“Which One Pound shop was it?” the kid asked, “what was its name?”
“I don’t know” the other boy said. “That one in Bethnal Green”
“WHICH one in Bethnal Green”
“You know if you go down that road, near your aunt’s house”
“And keep going, and then it’s on that road that goes to Brick Lane”
The kid nods.
“That’s where I got my alien”. The boy licks his ice cream.
Downstairs, the courtyard between the blocks of flats was split into 3 gardens. It was a hot day in July, and Gerry was outside, reading a Cormack McCarthy book in his 3rd of the garden.
He thought for a moment. Then he closed his book, stood up, and walked inside. He locked the door, went out the front, locked the gate, and started walking down Hackney Road. “An alien” he thought, “real or presumed, is as good a reason as any for a walk”. He passed a kid skateboarding. This road was overrun with cats, it was like a sanctuary. They were on cars, under cars, all around doorways, retreating under fences, nosing out from between railings. Cats had taken over here. He kept walking.
On his left he passed a park, which rose up in a smooth green undulation away from the street. People were playing football and lying around in the sun. People sunlit and relaxed, some in bikinis, beach balls, tennis rackets. He turned right at the Tescos. The shop was on this street.
The bell rang as he entered. It gave an old-fashioned feeling. He walked up to the counter. “Hi, there. I’m here for my alien”.
The man at the counter said nothing. He pointed towards a door at the back of the room. “In there” he said. Gerry walked up to the door, and put his hand on it. He hesitated for a second, then pushed it open. It opened onto a tiled corridor, with a light at the end and a lift. He walked towards it, right into it, and looked for the buttons. It had only two, one at the height of his navel, and another, right down in the wall at the height of his foot. He pressed the lower button. The doors closed. And the lift began to descend. The temperature in the lift slowly fell, until Gerry had his arms wrapped around him from the cold. Finally, it came to a rest. The lift doors opened, and an icy wind blew inside. Gerry stepped out, hunched against the wind, and hurried along a stone tunnel towards what looked like a lamplit doorway, straight ahead. He passed through, and stepped into a walled courtyard. In the middle was a pool of water, and on one wall was a large rectangular mirror. Gerry walked up to it, his reflection appeared, and he stood and looked at it.
“Are you Gerry?” the reflection asked
“Yes.” Said Gerry.
“Good. Look into my eyes Gerry”
Gerry looked into the eyes in the mirror. He felt his arms lifted. The reflection had taken his hands, and was holding them up between them.
“I am your alien Gerry” said the reflection, “your Nemesis, we live to confound one another”
Gerry said nothing. The room around him started to become tinged with silver somehow, shimmering, and for a moment he forgot that he was looking at a mirror. He felt like he was the reflection. Something seemed to be disappearing, from the air, the objects in the room, he felt like his head was clouded, and a silver sheen like mercury was creeping over everything. The room was draining into the mirror, and Gerry watched as the image in the mirror grew more and more vivid, like it was coming to life, drinking in the world around him. He hung his head, and felt tingling through every hair, his skin was fading, he was weakening, he sunk down onto his knees. The draining feeling tailed away to an end, as though a tap was turned off.
“I am Gerry” said the reflection.
Gerry said nothing.
“I am Gerry” it repeated.
Gerry said nothing.
The reflection turned away then, and Gerry watched as it walked across the room behind it, past the pool. When it reached the doorway out into the icy wind, it stopped, and extinguished the lamp. Gerry saw nothing but darkness, as he heard the reflection’s footsteps getting fainter.