Nick never expected it to be this quiet. It was very late and dark and the cars seemed to float past with a kind of breathy sound that was somewhat relaxing.
Most sounds out here in the city were relaxing to him. He didn’t distinguish between any of them. For 18 years Nick had been locked in a room the size of a prison cell, in a house run by his older brother and sister, in a small countryside town he now knew was in Somerset. He didn’t know where his parents were, but as he had never known them, it didn’t matter to him at all. He loved his siblings very much.
Once a year they changed the colour of every wall in the house. Nick loved those weekends, when the overalls and brushes and big tins of paint would come out. The posters on the walls of Nick’s room were of his siblings’ favourite bands, which were his favourite bands because he knew nothing else. The books were their favourite books, and the DVDs their favourite films. They were mostly mid-1990s comedies, or early Disney. It all taught him a fair amount about the outside world, enough to know that it wasn’t normal to be housebound for most of his life. He had been instilled though with an almost fanatical respect for his older brother and sister, which stopped him from questioning his situation for more than a few seconds at any one time.
Now here he was, in the middle of the biggest city in England, with all his possessions in a rucksack. In the front pocket was a freezer zip bag holding all his tablets, one month’s supply. Twice a day when his alarm beeped he took two vitamin D capsules. Once a day he took Sertraline, and whenever he felt anxious he took Beta Blockers. There were two other tablets that he took at night-time, but he didn’t know what they were called.
In the day he had visited a library near Brick Lane and sat amongst the silence, doing nothing, barely breathing, feeling quite at home. He had imagined the city to be terrifying, but he found it more like stepping into a story he had read or seen in a film, with really loud special effects and the wind blowing pleasantly on his face.
On several occasions throughout his life he had left his house. There were a couple of fires in the kitchen so he had to stand in the street out the front, and a few times he had been taken into the nearest town, where his brother would send him into the bank to deposit some money in a machine. Once he was taken to a nearby field to feed some crows. But despite these excursions, never in his life had he spoken to another human being except for his brother and his sister.
In his rucksack too was a small notepad, where he wanted to write his novel. It could never be about his life. When he wrote things down it was as if he were reading the words aloud to his siblings, and he was sure he would say something they would not approve of. They would not approve of what he was doing now, coming here, but it seemed to make sense in the narrative of things. It was what everyone did in stories, move to a big city. He had to come here, try and adapt, fend for himself.
Maybe he would be one of those writers whose characters were also writers, and that writer would tell a story about coming to a big city. The books in his room were full of things like that.
When he stepped out of the library the sudden mix of so many different noises confused him. He panicked, and took a handful of Beta Blockers to calm his heart down. There were people all around him, but he was not scared of them. His brother and sister had always assured him that other people were just like him, and them. Everybody was the same, had the same consciousness, the same thoughts and drives. This, they said, is why there was no need for other people. Everyone was exactly the same, and the two of them, his brother and sister, were enough to experience the world with.
The traffic on the road in front of the library got denser. The drivers became agitated. Nick felt like a fairy-tale character in a 90s comedy film, where they get teleported somehow to New York or London and everything is new and exciting, but very confusing because it worked so differently to where they came from. Tarzan had jumped on the tops of taxis, and caught peoples’ pets for food.
Nick was happy though to just stand here outside the library for a while, listening to his heart-beat slow down and waiting for something to change.
He had found his brother and sister in their bed.
There had been no food in the kitchen. It was Monday morning and for the first time in several years the shelves had not been restocked with shopping. He knocked on their door for an hour but no-one answered. He knew they were in there. That’s what a closed door meant. He had heard their groans through the wall last night. Calmly he went back to his own room and sat down, letting time pass before he went back to knock again. He repeated this until evening, but still there was no answer. Two days later he finally went inside.
Their naked bodies were cold and crawling with flies. There was a wretched smell and the bed was covered with blood. They had slit each-other’s wrists, mid-intercourse.
Nick had never experienced death except in films, and so he did what he thought he should do. He threw his body onto theirs and cried for a while. Then he turned his head up to the ceiling and let out a long, dramatic scream of pain.
After that, until he left, he was only angry. It was a confusing kind of anger that he felt guilty about. At the root of it was the feeling that his siblings had killed themselves and left him alone. But they were not the only other two humans in the world, he knew that, and these other humans were no different, not at all. They had taught him that.
So Nick did as Tarzan did. He went to London, where all the people and taxi cabs and comedic adventure and love stories were. He would find two more people to replace the two he had loved until now.
It was late, and dark, and starting to rain. In the silence of whatever London suburb he had wandered into, his siblings’ faces flickered in the puddles that emerged. It was Sunday night. In the morning there would be food somewhere, waiting, and a place to exercise and read a book or watch a DVD, but he wasn’t sure where yet. He knew there would be two people like his brother and sister somewhere, who would smile whenever he talked, and make sure he was okay.
The rain came down heavier, so he sat down in a bus shelter to keep dry. An old lady was sat there too. She smiled at him.
“Wet night, isn’t it?” she said.
Nick stared at her blankly. He didn’t smile or say a word. The old lady looked away.
Still Nick stared at her. She turned her eyes to the ground, scared. Nick was content to sit there and observe the wrinkles on her face, waiting for her to say something else.
After a while he reached out to touch her hand. He wanted to hold it for a while, feel the texture of her aged skin and share a warm moment with someone, here inside this dry pocket of shelter.
The instant his hand touched hers, the old lady jumped up out of her seat. Nick saw on her face that she was scared of him, that she was preparing for something bad to happen. She backed away, slowly at first, then turned and hurried away, out into the rain. It was becoming torrential, a thick wall of droplets that obscured the houses around them.
Nick watched the woman hurrying away, getting soaked. Then she disappeared from sight and Nick was alone.
He panicked, more than he ever had before.
Something horrible came over him. He stood up and bashed his hands off his head until he felt dizzy. He blinked furiously and shouted for help. He started to sob. Nobody came.
He tipped his bag upside down and emptied everything onto the wet floor. On his knees he sifted through everything until he found the box of Beta Blockers. He opened it with shaking hands. There were two sheets left inside. He popped every single one, forty in total, and swallowed them all, turning his head upwards as he did and opening his mouth to the sky. The water gradually built up at the back of his throat. He let it go and felt the tablets wash down into his stomach.
There were no people around. His brother and sister were dead. There was nobody in the world but Nick. He walked out into the road and sat down in the rain, and cried, and hurt, and tried hard to forget everything, waiting desperately for his heart to stop.
Photo by Steve Armitage.
You can discover more about Steve and his photography by following the link below:
We are keen to collaborate with other artists, so if you would like to see see your photography or artwork featured on STORGY, drop us a line and introduce yourself.
If you enjoy the work we publish, please follow STORGY and ‘like’ our Facebook page. Your support continues to make our mission possible. Thank you.