no longer an exclusively vicarious one.

Friday, January 28, 2005

English Ext2: majorwork: 2

Dawn on a dusty road. The sun slowly rising from the ashes of the previous day, here to give sustenance to a band of weary travellers. A convoy of what had once been gaily-coloured caravans, but which were now tattered and patched buckets of metal, creaking and shuddering as they made their dreary way through their dreary world. Only shades of brown remained to show for all the years of travel and endless journey. All the joy and the pain, the excitement of a new place and the grief at leaving what could have possibly become their home. All of these emotions and events, and what was there to show for it? A broken line of broken men, encased in a shield from the world, a shield that was now cracking. Once, the drivers and their families had been full of hope for a new world they would help create. They spoke with passion and conviction for a future they had genuinely believed in. Their numbers had swelled, and their faith was strong. At every passing town, their vision found knew eyes, and their mission found new followers. People flocked to them like ants to honey. The miles between counted for nothing when they knew of the prize they would find at the end. There was a fascination that no one was immune to, and, all-unknowing, these men and women preyed on this for their own, selfless gain. Their innocence, their happiness and their fervour all combined to create an image of a group of people untouched by the ways of the real world. The cynical, new-age populace lined up to partake in this ignorance. And so, this nameless troupe of evangelistic believers had wound their way through the harsh countryside, never wanting for food, or water, or shelter. Anyone they met was more than happy to give them the clothes off their back or the water in their tanks. It was not charity they lived off, and yet, they weren’t exactly conning these people out of their possessions. They simply believed so faithfully in their cause, that they could not see a different way. There was no other life, no alternate way of living. They couldn’t understand the heartbreak, the raw emotional anguish of what everyone else called life. Until now. Now, they truly saw through the multicoloured lenses they had forced over their eyeballs for so long. Their way was broken. Nonexistent. Nothing.It had begun when they had mistakenly ventured too close to the city on one of their journeys. The sun had shone at a different angle, and their feet had led them too close to the din and chaos hidden behind the obscurity of smoke. The smoke of a thousand fires, a thousand passions and a thousand voices raised in a silent cry for help. They had forgotten the pact made all those years ago, a pact that said that those in the cities were beyond their help, beyond even seeing their visions. All of this had been thrown to the wind in a moment of unthinking, and as the sun ascended and cleared their vision, they saw the terrible truth. Their eyes were forced open and they witnessed the true horror and despair of the world they had tried to escape. There, in the ashes of what had once been ironically called the "New Utopia" by some melodramatic news reporter, lay the hordes of the wraithlike shadows called "people". Among the paper-thin silvery walls of the city the travellers could see the hundreds of thousands of little figures in pointed suits and grey toupees rushing around in neat rows, as though they were on some sort of conveyor belt. They saw the flashing lights and stop signs that surrounded the hardworking ants on their daily routine. They heard, even though they were too small to see with the naked eye from this distance, all the tinny beeps and whirrs of all the electronic gadgetry that each and every individual of the "New Utopia" simply could not live without. They were so connected, via cables and satellites, that they did not know true individuality. They had not a single original thought within their own minds. And it was thus that the troupe’s vision lay broken. How could they possibly survive outside this interwoven mesh of being? Their way was impossible - worse, it had never been possible. It was a mirage that they had created to explain away the thoughts they sometimes had in their heads. What were thoughts? They couldn’t get you job security or a partner to live with and share income with. A thought nowadays was a useless spark of electricity caught in the synapses of the brain. It couldn’t put food on the table or a roof over your head. There was simply no time for thoughts now. Everyone was busy doing...something. Anything to keep the world going. Who could possibly compete with that kind of mindset? The wanderers realised that they could never do this, so they had hung their collective head and turned tail, fleeing back to the unforgiving desert that welcomed them with open arms. Here, they could at least try to forget all that they had seen. Or so they thought. Slowly, one by one, their numbers had lessened. With every passing town, they lost another, and another, until only the original, the most faithful remained. But even they knew they had reached the end. Their cause was as much dust as that which covered the never-ending landscape that stretched before them. Their futility was as tangible as the red rust that encrusted their giant mobile homes. The flocks of people that had once gathered around to hear them tell their amazing stories of hope and joy, now sat on their porches and watched with dark eyes as the caravans slowly inched their way past them. Eyes once brilliant with the sparkle of prophecy and expectation were now shielded and dim, clouded by disbelief and cynicism. The spark that was the last hope of salvation had been put out with unnecessary buckets of icy cold truth.It was on this journey of public humiliation and admission of defeat that the wandering hopeless had found a lost little girl, abandoned on the roadside. Eyes a deep blue and skin a milky white, she was so at odds with her surrounds that she immediately caught their attention. They had not lost so much of their old beliefs that they even considered leaving her to perish in the heat and dry, so they pulled over and hauled her in. She was unconscious when they found her, scratched and bruised and with barely a drop of liquid in her poor, broken body. They cared for her, wrapped her in their own clothes and fed her with their own food, giving her a bunk in a caravan and a place of her own. They watched her, knowing that although the physical wounds were reasonably bad on their own, the true damage was entirely emotional. By the time she awoke to the world, she had become an accepted part of the caravan. She, just like them, was an unmade being. She had suffered and lost all that she believed in, and they sympathised with her. She had earned her right to be part of the wandering troupe, eyes just as sad as the next man, back bent as low as the next woman.Little Leshala, who was not as little as they all believed, was given into the care of one Maximillian, or just "Max". He, like all of them, was a shattered man. Once one of the most vocal of the troupe, it was generally agreed that he had become the most desolate. It was said that to stare into his pitch black eyes was like staring into the vacuum of space. A person could lose themselves in those depthless orbs. He said nothing when given the responsibility of caring for the girl. He swept back his jet-black hair and shrugged, turning to trudge off in some random, futile direction. But he did what he was asked, no one could deny that. It was just that he didn't do anything besides what he was asked. When Leshala awoke, he fed her, told her what was what then left her alone again. All alone, to stare at the sunset, or to run away, if she wished. More likely, Leshala would take to doing what had become her habit. She would climb up the ladder on the side of the caravan and lie flat on the top, face to the murky blue heavens that was reflected in her eyes. She would take up a bagful of rocks as well. Little pebbles, almost small enough to be grains of sand, carried in a little brown hessian bag that never left her waist. She would take the bag and undo the knot at the top, and, still staring at the clouds far above her, she would throw the pebbles. One at a time, from the bag she rested on her chest. The others barely took any notice of her, but it soon became a custom for her to lie up there for hours on end, not talking, eating or drinking, just listening to the quiet "plip", "plok" of the rocks as they hit the dusty ground behind the moving caravan. An incessant rain of pebbles and rocks that became soothing, once you got used to it. "Plip...plok...pok...pik"


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