Let me explain why I’m twelve storeys up, on the outside of a building and about to do something completely insane.
Hello Dear Reader,
My name is Emile – but I’m not French; I have this name because my mother always wanted to learn French but never managed, so my name had to suffice. Although she denied it strenuously, I suspect the original Emile, my namesake, had a history with her at some point in her now extinct life. To my dismay she never spilled the beans on this or many other subjects surrounding her existence; perhaps it was because my Dad seemed to me, even back then, to be excessively a Germanophile, if that’s the right word – possibly even for the same reason as my Mum, but now no-one will ever know. The simple fact is that along with billions of others neither is any longer in a position to satisfy my curiosity. I am alone. At least these days in being alone I’m not.
Based on all this you can just imagine the lack of harmony, resentment and suspicions I grew up with, hence why I’m glad I’m an only child – who’d want to put another kid through such crap? Only parents can so utterly destroy a person. In spite of all this I seem to have a pretty rounded psyche, all current circumstances considered – but then who could tell these days? Anyway, in spite of my awkward and resentful upbringing, right from being a teenager I learned to love the Germans, the French and just about any other member of the species, especially if they were female. Amour sans frontières, that’s me.
Thank God for the Apocalypse. Well, almost.
Let’s go back to the beginning.
It was seven oh seven in the morning and the train from West Norwood pulled quietly into London Victoria station. For peak hour on a weekday, even in the middle of summer, the train was strangely almost empty giving me and my current, gorgeous, brunette girlfriend, Becky, our choice of seats – such luck. The weather was humid and soporific so we gave the train’s emptiness no thought at all and just sat leaning against each other while watching the south of the city fly by as we headed into Town. As for me I was still struggling with the early hour of the day – if it wasn’t for the brilliant morning sunlight stealing its way past the bedroom curtains I doubt I’d be out of bed no matter what plans we had laid down for the day.
It was our day off and considering the amazing weather we decided that a stroll along the Embankment was a good idea. My first mistake of the Apocalypse, so sue me!
Victoria Station was quiet, with the occasional small gaggle of tourists making their urgent way somewhere or other. Looking back I think that might have been the first sign I took notice of that something was out of whack. Let’s face it, tourists never ever walked with purpose – and certainly not with urgency. It just wasn’t the done thing, they would coagulate on pavements, blocking them completely; they were supposed to walk in unsteady lines, making getting around the city streets a challenge for the natives. I imagine it was the same around the world and not just London, so you probably know exactly what I’m saying.
The first thing I saw on walking out of the concourse was half a dozen police grappling with two or three difficult perps who were covered in blood, presumably their own. One had a spit hood on that already showed significant amounts of the red stuff oozing through it and the sight made me instantly apprehensive – I’ve never been keen on the sight of blood. That, and there seemed to be so much unstoppable malevolence in them despite the naked violence with which the police subdued them. Strange, police were so relatively gentle on Police Interceptors. All in all, I can tell you that it unnerved me somewhat – in the early hours of the End I was still a lover, not a fighter.
Turning right out of the station, away from the ongoing struggle and towards Vauxhall Bridge we felt our feet sticking to the pavement. Looking down I could see there was copious amounts of a dark, viscous substance; it was all over the ground, as if someone had splashed buckets of watered-down molasses everywhere.
“What the hell is this?” Becky asked, lifting each foot gingerly from the ground, a look of distaste on her face as she lifted each foot and heard the slurping sound of the substance trying not to let go. Pulling a clean white tissue from her handbag she wiped the sole of one of her shoes. It came back dark red. “Is that blood?” she asked, horrified.
I peered closely and sniffed the tissue gingerly. I caught an iron tone in the odour. It was definitely blood, albeit a little rust coloured from exposure to air, or so I presumed.
“Yep,” I replied authoritatively.
I looked around again and noticed that it was also splashed copiously up the walls of the station, as if someone had filled another bucket and thrown it randomly, coating everything in sight like an al fresco Jackson Pollock only with fewer colours. If what they showed you in CSI was at all accurate, then it appeared that I was looking at significant quantities of arterial spray. I was also beginning to catch the stench of decay as the sun warmed the pavement.
Seeing the evidence of the previous night’s violence I was dumbfounded that I had missed such obvious signs of localised upheaval. I used to criticise others who walked around in a daze, never seeing anything of significance around them. I didn’t after that day. Looking further afield I saw that all across the front of the station and into the bus terminal there were overturned rubbish bins, cars with smashed windows, a double-decker bus that had been gutted by fire, and torn plastic police barrier tape streaming idly in the early morning breeze. There was even a damaged police riot shield and helmet tossed on the ground and forgotten. I was now wide awake.
We increased our walking pace, hurrying to put as much distance between us and Victoria Train Station, deciding not to return to Victoria in the evening and instead getting the bus home. All I could think was that we had missed one hell of a party the previous night. Strange there was no report of it anywhere that I had seen or heard.
Copyright © 2016 David Kingsley Roberts
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.