Sunday, 1 November 2015
The Spectators are amassing. Perched high on the scrubland of Chuckwell Hill, Dr Elias Jefferson takes in a filtered breath from his half smoked Cherub Rose and turns to meet the absent gaze of his colleague and test subject. Gardner is lost deep in the slow motion waves of the drug and Jefferson waits for his face to show awareness. “It’s an odd way to reconnect with nature, but that’s in essence what this is - don’t you see?” He waits for a moment, lost in his fellow doctor’s milky white irises, gradually realising that in Gardner’s slow motion state it could be a while before his brain computes a reply.
While he waits, Jefferson turns his attention back to the gathering crowds. There are groups from every corner of Redcliff. City boys from Northbolt, Hoolies from Cranetown. Nature boys, thieves, and businessmen alike. Jefferson spots a new crowd just arriving, slowly trudging across the dead bracken. He recognises the uniforms - a group of Protectors all the way from the city boundaries outside of which the war on Redcliff’s defences still rages on. Rebels continuing their efforts to break through the city walls to steal some of the water Redcliff channels underground from the ancient sources of the River Sharp high on the moor. Everyone here on Chuckwell Hill is on the same trip - Davy J. - eyes milky white and pale like Gardner's, brains fractured, working at a snail's pace as the Ocean in Davy J.'s mix connects with the undertow of life, the flow that connects all living things. Everyone except Jefferson.
A cool wind blows across the hill, shifting the hillside's piles of flotsum and Jefferson reaches out to grab a ladies scarf as it drifts across to him in the breeze. Here in these slow-motion end days, the hill is a hoarders wet dream. Jefferson examines the scarf, somewhere behind those faded patterns lies a history - may be a present from a lover, cherished until death only to be passed on to a cheap second hand store by an unknowing son and bought up for a penny by a young girl as a throwaway accessory. He thinks of his own Mother - is he destined to one day give away the mementos of her life, of her dreams? She is speaking to him less these days, stubbornly refusing his offers of money, keeping going at her cleaning rounds, sitting in her tiny room at home each morning, and each evening, keeping company with the shadows of her past lives. Is that all life is, he wonders. Shadows of memories. Shadows of dreams? She works away each day to clean the ever growing detritus of a society blind to the waste they jettison. Jefferson takes another drag and turns back to his colleague, wondering about the history behind Gardner's own faded gaze. He places more Davy J. in Gardner's hand and watches as the doctor recognises the turquoise tablets and excruciatingly slowly raises his palm to his mouth. When his hand returns to his lap it is empty.
Jefferson realises he is holding his breath. "The extra dose will keep you under until at least the end of the show". Smoke drifts out of the doctor's mouth as he speaks, a wreath of words drifting through the air. Gardner turns - too slow to catch the doctor’s words and smiles. Jefferson takes a small leather bound book from inside a pocket and begins to note down his observations. He smokes the end of the Cherub Rose and immediately lights another. A habit he's always clung to, part of his own shadow.
A solitary gull flies high above, oblivious to Jefferson and the drugged crowds below. It circles and swoops low towards the hillside, plucking a rat from amongst the rubbish piles. Gardner momentarily spasms in unison with the crowd, sensing the ripple in the waves he is tuned into.
The gull climbs back up high, gripping the prey in it’s beak, and soars away from the hillside, perching atop the whitewashed office building below. Inside those walls workers sit dulled at their uniform desks, or in meeting rooms, as oblivious as the gull to the crowd outside, and to the show they are about to be the stars of. Dark suited figures creep around unnoticed outside the white walls preparing the building. In their apathy the workers don't see the gradual blockade of each window, fail to notice the barricade at each door. They are unknowingly under siege. Above them the gull takes off again, soaring away, out towards the siege which continues at the city's walls. Waves of rebels continue their bombardment against the Protectors. Little do they know that all they have to do is wait. Redcliff is tearing itself apart from the inside.
Eventually Jefferson can just make out the dark clad figures below move away from the building. The countdown will soon begin. He sees faces at the windows as the workers begin to notice the crowds on the hillside. Who was it that first noticed he wonders absently. Someone on their way to the water cooler, to relieve themselves, an executive rushing to the next meeting, a cleaning lady cloth polishing the smeared glass? Tears runs down Jefferson's face. He always knew this would be the hardest moment of all. He thought he could face it. In the the name of research. Surely in research there is no room for emotion. But no matter how he tries to justify it, the tears won’t stop.
As he hears the squeal of a loudspeaker he reaches inside his coat pocket and counts out 3 of those little turquoise pills and swallows them dry. Horror fills him from the pit of his stomach as the countdown progresses. He tries to move, a vague attempt to stop the show, but his limbs won't move as he orders them to. As explosions start something within him slides and the horror fades. Days later he would have a vague memory of seeing his mother’s face at a window but now as the demolition begins all he can see are the magnificent waves.