Sunday, 24 January 2010

terror, even when overcast

You see, I was there. All you know, you saw on television, through the internet, blurred with commentary and idiotic rambling by people who knew nothing about what was happening. Filling others’ ignorance with their own base desires and cravings. I didn’t see any journalists, just the suffering. I can only think that the journalists stayed away, reporting by looking inwards from their hotels and the fly-over footage provided by the UAVs while they stayed safe in the knowledge that no-one could possibly contradict them.
I was going to work. It had already started and none of us standing on the platforms knew. I had seen it and not understood.
The sky is always open, even when patterned with the flowing underside of clouds piled over each other, sliced by the arcing paths of darkly silhouetted birds. It is the sky of a flat land, not hemmed in with hills or mountains, stretching and filling the mind of those willing to look upwards. The shapes above tear and fight leaving wounded pictures of emptiness. Only when the tram arrived did I look down, back at the earth.
I was jammed against the doors once they closed, as usual. Trying to avoid the press of strangers bodies, find enough space to be able to place my feet in balance against the jagged movement of the tram. I turned myself around to look through the window, through the condensation forming on the glass, at the speeding scenery; The blank spaces between people melt. The tram passed under the twin concrete flyovers of the M62. The gap between them a grey shaft of light punctuated by the upward flight of a startled pigeon and the illumination of an inane and brilliantly coloured graffiti. Beyond it the industrial estates, the tarmac retail park, the endless lines of garages selling cars hidden behind industrial scrubland.

It was as the tram descended into Manchester that I realised the colour had gone. Then the tram stopped, shaking to a sudden halt with the application of the emergency brake. The carriage mood split into annoyance and the usual expectation of shoddy service. Then the doors opened. I almost fell out. After checking that there was nothing coming that might injure me, and irritated at the way I had almost fallen from the tram, I jumped down already composing the letter to the company in my head.
It is not so simple a thing to describe. What happened next, I mean. A few on the tram had followed me down. The rest were stoic, watching me from the window with impassive faces. Looking down the road towards Piccadilly I caught sight of its head, rising and falling above the buildings. A shade of non-colour, almost the same as the sky but of a different light, a feeling of reality broken and ground under foot. A daikaiju imagined by Escher. Then it screamed, crying with a scent of destruction, dust billowing around it even as the scream began to try and infiltrate my own mind. It feels now like it was a reflexive, animal instinct that caused it to destroy the city. It was not a judgement, or a warning. It was not summoned by some ancient Mayan treasure brought to the museum, or physical experiment at the university. It wasn’t some super-dimensional rift caused by City’s win in the derby. Watching it I knew that it had always been there. We had just never seen it before.
I turned and ran.

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