He lived on a combination of grass, chocolate bars and maize based, pea flavoured snacks. Instead of water, he drank sarsaparilla – and by the gallon. His main past time was taking himself on tours of the town that he grew up in. In a strange, regressive ritual he liked to bludgeon his psyche with scenes of his greatest failures. It was in this town that he met with the shadows of a past that was filled with regret, inadequacy and despair.
He parked his car in a country road and prayed that there were no people around. He opened the boot of the car and took out his rucksack, undid the zip and pulled out the wash bag. There were the sounds of birds and, in the distance, what were probably Sunday walkers with bellies full of beer and roast dinner. He got a strong feeling that he wasn’t being watched. Then he sprayed himself with aftershave to give the illusion that he was washed and groomed. His hair, though, betrayed the fact that he’d obviously risen early; startled by some event or other that he could neither explain nor recall.
The world is swelling with a sort of psychic pollution, he thought. This pollution fights for space in my head. Even the seemingly empty air feels crammed with a high level of tension; as though it’s stretched tight and ready to tear, allowing goodness knows what kinds of demons and chimera to step through and reek havoc. War is on the lips of the Gods.
He wanted to say that he’d put in a good showing. She was pretty and her heart sang softly through her battle dress. He wanted to be there, in the second, by the rivers of time unfolding. But his phone kept beeping with news from the front. And the news was bad. The heart was taking a severe beating and it looked as though sanity had had to retreat to less open terrain.
And he drove her home.
I’ll tell the kids you said hello and that you’ll see them soon, she said smiling.
And he nodded, eyes lost in the night. Just before she closed the car door the phone went off again.
He wondered whether she’d heard it and looked through the rear view mirror to see if he could get a glimpse of her face.
But there was nothing there except exhaust fumes, freezing rain and smears of orange and red light; fire, frozen in hell.