The voice in his ears took on an unexpected wavering impassioned tone. Quavering as if the speaker was not merely playing the part but actually embodying the character inferred by the lead up of the descriptive passages. Real emotions of shock and horror at the unexpected discovery of the body of their dead loved one. The drama resident in the speakers mind taking on not only the intonation of the present speaker’s voice but that of another disembodied entity that the story line inferred. It had not impressed him, the power of it, until this present moment of bewitching hour in the height of the darkness of night. The sheets beneath the several layers cover were damp and hot about him making his body clammy cold as if they were the clingy wrapper of a shroud. The voice seemed to icily slice through him from tightened upper shoulders down through the kinetic unease of his underbelly. A chill inspiring a sense of weakness and vulnerability to the situation that the speaker had posed. “How would it be?” he wondered to be a forlorn maiden soon to be a ghost? To come upon one’s most cherished loved one and find them eternally inert and mortally damaged and then fall prey yourself to the murderous guile of a party unseen but simply momentarily detected? The searching coldness of the fingers of this October month seemed to reach through the Thermopane to caress portions of his body, back and legs. A thought once taken up under the right circumstances too easily becoming an obsession. The horror and fear in the tone of that well mocked voice passing over him like waves pun a distant empty beach at night. Taking life from him and transferring it to the fragment of the tale that lay stuck in his head since the previous afternoon. He pondered in his darkest feelings like a child. Could the speaker of this tale have been and enchantress?
Of course, such things simply did not exist! In an age far past the convincing artifice of industrial produced tales that were so numerous and routinely convincing that the hold that they may have first exerted upon one’s untrained consciousness might have been unshakable. Yet by the sheer weight of successive numbers overly diluted until a certain skepticism like hard shell was developed in the individual over time. No given tale or fantasy could by that point overwhelm the mental warehouse of long worn scripts and plot points that lay in the dusty corridors of the bygone fissures of one’s mind. The mentality of the viewer made immune beyond the initial instance of initial viewing of a hyper-real visual that though persuasive faded away and was filed like an old actor’s costume set in storage long after the production had been struck. Who indeed could really claim to be shocked or appalled anymore by some random bit of exotically simulated supposedly realistic movie violence? The tremor of the woman’s lament was like the bite of sharp edged glass running across him. “Could there be some rationale. . . ?“, he thought in the prospect of demonic possession? Of the power that certain well-placed individuals possessed to summon others in a manner that put them in hazard of being swept along through the barrier of time in consort with tales that they so artfully spun? A cold chill descended heavily upon him like a bucket of water unexpectedly loosed from above. An icy breeze crossing his cheek inviting him to rise and turn about to greet a presence that was inexplicable traveling towards him from behind. The mere thought of the possibility of any reality existing in this untoward spontaneous impression causing a sense of panic as if he was now somehow to be a victim found equally vulnerable as the ones what were legitimized by this errant tale that he found himself so pointedly focused upon. He turned about fearing to see an effigy of a hag approaching int he dark hallway behind him steadily approaching and unstoppable. The hellish thing summoned a that fatal hour of night when all manner of mischief was said to rise from its lair to confound the souls of mortal men.
The hall sat quiet and inert save for the inky blackness that the pictures and baseboard hardware seemed to fade gently within. He felt the near brush with his unreasoning fear still between hot and cold along his spine like the raised bristles of a hedgehog. What ever was summoned had swept by but had not landed. The swipe of an unearthly presence momentarily summoned by the construct of shat so obviously was a well-planned description of the inadvertent discovery of the end of mortality. That point in the reality of actual life when the persistent banality of uninterrupted entity suddenly takes flight and now is no longer to be seen or felt. The escape of another soul to who knows where? Part of him was jealous! Part of him was inspired. “Kudos!“, he thought to someone so adept as to bring so lasting an effect with the mere juxtaposition of commonly used words. But it wasn’t just words? Was it! This person had combined the power of her voice. A well-practiced instrument, no doubt. The passage of intervals in enunciating a phrase and then a sentence int he proper diminution of dramatic poise. “Perhaps?“, his mind related analytically. This unseeming elderly matron had a past hidden by the effect of the weight of the advance of so many decades that camouflaged what had been a dynamic personality in the full power of youthful adulthood. The power of the ingenue upon the flickering limelight of the stage to bring a house down with the concert of emotions conveyed by her extraordinary ability to play the interment of her own voice to a virtuoso level at will. A ‘black art‘ to be sure! Nothing more convincing to a fellow human than the persuasion of the intangible beauty of the free flow of youth in what always seems as an eternal presence. Though the looks had long descended into the wasted furrows of advancing age, the powers and the art that this elder maiden still possessed could still stun a crowd at will. “How odd?“, he thought, “That I could be so easily bewitched in a tale that could not have lasted for more that a score of minutes?” Perhaps there was something more in the holder of the voice that now seemed ingrained remotely betwixt his ears that could echo forth in so impassioned a manner as to remain unshakably in place. “Was this then not the fundamental basis for enchantment?“, his thoughts tumbled out. How many had been burned to ash in a mass of cord wood and thorny briars in times past for too freely exhibiting such a talent? The mood now having been settled he crawled back beneath the covers and set about the workman-like task to recover what portion of the night that he could before the approach of light heralding another day.
There was a strange red sandstone rock formation in the vicinity. One that though it was not as remote as the decidedly more extensive rock bound canyons of the Southwestern region of the nation, it still provided a distinct flavor of their strange magnificence. A large prediluvian portion of sedimentary accumulation of ancient riverbed dating from eons back that had congealed into a solid mass before the advent of mankind and mammals. A stretch of rocky canvas that was slowly carved by successive assaults of restless wind and water into eccentric meandering channels and Cul de Sac’s. The adaption of their odd geography to some purpose beyond eccentric paths indeterminable save for that of a robber’s roost. The implementation of human habitation being more reasonably ‘in line’ with a day’s outing. Or in the case of two specific sections further along the tunneled passageways, a natural dome ending in a sky focused occulus. Further on, a raised platform of solid stone resembling something between a dais or a lily pad. Somewhere along the line within this tiny approximation of a Roman pantheon it was planned to camp for the night. The ability to star gaze given the opportunity afforded by the weather revealing a rare glimpse of the heavens above within tight shelter at the end of this same Cul de Sac. But much to the general disappointment it turned out to be occupied. The next opportunity in the vicinity was to nestle into a sleeping bag upon the dais further down from the intersection. But in the final approach as all had been diverted by the unsuccessful expedition to the first location by the time it was in sight others were in the process of claiming it for the evening. The last opportunity remaining was to trudge forward and hope the find some other uncharted natural feature that would afford a place to rest. After hiking onward for indeterminable amount of time the end of the rocky channel came into view. Expanding from a narrowed tube to where flat land and foliage was once again visually in force. There indeed sat a small cabin. But the sign beside it revealed that we had somehow breached the Canadian border? All one could think of is how everything could have gone so curiously gone awry? The last degree of pleasantness realized when one of us had leveraged their way skyward up over the channel where it had narrowed for a handhold so that they could see the magnificence of the that strange mystical hidden landscape of those larger formation above that had enigmatically transported us a thousand miles in one day.
In a backwater border area somewhere near an African frontier a tiny mud brick box shaped shanty stood. Long abandoned. It now served as a covert military installation. A bunker serving as a forward looking enemy observation lookout post. Central Command had decided it would make an incursion through bombardment by using this location as the operation’s covert base and ready eyes. They set up a gigantic booby trap per their orders in the adjacent quadrant near the enemy. A killing field that the artillery barrage would subsequently drive them into. The well-hidden structure was manned at times by three or four paramilitary and agency types, half of them women. An unlikely combination of personnel considering the immense level of physical danger in holding such a position after the fact of the disclosure of their presence in the region. They had to attempt to make the second part of the mission look as if it was simply a happenstance occurrence that did not reveal the fact of their presence in near proximity within this structure on the ground. Theoretically the distance between them and the ambush they set up would be far enough. They prepared their end of this exercise from the cover of the tall grass that cloaked their location from view. When it came to initiate their end of it by setting off the explosives, much to their surprise and dismay, a woman’s frantic voice sounded outside revealing their position. Someone that had panicked and not followed the directive of leading potential pursuers away from their disguised base. Small fists pounding furiously on the outside of the structure’s only entrance. This fugitive’s opposite number giving her entry inside just managing to close the heavy wooden beam door before the enemy arrived to lay immediate siege to their structure. A contingent of troops that had been just far afield enough to manage to avoid being annihilated and now burning white hot for a quick and brutal revenge to be levied in kind. The rapid assault on the sturdy timbers saw them pried from their jamb and uprooted in an unexpectedly swift manner. The small room filling quickly with many sets of eyes bearing expectant expressions searching for victims upon which to visit their impending evil intent. Their festival of the application of vengeance would begin in a round of torture of the men and and build slowly to a crescendo saving the women for its finale. Tasking their imaginations to kill everybody in the bunker in the worst way possible. Their collective efforts seeking to provide a fit level of retribution for the ambush.
A Portuguese speaking backwater community in the middle of nowhere in sight of the coast. A haven for old burned out Hippies. A truck driver of a big box panel job doubling as a cab driver offering rides through the tangle of tiny causeways and dead ends that served as the town’s central sprawl. Navigating congested city traffic in the oddest of spaces. In one instance actually bumping up and down going up over the roofs then bouncing across their closely stepped flat cousins down finally into a bone jarring impact upon a dusty street. Smashing a large granite serpentine Augustine head with the back of the vehicle’s carriage. Revealing its true character as a faux stone maquillage for hiding drugs in their liquid form. The immediate result of such a spectacle finding the thoroughly rattled passenger now extent on the other side of town. The driver reveals a young adult daughter whose birthright has cost him his chance at fortune. But he is not a vindictive sort. If you treat him nice then maybe next time take the ride and you can have his daughter maybe as a wife? Maybe to prove yourself? The young girl being the next chapter of the tale being spun. That old story of a Tomboy tough exterior camouflaging an otherwise good heart. The mood of the scene set off by the transport of Italian architecture many centuries past. Though these people are not Italian they are living in an old town. The tourist comes back by the stable of the pensione eating a leg joint of chicken finding the young woman naked in the corral tending to the animals. A big brown and white Guernsey cow backed up against the rails where a horse formerly stood. He tosses the piece to her and she tosses it back on the ground. Then quickly picks it up and throws it back out of the corral at its sender with a look of disgust. “I don’t like chicken!”, she snarls. She’s a willful spirited lass. The man reflects as to what a strange, strange, strange world it is realizing he is currently amidst a dream of his own visiting other simultaneously slumbering people’s lives.
Fall descends! Displacing warmth with slowly biting cold kisses upon the cheek and over one’s extremities. Young Black sedan driven man’s Toyota music rediscovery ‘esplanade’ pounding out a decades old beat. The decades old constant drumming bringing back that other salt shaker in line when the inadvertent listener once knew that particular tune by rote. The volume pushed up so loud before the static traffic lamp that it buffets one like Jackie Chan kicking their ass! His thoughts have been laying down flat for the bulk of the week. A fucking living skeleton still aping human existence. Dead for all intents and purposes to the outside world. Chanting his Asian mantra barely audible. Nearly indiscernible. Trying to escape that ever tinier box called life. Strumming chords and PC chord progressions, trite and dated, having been forever played. In the shadow time of this era, it was not just the wooden puppets that wanted to be a real boy. Little girls trying to take that away too! Identity! Uniqueness! So fucking important! The more artifice applied like makeup to achieve it, the further into a faceless crowd one falls. Tourists in their own lands! Marveling at the falsehoods that they have been told. The magic box of elementary poisons. Nothing to wear! Not a single thing to believe in any longer. All used up! The empty cases discarded. These fucking ‘broads’ are all think they’re boys! There souls have been stolen and now they are just part of the furniture. A dead stick between their legs. Who will put this world aright? Certainly not its enemies that have been working overtime over generations to topple it! No longer that paucity of former friends on the other end of that warm piece of plastic blistering their palms. Hoping for the purring wetness bursting forth within the inert coldness of their extended hand. Modern Relationships. “Girls get what they want!” Boys get their unending frustration. CIVILIZATION? “Game Over!” Nothing left but King Rat! Jump head first into the bore hill and breath the shit into your lungs for a fast exist out. Who was originally accepting the proffer of, “Everything you ever wanted or dreamed of delivered to your door on a silver platter?” That yellow belly low down dirty rotten snake? Or the man who tended to the maidens? The world is your Apple TM. But sooner or later, it rots. That constant pound of jungle rhythms. Who would submit themselves to that? “You should!” You slave bitch! Both sides now scared by a rabbit.
The world had changed. People were back outside again. They milled around forming small groups not he lawn as if part of a large picnic. But no one was eating of celebrating and it was too late in the early evening to enjoy the surroundings beyond the illumination afforded each small throng by the solitary street lamps. On the other side of the same field a group of young men lounged casually on the lawn over by the next gravel road. A company of young strong highly chisel featured men all dressed in uniforms reminiscent of before the last mid-century in Germany. The droning recycling melody of ‘Westerwald‘ throbbing away somewhere in the back of one’s head. The sliding whistle offered repeatedly under the breath cutting sharply through one’s ears. A little black girl in a gray t-shirt played about self-absorbed. Some of the men laughed as one of them approached her and spoke in a low cheerful friendly voice. One of the other men called out to the first. “Is she smelly?” “Very!” said the man standing before the little girl with a big smile as if all this was a joke. They all laugh as the little girl continues down the line of gravel going about her business unmolested at play on their periphery.
The shopping center remained their on the outlying stretch of land bordering the rolling hills. Some empty parcels of farmland affording empty space to the otherwise commercially overbuilt main thoroughfare. The old man of six decades plus walks into the coffee shop. Something is wrong and it dawns on him that all the logos and furniture that were there the day before have disappeared. The characteristic pistachio colored green walls are now bare. He hears someone coming an crawls within the door-less enclosure of a built in center aisle cabinet. Some young heavily built construction workers enter from the front carrying shiny aluminum HVAC ducting along with tools and other implements for installation. It is obvious to the man that his neighborhood coffee shop has transferred ownership overnight and is going to be reconstructed into another commercial entity. The men go about their business as the old man crawls unceremoniously from his niche. He looks at the group as the walk in an out of the entrance to the street piling up the box-like sections of metal fabrications. Is this where I can find a job he stammers to a slightly older supervisor type who enters brusquely pouting over invoice documents in his hand. Again, the old man senses that no one is or wishes to be made aware of his presence. They cannot be bothered by someone whose time has past. They just go about their tasks unhindered. The men collectively appear to be related to the soldiers on the lawn.
The man makes his way back down the side road along the field. The inhabitants from the town seemed to have been disgorged from their dwellings like a bunch of sullied ants. They angrily mass by the country intersection ahead alongside the first hill where the road has been scrapped up and is under construction. For some reason the bunch of them are stirred up and irate. The old man is too far away to hear what they are saying to the small delegation of contraction officials embroiled by them ahead. A giant earth mover lumbers slowly up behind the man incrementally over taking him. The man mounts the side of the hill and walks diagonally up to a higher vantage point. The mechanical giant slows as it reaches the intersection where the imbroglio is in progress. The hill is green with tall grass that reaches up to the man’s knees as he burrows a party further upward through it. Suddenly there is a deafening detonation that instantly overtakes the entire valley. The whole landscape around the man seems to explode at one time. To the man’s horror and amazement a sheet of water blasts vertically upward several hundred feel ringing the valley. The genetic imprint of the deluge of ancient lore explodes his heart into a great thump like a sonic boom. He spins around and watches in slow motion how the water recedes vertically again down upon the large square mile wide ring. it is almost as it it was an apparition of biblical destruction summoned from that forgotten time of Noah. Yet the worst damage done seems to be a complete dousing of any and all in the vicinity. A warning of things to come? Or the mental unbalance of a foolish old man?
Does the light as opposed to the dark cleanse your mind of the past? Its deeds and emotions, the recollections of attempts gone sour to achieve something of note in society but always fall short. “If I were a king old I would knight you both!“, he said. The two young boy’s enthusiasm in the play of their chess pieces interrupted by the old man’s folly.
Somehow fortune had smiled. Or had it? He had secured a job in an elite ad agency and had arrived to show his manifold talents. A chance encounter of sorts had presented his name to this agencies’ head. A madcap individual who embed with an honored reputation in the industry careened about the floor of his own shop like a Caliph eyeing necks to cut. The young man felt that eye lurking about ready to smight his own hopes and dreams and struggled for something he could do. A reason to be in that place and excel in a manner that he assumed his destiny would lead him. But there seemed nowhere to sit in this fast paced environment? And worse yet, he was unable to recall any exact instructions given by his new employer or anyone else. And so he wandered from desk to desk. His physical being actively ignored viewing pile of work and all manner of pads, and paper and drawing instruments but afraid that if he disturbed the wrong chaotic pile that it would lead to his instant termination. Anything vaguely useful to the cause of providing a creative platform within the dust and jumbled on the floor. All the while the presence of that owner’s watchful eye wondering in disgust why he had invited such an incompetent into his midst?
Late that afternoon in a palatial hall at a gathering that had the dynamics of a large gaudy overstuffed convention the young man was equally surprised that he was allowed entry and with a temporary companion who had no stated identity that could be recollected swept through the echelons of seating surrounding the speaker’s dais. Both looking for something close enough to hear their big boss who was being honored as an honored guest speaker having taken the microphone. His voice boomed about the Baroque columns painted in exotic greens and gold. Emblems of filigree enigmatic but providing greater beauty through their intricacy evident in every direction. The bleachers at the far corner where the young man briefly took up station being so remote that he thought that it was actually upon a street in the worst part of town. A black face opening up a window on the second floor across peering out to their street engaged by foreign revelers of the very same class that oppressed them. Every corner of the auditorium filled with troublesome angry looking rivals their facial expressions ever at was with the other. The man eventually taking cover beside a twin sculpture of two figures that had been temporarily covered for the event with plywood and a faux grill. Their matched pair of hands entwined in some arcane significant unconscious embrace. He studied this jewel of aesthetics of the past as he heard his boss’s world pounding down from above.
Feeling that he had hit on something elemental suggesting the creative solution to his ongoing dilemma he wandered off to the back of the hall to find his fellow. The hallways was as much a garden marked by rich growth of luxuriant species of plant life. Ever the dreamer had he not been in a hurry it would have become evident his had wandered into his own thoughts. A wedding party, its member’s richly dressed lingered about the men sitting and conversing in a manner that suggested the ceremonies aftermath. Though he was in no way dined, the young man felt that he needed to return back to his own party. That in some way it might end and he not be part of the throng to be counted as faithful. Swiftly heading back but down the wrong path confronted by some strangely configured varieties of birds that by their haphazard physical construction seemed more the pets of demons from another world than species resident on earth. He took the hint and retraced his steps staying just ahead of their flamingo-like communal gait. Back in the entryway lobby heading back to his starting point.
But exchanged for the old reality of a formal ceremonial meeting was another experience completely different. One composed of facsimiles of the same characters yet more in the setting of the lecture space of an auditorium of a college that had been sequestered by rambunctious students hell bent on frivolity of their generation. The mundane uniforms of the grouped young prevailing up the steps in chaotic repose. The young man having been brought into this amphitheater taken by the hand of a comely sylph that had instantly enchanted him. The lingering promise of her equally prompt disappearance being that if he old discover he whereabouts amidst this throng then she would be his. And so he began his performance trying to stay in character without he classic heroes of old. Traipsing up and down the stairs making overly theatrical motions and gestures at every despoiled, “Ahha“. The sly artifice of the moment summoned only to buoy his own quickly deflating hopes of a fading solution. Defeated evermore until out of desperation he grabbed a hose and sprayed the entire assembly dousing all. To equal measures of his shock and surprise lay an old maiden laying unconscious upon her front under the full extent of the flowing carpet of her own long auburn hair. A love of old turned sour, decades past the age of any other in the room. That fairer sylph long gone and his apparent prize subsumed within the indignity of this more ancient example of womanhood. His own shock leading to the fact that he like she was in fact too old for these games of frivolity. The two of them now fully revealed as being many decades advanced beyond that of all the surrounding audience.
It was late in the middle of the night at bewitching hour that I awoke once again prodded by what I suppose by the usual animal urge to relieve some needful urgent pressure from below of bowel or bladder declining slowly into middle-aged atrophy. The temperature of the time of year was not in line with the expected though frankly speaking little expectation remained of it being normal with the people of my area of the country. The last decade or so seeing uncustomary shifts of same. This time leaning towards a feeling in keeping with late Fall. The sweater I had worn to bed had done its job along with the bedcovers and the t-shirt and cotton cloth jogging pants were now clinging and damp with sweat. The ceiling directly above me bore a faint hint of the most available light that was available inside the room. It being cloaked by the usual shadows and darkness. The apartment overall was dead silent.. But the memory or two other voices still rang in the lingering hollow chamber of my own slowly draining unconsciousness.
I found myself accompanying my late father yet once again in his large Lincoln Continental automobile through the streets of a small town located on the periphery of that greater more well-known Midwestern metropolis that had provide the hub for out mutual existence. A place that we had grown up in our respective eras. He initially on its mean streets during the awkward period of the Great Depression between the two great World Wars. And myself in the era following where he and my mother had taken advantage of the new prosperity to make a reasonably bountiful existence from the living his career as a salesman provided. He ever cognizant of how precious life was after so many undeserved hard knocks both before and in-between. I having been shielded from direct experience of them by him for most of my childhood and early adult life. The solitude of being the solitary offspring compounding the dilemma of ever defying our close relationship by an attitude of condescension towards his views on life. And chronically offering evidence of this cynicism to him on too many occasions that were later regretted in hindsight. We both in some strange was too ready to take advantage of the other. He in vouchsafing my the uneasy silence of my company despite my affliction to too readily offer pesky judgement. Myself in reluctant succumbing to a need for loving companionship from that same old man whose health and vitality were forever in rapid decline. The men of his era characteristically afflicted in too many cases with coronary infarctions of the heart perhaps as a result of having endured the sorrows of seeing too much pain and suffering visited upon general humanity in their experience of life? Being privy to want at an early age to constant hunger and slim pickings. And then being thrust into a chaotic world far afield demanding his unhesitating participation in constant killing of other distant species of human beings. Something that I had always sensed but like an unbreakable taboo demanding absolute silence had never dared to violate with my inquiry. His feelings about it ever demonstrated in random acts of giving to complete strangers as well as a healthy disdain for harboring most things of a material nature once the purpose that they served had gone past its useful life.
He had me for his chauffeur on this occasion as we trolled the main streets of the old long economically leached downtown that decades before had been one of the myriad of locales that he had actively plied his wares. The familiarity of it clear in memory as it once had been closer to its heyday still lodged in childhood glimpses. Locales many of them where I had been with him so many times before coming along for the ride to wait in the car while he made a sales pitch at some merchant’s place of business. Offering them a way to get their business’ message on track to reach new customers with hundreds of thousands of ‘eye impressions’. The same local establishments now significant for their absence by displacement or dissolution. Something that mutually offered both he and I the experience of melancholy of common knowledge of being inducted to the special feelings about how this world once was against the way that it had ended up. The side lanes approaching the vicinity of the town’s most major boulevard along its most celebrated main drag still several blocks ahead, he bid me to pull over and park before an old movie theater and wait while he got out to visit a store across the street. The old ingrained reluctance within me to protest stopped short by the now constant weight of knowledge that as this man was nearing the end of the trail of life no request simple or otherwise could be easily tossed off. I sat alone with the motor running instinctually watching for the approach of a parking ticket happy cop or meter maid taking in the effects of urban blight on what must have been an exceptional movie palace in its day. The neighborhood at close view had descended like all place from that era tended to into a local for whores and druggies that seemed to collect wherever there might be the opportunity for quick and easy pickings. The constant lack of opportunity and financial collapse that hounded this modern time evidencing a bumper crop of same. A tall thin frousy looking female appeared just ahead of the Lincoln eyeing the possibilities for plying her trade as what I assumed by the cut of her clothing to be a somewhat burned out streetwalker. My father returning at just that moment from the other direction crossing just ahead of passing traffic that drove his progress in her direction. I felt my insides sink as the evident collision of the immediate fact of her youthful appearance and his insatiable desire to relive his youth would occasion an immediate conversation. It had been so typical that he had been quick to ever engage in these sorts of connections with a menagerie of types that I from the times as a child had assessed as losers. Something that irritated me as some sense of natural defense against loss seemed to be triggered in me but apparently not in him. He in my opinion too often serving as an easy mark to their avarice. His invulnerability financial and otherwise now dissipated by the advance of years I felt hard pressed to imagine what sort of mischief this chance encounter would bring down upon us?
Sure enough, after watching a scant few minutes of a pantomime of him warning up to what I assumed to be her pitch the two of them turning back towards me and the car’s doors to let her in. That usual sense of immediate choking protest rising up within and squelched by the fact that it was his car and ultimately his decision. Something that I could not take away from him though something inside me felt so alarmed by as if I had yet again failed to judge his foibles and left us both vulnerable to some inevitable loss. My inner protests running along the lines of any number of implicit violations of trust in terms of marriage, finances and of course my own patience with such self-deprecating behaviors. The doors slammed shut from without and within he announced that we would drive the lady down the street just on the other side of downtown. I felt like a clam that had tightly closed its shell amidst my own building steaming anger mechanically acceding as I always did to his command to drive ahead. Something within now ‘on guard’ as it always was in these sorts of situations that would drag me down into some demeaning pawn in a larger scheme that would inevitably lead to permanent loss. I parked down a side street and without the necessity of any direction on his part to me we all got out of the vehicle. The two of them actively engaged in a of conversation that had her playing the role of humble ingenue simulating the ersatz of an aura of youth that had long past her by. I walked behind the pair my attention rapt upon assessing any sign of weariness that his heart condition might unexpectedly summon. Concerned but tolerant of his involvement ready to jump in to interrupt her pitch when it began to endanger his immediate health.
The street in the middle of the block was under heavy renewal. Barriers that impeded any vehicle from further progress across pavement or sidewalk that had been stripped down to dry dusty red dirt. The workman assigned to ward off casual traffic seemed indifferent to our progress in attempting to navigate this zone. The woman pointing out a point of entry at the side of a three-story commercial building just ahead. I paced along behind the two as before watching her sympathetically offering her embrace of his arm to steady him as they past by a series of deep excavations just to the side. The building might have been first built before he was a boy and had that aged lurking aroma of old dry desiccation so characteristic of wainscoted walls and generous use of heavily varnished wood. It was obvious format he first floor that it had formerly been a hotel but over the years but had recently succumbed to other varied uses when the interest of tenants and potential guests had wained. Now it seemed a place as much for haphazard storage of an odd collection of items that may have seemed useful but were evidently past utilitarian value. The upper floor that we ended up upon was dim within the columns of dusty light that imposed themselves from the tall windows to the side. The arrangement of the large room looking more like a intermediate banquet hall too filled with the flotsam of random discards to be anything but derelict. The girl spun her own tale of romance wherein cancer and its accompanying misfortunes ushered out her young marriage to her lifelong love escorting him too quickly to an early grave. The subsequent long depression occasioned by her loss and a lack of family support sending her ultimately to a life of dissipation and daily regrets. So much about the darker parts of life that she had heard about and once found abhorrent that now was now simply part of her daily existence. The ‘topper’ being that she had now been visited with the news that now within the midst of her fourth decade she too had contracted a form of cancer that she had no hope of addressing having no financial resources to put towards its cure. I could see my father’s face throughout this tale. The way that it so customarily transitioned into a grave but tender sort of empathetic expression the sight of which suggesting his need to seek some measure of peaked with an inner penance offer generously offer his unreserved help. The silence ringing loudly with the ned of her tale he turned to me with a look that I knew that sought both council and consent on my part. Something that we both no would be hesitant at best but more than likely not willingly offered.
It was between two situations that offered only three choices. And I already knew exactly what he was going to offer aloud to me without having to hear a single word. He could make the sole decision himself pay for her operation and treatment with the remainder of the limited amount of monies set aside and make himself vulnerable to the inevitability of his rapidly progressing heart problems. He could ask me to advise him aloud in so many words why he should not choose to become involved in this stranger’s dilemma in that same manner that I always did. My role being one to deter him and subsequently play the ‘bad guy’ as I always seemed to do in these sorts of situations. Or, we could simply excuse ourselves and just walk away indifferent to this woman’s pitch or possible plight. The gravity of this moment striking me as the summation of all the previous encounters when against what he thought was his better judgement, I had tugged him away from acting. Adding in so many cases to some inner sense of hidden guilt. Something that was bound up in a deep dark corner of his life experience before I was born. This Hobson’s choice was not a matter of his dodging a decision by laying it off onto me. But a long held desire on his part to be recognized at long last by his son for the virtue of an abiding sense of charity that he wished to be acknowledged for. The visitation of his spirit in such a scenario was overwhelming. The worth of my own soul seems to hang in its balance as I lay here in silence as the full moon outside dampens its decent into the oblivion of a nearness to the coming day.
The square located adjacent to the fort was composed of are blocks of reddish sandstone finely cut in a manner similar to their vertical counterparts of the tall structures walls. It extended uninterrupted in one direction out towards the sands of the desert the surface of which was frozen in incremental undulation under the mild forcefulness of restless winds of early evening. His gaze from the crenelated barrier of the parapet downward to the small ornate habitations below revealed what might have been a much a dream of a children’s toy world or possibly movie set as any sort of realistic real world reality. Something fundamentally attractive as a cloying Romantic muse. The Sun had deposed itself half under the horizon and the cobalt glow of night rose up only interrupted by the pinpoint of torches that dotted the surrounding circle of two story buildings that ringed the fortified enclosure. The prosaic quality of this setting had not escaped him. Nor had it gone unnoticed by the collection of his fellow European contingent. A mixed bag of currently displaced civilians now joined in this enclosure by a mutual desire to resist the surrounding population’s desire to slaughter us all. Expectant without any palpable reasoning that our small party would be rescued though no one made a specific mention of the possibility of same having been currently underway or being followed up on. The general mood was uncharacteristically upbeat. Many dressed in their finery rather than something more suitable for physical combat. The lanes below were empty. It might have been some holiday where the usual population was gathered together at a distant religious shrine. The view of the horizon had a magical quality that defied the inevitability of the situation. The static quality of the scene before him burned upon his brain displacing the possibility of refocusing upon what was a rapidly darker world where possibility was quickly evaporating.
His small enclave now far removed from the freedom of twenty meters below. The smart move might have been to have made an attempt to escape with the greatest possible haste. But the shared attitude of all involved seemed to suggest a natural state of their class feeling bulletproof from any action possible to the diminished mentality of what they considered to be lower classes of lesser mental potential. The man’s own inner inclinations ran counter to this common notion unspoken but shared among them. Had anyone even bothered to send a radio message requesting a relief column from the North coast? He was hesitant to inquire as it might cause a sense of angst. Ignite a sense of general panic. But then again, the level of complacency shared by this collective had been demonstrated so many times before at dinner when less vital situations were presented and dismissed. Bring up an incident or an inconvenient fact and see the conversation shift away from the speaker like a great river suddenly withdrawing its flow instantly meandering away coursing vigorously away as distant as possible from the facts and the speaker’s presence within the room. It was hard not to take this collective behavior personally. To be a stranger in the foreign world that one found one’s self attempting to exist within? To not be able to fathom the essence of the surrounding indigenous language and then to have the ear of the small circle of his own seemed unbearable to contemplate. He knew that in either of these worlds there was no acceptance for the presence of those who were of a conflicting point of view. A sense of isolation having been what in the moment seemed permanently condemned to exile seemed inescapable. Though he knew that all he had to do was to take up some popular topic of popular conversation in another distant world far removed from this one and he would be cheerfully redeemed as a member of their circle. A growing stubbornness tightened its grip deep within his frame. Defeat would not be found in any conventional sense of being excluded from easy consensus. Defeat would come from acceding to it.
The unreality of it all defied common sense. A situation that might be easily settled at the risk of betting one’s earthly existence in a gambit that if taken underway at the earliest opportunity might prove to be more reliable in guaranteeing further existence. Something when weighed against the general sense of complacency as evidenced by this small circle. The toy-like vista not helping to move the urgency of the situation along. He felt his own sense of a building urgency to just walk away from his current observation post to suddenly retire to the far wall that was now unlit and cloaked by the advancing shadow of night. The drop to the ground was at least ten feet less than here where the desert was easily in sight. He was no coward. But then again he was not a fool. Common sense suggested that those hostile to there presence there were busily planning their assault. This would give them a head start over terrain that even the locales would be hesitant to challenge. It was reasonable to consider that their opponents would use their own sense of what was rational and reasonable behavior for their former masters. They might know their minds better than they did their own? The realization that this might be indeed the case sent an electric spark through his guts. The left platform of the mental scale that metaphorically existed within him sank a little lower with the gravity of the overall situation. A cool breeze impacted the man’s neck above his collar as he tried remain focused forward staring at the sublimated failing glow dying before him. “Opportunity”, he mumbled aloud unconsciously. A distant chatter of frivolous conversations temporarily rose up behind him. A small group elegantly posed figures upon the wall to his side dimly continuing on about a former life lived far back and long ago in the particular cultures that had sired them. No one but him and him alone seemed concerned.
Fear was a common dialect that remained perpetually unspoken. He could feel it all around his like a tide slowly waxing, rising ever higher, but unheeded. It seemed that it would be a useless gesture to sacrifice his mortal being for the sake of fitting in. The thought of throwing away one’s life along with all the years of bathing within the wisdom of the world that had been accumulated over decades for a simple gesture of being one of the crowd seemed beyond foolish. Utterly wasteful. He didn’t mind an unspecified appointment with eventuality of his death. But it rankled his that his worldly smarts meant nothing to the rest. They seemed mannequins in a store window. A set piece in keeping with the persistent image of plastic perfection he reviewed in his mind of that former view of a solitary mortality effected by the fatally afflicted orb of the disappearance of their only most important star. The unseen group lounging upon the battlements about him far removed at a lawn party utterly confident that what they silently regarded as utterly dependable. A watch work mechanism that would confidently return the same light unfailingly to illuminate the next day at the appointed hour. This confidence built by a trust in a longstanding tradition. But not supported as of late by discernible actions. Ignorance was a pleasure that was beyond bliss. The world the way it should would go on as it had been all along with their class being cream that ever floated at the top no matter how sour the possibilities below. Sure there would be an eventual strong reaction to any demonstration of show of violence. But always after the fact when nothing would be solved or could be solved. This was the true definition of the complacency that he despised. No perception or forethought.
A rather large shadowy shape struggled across the middle of the space. The giant shell of a sea turtle moved slowly on the diagonal. “How incongruous!“, he thought? Here in the midst of dry water starved desert a creature completely removed to its climate seemed blindly motivated by a compulsion to simply move forward without any particular hope of reaching the environment that spawned it. The consistency of the creature’s movement suggested that its quest was one that was motivated by an inflexible will. The eye caught another shape marching slowly upright a short distance behind the first. Resolving his vision he was able to distinguish that the figure has a large shell that also was posed upon his back. A turtle shell that had been harvested from another animal long deposed to a stew pot and several other uses that included this frivolous misuse of the late animals most significant feature. Was this a absurdly attired biped a predator to the first? There was no sign of a weapon at the end of either of the upper limbs of the silhouette. Perhaps this pursuit was simply a matter curiosity of just boredom? The turtle creeping steadily along before the second lacking the personality of the other. “How odd?“, he mused that the creature that evidenced the most expedience seemed so lackluster to the carefully affected appearance of the other. The one affording the essence of its inherent personality as a free example to the other who had nothing in common beyond purloined trophies harvested from the hunted species. Did this not in some strange unexpected way suggest that this pursuer was also equally vulnerable to another predator of equivalent or greater violence. The prey inching ahead didn’t seem aware of this fact. The tortoise’s only concern focused on a larger goal of returning to an environment suitable to its species.
The cold blue of that lower wall in cobalt blue shadow congealed in his mind preempting the sight steadily crossing the square. The immediacy of the wavering within subsided. The man turned gathering up the impression of all the vigilant party goers droning quietly on in small groups. The path back through to the shadows inviting him by virtue to it being empty of any activity. His mind glided ahead of him at a steady gait. His pace unhesitatingly normal bringing no attention to the fact of his direction away from his post. Though there was no sense of military echelon among them and no specific order in place. There was no reason to believe by anyone glancing at him from afar that he was doing anything out of place. Yet no one was bothering to notice. The same indifference that had been visited upon him the day before was still in force. It was as if he was no longer there. As if he had never been there to begin with. The short drop to the narrow lane just outside the back wall hurt but did nothing more than leave a slowly fading sense of the pain. The same casual conversations drifted over the top of the walls above as he flattened himself against the bottom of the side wall. No sign of occupancy evident though the hackles on the back of his neck felt like thorny bristles. He pursued his course towards the edge of the sands accomplished via small short bursts carefully jogging from shadow to other forms of cover. No sign of human habitation driving a building feeling within that next jump would be surely confronted and fatally dealt with. But no such ambush ensued. It was a moonless night and the last impression he could recall was the sound of laughter ringing out in the distance from on high.
Where the rail journey to the outpost had taken a matter of several hours from the coast the return on foot took several days. A matter of sheer will of the traveler to continue on each night staying immobile half covered by sand. By each afternoon’s conclusion descending into darkness he stirred himself from deep exhaustion to endeavor onward. A water filled horizon filled hugging the coast was finally sighted over a tall dune at first light leaving the man in tears. His appearance was spied almost immediately by the happenstance of a lead driver of a convoy of trucks. The man waved his arms and was picked up. His physical exhaustion precluded any questions and he traveled next to the driver completely speechless and offering nothing more than eyes constantly turned towards the brilliance of light illuminating an endlessly cycle of crashing waves. A month or so later a small article appeared in a local gazette published in a city somewhere back in Europe. It concerned the disposition of some out of the way southerly outpost where a small contingent of colonists had been overwhelmed and massacred. After parenthetically recounting a supposition of the best official notion events as could be determined the last mention stating that there were no survivors found.