CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
Perhaps a necessary part of any adventure is an element of danger. Perhaps without that element, there can be no adventure.
The news told me of invisible “bugs” that wanted to harm me, of the depressed economy, the impending floods, the risk of being knifed by errant youths—Do not, whatever you do, go out after dark. And this was all in my own country, in my own home town. This was not freedom. Here, I was in prison, and the guards at my door were called Fear. I needed a holiday and perhaps it was this that made me ignore the UK Embassy’s warning about terrorist activity in the Southern Philippines.
I closed my front door behind me, suitcase in tow, and as I walked away I heard a shadowy voice within me cautioning: “But the plane might crash…”
A mantra came to me: “Fear, I am no longer yours.” And I walked away, not even glancing over my shoulder.
In the Philippines, I arrived at my hotel in Davao. Of course, Davao was in the South. I alighted from my taxi and looked around, to the noisy streets, the smiling Filipino faces, the dazzling sky, to the hotel building, to the dark shadows concealing the alleyway across the street, and to the murky shade under the trees there, but nowhere could I see Fear lurking.
On the second day, I was sat in a bar when a teenage boy passed by me as though being carried on a breeze. I looked down and saw on my table a glossy flyer advertising the Bluejaz Resort in Samal and promising an island paradise of crystal clear waters and white sands. I looked up and the boy was gone, but standing in the shadows I thought I caught a glimpse of Fear, who whispered to me: “And now they have come for you.”
I pocketed the flyer and was soon stepping up off the Samal ferry and onto a long stone-built jetty which ushered me onto those white sands. I sat at a table in the shade overlooking the beach and a warm breeze caressed my face which seemed to connect with a profound calmness buried within me. There were happy, chatting voices all around, like birdsong in a forest. I looked along the beach and thought I heard a whisper coming from the shade of a table canopy: “I wonder how they will get to you.”
I looked away and focused on that forest birdsong.
There was a group of Filipino friends playing volleyball on the white sands and one of the men looked over and, as he saw me watching him, he froze momentarily, as though recalling a long-lost memory. Then the moment passed and he resumed his play. I watched him jumping for the ball and—I guess he could not help himself either—he kept glancing back at me. He was in his late twenties, of athletic build and perhaps slightly taller than the average Filipino. He wore a white sun visor and sun glasses but this did not in any way disguise his focus on me, as though there were some fundamental force passing between us which did not need mere vision to guide it. He struck the ball again and as his friends cheered, he glanced back at me as a child might to its parent—Look what I did; are you proud of me?
In the living room of 52 Niggling Grievance Street, Lily Smithe was sitting in her easy chair, Helen Smithe was sitting at one end of the sofa and Peter Softly was sitting at the other end with his shopping basket placed on the floor beside his feet. Helen had been eyeing Peter from head to foot, and she now started making insinuating comments about transvestites.
Peter lifted the front of his overcoat, pulled out Lily’s letter and told Lily, ‘I’ve come about your letter, Mrs Smithe.’
Helen abruptly stood, said she would make some tea and headed for the kitchen.
Lily started talking, but Peter could not quite get to her meaning. He gave up trying, leant forward, rummaged through the basket and gripped the hatchet’s handle. But then his hand start trembling so much that he wondered whether it was right that he should be contemplating using this weapon.
Lily said, ‘But are you eating enough, Peter?’ She saw that he was bent over that basket, playing with something within it, and she called, ‘Peter!’ He looked up, but distantly—as if he were playing in some playground in his mind, some fantasy playground that was miles from anywhere. She repeated, ‘Are you eating enough?’ He did not respond. She said, ‘I mean, who’s looking after you, Peter?’
He looked back down to the basket and saw the hatchet in his hand. He could now barely hold it; all the strength seemed to have gone from his arm, and the muscles in his arm had begun aching with the effort of holding this great weight in his hand. He dropt the hatchet, took his notepad and pen from the basket and mentioned Lily’s letter to her again. She started saying, ‘There’s crowds of people coming to read the gas meter...’ He wrote this in his pad, so that he could study the words, to try to more clearly understand their meaning. While doing this, he heard her saying something about somebody drinking her tea, and her milk—these people always drank her milk. But he was already frowning at the words on the pad, trying to make sense of them. Then he thought about Sally, about the monster that had so successfully possessed her head, causing them to come to hate each other. He thought about the way it was now impossible for him to battle through her hatred in order to communicate with her—her just shouting incomprehensible things at him whenever he got near her. He thought about her affair with Roland, which he was sure she was only doing to show him how much she hated him. Then he recalled the man he had met earlier, the way the monster in his head had made him try to manipulate Peter into jumping to his tune by trying to make him feel guilty. The man had then said, ‘You’re just the sort of person who causes all the problems. Are you stupid——?’ and he had nodded to indicate that Peter should answer ‘Yes’.
Trying to understand Lily’s words on his pad, and listening to what she was saying now, he knew that she too was possessed by one of those invisible monsters. He looked up at her, and he could almost see the monster inside her head, possessing her personality and working her mouth.
He stood up, placed his shopping basket over his arm and made his way round to the back of Lily’s easy chair. He could still hear her words, which now sounded like mockery, as though the monster in her head were making her mock him—as that other woman who had made comments about transvestites had done. He told her not to worry—he was helping her; he would soon stop them; he knew what to do now——
Lily was sitting with her hands in her lap, smiling proudly and saying, ‘Oh, I am impressed, Peter; you’re so clever now.’
He stood behind her chair, looking down at the back of her head. He could feel the presence of that monster inside that had possessed her, and also all those wrong ideas that were the seeds of yet more and more of these monsters; he could clearly feel all this down there in her head. He reached into the basket and gripped the handle of the hatchet, telling that mocking voice that he knew what to do now—It’s okay; don’t worry. He raised the hatchet above his head, and his hand was now trembling so much that he could hardly hold the hatchet any longer, and he was sure he was about to drop it, but he knew he was about to experience a tremendous release, if only he could keep defying those monsters for a moment longer, only seconds now. He felt his whole body climbing into place up there above him, and just when that weapon had become so heavy that he was sure he could not go on holding it any more, his hand then became steady, rock steady, and the hatchet wedged down into the head, again and again and again.
While this release was taking place, a single thought entered his mind; he saw himself transforming into a malicious dark mist and then engulfing Sally; he could see himself—in the form of this mist—pouring all over her, and he could see the horror in her face as he attacked her again and again and again from inside this mist. But he could not let this happen (—They’re trying to make me behave like them; but I won’t let them; I have to find the seeds before these monsters can make me——), and then he thought he could see the seeds and he started spooning them out with the hatchet’s blade (—Get them out! all of them—stop this horror; you won’t do it again; I have to stop you—it shouldn’t be like this—get them out! out——).
He wiped the hatchet clean on the back of the easy chair and made his way to the kitchen. In there, he saw the back of the second head as the other person stood against the sink. He could hear a woman humming, and also the sound of metal clanking against china. He raised his trembling hand above his head again, and he found that this was so much easier now—now that he knew what that release felt like, and also that he was doing the right thing. Then the hatchet wedged down into this other head, and he tumbled with the head to his knees as the body fell to the floor. He bent over it and continued wedging down into the head, digging for those seeds (—Get them out—stop this horror; it’s wrong! You won’t do it again; I’ll stop you—there they are!—out! get them out! out! out!).


Fiction and nonfiction by Fletcher Kovich and also classic writers.


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