The night lifted away suddenly, cleanly, without anyone noticing, and now the sky rides above us silver and blue. Outside the station the Born Again Christians have almost finished packing away the trestle tables of their soup and sandwich kitchen; a lorry makes a delivery to the All-Night supermarket, its cages booming off the ramp; a Scarab truck with its slow-flashing orange lamp scavenges litter, and the last of the clubbers stagger home as seagulls shriek and wheel above the road.
An ambulance car is parked by an old railway tenement block. Richard, the paramedic, comes out to tell us what he found.
‘Hi guys. Thanks for stopping by. We got a call from a member of the public who’d found Aimee slumped in the doorway looking distressed. He couldn’t get much sense out of her when he asked if everything was okay, so he called us. I’d put her at GCS fourteen. No sign of trauma or anything amiss in her obs but Aimee must have taken a bath in fairy dust or something guys because her pupils are like dinner plates. She’s off orbiting some alien world, freaking out, yeargh! No idea where she is. Completely suggestible. I asked her if she lived here and she said yes, but no-one knows her of course. No ID. I’d guess she was about twenty or so. Don’t know if I heard her name right, but she seems to respond to it. I think it’s just a case of hospital for safety until she splashes down again. Sorry guys. How’s your night been? Pretty crazy, if it’s anything like mine. I’ll bring her out.’
He goes inside and a moment later re-emerges with Aimee following. With her head down, her long hair hanging over her face, the hospital blanket draped over her shoulders, she could be a hermit being led out of a cave after a twenty-year retreat. Her nose pokes out of the fall of her hair; as she emerges from the gloom of the hallway, she gently hooks the hair away and slowly looks around with an expression of existential terror on her face, a hollow-eyed sadness that things should be as they are. She hesitates, appalled that anyone could expect her to go any further into something so ruined, so terrible.
‘Come on Aimee. Let’s get you in the warm.’
I take her gently by the arm and she drifts along beside me, so lightly I may as well have tied a helium balloon to my elbow, a character shape from the new, grimly-realistic Urban Collection: Bad Tripper, from the Heebeegeebee range.