This story is by REFILOE MASHALA and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
I normally don’t have to wait for very long for a taxi but this morning, not a single taxi has come around. It has been a good twenty minutes…and counting.
Settling into the notion that I will probably miss my boss’ morning brief, I decide to order myself the office favorite: Long Macchiato by the local café on West 70th Street. I purchase a newspaper and indulge myself in the early morning goings-on of the rest of the world.
Thirty minutes and still no taxi, this might just be a long wait. I’d better be seated.
I take my place on a park bench right along West 70th Street- not far from the café and unfold my newspaper. No space for crazy people at General hospital, reads the front pager. Woman sent back home after hospital pleads no place for further intake of mentally ill persons. My golly, if the hospital won’t take them in, then where will the poor loonies go?
As I lament over the article, a woman appears in my peripheral, just above the view of my newspaper. I discreetly peer over the paper to observe this “Wonder Woman” as she flies down the pavement while she wraps her hair in a quick ‘do-up’ and then whips out her eyeliner, concealer and lipstick and gets to work on her face. To conclude her makeup, she rolls up her rose-gold lipstick- a last hopeful attempt at salvaging the look on her face which was now, unfortunately, nearing Nana’s mortuary cosmetology.
She had only just grazed a third of her lower-lip before her lipstick plummeted to the Earth. It broke off from its container and plunged into the ground. The bounce of the lipstick seemed to be the final blow for this woman as tears dropped from her eyes, unable to hold back from the confrontation of her defeat in her battle against lost time.
Thirty-five minutes and still no taxi in sight.
I sit slightly peering over the newspaper as a bystander, watching this woman as she follows after her tears and kneels to salvage what of her lipstick could be redeemed.
“What a pretty color your lipstick is. Can I put some on? Where I’m from, coloring one’s self is forbidden, but if it’s all right with you, I would like to try,” said someone. I don’t know who but it was someone.
The woman gave me a sharp stare that seemed to go through me as she extended her lipstick towards her lips.
“People seem to fall all the time,” proposed the voice, sounding as though it was leaning in towards the lady.
Still looking at me, the lady replied, “…people fall because they live in a world that brings them down.”
I sink myself into the bench, awkwardly averting my eyes from her glare and down onto the newspaper. I look back to her and then around us to see where on Earth this opinionated someone who keeps talking is standing.
“…not so, Miss.” interjects the Someone. “People seem to fall for fact of gravity or misstep, but they can learn to pick themselves up.”
“My name is Illius Rectus 1.1.5, from the planet Johnaiah. My leader, Celesti Prime Rectus 7.7.7, will be arriving soon with the legions of a hundred-thousand. I need your help.”
The woman is lifted up by an invisible swing-grab from around her waist and put back to her feet.
“I saw you coming in a hurry and took pity on your plight. I too am often rushing in pointless haste, trying to catch the eclipses of the seven moons on my planet, Illonga. My master requires it of me to implode Illuptus-one of our seven moons- during an eclipse, so that the gates of Sheol can be shut for a millennia and we may have peace in our land for three times a time and half a time.”
That is the only word I’d muster to say, followed by a blank stare as if someone had just explained calculus to me in Arabic and then asked me to recite what they had just told me, back to NASA, because Voyager needs this information to detect any incoming asteroids.
I am totally, completely in over my head with this one. Astounded. Catastrophically amazed. And afraid. Very afraid.
I may just be hearing my alter ego. For I sit here, on a bench in West 70th Street, about to conclude my Long Macchiato with a newspaper in hand, waiting for a taxi, still late for work. This is where I am right now… and I heard a voice speak of things so detailed in abstraction, they’re unimaginable. My alter ego can’t even spell Johnaiah?
“Please help me,” continues the voice to the woman. “My master is coming and he will come with the fury of two thousand years to find me not having imploded the moon. You understand why I couldn’t destroy Illuptus right? I don’t have it in me to destroy anything. You believe me, don’t you? So, you’ll help me, won’t you? … Like how I helped you.”
I am gob-smacked.
I could ignore all this and concern myself with the, perhaps, more pressing matter of why a taxi has not appeared in the last forty-five minutes.
Yes, I think I’ll do that rather. “Better to be a coward to adventure,” I suggest to myself, “…than never to return to the normality of taking a seat on a bench on the side of a road that is like Any. Other. Road.”
“Or…” I continue.
“I can choose to believe that the hospital has no space for loonies anymore because they are, e v e r y w h e r e. I, myself and this woman beside me, are both looney. My boss is also looney. He really is looney. The board had him tested after he ruled that work begins at 05h30.”