Thursday, 27 November 2014

Blinkered - Friday Flash

I heard the rasp of the man’s finger down the spark wheel. It’s true what they say, when you become blind, one’s other senses become heightened, for I imagined I apprehended it striking against the flint. I started heaving on the unfiltered tip between my lips but was only rewarded with a few dry tobacco grains suctioned into the back of my throat. Foolish sightless me, the man hadn’t yet brought the flame to the cigarette. No doubt his hand was probably trembling too much and he was afraid I might glean that. The grains were coarse and the paper began dissolving between my lips. I discerned I could taste the scent of the man who had rolled it up, the bitter tang of hatred and despair. Of an army with reduced rations of only the cheapest shag. His troops might be hard up against it, yet it was I who was up against the wall. A bullet pocked wall, that much I knew without having to engage any of my senses, compromised or otherwise. 

“What, not a Sobranie then?”

I didn’t anticipate the cuff across my chops that swiped the gasper from my bushwhacked mouth. Didn’t feel a presaging swish of air, didn’t hear his coarse uniformed sleeve scything towards me. The blindfold had done nothing to accentuate my alertness after all.

“I need another one now. I’m not having that up off the ground”.

This time I did hear the crinkle of his rough worsted, though his arm seemed to be moving slowly rather than with the torsion of violence. The gasper was rammed back in the corner of my kisser. I manipulated my lips to funnel the cigarette into the middle of my mouth, for I wasn’t going to smoke this like some barrow boy or stevedore. I was just in time to receive the flame, whose feeble heat I could feel against my skin. Now in addition to tobacco grains, I could taste granules of earth to boot.

“You Sir, are neither an Officer nor a Gentleman”. I took his silence for agreement. I didn’t even know if he could speak my bally language. 

And what of the rest of my reception and ultimately rejection committee? Do they all smoke in advance of their duty to shoot me? To steady their hands, numb them into unerring aim? I hear no matches or lighters sparking up, but then I no longer trust my senses clouded by the blinkers. Perhaps they will await until after my despatch, lighting up to celebrate a job well done. Or at least not botched. An easy kill, a sitting duck of a target. A cigarette to purge their distaste and their dishonour. They know nothing lies behind my execution other than spite, since the war is lost and no advantage can be derived by my slaying. I hope they choke on their smoke. No, that does not become me. Faced with their position I would act exactly the same wouldn’t I? No, I would never let myself be cozened into such a position.

Normally when one smokes a fag, one indulges in watching the smoke wend its sinuous trail up towards the sky. Such carefree motion helps shapes one’s thoughts at that particular moment. But behind the blindfold I could see nothing of its convolutions. I possessed only internal sensations to fix upon. I breathed the smoke as deeply into the alveoli of my lungs as possible. I imagined I could almost feel the fumes licking up against the pulmonary walls and osculating with its infernal embrace. It was very much like the sensation of the first ever cigarette I had sucked on. A sensation forever sought after again and again, yet never recaptured. Just like the first orgasm. The first parachute jump. The first freefall. The first of each and every one of my daredevil enterprises, pushing myself. Each seeking after that first thrill, never able to reproduce it subsequently. Instead moving on to the next risky exploit. Unaware that all the time adrenalin was my blindfold, the sweat running into my eyes, the accelerating heart serving to blot out all true feeling. Always the quest for onwards and upwards, ever upwards. Now come to a crashing halt, here with my back pressed against a brick splintered by shrapnel and varnished in dried blood.

Two days, maybe a week no more and this damn war would be over. We would win it, yet I am likely to be one of the final casualties for our side. All because I took this outlandish plunge off my own bat. Behind the lines of this beaten army, yet their ideology I knew deep down to be both remorseless and unforgiving. To the last they would not be able to stomach any challenge to the monolith of their assemblage, no matter how gerrymandered. Even with a dearth of numbers on the front lines, they would perforce by their own perverse logic have to take a small platoon away behind the lines to form a firing squad. To eradicate the abomination that my gall represents. The decadence and delinquency that my brazen action somehow symptomises my country and the alliance we are part of. 

I can feel the faint heat of the burning tip close to my lips now. The cigarette is almost done. The reek of it in my nostrils is more like that of the cordite and saltpetre of the recently vacated battlefield. The tobacco and paper fuse to my own destruction was burning down to my own discharge. Now reduced to a dog end, it seared my lips. My nostrils were filled with the scent of burning flesh and brimstone. 


Simon K. said...

I liked how I slowly realised his situation, the blindfold, the cigarette. The vivid, desperate final minute.

Sonia Lal said...

very vivid, very clear description!

Icy Sedgwick said...

The descriptions in this are masterful.

Katherine Hajer said...

The whole way through, I kept thinking of a story about how Albert Camus was disgusted by firing squads, because he'd seen the work of one once, and claimed he could have put his fist through the hole in the executed man's chest without touching the sides.

The straightforward narrative is different from your usual Friday Flash, but very powerful!