Behind the dark and padlocked toilet block in the frozen municipal gardens, a man lies on his side amongst the rhododendrons. Way over the other side of the park, through the tangled silhouettes of the railings, the trees and the park café, beyond the lines of ice white fairy lights strung from low branches and out on the bright artery of Christmas activity that runs along the far side, the man dimly senses a change there – undercutting the street lamps and the spilling, front of house glow of the theatre, now there is a clamorous rack of blue. And whilst all the other kinds of light meld and wash out only a little way into the park, these new lights leap out to him, glitterballing blue fragments careening off the trees, the frosted grass, the low night sky. And it seems to the man that these blue fragments spin and jump together, moving to a dance he is falling away from. And then the heroin draws his head back to the ground, and the fragments sweep across and over him.
And time slows with each further breath he takes.
And the man finds he can reach up and catch hold of these blue fragments as they turn past his face. He holds them against the sky, and finds that each one has a picture inside – images of other calls visited through the year – night scenes like his own, locked in the strange blue amber:
the hallway of a block where a young woman lies on her back amongst the junk mail, staring up at the ceiling rose, people running up the stairs, talking in phones;
a bedroom where a housewife sits on the corner of a bed with her hands clawed inwards, chest rising and falling, eyes unblinking, whilst her husband bustles about making tea down in the kitchen, discharged today after trying to hang himself from that dressing gown hook;
the car park of a hotel where a splinter-thin young guy struggles to find his pockets so he can put his hands in them and be sober;
a bench where a middle aged man is slumped over asleep, or dead, or as good as, t-shirt ridden up, inflated belly on display like a prize watermelon, the drool from his mouth as glittering as the interval drinkers who stamp and chatter out on the theatre steps opposite;
a spot-lit front room of a new-build, where a mother clutches one child, and where a father kneels by the side of another that lies on a blue yoga mat in the middle of the room, jaws clamped shut by a convulsion that rides her on and on and will not let her breathe;
a new-born baby wrapped in white towels, working its hands and feet in protest as its puckered face is gently cleared, launching a scrawling yowl onto the air;
a room of die-cast planes and cars and miniature whiskies and leather bound, back copies of the Radio Times, by the side of an elderly man on a red patterned rug, wrong side down with his catheter tube tangled around his ankles;
a shed at the bottom of a garden, where a camouflaged young guy emerges, swollen and pained, stumbling, his head laced with dried blood, his nose reduced to a flattened whistle, his sleeping bag rolled up;
a tasselled living room and a cherry-red Christmas of a man choking on an olive, his neighbour tapping him on the back with one hand, martini glass in the other;
a jetty, black water slopping up between the slats, where a young man’s black buckled boots poke out from a wrapping of foil and blankets, and a lifeboat crew stand around in orange survival suits;
But the blue fragments speed up again and the man lets them go. They snap away, and as they do the man turns his head and notices a different light approaching, two torch beams, rocking from side to side and sweeping the ground before them. And one of the beams catches him in the face and he raises his hand.
The ambulance men crunch across the frosted grass towards him.
He closes his eyes, opens them again at A&E.