Monday, 18 August 2014

Moment of Curfew

One of my fractions: new fragmented fiction.

At eleven the night city would tense and hush, would flinch silently for a moment. Then the low groan of the curfew siren looped wide, lassoing the skyline. The siren could be heard, like a drunk’s moaning complaint, from end to far end of the city. The power flagged briefly and the high line train screeched and slowed, pinching tight on its electric rail, then picked up again, nosing between skyscrapers. The buildings’ mirrored facets reflected the siren sound, breaking and scattering hard pieces of it, chopped edits. All the TV, video game, phone, cinema and ad screens cut out and the word CURFEW emerged in stocky black from the jittering peppercorn pixels. There was a stiffly braced clang, an industrial shudder. Then corrugated metal shutters descended over each house window and shopfront and ground to the bottom, where they locked with a blunt tchickk. Office buildings were armoured in rusty scales, the lower metres wearing bright graffiti hems, a technicolour lacework of names and expletives.

At the same time, the globe lights in the good neighbourhoods and the stuttering bulbs in the bad, the strings of red chilli-shaped fairy lights in the markets and the fluorescent strips in the nail bars, betting shops and chicken shops snapped on. The city didn’t empty out so much as atomise, split into concentrated pieces: the curfewed streets, haunted by watchmen, crossed warily by odd parties of permit holders; the taxis, trains and buses, the light in them the colour of weak whisky, each commuter gripping their bag tightly; the metal-sealed buildings and the hot, noisy privacy within.