I hear something that shocks me. It sounds like someone has blown up a crisp bag then crushed it between their hands. I fall. My eyes close and the world goes dark. But just for a second.
I’m standing. It’s hot. I smile. I guessed it would be. But it’s not unbearable. Just like Spain in July. The difference here though is there’s no sun. The sky is a black as soot and if I was anywhere else I’d swear there was a storm brewing. I should be scared, but I’m not.
My surroundings are familiar yet I’m sure I’ve never been here before. It looks like a small American town. The kind you see in a spaghetti western. Part of me expects Clint Eastwood to appear from the saloon bar on my left. But there’s nothing apart from moving shadows.
To my right is a gap between two wooden buildings. I hear whispers. I walk towards it and see four dark faceless shapes holding needles and plastic tubing. My mind says “addicts in the alleys.” The shadows move. They have no faces yet I hear their voices plain and clear.
“Shoot up or shut up.”
Again I smile. It’s similar to where I’ve just come from. Full of desperate, hopeless, lonely souls.
I’m dressed in a white shirt, black trousers and brown expensive looking shoes. The shirt has a large red stain in the centre. It reminds me of the Japanese flag.
I move on along the dark empty street. The air is dry and smells of sulphur. On both sides of me I am aware of things moving. More shadows, more whispers. I catch some of the words.
“He’s here. He’s back.”
One shadow darts in front of me and sniggers. In my mind I picture Gollum from Lord Of The Rings.
My memory begins to fade but I do remember that I was someone famous. Someone powerful. A household name. A leader of people.
I continue to walk along the dusty street taking in everything around me. A new smell makes my nostrils twitch. The sulphur is being overpowered by something else. It takes me a second to recognise it. Then it hits me. Waste! The smell you get when you visit a garbage dump or council tip. But to me, for some reason, it’s not unpleasant.
There’s a figure up ahead. A face amongst a million shadows. A face I recognise but from where? I don’t know. He’s smiling at me. The smile only a mad man can make. A smile the Joker in Batman would be proud of. I like it. I smile back.
As I get closer a feeling of recognition overwhelms me. I know this place. I know these people. I remember. I stretch out my hand and he takes it.
“Welcome back son. Nice work.”