CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
I was taken aback, since no-one had ever delved so deeply into my mind, which had previously always been a private place. I was not sure what was expected of me but her question seemed to demand a reply. Not wanting to mention anything I should not—things, for instance, that perhaps my primary school teacher might frown upon—I told her she had a pleasing personality, at which point her personality transformed. She took the oar from me and tossed it into the lake, saying, “So, that’s what you think of me, is it!”
When the oar hit the surface of the lake I thought it threw up, what seemed like, congealed lumps of black water which landed in the boat, but when I looked more closely I noticed the lumps were alive and thrashing about. I lifted my feet clear of them and told her, “Well, it’s true; and also, you’ve always seemed most considerate.”
She took the other oar and tossed it over the side, sending more of those black lumps of living matter flying into the boat as she told me, “If only I’d known! I suspected something was wrong.”
The boat drifted on the barely perceptible current for a full eight years, all the time my body becoming ever more infested with those black fish-things which kept leaping from the water, landing in the boat and somehow finding shelter beneath my skin. I could not move without three or four of them stirring into action and testing the integrity of my skin as they did so, as a repeatedly opened wound is tested by the probing of a surgeon’s knife. Finally, it seemed my skin was no longer able to protect me from the world’s scrutiny, and yet still the woman kept beating me with my own words. I learnt to say nothing, which silence then became the club she would use to probe my wounds even more deeply with.
One day the boat came to rest on the shore and I ran for cover. I did not look behind me for two whole days, in which time the garden became a desert. My mouth was dry and as I continued to run—and my run gradually became a walk—I could feel those fish-things drying and falling from my skin, which, as the days and weeks went by, healed under the warm glow of the sun.
At the age of forty-two, I came upon a train carriage in the desert and I stumbled into it. It soon began to move. There was a feeling of inevitability about its motion, as though its passengers had no opinions of any value and would travel in whatever direction the train took them in. I noticed a group of people gathered around a table, watching the lighted candles on a birthday cake.
“Is this for me?” I said, amazed. I could not help it—the sight of that cake transported me to a period prior to when that first exam paper was placed on my primary school desk. Strange though it seems, I felt like skipping with glee. I watched a young child blow out the candles and then, as he looked up to me and said, “Thank you, daddy,” my heart sank.
I sat on a seat and watched the world pass by. I had no idea where the train was taking me. At the next stop, I got off and was in the garden again. I wandered its paths, looking for a haven for my troubled mind. A sign above a potting shed read “Place of Peace”. I, of course, entered. I sat in a deck chair, for I was tired after my journey.
In the first two minutes of my occupancy, I listened to the sounds from outside diminishing, as though they were retreating from me. All that was then left was silence, which I listened to like I had listened to no other sound in my life. The silence seemed to engulf me—as the darkness of a moonless night in the wilderness might. And out of that wilderness I then heard approaching footsteps. They entered the potting shed and a man’s voice asked, “Are you sitting comfortably?”
“Ridiculous!”
“Of course it is, of course. Sack the lot of them; that’s what I say; let Miss Volcano‑gob have a go!”
Primrose’s mouth hung open.
Thomas said, “She was gangbanged, you know.”
Primrose’s mouth closed. As the others looked on, she appeared to be standing on a boat whose sails had collapsed about her. In the next instant, they could almost visibly see her fumbling about on the deck, trying to re‑erect its defective sails. Sally and Francis looked on with their brows knitting frenziedly while Roland’s mouth—like the movement of a shark’s fin gliding eagerly through the water—slowly formed into an ever bigger smirk at the sight of her difficulty.
She got her boat’s sails back up again and resumed her attack, waving her weapon at Roland even more ferociously, “Five thousand names. They all agree, five thousand!—you’re all incompetent. So, just what are you doing about this?—five weeks, you’ve had—five weeks, and there’s still a mass murderer loose.”
Roland puffed up his plumage again, opened his mouth and was about to respond when Thomas said, “She was married to a mass murderer—or so they said.”
Primrose turned to Thomas and snapped, “What do you think you’re doing?”
Thomas snapped back at Primrose, “Her!”
Francis shouted, “What—?”
Thomas shouted, “Her! her!—who do you think I mean?”
Primrose shouted, “What—?”
Thomas said, as if to no‑one in particular, “—Doesn’t know what she’s saying; she’ll say anything—she’ll even say she fancies cripples—” he looked round at everyone, his facial expression instructing them about just how disgusting this was, “—cripples!—you can’t believe a thing. And she even thinks she’s a bat—ha! what did I tell you?—a bat!”

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