“The Ambulance Chaser” by Mark A. King
The streets of London are paved in gold…or discarded kebab remnants, crushed super-strength cider cans and rat shit.
My London is both of these things. This other London is something else.
I walk along the Embankment. There are no cars. Bicycles rule this city. They are everywhere.
The bridges are full of pungent smoke, hawkers of desires of the skin and street-performers distracting the unwary while the destitute steal their foreign coinage.
My currency here is as worthless to them as a bicycle with one wheel and no seat. I rely on other methods to get what I want.
In the blackened haze, the towers claw; conical spires, minarets and vapour-hubs reach skyward I am here they yell, look at me.
I lurk, I creep, I watch. I wait.
Ttabharthóir an báis has sent me here, they say it is a god from pagan Ireland, they say it is the collector of death. I ask no questions, it’s easier that way. It has exotic taste, it likes the souls of the dying from this place.
On the scorched grass, an unexpected opportunity. I take the device and ready it.
“Help me squire,” the crumbling man croaks at me through opium-filled lungs, “don’t let the Ambulance Men take me.”
I normally follow the Ambulance Men on their trikes and carts. For food, information, or depravity, they will turn a blind eye while I go about my business. For they only take these people to The Abattoir, it is not personal to them; new ones are easy to find.
“Hush, my friend, here drink this…”
I pass him the liquid. He gurgles.
Wheeze, gurgle, wheeze, gurgle, gur, gu…
The device captures his thoughts, his life, and his lost potential.
“Sleep, my friend.” I say to the old man, and now I think about you.
You might think I’m far away. But I am near. I am waiting.
Sometimes you sleepwalk through life, not knowing how you arrived at a destination. Sometimes you do things that are out of character. This is when you are falling through the cracks and I can reach you here. See you soon, my friend.
This was my first week at The Angry Hourglass. I have Karl A. Russell to thank for leading me to this wonderful place. It is frequented by some of the wonderful talent at Flash! Friday. Here they are let loose with more words and more time.
A picture prompt (the broken bike), 360 words and 36 hour deadline. The awesome photographer/artist/writer/supporter of other writers, David Shakes, was the judge.
Unusually, I now found myself happy with several stories that I had written in a row. I know they are not perfect (is there any such thing, anyway?), but I was contented – which makes a big change.
I didn’t win anything. But the kind folk seemed to enjoy the story.
Judges comments below (he gave me another nod for ‘world building elsewhere). And, yep, it was my intention to make the reader feel uneasy – so job done!
I’ve enjoyed Mark A. King’s stuff recently and as far as I can tell he’s only been at it since June? Unbelievable!
This is a great piece of work containing a ‘few of my favourite things’ as Julie Andrews might sing:
Obscure gods with exotic tastes; a London of contrast and a London of nightmares; lost souls and those that will prey upon them without pity.
There’s a wider world at play here, a hinted at mythology and layers – ‘ambulances’ that will drop you at the ‘abattoir’.
The chilling coda left me feeling uneasy. Trying to run is useless. Maybe as useless ‘… as a bicycle with one wheel and no seat.’ Great stuff.