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64 CREATIVE


Richard Sage Norman Duality


The drought had continued for three weeks now and the land, hard and dry, had already become even more barren over the last few days. The only place where the green hint of life was still clutching the world was in the riverbeds. Dried up months ago, they ran like black scars all heading for the damp, muddy spot which once was a lake.


A once beautiful city stood shimmering on the other side of this lake. In the past, its reflection had glistened in clear water, disturbed only by the harmless fun of young men and women rowing across to the grassy island in the middle. Men would see them, working from the air-conditioned safety of their office blocks and fondly remember the time when they had so enjoyed the water, pondering the eternal tradition of the young spending their summers on the lake.


One lone vulture flew low over the desolate landscape looking for food. Swooping on the rising air currents, it finally settled on one of the only trees still standing. A branch, creaking slightly under the vulture’s weight, came to rest, as its claws tightly gripped the bleached wood. It had chosen this tree in order to watch the man limping slowly along the dusty road, waiting for his collapse, when finally the ragged vulture would have something to eat again. The man, however, had other plans, for a moment at least; he stubbornly continued to walk, looking straight ahead so as not to see the bird which would eventually dine on his body.


The walk around the lake bed was lengthy and the sun was low in the west as he came to the outskirts of the city.


He slowed, tired after a day of travelling and curious to look at the buildings which he would probably never see again. The buildings, he vaguely recalled, had been mostly white and built to impress: tall and new, covered almost entirely in tinted glass to reflect the heat of midday. But, as in studying the shed skins of a snake, by looking at the buildings one could only surmise what kind of city it had been there before.


He looked at the dead trees as he arrived at a park and slowly pushed open the rusting gate, his feet shuffling along the cracked, concrete path before he decided to stop to rest on a park bench. A ball lay hidden in the yellowing grass; deflated after years of neglect, it wobbled as a gust of wind wafted past. A dried up pond in the centre of the park, where geese would come to spend the cold winter of the north, was now as empty as everything else in the city.


The man heard something. A sound, which was echoing off the sides of the buildings, came at last to his ears. He turned around and squinted, trying to find the cause of the sound over the hustle and bustle of the city that bounced inside his head.


The car horns were honking and beeping in the regular rush hour traffic, children were giggling and mothers were gossiping in the park together. A man unhurriedly was turning the pages of a newspaper as he sat next to him on the bench, once shiny and varnished, unlike the rough, dirt ingrained and rotting wood it had become. But none of that was real; the only real sound was the creaking of a corroded swing moving in the wind. And another, the one he had heard earlier and now realized was the sound of part of a building collapsing under its own weight following years of erosion.


After blinking in the light of the setting sun, he went back into the park and built a makeshift fire. He lay down on the bench to sleep; the man with the newspaper had gone. As the sky darkened and the day became night, everything outside his bubble of heat and light became black; he could have been anywhere.


Imagining himself sleeping on a park bench in the middle of a populated city made him feel a little less lonely and with that thought he drifted into an undisturbed slumber.


Oliver Dann


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