty work, responsible for design, layout and formatting.

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Metropolitan Lines Literary Magazine, vol. 1

  1. 1. Metropolitan Lines Volume 1 2007 1
  2. 2. postgraduate fiction Contents Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007 Volume 1 2007 FICTION Editors: UNDERGRADUATES Editorial Staff David Fulton The Undertakers 3 Charles Thurlow Robert Stamper The Game 8 Jacqueline Brooks Slightly Delusional 18 Mike Park Layout and Formatting: Being About 23 Krystel Thompson Samuel Taradash A Dying Trade, Dear Boy 27 Luke Melia The Ice Maiden 29 Jenny Neophytou Metropolitan Lines is the literary The Young! 34 Luke Melia magazine of Brunel University’s School of Arts. It exists to showcase the FACULTY creative writing, prose and poetry of Beds 39 Bill Leahy students, faculty and staff connected Does My Bum Look Big? 45 Verena Adams to the School of Arts at Brunel University. The Somerset House 48 Sean Gaston The Right Connections 50 David Fulton Questions, comments or submissions are welcome, and should be sent to POETRY UNDERGRADUATES Peep Show 5 James Wood Any submissions should be sent as Goodbye 7 Karen Harlow attachments to e-mail in the form of .doc or rtf files. Please, check your Smile 10 Mary Channon spelling and grammar before sending. Taken as Read 12 Paul Crisp Recorded Tears 17 Jagmeet Sidhu The copyrights of all works within are held by The A-Z of Dating for Women 19 Hina Ahmad their respective authors. Where is He? 22 James Wood Bog Cubicle 23 Johanna Steele Me. You. 25 James Wood For Andrew 28 Mary Channon 5 Minutes 30 Andrew Tucker FACULTY The Hotel Pool, Mombasa 38 Rob Cook The Sea Wall 44 Stephen James Well Now 49 David Fulton Empty and Marvellous 55 Rob Cook 2 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  3. 3. undergraduates “What are you playing at?” “All in good time, gents,” replied THE UNDERTAKERS It was Mike. Mike, gulping his tea and ignoring Charles Thurlow “Nothing, just mucking about Carl’s eagerness. waiting for you,” Carl gabbled. We perched on the gleaming C arl and Finney had already “Are you all right, Colin?” I was work surfaces burning our hands on arrived when I pushed open leaning against the big industrial the thick green mugs. They used to the door into the kitchen’s warmth, fridge, catching my breath. have the clubhouse printed on the bringing the cloud of my last frozen “Yes... I’m fine... Mike” side, but they were cheap and breath in with me. “Well you can all piss off home if bought in bulk and the picture had “You’re late, Crapper. Too busy you think you’ve come here to muck long since worn off. Mine still had wanking to drag yourself out o’ bed about, me laddioes.” half a roof and ‘Go lub’, but it was in this mornin’?” “Sorry, Mike,” we chorused. the minority. None of us spoke as “Fuck off, Carl. Is he here yet?” Even Finney, and he hadn’t done a we sipped and slurped our tea, but Carl was fifteen and just because thing. Carl glared at me through the Finney and I were two years Mike had a red nose. That was almost imperceptible steam that younger he thought he could rib us the first thing I’d noticed about him rose from his mug. I knew he about masturbation - like he didn’t when Finney and I came up to the wouldn’t have forgiven me yet. He do it either. club the previous summer, looking spat in my face once when I called “No he‘s not. Maggie let us in, for ways to supplement our meagre him a ‘fat blubber bundle’, so I said he’d be down in five minutes,” pocket-money. He was nice enough, booted him in the shins and he replied Finney, taking off his glasses quite serious, although I did would have leathered me if he hadn’t to wipe away the condensation overhear some of the members been so slow. He didn’t speak to me caused by the kettle boiling on the talking about the night he was for a month, but I wasn’t too worktop behind him. I nodded, forced to run naked round the bothered because most of what he more to myself than the other two eighteenth green after losing a game came out with was gobshite. and crept over to the swing door of cards. This vision often popped I was deep in thought, that separated the kitchen from the into my head whilst I was being remembering the spitting incident, rest of the golf club to see if I could given my instructions for the day when Mike let out a loud, contented spot any sign of Mike, our boss. As and it was all I could do to stop sigh and put down his empty mug. I stood on tiptoe, peering into the myself from collapsing into giggles. “Right lads, are you ready for some red half-light of the dining-room, an Today he seemed cheerful enough, graft?” arm yanked me back savagely by the after delivering our dressing down, “Yes, Mike,” we chorused. Well, neck. and whistled merrily to himself as he Carl and I chorused - Finney was “Don’t tell me to fuck off, little prepared our tea. This Saturday swallowing tea at the time, so he Colin Crapper,” Carl hissed as he morning ritual was a much-needed chirped up a couple of seconds late. manoeuvred me struggling into a perk of the job, especially in the “Do you remember I mentioned headlock. depths of winter, but there was last week that farmer Bradshaw’s “Get off Carl,” I choked as I something sinister about the been ‘aving some bother with a fox?” tugged at his wrist. I could smell his tinkling of steel against crockery This information was met with B.O. and feel the folds of his flabby that put me on edge. He was never blank looks from all three of us. belly against my cheek through his usually this cheerful, and when he Mike carried on regardless. “Well scratchy woollen jumper. was it usually meant someone on Tuesday night he shot the little “Say ‘sorry sir’. Say ‘little Colin would be on the receiving end of a bugger and it ended up dead in the Crapper’s very, very sorry sir’.” rotten job. rough off the fourteenth. Your “No.... Fuck off,” I spluttered. “What would you like us to do mission, should you choose to “Say it!” Carl tightened his lock. today, Mike?” asked Carl, accept it, is to bury the flea- ridden I felt faint now from lack of air and sickeningly trying to win back furbag before the members start to was on the point of giving in, when favour. complain.” He always said that the door swung open and I was thing about, “Your mission...”, and I rapidly released. didn’t have a clue what he was on 3 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  4. 4. undergraduates about until Tom Cruise did that ‘Mission: Impossible’ in front of Carl, though, he was far too self-righteous – film. I don’t know why he bothered saying it when we “I’11 never smoke, my granddad died of lung cancer and never really had a choice. you’ll go the same way” - and he had such an irritating “There’s shovels in the shed and you’d better take sing-song voice when he was on his high-horse that it some plakky bags to pick it up with. Don’t go touching wasn’t worth giving him an excuse to get up there. it yourselves, mind, or you’ll end up catching all sorts of We set to work looking for the shovels without The Undertakers diseases.” Having duly instructed, he pushed back his another word. After five minutes we’d only managed to chair noisily, stood up, and hurried off to his next task. unearth two and realised that the plastic bags were kept The tinkling of the crockery foretold correctly - burying in the kitchen. a dead fox on a freezing cold January morning was “There’s no way I’m going back in there. Mike’ll bite pretty close to my idea of a rotten job. Finney looked my head off,” said Carl, coward that he was. Mind you, green, but it could have been the reflection of his mug. I didn’t fancy facing Mike’s wrath again either, so I was “Nice one, Crapper! Thanks a bunch for landing me pleased when Finney volunteered. Carl stooped, Charles Name Thurlow in it,” Carl said as soon as he was sure Mike was out of examining the shovels intently after Finney had gone earshot. and I ventured further into the shed, pretending to look “What!” I said, incredulously. “You’re the one who for another one. Neither of us felt like speaking to the attacked me!” other. I was in the process of tormenting a giant brown “Well, you deserved it, and you’ve still not and red spider when Finney returned two minutes later. apologised.” He started after me, but the table was “Maggie were there. She gi’ me these.” He held up a between us and we began dashing round in circles, bundle of crumpled supermarket carrier bags. “She said backwards and forwards as he tried to lay hold of me. she din’t know ‘bout the shovels, though.” Finney started laughing and playfully punched each of “Never mind, we’ll just take it in turns to dig,” said us in turn as we dodged past him. Carl made a lunge at Carl. Satisfied with this suggestion, we upped tools me across the battered table top and I knocked over a and set out to the fourteenth hole. chair as I side-stepped his flailing arm. His face was It was a freezing cold, scared-to-get-out-of-the-bath turning purple with rage and exertion. kind of day, and the frost on the tall evergreens that “Get to work!” bellowed Mike, as he burst through surrounded the car park glittered as the sun fought the door. We stopped, instantly shocked, stationary, to through the rolling mass of cloud that threatened to dull see Mike’s glowering face preparing to spout forth one the bright morning. I liked being out and about on of his well- known tirades. All three of us were out of the mornings like this - the world seems a much cleaner, kitchen and halfway to the shed before the door stopped crisper place when everything is edged with frozen dew. swinging. Safely inside the musty wooden haven, we I know it sounds daft saying it, but this kind of day gradually regained our composure. always made me believe in childish notions of magic, “Bloody hell, I thought he was going to explode!” I fairies, elves, wizards, stuff like that. One day, about a said, partly because Mike really had looked like that, year ago, I was walking through the park on a morning and partly to brush over Carl’s grievance by inspiring a just like this and I saw a duck by the side of the boating sense of camaraderie. No such luck. lake. As I approached, I realised it wasn’t moving and, “Well, if you hadn’t knocked that chair over he thinking it was asleep, I crept closer, intending to shock wouldn’t have.…” it from its slumber. But when I was close enough to “Give it a rest, Carl.” This was Finney, the voice of touch it, and just about to clap my hands and shout and reason. scare the thing witless, I noticed it was frozen, frozen I tensed, still expecting Carl’s panting bulk to solid with its head tucked under its sparkling wing. It pounce like a lazy, overweight leopard (he had really bad rolled over when I kicked it with the end of one of my acne), but he just rutted and finally let the matter drop. damp trainers. I went back the next day, to see if it was Finney didn’t say much, but what he did say was usually still there, but it had gone, and while the bitter breeze to the point and worth saying. That’s probably why I turned my ears red, I convinced myself that the duck liked him. Well, that and the fact his Dad owned a had thawed itself out, flown on still dripping wings. newsagent’s, which had given us unlimited access to It was a ten minute walk to the site of the fox’s sweets and football stickers when we were younger. It demise and our conversation turned to the subject of meant we could nick fags now too. We couldn’t smoke Emma Radcliffe as we set off down the path, past the 4 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  5. 5. undergraduates eighteenth green. I knew her “Bullshit!” That was my “What? You haven’t spoken to because she lived at the end of my contribution to the debate. Emma Radcliffe.” Carl was looking street and used to play with Finney “I don’t give a shit whether you nervous. and me when we were younger. She believe me or not, ask her “I did, on Thursday. Me mam was three years older than us, and yourselves.” This, as Carl well knew, asked me to tek round some quite a corruptive influence even was impossible. Emma Radcliffe groceries for ‘er mam and when I The Undertakers then, but now she was notorious reserved for Finney and myself the were in the kitchen Emma were fodder for the playground gossips. kind of contempt you reserve for the there and she asked me wor I’d been Carl and Finney were arguing. puddles of vomit you might up to, and I said ‘Nothin’ much, wor “Bollocks!” That was Finney. I accidentally tread in outside ‘The ‘ave you been up to?’, and she said told you he was to the point. Randy Spaniel’ on a Sunday she visited her Gran on Monday “I swear, I’m not lying. On morning. The irony was, Finney night to cheer ’er up ‘cos it’s not long Monday night I went up Tanner’s and I were probably the first two since ‘er granddad died, and Charles Thurlow with her and she gave me a B.J.” lads in the area to see her naked Tuesday ‘er dad came over from Tanner’s Copse was a patch of (told you she was a corruptive Bolton and took ‘er to the cinema densely packed trees and bushes influence), while indulging in the and ‘ad a row with ‘er mam when between the estate we lived on and age old ‘you show me yours...’ game they got back and she threw a pot Bradshaw’s land, famous for illicit at the tender age of seven. Now, plant at ‘is lead, then Wednesday she sexual encounters. However, I was undoubtedly because of that former ‘ad to go an’ stay at ’er gran’s again quite sure the closest Carl had ever familiarity, she vigorously ignored ‘cos ‘er mam ‘ad been teken down got to one was when the school us if ever our paths crossed. So it the police station on account of ‘er nurse took his temperature by came as quite a surprise when lavin’ thrown a pot plant at ‘er dad, shoving a thermometer up his arse. Finney said he’d spoken to her two then she said she were stayin’ in that days ago. night ‘cos Eastenders were on the telly, so I said ‘All right, best be off First Year Students then’ and came home and me mam shouted at me ‘cos I forgot to bring PEEP SHOW the box back.” I was beginning to suspect I FLASH OH MY didn’t know Finney as well as I’d Thigh OH MY thought. Carl didn’t seem to know Tit GOD! what to say in reply to this, so after a Here “Would you like me to be few seconds of whirring cogs and a There STRICT?” couple of ‘ahhhs’ and ‘uhs’, he said Dirty “Would you like me FLASH?” nothing. He’d been rumbled and Sweaty FLASH we all knew it so he strode off ahead, Lovely Lip sulking, red-faced. Finney and I Oh my Bum laughed quietly. to be NASTY?” Here “You never told me you’d spoken FLASH There to Emma Radcliffe,” I said to FLASH Filthy Finney once Carl had. Turned the Wiggle Gorgeous corner in the path as it dipped Jiggle Bloody behind the bushes at the back of the Jiggle Bloody sixteenth tee. Wiggle BLOODY “I didn’t. I made it up. I was sick BUGGER Hell! of ’im coming out with lies, so I BUGGER “I’m a DIRTY girl.” thought I’d shut ’im up for once.” BUGGER “Are you a DIRTY boy?” That was it - seeing Carl ME! FLASH humiliated was funny enough, but knowing that Finney - Finney who James Wood 5 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  6. 6. undergraduates hardly ever said anything unless he had to - had made it two bunkers that stood as sentinels to trap any golfer all up, well, that was just hilarious, pant-wettingly funny, who might fall short, until we had gone about a and I couldn’t help bursting out into raucous laughter, hundred yards from the green. Looking left over the Finney joined in and soon the pair of us were stumbling rough we could see the smoke from Bradshaw’s down the gravel path with tears in our eyes and aching chimney, twisting out of the hollow that concealed his stomachs. We were laughing so much that we didn’t farm, rising lethargically into the rapidly thickening The Undertakers notice Carl had stopped in the middle of the path, until cloudscape. There was no mistaking it now - the smell we bumped into him. radiated from the little orange bundle just visible behind “Watch it, Carl!” I muttered, rubbing the spot on my a patch of long, wiry grass. We stood, thirty yards from chest where the end of Carl’s shovel had bruised me. the fox, with our sleeves over our mouths and noses. “Can you smell that?” Carl had his nose thrust “There is no way I’m touching that,” said Carl. forward into the air and was sniffing tentatively. Finney “Neither am I,” said Finney. They turned and looked and I exchanged glances - maybe the recent blow to his at me enquiringly. Charles Thurlow pride had knocked a screw loose. “No way. There is no way I’m even going near the “What, the grass?” I offered. thing.” “No, no. That smell. Have a proper sniff, it stinks.” I “You should do it, Carl, you’re the oldest.” Finney took a good lungful of air through my nostrils and really had a problem with Carl today. exhaled loudly. I was about to start deriding Carl’s “What’s that got to do with anything? You should do imaginary stench, having smelt nothing but the slowly it ‘cos you’re the youngest. Anyway, because I’m the defrosting grass and the chalky gravel odour, when oldest, I get to say who’s doing it, and I think it should Finney groaned, “Uuurgh! That stinks!” be Colin.” “See, see, there is something.” I sniffed again, more “You’re only saying that ‘cos he told you to ‘fuck off. seriously this time, but I still couldn’t detect the horrible Anyway, you’re nor in charge, we should tek a vote.” stink that disgusted Carl and Finney. “I am in charge, I’m two years older. You have to do “I can’t smell anything.” I moved over to where what I say, and I say Colin’s got to do it.” Finney stood, to the left of Carl, and sniffed again. “That’s crap. When’s Mike ever said you were in “Ugh! It’’s like cabbages.” charge?” “No, it’s more like gone-off milk.” “Well...he...that’s not the point. We’re here now, I’m We started walking briskly to evade the stench, all the oldest and the biggest,” Finney pointed out how three of us holding our breath and sporting screwed-up true Carl’s observation had been, but it passed without faces of revolt. We stayed like that, moving briskly with comment, “and I say Colin’s doing it.” a short-step half-run until we reached a row of waist- “That’s not fair, and there’s two of us. Maybe we high shrubs that backed onto the fourteenth green. think you should do it.” Thankfully, they were a pretty good windbreak, so we All the time Finney and Carl were arguing, I stood collapsed with our backs to the bushes and breathed. passively looking at the indistinct orange blob, whose All I could smell was grass and gravel again. funeral we’d been charged with arranging, and an idea “What the hell is that stink?” asked Carl, not really occurred to me. With my sleeve over my nose, the smell expecting either of us to know. wasn’t actually that bad, and a morbid curiosity had “I ‘ope it’s not wor’ I think it is,” replied Finney. arisen within me. I wanted to see the fox - and it wasn’t Then it clicked. I looked at Finney, then Carl, then as if it was going to bite me - so if neither of my Finney again and we all peered through the shrubbery accomplices wanted to touch the thing, it really in the direction of the fourteenth. I felt like Tom Hanks wouldn’t bother me that much. And I might be able to in that war film. “Well, there’s only one way to find get something out of it. out,” Finney said, before clambering to his feet, bags in “Stop arguing, you two, I’ve got an idea.” Two pairs hand, looking expectantly at Carl and me, crouching in of eyes and a pair of sleeve-covered hands turned to face the untainted air. We followed reluctantly. me. “I’ll pick up the fox, I’ll even carry it wherever it As we skirted the fourteenth green and reached the needs to go, provided.…“ edge of the fairway, the smell worsened, so between “What?” They said this simultaneously, eagerly. gulps of air we were silent. We walked purposefully “Provided you two dig the grave.” They looked at down the fairway by the border with the rough, past the each other, weighed up what they were both thinking, 6 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  7. 7. undergraduates and said yes, all in the time it takes pleased with my foresight - it would fetch his BMX from Floppy’s to say ‘stinking dead fox’. “You’ll take them another half an hour to domain probably hadn’t helped. have to dig out of bounds, though. dig a hole anywhere near big Once I had reached the fox We can’t carve up the rough.” You enough to bury the fox. (sleeve still clamped firmly), I wasn’t had to pay four hundred pounds a The fox. How could such a huge, so surprised: it was a gruesome year for that privilege. “Fine by rancid reek be generated by the one sight. The prostrate vermin lay on The Undertakers me,” said Carl. “We’ll just head over tiny dead animal I was now its side, with its head thrown out in there and start digging. OK? Don’t approaching? As far as I could see, it death at ninety degrees from the rest bring it over until we’ve finished. “ was no bigger than a large rabbit, of its body. Its tongue had been Finney handed me the bundle of the kind Adam Riley used to have in pierced by the large canine at the carrier bags in exchange for the his backyard that served his family front left of its mouth, but no blood shovel I’d been carrying and then as a guard-dog. It was impossible to discoloured the stiff, pink casualty of they sprinted over the rough, past get in or out of the back of his house its final mournful gnashing. One ear Charles Thurlow the white posts that marked off the because anybody invading Floppy’s was hidden by the grass, but the fourteenth, until they arrived at the territory would inevitably find the other still pricked forward. I top of the bank of waste ground that Bigwig from hell clamped to their wondered what that ear had heard led down to the dry-stone wall that ankle. That rabbit lived for twelve last. The crows had taken the eyes - separated Bradshaw’s land from the years and Adam Riley had grown ghoulish pits betrayed what had golf course. into a particularly nervous teenager. hidden behind the fox’s cunning “We’ll dig here, OK?” Carl Living with the fear of violent gaze, behind the green reflection if shouted. retribution every time he dared to caught in headlights. “Wherever!” I replied. I didn’t I retched. My first sight of the think it would make much head transfixed me, but difference, it was going to First Year Students my next glance sickened. be hard work wherever The belly and a part of the they chose. ribcage were torn open, GOODBYE “It’s rock hard!” horrific evidence of Finney’s first attempt at Bradshaw’s true aim. So there’s nothing left to say, except goodbye. penetrating the frost Maggots writhed in and I can’t believe you no longer care, compacted earth rang out about the pulpy mess of Won’t even give a reason why. across the surrounding intestines, membranes, greenery. I chuckled to gloopy red mash. I had a I notice you won’t catch my eye. myself I could see them vision of coming There are things I want to tell, but do not dare. struggling to make an downstairs into the So there’s nothing left to say, except goodbye. impression in the soil, lounge after one of my grumbling barely audible dad’s Friday nights up late If this is truth, I’d rather live a lie. curses as they puffed and in front of the telly, Either way you’re not being fair, panted, thumped and surveying the debris of his Won’t even give a reason why. clanked. I watched the excess, noticing with rising vapours of their revulsion the leftover cloudy, mingled breath for Chinese - overfaced We still had loose ends to tie, a while, with my sleeve himself in his alcoholic Now must find an identity, not half a pair. still faithfully blocking the greed - the sticky red So there’s nothing left to say, except goodbye. reek. Despite the fact that sweet and sour covering they were over fifty yards little white flecks. At least You said together we’d touch the sky. away, I could make out rice didn’t squirm. I Look, you left my dream cupboard bare the pitiful amount of earth retched again when I And won’t even give a reason why. they had managed to heard the faint sounds of So there’s nothing left to say, except goodbye. extract, a forlorn hump maggots feeding, moving, between them. I was very struggling, striving. Karen Harlow 7 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  8. 8. undergraduates The bushy tail had moulted, or or Finney’s encouragement, was farmer’s gun. All of us. I was ashen- been ravaged. It lay crimson, unclear. But did they share my faced as we flung the last clod of orange, ropy, chewed. The thoughts, as we gathered around earth over the fox. sickening sight mesmerised me. the grave, silent, considering the We ran back to the clubhouse, We’d all laughed at the gore animal? Had they, too, woken up to sprinting until our muscles ached witnessed when Finney’s older the terrible truth that we were all and the pounding in our ears The Undertakers brother let us watch Brain-dead one going to die? Kicking and became too much. afternoon when we’d all bunked off screaming, or twisted and crushed, school - especially the bit when a or dashed on the rocks in some crazed zombie pulled out a isolated spot, or sleeping peacefully, screaming victim’s ribcage. Faced or eyes closed in a sealed car, or with the fox’s protruding yellow, lying in a ditch, torn apart by a sinewy, gunk-covered corpse, the Charles Thurlow humour failed to materialise. I forgot everything in that moment as I crouched, peering at this image of death. The frozen duck hadn’t flown. I saw myself, years and years away, lying underground, my so- familiar body mutilated by larvae, stolen, broken down, savaged by self-serving parasites. I saw death in all its gory Technicolor and for the first time I understood its inescapable horror. This fox was me and I too would be decaying, reeking, open, dead. I was no longer the same person by the time Carl and Finney finally finished digging and I carried the festering corpse to the burial site. Who knows? Maybe they changed too. I saw the disgust, the fearful revulsion in both their faces when they eventually helped me fill in the hole, as the first drops of cold winter rain escaped the clouds that had been amassing steadily all morning. Had they seen what I’d seen? Realised themselves what had become apparent to me? As I trailed maggots over the rough, holding the threadbare tail through a plastic bag in my left hand, the cloying, creeping stink had overcome Finney’s fragile stomach, sending his breakfast surging over the weeds and rocks on the bank. Carl had followed suit, though whether this was thanks to the presence of the fox 8 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  9. 9. undergraduates of work was one of necessity and not say he was at all envious of his THE GAME of choice. The family business was colleague’s preferential treatment. Jacqueline Brooks not his to control, but while his It never ceased to amaze Brian father remained absent, he would that Ventrue would only ever deal B lood and salt. take care of things for as long as he with Daniel. Sure, Daniel knew Shivering as if from a chill, the had to. Besides, it wasn’t as if he had what he was talking about, but he young boy clutches at the to be involved in the slaughtering of was a bit of a strange one really. bedclothes, salty tears running innocent animals; those poor With a terrible temper and an eye- down his face. His large round eyes creatures were already dead by the patch, all he seemed to lack was a appear not to blink and though his time they reached his hands. hook for a hand and a parrot. bottom lip quivers, he emits no Fortunately, he had Daniel to Rising from bed, Brian prepared sound. Darkness envelops the take care of most of the dirty work. himself for the day ahead, relieved room, seemingly impenetrable but Since his father, Leonard, had that the Ventrue order would keep for a single moonbeam weakly jacked it all in and buggered off, his him from having to deal with dead filtering in through the open old partner Daniel had more or less things. Daniel would ensure that window. Barely illuminated, a small taken over. Brian did what he could, the last of the order was packaged form lies deathly still beneath the but didn’t really have a flair for and ready to go by the end of the covers of the bed opposite. business. He handled the high day. Then, later, Brian would help In his agitation the young boy’s street shop, but preferred to let him load the delivery van and rid his teeth chatter, cutting into his Daniel take care of the trade home of hacked-up animal. tongue. Blood and tears mingle in customers. Trade customers such Slinging a tired-looking dressing his muted mouth. Dumb with as Ventrue’s just weren’t his forte. It gown on, Brian ventured into the terror, he finds his limbs are frozen. was the Ventrue order that had bathroom, did his business, and The air seems rank and the shadows taken over the unit downstairs. then watched his reflection brush unnaturally black. He can do There were some curiously picky his teeth. A minute passed and the nothing but stare, stare as the customers out there and Ventrue electric toothbrush buzzed three looming darkness turns to face him. was one of them. For starters, he times to tell him so. Leaning over would only ever accept carcasses the sink, he spat out minty * from specific suppliers. Naturally, whiteness, drool, and a substantial their hygiene was always tip-top, amount of blood. Startled, he The blur of red gradually came but despite this Ventrue demanded choked on his own saliva, into focus: the clock glowed 5:16am. that Daniel prepare and store his involuntarily put his hand to his Groaning, Brian rolled over and meat in isolation. Brian figured the mouth and whipped his head up to stared at the wall. He’d had the orders either had to meet some kind check in the mirror. same recurring nightmare for as of religious requirements, or the guy In contrast to his ghastly pale long as he could remember. Early was just super-paranoid. Whatever face, dark oozing liquid filled his nights had become second nature to his reason, he paid enough for the mouth, overflowed onto his chin, him, a habit formed to compensate dedication. ran down his neck and soaked his for lack of sleep, a healthier solution Cubing meat wasn’t that chest. Gagging, his stomach than the sleeping tablets that he unusual; neither was dividing it into convulsed and blood erupted from used to take. portions of equal weight. However, him, spattering the glass. Dizzy, his Listening to the radiators tick, he it wasn’t the individually wrapped, ears ringing, he felt blackness close contemplated the contents of the 800-gram portions that fascinated in on his vision. refrigerator. Downstairs, the Brian. What he couldn’t understand compressor of a large cooling unit * was the interest in the waste – all the was working hard at preserving the blood and gooey bits. Why would freshness of a substantial load of Blood and salt. anyone want gravy made out of meat. Stomach churning at the Staring up into darkness, fear that? Just contemplating containers thought of teeth tearing into flesh, gurgled in the child’s throat, rapid full of the stuff made him feel sick. he pondered over the irony of a breathing turning into short painful Daniel must have iron guts. Can’t vegetarian butcher. At least his line gasps. Saturated teddy-bear 9 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  10. 10. undergraduates pyjamas clung to the skin of his small legs, tears Yeah right, the day he started learning manners continuing to run down his face and into his mouth. would be the day she started leaving the latch on. The darkness increased in size, obliterated the “Ventrue’s gonna tear you to pieces, Di!” meagre light, and closed in on him from above. Crossing her legs provocatively, Diana noticed a nail From the bed opposite there was a strange that needed reshaping and picked up a well-worn nail hiccupping sound. Swiftly the darkness receded, seized file. the bundle beneath the bedclothes and catapulted it “Seriously, man! He knows you went outside last across the room to smash night and word of what you against the far wall. First Year Students did has spread faster than The Game Watching wide-eyed, the piss in an alley!” SMILE little boy’s body jerked in On a good day, Eric’s sync with the impact. His gaunt, hollow-eyed visage You smile jaw snapped and his teeth face as though it has never And you are beautiful: Jacquline Brooks sank further into the flesh if had a lick of sun in its life. Lips full and soft, eyes holding mine. his tongue. Blood filled his Unbelievably, even that grey I cannot hold your gaze for long. mouth, overflowed onto his complexion had ebbed Its unashamed happiness in the object chin, dripped onto smiling away, the papery skin taking Embarrasses me. I turn away. teddy-bear faces… on a bleached, almost translucent appearance. * It is rare Even the sight of her long For your face to take this shape. bare legs, substantial Diana sat at her dressing Too used to friendly banter and constant change, cleavage and erect nipples table applying her lipstick Like an actor failed to summon any colour and absently curling a lock It plays centre stage to your wit to his cheeks. With a sigh, of dark hair around her And mimes to make me laugh. Diana let the file fall and index finger. Various I am anxious to be back rose from the stool. “Oh, cosmetic products lay To the teasing and laughing, don’t have a heart attack, strewn across the mahogany The old familiar positions darling. He’s a pussycat, surface, while hair brushes, And complicated ways of saying I love you, you know.” tongs, strengtheners, styling Which neither of us understands. Calmly, she decided to products of every select the most revealing red description, cluttered the Your smile is brave. dress she possessed. shelves. Discarded cotton I keep it “Besides, it wasn’t anybody pads, smudged with nail As a gift from a small child, important.” varnish or mascara, A treasure I mustn’t lose, Lost for words, Eric cascaded down the sides of To carry carefully, stood transfixed as Diana a small swing-bin that no Take care nothing should spill, clothed herself, then left longer swung. Shoes That none of my newly discovered joy with a shrug. Maybe she peeked out from under the Should escape, was right; she did have an bed and a G-string hung Soak into ground amazing effect on Ventrue – from the knob of an Or evaporate into air. she had a pretty amazing underwear drawer. effect on him. Absently Bursting in without Mary Channon fumbling with his trousers, regard, Eric was brought up short by the naked flesh on display as, in a whirl of Eric headed for his own quarters. He really didn’t want movement, Diana swung round to face him and blue to stumble into Ventrue’s presence just yet. satin parted. Recovering, she smiled knowingly, * drawing the gown back together with deliberate slowness. Daytime television being what it was, Brian chose “Darling,” she purred. “You really should learn some not to spend all of his free time cloistered away in the manners.” house. The day was overcast but mild, suitable weather 10 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  11. 11. undergraduates for a healthy walk into town. bruise. She wished he had struck standstill with a frown. He’d caught Making sure he had bus fare, Brian her anywhere but upon the face, the sight of bare hands; Daniel should locked up and contemplated visiting place where Ventrue knew it would be wearing gloves. his mother. hurt her the most. Re-tracing his steps, Brian’s With his father out of the picture, Heavy footsteps intruded upon hand rose to push the door wide Abi had packed up and moved out. their quiet, and though Diana open, but it froze in mid-air and his She now lived in a poky maisonette continued to knead his muscles, reprimand died in his throat. on the other side of town with her Ventrue opened his eyes and sat There, upon the table, lay the torso dickhead boyfriend, Tony. Tony forward expectantly. The upon which Daniel worked. Only The Game was okay really, but did have a dick newcomer approached with the partially concealed by his colleague’s for a head. confidence of one very aware of his broad frame was, unmistakably, the The walk into town would take formidable size and strength. trunk of a human body. an hour, whereas the walk to work African in origin, he was certain that For one brief, horrifying Jacquline Brooks would only take half. He could pick anyone who was not intimidated by moment, Brian could not tear his up his usual gift of meat and a his enormity would certainly cower eyes away from the macabre decent bone for the dog, then catch beneath his dark menacing gaze and spectacle. Locked into position, he the bus to his mum’s in time for gruesomely scarred features. His watched as Daniel carved the lunch. She usually had some veggie- voice, as strong and as solid as his abdomen like the breastbone of a friendly food to offer, and he hadn’t biceps, always sent a thrill through chicken. Time seemed to slow, done his shopping yet. Diana, who made a point of leaning delaying the revulsion, while the further over Ventrue. scene sank in. With comprehension * Seemingly ignorant of both the came shock. He found himself low cut of her dress and her entire cocooned in a debilitating thickness Seated in a voluminous room person, Mason spoke directly to his that dragged his muscles and made without windows, the figures by the superior, “The delivery is on time.” his ears ring. As the panic built large mahogany table were Ventrue relaxed once more, within him, his senses became illuminated by candlelight. Flames gesturing with his goblet before intensely heightened. He tasted the danced against each of the four raising it to his lips. iron he smelt and felt the flesh being walls, and an impressive iron- severed. wrought candleholder glowed from * As a slice of unwanted skin the table’s centre. A richly coloured slapped onto the floor, a wave of rug attempted to cover the vast The sun tried to break through nausea bubbled up in his stomach stone floor, while several tapestries the miserable clouds without and forced him to back away. broke the monotony of the cold grey success. Keys jangling, Brian Without quite knowing how he had walls. entered the establishment via the got there, he stood hunched upon Ventrue’s presence dominated high street. Leonard’s High Quality his own doorstep, bathed in sweat, the head of the table, his seat butchers was always closed to the gasping for breath, the left hand still imposing in its size and grandeur. general public, while an important grasping his bag of purloined meat. The remaining four chairs were trade order was in process. Nausea flooded back and unoccupied, though the angle of After raiding the cold storage for overwhelmed him, doubling him one indicated it had recently been sausages and chops, Brian ventured over with a retching that sprayed his disturbed. further out the back on his quest for shoes with vomit. Diana’s sweet scent permeated a bone. With the local radio station the air and intoxicated Ventrue as cranked up, the sickening noises of * he relaxed under her skilled Daniel’s wet-work were practically Blood and salt. massaging hands. A hush hung in drowned out. As Brian wandered As blood continued to well from the atmosphere, like that which past the ‘red room’, he glimpsed the cuts in his tongue, the little boy’s follows a storm, soothing tempers Daniel back-bent over his work, silent sobbing racked his body with and discouraging talk. A shadow of completely engrossed in slicing and tremors that caused him to spasm darkness upon Diana’s left cheek dicing. Continuing a few steps intermittently. promised a large unattractive more, Brian abruptly came to a 11 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  12. 12. undergraduates Collecting the crumpled body of the four year old was going back there now. He didn’t quite know what from the floor, the towering darkness fed upon the he was going to do exactly, but he didn’t fancy joining toddler with an urgent greed. Noises of wet suckling that torso on the slab. filled the youngster’s ears and unbidden understanding His head thumped, sausage meat clung, and the kids poured into his innocent eyes. The intensity of the terror settled themselves on the curb. broke through the choking hold upon his throat, Reaching for his wallet, he selected a credit card and releasing the pent-up scream, at which the darkness, decided to try what he’d seen the locksmith do last year. sparing him only a brief glance, swooped onto the The Yale lock on his front door could be double locked window ledge and dived out into the night, still cradling for extra security, but he always forgot to do it. Thankful The Game his prize. for his carelessness, he leant his weight into the wood and slid the card down the jam, wiggling it to spring the * latch. Flustered, he snapped two cards before the third brought him success and he was able to enter the When Brian came to, he was face down upon the Jacquline Brooks moderate safety of his home. pavement. Miraculously he had avoided landing on his Wondering what to do, he focused upon the chin, but as he scraped himself up, he pressed his hand telephone, but thought better of it. He couldn’t quite into spilled sausages. Sausage meat bulged under the grasp the situation himself, let alone explain it to the pressure and forced its way between his fingers, almost cops. Besides, how could he keep his own name clear setting him off on another fit of retching. when he had who knows how many cubed body parts Trying to wipe the offending stuff off onto the grass, sitting inside his own refrigerator? he noticed a couple of kids watching him from across the street. Wanting to get out of sight, he dug in his * pockets for his door keys. A wave of dread washed over him as he remembered dumping them on the counter Eric sat cradling his knees on his bedroom floor, inside his father’s butcher shop. There was no way he picking at a scab on his left arm and listening to the voices coming up through the air vent. First Year Students He’d heard Diana get hit earlier and the grin still played about his lips. So much at stake with all that “Wrapped round your finger, my TAKEN AS READ fear! arse.” Well-paid job, children, wife. He could now hear Mason and Well-paid job, children, wife, Ventrue discussing the preparations Big house, two cats and a dog, Twenty-first-birthday present for the meeting later tonight. As if in it’s all clear: from wealthy uncle, Clive: tune with the topic of conversation, “These are the things that make Brand spanking new Mondeo, Eric’s stomach gnawed at his insides. up life”. complete with six gear. It was so unfair; Ventrue’s curfew was “These are the things that make really starting to get to him. He felt Best friends, relationships are up life.” like an adolescent and Diana didn’t full of strife: help matters. If only she would stop That sexual conflict - am I Swimming pool in the garden, sneaking out and shitting on their straight or queer? foliage neat, not rife, doorstep. He was getting punished Well-paid job, children, wife. But in reality we come nowhere for a situation she was the cause of. near. She deserved more than a slap as far Watching the football, Rangers Low-paid job, no wife, no as he was concerned. Flaunting v. East Fife, children. herself the way she did, if he were Cigarettes, drugs, gambling, Are these the things that make Ventrue he’d give her a good – beer. up life? Ventrue’s voice boomed through “These are the things that make the vent and Eric jumped guiltily. up life.” Paul Crisp Lost in his own thoughts, he’d missed what had been said, but whatever it Followed down an alley, was it had brought all the talk confronted with a knife. 12 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  13. 13. undergraduates downstairs to an end. With a well- keep an eye on things from a safe remember Adam, but the years chewed thumbnail between his distance and then figure things out were like layers of clouds that he teeth, Eric strained to discern from there. simply could not break through, and Ventrue’s movements. He could Brian leapt up resolutely from all he was left with was the make out a faint whimpering, and the stool, but had a temporary drop nightmares and a therapist. Neither now and then there was a grunt. in blood pressure and passed out was very helpful: he’d ditched one Mason must either be spectating onto the kitchen floor. and accepted the other. He down there, or it was that time accepted the nightmares, but * already and he’d gone to help Daniel recognised that they were founded The Game with the delivery. on emotion, not fact. According to Blood and salt. his mother, he’d never even shared a Hysterical screams and sobs * bedroom with Adam. That memory filled the child’s bedroom. Tears was apparently as real as vampires. streamed down the little boy’s The metallic surface of the Jacquline Brooks As he rose, Brian’s eyes fell upon cheeks and chin, mingling with the refrigerator gleamed in the electric the refrigerator once more. blood that continued to well from light. his lacerated tongue. Rocking Earlier, Brian had practically * dementedly, his gasps for air began turned himself inside out over the to sound more like crazed hiccups. toilet bowl. He felt faint and knew The rear of the butchery was Dizzy, his ears ringing, blackness he should try and eat something, badly lit. Brian had never had cause started to close in on his vision. but water was all that he could to notice that before now. As he As he sank into unconsciousness, manage. crouched down behind the a comforting, warm pressure Having finally emerged from the dustbins, he was grateful for the enfolded his body. A voice reached bathroom, Brian had sat staring at shadowy shelter. He’d left the note him through the ringing in his ears. the refrigerator ever since. He was on his front door as planned and all It sounded muffled and distant. He trying desperately to focus and he could do now was hope that thought he heard his name. He figure out what to do, but it was Daniel had found his keys. knew he heard his brother’s. impossible to concentrate. Shifting weight to ease the Blood, flesh, guts, gore – all cramp building in his right calf, * other thoughts eluded him. Brian’s balance wavered and he Chopped up bodies in his almost sent the bins toppling over Awake, but too weak to move, refrigerator. In his kitchen. In his with his rucksack. In the same Brian lay on the kitchen floor house. Bits of people in his house. instant, the rear door opened and remembering his little brother, Fixated there upon his stool, Daniel emerged, followed closely Adam. He’d only been six when Brian remained acutely aware of the behind by a black Hulk. The Hulk’s Adam went missing. More than a passing of time. He was tuned into arms were filled with what he couple of decades had passed since the incessant ticking of the wall assumed to be Ventrue’s blood and then. Sometimes, he wasn’t sure if clock and inwardly cringed as it gore. He expected Hulkman to the memories he had of him were counted away his time with return for a second armful, but real, of if he’d just absorbed his infuriating speed. apparently Ventrue was interested mother’s fond recollections over the And then, inspiration. in quality, not quantity. Watching years. He knew that his brother had He had approximately two hours him climb into the van, Brian been only four years old. He knew before Daniel was due to turn up on wondered why it took Daniel the that he had been physically his doorstep expecting to pick up entire day to prepare such a small handicapped since birth. He knew the rest of Ventrue’s order. He could amount and then quickly decided he was as blonde as Brian was dark simply leave a note for the one- eyed not to think about it. and that the baby blues had never animal and let him get on with it. A As the van left his line of vision, faded. He knew these things, but he set of his house keys were stranded Brian scrambled to his feet and didn’t remember them. in the shop with Daniel, so Daniel made a dash for the rear door. Once He had always felt it important might as well use those to let himself inside, he ran to the tiny office that to know that his memories were his in. In the meantime, Brian could had always functioned more as a tea own, that he genuinely did 13 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  14. 14. undergraduates break room. Invoices were filed alphabetically. His fumbling fingers were mostly thumbs, but Brian was certain that there was not one invoice for Ventrue’s under ‘V’. Cursing under his breath, he swallowed his impatience and began to search laboriously through the entire cabinet. Time was literally money as a cab sat waiting for him on the high street, charging by the minute. Fortunately, he only had to search as far as ‘L’. According to the numerous invoices, L. Ventrue’s Steak The Game House was located in central London. Stuffing an invoice into his pocket, Brian hurried out to his minicab, gave the address to the driver, and tried not to contemplate what would be poking out of steak Jacquline Brooks and ale pies. * The journey to the city centre was surprisingly short. Amazing what the promise of double fare can do. Once there, however, the restaurant itself was pretty hard to find. This was mainly due to both Brian and the driver being on the lookout for a lively restaurant, and not a partially bulldozed building. Brian didn’t know whether to be relieved that there weren’t cannibalistic customers to worry about, or to be even more apprehensive than he already was. Looking out into the darkness through the car window, he decided to be both. As the cab disappeared out of sight, Brian delved into his rucksack and pulled out a small torch. The light it emitted was rather inadequate, but it was enough to stop him tripping up his own feet. He hadn’t really expected to use the thing; it had been packed as an afterthought. The bag mainly contained stuff he’d need if it became pertinent to do a runner. Now at the scene, he didn’t quite know what to do next. His hoped-for plan of action involved being safely surrounded by lots of people, outlining the basics to a friendly policeman, who would then call for back up, find the evidence in the van, and then arrest the lot of them. It didn’t involve being stranded in a dark lonely street armed with a crap torch. As he’d obviously got himself a fake address, Brian decided his best bet was just to go home after all. Having had little to eat and given the stress he’d been under, he’d had the mad idea that the bodies were being eaten. His bloodthirsty nightmares had obviously coloured his thinking. What he had actually witnessed was clearly some diabolical method of body disposal and nothing more. Expecting the undead, or similar, he’d contaminated the entire contents of his refrigerator 14 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  15. 15. undergraduates in the hope that such animals would probably knew her game as well as As soon as the door had been OD on crushed sleeping tablets and Eric did, if not better. pulled shut, Brian pressed on anti-freeze. He figured that Ventrue was indeed fully aware forward, minding his step with his anything that ate people should of the games Diana played. She was torch. It was almost disconcerting surely deserve to be put to sleep or his creation: as were they all. Each to discover it unlocked. Were they given tremendous stomach cramps. personality had been carefully really so confident that nobody The only reason he’d set out to find cultivated with a painstaking would dare follow them down the restaurant was a vague attention to detail. They each had there, or were they just blinded by recollection of the Sweeney Todd their individuality, and each had a arrogance? Brian hoped it was the The Game story. He didn’t want to end up different part to play, but together latter as he sneaked down the inadvertently responsible for the they were a family. They were all staircase after them. poisoning of innocent customers. linked together by a common * Figuring that he should really go purpose, linked together by blood. Jacquline Brooks to the police, Brian switched off the The main hall was warm with * torch and made his way along the merriment and candlelight. Around pavement. As he did so, Daniel’s van Frozen in fear, Brian pressed the mahogany table, five seats were swung into the road, barely giving himself into the cold brick wishing filled. him enough time to dive into the he were thinner. As the van passed Diana smiled at Ventrue, shadows away from the revealing his hiding place, he almost sagged delighted that she had retained her beam of the headlights. with relief, but the vehicle place beside him. She knew she was unexpectedly turned to its right, particularly captivating that night; * bumped onto the pavement and not one man at the table could keep Diana had attempted to disguise entered the derelict building their eyes off her. She’d almost her bruised cheek with many layers through an area of collapsed wall. forgotten about her bruised face as of foundation. Sitting across from Brian’s ears seemed to be she basked in their admiration. her at the large mahogany table, concentrating upon internal noise Watching her fall even more in Eric studied her face with outward rather than external. His breathing love with herself, Eric wondered compassion and inward glee. He almost drowned out the crunch of what Diana would look like dead. wished he had Ventrue’s strength; gravel, and car doors seemed to He’d always had a fascination with he was a worthless wimp himself. slam in sync with his pulse. death. Perhaps because he was Ventrue was extremely Listening out for their approach, always being told he looked like displeased with her at the moment, Brian realised that their footsteps death. Weak and gaunt, he would and she now knew it. With last were heading in the opposite never be able to dominate a woman night’s little escapade being direction. Spurred forward by like Diana. But, dead, she would be discovered, she feared that she adrenalin more than anything else, as pale as he, and she would have no would be denied her share of the Brian crept towards the makeshift choice but to be completely passive. banquet. Her revealing little black entrance as silently as he could. He Ventrue sat savouring the number was always reserved for could easily make out the rear of the moment. Normally he loved such emergencies. van in the darkness, but the nothing more than to provoke Well-accustomed to her tactics, retreating figures were harder to Daniel’s volatile temper and to goad Eric leant forward on his elbows discern. They seemed to be heading Mason into senseless combat. He and enjoyed the view. He knew it toward the back of the building. In admired physical strength and it was really Ventrue’s eyes she wished the gloom it was hard to see if there excited him to see it demonstrated. to have glued to her body, but if his was a door hidden in the shadows; Recently, however, he had eyes were glued to anything it was all he could make out was a wall. thoroughly enjoyed toying with to the inside of his eyelids. Ventrue’s However, the door they opened and Eric’s self-image and encouraging dominating presence headed the then entered was a trap door in the Diana’s self-delusions. As the two table, but he was presently relaxed floor that evidently led to a youngest members, they were the back with his eyes closed. He basement of some description. most self-conscious of the group, and playing them was highly 15 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  16. 16. undergraduates entertaining. He revelled in the power he had over At the clink of glasses, he mustered together enough them. strength to raise his body from the floor to witness the Upon the polished surface before him lay the dice. consumption of tainted food. Blood and salt… The looming darkness turned to The dice decided the fate of each of them. It was the ace him… dice that dictated their actions and reactions. As each played their role in this game of Ventrue’s design, they Blood on his lips, Ventrue tipped his head back, each became engrossed in their characters even more relishing the taste. Blood and salt. deeply. An addiction more potent than any drug, the game engulfed their lives, but also gave them a reason Tears welled in Brian’s eye as he recognised his The Game for living, and killing. father’s upturned face. Blood and salt. Through years of playing, their personalities had become fused with the characters that Ventrue had created. In effect, they had become their characters. Jacquline Brooks Fabricated scenarios were played out and given life. The game world and the real world became one. They were thoroughly absorbed into, and lost inside, the dark underground world of the vampire. The dictates of society no longer held any meaning for them. They were bound only by the rules of the game. Ventrue intended to present Diana with a mirror that night. As the rules of the game dictated, her throw of the dice would determine the intensity with which she would become infatuated with her own reflection. A high score would keep her fixated indefinitely, regardless of dehydration and starvation. That was the nature of the game. * From his elevated position, Brian looked down upon the ill-assorted group with a sense of bewildered fascination. In the middle of the table lay a pile of human flesh and a punch bowl full of human blood, yet they played out some kind of dice game completely unperturbed. It was clear from the pile of crockery and cutlery that they fully intended to dine upon the grisly centrepiece. The thought brought with it the familiar wave of nausea. A light-headedness returned with a vengeance and Brian sank onto the floor, semi- conscious. Blood and salt. He could hear the clatter of dice upon the table and the constant drone of a single male voice. Blood and salt…the crumpled body of the four year old… He heard a cheer go up and plates being handed out. Blood and salt… The child’s shrill cry rang out… He heard liquid being poured and the fleshy substance being served. Blood and salt… The darkness spared him a brief glance… 16 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007
  17. 17. First Year Students breaking point. And yet it has not sunk in. RECORDED TEARS Any minute, any minute now Handset replaced. he’ll burst into tears. Tissue? No tissue. Get a towel. It’s a cool winter night, Still half-asleep and longing to Play. Fast asleep on this comfortable return to my bed, “You have two messages. night. My comfortable bed, the body Message one....” Suddenly, the phone rings. yearning for sleep, It was my cousin from Canada. Ignore it. I reach out with my left hand, Handset. Dialling numbers. Can’t be bothered to answer it. Clutch my fingers round the Weeping. Still rings. cordless handset No chance of conversation. Let the machine get it. And raise it to my left shoulder. And now the tears flow from Finally the recorded message “Hello.” both sides. answers: It hasn’t sunk in yet. “Don’t cry, stop crying, please “Sorry, your call cannot be Maybe it’s the shock of the stop crying, don’t cry.” taken at the moment, news, And yet she sheds the tears So please leave your message Maybe it’s the sleep, herself. after the tone...” Maybe it cannot be accepted, Ironic? Death is ironic. Silence. But it will cause great sadness And yet it has still not sunk in. Crying. And more weeping, more Sitting on the chair, Someone’s crying out loud. crying. Looking away, It’s not a dream. I can’t bear to see her crying, This is no dream. Dead. Or else tears will flow from Someone is crying very loudly. Stopped breathing. these eyes too. Finally I decide to leave my Extinguished, passed away, bed, departed, deceased, And now it’s all over, Throw-off my blanket and quilt, Perished, expired, gone, gone And now I’m back in my Slip my feet into awaiting forever. comfortable bed, slippers. Yes, he is dead. Forever. But it’s not comfortable The room has departed. It is now left to me to break the anymore, Caught a glimpse of the clock: news to my mother: And within a blink of the eyes 5:20. Her father is dead. The tears present here will flow Half asleep, I finally reach the too, phone. “What?” And now it begins to sink in, It’s stopped ringing. Sheer disbelief. And now tears flow, they flow “I’m turning the car round.” thick and fast. The message on the machine Sadness. And now sleep has departed, has finished. “I’m coming home.” And now comfort is gone, Play. To mourn. And into the silent morning the “You have one new message. And yet it has not sunk in. tears flow. Message one...” Up goes the handset again, And now the phone doesn’t Crying. Numbers punched in. ring, I can hardly make out the voice, I can hear his voice again, at the And now the body doesn’t still crying. other end, yearn for sleep, It’s ringing again. “How? When?” she asks, And now the heart barely beats, “Sorry, your call cannot be Her voice rapidly changing to And now it sinks in. taken at the moment, tears too. What a start to Halloween! So please leave your message Crying. More crying. Weeping. after the tone...” Mourning. Grieving. This time it’s my Uncle. Jagmeet Sidhu Her brother explains. No crying, More crying. More grieving. But I can hear his voice at 17 Metropolitan Lines Volume 1, 2007