Selling Illusion

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Hurried footsteps shattered the quiet night, shadows rapidly dissolving and reshaping along the length of back alleys, whispered words slid into existence, carrying forwards, harbingers to the dark mass moving in their wake. In the centre of this heaving motion of bodies I was held, against my will, as we passed from under streetlight and into the murkier ends of Cathays’ back streets.

My first week in Cardiff was not going well.

I worried that it might also be the last of my life.

Noises filtered through, back to my muffled ears, deep bass sounds that rumbled in counter-point to the lighter tones of my kidnappers. I was aware of the blackness surrounding my prison dissipating as amber lights illuminated the definitions between face and shadow around me. From somewhere outside came a symphony of sound, metallic in nature, building in crescendo, seemingly in response to the doors of my cage opening, those in front shifting to the side in one movement, swinging as if on a lever. The newly forged entrance gave way to another, larger room, subdued lighting caressing worn and shredded upholstery, a greying and dirty floor, small tremors in time with the low bass rumbling lightly vibrating the contents, causing the window on the far side to rattle violently in its berth.

Two forms detached from the throng and slipped inside, turning outstretched hands to their fellows, who held me in their grasp. I was carefully passed across, aware that those who did so making the transition behind me from the cold night air into this steel incarceration. I was clammed from all sides. I could only stare in front, eyes fixating on the back of a solitary figure, outlined by the street lights outside.

The low bass hum became a long roar, and the taxi pulled off into the deserted streets.

I tried to joke with my comrades, ease the tension that welled up within, nervously twitching my eyes about, seeing if the old one about the Priest and the Rabbi made any mark, any hint of a smile, on the cold faces around me. I murmured apologies for my lack of musical knowledge, my impotence at not being able to name a single artist, song or album, hoping to appease my oppressors, tap in to their good humour, forgiving nature, anything.

The only reply, a soft murmur; “It’ll be over soon.”

I thought long and hard about diving for the door, launching myself onto the city streets, rolling with precision and a debonair smoothness that would even make any ‘70s Television Cop gasp, and probably coming to a stop in a stylish crouch that would have the pedestrians look on in envy for the brief second before I was run over by oncoming traffic.

While my mind played with the fact that that’s never how it happened in the movies, and that realistic endeavour was a bitch when it manhandled in on playful fantasy, the taxi came to a stop, the familiar turn and motioning with an open palm from the Taxi Driver indicating we had arrived at our destination. As I was tumbled out and dragged along by clasping arms and hands, my head snapped backwards in the sudden shift of movement. My eyes beheld a pillar of light, towering over me, cutting out the night’s sky and its brilliance.

It registered that I was back on home ground. The smaller buildings of University Hall stretched out all around, hugging at the base of the Tower Block and its inhabited flats. A brief feeling of safety touched in on my thoughts, before realising the company it kept, to which it bolted out my left ear and flew into the night. Terror cackled wickedly at having solitary residence in my head once more. What cruel jest saw that I was to have enumerable evils carried out on me while in the only place that I felt a certain sense of comfort in? Was there no decency in the world any more?

I was pulled through corridors both known and unknown, through smells and sounds familiar and unfamiliar. Eventually my destination was revealed. A door swung open behind me, the creak and wail unmistakable. That unique sound belonged to the entry point to the residence of my flat mate Jon. I was to be imprisoned on the threshold of my own room, which sat opposite his. I had met and greeted my enemy every morning and evening in my home, not knowing then and the cruelty that lay behind those blue eyes.

I was thrust down into a chair. Hands either side holding my arms in place, I was immobilized. A table light flickered on, swung into my face, capturing my eyes with its unyielding brilliance. A could not see past it, could not look round to take in my surroundings.

A voice arose from behind that small sun. “What were you doing on the night of the twenty seventh?”

My voice trembled as I shouted back. “I was here telling you what I was doing on the twenty-first! Jon, for god’s sake, what-”

A hand eclipsed the light, a single finger pointing directly at me. “Silence. You will soon see.” The hand rose to motion to someone behind me. “Put it on him.” The hand slipped back behind the harsh glare.

To my distress I felt clammy hands clamp my head still, keeping my face forward, into that brilliant luminance.

I felt my hair being pulled back.

Something cold and soft slid over the sides of my head.

Down, until I felt the softness cover my ears, and the sounds around me filtered away.

A low level buzzing slowly rose around me, sifting, fingering my ear drums.

I unconsciously winced, awaiting the pain that was to come, whatever form of torture this was to take.
There was a pause, a second of anguishing slowness that felt a lifetime.

And with suddenness and power that bellied the roar of thunder, it came.

A wail so loud, so pure.

Distilling into the biggest, loudest, dirtiest riff of all time.

It fused my ears and soul as I plunged into Nirvana.


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