GHOST LETTER 45

Chris R-1-125 Image by Christine Renney

I have been walking this route for weeks now, making my way around again and again. I am not ready to stop, not quite yet, but I have managed to slow down and I am able to loiter and linger and meander, wandering from the road and exploring my surroundings, venturing a little further each time, moving either away from the City or closer to it, but always coming back to here, to this path I am still forging.

I start across the waste ground to my right. The grass beneath my feet is short and scruffy and it is strewn with rubble. I kick my way through it and I feel as if I am breaking the rules, especially this early in the morning when there is no-one else around. I feel as though I am trespassing.

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THE FILING CLERK

Chris R-1-120 Image by Christine Renney

Cartwright’s job was dealing with information, but he wasn’t the one responsible for collecting it. He didn’t garner or gather, didn’t even transcribe the documents. When the documents arrived all of these tasks had already been done. Cartwright’s Employers had stressed that it wasn’t necessary for him to understand the info, how it might relate to things in the big wide world wasn’t his concern. His only task was to familiarise himself with it, to read everything and to look at and study the photos, to listen to the audio tapes and to watch the videos.
His Employer’s instructions had been oblique but, working diligently, Cartwright had managed to do what they ordered. Correlating and categorising, he had built an archive, one that he could navigate almost effortlessly. If and when they came a-calling he was sure that he would be able to find the documents they wanted. Even if their questions were cryptic, and all they could provide were a few key words, Cartwright believed that he would be able to locate the correct files and provide the necessary info. But no-one had come a-calling and in twenty years his system hadn’t been tested. Actually, that’s not quite true. He had on occasion been called upon to redact certain info or someone from the files. And Cartwright had always done this happily and, working with a thick black marker, he blocked out the words one at a time, page after page. The fact that he was able to do this so swiftly and efficiently was evidence at least that his system worked.

When he began, twenty years previously, the job had seemed old-fashioned. He had felt as if he were functioning out of time, even more so as the years progressed.
The info was always hand delivered by couriers, bulky envelopes stuffed with sheets of thin typing paper, the text typed on old word processors. And then there were the cassettes: the C60s and C90s and C120s and the video tapes. Sometimes there was something scrawled in biro on the labels or the index cards and sometimes not.
The video footage was mundane, mostly CCTV captures. Cartwright always made extensive notes, describing anyone who crossed in front of the camera, the cars – colour, make and model, registration plates. He included anything and everything, determined not to miss the tiniest detail. The time and date, weather conditions, street signs, pubs, clubs and restaurants, shops, office blocks, company logos – they were all recorded.
The audio tapes were equally as boring, mostly interviews, men and women describing a particular place or a particular person. As he transcribed Cartwright was struck by how similar their testimony was to his own notes on the video footage.
He included as much incidental detail as possible. Voices, accents and cadence of both the interviewers and their subjects. How much the interviewees had to be coaxed or if they gave up the info unprompted and, most importantly, if and when the voices had appeared on other tapes.

Cartwright had worked hard over the years and he had somehow managed to make something from out of nothing. And now instructions had come down from up above. He was to be retired, his services were no longer required. Cartwright wondered what would happen to his archive. Was the info also now redundant and would it simply languish untouched and untested?
He had just six months but it was long enough to do what he intended to do. He would transfer everything onto his computer and when he had uploaded the entire archive onto the hard drive he would post it on-line. Make it available to all and anyone who was so inclined could then test his system, come rain or come shine.

BOX

hijacked amygdala

Chris R-1-117 Image by Christine Renney

Jim didn’t know why he had been put in here, in this box. It was ultra-modern, designed to endure, to not lose its shine and sparkle and it hadn’t but it remained a box nonetheless.
It was big, on two levels with a staircase at its centre. He had a bed, a sofa, armchairs and a dining table. There was a kitchen area and all of the appliances were hi-tech, State of the Art.
Everywhere was easy to keep clean, to maintain. Stainless steel surfaces and sturdy but soft vinyl, and hard plastic sheeting. There were pillars and posts, rails and screens. But it remained a box with compartments. It was not a house with rooms.
Jim often imagined that if he were to remove one of the walls and step outside, that if he could look back from afar, it would resemble a set on…

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GHOST LETTER 44

Chris R-1-116 Image by Christine Renney

It isn’t as deserted here on the outskirts as I had at first believed. This tract of wasteland circles the City and I have been walking it for almost a week. Gradually I have become aware of the life here, that despite the degradation there are pockets of industry. And despite the broken and boarded windows and the cracked pavements that people are clinging on here and are determined not to leave, not to abandon this place.
This shop at the centre of the parade up ahead for instance; it is the only one still open, flourishing amidst the flotsam and the debris. When it is dark and I spot its windows alight from a distance I know where I am and it has become an important marker on my route.
Each time I pass I glance across at the shop. Sometimes there are children hanging around with sweets or old men with their cigarettes. But today there is no-one, it is deserted and there is an air of abandonment. But the lights are on and the door is wedged open. I realise I have stopped and suddenly I find myself contemplating going in and buying something, anything. A chocolate bar perhaps or a newspaper. But what would I do then? What might I learn?
Looking down I realise that I am walking again and that I won’t be going into the shop or sitting and reading a newspaper. At least, not this time around.

THE RULES

hijacked amygdala

Chris R-1-115 Image by Christine Renney

Sy had changed things over the years. He had done this out of necessity, in order to continue. Sy was a tramp and constantly on the road. People didn’t expect him to stop and they tended to steer clear of tramps, giving them a wide berth, especially one who was pushing something awkward and unwieldy in front of himself.

Sy had adapted with the times, making the best of his surroundings and using whatever was available; discarded bicycles for instance. A tramp pushing along a bicycle didn’t draw a lot of attention. They were relatively easy to control, even after the tyres had disintegrated and the wheels started to buckle.
Whilst wheeling a bicycle, and Sy had wheeled an uncountable number of them over the years, he constantly found himself having to resist the urge to hop up onto the saddle and coast along for a…

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