The Verge

Write Across Sussex
Write Across Sussex

by Paul Ivall

Stopped, at a standstill, the monsters all quiet. Their operators emerge, they are big and ugly. I can never quite come to terms with the gigantic size of them. If fifty of us stood one on top of the other I doubt we would even reach their grotesque faces. These creatures must never see us or know that we even exist here on the verge, this ribbon of life that divides these wide lanes of death and despair. If they knew we lived they would hunt us down and exterminate every last one of us for sure. None of us knows where they head in such a hurry, they never stop moving, not in darkness or light in rain or snow. Restless they never cease, moving always moving.

But not today, this strange quieting of the machines, moved like a creeping hush from the direction of the setting sun back past us here in both directions. As far as the eye can see, stillness. I have never experienced this before, lulls maybe but never this quiet. In the silence I hear birds singing across there in the Promised land, that beautiful unobtainable place that can never be reached while these monsters scream by day and night.

Now they are stilled and quiet, their operators, stand beside them, crane their necks and shield their eyes looking in the direction of where the sun sets, a huge orange orb hanging on the darkening horizon. Some begin to walk in the direction of where the hush first spread, seemingly confused. I hear loud discordant sounds from inside the bodies of  some of the beasts. I am told by one who knows, that this is music, some form of entertainment favored by the ugly giants. Apart from that discordance and the murmuring of their voices, It is eerily quiet. So strange, the tension is palpable. 

From the Promised land  I can hear the sweet voices of the females, as sirens they call ; ‘ Come to us, cross the death strip, please come and join us and play, let us love you, the time is now.’

None of us move. Maybe the time is now, while the movement has stopped and they are quiet and unable to crush and kill. All of us contemplate making the attempt. All of us know the fate of the many that have tried before and of the thousands of creatures that live here on this verge with us, that sustain our existence. Some crawl some fly, but all, one way or another fall victim to the monsters. Some crushed under the terrible wheels, others smashed with unspeakable violence against the clear screen that the operators stare through.Their blood and destroyed bodies washed away with jets of water and long blades that scrape the screens clean.  We all know our fate if we were to attempt that perilous crossing. It is a death swifter and more certain that the slow choking poisoned  oblivion carried in the heavy noxious air that we breathe.

‘I will go.’

It is 3, the bravest of us that still lives and the one who most longs to taste the joys of the females over there in the Promised land. The one who each night as those unobtainable beauties glow pink and his own light glows a ghostly cobalt blue, feels it most keenly.The urge to mate, procreate, to taste them and touch them, embrace their pink light and know them, before it is too late, has become an obsession with him. He will be the first of us to do that, should he make it. His full name is Male 3 Junction 15A Northampton 1 mile join correct lane now. My name is Male 13 Junction 15A Northampton 1 Mile join correct lane now. For obvious reasons he is known as 3 and I am known as 13. We are all somehow stranded here, though our number dwindles daily. I can only ever remember being in this place. Our lives are full of danger and longing here on this central reservation this narrow verge that stretches in both directions towards infinity.

‘Be careful 3 they may move and crush you like all the others.’

‘They are silent they do not move there is no danger I will go.’

He moves stealthily from the cover of the verge and moves unseen beneath the stationary huge black wheels that tower so far above him, that will roll again as they move and out beyond our sight. We hold our breath as he emerges, heading at a stealthy pace towards the next monster. Over in the Promised land the females have seen him, they call encouragement ‘Oh my brave love, come to us let us embrace you in our pink light, come to us brave one.’

There is a sound now, a sound I have heard before. It belongs to the screaming thing that flashes blue and red strobing lights, its urgent call rises and falls and disorientates. The monsters roar into life now and move slowly but purposely, sideways not forwards. The ones nearest the verge move towards us but stop before it crushes us. They make way for the beast with the strobing red and blue lights and its awful wailing. There is more than one of them, they tear through the gap created and head towards the setting sun. I look for 3 but can no longer see him. Then I see the mark on the strip, the splash of his blood his destroyed flesh, crushed by a manoeuvering monster. I can hear the cries from the Promised land and the pink glows, now far more visible as the sun sets, dim as they shed their tears of sadness. Though the machines do not move for many hours, none of us dwindling few dare to try and make the crossing.

There must be a way though to reach the Promised land and the beauty that waits for us there. I will make this task, for whatever remains of this desolate life, my endless toil to find a way across. To one day thwart the monsters that roar and kill by day and night ceaselessly. I will cross from this central reservation this verge and reach the beauty that waits for me there. For I am 13 and I will be the first to make it and lose myself in the pink glow of love that invites and patiently waits for me there in the promised land beyond the terrifying strip of death.

Night is our best chance to succeed. The monsters are less frequent then, but make up in speed what they lack in numbers. It is still a dangerous time to attempt the crossing. I am told that once the sun disappears below the horizon, the world is a dark place and there are pretty points of light in the sky called stars. None of us here have seen them. We live in light here on the verge. During the day it is sunlight and as each day grows into natural darkness the dazzling yellow lamps come alive, like small artificial suns illuminating everything but revealing nothing only the strips of death that run into infinity, and this poisoned verge where we try to exist.

Living is a term we would never use for this is existence only. We catch tantalizing glimpses of darkness over in the Promised land that only increases our longings. The soft pink lights that glow, calling us there, calling to us to take the risk. Make the journey and taste the love and live free in the promised land that so many have given their lives to reach.

Tonight it will be the turn of 18 or Milton Malsor, his real name. He came to us from the south, making his way along the verge from a place of that name. Heading north always north till he reached us here at junction 15A and could go no further. Night after night the calls and pink glows from the promised land torment him and tonight he will try. Death on the strip or love and happiness in the promised land, no longer any middle ground for brave18.

The dazzling yellow lamps have been burning for many hours now and the monsters are few, just one or two travelling at high speed, as though they race in reckless competition. Loud discordant music blairs from the machines, the bass tones like a physical force shaking my very core. Milton Malsor is poised on the edge of the verge, ready to make his life or death run. The pink glows brighten and the calls of the females grow ;’You can make it, you can do it, we love you please make it.’ He turns to look at us, gives a smile, we all smile back and wish him luck and say encouraging things like; ‘see you one day on the other side’ and ‘kiss the beautiful ones for me’ and he is gone.

We watch as he runs for his life across the vast strip of death. He is half way acroos the first carriageway, no monsters have passed by. We now hear a noise, a deep roar, a two wheels at terrifying speed it hurtles past, the slipstream flings Milton to the ground but he is unharmed. He gets to his feet, turns to us and waves, the females in the Promised land shout further encouragement and inducements. He turns and heads towards the voices and the inviting pink glows, his own cobalt colour radiates with adrenalin and excitement.

We hear the rumble, loud bass tones approaching fast, three of them in line covering the whole strip, they race, they pass in a blur of terrible sound and light and pounding music and are gone. We can no longer see Milton. From the promised land comes wails and cries and the pink lights dim as they recede back into the lush growth of the promised land.

The harsh yellow lamps begin their morning ritual of flashing and blinking on and off before finally fading as the sun rises. The volume of monsters increases. I can see a small splash of red on the death strip, it is new, it is all that is left of Milton Malsor, who we called 18, travelling to us from the south, from a place of that name. He always had a cheeky infectious smile, he always wanted to be embraced in a pink glow in the Promised land, he died trying. Tonight another of us will make the attempt

This night brings a feeling of change. All of us have sensed its approach, as though something mystical or inexplicable is about to happen. The tension we feel is also reflected in the promised land across the strip of death. The beautiful creatures in the soft pink light are restless, expectant.

Tonight I will make the attempt to cross to them and the love they promise, risk everything, this life which is not a life. I can no longer exist in this lonely wilderness of jarring noise, foul fumes and stark artificial light. In the darkness of this 29th day of the month of the Spring equinox I will face my destiny and accept all that fate holds for me.

it has been night now for many hours, yet still the machines scream by at terrifying velocity, they fill all three lanes of the wide strip of death, but still I will go, take my chance however slim. The others, my brothers, have gathered to wish me safety and good fortune. Across in the promised land the pink glows of the females dance and flit through the trees, and the one, the most beautiful who I have longed for, encourages me. She calls; be careful my brave love, be careful I wait for you I have always waited for you, come to me my love, come to me this night.

As I step from the scant safety of this ravaged verge I have known as home, onto the oil streaked tarmac to make my attempt, silence descends. A thin mist that has matterialised hangs in the cool air. The wind, previously gusting, ceases and the trees in the promised land are unstiring. The rushing machines of death have halted. Those that operate them sit rigid inside, hands gripped on steering wheels, eyes fixed staring unseeing through windscreens, seemingly devoid of life. Everything has stopped, the world has stopped, yet I and my brothers and our beautiful sisters in the promised land, still move, exist in this frozen enchanted world. The time is the second hour after midnight and time has altered, as though this hour has ceased to exist for all but us.

I walk swiftly out onto the strip of death, accompanied now by my brothers. The females in the promised land call to us in their excitement, we can see their pink glows through the strange spectral mist. The vehicles and their occupants remain silent and unmoving, seemingly frozen, held in this lost hour.

We complete the journey across the strip of death, passing warily beneath the machines that have taken such a heavy toll of our number. As the third hour after midnight arrives, all of us are safe, greeted and carressed by the beautiful ones, who gaze at us in awe and admiration. They glow in seductive pink and take each of us by the hand, leading us through the trees to the enchanted world beyond. Away from the strip of death and the reek of chemical fumes, discordant noise and harsh overhead lights.

As I go deeper into the trees of this longed for promised land, my hand held tightly by the intoxicating beautiful one. The machines come once again to loud and angry life and resume their reckless journeys. The spell is broken, the lost hour adjusted for. I kiss my new love and she smiles. A new life beckons as we walk hand in hand together into the approaching dawn.

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