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Tempest || by Nwabuisi Kenneth


THE SUN IS HARSH on the skin, blistering even. The waves quell its hotness. By the shore, the ground is lukewarm, save for the splash of water trundling and reshuffling the imprints of feet of passengers boarding the ship. Some, in two’s holding hands, others alone, folding their hands against their chests as they reach the railings and climb aboard.
     The boy: a pair of looped fingers and trembling chest. He is unsure of boarding the ship: DH 1546, heading southward. His eyes bulk a flow of streaming tears dropping off him uncontrollably and his last tear scavenged a hole deep by the seashore; he walked past it before the waters erase every trace of it. In case you don’t know, a boy is a body of deeply hurt wails; he is maligned to the bones and becomes a walking sober. Phlegm forms biting mucus in his nostrils; it becomes water, he draws it in. It’s at that moment that he realizes he has just swallowed the obnoxiousness of the previous night and has gotten on board to the voyage.
     He walks the length of the ship, on the floor; his eyes catch a loop of intertwined rope hanging taut over pieces of lifesaver bearing bright orange foils, and beside them are buckets which contain puddles of water; then it occurs to him it had rained the night before, his head buried on his pillow, his mother’s words threatening havoc over the insipidity of his mind. Now, his shoes thud on the paddler as he seeks for solitude at the far east-side of the ship; the whirling storm tumbles the waters and silence reigns after every of his footsteps. The sounds of people’s feet hitting on the staircase as they glide through the ship seem distant to him. He stops, his shadow standing motionless by the railings which barricade him from falling into flowing waters.
     The waters glint, its rays reflecting on his face, thanks to the rising sun from the east. His eyes squint as he drifts it further to the piles of houses which lie like exoskeletons, and their roofs standing in descending hierarchies. At the farther end, the church-bell of St. Dominic’s church, where he was supposed to have stood at its podium the previous day, saying ‘I do’ to a wrong bride, remains visible. Close to the church bell tower is a flapping image of a tall wavering coconut tree and under it is a canoe and its paddock, conveying passengers across waters. A flag, hoisted by the booking office few meters from the shores where he walked up from, furls and unfurls like the feathers of a mating bird; aside the flag are the dotted figures of people coming to pay for flights and booking tickets.
     By the shore, on the walkway, the wind whistles the colourful tones of a passenger’s attire to him; and in them he sees the world as a whirlwind of colours: yellow is the colour of her strapless gown, tight on the knees. Black is the colour of her shoes, raised at its heels, her hair snarling up and spiking by the traitorous wind. Pink is the colour of the blanket draped over her shoulders and also the colour of a blush streaked on her raised cheek right beneath her eyes.
     He sees her and the depressed state of his mind over colours, once more, gets lightened up. The dour mood of his previous years gets lost in her world of colours. Her brown eyeballs pierce the shadows underneath his eyes. In this moment when nothing else moving seems important, he just stares like a long lost zombie. She becomes a mirror through which he, himself is a reflection so adoring and attractive. He notices a white bird perching by the railing, preening its feathers in a slow motion; each movement seems to be measured by nanoseconds which in-turn rhymes with every of her body movements. She presses her right palm by the railing. The bird flaps its feathers and flies away; her height diminishes. He realizes she just missed her step and hit her right foot by the staircase, at that moment he realizes that just like him, she has been lost in his stares, and he in hers too.
     “Watch it, baby girl,” a voice instructs.
     She nods and limps her way through while casting furtive glances over his direction.
     At night, the moon which has just got out on the sky is chased into the clouds by a tremulous wind. The water is a washed-out grey; the surface ripples like a wave. Every surface of the water trembles, a sound like a thistle goes aloof the humid air.
     “Welcome everyone to the voyage of the flight DH 1546. While we bring you the services of Domina Hola to ensure your safe conveyance, we plead you remain faithful to us as always and confide in us with any irregularities discovered upon this voyage," a mechanical voice declares from inside the ship, micro-phones rung over its edges to amplify it. Insects which have built a crevice on its coils scuttle away, colliding with the fireflies floundering off the floral lampshades mounted at each extreme, beside the microphones.
     A sound of thunder, like a piece of furniture being dragged across the sky, resonates. The ship sails.
     Inside, a dinner table is set over the conference table for the VIP’s. Mr. Engstrand with a seeming overgrown moustache sits amongst two other tuxedo suited men. Mr. Engstrand takes a swig from a smoking pipe fixed in-between his fingers and sends it away through his thick lips; his eyes turn red, his nostril flutters. Wisps of smoke ambles out in varying shapes; they dangle out and form shapes like the backs of skillful dancers on a stage.
     A habitual act of drinking and smoking had led Engstrand to crushing the head of one of his wives in a bath tub and flushing it down the toilet. The way his nostril quivers in quick hot breath, a cerebrum paving greater way so that you could see his inner pores. It usually comes wide when he is angry, a part of himself shoving away so another inhuman side of him staves up.
     Quite in his late thirties, but his high-handedness can’t let him form a meaningful union. Just as caring as he comes, he withers away in annoyance like scrunched leaves, and through the works of his hand damages the affection he has made his spouse feel all the years of their initial courtship. Right now, his present object of attention is Lola Greene; our girl, the possessor of all relevant colours. Lola is a graduate of Milverton High School. As fun as Engstrand can be, he promises to take her the whole wide world. On the night of her graduation day, he set up an inner décor company for her and just in time with her graduation from artistry department in school. 
     Lola is his girl, our girl, precious girl. Just yesterday, he slapped her. She went to look the mark his fingers left on her cheeks in a mirror and wept bitterly. Upon waking up today morning he apologized; "it won’t happen again," he said. Their voyage is to Miami beach to soothe her annoyance. They drove from their house in Texas to Florida, and before they made the turn into her mother’s place to pick her, he held her neck tight, beside the concealment of his tinted glass, the scent of his wafting cannabis all over the car.
     “Do not breathe any word of what just happened to your mother, you get me?” He instructed, his nostril flailed in anger. He let go of his grip and refracted to being dotting. Lola’s eyeballs turned a fraction of growing pains to be concealed; under the cloak of her powdered face were the beastly fingers of Engstrand’s making traces that could never be wiped.
     The door to the exclusive room opens, Lola walks in with her mother, and the wine glasses clink. The height of smoke builds shapes around the wall edges. Lola sits beside her mother, Mrs. Greene. Mrs. Greene, almost same age as Engstrand, is an advocate for the women’s right in politics. She engages in a grammar tussle with Engstrand and his cohorts about politics. Lola sits there in isolation; she wonders how even well informed her mother seems. She can’t read the simplest trace of sadness in her eyes. It hurt her that the first make-up she’d made that evening soiled the yellow gown she wore and her mother was so freaking naïve to notice; to have noticed how sad she is.
     As she wonders, in the midst of political jargons comparing the terrific reign of Donald trump and the libertarian leadership of Barrack Obama and even the nature of advocacy popular with the rulership of Queen Elizabeth, Lola’s tear drips inside her glass cup before her; she alone notices. She wipes the line first with a handkerchief and walks away with her glass cup saying, “I need to use the restroom.”
     The room occupants who are oblivious of her excuse go on rambling. An authentic air whoops her face as she closes the door lightly. Her tears fall profusely by the corridor. She saunters into the tent where non-VIP’s are seeing a staged play hosted by the middle class. She waits by the door for a while before she thinks for a brief moment that she doesn’t belong here; a raging tempest within her brews a thunderstorm. The flood of lighting from the stage cast her dejected shadow as she turns to the entrance, to the rear door which leads out of the ship.
     It is in the same direction where his gaze collided with hers earlier. His head now bubbles in shadows by the glistening lampshade at the east-side of the ship. She walks out; the sound of seagulls cackling in the ocean. A gust of wind sweeps through her; the thousand glints of fireflies astride the waters and the lampshade now casts his image familiar; it is him, not any of the warders, not a wayfarer who has snuck up with them. It is him draped in a black overall coat standing by the edge where no one else would ever think of staying. She stops few inches away from him; her heart skips as he turns owing to her stealthy footsteps. She drops her glass seeing his distant face now near. Just like he’d done with her earlier, she decrypts every line of his face and masters its curvature; the perfect straightness of his nose, its simple curve at the bridge of it; the deft slant of his eyelids. His mouth, the small roundedness of it forming lips so sensuous, all sitting in a very dainty head. For a moment, she thinks she hasn’t seen a man so beautiful, not even her domineering suitor and his aquiline nostrils, thick shapeless lips and square head.
     “Oh! Sorry," he says.
     “Sure.” She trembles. For some unknown reason, her palms doesn’t want to drop at a steady stance.  
     Earlier on, his mouth had yearned for speeches within him, and at this very close point, in which he has no architect for or any disapprobation, he realizes he has absolutely nothing to say to her. A surge of words leak through him, loitering about his chest; even a single, connecting sentence seems impossible. They stand there, waiting. None of them has anything to say, but through their eyes, their spirits, a whole connection undergoes a serious fission, cemented deeply by nothing other than the trembling of their hearts.
     Another sound like a roaring bull thunders, but it doesn’t matter now. In this exchange, nothing matters, the splinters of lightening over the blue sky, the sound of the wind breaking through the oasis, the tremulous switch of the ship’s direction. No, nothing matters.
     “I’m Lola Greene,” she says when she finds out he’s as awkward as she is.
     “I-I'm Javier,” he stammers. Words begin to form yet again within him.
     “I don’t know for you, but we— I am on my way to Miami.” She finds herself stuttering in-between acknowledging the fact that she’s with a beast on this journey.
     A heavy thunder growls. Tiny drops of rainfall on their skin. Inside the water, the sea ripples of the tiny droplets. Together, they watch the ocean tremble as though a group of frenetic insects have been hurled into the water. The searchlights revolve, a sound like a raging storm under the foot of the ship; the ship shifts direction and goes out of stance. The light at the far end keeps fluttering; a lampshade probably has caught liquid. At the rider’s beat, his hands clutch the steering, energetically pivoting the direction of the ship against the storm. Two telephones placed beside him are chiming away, the seat close to him is empty, and his assistant has gone to inform the warders of the impending shipwreck.
     “Voyage DH 1546: Special announcement: Passengers outside, get back on board. At present, we’re experiencing a threatening weather condition. Every passenger, get on board. Warning, get back…” The warder’s voice tears through the dark nights.
     The boy and the girl, lost in the magical fun of the atmosphere, their balance unsteady, the thaw of rainfall on their skin, drenching them to the bones. Now they feel like little children dancing by the rain while it threatens havoc. They giggle and laugh in this moment; the sounds of thunder make them oblivious of the warning. Every saddened, lost person feels new in the presence of a stranger. For her, he has the consoling arms of a worthy youth, innocent, beautiful in every way. For him she is a blend of his favourite colours, an object worthy to seize his overwhelming gaze.
     Shadows emerge by the rear door. 
     “Lola! Lola!!” Mrs. Greene howls. Everything makes it impossible for her to be heard: the waters, the waves, the whistling down the roaring storm. Her palm clutches the door frame. The first light goes off, then the next, ship DH 1546 loses its balance, the intertwined rope Javier saw earlier slides into water and catches the railings, the buckets chase deep down the sea and after a while comes afloat, sinking on the surface of the water.
     The ship capsizes and blood form puddles, gushing down the waters, painting it a tincture of red.





Image Credit: Ivan Aivazovsky, WikiArt


MEET THE AUTHOR:

NWABUISI KENNETH is a writer and reader. He writes from deep within, to mend the internal broken nature of man. Ken got his B.A in English and literary studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He has works of fiction in online magazines and anthologies such as Kalahari Review, Libretto Magazine, Conscio Magazine, Boys Are Not Stones Anthology, Rape Rages 2019, and elsewhere. You can reach him via WhatsApp +2347015002556 or email at nwabuisikenneth081@gmail.com. He daydreams each time he is not reading or writing fiction.

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