Yesterday was International Women’s Day so, if you are an abusive husband, hopefully you took it easy on old gal… unless hitting them is actually more equal. Not sure. Equal pay and maternity stuff seem like no brainers but things like who buys the dinner, doesn’t have to go into combat zones, or has extra safety nets to keep then from becoming homeless are much harder to suss out. There is also a buffet of sex crime issues, domestic abuse, and a lot of weird laws governing the vagina. But we usually end up just talking about how often white women aren’t important enough in video games. That always seems to trump everything else for some reason. Anyway I hope you had an okay Women’s Day, women. Sorry nobody seems to be able to get their shit together about what is going on with you.
“Cyril?”, you ask, in abject disbelief.
That is a name that my wife, Aneeka, picked out for her pet …. thing. She had read it once in an Enid Blyton novel, the highest form of literature she had ever aspired to, and it stuck somewhere in the vacant recesses of her brain until something she could name without interference ambled into her life.
Why couldn’t it have been a cat?
She had found him, God knows where and God knows how, about two years after we were first married. The honeymoon period being well an truly over I had settled comfortably into husband mode and spent my time at home not paying attention to about 90% of what she said. So I cannot be blamed for not noticing the entrance of Cyril into our lives until he was well and truly settled into our basement.
We were introduced one rainy weekend afternoon after I’d been badgered half out of my mind to come see her ‘new baby’. I walked downstairs expecting a kitten or a puppy or a bird and not at all expecting what I actually saw.
To this day I do not understand why I did not scream.
I stood on the bottom step staring at a small …. child? Dwarf? I don’t know. It was a very short man maybe, or would be if it wasn’t for it’s head. The head was enormous. At least three feet across, about as wide as its owner was tall, as bald as an egg and bulging with bluish green veins. The face under it would have been ugly in any case but with it…. it…
Small, wide-set eyes, a squashed upturned nose and a slit for a mouth. I cannot believe I continued to look as my wife bustled past cooing and asking me, wasn’t Cyril cute? Wasn’t Cyril sweet? Wasn’t I surprised?
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. After a count of 10 I opened them again determined not look at the thing. I saw the basement floor littered with toys. I saw the mattress and pillows in the corner. I willed my eyes to not be drawn to the creature but my eyes wouldn’t obey. Trying not to look at the head, I noticed that Cyril was wearing a white and blue striped onesie over his malformed body. The kind you see 2 year olds looking so adorable in. I would never be able to look at two years olds the same way again.
I decided I needed a word with my wife.
Back upstairs, I drank two glasses of water before sitting down with Aneeka and asking her, as patiently as I could, as to what the hell was going on.
She started crying.
My mother had, when she was alive, picked Aneeka to be my help-meet on the basis of the fact that wives who did not think too much are the best kind. I had not, up to that point, found any flaws in her reasoning. In fact, I had relied so much on my mother’s initial estimation that I had overlooked her bringing in a … an… alien/human/whatdoyoucallit… into my house undetected and keeping it hidden for a full month.
I am not a vague man. I am not absent-minded or glassy eyed. I may not care for what my wife might think but I like to believe that I am a sharp observer under whose nose it is not easy to sneak a demon from hell into the basement.
Where was I? Ah, yes… the crying.
It wasn’t her fault She had not sneaked. She had told me all about how she had found it all helpless and alone. She had asked if she could look after it. She couldn’t believe that I paid no attention to her at all. She was devastated. She was enraged (I add the vocabulary from my own store). I was a horrible man and she didn’t know why she put up with me.
I am, of course, para phrasing the entire tirade.
So after neatly circumventing any sense that I may have wanted to talk her into and using the greatest of female weapons, namely making it all the man’s fault Aneeka swept from the room leaving me with a vague sense of… confusion.
I should have been more alarmed. I should have yelled and stormed. I should have grabbed the thing and bashed that disgusting cranium in with a hammer. I didn’t. I acted in short, exactly the same way as Aneeka did. She thought that the abomination was adorable and I could not bring myself to inject any more urgency into the situation than if she had scratched the car. It was all very wrong.
Stay very calm and find him for me.
I cannot describe the next few weeks to you. My every waking moment, and a number of my nightmares, was haunted by having Cyril as an unwanted guest beneath the floor boards. Aneeka continued, as she had presumably done before I knew anything about it, to feed it and coo over it and talk about it as though it were a baby animal and nothing out of the ordinary.
Not that there was anything to talk about. Cyril didn’t do much. He just sat in his corner, moving a little now and then to eat or sleep. Sometimes I would walk down to the basement, drawn despite myself, and sit on the bottom step and stare at it, or him, sitting on the floor leaning slightly forward as though the weight of that head was too much. His squat legs, his short thick arm. His button like fingers, his complete lack of neck. And that head. Was it my imagination or was it getting bigger?
I couldn’t talk about him. And neither could Aneeka. I mean not to anyone but each other. I was surprised when I realised that no one but me knew about Cyril, considering that my wife couldn’t keep a secret even if her life depended on it, but when I tried to tell my brother I realised that I simply couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. I would tell him that I needed to speak to him then as he watched me expectantly I would struggle with my own tongue and try to talk. Nothing. I could either choke or change the subject.
Find him for me.
I needed to get rid of Cyril.
I put up an ad on the internet. Discretely. Fearing for my reputation if anyone found out. I worded it as obscurely as I could.
“Strange animal. Need it off my hands. Only serious collectors need reply”
Not a word I would have used.
In fact, in my normal frame of mind, I wouldn’t have advertised at all. I would have killed Cyril. The hammer daily became more and more attractive. And there were a thousand less messy ways. As I typed the ad I asked myself if I was mad. And as I clicked the button that would put it up I knew that there was a one in a billion chance that I would ever be rid of the monster this way.
The one chance emailed me a week after it was up. In all seriousness a lot of people emailed me. This one looked the sanest. A collector of exotic animals. A Mr. Irfan. Such a nice nondescript name. Only a 2 hour ride a way in fact, somewhere beyond Riwand. For some reason I could tell Mr. Irfan all about my little… problem. And he did not act as though I was mad.
The whole thing was perfect. He loved the bizarre and the strange. He dabbled in Biology and Chemistry. He was delighted by the pictures I had (eventually) sent him. It would be most convenient if I could drive Cyril over to his house and leave him there at the earliest opportunity. I would never have to hear about the whole thing ever again.
I decided not to tell Aneeka. She seemed to have lost interest in him anyway, in the last few days. She was going to her mother’s for a day. I raised no objections. When she was gone I went down to the basement and was surprised to see Cyril standing. He was, for once not dressed in his usual baby clothes. In fact I recognized the jeans and the jacket and the scarf. They were all mine. Altered to fit him but mine. I didn’t care.
I crouched down until I was level with his eyes, Eyes shaded by folds of wrinkled skin.
I asked him if he fancied a ride. He nodded, head wobbling. I walked back up the stairs, out of the house and into the car. He followed.
Mr. Irfan’s house was not a house. It was a mansion. A castle. It was to a house what an elephant is to an ant. And that was the only impression I have of the place. No servants were in evidence. I would not want any servants to see Cyril. Mr Irfan (an extremely ordinary man, in his 50s, wearing a crisp shalwar kameez) met us in the drive way and led us inside. He wasn’t repulsed. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He had a million, mostly scientific, questions about diet and weight and growth that I did not have the energy to answer.
I told him I didn’t give a shit as long as he could take the damned thing off my hands.
That shut him up.
He led us through hallways that gradually became less furnished and more utilitarian. Finally, at the end of a long cement corridor, behind a steel reinforced door he showed me the display case.
It was grey, metallic cylinder rising up from the ground. This was where Cyril would stand when visitors wanted to see him. There was a furnished apartment on another floor where he would stay quite comfortably but this was how the world (a very small, appreciative part of the world) would see him.
“Go on,” he said to Cyril. “Climb up.”
Cyril looked at me and I understood. I helped him onto the cylinder and then watched as Mr. Irfan flicked a switch that slowly brought down a glass case from the ceiling to trap him. He looked for all the world like figure in a snow globe, an ornament on a shelf. He didn’t look agitated. He just stood with his stubby hands behind his back and looked back at us. Serene.
Mr. Irfan stared at the creature and smiled. What an addition to his collection. He said he could show me the rest if I wanted but I was too tired. My mind felt groggy. He said he understood and maybe next time he’d give me a tour. As the steel door closed behind us I turned for one last look and noticed that Cyril hadn’t moved at all.
Goodbye Asad. Thank you.
On the way out I stumbled twice. My head ached. As I opened the car door, Mr Irfan put one hand on my shoulder and with the other he pulled out a small brown bottle from his pocket.
“Cyanide.” he said. “Cyril says keeping you from dwelling on the whole… episode and telling someone will take too much mental effort. He is grateful and hopes you understand.”
I nodded, took the bottle and drove home.
I’ve been back for an hour now and Aneeka should be getting home soon. I should be relieved he’s gone. I should be happy to be rid of him. I’m not. I still have the headache and it’s slowly getting worse.
I’ve taken two mugs from the kitchen and divided the cyanide between them. When Aneeka come back, I will make us some tea.
Do you hear it? That is the sound of the world turning. To me it sounds like the way your pyjamas do in the middle of the dead night, when you’re doing your best to wake no one.
Yes, the world turning is loudest when you don’t want it to be. When you want to be unnoticed, undisturbed, left alone. The world turns and you can hear it turning and you know that things are happening.
Happening without you.
Not grand things, mind.
Just the daily inching of people towards things while you sit still. The filling of the air with sounds that are not yours. The filling of heads with ideas that are not yours. Wrinkles in the fabric of what is, that have absolutely nothing to do with you.
Of course, sitting still is not a bad thing.
But the world turns. It slips downstairs in the darkness, creeping along to steal the last piece of cake from the fridge. You can hear it but you’re far to comfortable to get out of your blankets.
Though it does mean that there will be no cake for you tomorrow.
So I’ve decided to start moving.
Not right now.
But still, I’ve thought about thinking about moving…