Short Stories, Tale Africa

Scaled!

By Fungai Chigumbura, Zimbabwe:

Thursday—it used to be their day; their date day. Not anymore. It hasn't been their day for many-a-day. No day is their day, anymore. It's all gone, now. Her man, her pillar, her mountain that will not be scaled has left her before he has left her. He's been gone from their marriage longer than she can remember. The mountain found feet and walked into the sea and swam away. Now all she can see is the summit of what was once her fulcrum. Thursday is no longer their day…but it is still her day.

In place of her mountain she found a mouse. Less spine than a plate of jelly; she closes her eyes and looks inside herself when she is with him. The mouse transfigures into something resembling her mountain that cannot be scaled. If not a mountain, then maybe an anthill.

It's Thursday. The mouse is scurrying within her, and she closes her eyes and remembers trying to climb that mountain. A thousand splinters of wood split through the room, and a titan stands where once there was a door. He steps in coolly—he was always cool—and stands in the dead centre of the room, transfixed on her. The mouse immediately scampers to the corner, petrified of the shadow of her mountain. She lays there, unsure, unknowing, undressed. He reaches inside his leather jacket and brings forth a silver messenger of death. It is as big as a cannon, and the metal fills the entire room with its cold, uncaring, uncompromising glint.

She casts her eyes upon the angles of his face. The flaring nose is fuming with each searing breath; the lips are drawn tight and razor-thin. Only the eyes are hidden; unseen behind the impersonal glare of sunglasses that betray nothing of what lies beneath, and only reflect what lies before them. The mouse whimpers.

“Please,” she begs. “D-don't kill me.”

He casts a wistful look outside the window. Is he having second thoughts? She hopes so. Maybe he is thinking this through, coming to the realisation that he doesn't want to end her. He sighs. The sound carries a thousand years of melancholy, and the mountain's shoulders heave from the weight of unspoken burden. An eternity passes with his gaze directed without. The silence is only scattered by the snivelling rodent in the corner. Her mountain's mouth twitches and morphs into something that might be called a smile. Their black cat ambles into the room, hops on the bed, and promptly bounces off and out again.

The mountain faces her, removes the shades. The deep-set eyes are blank and indifferent, but they glisten. Is…is he crying? He blinks, and liquid silver drops to the floor.

“I love you,” he croaks. For the first time in too long, she knows he means it.

“I love you too,” she manages.

His stare shifts to the crying filth in the corner. She sees it now: her mountain, her pillar, her man… he can put down that animal, and he can love her again.

She slinks to his side, and points to the creature in the corner.

“Him,” she instructs. “He's the one that made me do it. He told me that I didn't love you anymore, convinced me that you never loved me. Kill him, and we will find our happiness again.”

The mouse looks on, the terror of looking upon the inevitable drawn on its face. Her mountain studies the weapon in his hand. He raises it to point at the mouse…then keeps on raising it. She does not know what her senses acknowledge first—the spray of the blood, or the burst from the gun. Either way, the message is the same. She stares down at the floor, at her man, her pillar, her mountain—scaled.

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