A sequel to Going for a Walk
A person with purpose does not walk in quite the same way as a person without it. There’s a certain way they hold their shoulders, a certain rhythm to their gait, that sets them apart. A myriad of small movements and nuanced body language come together to shout “Look out world! I am on a mission, and woe betide any and all who get in my way!” It’s the sort of thing that parts a crowd without any of its members consciously realising why they’ve moved, like a sharp gust of wind through tall grass. Those with purpose are loud and proud, relentless juggernauts, they are titans striding across the plains.
Or so it is for ordinary people. Those who have been searching for a purpose for so long that when they finally find it, they feel an instinctual urge to shout about it. On the other hand you have people like Wet Geoff, people who exist as the walking and talking background noise of the fabric of civilisation. They are the faint, almost inaudible hum of the streets and nebulous clamouring of a crowded square, the rustle of leaves in the park. When such people as these move with purpose there is no fanfare, no clarion bell or trumpeting ring. There is only a faint shift in timbre, a sotto voce in the heart of a storm. Even if you strain, even if somehow against all odds you can sift this sound from the milieu, the change has already happened and to you, everything seems normal, nothing is different; business as usual.
The rush hour trains disgorged the living cargo from within their fat, metal bellies. A wave of financiers and bankers; civil servants and yes men; marketeers and consultants. A tide of suited humanity, armoured in rumpled creases, toting briefcase or satchel, wielding paper cups of semi-dry-half-foam-hazelnut-mochachinos complete with an extra half-shot of pretentiousness (this is very important, it adds flavour and a smug sense of self-satisfaction.) The commuters filled the highways and byways of the station, clogging every inch of it with their self-important need to be somewhere. Movement was relegated to a slow, chaotic shunting more akin to Brownian motion than progress. And it was through this sea that Wet Geoff swam. Every random jostle opened cavitation voids into which she slipped, every pulsing wobble of the crowd created fissures into which she slid. She flowed like water through stone; fluid; liquid; wet. There is a reason she is called Wet Geoff. Like water, she always finds a way through.
In her wake she drew a fluttering storm of discarded newspaper, sheets of white, yellow and pink tossed and thrashed in an unseen wind. They pirouetted through legs and dodged past bodies, always finding the gaps in the mass. As they passed they tugged sheets of folded newspaper from beneath the arms of the commuters and snatched discarded sheets from beneath falling shoes. Growing in number, all of it adding to the storm, swelling its size.
Through it all Wet Geoff clutched tightly to the battered red briefcase which she carried. Holding it close to her chest, almost cradling it, as if protecting it; From the commuters, from opportunistic thieves, from jealous glances and questioning looks, mayhaps even from the world at large. For the briefcase and its contents were precious indeed.
The lady Geoffry broke free from the morass of the main station floor, leaving the ranks of commuters to drift away on their futile, yet vitally important business; for who if not them would distract and forestall the existential oblivion of the Public. She made a beeline for the deserted and lonely annexes of the station’s main body; Out of the way places rarely frequented, forgotten to all save dust, rats and those who wish to remain unseen. The paper that trailed in her wake began to coalesce into perambulatory man-shapes. Arms made from razor-sharp folds, legs from rumpled sheaves. The sports sections became jackets, the arts pages became hats. Soon Wet Geoff was flanked by an honour guard of paper golems, her Newspapermen.
Across the empty, vaulted spaces of the arcade, on the opposite balcony, a figure detached itself from the shadows. Its clothes flowed and twisted in the air like thick syrupy ink dropped into water. As if they were made of something far less tame and natural as ordinary cloth. It made its way along the balcony, heading towards the bridge that spanned the divide.
“See that we aren’t disturbed” Geoff muttered to her Newspapermen.
With a dry rustling they dissolved into their component sheets and drifted away, fanning out across the station.
Slowly it raised its head to meet Wet Geoff’s gaze. Its skin was pale, almost to the point of translucence, glowing slightly from within. It had a face devoid of emotion or gender, a perfect unmoving androgyny that verged on being almost without form yet remained eerily crisp, like the mist of a bright winter’s morning; A contradiction of sight, a mere suggestion, a clinical blueprint of what a face should be. To look at it was to feel your heart melt and your soul sing, to exalt creation in a tongue long since forgotten by men. It was not a fragile or ephemeral beauty like cut glass or a freshly blooming flower. It was not a beauty that you felt you damaged by observing, not something that could be so easily broken by the trials or tribulations of the cruel and callous machinations of life. The beauty was hard and unyielding, strong and utterly immutable. It was the beauty of a lonely granite tor high upon the heath, surrounded by a barren sea of dead grass. It stood proud, dominating the vista around it. This beauty was defiant, and it felt like it would last for millennia while all else faded and withered. It was a beauty wrought from the heart of the world. And in its emptiness you saw everything that was, is or will be. All of it untainted by perception or morality or the meaty bias of consciousness. You saw everything as it should be, the result of the one sole reverberating note that upheld creation, ringing out since the dawn of ages; the perfect echo chamber in an empty face.
“It has been obtained?” It asked. Its words soft and melodious like honey and the bubbling waters of a woodland brook, mixed with the trilling high notes of every songbird that has ever lived.
“Yes.” Wet Geoff replied. “It was retrieved from the nether vaults this morning.”
“May I see it?” It asked.
Wet Geoff rested the case upon one arm and popped the lid. She examined the contents and it in turn examined her, bathing her face in a wholesome glow of light, like the summer sun or fine, clarified butter. She pivoted the briefcase around so the ink cloaked figure could see within. It peered into the depths of the case assaying the prize that lay within, but no glow alighted upon its face. It nodded to Wet Geoff, who closed the case and handed it to the figure. A pale, slender hand reached out from the cavernous realms of its sleeves and took the proffered cargo.
“So this day has finally come.” It said. “The day where the sins of the farther shall be laid upon their children.” It let the statement hang in the air. Wet Geoff did not reply.
“Listen Geoff. You and me, we go waaaaay back.” It replied, breaking from the emotionless calm it had previously exhibited. “Are you really sure about this? Like, really sure?”
“About as sure as I can be in anything” Wet Geoff replied.
The figure screwed up its perfect face, biting at the corner of its perfect lip.
“The Magisters aren’t going to like it you know.”
“The Magisters don’t like anything other than the sound of their own voices and their own archaic self-importance, let them come!” Geoff replied with a laugh.
The two of them reached forth their hands and shook.
“We have an accord” The ink cloaked figure said.
“The compact is sealed” Wet Geoff replied.
“We, The Almost People are pledged to your Endeavour. By the laws old and new we are bound to you, Wet Geoff; Lord Paramount of the Newspapermen. But know this: We will only go so far, there will come a time when you will be alone.” It said, its voice once more without emotion.
“I am always alone” she replied
“Oh you daft sod” said the Almost Person, a smile creasing across its otherwise empty face. “Give us a hug.”
The two of them embraced, both smiling for they both knew, the world was about to change.