The Video Tape – part 6 of 6
By Michiel van Laarhoven
Video tape #123
Electra and I slunk through the forgotten streets and alleys that made up our home once.
‘We should go to our old house,’ Electra opted. I felt my insides shrivel.
‘Just pay it a visit, see what’s it like,’ she pushed. I stopped dead in the middle of the road, looking sternly at my sister.
She stopped, too, looking cheekily at me.
‘No? Just no?’
I stared right back at her. My insides seemed to be coiling like a snake under a rock. There was an invisible wall right between us.
‘Is that all I’m gonna get?’ She said fiercely.
I fell silent, and I looked through the invisible wall right at her. I took a deep breath and felt the snake crawling around my arm. I felt old and tired. Defeated, even. My knees were shaking and on the verge of giving in like a forgotten bridge never maintained.
‘Fine,’ I finally said, my voice not half as harsh as I would have liked it to be. ‘But just for a minute, then we get on with it.’
‘Thank you,’ she said, and her smile energized me again.
We walked beside the river that ran through the old town. It was murky and the water level was low, too low for boats to sail on. The black water would lead us right to the place we hadn’t been to since he had died.
I looked over my shoulder and saw lights coming from the new town: faces were formed by the lights and stared over the city like gods. And what looked like a huge transport ship was slowly hovering through the air with a booming sound that sizzled and buzzed and shook the ground. I was mesmerized.
Electra simply kept on walking like it was any other night. The huge ship reigning the skies – and the buildings, engulfed in all the light, were round and shone like mirrors – didn’t make her look up even once. Elevators flew across the skyline, horizontally from building to building and vertically from ground to sky.
We saved the city, a little voice squeaked inside my head.
We stared at the abandoned, broken down and blackened house that we grew up in. Electra went in first. The door creaked and almost fell from its hinges as she opened it. The place was barely recognizable from what it used to be, when flames had stroked the entire place until it was a shadow. I followed Electra, and as we walked through the door into the hallway, memories started leaking from my brain and they fell into my stomach, where they coiled uneasily like the snake. The floor of the hallway was once covered in black and white tiles and the stairs were now gone, but I remembered the wooden steps that spiraled upstairs.
As we moved on I started to wonder why no one ever demolished this place, but maybe it was just because no one cared. Or nobody really noticed it was there. We crept into what once was the living room. My first impression was that everything was irreparably wrecked: cabinets shattered, chairs darkly scaled and molten away against the fissured walls. Only the couch, a little blackened, was still standing in its familiar spot. Electra stumbled towards it and she plopped down on it like a lifeless rag doll. Weak and tired, she cried.
I saw an old photo frame lying in the corner. It was crushed, and carefully I took out the photo. Smooth in my fingers, I stared at it, as a brusque wind sang through the open door into the house, twined around my head like the madness that had been my life. A quick glare at the door opening informed me of a trusted shadow propelling towards us. Electra’s cries now sounded more like squeals of pain, and with every squeal a piece of her soul oozed from her mouth, until life and youth had abandoned her, like a wolf leaving her weakest cub to die in the snow.
I noticed the photograph pictured my father, my pregnant mother and another figure, that had been folded away. I unfolded the photo and the third person was a beautiful woman with unmistakably sharp eyes whom I recognized in an instant as Clementine. I turned the photograph and words had been written on its back.
The shadow moved closer to the house and I heard his heels clacking on the wet street. Clack. Clack. Clack. He was almost here. Electra was now simply breathing, her face buried deeply in the blackened cushions. Her hair was grey and varicose veins slithered along her skinny legs.
The words said: to Electra, these are your father and my sister, a few months before you were born.
Perhaps it seemed obvious now. Or perhaps it obviously didn’t. It gave me answers and many more questions to a mystery I had been trying to solve my entire life. Nevertheless, the one question I pondered was if my father was murdered out of revenge. I looked at the curse that embraced my arm, the metallic device that only slaves wore: those who desired to escape a bleak reality to be enslaved by an unreality. Clack. Clack. Clack.
I am old now. I don’t know how old I am, exactly, and all the memories I have left are those bright flickers from when I was a child, not knowing the life I lived a few weeks ago. It’s all hazy like the footage on a crappy security camera. It will be hard for me to live in the present, as I don’t fit in the world that currently is. A world that has evolved so fast that I will be frightened to even cross the street or cross it back. My life has no purpose anymore, my work is done, and all there is left to do is wait until death accepts me to rest forever. Even though I dwell on the past, I now have to live in the present and do the only thing I can do and the only thing I am supposed to do.
I walked over to Electra, who still lied on the couch as the shadow came closer. The rattling footsteps of his shoes loud and overpowering the surging rain that now doused the city in grey curtains descending from the clouds. I placed my hand on Electra’s hard as stone shoulders and prayed I knew how to provide her solace like our father could with a smile and a word. Her entire body shook and it seemed her bones attempted to escape from her skin. Inside of me it felt as barren, blank and neglected as the house I stood in and this void was like an hourglass without sand. Nevertheless, inside the house, I imagined, somewhere on the furnace, one pan of food was left cooking. As I rubbed her shoulder I imagined giving her the pan of food so she could get her strength back.
‘If father would step inside this house right now, Electra, what would you say to him?’ I said, an encouraging smile unfolding my face.
Electra lifted her head and turned to me, her faded scar draped in lines and furrows. Her white hairs were sticking to her wet cheeks. All of a sudden there barely was any expression on her face, except her mouth opening a little.
She then smiled.
Clack. Clack. Clack.
I looked at the shadow, but it never came closer. And how could it, anyway? Dead men don’t clack.
For an hour we walked together through the old town until we arrived on the main square where all the trees used to be, and the Apollo Theatre loomed darkly over the square. The musicians were there again, just like the last time.
We smiled to each other, and then I asked her to dance. Foot before the other foot, we attempted to adhere to the soft rhythm of the three musicians, as it was the first time either of us had ever danced. I guessed.
‘This night, the night of wonder,
Where I, only I can hold her,
And we stroll, gone in the night
This night, the night of wonder
Where I, only I had shunned her’
The singer smiled at us, once more baring his unmistakably decayed teeth. We held each other in a tight hug as in the corners of my eye I looked at the futuristic city so full of light, where now I saw fire. An immense, purifying fire that eclipsed Clementine’s tower deeply in strokes of red and circles of smoke. I closed my eyes.
Once the song would be over and the musicians would go home, I would tell Electra to leave the city. I would tell her to go do something she really likes and to live out her life somewhere quiet. I would tell her to never come back here, not to visit me nor to bury me. Because I would not be coming with her. It wouldn’t be convenient, as I would be hunted down and executed for murdering a goddess.
But for now we danced.
End of Tape
The Video Tape
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