The Death of The Reader

Radiohead — Airbag

There’s a man on the tube reading Slaughterhouse Five. He’s wearing loose fitting khaki chinos and a creased beige linen shirt with a faded floral pattern. I haven’t even see the distressed rucksack and I already know he works for a design agency, something creative, medium-wage, shares a flat with other like-minded individuals (Europeans probably) and he’s pro-Remain/anti-Leave/Corbyn-mad/fuckinghatesfarage or whatever vessel he’ll use to espouse his pseudo-informed post-liberal views this week.

Every word he reads he brushes delicately off the page onto the floor, large black puddles of ink, Billy Pilgrim’s blood, Vonnegut’s sweat and tears, splashing onto the shoes and bags of the other commuters. He got on at Stockwell and he gets off at Highbury & Islington, by that time almost every page is crisp white and brand new, and the carriage has a thick pool of black juice on the floor. It comes up to his ankles, it doesn’t leave any stains.

I get down on the floor. People are looking at me but I don’t care. I roll around in the liquid, I bathe in it, and it is soaking through my t shirt, soaking through my hair, soaking through my fingers until they are shriveled. I pray that it will drown me. People are looking at me but I don’t care. I smile at them.

People leave the carriage at the next stop and move to the next one down, move away from me, but some stay behind. Soon there are six of us left, six out of 00s, we have our own private pool party trying to splash each other trying to spray each other trying to dunk each other holding our heads under the water feeling them breathe it in breathe until the bodies stop moving. We die.

The people in the other carriages stick their faces against the glass and watch as we choke and drown. They do not comment, they do not care. One by one they leave the carriage with their clean clothes. Maybe one of them has dirty shoes.

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