Slipped, Fell

   This building for years leant sideways and was more shifting scaffolding than dwelling. The walls moved under a burden of snow. Some other buildings, such as mine, had glass and were barred about the windows. The shiny chrome cages were bolted to the walls around the glass and had been installed some time before we arrived, before anyone knew no one else was coming. In a fit of marketing optimism, the complex had been called Heaven. It was and remains the loneliest place I have ever known. Back then I hadn’t been to other places. I didn’t know everywhere was like this.
    Beyond the buildings were flat fields. I went there often because it is open. This was that good yellow earth I mentioned and beyond was the mighty Worthless River. I could have known its real name but didn’t. The smell used to be strongest on still days. That one winter day I went in, the air was too cold to carry any strong smell. And the weeds were gone. Instead there was this sea of mud. Walking was like sinking or sliding. I’d just wanted to see the far side, all the construction over there, just as tall and empty as here, but more and wider. But the mist had arrived before I did. I’d hoped it would clear. There was nothing to see and I lost my footing.
   I’d arrived at where there was more water than mud. I had a stone I had been carrying. This I’d hurled. There is something wrong with the inside part of my shoulder, and the throw hurt. I could not throw well nor often, but I was in training.
   My boots were old long before I’d stomped through this mud, but the way they didn’t support me that day made me angry. The mud was slick and loose and I knew it was not natural. This mud, this whole country, had been disturbed too many times, moved too often from here to there, cut up, twisted, turned over and never left alone. By then we had only this sliced mush and the dust. No fixed and firm ground. No foundation. No good earth. All the things around here that had names were like that too. They were shells. Featureless….
   But like I say, I lost my footing, and I went in. It wasn’t my fault.

Perchance to Dream

   How about you?
   Even walking back along this shitty track and nursing a wounded head, I turn away from that memory. Wince and wonder what fucking shame I’ve set up for myself there. I know I don’t do any of this well but why do moments like these stick me the way they do? That fucking idiot was just on his way home, and really that situation could just have been a conversation, some banter, a pleasantly warm howdy-do on an unpleasantly cold day.
   Well fuck them anyway. And how about you.
   I get to the bend where the buildings start and would have walked past these two other idiots as well.
  “Fucking hell,” I say.
   The one squatting by the water’s edge dragging on the girl’s coat keeps dragging. The other one standing beside the first clutches at himself like pulling his own coat closed (though he’s perfectly well buttoned up) and takes a step backward. Squatter looks around at that. He shifts aside too then, taking a squatted steps sideways, and there she is, half-beached and face up, but surely not breathing if she’s that white and misshapen about the face.
   We stand there a long second. They both look at me more than her.
  “You gonna get her out?” Skinny man has followed me.
  “You two,” I say. I point at them both because I’m remembering. “And you,” I say over my shoulder because that arsehole is an arsehole. I take a step sideways too, away from her, out of the triangle. We make a square now: me, her, them, and him. I wait for them to remember that I’m remembering, or to think that I’ve thought and to think that I know. But they don’t. They stay silent.
  “You know her?” I ask the two who were there first. One shrugs, the other shakes his head.
   Can’t do any examination until these three fuck off. Pink neon coat, legs submerged, that’s all I know. Coloured hair maybe. Can’t tell in the mud and the water.
   I curse. Draw my baton. Skinny motherfucker called to this girl when she ran past. These two were following her. I have water in my shoes. “Get the fuck down here,” I say, to at least see if that will work.
   I am remembering this wrong.