Shinganga (Part 6)

This is the final entry in this series. Links to Parts 1 through 5 are here, here, here, here, and here. All parts are contained within the Miscellaneous Fiction bit to the left.

The day is long, hot, tense. An extended ellipsis, trailing into the distance with nothing following.

They spend their day like that. Trance-like, drifting pointlessly, unseeing, circling the abyss. No-one wants to talk. They sit together in a tight huddle in the shade of a tree, the thick canopy sheltering them from the beating sun.

The atmosphere is stultifying. Books are balanced on knees and hands, headphones buzz like artificial insects. They all stare at the ground, or the sky, or the tree. Not at each other. No-one wants to look at one another, to face up to the reality of what’s happened.

Food is brought out to them, and drinks, all through the day. The manager comes over at one point. Starts waving his hands and apologising and explaining and reassuring, but the oppressive silence beats him down. He slouches away, looking back over his shoulder at the group of white girls who won’t even acknowledge that he’s there.

Some of them try to nap. They lie there, eyes closed, willing themselves to sleep and climbing further and further away from it. None of them leave the circle.

The trees rise around the clearing, tall and looming, the depth of untamed jungle mere metres away. No-one looks at it.

Fuck this.

Continue reading “Shinganga (Part 6)”

Shinganga (Part 5)

Links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 go here.

Blood.

Red, spattering, dark and oily in the night.

Sprays from the neck.

The body flaps, thrashes. Limp. Mindless.

Alice breathes in hard through her nostrils. She can smell the tang of the kill. The metal scent of life hitting dirt. Her muscles are knotted, tense, ready to spring.

The chicken finally flops to the ground, headless. Its neck spurts, then dribbles, then trickles, then spits, and finally the blood stops flowing. Rivulets run down the dusty ground. They mix with the dirt and turn to reddish sludge, dark and slimy in the night.

Alice shivers with cold again. Lets out her breath. The smell has been chased away by the wind.

Continue reading “Shinganga (Part 5)”

Shinganga (Part 4)

Parts 1, 2, and 3 are here, here, and here, respectively. There’s got to be a better way to do that.

A glass appears at Alice’s elbow, startling her into a tiny yelp. It is brimming with wine, smells of lemon and oak and freshly cut grass, a frosting of condensation just beginning to mist the surface.

Oh, thank you, she says, turning to smile at her server. The woman won’t meet her eyes, instead glancing down to the ground and moving mutely on to the next place.

That was weird, she says to Daisy, seated to her right.

Nah, it’s just what they’re trained to do at fancy joints like this. Rich folks don’t like them some natter from the help. Daisy rolls her eyes. How they’re dealing with us showing up, I have no idea. You see the daggers we got from the manager at check-in?

No, says Alice, honestly. I didn’t really think about it, I guess.

Bunch of scruffy looking girls rock up on your doorstep stinking of bus sweat, take over your lodge, staying four to a room? When you’re running a fancy tourist trap like this? I’d be pissed as hell. Daisy laughs with gusto. Although not as pissed as all the old rich bastards who aren’t quite rich enough and have to come here in the off-season. Getting their authentic voodoo experience ruined by a gang of hippy fuck-ups.

Huh. Alice looks around the elaborate dining room. She sees the other guests, at smaller tables than the three their group has taken over. Their shirts and jackets. Their dresses. Even the children, in good shoes or the latest in bushwear chic. None of them are trying to thank their servers. The children follow the example of their parents, staring stoically ahead and making sure to keep their voices down even as their toes wriggle in unfamiliarly tight shoes.

Continue reading “Shinganga (Part 4)”

Shinganga (Part 3)

 

Parts 1 and 2 are here and here, respectively.

Sunlight creeps over Alice’s face. A beam wends its way up her jawline, over her cheekbones. She lies on her back. Watches it.

The others in the room sleep. Still and silent. Content.

Alice lies still, unmoving, unwilling to wake them.

She stares into the sunlight and thinks of what has happened, what she has seen. Where they are, and where they are going.

The room is strewn with invitations and reminders. Genuine, handcrafted, authentic. They claim. Masks and shields and paintings, daubed onto woven leaves, hang from the wooden walls, nestle into the thatched straw ceiling. They surround the enormous bed, so large that four people are cosily sleeping side by side.

Alice stares up at the ceiling. Wonders. Feels the soft, thick blankets enrobing her. The fine cotton cradling her.

She raises her head and sees the thick luxuriousness of the rug at the foot of the bed. The door, seamless wooden planking against the wooden walls, discreetly leading to the en suite bathroom.

She turns and sees the glass extending along one wall, door and window in one.

The view is uninterrupted high bush, trees and shrubs rolling over foothills. Rich green carpeting the beginning of a mountain range. A lawn stretches out in front of the window, then the ground falls away from where the cabin is perched, toppling down into a valley before clambering back up the next ridge.

Continue reading “Shinganga (Part 3)”

Shinganga (Part 2)

Part 1 here.

Strange pictograms are there and gone, blinking past with whispers of rivers and mountains and temples. They squiggle and twist as Alice looks at them, squirming away when she tries. Then they vanish again, winking away as if they were never there, leaving only memories and unknowns.

What are you staring at? questions Veerle. The story of how a Dutch girl ended up with them was relayed to Alice at one point the night before. She thinks.

Alice mumbles back a reply.

The signs… they’re all in Chinese.

Yeah, it is notable, is it not? Still, I think since three or four years, there’s been a lot of Chinese investment here. Lots of Chinese companies doing business here.

Oh, cool, thanks.

Alice rests her head against the window of the bus and closes her eyes. The juddering just makes her headache worse, so she straightens back up again, but the sudden movement causes something in her stomach to shift and a wave of nausea rises up her throat.

It’s a lot different to when I was travelling in Asia, continues Veerle.

Mmm-hmm.

Ah, you are still feeling a little hangovered? Sure, you’ll need some rest.

Alice nods her head as much as she dares and closes her eyes again. The sickness swells like a rough ocean, billowing and roiling horribly. There’s an acrid smell hanging in the air, sweat and people and stale cigarette smoke.

Continue reading “Shinganga (Part 2)”

Shinganga (Part 1)

Shinganga (Part 1)

She arrives.

She is ensnared.

The city sprawls, lazily, negligently, lounging over the broad sweeping bush, a great eagle fanning its wings. Buildings have two stories, tall, to tell.

They collapse, taking the space they need from the infinite expanse stretching away to the horizon at the end of the street. Those streets have four lanes for every car that weaves its way around the potholes.

Alice gawps, wide-eyed, marvelling at a city with no height, no mass to the low crumbling structures slumped on the ground.

They are old, the buildings, old and worn and sighing as the last faded remnants of their colonial finery are blasted by the heat and the remorseless sun and the pounding rains. Paint flakes and flickers away, half-vanished pictures and slogans promising delights the decrepit buildings last contained in a brighter, earlier time, years ago. Not the twilight that spreads softly through the cracked, unmarked streets.

A pillar of concrete rises up abruptly, snapping into view as she rounds a corner. The skyscraper is unexpected, unlooked for, a brutally terse, modernist interjection into the decaying grandeur.

Alice trips, staring, stumbling in a crevasse in the broken pavement as she totters forward. Another, then another of the skyscrapers thrust upward into her sight, forming a neatly parading line. Stopping, she raises her phone and frames a picture.

The skyline against the sunset. Orange glows, burnishing the grey concrete to polished copper. Brutal lines rendered soft and beautiful for an instant. They stand, stark and definite, straining harshly upwards and blocking out Alice’s view of the fiery African sunset.

Continue reading “Shinganga (Part 1)”

Contentment

I paused as I reached the gate, looking up through the blank nothingness of my headphones. The house was lit, glowing, the unshaded windows spilling gold onto the drive. The scene visible through them was a photograph, a perfect still image of family life, a mother and son eating dinner together.

Twilight had gone, the last hopeful vestiges of the day vanished from the sky. I could see the neighbour’s tree, the one that overhung our garden, outlined in shadow against the warmth. The indistinct form ruffled slightly in the breeze.

For a moment, a branch creaked down and obscured Jeff’s face in the window, hiding his grim scowl. Then the branch swung back up and I could see my son glowering at his green beans. His mother mouthed something, her words lost in the breeze, and a terrifyingly adult mix of lust and desire and greed flashed across the little face.

Sarah didn’t notice the effect of her words. She had stood and was delicately placing a bowl over the plate sitting at the third, empty, place. Jeff looked at her, then back at his beans. Then he picked up his fork and speared them with a sharp stab, trying to inflict every ounce of malevolence and indignation he felt about the basic unfairness of life.

I found that my finger was tapping mechanically on my leg, spurred by the white noise of the music in my ears. I pulled my headphones free and began to walk up the driveway towards my house, the twittering of birds floating intermittently through the air on the gusting wind. The gravel crunched beneath my feet. The tree looked more detailed up close, the wrinkles and gnarls on the bark thrown into ancient shadow by the upstart electric light. It creaked and swung again, and tales of forests and elves, fantasies and dreams and myths spoke in the creaking.

Then my foot fell. It crunched again, flatly, and the moment was gone.

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