Chameleon Street

Thogdin Ripley

Here, on Chameleon Street, time steps one, two, and one to the side; a rogue knight on the wrong colour, muddled by déjà vu. Days disguise themselves as evenings, wrapping cold lunchtimes in the deep velvet folds of muggy summer midnights. Against the sun twinkles an overlay of distinct pinpricks.

There is a population, though the residents are interchangeable, adapting so perfectly to their maisonettes that the visitor waves a happy goodbye to the parting host from his own front step, and family members have trouble telling each other apart. It is not unknown to find doppelgangers stalking the shifting corridors of this house, padding softly in the bare footprints of their doubles. Following time-lagged the same gestures, they stare enrapt into empty mirrors, slowly listening to clocks, sitting, dust-smelling, in the spaces of chairs since moved.

Change—such as there is—occurs in waves. Drifting about the neighbourhood like bright smoke, the colours sidestep through the seasonal chroma; a tranquil autumnal scene bursts into spring flower in patches, bright puddles of budding crocuses rise through crisp leaves. Snowdrifts block one drive in ten.

There are often rainbows.

By evening, the chromosphere shatters into the shards of a diamante graphic. Cut glass diagonals carve the lilac cumuli, a basic smear against the further constellations. Light strikes against the soaring vapour trails, transforming them into high wires, stretching from the horizon, forming a direct line between the dark earth and Heaven. The soft white of the solar egg finally bursts and lets down its long luminescence into coffee cups and church windows, blowing soft highlights around the eyes of babies, and shadows spin and swivel in a fast comic game, domesticated, zooming between the legs before fleeing entirely. The windows admit the fragile crystalline flush, which shoots with the full force for the gilt-edged glow of memory and the careful wait. The clouds finally stutter and part, rolling back and falling like huge lame spectres to reveal the buzzing script that hangs, momentary, enormous, to spell the end; an ellipses to an epoch.

At civilisations final crumble there will be no picturesque ruins against an amber sun, or landmarks spotted green with the moss of a new Yucatan. Decline rides on a vast, grey wave of detritus—a never-ending sea of chewed pen tops, spent matches, full but forgotten sample bottles, rusted screws, foil containers pressed flat, paper bags stacked and tumbling, and soiled trousers put by to soak. The smell of human grease.

I grew up in this house switching between shame and pride, and eventually I had to dismantle it, taking down the singular museum at the end of its grand tour, bathed in light; excavating the childhood memories and watching them evaporate under scrutiny, until I was changed beyond recognition, and the world around me destroyed and made afresh in my wholly altered image. It no longer matters that the father becomes the son.

Thogdin Ripley is generally interested in the transfer of power at a microscopic level, in disjuncture and non-sequitur, and in the overlay of themes that might not immediately present themselves as experientially or textually compatible (or indeed, healthy). He’s currently working on a short novel that will be very difficult to sell.