Ocular, long-lashed semaphore

The night’s sky is whitewashed, smeared, with starlight.

Bathed in this iridescence, the man strides towards the twisting runways ahead.

They remind him of an open-aired version of those water slides that kids love. You know the ones. You’re carried down on a small flume of chlorinated water, squealing and powerless, skin tinged blue by the cerulean veins you’ve been injected into. You’re swept from side to side, ever downwards, with no idea where you’re going, nor frankly caring.

The man stops and takes in the bizarre carnivale ride.

These runways had similarly been designed to make its passengers not care where they were going. Just get in for the ride, follow the one in front.

Child-like trust is taken and sullied.

***************************************

A face so gaunt it looked shrink-wrapped. Eyes so deep-socketed they looked like black holes.

The man looked every part the serial killer.

“Still not sleeping?” his therapist asked. Only his comb-over, oil-slicked down to camouflage his polished dome, was visible above the top of his clipboard.

Above him on the wall hangs a framed certificate of qualification from some small town college. It screams ill-qualified.

The man slowly tore his vacant gaze, like reluctant Velcro, from the grim asphalt arteries outside the window.

He shook his head. Truth be told, he hadn’t slept in weeks.

“The same nightmares?”

The man nodded.

The same nightmares, the same production line of faces.

Faces of all those he’d helped kill.

He’d told his therapist about how they came to him every night now. He hadn’t wanted to kill them, but he’d really needed the money, and where he came from, steady work wasn’t easy to find.

Their faces blinked before him, one after another. Seizure-inducing.

He couldn’t wake himself up. He couldn’t look away. He felt like that guy in that 70s movie.

Damn, what was it called? The gang leader’s strapped in a chair with those metal caliper things in his eyes so he can’t look away. The image was so haunting he almost forgot to stop reading the English subtitles.

***************************************

The man was dressed to kill.

She entered the room, her slender legs unsteady.

Her short, black hair looked limp under the dim lighting.

Music ricocheted lazily around the poor acoustics of the space.

Her coffee-coloured eyes, dilated, met his across the room. She blinked.

Ocular, long-lashed semaphore.

Her pulse quickened. She flicked her head to the side.

The man’s broad, calloused hands, as big as plates of meat, were sweaty.

He could hear his own, pendulous breathing in his ears.

***************************************

“Still not eating?” the therapist asked.

“Anything but meat,” the man responded.

A small smile flickered, then concertinaed, across his face.

“You know, a vegetarian friend of mine once told me their one-rule diet,” he said.

“’I can eat anything that doesn’t have eyes’.”

Oh god, why’d he have to mention eyes again.

The therapist didn’t appear to see the humour in the anecdote. The nib of his fountain pen scratched again for a few moments on the clipboard.

“And your wife? How’s she helping you?” the therapist asked.

Poor Julie. He hadn’t told her anything. She wouldn’t even know what PTSD stood for.

And yet she’d borne the brunt of his mood swings, his drinking.

To be honest he didn’t understand it himself. The man had read up on PTSD, and couldn’t understand why he’d been labelled as having it.

He wasn’t a soldier. He hadn’t been raped.

He didn’t feel crazy.

***************************************

He was nervous about going up to her.

Summoning up the courage he took several steps towards her.

He made no effort to conceal the gun.

She just stood there, unmoving.

He brought the gun to her head quickly, not wanting the others in the room to notice his hesitation.

Why was he so nervous? He’d done this a thousand times before.

He pulled the trigger.

***************************************

The man turns and heads to where they’re waiting for him behind closed doors, stepping anxiously from foot to foot.

All eyes are on him.

A conscience isn’t always quick to bloom. It can take time you know.

***************************************

The company was reluctantly paying for these therapy sessions.

The man tried to count the number of hours he’d sat on this cheap plastic chair, and quickly gave up, his mind wondering. Hours where he’d fought the therapist’s best efforts to extract any kernels he could from his head. Where he came from, men didn’t talk about their feelings.

When? What? Why?

In the end he figured out the solution himself.

Stop the soul-searchin’, the head-shrinkin’.

Make amends he must.

***************************************

He grasps the lever on the thick, iron door. The sound of the latch clanking makes him pause to look around. Satisfied no one’s watching, he opens the door wide.

None of them moves at first. Slowly one by one they filter out, forming a procession past the man. No gratitude is expressed.

They migrate up the road away from the abattoir. Silhouetted, they stop every now and then to eat grass, in no rush.

He doesn’t know how far the cattle will get. But what more can he do?

Time to head south, he thinks.

At least now, maybe he can get some sleep.