Apr/May 2012  •   Fiction

Towards the Dark

by Alex Keegan

I'm not sure when, but at some moment in this age of absurdity—yesterday, about 11 PM—a part of me left. The other parts of me had started out earlier with a cheap red wine and gone on to cheap whisky. My phone was off or I was out of range, and I was walking too far in the dark, down by a polluted, rotten-planked landfill known for some twisted reason as "The Trout Lake."

I closed the bank account a week ago, cut up the credit cards, emptied the savings account of precisely £997:56p, my worldly goods, spent £25 on a hardback copy of a book called "The Origins of Morality," and started reading it in a stale Starbucks.

Last night I was in between that shitty lake and Heaven's Door (knock, knock). It was pitch-black save for some vague silvery light above the trees, and all I could think of was that scene at the start of Great Expectations. I was Pip, but older than Magwitch.

It was wet—real foot-sapping, soggy wet—slippery, an accident waiting to happen—mine—and a short dive into that rancid water. Of course, I failed to fail, and at some point I went back to the house.

They had been phoning, the kids had, but as I said, phone off, out of range... Two kids, and two other kids once upon a time, arguably a grandson, too, somewhere a little way south of here, but there's been no card from a Southampton daughter, so that bit is under advisement.

Where I am, where this is, is a very strange place. The frost is gone, the birds are back, the pressure—one pressure—has lifted. Being really broke is a relief of a kind, but there's a deep weight in the gut, a whispered stigma, something lacking on the manliness front. Sex is a distant memory.

I Keep Calm and Carry On. Logic tells me they can do very little to me. In a year they will give me a pension. I will learn to wear lots of clothes and to eat careful food. There is a possibility—it might be—I will be visited, those awkward visits with one shoulder on the doorjamb, one eye on the clock. Perhaps a son or daughter will take me out for lunch. One of them might talk about my grandson. They will imagine we are out together, but I will be a long way away, thinking how different it has all become. I will know how the world looks from out here, but I will keep it to myself. They wouldn't be interested.