Listening to new music by bands I've liked for years, being reminded that people I first encountered however distantly, however long ago, are still creating new things, makes me feel perhaps not younger but at least less old, less like time's getting away from me. Time and I have a strange relationship, coexisting uneasily, telling each other little white lies like life expectancies and hoping for the best.
The ghosts of late nights past vanish like the road beneath my wheels, although not as solid and less of a comfort. Hands, mouths, teeth, grasping for me, all the while trying to reach past me, just to prove they could. Nothing but reflections now, momentary illusions. Nothing to prove and no-one to prove it to.
Leather jackets have been replaced by cashmere coats and bodies writhing under strobe lights replaced by bodies wrapped in plastic, but hedonistic scenes from long ago weekends, back when I thought I could cheat fate, cheat myself, flicker along with the motorway lights.
It's late and the roads are all but empty, so I lean a little deeper into the accelerator, as if speed contains answers. I long to be lost, but I drive at night often enough that unfamiliarity has become harder and harder to find. Craving the sounds of anywhere but the city, I turn towards the coast in search of an untraveled path.
An hour later and I've found a flat rock next to a sheer drop, the sea thrashing below. Wide awake as usual in the small hours and never prone to feeling the cold, the coffee satisfies a desire for flavour more than a need for warmth or caffeine. Still, a familiar taste is comfort and we all need comfort sometimes, even the most necessary and unworthy of us.
The waning moon's still bright in a cloudless sky, casting a silver road across the surface of the water. More reflections, more illusions. If I was going to feel ashamed of my past or my path, this would be the perfect night to do it, but I bear no burden of remorse, only the disconcerting sensation of being suddenly untethered, lost to myself. This is what happens when I question my place in things. I should know better by now, but I don't.
Craving motion when it feels like everything's on pause, I start walking.
12th March 2003
"NJ?" The voice on the phone is urgency wrapped around forced calm and it drags the most stubborn parts of me out of any remaining desire to sleep. I only ever get to linger at the edge of the void, leaning over, looking in. I always sleep light, but I still resent anything that wakes me before I'm ready.
"Yeah?" As if it's going to be someone else answering my phone in the middle of the night. It's too late for this, or too early. Either way, I don't want to be having this conversation, but I don't have a choice. The downside to my profession, my vocation, my purpose.
"It's Rick. I need you." He's walking. There's an echo to his footsteps, but his whisper's contained. He's in an open space with bare walls and floor, but he has his hand across his mouth and the phone. I'm the only person meant to hear what he's saying. That's often the way when people speak to me.
"What for?" I know exactly what for, but I'm going to make him ask. I always make them tell me why they need me. I make them say it out loud. It keeps things balanced. It reminds them to take responsibility for their part. It reminds them they don't own me.
"We're at the warehouse," then a drop in volume, "and there's trouble. I need it gone. Can you get here fast?"
"To the warehouse? Half an hour?"
"Yeah, if that's as fast as you can manage."
"How much trouble are we talking?" There are various options ready to go and I need to know what to lift.
YOU ARE READING
Winter FollowsGeneral Fiction
One month, one city, five lives colliding with the forces of fate. A thrill-seeking tech genius with an appetite for dangerous extremes. A retired contract killer fighting to escape his past and himself. An underworld driver tempted deeper into a li...