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contemporary horror, mystery and drama novels & flash fiction

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Consequence

What would you do if a monster from your past reappears?

And what if this monster doesn’t recognise you?

After building a new life for herself far from her home town where her innocence was stolen, Sam meets the man who’d abducted her years before. But things are complicated. Sam had been wrong before. Moreover, at 22 she has fallen in love for the first time. She cannot afford to tell anyone what is going on. But when he strikes again too close to home, Samantha knows she has to act fast. And she can’t tell anyone what she’s about to do…

Sergeant Gayle Oliver has been tracking her killer for months. As a loner with baggage of her own, she wonders if she can catch him before she has to tell another family that their precious child’s life has been stolen. She knows she’s chasing against time.

Gordon is special. He hasn’t always known this, but after ma went away, everything became much clearer to him. He has a job to do. The gods will show him… The gods will protect him…

Consequence tells the story of the repercussions of our actions. It speaks of the enduring consequences of generations of racial segregation, abuse and social inadequacy. It’s also a story about coming of age, the resilience of self and forgiveness.

Set to the backdrop of post-apartheid South Africa, the plot doesn’t shy away from themes which dig into the deepest darkness of South African society.

Years: a book of tiny poetry

This self-published e-book compilation of 27 original poetic works contains short poems written over a period of 15 years.

sneak peeks

take a look inside my upcoming novels

scratches

“Oh, I know. You don’t have to tell me. I know she’s sitting there staring at me. Has been for months now. Even as my pen scratches this paper I can hear her scratching that damned floor. I’d like to say that one gets used to a sound like that, but you never really do. The sound of nails scratching anything is simply unnatural, don’t you agree?

The first few weeks I thought, quite foolishly (you know, as one does when someone else is acting so irrationally), that she was trying to file her nails against the floor. And I remember thinking how silly that was. I thought it was a child thing. Also – I’d never quite tried to reason with her. Not that she would listen. I know that now. It would have been futile from the start.

After three years, seven months and twenty-one days – I can honestly say she is doing it just as a statement. She’s not even trying to claw her way out of here. Not that we’ve ever confined her to this room – or any room for that matter. She’s free to leave. Damn thing just won’t!

Oh, how I wish she would leave.”

For weeks after I would look for signs. Signs I knew full well did not exist, or if found – would be tenuous at best. But this is what we do under the pressure of tragedy – we delve into the past and assemble belated pillows around the grand event to cushion the blow – telling ourselves that it all could have been easier. We tell ourselves that tragedy is better under different circumstances. Had something been done slightly different, or done at a different time, or if you’d behaved otherwise. As if it would make all the difference. It’s a calculation; you are trying to find an equation where life does not equal death. Or an equation where life at least leads to a softer death. Something palatable. A slow and romantic dance to a demise which is emotionally digestible.

The hardest part of it all was the realisation that I would have to disembark here. That this little lifeboat I was on would not sustain me. I was supposed to start from scratch. I was hoping to delay this new journey. Because journeys need preparation. They’re not Ad Hoc.

***

I had the luck of finding out about Harry’s infidelity, and his death, on a Friday. Although I can’t quite recall what I did with those extra weekend hours, I was sure it would have been worse had it occurred during the week.

Of course, the weekend passed and Monday came, and I must say, I coped quite fine… until 11.
Funny how I can’t recall the exact time I’d heard of Harry’s death, but I always recall what time it was when someone called me out on being at work the Monday after. That is kind of how I calculate his death later (though I wouldn’t tell people this) – I would count backwards from 11:00 at the printer, in the office, on Monday, the fourth of May.

Of course, I wasn’t exactly ‘called out’. It was a small gesture. Well meant. A hand on my wrist as I was busy making photo-copies. I’d turned to a wan smile, a pale face, a look of sympathy that had caught me off guard. It was uncalled for. It was unwelcome. And in an instance everyone knew. Everyone knew I had changed. Everyone knew I was trying to be strong, or a similar type of emotional change they’d ascribed to a life after death. They knew that I was now a little broken thing. I went home then. Out of sympathy for myself. Sympathy for having to deal with sympathy when I could not possibly grasp the magnitude of what I was dealing with yet.

Home was strange and foreign.

I set the television on the radio channel. Something I’d never done before and struggled to get right. I did it to fill the silence. I realised I had no dinner to plan for the evening. I would never get to wash any of his shirts again. I would never pick up his carelessly discarded shoes off the floor and return them to his closet.

Many times in those first few days I’d tried to message Henry. I went on Facebook once, wondering what to do about a status – lucky for me the world had already taken over this task. Tributes and memories were plastered all over our walls. People I’d never met wrote about him and mentioned me in poetic eulogies. After setting those closest to us at ease, and confirming I was not suicidal, I shut the phone off. And so I sat there listening to music and thinking of nothing much. I wasn’t hungry. Wasn’t sleepy. Wasn’t focused on anything in particular. I was in limbo. I’d make coffee, and then just set it on the table. It would get cold. I would also get cold. But I couldn’t really move from that spot. My eyes seemed to simply follow the path of the sun as it reached its peak and plummeted slowly from there. I wondered if I would always remain in that dreamlike haze; if focus would never find me again, if my mental capacity had somehow been tied to my marriage and had now died with the other half of that equation.

My lack of emotion made me wonder if I’d even loved Harry at all. I wondered if he’d known we didn’t really love each other and found someone else to love because he’d known time was running out. I wondered if I’d always been this cold person and if this was his reason for straying. Then I wondered if he’d been planning on leaving, even before leaving in such a dramatic and final way.

I wanted to cry for him, I really did. But it didn’t come. Not in the way I needed it anyway. It came in bursts of insanity that grabbed me while I was in the kitchen washing my cup, or the bathroom looking in the mirror. It came in yelps foreign to my ears, expressed from my lungs in swift and deadly gasps of desperation. And I wondered, during those brisk expressions of mania, whether I had any right to grieve for my husband at all.

But these moments were surprisingly swift and perpetually replaced by an overwhelming sense of nothingness. I had no sense of time in those first few weeks. Even as I recount this, I know only from hindsight, from trying to keep track of my memories by writing them down. And I’d only written them down for fear of going mad. I am constantly reassembling the puzzle of those days after the dam walls burst. Because grief scatters us. It leaves pieces of us all over time; pieces which we forget where they fit, or why they exist, or what they represent.

There simply was no way of making sense of it. In many ways there still isn’t.

I can’t recall how I’d made the arrangements for the funeral. I must have talked to my children – consoled them. I read some notes scribbled as diary entries during that time. Matter of fact. To the point. In one, I’d stated that the children seemed heartbroken. It’s laughable now. I wrote it as if it was something which was surprising, something noteworthy. As if I had to remember that they were sad. I wrote it as if, in the days following Harry’s death, I hadn’t been yearning for him, and missing him and loving him.

Funny how a single revelation could change us so completely.

As for my own feelings towards my family, all I can remember was the angst of being locked behind Harry’s secrets. His death had made it impossible for me to share, with the world, that he had been unfaithful. I was so irrational about it all. At one stage I thought – if the world had to find out now they would surely think I’d killed him. It was ridiculous, seeing as he’d been thousands of kilometres away at the time, and surely I couldn’t have directed a cow in front of the tour bus telepathically. I also feared that, if everyone found out, they would know why I wasn’t grieving. I didn’t realise at this point that I was in a pit of grief so deep it would take me four years to crawl and claw myself out of there. I was in shock. And I felt a failure at losing a husband it seemed I’d never really had. And I felt a fool. The most awkward screaming in the mirror I’d experienced that week was when I cursed life for not giving me the chance to confront him, to pound my fists into him and demand to know why. It all felt so unfair. My loss was so immense that I could simply not deal with both blows at the same time. It was either infidelity or death – never both. And the fact that no one could know about the infidelity meant this part of my grief had to be buried. It had to be secret. Like the secrets I now shared with the stranger in the grave.

When infidelity happens, we start to question the authenticity of all experiences shared with our loved ones. We start to doubt the strength and intensity of every moment in our memory artillery. Threads as dense as osmium unravel and turn to vapour. A lifetime of shared experiences lay before us, needing examining, but lacking the conclusion that we yearn to draw. And if the person, the cause, of all this – is not there to answer for us, our imaginations have to fill in blank spaces, or scratched out memories.

It took about three months before I could go through Harry’s things. I’d always known I would do it, but I was so afraid of what I would find. I think my mind made me stall. Yet it was around this time that my head hit a mental barrier called anger, and punched through it with a masochistic obsession which was incredibly unhealthy. Looking back, I wonder how I survived that period without being institutionalised. Perhaps because, as a mother, I’d become used to shielding those around me from pain. I’d become used to dealing with life’s disappointments on my own.

I took that first week off work. After Monday 11:00 of course. But even though I could not stand the sympathetic faces of my colleagues, being at home seemed to be just as challenging. I felt like there was a constant weight pressing down on me in those rooms. (cont…) >>

>> (cont…) It was during this time that I started wandering around the city streets in the middle of the day. It filled me with the strangest sensation. I realised at once that I did not know these streets at all. It was as if I’d overlooked the metamorphosis of my world from the place it had been of my youth – much like my marriage. I would saunter for hours, walking past street vendors and shops I’d never have seen or known of had Harry still been alive. One day I saw a child drop a piece of bread on the asphalt. I swiftly picked it up, dusted it off and gave it back to him. His mother nodded acquiescence. Can you believe it? Me. Giving a child a dirty piece of bread to eat. Not the normal me, no. But I had this overwhelming sense that all the rules I’d built my life on were based on utter horse-shit. I knew as I picked up that piece of bread that the child would be fine. As would I. Eventually. I knew there were far worse things than a few germs on a piece of bread. And I recall thinking that if the human body hasn’t evolved to deal with something as simple as dirt and germs on bread, then we didn’t deserve to live at all.

Once I could realign my entire life to eating bread off sidewalks I would be able to make sense of life. As soon as I could do that, I knew I would be fine.

You may wonder why I’m telling you all this. It probably seems like the ramblings of an old woman, which it is of course. But I need you to understand how I got here. I need you to understand my state of mind during that time. And I need you to understand that, were it not for meeting Kyle, I’d not have been here.

I’ve already told you about my wandering. Well, this new trick of mine lasted more than a week. When my legs still carried me, you will recall, that I would wander around all the time. Even here, in this hopeless place where old people come to gather dust and act graceful but fail miserably. Even here I would wander, hoping every day that the landscapers had added more rosebushes or a new bench with a less depressing plaque than someone’s lifespan glued to it.

Anyway, my wandering subsisted even after I returned to work. Imagine me, for a moment. Suzanne the clock-watcher. Suzanne the straight-and-narrower. Suzanne the head girl. Suzanne with everything stacked in neat rows with clear labels and colour codes. Well I’d had enough of that Suzanne. Not that I realised it at the time. I was just coping. I wasn’t even aware of the fact that I was systematically breaking every rule I’d ever laid down for myself. Now, of course, I can see the rebellion. It’s a sad thing. How the structures of one’s understanding of the world could be so violently removed – leaving you with no understanding of it at all. I feel sorry for that Suzanne when I think about her. But I didn’t feel sorry for myself at all back then. Nor do I now. I feel sorry for a person that is as far removed from me as the president or some rock star somewhere. I have empathy for the Suzanne who started wandering the streets back then. But I also feel like it was the start of something great. Like a fatal crack through which something new was to be born.

After a week or two I came to the realisation that, even though I was averse to therapy, I needed something else, something different. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

***

You know, I thought I’d have forgotten the details. It’s been many years, many years of not getting to share this with anyone. Kyle… well, of course Kyle knew some of it. But only because he never cared to ask. Or perhaps he sensed that any demand on information would make me clam up. He was always smart that way. Intuitive. He knew people. He knew them in a way I’m still trying to figure out to this day.

But I’m trailing off again. Where was I?

Oh, yes. My state of mind.

Well, thing is. By the time I knew how to phrase the betrayal, I’d already resolved not to share it with anyone. This was after the initial shock and anger. As I’ve explained before, there is great shame and fear attached to unfaithfulness. There is the fear that you may never have been loved at all, and maybe never would be – the fear that you are not enough. And there is the shame of the realisation that you, in fact, weren’t enough. I was past the point of caring what this signified for me, but I did not want my children to share in this shame and fear. I did not need everyone else who loved Harry to have to struggle through the unanswered questions.

You build your life, and more importantly – you build it with other people. And you assume that the more things you build together and contribute to that pile of building materials, the stronger the structure will be. You puzzle things together, accumulate trinkets and stack the memories around you. Until you have no idea where you end and the other person begins. You are so interwoven. You become used to certain things in your life. Your biggest annoyance is that something might break or wear down. Something. A thing. Not all of it. Never all of it.

Essentially, betrayal is like a thing that rips you from yourself.

I felt removed from my own body. I felt evicted. Violated. As if the person who had stolen into Harry’s life had voyeured into my bed. Into my most intimate moments. Not those rare occasions when we made love, but those when we would share an inside joke. The way he knew where to place his fingers between the third and fourth rib to tickle the bejeezus out of me. The balance of spices I put in his food which would make him lick out the plate. The arrangement of food and drink in our fridges. I wondered how these intimate moments, shared habitually over twenty two years, could hold so little sway. I wondered how they could be so meaningless.

I packed the first box that week, about four months after it all happened. One box. And one box only. I suspect it had something to do with cementing my resolve, but also served as a welcome distraction. There was an unwelcome part to it. The heavy and draining task of sorting through our life together. A life shrouded in secrecy. But it was time for me to open it up and see what was inside. I thought I was ready to seek answers.

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