Coming out of the upstairs

by James Ellis

Inside the machine, travelling through space, clouds of dust and dead dark light swirl around her head. But she’s too long in the void and she aches for something else, any kind of something else, a contact. Contact. And then, down in the dark she sees something bright, something small and blue and right, and she wants it.

She parks up by KwikFit and goes looking for a new vessel. She squeezes inside a pinhead, pin-dot, tiny human head that she finds shooting up round the back of The High on Streatham High Road, just after midnight, on a Saturday night. Contact.

Outreach Davey is out there doing good things that others don’t do, when he sees her coming out of a doorway, dribbling snot and pus and all sorts, and thinks, Christ, what is this one? He goes over and touches her arm, making contact and says,

“You all right, mate? No no, stand here. See I’m all right, mate, see my badge says I’m all right, mate. Come on, come on and sit down here. Do you have a place to stay? There are places that will take you tonight, good places, proper places, on a cold night like tonight. You don’t want to be out here, mate, not like this mate. ‘Coming out the upstairs’? What’s that mean, mate?”

Chemicals don’t match or meet, nothing’s lining up and where’s the stick to turn things? No dial to change things. Flickering lights from CarpetRight and colours coming in to burn things, over-bright and narrow. No room to stretch out in this pin-dot, tiny human head but it feel good to be here. Contact.

Outreach Davey’s got himself a handful: lads on bikes surrounding them on their bench outside of Oxfam on Streatham High Road, on a Saturday night, just after midnight.

“All right, lads? I’m Outreach, got a badge that says I’m Outreach. Just taking this one back to a safe place. Going back to a safe place.”

But Outreach Davey’s not looking where he should be looking, not doing what he should be doing, until it’s too late and he turns round and sees what he doesn’t want to see.

All skank and smells and mess, she’s off the bench but can’t control the legs and jerks the head this way, and twists the face that way, and like a puppet with its body on backwards she’s turning one way and another way, moving like a mad thing, off the bench and off the pavement, away from the safe place.

So much known and things yet to know, and her machine, bigger than a stadium, smaller than an ice cube, invisible unless you know where to look, parked up by KwikFit, empty now, and now always to be empty.

Coming out of the upstairs to say hello, she gets knocked down by a night bus on Streatham High Road, on a Saturday night just after midnight. Contact.

James Ellis is a full time freelance writer and editor. His first novel, The Wrong Story, was published in March 2017 and his second novel is currently being edited.

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