i see a pattern forming

images by bronwen hyde | text by simon groth


untitled #18


She opened the skylight window and stared into the night sky. The few stars that punctured Stoke Newington’s orangeade glow appeared feeble and dull for the effort. Even the moon had a dusty tiredness to its surface, as though the filth of the city itself was the source of that heavenly reflected light.

He muttered and grumbled as he turned over under the sheet. He was more settled tonight than she expected.

She had often wondered about the place he comes from. The Brisbane she knows is a city pieced together from maps, photographs, the odd web search, and the occasional scrap of detail Ethan has dangled before her. It is a place of kangaroos, droughts, and humid sweltering Christmases. He has mentioned a few things he misses: brilliant constellations that stretch across the night sky, cricket in long dry grass, even mosquitoes and cockroaches, though she wasn’t sure he was serious about those. His parents, his sister, his neighbour and friend from the years growing up: they are the vaguest of abstractions to her, little more than a name and a barely palpable sense of loss, a sadness that permeates even her husband’s happiest moments.

With any luck they would enjoy a quiet, uninterrupted night together.

He took in a sharp breath.

‘What are you doing?’ he said.

‘I was just looking out the window.’

‘You were looking at me.’

‘I’m allowed to look at my husband. That was part of the contract.’

‘I don’t remember that bit.’

‘Fine print,’ she smiled. ‘I was on my way to bed.’

This was how their day ended: their last good day.

‘I love you,’ he said.

‘I love you too.’

After that day, everything changed.

‘Happy anniversary.’

untitled

The place you resurface is rarely the same place you sank.

untitled #335

He pauses to wipe sweat from his brow and sets back to work, hunching over the shovel. His first choice for the site was under a tree. Not for any sentimental or aesthetic reasons, it was because he wanted to work in the shade. Maybe that’s age catching up on him. But it would never work; too many roots under these eucalypts, too much already going on under the surface. Too much terrifying subterranean life worming through the darkness. That’s why he is out here under the sun’s worst punishment. He could have worked at night of course, that would have been the ideal, but timing is more important than the cover of darkness. You can’t wait. And when it’s time to dig the hole, you don’t fuck about. Speed is essential, but not at the expense of diligence. Maybe that’s why so many people are terrible at this job, they’re in too much of a rush, too panicked to ensure the work is done correctly. Well, not him. He peers out of the hole through the tufts of brown grass and smiles at what he sees.

‘Yes,’ he says to his companion, ‘when you hear “the body was discovered in a shallow grave”, you know they aren’t talking about my handiwork. And you can take that to the bank.’

scrapbook

In her second drawer, Coral keeps a scrapbook with cutouts from travel magazines inside. She might take you into her confidence. If she does, she will carefully lay the book out over her keyboard, proffering page after page of palm trees and guesthouses on stilts; here a daiquiri at a beach bar, there a pair of skis placed with artful nonchalance by a warm fireplace. And, after you both have had your fill of travel pornography, Coral will close the book and strike another day off her calendar. Ask her: ‘How long until you retire, Coral?’ Coral will pause to think. ‘Nine years, three months, sixteen days, and,’ at this she usually checks her watch, ‘five hours.’

untitled #184

Voices mingle and glasses clink. Everyone’s here: the people who christened him ‘Blinky’, who broke into his home and rearranged his furniture, who silently lured his guide dog off course with salty snacks. Even though he’s already twenty-one, tonight, Blinky Bill comes of age.

The recipe has to be precise. Just enough flash will blind everyone in the room for weeks. Too much bang and the whole hall will go up. The potassium perchlorate was in his right hand, aluminium powder in his left. Yeah, that’s right; both powders correctly mixed.

He hesitates a moment, the match between his fingers.

untitled #351

Emmerson Wellings makes his way through the now empty building. The carpet is standard grey-blue in colour. The off white walls and sickly green doors are bathed in the artificial fluorescent light. He steps carefully through the foyer, heads towards the stairs and descends. It doesn’t look any different at this hour; no natural light makes it down into the basement floor during the day anyway. Emmerson looks down at the key card in his hand. Printed neatly on its face is the code B21. He finally has it. He draws in a deep breath and looks behind him, over his shoulder. Tonight he will commence his orientation unofficially.

untitled #140

The smell worried him: a rich odour that hung in the air so thickly you could almost see it. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. His muscles twitched and a well of adrenal energy pushed up through his chest. He nodded to the tollbooth operator. Green and organic matter only, that’s right. Rage was good at solving problems, but he relied on the city council to dispose of the evidence. The excess fee was a small price to pay, so long as you could get past the weighbridge without attracting any undue attention. The tollbooth operator twitched his nose.

—What have you got in the back there?

Bugger. 

He hunched lower in the driver’s seat squeezing his eyes, willing the rage to return just once more.

untitled #15

She stares at it for a while, unsure how to proceed. It’s much larger, certainly heavier than she expected. Its hard metallic edges offset an impossibly long and beautifully fluid return bar and round tactile keys, cool to the touch. She perches uncomfortably on the edge of her friend’s wretched two-seater couch, the typewriter plonked uncomfortably on the coffee table. The hammers curve away from her in a metallic grin. This is nothing like a PC. It has too much swagger, too much masculinity. In the presence of a Remington Standard No.12, she feels diminished and unworthy.


untitled #255

He stood frozen, clinging to his suitcase, unsure of the etiquette in this strange land. It was still the same house from his childhood, but it was now overlaid with a filter of squalor: magazines, plates of half-eaten food, empty bottles. 

In her eyes he could see the only direct line back to the woman from his memory, the woman his mind grasped to hold on to. She held an unsteady hand out to him, which he took by the fingers, felt the texture of the bones under skin stretched tight. Her hand was warm, which surprised him a little.

‘Hi…Mum.’

She closed her eyes and took the book from under her arm, laying it gently on her lap. Aside from the odd circular motion in her shoulder, she remained still for a moment.

‘What is she doing?’ he asked his father.

‘Praying probably.’

‘Are you serious?’

‘You’ve been away a while, son.’

untitled #93

That first moment of sunlight is the best part of the day. How is it that, for twenty-seven years I barely noticed the sun? There’s so much sunlight at home, it’s impossible to appreciate its real value. Everyone is too busy hiding from it, covering their bodies, running for the nearest shade. Slip, slop, slap; all that shit. I was the same. Now, like rice and brown water, sunlight is rationed. For what I’ve guessed is around three hours a day, shafts of natural light form three metre columns between the rough concrete floor and the small square holes in the ceiling. I squat under the columns and watch cloud shadows play on my hands. Eddies of dust flow around my fingers, spiralling in and out of view.

The skin on my hands is cracked, my nails are bitten to the quick, and I have an old man’s arthritic knuckles.

I can only imagine what my face must look like.

But in the sunlight, nothing else matters. For three hours a day, I am not bound to my circumstances; I am just another person under the sun. The white pillars fade in then fade out without moving across the floor, so perfectly, maddeningly still.

How do they incarcerate the sun for three hours a day?