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 (This story is based on actual events, but names have been changed to protect the identities of the participants)

PART ONE

Steve strides briskly along the rutted tarmac towards home, a faint crescent moon attending his progress. The moon’s wan glow highlights the regnant act of power once again imperiously enacted by the power distribution company – which label works out mostly as a legal fiction for power hoarding (and unconscionable extortion). But that is the least of Steve’s concerns at the moment. It is a minor irritation that he and his countrymen have learned to live with. Or without, as the case might be.

But this night, he is late. Very late.

Later even than is usual for him, and the weak silver light distilled from the pale orb above affects to reproach his tardiness; the little euphoria earlier gleaned from the bonny company he kept till about three-fourths of an hour ago seemingly shrivels in its ineffectual beam.

It is wanting a few minutes for the clock to strike eleven. Not that any clock in his immediate vicinity will. But the internal one that kicks in in times of emergency is hammering away stridently, drowning out even his now-amplified heartbeat. He usually is ensconced in his favourite corner by this time, taking in his favourite cable TV programme, though he rarely gets home earlier than ten. Or engaging the world from his AndroidTM mobile phone via diverse social media platforms, if the power was out.

Mum has given up on what she terms his “late night wanderings” and his after-hours ingresses scarcely draw any comments at all these days. But he is prepared to swear by the tiny tufts of beard adorning his lower jaw that verbal rockets will surely dog the trail of the new personal record of lateness he is now setting. He is hoping, however, to be spared the chili con carne of running into the neighbourhood vigilante on top of it. It isn’t a very nice prospect to even contemplate. This thought of the termagant neighbourhood vigilante infuses new strength into his already cramping calves and spurs him to an even quicker cadence of march.

Steve turns the corner into a back lane that shortens, by about three or four minutes, his homeward tramp, and finds himself in a veritable sea of vegetation.

All weed. To his waist, thereabouts.

What waste, he thinks, for such a fertile patch to sprout nothing but weed.

The leaves still hold the moisture bestowed by the precipitation received earlier that evening, and this lingering wetness seeps through the legs of his pants, deepening his sensation of wading through a pool. The leaves caress Steve’s calves on rebound after their supporting stalk has bowed, as if obliging, out of his path at his shin’s prod. He thus strangely enjoys his progress through this romancing pool. Who knew such a patch of waste could hold such magic, he thinks. He holds himself at alert however, for this delightful patch is known to harbour also, a not-so-congenial specie of reptiles, supposed to stalk abroad at this very hour in search of victuals. They are reputed to particularly to relish tasty human veal in salsa sangre caliente! He shudders involuntarily at the thought of parting with some of his blood to ravish the palate of some slimy bugger. And to be paid in a toxic coin for the service!

Just then the moon slips behind a cloud.

Human vision is turned off.

And the world is plunged into inky blackness that settles with the feathery lightness of a velveteen shroud.

(To BE CONTINUED)

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