• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 12
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Liebe Radioaktive Damen und Herren

Lorraine stepped into the U-Bahn and sat. The man across from her was crying silently. His big red hand, cracked and dry, covered his mouth as tears streamed down his jowls, and he clung onto a flabby backpack in his lap. Nobody else noticed. She leaned forward to observe him, but the hand moved over his eyes and the man disappeared.

Lorraine sat back. The gap on the seat opposite her shivered. 'He can see me too', she realized. The carriage jolted and she hung onto the handrail, pulled herself up and stepped out. The shivering patch of air followed her out onto the exposed grimness of Alexanderplatz.

'Not me,' she corrected herself. 'That Thing in me. He can see that Thing.'

It happened on nights like this, when Berlin cracked open for her. It wasn’t worse than being alone, but not better either. The vast square was empty apart from a few huddled sleepers, its fringes curving against a steel-black sky. The heart of the city lay buried here, but its embalming had been a failure: it had resisted and still beat at an erratic rhythm, rotting and hollow.

Under the World Clock two elderly women in bright headscarves stood embracing, the shorter one lying her head against the other’s breast while her companion comforted her soundlessly. The taller woman looked right into Lorraine’s eyes as she stroked the other’s hair. Lorraine’s throat clenched.

'It’s not me,' she wanted to say. 'I’m not responsible for every one of you.' The shimmering which had followed her paused at a distance, glitching momentarily into the image of the man letting out an inaudible cry and tugging at his hair.


Liebe Radioaktive Damen und Herren

The weeping woman lifted her face and stared at Lorraine. She stared back, gritting her teeth until pain shot through her temples.
'It’s not me.'

She took a key out, a small, pitiful object that had long outlived its maker.

The women looked at the key. The man stopped crying and hobbled closer. Lorraine was aware of the extinct stars, of the carcass of the city turning in its grave, of the shadows inching towards her like stray cats at witching hour.

She knelt down onto the dirty, frozen cement and thrust the key in it. It sank with ease. When she turned it the voices began like they always did: the wailing, the sighing, the beating of fists. The man and the two women now stood above her, their babbling voices confused and agitated. They touched her shoulder in supplication and Lorraine gasped as her blood missed a beat with the shock.

'Come,' she panted, 'hurry.'

They held her arms, her clothes, they ran their hands through her hair, murmuring in hesitation. She wanted to cry. 'Hurry, hurry.'

They shuffled past her, dipping their toes where the key had turned, and sliding into the ground with sighs of gratitude.

'No,' she wanted to say, 'it’s not me.'