I am afraid that you’re all going to have indulge me and put up with a whopping entry from me this week, I have been very good recently about respecting the word counts but this piece wanted to be a little larger. I’m not sure yet how large because I actually wrote it down by hand, the first time I’ve braved writing fiction by hand for many a year. I guess that I’m the beginning of the computer generation where word processing is just so much easier and quicker, especially when it comes to making changes and fixing mistakes. I wrote it by hand because my frenetic handwriting seemed better suited to expressing the draft, in black on the stark white of a screen this little tale seemed a little too mad to share, I spent a day trying to spill the words and form the idea that yet again came to me as I was falling asleep but my subconscious editor was holding me back from making a fool of myself but I’ve decided to share anyway. Let me know what you think.
She pulled out her knitting from her bag and started rhythmically working her way through the short rows of stocking stitch. She preferred to keep her eyes on the stitches, not trusting them to somehow throw themselves off the needle without close supervision, nor did she trust herself not to pick up more than one stitch at a time. She watched her work grow, mesmerised almost by the regular rhythm of her steady work.
She noted that the bench was uncomfortable, a modern metal effort without a back. She recalled reading in the papers or in a knitting magazine about some modern prank of knitters, what was the name of it? Yarnbombing, that was it. She hadn’t felt that it was a particularly wise use of materials and wondered about the criminal implications of cozying up lamp posts and the like. But now she decided that this bench could really do with some of that yarnbombing, a nice cushion or two, maybe a throw.
Yarnbombing, the word was so worrying. Bombing, bombs, it seemed like an everyday part of everyone’s vocabulary these days. Bomb. Such an ugly, terrifying word. Tearing holes in the fabric of the world and in the fabric of people’s lives. After seeing on television the devastating consequences of yet another terrorist attack, she had vowed never to go into London again. It just wasn’t worth the risk. It was a bad place where bad things happened. She ruled it out, draw neat lines around it and a cut a neat hole around where London used to be in the fabric of her life.
The needles had clicked more harshly when her mind had turned to such matters but quickly they returned to their usual beat, like the clack of train tracks singing a lullaby to the world-weary commuter, the gentle repetitive action lulled her distressed mind.
London. She had never understood the fascination with the place. It was like a set, a backdrop to every English film, an almost mythical place where fiction was acted upon, no more real than New York, cities that existed only in high drama and crime statistics. She had never understood the appeal. Did people think that they could have a little slice of a Hollywood style perfect life if they wandered through the backdrop of their favourite film or series? Maybe it was just crass commercialism after all, the media selling it to everyone that they have to visit these places and buy the T-shirt and goodness knows what else.
London. London. What was the appeal in the Big Smoke? the big Noise? the Big Dirty?
She saw the city spread below her, the iconic landmarks springing from the street plan in resolute 3D, first as cardboard-looking models then in photographic reality. Buckingham Palace always looked so big on the telly, imagine just the two of them rattling around in there. The map slipped beneath her feet, pulling her eyes elsewhere and causing her to reach out a hand to steady herself.
She found herself grasping the pinnacle of Big Ben itself, swinging around it like a weathercock in a draught. The Thames spread below her, the sinuous dividing line through the city, and with a slight flick of her feet she was off, as easy as a champion swimmer but borne aerially as if Superman or something equally preposterous. She followed the river’s course past the London Eye.
The London Eye was a modern interloper to the historic riverfront, to the tally of icons, to the skyline, to the consciousness of millions of souls the world around. She had seen it on the television, used for countless establishing shots and for public firework displays. It was a mere upmarket aggrandised Ferris wheel with goldfish bowl pods instead of tin bucket cages. She knew of no-one who had actually been in the thing, tickets were expensive apparently. But now it was like some great stately arch, tall, proud and glowing in the sunlight. She could imagine that it could be seen peeping over rooftops from many streets around. Something as iconic as Big Ben but a little easier to glimpse then identify. It turned so slowly as she hovered and watched its progress, an almost imperceptible rotation. So slow, so boring! She brushed her finger against the pods much in the way a child does the petals of a seaside plastic windmill and set it spinning.
Moving on down the Thames with the occasional barge sprinkled on top its murky darkness, she saw a bridge that caught her eye. It was all made of playing cards. No wonder London Bridge was always falling down! She couldn’t remember if it had eventually caught fire too, she could see the flames licking at the plasticised cards and they curling inwards with the heat. No it really wasn’t a good design choice on the part of whichever lady who had commissioned it. She hovered again, contemplating the construction and waiting to see if the worst should happen. Then something small caught her eye, a small red vehicle passed along the top of the bridge.
A bus! The buses!
The very stuff of nightmares, that icon of public transport whether it was running on potato peelings or not. It had fallen low in her estimation after those terrible events. It was a high risk danger these days and as she surveyed the streets around her, she saw that there were countless double-decker buses trundling along.
Her breath caught, the anxiety grew and the world turned to black, a sheet of never-ending black before her.
Then, from one corner, far in the right hand corner, came a bus.
A red, two-storied bus, intent on completing its journey.
Another one followed it. And another one. A long line of red London buses.
Then another line formed next to it.
And another line.
There were three buses across and another two on top of each of those.
She wanted to scream but no words formed.
The scale shifted and there were more and more buses, neat rows and columns of them laid out like some graphic arts poster, bright red buses against the black backdrop, more and more of them.
She twisted and ducked and divided but they were unavoidable.
Someone was shaking her arm.
She looked up cautiously, half expecting to come face to face with a London bus. But no, it was just an officious looking security guard in a too small uniform.
“Ma’am, you need to put those things away in a public place.”
It seemed that red buses were the least of people’s worries after all.
Yes, it’s about four times the length required and it is a little crazy and kind of different from what I usually write, I’ve never written a dream sequence before either. And as for whether it’s actually set in London as requested in the prompt, that’s up for debate but as I’ve flouted most of the other ‘rules’ too, I guess it doesn’t much matter. I owe either Mary Poppins or some version of Peter Pan for one image, a nursery rhyme video for another and Dumbo for the final image. Thanks for reading.