Isolated Malignancy

With only a few hours to spare, I rushed to make the deadline on 30 April for the SA Writers College Short Story Competition! The 2016 theme, “The Gift”, saw hundreds of writers enter, and today they published their shortlist. Unfortunately my entry did not make the shortlist, BUT this now gives me an opportunity to share my entry, Isolated Malignancy, with YOU! I’ve been wanting to share this on my blog since I clicked save! Here goes.

“Crushed by his anxiety, his mind ablaze, as he clawed at his head, desperate to rid himself of the unwanted rambling thoughts. His pores clogged up and engulfed by the putrid stench of sweat and urine as he stood, squinting into the bricks, blending in with the shadows as countless pedestrians rushed by, holding on for dear life as the South Easter robbed many of their dignity, exposing buttocks and thighs around each corner.

“Danny! Danny, are you listening to me!?”

“Be quiet. Shhh!”

“No. I won’t say a word. Not me, never!”

“Danny? Danny? Can you hear me?”

Jumping into the wall, startled as someone shoved against him, sprinting towards a minibus taxi, enraged by this disturbance of his chaotic solitude. With haste the voices need to be stilled as blood streamed from the wall onto the cold hard cement floor. Slamming his dirt stained and wrinkled forehead against the rough bricks of the twelve story building, numb to the pain, his red stained face continued to meet the brick wall with not so much as a flinch as flesh met stone.

“No more! No more! No more! No more . . .” He mumbled to himself as I sat in my corner, observing what has become a daily morning ritual as I listened to the buzz of the waking City. Cars hooting, hawkers setting up their stalls, taxi guards calling out profanities as they direct traffic from an open sliding door, half hanging off its hinges, forcing their way through the City Centre, a law unto themselves.

My mind adrift, I watched him as his violent head bashing slowly became a rhythmic rocking motion as he stilled the terror filled voices in his head. Blinking away as he struggled to see through the bloody tears as if the depths of the walls were calling to him.

I approached, only when I was certain that it was safe to do so. Reaching out with my grubby hand, gently nudging him. “Danny? Here you go.” Without turning to face me, he grabbed the day old cheeseburger that I scraped from the bottom of a bin, half eaten, a golden find on such a miserable day.

Watching Danny stuff the cheeseburger down his throat, my own demons haunting me. His uncontrolled trembling reminded me of my alcohol addiction, the loss of my family, my home and my identity. It vanished while staring into Johnnie Walker, the toxic thief who robbed me of my life. For many years they said a rehab would fix me, but after my fifth attempt I soon realised that is was impossible to fix something that wasn’t broken in the first place!

“Snap out of it!” I growled at myself as I emptied the box of cheap wine down my throat. Blurred vision and ringing in my ears, she drifted in and out of my thoughts, the woman who hit me over the head with my own whiskey bottle. My wife, the one I’m told I almost killed in a fit of alcohol induced rage. The woman who continued to stab me with my own whiskey bottle, in self-defence, leaving me in a pool of blood as she grabbed our kids and ran to the nearest police station . . . I woke up three days later, my head covered in bandages, and many stitches running down my neck and face. My memory of that night faded into a grey gloom as I accepted my fate.

Now, staring at Danny, I appreciate this life on the street. A life where we can blend into the shadows and become one with the litter filled gutters and urine stained streets. At night we sleep on a branded cardboard, as the rats nibble away at our feet. Reminding us that we are alive even though we no longer live. Mere shadows, waiting for our mortality to claim our flesh and bones.

Our memories, the gift that drives anonymity and friendship as I hold on to Danny. His dirty nails digging into my shoulder blades as he clings to me with all his might. An embrace that tells me that he’s never letting go as a familiar warmth makes its way down our legs, forming the all too familiar puddle of overpowering mess that we’ve become.

Rocking in chaotic silence, Danny calms the raging voices in my head as I pull out clumps of his brown hair in the hopes to still the darkness in his soul. My diagnoses of Disassociated Identity Disorder, my rocky road to freedom from a lifetime of regret as I continue to endure life on the streets. Danny, my only solitude in the chaos, silencing my demons as I wipe away the blood, blurring my vision as I step off the sidewalk and into the traffic, deafened by the hooting and screeching brakes as I stared down at Danny’s body, flattened by the 8 O’ Clock bus, as I hold on to the gift of eternity . . .”

Thank you for reading, I welcome your comments and tips on this piece 🙂