Polystyrene
rating: +12+x

I used to think that the world had run out of corners. That there were no more places for the strange things to hide. But I was wrong. They’re not gone, the corners, just in different places. They went to the alleys between fast-food restaurants, to the little hut by the railway which the collective gaze passes over, down the overgrown path in the park that nobody seems to take. It was in one of those places, one which everyone passes but nobody stops, that I found the god, dying under a polystyrene sheet.

It was pure chance that I found Her. Well, maybe not pure chance, I mean… nothing’s really just one thing, is it? But I hadn’t meant to get off at that bus stop. I’d missed my normal stop and by the time I noticed my mistake the doors were already closing and I didn’t have the nerve to call for the bus driver to open the doors again.

And I was annoyed, mainly with myself. For proving all those people right who said I was distracted and had my head in the clouds, but the next stop was practically right next to my one and it only added a minute or two to my journey home.

The only real difference was that it was… pretty skuzzy, because people used it as a fly tipping spot for all their miscellaneous trash. Oddly, though, a lot of it was just binbags. Surely it would have been easier to… not fly tip them?

As the bus ground away through the loose grit on the tarmac I turned to walk away, back past the bus stop I had tried (and failed) to get off at but something… not held me back, exactly, but tugged at me faintly, like… Oh I don’t know. Like something was faintly calling and if I stopped, just for that moment, I would hear it. So I… I wouldn’t say I stopped. I hesitated for a second. Maybe not even that.

The bus stop was on a traffic island, with the motorway garbling past on one side and a little curve of road on the other like a tributary, full of parked cars that never seemed to move. One, a white van with filth so thick that the obscenities written in the dirt on the side had new obscenities written within them, was pretty much abandoned.

Behind them were one or two perpetually shuttered take-out restaurants and maybe… a pawnbrokers? No, that isn’t right. This wasn’t a nice enough spot even for a pawnbrokers. That was the other reason I didn’t like to get off at this stop. It was dodgy. You hear the stories in the news, the flowers outside pubs where you know there couldn’t have been a car accident.

So I was right to be wary. A few seconds’ indecision had dropped me through the cracks of the city and into somewhere dark and cold, like falling beneath a paving slab, out of the light of the neon and glass. A neglected place.

Standing there, there was this weird moment of quiet, with the normal motorway gargle far away for a moment, three lanes both ways and the flyover still for one, slow second. There was a faint, turgid breath of city-smelling wind and everything was cast in flat, dead light from the grey sky. In that moment, I felt really, truly alone, surrounded by all these huge concrete monoliths and the glass shards of office buildings across the road, boxing out all of this with potted plants and plastic floors.

That was when I heard it. A little animal rustle, like a rat- well, that was what my brain jumped to, at least. And I won’t lie, I got a bit of a fright and maybe even jumped a bit, because it sounded pretty close and I’m not a fan of rats or being mugged. But just this once, I allowed my sense of curiosity to get the better of me and I decided to investigate whatever made the noise rather than keeping my head down and heading home. So I stepped out into the road to inspect the other side of the rubbish heap. There was a sheet of polystyrene leaned up at the back and there was clearly some space underneath it, so I gingerly lifted it back, slowly, so as not to scare whatever might be underneath it.

She was beautiful.

Not beautiful like a person or like a thing, or beautiful in the way that an animal is beautiful, because She wasn’t a person or a thing and She definitely wasn’t natural, at least not our idea of natural… I suppose I should start by describing what She looked like. The first thing I noticed… well, the second thing I noticed was how small She looked. And fragile, like She would turn to dust at the slightest touch. She was made of wicker and wire and leaves and steel wool and beads, the god of… I don’t know. Rubbish? Neglect? Maybe not anything anymore. She lifted Herself to look at me and slowly, gently, She poured faint images through my mind. I don’t know what they were of, but I could tell that they were important, and that it was important to Her that I knew them, even if I didn’t, couldn’t understand. They were a story, I could tell that. The story of a time when things were better for Her, the story of Her. She didn’t seem afraid to die. Just a little sad that Her story was over and She had nobody left to tell it to. So I suppose this is what this is. It’s not really Her story- it’s more mine than anything, and I don’t know if She’d have been happy with my telling of it, but I’m telling it anyway. So, Here it is. The time I caught the tail end of a god’s story, and the place under a scab of Brentford, London where it happened.

Sometimes I almost don’t believe it ever happened. And it’s not like I could really tell anyone- I tried, at first, but they didn’t believe me. Couldn’t bring themselves to care that there might be things in the world that they couldn’t box or categorise or post online. But I refuse to forget. And yesterday, I made something, out of electrical wire and buttons and a lump of asphalt. I’m not sure what it is, or what it means, but I think that something of Her got into me. I think that I can continue Her story, as best I can. Even if I could never show Her. Because it’s not over, not yet. Not while I can remember it.

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