SYNOPSIS: A young man makes his way out to a long forgotten town, and discovers that he should embrace life and love, rather than let all of it slip away.
I don’t know what was going through my mind when it happened. I was walking the same route I always took towards the train station which would lead me to university. The bag was swung over my shoulders; my wallet was in my pocket. My dark hair was blowing into my eyes, the wind picking up speed as it always did around the shadowy corner I walked by. And there all of a sudden it was; a bright blue bus which pulled up beside me at its intended stop.
Now, I don’t know whether it was because I’d never seen it before, or because I knew I’d never get a chance to ride it again due to the death sentence hanging over my head, but I suddenly had the urge to deviate from my usual schedule.
Now, I’m not a man who normally takes risks, but all of a sudden, instead of walking on I decided that I would ride the bus. I didn’t care where at this point in time; I just knew I wanted to be sitting on one of the luxuriously furnished chairs positioned across the interior of the strapping vehicle before me.
After purchasing a fair from the driver I made my way down the centre of the bus and sat down on one of the farthest seats from the front, placing my bag atop of my chest and resting my head against the soft backing of the chair. My eyes began to droop and sleep came over me as I felt the bus beginning to pull back onto the road.
I don’t know how far I’d travelled, but by the time the bus driver woke me the surroundings outside of the bus had drastically changed since last I’d seen them. Instead of a city made up of metal and bone I found a country atmosphere greeting me from my window, not a single thing reminding me of home. I yawned before rising to my feet, hanging my bag over my shoulders as the driver said ‘end of the line.’
‘Where am I?’ I asked, staring outside the window, a radiant sun beating down onto the metal hull of the bus, while a light breeze carried leaves across a dirt road, small estates located across the dry terrain around me.
‘Townsville’ said the driver, nodding for me to exit.
‘Is there really such a place?’ I asked, scratching my head.
‘Must be son, ‘cause you sure as shit are in it’ chuckled the driver as I made my way off the bus, watching it disappear in a cloud of smoke and back up the dusty highway from whence it came.
I stumbled across the road before making my way across a small dusty trail which led to a rundown hotel with white paint peeling off from its exterior. I sighed before walking through the creaking door which swung upon loose hinges, a bell ringing above my head to signify my presence. A minute passed before a rather stocky woman made her way out from the back. She wore a dirty white apron over a blue and white striped shirt, her face appearing to be as run down as the hotel she resided over.
‘Ah’ I began, before proceeding on. ‘Forgive me for asking, but where exactly am I?’
‘A few miles away from civilisation’ said the woman in a croaky voice as she lit up a cigarette. ‘And that’s exactly the way we like it.’ She looked at me inquisitively before continuing. ‘You’re not from anywhere around here, are you?’
‘If I knew where here was that would be greatly appreciated’ I said.
‘I already told yer’ expressed the woman. ‘Imagine wherever you were before arriving here. This place, is a long way from that.’
I looked at my watch, noticing that one and a half hours had gone by since I had made my way onto the bus.
‘What, you gotta be somewhere?’ guffawed the woman, before extending out her hand. ‘Name’s Trudy Watson.’
‘Ryan Shields’ I said, taking her hand in mine.
‘Okay Ryan, perhaps you could start by telling me what yer doing here’ began Trudy, ‘then perhaps I could help you out.’
‘I honestly don’t know’ I said. ‘I just had this inkling to get onto the bus; and so I did. Suddenly, hey presto, I’m here.’ I sighed before going on. ‘Ah, perhaps it’s because I felt that I should not continue living the way I was used to and try something a little different, especially since I won’t be around for much longer.’
‘What are yer talking about?’ asked Trudy. ‘You’re a young man. Me, I’ve got cancer and you don’t see me doing anything that ain’t what I’m used to. So what could possibly be prohibiting you from living till the age I am now?’
‘My liver’ I said. ‘When I was younger I contracted Hepatitis A through food. That taught me not to eat at a restaurant, that’s for sure.’ I gave a weak chuckle before continuing. ‘Anyway, it damaged my liver and over time it has gradually become worse and now it’s inoperable. The only way to fix me up is to replace it entirely, but I’ve been warned that the risks are too great. I’m booked in to have the surgery in two weeks time. I did however sign a DNR.’
‘DNR?’ questioned Trudy.
‘Do not resuscitate form’ I said. ‘My lawyer looked over it and confirmed everything was in order. So if I flat line during the procedure, I stay that way’
‘Why would a young man such as yourself want to go kill yourself for?’ asked Trudy.
‘Everyday for as long as I can remember I’ve lived a life of regret’ I began. ‘I’ve only managed to accomplish half of what I wanted and I know that if I do survive the operation, nothing’s going to change. I’m not going to have a sudden epiphany and do everything I never would have. Including asking the girl I’m infatuated with to go out with me.’
‘Girl?’ asked Trudy. ‘Wow, if you’re willing to kill yourself to ensure you don’t have to talk to her she must be something special. What is her name?’
‘Cassandra’ I said, taking out my wallet and showing her the picture I carried around with me. It was a photo of me, Cassandra, and three others within one of my classes during a group exercise. Cassandra however stole the lime light. Her light brown hair shone brightly in the camera flash, which preserved her physical beauty forever in the image.
‘The ideology I live by however is; what’s the point of intimacy when you’re already dead inside?’ I stated, sighing to myself.
‘I think I know why you’re here’ said Trudy, handing me back the photo. ‘Everyone in this town is here for the exact same reason’ she said, taking off her apron and beginning to make her way out from behind the counter. ‘Follow me, I want to show you something’ she said, before beginning to lead me back out into the open.
We slowly walked along the dirt trail before stopping outside a small cottage a few metres down from the hotel. ‘Here lives Mr. Bristol. He arrived here about eleven years ago. He’s an athlete who never believed he was good enough to attend any of the major events, and when given the chance to compete believed he wouldn’t succeed, so instead, came out here.’
Trudy slowly began to continue up the trail before stopping outside a small metallic house on the opposite side of the track. ‘Here lives Mr. Sall. He’s an artist who never believed he could cut it. When his wife died of Leukemia her only wish was that he would allow others to see his paintings. He however failed her, as he did himself and retired here not twenty years ago.’
Once again Trudy began to make her way back up the trail as I slowly followed behind, the track becoming steeper as we stopped outside of a double storey residence which was constructed from pine. ‘Mrs. Smeath lives here. She used to sing in a church choir group. When a man she had always loved came up to her and asked her to accompany him with his band as they toured the country she agreed. On the day she was to meet him however she felt that he would not like her if he were to hear her sing once more and instead came out here. That was sixteen years ago.’
Trudy took a deep breath before slowly moving a little further up the trail to a house which had a jet black coat of paint draped across its exterior. ‘Mr. Turtletaub resides here. He was engaged to be married to an incredibly beautiful Turkish woman, but a few days before they were to be wed he left, believing their relationship would not last because he felt he was not going to be good enough for her. He arrived here eight months ago. Like everyone else here, he ain’t ever going to leave.’
Trudy sighed before making her way a little further up the trail, the wind billowing before us as we came to stop in front of a thinly crafted double storey residence made from a metallic substance. ‘Mrs. Valdreski lives here. She’s a woman with a Croatian background who fell madly in love with an Anglo Saxon woman. She however never confessed her feelings because she believed that she would be not only be rejected, but completely humiliated as well. On top of that, she thought a blending of different cultural backgrounds would not go down to well with either parities parents, and so instead came out here. You’d think that the hate people have for homosexuals would be yet another fear which corrupted her sensors, but no, it was not funnily enough. For fourteen years she’s been living in this house. You might recognise the woman she fell in love with. She’s now the leading woman behind a homosexual movement in Melbourne.’
Trudy smiled weakly before beginning to make her way up a little farther to a small house on what appeared to be the outskirts of the little town I’d discovered. ‘And here, the crème dela crème of all bad cases is where I live. I came up here twenty four years ago because I couldn’t face my family. I’ve a daughter who I’ve lost touch with. She hates me, or so I believe and personally I feel that if I were to ever see her she would not even bother attempting to make conversation with me.’ She sighed before continuing. ‘I guess the point I’m trying to make here Ryan is that I don’t want to see another person wind up here. All of us are here for the exact same reason. None of us could ever face whatever it was we wished to accomplish with our lives. I only hope that you can go back to civilization and do for all of us what we couldn’t do for ourselves and live God damn it, live.’
I found myself back in university the next day, my class coming to an end as I began to leave in the same manner I always did, completely avoiding Cassandra on the way to the door. Before I could stop myself I had stopped in front of where she sat and had opened my mouth to speak. ‘Excuse me’ I began, Cassandra looking directly up at me, my heart skipping a couple of beats.
‘Yes?’ she asked. ‘You’re Ryan, right?’
‘Yeah’ I managed, surprised she even knew my name.
Cassandra smiled. ‘Is there something you wish to tell me?’
As for what I said, I doubt I have to write it down, for you know, just like Cassandra does now, exactly how I feel for her. She stood by me during my operation and now we’re engaged to be married this August. As for every other man out there who’s in the same position I once was I ask only one thing of each of you. Find the one thing that you need and hold onto her forever.
SYNOPSIS: Jimmy, a student attempting to do a research project on the mysterious town of Gransnapia discovers a story about a statue of a man that is placed on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and why he will never leave.
Jimmy rode timidly upon his bike, the immaculate town of Gransnapia located around the bend, the entire town looking considerably bleak and dark, a shadow of its former self. He had never been present during its glory days, but had heard stories of its brilliance, which is why he had decided to do his assignment on the town. The teacher requested they write on something fantastical, and this was it. Jimmy however never imagined the town would be so frightening to behold, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end as he rode into town. A dense cover of fog emerged from the confines of small broken town houses and spiraled around him like ghosts, eager to accept him as one of their own.
Jimmy began to feel his decision to come was a mistake, slowly turning his bike around before slipping to the ground, gravel digging into his skin, the fog appearing to laugh at his own inconvenience. Making his way to his feet, Jimmy noticed an old man standing a few metres away, his clothes ragged and dirty. The man turned his head to look directly at him, causing a shudder to crawl along Jimmy’s spine. Taking a deep breath, Jimmy summoned all the courage he could muster before asking ‘do you know any interesting stories about this town mister?’
‘Depends’ stated the man, taking a step forward. ‘Do you want to hear a story’ he asked, ‘or do you want to hear a story?’
‘Which one is which?’ asked Jimmy.
‘The latter is far more fanciful’ stated the old man. He pointed up at a statue of a man placed atop of a cliff edge overlooking the entire town. The statue appeared sad and alone, the body posture signaling the man had lost something significantly dear to him, his head bowed in a silence that could never be broken. ‘I can tell you a story about the man that can’t be moved and the story of his Juliette for all eternity’ he said, before beginning to tell the tale.
The town of Gransnapia was traditionally inviting. Bright and beautiful, lights flourished across the city at night making the small civilisation stand out like a beacon. However, what Gransnapia was most famous for, were its apples. Gransnapian apples were sold for twelve dollars per kilogram, visualised as one of the most succulent and addictive forms of fruit ever conceived. This world renowned delight was what made the town so famous, comprised of many wealthy industrialists who had made a living of extravagance and luxury for themselves.
However, nobody ever distinguished the true nature of the townsfolk. They were, each of them pretentious, egotistical and presumptuous, having a great amount of prejudice towards outsiders. If they were not a part of their society then they were simply seen as misfits, the scum of the Earth whom they believed needed to be swept clean.
The townsfolk wore luxurious and exquisite outfits, dining at the only restaurants they had ever known, incredible arenas which were crafted specifically for the kings and queens of industry.
This behaviour was clearly represented the day the new shipments of parts for their hydro-electric dam were sent over by ship from the far side of Australia. The vessel was black in colour, looking like a beast on the horizon as it docked in port. The gargantuan containers were removed from the ship, and in addition there was one passenger. Nathaniel Buck was his name. His costume certainly wasn’t extravagant, appearing dirty and ragged from his trip at sea, his face unwashed and covered in hair. The townsfolk looked down at him as though he was a weed, one which needed to be destroyed quickly before any harm could be done to their Garden of Eden.
Nathaniel immediately had trouble attempting to be accommodated into a room at the local hotel, and the next morning found it even more trying when nobody wished to offer him a job, instantly being deported to the docks to ensure the area would be kept immaculate.
Whilst working there however, he couldn’t help but notice the comings and goings of an extraordinarily beautiful young woman. Virginia Copperfield was her name, daughter of Harvey, one of three men who had founded the Gransnapian apple trade. Her blonde hair flew out behind her as she rolled by in a luxurious gold trimmed carriage, her attire being a blossoming gown made from the finest silk imaginable.
Nathaniel was told by fellow workers he was crazy for having any romanticised thoughts over such a person. But the dock master liked the work that Nathaniel had accomplished, providing him with a larger economical cash flow, and as he built up his savings, Nathaniel made himself more presentable.
Even after Nathaniel had dined with the best of the town however they still failed to provide him with any respect, especially Harvey, who had noticed the stranger looking at his daughter on countless occasions. He needn’t have worried however. The stranger was never able to sum up the courage to communicate to such an attractive young woman, believing, like the town did, that he was a creature no woman of such brilliance could ever have feelings for.
One night after watching an adventurous piece of dramatic art about a couple of travelers and their escapades, Nathaniel had actually met Virginia in the booth above the stage whilst he was making his way towards the exit. The both of them had stopped what they had been previously doing and looked at one another for a second. Nathaniel had attempted to form words, but had ultimately failed, instead, tipping his hat in the presence of the beautiful young woman and departing from sight.
Although he was still disliked by the locals, Nathaniel did indeed begin to have additional occupations opened to him. Through these he was able to pull off many endeavours the entrepreneurs wished to have accomplished, from moving something from one place to another, to helping to advertise for bigger business. The most attractive feature of such occupational occurrences was the payment, which added to the luxurious lifestyle Nathaniel wished to concoct for himself. He had come to believe such wealth would make him appear to be quite the gentlemen in the eyes of Virginia, nothing apart from his self esteem been able to stop him from achieving his dream of finally being able to ask her to spend an evening with him.
When Nathaniel realised Virginia was being sent by ship to Europe a couple of weeks later under the machinations of her father he felt his entire body begin to shut down in grief. As the luxuriously gargantuan vessel pulled out from the harbour, Nathaniel stood atop of a cliff edge overlooking the vast ocean, and for a moment, just one, he could have sworn he noticed Virginia look up at him. It was almost as though she too had wanted him to approach all this time, and in one split second all opportunities were vanquished.
Days turned to weeks. Weeks turned to months, and months inevitably turned to years as Nathaniel continued to wait on the cliff edge for his beloved to return, to tell her exactly how he felt and pray he was not too late to be with her for all eternity.
But never did the ship return. Nathaniel continued to wait after the ship and all of its crew were reported missing, and after a period of seven long years the constant brutality of the sun caused Nathaniel’s skin to crumble into rock, until he became a part of the cliff itself.
A few months later it was reported the vessel had been attacked by enemy troops invading Europe, no survivors ever being reported after the ship had being razed into the depths of the ocean.
Jimmy took a few steps back, his mouth open in shock, unable to say anything to properly establish the way he currently felt. ‘Wow’ he managed to say in awe.
‘Yes’ nodded the elderly man. ‘Virginia and Nathaniel were the best of all those who ever entered the town, and without them Gransnapia inevitably destroyed itself through wrong doing.’
Jimmy looked at his watch before shouting ‘gee, thanks mister, but I really must go now’, quickly leaping onto his bike and beginning to ride out of the town. He turned around suddenly and looked up at the statue one last time, instantly recognising the resemblance. The old man was the ghost of Nathaniel, trapped for an eternity away from his true love, the two of them cursed to forever be apart.