Marooned icebergs in the middle of the road. You follow them up and they betray the route’s curves, the series of yellow and blue beacons in the centre of the carriageway on little islands; silent features adding to the loneliness but also boosting the serenity. It appeared that signs of movement – excepting the occasional ggggrrr from late vans – had long passed, so that an ominous quiet ghosted down, and swept around newbuilds and substations like a cold presence that settled where it could be felt as an uncomfortable shiver. The lone wanderer stumbled along the route, spotting nothing much along the way, save for what could have been animals, whose form took shadow-outlines of cats, foxes, even wolves and bears, as the wayfarer attempted to seize the destination. This scene evolved in frames that were imperceptibly like nights that had gone before, each time with an emerging sense of closeness cloaked on the vastness of the terrain under the lights, but a closeness that was difficult to define, apart from it hinting at the proximity of danger. But he also got the sense that, even though it appeared that most life had perished on these slopes, he had a majestic coat of armour and was somehow immune to any threats – he would find his home. Home around here. Nestled between everyday confusion, hidden in, hugging the shrubs and beer gardens and playgrounds that sat on the sprawling cross-hatching-style grid that made up the immutable zones. No more clarity in the window-light of Brixton Booze Store, that light merely provided a trickle of respite. An excoriating violet-blue glow out onto the sluggish pavements. The closeness of all the wanted things was a wonderful gift but also a wicked distraction. That garish display! Smirnoff bottle lamp-glowing. Various whiskies. A Red Stripe turret. Neon sun-stickers bragging about the offers. An unnecessary diversion, especially in this deadly passage – even if the threat was distant and probably receding. Nothing tinkling in the back alleys? There was only the sense that something might stir. That relentless presence in the background – a nagging faint siren. Underneath the road, a foreign sound, soft as if the trickle of water, buried beneath tarmac. It was a quaint noise but an anomaly, the rustling of a stream amid high-rises, gang chatter, and low-flying-plane rumbles. It was probable that this was a trick of noise. There was no stream around here. And the weather was crisp and dry. This was strange and unlikely. But it lingered there as a faint flow. That effect existed, a more rural signature trying to make itself heard above the full-on modern day clatter. It was an admirable sound. Where did that stream run and where was its source? Did it flow from deep within the built-up suburbs, a secret spring that few natives knew was there at the foot of a crowded tenement? And who else would find joy in the fact that this tiny river, even though it was masked by the overcrowded ringroads and their eternal bus lanes, continued to flow to the distant Thames, underneath a pressing weight?
© Copyright 2017 John Maher