The rains of spring have lasted a year. I hear that in some areas now there are only showers, or perhaps someone said light drizzle. It was always too optimistic to think the rains were seasonal. It would take a decade of downpours to drench this scorched earth.
But the rains come and come: wave after wave of them across from what once might have been a horizon. Now it is just a fog of tears and smoke. And endless deep.
The wet blows through the broken windows, seeps into the khaki, runs down my chest, pouring even as we sleep.
It’s prehistoric, Jonesy had commented when Cam walked him through the engine shed to the turntable, where the locomotive gleamed in the electric light.
Aye, a mammoth job, Cam had replied.
Indeed it was. The smell of paint and grease had been in Cam’s nostrils for weeks. It was a beast all right. It was alien too; something from another world. You could smile or scratch your head, but to think people had lived side by side with these machines. The sooty towns and the crumbling villages. It was almost too much.
And now the information age, thought Cam. Ach.
I was born to lead. That’s why I’m always in the limelight. Events revolve around me. People are envious. It’s natural for me. Sometimes the truth has to be told. People respect that. They respect me. When things need to change people look to me to make it happen.
* * *
He’s always been a bully. He lets no one else shine. He attracts trouble. People resent him. He won’t even try to change. He just mouths off all the time. It pisses everyone off. We’re tired of him. Things need to change and we’re starting to think he has to go.
My name is Tony. I come from a family of actors, shipyard workers and grocers. My father worked as a tax inspector and became a law lecturer at one of the country’s most esteemed universities. I studied law too and graduated with a second class degree. But I always had higher ambitions. I have faith, but that is a private matter: I only know that God will judge me. I have done terrible, terrible things. Like my alibis, I am no longer anywhere to be seen. I exist. I make vast amounts of money. And I am still settling scores.
He was a machine, that’s what people said. So powerful – and everything tested, tuned, synchronised. They said he was in perfect shape. He said it was all about the timing: it was in the mind, not the legs.
You looked at him and wondered what thoughts went through his head as he crossed the line, arms outstretched. Could you still feel joy? Or was winning the only possible conclusion? He would feel pain. You could see the anguish just before the grin. The years of training. Family pressure. Money. Perhaps people were right: maybe being machine was the only way.