47– Flat Hunting (part 9)

This orange light sits heavy on the streets, it’s like everything is buried in amber.

I prefer normal, old-fashioned purple argon streetlights like we have back in Footfall. Gosh, I miss them. I never imagined I’d miss those streets, but I’d take them over these ones in a heartbeat. If this were Footfall I would have found somewhere to hide by now, while I think these orange terraces might literally run on forever.

Unlike me.

I’ve got a good pace going, a nice running rhythm, breathing steady, good form, fast enough to keep the crazy witch and the bone giant away from me, slow enough to be able to maintain it, but I’m tiring.

And I’m light-headed, I’ve got this strange buzzing going on in my brain. I don’t know when I last ate properly, not in this world certainly.

I mean, give a girl a break, right? Or at least a sandwich.

And I’m angry.

So angry. I don’t often get like this; it feels as unnatural as these orange streetlights. I’m soaked in a sense of cosmic unfairness. Why can’t the universe just leave me alone? A few hours ago, I saved a little girl for that witch because it was the right thing to do. I could have died but, no, I did it anyway and what does she do to me?

She walks me straight into this tangerine nightmare.

I feel very strongly that I should hurt the witch at the first opportunity.

Luckily, I’ve left her in my dust.

“Hi, Shoo!” says the witch.

“Aargh!” I say.

Like a hellish loitering imp, she’s casually leaning in the doorway of one of the never-ending terrace houses. I don’t stop, but I do twist around to stare at her in disbelief. How did she get ahead of me?

No, it doesn’t matter, don’t let her distract you, keep running.

I turn to face ahead.

In another one of the doorways coming up on the left, I can see a familiar figure in a yellow raincoat. It can’t be.

It is.

“I forgot something important, I did,” Daisy says to me as I run past her.

This time, I don’t look back but up ahead I see her malingering in yet another doorway.

“I forgot I’m a bloody witch, didn’t I?” she says quickly as I speed by.

Now she’s sitting on the bonnet of a parked car coming up on my right.

On the pavement near her is an empty bottle of beer. The label on the bottle has a picture of a red dragon against a white and green background. The dragon is holding a drink and the writing reads “Pontray Brewhouse: The Big Red Beast, 7%.” The label is peeling away from the bottle.

I could run up to the witch, smiling like I’m pleased to see her, swipe up the bottle, smash it over her head and stab what’s left into her stupid pale throat. Over and over, over and over, over and over and over.

Yes.

What? No. No. Gods, what a horrid thought! I must be more stressed than I realised.

“Being a witch, I gets to play by different rules, see?” she says as I run by, oblivious to the fact that I just rehearsed her murder in my mind.

With my forearm, I wipe some seat from my brow and ignore her. Which is hard to do of course because she’s in front of me again.

Now she’s leaning on a dark metal box built into the street. Oddly, another empty beer-bottle is right next to her, same strange label, peeling away in the same corner. The identical murderous urge, very strong, hits me. I want to smash it into her face, really grind it in, shred that careless smile.

I can be free, I tell myself. The witch is the source of all my problems. I can put an end to them right here and right now.

She is, I tell myself, my personal Pandora’s Box.

But I could so easily close it. So very easily.

Which is odd.

As I have no idea what a Pandora’s Box is.

Oops.

“Daisy, is someone in my head?” I ask the witch as I pass by her leaning on the metal box. She doesn’t say anything but does raise her eyebrows.

“Cor! Well done, that girl!” she calls out of the letter box of one of the houses. “Clever-clever you are.” I turn in time to see her wiggling fingers and that happy grin.

I keep running.

“I thought it would take me yonks to convince you of that one,” she adds from the branches of a tree I’m passing under. Some leaves drift down. I don’t bother looking up.

“It’s this ‘Pob’ thing, isn’t it?” I say out loud. I’m not sure if she can hear me as I can’t see her anywhere. “It’s this… spirit of the place you keep going on about.”

“You got it in one, baby-cakes!” her voice says from under a nearby car. “Been messing with my brain too.”

“Right, okay, right. Then we’ll… we’ll… Um… how do you fight a spirit?” I pant.

Running and talking isn’t the best idea, I really should know better.

“Well, that’s where we’re in luck, chick,” She calls down from a rooftop. I glance up, she’s peering down at me over the guttering. She gives me a thumbs up.

“Why are we in luck, Daisy?” I ask the orange night, already dreading the answer.

This time, she’s in another parked car that I’m running towards. She winds the window down a crack. “Because…” manages to say through the gap before I’ve run past.

There’s a squat metal cylinder in the pavement ahead. It’s red I think though it’s hard to tell with all this ruddy orange. The cylinder has a kind of cute metal lid, it looks like it has a hat on, and there’s a small oblong slot under the hat. I think it’s a weird kind of post box.

The witch’s voice echoes out of it.

“The reason we’re in luck, me duck, is because I’ve remembered!”

“Really?” I say. “What? That you’re a witch?”

“No, you nugget,” her voice comes out of a drain.  “I’ve remembered the other thing.”

“Oh,” I say. “Oh good.”

As usual, I have no idea what she’s on about.

*

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