It started with the dwarf.
Well, not really. The dwarf was the trigger that made me notice and recall it all but really it started long before then. The world and, it seems, especially this corner of it, is full of interesting people. Strange things happen every day but nobody seems to notice.
In Local Shop there is a daily ‘mother and baby hour’ in the afternoon, around 3-4 pm. The shop is full of baby buggies, from the basic to what can only be described as the SUV of buggies with off-road tyres and probably an engine. There are even double-deckers. They all arrive at the same time, fill the shop and then they are gone. The mothers don’t seem to know each other, it’s not co-ordinated, it’s as if somehing in those motherly hormones sends them all shopping at the same time. Or maybe there’s nothing on TV at that time.
There is disabled-car hour. Those electric chair-cars are drag-racing around the aisles, again they all arrive at once and then they are gone. Again, this does not seem to be co-ordinated, they don’t all know each other. It’s like a brief invasion by topless Daleks and doing a round to check the floor is like taking a short cut across the dodgems. They all appear at once, at the same time of day, then all disappear. Coincidence? Every day?
Thursday the weirdness ramped up. Every woman in Local Shop and every woman I passed on the way home had two small children. No more, no less. All roughly the same age – I would guess about six or seven years old but children are just annoyances until they are over thirty these days, so don’t take my word for it. I wondered if someone was giving them out. Perhaps the stork had a ‘birth one, get one free’ offer on six years ago. That was the only day I can recall seeing that event so where were they before, and where are they all now? There were none in evidence on Friday. None at all.
Friday was the dwarf and the smiling woman. The dwarf was first.
Note that I have no interest in political correctness so if any short people are offended, well one of you scared me first so consider it payback. I’m not a dwarf but living here among the Picts who tend to be of such height I sometimes wonder if they have snow on their heads and whether they can breathe up there, I can somewhat appreciate how you feel. It’s hard to recognise people when all you see is a midriff, and looking up all the time ruins your neck. Also the phrase ‘I can see right up your nose’ soon gets very tired here.
The dwarf was quite a pretty woman, but with mad staring eyes. They weren’t staring at me at first and as I noticed her from the side, I could not at first see that she had a glove puppet on her left hand. The puppet examined the shelves as she did.
She noticed me, turned those mad eyes my way – and the puppet turned to look at me too. She (and the puppet) resumed their examination of the goods on display, I thought ‘I’ve seen films like this, there’s usually an axe involved next’ so decided to be busy in the stock room for a while. I thought it best to leave before her and the puppet’s eyes lit up.
There is considerable weirdness in this town anyway, and most of it passes through Local Shop, but this was the weirdest experience ever. So far.
Now I’m not judging this small woman. She might well be very pleasant indeed. She might just be out to wind people up – and I really have no right to criticise anyone for that – but she scared the hell out of me.
Later, when cleaning the bakery ovens (this is a much easier job than it sounds – it’s just flour and sugar in there, a wet cloth and it’s done at ten minutes per oven) I experienced the smiling woman.
Unknown people smiling at me is nothing new. I forget brief acquaintances, people I might have been introduced to once and spoken a few sentences with. Nobody can remember everyone. I have recently had a long conversation in the shop with someone who worked for years in the same labs as me – and could I remember her name? Nope. Still can’t. At least I recognised her in that ‘I know you but have no idea of – and little interest in – your name’ sort of way, where at the back of your mind is ‘Please don’t ask me to pass on a message, I won’t know who it’s from’.
Smiling woman I did not recognise. It wasn’t just a hint of a smile, not just a smirk, it was a full-on grin. I wondered if she was one of those forgotten one-conversation meetings but could not place her at all. She just smiled and smiled. Then I realised she wasn’t really smiling at me.
She was just smiling. And talking to someone who wasn’t there. Time to remember something important to do in the stock room again.
At this point I should note that this is not one of my fictional stories. All of this is real. This has always been a strange town full of interesting people and that was a big part of the reason I chose to live in this little place rather than any other. This town isn’t called Marchway, the place I base most of the fiction, but it is the inspiration.
The weirdness is ramping up fast now though. The dwarf with the puppet is a new one, smiling woman is a new one, the outbreak of women-with-two-small-children is a new one. Within the last week, the entire town has slipped into the Twilight Zone. It was always on the edge of it but it’s now heading for the middle.
Maybe it’s all those years of science. All that training in noticing little details. It develops into a sort of detail-compulsion. For example, none of the bakers have ever known how many fibreglass baking mats they have. They have twenty. Eight red ones and twelve black ones. I can, when taking back a cleaned set, tell them how many of each they have left. I can’t help counting them. I’ve been trained to notice.
Nobody seems to notice when odd things happen. They haven’t been trained to notice and I’m even starting to wonder if they’ve been trained to not notice.
Maybe David Icke is on to something. I don’t buy the ‘lizard’ thing. When that series ‘V’ was on television years ago, the game broke when the lizards took off the human masks. The lizard faces simply could not have fitted inside the masks. Shapeshifters don’t cut it either. That can only be done by illusion and while the drones are dim enough to fall for illusions and suggestion, real people are not. Someone would have noticed. More than just Icke.
But Icke’s central premise of ‘There is something terribly wrong with the universe’ is still true. We like to think we know everything but we know almost nothing in universal terms and honestly, not all that much in earthly terms. We know about what we see and what we think we see and the drones know what they are told to know.
In my tiny, infinitesimal corner of what we call ‘reality’ there is a lot of unreality. More than there should be. A conspiracy? I think not. I think it’s just chaos. Fall of Rome on a global scale. It’s not all bad – at least chaos is fair.
I am drunk and talking shite now. The tales I have told really happened and I will have bad dreams and possibly scary stories about the dwarf in the future. Tonight was meant to be a smoky-drinky but the change in shifts from starting in the afternoon to starting in the morning wrecked my pattern. I fell asleep for the evening. Instead I will visit tomorrow.
In the dark, on the way, I will be watching out for dwarves with puppets.