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Ba-doom The night was warm and still young. Being so vast and open, one would doubt whether the bay was in fact an enclosure - its long, curved arms outstretched far beyond the naked eye’s capabilities. Tentacles of lightning flailed out to the horizon, while rain dissolved into the beach’s bronze sand. “Full moon,” he said, sitting down alongside her. She laughed. “That’s a loaded statement.” “Could be. Fuck allusions, though.” An ambulance’s siren amidst the distant city’s feverish cries drowned his words. They resorted back to silence, both unsure as to who had decided not to continue the momentary conversation, and pretended to stare out intently into the ocean. Time passed. Neither did on a mutual offering. Few words were said, so more was understood. The duo encircled each other with only water between them. The city was even further away now, but consequence lingered close, provoking its participants to edge nearer. Being rooted into each second and breath, or simply acknowledging the present, was something in life seemingly unattainable to Victor; he lived in his mind. He envied those who practised this ideal involuntarily; he desired its calm, craved its silence, longed for its numbing. The trilogy had disguised itself in a feminine form. With each second of looking into her right eye with his, the more he was sucked into an abyss of quiet. “It’s purposefully vague,” she had said when Victor pointed out the faded stop sign marking in the road. He had looked at her inquisitively - but jokingly enough to hide away this vulnerable admiration. Now it was a different look in his eyes, the one pupil fully dilated with the other unstirred, a probing focus ensuing. Half of her face was illuminated by the moon: blonde hair turned grey, its reflection causing the ocean’s water to dance in miniature splashes of light. His mind’s equilibrial centre heavily swayed towards the former pupil – a pendulum of hypocrisy, possibly, as it would tempt Victor to commit to the betrayal he had always feared would be done to him. Or a pendulum of contrast; the natural balance between subconscious and conscious, yin and yang, inner shadow and outer façade, dark and light. But that would imply that everyone had this ‘constitution’- is everyone a hypocrite? He was not so sure. Victor would later learn to believe that those who explore contrast to the point of engulfing themselves in it, are inevitably cursed by their inner shadow. This would not turn out to be an acceptable excuse of his own actions by himself, for he had learned from a young age that “the mind controls the body, but your conscience controls your mind”, looking into his mother’s reaffirming eyes, her eyebrow raising ever-so slightly as to give her words necessary weight and emphasis. Inner conflict was triumphed by instinct. Feet moved underneath, the treading of water mimicking the action of a candle light’s flicker – unrelentingly persuasive, yet on the brink of collapse. * “Hello,” he said under a façade of spontaneity - it enclosed a yearning to say something of meaning to somehow acknowledge what was now the past. Victor could find no words that could achieve clarity. His newly-founded corrupted judgement of right and wrong caused him to bathe in a mild form of delirium – every action has its reaction, but there had been no consequence. He expected, wanted, fate to follow in order to repent his sins. She returned a quick smile that propelled him into a brief moment of reminiscence. It seemed to repeat and repeat, the same scene viewed each time yet with a different angle. It was elation to the point of inevitable heartbreak; things were always too good to be true. The mulling over of the previous night in his mind left

Victor not knowing how to distinguish between reality and uncompromising memory. None of it was blurred; the edge of the surrounds’ silhouette too refined not to be imprinted in his mind; the mountain acting as a quiet observer; the gentle waves lapping idly at two midriffs that soon formed one entity. He left the breakfast table unsure of whether she had uttered a return of his greeting at all, as he was, evidently, too lost in his own thoughts, and eyed the lonesome chandelier hanging in the dingy hallway, its tainted glass yearning for a reflection from the early-morning sunbeams piercing through the doorway. He walked into that light, only hoping that it would have reflected off of someone else. * Victor knocked on the door, wilted roses dangling in a firm grasp. What was once excitement for beautiful simplicity had turned into a restless fervor to forget what he hoped Racquel would never know. The door opened. The same rosy cheeks; the same hesitant smile; the same tolerant eyes. Welcoming lips. Victor only noticed the note she had carefully placed on the front door handle after their embrace. It read: “Can’t wait to see you! 7 more…seconds”. It was tongue-in cheek, as the two lovers occasionally did a countdown in days until they would see each other again. Her caringly humorous nature warmed his heart like it always did, but his smile soon formed a grimace at the symbol of tragic ignorance. Victor had been away for a week. He recalled telling her “Don’t change. Be you, okay?” upon saying their goodbyes at the airport. How the tides had turned. Victor and Racquel soon headed off to the beach, even though it was winter. They had often sought it out as a place of refuge where they could regain touch with nature and each other. She liked it most when it was quiet in the early hours of the morning. He was not a morning person, but often the thought of seeing Racquel doing her routine of taking her clothes off in a paradoxically shy manner to skinny-dip was more than enough of an incentive to walk down the beach’s stairs with her. He preferred going to the beach as sunset approached, as it complemented Racquel’s eyes. Victor would be engulfed by the orange fading into blue as he stared into her; an epitome of their surroundings – the horizon welcoming the receding sun into its slumber. Racquel broke the silence of their vacuum-like car journey in a nonchalant way, but she seemed unusually tense to Victor. But could it just be a wrong perception due to the projection of my own feelings onto her state?, he asked himself. “I wrote a poem the other day, when you were gone.” “Uh-huh. Care to recite?” His genuine interest showed, but with it came a startled tone. Racquel was a painter; she seldom wrote. “Well, I can’t exactly, but I’ll try give you a gist of its theme and content. It was so strange though, I woke up this morning feeling a compulsive need to write, and viola! out of my blurry-eyed stupor, came a poem.” “Sounds interesting.” “Well, I dunno, it could be for some. It’s just my own perception of karma and its subtle way of giving fate…equilibrium, I guess. What is karma to you, Victor?” Racquel asked, turning to stare out the car window. Victor saw the look of wonder that had once made him fall in love with her – it was at the houses perched along the road’s cliff, hanging effortlessly, yet seemingly vulnerable to fall into oblivion upon the slightest gust of wind. He wanted to say, “Something I fear to be inevitably burdened with,” but lied to both himself and her by sharing a more optimistic opinion. He watched her, sitting hunched over on a high mount of sand, as Racquel stood in a fixed position below. Waves receded back and forth alongside her feet. From her tilted head position, Victor speculated in his

mind if she would follow their coaxing, tempting calls into the ocean and the marvels it held. She seemed convinced for a brief moment. “Come, join me.” He shifted his gaze to her innocently beautiful shoulder gesture, welcoming him to approach her. As he stood up, something odd happened. Racquel was now crouching down on all fours; her bare knees were covered by her sundress, its damp fringes pressing against the cold sand. Waves continually lapped at her sides. “Racquel!” It appeared as if she hadn’t heard him. “Racquel!” Only once Victor had reached her did he notice the yellowy-brown tinge that lay intertwined with the shallow sea water. It receded back and forth; from Racquel and into the ocean. Victor felt numbed by what he saw. A dull pain resonated in his chest. It was disturbing to see her surrender to relentless convulsions each time her head was involuntarily thrust forward. The ocean had eroded her. She managed to say, “It feels like…like something needs to come out. It’s stuck,” from intervals of not being able to utter a single word. Racquel seemed entranced, unblinkingly staring onto a spot on the sand that was unrelentingly covered every now and then by the water. He wept silently at her side not just for her and his own sorrow, but because the pain was a proof of the connection that had made her know, perhaps via telepathic means, what had tainted their love. A connection that had once bound them together now emphasised their demise. Victor picked Racquel up gently. He carried her, in silence, from the water’s edge, across the sand and into the car, laying her head on an inclined seat. She rested there, occasionally lifting her eyelids for a brief moment at each bend in the road, mumbling phrases in some sort of tongue – one of which sounded like “you strayed and lay there”. * The young boy sat on the couch. The happy family watched TV. “Why are you so restless, Victor?” He seemed to pause for a moment, as if to briefly consider responding with an explanation that would be typical of a nine-year-old. “It’s just not true.” “What is, Vic?” the boy’s father asked, his words sounding like more of a statement than a question. “What I see, Papa, is people living something other than life – I’m not just talking about the actors. Do people really feel what they feel? I don’t understand this happy-clappy thing.” No response. Silence. More humdrum. s The boy ambled his way to school the next day in a face marked by despair. Injustice flanked his sides. First there was the beggar. He seemed to be his own age and spoke in a rushed monotone - it seemed as if he knew the inevitable outcome of his “a spare two rand?” question before it was uttered. The newspaper headline reading “An HIV mother’s horror” further validated the other parents’ concerns about him walking the streets so young. He used to hear them from his favourite eavesdropping hideout in the corridor saying things like “he’ll see too much” and “kids should concern themselves with catching them grasshoppers, or any other pleasant influence for that matter”. Victor shouldn’t have cared what they thought. Diluting the essence of his being was a simple desire to fit in - to know what it would feel like to be normal. By doing so, he had let them change his ways, diluting his intensity of understanding and dishonouring his trust in instinct. He started becoming content with less, and soon became left with a self-worth that waned with each day of inaction and cowered at every thought that yearned for the past’s fulfillment.

The only thing the boy still fervently pursued was drawing. “Wow, Vic! That looks amazing,” Mrs. Bruwer’s words seemed to trail off; it was is if she doubted her own sentiment upon further inspection of what he had actually drawn. It was a simple, two-dimensional picture of a boy giving a rose to a girl. The letters ‘HIV’ were drawn onto the rose’s pink petals. Written in the boy’s speech bubble was “Tragedy is what makes a happy me”. Then the boy came to life. He turned his head and winked. Victor awoke. He was sweating. Racquel had once told him “dreams reflect your wishes and troubles often in a disguised form”, but now she slept. Victor knew he longed for the innocence and simplicity of childhood, but what explained the unsettling resemblance of it? He concluded that he was over-thinking things again, resting his head onto the pillow. But he struggled to fall asleep and lay awake for what felt like eternity. All was still and serene around him, yet he was deeply troubled. He couldn’t quite put a finger on why the dream disturbed him, but knew that deducing its meaning would allow his mind to rest. “Racquel, Racquel.” He stroked her cheek. “Baby, wake up, I need your help with something.” There was something unrecognisable in his voice. She awoke. Upon her eyes meeting his, Racquel suddenly leapt up away from him and towards the opposite corner of the bed, staggering backwards as her eyes darted back and forth between the door behind her and his face. “Victor?” “Baby, what’s-” “Fuck off! Don’t speak, please don’t speak…please.” She gripped a pillow in front of her and looked down for a brief moment, as if to summon courage for and make sense of the words that followed. “You’re…different.” Looking at himself in the mirror, Victor saw evidence of a blackened soul. Dark rings that were more purple than blue had formed under his eyes. The dilated pupil’s iris had changed; he no longer saw the sunflower-like patterns within it. He turned to look at her and bore witness to consequence itself. Laying with its knees to its chest in a curled up ball, it shuddered. Her naivety was lost due to a secret that was never told; it was shared intrinsically, as its curse had slowly spread from him into her each time they made love. Victor finally surrendered his denial and realised that fate had followed, questioning why it had undeservedly chosen her instead of him. _________________________________________________________________________________


Short story; Romance/Tragedy.

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