The frenzied flurry of Autumn, crimson cyclones of arboreal regurgitation, weird cluster debris and that grey impenetrable cloud, Dublin poised under a drenched canopy of gravid cloud. Trees leer with inert menace – very little comfort, very little release. Homelessness plagued the city like a human fungus, the dank, scabrous odour of urine drenched bodies, writhing in porous sleeping bags appalling the Chief Executives as they spill from practices on Herbert Street. Cornelius Black, his steaming hot Cappucino drizzled onto the stupefied addict’s forehead, searing a pink red insignia of hostile disdain, of complete disregard, of divisive nausea. The searing hot coffee startles Manus as he wakes, seeing a flurry of well heeled business men flash by him like tarantulas pirouetting across aisles of ice.

Cornelius stepped over him like anyone would a slug. Holding his tablet and examining the FTSE and the DOWJONES, the plight of the underclass for him was as relevant as a hole in an old sock or a blocked drain.

Manus rose forlornly. His empty coffee cup a vacuous chalice – nobody offers him anything, his underpants full of holes, unwashed and reeking, his liver cannibalizing itself, the methadone cauterizing his pancreas as he spews a vivacious treacle into the adjacent manhole. A rat slurps the heady liquid thereafter – the entire underbelly of Dublin bonded in this torrid pact of poverty, squalor and decay. As the rat scurries along the next subterranean avenue, the shadowy concave bend from Baggot Street to Mespil Road, where he will feast on a prostitute’s used Tampax, her piquant bronze discharge the ideal feast.

Drawn to the naked flame, the ineluctable black force, Manus throbs. The pool of night oil in the quarries of Finglas reflects the silvery moonlight. He goes writhing inside of it, enough for half a bus fare, feeling his brain pulse against his brittle skull, his arteries throb with an aggressive poison. He too uses the H – he doesn’t take no methadone, he’s not fuckin chippin man, let me tell you, he lets that lurid ink slalom from wrist to soul, catapulting him into a twisted reverie with Dublin, in Dublin, by night. Left alone in the shimmering vapours of his mind he is not feeling at all well. The last thing to pass his lips was an apple he found on Capel street, although he was not sure if it was an apple at all for it did not taste like one and it was black, although his sight was compromised by the rude slab of opiates he had put inside himself less than an hour before. All he knew is that he was not feeling well at all. Isolation has rendered him virtually mute, moribund and totally vulnerable to the whims of ghosts, beggars and he could feel death’s cold whisper on his shoulder, the blood suede sky threatened to unfurl and flatten him at any moment. Such insights were rare for Manus and he could feel this night like no other, perceived the destitution with such keen apprehension that it caused him to vomit again, the bile flowing down from the back of the bus so as to form a chemical canal, flowing down the stairs onto the bottom floor of the bus, dismaying the passengers. The bus pulled over. “Get off.” Manus, shuffling with not an ounce of energy disembarked the bus at an unknown stop, an unfamiliar suburb.

People wore masks and wore fancy dress all around him for it was Halloween and people did that sort of thing around this time. The ghoulish overtones of the landscape hurt Manus. His conscience was obsessed with that sort of thing enough already. He thought maybe he’d knock on a door. “Here I’ll show yiz a trick, watch me mainline this baggy and you can give us some sweets.”

The urban landscape loomed and Dublin groaned its rancid chorus into his ear, he had managed to stumble back into the city. Tiers of emaciated junkies crying and bleeding, their ghosts festooning the buttresses of St.Stephen’s Green, like manic statuettes roaring yellow verse into the sharp, dead night. He made for his usual spot, a laurel shrub in St.Stephen’s Green and injected three grams of heroin into his bloodstream. Just as the poison began to embalm him, he could hear a group of other men encroaching towards the same area of shrubbery with the same intention.  Manus bolted, with a speed he did not possess, up Harcourt Street and through the iron wrought gates of the Iveagh Trust and sank more poison in a tree into his stomach this time.

Heroin to him was like swimming under the colossal waves of some violent blue ocean and observing the riptide explode in spumes yet never being touched, never having to return to the surface for breath. Manus lay against the stone perimeter of the park, the marble eye of the moon glowing. I am ready to die, he thought.

I see his beautiful golden eyes and his black velvet body peruse the earth among the stone fountain and he has caught sight of me, his molten golden eyes have spotted my naked flesh sitting in this tree, my anthropomorphic naivety! I assume my animal incarnation and fly to Kilmashougue wood and listen to the infinite thuds of unknowable beasts and feel the damp lichen chill my spine, my neck arced to the moon and my insides rumbling with terrifying noise, a terrifying rhythm beats in my skull and I fear I have gone mad, and then I erupt from the conifer and out beyond the gully sailing into the great tarn, the great dead lake, it’s limpid crystal waters swallowing me deep into an underwater cave and a thousand green eyed mermaids, the sirens beneath the weeds and the iridescent mosses and they cradle me in their arms and stroke my aching mind and ease me, ease me into their sacred chamber, make a bed for me from pearls and waxes and everything dappled with an ancient golden glow and I have transcended, I have died, I have dreamed, I have made for the exit, away from form and howling agony and the permanent dreadful despair that cascades in my waking life. I have had enough, I want the river bed.

Why struggle on through the vale of sepulchral horror?

And Manus woke, covered in his own urine and feces, in the centre of the Iveagh Gardens, with men, women and children enjoying croissant and coffee, taking no notice of him. Manus stood up and walked towards the stone fountain, past all of the well turned out people on their lunch breaks and lit a wet cigarette.

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