Soma Jones strode purposefully across the leaf-littered late September of his patched and pasted always. It was another early afternoon and a cooling breeze rattled the branches, filtering a pomegranate dying sun on his cloth capped head. He sighed with the solitary contentment of one released from the ties of temporality. Perhaps, he mused, he had always been alone: Breathing the world into colour. Perhaps that bloke he’d worked with at the depot, Rory Valentine, had been right.
“This is a half-world, imperfectly constructed,” he had insisted, “the story’s already over and done with: The battles of angels and devils, the greater darkness and the lesser light. The day of judgement came and went, Soma Jones, and those assembled there were judged. But things go on. It all made, in the final analysis, precious little difference. This is a world for crippled and half-witted souls, impoverished spirits and those who died in childbirth.”
Turning off the wide leafy road where second hand motors rattled into the orangey haze Valentine took Soma Jones by the arm and led him carefully down the steep slope behind the the Victorian clocktower. Here the pulpy discarded pods from the Pergolo vine gathered beside the remains of a stone wall.
“Built by Roman hands and rebuilt by serfs under the Norman oppressor,” Valentine commented, “when this island was but the westermost outpost of a spreading empire, carrying parasitic, symbiotic bacteria that would one day flower into the cruciform axle tree. Do you believe that he walked upon these pleasant pastures? We travel across a holy land, Soma Jones, the bones that were crushed and the spirits trampled to make this fair acre are nothing more nor less than the compact earth upon which we make our voyage.”
Soma Jones looked into the wide benevolent face of Rory Valentine, uncomprehending and troubled. “I seem,” he muttered, “to have broken my glasses. You don’t happen to remember�”
Swept on by the big man’s rolling stride they came out onto the flooded course that had once been the Holloway road, where new cobbled quays had been constructed from the Archway bridge in the north to the bustling concourse of the Highbury corner the filthy water lapped at the stone. They sat upon a memorial bench near the railway bridge and watched the blurred transits of a hundred births and deaths racing self-importantly under the yellow golden lion sun.
“We pass beyond the circuit of the bear,” Valentine described an arc across the sky and it was dark, “a few paltry furnaces glow here and there in the limpid darkness. Soon they will expire into the night and we shall be left alone with the cosmic dark,” he drew his hand across Soma Jones eyes and removed the glasses, “or perhaps the endless white void of the luminescent wasteland.”
Soma Jones stumbled across the dried out rubble of the desert that he had once called home. Stale dust blew into his masked face and his worn out shoes scuffed with a hundred light years of journeying tripped on broken concrete, bricks half-chewed by the passage of millenia and the layered detrius of wires, valves, resistors, capacitors and the broken shells of video cassettes and the half-shattered rainbow disks that once spewed forth bright visions. His skin turned to parchment where aged glyphs spelled out strange and obscure old conflicts: Gunshots fired from an ambush near the motorway bridge crossing the Medway, The accelerated shrieks of supercharged felines in subterranean arenas, the snap, crackle and pop of a dying FM reciever.
Leaping onto the open back of a departing No73 Routemaster Soma Jones caught his breath. That, he concluded, hadn’t been worth the risk. There were always plenty of buses at Stamford Hill Broadway. If he was ten minutes late for the appointment it wouldn’t be the end of the world, would it? Gripping the rail securely as he climbed the winding staircase of the accelerating omnibus Soma Jones climbed onto the empty upper deck. Empty, but for the hefty, jovial bus conductor: Rory Valentine touched the brim of his hat and rolled out a long band of tickets.
“We carry ourselves from one battlefield to the next,” he commented, “rarely aware of an enemy but nonetheless outnumbered by the absent foe. We are half-made, less-than-nothings orbiting a dull thirty watt bulb, transfixed by it’s fiery magnificence and afraid to spend our meagre hour in the unknown musty blackness of the attic room. And every moment.”