Riding The Empty Island
By Amir Ziai
It was close to sunset on the island. Edgar could find little warmth in it, just a sun, painted like an open casket. He turned his head. As much as he enjoyed mulling on the way the stars would send off this day, he had business on the island.
He moved the tailored suit slowly, all too aware of how many heads had been spilt by the fickle nature of these cliffs. Even so, pebbles and dirt made the journey through rocks and thorns to whatever the tide was spitting back.
He looked at the man who was edged on rockwork far less stable than his own. He had been sat there, tear stains on a cheap shred of sartorial incompetence, at the tipping point of the cliff face for a long time. Edgar didn’t remember his name, but he knew the situation, why he had dragged the man out of the deep of the night, dragged him here, beaten him, put the fear of some god in him and bound him to a bright, pink, plastic, toddler’s rocking horse.
Edgar tightened his tie with one hand, the other firmly kept to a little something he left in his inside pocket. Walked a little closer, enjoying the rhythm he’d built over the past few moments. He could smell the urine, the sweat, the joy of the hand they were playing. Edgar cocked his neck and let Madam Elouise’s elocution lessons do the rest.
“I would like my £20,000”.
The rider spoke through chattered teeth and salted tears. His body convulsed with a highly rational fear of everything.
“I… I paid you. All of it. And the interest. I PA-“
“No. I lent you my £20,000. I lent you those specific notes. All in a very nice leather briefcase that someone’s uncle once gave them. Where is that £20,000?”
The rider shifted however much he could, as if imploding would be preferable. There had been logic in their dealings so far. This he could not comprehend. He turned his neck, slowly. The pain dug deep. New tears. He looked to his banker, the man who had offered him a smile and a life line a long while ago. The man who stood above him now, filling the air with nothingness. Once again, he severed his lips from each other;
“I paid you. All your money. I have the watches too. Take them. And the money. Please. Just… Please.”
“Take what?” Edgar came in close, almost whispered, just enough weight from his diaphragm to let the sweet nothings carry through the wind and the trees. Just enough for his audience.
Edgar pulled out the 16th laugh, in the standard tone. He wasn’t crouching. In a pre-ordained theatrical notion his body had snapped into a straight line up. Chest out. Hand on his inside pocket. The memory of a laugh he’d patent yet, moving through the trees. His subject whimpered some more.
“Anything. Everything. Tell me what to do.”
Edgar put a hand on the shoulder of a whimpering idiot.
“Do you have the £20,000 I gave you? Those notes had sentimental value to me. Untold sentimental value. They came from a stranger.”
He shook his head, whimpered something the dictionary couldn’t hear.
“Well then. You’ve lost me a lot. Those were my notes. I stole them myself. You asked to borrow them, no one said anything about spending them. I’m hurt. So here’s what we’re going to do. Look at me.”
Bruised skin looked to the suit. The suit showed fingers wriggling beneath the seams.
“Since the moneys gone, our options are narrower. One, I draw. Two, you ride the horse down to the beachfront.”
A swollen eye of pus looked out. It saw figures above the hill of reeds, distant, undefined. He could see a cigarette burning, a phone idly handled. He saw the man he had once called a hero. Who had come to him and offered him a way to victory from between the lions teeth. He saw a hand hidden, gripping something.
“…I’ll die if I ride the horse”
“…And the draw will”.
Edgar had crouched again. The two of them, away from the audience, at the edge of the cliff face. Edgar could see him, learning the last of the rocks. Through the thorns and the brambles, the 70 degree angle and a beach front of tide washed rocks. He let the bruises on his lungs stretch out. The adrenaline had gone on for too long now. It had rushed him through his five stages. Dried him out, so he was a cheap bit of fun on a cheaper toy. He looked at the audience, he looked at Edgar.
Edgar smiled, pouncing up. A god from the black sea of white lights above, delivering punishment to a faithful subject. He wrapped his hand tightly, glimpsed his audience. He drew a handkerchief. He smiled.
The wind drew the cloth across his digits and he lifted the fool by the skull.
His shadow rose above the cliff face, into the ride, skull first, into a streak of red and a crack of plastic.
Edgar the entertainer turned to applause and told them where to wire his £20,000.
- - -
I am a person called Amir Ziai. I have hair and I have gums.
Riding The Empty Island
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