A Kick in The Teeth

August 20, 2010


My head had throbbed all morning, bringing with it a terrible resurgence of the fear and cravings for my medication. At my weakest at the worst possible time to be weak. A shopping trip had seemed the perfect anodyne and I’d pretty much robbed the last two lingerie stores dry.

Pulsing. With a familiar pain.

Eyes closed, face tipped up to the sun, the wind playing with my hair like a mischievous kitten – my ears have become so dulled to the sound of San Paro’s traffic and backbeat of gunfire that the moment at the little sidewalk cafe was one of perfect peace. An empty plate was all that was left of a light lunch but I continued to idle over a glass of vodka and orange that gave me just enough excuse to stay in the sunshine, listening to the tinny radio at the back f the shop and not go back to work.

A comfort, from this disdain. Grind away.

The life of a professional firebug, I was learning, was one of sporadic but intense demand. As specialists, we’re few and far between; most sane people sensibly shun a career that could lead to a long, agonising death. There are many who touch the role as generalists, setting fires and charges all as part of a day’s work alongside gunplay and theft. But there are those of us who love the fire, who hear it whisper to us in our dreams. It loves us, cares for us and we nurture it in return. It races through our lives, touching all our most sacred moments, burning within even when it is absent without. We do the jobs no-one else will touch.

I, I‘m looking for a thrill. Something to ease my will.

With a sigh, I finally opened my eyes, laying a couple of notes on the table, gathered up my things and set off towards the lockup where I have my workshop. I took a sharp left, habit taking me off the main road as soon as an alley opened up to me. On the sidewalks, you’re easy prey for a passing Enforcer-wagon to pick up and fling ten yards away into a wall – painful, even assuming they don’t crush you in the first impact. Still feeling slightly dizzy, I tucked my headphones in the blot out the arguments from the low-rent apartments and the conversations I really didn’t want to hear. Not if I wanted to wake up tomorrow.

A kick in the teeth.

By the time I reached the lockups, my feet seemed to be made of lead, every step heavy and slow. By the time I reached my row, I was weaving, staggering from one metal door to the next and clutching the wall to support myself. When the door to my workshop finally fell under my hands, I struggled to enter the code, then fought desperately with the door handle.

You. You may not realise…

A sharp shove between my shoulder blades sent me stumbling into the shed, into the mingled aromas of gasoline and solder, darkness broken only by scattered L.E.D.s and a periodic stacatto burst from the failing flourescent strip in the ceiling. An arm locked itself around my neck, under my chin and pulled, half-lifting me off my feet. Someone else brushed past me, shining a light into my face.

When it’s done or why…

“Yeah, it’s definitely her. Bet you’re feeling nice and woozy right about now, huh?” He patted my cheek. His accent had that scouse twang, layered with the cultivated roughness of a man who habitually forced a light voice deeper. A boy, trying to live in a man’s world. But I am not a big girl. Not a strong girl. Not a capable girl. I couldn’t even stamp on his foot with my toes barely touching the floor. “Please… please don’t hurt me.” I’ve seen enough horrors. All I wanted was to be spared this one. I should never have left Ian’s side.

What happens when you give rohypnol

The arm at my throat tightened. Instinct made me claw at it, but sometimes instinct is useless.

To a mental patient

I fought the panic down. My phone was in my pocket. I reached for it, typing where I couldn’t talk. Unable to even see the screen, for the first time in my life, I thanked the powers-that-be for predictive text.

Who spent the last 10 years

“Tom’ll be happy. Bit of a bonus, this. Bet you wish you’d never laid eyes on ol’ Carlyle now, eh lass?”

On Thorazine?

I held up the phone, showing the message to the man with the flashlight, my thumb hovering menacingly over the hash key.

Fuck all.

But it may be the best thing, it may be the best thing.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh and it may be the best thing.

A blank expression became a startled one, succeeded by a look of sheer terror. A shouted conversation I could scarcely hear over the ringing in my ears as air grew short. And then I was alone, lying on the floor of my workshop, listening to the sound of running feet fade into the distance. The phone fell near my face, the message still printed clear across the bright blue screen.

EVERYTHING IN THIS ROOM IS A COMB

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