Chris R-0825-2 Image by Christine Renney

Tanner had always managed to navigate his way through life unnoticed. He became acutely aware of this when he first began his work as an Eraser. Ordinary looking and extremely reserved, even as a young man Tanner realised that this did not fully account for the uncanny ability he had for melting into the background, for making himself all but invisible.
There was something inside of him, an innate skill, a gift even, albeit one he hadn’t asked for and wasn’t sure that he wanted. He realised also that, given the line of work he had chosen, if he were to hone his skill and nurture this gift it could be very useful.

It seemed apt to Tanner that he, whose job was the disappearing of others, could move around unnoticed, was an invisible man as it were. But whenever Tanner glanced in a mirror nowadays he was shocked by what he saw. He was a little man, short and hunched, the pallor of his skin matching the grey clothes he always wore. His thinning hair was white and his face was deeply creased and lined. He was a ghoul, his was a face that featured in nightmares, that appeared toward the end, just before dawn.



Chris R-0140 Image by Christine Renney

Over the years Tanner had become highly attuned to his work and was able to spot the conspirators from afar. He could pick them out on a busy street, in a crowded bar or restaurant. This wasn’t ever based on anything concrete but he just knew. Perhaps it was because he had been obliterating these people for so long. Rubbing them out, the ones who conspired against and opposed the system, once they had been exposed after the fact.
Tanner had reported his suspicions hundreds upon hundreds of times and he had never been wrong. Each and everyone of those individuals had been found guilty and eventually their names appeared on The Eraser list. Occasionally Tanner will be appointed the case of one of his suspects and he always finds this deeply satisfying. He had been the first to recognise that this particular person was a potential agitator, someone who could easily stray and be pulled from the centre. Someone who would believe the lies and help to perpetuate the myth and now Tanner was able to wipe him or her from the face of the earth or at least from the system. To remove all evidence and any legitimacy that might still remain.


Chris R-2-3 Image by Christine Renney

Everything is so much smaller now and each day familiar, echoing the last. On the road the repetition was harsh and ceaseless. I wasn’t able to retire in the evenings and sleep in a bed and, come morning, begin afresh. I still can’t but somehow I have managed to establish a routine of sorts.
When the shops are open I walk the streets and I select a spot and I settle down. A particular doorway at a particular time. The abandoned spaces in front of the boarded windows and the ’TO LET’ signs. But not too far out – it has to be in a part of the city where people come, where they congregate. Pubs, clubs and restaurants or better still office blocks, places of employment and of course shops.
There are others here, vying for space, for a little change, but they aren’t resentful or in any way proprietorial. We are like fishermen on a bank and the busy thoroughfare is our river. They don’t ignore or avoid me but they do leave me alone and occasionally I will nod at one of these men because, for this, I am grateful.


Chris R-0226-2 Image by Christine Renney

Can alcohol still take hold? Get inside and make its demands? Or am I too full of holes and will it seep through the scars?
I have separated the can from its companions, freed it from the plastic ring and set it down in front of where I am sitting. Leaning back I stretch my legs out across the pavement and I can’t reach the can between my feet.
The others, the passers by, are forced to step over me and many of them glare angrily and I am glad of it. I don’t want some good Samaritan crouching down beside me. But if I sit here for long enough and drink myself into a stupor I know, of course, that this will happen.
What I want is for one of them to knock the can over and I don’t care if it is intentional or not, as long as I can watch the lager pool onto the pavement, the damp patch spreading between my legs and soaking into my trousers.
But despite their impatience and the scowls, the passers by are graceful, balletic even, and they don’t touch me and they don’t knock the can.
If I were to draw in my legs and reach out, snatch the can and drink from it would I feel it? Can I still know it? Can a ghost carry that conflict and walk with it?


Chris R-0593-2 Image by Christine Renney

I have money now, just a few coins, and gripping them tightly, I delve deep into the lining of my coat as I walk. I work a coin between my thumb and forefinger. I take them out and move them from hand to hand. I thrust the coins deep into the pocket of my jeans only to take them out again and again. I can’t stop doing this, looking at them, checking.
I drop one of the coins and it rolls out into the road. I run after it, suddenly worried that someone will take it. I stamp down on it with my boot and, crouching down at the kerbside, I quickly snatch it back. I have wandered away from the centre and there is no-one around.
Rising I place the coin with the others in my pocket. I have an odd feeling inside. It is something like purpose and yet I haven’t any idea what it is I intend to do.
I reach a parade of shops and, stopping in front of the plate glass windows of the off-licence, I peer in at the bottles, at the wine and the spirits. I don’t have enough but then I see cans of lager in the cooler at the back of the shop.
Although I am still unsure that this is what I want or what I need, I am already pushing through the doors and I know how it works; I spend what I have and then I get more.


Chris R-0210 Image by Christine Renney

I have managed to settle at last. I sit on the pavement and look up. The buildings above the shops, once regal, are now in disrepair. The City glares back at me in the windows but one of the blinds is broken. Where the slats have fallen away I can see an old filing cabinet. It is standing just behind the glass and there are cardboard boxes stacked on top of it. I wonder are all the rooms up there like this one? Used for storage and filled with junk?
This is the busiest part of the City or at least it soon will be. I am often here, in this place at this time before it all begins. Standing I can hear the clash and clatter of the metal shutters being raised up from the front of the shops a little further along the street.
I walk toward this sound.


Chris R-0314-2 Image by Christine Renney

I try to convince myself it is sudden, this want, this need. It has been growing inside of me, unbidden, a well without water.
How can I talk again after so long? Each time it surfaces I suppress it and resist. I could so easily run, abandon the City, and make again for the road, find that other place, the one in between here and there, where I could stand off to one side and, unheard, shout at the sky and down into the earth.
I look up, not because I must, or because I might stumble or have gotten too close to the edge and could fall into the abyss, I look up to see what is happening right here and now. But it is too bright and, squinting into the harsh light, I am hardly able to see. Everyone is moving so quickly and everything is blurred. At last someone slows a little and I focus on him.
I watch him moving in closer and he bends and drops a handful of coins onto the pavement in front of where I am sitting.
‘Thank you,‘ I say, staring down at them but when I raise my head he is gone.