Chapter Fourteen

Master G_ is dead.

His last words were a gurgle. Pathetic. He had a desperate look in his drooping eye. Looked at his last entry. Didn’t finish his final sentence. Doesn’t matter. Have complied with his wishes. Have taken him here, to where I write this now. Have laid him to rest and will continue the journal. He is me after all. 

There is a lot to fill in. Where to start? End is the best. I’m sitting against the back of the wooden kiosk. Outskirts of Pripyat. Border of 30km Zone of Alienation. Have read back at description of Z.O.A that Master G_ wrote on board train. To me, the city seems different to his description. Not as much red sand. Beneath my feet is yellow grass and concrete. Many cracks. Deep cracks. Concrete wasteland. Hard on foot. I have propped up his body inside kiosk. He said it was a past employment. To sit there and keep guard of town. Don’t know why. Nobody in town. Nobody left except Sleepwalkers. All fled after evacuation. Just useless buildings left. Whole town is bordered by cyclones. They are lying in wait. Liquid Man said he wanted to go back to the kiosk. He said he needed to go back there. So I took him. 

He was not alone in physical sense when he died as I was in the room, but he was alone in reverie. Sad. Things he has said, I believe. Places he has been, things he has done, all that he has leapt over - all for Lucy. All for nothing. His end won’t be mine. I have to find her, fulfil his wish. Find Lucy, for myself. 

Not much movement around. Mountains to east. Plains to south. Cyclones all around. Red flame-cloud to west. West, where we came from. Wind is gentle. Has a metallic taste. Like ozone after storm. No buds on the shrubs. Desaturated. Can see, off in distance, a great hulk. Huge. A rusty ship at best guess. Difficult to judge distance. Difficult to judge anything. Confused about many things that have gone before.

Trying to thinking back to way before. Way, way back. Very, very difficult. Difficult to remember things. Memory seems blurred. Like a veil over my mind’s eye. Very foggy. Mist seems to seep under doorways, through window-panes, under chimney grates and into rooms in my memory. Mist spills out of everything. Tried earlier to remember taste of beer. Tried hard, but now I remember holding a cup of fog. Think harder now.

Now I am just holding fog in that memory. No memory of cup. Just the word ‘cup’ in my mind and nothing to latch it to. Very curious. Curious to see if it is contagious. Will try experiments on my memories, and the ones Liquid Man told me of. Is the fog in my memories and in his? Or just in mine? Little to worry about right now. 

He died mid-afternoon. I could tell because the sun was in the sky and both my nostrils were bleeding. I stayed and watched him splutter into nothing. Dog sat next to me. Taken a grand liking to me and likewise. Would like to call him different name, but will only respond to ‘Paisley’. Looking over journal I notice that he has healed from his old wounds. No viscous coating. No see-through rib-cage. Only thing that hasn’t healed is eye socket. Still has bullet rattling around inside. He is lying in a shaft of sunlight beside me now. Beside kiosk. He tried to eat the grass but it made him hack up. Kept trying to eat it though. I shouted at him to stop but, curiously, it wasn’t my voice that came out. My voice sounded different. Loathe to write it, lest it make it true...but my voice sounded like Liquid Man’s. Like Master G_. As soon as Paisley heard his master’s voice, he stopped eating and lay down in the sunshine.

Wet Alexander (name I have given to Tumour Baby) is not around. I have not seen him for days. He crawled away. Left a wet trail that led to a wall in hotel room. Odd. As if crawled into wall. That was recent. I will divulge in good time what happened to him. Must report now on the dead ‘me’ inside the kiosk. 

In town I found a shovel. Wide enough for snow, or sand. Wide enough to scoop melting body into a barrow. Scooped him up off the sheets then climbed on bed with scraping tool and scraped all the black powder off ceiling. Was a lot. Two bags full. Didn’t know what to do with bags. Emptied powder into man’s coat pockets. Found something. A lock of hair. Red hair. String and note tied round it. Note from someone called Angeline. Note of love. Disregarded it, put it in his pocket with rest of powder. Barrowed him out of town and through the concrete plain to kiosk. He smells awful. 

Will attempt some sleep. Resting against back of kiosk. Comfort in the warmth. No need to go anywhere. No need to find Lucy just yet. There is time. There is always time.

Couldn’t sleep! Woken by approaching footsteps! I can hear them as I write this. Nothing on the horizon, nothing around me. Must be on other side of kiosk. 

True! I turned and peered around edge. Dot in distance. A person approaching kiosk. Footsteps seem close, though they are a dot. Sound is carrying abnormally far. I will hide behind kiosk and see what happens. Paisley remains next to me, undisturbed. Footsteps really loud! As if walking on my ears. Will look.

No longer a dot, now a blob, formless mass…now arms and legs coming into view. A woman. Old woman. Can see her stoop, can see her bandy legs. Approaching fast from the horizon. Abnormally fast. Will hide from view now.

Footsteps are so loud. Nose is streaming blood. Ears are too. Feel like I’m vibrating apart. Boots are wet on inside. Footsteps are rattling me. She is at the kiosk now. I am unseen to her. What does she want?

Morning! I don’t believe it. I passed out! This is what I recall. As footsteps got louder, I covered ears. They began to bleed. Covered mouth to stop scream. Chanced a peek. Old woman, haggard and wretched. Spoke in clear cut Russian, tone and timbre of a woman three times her junior. Luckily I am fluent. She said; “This dream doesn’t belong to you,” and walked away. As she said those words I felt woozy. The mountains began to loom over me. The hulk in the distance began to list. Fog everywhere. 

And then I woke up. Have a voice in my head. It is not my own. It sounds like the voice I used to shout at Paisley for eating contaminated grass. It sounds like voice of Liquid Man. Voice says, “You are a background character in someone else’s dream. My dream.”

Graham Thomas