A Man Out of Time
So this is where he came to hide/When he ran from you (Elvis Costello)
There used to be Wild Light that poured through space. Nobody made it. No god ordained it. Everywhere in the Universe was lit by it. Not in my world. Ceiling bulbs eke out the last energy in the Universe. The heating system makes a constant rhythmic knocking.
I used to feel his approach, with light in his hands, plummeting through billions of years to fetch me. I fought doggedly, learning which thoughts brought him closer, learning to avoid them. But now he is in the antechamber of my brain, impatient to possess me. He is the Storm Trooper breaking into the home farm. And I am too old to resist him any longer. Nothing that comes easily is beloved.
If your body and your mind are changed, are you destroyed? If you cease to be, where do you go?
Light used to be cheap. All you had to do was stretch out your hand and you could warm yourself by the nearest star. Those days are long gone.
So why am I looking up at a million stars?
"I must have travelled back in time."
"You always say that when you're pissed."
I raised my head from the wet playing field, and peered at myself. Far above me, the stars wasted their light into darkness.
"Do you have any idea what it is like to be inside this body?"
There was a significant pause, and then somebody grabbed me under the armpits and pulled me to my feet.
"I'll pretend you didn't say that, shall I, Tyler?"
We walked over dirty grass, orange with dirty sodium light. I didn't know what era we were in, what planet. After some time we came to a dead woman lying among rubbish. Pale grey slabs of stone emerged from the muddy ground. There were uniformed policemen, and bright arc lights that overwhelmed the stars.
"I doubt she smashed her own face in," said my companion.
I am indifferent to human death. As a matter of fact.
"I have a theory" I said.
"This should be good."
"If I put right what once went wrong, I can find my way home."
He scratched his nose, with his lips pushed outward. I don't think it was the sort of theory he had been expecting.
"You don't want to go home, Tyler, you want to stick around for a while. You might learn something about decent policing."
It was all coming back to me now. The fake man I had been, the fake man I now was. The 'decent policing'.
"I come from a broken home" I said to him. Then I leant in very close and put my lips close to his ear. He didn't flinch. I whispered into him. "I broke it."
"Are you trying to be funny?"
"Over and over again. In various inventive ways."
I pushed past some uniforms which were milling about, and looked at the dead woman. Human females sell themselves. Over and over again, in various inventive ways.
"He was her first of the night."
Gene nodded glumly in the direction of the sprawled corpse. I knelt down in the filthy grass, among the condoms and dandelions, and tugged at her bloodstained coat. I was looking for money. Nothing in any of the pockets. In a secret compartment of her scuffed handbag I found a blue fiver. Fresher than anything else I had touched since I got here.
"Then he paid her with this." I was crouching in the grass at his feet. The note felt thick and crisp in my fingers. Harsh shadows from the vertical slabs of stone. For the first time I realised we were in a graveyard. I am indifferent to human death. "Friday night. New pay packet."
"Well done, Tyler. Now get up. She might have spent Friday night on her knees, but you don't have to. Though if City get to the cup final I might take you up on the offer."
I tried to make him go fuck himself. My coercive mental powers seemed to have abandoned me. It felt as if I was numb from the face upwards. Welcome to the Human Race. And all at once I could smell the corpse, like meat and cologne, and the human semen on her coat. Nothing that comes easily is beloved. I felt the oppression of the wasteful stars, and gravity squeezing me onto this filthy planet. I was on all fours, crawling away from the body. The only way I could put right what had gone wrong was to destroy this species, and all its works, as we had destroyed the Daleks. Turn them into a story to frighten children. Into a TV show. I opened my mouth and the waste products of my stomach gushed out of it. Newcastle Brown Ale. Even better coming up than it was going down.
They traced the fiver to the payroll of a haulage firm called Clarke's that operated out of Shipley. There were dozens of men to interview. But I saw him. His skin was pasty, plump and clammy. He seemed to cringe away from me. I didn't want to be near him.
"Nice beard. Spade-shaped goatee. Interesting choice."
He turned his head at my voice, as if he heard a bird calling, and I knew something was utterly wrong with him. He didn't seem to know where he was. He looked into my eyes, and out through the back of my head, at vacuum. The human brain is too feeble to see those things. I know, I looked into the void, once. I was lucky it didn't drive me insane.
Operation 'Put right what once went wrong', phase 2:
"See that one? Kick shit out of him until he confesses."
If this works, if I save twenty or so worthless human prostitutes from mutilation, if I 'catch' some inadequate killer before he acquires whatever jokey name the press like to confer, if I put right what the Yorkshire and Manchester constabularies so spectacularly got wrong...
Sorry I lost my train of thought for a minute there.
Perhaps I'll return to the future, and perhaps everything will be all right.