Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ninth Floor

Few people knew that there was a ninth floor in the Alberton building. The lifts only went up to eight, and you had to enter a security pin even to access that option. But if you had (or persuaded someone that you had) legitimate business on the eighth floor; and if you murmured the correct sequence of words to the impeccable and inscrutable receptionist who met you at the lift door, then sometimes sometimes you would be granted access to the ninth floor.

The ninth floor was accessed only via one stairwell, which was guarded by an old fashioned deadbolt on the inside. No fancy locks to be picked, or electronic devices to be fooled. Just a mysterious little personage with a singular dislike of attention of any kind. A small sign in the shadows proclaimed in an uneven hand: any gratuities will be donated to the SPCA.

However, this particular young man had succeeded in getting the attention of the inscrutable receptionist, by the simple expedient of leaving a trail of his own blood from the lift to her desk. One hand clutched to the mess that had been a smart shirt-front, he had gasped “ninth floor” before passing out, face (and bloody wound) forwards into her out-tray.

“Ninth floor” bore no resemblance to the sequence of words appropriate for this particular day; they had something to do with the platinum trade in China. But the receptionist, who had been hired for her intelligence as well as her black-belt in Karate, had buzzed through to the ninth floor anyway. She had then hauled him over onto his back and begun rudimentary first aid.

By the time the wall-like man arrived to take the unexpected guest upstairs, he was more or less in a fit shape to be hoisted over the bodyguard's shoulder. After all, it wasn't for a very long journey. The receptionist watched him go with some curiosity. But she'd seen more remarkable arrivals, and by the time she'd removed the bloodstains from her desk she had already dismissed him from her mind.

Friday, March 16, 2012

File Transfer

“So there have been four suspicious male deaths linked to the school in past year,” Asanda announced. Small talk satisfactorily concluded; she was never slow to get down to business. “Two ODs, one shooting and a mystery bug.”

“Can we assume it’s that recent?”

“I kind of assumed it was. Why would she delay coming to you?”

“Maybe some new piece of information emerged.”

Asanda shrugged. “Okay, I’ll dig deeper. But you can check these ones out so long. Do you have your net-book?”

Danny pulled the slim volume out of his rucksack, and in three minutes received a blue-tooth transfer from her iPhone. He only hesitated for a moment before creating a new folder. Murder Possibles.

Asanda was still talking. “I included the shooting just in case. Didn’t think she’d have any doubts if that was the one, but you never know. And I wasn’t too fussy about age. We’re not dealing with the most massive pool of suspects.”


“Whatever. Of course, chances are whatever this nutcase is talking about didn’t even make it into the news. So no guarantee my people even know about it.”

“Got the disclaimer loud and clear, A. Thanks anyway. I know it’s not exactly in your sphere.”

 She smiled. “Yeah, got me right out of the mood for pool parties. But I guess it makes a change.”

By mutual consent, they got up and made their way out of the shop. As they came to point at which they would part ways, Asanda paused.

“Danny, be careful will you? This isn’t someone cheating on their girlfriend, or buying exam papers. Those files…they’re for real.”

 He looked at her, and saw that there was genuine concern behind the jade eye-shadow. 

“I’ll be fine, A. It’s probably just some nut-job, as you said.” 

All the same, as they air-kissed and went their separate ways, Danny quickened his pace. He wanted to see what was in the files.   

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More about Asanda

At exactly four-thirty that afternoon, Asanda slid into the seat opposite Danny at her favourite coffee bar, Vivant. Despite the fact that he disliked the faux leather sleekness of the place, Danny had already been there for ten minutes. He'd ordered Asanda's favourite latte, and acquired a corner table. This was quite an achievement at Vivant at any time of day, and half an hour before closing it required a great deal of persistence.

As usual when not in school uniform, Asanda had taken great care over her appearance, and Danny was glad he had secured a fairly secluded spot for their conversation. Casual eavesdropping was so much more likely when he was with Asanda. People noticed her, whether they liked it or not. She stood out of the crowd even in track-pants and a hoodie; her startling and ultra modern ensembles were nothing short of mesmerising.

Today it was skin tight emerald jeans, royal blue stilletos and a sequinned tank-top.

"You don't exactly blend in," Danny grumbled half-heartedly.

"Nice greeting, I don't think." She drew her latte towards her, and took a thirsty gulp. "Didn't you notice my new hair?"

"You're always changing your hairstyle."

"Hello. This weave cost me four hundred bucks. Not counting the stylist. Admire, damn you."

Danny grinned. Being Asanda was an expensive business. "You look incredible. But what's new?"

"That's better."

Asanda and Danny's relationship baffled a lot of people. It was probably only the asocial and inscrutable Prawn who had ever gotten close to the truth.

"He understands her when she's being ironic, and doesn't care what she looks like. She isn't interested in a romantic relationship, and provides a totally unique skill-set. It's a match made in heaven."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Introducing Asanda

Danny always attended the school play. In fact, he always attended every school event worth mentioning. He made it his business to be present whenever a large group of students gathered together.

“You have to be there, and you have to be seen,” he’d explained to Lilah, soon after she’d joined his crew. “Otherwise you’re out of touch; or they think you’re out of touch. Either is fatal in our line of business.”

Since official events were vastly outnumbered by unofficial house parties, after parties and braais, Danny had an unusually busy social life, mostly arranged by Asanda January.

Asanda was extremely tall and exceedingly beautiful. She already had a lucrative modeling career, and was confidently expected to make it big. Unsurprisingly, she was also popular, well informed and invited to every party going. It wasn’t really considered a party if Asanda wasn’t there; and since Asanda always took Danny as her unofficial, unannounced and if necessary uninvited plus-one, Danny’s presence had also become necessary to the party culture.

As every celebrity knows, keeping up this kind of social presence doesn’t just happen. Some evenings, Danny and Asanda would have no fewer than five scheduled stops on their route. This was only possible by careful planning, precise timing and ruthless efficiency. Happily, these were Asanda’s speciality. Each day, Danny would get an email at around 4pm, giving him the outline of that evening’s activities, complete with dress code, gift requirements and timeframes.

However, today’s email simply read: we need to talk.

Whatever Danny may have been expecting, this wasn’t it. It was unheard of for Asanda to take a raincheck on social events. Even exam season had been known to come and go without seeing an abatement in her relentless programme.

So his response was simple: when and where?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Conversation with a Lady

The lady was shorter than Anna expected. She was wearing a pair of denim shorts and a bright green t-shirt which accentuated her matronly bulges and showed off her dimpled knees and elbows. Nonetheless, Anna knew at once that it was her. Faced with the plump chin and steady eyes, Anna’s mental image of a tall, slender and stately woman dissolved rapidly, and seemed rather silly.

“Hello Anna. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Anna smiled awkwardly. She suddenly felt very tall and gawky.

“Sit next to me,” the lady suggested, patting the tree trunk.

Anna did so. The slowly decomposing wood shifted a bit under her weight, but once it settled was as comfortable as any sofa. The lady had made no impression on the wood. In common with Anna’s other companions, she had little impact on the natural world.

“The walker said it was time,” Anna said.

“And so it is. Your task awaits you.”

“He never explained...” Anna couldn’t finish the sentence. She wasn’t sure what it was that the walker hadn’t explained. She’d just known that there was something that she didn’t understand.

“Of course he didn’t. We’re not capable of understanding the pivotal points in our own lives. That privilege belongs to others.”

Anna nodded, and tried to simulate an expression of intelligent comprehension. Privately, she began to feel as if the walker’s non-explanation was a lot clearer than the lady’s explanation.

“The task develops as you do,” the lady continued. “The first step is waiting at your front door.” She stood up.

“I still don’t…”

“Good luck, Anna.” The lady was gone, leaving Anna highly bemused. Eventually, she got up, brushed the bark off her school dress and started wandering home. It was fortunate that she knew the way very well, for she was completely preoccupied.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Reverse Hourglass (and other fractals)

The last image has a name: Reverse Hourglass. The others are just images!

They were all made by me, a complete fractal novice, using the cutest (and free) little program called Apophysis. It's super adictive, so I'm sure more fractal posts will don't mind do you?

Yours in fractality,

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March Mayhem

So it turns out that despite having more soul in the second year of teaching, I still don't have enough soul to write 300 words a day. Out of the 29 days in Feb, I succeeded in fulfilling my page a day challenge a grand total of 7 times.

Which, for those maths buffs out there, is just under 25%.

Not the greatest score in the world...

But on the other hand I wrote 7 times more this month than any other month. I started with two reasonably promising ideas (or at least I think so).

If you don't succeed?

In the spirit of try try again, I want to pick a new writing challenge for myself in March. A subtext to this whole writing challenge thing is that I'm feeling the burn of marks deadline, term end, reply slips, indemnity forms and so is at times like this that I seriously doubt my vocation as a teacher. And writing has always been the single activity that makes me feel most alive. So my theory is: write more = feel energised = teach better. Alternatively, write a bestseller = retire to a small tropical island and never see another reply slip in my life.

But I think I also need to adjust my goals a bit. And despite wanting to christen March Murder Month, I think that might be overly genre specific (oh but doesn't the alliteration strike a chord??)

Goals for March:
  • learn how to type decent length pieces on my (non-smart) phone in order to make my writing a bit more portable
  • post two 300 word pieces per week (i.e. 8 in the month, but more spread out than last time)
Wish me luck amigos! Do you have writing goals for March Mayhem?

Yours in persistence,