Someone once told me about a man. Who used to ask for money for charity, though he never actually said which one.
He used to walk the streets in SE1 accosting passers by, mostly tourists, and he carried a clipboard with the Pudsey Bear on.
His face was worn, like an old chamoise, used and dried a few times too many. His three day stubble slightly ginger in the sunlight.
The first time I saw him was about a year ago. I was sat on a bench, watching the river and the people go by, and his gait caught my eye.
I adjusted my position and watched, as he eyed up the passers by, sorting out those he could approach, and those he'd have less luck with.... and then it happened.
...slamming into the buildings of the City of London across the Thames - the alien Death Lasers destroying building after building. Ka-Blammmm!! Ker-ppow!!
The Alien mothership hovered low overhead, above the Tate Gallery. It's Death Lasers aimed now at the bridges, overcrowded with fleeing city workers as they ran from their buildings. It swooped on, slowing over the South side of the river to land (carefully) on top of bankside Lofts. Yes, for years that unassuming riverside block of luxury apartments (with nice views) was in fact also a docking station for a huge flying saucer.
The long gang plank extended down to the ground, slo-owly the doors opened. The crowd held their breath... what did these conquering aliens want? why had they only spared se1 from the devastation? what would they look like?
"look", cried a young man in the crowd, pointing suddenly up. "It's Ken Livingstone!!"
I came to, blinking and gasping for air, I looked quickly around to see if anyone was watching me. Another “episode”, they were becoming more frequent recently, and seemingly more real, even though the subject matter was often quite baroque. What the hell was that about? I looked at the Tate again, where moments ago had hovered a space ship above the old power station, now hovered a sea gull, head tilted, looking for sustenance among the detritus left by the tourists and vendors milling around the river side. Relaxing more as my heartbeat returned to a normal pace, I noticed my man was just starting to move towards Southwark Bridge, and so I regained my feet, staggering slightly, gave him a head start of fifty metres, and set off after him.
Edited 1 times. Last edit at 18 September 2004 8.15am by Tharg drinker of pervy.
Not being too good at looking inconspicuous, it wasn't long before he had noticed that there was someone following him, and he legged it into the side streets and back alleyways of SE1.
I decided not to follow him, as getting lost wasn't one of the ways I'd intended on spending Sunday afternoon.
I headed off downriver to a local pub, hoping to meet up with a friend of mine, and tell him of the extraordinary 'episode' I'd just had. He'd known me for a while, and I'd got into the habit of having a pint or two in the Mayflower on Sunday afternoons, catching up with him, and telling him the latest instalments of my ever increasingly bizarre 'flashbacks' - if that was what they were. They certainly seemed real enough.
I got myself a beer, found a table outside and waited for my friend to turn up.
My friend Angus was usually pretty punctual and it was rare for him to be more than a minute late... An hour had passed and still there was no sign of him. I had tried his mobile a few times with no joy and had just started to get anxious when a gorgeous young blonde of Amazonian stature and beauty approached my table. There was something very odd about her - the initial attraction I had for her turned very quickly to an unnerving anxiety. She asked me if I wanted a drink and instictively swiftly accepted but awkwardly explained that my friend would be joining us shortly.
“What I'm about to tell you, I can assure you, is nothing you could ever begin to envisage. There is no possible way I can explain to you the situation that has occurred, I can only show you. I ask you to trust me, and to call your family or whoever you need to, to let them know that you'll be going away for a few days.”
I stared at her with a catatonic expression and looked around to see whether anyone had been listening to our conversation. No one had stirred from their pint or been any more dazed than usual in the smoky atmosphere.
I asked her to give me a moment, and departed to the alleyway…
Clearly she didn't know me as well as she thought she did, as both my parents had died in a car crash two years earlier, I had no siblings, and no other living relatives, and being at the time unemployed, I had no one to call, so I spent a few seconds wondering why it had been so smokey on the terrace. Then I remembered my cat, so I rand my next door neighbour, and left a message telling her where the spare key was, and what food to put out, and when, and that I'd be back when I could in a few days.
I returned to the beer garden to see what the woman would tell me next.
I canvassed the garden for the blonde harbinger of death and was met with a face full of smoke from a nearby human chimney. From the look of his ashtray he packed more butts than Sir Mix Alot. I then felt a gentle tug at my sleeve and was passed a note from a young boy of about 7. I turned to question the boy, but he had vanished.
"If you value your life be in Trinity Square Garden at Midnight" was scrawled on the scrap, the Amazon had disappeared along with the boy. I sank back down into my seat and took a large draught from my pint of Cider. What was going on? OK, I was a wealthy businessman now, but you hardly made a lot of enemies in the plumbing game and anyway, I'd only been at it for four months since winning the reality TV show. Maybe I shouldn't have given up following that guy so easily. When I'd spotted him peering through my window & chased him off I'd assumed he was probably just another tabloid journo trying to find out about my love life. Was that it? Was this some crazy candid camera thing set up to catch me out. I looked around the other tables in the hope of finding a Jeremy Beadle type in a dodgy beard but there were just some tourists wondering how long the queue would be at the London Eye.
Suddenly everything began to swim out of focus, my mind was getting foggy. Was I having another episode - one spaceship sighting a day is enough for anyone I thought, but somehow this felt different and as I slowly toppled from my seat I noticed a strange residue floating in the bottom of my pint.
At roughly the same time, a mile or two up river, Charlie an out of work actor, coked up to the eyeballs, was being persuaded that he should take on a job impersonating a local known vagrant for a vast amount of money, in order to appear in a short tv documentary. He was told that it was a simple job, he would be given the costume to wear, and told the address to go to, then all that he had to do was turn up a few hours later, and pretend to burgle the property. He would find that there were convenient drainpipes to climb up, and that a bathroom window would be open, and that inside he would have to cross the hallway, go into the lounge, look under the sofa, retrieve an A4 sized red bag, and then leave by the front door, and walk to a local cafe on Tower Bridge road. Cameras would be discretely placed, he wouldn't notice them, and it would all be filmed. He was told that it was a reinactment, and would be shown on Crimewatch. Of course for the amount of money that was being offered, Charlie didn't hesitate to take the money - he needed another hit soon, and the money was far more then he could afford to turn down for what seemed like such an easy job.
it would turn out to be the easiest money he'd make in his life. And the last.
As he took the costume out of the back of a van, he wondered if all producers were that gorgeous, if her hair was naturally blonde, and if he'd ever get the chance to find out.