No Night Sweats N o  N i g h t  S w e a t s No Night Sweats
Sydney's Post-Punk Bands
I Like Music
Slapp Happy are Terrific
A List of CDs
Text is What I Write
Crime Fiction is Silly
[ The Hard Green Rain ]

It had always been dark by the time he set foot on the platform but even the dim florescents weren’t working tonight. To the west, and upwards into the escarpment, the usual street light haze was replaced by short bursts as cars turned into black corners. At the top of the pass the orange heliums from the expressway were still glowing and the fog was lit from within as it rolled past the lookout and into nothing.

Extraordinary events usually fascinated him in a detached, proprietary way but tonight there was no inclination to view things as he used to. The train was almost underway again before he realised where the hell he was. So he slammed through the vestibule door, ricocheted onto the barely visible asphalt and then stood groggy, sick and shivering as the last train from town crept south. The only passenger left in his part of the carriage looked through the partially frosted window and gave him a hateful look. He couldn’t get used to those and so next time, maybe, he’d just slump in the seat and wait to get thrown off at the end of the line. It might even be a sort of fun to get stuck thirty kilometres south with no money for a cab.

There were a number of smells drifting up from the front of his body. He tried standing still and thinking about them but the slight incline on the platform made him sway with discomfort. So he found a hard railway seat nearby and eased himself down. The few other late-night commuters gave him a wide berth but one of them went so far as to almost fall off the concrete edge onto the tracks. He missed the look of revulsion that came his way because he was too engrossed with sniffing the air. The pungency of spilt whiskey was easy to find. So was the richness of the pepper cream sauce that had smothered his steak and the tang of blood from his gashed forehead. But there was something else that he couldn’t quite distinguish. He smelt and thought for at least five minutes, with a look of growing concern, until he fingered the scarf and remembered. Then his brain seemed to tug loose from inside his skull, flipping and twisting, until his stomach roiled and most of that night’s food and drink was ejected from between splayed hands to lie in a spreading pool on and around his shoes.

He sat in the same position for a long time : fingers extended, dripping strands of bile, in front of a wasted face; stomach clenching and unclenching in spasm; leg muscles so rigid and strained that he thought they would split wide open. A closing wave of liquid came only part way up his throat. He fought it down and swallowed hard but then he started shivering. Eventually he controlled himself and dredged up just enough strength to move his feet away from the cooling mess. He looked vacantly around the station, over to the shops and houses and up to the enclosing blackness and wondered what was wrong.

Another five minutes passed this way till he finally realised that all the lights were out. He creased his forehead in concentration and winced when the cut opened slightly, then his bulk sprung up all at once, narrowly missing the puddle of vomit at his feet. He pushed his legs further apart to steady his movements and wiped his mouth and hands on the front of the tired coat with a dedication that he thought had left him forever. He dragged out a crumpled soft pack of cigarettes from an inner pocket, marvelled silently that there were some left, and lit one using a pink disposable lighter that had been shoved in with the broken remnants. He coughed roughly whilst gently tightening the scarf around his neck and began the short walk home.

The last leg of his trek was through a council car park and each time he reached this point he’d look up automatically, away from the scattered gravel and old chook pellets, to the large trees in the back yard: always beautiful. He could vaguely make out their massive cone shapes in the enclosing darkness but he felt nothing for them now. Two weeks ago he’d thought that this view might have some recuperative powers but, little by little, he’d come to realise that they never would. So he moved his gaze downwards and scuffed the dirt as he battled his unwilling legs and feet across the expanse of blue stone and tar.

A familiar sound filled his ears when, at long last, he moved under the comforting bell of leaves. When he’d first experienced this soft patter his initial expectation was for the start of a sudden downpour but then he’d noticed the flutter of wings and, finally, had made out the mass of white birds spread out amongst the twisted limbs. They quietly chewed through the husks of spiky seed pods, nibbling at the pliant inner flesh, and continually dropped a mixture of emaciated left-overs and saliva onto the packed dirt surrounding the massive tree trunks. If he left this detritus, for even a day, an inch-thick swamp of mulch would cover the soil which he’d happily shovel up each season for use on the garden. This would last for weeks until the casings were all disposed of and the birds moved onto other food trees. Now he turned his face upwards with eyes closed to let the hard, green rain drift over his numb cheeks and nose. He held himself in this position until his balance gave way and, swaying jerkily, he trod on a partially devoured pod, tripped over the cracked concrete pavement and fell heavily onto an already wounded knee.

His explosion of pain and anger triggered the flock into a noisy panic. They echoed his swearing as they wheeled off to a temporary safe haven and his mind wanted to go with them as well. Still screaming hoarsely, he remembered again: quick glimpses of yellow from a hundred elegant combs; stray feathers fluttering through sun-dappled leaves; a tidal flow of white bodies in flight; a mounting sense of dread as he ran up the steep incline to the back of the house; a sound so uncommon, sharp and vicious that he stopped momentarily, frightened to the core; the familiar shapes of the dogs folded near the steps in intolerable, unfamiliar ways; the peculiar, acrid smells that invaded him from the depths of the laundry; the splash of blood and fragment of bone squashed beneath his boot; the beautiful crop of greying hair matted with darkening red; a favourite silk scarf edging her sad, battered head; her ruined face; her punctured chest; her twisted and broken arms; fear cutting through the shock as a swift, deliberate movement positioned the barrel of the gun at his chest; greater pain than he’d ever felt as a massive sound filled the doorway; the slow unwinding of blood, mind and body as he drifted down to join the ones he loved on the foul, wet tiles.

The memories ebbed slowly and, once again, a pain settled in his chest. He knew this time that it would never recede. He cradled his injured knee with his forearms and then thought about the mass of pills he’d bought last week from a quiet, nervous man. They were stored safely in his bedroom and would go down easily with the expensive bottle of aged Shiraz he’d bought the same day. So he lay down on the prickly mulch to regain his breath and slow down his pulsing heart. He looked into the surprising blackness as the last of the hard, green rain settled. He struggled slowly to his feet as the power surged back and the street lights flickered gently. He edged his way up the backyard slope holding firmly onto the scarf and imagined the biting, sweet tastes to come.

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