It’s so unfair. I love you so much. You were the first boy I kissed and now they’re making me move away from you. Please promise to meet me at the second bridge on June 10th, ten years from now. We’ll both be 25 and we can see how we turned out.
Bill read the note for the umpteenth time since Jake had given it to him. He had agreed to meet this girl, actually a woman since she would be twenty-five now, and he was as nervous as bridegroom. Not that he’d ever been a bridegroom.
“What if she doesn’t show?” he thought. “What if she gets mad at me that Jake sent me and didn’t come himself? What if she’s really cool and we hit it off and..….., no, don’t start that fantasy stuff; remember, you’re just the messenger here. Jake’s a friend but he sure ropes me into some weird stuff sometimes.”
I saw a dead man last night. He was on the side of the road, laid flat, blood in a pool around his head: he’d come off his motorbike. His helmet was fifteen feet or so further down the road, and his bike lay on the pavement away from him. It was the loneliest sight I think I’ve ever seen.
When I got home I took my shoes off and put my bag on the kitchen table. I didn’t have any food in the fridge, so I went to the drawer beside the sink and looked through some delivery menus before settling on a curry. I phoned and ordered, and they gave me a rough delivery time. Then I poured myself a beer, flicked the TV on, and sat down on the couch.
Breathing on top of his tiny lungs, Ecestil rushed through the tall grass surrounding him from all sides.
I wish I could fly. The panicked thought flittered through his mind for the umpteenth time. His broken right wing a useless appendage, an added weight hampering his mindless flight, he wiggled his left wing, hoping against hope it might prove strong enough to get him airborne. He gained an inch, only to drop back down, stumbling, almost falling. He struggled to regain his balance and hurried on, shrieking as a huge shadow appeared above him. He darted left, just as a gargantuan foot struck the ground he’d just vacated. Veering to the right, he narrowly avoided being crushed by its twin. Help. Someone help me.
So when I went out last week to check the mail, I found a sphynx hiding under the porch. Its feathers were streaked with mud. I think it was hit by a car. It smelled like wet leaves, its eyes glowing red in the cobwebby darkness.
I said, “Tell me my future.”
And it was all, “Shut up and go get me some milk.”
So I got my dad’s robot arm, the one he got after his back surgery and I reached under the porch and clamped it around the sphynx’s neck and dragged it into the house. It yowled like a tomcat and peed on the hallway rug. It kept trying to get me with its claws. But once I shoved it in Daisy’s crate, it stopped and just stared. Its eyes were like changing colors and I thought it was really weird, so I texted Lexie and Kara:
Ever since the Marriage (Banning) Act of 2035, which annulled every existing marriage and outlawed the celebration of weddings, successive governments have striven to rid society of this feudal, sexist, homophobic institution. At first there was public resistance to the move and so the Weddings Prevention Squad (WPS) was set up to patrol the streets and break up subversive weddings.
During the 2050s, local councils were privatised and most registry offices sold off; religion was outlawed and all churches and mosques demolished. These bold measures should finally have killed off marriage but in fact it was merely driven underground. Weddings were held in woodland glades, disused warehouses and far corners of multi-storey car parks. The WPS grew into a massive organisation with listening stations monitoring telecommunications and social media, and armed vehicles driven by crack troops for stamping out illegal weddings.
This city is not called the city of gold for nothing. It’s all about gold here. In the beginning it was some machinery in the depths, breaking rocks and tunnelling through it. You will be amazed how far human beings would go in the drive for gold.
Now it is gold with many faces, sought in different places in the city; as it is now, you either get the gold or have something golden.
The golden doesn’t have to be under the soil, but it could be. Gold doesn’t have to be that thing that makes you sweat and makes you dirty like mineworkers.
You could do an elephant-size work and get an ant-sized reward, you could learn from the miners and the perils of the dark depths, you could learn from those who sit in the air conditioned offices and wait for the gold.
This city makes you dream, which is a good thing because dreams come true; this is also a city where your dreams could turn nightmares.
You could one day take a stock of your life and wonder why the hell you left your village. Maybe you would have been better in Qunu, or KwaKwa, or Bushbuckridge, or wherever your village is.
In 1936, after a last unsuccessful séance… [Bess Houdini] put out the candle that she had kept burning … since his death… Bess said that ‘ten years is long enough to wait for any man.‘ ” – “The Secret Life of Houdini”
Harry couldn’t be sure when he became aware or, for that matter, where he was.
He was more than happy to be free of the pain and the fatigue that had preceded his death…I am dead. I remember dying, my last breath, my promise to Bess–to contact her.
He struggled to see his surroundings, there was nothing, just darkness…no, wait, not darkness…nothingness. Harry had spent more than enough time in enclosed, dark places to know that this was not lack of light where you could still “feel” your surroundings and experience the physicality of it. Here, he had nothing, no sensation of containment, a lack of complete anything physical around him.
It made him afraid.
The stapler started it. Every time the stapler was to blame. The jagged shine of metallic mouth, tongues of staples poised like fangs. Creasing papers, binding pages, its work was never done.
‘Happy birthday’, she’d said, sliding a black bag across a table, a present meant in fun.
And what was on the inside, nestled between plumes of budding tissue paper, tucked at the bottom like the weight around his ankle, but a machine grey device designed to spit out staples.
‘I thought you’d like it.’ She’d said, fork paused over chocolate cake.
‘I do. I do.’ He’d replied, patting it quick, two finger shakes.
He’d taken it to work. Settled it on his desk. He had a perfectly good stapler, an office-issued best. No squeak or squealing hinge. No problem with staple jams. No beautifully painted curving frame to glisten in his hand.
But the vintage gift sat on his desk, waiting to be called. The smile from its gunmetal shaft, the teeth open like a maw. Poised and shining a telling wink, as if about to speak.
It was cold and I was lonely. A gust of wind blew the pale blue curtains inwards, softly grazing the floor of the almost empty apartment. I stared at the screen of our TV; well, I should say my TV now. I reached slightly for the remote, but he had put it down too far away. I watched the muted report of a devastating flood in China, remembering how he walked in and took the remote from my hand. How he hit the mute button and said he wanted to talk. How he really just wanted to yell. I had known it was coming. Like when the sky gets cloudy and gray and you know it’s going to rain.
In the old days, I would have put a little brandy in her hot chocolate and not worried about her waking up, but not now. Her mother, a physician, would have a stroke if I gave her daughter a cap full of brandy; although, I put Dr. Jasmine to sleep many of Christmas eves with spiked hot chocolates, and she turned out just fine.
Because our grandbaby, Kura, is a lot like her doctor mommy, a very light sleeper, her grandma and I are standing in the doorway like two cat burglars in our own home.
Kura lost her first tooth this morning, and she knew nothing of the Tooth Fairy. But, before we could tell her the fable, we had to call her Buddhist parents because The Easter Bunny was catastrophe; we didn’t think the Easter Bunny was Christian, but they did. So for the Tooth Fairy, we called and got the ok, and now we are standing in the doorway of the baby’s room checking her breathing.