While he hiked he daydreamed again and brooded over the same question he asked himself every time he hiked in the quiet chill of this lonely landscape.
“Is this really worth it?”
His friends back in Austin asked him that same question every time he left town to make another long drive out west and the same rationalizations were always debated. The danger, the weather, the time and money, and most of all, the trespassing.
“Did you try asking for permission?” Sally had once innocently asked him.
“Of course I did,” he answered.
Early on, it had indeed seemed reasonable enough to simply ask, “Mind if I look around?”
But then the inevitable next question would come.
Sam pondered the simple one word answer to that question, the word that complicated everything. As he walked, he could only muster a coarse whispered response:
His friends scoffed at the word and he had found that strangers scoffed too, but with an added mixture of suspicion and skepticism. That alone gave him plenty of incentive to avoid the subject, but he knew there were other deeper undertones to a stranger’s reaction. The moment one got to the heart of the matter, something came over people, as if a smoldering bit of wonderment had been ignited deep within them. It would glisten back at him through their eyes and he would know they had already begun to secretly conjure up an infinite number of “what if” scenarios. He could predict this as readily as a scientist could predict the outcome of a chemical reaction because it always happened whenever he stammered out that one simple word.
“It changes people,” he said out loud, adding in a trailing tone, “…even me.”
The call was registered at 09:33 on an already warming midweek morning. The caller, a woman, stuttered a brief description of what she had found and its location. The line died the instant the duty sergeant asked for her name. This was nothing new and the sergeant, an old hand who in his long career had seen both the best and the very worst Cape Town could offer, just smiled sadly and put out a call to the nearest patrol car. Because of an early road traffic accident, which involved a fatality, and the subsequent build-up of traffic, the patrol car was unable to attend the scene—a block of flats in one of the more rundown suburbs of the city—until 10:46.
The struggling rays from a single, grimy bulb hanging from the basement ceiling were dimmed even further by the infestation of dust-encrusted cobwebs. Walls, only a few feet away, remained shrouded in shadow…corners impenetrable black voids. The stale atmosphere was thick and stagnant, a throat-catching potion of stale cigarette smoke, urine and creeping fungus hanging motionless in ancient air. The two officers, their noses wrinkled distastefully, stood for some cautious moments in the doorway, eyes becoming accustomed to the gloom, taking in the scene. It was some moments before the full spectre of what lay before them became clear.
A Soul Forgotten
A true tale of how an Egyptian born son can be educated to achieve honours in his chosen university studies, yet denied the right to turn them into a career.
Coming Next Month
Living Lies by Eleanor Cocreham
Point of No Return by Maria Malon
The Khartoum Project by Gabriel Timar
The Silver Sleigh by Dorothy Bodoin