High Street

from a pleasant sleep. Pleasant dreams. Instantly forgetting any connotation; basking only in serenity. The window was open ajar, allowing a mild breeze to freshen the room. I stretched, content, confused, unsure of where I was. The faux feeling of equanimity on the surface began to crack like a crème brûlée. Incandescent molten horror oozed out of my mind, pouring from my eye sockets, ears, mouth and nostrils, scorching everything it touched. As it flowed incessantly onto the carpet, the walls began melting. My belongings disintegrated to ash. The sky outside turned black, the landscape red. In the distance, lay the mangled body of the man on the ledge, the man in orange. His face peaceful, still. Eyes closed. I crawled to the edge of my bed, watching him, on all fours. I pleaded for him to wake up. His eyes flickered, then opened wide. He coughed, spitting up blood. He looked at me and smirked. His smirk turned to laughter. His laughter turning hysterical. He laughed so hard his sides split. Litter poured from the open wounds. I scuttled towards the top of my bed trying to get back under my sheets but couldn’t find an opening. I looked up to see the man in orange, stand, shake himself off and begin sprinting towards me. He started screaming, ‘It’s over for me. It was instant. Painless. But you. You’ll feel this for all

I woke up, soaked in sweat. The sheets soaked in sweat. ‘It was just a dream.’ I thought, ‘It’s over.’ I reached for a glass of water that wasn’t there. My eyes focused, and I saw the pile of clothes on the floor. ‘No. It’s not.’ I lay back down, trying to determine if this really was a reality. It couldn’t be. This was the type of scenario you read in the paper or watched on television and thought, ‘Thank God that’s not me.’ Turmoil like this is for the desperate, maniacs, psychos, sociopaths, hotheads, people who lack rationale. Not every day nobodies like me. I feigned laughter, hoping that would end the hoax. No such joy. Was I really a murderer? Had I really caved into to my hideous thoughts? How was I supposed to get out of bed? Go about my day? Have a coffee with a slice of toast and say good morning to my mum? ‘You don’t even know if the guy’s dead yet.’ I attempted comforting myself. I grabbed my phone. Fifteen emails. Thirteen about a new type of Bitcoin (a better kind), one from a Russian beauty feeling lonely and horny and one from Crew Clothing- twenty percent off. I hovered over the Crew Clothing email knowing I needed a new light summer jumper, just to throw on once the sun starts going down when socialising in beer gardens in the coming months. Maybe I was a psycho after all? I came to my senses and deleted that email too, but didn’t delete it from the bin, just in case. I quickly panic Googled “how to live a normal life after murder”, and just as quickly deleted it, thinking MI6 or the FBI or, erm, someone else would be watching my every movement. I erased the last hour from my search engine. Unsure of what to do, I googled “porn”, clicking on a video of a woman getting into a taxi and shagging the taxi driver instead of paying her fare. I reluctantly put the staged set-up and atrocious acting to the back of my mind and ejaculated, hoping this nightmare was somehow linked to a sexually suppressed ordeal that I could finally awaken from. It wasn’t. And I didn’t.  The only thing I was certain of, three seconds of ejaculating still feels incredible even if you’re a murderer (if I was in fact a murderer). I cleaned up and erased the last hour from my search engine, just in case MI6 or the FBI or, erm, someone else was watching my every movement. I took a shower, reminding myself to buy drainage cleaner (feeling strange I was still unintentionally thinking like a normal person). I sat on the edge of my bed, dripping wet with a towel wrapped around my waist. I stared deep into the carpet. Thoughts were whizzing, spinning like the Waltzers, slowly grinding away at the front of my brain, causing a headache. Shivering from the damp brought me round. I towelled off, taking my time. Taking intricate detail in drying the gaps between my toes. I looked in the mirror. The scar on my forehead looked particularly irritable. Maybe I’d been rubbing or scratching at it in my sleep; I’d woken myself up a few times over the last few weeks doing so. The product I’d bought to help heal the scar tissue was an effective and advanced gel, advertised as being perfect for old scars and new, acne and burns. People with new scars could see results in as quickly as eight weeks. My mum had told me saltwater is the best method for healing scars. ‘The natural and oldest ways are the best.’ She proudly announced. ‘A dip in the Mediterranean would do you the world of good.’ But with the world still on ice, my only option would be dunking my head into Barrow docks and risk walking away with an extra nose or a radiant luminous glow. I grabbed my beard trimmer, shaving it completely. First step to avoid looking like a potential suspect – complete. Next I moisturised, dabbing my fingers tips gently around my eyes – a tip I’d learnt off Faye. The purpose of which I had no idea, but it felt nice. I looked in my wardrobe, deciding on a dark, plain and inconspicuous look. I dried my hair, pulling the knots out with a hairbrush and running a small dollop of extra hold texturizing gum through it. I’d grown fond of my long hair. It felt like I’d achieved something great through determination and self-discipline. ‘Maybe I’d hold off on getting it cut.’ I thought, ‘So what if they’re looking for someone with long hair? Everyone’s got long hair at the moment. Even chemotherapy patients have long hair at the moment.’ I looked around my room; objects out of place and clothes left over the back of chairs began to make me feel antsy. The back of my legs began itching. The more I scratched, the more I realised the itch felt like it was coming from the inside of my legs, my blood maybe. It crossed my mind that I had some rare blood disorder and that I’d be dead by the end of the month. ‘Wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.’ I muttered. I took the pile of laundry, containing yesterday’s clothes, downstairs, dumped it in the washing machine, putting it on a hot wash. As I walked out of the utility, I thought about what to do with the clothes once washed. ‘Dry them and burn them? Bury them? Burn them, then bury the remains? Was all this too extreme? There was no blood, no DNA. If anyone asks, the police for instance, if you have black waterproof pants and a navy-blue jacket, just say yes. It’s no problem, so do lots of people. Where the hell would I dig a hole and bury the clothes anyway? How deep would it need to be? Have I even dug a hole before?’ I walked out the utility saying, ‘What d’ya want Henry, the leg or the wing?’ ‘What?’ My dad asked. ‘Oh…nothing.’ I stuttered, stopping in my tracks, acting as guilty as sin. ‘Leg or the wing?’ You going to the butchers?’ ‘No. It’s nothing. “Goodfellas” was on last night, that’s all.’ I replied curtly. ‘Trimmed your beard ey?’ He asked, studying my jaw. ‘Nice spot Serpico.’ ‘You look ten.’ He replied. ‘Good.’ ‘Good? Fucking nonce.’ He walked off. ‘Oh,’ He called out, ‘If you do go to the butchers, get me a scotch egg and your mum a…erm… get her a Magnum. Unsure if he knew what a Magnum was or if he knew what produce was on offer in a butchers, I replied, ‘Ok.’ I checked the time: Half nine. ‘I should have been on my way up High Street by now.’ I thought, ‘How the hell did I sleep so long after committing murder? If I committed murder.’ Local radio played quietly from somewhere in the house. Disgust began building up in inside, I could taste bile in the back of my throat. How the hell could people listen to such bland worthlessness? Vanilla DJ’s reading out mawkish messages from vanilla listeners. Ears pinned to their radios until their repetitive tripe has been announced. ‘Hey Steve. Just in the garden, pottering. Play “Band of Gold” will ya?’ ‘Hey KT, it’s my brother’s birthday he’s coming round with the kids, play “Sex On Fire” please’. ‘Hi Danny, we’re celebrating. I’ve just taken a dump on a piece of paper. I’m now getting it self-published. Could you play something by “Coldplay.” Thanks bye.’ Then going about their day mowing lawns, roasting chickens, watching every single game of football, including the third division games. Some people’s distractions are barely enough to divert their attention from realising they’re still paddling in the shallow end. And yet they still don’t seem to notice.

Before I could set off, I had to clean up the vomit from inside my car. I couldn’t wait for the Romanians to open their car wash business again. They’d do a better job than me. Great work ethic. I scrubbed, cleaned, gagged from the smell and thought of “Pulp Fiction”. Twenty minutes later the car still smelt like turned milk poured into a dead badger. I wound all the windows down and pulled back the sunroof. The windscreen was still slightly smeared, leaving a frosted, hazy look, but I was pleased with how the dash had turned out. I thought about breakfast, but wasn’t hungry, couldn’t imagine being hungry again. Getting fluids down me was an arduous enough task. But I knew I’d need something, some fuel to stay focused, keep sharp. I say sharp. I was anything but. More like a blunt pizza cutter, unable to stay in a single, straight line, mutilating the topping. I grabbed a banana and an apple. Knowing I’d only eat one. Sank a pint of water, struggling to keep it down. Determined to keep in rhythm with everyday life, believing routine would be imperative to remembering all the little details about my day. I trudged back upstairs to the bathroom, gargled mouthwash and brushed my teeth. My mind began wandering during the two minutes of using my electric toothbrush. Once the three short vibrations blasted, signalling the end of the clean, I realised I’d only brushed one tooth; the one tooth that aches and throbs whenever negativity grabs me by the horns.

I took the back roads to High Street, to avoid CCTV – I’m not sure why. Driving over Gummer’s How, Chapel House woods had been stripped and laid bare. Its landscape altered dramatically. A combination of contagious disease spreading through the larch and the forestry commission wanting to replant native-only trees in the area after spells of planting foreign exports from the fifties to the seventies, meant most of the woodland, including all conifers were to be ripped, sawn and carted away. I’d read the Scandinavians were planning on doing something similar, but with people, in an attempt to save communities. From the top of Gummer’s How the views of southern Windermere, stretching all the way to the Coniston Fells and out toward the Furness Peninsula looked at peace. Amazing how differently the world looks when you don’t peek too closely.

It was significantly colder that morning, the sky was a light grey and blue stitched quilt. The air was fresh, cleansed. A cup of coffee kind of morning. A lazy, eat breakfast in bed kind of morning. An oral sex followed by an episode of “Seinfeld” playing in the background kind of morning. A covering your tracks to avoid being caught on a murder charge kind of morning. Driving through the Lyth Valley I began pushing further and further away to the back of my mind the purpose of driving all the way back to Kirkstone Pass to hike Old Street. Over the years I’d become well trained in burying negativity and pain. Newborn lambs, danced and played whilst I drove through Winster, tonguing my throbbing tooth. This sight – a simple explanation that life absolutely does not have to be filled with hate, greed and brutality, would normally inject my soul with hope and joy. Not today. I felt nothing. Not even when a lamb kicked out its hind legs whilst skipping did my heart twinge. I was solely focused on my need to survive, no matter the cost.

The back lanes took forever. I even thought about driving through Bowness so I could get back onto a main road. It occurred to me, even if I did get caught on CCTV it wouldn’t matter. The plan would still work. I was overthinking. It was dangerous. This train of thought can lead to mistakes further down the line. I had to keep things simple. Keep things as clear as possible. Plus, no one was looking for me. The only way I could get caught was if the guy had been rescued, if he was conscious, talking. Dread rose to the tip of my skull, simmering away. ‘What if he’s alive?’ I thought. ‘I’m done for. You don’t even know if you pushed him. Of course I pushed him. Just because I can’t remember the act. Everything building up inside of me up until the white flash wanted him dead. I want him dead now. He’s better off dead. I’m better off if he’s dead, the planet’s better off if he’s dead.’ My hands gripped and pulled down on the leather steering wheel causing it to vibrate. My tooth throbbed so hard I thought it was going to shatter. A cold wash put out the simmering in my skull, chilling the rest of my body as I realised, that not only did I want to escape any punishment, but I also wanted this guy dead. I didn’t want him coming back to tell the tale. I didn’t want him walking on the fells anymore dropping poison. The thought of him of dead brought with it a sense of relief. And that relief terrified me.

Somewhere around Mitchelland and Crook golf course I was held up by a tractor trimming hedges. The sharp splinters lay scattered on the road like shards of glass. My temper inflamed with the farmer’s reluctance to pull to one side and my overactive imagination pictured one of my tyres being punctured from a long, sharp thorn. Eventually I swerved passed, over revving in the process, staring up at the smirking farmer in full “shithousery” mode. At Ings, I had the opportunity to drive onto the main road. Deciding against it, I crossed onto one last country lane, that would take me to Troutbeck coming from the east. I was smug in my expertise of knowing the back roads in the Lakes like the back of my hand. Smug that not many others can navigate their way home if there’s been an accident on one of the main roads. I imagined being in the car with friends, all complementing me on this great ability. The fantasy dissipated however, imagining their reaction if they knew the reason of the journey.

Troutbeck graveyard was alive with yellow and green; the daffodils had bloomed in force. The inns situated on the side of High Kingate were chomping at the bit with the nations grand opening nearing. Auburn and silver lined the road that sliced through the backdrop. Sunlight broke through, covering the landscape in a pale yellow. Covering the interior of the car in a pale yellow. The kind of pale yellow they paint children’s wards with. The kind of pale yellow that makes you feel depressed because it now reminds you of sick children. Sheep scarpered and scrambled over dry-stone walls as I drove toward them. Loose stones fell, rolling into my path as their panicked feet slipped.

In the fateful car park that I found myself in once more, I parked up in the middle of a row of cars. Nestled between two identical in colour to mine. I changed out of my trainers, into my walking boots. I walked over to the wall that I’d hidden my lens cap near the previous evening. I peeled back the blades of grass that I’d hidden it under. No sign. I waved my hand over the blades of grass in the vicinity. No sign. I walked up and down the wall, kicking away at the blades of grass beneath. No sign. ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ I called out. I goose-stepped back to my car, bewildered over the missing lens cap. I grabbed my rucksack that contained my camera attached with a 50mm f/1.4 USM lens, map, banana and apple. I reached in, removing the apple. I peeled off a piece of lens tissue paper from the one hundred sheet booklet, placing it over my 24-70mm f/1.2 USM lens that was now missing a lens cap, holding it in place with an elastic band. I quickly googled “Price of 24-70MM lens caps.” The results came back at around the £10 mark. ‘What a pain in the arse.’ I muttered.

Walking out of the car park, I briefly headed to the area where I had taken the beating off the skaters. I crouched down at the area, attempting to remember the vague details of being kicked and beaten. Flashes of people running up to me and paramedics kneeling over me flashed into my memory, and out again just as quickly. I couldn’t tell if what I was remembering was real or fictious. I ran a hand across the gravel on the assumption the touch of the surface might jolt my memory into action. It didn’t. ‘You fuckers. Do you realise what you’ve caused?’ I whispered, standing up. I carried on out the carpark and across the road to the footpath when a voice called out, ‘Jack?’ I turned around. It was Faye.           

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