on “The Emporer’s New Clothes”
I woke late in my flat above the shops in the High Street. Me
and my mates used pot, magic mushrooms and acid daily. That night
was no exception. I felt fantastic, supreme and euphoric. I fell
into a deep sleep.
Two days later I woke amongst the needles, stains on floor and
tables, coffee cups furred up with fungus, discarded rubbish,
and yellowing newspapers. Clothes lay in a heap smelling like
burnt rope. Found the sachet of white powder. Got a razor blade.
Snorted the lines. It seared my nasal passages, and felt good.
I did not eat. I got the maximum hit. I was alert, laid back,
and cool. I picked up a book , and read one book within another,
scary man, but brilliant. Everything was connected. I saw the
universe and all creation. The ground fell away. I snorted more
dope. I heard my name on the TV. I looked away, and turned on
the radio and the voice said:
‘Use more dope . Go out and show the world. You are supreme’.
In the street I saw them looking up at me, waving and waiting
for me. I drew down the blinds, blocking them out. Their voices
called to me. Nothing could hurt me. On TV I saw my dead mother
pleading with me, eyes shining like black pearls. Scared, I huffed
Now filled with joy I run downstairs leaping the last flight.
I took my bike, and cycled down the high street. I picked up speed,
lifted the front wheels and cycled upright, as high as a kite.
People watched and shouted at me. They waved. It was great. The
voice said :
‘Go on you can do it’.
I cycled to the middle of the road and did three point turns,
again and again. The voice said:
‘You are supreme. Go on miss that car coming towards you’.
I cycled at speed towards the cars and just swerved at the last
moment. I did it again and again. Urged on, I felt more powerful.
The voice pounded in my head:
‘Go on more , more’.
I cycled over to the wrong side of the road and rode at speed
towards the oncoming traffic.
In silence; they waited. An hour passed.
They had cut the roof and doors off, and a father and child were
lifted gently from the wreckage.
Later, in intensive care, they wept and prayed for the child’s
I lay in a strange white room at the hospital, head in my hands,
shaking, sweating and in the wilderness. Pain seared my body.
Craving merged with fear. I searched my stinking clothes for a
shot. A deafening buzzing pounded my head. Images fused and collided.
Terrifying scenes lit up the walls.
I saw a smashed child.
I closed my eyes, and clamped my hands over my ears.
I searched for anything to fill this desert. End this hell.
On her sixteenth birthday Annie’s father died. She had not
known her mother, and had no relatives. Sad and alone she took
to the road with just a knapsack, and a picture of herself with
her father, which revealed a beautiful young girl with blue eyes
and blond hair, just like her father.
She travelled South, hitched a lift, and arrived in London. She
trudged the streets day and night looking for work until eventually
tired and exhausted, with no money left, she slept that night
in a shop doorway.
She searched the streets for shelter day after day until one day
she met an old man sleeping rough. He looked mild and harmless.
His name was Len .
They walked that night to his patch under the arches at Waterloo.
Cardboard shacks lined the path. It was sheltered and dry. In
the distance a line of concrete buildings and walkways, scarred
by graffiti, were silhouetted against the sky. The banks of the
Thames were dark and soulless. Struts of the old iron railway
bridge were just visible above the black waters of the river,
and at the foot of the stairs, an old woman, Beattie, sat in the
rain, wrapped in a damp blanket, hoping to cadge a few pence from
the last audience returning home from the South Bank.
Len brewed tea he’d purchased with a bag of pennies given
to him by a local shopkeeper. They dunked biscuits in the hot
liquid, good for Len as he had no teeth and survived on liquid
anyway. She slept well that night, under the arches. Time passed
and Len’s patch was now Annie’s home. She felt safe
with Len, the old timer, as he’d spent most of his life
on the road and now knew no other way.
On this particular night, two years had passed, and Annie had
become weak and ill. A young man returning home, had noticed a
girl lying on a pile of old newspapers, wrapped in an outsize
overcoat, wearing ankle boots tied with string, her head swaddled
in a long wool scarf, wisps of blond hair plastered to her forehead.
He tapped her on the shoulder.
‘I’ll get a hot drink, you look so cold.’
He returned a few minutes later and she took the steaming mug,
cradled it in her hands for warmth, and drank the hot liquid.
She felt the warmth oozing through her body, and felt sick and
dizzy She fell back into a semi-conscious sleep.
Opening her eyes the next morning, Annie sat up and the world
spun around her, and she collapsed back gasping for breath. As
her head hit the pillow she noticed a note pinned to it. She peered
at it blindly, but slowly read :
‘Come and see us here.’ Mark.
With little strength left, Annie gathered her paltry belongings,
and made her way towards the address, where she collapsed at the
door and was taken in.
Two days later she awoke dazed from her long sleep to see a beam
of sunlight lighting her bed. The room was bright and clean. She
smelt the crisp cotton sheets, and breathed the warm air. She
recognised the unfamiliar smells of toast and coffee wafting from
the kitchens. Mark tapped at the door and asked how she was. He
brought her breakfast, which she managed to eat. She revived a
little. She noticed a partition behind which was a gleaming white
bath, and fresh smelling soap.
Gingerly, she bathed and washed her hair, and wrapped herself
in the soft towels. She turned, and was startled by her reflection
in a large mirror. She saw young girl looking back at her, pale
and thin, with wide blue eyes, and blond hair, and heard a voice