Cynthia

“Shut up and drive!” Screamed a woman’s voice from the passenger seat. The cars headlights were on their brightest but this only served to illuminate the wall of rain and fog that surrounded the car. The driver let the engine make his reply. It roared angrily as the car’s already breakneck speed increased even further. Rain hammered down on the roof and windows providing an unwelcome disturbance to the already frenetic scene.

Cynthia_001

“Oh! Now you’re quite!” Accused the female’s voice. Benito the driver turned to glare at his fiancée Cynthia. His eyes weren’t even on the road. Benito knew that Cynthia hated it when he did this, so he was going to do it as often as possible. “Say something!” came Cynthia’s incongruous plea. “What?!” sounded Benito’s voice. His usually deep, calm tones were almost soprano and breaking with pent up emotion.”Like you’ve never done it!”

Cynthia turned to look out her window. A lightning bolt chose that moment to rip the black sky apart. The blast of thunder that followed moments later sent a little toy on the dashboard’s bobbly head shaking. It bobbed away as it grinned at the world from its place on the dashboard.  “I have done it! Of course I’ve done it… but you promised me.” Cynthia’s tone had quietened a little. “I don’t know if I can be with you if I can’t even trust you now.” This last part was partially drowned out as the sky chose that inconvenient moment to voice its displeasure.Cynthia_002

The car was careening down a narrow road on the way down the hill to Hout bay. Lights from vehicles in the other lane came rushing out from the fog and disappeared just as suddenly. Benito turned up the radio. “..Love you till I diiiee” sang out of the old speakers. Benito had an old Mazda sting 323 hatchback. He had had it for years. Cynthia had called it ‘The Tank’ he remembered and compared to her little plastic car it was! The memory came to him unexpectedly and his guards were down for a moment. Cynthia not sharing the same moment chose that instant to vent her anxiety. “I mean: how could we, possibly think we could be together! You don’t even like cats! And look at your mom, she hates me!!”

Cynthia_003

Benito took his eyes off the road to glare at his fiancée. These questions made him angry. Hadn’t he more than proved himself? They had been together for three years by now. 1 of these years he had been in England and remained faithful! Did she really think these things she said mattered? Was she just trying to get rid of him?!

He looked back at the road. The air was thick with mist and rain. The nights weather had come as a complete surprise, as had the argument. A good night had been shared with a friendly couple living in Claremont. As they were leaving, a slight drizzle was just beginning to fall. Benito hated to drive at night. His vision was not that good at the best of times and darkness just made his weakness more apparent. It was because he spent too much time on his computer Cynthia liked to tell him. His anxiety was making him edgy and this edginess contributed to his testy reply.

“Just shut up. I have enough to worry about without having to fight with you.” Benito said out of the corner of his mouth. “Did you just say shut up!” The windows seemed to freeze over at the chill in Cynthia’s reply. Actually ice had slowly been forming on the windows for a while now. Half listening to his fiancée’s rejoinder he reached down to turn on the demister. “Sometimes I hate her” Benito thought in the back of his mind. “I’ve made a mistake, but it’s too late now. We’ve told our families and friends, there’s no way out.”

Benito’s questing hand found the knob for the demister and switched it on. As he looked up again he saw a figure emerge from the fog right in front of their car. He slammed his foot down on the break and spun the steering wheel. The tank’s wheel screeched but couldn’t gain purchase on the wet tar. Veering sideways the car slid along the road surface like a crab that had lost control. Cynthia was screaming, as with a loud thud, Benito knew they had hit the person. The car came to a stop a distance down the road.

Without even looking across at Cynthia, Benito jumped out of the car. Stumbling in his haste he sprinted back to the figure now lying on the road’s surface. As he got nearer he slowed to a walk. It was definitely a person, a woman to judge by her silhouette -“Crap” thought Benito.

Cynthia_004A few steps closer and he saw that she was wearing a frilly white dress and a veil. He couldn’t make out her face, he wasn’t sure he wanted to. “What was she doing just standing there in the middle of the road on a night like this?” “Why was she wearing a wedding dress?” “Do I now have to tell a newlywed husband that I just killed his wife?” These questions flashed across his mind unbidden. Hastily he pushed them aside and turned his attention back to the woman.

He felt her move slightly as he knelled down beside her. This encouraged him. “I’m so so sorry.” were the first words out of his mouths. “Are you okay?” Not waiting for her response he felt for an arm. It took him a moment to find this, twisted as it was beneath her back. Gently he felt her wrist. This was surprisingly warm considering the chill of the night around them.

He felt for a pulse. Very faintly he could just make out a tiny irregular throb that was dwindling in its magnitude moment by moment.

Benito jumped up, about to go to his car to phone the paramedics. A sudden urge took hold of him. Without knowing why, he felt that he had to see her face. He knew that time was of the essence but he couldn’t quash the desire. Quickly and almost abrasively Benito pulled back the veil. Long, brown hair rolled over his hands as he unleashed it from its moorings.

Benito stopped, his face so still that the beads of sweat were crystallizing around his temples. With each moment that ticked by, the life in the woman receded further and further away. Benito looked down into deep brown, almost black eyes that were crying. He was staring down into the face that he loved and knew so well. He had killed her, he stood and looked down at the form of Cynthia curled up on the road surface. Turning he took in his empty car.

“How did I let it come to this?…What have I done?” thought Benito as a last thought.

Slugs

Little Feet

Pitter-patter went the little feet, all day long, around his head. They didn’t vary their speed or change their direction, they just pittered and pattered their way along the same beaten track on the inside of his skull. The boy was sure, had his eyes been able to swivel round and allow him to see the inside of his head, he would have been able to see this track…Clearly at that. The track the little feet were gouging into his skull.

Every now and again the boy heard, or thought he heard little pittering pair of feet doing a dance of some sort. Sometimes it sounded like they did the stately waltz, at other times a cheeky tap dance even an elegant ballet. Before he could be certain that these dancing feet were real however, that pittering and pattering of little feet would drown out all other sounds.child_Shoes

The pittering made life difficult at times. Once while the boy was at school, his teacher had asked him a question. The boy asked his mind for the answer but before he could make out what his mind replied, a familiar pittering and pattering began to build so that the answer he eventually gave was a garbled version of the correct answer, with a pitter and patter thrown in. When the laughter had settled down, the boy found himself at the back of class. A space he occupied for the rest of his school career.

Looking back, the boy- now man- but still a boy smiled inwardly. He remembered that day so clearly. How much he had learned since then, how much he had changed! Looking back, it was almost like looking at a completely different Pers- pitter pitter patter -on.

Over the years, the pittering and pattering had become personalized. It had changed to match his unique head…And his head in turn had changed to match his feet. Lying in bed, drifting slowly to sleep he thought about his head. He now had at least three sets of feet each doing its own circuit of his cranium. The third pair he had only recently ‘acquired’. The boy was very happy with these feet. They sounded bigger than the previous sets of feet; they were shod in some sort of extravagant shoe; and they wend a slightly more unpredictable path. If any of the feet’s paths were followed for a period however, one would eventually find it repeating the same path. Perhaps unpredictable was the wrong word then, unconventional rather.Fancy_Shoes

Walking along a promenade, his mind distracted by the little feet as it often was, the man was not paying attention to where he was going. He walked headlong into a figure walking in the opposite direction. Obviously this persons mind was also elsewhere. The man may have imagined it, but at the moment of collision, he thought he had heard the delicate steps of a pair of high heels walking along a well laid path. Glancing up, the man looked directly into the face of an apologetic woman. She was petite with brown hair and brown eyes. The eyes were deeply set in a soft, cream coloured face. The usually unimaginative man suddenly thought of two splotches of unreflective dark, stillness in a pond otherwise encapsulated by the light of the moon. The curls of hair falling from her brow he saw as reads reaching over and just touching the water’s surface.  The man was taken aback. He resisted the temptation to turn and flee. It would be so easy, two steps and into a doorway.

The woman for her part was completely oblivious to the man’s dilemma. Her brow furrowed as she thought herself a fool. The pitter patter of children’s feet around her own head depriving her of clear thought. “This is enough”, said the man in the recesses of his mind. “Enough running! Enough hiding! Enough sitting in the dark with only the pitter patter of little feet in my head to keep me company!”  Mind made up, the man stuck out his hand with some vigour.

But it was too late, the woman had left. That age old pair of feet, worn down and weary, dragged their way around yet another circuit of his head.older shoes

The Pieman

Pieman_Image_01The pie-man sat up with a start. Something had wakened him. He looked around. Rows of empty chairs looked back, their granulated surfaces stubbornly refusing the bleaching effect of the fluorescent lighting. Satisfied that nothing was amiss, the pie-man reached bellow his own chair and reverently pulled out his prize possession (one could say his only possession). Layers of carefully folded newspaper covered an object of indiscernible size and description. Broken patches of specular hinted at parts of paper that were oil soaked.

The pie-man began the process of uncovering this object.  First he loosened the lines of the folds by running his thumb along them; next he gently blew along the edges where the paper met in an attempt to negate the adhesive effects of the spittle. Yellow brown areas still marked places where particularly virulent fleam stood; finally the pie-man began to meticulously work the sheets of paper free, first the one layer, then the next.

At last, the prize was held aloft! The pie-man gazed at it longingly. It was a pie. Not just any pie however, this was a Cornish pastry, the pie-man’s favourite pie.

Large drops fell down to join the spittle already on the package. The pie-man’s head razed a look of steely determination evident in his eyes. NO he would not, could not consume this pie. He should not even partake in a sampling of its delights. Just one bite? No!

The pie-man looked up at the empty ceiling, the back of his neck suddenly crawling. He felt eyes on him. For a while he had tried to hide from them. He had sought refuge in the men’s bathroom at first but they soon found him there. The pie-man reminisced over the numerous sanctuaries he had found since then. The kiosk in the main hall; behind the curtains in the reception; beneath chairs 14, 15 and 16; the hotdog stand; cold room (not very comfortable); the ‘genuine’ animal store (under a big zebra skin mat); and the female’s bathroom.  Some lasted longer than others but all were found sooner or later. Recently, after the loss of the girl’s bathroom, he had found some loose boards in the ceiling above seat 27 and this was his latest escape. As he was hiding there the day before however, he had felt them getting closer. He hadn’t returned since, he wasn’t going to lose this one!

Slowly the pie-man with a pie in his hand came out of his reverie. The danger of his current position dawned on him. Looking around furtively, the pie-man crept (or rather waddled carefully) over to a dustbin. Digging in with both hands he let out a cry of triumph. Lifting his hands triumphantly, the prize held aloft. It was a piece of newspaper. It never occurred to the pie-man to wonder how the newspaper got there. He saw no one actually dropping it in. It was just ‘there’, and while it was there, he would use it.

Returning to his seat, the pie-man set the pie down on the seat next to him. The pie-man concerned himself with the task of preparing the paper to rewrap the pie. The paper’s folds had to be perfect and the paper itself without blemish that it might adorn his prize.

So consumed in his business was the pie-man that he did not notice the slight breeze coming from the direction of the back door. Why should he? All the doors were closed. Small pieces of crust were taken up by the breeze and taken away. The pie-man did look up however as he heard a door slam. The look on his face was one of some curiosity, some interest and some fear. His face became more fearful instants later as he noticed the breeze. He heard a faint rustling from around his feet. The old cover for his pie was making its escape, propelled by the breeze.

The pie-man looked around once more. What to do? Fear gripped his heart. His one thought was of his pie, his cornish. He must get it to a place of safety! He held the image of his pie above himself. The pie was him. The pie-man shuddered at the thought of an existence without his pie. What was a pie-man who had no pie? A man? And barely that considering the images of ‘men’ that he had seen on his pie’s packaging. His cornish was more than his idol, it contained his identity as well. He could not remember where it had come from. It had just been, as he had just been, as this place had just been.

The pie-man took up his pie and made his way as quickly as he could to his safe place in the roof. Looking around to make sure there was no one was watching, the pie-man climbed onto seat 27. Still looking around, the pie-man carefully lifted the pie with one hand while the other went ahead to remove the ceiling board. The pie-man’s attentions only shifted to what his hands were doing when it occurred to him that his hand should have felt some resistance by now. The board above him, that he remembered carefully setting back in its place was not there. In its place was a gaping black whole. The pie-man snatched back his pie with a gasp. The dark space teemed with imagined nightmares. After a moment the pie-man detected a faint draft coming through the opening above his head. This quickly grew in intensity till the pie-man was forced to step off the chair and cover his pie. The once immaculate golden crust was now scored with holes were the fine, crispy bits had been.

The pie-man looked at his feet. Like a piece of cloth being ravaged by a turbulent wind, fears chased each other across his brow, down his nose, sought refuge in his cheeks and finally found refuge in his mouth. His lips were yanked first this way, then that as apposing thoughts yanked on the strings. What to do What to do What to do What to do What to do

All of his nooks and hidey-hole had been discovered and couldn’t be trusted. He could perhaps find some random chairs to hide under- but no, this was a stupid plan it would last two seconds. He could perhaps? But no. Possibly? Na ah. The pie-man knew only one thing: He would die before they got his pie.

A shriek rent the air; air untouched by any sound other than the pie-man’s shuffling footsteps. The pie-man’s face shot up, his features frozen in an expression of abject horror. This expression is not pretty on any face, particularly the pie-man’s face. A whimper escaped his lips. No thought controlled his next action; it was as if his body moved on its own violation. Arms pumping, neck straining, body bulging and heart pounding, the pie-man’s legs began carrying him. Direction was aimless, the object was to be in the next split second further away from the point he was at one split second ago.Pieman_Reach

His legs carried him in a circuitous route. The pie-man would run as fast as he could in one direction until he met a barrier of some kind. He would then veer off in any number of directions and begin the process again. Once or twice his efforts brought him to a door leading to the outside. These moments added fuel to his exertions.

By now, the wind had picked up in its intensity causing these doors to bang against the chains he had once used to secure them. Beyond the doors’ darkened windows, violent movement could be seen. If the pie-man had been outside to see for himself, he would have discovered that these were just trees been dashed about by the wind. As it was, the terrified, unfit pie-man continued his run.

Finally exhausted from his efforts, the pie-man collapsed into a heap on the floor. He pulled himself to the centre of the large hall he was in. “At least this way I will know of any oncoming threat” the pie-man thought. What was left of his ‘natural instincts’ had taken over. The pie-man took out his pie and clutched it to his chest, protectively. The familiar smell of pastry never failed to bring some joy and distraction, regardless of circumstance.

He knew it was unwise to dwell too much on his pie as edible, had he done this he would have devoured it long ago!  Nevertheless, his mind could not help but wonder what lay beneath that beautiful, puff pastry. The initial shriek had subsided after a short while and was replaced by a mournful howl. No less terrifying but less urgent. Pie in hand and no new danger presenting itself, the pie-man settled into a place of quasi-contentment.

Crash! The window in the door directly behind him crashed inward. Deadly shards of glass sliced through the air. In quick order, a number of successive crashes could be heard from different parts of the building. Rain water and darkness poured through the opening. The pie-man could just see malevolent movement in the dark as the greenish shape pulled back to take another swing.

The pie-man hunkered over his pie, offering whatever protection he could as the wind howled through the broken panes of glass. A spot of red blossomed on the pie’s surface. Some of the glass had sliced the pie-man’s cheek and in the urgency of protecting his pie had gone unnoticed. The pie-man could not have a thing like that blemish his prize! He carefully used his tongue to clear the pie of the offending liquid. A piece of pastry clung to the blood and entered his mouth.

Perhaps it was this, perhaps it was the situation but a strange thought occurred to the pie-man. “I know I said I wouldn’t” thought the pie-man, “I know I said I would die first…but I AM as good as dead…I am no real pie-man after all…” thought the barely pie-man. Bringing the Cornish to his nose, the barely man closed his eyes and savoured the aroma. Scintillating thoughts about what lay inside caused his mouth to water and his jaw to chomp unbidden. He imagined the feel as the first layer of crust broke away under the pressure of his teeth. On a whim, the barely man picked up the pie and rubbed it against his soft, plump cheek. The pie’s scratchy texture tickled him and made him laugh.

He could not stand it anymore! He had to eat this pie!! The barely man took one or two nibbles at the pastry. It tasted just as he imagined it would. A little like cardboard by itself but when combined with the meat, potato and aromatic spices inside it would blow his mind…he didn’t doubt this for a second. Throwing caution to the wind, the barely man closed his eyes and bit into the pie. At first the barely man refused to believe what his senses were telling him. He munched away, as pleased as only the naive and very young can be. Then, small sensory urgings began to break into his fantasy. “I don’t think Cornish is meant to smell like this… Though perhaps, garlic? And I definitely don’t think I’m meant to feel this inside my mouth…but maybe?”

Finally, the barely man, mouth full of pie and teeth still busy chomping, opened his eyes and gagged. He retched out the half eaten worms, the steaming green meat, the furry potatoes. He retched out the once aromatic spices –Now more ammonia and hydrogen gas then anything substantial. He retched out the cardboard tasting pastry that would have tasted so good with meat, potatoes and aromatic spices. The barely man could not stop vomiting. His dream had been shattered and with it his whole pillar of being, his stomach was just showing its distaste. The barely man kneeled with his head squeezed tightly between his pudgy knees and spat. He spat until he had no more spit. He spat until the insides of his cheeks began to bleed and a red puddle formed beneath him. He spat until no trace of pie was left in him.

The once pie-man but always barely man looked up at the doors.  He dragged himself to his feet and began walking towards them. Powerful gusts of wind impeded his motion but he pressed on. Reaching the doors, he jangled the chains as he battled to get them loose. Barely waiting for the chains to fall free, the barely man squeezed through the gap in the doors into the rain; the freezing, biting, cleansing rain.Pieman_Run_01Little Feet

Slugs

slugs_Gather

The slugs on the moor would congregate at the same place, at the same time each evening. There they would gaze up for a while. After a period of gazing one of the older slugs would say “not yet…I guess” before they all dispersed, each slug sliming its own separate, slippery trail home. A hopeful few hanger on-ers would remain for a while longer. Looking up, they would stand together, pretending to be intent on their task of gazing while actually seeking solace from each other’s slimy company. Slowly, in drabs, these slugs would also make their way home. On the moor, this was the slug’s way. It had ‘always’ been their way. Nobody knew why they did this or why they were so disappointed when day after day nothing happened.

A few of the younger, more rebellious slugs would mutter to one another about the senselessness of it all. Often these exclamations of discontent were punctuated with derogatory, sluggish gestures towards their elders. They didn’t see the point in coming, nor did they enjoy it…but come they still did. And no doubt, when this rebellious phase of their lives was over and they themselves were heads of their own brood they would continue to gather…at the same time, at the same place, each day.meet_Snail

This was a slug thing you must understand. On more than one occasion a snail had tried to join in but this snail’s intrusion was met with a stone wall of contempt from the slug’s side. A wall so great that, squirm as it liked; the exhausted, disheartened snail would eventually slime its way home. The slugs of the moor were solitary creatures by nature. Their marked slowness was not limited to their physical speed but also to their rate of showing warmth and compassion to others. bye_Snail

There was a general belief among slugs that this was what they were waiting for. That one day, slugs would look up and things would be different. They would see the world through new eyes as they wove new paths through the moor. This was the long awaited day, the day they called: ‘the quickening’. Deep within the moor, ancient, crystallized slug trails from at least the previous year had been found. These had been studied by the leading spiritual slugs of the time and they all (in their own way) agreed that the trails pointed to a future event.
Some slugs believed that this quickening would be a physical happening. That all of a sudden, their old, wrinkly bodies would fall away and be replaced by sleek, gleaming, super-fast slug bodies. Slugs would be able to shoot across the moor in an instant and food wouldn’t be a worry anymore as they would be able to move so fast that they could eat their fill by 11 o’clock and spend the rest of the day relaxing. It was an idyllic life that many of the slugs held to.

More serious slug theologians scoffed at such ideas. They ‘knew’ that the ‘day of quickening’ referred to a more existential awakening of their sluggish souls, a ‘quickening’ of their intellects and a broadening of their hearts. They envisioned acts of spontaneous giving and of sacrificial compassion. Numerous days were spent discussing these future events.Hurt_Snail

It happened that in the middle of one of these discussions, a misguided snail seeking company had wandered into this enlightened group. The slugs took offense at this intrusion. At first they reprimanded the snail soundly for having interrupted their very important meeting. Feeling that something more was required to deter other like minded snails, they set up a ‘fun’ obstacle course which they forced the snail to go through. Slugs not being very creative, the course only consisted of a bed of small stones and twigs. High pitched laughter rung out from the glade as they watched the poor snail slither the length of their course. The small sharp stones and twigs irritated the snail’s delicate underbelly and sticking there, travelled with the snail. For days after the incident, the snail would make a rattling noise as it moved, the stones colliding with its shell. Suffice it to say: The slugs meetings were interrupted no more.

It was evening and the slugs had all gathered. Faces fixed hopefully upwards, eyes on the heavens, minds thinking about the dinner of fresh humus that they would soon be enjoying. They were there for what seemed like eternity, no slug made a sound. Soft, shallow breathing was all that could be heard as well as the muffled snore of one or two of the elder slugs. The meeting was just about over. None of the elders had yet said the words “Not yet” and a few of the younger ones were looking over to make sure that they all hadn’t fallen asleep at the same time. One or two of the more impatient slugs had in fact started to sidle out of the congregation, when an unusual wind swept through the crowd. It wasn’t the suddenness of the breeze that made it stand out, nor was it the power of the gust. It may have had something to do with its chill as it was the middle of summer but whatever it was, it did stick out. Slugs, so used to nothing happening at these meetings, took a while to react. Slowly they began casting glances at one another, their excitement growing. They looked up with renewed intensity. A slug let out a cry as it saw a shooting star. Moments later there was an exclamation from the other side of the gathering as another star flew across the sky. Soon the sky was awakened by millions of little lights swimming across its vast expanse.

Taken by the moment, a few of the slugs started humming an old tune that had been past from slug to slug and lost the words somewhere along the way. This tune was gradually taken up until all across the little glade, the warmth of the tune gushed out. The alert slugs now noticed more anomalies. The earth on which they stood appeared to be glowing as if it had an inner fire. The blades of grass seemed to be electrified with the veins running up their side sparking and vibrating with stored energy. Suddenly there was a fiercely bright light, followed by a tremendous BANG as though lightening had struck the glade. If we were slugs in the crowd at this point, a ringing would be filling our ears. Gasps would be heard as slugs all around us are trying to take in what is happening. We ourselves are half way between ecstasy and sheer terror. Reeling and disorientated from the shock of the blast, completely out of breath, we are gasping for whatever oxygen we can take in. Shrill cries can be heard “Take me!” From one fanatical slug, “I’m ready, I want it!” comes a desperate cry from another.

Then right when the slug’s world was about to explode and all that they had dreamed of was about to come true, nothing happened. The skies became still again, the electric blades of grass became neutral and the earth beneath them settled to its mundane, soily brown. Slugs began craning their necks around trying to see if they noticed any change to their bodies. It didn’t take long to discover that there was no improvement to their sluggish forms. No! Why? All that splendour, they were so sure that their time had finally come. A few more reasoned slugs began to speak once more about their visions of a new, quickened heart when -FLASH- with a streak of glistening light, something shot past them. Amazed, they turned to follow it. Whatever it was came to a halt before them. The slugs had to shade their eyes from the intense glare coming off this avatar. As one they moved forward, in awe of the creatures beauty, mesmerised by the gleam that shimmered off its…Wait a second…Was that a shell? That’s not a slug! What a load of —-!

IMG_2369The Pieman