We used to have a homeless problem around here. Three years ago, if you walked from one side of town to the other, you’d pass at least two dozen people sleeping rough, wrapped up in wet bundles in the doorways. They’d ask you for change as you walked beneath the railway bridge, sorry-faced, frightened. As if they knew what was coming.
Now, you won’t find a single one.
You don’t even get the old gypsy woman playing the accordion outside Footlocker anymore, or the Africans, selling their knock-off sunglasses and umbrellas from their stalls.
All of the city’s social problems have vanished, it seems. But you won’t see any politician mention it, and the media seems to pretend that nothing has happened.
When I ask, nobody seems to have the faintest idea what I’m talking about. They scratch their heads as though I was mentioning something from forty or fifty years ago.
“Don’t you remember how it was around here?” I ask.
A glassy look comes over their eyes and they say, well, it’s nice now, so what are you worrying about?
But it was 2016, I insist. Here, look at this picture. They look down at the photograph in my hand—the only one I have left—like it’s a blank piece of paper. Here’s the funny thing. All of the digital ones have been corrupted somehow.
People talk to me as though I’m going crazy. You need to relax, they tell me. Stop worrying about things so much.
But I do worry. I worry about the flashes in the middle of the night.
About the vanishings.
But nobody seems concerned about that. All they know is that now, the trains run on time. You can get from Manchester to London in thirty minutes now. And there’s not a homeless person in sight.

Bryan Blears is a writer of fiction and non-fiction from Manchester, England. He currently works for the National Health Service.
Twitter: @bryanblears


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