October 2021 | Written by Keshia Sophia Roelofs
The smell sparked a deep hunger and pulled him further into the recesses of the yard. From here, he could see the faint whisper of treetops over the looming grey. A cacophony of sounds swept over them. Screams of laughter or pain, he couldn’t be sure, but they sounded young and shrill.
An electrical buzz came from somewhere to his right. Not close enough to elicit investigation but ignites a cursory glance all the same. The sound is familiar, like so many machines he encounters now. Some pose no threat, but still, he can never take the risk. It is better to remain still and let the great mechanic beasts go forth with their duties, crunching and grinding, seemingly oblivious to his motionless frame.
His world was saturated with machinery. Giant stainless steel monstrosities consuming everything in their path. Though not all moved with decisiveness. Some lurked on the cusp of his periphery, never alluding to their existence until their terrible sounds sprang forth with a menace. They frightened him but never moved. Their terrifying din drowned to a distant whirring once he scurried away.
Then there were those tremendous looming forces that stood over him. He called those ones The Agitators, fiendish creatures whose earth-shattering shakes sent his muscles into spasms, rattling his bones. Strictly involuntary, a reflex now at this point, but he could feel the terror all the same. Their presence was constant. Their clattering call was not. It was a threat they held over him always and whose anticipated release he could never predict. Most of these metals things had a routine, but never The Agitators. Which made them all the worse.
All were at the mercy of the tall folk. They who flicked the buttons, oscillating between satisfied mummers and exasperated groans. The shiny demon who spewed hot acidic smelling liquid amidst shrill whistles and soft hisses delighted them the most. But not The Agitators; they angered the tall folk almost as much as they terrorized him.
With curt gestures and huffing sighs, the two would shove fabrics into one and pull them heated from another. Sometimes a cloth would snag, or a hand would snap back with the shock of static, but the beasts never showed remorse. On they would go, spinning and gushing, spinning and gushing. He could hear it now, their raucous rattling and agonizing gurgle as if he was standing in front of them under the weighted vapour that filled the noxious room.
The moisture on the air caught his nose again, placing sweet liquid on his tongue. He loved it here. Outside beneath the everchanging sky. Sometimes the most wonderful refreshing sprays would spring loose from above, tickling his body and rooting him to the moment. Tonight there was nothing. Just bursts of red now faded into darker shades while the air grew thick with possibilities, far from the constant ache of waiting for The Agitators’ relentless call.
He felt overcome with a need to bound. To frolic freely amongst the green stained concrete and soak in the atmosphere of careless abandon. There are no noises here. No maddening metallic masses dotting the landscape of his periphery nor looming sucking monstrosities provoking his lunges to keep them well in check. He sees no distorted reflections of himself in the sheen of disruptive bodies, just solid grey and shimmering sky.
A wasp catches his eye and unleashes his reflexes. He pounces with purpose, but it is too late. His worthy opponent has fled the yard, and the shadow of the wearier tall one has appeared in its place. For a moment, they stare at each other, his body poised to run, her eyes pleading him not to. A smile curves her mouth. His prey drive is subsided. “Come, Kobe, back inside.”
He decides this time she has won.