A street with an old arch. Passers-by. Traffic.
                  Wes Barnes staggers slightly and steadies himself against some nearby railings. He is haggard with longish hair parted in the centre, dark glasses, upturned collar. He makes his way to an observ­ation telescope set up for tourists to survey the river and the flat, marshy countryside below the town walls. He peers through the eye­piece and focuses in on a desolate landscape – a long, deserted road. In the middle distance a squat, concrete blockhouse left from the war. There is a faint glimmer of light visible through one of the gun-slits.
                 Inside is a white, square altar, with a white head modeled in battered polystyrene. There is a circle emblazoned on its forehead. The place is illuminated by two glowing candles in cut-glass holders; all around, on ledges jutting out from the walls, are white flowers.
                Ultima (her real name is Lisa Firmston) stands looking up at the sky. She tosses a white flower to the ground. Observing from afar through field-glasses is a man in evening dress. He lowers the glasses, stares up at the sky, and then glances at his watch. Meanwhile Ultima has vanished. The man walks over to the spot, picks up the flower and puts it in his pocket – he has to walk along the top of a shingle ridge, noisily scattering stones. Several roll down towards the beach below. He scans the monotonous, blue-grey sea through his glasses.
                Ultima walks slowly past a row of wooden posts by the banks of a canal. She stops and looks across at the blockhouse, and then at the canal. Another flower falls to the ground.
                The man in evening dress leans against a strange, low, concrete structure, lights up a cigarette, exhales slowly and stares at the des­olate scene observing the canal and some distant mounds. His eye catches a round leather box not far away. He goes over and picks it up. Next to it is the tell-tale token of another white flower. Inside the box there is a pair of dark glasses like those worn by Barnes. The man stares as though hypnotized. Behind him, quite close, with her eyes closed, stands Ultima. Trying to dispel the soporific influence, the man turns round. But she has vanished. He looks at his watch again.
               Inside the blockhouse one candle has been extinguished. Through the gun-slits the man is seen walking around outside. He stops to stare in – the white head appears to stare back beneath lowered lids.
              Ultima walks along the road. Her pace is slow, her posture hieratic. She looks back over her shoulder. Behind her, on the concrete, are a number of white flowers.
              The man stubs out his cigarette and retraces his steps back towards the harbour. He walks noisily, scattering stones as he hurries along.
               Suddenly he stops.
               Not far away, directly in his path, is a white coffin.
               Drawn by some indefinable, magnetic influence he walks slowly towards it. As he approaches the lid falls off and slides down the ridge to the beach below, scattering shingle as it goes. He drops to his knees before Ultima as she opens her eyes, bares her teeth –                – a scream –
                Bystanders close in on the telescope as Barnes, clutching vainly at the instrument, slides down to the paving stones, his glasses reflecting the monotonous blue-grey sky.
               They gather round, shocked at the sight of a collapsed man. Is he dead? Someone, braver that the others, dashes to him and begins to undo the top buttons of his coat – a crumpled photograph is discovered. It is a portrait of Lisa Firmston.




A.C Evans

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