Tired of goodbyes and lasts; looking for hellos and firsts.

Progress on Sandy Cape: Greatful days

I’m not entirely clear what’s happened. Or where I am. Or what day it is. Or where I’m going. I imagine I must be going somewhere, for I am walking along a street. Huh… I’ll say what I see. It’s all I can ever do.

The day is sunny and bright, warm and pleasant. I’m in a small town, and this is Main Street. Main streets in small towns always have a certain feel that totally marks it as not-city, not-suburb. There are no strip malls here. There are no Escalades. There are small family cars. Occasionally a mini-van drives past.

There are no chain retailers. There are no brand name shops here. Everything is local and bespoke. The signs are not professionally made, and are often handpainted. Apostrophe use is atrocious.

There are benches here and there and all along the street there are trees. There are people walking along the sidewalks and stopping to chat with people they know, or waving to acquaintances across the street. It’s a small town Main Street in every possible way.

I hate small towns.

Bigoted folksy twatbags who think that somehow, this way of life is worth preserving at all costs. Towns like this all end up the same: the population ages, the old people get older and more vocal. They demand bylaws and rules which make sure nothing ever changes; they also make sure that the young people will leave and never come back. In this way, little by little, the town dies. This is how small towns work.

But these happy peons think that it’s all fine, just fine, that restaurants downtown must close by 7pm, that no bars are allowed in town, that the movie theatre, small though it was, was forced to close because the older citizens thought that movies today are too raunchy for their neighbourhood. That nothing is open on Sundays because we must definitely all go to church together PRAISE BE TO JEEBUS.

Absolutely fucking retarded.

But I shall walk on, and I shan’t tell them how futile their attempts to preserve their little town are. I shall walk on, until my destination presents itself in whatever way it may do that.

This part of the street is aspirational. None of the businesses here will last out the year. Someone thought that if they just made a nice, expensive store and had good service and high-grade products, people would come. They won’t. You’ve wasted your money by starting your big-city business here in Podunk.

I’m standing outside an office now. Slightly out of place here in that it is well-appointed. The glass doors are polished, the vestibule large, and there are colours, so many colours inside. I enter.

The vestibule is two storeys tall, with a large sculpture-cum-chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The walls are red, and the floor clothed in a gaudy carpet that somehow fits. Ahead is the receptionist, a tall, statuesque African princess. Looking up from her work, she smiles.

“Oh, you made it! I’m so glad. Did you have trouble finding the place?”

“I… no, it was fine– I’m expected?”

She titters. “They told me you’d be funny! Right this way, come, come!” and she beckoned me behind her standing desk and through a door. We entered a hall with nondescript pop art hanging in frames on each wall. At the end, it opened up into a broad room, with a large white table at one end (matching chairs), a sofa, an aquarium, and a few potted plants. “Now you just wait here, it’ll begin shortly. Ooooh, I’m so glad you came!” She tittered again and I watched her make her way back to the vestibule from whence we’d come.

I still don’t rightly know where I am or why I’m here. I was expected? I suppose that’s a good thing? Could be. That lady recognized me? I’m not sure why. Or how.

I take a seat at the table. This must be the meeting room, or a work room, or something. The table is quite large and would be well-suited to many sorts of tasks. I sound like a furniture catalogue.

I wait and I wait. I start to doze off, just a little bit. No stimulation, you see. But then I registered movement in the hallway I’d come down, and swivelled my head for a better look.

Oh, nothing much. Just a crocodile. Just a crocodile walking down the hall, on its own, as if it belongs there. What is this I don’t even.

The door at the far end of the hall opens and the lady from before starts dancing towards me, grooving to a song only she could hear. I would have warned her to watch out for the crocodile, but she’s taken the precaution of dancing on the ceiling, as you do. Fair enough, I suppose.

Wait, something else has changed. Someone else is here. I turn to the sofa, a strange affair with holes here and there, as though someone just took an eraser to parts of an image of a couch.

And, of course, sitting thereupon, is She.

Oblivious to both the ceiling-dancer and the crocodile she is avoiding, She begins.

The season we’ve longed for has arrived, She sings, and the wind flutters through town as the street comes to life.

Morning arrives earlier than usual, She sings, and just because of that, I feel I can carry on easier.

These days, She continues, I know I ramble on about my own worries a lot, but for the sake of sadness, let’s not run away from the fun times.

The short summer has come and begun, She sings, so I want to make lots of good memories with you. The sun is simply splendid, and the waves forever break on the shore.

Looking up, we can see the sky through the crooked gaps between the buildings, She sings, and that sky goes on forever.

I’ll be beside you even on the days when clouds cover your heart, She sings, and I’m grateful for your soothing smile.

That’s not to say that everything is straightforward, She goes on, but I think it’s inevitable. There is certainly a thing that I want to protect; I don’t want to forget this feeling.

And when the end of this short summer comes, She sings, I’ll come meet you at that moment, too. Definitely, every day, has been dreamy.

The short summer has come and begun, She sings, so I want to make lots of good memories with you. The sun is simply splendid, and the waves forever break on the shore.

The song over, the crocodile hanging out near the aquarium and the ceiling-dancer no where to be seen, suddenly the door to the vestibule opens again and a crowd of people run in, dancing to some unheard melody. As they come, one of them holds a lighter up to the fire detector and the sprinklers go off. They gather around She at the sofa, dancing, grinding, thrusting, and we all get wet from the sprinklers.

And the water level rises higher and higher.

And I sit in my chair, and She sits on the sofa, and the water rises and dancers are oblivious and now they’re swimming but still She and Me sit and look at each other across the room. The water rises above our heads and still we sit.

The dancers evaporate into stardust suspended in a moonbeam caught in a unicorn’s mane, for they never actually existed and I promised them a magical exit from the story.

She and Me dissolve and that is the end for now.

Progress on Sandy Cape: ourselves

I’m in an alley. It’s nighttime. There are dumpsters and garbage bags and I think I can hear a rat or nine snuffling around nearby. I’ve just woken up here. I have no idea where I am or what is going on. But that’s not unusual. I will say what I see.

The evening is cool, and in the distance, where the alley meets the street, I can see people strolling in their autumn clothes. Occasionally I’ll see a scarf on someone’s neck, but it’s not quite that cold yet. Cool, not chilly.

There are doors. Of course there would be. Above the doors are signs. “Deliveries, ring twice”, “Wing’s Famous Chinese Food”, but the one that catches my eye is “Stage Door”. I could approach, I could just walk in on my own, but I’d rather just stay here in the alley, crouching here alone for a little while. The last few times have been so draining and so fast-paced and so poorly written that I need to catch my breath.

There are also a few cars out here. Nothing expensive, no luxury cars, no money here. Utility rules the day for the most part. Small beaters, enough to get you where you’re going if where you’re going is nearby. Don’t make plans for extensive road-tripping in them. The people who own them won’t have the time for road-tripping anyway, I’d imagine, what with them having to hold down two or three jobs just to pay the bills, just to make it through the month without dying.

Bit by bit, as I wait here, the cars drift away. One was the delivery car for the Chinese restaurant, and the scent of fried yummy things was very tempting. Another two belonged to men from the door marked “Deliveries, ring twice”.

Out of the stage door there came a gaggle of young women and men, fit, beautiful. Dancers, I’d imagine. They pile into two of the remaining cars and drive off. There is only one car left.

It’s different than the others, and was hidden from my vantage point until now. It’s old, or at least it’s styled old. Maybe from the 40s or 50s. It’s either very expensive or it’s very not expensive, and I cannot yet tell which.

The stage door opens again and a familiar figure emerges, silhouetted for a moment. As the door slams shut behind her, the figure walks towards the remaining car. I catch a look at her face as she passes under a light.

She.

Well this was all very easy, all I’ve done is sat on my ass and there She is. Convenient! She opens the door to her car, climbs in. The door shuts with a satisfying clunk, the sound of a heavy door without any plastic faff in it. I stand and walk towards her.

She’s checking the rear-view mirror, adjusting her hair. As I get closer, She tweaks to the movement and our eyes meet. She smiles and waves. I start to wave back, but something is wrong. There’s someone in her back seat.

She must have seen the shadow pass over my expression because She also dropped the smile. But before I can scream a warning, the man in her back seat, wearing a mask of the face of She, had put a rag over her face and knocked her out.

I ran towards the car but the man in the mask was too quick and had pushed her aside, climbed into the driver’s seat and started the car. He tried to run me down as he escaped, but I dodged the side. I followed the car out of the alley and as it turned right, I did something I’ve always wanted to do but thought only happened in movies. I hopped in a parked cab and yelled, “Follow that car!” Amazingly enough, that worked.

The cab followed at a good distance as we drove through the city. The kidnapper was in no hurry, and hadn’t noticed that he was being followed. Once, I thought we’d lost them, but my cabbie took a shortcut and there at the end, we refound the car.

Soon enough, we were in the docklands, and the car had pulled into a warehouse. I paid my cabbie double and complimented him on his tailing skills. “I always said I could have been in the CIA! Good luck, whatever you’re doin’, pal.” He drove away and I was alone.

The warehouse wasn’t particularly secure, to be honest. There was a fence with a gate, but around back of the warehouse, the fence was low and the razor wire topping it was gone, so climbing over was no problem. Couldn’t go into the building through the main doors like the car did, that would be too obvious, but there were plenty of open doors and broken windows at this end of the warehouse. Entrance gained, I listened for what I could hear.

Presently, I came to an open door, on the other side of which was a large, bright room. Peeking around the corner, I could see the car. She was back in the driver’s seat, but still knocked out, it seemed. The man in the mask of She was standing outside, watching her. Off to the side, at a console of sorts were two men in white lab coats, sucking their teeth and nodding gravely.

Then, one of the lab-coat fellows looked up and gave the She-masked man a thumbs up. The She-masker than whistled. Within moments the room had filled up with no fewer than 50 more She-maskers, gathered around the car. The leered into the car and they waited for her to wake up.

I was unsure what to do. With so many of them, while it’s perfectly possible that I could take them, I was not confident I could do so without them killing or otherwise damaging She. And so, as much as I hated it, I waited.

Shortly, She woke up. At first, just a slight stirring, then holding her head. When she opened her eyes, at first she just looked around, trying to process what was happening. And then she screamed in terror, as I perfectly expect any of you would in a similar situation. The She-maskers screamed back.

The men in the lab coats peered at their console and then, after making a few notes on a clipboard, gestured that the She-maskers ought to proceed. They opened the door and ripped She out of the car, dragging her kicking and screaming to a cage at one end of the room I’d not noticed. Putting her inside, they all held their fingers to their lips — well her lips, since they wore masks of her face — and everyone was silent.

Reaching into his pocket, the lead She-masker produced a remote control. With a press of a button, She and her cage were pulled aloft. With another press, a curtain (also as yet unnoticed by me) covering the entire far end of the hall parted, revealing a giant-size photo of her face. By now, the terror had seized her so completely that she merely wept in silence.

The She-maskers wheeled in a scaffold next to the photo and they climbed it and with markers, paint, excrement, whatever they could find, they defaced the photo. With knives and keys and their own hands they ripped it to shreds. All the while, She looked on, eyes wide, choking back tears

When the She-maskers had finished their destruction, they waited in front of their handiwork, their masked faces upturned towards where She waited in her cage. And they waited. The lab coat fellows continually took notes.

She composed herself, and looked at each one of them, as if trying to suss out who they were, but the only thing She could see was her own face, disembodied and made vile.

But then she glanced my way. I raised my hand just slightly, and I could tell she had seen. The remaining fright in her eyes melted away. She turned back to the She-maskers, and She began.

Try to do it hard, She sings, try to make me numb. Make me feel despondent and then try to do it hard again. Do it with dignity, always stay aloof. You know many more Mes than you’d imagine.

Continuing without end, She sings, until you reach the exact end of this road. There’s only one chance. You may want to stop along the way, and you may have fashioned a means of escape, but if you do it alone, She sings, it’s meaningless. In truth, there is only one thing that holds value here: love.

So, She continues, around the world, no one knows me. There’s only one. And it’s to you that I’ll show all things. I’m here, but around the world, no one knows me. Really, even you still don’t know I’m here, maybe.

Like the place we struggle to arrive at, She sings, there are too many choices. Though neither of us have the slightest idea, as we perceive the same light cone, walking side by side the only true thing is your profile. But in the end, there is only one thing that holds meaning: love.

And so it’s fine, She sings, that no one around the world knows me; it’s perfectly fine that you’re the only one who knows all about me. It’s perfectly fine that no one knows me. But it’s imperative that We know Us.

The She-maskers whooped and hollered, and then they all fled from whence they’d come, save the first one. He walked to the men in lab coats, gave a curt bow, and turned on his heel. The men in lab coats left the room too.

The final She-masker used his remote control to lower the cage. Now was my chance. I raced from my hiding place, covering the ground between myself and him in a matter of moments. Just as I was about to land a bone-shattering punch–

She opens the door to her car, climbs in. The door shuts with a satisfying clunk, the sound of a heavy door without any plastic faff in it. I stand and walk towards her.

She’s checking the rear-view mirror, adjusting her hair. As I get closer, She tweaks to the movement and our eyes meet. She smiles and waves. I wave back and break into a trot. Reaching the car, I climb in the passenger’s seat. She smiles, and grasps my hand.

Funny, I thought I heard a noise just then.

All is black.

Progress on Sandy Cape: Voyage

It’s taken me weeks to track down where they took her. It took me a good fair while to get back to civilization after that ridiculous desert, if I’m completely honest.

I had very little to go on. They seemed to be from a psych hospital, but I had nothing more than prejudice and fanciful notions to back that up. I decided to stop at the church first.

The kiddy fiddler who runs the church wasn’t very cooperative at first, but then I started breaking things, and he got real talkative real quickly. Yes, he remembered the wedding I asked about. Yes, the bride ran out abruptly, with no explanation that he heard besides, “No, I can’t!” Well, yes, he did have contact details for the groom but that’s personal information! He can’t just— oh, he can give me an address. How helpful!

That’s more or less how it went. I took the church car and got driving. The address was only a few hours away, so I was hopeful.

The address was a fake. The groom was a fake.

I don’t know what the deal was, but he was not who he claimed to be. Perhaps he had been lying to She as well. Perhaps it was all some sort of trap. That thought made me want to find her even faster.

It’s only luck that got me here, in the end. After traveling all over the state asking about the van, trying to find something out, I had returned to near where I started, in a roadside gas station and diner not far from where She had been taken. I had asked the waitress if she knew anything when an old geezer in the next booth interjected.

“That van! Yep, that’ll be from that spooky resort in the mountains. They usually go into town a couple times a week for supplies. Ought to drive right by here if you wait long enough.”

I pressed him on the resort bit. “Well, I says resort, but I don’t right know what it is. Drove by it once. Big, nice buildings. New. Green lawn! Looked like a resort, but I didn’t see any tourists. Spooky, I tell ya.”

I thanked him and waited. I didn’t have to wait long, within an hour the van had sped by. Tossing too much money on the table, I ran out to the car and made to follow the van. And follow it I did. They turned off the road onto a gated lane up into the mountains. I kept driving then doubled back, parking a good distance away and then proceeding on foot.

Now I’m in the compound. I just need to find her. I should be able to feel her, actually… I clear my mind and wait. It’s not long before I see her. Second-storey room, not far from here. I find the room I think it is, and climb a tree outside. It’s evening now, and outside lighting is dim, little chance of being caught. As I climb, someone in the room above me screams.

She.

What are they doing to her?

Peeking in the window, I see her. She is in a nightgown. Her hair is wild and her eyes look tired, so tired. A doctor is trying to get her to take medicine but she’s refusing.

“You need to sleep. You haven’t slept in days,” he says.

She shakes her head. She screams that She doesn’t want to sleep. That he can’t make her sleep.

But he can. He calls for orderlies and they restrain her and he injects her and She’s sedated. She collapses in a chair and passes out. I ought to jump in right now and rip them all to shreds but I wait. The doctor is putting some sort of device on her head. “Sedation took. Dreaming has commenced.” He flicks a switch, and the device projects an image on the wall, a movie but not.

She is a princess in red, and there are soldiers who protect her. But then a ninja comes and starts to kill the soldiers protecting her. She is afraid, so afraid, but She cannot fight back and She cannot wake up. I’ve seen enough.

I leap from the tree into the window. There’s a brief moment of commotion, but cracking a couple heads together and a swift punch to the doctor’s nose have gained me some time.

But what now? I can’t wake her up. She’s in danger in the dream. I need to help her. If only I could get into her dream to protect her. But that’s absurd, I say, me, the trillions of years old being from another universe who until recently was nothing but wind. Absurdity is relative.

I concentrate. I focus. Into her dreams. Into her dreams. Into her dreams. I leap.

And I am in her dream. I am a soldier, the last one standing between She and the evil ninja. She screams. The ninja approaches. We spar. I hold my own. The ninja retreats, but I sense he’ll be back.

I look to She. Relief spreads over her face, and she hugs me. But we cannot stay here. We must move. And so we do, we flee through the woods, through the countryside, and when it is evening, we stop by a small lake to rest. And it is here that She begins.

So that we may become happy, She sings, we have undertaken this journey. Look at you, smiling! It suits you.

We will never fade, She sings, but we will be reborn again and again through many fleetingly beautiful days, whether on dazzling beaches in the summer we’ve yearned for or in the midwinter as the snow swoops and falls. Whenever I turn around, there you are.

So that we may become happy, She sings, we have undertaken this journey. Everyone has wounds that won’t heal. But we are travelers, don’t you know! Look at you, smiling. It suits you.

We’ve gotten lost many times on the road, it seems, She sings, but I can always grasp your warm hands. The one who has raised me up — it’s been you all along.

At the end of this long journey, She sings, what will we think? Everyone is prowling about trying to take love for their own. But we are travelers, don’t you know! So let’s keep traveling until we’ve seen all there is to see.

A snap, a rustle in the trees. I stand just in time to see the ninja step out of the forest.

We fight. I am wounded, dazed.

I can only watch as he runs She through with his sword. After pulling his weapon free, he stalks back into the forest.

I crawl to her. She’s not dead yet, but she will be. I’m not long for this world either. Summoning the last of my strength, I get to my feet, lift her, and walk into the lake. And as we sink beneath the crystal surface, She grasps my hand. We will be reborn. Soon.