Sunday, 14 October 2012

Blackout


(Blackout - Anna Calvi)

For no reason that he could understand, he began to hate the light of day. The sun hurt his eyes, and even when it was cloudy its light reflected off ceilings and through curtains and made him angry. No one cared when he did his job as long as he submitted the code on time, so he turned his world inside out and began to live at night.

He shared his world with the other night people. Some fed machines that spat sparks, or waited in call centres for other night people to call them and complain. Others fidgeted in glass prisons on garage forecourts, eating lunch at two in the morning, or waited half-asleep at taxi ranks in cars that smelled of other people's nights out. They dreamed of holidays they couldn't afford, and people that they couldn't touch. Some cleaned and cooked, repaired and serviced; others stole and schemed and loved and fought, or just stared bored out of windows into the darkness.

After a few months, this wasn’t enough any more. He started to resent the piercing fluorescent flicker of the bus station, the spectral glow of petrol forecourts, the way that neon signs fizzed and crackled their light at him. He started to avoid these places, and spend his time in backstreet cafés lit only by tired incandescent yellow, but there were not many cafés like that, and even they seemed too bright after a while. Besides, he had to walk through endless streets of orange glow to get there.

Eventually an idea came to him, so he sat at an internet café with the monitor turned down almost to black, and put an order in. The glasses made a real difference, for a while. They were for people with sad and terrible eye conditions, and they were tinted so heavily they shut out almost everything, with thick sidepieces to stop the light from stealing in. It was true that he could hardly see where he was going, but it was worth it. He noticed that people were different towards him too. When he ordered a coffee or some food, they spoke more softly, as if he was a child.

It was only for a while, though. His eyes seemed to adjust, and dim shapes became brighter shapes, and the darkness the glasses brought just teased him, offering the promise of a true blackness that they could never bring. So he made his decision, and he bought books and he bought gauze, and he bought sterilising fluid and he bought scalpels, and he brought some very strong drugs from a man behind the bus station, although in the end they proved not to be strong enough, not nearly strong enough. He still wore the glasses after that, but only to hide what lay underneath.


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