Evan stood in a desert. It wasn’t any desert he had seen with his eyes; it was the desert of his mind. And no matter where he looked all he saw was the horizon.
He had no thoughts in this desert, no inner contemplation or wondering of his situation. He was content to stand in his desert of peace and tranquility, it was part of his being. Eventually he would wake in the morning and go about his daily tasks without giving a thought to his dreaming wanderings.
However that all changed when he saw the fire. He didn’t notice it at first but when he did, he couldn’t stop looking at it, thinking about it, wanting to control it – to make it his. All he had to do was walk toward the horizon, toward the wall of flame but he was scared. Scared because he knew the life he was living would be forever gone and he would have a new life – one of flame and power.
He had tried running away but couldn’t. His horizon was burning closer every night, enclosing him in his own power. The closer it came the faster it burned. He would be powerful, that he knew. He would control the burning element and he knew he should walk to his lost horizon.
He wasn’t going to. It was coming for him but he wasn’t going to it.
There was something rather strange about the cripple that sat on the corner of West and Hope Road. He just sat there. Sometimes people would give him money and sometimes he would take it. But mostly he just sat there, watching. Sam had been watching him for almost a month from his private classroom window, and everyday he was there. Well, every weekday for sure and every time he managed to convince his father to take him to town on the weekend. He sat in exactly the same place in exactly the same way.
At first Sam thought he might be a spy but no one spoke to him. And besides, even if some did come to speak to him in the dark hours, what was there to spy on at the corner of West and Hope. There was his school, a bakery, a green grocer and a bunch of businesses. And the businesses were hardly exciting – lawyers and accounts. Boring, and it was getting boring watching the cripple that did nothing.
His thoughts began to wander to a rumour he had heard about magic. Nonsense really, but it was better than a cripple that didn’t move around. But he couldn’t really remember what the rumour had been about. He hadn’t been listening. But he thought he remembered something about making a corpse stand up. He couldn’t remember, he had been distracted by the cripple.
It was quite possibly the best thing I had ever seen. It was perfect as it stood among the trinkets and crafts of the island people and it was perfect as a gift for the man who has everything and wants for nothing. It was intricately carved with exquisite detail and inlaid with mosaic of glass and stone in all the colours that sparkled in the tropical sunlight. It was large and made a statement with its bold and daring images. It would look good in his dull and white house where all the surfaces were smooth and slick, endlessly polished and buffed into an unnatural shine. This piece was organic and ready to shake that household into life.
I stepped forward to take a closer look and became more convinced that it was what I wanted for him. Unconsciously determined to buy it even as my mind pretended to think it over – price, size, suitability. Just motions my mind went through letting me think I was in control. I wanted it. I was going to buy it.
However, it was more than I would have liked to pay but really, how often does a gift so perfect just happen across your path? Not often. And it was likely, I would be able to bargain the seller down a bit.
I drew breath and asked,
“Do you ship?”
“Ah… There you are.”
Craig stood looking at the offending object in the mirror. Someone had mentioned it the other day but quickly brushed it off as a joke. But Craig had spent a little time each morning before work looking for the silver hair and this morning he found it. Or rather found them.
It was worse than he thought. Craig counted seven. Seven silver hairs hidden among in his well maintained do. It was not a good sign. As he dug out the tweezers to remove the offending hairs he wondered whether he was vain enough to dye his hair. It seemed extreme but, at 28, to have seven silver hairs seemed excessive and it worried him.
Perhaps it would be better to check his hair everyday and pluck the offending hairs as he saw them. The plan had merit but as he grew older, he knew he would start to lose his hair. And plucking wouldn’t help that situation. It was a tough call – silver or bald.
As with every decision, there were pro and cons. But both his decisions were heavy with cons and quite light on pros. Tricky, tricky… He may have to think about it further. No need rush into such a tender choice. Time was not on his side but he did have a little bit to play with. It was only seven silver hairs.
But still… Seven silver hairs… Need to think about this… Seven though…
It was always hot in the kitchen, even in winter. The soup was a never ending pot on the boil, never the same flavour twice as leftovers were added and added – staff meals, yum… There were also the big roasts twice a day for the important people upstairs, the ones with money. Either pig or lamb and always six chickens with lashing of butter and bundles of herbs. The vegetable steam baskets were on the opposite side of the kitchen away from the windows that didn’t close. They couldn’t really, rusted and caked with flour, fat and sugar. The ovens were under the windows, they needed to be with all the heat they generated. None of the staff had seen snow on the outside wall in winter – the stones were baked just as the breads, cakes, tarts, pies and pastries. The stove tops awash with syrups, custards, boiled over water and messed sauces.
A path in stone around the main table that was never cleared, the edges rippled from the claps of pasta machines and meat grinders, the surface dotted with scorch rings from hot pots and pans. The stone was once a natural colour but now was an endless canvas of stains, peelings, spills and singed dishcloths.
The kitchen never closes and the heat never ends. As the new dishwasher, I welcome you to hell.
It is said that no one source started the riot. It was a spontaneous action taken by those in the crowd. But this is not true, there was an instigator. And the riot did serve a purpose – a purpose hidden from everyone in the crowd. A purpose that only a few would ever know about. Though some of the more suspicious ones may ‘theorise’ but they were only good for a laugh. The crowd had developed as planned, it was too easy to rile common people, and it was easier still to insight them to violence once they were all collected in a crowd. Happily, things would turn ugly and the media would whip themselves into a frenzy of frothy mouths and flickering fingers on keyboards.
And while everyone was looking and commenting on the horrors, ‘they’ would be working in the background on their various projects. Content in the knowledge that if the current attraction were to fade, there would be many more instances that could be… tweaked to suit their purpose. They were old hands at this, long years of practice. Controlling the masses is such a subtle art.
It was tricky and took a lot of planning but he was sure he could pull the attack off. All his years of training had brought him to this moment – it was live or die. However, his partner was also a pro. She had trained just as hard, just as long. He strongly suspected she would see the attack coming and neatly sidestep. But he might be able to distract her if he played a little from the left, she was looking for a frontal attack so might be blind to something coming from the sides. If it worked, her back would be open for his attack and he would live. He might even win.
He met her eye across the playing field and gave a confident smile. Hers was condescending. He almost lost it and attacked but that would have lead to death for sure. Patience, calm and controlled always won over rash and angered. But he seethed inside, determined now to not only live but win as well. He would show her, humiliate her, put her in her place. Yes, he thought as her eyes left his, this is your defeat.
And he did live but he did not win. His territory had two eyes but his territory was too small. She controlled more of the Go board than he did and as the post game discussion flowed around him, he realised she let him live. She had not only controlled the game but had controlled him as well. He bowed his head and though, next year, next year the title will be mine.
Watercolours and watercolour pencils.
The man stands before a signpost making his choice. His bowler hat is straight and his coat is clean. Decision made, he moves on angling away from the more favoured path. That is not where he needs to be, he has to take a different path. Slowly he comes across a dense forest and slower still he makes his way through, it echoes his sorrow. He breathes the free air as he leaves the forest and all its dark. Before long, there is a cat on his path. He doesn’t look at it but walks stoically past, determined. The cat follows him with its eyes as he passes and disappears down a long road.
Eventually he meets a witch, hunched and twisted. He takes off his neat hat and presents it to the witch. She slowly puts a fish into the man’s hat and looks at him, jealous. They both turn to leave, no words are spoken. The man retraces his steps, carefully carrying the fish in his hat on the long road. And there is the cat, waiting.
He lovingly gives the fish to the cat and steps back as it eats. And then changes. There is his wife, she smiles so sweetly as they hold hands. Together.