When Elephants Walk Through The Gorbals. An Extract

Posted: April 5, 2014 in Coming Soon, Other Writing by AJ Kirby, When Elephants Walk Through the Gorbals

Here’s a sneak-preview of part of the first chapter of my new novel – out next month – When Elephants Walk Through The Gorbals:


Image above: The Gorbals, from The National Gallery

“Oh the cold, steely inevitability of it! Oh the bloody, limping whelp – destiny – has deserted him for a higher purpose. Survival of the fittest they call it, as though that would explain everything. Hard, cruel nature; she is red in tooth and claw, they say. What must these well-thumbed phrases mean to the victim, in these final moments? What are his final thoughts? Does he even know the heavy resonance of the word final, and what it will mean for him?

The beast knows. He knows it is an ending. An ending bathed in pure, unspoiled moonlight, just as it should be. Just as nature dictates. The beast knows it, like he knows every inch of this winding path through the park. He knows it, is somehow troubled by the knowledge, but not enough to put him off his stride. He walks with a metronome purpose, as though walking to the beat of a marching drum in his head. He walks quietly, on the thick wet grass which flanks the path, leaving behind only myths of footprints. His sharp nose wrinkles somewhat at the smell in the air. He can discern the thick, cloying stink of death in the air as the victim cannot.

Every once in a while, the beast fingers a silver bracelet on his wrist. It glints, reflecting the full moon as he tugs at the sleeve of his black coat. It could be one half of a set of handcuffs, but looks more symbolic somehow. This bracelet cuffs him to his ghostly purpose more rigidly than handcuffs ever could. Two small balls press into the veins on his wrist as though they feed his lifeblood. As though suicide for him wouldn’t involve the slice of a knife at all, but simply the prizing away of the bracelet.

Some part of the beast wants to reach out and touch the victim. To warn him. To shake him firmly and ask the troubling questions: Do you not discern the beast which is lurking close? Do you not see the glint of the knife? The beast shakes his head. These people. These stumbling idiots. They don’t even know they are alive. They feel nothing. They are nothing. Only in the moment it all comes to an end do they realise, too late, that life is about power, society is about constraint, cities are like prisons.

To put the knife into this one will be a blessing. To put the knife into this one will be to give him wisdom. The beast touches the knife. Runs his long, pianist’s finger across the blade. It is an old knife. A knife which has seen and done things this victim could never contemplate. A knife which has been beyond this liminal twilight city world of fakes and forgeries and seen what real life it like. It is heavy, sharp. True. It yearns to tear into gelatinous, pliant flesh. It yearns to teach. It is a cruel teacher, and the beast almost decides to walk away, but there’s no walking away. Not when he has a job to do.

He watches the victim closely. The victim is as unaware of his presence as he is unaware that not ten yards past him, a night fox crossed the path. He’s as unaware of the fact he is being stalked as he is unaware of the two rabbits who, upon scenting the fox, darted off down the slope to their warren. He should be able to feel the pull of the knife now, that almost tangible triangle which has developed between the three of them, but it is plain he cannot feel anything. He walks with the indifferent, quicksand feet of the drunk; Occasionally lurching dangerously over the edge of the path, occasionally reaching for some imaginary wall to hold him up. Does he not care how undignified he looks? How pathetic? How beaten? If he does, he doesn’t seem to care about it.Setting one green Doc Marten clad foot in front of the other is his only concern. And he’ll be put out of his misery very, very soon. The knife will teach him.”


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