From the City Hall Necronomicon

“The decadent degeneracy of our government will render us low.  We must cast them off and search for an older order. Only from their power as conduits of myriad migrations of universal continuum, may we conceive of reflections and reverberations that bring us fragmentary visions; portents of the threads of our fate.”

‘He’s finally lost it!’

I tore the buds from my ears and fumbled the headphones back into my pocket, embarrassed that I had spoken aloud.

The train had slowed to a crawl, then a halt, on the bridge just outside Victoria. The commuter with the sad sallow eyes and yellowing skin glanced at me, then continued to study his newspaper, pausing only to place, with unnecessary force, an overly large orange upon the table between us.

The surging murky waters of the ebbing Thames reflected, without enthusiasm, the lowering clouds, corpulent with their withheld precipitation.

My gaze strayed again from the rambling, incoherent leaflet before me to fall upon that grey effluence, with its tethered and abandoned barges rocking lethargically against the current.

I started with a shock and confusion. Today one of these rusting hulks was occupied.

There standing on the bough was a figure of most singular appearance. I stared at him and he stared back, holding my gaze with his sunken blue eyes, set deep in a  rustic rodent countenance.

I glanced across to my fellow traveller but he was engrossed in his reading and saw nothing of my floating vision. I rubbed my eyes in an involuntary motion and looked again, the better to assure my conscious mind of the truth of my ocular sense.

 

I repeated the movement a third time. The hollowed aspect of the boatman had vanished.

This was a puzzle. The vessel was moored midstream and no other conveyance, large or small had drifted anywhere within its vicinity.

I looked to the oily surface of the river for signs of a struggle against the sweeping current, but there was none.

It was then that a fearful unease befell me.

 

As the train waited motionless, it seemed that the tangled threads of my conscious sensibilities had been snared by a singular image.

Had I seen this spectral boatman before?

The carriage lurched and the train began its locomotion once more.

*  *  *

I made my faltering exit through the station into the arms of the metropolis. The crowded street was unseasonably warm as I threaded my way under the shadows of monstrous glass edifices wherein lurked nameless terrors of rapacious commerce.

I chanced to glance to the east to confirm the route of my perambulation. There again stood my fearful vision. No longer a degenerate seafarer, he stood in a smart woollen overcoat and neck tie. The same sunken eyes held my gaze.

At this close quarter I perceived that, although deeply pigmented, his skin held a sickly pallor and the sheen of foul perspiration.

He took a step towards me and I turned with a wrench of horror, quickening my pace, seeking the solace and security of my place of employment.

 

I made my way along several hundred yards of pavement among the bustling multitude. As I waited for a break in traffic to reach my sanctuary, I sought the companionable assurance of a familiar street vendor well known to me: a cheery gentleman in his customary red tabard and rakish Fedora.

Cheery no longer was this fellow. I saw immediately and closer still my tormentor. Sunken eyes and pallid flesh and now he reached towards me with filthy hands and torn bloodied fingernails.

Such was my recoil that I avoided his grasp and he brushed against my arm with the merest of touch.

With no further regard to my surroundings I ran, heedless of the blare of horns or screech of brakes. I fell into the revolving door, which resisted my haste, but relented, gradually to allow me ingress.

I eschewed the elevator in favour of the stairs such was my haste to be distanced from the street and all that lurked therein. As I climbed I began to feel discomfort beneath the skin of my right arm just at the point of contact from my spectral pursuer.

I removed my coat and rolled up my shirt sleeve. There was no mark apparent. I quickened my pace and decided to forgo the comfort of my office in favour of soap and water. By now the curious, urgent sensation had spread as far as my shoulder and collarbone. Cold panic now gripped me.

The facility was mercifully unoccupied and the door lock was stout.

With utmost haste I tore away my upper garments and drew the hottest water into the basin.

The sensation deepened, becoming an unutterable chill, which gripped me wholly as I scrubbed at my skin. There was no relief and I abandoned the basin beginning instead to rub, then scratch, all to no avail.

Fear consumed me. Terror fuelled my endeavours.

As I toiled I caught sight of my reflection. Only then did I scream in an appalling recognition at the image I perceived:

Sunken Blue Eyes,

Pallid Moist Flesh,

Torn, Bloody Fingernails.

I knew then with a certainty of the void before me, that I was unfit to cast my vote.

More about the author

About the author

Russell McAlpine abandoned his polymath ambitions to concentrate on writing and living a quiet life on the South Coast.

The Angel’s Head is his second novel.

He is also working on the screen play of a low budget zombie movie for children and writes poetry that will go to grave with him.

He spends the rest of his spare time watching the horizon.

Follow Russell on Twitter.

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