Thursday, 4 September 2014



"In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity."
 - Hunter S. Thompson

The day was strangely warm.  All of the past week had been.  The snow was still there and the lake was still covered in a thin layer of ice, at least nearer to the harbourfront where the water was shallower.  Richard looked out over the main downtown core’s skyline to his left as he walked into the shadow of an old industrial set of silo towers, the faded grey words Canada Malting Co. on its upper part.  The dilapidated concrete structure reminded Richard of the Cold War when that brutalist Soviet style architecture was popular almost all over the world.  Here and now it was a sign of a nation’s industrial economy, once considered modern now a rotting grey slab against a backdrop that had moved far beyond modernism.  The futuristic glass condos lined the rest of the lakeshore in Richard’s vision.

At the very end of the wooden walkway jutting a few dozen feet into the lake, was a small treeless park.  Richard remembered the place.  He had been in the summer once years before with Laura, having only been in Toronto a few weeks then.  She was showing him around that summer, taking him to the museum, the zoo, the island.
“Ah yeah, the island,” Richard remembered. “That was grand.”

He looked out over the lake, seeing the Toronto Islands, a single landmass across the way from the main skyline.  From the island, at a small bench in a secluded part of the parkland, he and Laura had sat on their first anniversary and gazed out over to the north, to where downtown stood.  Richard always loved the C.N. Tower especially; it had always stood out, proudly stabbing the sky and rising above everything else. 
This tower told everyone in sight "This is Toronto".

Today the tower’s spire was covered in cloud, only about a third of the tower fully visible.  Even the financial sector’s tower's peaks were enveloped completely in mist.  Richard saw his breath flow out over Lake Ontario.  He turned about and headed toward the statues behind him.

He remembered these as well; five dark human shapes in a small parkette at the very end of the fenced off malting building.  Laura was horrified at them that first time they had come here, in that same summer when they had visited the island.  At the front was a gaunt-looking concrete man raising his hands.  He was dressed in ragged trousered overalls like a turn of the century factory worker, staring forward at something that caused his face to contort into an expression of terror.  To his left was a pregnant woman clutching her belly, her face thin and also looking afraid, gazing in dread at the unseen sight in front of them.  Another statue was of a hunched over man with a weather-beaten face looking ahead, and the other one was of a scared little girl in a raggedy dress. 

“They’re starving,” Lauara had said to him.

Richard nodded in reply. “Definitely a memorial to some massacre, that or the person who designed this was disturbed, or maybe a bit of both.” He walked in between them.  The statues stood around a small flat statue in between them, making him think of Stonehenge as he made it to the middle.  Beneath him on top of the slab was the statue of a corpse; a skinny dead person with what looked like a rope around his neck.  His face was frozen in pain, eyes and mouth wide open, his face to the sky.  It had seen whatever the other people were looking at before he died.  Whatever had killed him was coming for the others.

On that hot summer day Richard had turned back around and looked at the cityscape.  The sun flashed brightly and hotly against many of the glass buildings.  The tip of the C.N. Tower was wrapped in smog this day. 

Richard thought of a nuclear bomb.  He pictured a flash going off and soon a mushroom cloud engulfed Toronto’s tall buildings before the wave of fire vaporized everything.  The imagery seemed to come naturally to him, standing that day in the overwhelming heat and light.

Now, these years later, he saw something else.  Beneath him, the dead man was covered in a thin layer of snow.  It had just started to fall, giving the gathering statues a secondary sense of being frozen in place, having died, having seen that impeding death, long ago.  When he turned himself back to the city, he saw a place that was already dead, the sun barely beating down, and the air cold and deathly.  Everything was still.

When Richard sat on the bench his mind turned back to Ivan, now freezing in the catacomb.  He wondered if his face, though damaged and partly crushed by the cinder block, was gaping like the dead statue. 

His cellphone buzzed, a text message: Will be right there.  Richard placed the phone back in his jacket pocket and grabbed the strap of his overnight bag, bringing the bag onto his lap.

Ten minutes later Richard had noticed that the clouds had dropped, making only smaller downtown buildings and the bases of the skyline buildings visible.  Off to his left he saw someone coming down the long dockside. “The last time I was here,” Richard thought as the figure came into view and he recognized who it was. “Last time I was here was with Laura.”

“I can't believe I'm doing this,” he said quietly, looking back over the frozen lake.  There was now no sight of the city.  Fog had poured in completely.  When Richard looked back to the man there was only white behind him, like he had came from nowhere.  The man had his own handbag with him.

“Ireland Park,” said the man as he came up to the bench.

“Yeah,” Richard said and nodded, cranking his neck to look up at the malting building.  It too had disappeared into the whiteness, only the fence that encircled it in sight of the two men.

“My feet are soaking,” the newcomer said in his typical gravely smoker's voice. “But at least no one can see us.”

Richard nodded, taking the strap off from his shoulder, holding up the bag.  The man sat down next to him, pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and then grabbed bag from him.  He unzipped it at the top and nodded in approval as he took in the maple brown hundred bills.  He zipped it back and grinned.  It had been a while since Richard had seen those two big yellowish front teeth.  Richard always thought he looked scummy, poorly and unevenly shaven, the man in his late thirties incapable of even growing a proper beard.  It always came out in blonde fluffy tuffs with a long thin swathe of hairs from the chin made him look like a goat. 

“Here,” he said next, handing over his bag. 

Richard unzipped it as the man took in a deep drag.  Everything was there. “Okay,” said Richard, folding the strap of this bag over his other shoulder. “See you.”

He felt the man's eyes on his back, but after a few steps back to the mainland he knew the mist was covering him. “He never changes,” Richard thought in his head, remembering the first time he had met him at a restaurant on the Esplanade when he was with Laura.

Heading up to King Street, past the lakefront condos, Richard saw only one or two people.  There were few cars on the road, the whole downtown seeming paralyzed by the lack of sight.  He thought of the statues, which by now were likely standing alone in the whiteness, now separated even from each other. Richard sighed, for the first time ever eager to get back to the house in the junction.


What's in the bag?  What's happening with Marty?  Find out next week.  Same Junction time, same Junction channel!

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