Prelude, or Man on the Street by A. N. Gretly

​Here you have it. Well, that is if you’re still keen on knowing the particulars of a typical night on these sordid streets.
I wonder if you can see it now, how things change through time. We sit together in the same old café with the aroma of old books and stale coffee mingling with the murmurs of those who speak of flowers growing out of people’s heads, and dancing amidst field of blooming dandelions while at the same time you find them in the small hours of the haunted night with the doors locked and the shutters down and the lights out, you find them twisting and turning inside their own minds with rotten brain slime oozing out of every facial orifice. But I am getting ahead of myself. A head.
Look here, now. See the man walking, limping. Shuffling his footsteps. Torn brown boots, old coat caked with mud and other silt-like substances. Yes. Do not look at the man that drags his legs along the pavement, with the stink of theft and junk hovering around him almost in fumes which refract light, distorting the image of the man to the point of abstraction. And here you have a concept of a human being walking about the empty streets with eyes bloodshot and half asleep, looking at nothing in particular, and having nothing look right back at him with a sly grin that triggers fear and sexual desire. The footsteps click-clack on the cobble stones, ticking away and pronouncing the end of time. Don’t look!
“But what time does the end of time start?” He says in a high piched voice “I’ve got to g-go!”
“Happy hour?” I reply.
And I think of that old boy from Cork sitting on a broken stool at a dirty pub, cradling his fifth pint while singing about a Monaghan boy who lost his wife to the drink and the whores and the fairies as the fiddle plays on and on and the old whistle fades all melancholy. And time goes on, and you can waste it sitting at the foot of Arthur’s Seat smoking something or spending your last copper on the girls at the Triangle but the voices keep at it till dawn and you walk down back and forth on the Grassmarket where you hear the ghost of old Maggie Dickson, and on Cowgate where you can find my sense of self respect in the gutters, looking for a fix of something or another. Anything. Bumping into women with faces like ancient battlefields; bless. Bliss.
“You o-kay, pal?” Someone asks.
But who is this Paul?
And you muffle something and keep on going, racing, racing time itself because you know if you stop for one single second, the Fear will hit you hard, and you sweat and you shiver, and you stare at all the wild dogs like yourself chasing that white rabbit, rabid, raw.
And the fog engulfs you whole and spits you out covered in gore but the rain washes out anything and everything down the gutters and into the sewers where the demons still roam the night, and who knows, maybe someone will say something and make it all go away at some point.
But soon things settle down into a monotonous hum, on the pavement or at the casino or on someone else’s couch. And that hum carries the weight of the world with it, and you are nothing but a fragile piece of skin, and you know something broke inside of you but you don’t know what it is. You open your eyes and you are back from once you came, with that Cork boy, in that dirty pub, on that lonely lonely night in the City of Ghosts.


About Ahmed Gretly

Ahmed Nader Gretly. Construction/Site Engineer, fiction writer, poet, psychopath, researcher, a book addict, and a daydreamer from Cairo, Egypt. Currently doing Construction Project Management, MSc, at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.
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