An Ephemeral Twilight: The Darkness

Ephemeral 5

This is Part 2 of a short story I posted on here a week ago (*does Bobby Shmurda’s dance*). Click on this to read it: An Ephemeral Twilight: The Light

For Miss Agbo, and the bliss of ignorance.

He woke up naked in the sand, his squint slowly drawing his vision into focus. It was morning, dawn. He could tell from the grey darkness around him, the feel of sea breeze on his skin, the bus conductor’s call travelling from some distance behind him, “Tema New Station! Tema New Station”. He drew his knees to his stomach and stared out at the waves, his brain working later than his eyes in telling him where exactly he was.

“Penny…”

He sat there for some time, his stare firm and concentrated, trying to fix the puzzle pieces of his night into a whole. This was a first, an exciting first. With a grunt, he got up to his feet and searched round for his clothes, silently praying the tide had not come for them in his sleep. He found them dangerously close to the shore, folded into a bundle, his car key sticking out of a trouser pocket. Far enough to avoid being swept away, but not enough to avoid getting wet. He put them on, his trousers first, a pain in his back forcing him to slide his legs in slowly.  He had slept the wrong way, the pain in his back and neck would stay for at least a week he reckoned. The water came up to the space where he stood, tickling the insides of his toes. With his shirt half way over his head, he drew his head back and laughed, a loud, throaty one that rung inside his aching head far after the “joke” had passed.

He was doing what best he could to dust the sand off his trousers when he noticed it, what at first looked like a pink board, floating on the surface of the water. He drew closer, his hearts rate increasing with every memory of Penny from the night before. He remembered her, sitting in the passenger’s seat, holding his hand to her chest, to her pink blouse.

He did not notice how far he had travelled till the water was up to his waist.

“Penny!”

He dove in and swam.

Moments passed and the sea continued as it had; crashing into itself, a momentary wave fizzing out as suddenly as it had sprung up, lying rowdy and invitingly crystal under the glittering glow of a sunrise. The boy rose up from underneath the water like puss from an infected keloid, disturbing the serenity of the vision with violent throws of his arms as he gasped for breath. With frantic strokes, he swam back to shore, a pink, tattered blouse in his hands.

He stared at what he held for a brief second, then run up the sand hill unto the main street where he had parked the car.

The morning was slowly settling in: across the road a man dressed in a cheap suit and a large tie chased after a bus, a school boy holding a younger girls hand crossed the road, a water bottle around his neck. The little girl stared at him, a thumb in her mouth, even as the boy who looked to be her big brother yanked at her other hand so she would move faster. She said something to him, hurrying to catch his pace. The boy turned and looked the strange man over disinterestedly, continuing his brisk walk to wherever they were going.

Dejectedly, he opened the drivers door and looked around for his phone.

It was on the third ring that he figured out where the vibration was coming from. Penny’s phone lay face-down between the passenger’s seat and the shift controls.

“Oh God, Oh God this is not happening, no, No!”

*******

His clothes had dried up by afternoon; doing little however to change the unkempt vision of him. He had sand in his hair, on his face, and forearms. He sat barefoot on top of a large rock overlooking the east end of the sea, flicking stones at the endless nothingness of blue water. In the beginning, he had decided to ask people, those living and selling in small shacks and containers along the main road, whether they had seen a girl, any girl, coming up from the seashore; but then he had changed his mind. Perhaps it was best if he kept this to himself. In the heat of the sun his blank face hid well the hurricane inside of his mind. The ominous whirl of action, repercussion and conscience, spinning and spinning in blind rage: at God, at himself, at Penny.

All morning through to afternoon, when a kenkey seller had come in a taxi to set up store next to his car, eyeing it with no small amount of contempt, he had been swimming, searching for any semblance of her. The insides of his palms had caked up into a wrinkled mess of tangled strings, his skin itched and burnt from his sores and scratches, worsened ten times over by salt water. Maybe this was the wrong move, looking for her. People had stopped to look at him, the kenkey vendors customers, passersby, lovers taking strolls along the seashore. Perhaps he was wrong for letting people see him.

He got up and started a slow walk towards the other end of the shore, his head turned sideways in case he saw anything. Maybe it was as he had thought in the beginning when he first woke up, maybe she had just woken up earlier and left…but without a top? In the passions of the night before, when he had slipped his hands inside to feel the nipples of her chest, he had discovered, and sweetly then, that she had no brassier on. Could she have left without a top? But what if she really had drowned, the water carrying her into its bottom, what could he possibly do now that he hadn’t already? Invite other people to help him search? But then they would know he was the last person with her. The police, the questions.

His head bowed, partly to hide his face from the prying eyes of vendors and customers who with the day had arrived with hasty business, and partly because of shame, he pulled out the key from inside his pocket, opened the car and with jittery fingers, started the engine.

The entire trip, he listened to the vibrations of her phone against the passenger seat, plotting. He counted 6 phone calls in the stretch between his journey. He found the actual number to be 23 once he got to the hostel. From her mother, father, an Uncle Daniel and some other unidentifiable numbers.

*******

Muniru’s sleep was interrupted by a loud banging. It startled him awake, so that he was confused and flustered when he unlocked the small gate. He knew it was one of the residents, but he could barely make the face out in the darkness. The boy passed him by without a greeting and walked out. He fell back into his small chair and back to sleep.

Still in the clothes from the night before, his eyes hollowed from troubled sleep, arms, legs and clothes dirty still, he stepped back from the growing fire. An owl hooted somewhere beyond the trees, night sounds, of crickets and hissing things filled the air around him. Carefully, as if uncertain still, that he was truly alone, he took off his clothes, throwing them into the fire as they came off. He changed into the cleaner ones he had brought along.

The flames danced; flickering orange, and he stared; his eyes fixed squarely on its blaze. With a sigh, he took one last look at Pennys phone, and threw it into the flames.

Inside my fears, your voice is loudest,

Shouting do not be afraid, as Lucifer would to the corrupted,

Do you not see? that you are the reason,

I have the shakes in near deaths and I cry,

That I will never hear its pitch again, and I will watch from heaven,

As you sing without me.

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