GHOST LETTER 50

Chris R-1-175 Image by Mark Renney

The bus station has become the focus of my latest route. This place, where people congregate and prepare to leave and where they arrive, is now the centre of the trail I have forged here in the City.
I have tried not to stray too far from the station but this has proved difficult. I need thrust and momentum and my route must allow for this. It has to be big enough and wide enough and grand enough so that I can keep moving and push myself forward. But wherever I am in the City I am aware of the quickest and most direct way back to the bus terminal. I am always ready in case of an emergency but what that emergency might be I have no idea. But it feels good to have somewhere to head toward and I have tried and tested all of these tributaries, all of the shortcuts.

It is cold and wet tonight. I may perhaps linger a little and wait out the storm, but as I make my way through the terminal I realise that, yet again, I am pushing against the tide of travellers. They don’t see me and, cocooned in their heavy winter coats, heads down and hunched over their phones, they are hardly aware of each other.
Once clear I glance back but only fleetingly and there they are huddled beneath the inadequate plexiglass and I don’t stop. No, I keep going.

ALIEN

Chris R-0650-2 Image by Christine Renney

I always arrived home from work at least two or three hours earlier than my girlfriend and I cherished this time alone. It wasn’t that I did anything in particular and I didn’t utilise the hours constructively by taking care of housework or preparing the evening meal. No, instead I listened to music or simply sat with a book, not really reading but just enjoying the quiet and the opportunity for contemplation.
I realised that I was only ever truly on my own during those few hours in the early evenings, Monday to Friday. The significance of this, over the course of a year or so, gradually deepened. I had started planning ahead in as far as it was possible to plan for time spent playing CD’s and languidly re-reading some of my favourite books. Nevertheless, I had built up the importance of this in a way that I was unable to articulate or rationalise.

When the Alien first appeared, or perhaps materialised would be a better way of describing his arrival, I had been sitting with a paperback open but face down across my knee, staring into space. Into the very space from out of which he struggled to conjure himself. Blurred, as if reflected in water, in some murky pool, he flashed in front of me repeatedly and slowly, ever so slowly, he became clearer, taking on shape and form.
Quite frankly I had been disappointed. He was a little green man, his puny body engulfed in a makeshift robe of grey cloth. His limbs, hands and feet were tiny and his head large, as were his eyes staring back at me dolefully. I didn’t doubt that he was intelligent but waiting for him to talk I grew impatient and when at least he did speak he sounded exactly as I had suspected he would; I couldn’t help but laugh at the corny metallic twang and the sing-song delivery.
The Alien was unperturbed by my mirth. In fact, he seemed not to have noticed at all and now that he had started he ploughed on regardless. I hadn’t any choice but to pull myself together and listen. He was asking questions, raising subject after subject, barely pausing between each topic. I realised that I needed to push in, that if I started talking, he would stop and so reluctantly I began.
As I had expected, he did stop. He didn’t sit but stood and listened attentively, even graciously, as I stumbled clumsily into the first of the many monologues I was forced to give over the coming months.

I didn’t profess to be an authority on any of the hundreds of subjects I addressed and covered but I reckon I held my own. Although it was grudging, from the outset I strived to perform well. I discovered that I knew more than a little about quite a lot. Flitting back and forth across the decades and the centuries and around the world. But I resented every second of the time I was forced to endure with that little green man.
I despised him. His probing of me, his picking at my brain. His appearance and that tinny voice I had, at first, found so amusingly unoriginal began to grate.

Every evening when my girlfriend returned home and we heard her pull onto the driveway or fiddle with her key in the lock I stopped talking and so did he. The questions, his haranguing and enquiring of me – it all stopped and then he vanished, just like that. It was so much easier than the protracted and painfully slow and stuttering way in which he would reappear. But of course I knew that reappear he would and so it didn’t stop, not for me.

The Alien continued to haunt my every waking hour and I rarely slept. Everything I had, and all that I might have, was slipping away. I hoped that it wouldn’t be necessary, that scared he would disappear but when I rose from the sofa and towered over him, readying my hands for his scrawny neck he didn’t vanish. Maybe if I had loosened my grip – but that isn’t how it ended. I did what I had to do. I wrung the Alien’s neck.