BY ANDREW MOODY
In the haze between exhaustion, sleep and consciousness, I feel something tapping my foot. It’s pouring with freezing rain, and I’m curled up in a ball by a bus stop somewhere in Aldwych. I’m penniless, no bus or train pass, no way of returning to the acute ward I absconded from some days ago, walking for hours and hours sobbing through the streets of London. Earlier tonight, staring at my phone, I was horrified to see or imagine that Friday had repeated itself. I am grieving for my father, leaving the ward the day an article I wrote about his death for another magazine was published. My sense of time is out of whack, something horrible is happening to me. Psychosis? A supernatural event? The moon is following me as usual, a part crescent, giving the impression it is wearing a Clockwork Orange bowler hat.
“Hey bruv, you okay?” I open my eyes, instantly tense for a fight. He looks Somali, has a large backpack implying he is homeless, is tapping my foot with one of his crutches. After he asks me for a pound. I tell him I’m penniless, and I’ve been walking around Aldwych for hours and can’t get out.
“Watch out for the Aldwych people,” he warns, “they’ll kill you if they find you.”
I give him my last five pence and he gives me a stolen chicken penne pasta pot and a roll up. Energised by the food, I leave as he scores from a dealer who appears from nowhere and I begin walking again. My phone still has battery, I put on Secrets by the Weeknd which always reminds me of my Somali ex-girlfriend and try and work out my escape from this deceptively polite labyrinth.
“Ready into bury your father and your mother/what did you think when you lost the other?”
Sobbing somewhere in South Kensington, with the last of my phone battery I play Sweetness Follows by REM and because it’s still pouring with rain, there are no workable fag butts to smoke. Somehow, I find myself in a shop and I try to pay for cigarettes with my contactless card, but it’s academic, because there are no funds, and I imagine this shop will be no different
Somehow, I find myself in a boarding house somewhere in South Kensington, and in my delirium I think somebody has bought me a room. After politely asking to use the toilet (which is some kind of contraption unlike any other urinal I’ve ever encountered) I’m back outside, still delirious, desperate for a cigarette and finding myself crying again. Soon I see the door to the boarding house jammed open with a bottle and I push the door open. I need the toilet again, see a sign down a blackened stairwell for the gents. As I step down, the staircase starts to shake. Unperturbed, I continue down, feeling an intense presence of evil. Having had a gun pointed at my head I see a stocky man wearing a cheap white shirt covered in blood, with pock marks on his face, smile curiously at me as he leaves the gents. It’s the demon of the house no doubt. Staying calm, I push open the gents, and see the walls and floor covered in ghostly blood. I realise I am here for a reason, so I slowly walk all the way to the attic, and see an angry ghost, its face half covered in blue bandages staring at me.
“I acknowledge you,” I say instinctively, “But now it’s time to go.”
Outside I find a cafe to charge my phone and instantly my Mum calls. When she tells me Dad isn’t dead, that I was psychotic when I wrote that article, I don’t believe her until Dad picks up the receiver. Sobbing with relief, he tells me to call the police for help to get home. I do, and when I tell the operator I’m the film and literary critic for Country Squire, she pauses and says “Oh. Oh in that case help is on the way.”
I can’t legally explain how I got home, only that my weed I’d bought the day I absconded magically appears back in my pocket as I disembark the bus near the hospital. Feeling like it’s the right thing to do, I roll a joint and giddily return to the ward.
I could have sworn it was 6PM when I got back, but in the morning, I’m told it was closer to midnight. I am a little embarrassed about that article but overjoyed my Dad is still alive. As expected, my leave is cut for a week.
I am OK now. Just that sometimes I fall. Writing is my oxygen, you see. Thank you for reading.
Follow Andrew Moody on Twitter @VoguishFiction