Winter 2008

Table of Contents - Vol. IV, No. 4


Poetry    Interview    Translations    Fiction    Book Reviews

Thane Zander


The Free Spirit

He sat staring through the chain link fence, the passage of time flying past him as he did so. For three long years, everyday in the same place, he sat there watching.
Carl watched the lanes, but not just all the lanes. He watched the second one in from the kerb, the supposed slow lane, as he did everyday, counting the vehicles and itemizing each into groups of cars, vans and four wheel drives, trucks and buses.
And whilst he sat there, he also practiced. The same routine, but each day the exercises attained new and better results, achieving hitherto unreachable heights. The key to all this was his inimitable patience. Patience was not a problem. If it was going to take forever, it would, such was Carl's mindset.
Yet still the traffic flowed. Such is the ritualistic vigor of the human race, precision machines, driven by near precision drivers, at the same precise speed. The four lane motorway was the epitome of modern man. It was also Carl’s fixation. And sitting as he did within 3 metres of that continual traffic flow, he couldn’t be anything but fixated. Such was his demeanor these days that fixation was a pastime worth contemplating forever.
Suddenly, the tempo of the traffic changed in front of him. The peak was beginning to ebb and the make up of the flow was changing too. Fewer cars and four wheel drives, less buses, but steadily increasing flows of vans and trucks, the commercial daily grind of business taking over from the mad rush of people rushing off to work. Carl noticed the change instinctively, hardly reacting to it. He knew it happened but anyone else watching would not have even seen the change. But he knew. After three years of studying it, he knew.
Now it was time for him to put into practice all he had trained for, to bring to bear the fruits of his patient labors. All the precise calculations were set in his mind, the heights, the speeds, distances between moving vehicles. Now was time to test his honed skill. He looked up from his deep contemplation and spied the exact point of his action.
The second lane was now thinning as commercial traffic used the two faster outer lanes. There were the normal cars filled with people on vacation negotiating the motorway for the first time, the elderly safe in the knowledge that this lane was the safest for them, and the younger drivers feeling their way in life. Occasionally, a commercial van would whiz on through, beating the faster traffic that was going too slow for its liking. Every 13.3 vehicles to be precise, thought Carl. Even more rarely, a laden lorry or lightly populated bus would pass by every 28.9 vehicles.
It was time, for sure. He scaled the fence, taking care with each step, as his size thirteen feet were not adept at the small holes. Carefully maneuvering his way up the 5-metre edifice, he marveled at the change in perspective of the target zone, mindful of both his current situation, and the objective situation he was destined for. Any one looking at his 1.9 metre frame would have admired his strength and flexibility, and the panther-like grace he displayed in his physical endeavors. They would have if they had seen him, but no one could see him. Even if they did, he thought to himself, would they really care to notice? The world had changed too much in the past three years since the change.
Carl leapt down the other side of the fence, landing as softly as a prowling leopard on the course grit. He wasn’t worried if he made too much noise, the motorway traffic would drown it out anyway. But the soft landing allowed him to tune his muscles to what lay ahead so the movement was appreciated in his own mind. Feeling better for the action, he turned and faced his objective.
There were no doubts now, no time for second thoughts. He was as prepared as he would ever be. He closed his eyes tight shut, took a deep breath, felt for the heartbeat of the traffic, and stepped out into the first lane, pacing methodically and accurately into the second lane, measuring off two and one half steps into the lane, and then he turned towards the oncoming traffic and opened his eyes. Just in time to see a small two door coupe driven by an aging blond coming towards him 5 metres away.
With little effort, he leaped into the air, the car careening under him a full metre below at the apogee of his leap. He landed softly, as he had trained himself, in time to take a breath before the next vehicle approached. Once again he leapt into the air, and once again he cleared it by a handsome margin. Carl was starting to feel more at ease with his mission now, knowing that cars were no problems.
Pretty soon, in fact the fifteenth vehicle since entering the traffic flow, a van came towards him, his first real test. He had to hope that the vehicle would be averaging 90kmh to ensure the maneuverer would succeed. He had trained for a margin of error of plus or minus 10kmh, and his agility was primed primarily for the 80 to 100kmh range. Any slower and he’d no doubt be clipped by the back of the vehicle on the way down, and any faster the vehicle would collect him on the way up. The chance of this happening was 1 in 3000 so his preparation had been fruitful. But still, the opportunity for failure existed. As did the anomaly of trailers and other towed vehicles. Caravans were no problem, he could land on them, run their length, and jump off, he was sure of that, but small undetectable trailers were a concern.
However, if anyone had observed his leap off the fence, they may have noticed a slight deceleration of his leap at about one third of the way down. Carl was prepared. He knew it.
The van, a 1965 VW Kombi chugged along towards him, the big circle with the VW monogram on the front growing bigger by the second. Carl estimated it to be traveling at 60kmh, so it didn’t come as a surprise that the music the driver was listening to, reached Carl well before the van did. In fact, the strains of Alice Coopers "I Love the Dead" boomed eerily towards him, and suddenly the driver sped up as if to run Carl over deliberately. Unfazed, in fact thankful, Carl began his leap, attaining his zenith well clear of the sure-cruise microbus, the drivers’ intonation of "Great Leap Man" bellowing out over Alice Cooper, as Carl floated back to the tarmac behind it, in its smoggy residue.
He continued this all morning, the only other close call coming from a small utility vehicle towing a trailer sailor, Carl barely missing the following mast. But the time was now nearing, the time of his objective. The large Scania 30 wheeler would be roaring down the lane very soon, the second truck this morning to use this lane. But this wasn’t going to be another leap of faith. This was the objective Carl had been both training for, and waiting for, all these years. His thoughts were only once disrupted when a cyclist, bearing heavy panniers and signs of a long distance traveler, including the obligatory "Jesus Loves You" sticker on the back pannier, yelled out to him, "God Loves ya man" and carried on his merry way.
Then he saw it. He looked down at the scratch marks on hardtop where his motorbike had been dragged along the motorway, the point of impact. He leapt instinctively over another two cars before the moment of truth arrived. The Scania! The driver was mindlessly in control of his vehicle still, as he always had been when he observed him in the past years. The cigarette, or sometimes a joint, dangling between his lips. His vicious smile permanently in place. Boy, was Carl ever ready. The truck approached, steadily rumbling along in the slow lane as it always did, at a maddening 120kmh.
The large flat frontage still bore the scars of his motorbikes last rites. His pride and joy Harley Fat Boy had borne the brunt of that ugly truck. But he was going to get even, attain retribution. Not only for himself, but for all the others who traveled the slow lane who had suffered the ravages of this maniacs wrath and lawlessness.
The time was nigh. Carl leapt, but not too high this time, and sailed through the windshield, landing abruptly on the front seat adjacent the driver. The windshield was intact. Carl knew it would be. The driver didn’t realize that Carl was sitting next to him. Carl knew this would be as well. But he had time. And he had the place.
The obnoxious creature driving the truck lit up another smoke, a joint no less. Perfect thought Carl. The smoke had no effect on Carl, but the driver became a little less positive in the control of his truck. Carl looked at the manifesto on the clipboard next to him, and noticed that he was hauling a consignment of Kawasaki motorcycles. Thankfully, Carl didn’t like them, but how apt it was this guy was hauling motorbikes.
The truck soon overtook the cyclist, the driver leaning heavily on the horn as he whizzed by as close as he could get without hitting the cyclist, but close enough for the slipstream from the rig to blow him into the side gutter of the road. The VW Kombi also received the same treatment, the hippie carelessly chucking a finger at the passing beast. Soon the traffic thinned, and truck gathered speed, wobbling unsteadily as the marijuana took hold of the hapless idiot. Carl saw the chance, and as another Fatboy streaked past, Carl turned to the driver, coughed at him, grabbing the drivers’ attention for the first time.
But he stared dumbly into empty space. Suddenly, his features turned ashen, as Carl guided his hand into the morons’ body and grabbed his heart. He started squeezing, the affect on the driver instantaneous. The squeal of pain shattered the windscreen as the truck veered off the road and drove headlong into the ditch, disintegrating into oblivion as its 130kmh catapult forced the back of the trailer through the front of the truck, dismembering the driver in doing so.
Carl sat behind the fence contemplating the now near deserted highway. The truck still steamed in front of him. It had been easier than he thought it would have been. A vehicle pulled over, the Kombi, the stereo spilling the sounds of Roger Waters “Every Strangers Eyes” across the landscape. The bearded driver climbed out and surveyed the carnage. As he was checking out the remnants of the cab, the cyclist pulled up, and did the same thing. They exchanged pleasantries then both turned and approached Carl.
"Hey" crooned the hippie "nice job. How does it feel?"
"Yeah, how does it feel?" echoed the cyclist.
Carl looked at both of them. He didn’t trust his own voice since it hadn’t been used for three years.
The two spectators were still looking at him questionably.
"I feel much better, thank you" replied Carl "but how can you see me, I’m a spirit"
"Man, you don't get it" laughed the hippie, "We share your spiritualism."
"Yep," said the cyclist, "and now at least you can rest in peace. God loves you and so do all those he terrorized."
"Thanks, but what do I do now, now that it is over?" asked Carl uncertainly.
"You’re a free spirit, man, do God's will."


© Thane Zander



Poetry    Interview    Translations    Fiction    Book Reviews

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