Johnny’s Afternoon

The crisp sunlight filtered through the curtain laces and greeted Johnny’s face. He stirred for a moment, turning over to his side in lethargy before opening his eyes and letting out a long sigh. Wiping away the sleep from his eyes, Johnny shuffled unsteadily to the basin and gargled his mouth under the tap. He then proceeded to the silver-chromed coffeemaker and did his usual brew. Before long, Johnny was nursing a warm mug of coffee at the soft mahogany table by the bed, feeling all fresh and radiant.

Sipping away and taking in the bitter aroma of his caffeinated beverage, Johnny stared out his window onto the rolling grass plains that stretched to the horizon. A single sand trail divided the plains. It starts from the frontyard of Johnny’s humble but well-furnished hut and ends at the cross junction beyond the horizon, which takes him to the nearest town.

The sky was of a rich azure blue this morning, and Johnny could not help but smile to himself at the tiny handfuls of magnolia white clouds dotting the endless fabric of blue. He would spend entire afternoons forming shapes of animals and flowers with these cotton-candy look-alikes. This private indulgence ends when the afternoon segues into dusk, for the sky turns a dull sunkist orange rivuleted with pinkish streaks. Johnny loves this time of the day, for he has always felt an eloquence in transition. An eloquence of empowerment. The arrival of the night ushers in a whole new game for Johnny, a game which involves just him, his trusty telescope, and the starry sky above, each point of light brimming with life, each point of light a story to tell. Days would pass like this, each no more eventful than the previous, or the next.

Today, however, Johnny decides to go for a stroll. Putting on a pair of seasoned Wranglers, he heads out into the plains with nothing else but a smile. The air smelled of the freshness in grass, and the summer breeze lapped at Johnny’s cheeks. The golden sun shone high and bright, while elegant flocks of migrating birds make their journey across the magnificent blue canvas. It was a picture of bliss and serenity.

If only someone else is beside me, Johnny thought, that would be perfect.

A faint trickle of water caught his attention, and Johnny recalls the oft-neglected river flowing past his hut. He walks over, swiping away a few attention-seeking branches along the way, and peered into the crystal-clearness of the waters. He could see a few trouts lazing about along the banks. They were not going against the flow of the current, but they were neither going along with it. The soft splashes of water from river rocks seemed rhythmic and melodious, and the fresh scent of the woods was mellow and intriguing. All around, a sense of tranquility pervades .

Squatting down, a new perspective opened up before Johnny. He could now see the inumerous aquatic insects moving about on the water surface. A water boatman skidded skilfully across his sight, the metallic green of its body radiating under the iridescence of the sunlight. A red dragonfly the size of his palm flitted into the picture. Wrong. It wasn’t red, it was dark maroon with a golden tinge, and Johnny could not believe that such a beautiful creature exists in this world, just by the river near his hut.

Fishes and plants are not all there is to a river. He thought to himself. Similarly, stars are not all there is to a night sky. Perhaps, to really appreciate something, anything, is simply, to break down its apparent homogeneity.

A low thunder reverberated and snapped Johnny out of his long reverie. Johnny looked up and saw that the sky was beginning to darken lightly. He wondered how much time had passed, for he hadn’t got a watch with him. Drops of rain began to fall slowly, pelting themselves upon the river and creating soft ripples. It was not a heavy rain; nor looked like it was going to be a heavy rain. It was a half-hearted rain that could not make up its mind if it wants to be heavy or not.

Having left the hut armed with nothing but a smile, Johnny did not foresee the rain, or more accurately, he did not want to foresee the rain. He hurried away from the river towards the direction of his hut. Just then, in a twist of fate, he lost his grip on a slippery rock along the banks and fell backward. A loud thud sounded in his head followed by a sharp throbbing pain. Johnny was confused and appalled by his carelessness, which was but one of his many failings. He tried to get up, but could only will his body to move . A dozen alarm bells sounded off in his chaotic mind as the warm smell of blood welled up.

With his head half-soaked in the waters, Johnny could hear the crushing waves of the current pounding against his ears. It was deafening and monopolized his train of thought entirely, while indescribable pain continued to revulse his consciousness. Johnny realised he could do nothing but look skyward, for he was no longer able to turn his head around. There he laid, for a period of time no one would know, with his body on the banks and his blood-cloaked head half-submerged in the river. Perhaps, the sky might have grown darker and the rain fainter, for darkness ebbed slowly into the corners of his vision. There was no stopping its advance, and Johnny stared into an ever diminishing patch of grey ominous clouds.

“You have stayed for far too long, held on for far too long.” A voice poured into Johnny’s ears amidst the pounding waves.

Then, it was darkness, and all was quiet.

Three days later, a team of researchers went down the river in search of aquatic specimens, and chanced upon a dilapidated hut situated in a field of overgrown weeds. Cutting through the dense overgrowth, they broke into the hut and realised that it must have been vacant for years.  Bags of coffee tainted a brown rusty basin with overhanging cobwebs. Pieces of broken optic lenses lay sprawled all over the dusty wooden floor. A small wooden table rotted away by the corner, next to what seemed to resemble a filthy mattress. Revulsed by a rotting stench, the team of researchers quickly left and found a trail of footprints next to the door, upon which their following led them to a loose pile of leaves and branches by the river.

It was said that Johnny’s remains were never found. Yet, there were others who believed Johnny never existed, and was but a figment of illusion. A small minority though, said Johnny did lived, and died with a smile. But having read this, how would you think that could have happened.


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