local history

Each morning he woke to a future; but this future never lasted longer than a tick of the clock. It could neither be prolonged nor postponed, it could not be inhabited even for a moment. It was less a future than a fugitive, imperceptibly decaying into the present which itself decayed, perceptibly now, into the past. The past was easy, was all around, could be entered at will or involuntarily, as he pleased ... in the grand deco entrance of the Town Hall he watched through glass as somnambulist couples turned about each other in a ring that also turned across the sprung floor. A rudimentary shuffle, some of the old ones orbiting at arms length about a still centre that was nowhere—or everywhere—between them. They moved to a muzak version of Dance of the Hours. A notice on the wall next to a telephone suggested dialing the local historian's extension, which he did, only to find himself apparently connected to his own voice mail: as if he were himself the local historian. This was both true and not true, it didn't matter. In the same way the square, squat tower over the entrance to #20 Terminus Street was and was not the citadel of the Prince of Tyre. There were no odd numbers on the left hand side of Terminus Street but no houses on the right either, only train tracks. Would the local historian know if there had ever been? Her assistant wrote down the opening hours of the library at which, it may be, the answer was to be found in some book. He wanted to ask where Taverners Hill was but suspected he already knew: north of here, that line of dim shacks where ghost children played with sticks and kerosene cans. Terminus Street ran between Crystal and Palace. White paint peeled from a balustrade, exposing grey concrete beneath. A sacred ibis bisected the sky. He thought: pterodactyl. Wondering if it would rain. And if the pterodactyl thought: ibis? He hoped so. After all, there's no time like the future. He took another book down from the shelf, opened it and read: ... most of the universe consists of huge clouds of uncertainty that have not yet interacted with a conscious observer ... a vast arena containing realms where the past is not yet fixed ... The couples left the floor, they filed into the tearoom next to the auditorium and began to eat pieces of crumbly rhubarb cake. Rebarbative, now there was a word. It was what the future was. Or wasn't. How, he thought, to remain here, in this moment of arrival in the fleeing moment? His mouth improbably fixed to two mouths and ecstasy rising like smoke through his veins?

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