Friday, 1 May 2015

In Purgs

By Andy Hamilton

The blind man hurls a lopsided stone into the lake, unsettling the one legged heron in the grey shallows. Beside him on the wooden mooring, the man-on-the-street sits cross-legged, head bowed, enveloped by his dark trench coat.
            “There’s rain coming,” says the blind man, in a salivating monotone. He takes a second stone from his trouser pocket and examines it forensically between his worn fingertips. “I said… rain coming.” He swings his arm wildly, the stone spiraling carelessly onto an upturned log before finding the water with an unsatisfactory plop. “You’d best put on your cap. There’s a rain coming. I can see it.”
            “You can see it?” spits the man-on-the-street. “You?”
            “I can see the light changing. And I feel the warmth going from the air.”
            “Ha,” says the man-on-the-street. “You have no eyes to see and no sense to understand. Look, I’m already wearing my cap. See?”
            The blind man turn away from the man-on-the-street. “I can see no cap,” he says in a hushed voice. “I am blind.”

The blind man sits on the edge of the mooring, dangling his naked feet just above the grasp of the dark waters. He takes a small notebook from his coat, scribbles on a page, and returns it quickly to his pocket. Crawling on all four, the man-on-the-street scuttles behind him, breathing heavily.
            “What did you write?” he asks, wafting wet air into the blind man’s ear.
            “Nothing. Nothing at all, just marking the time.”
            “Lie to me again and I’ll slit your throat,” growls the man-on-the-street.
            “I didn’t. I wont. I’m just marking the day and time. It’s evidence.”
            “Evidence? Evidence of what?”
            “Evidence that we are here. It’s a record, a document to mark our suffering.”
            “You’re a fool,” says the man-on-the-street. He slaps the blind man around the back of the head.
            “I just want justice. That’s all.”
            “Justice! Ha! There is no justice in Purgs. Not unless you’re ready to kill for it or to die for it. Are you ready to die?”
            The blind mind shakes his head and moves from the edge of the water.

The blind man kneels in the centre of the mooring, scratching at the wooden boards with a small rock. Fresh darkness has invaded from the lake. The man-on-the-street lies flat on his back, his eyes searching for companions in the new forming stars.
            “We could start a fire?” offers the blind man, his head rising from his labour.
            “The wood is too wet. It will not burn.”
            “What if we had matches and some petrol?”
            “That would help, certainly. Do you have matches and some petrol?”
            “Nor do I.”
            “Right. What will we do then?”
            “We will scrape with the rock,” snaps the man-on-the-street.
            The blind man returns to his work, swinging the rock in large, un-aimed spirals. He stops. “What will happen when we finish?”
            “When the scraping is done?
            “When the scraping is done, then we’ll be free.”
            “Free,” says the blind man. He elongates the word, allowing each letter to ring out in the heavy evening mist. “Free.” He gets to his feet. “But when the wood is gone, what will keep us dry?”
            “We will be free,” says the man-on-the-street.

The blind man huddles in the centre of the mooring. Great slabs of rain fall all about him as his rocks back and forth.
            “What’s the matter, dolt,” shouts the man-on-the-street.
            “I’m… I’m afraid of the dark,” says the blind man.
            “But you’re blind? It’s darkness all the time for you.”
            “I know,” cries the blind man. He begins to weep.
            “Stop it!” shouts the man-on-the-street, slapping him about the face and neck. “Stop it, stop it now.” He punches him hard in the kidneys.
              “Oooh,” says the blind man, all the air leaving his body.
            “See what I did,” says the man-on-the-street. “See what I did for you.”
            “I’m dying,” says the blind man, gasping for air.

The blind man stands on a wooden ladder on the edge of the mooring. He holds his hand in a half solute above his eyebrows, shielding his face from the rising sun.
            “What do you see now, blind man,” mocks the man-on-the-street.
            “I can see water. Nothing but cold, dark water.”
            “Humm,” says the man-on-the-street. “You know, four people once managed all the water on this lake. Four people, and I knew all of them.”
            “You knew them. But then maybe they could help, maybe there’s a way.”
            “There is no way,” snaps the man-on-the-street. “Unless you’re ready to kill or to die.”
            “You’re right. I’m sorry,” says the blind man. “I forgot myself. I’ve been…” He descends the ladder slowly, heavy feet labouring over each wet step. The blind man flops on to the mooring, his hands clasped on either side of his head. “How long have we been here?” he asks. “How long have we been in Purgs?”
            The man-on-the-street does not answer.
The blind man stands in the centre of the wooden mooring. Hands on his hips, he breathes in great gulps of fresh, cold air. In the shallows below, the heron has returned to its nest.


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