A short story about nothing
By Neil Beynon
It begins on a street.
I do not know why.
Indeed I have no idea where this is going except that the street is wet from the rain and cold from the wind and in front of me someone lies bleeding. The whole thing has an air of not being real until their hand grabs my ankle then I can feel their stickiness seeping through my sock. There is someone bleeding at my feet, dying perhaps and all I am doing is standing here. My brain slips into gear.
I bend down to get a closer look at the stranger. He is bearded and familiar although I cannot place him. Perhaps I have seen him in the coffee shop or possibly at the station? He murmurs something but I cannot understand him. The blood is coming from his chest, he appears to have been stabbed but by what I’m not sure and I am reluctant to pull his other hand – the one not holding my ankle – from the wound. He is pale, skin the colour of gone off milk, and his breath is coming in long wet gasps that suggest the tearing of something important. He is not in a good way.
I look up to call for help but the street is a wasteland: no one emerging from the office behind me, no one ambling down the street and no one looking up from the main road. Not even the rubbish, travelling on the gusts, is willing to stop for me. I cannot find my mobile. I must have left it in the office. Typical. And so I call for help. Shout, actually. Yet no one comes. I am concerned now.
The man is still breathing when I help him to his feet and thank god he isn’t bigger than me, I never realised how heavy a person can be when they’re a dead weight. And that’s when I feel his wallet. Propped up against the wall as I try to help the man onto Oxford Street where we can catch a cab. It’s in his inside pocket and so full at first I think he’s armed and I’ve stumbled into a gang fight but this man doesn’t look like a gangster. Not that I know what a gangster looks like.
In any case, he is barely conscious and there is no one else around. I glance briefly back at my office block but I know I am the last to leave just as well as I know my own wallet is empty. There would be no one to know.
I pull the wallet out and sure enough it is stuffed with cash. Fumbling, I stuff it into my own inside pocket, ignoring the blood it leaves on my top and leave the man propped up against an alleyway wall. His breathing is shallow now and he no longer looks at me or holds onto me. He really does look familiar but a momentary glimpse of guilt is lost in the feel of the money in my pocket. I am struck by the sense I should feel something and I don’t – in fact I feel nothing. It won’t be long now.
I walk away. I pause at the corner of the street just long enough to check in the reflection of a shop window if I still have blood on my chest but the worst of it is gone. I muse that I should shave again because my beard is looking as untidy as that poor bastard’s. Then I’m on my way again, no one paying me any attention, nothing out of the ordinary, and I’d be whistling if it wasn’t for the twinge in my chest.