The night before an exam, you pace with a sheaf of underlined, folded, coloured up papers. Up and down, up down, your shadow flutters from your room (a solitary lightbox in the otherwise dark house).
At our dining table outside, my elbows smudge two uneven, concentric circles into(more) the glass. I am as wired up, fired up as you are, but for different reasons.
The table shakes. The fan overhead sways. Your door stays shut, shadow fluttering up and down, up and down.
"Earthquake.", I update my status on that insipid networking site. At this time of night, it is teeming with fellow internet-addicted insomniacs. A place we go to to exchange a litany of thoughts about our uneventful lives. To send out more useless bits and bytes into the www.
And then the slight shivering of the world is gone, and my cheek finds its place on the cool glass of the table (smudge #3), and all is well with the world until the door flies open and my mother rushes out, wide-eyed and mid-sleep and with the kind of urgency that only mothers can muster in the middle of the night.
"Earthquake! Outside! Now!", she shoos you and me downstairs.
And then we are down in the giant lawn we share with the rest of the colony. All the kids are in their pyjamas enjoying the nighttime show and some of the women are in their nighties covering their half-exposed breasts and the dads just look as nonplussed and dazed as dads do when you pull them out of bed on a weekday night.
And I just think: this is the way to face the end of the world. With friends and people you love, and your toes tickled by summer grass. Yes, this feels right.(less)
Down in the cafeteria of Mondeléz International, two hundred employees mill around, eating lunch. The room is large, and the glass walls and glass ceiling run high. The sun shines through brilliantly. Conversation between the employees is stiff and awkward, with even the best of work frien(more)ds understanding that their relationship exists solely on the fact that they make money in such a close proximity to one another. The special today is meatball sandwiches.
Away from the cafeteria, in a hallway on the same floor, a man wearing a loosely fitted suit shuffles along uncomfortably, weighed down.
Jack is sitting by himself, reading over yesterday's newspaper. He strokes a hand through lightning blond hair as he tries to figure out the crossword. He is working on a tupperware of soup that Jaime packed for him. His dark blue eyes look over seventeen down for the third time. Six letter word for fear. Jack's mind is still stuck on the mornings work. He can't think.
The man in the loosely fitted suit shuffles into the cafeteria. No one notices him. Few people can recognize the devil, even when the devil is in the same room.
Jack looks up, closes his eyes, and lets the brilliant sun shine over his pale, freckled skin. He thinks about Jaime. He thinks about the mornings work. He thinks about a six letter word for fear.
The man with the loosely fitted suit stops right in the middle of the room. He looks around, thinking nothing of all the life.
I scoop them off the floor and keep them in a cupped hand while my girlfriend stands on a chair.
"It's more afraid of you, than you are of it," I say, and put the spider down in the hedge belo(more)w our window.
She laughs weakly, "I think you're underestimating how scared I am."
But I think of the spider trembling in my hand and how its hairy legs twitched.
I am not afraid of heights.
On a school trip my friend Jess and I were the first to abseil down a tower. I looked at our twin sets of legs, perpendicular to the wall as we walked down, guided by ropes.
We were glad to go first; we wanted to show the boys, who had thusted their hands up with bravado: pick me, I'll go first.
Neither of us looked down.
It comes sometimes. Without warning. An uninvited house guest, an unexpected bill, the sudden thunderclap of a storm.
In the cinema once. The adverts were building to a crescendo; each one booming out, hitting me in the solar plexus. My chest was tight. I squirmed the way you do when you're being strangled; how your body thrashes against the hand on your throat; how, dumb, despite itself it works to save you.
People were munching on popcorn, like cows chewing at the cud. They slurped their drinks. Didn't they know we were in trouble?
"Are you alright?" my girlfriend asked and the lights went dim.
I looked at the exit signs, glowing green in the gloom. I imagined the impossibility of escape; pushing past the filled seats (excuse me), knocking into people's knees (sorry), spilling drinks, tubs of popcorn, tripping on the darkened steps.
He panics the first time they take him aside to reprimand him.
"Where were you when we were doing group prayer? Christian said he had to lead the cabin to pray out the storm because you had disappeared after lunch."
"I'd been deliverin' their letter, sir," he replies, h(more)is accent slipping through more heavily from his stress, "I was trapped in the office a'cause'a the blizzard. It wasn't safe--"
"No excuses," Director Smith spits, his words punctuated and harsh. "You should have tried for the children. God would have protected you from His storm because you are His devoted follower." Smith's eyes narrow at him. "Aren't you?"
"Yes, sir, yes I am," he replies, quickly--too quickly. He's shaking all over and covered in a cold sweat. His pupils are nearly gone and he's almost bent double trying to hide himself.
"I suppose we need to whip it into you," Smith says through grit teeth, grabbing his arm and dragging him out to the middle of the campgrounds. The Director shoves him against the announcement pole and zip ties his wrists tightly, so his arms are around the pole. He strains against them to no avail. Director Smith grabs the loudspeaker's input end and announces to the camp: "Everybody come out to the field to see what happens to sinners who don't trust God."
A crowd gathers and he hardly notices. He's consumed by the shaking coursing through him and the tears running down his eyes. As soon as they pull up the back of his shirt, he knows what's happening. When the first drops of his blood fall on the snow, he doesn't feel it. Something else screams obscenities and blasphemies in a voice far removed from his own.
They whip him twenty five times, then leave him. (less)
On a desert road a car can be seen travelling at a modest speed. Every layer of dust it approaches lifts aside and leaves an honor guard of smokey earth in its wake. When nothing else passes the honor guard of dust disappears and lays down to wait for the next(more) traveller. The car leaves a trail for all the creatures flying overhead to see. They watch it closely, as there is nothing else to watch.
Inside the car, a young girl of seven is sitting in the back seat looking into the eye's of the doll that she holds softly; her hands do not yet have the strength for any other kind of grip. She calls this doll Mwayna and it reminds her of her mother, who she is on her way to see. Her brother, who is driving, is taking her there. She is surrounded by two men who have rifles laid on their lap's and have their head's wrapped in thick cloth, all you can see are their eyes. They are soulless eyes, as distant and lifeless as the innocent people the men have relieved of life in their recent attack. The girl knows no different, she has no care for the complications of the world around her, she only cares for Mwayna.
Overhead, a machine is stalking. It has been following the car for some time and it finally decides the time is now. It's belly opens and releases a child-like version of itself which hurtles towards the car at great speed. It will not stop until it hits the car. The vultures are en route. The child strokes Mwanya for the last time. She will never get to see her mother. She is regrettable they tell us, but the world will be a safer place. (less)