The Directionless Lunch Van of Pooty Holler
The whispering became louder now, faster. It made her laugh. And the aroma of something. It didn’t matter. Very tranquil, shiny and glassy like obsidian. Underneath she was naked. She sucked her lips. She didn’t want to go there.
“Whatever you say, sir.”
She began to tremble then restrained herself thinking that if she just kept very very still and pretended it wasn’t there it would leave. She smiled sweetly and sat down on her towel.
“Where to now, sir?”
He pulled away, the front of his shirt damp from being pressed against her. Her statue toppled lay flat on its face while an hour glass ran down.
“Take care, Miss” he said and stood up.
Her fingers finally found something solid, like a handle.
She finally looked at him, calmer at last. I’m going mad she thought, fucking mad. She turned over the next card. A dark silhouette beckoned to her from the end of the corridor.
“So it’s settled then. The fish eat your eyes and the frogs suck your toes and the last thing you know is pondweed and drowning… until the pond is drained.”
The blanket was wrapped around her, she was shivering violently.
“Well get your bloomin’ eyes seen to then”.
Alice grazes in the morning light on dew-fresh grass. She waited. She stretched out, the blanket sliding off her revealing her pale body.
“I don’t know nuffink about no buried treasure.”
Bradbury deep in thought beneath the octagonal ceiling slowly unwrapped a cube of sugar he’d retrieved from his pocket and placed it under his tongue. I am you and you are he and we are all that song, you know? Are we now.
She shivered in the chilly afternoon air, not quite the weather for a dip.
“You like your garden, don’t you Alice? You’re especially fond of the tree where Terry was hanged.”
Alice sullenly returned his gaze. She turned over the next card. She got out of bed, determined to give whoever knocked on the door a piece of her mind. Out the door and down the stairs into an overgrown courtyard of palms, banana trees and rampant bamboo, she pushed aside some foliage and there it was. The earth shook with each footstep of a stranger who emerged from a tunnel to brush past bracken and trample shrubs as if they didn’t exist – which for the ghost, perhaps, was true.
Do you wonder that she sought revenge? So many flowers, so much sorrow, always they wilt, always Bradbury weeps for their passing, always too late.
She put the file on the bedside table and her glasses on top of it. Felt the images sliding off skin being sloughed away.
“ Killed me ’orse too.”
She swallowed. Birds flew along the surface, tiny arrow shaped birds, swallows. Who’d’a thought. Hot blustery and in your face it breathed on the inhabitants like some wild beast that had been corralled in hell, it came on quickly and decisively, fire borne and picking up speed as it churned into the city one Tuesday morning just before the ladies arrived while I you or she all together nipped across the road and surreptitiously sprinkled holy water from the church across the undergrowth. It was only past midnight when I was returning from dropping Mrs Bradbury off in my beloved Morris Minor, that to my disgust I saw it had reappeared. The tone of the voice was authoritative, despite what it was saying. What it craved - the look of terror in their eyes. No responsibility to own.
She turned over another card. She walked down to the small lake.
“So… where to?”
"Please wait a moment, I’ll go make sure the room is ready.”
Like the hotel itself, she possessed the melancholy that hung in the air and left its trace on everything - the furniture, the floor, the walls. A demon grinned at her from a small pediment. And waited. She looked around the empty park, rolling undulating hillocks. No corpses.
“I’ll tell you what I think,’ said Bradbury.
The stillness was unnerving, unnatural.
Alice forced herself to kick, kick upwards.
“You okay, ma’am?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“Stuff happens sister.”
She tossed and turned, trying to make herself comfortable.
“You joined me in the pool. You would’ve got used to me.”
"Don’t you have any rooms at all? A suite? I'll take anything," she implored.
Real or not. Was it my imagination? She blinked twice. Her anchor.
Bradbury clenched his fist and tried to hold on. He had reached the well head and attempted to climb its ruinous walls. Was drowning already.
Her mouth curved into an arc, Alice turned.
Just being there and knowing what to do. Torrential rain was already hammering the tarmac. Her ears picked up every little sound - the heavy curtain in the room grazing the windows, blown by the air conditioner; an occasional knocking on the walls and objects hitting the floor. They were in the bathroom and he was hovering over her in the bathtub.
“Did you see anything, Miss? Anything at all that might explain something?”
The screaming. Earlier that afternoon, she’d seen a priest throw a frisbee down a hill.
“As the Neighbourhood Watch coordinator I always like to check what's going on outside whenever I can.”
“You’re in shock.”
“It’s getting dark, and I could use a drink,” said Alice, hopefully.
So scarred as though something with huge suckers had...
“One morning, a fifteen-year-old boy was found in the headmaster’s office bathroom, drowned in the bathtub.”
His pinstripe suit oddly formal for the time of the morning.
“Don’t you get it? You were chosen. We were talking to the victim just now. How much did you actually see, darling?”
She could hear voices from the other rooms, the hum of the odd air conditioner, an overhead plane shifting downwards.
“Shut up, and listen.”
She shouted for help, hoping someone would hear her, but no one did.