This is part three of the story:
Ah, thought Byron, this must be what she meant by ‘all the weirdness’.
Byron had stepped out of his building and startled a flock of glossy motivational quotes that had been feasting on a discarded women’s magazine, stripping the articles of substance as they hunted for slim instances of context. Crows picking the eyes out of a corpse, the quotes had been picking and pulling apart the subtext, swallowing the self-confidence sapping headlines before being rudely interrupted. The startled quotes took to the air, each one pausing to hang majestically in front of the setting sun, as if posing to be photographed and shared on instagram. The sheer number of motivational sentences in the sky ensured that no single line made any sense – one quote bled into another, muddling intent, drowning comprehension, crowding out meaning. The flock then dispersed, leaving with strangely mournful cries; reminding Byron that today was the first day of the rest of his life; that it was never too late; that if he didn’t like them at their worst, he certainly didn’t deserve them at their best.
Flock of quotes? He briefly wondered what the collective noun for flying quotes was. A provocation of motivation? Ah, even better, an ‘inspiration of citations’.
As he completed the thought it crystallised in front of him, a two-foot tall gleaming definitional statuette, a permanent manifestation of his literary concept.
I have to be careful. I don’t t even need to say anything, thinking something is enough…
Byron scanned the street in front of his building, and it pulsed with the stories of his neighbourhood. The red bricks of the older buildings had all been written with a strong green messages of loss and hope redolent of the early Irish immigrants in a simple but elegant celtic font. These earlier writings were themselves slowly being overwritten by more recent cursive script, a pale beige, telling the bland tales of gentrification. Underneath both and faded to near illegibility, an ochre scream of horror and hate and misery told the slaughter of the native landowners. Each story led to the next and to the next and to the next…
Byron closed his eyes and shook his head. It was like reading the best novel ever; it would be too easy to get caught up; just one more page, one more chapter, to get lost in reading and let the rest of reality disappear.
I need to get a grip.
I need to get Olivia! But… how?
As if summoned, his sight was drawn to an older model BMW waiting for its owner right out the front of his house; doors unlocked, keys in the ignition. Sleek. Pale grey. Parked in front of a hydrant. He could read its story as clearly as he could see its tires; this car was a harbinger, it was a hearse, it was a pale horse and in it rode death. He reached forward for the handle, wincing as if the door might bite him – it opened smoothly, and a soft sweet smell like bubblegum and roses wafted out… Blonde. This was her car. Byron slid into the car and closed the door.
The car’s interior was a pristine off-white, a supple cream leather that felt sensuous against his skin. A turn of the key and it started… beautifully. A deep mechanical purr that thrummed through his seat and resonated in his chest. Powerful. The dashboard lit up, revealing a GPS navigator; an expensive aftermarket add on. His finger hovered over the menu button, hesitating.
This is too convenient. Car unlocked? Keys in the ignition? GPS? Is this real or did I write this into existence? How can I trust anything I’ve written for myself?
What fucking choice do I have?
One press, then another and the coordinates to HOME came up. An unexpected voice, bright, sweet, subtlety Australian, suggested he take the next left. He knew that voice.
Olivia! Byron laughed in delight; the voice was Olivia Newton-John’s, her soothing drawl returning his confidence. It’s a sign. A sign from Olivia. This is her convenience, she’s calling me.
Deus ex machina indeed.
Byron peeled out down the empty street, spinning the tires, leaving smoking black tracks of fierce determination.
As he drove he passed through the chaos of the city. The ‘weirdness’, as it were, was not confined to near Bryon’s house, it seemed to extend down every lane, to permeate every building, tree and sign. Every story that once was hidden was now writ large and available to all to read. And the people were reading. Everywhere he looked, the citizens of the city were starting at the ground, at the walls, at the sky and reading. They wandered slowly, following the tales, living the poetry of every history, and cloaking themselves in the imagination of every dream.
And the stories clung to these readers. Turning on Olivia’s prompts, went down a road where Byron watched a businessman reading the tragic tale of a dirty abandoned teddy bear, every sentence read flowing up into his eyes and swimming visibly under his skin, making the man grow and swell till Byron thought he might burst. Slowing to a crawl, Byron stared at the man as he put the child’s toy down, closed his eyes and began to speak. As the businessman spoke, the world around him adjusted, changed, formed itself in line with his words, his essay of creation.
The readers are becoming writers. Consumers are becoming creators. People are starting to forge their own realities.
Overcome with a sense of urgency, Byron sped up.
Deep into the darker parts of town, the slums, the ghettos, the refuge of the poor. The deeper he went, the more diluted the weirdness was – soon the only writing on the walls was the illegible graffiti, simple spray-paint, banal and vaguely threatening. Wandering dreamers, readers, and writers were absent here, the hungry residents too preoccupied with the practicalities of surviving, of just living, to embrace the full change, the weirdness. Byron wondered if he saw the truth of it in the connection between poverty and education. The rising statistics of illiteracy in this part of town was a national shame, a blight to a modern society, and according to most, somebody else’s problem.
The curling Ouroboros’s of poverty and illiteracy, each feasting on the other, consuming themselves and keeping this segment of the population down, isolating them from the change, preventing any hope of release. Byron saw the bleak eyes of the haunted faces staring at the pale BMW and felt despair.
In the heart of this place the GPS advised him that his destination was on the right. An old church, well past its days of holy worship stood, shuttered with rusting steel, protected by curling barbed wire. The Cardinal’s fortress.
Byron got out of the car, paying no mind to the pool of blood left by his sliced testicles on the cream leather seat. He had to get Olivia.
Late again – this should have been written last Friday! I’m way behind with my other writing, but I’m just enjoying Byron too much right now. Anyway, let me know what you think in the comments.