Law fumbled with his keys, as he locked the door to his flat. Down the corridor, the building’s cleaner, Ember, paused from her work in his presence, briefly looking up from the floor that would never look clean. Every morning the low buzzing and humming of her Henry would fill the corridors, as the rest of the building’s residents began to stir from their sleep. Her movements and rattling, floor by floor, had become a constant in the background noise. She was a kind of security: she existed within the fabric of the walls, peeling corridors and stained carpets. She would still be here long after she was meant to be gone.
….And so would the big black bins downstairs, with their mountain of junk growing outside, rather than inside, of them. Black bags, on the mountain’s side, slouched against the ground, gutted open, oozing intestinal household waste and drugs. Sometimes Ember would sift through the junkyard, before leaving it in a state more or less the same as when she had first got there.
….‘Good mornin’, Mr. Law,’ she said, after a few seconds. She had that edge in her voice that was present in all the teenagers living on the council estate across the road. Law was thankful he could speak like a decent Londoner. His cheeks flushed at having standing too long outside his door and having an observer watch his battle with the lock.
….Law went to Costa, and got himself a cup of filter coffee and buttery crumpets. He sat down with his journal, by the shop window, and flicked through the pages. He reminisced on the days he spent wandering the city and its streets.
….Once he took a walk through Hyde Park. The grass was tall in some places, so he stepped carefully, to avoid finding himself stuck knee deep in it. Sometimes he stood still and watched as the wind blew across it, creating ripples and waves, like a breathing ocean, or a Mexican wave. The soft rippling effect looked like it was emanating from a source – a point where a stone entered the water in a pond.
….This choreography repeated itself over and over again. These actions in nature were copies of one another: the grass behaved like water in the wind, and not like grass at all.
….Everyone seemed to be around that day. Like a river, they cascaded past him on the footpath. They moved beyond him, beyond his vision… beyond his page.
….Law devoured his crumpets, and continued reading through several pages of his journal.
….At Marylebone Station, schools of people emerged from London’s tunnel network, and deposited themselves at the top of the escalator in regular intervals. It was another repetitious occurrence in the city. A cycle, a pattern, just like the ripples in the grass. London lived and breathed the same way everyday, in a constant loop: churning people out of the ground and transporting them on boxes with wheels.
….Law drank the rest of his coffee, and left Costa. He decided to take the Tube around the city.
….On the Tube, he stood his back up against the glass, opposite the rows of seats, and watched people shuffling around in the door windows. Some of their heads elongated and stretched out, as the window curved inward around the top. A couple sat silently for a while. They seemed bored in each other’s company.
….Every few minutes, the lady fixed her short hair in a little mirror, and checked her teeth. Her male counterpart spread his arms and legs out to his comfort, invading the space of other Londoners sitting near them.
….They dressed well. The lady dressed formally, wearing an expensive looking coat, giving off the impression she had just walked out of her office, in Canary Wharf. The man, on the other hand, dressed casual, opting for a coordinated theme: white t-shirt, black biker jacket, black trousers, and white Nikes. A beanie sat on his head, with a curl of brown hair styled up at the front.
….In the window, Law imitated the man, pushing his hair to the side with his fingers. But, his straight hair fell flat and he gave up.
….Law consulted a diagram of the London Underground, next to an advertisement about popular TV box sets, that the whole nation was buying. He used a pointed finger to trace out several train routes. Then, he hopped off of the Tube at the next station.
The shiny, tall buildings, in Canary Wharf, loomed over Law. Light tickled on the surface of these buildings, like a sunset on the ocean. The city was empty here, at this time, save for a few people. The lone clacking of someone’s heel on the pavement bounced in the air, on the dome entrance of the station, and on the glass that held J. P. Morgan together. There was something about an abandoned city that was appealing.
….Law stood there, letting the echoes – sounds, reflections, copies that radiated from their source – float around in his head. The clacking faded away. Then it all clicked. He took out his journal, and drew circles and spirals that collided into each other. In the centre of them, he wrote:
….We’re all echoes in this city. We pass and go through life, leaving a tiny trace of ourselves behind when we’re gone.
Law got back to his building in the early hours of the next day. In the lift, he found a black hat on the floor, and put it on his head. He adjusted the hat, as he approached his front door.
….Down the corridor, a door creaked open. Ember came out. She walked towards him, as he fumbled with his keys and lock.
….‘Goodnight,’ she whispered, as she went past. Law tasted the alcohol in her breath. The lift doors opened, and she seemed to disappear into the walls of the building.
….As he entered his flat, Law pictured Ember with her Henry, rattling and humming, floor by floor, as the rest of the residents began to wake up, just as he began to fall asleep.
Thank you for reaching the end of this story! I feel like I’ve achieved so much by writing it. It’s the first story of four that I wrote for an assignment – the whole collection is called City of Echoes. The next story will be up next week – stay tuned! x