Nothing remains of that place now but a smouldering ruin, the hypoxic byproduct of good intention, festering cancer born of broken promises and shattered dreams.
He remembered briefly, with a sting in his chest, before moving on.
He did not look back.
A shitload of cheese, hoping
For some fucked up dreams
Foreword: I tend to remember my dreams frequently. They are generally very intense experiences; at times haunting, terrifying, joyous and bizarre. The following post is an account of a dream I had two nights ago. Although I am not entirely sure of the specifics, there is nothing in the following story which did not occur in my dream. I’ll welcome any interpretations.
I don’t remember the exact moment I dicovered that my washing machine could transport me into the future. The memory of that discovery is lost to me; it’s just something I’ve always been able to do, and yet I have always felt too scared to actually try it out. All of that changed last night. I resolved to transport myself into the future. I knew the mechanism, if not the science behind it. Climbing into the washing machine it struck me that I had no idea where I was heading, but I figured anywhere was better than here. So I tentatively climbed inside the drum.
It was a strange experience; the drum seemed much larger than the slim white frame of the washing machine could enclose. There was certainly some sort of spatial distortion at work here, although I was unable to tell whether it was me who was shrinking or the drum which was growing. No matter, I fit, and that was the important part. Once I was settled inside the drum, I reached out to turn the machine on. I smiled and relaxed as I felt the tepid water seep into the drum. Rolling over, I immersed my face in the liquid, expelling all air from my lungs and lapsing into unconsciousness.
When I awoke, I was already outside the washing machine. I rubbed my eyes and glanced around the room. I was no longer in my house. Instead I was in a dull grey concrete building, its crumbling edifice betraying either its age or its shoddy construction. I fixated on the former, lest I inadvertently bring the roof collapsing down on top of me.
I was filled with a number of emotions: joy, for I had been successful in my travel; fear, as I was in a strange place, far from home; excitement, at the thought of exploring this world. Eventually, prudence got the better of me and I decided to make sure that there was still a route home. The technique for the return journey was slightly different to the previous voyage. I opened the washing machine drum and took a number of steps back.
Charging towards the drum at full pelt, I dove in head first, attempting to render myself unconscious by striking my head on the solid aluminium of the washing machine drum. Concern filled my mind as everything went black.
I woke up again in my own house and realised that my temporal voyages were indeed possible. Breathing heavily, heart pounding in my chest, I quickly repeated the process I had undertaken in order to get into the future, grinning as the water filled my lungs.
When I awoke I was no longer in the concrete building, although I had a fleeting memory of exiting the room. This apparent memory loss was slightly disconcerting, but I tried not to let it bother me as I descended a ladder into what appeared to be a large sewer tunnel.
When I reached the bottom I started moving rapidly through the subterranean alcoves, looking at the shadows cast on the rugged brick walls by the sickening orange glow of sodium lamps lining every wall. My velocity puzzled me; I seemed to be travelling too fast for the paltry amount of energy I was expelling. Looking down, I realised why. A set of slick white rollerblades were strapped to my feet. Before I could question where this footwear has come from, I saw a glint of steel behind me.
I ducked instinctively as the ninja’s wakizashi whistled through the air where my neck had been moments before. Without stopping, he redirected his motion towards me. The ninja’s grace was unparalleled, his motion almost fluid, like black oil poured across the surface of a rippling lake. Unfortunately I did not have time to admire the movements of my assailant.
I skated up the concave wall of the tunnel, desperately trying to gain momentum. I used the walls as a half-pipe to build up speed while narrowly avoiding the relentless steel assault of the ninja. Every time I returned to the centre the darting silver of the ninja’s blade seemed the race closer and closer to my throat. Eventually, I thought, he will forget to miss…
A plan formed in my mind as I raced up the side of the tunnel for the final time. As I reached the apex of my ascent, I span around one hundred and eighty degrees, and aimed myself directly at my nemesis. Already his blade was arcing along its deadly collision course. I leant back and allowed the wheels to flip out from underneath me, cartwheeling backwards even as my momentum carried me ever onwards towards the deadly assassin. My feet connected with the blade and sent it spinning, and I locked my arms around the ninja’s legs. We tumbled to the ground in a tattered heap.
I sprang up, ready for combat, by my stealthy opponent had vanished along with my roller blades. I shrugged and began to advance further into the gloom of the seemingly endless tunnel. Eventually I came across an unexpected sight. A few metres ahead the tunnel was blocked by a large wall. I would have turned back if not for the object I saw in front of the wall. Mounted on a bulky tripod was a dual-link rotary feed chain gun. Each rotary unit consisted of eight barrels, each a metre long. A huge belt loaded with dull brass shells fed into the side of the cannon. Why on earth would anyone need ordnance of this calibre down in an ageing sewer tunnel?
My question was answered the moment I touched the gun. A dull rumbling crescendoed into a deafening roar as the tunnel began to shake and the wall ahead of me started to collapse. I watched in horror as through the murk of brick dust I laid eyes on the cause of the collapse: an enormous tank.
Without a second thought my thumbs pressed down on the dead-switches and I squeezed the triggers as hard as I could. With a high pitched whine the two cannon span into life, gradually reaching optimum speed, and then with a deafening roar the guns vomited an endless stream of .50 calibre depleted uranium shells into the heart of the armoured behemoth in front of me. I did not flinch, nor did I move from my position. I kept firing the stream of bullets directly into the tank until eventually its power plant ignited and the entire vehicle exploded into a shower of white hot shrapnel.
I lunged for cover and collapsed through one of the walls. As the choking dust and smoke threatened to engulf me I spotted my one hope for salvation – a ladder leading up to the city steets above. I grabbed hold and fought the burning in my muscles to haul myself hand over hand up the ladder and away from the subterranean nightmare.
By this point I had decided that I’d had quite enough of the future for one day. From my vantage point I could see the building which housed my washing/time machine at the end of the street, and so I started to make my way towards it. Something distracted me. I looked to my right and noticed a woman. She must have been in her mid to late twenties, her straight blonde hair blowing slightly in the warm breeze. As I approached, she smiled.
“I thought you’d never find me,” she said. Did I know this woman? I stared at her intently. As I glanced across her delicately curved nose, slightly pointed chin and soft, gentle lips I felt a glimmer of recognition… But then it was gone. She wore military fatigues, the combat trousers hanging loose around her waist whilst her olive vest clung tight to her slim frame. So familiar, so familiar.
“Do you…” I felt ridiculous just asking, “Do you want to come back in time with me?”
“You’re silly,” she giggled, “Come on, we don’t have much time.” Taking my hand, she started running towards the concrete building holding the washing machine. I kept pace with her easily, looking across time and again in the hope that some heretofore unnoticed facial feature would spark a memory and tell me who the hell this girl was. Every time I looked, however, her expression had turned ever more grim.
We were almost at the washing machine now. Suddenly I heard a voice. It wasn’t my voice, and it wasn’t the mystery girl’s.
“Oh no James. No, no no NO, JAMES, NO!”
I watched in horror as the building we were running towards flickered and became ethereal. It was as if the entire front of the building was an enormous video projection. As I watched, the screen went blank.
“What the hell?” I asked, “Where has the washing machine gone?”
“It’s James,” came the reply. “He hasn’t paid his website subscription.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that we’re fucked. It means that we’re stuck here permanently.”
My head was spinning. My only chance to get back home had vanished. A million and one thoughts raced through my mind. How could I get home? Would this have happened if I hadn’t noticed the girl? Who the hell was this girl? Was the ninja still out there? What’s on top of that building?
“What’s on top of that building?” I asked.
“Let’s find out,” The girl answered.
We climbed the ladder onto the top of the building next to the now-vanished concrete shell. Once at the top, I sureveyed the landscape. The city seemed to stretch endlessly in all directions, miles and miles of grey concrete hell. In the distance I saw a building flicker into a video projection.
Suddenly I became aware of a presence. I looked up and saw a middle aged man in combat gear holding a huge rock. His eyes seemed vacant as he held up the rock and said,
“Granite. I need granite.”
Before I could say a word, he crushed the rock in between his hands, grinding it up smaller and smaller into a fine powdery dust. He picked up the dust as I watched open-mouthed, and let it run through his fingers.
I turned away from the man and saw a number of similarly aged men, dressed in what appeared to be the vestments of Anglican priests, or a bastardisation thereof. Flowing white robes with purple adornments complemented tall red mitres. In their hands they each held a two metre long polished brass staff. The priests approached a crude concrete altar and laid down a large book. They beckoned me forward.
I glanced at the book, expecting to see the Holy Bible. I was confused by what I saw. The tome was huge and by all accounts, ancient. The text was laid out in a flamboyant gold and purple type, neatly arranged into chapter and verse. But when I read it, it made no sense. I was reading late twentieth century fiction. This book which these people were taking to be the word of God was actually the word of J.K. Rowling. What the hell was going on? I desperately tried to explain to the priests that their faith was nothing but a lie, but they wouldn’t listen. I sighed and turned around.
But the girl was gone.
We laughed and we danced
And we ran hand in hand, but
It was just a dream.
Bridge across ocean.
Just watch me build it.