I have been awake for four days now.
I have seen the light drain from the apartment like blood from a corpse and then, in the early hours, slip back in like a guilty spouse returning to the marriage bed.
On day one, a glass, trailing water smudges across the polished wood, moved 5cm towards the edge of the coffee table and fading chair.
On day two, I discovered an unlit cigarette in an ashtray on the floor beneath the bookshelf. I have never smoked.
On day three, liquid light slipped in under the front door, like some lost organism looking for a way to a familiar place. I reached for it, entranced by the golden substance. At the point of contact, it silently withdrew.
Day four – shouting in the lobby.
I have been away.
I am not sure where, but I went to bed one night and woke up three and a half months later. Perhaps “returned” might be a better word. I am not certain.
There are fleeting memories of white lights, voices from across the room, yet emanating from right beside me, the feeling of movement, rapid acceleration and deceleration. Sounds.
I know that once I called out:
I recall a response, but the content and import now escapes me.
Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming, seems to resonate through me, hour after hour, minute after minute. The words, the lines, verse flow across my consciousness like mercury in a bowl.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
My room, the curtains drawn, the the bedside table drawer remains a quarter open, my room remains the same.
I awoke in the early hours of the morning to the sound of the ocean rushing up onto the shore, shifting sand and the sush of water folding back upon itself, the silence of time shifting like a ghost through the distant universe.
Later, I discovered a sliver metal lighter, just inside my apartment door.
The time machine is back.
Bruce is not.
The trail has run cold.
I returned to the man with the photograph on his wall of the albino, to discover that he was gone. Seems there had been way too much time to think in my abscence.
In his place was, what I understood to be a Vietnamese family. They did not know the previous tenant. The place was empty and no, they did not have a pot-bellied pig in the back garden.
They were lying.
I heard the thing in the yard, rooting around in the bushes.
I met a man this morning, in the course of my business.
Right at the front door (which he only opened about twenty-two centimetres), there above the light switch was a colour photograph of himself, along with a daywalker, who I am sure, was in my room, some time back. No smiles, no fun. Pure male macho pretension.
I asked, as a matter of interest, who the albino was, pointing at the photograph and was told it was none of my business.
Sadly, that was the incorrect answer.
Now, normally I am not a pushy man, specifically in my line of business. I feel that common courtesy and respect pay the bills (literary and figuratively). When, however, pushed by a lack of humility and grace, I do tend to become a pushy man, as it were.
Needless to say, I shall be returning at a later date to the address and occupant for more than the initial asking price and a little bit more information on the photograph.
I need to give him time to think.
And time to clean my shoes.
Despite having the key to the basement door, the basement and the time machine remain unreachable.
The key is in my possession, yet I can’t go down there.
I am not sure why.
It is as if some sort of invisible barrier stops me in the lobby and prevents me from going towards the basement door, key in hand.
So many times have I turned back just before the door, almost unconsciously, and I find myself climbing the stairs, like an automaton, back to my apartment.
Last night, as I reached my floor, I heard the soft click of a door closing, on the landing below. I peered over the balustrade and quietly called hello.
I have reached the decision to keep the key on my person at all times now.
I spent the previous week searching for clues in the apartment – where they came in, how they got out and what the hell they did in between.
But there’s not a single trace. Nothing to show that they were actually in the apartment and nothing to indicate what they were looking for.
Towards the end of the week, I began to think it had all been a strange dream, some waking moment where fiction and reality blur into subconscious fact.
But then I found the key. Hanging neatly with my front door set, on the key rack beside my Samuel Heath mirror.
The basement key.
The strange thing is, the grey plastic key tag has the name “Bruce” written on it.