by Paul du Preez
DARREN – UP CLOSE
While Leandré and Saloni bitched over the style of Leandré’s neckline, Darren had been entertained by Arno in a mysteriously unlocked deli, complete with retro waitress. Arno told him, “There are rules,” and “Every time you lose your temper you place your sister at risk.”
“Yes, you do,” says Arno patiently. “You place her at risk.” I shift uneasily. “Wait, listen.” He raises a palm. “It’s a points system. I know your generation doesn’t like technical language, but here’s a technical term for you – sin.”
He emphasises the word, ‘sin’.
Like, I’m supposed to be awed?
And explains, “Every time you sin you lose points.”
“That’s not technical language; its theology – I’m a computer-science student, duh!”
“Ja. Well, there are some truths that are older than computers. I’m going to use technical language that relates to them…”
“You mean ‘ecclesiastical’ language.”
“So if If I murder someone, but I’m self-controlled,” I break in. “If I know they’ve got money and I plan how to take it, and then kill them – then, that’s not a sin?”
Arno ignores this, keeps his expression mild. But his voice roughens.
“And because you have trouble getting it through your thick skull – even though you’re so clever – I’m going to help you with something your generation will understand.” He reaches inside his track-top, pulls out a smart-phone, turns the screen to face me, and lets go.
Leaving it floating in mid-air.
“Smart-phones are over.” I husk, pushing back. “It’s ‘35 now. AR is what’s real.” The floating phone fazes me – don’t know why.
Bigger – it’s getting bigger. Closer. Media flashes… Flickering text. Hold it! Just…
“…back-chat.” Arno is talking at me, voice gentler – eyes crinkly behind his glasses. Miming concern. “It’s a habit you need to break.”
I blink. He seems to take that as confirmation. Of something.
“OK,” he goes on, “now every time you sin – like klapping [hitting] Marcus with that guitar of yours – you lose points. You get closer to hell.” (The phone picks up on his words: on-screen a slot-machine scores triple red cherries – sins racking up faster than I can follow – as bells trill a cheerful tune and a cute devil-gif tik-tocks its forked tail rhythmically back and forth while pointing its fork down, down, down. ‘Hel 4 u’ flashes in a pop-up text window.)
An effort, but I look away. I force myself to focus on Arno’s face.
And fight back: “Arnie -boy, you’re all mixed up.” Too familiar, and he stiffens: I’m not sure how far it’s safe to push.
I back off. “Uncle Arno, we already agreed that soldiers – like you were – under orders, are not sinning when they kill enemy combatants. So how is violence – like hitting Marcus – a sin?”
“Ja…” he broods. “I mustn’t forget, you’re a clever boy. Listen, it’s not about how much violence…” (The phone rattles with machine-gun fire, flares with video of a Casspir armoured personnel carrier charging through sparse bush, hunting fleeing figures.) “The thing is…self-control.”
The video throws me – shouts and echoing gunfire.
Would I have held it together?
Motor racing, the Casspir roars and bucks, branches crackling, snapping beneath its wheels as it chews its way through the sandy soil.
Would I have been One of The Brave?
Arno is watching me.
What the zap! It wasn’t my war; it was a war against our rainbow nation – that’s what I learned.
He’s an eagle-owl, snag-beaked among thorn trees, staring at me through outsize spectacles.
But, would I have measured up? Been a man?
Looking right through me.
Zapping zap! Irrelevant, I tell myself. Snap the zap out of it, bra.
When I do, he’s talking: “…control in everything: when you see a pretty girl, and you start lusting after her body; or when someone offers you drugs, or alcohol…”
“So if I murder someone, but I’m self-controlled,” I break in. “If I know they’ve got money and I plan how to take it, and then kill them, so no one ever finds out, and I’m self-controlled about doing it – then, that’s not a sin?”
Angel Wings by Sergei Tomakov on Pixabay https://pixabay.com/illustrations/angel-wings-fairy-isolated-4870050/
Twin Figures Beneath a Starry Sky https://pxhere.com/en/photo/977164
Intro Music (on Podcast)
Excerpt from Black, White and Blue by Paul du Preez
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Syblings the Syrial is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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