Inktober vector word art illustration
For Inktober 2022, I decided to use mistakes that my Chinese TEFL children had made over the years as prompts to generate some nonsense black and white illustrations. These are some of the results.
An illustration of a group of seven ghosts flying around a commuter subway train
If you’ve ever had the misfortune to have been at the mercy of the British public transportation system, you’ll know it for what it is; even at the very best of times, it can only be reasonably be described as a ghoulishly unreliable network of rickety rails, bumpy bus routes, and destined delays, all together conspiring against you and any plans you think you will be on time for.  Indeed, If a train is ever on its scheduled time in the United Kingdom, you should be suspicious. As your toes briefly hover over the void between the platform and the steps of the train, you should consider whether it’s worth it.
It was one such fateful occasion, when I was tasked with catching the very last train back home after hours of gruelling over time, that I found myself in such a predicament. But there it was, the train was on time for once. This, in itself, should have stirred up my inner sceptic; instead, I rubbed my sleepy eyes. I foolishly accepted it. I counted my blessings. I naïvely brushed it off as simply a spectre of good luck on an otherwise rotten day, of a rotten week, of an altogether unpleasant month. I said I was foolish. I don’t use that word lightly.
 My journey began, as most do- slowly. Given the current delay I seemed to be imminently facing, I found it spooky that this train had ever been at my platform on time in the first place. Then it happened. The doors began to sluggishly slide shut- so sluggishly, might I add, that I could have just walked up to them and opted to exit right then and there. I didn’t. I just sat there, believing myself fortunate that I was apparently the only passenger in that carriage. I wasn’t. 
The train clunked along, seemingly gaining pace, until it hit a tunnel. Then it hurtled. The lights flickered and flashed at a rate which told me that (at the very least) they needed a solid upgrade. Fellow traveller, I feared for my life. Daring to take my head out of my hands, I glanced out of the window, and there they were, just floating there, countless glowing ghosts of various sizes. Fairly generic in appearance, they were the kind of ghosts that a lazy, unimaginative person might draw if you asked them to do a quick scribble of a ghost. They were the kind of ghost that your mum dresses you up as for Halloween, when you’re five years old, and she’s forgotten to make you a costume. A careless last-minute improv. Yet now, it has come into my intellectual acquisition that this is, in fact, how ghosts really look. A supernatural Occam’s Razor, if you will.
And then we left the tunnel, and just as suddenly as they had appeared, with the snap of the fingers,  the ghosts were now gone.  The train was now back to its regular speed, albeit just pulling into my platform. Bewildered, I waited for the doors to crawl squeaking open, and then I stepped out. Although I tried to find answers, every time I mentioned my experience, I was met with the same pseudo-sympathetic eye roll.
“You work too hard.” My wife would say. “Overtime has clearly got to your head.”

I’ve always been a firm believer in the power of contradiction. It’s kind of like the theory of “small dog syndrome”, I guess. Big dogs can hurt you, but often don’t; small dogs don’t look like they can hurt you, so they go out of their way to prove you wrong, to wage war on your implicit bias. To this day, I have never met a small dog who hasn’t tried to bite me.
 I remember some time in the 80s, a gang moved into our neighbourhood. They weren’t, as you might expect, a traditional looking gang. Some might even say that they looked quite silly. We never saw their actual faces because they always obscured them with ridiculously over-sized vegetables (whether they were home-grown or stolen was never made clear to the neighbourhood). It was the fact that they looked so damn silly that no-one dared approach them. 
Their faces hidden beneath fibrous flesh, this gang would go out of their way to do borderline menacing things, as well as the occasional good deed peppered in for the sake of discord. They would spray paint the walls with water-soluble paint. The city council went to the trouble and expense of hiring someone to sandblast it off, only for it to rain the night before the work was due to commence, rendering the whole ordeal a massive waste of time.
Once they trimmed old Mrs. Walker’s lawn, an act that she was incredibly grateful for (she tried to pay them, but they wouldn’t the money), only to have it spring up with uncontrollable weeds just days later.
The reverse could also be true. Sometimes, what seemed to be an outright wicked deed seemed to have a speck of kindness fuelling it, like when the Pumpkin gang took to scaring a group of local kids from playing outside the factory. The next day a hazardous waste leak was discovered. If they knew about this health and safety violation in advance, they never communicated it to us; they never raised it in a town hall meeting, or informed the local press. Their operations were always so covert.
It was all very puzzlingly unpredictable, and that’s where the fear lay. X never accurately marked the spot, but it wasn’t ever far off either. Then one day the pumpkin gang upped their sticks and disappeared. They must have moved on, or grown up, or something. Perhaps they’re bankers now, or accountants, or gardeners. No-one knows.

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