The Pedestrian

I woke up from a dream the other night, that seemed so real I was not sure whether I was back in the waking world.

A beautiful evening on one of my favourite walks: the sea sighing against the dark reefs below, stars luminous above the low hills and the intermittent flash of the green eye of our local lighthouse. Spirit full of the delight of the evening, surrounded by night birds and even the clacking of a hastily scurrying porcupine, I descended towards the first houses on the edge of town. My calm dulled the first realisation of the deadness of the human part of this corner of the world. Tomb-like houses, illuminated with blue or strangely chlorophyll-like light greeted my senses, little sound, save snatches of digitised dialogue floated on the faint breeze. Here and there, some human conversation and a warmer, yellower light was evident but even the dogs were largely mute. In the dream my idiosyncratic nature reflected on the ironic similarity of “mute” and “mutt”.  

Abruptly, I felt like the only human alive in a wilderness of clinical confinement, longing for a snatch of laughter, or the gravel voice of the pub musician, or even the mechanical swish of a passing car. Instead, silence. The sea sighed on, the breeze rippled the dark leaves above and my footsteps seemed unnaturally loud on the roadside pebbles. I began to manufacture conversations with my fellow burgers: “What news about the outbreak?” or “How much longer until the restrictions are lifted? Do we even have any accurate information?” I began to wonder about the substance of this eerie internal conversation when a previously friendly neighbour uttered a disparaging remark about my nocturnal perambulations. In the surreal manner of dreams it took a while to process the remark until I was almost home. 

The creaking of the gate intensified the sudden shortness of breath that accompanied my epiphany – if one can experience an epiphany in a dream. The world had changed forever and had lost its familiar outlines. Somehow, the known world had been stolen from us and we were left with a hollowed-out facsimile, a cadaverous version of true life. A new government briefing flashed across my screen, statistics, meaningless and intimidating at the same time, the usual political blather, warnings, additional legislation, apparitions in masks, even a curiously colourful image of the culprit, a perfectly circular, spike-encrusted wrecking ball, that resembled a medieval mace. As my eyes scanned the different reports, the welter of pandemic-related topics wove a net of panic that held me for some seconds, until the memory of my walk returned with its little breath of sanity.

Somewhat fortified, I found myself outside again, testing the new-found paradigm. Apprehension had been replaced by urgency and a keen appreciation of the fragility of the things that were an intrinsic part of my soul. Every deep draw of the tangy air seemed like the first I had ever drunk in, every step portentous in its intent, the whispering stars had a new voice in their distant abode. Then, in crystalline clarity, it all unfolded.

An insidious imposter had inveigled its way into the the dormant homes. No dog had barked a warning at its approach, no voice had been raised in question as it crossed every threshold, retarding the normal motions of quotidian life, making tongues heavy with its narcotic assurances, burdening minds with shackles of certainty, like a spider paralysing its victim, the neurotoxin of truth spreading to every vital nerve. 

The dream ended with a snatch of a familiar song: 

Hello darkness my old friend,

 I’ve come to talk to you again, 

because a vision softly creeping,

 left its seeds while I was sleeping … 

And then my eyes opened …

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