Landscape of Worry


(page 3 of 10)

And death is nothing. It happens just like that.

“This,” James said, dryly, “isn’t the highway.”

We got back onto the paved road. I was still feeling elated at the sight of those spinning tanks. I never imagined that such bulk could have such nimbleness. It was wonderful seeing the unimaginable – sometimes.

Women in blue, wearing pink headscarves, were whipping black-and-white cows up a steep incline. Dawn’s violet ringed the earth’s distant lip. A woman in burgundy-pink emerged from a palm grove beneath the incline. Yellow dates were hanging under the trees’ boughs, like golden eggs under mothering sheathes of branches and leaves, the colours colliding gorgeously. Pastel vapours sat in rainbow bands on the world’s edge. I now didn’t care that we weren’t on the main road. I was buzzing with gladdened fulfilment. Maybe soon I’ll regret this, I thought. But I’m going to love it before I do.

Traffic slowed at a bridge that arched over the Euphrates. We crawled behind an oil tanker. Morning’s blurred eye, like fogged vision, was reflected in the river’s opacity. Fuzzy palm reflections were painted into the pale-blue glass that faced the sky. The seconds tightened, like wire, around our rigid bodies. We felt strapped in by this imaginary wire; opposite-direction, bumper-to-bumper drivers were staring at us, with predatory curiosity, like cats observing humanoid chickens, their unshaven faces, sharp, cold, and feline, spouting carnivorous forests of long whiskers. Unwanted curiosity glinted like metal on their dark faces. They stared with a kind of dour, deadpan savagery. The traffic crawled. Those faces stared. The wire tightened, straining, croaking, creaking – snapping on the other side of the river where we were able to fly away, leaving the oil tanker behind.

We went parallel to the river. Relief made me feel as if I was cruising in silence in a balloon at high altitude. Men in white fabrics were walking under palms on the other bank, their heads wrapped in red-and-white scarves. The palms’ trunks resembled high stems that exploded at their tops with green eruptions. My temples were oscillating with a kind of swishing clarity. All failings and hopes got swept aside by grace. Two mosque domes, side by side, amid the high, sheltering palms, were inlaid with gold that sparkled with elegant tastefulness. Pleasure and wonderment hit me as I realised just how much tourism potential Iraq had; it was like seeing a brilliant future emerging from a lavish past.

Vehicles rushing along the distant highway – that umbilical cord back into the world – were glittering and shining and sparkling, flashing into the horizon, like discrete units of metal whose occupants were escaping with snippets of fascinating information – and soon we would be joining them; I thought……

My levity of relief disappeared when the driver left the link to the umbilical cord back into the world to join a queue of vehicles that were lined up to enter a petrol station. Our mouths sagged open. This guy, I thought, is so locked into his own personal agenda that he doesn’t seem to acknowledge or recognise hopes or intentions in anyone else! Two other queues were waiting. Only people were moving inside the petrol station. The cars were still. The people inside the cars were still. The parked drivers were waiting quietly. Only men, with covered eyes, were wandering around – and they were carrying guns!

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About Kim Farleigh


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Kim has been published in several magazines around the world, but he has never been published on mars; but he feels that one day someone will be, and that he won't be around to see it - unfortunately - because he's going to die and he doesn't like that because he considers dying to be nothingness and nothingness...read more is really a waste of time. Unfortunately, due to lack of metaphysical training, he can't bring himself to believe anything else. Long after his death Red Fez will probably have an offshoot called Red Planet.
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