Wednesday, January 14, 2009

London Story

This was in 1997. I’d moved into this flat a month earlier, and I knew my way around the neighbourhood but hadn’t taken the time to really get to know it. Also I’d had mononucleosis. But now I was feeling better, so I started exploring.

There was a paved square dominated by a huge tree and an old stone church. There were some great little streets and alleys, and there was also this one long and very ugly street running along the train tracks. There were shops on this street, but most of them were closed or abandoned.

There was one shop, at least I assume it was a shop, standing on its own at the end of the road. It had a yellow facade. There was no sign or advertising. Nothing was written on the door, which was windowless and closed.

It had a window display, though. The window display was this: a teddy bear dancing on an empty grey stage. The teddy bear was missing one of its button eyes, and stuffing had pushed out through the socket. One of its arms was much longer than the other. “Dancing” isn't quite right – it was jerking and twitching. It was the most loathsome and horrifying thing I had seen for months.

I watched it for a while. Whatever mechanism was making the thing move was hidden from view. I thought: maybe I’m dreaming this.

I left. Later that day I was walking with a friend, returning to my house by another route. I said to my friend: “Wait, you have to come see this.”

It was a 10 minute detour, and I almost couldn’t find my way, but there was the shop and there was the bear. My friend had an instant and violent reaction to it. He said: “Why did you bring me here? This place is evil.”

I said: “I thought you’d want to see it.”

“Why did you think I’d want to see it? This place is dangerous, especially to someone like me.” I should explain: my friend claimed to have psychic powers, and he’d told me that this made him particularly vulnerable to supernatural forces.

Then he said: “Look.” He pointed to the ground, to where the corpses of two pigeons lay just in front of the shop. I watched the bear for a moment longer, and began to wonder whether my friend might have had a point about all of the psychic business after all.

“Sorry,” I said.

I walked out there again a week later, but the window had been covered with newspaper.

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