Dregs

After four volumes is there still water in the well? Little should be needed for a measly hundred words. But all I draw is dregs of micfic past:  images that never floated, metaphors too mixed to rise from their ashes and similes like an old car with an unreliable ignition coil.

I touch things I threw back as too strange, too frail or too ugly: the drunken rambling without legs; that voiceless dialogue; the enlightened duck pie and most of all, the hive monologue on truth.

They mock me from their unwritten limbo.

Water enough for a nostalgic drabble?

Apparently.

Making News

In the workshop of Trotex Engineering, Brackenfell Industria:

Excuse me. Could you stop a minute Sir? Are you Anton Cilliers?

Well ja, maybe. Who’s asking?

I’m John Miller, an investigative reporter from the Sun. It’s great to shake the hand of the guy who took the first picture of the visitors.

Is that a fact?

Doctor Paul Pienaar said that you took this photograph yesterday.

The only thing Paul is a doctor of, is bullshit.

Well he is a character; the good doctor said that this photo heralds the coming of a new age.

So you know he works at a panel shop in Salt River?

With a PhD in particle physics? This depression.  Let’s sit in this office and talk.

That’s my boss’s office.

So we can’t sit there.

No.

No problem, just tell your story quickly and I won’t waste any of your time.

Too late. Okay, I was out yesterday just after dawn up by signal hill; it was lekker misty and as I run down I see this weird disk in the mist – like a giant washer you know; my meisie always asks what happened on my jog so I take a picture with my phone – something to talk about over coffee.

And that’s how you photographed the first alien spacecraft to visit Cape Town.

Actually, I thought it was a reflection off a roof.

So only over coffee did you recognise its importance and sent it to Dr Pienaar?

Ja, my girl knew that oke from college, she said he was into this stuff, so I sent it to him, these new phones … got email and everything.

How did you feel about the historic moment?

You know, I can’t tell if you’re plain stupid or, how do they say, disingenious – just messing with me. But your time is up buddy; voetsak!

Four hours later, a telephone call:

Hi, I’m Anton, we met this morning.

Oh, the chap with the UFO picture.

Yeah. Well, I was talking to this guy at work, he says people like you sometimes pay bucks for photos.

Well yes, we do reimburse people for the time and effort. I know a guy in talk radio who might do an interview.

And they pay too? Well my bru, I think I saw visitors from another world during my run yesterday – and I only just realised its significance.

Church

We should never have called him Church. We thought it was clever to name him after the cat in Pet Cemetery: it wasn’t. He was cute enough as a kitten (all kittens are) but once he could roam the neighbourhood things changed.

That’s when he started bringing things home: found things.

At first they were small: an odd sock, an old toothbrush, half a porn magazine. He would lay them reverently on my bed; carefully consider the final position and then meow once. We all laughed about it. It was cute; we even encouraged him.

Inevitably, the situation got worse.

I wasn’t really worried when he brought in that huge bath towel, it must have weighted as much as him. I took a photograph of him lying among the fluffy folds of pink before I returned the towel to my neighbour’s washing line. At least I assumed that’s where it came from; and the neighbours never said anything so it must have been theirs.

That summer I began to suspect we had a serious problem.

It was one of those perfect orange suburban afternoons, still with a hint of braai smoke and the far off shrieks of children in the air, when I heard Church noisily entering our kitchen window with a chicken. Not a live chicken; nor even a dead pet chicken: a beautifully glazed and roasted chicken – fresh out of the oven.  A fine sage and onion stuffing aromatically teased the senses. I could have gone door to door among my neighbours, but I could hardly return their lunch (Church had helped himself to the best part of the left breast and my housemates had eaten most of the rest). And a sincere apology does little to replace your family’s Sunday lunch.

It was the day we found the money that I started to sweat.

Church brought it back wrapped in a dirty yellow plastic bag. There was about R6000 in all; neatly bundled with elastic bands; the serial numbers in sequence. By the time we realised what it was he had strewn it about my bed and rolled in it with near human glee. We considered calling the cops. We discussed it. But I couldn’t imagine them believing my story and we really needed the money that year.

I suppose we should have told someone; it would have made things easier the next month when Church dragged home a human hand.

Anthrophobia

That, darling, is a grotesque idea! There is no way I’m touching that.

You’re being silly dear, just because they look different to us you’re scared of them – your great uncle says we’re all part of the same biosphere.

Those things excrete through their skins. They’re dirty; and they have diseases.

Now try to be rational, that is simply prejudice! It’s not urine, it’s just water and some salts. It’s how they keep cool. It’s perfectly natural.

I don’t care: it’s still nasty. All those gooey drops squeezing from their pores; the mere idea makes me twitch.

Well if you weren’t so afraid you’d know they’re not gooey: it’s more oily actually. It makes their skin feel smooth and pleasant to grip; they aren’t nearly as rubbery as they look.

How would you know anyway, you’ve never touched one either!

Well, I’ve heard about it – and I’m not scared of them. Actually I think they’re kind of beautiful – smell the heat shining off them – there are little suns inside them.

Living things should be cool and soft like us – warm is just creepy.

Well, I’m not afraid of it. And I want to touch it.

I can’t believe you’re doing that. You’re insane! It’s so huge: that hand could crush you any moment.

What? No – they might be big but they’re very slow. Fly over here, it feels smooth and silky. You’ll like it – stop being such a ninny.

Oh my, I can’t believe I’m doing this. I really can’t believe I’m doing this.

There you go dear, not so terrifying is it? Look at the big guy: so majestic, so gentle. I think he likes us.


Between

It’s comfortable on this bench in between. I know I can’t stay here for long, but I can stay as long as I need.

To my right it’s all bright light and noise. I hear sounds of machinery: Urgent bleeps, intrusive whines and a voice desperately repeating my name. I feel expert hands move me. I smell the sharp tang of disinfectant. It all seems far away somehow, irrelevant, it will always be raucous and busy in that place – it will never stop.

To my left the road is quiet and misty, stretching between autumn trees: ever less distinct as it leads the eye to endlessness. All is perfectly calm. A single burnt orange maple leaf drops, floats and then settles lightly on the ground in total silence. Down this road is sublime stillness forever – it will never change.

It’s comfortable on this bench in between but I don’t stay here for long. I stand and walk without a backward glance.

Farmer Jones’ Lament

It’s all over, even old Boxer has turned on me. I should have had him made into glue in ’62 but I’d worked alongside the cart horse so many years I couldn’t bear to part with him. I just don’t understand, I’ve always been so good to all my animals, the last few years have been a bit lean around here but they’ve always had the best our small holding could afford.

We were happy when Old Major, my albino Lancashire, was alive. The other animals loved his calm wisdom: I would often see them arrayed in the barn like theatre goers listening intently to him. It was the new generation of pigs that started the trouble.

They’re all sweet animals really, just not too bright, so when Snowball started spouting his equality rhetoric it was easy to confuse them. And with Napoleon (last year’s spring fair champion at 232lbs) for muscle any dissenters were quickly silenced.

I can’t understand why it started with the pigs, they have such comfortable, happy lives: the best slop, no work and a lovely sty. They must know they can’t run a farm: what does a pig know of accounting, budgets and markets. Soon enough they’ll all be starving and beg me to take over again.

I didn’t invent farming; this is how the system works: we all have to do our part and someone has to be in charge.

Prowess

I was at Brown’s last night: that place is floating in hot woman. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. You know since I’ve been studying NLP no woman can deny me. Seriously, this stuff works on anyone:  Stand right, speak right, do the anchoring carefully and presto!

I was at Brown’s last night – no don’t look at me like that. Anyway it’s not like I was looking for nice conversation; it was 2am and I was drunk. There were some semi-hot guys and this one dumb-looking blonde guy caught my eye.

As soon as she walked in I knew she was going to be the one to make my fucking night. But I take it easy and just go over and sit nearby. So we chat comfortably about her family and I do the touches and all resistance crumbles.

So this guy comes over but he’s awkward and just sits looking at me until I talk. He’s creepy: he keeps touching the inside of my wrist as he asks me about my dad and other private shit. But I’m drunk and it’s late so I do the thing with my eyes and stick my tits out (no man can resist me when I try) and soon he’s mine.

She was so hot for me she was almost doing me right there in the club. I had her screaming my name a few times back at her place; lucky girl.

I had a dry run with him on the dance floor to see if he was worth taking home but it wasn’t that good in the end anyway. I was too drunk to enjoy it and I hate it when men thank you afterwards.

The Pretty Blue One

“It’s my turn to choose first, you always choose first. I want the big one with all the discs, what do you think of that?”

NASA Observatory Omaha, USA: Bill, you better get down here fast. At first we thought equipment malfunction; but it’s not! And Bill, you better call the state department and get them to wake the president.

“Brat! You know I like the discs and there was only the one. Oh well, I’ll suppose I’ll have that huge orange stripy one with the red spot.”

Civilian Emergency Band: …astrophysicists are working to understand and mitigate the effects of these unprecedented events. Citizens should stay indoors and remain calm. Gather preserved food, potable water and warm clothing. Calmly and quickly obey instructions from the military authorities in your area. The government has implemented emergency protocols to protect you and your family in these extraordinary times: do not be afraid.

“I wanted that one! Now I’ll have to take the tiny bright red one instead”

Radio Saviour, Salt Lake City: They’ve been lying to us those scientists like they always lied. But tonight the truth is clear to the naked eye. HIS truth IS clear. HE that MADE the planet Mars has UNMADE it. As in the times of Noah, water has engulfed the crowded lands of the unbelievers and HE has sent a SIGN. So this time you won’t believe the egg heads when they say ‘natural disaster’ because HE has removed a WHOLE PLANET to show you that only HE can protect you now.

“I know which one I want next: that blue one near the middle with the swirls of white and the green bits. It looks interesting. I want the pretty little blue one.”

Generation Gap – Rebooted

“Between two worlds life hovers like a star, ‘Twixt night and morn, upon the horizon’s verge, how little do we know that which we are!”

Instructor Black was quoting again, she always got a faraway look when she quoted from old earth fiction. Zendra gestured the phrase to search: ‘Matched: Don Juan by George Gordon Noel (1788 –1824 CE), 6th Baron Byron, AKA Lord Byron.’ The earth-born were obsessed with names: were there truly so many of them that names should be so complicated? Zendra’s mother named her Alice Jane Miller but only the earth-born still use long-form names.

She dug further: ‘British poet and a leading figure in Romanticism; celebrated in life for aristocratic excesses including huge debts, numerous love affairs, and self-imposed exile.’ She chirped her class-mates: ‘Today: sublime wisdom from a drug-head steam-tech playboy’ and followed it with her sig-glyph slighted towards irony.

Black was trying to explain the dead language but had wandered off into a soliloquy about the limited sight-lines of her youth. Each cycle the oldsters became more distant: each parsec they travelled made them more nostalgic, less present. It was getting dangerous to have them in charge.

As she read on Instructor Black appeared to be crying. Zendra exchanged glances with her classmates: life in the hostile vacuum is too hard to waste tears on a long dead poet.

“Of time and tide rolls on and bears afar, Our bubbles; as the old burst, new emerge, Lash’d from the foam of ages.”