Fishbowl

In the weeks after the war in 2020 the city of Manchester in Northwest England became like scene out of Mad Max. Certain things remained open to some sort of business, like hot dog stands that now sold tins of Russian sausage and potato mix, and other places shut down almost immediately. There was still one cinema but it only had one screen left and this was in a bad state, pimps and murderous youths congregated here. No new films were coming in from Hollywood because Hollywood was a crater filled with deadly radiation. Food was much in demand and riots broke out. The government was crumbling and pubs were filled with the chants of revolution. Cheep vodka laced with who knows what flooded in somehow. Trains stood still in sidings and cars were abandoned. Dogs roamed the streets and murders went unsolved and uncounted. Food was still coming in on ships but everyone knew that things were getting worse. And the news that leaked in was reporting more warheads destroying cities in countries abroad. The nights were filled with strange sirens and smashing of glass and bones and screams and howls and violence. Old men shambled. A few people ran screaming through the streets attacking others until battered into dribbling submission by passers by. Their screams were disturbing and mad. They would attack reflections in shop windows and frequently ran head on into lorries that were joyriding around smashing into pedestrians. The crazy ones would be seen squatting eating raw human and dog organs and when approached would attack intending to brutally murder those who approached. People formed gangs who hunted and tortured crazy people who were easily spotted because of the piercing shrieks that they emitted whenever they sprinted down the road. They never walked, always sprinted at top speed and their shrieks were reflex like a pigeon bobbing it’s head. Buildings burned and ports were ransacked. It was not going to be long before everything collapsed or everyone was dead.

Billy Hill had worked in Tesco in Stockport, the twenty-four hour one near the town centre. He was sat in his terraced house bedsit thinking about his past, he was twenty-six years old. He remembered a club he used to go to called Blue Town. This particular club had played all sorts of music like heavy metal and dance music and anything really. It had three rooms, which had a bar in each, and it had four pool tables all in very poor shape. The cues had no tips and if you wanted chalk you had to bring your own. But they were only ten pence per game. The club did an all nighter on Friday nights. Serious violence often broke out in this club and Billy was smiling as he remembered smashing many a chair over person’s backs or ramming heads into and sometimes through doors and windows. He laughed as he remembered his friend being beaten to within an inch of his life by six bouncers for gouging out some rivals eyeballs and crushing them beneath his heavy boots. Corpses regularly left zipped up in body bags. People watched amused and laughing.

Billy got up from his filthy sofa and started punching the air as he remembered a particular incident when he had faced two scallies who had come into the club with their knives in their trousers. They had approached him for and asked for a cig but Billy spotted them reaching in their pants and quickly threw one across the table with a judo throw and snapped the other ones arm in an instant with a judo move. Then he cut out their toungs with help from a pal in a back room that no one hardly went in behind one of the bars. The bouncers had not noticed, as they would have surely taken the opportunity to hammer Billy into the floor. The scallies had been dumped on the pavement at chucking out time unconscious from a hidden beating from some others. “HA” thought Billy and sat down again pleased.

He was running out of food and went to see if his neighbour had any. His neighbour was a funny old man who had piles of newspapers piled up in his flat and things that Billy had no idea what they were lying around, weird shaped things that spun and clicked and were heavy. He was called Ray and had missing teeth and Billy liked him. Ray often popped round for a game of scrabble. Ray shouted crude obscenities at passers by out of his window for most of the day. Billy knocked on his door and Ray answered with a wretched smile motioning for Billy to enter, muttering. Billy sat down and looked out the window at burnt out cars and people hurrying by looking anxious.

“Have you got any spare food?” Billy asked

“Yep, you can have some fried eel if you want.”

“Ok then cheers,” and he settled down into the sofa dozing as the old man fried the eel in silence.

Later on Billy decided that he wanted to go out and find food and visit his old haunts like Blue Town and his schools and his Uncle Harry. He went there first and helped him dig up everything that remained in his allotment and they made a vegetable stew and ate it sitting in his garden wondering when the bombs would come again. He left with several carrots and turnips in a bag and was happy.

At his school he went to his burnt out form room and sat for an hour thinking nothing until some youths came and threatened him so he hurried away because they were many in number and had weapons. He walked across fields that were peaceful in the summer sun and he sang songs at the top of his voice as he walked along by the river.

Later on he walked into Manchester to go and see if Blue Town was still standing. It was. He hurried past the McDonalds that was full of undesirables, he crossed the road he had stood on on many freezing Saturday mornings looking for more strong alcohol. The same doorways and bollards were there and he smiled at them remembering friends and jokes.

There was a bouncer standing outside the club for some bizarre reason. It can’t still be open he thought. It wasn’t, and the door was smashed. The bouncer’s motorbike was on the pavement looking shiny and powerful.

“Let me in you fiend,” Billy said to the very large man blocking the doorway who had a long greying beard and a bottle of unlabelled liquor.

“The place is full of radiation my friend. But I won’t stop you,” and he took a swig as he stepped aside.

The door was utterly smashed, as was the paying booth that still had adverts for the Friday all nighter on its walls. He entered the darkness through inner doors and was instantly met with an appalling reek of vomit and other unknown stuff. He remembered when he had sat in fresh vomit in that very club and had not washed it off and had worn the trousers for several days afterwards. He coughed and entered the dim club. A couple of lights in the corridor were still on but ceiling panels were falling through dripping with water and sparks wre flying and ceiling panels were strewn on the floor that he had sat and laughed and vomited on years before. But what became apparent quickly was baffling and disorientating – the walls had a thick layer of grey vomit covering most of the surface seen in the dim and flashing illumination. He advanced and looked back and peered forward listening but the club was indeed deserted as he had felt upon entering. He took steps forward to take a close look at the vomit and stared at lines and angles in it that swayed and changed and tormented.

He spotted the three ancient arcade games in the next corridor; two of them flickered with life! He fished in his pocket for change and found some. He chose a rip off of Puzzle Bobble that he remembered and played for a few minutes until the machine sparked and smoked and went dead.

He went into the main room and it smelled of hope and let downs. The dream is true.

Advancing through the room he saw that the massive speakers weren’t there anymore. A pool cue was lodged in-between two tables and he remembered a dance a pal had done with near that very spot. There was little sound but a siren went off for half a minute as he stood still looking at the dancefloor. The siren seemed like a siren going off in his head not out on the road. Time threatened grimly and doom seemed near.

He turned around quickly and saw the Fishbowl. The Fishbowl was the smaller room at the back of the club that played older music from the eighties and that. He smiled and walked towards the wide glass window that looked into the room and gave it its name. The smell of vomit was strong. He walked up to the window and peered into the darkness beyond with his hands at the sides of his face.

At first he saw nothing. Then the thing was finally noticed. The thing was many things in one and was in the air at indeterminate distance. It was many things in one – it was a long extinct creature from the seas of Earth. It was a key from some forgotten key ring. It was a spider-ape with three legs and one eyeball. It was several cans of orangeade standing up end on end impossibly. It was colourless colour surrounded by loathsomely static lines and waves and chasms of unguessable proportions. It was a glimpse into some terrible place, a dimension, a vector, a quasar. It had no explanation, it had always been and always would be. It stared at him through a single, black, revolting eye.

And he broke away from it into silence and he screamed and ran from that place and sprinted down the road. His uncle found him three weeks later rotting under some bridge clutching a terrible item that no-body could identify, clothes caked in other peoples blood and gore, his face a vision of chaos.

THE END

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