THE NEXT DAY STORY

By Bistra Nikolova

 

Somewhere in the narrow, dark streets behind Leicester Square, the early hours were exactly the time when a different kind of people would walk as shadows trying badly to forget about the light part of the day. Or maybe even about the dark one too. Many of those night creatures had been living for that very moment, greedily snatching everything they could reach to help fool themselves for a while. To forget about the time they could never manage to beat. This was the only thing they had some power over, and not quite so. As you see, they could decide where to go, but for obscure reasons the place could be closed, or the way they reach it could be obstructed by someone else they had never met or known. Once in the place, they did not possess the ability to choose the audience there, neither to decide what menu to be offered as that was a privilege saved only for the owner. So the choices were quite limited, but yet the ability of the human brain to trick us and even flatter us in a way was rather imaginative. With a little outside help, the chemical laboratory in our bodies could, in fact, produce an astonishing result.

 

Brad looked at the empty street. The crowd had gone and the darkness brought him back the sense of a pleasant and relaxing stillness. At last, time for him to finish his inner conversation which he’d begun earlier. There was one disturbing thought circulating in his head. Did he lock the front door or did he just pull it shut? His brain violated the memory puzzle. He recalled going out, pulling the door, then the next thing he could remember was climbing down the stairs. Anyway, the cat would not be able to escape the flat. His cat was a very clever animal, able to open the fridge, the door to his bedroom, but the exterior door was heavy and the delicate creature would not manage to do it. And even if he could, where would he go? On the staircase. Mrs Flington would protest, of course, against animals in the building, especially if the cat decided to do its business on her mat. Well, he would manage to calm Mrs Flington, who liked to make a fuss about everything, as she was an elderly woman living on her own and believing everyone had to respect her age. Not that she liked to be reminded of the years behind her back; she would rather slap you on the cheek and slam the door under your nose. She tried so hard, as any self-respecting woman does, to hide her real age. In fact, Mrs Flington dyed her hair some fancy hue, some sort of cherry red and purple which made a disastrous combination, but was very suitable for her character. He smiled. She could bring a little tension in his life but he was used to that. After all, his job was nothing else but nerve-wracking.

A young couple came out of the nearby restaurant and, swinging from one side to the other, slowly advanced down the street. He’d seen many drunks. Most of them rather young. An established trend with no trade mark behind it. The alcohol was stalking every insecure soul only to make them a part of its possession. The couple reminded him of a pendulum rather broken but still moving. What was their aim in life? He moved from foot to foot. Alone again.

 

A cat crossed the street to him inaudibly as its paws were so soft, but he saw two yellow diamonds shining in the dark. She stared at him for a moment. Estimated the situation and seeing no threat slowly moved away. What was his cat doing right now? He remembered the time he found the small kitten in front of his door. He had just moved in the flat. A year ago. A small soft ball was lying on the mat in front of the door. He had never had an animal before. Never thought to have one. But it happened. It was not planned, not even considered. It was an invisible hand that put the cat on his mat, a hand that decided his destiny. So he had to take the chance and live his life with no regrets. No regrets. Only if he could. He would rather be an actor. Why did he drop the class? He should have proven himself, worked hard, and not paid attention to that miserable Mr. Port, his acting teacher. His body shivered at the recollection of their last meeting six months ago. Mr. Port had thought, and made it very clear, that the little boy had no talent at all. Yeh? Well, he did. He definitely did, and tomorrow he would prove it. Tomorrow he had an audition for a small part in a film, a big American production.

 

New steps echoed in the dark, steps of someone who was in a hurry. He tried to see who was coming but there were buildings set as a decor hiding the actor. The steps were coming closer and closer, cutting the distance with a pace of a predator determined to catch its prey. His whole body stiffened in an attempt to sense a clue, anything that might tell what was coming. The primary instinct of every living being. The steps sounded very close but there was still no sign of a person.

And then a stranger, messy hair and baggy clothes like he had no time to dress properly, appeared out of the corner. He looked like a sleepwalker. There was an awkward pause when they were staring at each other. A strand of hair fell over Brad’s eyes and he moved it away. The stranger moved too; his hand shifted in his pocket and pulled something out of there. Brad couldn’t see what exactly that was. The stranger hit his own forehead and released a stone. His hand was moving frantically up and down.

‘Are you okay?’ Brad asked.

‘Shut up!’ the man scolded him and began talking inarticulately to himself.

‘Maybe I can help.’ Brad moved towards the other guy, who reacted quickly. His hand straightened, a bang noise, and a flash. Brad swayed. His chest hurt as if pressed by a train. His hand touched his ribs. His shirt was wet.

“Fu . . .” Brad gave rales. His lips froze as he remembered his mum would not approve of it. She always wanted him to be a good boy, polite and very . . . She told him. So his lips whispered “freesia”, his mum’s favourite flower. There was another bang. He fell down. But strangely none of his extremities could move. Like someone had pulled the switch off, he felt faint. One thought disturbed his reflection. His cat was alone. Maybe hungry.

 

A few steps further, in the night club, people were revealing their secret identities. Like a magic hat, the place easily could turn singles into couples, or implant a third person where all human understanding could not accept. The trick dated back in time. The premises were changing every boring man or woman from their daylight substitute to their glamorous being. For this was a palace of joy and illusions. Some of the guests were laughing at a joke, or maybe simply at themselves. Others were dancing. The music tried its best to challenge the strength of the speakers but they heroically withstood it, letting the sound out and straight to human ears’ membranes. The problem was not theirs. In such a state, no one noticed the newcomer and the cold air he brought with him.

 

The night flesh-eaters came to feast with their flash cameras, microphones, and recording devices.

The morning newspapers had the type of headlines journalists call ‘catchy’, used to sell their issues as they, like everyone else, had to pay their bills and eat, pay for childcare, book a nice holiday somewhere. “A sleepwalker firing in a night club. All 65 dead.” People were shocked; they tweeted the news, posted on Facebook. They shared posts at breakfast, at lunch, and finally at dinner time. It was a tragedy that occurred in someone else’s life. A tragedy soon to be replaced by the next day story.

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