At night I drive through the city. The road sounds like a broken bone beneath my wheels, I am driving over broken bones, the skulls and skeletons of all the dead, gone in the war and buried like dogs alone at night or in the daytime that brings no sunlight now, just a wound in the skyline.
I look down on the city of dreaming lights from my hotel window.
It is past midnight and I stand on the twenty-fourth floor.
The streets coil like an electric snake around the houses and the lights stretch all the way to the edge of the horizon.
Below me the river flows with some freezing frequency against the electric heat and charge.
The city bristles with deceit and crime.
I can taste it.
The freeway buzzes with a hive of cars like bees released and hungry for nectar.
The nectar these drivers seek are hookers they visit on their way from work.
They stop at sports clubs to shower the women’s flesh from them before donning virtue like a worn hat.
There is no hush.
I watch these men and women who use night time to do the things they do.
I see a car stop in the road below me.
Through the reinforced glass of my window and at this height the man who gets out is less real than an actor on the TV I do not put on.
I am tired of the same dish it serves me.
I want new excitement.
He stands in the middle of the road and starts yelling.
A blonde woman in a fur coat gets out.
It is not yet cold enough for fur, although the signs of winter are in the air daily as I walk the block to fetch the newspaper I throw away after a brief glance.
There is no news.
The woman is saying something to the man. I am not part of this. I cannot hear what she is saying. I can make out she is attractive and angry.
He hits her. He spins and hits her not with the back of his hand but his fist.
Her head flies back and she knocks it on the car. She slumps to the ground and he picks her up, hauls her into the car and drives away. I wonder what this is about. I am powerless to intervene.
I am merely a spectator.
I consider if I have become a voyeur.
The truth is I am what the hotel has made me.
It is the structure of the building and its height that causes me to behave in this way.
I look beyond what has just happened.
It is not real.
The lights of some offices blink at me in the sky.
The buildings have taken over with their grim prophecy of our exile.
We are set apart, made remote from experience. Who’d have thought that architecture would finally spell our ruin? In our attempts to house more and more people we have breached the purity of sky and alienated ourselves from one another. We ride the hungry streets searching for the things that make us carry on. Sex and money fuel us.
We are part of their design. They have designed us. They have shaped our world and warped our perceptions. Truth has become a dubious spectacle. They have been doing it for years. Eroding our souls with concrete and steel.
At night they numb us. They heighten our threshold of pain until there is no sensation.
In a disused parking lot a man kicks a beer bottle.
He gets on his cell phone and walks away.
Two young women walk arm in arm singing, they are drunk, they stagger in their high heels and look vulnerable. I wonder if they will be attacked by a predator.
A light comes on in a building. I fetch my binoculars and hone in. They are high powered and make the blurred shapes come into sharp focus. I see a man stand at a window. He is playing with something. He is young, well built and wears a T shirt. It is black and he turns towards the window. His T shirt has a logo on it that looks like a bull. Yes, it is a bull.
He seems to be saying something and I imagine he is talking to himself.
He walks away from the window, into the room, and I follow him.
As he moves I see a man and a woman in there.
They are naked and tied to chairs.
The woman is staring with horror at the man in the T shirt.
She is tied with ropes and they are cutting into her breasts.
She is trying to say something.
The man is tied as well, the binds tight against his genitals.
I think of turkeys trussed up. There is the melody of an abattoir that drifts into the static space of this spectacle, a melody with no music, just the staccato rhythm of noise jarring against a structure, like a needle on a bone.
The man in the T shirt hits the woman across the side of the head.
She spits out a tooth. Her mouth runs with thick blood.
I realise they are not playing a game.
She is screaming now, pulling forward on her binds and trying to escape like an animal.
The man in the T shirt shoots the man in the chair.
He slumps forward, all resistance gone, a relic.
I wonder if I am giving reality to this scene.
I want to help.
The man in the T shirt shoots the woman and leaves the room.
The word violation floats before me. Its sense seems to have been removed, it is like an egg shell with the small dead foetus of a bird inside it.
I watch, my binoculars trained on the building as if it might give them life.
I stand looking at them.
They do not move.
I look at the city.
There is none to be had here.
The hotel has no guests.
I can hear movements in the walls, the structure is being eroded from within.
They have infiltrated the structure of our lives with overload.
They have invaded us like tiny parasitic worms that crawl beneath the surface of our skin and eat our food within our bellies. That explains the hunger, the constant gnawing need.
We have been impregnated by some nameless nocturnal rapist. The deformity inside us is leeching our nutrition from us.
All part of the political program. The body politic has swollen like a tumour. Our alienation is complete. They have sealed us off like vacuum packed food.
It is a subtle form of entropy. I wonder if the system can be punctured.
Everything is accelerating within this gradient of disorganisation, the speed is like frenzied masturbation. They have organised the direction of our pleasures.
When I look again the man and the woman are still slumped in their chairs, alone in the room.
I get my coat and head down into the street.
I have my weapon.
I walk to the building.
I want to see what theatre this is.
The city is a hall of mirrors.
There is a doorway that leads to some stairs and I figure what floor they are on and buzz the intercom until I am admitted.
I scale the stairs. I face two doors.
My estimation of the direction the room faces and the layout of the apartments leads me to one and I kick the door in.
I walk through a hallway and find them.
They are naked and real. Blood spatters the walls, my binoculars do not pick that up, this is a better image.
They are dead and there is no sign of why this has happened.
I consider if this is an interlude between acts.
I hear coughing and a shuffling noise as if offstage an understudy has dropped his script.
I turn, a man wearing a hat is standing in the hallway and he begins to run when he sees me.
I run after him.
He starts to go into the apartment opposite and I grab him.
He pulls a knife and I draw my gun.
He slips away from me and slams the door.
I stand in the hallway saying I found them.
He does not hear.
I return to the hotel.
I know I have to find the man in the T shirt.
I watch the city come alive as day breaks.
A grey sky pales against the electric lights.
I watch the workers leave and return. They are drones. They hum.
The air conditioning is wheezing. I consider they are poisoning the air.
I watch the sky fade.
I scan the area for the man I must find.
I consider that he may be a politician.
I look at the apartment but they are not there. The man and woman who led me to this have gone.
I consider that victims draw others into their drama.
I muse on their culpability.
The city buzzes with decay and erotic violations.
It crackles like a psychotic snake.
I go to my car and drive. I tour the city looking for him.
The next day I buy a newspaper.
I am wanted for two murders. The man at the apartment must have taken my picture.
Talking to him is pointless. I look at the room now, but it is empty, a space where there is no indication of what has happened.
It is a vacant stage. Someone is running the theatre.
I know the games others play. I think I may be a prop in someone’s drama.
The bodies were real. The killing was real.
I tour the city.
I stop the car near the river and walk along its edge listening to the noise of the water.
As I walk I see a shop selling clothes.
In the window is a T shirt with a bull on it.
I return the next day.
The T shirt is gone from the window and women’s dresses are on display.
Party dresses that no one can wear. Women do not wear dresses any more, androgyny is prevalent as is the need for desexualisation within the political program.
A bald man stands behind the counter, he is talking to someone at the back.
There is a door and beyond it another man.
I walk towards them.
I want to see the other man.
‘Did you finish them?’, the bald man says.
‘Two shots that’s all’, the other man says.
They turn and see me.
He could be the man I saw in the apartment. He could be the man I am looking for.
They stop their conversation abruptly when they see me. I leave.
I consider they are a cult. The T shirt is a uniform.
They are a faction of the government. A faction we do not know about.
I think of the man’s face at the window, as he stood and shot them.
It may be him.
I drive to the shop at night. There are no T shirts in the widow. There is nothing in the window. As I walk away I see a tooth lying in the corner of the empty shop front, a tooth with some dried gum attached to it.
I read it in the newspapers. They are looking for me.
I am wanted. I consider the word.
The streets below me are full of want.
I have become an object of desire within the veiled campaign.
They want me, and a man with an image of trite anonymity is pulling the reins and dragging the sharpened bit of the bridle into a blind horse’s mouth.
The animal’s eyes stare with obscene redundancy into this blackness.
There is a hole at its heart.
Some contagion of acid.
It poisons the flesh of the city.
It generates need and the odour of money as it soaks in the sweat and faeces of our days.
The lights below my window bomb like fire flies through the violent night.
The people are ravenous with the hunger of a lifetime’s need.
I train my binoculars on the apartment.
The room is empty.
The lights from the building sparkle with a sinister glow.
I can stay in the hotel.
They won’t find me here.
I will find him.
I drive through the city looking for him.
36 thoughts on “The Man In The T Shirt by Richard Godwin”
Holy Jimmy Stewart leaving a Hitchcock scene for involvement … Richard, you had me at ~ “The city bristles with deceit and crime.” … and then I tangled with what I dug more — the storyline — or the lines, the lines — so many succinctly scraping where thought processes hang out:
“There is no hush.”
“The truth is I am what the hotel has made me.”
“I am wanted. I consider the word.
The streets below me are full of want.”
Yeah, there is no hush to all I wish to say about depth and action, action and depth here. Bravo Sir. ~ Absolutely*Kate
Hi Kate thank you for this great comment and picking out the things you like. Depth and action it’s like what falls between the shadow and the act.
Richard~~you remain a wickedly good writer, who has yet to pen work I don’t enjoy…each is read with anticipation and always with a lovely frisson of fear.
Hi Quinn thank you. I appreciate all your comments and support and and always know you say what you mean, your friendship means a lot to me.
I love imagining this landscape. All the things “wanted” by the end is marvelous.
Hi Jane thank you. The landscape is integral to this story and you have caught the flow of it.
Odd, I also thought of “Rear Window”, the helpless voyeur.
I like the political undertones, the levels of body, the detachment.
This is noir perfection, Richard. I love the way you have structured it- each line conveying the next idea in the narrator’s head so timely. I felt the isolation.
Hi Kristin I knew you of all people would know the structure since you form your photographs with the ease of a great photographer, thank you. Isolation is at the heart of this story.
This is excellent work. There is an arcane quality to the main character, seeing all and letting the events in the story transform him. It’s interesting to see it all unravel.
Hi Mark, it’s interesting you say arcane and yes that is there in the detachment almost like a chorus commentating. The unravelling is happening in the chillest sense of the word.
A times, my friend, you are downright horrifying. This one took me back to Rolling Stone magazine in the sixties. I can’t remember the cartoonist’s name but he penned a great one. It was a landscape of apocalypse millions of bones: skulls, rib cages,pelvic journals. Stacked three or five feet deep reaching to the farthest horizon. Backdropped by ruined carcasses of what used to be buildings against a black sky. It was done in ink, not a trace of color. On top of a hill of bones a soldier in a shredded uniform is reporting in to a General. “Sir,” he is saying. “Good news. We won.” This story slammed all the way back into that cartoon. Graphic does not begin to say it. Gotta stop. There’s lots more to say. The line that will stay with me a long time is “I watch the workers leave and return. They are drones. They hum.” “They hum.” How perfect. Cool.
Bill thank you so much mate as always you are so generous in your comments. That is the image the ravaged landscape of Apocalypse, the violated earth the nigthmare world of the twilight zone.
Richard, The atmosphere you set up here is so thick and sinister. You can feel the electricity and the air is oppressive. What came to mind for me here was Body Double. They know he’s a watcher, so they put on a show just for him. They are also counting on his being the kind of person to try to help, which he does. I don’t believe in coincidence, and wasn’t it convenient that the man across the hall just so happened to be there at that very moment? Because he’s a watcher and because he involved himself, now he’s the wanted one. Someone wanted those two eliminated and that was done. They were also able to distance themselves from the crime by setting someone else up, and it was basically so easy for them. Positively diabolical. Loved it.
Joyce I know Body Double it’s a good analogy. In a world of conspiracy everyone is a suspect thank you for your insightful comment.
From the opening line, you gutted me. This was sharp shit. The line-by-line resembled a play-by-play and worked well for this particular telling, although I’ve seen it in your works before. You rough and tumble with the superstars Richard. It’s a matter of time before you win your crown. Sweet piece.
Carrie my friend thank you. That’s such a nice thing to say you’re a fantastic support.
the first person narrative is especially powerful in this piece. He is like a toothless old lion. Useless. Powerless. I’d love to see this as a comic strip. I can almost see the pictures jump to mind. Perhaps its because of the short blunt sentences. I love the technique you use. Reminds me of Apostle Rising. Fun little psychotic jot you take us on.
Jodi it had to be told in the first person to get that sense of detachment and immediacy. It’s interesting it reminds you of ‘Apostle Rising’, I like your comment about the toothless lion he’s powerless, an onlooker in a nightmare, thank you my friend.
Dystopian imagery, madness and deacay. A world J G Ballard would have been quite at home in.
Really well written. Great pace, too.
I meant decay.
Gotcha UV. Madness and decay seem bedfellows albeit of a syphilitic kind.
UV you’ve got the atmosphere I intended perfectly with that comment. Thank you for the analogy to JG Ballard.
Goddamn, Richard. Every time you take me to a different world. This is a bleak yet frightening and frenetic place–and I really dig how the writing reflects the setting and the plot.
Thank you Chris I’m glad you enjoy the places I take you to. Thank you for coming and all your support.
Another tour-de-fource. I much enjoyed this.
Charles as always it’s good to see you. I’m glad you enjoyed it, thank you.
truly an odd cadence and riff going on here..it lulls the reader into a voyeuristic state of their own..i felt both helpless and heartless..fine fiction here richard..well done mate
Couldn’t have said it better myself. As a writer, I am envious. As a reader, I couldn’t be happier. Fantastic work.
Ben thank you for your comment, you’re very kind. The fact that I can divert you from tumultuous love affairs with women more radiant than the sun is a compliment.
Michael you say a lot in your comment, the voyeur is frozen and seeing the things he may not crave. As if a hand were holding his head towards the deepest horrors, thank you.
That is some supreme desolation, Mister. It feels like the gray and struggling streets of Rochester, its demise perpetually witnessed by the Genesee River that snakes through it as freezing and surreal as your narrator. Magnificently depressive, this! A 10 on the Richter scale of noir : )
Miss Alister what can I say? You are perceptive beyond measure and measureless beyond perception thank you.