Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Andrew Smith

Night and the City

All is quiet in the bedroom: the alarm clock has run down and waits, silent, to be wound.
The murmuring town is hidden behind the old blackout curtains, but the boy can still see by the landing light that shines through the transom above his door.
Its reflection gleams on the remaining amber eye of his teddy bear, whose head is pillowed close to his own. As he has done before, the boy forces his own eyes out of focus, burning the gleam into shining, rounded shapes, like the blunted spires and swooping metal pathways of the cities of the future in his father’s comics downstairs. Is there such a city in the teddy’s eye?
Perhaps his own eyes close.
Perhaps he is standing in the city, close under the great protective dome that stains everything with orange. Around him the city’s inhabitants gather, short metallic creatures, inhuman in form.
“THERE IS DANGER HERE,” they cry, “WE ARE BESIEGED. LOOK! LOOK!”
The boy looks. There is movement in the tufted yellow forests outside. A slow-moving horde of tall shock-headed figures, like limber unfinished scarecrows, slouch forward, attack the dome. Their soft arms flail at the rigid barrier: it buckles beneath their blows.
Mechanical eyes swivel upwards beseechingly.
“THEY WILL BREAK THE DOME. THEY WILL DESTROY THE CITY ALSO. HELP US! HELP US!”
The boy does not know how.
With a resounding clang, the attackers break their way into the city. They tumble through the breach in the dome and shuffle, swaying, towards their enemies. The small defenders fire their ray-guns, but even at close range, these do not deter the intruders. They smoulder, at times they burn, but they still press inward. Clattering in panic, the defenders fall back along their metal roads to the dark heart of the city. The boy goes with them. There is nowhere else to go.
* * *
A universe away, the boy’s father has refilled and lit the paraffin heater on the landing and replaced the metal cover on its front. Quietly, he opens the bedroom door. He steals softly to the bedside cupboard and picks up the silent clock. As he turns the hands and winds, he looks down at his sleeping son. Something is amiss with the teddy bear’s eye. It seems to have changed position. The wire that holds it in place must have come loose. To save his son from accidental harm, he sets the clock down and reaches over to pluck out the eye.
* * *
The doomed city’s heart is a great circular pit, a broad black disk of beckoning oblivion. The scarecrows have driven them here, pursuing relentlessly through the metal maze.
The foremost of the intruders lunges towards the boy, and he slips on the brink of the pit as soft furry fingers brush against his face. The entire sky darkens, and he knows nothing more.
The boy’s father slips the eye into his pocket. His wife will know if it is worth keeping. With a last look at the motionless form of his son, he leaves as quietly as he came, softly closing the door behind him.
The sun lies deep beneath the earth: soon he will begin to climb. The only noise in the room is the clock’s ticking, as the insistent hands nudge the reluctant minutes onwards, ever onwards, to the rising of the day and the sounding of the alarm.

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