ZED

August 29th, 2012 Comments Off on ZED

Zed follows C to the park. When C sits on a bench, in front of a manmade lake, Zed perches three benches down. Each day Zed changes the way he looks, being careful not put on clothes that would seem out of place, overly ostentatious or headline grabbing. Today he is wearing jogging trousers, and a plain white t-shirt with a sports logo over his heart. He only half watches C who sits quietly eating a home made sandwich of white bread, cheese, tomato and lettuce. Zed observes that the cheese is cheddar. Watching C Zed wonders whether C has prepared the food himself or had his wife done so. Zed suspects that it was the wife, though he has no evidence upon which to base his suspicions. Each morning of that week C has left his house at seven in the morning. Never has his wife come to the door to wave him off or suddenly call him back to remind him that he has forgotten his lunch or to kiss him or to mention that she loves him. There is no display of romance, no love note included with his repast.

That morning C left his home in a rush, his body slightly curled, his face tucked into his jacket, either bracing himself for the day or trying to obscure his face from view. Zed tapped a note into his phone, which synced with the office. The note said, he has something to hide. Within seconds C was in his car. From front door to car took four seconds. The day before yesterday C fumbled his keys, dropping them to the floor. More haste, less speed was the aphorism that sprung to Zed’s mind. Interestingly C never broke the speed limit when he drove.

 

Now C is sitting looking at the man-made lake on which resides a population of water fowl, some of which has relocated to C’s feet, waiting patiently for C to offer up some of his lunch, which he neglects to do, lost as he is to the view ahead of him. Zed is less impressed by the lake which is bordered by a straggle of dirty bushes and trees, toying instead with the idea of sidling up to C to engage him in conversation.

 

There are many things that Zed knows about C. For example he knows that C is moonlighting, that far from being unemployed he is, this week at least, gainfully employed. Neither is this his first period of illegal industry, since putting in his claim for financial assistance. There has been two other occasions that Zed’s employers are aware of. Zed also knows that C is an educated man with a degree in Paranormal Activity which he received by correspondence from the Metaphysics College of Washington DC. Zed would like to discuss a number of subjects to do with existentialism and ontology with C. As a sceptic he is only marginally interested in paranormal activity though he would, if the conversation drifted that way, be happy to discuss this subject too. Inevitably, because C is under investigation, Zed would enjoy an ethically ring fenced debate about the rights and wrongs of engaging in fraudulent activity against the State and what ramifications, if any, should be inflicted upon a guilty individual. Zed would start with, I understand that you are something of an expert in all things living and dead.

 

C is still looking ahead. Zed, careful not to arouse any suspicions pretends to be looking beyond C’s gaze to the children’s play area and the encroaching housing estate which is red and symmetrical. The birds, having realised that C has failed to notice them, have migrated back to the lake, the surface of which is covered in a greenish film. Zed can’t help but wonder what C is thinking. The man’s stillness suggests to Zed a degree of melancholy, that perhaps he might have argued with his wife that morning, or it might be that they continuously argued because C had failed to find regular paid work. Judging from the expression on C’s face it seemed to Zed that he lacked a purpose in life, this same lack of purpose or reason to exist would no doubt descend on Zed should his covert activities be terminated and his career be assigned to the scrap heap. He had witnessed this decline in others and heard the arguments that resulted between spouses, the women declaring the man not a man but a half man, or an imp, or something incomplete.

 

C stands suddenly and begins walking towards Zed. Zed nonchalantly glances out into the lake and watches a duck descend into a slide of white foam and a furious flap of wings. As C strides by Zed looks up to see a face which seems to him to be wrestling with a deep ontology. It could be that he was reading too much into it, but Zed didn’t think so. Once again Zed feels a desire to stop C and question him but his commitment to the task at hand prevents him. Instead he waits for C to travel some fifty yards before he too stands and begins to follow him, keeping to the bushes and trees that litter the ground ahead, unafraid of loosing sight of him because he knows exactly where he is heading.

 

C passed houses and shops, not stopping to see what might have been available to purchase, keeping his eye ahead at all times and walking at a pace that was more akin to a jog. Zed enjoys the chase, revels in his sense of mastery over C who has failed to notice him almost catch up and touch him on the shoulder. Nothing gives Zed more pleasure than a sense of his athletic prowess over another man. Especially as C has no idea that he is there at all.

 

When finally C does reach his destination, a small terraced two up, two down he disappears inside.

 

Zed crosses to the other side of the street, a door opens to the house directly opposite to the one that C has entered. Zed enters. Inside the front room are sat two men in front of a camera that is looking over the road to where C is working. One of these men has hair whereas the other does not. The man with hair is shorter than the man without and heavier looking. Zed nods to them both and they nod back.

 

Another man walks into the room, nods to Zed before he sits down at the desk, which is piled high with audio equipment, and puts on a pair of headphones. Zed sits down on a chair which is placed with its back to the wall, beside which a small tablet computer lies on the floor. Zed picks up the computer, logs into the office and summons C’s file to the screen.

 

Zed wonders if there is anything about C that he has missed. C the son of a migrant who had married a native was born and bred locally. For a long time his migrant father had himself been unemployed, though there was nothing to say that C’s penchant for moonlighting was in any way influenced by his father’s behaviour. Zed thought it wrong to make the connection. Each man is an island. Throughout his childhood C was assimilated into his surroundings without ever standing out. He scored well in his exams and secured himself a place at a good university but he failed to complete his first year. This did not surprise Zed as C’s choice of Economics as his subject was entirely inconsistent with his later focus on paranormal activity. Not long after dropping out of university C met his wife at a conference exploring the schism between modernity and spirituality, suggesting that the foundations of the current C were laid in and around that time, and that his wife was somehow intrinsically linked to his present manifestation.

 

Zed looked up from his computer at the fireplace opposite, in which an electric heater has replaced the coal fire hearth.

 

The involvement of the wife changes Zed’s understanding of C. This man is not a single cell entity. He is at very least an example of dualism.

 

Zed looks down at the tablet sitting on his lap in order to continue reading but finds himself unable to go on because it occurs to him that C’s enthusiasm in the paranormal might also explain his current behaviour. To be sure of any resulting analysis Zed seeks a definition of the word paranormal from an online dictionary.

 

par-a-nor-mal [par-uh-nawr-muhl]

adjective

of or pertaining to the claimed occurrence of an event or perception without scientific explanation, as psychokinesis, extrasensory perception, or other purportedly supernatural phenomena.

 

So there it is. C exists outside the acknowledged laws of behaviour and physics, his allegiance captivated by that which abides beyond the boundaries of documented experience. That was it in a nutshell. That was C’s predicament. To C the impossible was possible. No doubt C could recount numerous instances, and examples, all of which were beyond scientific explanation. It was a rebellion of nature. A dangerous state to be in, and one that was, if not contained, highly contagious.

 

Zed himself had to resist the urge to delve deeper. Up until that point he had simply regarded such exploration as the activity of cranks and conspiracy theorists. This was not such activity. It was a mark of rebellion, an attempt to break free, loosen the chains. C was a danger to those around him, and not simply to those in his immediate orbit, the effect of both his activity and philosophy was like a tsunami ripple on the surface of the world’s oceans.

 

Zed typed, the threat must be contained. No sooner had the words materialised onto his screen than Zed synced them with the office. They were now in the system. It was now up to someone else. All Zed could do now was continue as he had been doing, visualise the steady line between right and wrong, and traverse it.

 

The man with hair caught Zed’s eye and indicated his watch. It was time. Zed cleared the page on the tablet, reset the history in the browser, placed the tablet back on the floor, stood, left the building, taking a left out of the front door and walked up to a car that was parked fifty yards ahead and got in.

 

Twenty minutes later C emerged, his clothes covered in fresh paint and climbed into a beaten up looking two door hatchback that was parked directly outside the building in which he had been working. Zed started the engine to his car, watched C pull out, drive to end of the street and take a left. The moment C’s car disappeared from view Zed casually manoeuvred his own car into the street, drove to the junction, where he too turned left.

 

C had stopped behind a small surge in traffic, all looking to turn right, a little further along the narrow street which was sandwiched by cars on either side. Zed had no alternative but to take his place in the queue directly behind C. C might have glanced into his rear view mirror, or he might not have done, Zed was not entirely sure, or if he did he missed it. This was usual. C would not have registered anything unusual about Zed’s presence, he would simply have noticed him without registering any particular details, or if he did notice the colour of the car, the model, it’s age and condition the significance of it would have escaped him. Being entirely unaware that he was being followed would mean that his guard was lowered. Zed knew this, he understood basic psychology. There was no need for him to hide, people, on the whole are not suspicious. Further more his car was a popular white. Zed rested his head on his hand, blending in perfectly with the montage of moods within each of the patiently waiting cars.

 

The car in front of C pulled away quickly with C hot on its heels. Zed remained calm. He too could have made a dash into the brief hole in the traffic, deciding instead to sit back and absorb a slower pace to the day, he was in no rush. In any case C was a man of habit. Zed knew exactly where C was heading and that he would not deviate from his usual route or veer to a new location. After a brief wait Zed was able to take his turn. By now C had vanished from view. Zed looked out of the window at the people in the street and noted them. There were two young women pushing young children in their chairs. The children were asleep, the women did not talk. Behind them a young man, perhaps nineteen years of age, walked with his head down and his hands in his pockets.

 

#

 

Zed woke. His neck was crook, dribble had dried out of the corner of his mouth, his forehead felt cold where it had been resting on the car window. For a moment he was dis-orientated, not even recognising the car in which he sat. As he blinked and focused he looked down the street, the occasional car, the long terraced block of short, stubby, red bricked workers cottages, some with boarded up windows. Wiped his mouth, reach for the vacuum cup, took a sip of cold and bitter coffee. The clock on the dashboard said six am.

 

Even though the sun was up and promising a warm day, it was cold in the car. Zed’s limbs ached. Ahead of him a door to one of the terraces opened, C emerged in paint splattered clothes, slipped into faded car, with rust around the wheel rims, the engine stared and he pulled away. Quickly Zed started his own engine, pulled out, squeezed his car through the monotony of terraces, the constant red, the narrow streets. The red broke into grey as the two cars crossed a concrete roundabout, through the debris of an industrial building site, long wide languid roads, turning left, heaving right, sleeping cranes like petrified trees bald of branches, before a roundabout heaped up with rocks, peaked by an artist’s plaque. It became red again, boarded windows, broken glass on the pavement, a pack of dogs laid out like junkies. A tree appeared, then another, the windows contained glass, the doors became painted, the terraces appreciated, the streets contracted by increasing numbers of cars on either side of the street. C pulled up ahead, and began to parallel park into a space. Zed drove by and looked at C. C had lit up a cigarette and was staring ahead of himself looking like he was in a daze. Zed drove to the top of the road where he parked his car on the other side of the street, from where he watched C exit his car, cross to Zed’s side of the street to let himself into one of the terraces.

 

Zed got out of his car, had a quick stretch. The air was brisk and he shivered, before walking down to the house to have a quick peak through a window into an empty front room with bare floorboards. Through the open door he could see C staring at the opposite wall, a pot of paint at his feet, paint brush in hand. After what seemed to Zed to be a tired inhale before a melancholic out-breath C bent, picked the pot of paint from the floor, dipped his brush and proceeded to paint the top edge.

 

Zed went back to his car, sat in his drivers seat, took his phone of his pocket, recalled a number, hit dial. After several rings the phone was picked up. He’s there, said Zed… yeah I know you know, put the kettle on and make sure the showers free. Zed crossed to the opposite side of the street to a house with French curtains in the window. The door open and Zed went inside.

 

The man who let him in said, there’s a coffee in the kitchen. Zed went through to the kitchen which contain a table, chairs and little else. There pizza boxes piled up on one of the surfaces, a half filled coffee percolator and little else. Damp in the corner of the ceilings, ripped Lino on the floor, an old table with three chairs. Zed took a cup from the sink, swilled it out with water, poured himself a coffee which he took into the lounge at the front of the house. With the curtains drawn the atmosphere was tight and stifled. On a table sat a monitor, in which C could be seen painting. At the desk the man who let him was hunched over with head phones on, he turned to Zed and said, how was your night? Zed grunted, but said nothing.

 

Two other men in the room were sat by the window behind the camera. The one with hair said, he’s a scum-bag.

 

Zed shrugged his shoulders, said, I’m going to get a shower and a bit of sleep. The two men nodded.

 

Lukewarm water drizzled down on him, Zed stood with his eyes closed until the water turned ice cold. Naked he walked through to the grimy bedroom with a stained mattress on the floor, a duvet abandoned on top of it. Zed fell on the sheet-less bed, pulled the duvet over him and fell instantly to sleep.

 

#

 

He was awoken by the man without hair shaking him awake. They’ve taken C, said the man. We can go home.

 

Zed didn’t say anything as he stood up, went through to the bathroom where his clothes were piled up in the corner, started to dress. There were voices downstairs and laughter. When Zed went downstairs the equipment had been packed away into boxes that were placed in the centre of the room. Police men in uniform were stood around chatting.

How did it go? said Zed.

Fine, answered one of the officers, he came quietly.

Right, said, Zed, job done. Where is he?

In the kitchen.

Zed nodded and went into the kitchen. C was sat at the table, a uniformed officer was sat beside him. C looked at Zed and Zed looked at C. Neither of them said anything. It seemed to Zed that C had been crying. Zed poured himself a coffee, went out of the house, crossed the street, to the other house, the one that C had been decorating. The man who had hair was talking to the man who had been wearing the headphones, in front of a freshly painted wall. They nodded as Zed entered.

He doesn’t seem too happy, said Zed, referring to C.

He’s going to loose all his state hand outs, said the man without hair. Hardly worth it for the amount of money he must be earning for doing this.

Some people, said Zed.

 

They kicked some words around before Zed said that he was off, if they needed anything just call, they said that it was all OK and see you around sometime and they all shook hands.

 

Zed got a lift to the train station in a marked car. An hour later he was staring out of the window at the rolling landscape flashing by in a blur. His conscience clear. His mind empty. He had forgotten about all things paranormal. None of it was real anyway.

 

 

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