I am thirteen and standing on a narrow old bridge as flames flicker from burning braziers. I watch glittering flakes of ash, pages of burning books, tumbling slowly out of a darkening sky. A gentle breeze shifts them hither and thither. Their beauty is both fragile, ephemeral and somehow threatening.
I see a dead man floating in the water between two long derelict docks. The dock walls are huge, high, black stone blocks, polished by the passing of a thousand, long gone, straining tugboats. The smoke belching from their funnels is now only known in anecdote. Their hooters are forever silent.
Light from braziers shimmers on the black slick, creating iridescent, ever eliding rainbows of green, blue, yellow, gold and vermillion.
The far shore of the estuary is in darkness and seems a lifetime away from where I stand watching the wasaman in his pinstriped suit. He floats, face down, plumped up like a great wet bolster pillow. The bald crown of his head is perfectly still; the long hair at the nape of his neck sways like pondweed over a softened, once starched, collar.
The wasaman floats amidst bottles of glass for beer or pop or milk, a tennis racket, drinking straws, a woman’s blue court shoe, fag packets and butt ends. A sudden eddy of water creates a slow motion ripple in the stew of flotsam that shuffles and nudges at the man who rocks as if sleeping in a cradle.
The water judders. A pipe half way up the black stone right hand wall gushes fetid water that ricochets, drum-rolling, onto the water beneath. The flow from the pipe lessens and huge black lumps of sediment drop, catching on the weeds that still, somehow, live and grow out of the wall. The wasaman shunts as a sudden gurgling swirl of current drives a hessian sack towards him; it clings to his neck like a much loved muffler warming him against the freezing cold of the water.
A plank rockets from beneath the surface and hits the wasaman on the temple. He shifts until, as he floats face up, I see he has no eyes; only his empty sockets stare. The wasaman slowly rolls over, sinks as the water gathers him in.
I turn away. The braziers no longer burn and there is only darkness.
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© Phil Cosker 2020
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.