You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, Part 2

Posted: 8 January 2013 in fiction, writing, You'll Never Believe A Man Can Fly
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To read part 1 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here
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Chapter One (continued…)

The final player in the events about to unfold was sitting at traffic lights in a car that like its owner had seen better days, and much younger ones at that. The man was 53, overweight and ready for the heart attack that his doctor continually warned him about but somehow never arrived. His foot tapped the clutch pedal in approximately the same rhythm as a song that was playing over the radio.

A courier employed by East End Deliveries, John Davidson had long ago given up wondering what it was that he delivered. All he cared about was picking it up, delivering it where it was supposed to go, and then getting paid for doing it.

He remembered once upon a time actually enjoying driving, but ten years of delivery work had convinced him that there was no job more guaranteed to destroy that enjoyment. For the past few years, his favourite account, or least horrendous anyway, was that of Dance-Oliver Medical Research. The receptionist at Dance-Oliver, a sweet girl, sympathising with him while he waited, had once told him he was ‘performing an essential contribution to medical research’. He liked to tell his friends that, and because they were his friends, they let him believe it.

The lights changed to green and he pushed the car forward, ignoring the slight judder as the car accelerated away. Over the years, he’d delivered false limbs, real limbs, small pieces of medical equipment and on at least two occasions to his certain knowledge, carefully packed and preserved brains. He always found it amusing that these brains were meant to be something special. Well, they weren’t able to do anything, were they, he reckoned, whereas he was still alive and his brain was still working. So shouldn’t they have been ferrying him around?

The precise error in logic of this argument didn’t occur to him, though that wasn’t unusual, since not much occurred to Davidson unless it directly impinged upon his personal vicissitudes.

He glanced at the parcel on the passenger seat. They’d not said what it was, but it was obvious to him that it was important, if only from the packaging and the labels carefully stencilled upon it. He didn’t recognise the symbols on its side, but even if he had, he wouldn’t have cared. He was admittedly mildly curious about the sticky label placed on top, but only mildly so. The label was white plastic, and had a strip of light blue on it, with the legend: “If this strip turns black, immediately return it to Rad Lab #7”. What was all that about?

A horn blasted close by and he jerked his head away from the package. He looked up and ahead and his mouth ran dry, a sharp bitter taste on his tongue. Just in time he saw that he had drifted onto the other side of the road and that a large lorry was bearing down on him, far too close. He barely registered the urgent horn blow by the other vehicle before he reacted, his hands already turning the wheel.

“Jesus!” he shouted and turned the steering wheel hard to the left. On the edges of his peripheral vision he saw the half angry, half shocked look of the other driver, high up in the lorry’s cab. His car started to lose traction and Davidson stamped on the accelerator, getting the car out of the path of the lorry and then he shifted and stamped equally hard on the brake pedal, hearing a protesting squeal. The lorry slid past the car, barely clipping the wing while Davidson was thrown hard against his seat belt and he felt a vast pressure on his chest. He also saw the package react to the sudden deceleration by flying off the seat and crashing hard against the hard moulded plastic of the passenger side shelf, before tumbling to the ground, coming to rest in the well in front of the passenger seat. There might have been a small tinkling of glass, but if there was, Davidson was unaware of it.

He picked up the package from the floor and dropped it back on the seat, anxiously catching his breath, before putting the car in gear again and heading off on his delivery. Any curiosity about the package had evaporated in the near-collision and it didn’t even occur to him that he’d placed it upside down, the blue strip, or rather the previously blue strip, down against the seat. Which was a pity, because the strip was no longer blue.

It was the darkest ebony possible. And John Davidson was already dead. He just didn’t know it yet.

– o –

A small distance away, Ian Davies was caught between the suspicion that he’d rather have stayed in bed and the certain knowledge that he wished his fellow passengers should have. He’d strolled to the local tube station only to discover that it was closed because of an ant on the line, or at least that’s what the tannoy message had sounded like. The queues at the bus stop had been horrendous; he hadn’t been able to get on the first three busses and although he’d managed to get onto the fourth, he’d been standing now for half an hour, while the bus had been similarly immobile for twenty minutes. Davies was at that stage where he was balancing up his rapidly growing belief that it would be quicker to walk and the equal certainty that were he to disembark, the traffic jam in which the bus was currently stuck would miraculously vanish.

It was the body odour of the woman standing next to him that finally decided Davies. He extricated himself from the strange position in which he’d found himself, his head bent over and stuck under her armpit, and moved slowly along the bus, until he smelled that blessed fresh air. The bus moved slightly and he took the opportunity to suddenly reach for the pole at the rear of the bus. He pulled himself through and then off of the bus, taking huge gasps of air. Miraculously, the expected clearing of traffic didn’t happen and it was with an almost jaunty stroll that Davies walked past the bus, turned a corner and continued on his way towards work, some twenty minutes away.

Behind him, of course, the traffic melted away and the bus stopped at a request stop, where fully half the passengers alighted, leaving the rest of the journey more than pleasant for those remaining on the bus. But Ian Davies didn’t know any of this, and there was no reason he should ever have found out. Several streets away, he walked another half a mile and then turned into the High Road.

In the middle distance, he could see the logos of various stores and businesses, including that of the National Provident Bank.

– o –

John Davidson was beginning to feel unwell. He wasn’t sure what the reason was, but the nausea that had come over him about ten minutes earlier had grown to the point where he was struggling not to throw up inside his car. It didn’t occur to him that the package on the seat next to him was responsible; he just assumed that it was something he’d eaten the previous night.

Worse than the feeling that there were a couple of hundred beetles in his stomach doing the Macarena, however, was the cloudiness that had stolen over his vision. It seemed to him what a slipping contact lens must be like, since one moment his vision was clear, the next it would cloud over and become distorted. And his head itched as badly as he could ever recall, worse even than when his niece had kindly gifted him with nits. Moreover, the pounding headache that had commenced five minutes earlier was about the only thing that countered the dizziness that had started at about the same time.

He kept rubbing his temples, but didn’t really worry until he went to scratch his head and found some hair attaching itself to his hand. That scared him, but it was only when after a particularly bad itch, he scratched his head and felt a clump of hair and skin come away that he freaked out.

When he saw that, he panicked and lifted both of his hands from the wheel, in almost complete contravention of section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. The car, naturally enough, continued on its way and it was only through a trick of chance that there was no one in its way before it crossed into the High Road at speed, heading towards three men, who were exiting an anonymous dark blue van.

They weren’t having a very good day either. And it was about to get worse.

– o –

It was Mount Everest who saw the car heading towards them. He barely had a chance to make a classic fight or flight decision, and then that moment was past as Charlie Jones panicked and lifted his own shotgun, not really aiming, but firing point blank at the car. The blast finally put Davidson out of any misery he was going through, although the slumping of his body on the wheel fractionally altered the direction of the car.

Withers spun around at the noise and saw the car change direction and plough into the van towards the rear. He thought he saw a package fly out of the window, but he wasn’t sure for a second. There was a moment of complete calm, and it seemed as if the world had stopped. That moment of perfect silence ended violently when the petrol tank of the van breached and a moment later, the petrol vapour ignited. The package fell at Withers’ feet and again he wasn’t sure as to what it was.

Then Withers wasn’t sure of anything at all as a massive explosion rocked the street. It blew the package up off the ground and vaporised it, sending the material through Withers’ remains, continuing as a cloud of densely coloured thick smoke heading away from the crash.

With each metre, more and more of the mist dissipated, but it was still enough to cover, soak and otherwise drench the poor bastard who happened to walk into the area of contamination just before it completely disappeared.

Ian Davies’s day had just gotten a whole lot worse.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 3 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

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