Tuesday, August 29, 2023

the last book I ever read (Cal: A Novel by Bernard MacLeverty, excerpt five)

from Cal: A Novel by Bernard MacLeverty:

An hour later he decided to go to bed, partly to enjoy the luxury of a mattress and pillows and partly because he had no cigarettes left. Not long after he fell asleep he had another terrible nightmare. They were becoming more frequent and more vivid. Now that he felt safe from the world outside he was being attacked from within his own head.

He dreamt that he was in a railway station in Rome and was waiting for someone to come off the train. All the people moving about on the platform were dressed as if they were in the school production of Julius Caesar. Only gradually did Cal notice that they had no eyes but instead domed seamless lids like Roman statues, yet they appeared to know where they were going. He looked across to the other side of the platform and saw Marcella dressed the same way. She had eyes that saw him, and she inclined her head to let him know that she recognized him. She was looking down into the tracks and Cal followed her gaze. There was a man in a blue boiler suit lying between the lines face downwards in the shape of a crucifix, his body pointing in the same direction as the track. His wrists lay limply over each shining rail. The train was approaching slowly, the driver hanging far out from the cab. Cal signalled frantically to Marcella but she didn’t seem interested in the plight of the man. She smiled. Cal had to turn away as the train inched forward. Although he did not look, he experienced himself the flange of the wheel and the hawser-straight track catching the gristle of the wrists between them. Blood fountained and gushed from the wounds and shot high into the ceiling of the station. The black steel girders, the curved Victorian glass roof dropped blood-drops like the start of a thunderstorm. They japed and streaked the white togas of the crowd with slashes of red. But the crowd did not seem to mind. Cal yelled at them, he screamed and screamed until he woke. He didn’t know where he was until the barking of one of the dogs reminded him. He was too scared to attempt to sleep again so he sat up and ached for a cigarette.

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