Prologue from Dark Star

by Oliver Langmead

Time to waste, so I escape the city
At one of those seedy establishments
They call ‘Glow Shows’ because they fill the girls
So full of Pro’ it nearly burns their veins.

    Prometheus, resident wonder-drug;
Pro’, Promo’, ’Theus, liquid-fucking-light;
Prohibited by city law and shot
By yours truly, Virgil Yorke, hero cop.

    These moments, liquid light coursing through me,
Trickling across my veins in streams, feeling
Like fluttering fingers under my skin,
Are all that’s left holding me together.

    The girls move and I start to lose focus,
The needle forgotten in hand. I’m numb,
Forgetting my scar, forgetting it all,
Seeing blurs and shapes and losing myself.

    There’s a rhythm. It might be the music.
It might be the protesting of my heart
As it pushes light right into my head.
It could be anything for all I care.

    The girls are becoming hypnotic whirls,
The only thing here my eyes want to see.
Time stretches and folds and as I sink in
I realise it’s not them I’m seeing.

    I’m staring at the only bulb in here,
The single hanging light they can afford,
Swinging lazy like a slow pendulum
And leaving lines streaked across my vision.

    Here’s the high. I rise above the strip bar,
Above the building, above the city,
Past our hell, our nemesis, our dark sun,
Until I’m among the stars, surrounded.

    My body waits below, in the city,
Fingers twitching and pupils dilated,
The wrong side of dignified. Just for now,
I am free. Tomorrow can go to hell.

    Here, there’s no noose around my neck, no scar
Where it bit my flesh, where it nearly killed—
Where it should have killed me. I have no weight
Up here. I can’t drag myself down and choke.

Sleep. It feels so long since I last got sleep.
There are eighty-one steps. I count them all,
Treading careful in the dark over trash
And the maybe-dead: Vox’s lightless ghosts.

    There’s a railing made rough by years of rust.
It snags at my fingers and takes me home.
I never bother to lock the front door.
There’s nothing inside worth stealing. No light.

    Here’s my hole in the world. My patch of black.
The pit where I lay down my flesh and bones
And let them rest a while away from work.
There was a bulb once. It broke some time back.

    It’s quiet. There’s a watch in here somewhere
And I can hear it tick, soft as rainfall.
I leave my coat near the door in a heap,
Shuffle out of my boots and feel bare wood.

    If I don’t keep my eyes open in here,
I’ll sleep where I stand. This dark is okay,
Anyway. Full of the smell of whisky,
The smell of my papers, books and damp rot.

    I shave around the scar across my throat,
Shower cold to keep awake and listen
To the pipes complain, to my stomach turn.
Last cycle’s leftovers will have to do.

    By the bottle’s weight, I’d say it’s half gone,
And the other half follows quick enough,
Swallowed urgent, like medicine; a cure
For the thump of my brain against my skull.

    I collapse into a half-broken chair,
Reading by the tips of my fingers all
The news of half-broken Vox, dark city
Getting darker every minute passing.

    Somewhere between articles the whisky
Grabs me, forces my eyes shut, my head low,
Fingers paused on ‘gallant’ like it’s a word
That might find use outside a newspaper.

    Here’s oblivion, then. The dark inside
My head. I’ve half drowned myself in whisky,
But it’s still not enough. I dream again.
This cycle's big come-down. Lower than low.

   ‘Stand on the tips of your toes,’ he says soft,

Like he’s teaching me how to dance. The noose

Is a coarse loop dividing me from me.

I can’t see him, but I hear him. ‘Right up.’

Oliver Langmead was born in Edinburgh and now lives in Dundee. He has an LLB in Law, and an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study, with a distinction. He is also part of industrial electronica outfit, Surgyn, recently back from their US tour. In his own words, he is 'occasionally seen behind a midi keyboard or shouting into a microphone, but mostly behind a regular household keyboard, agonising over word order.'

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