The screen is old, lined and black-and-white one minute, new, huge and expensive colour the next. Don't bother looking too closely - you're not mistaken; it does keep changing. Focus on the set of dials on the
Click click-click click
Flickery, jerky, see London people walking through a small passageway, half-lit in neon. A girl arrives, dressed in a long coat and black boots of some kind, taking up a space on the stained pavement, resting her back against a ledge of scraping concrete. As people pass her, jostle her, the shadows gather around her, then sweep across the ground, bending themselves into mundane shapes: a table, chairs, glasses, and finally boys and girls, or shades of them. The small crowds of late-night tourists pass through them unnoticed and unnoticing.
The girl doesn't move, but somehow she is sat at the shadow table - and now the screen is acid-clear colour - opposite a shadow boy, between another one and a little shadow girl. Although the sound quality is perfect, all you hear is street noise; their words appear in odd speech bubbles above their heads.
"I'm sorry," the girl says to the shadow girl at her side, and the shadow girl seems to smile and reaches up with shadow hands and shadow lips and kisses her. "Hey," says the shadow boy on the other side of her, and you realise he has several shadow arms, like a spider, one around her waist and one across her back to touch the shadow girl, and one holding a shadow glass and one holding a mirror while another flicks open a powder compact, and perhaps more that you can't see, "Did I say you could do that?"
"I'm sorry," they both say at once, and break into shadow laughter, pieces of which float up out of the scene to unnerve nearby pigeons. The shadow boy kisses both of them, several arms binding them to him as the shadows dissolve and once again the girl is leaning against the wall and you know she never moved. She sighs and runs cold fingers through her hair, shaking shadow fragments out of it. She knows better than to take her dreams with her on a night like this.
Click-click click. Click
You don't exactly see the huge, ungainly figure as she moves across the dancefloor; she's too well-practised for that. Dancers there might feel it, her passage might be responsible for the occasional turned head or uncomfortable shift to the side, but then again, it might not. Walking stick supporting her on her clubfoot she aims, in her aimless sort of way, for the far side where the music is coming from. She isn't needed yet, but she will be. She eases herself down onto the stairs, rolls of fat spreading in an obscene tutu around her.
She seems to drain the colour from the world as she touches it, so all the highlighter-neon clothes don't look so good any more and the lights are somehow dim in this corner as she senses her cue. The girl (the one you saw earlier) feels it even before the song starts, holding out her arms to touch the grey skin one minute, the next minute surrounded and replaced by it. If you look at it one way, you can see the enormous clubfooted woman shaking herself in a horrible parody of dancing, her stick beating time on the floor. If you look at it the other way, just the girl, determinedly turning her head away towards the unhelpful strobe lights.
"Take my tears, and that's not nearly all..."
Click click click-click-click
Technicolour madness. Over the riot of noise, the girl crying and screaming just loud enough to be heard, with no idea of what she is saying or hearing. All you can hear is the background sound; it's no more or less confusing from your side of the screen. The other girl, painted up and colourful, is shouting and gesturing, and the girl you're starting to think of as "your girl" is shouting back, and then it's over. Nobody really knows what it's about, but as the dials start to move again you think you see comedy birds flying in a circle around your girl's head. Or perhaps they were fish.
Click. Click. Click.
Flickery again, the girl, her face made up to look like Theda Bara now (just for effect), staring up at the boy, who - now you come to think of it - is made up to look roughly like Theda Bara himself. You get the feeling he can't see the figure standing with its hand on the girl's shoulder, now raising its perfect face to look straight at the camera. Black suit trousers, a corset and a tuxedo jacket, heavy kohl and shiny spiked hair. It could be anything, in more ways than the obvious.
Those strange speech bubbles again, telling you that the thing in the corset is whispering to the girl and the girl is thinking back at it with all her strength.
"Look at him. All you have to do is look at him. You know that," says the thing in the corset, and for a moment, as the girl does just that and the boy seems to blur out of focus, you think it's going to win. And then the girl smiles at him and says something that makes him smile back, while out of the corner of her mind she beats back the thing in the corset with words from a David Bowie film.
As the dials turn again, you realise you were holding your breath.
Click-click. Click. Click.
They're leaning against the wall, talking, when something strange happens. Since you're watching the speech appear as text, you see it much more clearly than they can, if they can see it at all. You've come across the concept of people finishing one another's sentences before, but never this.
Everything he says, she says at the same time. Every reply she gives, he says over the top of her. Not finishing each other's sentences but starting them.
Whether they see it or not, something changes on her face after a while, and you think perhaps she has realised that something unusual, at least, is happening. Then the words spring out of her mind - not said aloud, but he probably hears them in any case :
"Whatever this is, it means I can't walk away. There's nowhere to go but further into him."
The screen goes blank.
You've read your Sandman; you were expecting two more scenes?
Perhaps the girl had no strength remaining for death and destruction that night. Or perhaps she wants it kept private.
Sorry. But it is the weekend, the one time when I feel marginally less guilty for posting things like this because I know most people are off doing stuff and won't bother trying to read through it. ~s~