In the middle of the smouldering remains of the city there stands a yard. It is the width and length of two football pitches, grassy like the meadows in ages gone by. Amongst the yard the painters and architects once played. The splatterings of their creation of imaginings and years gone by lie like gravestones among the heather and broken trees. Great, twisted shapes, some ten feet tall, others crawling along the ground. The burnt wood and warped metal howl themselves into tortured formations beyond any human form. Structures of intimidation lean on each other, reach out arms to the freedom of the grey sky. In short, the place is where once great minds stood and where they reigned free. Such wonder as was created that no one could take them down, backtrack the failures and misshapen ideas. They stand forlornly in that graveyard, hidden amongst the concrete in the alien shapes and materials, where none could relieve them from the pain of their existence and standing, ever more eerie and alone.
The lady did not know that she was coming into this yard when she stumbled from the shadows of the neighbouring building. She did not know this place existed, nobody knows this place exists. Apart from the sunken, pale forms who hide their faces in guilt, peer around the limbs of the monuments and whisper through the leaves.
The lady wore a business suit. It was plain black, and her little red handbag was swung over one shoulder. She had tightly permed dirty blonde hair and wore a smattering of smudged lipstick, the same shade as her bag. She was very middle aged and walked with a slight stoop which comes with the constant sense of urgency even found in the creations surrounding her in that yard.
The lady did not know her own name. She could not talk, only recite words. On seeing this yard her eyes widened, her little red handbag slipping a short way off her shoulder and onto her arm. On seeing this yard she spoke, the high, ringing tones of distress.
But it was not her own name.
The distress left her face. She had just seen a human form beyond the nearest wooden sculpture, half hidden behind the toy of the artist’s imagination.
The little clicks of her smartly polished black heels resounded harshly as she stomped over the remaining concrete onto the trodden meadow, never before touched by man’s feet. The grass and heather had mingled into one, as they still grow now.
The lady stopped, fourteen paces onto the grass and cocked her head to one side. No one answered, for no one knew of the place in which she stood. She momentarily looked down to her shoes. They were her work ones, smartly polished black heels, and her suit was the only one she owned, plain black.
She let out a splutter of laughter, then fell silent. For no one else was there. Only the form behind the wooden sculpture white as daylight and dark as the abyss.
“They are not here.”
The lady thought the thing she was following must have spoken, for it was not her voice that sounded.
“They are not here, you will not find them here.”
The lady wanted to ask why not they would not be in the yard.
She walked forwards some more, face to face with the wooden planks towering above her.
“No one is here.”
It was a male voice, yes, a male voice. Not so much a voice, though, not so much a whisper. It was words being carried across the wind through the graveyard to her ears.
The lady stepped around the first creation and was presented with a second. It was the shape of a giant butterfly, but had a gash through one wing, the head split in two. The outline of the body was jagged, with strips being pulled off by the air. The lady did not know whether the artist had drawn it that way. It was a dark black metal and offered the lady her reflection.
“Look at your shoes.”
That was the male voice again.
“Look at your shoes.”
The lady looked at her shoes. Made for work, smartly polished black heels.
“Matthew,” she stated.
“Whose shoes are they?”
The lady knew they were hers. Made for work, smartly polished black heels.
That was not what she had intended to say. But then she could not talk.
She saw the form reflected in the dying butterfly next to hers. Now it had a more human shape, like that of a man. It had no colour, though, and he had no features. The only thing she could see from his image beside hers was a head of startling white hair. White as the daylight. But his face and his voice were black as the abyss.
“They are your shoes, yes.”
He was also wearing a suit. Plain black, made for work. Like her shoes. He was, however, not wearing a tie.
Now she remembered. She had seen him before. She had seen many men like him before, many women. They all looked the same. They all wore black suits and black shoes. They all had white hair.
They were her parents.
Yet here, in the yard which no one knew about, where no man had stepped before, she concluded he was not a man.
The faceless entity narrowed his eyes.
“You were not made to fix these shoes.”
He was not made to wear the shoes. They were many sizes too big for him, that she could see from his reflection. But hers fitted her perfectly and were in perfect shape. Made for work, smartly polished and black.
He gestured around to the monuments and the butterfly.
“These were made by shoes.”
“But other shoes, no, they were not made to be worn.”
Ah, the lady knew of these shoes. The shoes that had destroyed the government. The shoes that could not be worn by those whose feet did not fit. And those who found the shoes too comfortable wanted to keep them, yes?
Her shoes were very comfortable, and very suitable for work.
“Fix them, we cried, fix them!”
The form was laughing, the male voice was laughing. The suit was moving. The shoes were connected to the ground.
“But our feet were designed to go bare. The moment you make shoes you can swap them.”
The lady could follow the form. The leaves were speaking with him.
“But some shoes are too comfortable. You want to keep them. We say shoes made the economy, shoes made globalisation. But where’s the cobbler? You were not made to fix these shoes.”
That’s it. The lady knew. She did not know her name but she knew what he was talking about.
It should be great, shouldn’t it? Worldwide understanding, communication, equality. With the use of a few wires and scans one can feel the feelings of another. Take a walk in their shoes. The shoes are made so the shoes can be changed.
“Andrew,” the lady whimpered.
“We made them. You realised you had to fix them, and look at what it’s done to you!”
“Uprising, anger, hatred. Worldwide understanding, yes, understanding of destruction.”
The lady wondered why she was being told this. She knew it already.
Instead, she reached out to touch the butterfly before her. She touched the spot where the reflection of the speaking form was stood, a little way behind her.
Yes, the people, the moment they could swap feelings, got angry. They could feel for themselves how mistreated they were. The generation that had themselves developed the technology were long dead.
“And now the cobbler cannot fix the shoes.”
Yes, that was it. The middle aged lady could not fix any shoes. She only wore hers, made for work, smartly polished black heels.
She felt something tugging at her ankles. Looking down, there was something else there, something alive. It had large round eyes, brown as the earth beneath them, black as the butterfly above them. Tiny hands and tiny fingers protruded from little chubby arms which were as skinny as the sticks broken off the decimated trees. It tugged at the lady’s ankle.
“Thomas!” she screamed. “Verity!”
“Let it,” soothed the form behind the panicking lady.
The thing which was tugging at her ankle pulled harder. The lady dropped her blood red handbag and fell to the ground, putting her head into her hands. She closed her eyes and did not open them to see what had hold of her ankles.
“Let the child,” said the form from right next to her ear.
The lady wasn’t afraid. She was just helpless, clinging onto her little red handbag on the ground beside her and smoothing down her pristine black suit.
The child clawed its way to her foot, taking a firm hold of one of her shoes. The next second the shoe was gone from her foot. Cool air rushed around her tights and toes. The second shoe was removed.
“Christopher,” moaned the lady.
“I know,” said the child, a small voice escaping through the tiny mouth that the lady could not see. “There are too many names.”
The child let go of the lady’s ankles and she stood up. Her eyes were still scrunched up. The form with the white hair touched her shoulder.
The lady did not speak. Neither did she say words. She did not open her eyes. Her shoeless feet carried her forward, away from the child. She walked with the white form behind her right into the middle of the yard, eyes and mouth closed. The form behind her started to cry.
Another form with longer, white hair appeared from around the most central experimentation, a long and flat shape of green, half hidden by the grass surrounding it. The second form tried to open the lady’s eyes. Her eyes were blank.
They seemed to have forgotten about the child. It was curled up in the foot of the withered butterfly. The red handbag was still on the ground beside it as were the two shoes.
Made for work, smartly polished high heels.