The Tide Of Time by D.F. Lewis

The tide of time, ever balanced, flows with flesh and blood between the banks of night and day, past and future…

Even today, I misunderstand the repercussions. Heart in my mouth, I entered the building only to look round and then scarper — fast! Well, that’s what I thought at the time. The building must have always stood halfway down the road.. .true, it is a strange affair if you could notice it at all, but it’s that type of building which no one hardly ever notices. You know, there is currently a vogue for collections of old black and white photographs of specific localities, which are sold like hot cakes to those living in each locality. Well, glancing through a few of this road, you will be hard put to take in this particular building off the page, as it were, let alone focus on it… It has pillars outside and several wide steps leading up, rather like a mini temple or ancient cinema. I only know that because I stumbled on the pavement – slid on a lump of ill-digested dogfood, if I recall correctly — and scraped my forehead on the bottom step of the said building. I’m sure the passers-by stared at me, as if to blame me for disrupting the balance of their day… going tip over arse in such an ungainly fashion is a bit unaesthetic, I suppose. But they soon forged on to their own particular ends, and I was left with a slightly dazed perspective of the building in question. I was pretty sure that that road, so familiar to me, was purely terraced houses. So I scratched and scratched… Swaying a little from side to side, I stepped up towards the double doors — with a rotting keyhole, I noted. No sign or clue as to the use of the building, but it was definitely not derelict. That brings me to the point of telling you about all this, though it will probably not be clear even when I’ve finished. Time will only tell.

I found the doors open. There was a group of people squatting on the bare floor, chanting quietly to themselves in unison. There was very little light, the only source being a truncated chimney stack at the peak of an inverted cone roof, from which wreaths of sickly yellow smoke penetrated the room. The people were dressed in costumes from an historical period which, to my then mind, had not yet fulfilled its promise in the hard and fast past. I knew the garments could not be from some future period, for I was convinced that I had learnt all about that at school and had been my best subject. If anything, I was a bit of a dab hand at drawing together all the strands of the future into a composite picture. They say you can learn a lot of lessons from such trends to help you sort out the present. No, those people were from a past on which I could not put a finger. Suddenly, they all turned on their haunches and stared at me, as if they had been consorting with my other ‘friends’ outside. The balance of their day had been shattered too, no doubt. I felt the blood rising like a tide to my face, for I’m used to minding my own business and taking the blame of the world on to my own shoulders at each and every opportunity. I was sorry to be such a nuisance, I knew nobody owed me the slightest consideration and was surprised even at the ability of my own body to take up space. One of them came up to me and whispered instructions in my ear. I can only do what I’m told, for all things are in such a state of perfect balance, that I am swayed by the slightest external influence, until an even slighter one comes to take its place. I always vote for the last candidate to talk to me. The congregation proceeded to lie on the floor, side by side, and chanted louder, and yet louder. I trampled all over them, as on a carpet of corrugated flesh, and eventually wallowed in nothing but a thickening slew of red curds which now chanted in burps, and their foul-mouthed hiccups called me Messiah. Without further thought, I determined to accept this role and, in the fullness of time, to follow my future disciples wherever they roamed, hanging on each and every word they spread.

I’m sure the building is still there even today, its roof in communion with the sky and taking suck of the pollution our world gives off. Anyway, I hope it’s still there, but the black and white photographs inevitably grow yellow. I must walk past it each day along with all the others who, blinkered, forge straight on from A to B, in search of the goal that has ever slipped behind them.

(First published in DARK STAR #7 in 1990)