It’s a fair assumption that beneath her, just out of sight from here, there are fat, screeching, sharp-toothed, blubber-faced worms being belched out into the container, through the wriggling rubber pipe, one by one.
Floodlit on either side, a high spike-topped steel fence lines the street, whose height is thus greater than its width. At the end of this sinister corridor, floating in the water beyond a guarded gate, is a bleak edifice with small square windows—a huge prison barge. On top of it, another floodlit fence with spikes contains a court where men are playing basketball. Others lean against the fence, staring down towards him. Male shouts burst and spill—perhaps at him, wedged here in full view, or maybe not, he cannot tell. He feels more than hears the slide and clang of metal bolts, the dead weight of concrete bruising blindly into bone […] his own gaze narrows to a skewer and he shivers at this glimpse of a world where he would not survive.
I’m deeply relieved to find him still wedged behind the cab of the tanker; though my relief is perhaps greater than his, because the tanker is now barrelling along at what feels to him like an unholy speed, north-east up Bruckner Avenue. Back among cars and activity and street lights now, he is also starting to feel rather too visible. This feeling grows alarmingly when the tanker slows to join the Bronx River Parkway, a car draws up alongside him and he glimpses a horrid vision, down beside him: a large family crammed into a tiny space, with leaping dogs, bawling children and loud inane voices on a radio. “Nightmare,” he thinks. “I’d sooner choose that prison barge.” Even more distressingly, two horrible gum-chewing children in the back seat have seen him and are now fighting over how to wind the window down. They hit each other, then are hit in turn by a parent… Scorpio drums his silver fingernails tightly on a metal strut and listens with impatience for the sound of vehicles moving up ahead. If the vermin succeed in winding the window down and start shouting up at him, then Kev will notice and probably investigate matters and discover him. He glances down, observes that the fight is still in progress, and catches for an instant the grinning semi-focused gaze of one child: passionless, compassionless, thoughtless and sealed-off, without imagination or real curiosity, and safely protected from the danger of wonder, it makes him laugh mirthlessly aloud.
Still he drums his fingernails, and still the traffic isn’t moving—yes it is, at last! One more glance down, and this time he catches just his own form reflected on the window, behind which the dreary family squabble carries on: clutching at his metal niche, his long black hair spilling out along his bare arms and round his fully made-up face (now a little smudged), he reminds himself of a manic dark monkey staring hatred out of wide-burning, silver-shadowed eyes. He laughs aloud a second time, and watches his reflected hand dip into his shoulder-bag and reach out a catapult. As the tanker revs its engine in readiness to move, he aims the weapon at the child, pulls back the elastic and shoots the little stone. For a split second Scorpio sees his own reflected face snarling up with a feral sensuality and glee, before it cracks at the window’s burst and falls into the screaming child’s blood-spattered lap, along with a lapful of broken glass.
Firing up its engine, with a roar that drowns the scream and the blaring of the car’s horn, the tanker presses grimly up the ramp to the Parkway. Its slimy cargo sucks hard, swilling at the warm black metal just beside his ears; and close behind his smooth and delicate neck, those screeching teeth…
Now the preacher steps on the gas with a vengeance. Two metres down through the truck’s articulation, Scorpio can see the roadway streaking by at sixty, seventy, eighty miles an hour. On his left, beyond the barrier, white lights zing by at twice these speeds, while the red lights on his right fall slowly behind. As the warm air buffets his ears and lashes his hair about, the tanker hurtles on, over and under the streets and expressways of Bruckner and West Farms, streaking through the Gardens and past the Woodlawn Cemetery. It exits the Parkway and the Bronx at last, slows down, turns off Hillview Avenue and heads up a track discreetly signed “Hillview Reservoir”.
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