I wake up. There is a child staring at me. I can see him through the snow, lit by the streetlamp. The child picks something dark up off the ground and puts it on my head. I can’t move my neck to see what it is. My arms and legs don’t work. The child takes two steps backwards and stares at me. He is grinning. He is dressed all in black, with a black hat on his head. The child retreats further. He picks up a stone, takes aim, and throws it at me. He misses and hits something metallic behind me. He runs away. I can’t see where he goes because I can’t turn around. I hear a door open and close and then there is silence.
Nothing else happens until the sun comes up. Cars start moving on the street in the distance. My street is empty. The sun turns the morning sky from black to grey to pink. A car with POLICE on the side pulls up and parks on my street. It sits there. A POLICE man in fluorescent yellow gets out of the car and looks in my direction. He tilts his head to the side. He approaches me and takes a picture with his phone. The POLICE man walks to the door nearest to me and knocks on it. A large man opens the door. He looks like a giant version of the child from the night, dressed in black with a huge black hat. His curls of hair are much longer than the child’s. The POLICE man speaks to the man, and after a while they approach me. They stare at me. I can’t speak but I’m smiling. ‘Do you want me to report this?’ ‘No. I’m sure it’s nothing.’ The man shivers and returns to his house. The POLICE man returns to his POLICE car and sits there, waiting for something.
The sun gets stronger and stronger until it hurts my eyes. I can’t look away. Or blink. More and more people come out of their houses. The men dress the same and the women dress the same and the children dress the same. Everyone is interested in me. Some hold their mouths and others squint and one old lady screamed. The women huddle in groups and discuss me without ever looking directly at me. But after a while the people become used to me. The young children throw snowballs around me, and the older ones scan for vigilant adults before pointing and giggling. Each expression of shock or disgust or humour dilutes the next. The sun rises in the bright blue sky. I begin to hear a drip drip drip.
I am lighter. Drip. I am tired. Drip. Whatever is on my head is weighing me down. Drip. My head has slanted to the left so everything is at an angle. Clouds have invaded the sky. The ground has turned from bright white to grey, with patches of green. It is getting colder but it feels too late. Too late for what? A crowd gathers around me. Steam pours out of them. They look ready to fall over. ‘Who is responsible for this?’ Eyes dart from side to side. Look down. ‘Let’s not turn this into a witch-hunt’ Children cling to their mothers. ‘What I want to know is, where did it come from?’ The steam turns to fog. ‘I’m no psychic, but I’m guessing Central or Eastern Europe around the middle of the twentieth century?’ The laughter produces more fog as others suck it back in. ‘Always the comedian.’ ‘It’s disgusting.’ ‘It’s just a prank.’ ‘But at whose expense?’ ‘I think it’s good for the children to see.’ Drip. ‘It’s making a mockery of-‘ Drip.’ It’s removing the power-‘ Drip. ‘I still remember.’ The crowd shuffles to reveal an old man. He is almost horizontal. Everyone is waiting for him to say something or fall over. I notice the child next to him. The child from last night. He is smiling at me and I am smiling back. The old man takes a half step forward. ‘I don’t know what to think.’ The child brings a finger to his lips. ‘But it’s important that we are talking about it.’ Shhhhhhh. ‘Even if we don’t all agree.’ My head is heavy. The group tilts further left, then pauses, then flips and flips and flips. A shriek. Feet dance around me until my head eventually settles on the ground. I am on my side, looking at my body. ’See? It’ll be gone tomorrow.’ Murmurs of agreement through the fog. The crowd squelches away. Only the old man remains. He picks something up next to my head. A hat. He studies it for a moment, holding it at arm’s length. He places it back on the floor and leaves.
The lights in the windows eventually go out. The POLICE car is gone. My body is melting. My uniform is soaked through. I hear voices. They are loud but far away. The voices approach from behind and stop before I can see them. ‘Fucking hell! What is this?’ Laughter. A beer can flies over my head and hits my body. My right arm falls off and sticks in the floor. I see two bolts of lightning on my sleeve. ‘Get a picture!’ One of the voices walks behind my body and crouches down behind it, impersonating my head. He salutes and puts one finger under his nose. A flash turns his frown into laughter. My right eye falls out. ‘You gonna post it?’ I feel a boot on my head. It rolls me forwards, then backwards. ‘Why wouldn’t I?’ The boot releases my head. ‘You know it didn’t really happen, right?’ My smile is gone. ‘What?’ The men begin to walk away. They are dressed differently to the others. ‘I’ll send you this video that explains it.’ Their clothes are bright and shiny, even in the dark.