12 Jan Pedestrian Monsters: Part One
A man trudged under the glowing street lamps of the Downtown Eastside. He kept his head bowed low as he mumbled to his shoes, dragging them against the sidewalk with a shambling gait. The folds of his hoodie shrouded his face as he whispered to himself. He walked towards the opening of a dark alleyway. And when he reached it, he twisted his body in a jerking motion, he stopped and stared into the shadowed corridor of people shooting up behind dumpsters, hiding from the full moon shining down on Skid Row.
This is what I saw on my walk home when I was six blocks away from my apartment building.
This strange man on the sidewalk looked over and he saw me heading towards him. He stared at me as I made my way passed him. He mumbled, “Do you have any change?”
I said, “I don’t have any.”
And he started yelling, “You little lying, twink, yuppie, punk, I know you have something on you.”
Deep within my jean’s pocket, I gripped the Ziploc baggy of LSD blotter sheets which were folded over then wrapped in tin foil. And I avoided eye contact with him, as I said, “I don’t have any change, sir.”
“You liar, liar, I’ll light your pants on fire.” He whipped out a lighter and flicked sparks in my face.
Heat and flame licked my eyelids. It crisped a few of my eyelashes and I recoiled. I slipped out my phone, dialing 911 behind my back.
He bumped me with his chest. Like a school boy trying to pick a fight. He got close enough that I could smell his breath. It smelled like the inside of a garbage bin on a hot summer’s day.
“Please, I just want to go home,” I said, shrinking away from him. I hovered my finger over the call button on my phone. I was ready to summon police officers who would probably arrest me for possession before they’d arrest him for harassing pedestrians.
The man clenched his fist. He pressed his grimy knuckles against my cheek as he said, “I’ll fuckin’ hit ya, I’ll fuckin’ do it.”
A police siren went off a few blocks away.
The man tilted his head like an animal does when its ears perk up out of frightened curiosity.
He listened as the siren’s howl grew louder.
He lowered his fist and he flicked his lighter at me one last time, shooting blinding sparks at me, then he said, “Fuck you.” At that last display of power, he turned around and he shuffled away in the opposite direction.
Most Downtown Eastside residents jump when they hear a police siren nowadays after all the news about cops beating up drug users and other marginalized folks.
When I slowly walked further down the road, getting distracted by the neon signs of storefronts, I looked at my phone’s GPS and I noticed I was four blocks away from my apartment building. It was there that I saw the source of the sirens.
An ambulance lit up the city block with its red lights. They coated the street folk in a shimmering red aura. The ambulance’s doors popped open. Two female paramedics hopped out. They ran up to a person lying in the middle of the sidewalk, who was also face down in a pool of their own vomit.
The paramedic kicked the bottom of the person’s shoe. She shouted, “Hey, are you okay?”
The person shot up like a patient being resuscitated by an epinephrine injection. They bit at her ankles, snapping at the paramedic’s leg until both medics were able to restrain them.
Two blocks away from my apartment building door, according to the glowing GPS map floating an inch off my phone screen, I saw a woman briskly walking around the edges of a park where street people had set up a tent city.
She walked in circles around the park as a man in a long, black, duster coat followed her.
She looked at her stalker and he stood still.
He stared in her direction but I couldn’t tell if he was staring right at her because he wore sunglasses tinted as dark as the night sky.
The woman’s eyes stretched wide and white with her pupils expanding big and round. Like a cat’s eyes do when they’re scared.
She gripped her keys between her knuckles. Then she picked up her walking pace.
And the man continued creeping up behind her.
I tailed them around the park a few times with my phone open, the numbers 9-1-1 still glowing on the screen.
I wondered if the cops would come and bully the stalker then see that I was high and care enough to search me.
They could find my drugs and they could slap cuffs on me.
If I got involved, the stalker would surely see me calling the police on him.
He could find out where I lived.
I could wake up in my bed the night after making bail, I might see him standing at the end of my bed, just breathing, and staring at me from behind his midnight-black-sunglasses.
I tailed them until he turned down an alleyway. Until she keyed herself into the front door of a brick building at the edge of Gastown.
It’s not just the police sirens during a full moon in the city’s drug-quarter that spook its residents.
Nor the streets filling up with disturbed street people.
It’s the violent ones that everyone watches out for.
When the full moon shone on the bowels of the city, you could see people turn into real monsters.
Pivoting onto an empty street, my phone’s GPS map told me I was a block away from snuggling my bed sheets, when I watched two men rush out of an apartment building next to mine.
One man pushed a bicycle as he hefted a backpack spilling over with shiny discs. He struggled to lift his bag filled with loot while he worked his brand-new-looking bike through the lobby.
The other man, behind the first one, picked up any dropped discs. He slid them into his pants as he fumbled with a video game console tucked under his armpit. Loose cords dangled off the console like wriggling tentacles.
These men opened the door, exiting this upscale, heritage building that was clearly recently renovated by developers gentrifying the neighborhood.
Their jeans were caked in dirt around the knees. It made them look like they were dumpster divers rather than residents of this building with its lobby full of corporate art and large monstera plants.
They kept looking around at the exits. These two were jittering as if they were tweaking on amphetamines.
The man with the bike played Tetris with it, struggling, as he maneuvered it through the apartment lobby door that kept shutting on him.
The other man, with the video game console, shouted, “Hurry up.” Then he kicked the bike’s back tire.
And the man twisting his bike screamed, “Roger, you asshole.”
“Move,” said Roger, kicking the tire again.
“Stop touching my bike,” the man said. He snaked the front tire through the door as it simultaneously closed on it.
A set of sirens whined somewhere a few blocks away.
I spun around, looking for the source of it, ducking into the shadow-veiled, alcove of a closed storefront.
I continued watching the two thieves cram themselves through the single lobby door at the same time, getting tangled in each other’s limbs.
I giggled and they glanced in my direction.
For a second, I thought we made eye contact.
I hugged the nearest wall, clamping my hand around my mouth, muffling my panic breaths. I felt around in my jean’s pocket and found the tin foil around the LSD sheets had unraveled but it was tucked away in case I had to run for my life.
Josh Ackermann escapes his desk job by writing in his free time. One of his short stories, One Helluva Headache, was published in the English Bay Review. He’s currently revising two of his first novels. And he’s is the creator of the Falling For Stories podcast; among many other titles.