Short Story: Neverending

Neverending Illustration Clare Young 2012

(c)Clare Young 2012

Daren doodled whilst he was on the phone to his daughter, only half-listening to her news about Sarah and Daniel’s new baby, Libby’s chickenpox and the Westbrooks from down the roadwho had put up a new satellite dish. The satellite dish obscured the view of the windmill, she said. Daren responded with the appropriate noises, and his daughter carried on.

His doodles filled the back of an unopened bank statement, he looked carefully and realised he’d drawn it again. A bird, serpent shaped, long with a dragon’s tail. He’d not drawn it for years, but today it had appeared out of nowhere in between the shaded cubes and swirly lines.

He could hear his daughter become distracted by one of the children, doing something they shouldn’t be doing. He gave his goodbyes and hung up, then washed up his lunch dishes.

Daren decided to walk into town. He wandered by the bank to pay a few bills, then to the post office to send some presents to his grandchildren. He walked aimlessly, staring at the people and thinking of the doodle. Soon he realised he was near the alleyway where it happened, where he’d seen it. He paused, pretending to check his watch, and looked up in the sky. The alleyway was quiet, and as he stared down it – empty apart from some large bins – all he could hear were the distant rattles of trains passing through.

He saw that there was a coffee shop nearby now, he didn’t know how long that had been there. It had replaced the bookshop that had been around since Daren could remember. It had  closed down many years ago, not long after Daren had seen the thing. The owner had been found dead in his armchair, a heart attack, an old copy of Treasure Island still in his hands. Daren stared at the coffee shop, one of those chain coffee shops he didn’t like, but went in because he wanted to remember the bookshop.

Inside, the building remained the same – where the counter had been, there sat coffee machines, where the armchair sat there was a round metal table occupied by a young couple nursing a baby. It was busier than bookshop had ever been; without the labyrinth of bookshelves Daren felt uneasy, exposed.

He bought a simple coffee, sat down outside on a metal table, and looked up in the sky. There were only steel-grey clouds from eye to eye. He was in the middle of an empty day-dream, when he noticed a man, probably about half his age, sitting a few tables away and staring straight at him. Daren got a book out, pretended to read it, but a shadow was cast across the page and he looked up to find the stranger standing above him. He had sunken eyes, Daren noticed, and too many lines on his face for someone his age. The man sat himself down at the table, and Daren was just about to mutter an apology and walk away before the man spoke.”I come here, now and then, and I look up, but I never see it either.”

Daren stared, the sound of a train wailed in the distance. The man nodded, and looked at the sky.

“I was coming home from work,” Daren said, startled at how easy it was to voicing something he had long learnt to keep inside, “and I saw it coming from across the train tracks and down Archer Street. I was so startled I dropped my suitcase. In fact, I spent most of my time scrabbling for my suitcase.”

The other man nodded again, he had a head of curly greasy hair, and a mean round face.

“Sometimes, when I come here, I can see other people looking up in the sky. It’s not just general looking, they’re really looking. I know that they saw it.” He cleared his throat, still staring at the sky, “I don’t usually talk to them though. Ain’t seen anyone looking for a while.”

“What was it?” Asked Daren, faint desperation in his words. “What does it mean?”

“Damned if I know.” The man took a sip of his coffee, finally took his eyes away from the sky and stared at Daren. “I’m Shane.”

“Daren.”

They sat in silence at the metal table, staring at the sky, sharing a coffee together as busy people around them got on with their lives.

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