And so the end of all hope remains, steady and indignant in its path. Testing shallow waters with bloody fingers, tempting the dwellers below to rise to the surface and show their ugly faces.
He swooshes, swoons, a sly grimace prickling at the gristly sides of a mouth subject only to distaste and anger. The layers of skin fold like an old accordion around his eyes, feigning a grin of sorts. They threaten to unfold permanently at any moment, sweeping the old bastard into instant blindness.
Between yellow teeth, cold and hard like worn marble pillars, a twisted toothpick clicks back and forth, spurred on by a sluggish tongue bereft of words.
What is it he watches, I wonder. So close to his face I can smell the rot of tobacco and aging cider on his skin. A sepia toned caricature of himself, motionless in a poignant moment fallen out of time with life. He’s itching. His fingers restless, caressing the filthy canvas of his trousers, crumbling rocks to dust, twirling sticks like mini batons, always moving, constantly fidgeting, daring, just daring for life to make the first move.
His eyes tighten and his glare focuses with the vacuous depth of a black hole.
She emerges from the horizon, victorious in her non attached vision, floating without effort in the weight of the world, wafting like cloud across the darkened desert plains towards her suitor, or perhaps her enemy. Neither can tell.
A dimple dares etch into his cheek as he masks a mild disquiet with the shadow of cunning. Rocks crush underfoot as he angles his gait towards this alarming beauty surrounded by an ancient landscape resigned to death.
“I can see you boy” the words flow like liquid silk from the depth of her being, detonating a flash of unnerve in his heart. “I know where you are going, and I know where you fear to tread. Alas, they are one and the same. Hear me now.” She paused, a pregnant second that stretched into eternity.
His mask was still hard as stone, but holding it had become an effort he was unaccustomed to. He dropped the twigs and watched them fall to the desert rocks beneath his feet. Kneeling down he scooped up a handful of dirt, breathing in the scent of mother earth. He held it to his nose for a moment, as if grounding himself for the next chapter. The quiet deliberation and his apparent calm didn’t convince the pit of his belly that he was entirely steady. Vertebrae stacked themselves neatly like carved stone as he resurrected his composure.
“I will not harm you, you have nothing to fear from me” the words pierced the wounds that had already punctured his pride. “I am your saviour” her voice was so close it was as if she was next to his ear, but her vision had not advanced from the horizon. She unnerved him. He spat out the splintered remains of the toothpick and replaced it with a cigar, eyeing her carefully. There was not a sound save for the flint of his lighter, the rush of smoke down his throat, and the sound of his heart driving a rhythmic pulse of fear and lust through his veins.
He considered his feet for a moment, and how they had failed to flee him in this time of enchanted suspicion. Quickly covering his alarm he snickered in a drawn out southern drawl. “N….whatchya gonna save me from, sugar?” he spat it out of his mouth like a bug to the floor, and considered her again with wary curiosity.
She remained unaffected by his internal adventures. “From yourself” it echoed around him like ripples in a lake.
“Yeah? Well as you can see, I is one scary mother fucker. What, you think I’m gonna shoot myself or something? Who are you anyway?” There was a tiny waiver of unease in his sarcasm.
“I am your lover, your mother, your sister and your brother. I am that which you will always seek yet never dare to call forth. I am the raging torrent of blood within you that has flowed throughout history since the dawn of human time. I am the essence of your race, the culture of your breed, the template of your soul. I am you.”
“Fuck you I ain’t no woman, n my brother ain’t no bitch. You might think us southerners a bit kinky n all but man you is messed up.”
“You will find what you seek in the shadows of your imagination. Dare to look beyond what you see and you will find the way, sir…” the echoes of her words shook the rocky desert plains as her vision slowly turned and walked away, blending in with the mirage that dance across the landscape.
He never once dropped the poker face now permanently tattooed into his skin, but as the vision decomposed and returned to ether he breathed an unexpected sigh of relief. The cigar still burnt between his leathered lips, wafts of smoke snaking upwards and playing at his eyes. There he remained, motionless for a time, before spitting the cigar butt to the ground and turning on his heel, sturdy but unable to resist one last glance over his shoulder.
Written by Tjoni Johansen
Copyright 2014 all rights reserved
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