Short Story: Echoes

Graffiti covered concrete walls beneath the thrumming motorway and a sky the colour of a decayed mushroom; Jules strides through the cavernous space with hands deep in pockets and hood pulled forward. Caricatures of faces and locations nearby stare down; some are bright and cheerful, others defiant or defied.

A few have lines across their faces, hastily scrawled defacements that echo feuds between the artists or the people depicted. It is a form of sympathetic magic akin to sticking pins in voodoo dolls and carrying as much effectiveness for anyone not intimately involved in the community..

The slap of running footsteps ahead alerts Jules to company, but the only response is a lengthened stride and bowed head to avoid eye contact. A drift closer to one side of the underpass provides even more room to avoid contact. The owner of the feet gives Jules a wide berth as they pass, so perhaps the only view of them that Jules sees is their trainers. They are here and gone in a moment, their identity never to be known.

As their echoes fade, Jules looks up to scan the way ahead. It is clear, not even dust dancing in the airflows whipping erratically through the opening. Jules keeps going, and is soon round the corner and out of sight. After a moment, the air seems to sigh, and I see Jules reappear back at the other end of the tunnel.

I don’t know why Jules’ ghost keeps making this journey, caught in this loop. Perhaps the invisible runner is key to it all; but in all the times I’ve been here, drawn by morbid curiosity, I’ve never seen more than this or heard any exchange between them. I’ve sat here on the floor with my back to the concrete and memorised every detail over the years. Every now and then someone else comes along who can see Jules, and we sit together in silent fascination.

Jules just disappeared off the face of the planet that day. This was the last time anyone saw them that we know. I don’t even know if Jules died, or lives on happily somewhere far from here. This recording of this moment seems to be the only memory left anywhere – and I wonder in the quiet if my own memorial will seem just as unremarkable to those who chance upon it.

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