Confessions of a Black Dog

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Chapter 19

Sam’s life went on and on.

It had become a rhythm beating down on him, heartbeat after heartbeat, with little room for change. Everyday was a variation on a theme; waking up alone, drinking coffee, going for a walk, sitting in a park, writing, staring at his phone wondering if someone would contact him offering him employment or a drink, but they never did. He hadn’t even heard anything about his poems and his story. Those fucking publishers.

Seeing the people he shared a flat with go about their lives, some working, others living off money saved, all other lives contained some kind of unfathomable meaning. Going out with friends or visiting their current love objects. When he cooked, he would stare out of the thin kitchen, down the stairs and into the living room and watch these people, his flatmates, realising then that he felt no connection with those people, his flatmates. London creates a lack of warmth in people, each taking an Englishman’s house is his castle to its extreme, locking themselves away in their own prisons, their own heads, their own hells. The solidness of the surroundings divorced the fleeting movements of the people, a divorce of illusion with reality. The distance seemed unimaginable, a Joy Division song would invade his head, “touching from a distance, further all the time…”, he knew that this was why when people met someone they care about, they get as close to those people as fast as possible, rush at them, engulf one another.

To bridge the gap.

And why sex is so intractably entwined with love.

And he needed some sex, badly. If only to clear his tubes. His writing was his only saving grace.

He went out for a walk one Sunday morning and wished he hadn’t. He came back and wrote a poem. One line he wrote, “Couples feeling their incompleteness together”, was beginning to torture him. Whenever he saw lovebirds, he knew them to be goading him, their laughter always with him as their object of mirth. They were there to kill him slowly. Him and all the other potential suicides staring out over the Thames. He knew that if was to take his own life that jumping off a bridge would be the way to go. Throughout his life he had stood on edge of bridges, balancing on the railing, wondering at it all.

One morning his phone rang while he was sleeping.

He fumbled for the contraption and answered it.

Two minutes later he sat dazed on his bed. It was an interview, the first one in three weeks of wandering around London, handing his C.V. out to any company that would have it, three weeks of sore feet, selling himself and sweat. Looking around his dissolute room, trying to focus and shake the hangover away and his morning hacking cough, he decided a quick wank was needed to steady the nerves. Like a bull fighter. Of course it took him at least twenty minutes to climax after all the plot changes and face changes. He had cum thinking about Fumiko, an old Japanese girlfriend of his.

She had been a virgin when he met her, but not for long.

Jesus, another life ruined.

He then began to think about his appearance. What the fuck was he going to wear? He had nothing decent that wasn’t in a crumpled heap.

Sitting in the living room, drinking coffee, the mild acrid smell of his cum wafting up from his stained belly, he smoked his morning cigarette and planned how to travel and how long it would take him to get to the company where his interview was to take place. Bus or Tube? Fuck it, the Tube would be more expensive but faster. Faster was good, it meant he could relax a little bit longer, get his head together, take a shit and think of a plan of action.

Showering, shaving, shitting and scrambling some clothes together with various levels of cleanness, he wolfed down one more cup of bitter black coffee and he was out of the door. Turning onto South Lambeth Road, he passed Vauxhall Park where he saw a rat emerging from the undergrowth, its intelligent twitching holding Sam’s attention as it swiftly crossed the main road. Sam darted under the railway bridge and almost skipped down the stairs of the Underground station.

“… Maybe my luck could change… feel good about this… don’t show you’re desperate… maybe some cute secretaries… need a beer… damn small stain on my shirt… need some glasses… “

The noise inside was his own for once.

Only having a ten pound note on him, he had to queue at the tickets and information booth.

Again, out of the three booths there was only one in operation.

“Why bother having three fucking booths when… ?”

Blah blah blah … but the queue was ten people long and not moving. There was a problem at the beginning of it, what it was he did not know, but now he was beginning to care. Glancing down at his watch, he saw that he had plenty of time to get to Regent’s Street, but that did not stop the feeling of nervousness bubbling up from inside his chest. Unknowingly and self absorbed, he began to express his frustration in pacing tiny jerky steps around unable to keep still, looking at the others in the queue, who were also starting to shuffle and make eye contact with murmurings of dissent, a unity in irritation.

“Why don’t you just go and buy something to get some change?” he thought to himself, yet that quiet, British desperation and selfish stinginess kept him routed to the spot like the way when he was a child, he would hold his piss in class for fear of embarrassing himself by being seen by others.

The queue still hadn’t moved but people were starting to disappear. There were other ways to go from A to B. The problem was finally sorted out and he reached the ticket booth. A simple exchange of money and card and he was off through the barrier, the uncomfortable feeling momentarily kept at bay.

Standing on the escalator, his awareness shifted from inside himself to the external world, the noise of outside his head overpowered him. The soft clanking of the moving stairs, the screech of teenage laughter in the distance, the busker at the bottom of the stairs, playing another worn out cliché of a song in the desperate hope to have enough to eat, it all loomed down towards him. Swiftly passing the guitar player who had begun playing an old blues standard, he turned towards the signposted tunnel arch and entered the platform.

He skipped down the grey steps, placing his hands on the tiled wall and knew.

A huge bright red and black poster was directly in front of him advertising an exhibition of the work of Edvard Munch, and he thought of how appropriate it was to be there, plastered on the scruffy decaying wall, overlooking the underworld of London. Outside, the air was a crisp autumn morning, but down there in beating chthonic heart of the capital, the musty recycled air was smothering and there was that smell. The same smell he remembered as a child visiting the city.

The smell of nostalgia and history. He thought of all the dead that had once stayed under those tunnels while their homes above were being destroyed by bombs dropped on them from a great height. He thought of all those people singing their sad songs of hope, huddled together scared and pathetic while a lightning war was destroying all that was left of their poor lives. Even their children had been taken away from them. It was for the best, they knew this. But they had wished that they could have been with them. Their leaders were also hiding underground in the bunkers in Whitehall. They were smoking their cigars and drinking their fine whisky while not knowing how the war would go. They were scared too as they went to their private toilets and slept in their private beds.

Sam knew this.

There was creeping explosion of light and fury and the train appeared and in an instant, stopped. The doors opened and two or three people got out of the carriage. He entered the compartment and noticed how unhappy everybody looked. All was well on the Underground. He suddenly thought of a joke he heard just after the bombings, “What’s the difference between a Smartie and a Londoner? A Smartie doesn’t blow up when it’s in the tube.” Not in the best taste admittedly, but it made him smile for a second.

Luckily for him there were a couple of seats free so he instinctively chose one and sat down. The lady next was a plain looking office worker, a “denizen” as he liked to call them, and across from him sat a huge black guy in a well tailored suit, who was reading The Guardian and for a second they made eye contact, then quickly both looked away as per the social rules of the Tube.

The newspaper’s headline was “Iran Crisis – World Security’s Darkest Hour?” Sam stared at the newspaper wondering what would it take to push the world over the edge into the madness of another World War. One with no winners which history would be written by and the spoils of war given.

War had been a constant throughout the whole history of mankind, he reasoned, why should we believe that we are any more “evolved”, especially when the ones who hold the power do not even believe in evolution?

At that moment, the lunacy seemed inevitable to Sam. He had seen a lot of the world and knew that it was compassion that was now alien to human thinking. Once this was not so, but now the sofa dwellers had made solipsism a need. Reciprocal altruism had been made redundant.

The doors closed and the train jerked into life, and he sat staring out of the window, seeing pipes and wall and the headless reflection of himself and others. He closed his eyes and tried to blank everything out and concentrate on his interview. He saw himself confident and smiling, shaking the hand of a man with a blurred undefined face. The distant bumbling message advertising the next station interfered with his thoughts, made him know that the odds were stacked against him.

ThiszzzzVictoria linezzzznext station iszzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Inside his head all he could see was dots, flashes and the ghostly white image of a blood vessel against the dark inside his eyelids. He started to feel anxious, but without a reason, his internal sense was telling him something, psychic alarm bells were going off. He began to imagine a scenario in his head that the train had been moving for a long time, longer than usual.

He imagined that if he opened his eyes and looked around him and glanced at the other passengers they would all be staring at him. A post bombing paranoia took over. Furtively, he opened his eyes and stared intensely at each and every person in the carriage but they did not notice him, and were engrossed in their own thoughts of fucking, of suicide, of garden furniture. Nobody else seemed to notice the time it was taking to arrive at the next station. Each person seemingly self absorbed in their own world. The odd aggressive (Whatcha lookin’ at?) sly looks from other travellers and the hypnosis of the herd, started to settle him down.

If no-one else is worried why should I be?

Because.

The man opposite him began to peek at his watch and the fear that is self preservation flooded his brain once more. He stood up and rushed at the door trying to wake the sleeping crowd around him, but instead he just produced quizzical glances. Minutes began to pass and he began to panic, it froze him, the fast heartbeat, the rush of adrenaline, the icy chill over his body. The suit stood up and began cursing, his voice louder, louder, everybody began screaming and the noise went on forever. People went crazy and old men began raping young office girls while middle aged women knitted and laughed. Bankers were beaten by youths and everyone began singing.

Outside he saw the rats waiting, their teeth glinting in the artificial light.

They were everywhere.

Then all went back to normal.

He didn’t get the job.

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