Before the cult, p.4
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       Before the Cult, p.4

          Sandy Masia / Thrillers & Crime
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“Maybe we just have to lay low a little or move,” Macxermillio said putting up defences, or maybe he was attempting to convince himself of a different truth. “Avoid being caught, of course.”

Deep into his being he sensed how foul the whole practice was. Not because it was repulsive and malevolent but because it was not solving our problem. The practice was never just a means to an end, it was also an end in itself because it facilitated much-needed pleasure. The kind of pleasure that easily becomes the centre of all our pursuits and aspiration. The malice of it (the sampling) is the merciless drive to erode conscience and rob all the affection the heart has to offer and channel it onto itself. Often by establishing blind loyalty and an incorruptible ignorant will to feed its bottomless desire. A pastime pleasure evolves into a need and then an endpoint in itself. The tragic part is that the practice was also instrumental because so often the line is easily blurred. The line between doing the sampling for the crop or sampling because we just enjoy it. The latter is unhelpful but not easy to give up, so the sampling had to show some validity and results in order for us to feel like we are actually doing something. The lack of any results was disturbing and threatened not only our self-image but could spoil our pleasure as well, because then we would be no different to a lifeling killer. So defending validity of the sampling was important to maintain an unsparing appetite and an image. And learning that we had no reason to continue sampling was unacceptable and indigestible. We were unwilling to accept at the heart, not in the mind.

In moments of emotional tension, my mind would spontaneously play songs in clips as if my subconscious is trying to communicate something to me in a language I can easily comprehend. After all dreams and psychosomatic symptoms are never clear and to the point. Not to say the songs were helpful either but it was a point to begin. The effort to follow the leads and interpret the clips seldom came and I just appreciated this peculiar trend. It was incredibly distracting and sometimes soothing because there was no place like music where I found sanctuary, meaning and felt understood to a degree. And in the car they began rolling:

“If I could find the time to speak…” Evans Blue’s Painted, the vocalist’s voice embedded in profound hurt and despair. “…they never said I’d end up like this…” Marilyn Manson’s Unkillable Monster. “…We finish and wish we can start again…” Hurt’s Fall Apart, the song carries on to say “ So woe is me when all falls apart…”. And then a desperate scream portraying a futile protest for peace in a storm of melody, “No…No More” from Hurt’s Overdose. Then an almost crooning voice in a state of numbness and mental decay, “ …if you were me what would you do? Probably nothing…” from Korn’s Faget. And another one from Korn’s Make Me Bad “ I am watching the rise and fall of my salvation…”. Then with…

Impulsively I uttered, “We gonna end up like Calvin.”

Macxermillio gave me one of his hard to read looks from the driver's seat. Then he shifted his attention to the road as if nothing had been said, or perhaps he did not even have the energy to react. In the meantime, my words awkwardly hung in the air, troubling me.

After a few moments of silence Macfearson gave a weary snorted laugh, his eyes fixed on the dashboard. “You never knew him?” he murmured.

“What?”

"Calvin," He said. "You never knew him."

“Yes.” I reluctantly agreed, not getting his point. I wanted to say “so what?” But I suspected that would agitate him.

His shoulders slumped and his facial expression became softer and contemplative. He sighed. “You are right. A noose around a neck would do it right now. Perhaps the best thing.” He paused as if he expected a scolding. After prolonged silence he continued, “ I see why he might have gave up. Why he might have felt so alone and in pain that he delivered himself to the unknown.” He paused again to take a deep breath. “Is that not the best thing? The only escape?”

“Out of this mess?”

Macfearson stayed silent for a little while. “The calling has a way of convincing us that suicide is the way that makes complete sense. It distorts reason and instinct. I still hold that to go off to a beautiful lie, if the calling can’t be trusted, is the most peaceful death.”

Apart from dealing with the possibility that the calling might have deceived us about suicide as a transition tool (one of the things the calling whispered in our ears) to home there was the possibility that we were doing something faulty methodically. The other possibility, which intuitively felt unlikely, was the possibility that we had not discovered one more mode of suicide; it started to feel like digging against a rock. Nothing was coming out of it. Something had to be wrong. We were back at doubting that the voices in our head (the calling communicates with feelings and our respective mental voices) truly spun from a place of wisdom and goodwill. We also began to question our perspective on the situation of being stranded in a world we don't belong and the means of transportation.

We were meticulous at carrying out the sampling. Even with that record on our side, we couldn't carry on making people disappear. With every sampling, there was a shred of evidence and clues that were left behind, at this point the accumulation of evidence was becoming really substantial. The town being a small town, suspects were easy to make, connections were easily drawn and the authorities had too much time in their hands. Not too much time, just sufficient and effective. We had given all our best to Jay's sampling. Twenty experiments and no results. In our most logical of places, we knew that either we needed to expand our cognizance on the issue or implement different approaches. Although we despised it, maybe the sampling was not the solution and maybe the calling was never going to help with anything. The pragmatics and engendering a will to change was the overwhelmingly hard part, because we had no one else, but mostly because the weight of this world on our lives’ essence was becoming alarmingly depowering. Pushing us closer to annihilation, leaving no room for sanity and well-being.

With it our minds were becoming leisurely. A leisurely mind has no drive or will. A mind orientated towards leisure alone is a dead mind. Very close to nothingness and death. And soon a dead mind bores itself…and when that happens we end up as Calvin with a noose the only medal and reward for our quest. The scummy smelly butt print on the sofa the only mark you leave behind. A leisurely mind is a given up mind.

Macfearson spoke in a controlled voice with his bellicose frustration shimmering underneath, “You ever had good coffee?With no sugar?”

“Yes?”

“Bitter. And when you’re done you have this tart aftertaste just sitting there in your mouth. Delicate and lasting, enticing you to have another. Calvin was like that," he paused. Then sternly he continued, "He might have gone the way he did, but he never tried to drag anyone down with him. He knew it was over for him, but that is no indication that he did not believe in what we were doing. He was bitter with integrity. Failure is not what tore him up, but the weight of this world twisting and gnawing at his core."

I nervously nodded, uncertain of what kind of response he expected. His eyes were not on me, but I could feel his mind's eye burning me with a concentrated and an indignant gaze. Belligerent energy exuded from his frigid and deceptively disinterested posture. It was enough to turn my insides pale. The conviction that if I uttered a sound I would trigger an explosive quarrel moved me to silence. Inside, a tempest of desolation drowned my thoughts and spirit.

There was bump and then the rattling ceased as the truck turned right into the tar road towards the town. On the horizon lay wealthy outer suburbs where roads were guarded by pine trees and life was tranquil.

With his eyes still fixed on the road, and perhaps tuned into my affliction, Macxermilllio uttered, “We need help!” The unwilling words a weight on his tongue. Because, put simply, we were in too deep.





Chapter 3





1





Friday morning we reconvened at my place. Each of us had retired to our homes on Thursday evening, still in awe. We would also have elected to rid ourselves of the thoughts that pervaded our minds. Through the night, I stared into the darkness until it was no longer dark anymore. I tossed and turned devoid of sleep and restless. My neck stiffened and baked with tension making it impossible to rest my head. They made being awake intolerable, constantly petrified by premonitions and an elevated state of alertness. My sheets soaked in sweat. Around 2 am I jumped out of bed to take a hot shower hoping it would calm me down. However, my shoulders remained as firm as steel, the anxiety worsened and the sweat found new pyjamas to soak. Cutting was not an option since it had the effect of making me alert, I couldn't also bet on the low possibility of adverse effects. As I jumped to my desk scratching, hyperventilating, fidgeting and trembling, my thoughts grew darker and the night seemed to be stretched to infinity just to torment me. I rushed to my window, climbed on the windowsill so my feet dangle outwards. My right-hand hand grabbing the frame, I looked down, so eager to jump and end it because I felt like I would implode if I endured a second of the confusion, the anxiety and the hurt. Tears blurred my sight, a teardrop fell from my left eye and I watched it drop into the darkness and out of my sight where a bed of daffodils and tulips waited. Tonight they will be drinking blood, I remember thinking. There was no fear or hesitation only the delight in having found the answer. Even if this was a temporary problem of sorts, all my mind knew and could think was that I wanted the feeling gone, and I wanted that now.

“Okay, I should count to three!” I whispered to myself.

“One, two - “ Then an idea shot through my brain, I should go out to a song...I should play a song.

I gazed at the computer sizing the effort it would take for me to get there and if it was worth the trouble at all. Then something shiny caught my eye past the computer on the bookshelf. It was the glass of beer I had never touched, then I remembered I still had three bottles of beer to myself packed away in the common fridge.

I should drink, that will help.

Then it dawned on me how stupid I almost became. The solution was right there and I had almost walked past it into death. The beer would at least carry me through to the morning and then I could be alive for the meeting I have with Macxermillio and Macfearson. I knew how useless they would be if I tried contacting them at this time and after what had just happened. As far as I knew they were soldiering through the night also, they wouldn’t be any help but daunting with their benighted states. Alcohol makes a duly friend.

We could figure something out. Macxermillio knows a ton of shit when he is better.

I journeyed through the silent corridors and passages to the ground floor and retrieved the three 750ml bottles of beer. They were extremely cold and I was surprised that no one had not helped themselves to them as people stealing stuff from the fridge was not a foreign story around here. When the first bottle went down I started to feel better. With a fat grin and a tipsy head, I started with the next bottle which went down smoothly and uplifted my mood. Suddenly I was in the mood of listening to some old tunes on my computer, something sombre and touching. Then I started craving some company which led to opening a few tabs on my internet browser logging on into multiple social networks. At that time, there was barely anyone worth talking to online. It got me wishing I had more international friends on a different time zone because the ones I had were no longer as active. Then I resorted to Chatroulette which was filled with perverts after perverts until I stumbled onto a kitchen view on my screen. First it appeared no one was in the kitchen and the laptop was left online. Then a brunette in her forties or so appeared into view, as if unaware of the display on the laptop. She wore blue jeans with a navy blue tank top. Curvy hips, petite breasts and lean torso. Daylight came in through the kitchen window. She went to the zinc poured herself a glass of water and turned to the laptop. At first she just watched, then approached and pressed a few buttons.

She smiled, leaning over the table into the screen and her tantalizing cleavage showing. “Hi there!” she said. “What you doin?”

“Hi, I’m just chillin’ having a couple of beers. Needed some company. You have a bottle of wine with you?”

“No. Why?”

“So we can drink.” I giggled.

“How old are you?” She squinted.

I shrugged. “I’m twenty.”

“Really? You look a bit older than that.”

“Really? Thank you.”

She moved out of view and came back with a can of beer in her hand. “Where are you from?”

“South Africa.”

She gasped. “Wow. Really? You not kidding?”

“I’m not kidding. No need to tell me where you from I can already guess.”

“How come?”

“American accent is very telling.”

“Huh. What’s your name? Is it difficult to pronounce.”

“I wish.”

“Huh?”

“I wish it was hard to pronounce. I find most black men including me have the name. Can you guess?”

“Is it Jerome?”

I laughed. “No. It is Sandy. And yours?”

“Joni.”

“I guess you are a housewife.”

“What gave that up?” she sarcastically replied. “What time is it there?”

I checked on the right bottom corner of the screen. "2 am."

“That’s crazy. Why you up at this time are you one of those pervs jiggling their junk on this site? Lonely?” she light-heartedly said.

“No. I think this is the third time I’m here and you the first person I have talked to for this long. Others just awkwardly stare and skip me. Got me a bit self-conscious.”

“Is that so?”

“Yep.”

“Do you live with your parents?”

“Yes and no. I’m at uni.”

She nodded. “So, uh, are you celebrating anything?”

I shook my head, smiling.

“What’s the matter?” she leaned forward into the camera.

“I couldn’t sleep. I thought a drink would help me catch what little sleep I can get.”

She nodded. “Alright. Things aren't that great?" She lifted her can of beer and took a sip.

I considered. “Yes, there is something keepin’ me up.”

“You logged in for counsel?”

“Perhaps. I have no idea. I had one beer felt and like company.”

“What are the chances that you would be matched with someone willing?” She smiled.

“I don’t know. One in twenty thousand?” I laughed. Then I looked down on my lap as my countenance changed into something sombre and revealing of the inner turmoil. “You are an honest looking woman maybe you can help me figure something out.”

“Maybe I am.” She smiled and took a large gulp of the beer.

“I have done something really bad and now I realized it might have been all for nothing. And if that is the case, I don’t think I could live with the things I have done. I thought it was all for a good reason and now it doesn’t look that way.”

Nodding she glanced down then took a sip from the can. “Sounds really serious.”

“It is. I don’t know what to do. I don’t feel guilty. I am just worried of what happen next and if there is a next for me.”

“Do you mind being specific or is it something you can’t tell a stranger on the internet about?

I stayed quiet for a while. “No. I don’t think it is something I can tell anyone just yet.”

She shrugged. “Maybe you should see someone. It really helps.”

“What do you mean?”

“A therapist. Are there therapists in your area? If there aren’t find someone you can talk to who won’t tell anybody, like a priest.” She took a sip.

I nodded. “I’ll think about it?” I downed what was left of my glass. I poured myself another glass and raised it. “Thank you.”

She grinned. “You’re welcome.”

I took a sip and watched her, the veil of shame falling on my shoulders. She reciprocated the thought filled the silence with a gaze of her own. It was the type of a pause in a conversation where minds retired to their private rooms for miniature consultation before resuming. There was a lot to be talked about, that did not mean I was without worry. After sharing something of this magnitude the mood sours and the flow of conversation is jarred which could lead to the end of the connection altogether. The end of the connection would be a hurtful thing, a form of rejection that I could not be able to stand now. Joni might have been a lifeling stranger on the internet, but something about her was comforting and reassuring more than the drink in my hand. I hang off the edge of a chasm and she gave the only hand keeping me from falling, I dreaded what lay at the bottom.

Joni cleared her throat and flicked her hair, then let out a weary sigh.

“Are you gonna skip me now?” I asked.

She shook her head. “No. Why?”

“You promise?”

She squinted. “Sure, I will stay.”

“Thank you. I really need this.” I paused. “You know a lot of people would leave me right about now. People can’t stand people being honest. You are a good person. I mean why can’t people stand each other and be with each other through such times?”

She grinned, nodding. “Yeah. Very true.”

Then the screen went blank, she had skipped me.





2





The smoke from Macfearson’s cigarette filled the room. He reclined in his chair and stared straight through the wooden floor while he flicked cigarette ashes to the floor, not bothering with an ashtray. His left leg tapped on the floor, trembling.

“What we do now is just pull back and don’t do anything that can make us get caught while we think through what just happened to us. There is no need for us to be anxious as that could draw attention our way,” Macxermillio said. "We must remember that the whole point of this was to establish some sort of credibility. We may be disappointed and taken aback by this, but this scratches at least one method off the list.”

“We are fucked!” I said. “Now we dug ourselves so deep that we may never get out. What if we get arrested and we never get a chance to pursue home? The law will be on us. It is only a matter of time and I don’t believe we are any close to getting out of here.”
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