Excerpt: "And so up they went in a jerky sprawl of ungodly miscommunication, out of sync with the world and each other, their fragile reality faltering more and more with each misstep and tragic stumble, ascending the mountain that was burning and howling at their backs."
Moth Kill Flame
His darkness was attracted by her lingering flame. The problem was that his darkness was so dark that her flame didn’t stand a chance. It would burn bright for short, manic periods of ecstasy and joy before fading into a tiny flicker that demurely threatened to fade to smoke with the slightest breeze. That was the seat of her power, the ever present danger of her non-existence. She wore her victimhood well and gained maximum benefit from it. It was her vehicle and everybody needs a vehicle to travel down the highway of life. It does not matter how you get to that unknown place where the burden of your conscience presence steers you to. ‘Why’ is a totally useless question. There is a Google map pin imbedded in your genetic code and the Google bitch with her sexy, robotic voice will drive you on towards your destination like a goddess. All we know is that we have to get ‘there’ with whatever wit and survival instincts we can muster.
The flame of her, the being of her; burned like rocket fuel when her demons drove her hard and the jester is named tragedy. It could not last long. Not even in Hell. The sun? Well, that’s a different story altogether.
They found the body washed up one early morning. It was naked and broken. Ragged and torn. The rocks held it up like a trophy for patience. Rocks don’t swallow. Rocks don’t spit. Rocks are patient and display whatever is thrown onto them like a fisherman proud of his catch.
Her hair was red and her skin pale, (what was left of it anyway). He couldn’t tell the colour of her eyes because they had none. They apparently served as a delicacy for an underwater banquet. All he knew was that he has been doing this job for much too long. He knew that because he felt nothing. Not even the tiniest of sting. The only thing he felt, was a long drawn out weariness that clung to him like an old age disease.
He liked her, but he did not love her. Red was not his colour. She adored him. She was slightly obsessed with him, in fact. Her obsession grew like a cancerous tumour, feeding on a dark void that was left by her lack of self worth. She was just another victim of a patriarchal culture that turns girls into sluts in an effort to regain self-esteem and acceptance before turning into obsessive and jealous lovers. Her father was a preacher before he became a businessman, and a cunt of tremendous proportions, but he was not an obvious cunt. He was far too devious and clever for that. He used the psychology he learned when he studied theology to disguise his cuntness with fake smiles and bullshit psychology. He knew how to fake trust and this helped him in business. He also knew how to get into people’s minds and how to push their buttons, how to manipulate them and make the emotionally dependant on him. This left a string of emotionally dependant young girls and married woman behind, lonely woman who gave up their emotional being as a sacrifice on his altar of despicable deceit and narcissism. In the end, after he used them to feed the dark void within him, they were left with nothing but the dick picks he sent them early on in their courtship.
The father figure in her life was a sociopath of the highest order. This explained much about the type of men she was attracted to. She was looking for approval in all the wrong places. The realization that we only need to approve ourselves has not manifested yet.
He came from a different place. His father was a diesel mechanic and his mother was a mute domestic slave. They died early on, from boredom and the diseases that plagued the lower classes.
He merely faked love, he pretended to be the perfect man, because he was lonely and the sex was good. (She was crazy enough to make it good).
And then there was the money. She got it easy and didn’t mind spending it. He also enjoyed the attention. She made him feel like a hero from a blockbuster movie. Sometimes her excessive attention would irritate him and he would snap at her. She would turn inwards and become silent, like a hurt kitten, and he would regret it, pampering her afterwards with sweet words until they would be naked and panting once again.
The truce never lasted long. The pattern would repeat itself over and over again, almost to the point of predictability. He felt trapped in it. They were both victims of their own respective weaknesses. Their universe of ‘love’ was ruled by their respective fears: he carried his fear of loneliness and poverty like a disease and she carried her fear of rejection like a ever threatening heart condition.
“Baby, can I make you some tea… with honey and ginger?” She pushed her fingers through his hair from behind. He was busy watching a documentary on Netflix. It was disturbing and violent. She didn’t like that. That type of violent reality was an offence to her fertile womb. She was born to give life. This made her a goddess. She needed to stay in a positive space. (He called it denial, but never to her face).
He hated that word, ‘baby’; especially if it came from her.
“Sure, tea would be nice; with a tot of brandy if you don’t mind… two tots.”
“Sure thing lover.”
He looked at her tight ass as she walked away and smiled to himself. “Lucky, lucky me, at least all that yoga is good for something”, he thought before returning his attention to the details of a murder by a famous serial killer.
In the kitchen she took out a paring knife and made a deep cut in her forearm which bled profusely. She bit on her lip and wiped away a tear; then she made the tea and took it to him.
“Oh my God Cathy! Not again?”
He shoved the serving tray from her arms. The contents crashed to the floor. He looked around and saw a t shirt with the neglected face of Bob Marley on the couch which he hastily wrapped around her bleeding forearm. He drove her to hospital where she got seven stitches.
Later that evening he was holding her hands while they sat on the couch with intense silence lingering like a corpse in the closet of a mad hermit He knew it had to be broken.
“I can’t take this anymore”, he blurted out. He let go of her hands and stood up. He put his hands on his hips and faced away from her.
“It’s not fair; you can’t expect me to put up with this.”
She remained silent. He looked down at her and tried to fight the feeling of pity that encroached on his better judgement. She kept looking down while fidgeting with her fingers like she was solving an invisible puzzle.
He walked to a cupboard and took out a bottle of whisky. He took a large gulp and held it in front of her.
“So you want to go dancing then?”
She gave a faint smile before grabbing onto the bottle and sucking the liquid down like it was liquid candy.
By the time the pills took hold the whisky was finished. They were regular abusers of the happy pills. Mandy gave them relief. She made them happy.
They were driving around the mountain as fast as her old car could go. They both liked the danger. She was shrieking with mad laughter. His arms were stiff as he clamped down on the steering wheel of the tiny Morris Minor. It shivered and creaked around the bends. Loud electro was pumping over the speakers. (The car had a fantastic sound system, he made sure of that.)
He lifted up her skirt and started caressing her clit with his left hand while steering with the right. She opened her legs wider, closed her eyes and started to moan softly.
“These are the good times”, he mused softly to himself, “soon we will be dead, or old”.
By the time they stopped at their regular spot around the corner from the Caged Canary Club she already came twice and her panties were soaked through. As he opened the door he smelt his hand and sucked on his fingers. The doorman greeted their familiar faces with thoughts of the civil war which he escaped as a child soldier. His gratitude for his job in Cape Town motivated him to give his usual fake smile.
They entered the dark club like two fallen angels lusting for their reward of decadence and earthly pleasures. They immediately headed for the bar an ordered a round of drinks.
“Two tequilas and two drafts please.”
It was a busy night and the place was packed. He glimpsed at a couple of young girls over her shoulder, doing his best not to be too obvious. She pretended not to notice, but she did.
“It’s okay I suppose, as long as he stays loyal to me he can look. As long as he comes back to me,” she answered to her own insecurity which festered inside her like a tropical disease.
“Let’s go dancing”, he said as he grabbed her around the waist and kissed her on that part of her neck that made him forget about all his misgivings.
They danced furiously until their sweat glistened on their skin like godly glitter. They touched each other constantly and kissed intermittently. There was no self awareness, only joyful lust. He acted his part perfectly. She clung to her delusion of real love like a parasite to its preferred host. In the realm of all possible universes, this was perfection to them. Their combined earth was flat en they stepped close to the edge often but gave no fucks. No fucks at all.
Eventually the music stopped and they collapsed into each other’s arms, licking the salty moisture from each other faces. They returned to the bar for last rounds.
“Two tequilas and two drafts please.” He made an over dramatically obvious, yet half-hearted attempt at reaching for his wallet; although he knew it was empty. (As did she. The situation was predictable. after all).
She stopped him halfway through his charade and he made sure to resist somewhat like a disciplined actor that rehearsed his bit a thousand times: “Are you sure?”
“Of course darling. Daddy pays regularly, you know that. The poor fool, all that guilt and wealth makes for a cosy hell I suppose. Fuck him anyway, he deserves it”. She flashed her credit card like a magic wand and proceeded to relieve a bit more guilt from the conscience of the preacher turned businessman cunt. (The Pope had nothing on him).
He tried not to lose too much face because a girl was buying the drinks and made sure to make hard, almost threatening eye contact with the barman. The barman beamed a smile in professional reflex to his customer that he recognised as just another fucking blur, while planning his move on the cute blonde two seats on getting drunker and sluttier by the second.
She held out a shot glass with tequila towards him. He took it and they touched rims.
“to dear old Daddy”. She gulped it down together with a healthy dose of insanity and suppressed anger.
(She mentioned her many years of abuse and molestation at least twice a week. He was pretty sure it only existed in her mind but he never mentioned his doubts. That would be suicide.)
The pills were starting to wear off but like always they needed the buzz to last just a little longer.
“You want to do a few lines?” She already knew the answer.
“Well if you are offering, sure; but you know I can’t afford that shit.”
“Don’t worry my love, daddy will provide.”
She laughed with no remorse or heart.
They were creatures of the urban sprawl, conceived by the assassins of family values and educated by the prophets of nihilism.
They went outside and she made the call: “Ray I want the good stuff please. Two grams. the R 800 stuff. Give me the best hey, you know I’m a good customer.”
They walked to the nearest cash machine and withdrew the money. Then they waited around, impatiently; both imagining the purity of the coke and the pleasure of the high. By the time the dealer arrived they were ravenous with expectation. They went to the car and employed their hunger to its full extent. A few moments later they heard sirens coming towards them and they froze as unnatural guilt provoked their natural fight or flight instincts; but it was not police sirens. They watched the fire trucks race up Long Street towards the burning mountain.
Harry Black read the autopsy report like a recipe on how to bake scones. It bored him, but he had to do it. He felt slightly less bored when he reached the conclusion: She didn’t drown, she died as a result of smoke inhalation.
“An interesting twist indeed”, he muttered softly to himself.
He felt a slight buzz, a pinprick of excitement after all the years of mostly mundane work and the grim glare into the joyless and unimaginative souls of mostly rather moronic perpetrators.
“This one could be interesting,” he muttered to himself again before taking a sip from the coffee cup on his weathered desk. His preferred sweetener was a bottle of brandy he kept in the drawer. He harboured no guilt about drinking on the job. He was sure it made him a better cop. Well, at least during the first part of the day. In the afternoons he always spoke with a slight slur and spent much time at his desk pretending to read reports or whatever else a police captain was supposed to do. After so many years he has learned to physically fake through his tasks while taking an extended power snooze, like a type of professional sleep walker. The younger officers ignored his habits. Who could blame him? Their jobs sucked Polsmoor balls, but at least it paid regularly.
They talked for a while like cocaine makes one talk before realizing they were covering the same old topics like a thousand times before. Cocaine is a merry trickster, it pretends to open the heart space but in fact it only fuels the self indulgent ego. Good cocaine can make you open up emotionally and sell you the delusion that you are having a profound connection with others, but if you delve deeper it is all about the self. You will listen to someone else’s hurt just so you can dump your own shit on them, impatiently waiting your turn, just to forget what was said moments later. There is no real feeling or understanding. It’s just dopamine end electrons firing. Cocaine is fun, but it has no soul.
After an intense few minutes of conversation they sat in silence, watching the orange blaze progress against the side of the mountain. Boredom and a cocaine buzz are mortal enemies.
“Let’s go check it out”, she made the suggestion
“I wonder how near we can get?, he put forth the rhetoric while starting the car.
Suddenly her face lit up and she slid her hand down the opening in the door panel and retrieved a small plastic bag with dried, penis shaped mushrooms.
“Look,” she held it up excitedly towards him, “left over from the festival, I completely forgot about it. Imagine how the flames will look.”
He answered without much hesitation.” Okay, let’s do it.
(Cocaine also makes you brave and reckless).
They halved the content and shoved it down their throats before driving off, excited like kids about to go look at the Christmas lights in Adderley Street during the December holidays.
Up Kloof Nek they went in their cubicle of thin steel, but this time at a moderate speed. “This is not a good time to draw attention to ourselves”, was his doped out logic. (The streets were silent and empty and nobody gave a shit about them).
It felt like ages before they got close enough to the blaze around Lions Head to imagine the heat.
“Wow! I can’t believe it, there is almost nobody here yet”, she shrieked with delight.
By the time they got close enough to actually feel the heat the mushrooms kicked in. They both looked at each other.
“Are you tripping?” he asked, staring at her vacantly like a hollowed out tree trunk.
“Fuck yes”, she answered.
Their hearts were racing. They didn’t expect it to come on this strong. This was obviously not your normal garden variety of magic mushroom. They were both tripping balls. For a moment she thought she was going to flip out completely. Then his voice drifted over to her like a lifebuoy in an ocean of confusion: “Just breathe deeply and look at the flames. Isn’t it beautiful?”
And it was. It was an absolute mesmerizing spectacle. Time went by at an unknown pace. They were dumbstruck by the combination of warmth and intricate swirling shapes created by the fiery destruction.
After a while this changed for her. She became aware of a fuzzy darkness inside her head that steadily crystallized into a clearer shape. Something was wrong, but she didn’t know what. Her mouth was dry now, and she felt paralyzed, unable to speak. Yet her mind was racing out of control. The flames formed flowing serpents which approached her menacingly. She could feel her heart pounding with paranoia. She knew she was about to go mad and the feeling of dread that enveloped her was heavy and sad. The TRUTH was coming to get her.
He sensed her distress. They were together in this and their individual perceptions were slowly fusing at its core.
“Don’t fight it darling. Just let go.”
His voice sounded distant and strange, as if she was taken away by a strong current towards the open sea of flames. Then the twisting snakes came towards her with bared fangs. Her panic reached its zenith. All she could think was that she had to save herself and that she had to get away. She screamed and opened the door. He tried to grab her arm but she was too quick. When she emerged from the car she started to run, floundering like a scared, injured bird among the low brush.
The spectacle shook him into action and he exited as quickly as his exaggerated perception of objects would allow him to. He followed her as best as he could, hoping to capture her and calm her down.
She didn’t know where to go, she just knew that she had to get away from the snakes and the fear, but the fear came from within and the snakes crawled out of her own mind.
He chased her without thinking. (This was no white rabbit. This was his girlfriend, after all). After a while the world of logic faded into bizarre and colourful oblivion. He was not sure why he chased her any longer; he just knew he had to. Her red hair looked to him like a crown of flames, and he followed it like it was a beacon and he was a lost ship.
They ran through bushes, clambering over rocks. They barely noticed the cuts on their legs and bleeding arms, they were way too far gone for that.
“Up, up, up… you must go up, to escape towards heaven, away from the snakes, away from hell”…:, she repeated these lines over and over to herself like a mantra.
“You must follow the flame, follow the running flame, the goddess that will take you away to safety”, was the only thoughts he clung to as it kept him from losing his mind completely.
And so up they went in a jerky sprawl of ungodly miscommunication, out of sync with the world and each other, their fragile reality faltering more and more with each misstep and tragic stumble, ascending the mountain that was burning and howling at their backs. Their bodies were starting to give out but their frantic minds didn’t take any notice. Their hearts pounded a manic rhythm and drove them on, like horses that fled in panic and that were about to drop dead from exhaustion.
Then suddenly it went dark before her and she stumbled once again, but this time she did not get up. Moments later he fell over her. They both lay in a molten lump of mixed emotions for a few seconds. All they heard was their own breathing and all they could feel was each other. And then they became aware of the quiet and the subtle warmth of the earth beneath their skin. They lay there for a while, feeling connected to the earth and each other. A great calmness overwhelmed them and an ecstatic relief washed over them like pure spring water on a hot summer’s day. They were happy to be alive and to be with each other.
They sat up slowly, still holding on to each other. It was dark in front of them, but they could feel the light from their backs urging them to turn around. It spoke to them and they could both here it. They heeded the call. They were sitting in a shallow cave looking towards the mountain that ended in the ocean. They could see the city and its lights beneath them. It seemed to be a fantasy kingdom from Lord of The Rings. The mouth of the cave framed the scene like a movie screen. Lower down they could see a sea of flames slowly creeping towards them. They were mesmerized, and suddenly very happy.
“Amazing, how beautiful”, she whispered.
“Awesome, What a sight. Beautiful”, he answered her back.
Their voices sounded like the voices of hollowed out ghosts, slow, calm and echoey, drifting and waning as the sounds fell from the cave walls like audible lava.
They were transfixed by the scene. They held each other’s hands and started crying.
His interview with the fire marshal was short and to the point. “We came across an unoccupied Morris Minor as we left that part of the mountain. We thought it was strange but didn’t linger on it for long, sir. We had a job to do.”
“Did you take down the registration?”
“There was no time, sir. We had to get to the fire, there were buildings at…”
“Yes, yes; I get the picture. Can you remember the colour at least?”
Red, sir. It was red.
At times it seemed to her that they were drifting under water and other times as if they were floating through space as the smoky seaweed burst into brilliant stars. The words overcame her. Where she found them or the bravery to consciously utter them wasn’t clear to her: They drifted loose like sharp pebbles from the burning ocean floor: “You don’t love me, you never loved me, did you?”
She let go of his grasp and pushed him away. “I’m free of you. I feel free.” She got up to do little circular dance with arms stretched towards the sky while laughing hysterically.
It took him several moments to register what she had said. Suddenly he felt cold and very distant from her. He was dumfounded at how quickly and profoundly the beauty of the previous moment gave away to this immense void within him. He felt lost and lonely, like an infant without his mother. She stood still and looked down at the encroaching flames. The flames were close enough now that he could make out her features, and she looked proud and happy. She looked back at him and laughed, and then she pointed her finger towards the fire. “Look how beautiful.”
He could not relate to her joy at all. He felt devastated now. She was not supposed to be free of him. He always had her under his thumb. It was like a huge secret escaped into the open. Cold insecurity pounced on him and threatened to devour him.
She laughed again and it hit him like a whip. It tore at him and increased the feeling of incredible desolation within him. He could not bear it any longer. There were no thoughts left, only numb pain. Images of his sneering mother jumped in his head. Long buried memories of her cruel jokes and belittlement resurfaced and the dark void gave way to a terrible anger. He jumped up and gave her a hard shove. She fell over and lay on the ground, but it did not seem to bother her. She was looking at the stars now and this sudden change of view fascinated her. She continued to laugh and shriek: “I can fly! I’m flying away!” she shouted to the sky while making flying gestures with her arms.
In that moment; while he looked at her and her astonishing happiness, she looked more beautiful to him than ever before, in that moment he truly, truly loved her; like an unwanted boy who found the mother he always craved. He felt very sorry now for what he did. He stood up and went to sit next to her.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry; I don’t know what came over me… I love you”, he whimpered.
She looked him in the eyes and answered, “Yes but I don’t love you… I don’t need you anymore. I’m free now.”
Her last words were washed away by a sudden gust of wind which flung thick, black smoke at them like a polluted insult. It was like dust from the ocean floor got stirred up by a huge floundering animal. He tried to grab her but she wasn’t there anymore. In the confusion and thick poisoned darkness they lost each other. He clutched at the bushes around him and crawled forward. In a few moments of clarity as his last bit of adrenaline spiked through his veins he realized he should not go in the direction of the wind because that is where the smoke would be headed. He managed to outflank the smoke and flames in a desperate blind run.
She, on the other hand, had to urge to go back into the cave like a frightened baby who was afraid to leave the womb. She crawled in as far as she could before the thick smoke and unconsciousness overwhelmed her.
The mushrooms were wearing off. The colourful images in his head were gradually becoming greyer and softer until they disappeared all together. The fire has passed now and there were only small patches of flames still burning in the far distance. He looked at himself. He was covered in cuts and bruises. His clothes were dirty and full of black soot. The gravity of the situation only hit him now. He thought about getting help before realizing how hard it would be to explain what had happened to them.
A cold steady panic overcame him like a naked winter.
“You have to stay calm now”, he told himself. “Think!”
He weighed up his options and he came to the confused conclusion that there was only one thing he could do and that was to go search for her on his own.
“I’m alright. I survived. The chances are that she’s okay as well; surely”. But the comfort those words brought was fickle because he knew he was rationalizing a probable tragedy. Chances were good that she’s in a bad state. (He got lucky.)
He walked back up the mountain through the smouldering brush. He knew where the cave was more or less because he has visited it before. It was a well known lookout spot. He had a raging first and his depleted body felt heavy and tired, but his nerves pushed him on.
The brush around the cave entrance was burnt black. It crunched under his feet. There were no flames to light his path now so he used his cell phone torch to navigate his way.
“Cathy, Cathy! He shouted. It was a hopeless kind of shout. He was praying for a miracle.
The rosy edges of dawn were creeping in on the horizon and this symbol of new beginnings did nothing to comfort him. He entered the cave and found her lifeless body in the back, pale and still like sculpted ice. He knew she was dead. He could feel it.
Harry Black looked at the man sitting before him. “I know people. It’s my job to read people. This man is a truly magnificent cunt for sure, but his obviously too much of a coward to be the murderous type of cunt”, he thought to himself as he flicked his cigarette but towards the rubbish bin in the corner. He missed and it landed next to a dozen other buts on the linoleum floor.
“Are you people allowed to smoke in your office? I thought it was illegal?”
Harry shrugged, “Smoke? What smoke? I didn’t smoke. Did you see me smoke?”
He gave a wry smile and lit up another cigarette.
“Now Mister Smith, when last did you speak to your daughter?”
“About two weeks ago. I try to catch up with her at least once a week, but it’s not always possible. You know business is business. I have to pay for her expensive habits…. had to pay for her expensive habits. Oh God, is this really happening?”
Harry smirked at his deflection of guilt. He knew a sociopath when he saw one. He saw right through all their bullshit. It wasn’t always like that. He learned the hard way: Through trial and error and falling for a lot of lies. This explained his severe cynicism towards the human race. He was a student of the ‘University of Life’, as many like to claim in their facebook profiles.
The interview went as he predicted. Her father was a first class asshole for sure, but he was no killer. Also there was no motive. He did go on about the useless boyfriend quite a bit though. It would be easy to track him down. Useless, lazy motherfuckers leave behind a trail as thick as a toddler’s sickly snot.
His mind rushed out of control for a while before pure crystallized rationale kicked in like a survival instinct programmed into our ancient genetic code over millennia. He would take her to the nearest hospital and tell the truth, more or less. He would say they just went for a romantic view of the fire and then went up higher to get a better view when they got trapped by the spreading flames. He would leave out the part about the drugs, of course.
He carried her down to the car and put the lifeless body on the back seat. As he drove down the mountain at a snail’s pace, dreading the day that lay ahead, the holes in his story became more and more apparent. What type of person would go towards a raging fire and up a mountain to get a better look? That’s suicide. How would he explain their separation? What if they gave her an autopsy and discovered the concoction of drugs in her system? Could he be held liable? Could this qualify as manslaughter? All these questions raced through his tired mind and fed his doubt and fear.
By the time he reached the city centre he was terrified. He did not stop at the hospital but kept on driving. All he could think of was getting home now. He regressed into a deep state of denial. It was the only thing his mind could employ to keep his psyche from disintegrating completely.
“Don’t worry Cathy, I’m taking you home. We just need to take a rest first before making any decisions. I just need to think about things for a while.”
He decided that he was probably just paranoid but that it would be wise to have a few hours sleep so that he could make the right decisions with a rested, clear and logical mind.
When he got to their place in Plumstead he pulled the car around the back of the house and unloaded the body. He had the urge to clean her up, so he ran a bath and washed the corpse and dressed her in clean clothes before returning her to the backseat of the car. He also covered her in a blanket, as if the lifeless body needed to be made comfortable. There was no rationale behind it. There was only a mixture of guilt, a warped construct of respect and delusional exhaustion behind the bizarre act. By this time he was so delirious with anxiety and tiredness that he did things like a zombie actor in a bad script. Afterwards he drank two litres of water and a few tranquilizers before passing out.
He slept a long and deep sleep. His system was totally depleted from the drugs and all the misadventures to the point of complete breakdown. He only woke up nineteen hours later with a gasp from his aching lungs and a thirst from hell. He sucked on the water bottle next to the bed and looked at his watch. It was 1 in the morning. Everything had a surrealistic feel about it and he was hoping that it was all a bad dream, but the bedside lamp revealed the empty space where she used to lay and the cold truth gave him a severe slap in his face..
“If there were holes in my stories previously, it is much; much worse now”. He said with a frantic and mad little giggle.
“Talk about tampering with evidence, you fool. What were you thinking? I should have gone straight to the police. Fuck! I’m so screwed now.”
He got up and opened a fresh bottle of brandy. One drink turned into a couple as he tried to process the situation. He could see no clear way out. The fact that he carried a criminal record for a misstep he made many years ago did not improve the picture. It wasn’t a big thing. He smashed a guys face in with a glass ashtray one late drunken night, cracked his cheek bone. Nothing serious, but still; on paper it looked bad. He observed his own thoughts and was somewhat surprised at his lack of grief. Maybe it was the brandy that dulled the feeling, or maybe he cared less for her than he like to believe.
It didn’t matter now. He was more concerned about the fact that he lived in her house, that he had no job or money and that he was screwed without her income. They did not have many friends and her lousy dad was bad at keeping contact. He looked at all the objects around him. They had all the modern conveniences you could hope for, the best of everything. He made his decision: he would make her body disappear, use her credit card to buy more shit, as much as he can, things that would re-sell easily, have a garage sale and disappear. He lived in the darkest continent of them all, how difficult could it be?
Harry Black walked around the house. It was deserted and mostly empty. He directed a young man to kick down the front door. He didn’t find anything of real significance inside. He walked over to the neighbours and had an interview with a lady in her mid forties. She looked reliable. She told him about the garage sale and showed him a few things she bought: A brand new juicer. “I always wanted one of those. I’m a bit of a health nut you see.” She talked light-heartedly and with vigorous energy. She was a pleasant woman. He knew she was the honest type.
“Oh and this was a quite a find”, she pointed at a chair with a strange looking design. “Do you know what these go for new? Oh dear, a lot; I tell you. Lucky for me I was the neighbour, I got first dibs.”
“Did you not think it strange that they sold everything in the house? Or that she wasn’t present?” He lit a cigarette as he waited for the answer. “Do you mind?”
“It’s fine; I’m not one of those anti-smoker fanatics. My husband smokes. Well he said they were moving to Thailand. Apparently they both got jobs as teachers over there. He said she went to town to sort out some paperwork. It sounded very exciting. I was happy for them. Life is hard in this country you know.”
Around 3 in the morning he figured it was the time of night most people would sleep their deepest sleep. He drove towards Muizenberg. He kept the bottle of brandy on the passenger seat and nervously smoked one cigarette after the other. By the time he reached an empty stretch of coast on the R 301 he could barely walk straight, but he managed to get her from the backseat and onto the beach. He dragged her close to the water’s edge before returning to the car to get some loose bricks. He had to make a few trips before he had them all arranged next to the body. He stuffed them under the blanker before tying a piece of rope all around the body. He rolled the body over onto an old surfboard. (He tried his luck at surfing a few times, but never really got into it). Then he dragged his macabre package as far into the sea as he could manage. It was hard work and the cold water sobered him up. His hope was that the current would take her out and that the creatures of the sea would do the rest. Anyway, it didn’t matter. He did not need much time. He was planning on getting a bus out of town after the garage sale. All he needed was a head start.
He decided on a bus because the car or a flight would be too easy to track down. In a strange way he was quite excited about his future life as a fugitive. Nothing was holding him down and he made a decent amount of cash with the garage sale. It would tie him over for a while, until he could get some sort of a job; as long as he lived frugally. He was going on an adventure. He always wanted to go up into Africa and now fate gave him his chance.
And her demise? What of it? Shit happens. That’s just life. It’s not personal. Everybody dies at some point. It had to happen like this. It was fated. Besides, he wasn’t responsible for her death. She made her own choices. It was what it was. He had no remorse. He probably could have handled the situation better, but there was no point in pondering that now. It was a waste of time to live in the past. What is done is done and the future looked bright and sunny, in the literal sense anyway.
As the bus moved away from the city and further inland he could feel his relief and detachment increase with each passing kilometre.
He was heading for the land of sunshine and smiles, Malawi. It sounded foreign and mysterious. This was an adventure of a lifetime. He heard about it from a friend who was a regular visitor.
“In Africa you can get away with anything man, as long as you have some cash. People complain so much about corruption, but isn’t it just a part of the human constitution? Everybody is corruptible, everybody has a price. It’s all about survival after all. Africa is just more honest about it. It is so easy for wealthy westerners to point fingers, but once you find yourself on ground zero amidst poverty and the struggle for survival things look different. It’s easy to judge if your morals have never been tested, I mean really tested. Society’s morals are so fickle anyway and man is a natural predator. That’s what we do best; we play the game for our own benefit. That’s why we are so resilient. No imaginary God put us in this position. We did it ourselves. Make corruption work for you. It’s here to stay, anyway.”
Harry Black sighed and gave a slight chuckle at the expense of the stupidity of the average human. He has seen this so many times before; people that think all cops are morons and that after thirty years he would still not know what he was doing. He’s seen all the tricks and all the useless mind games people play with themselves, all the different faces of denial and expressions of guilt. He came to understand that people under stress create a form of unreality around them in which they start to operate, it was a sort of rationalization the brain employed to cope with trauma; an emotional survival instinct that kicked in as a coping mechanism.
To a certain extent we all delve into fantasy to escape reality. It was just another form of narcotic. It probably came from those long dark nights when humans were trapped in caves in order to escape the predators outside. All they could do to pass the long nights wasto fuck and fantasize; and tell each other stories. Inventing TV was inevitable.
He was not a man for fantasy and he was not much of a philosopher. He thought the Harry Potter movies to be an absolute pile of shit. He liked gritty reality. Clint Eastwood was his man. “Those were the days”, he mused.
He looked at the little blip moving up the digital map, sighed again and poured more brandy in his coffee.
He had a 24 hour layover in Johannesburg before he had to get onto a second bus. He booked into a cheap hotel and decided to have a little farewell celebration. He bought himself a bottle of whisky and a pizza which he ate while watching the flickering images on the tiny TV in his room. When he was halfway with the bottle of whisky he ordered an Uber and went to a bar he remembered visiting when he lived here for a few months when he was younger. They used to have bands playing there and it brought back a few interesting memories. He liked Johannesburg, it had a certain vibe and energy to it that excited him; and the people tended to be open and friendly. He thought about the life he had in South Africa. He went to Europe once and he found it amusing, but it wasn’t for him. He was an African. He thought about the life he would make in Malawi. He saw pictures of the lake and imagined himself living in a little bungalow on the shore, eating the local food and living like some sort of wild bohemian on the edge of society. He could probably get a job at one of the lodges. He wondered how long it would be before he would be able to return. Would he ever be able to return? Suddenly doubt crept into his romantic fantasy. What about Malaria? What if he didn’t get a job? He was still young, how long would he be able to live in a hut in a foreign African country?
Slowly but surely his fantasy world crumbled as hard reality demanded his attention with its hunger, temperature extremes, flies, disease and smell of piss and shit. He was scared now, very scared. He tried to ignore it and chase it away with tequila shots and forced light banter, but he could not escape the heavy feeling of doom.
“In the end we catch ourselves. There is no escape. There is no ‘other place’. It’s all here. Right here in my head.”
He stayed at the bar counter until last rounds, hoping for some sort of relief, maybe a beautiful girl that would tell him all is okay, or a new friend that would offer him a clear way out, but he knew that was just an extension of his escapism and fantasy. It never came. In the end he would get what he deserved, like everybody else.
He made his way back to the hotel with a sense of dread. He felt lonely and isolated. All the booze in the world could not take it away. By the time he reached the hotel he had a strong urge to phone someone and talk to them, but he knew that would be a mistake. He decided to go for one last round at the sad bar; he couldn’t stand the thought of being alone in his room. There was only one other man sitting at the counter. He was older and had a serious look to him. He was smoking and sipping on a brandy. As he sat down next to the man they caught each other’s gaze in the mirror. They nodded at each other. He ordered another shot and a double whiskey before the older man turned to him and presented his hand.
“Hello sir, my name is Harry Black. Looks like you had a rough night? Who might you be?”
He looked at the man and thought: “He looks like a man of the world. I’m sure he has seen everything. Surely I can speak to him about things. He would understand.”
He felt relief overwhelm him like a narcotic for the desperate.