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Life on Mars? – an excerpt from Terminal Monday

December 6, 2011

The lights dimmed again, and then he heard a piano chord from out of thin air, followed by the reedy voice of a young David Bowie singing the opening lines of an old song Richard sort of knew, about a girl and a picture show with sailors and policemen and… ah, there is. Is there life on Mars?

Light flickered from across the room, and Richard turned to see those familiar, strange eyes, one blue and one dilated so wide it almost looked brown, surrounded by pools of bright blue makeup, and Bowie’s face swam into view, staring directly at him, singing about a writer repeating himself, and then it occurred to Richard that perhaps Bowie was trying to tell him something.

Richard walked across the room to stand under the television, bolted to the wall and displaying no controls, beaming a red-haired Bowie in a baby blue tailored suit and platform shoes lip-synching and essaying a few awkward dance steps between verses. Not his finest moment in video.

“Well, I’m not in a loony bin,” sang Bowie. “Your excuses are wearing thin. Do you know that you’re all alone? You’ve got nowhere left to call your home. All the people you call your friends have forgotten every place that you’ve been. Cast away with the morning news, coz’ you never quite made the scene. Yes, your life is a saddening bore, and you’ve read every line before. Now you’re doing it all again. So I ask you to focus on saviours vying for your dance card. Oh man, look at where your thoughts go. It’s the creakiest show. Take a look at the low man thinking he’s the wrong guy. Oh man, wonder if it’s time to go. You’re in the last place you’ll know. And your mind’s gone far…”

The guitar storms in, followed by the string ensemble, and Bowie turns and walks away. Richard collapses to his knees. The strings swirl downward and then turn around to climb back up to the climax, which swells and fades like a receding tide, leaving a lone, distant piano echoing off into nothing. Richard curls up on the floor. He doesn’t notice the screen go blank, because his eyes are screwed shut and his ears are filled with the sound of rushing blood like thunder.

© 2011 Lee Edward McIlmoyle

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