The calm shadow sauntered behind him and he could feel the angle where the imposing presence stood. It would be just behind his earlobe five paces from him to the right of an acute angle. He could not hear its footsteps as if the ghoul was walking on a soft fluffy carpet that could tapper off even the noisiest clatter. Should he turn and come face to face with the moving figure, an anxiety of imminent danger seized him. And he turned too quickly to face the assailing motion. And he was alone. The room stretched into corners away from his sight like a cubicle suddenly filed with tense air but vividly empty.
Its an anxiety that has been seizing upon him lately. Like the pain of his arthritis fingers he can sense it tearing through his tendons clamping around every joint like a drawing curtain of pain, stiff and rigid searing. When he was younger he could bear pain, he could transform it like darts of acupuncture and distribute it so the level of intensity would ebb into waves and wash away. But not anymore, pain perspired him, made little tears at the edge of his eyes and left him breathless.
When he was younger he could do a lot of things. He could chase the anxiety following syllables and pictures on a mobile phone every ten minutes or so trying to catch moments captured every second and prismed through their likeness to each other than anything else, fed behind by a computer formula written by a regretting scientist. It kept the Quylph away, or just at bay long enough that he would fix himself on the dark screen all day afraid to look away or he would face the medusa who would turn him to stone.
But he had exorcised the gadgets since it had given him a twitching hip, some form of cancer that migrated in his body like nomads chasing seasons and cleaved a layer of blindness when he was barely old. He had built castles in the air to replace his docile life, a house of cards, a story line but all that came crushing as the façade fell apart.
The peace he had anticipated would be as calm as the sea drawn and humming in a clam sunlit day. But what he got was the harsh rough tempest of stormy anxiety, his patience rocking violently as if he was anticipating something. Waiting for the purr of vibrating pheromone that never came. He would move his hand to his pocket to fish out the phone but it was not there and he would search for it frantically at first until his frail mind would snap back and realize he no longer had it. Then Quylph would giggle just behind his head where he could not frame the amorphous edges.
Age counts down memories like a school kid on a chalkboard, starts very fast until it gets to a point when the numbers get fuzzy repetitive, boring and it cannot wait for death. Is the Quylph his angel of death waiting for him to stare at depths of darkness before finishing him off? Toying with his conscience like a satisfied cat with a mouse. He tries to remember when he first noticed the unacknowledged presence at his side. Was it when he was a child talking to his imaginary friend that Quylph had grown from his head to take an unwavering presence. Had he created him in his image like a god and given him form and emotions. All he knew is that Quylph came and went at his bidding often when he became intensely lonely or anxious, or too happy that it would remind him of the impending loneliness or anxiety. He knew its presence when he felt shivering cold. Goosebumps would crescendo over his skin and his balls would shrivel and itch. The film of atmosphere would fall over him so heavily he felt like Atlas holding his world by the shoulders but collapsing beneath the pressure. Then he would crave reassurance, her warm hand on his nape, the edges of her nails against his aroused skin. But then instead the Quylph would make a sudden rushed movement, and he would realize he was not only alone but being jested.
He tries to move but there is a stiffness in his hip, he has to use a lot of effort, if he could only get to the window and stare outside, his loneliness would go away. He craves the tangy taste of alcohol at this time but he knows his liver cannot take anything more than water. In those younger days he could plunge at Quylph’s obstinacy with enough alcohol to blur his senses. In its retreat he would be a murderous god impressed at the demise of his creation and gloat powerfully to his inviolability. But now his mind is a maze that requires distraction, anything but the emptiness inside and around him, a song would do it. A slow monotone Somali dirge maybe, strum oud and sung poetry flashes incomprehensible images of the past so attached to some forgotten importance. But first he has to reach the end of the room and the radio, maybe have to tune it knob by knob. He had lived most of his younger life without the need for a radio, maybe in the car where it boomed from a memory stick or listened to online music from home fibre. But he had exorcised that too, the wifi wavelength twisted his head and confused him. He had to search for months to get a transistor radio. He finally got one, a medium range cackling Chinese box that caught static rather than sound waves. He would rather get to the window and stare outside, maybe he will see a bird today.
It first started with bees, when he was young he used to catch the buzzing little things dangling from flower to flower mating inside the chemise of gaudy petals and extracting ambrosia. Maybe the flowers went first or the bees followed. Maybe the burrowing bumble bees followed suit. Then the spotted red tortoise shell of the ladybird or its food the arachnid went first. Maybe the ants went too and so did the millipede. He had not noticed, having grown up he had not checked beneath rocks or tussled bushes looking for interesting things. He had grown bipedal with age staring straight at worldly worries. When the he stepped off the rat race bent by age he had stared at the ground and found it inanimate. The pellets of sand stood motionless like sentries and nothing else moved. The manicured synthetic grass looked like a football pitch in greenery and thickness but nothing moved in between them. Where had all those animals gone too.
And the birds, he remembered fondly the sole parrot he had known as a child which used to live in one of his neighbours houses. What was his name? he cannot recall. The parrot would repeat everything you said, unless it was grumpy and would just mockingly stare at the children who coaxed it, begged it to say even a single word. He had hoped to own a parrot when he grew up, a talking companion. It would have been nice to have one now, he could speak his memories and it would repeat as though understanding, sharing his loneliness. But they had just vanished. So did the noisy gaudy weaverbirds, the pointy heron, the dashing flamingo, the cooing pigeon, the Superb Starling, the stocky egret. Did they disappear all of a sudden like a sudden migration or had they succumbed one by one to a mysterious fate. If only he could have his laptop here and internet, he would google. Gone in space and time but preserved in 1s and 0s of the master internet.
Everything could be found on the internet during the good days that there was no time to look at the real things. Reality shifted in dimensions so quickly that no one noticed. You could go on a fantastic holiday through virtual reality, see every nook and crack of every corner of this world. You could buy anything without having to find where that thing was or came from. You could meet everyone without touching them and they would come alive in high definition hologram. Everything was possible without doing anything. You could be a pilot and fly simulation and soar the skies. Every now and then some new challenge would be designed and it would be repeated, perfected and evolved until the whole world had managed the trick like choreography before anew distraction was found. He lived for the rate race, getting ahead of the curve, the best picture glossed over like a painter, heck you could take the talents of Leonardo da Vinci and make Monalisa from the gadget.
So he created himself in his own image. Let there be light, on the front and back camera. Let there be a dome to divide the water and to keep it in two separate places where one would be for the public gallery and the other for withdrawn depression and anxiety of relative deprivation. Let the water below the sky come together in one place, so that the land will appear, like a footnote on an instagram photo complete with search engine optimized hashtag. Let the earth produce all kinds of likes, those that bear shares and those that bear retweets. Let night vision appear in the sky to replicate day at night. And now we will make human beings; they will be like us and resemble us.
In all this the Quylph kept tapping at his shoulder whenever he got too immersed into the trend as if trying to remind him of something important. He turned and saw nothing.
The emptiness stared back and there was truth in it. There were victims of his make believe, real and imagined. She was his biggest victim created for the public zoo where he had built his tyranny and power over her like a scientific experiment. His double life mirrored the desire to appeal to the gallery and the haunting call of the Quylph to aspire to be true to self.
“Was God’s error in creating human in an image that craves creation?” Quylph asks.