#1 Short-story by Issa Dioume

             A Game of Mouse and Cats

Victor Verdun is fifty years old. He sits at his desk. Thinking and looking despondent. The picture of a grizzled man with an ungroomed beard and tired eyes. Carrying a face which spoke of the pain and trauma he’d endured. A man in the grip of an obsession.
These last couple of months had done him no good. He’d let himself go. What was once clean, lean and muscular had become heavy, smudged and floppy. For as long as five years now he’d been the sole detective working at the local Indian police station. The past few months, they’d been tracking down a trio of serial killers who plagued their streets. Victor is no greenhorn. He knows this job to be one which requires backup. Years of languorous work and failed attempts had taught him at least this much. But this time, this time is different. This time is personal. Those three murderers had killed his wife in cold blood. And so, he gets up from his chair as he prepares to head out.
Around three months ago. On an unseasonably hot autumn night. Gloria’d been alone, Victor at work. That’s the type of man he is. Hooked to his job, trying to wring meaning out of life through self-exertion. She’d known. She’d never been mad at him for it. No. She understood him. She’d had a job too, and like Victor, was prone to late-nights of work at the office. We formed a perfect duo, thought Victor.

The day she died, she woke up at one in the morning. Jerked awake by the whistle of a breeze coming from their downstairs living-room. After which, she’d gotten out of bed and decided to check up on it. How strange, she’d thought. Never had she heard that noise in their house before. They’d weaselled their way in through one of the windows, smashing glass and ushering whistling breeze in. Already, they’d began stealing things when she’d came up to them with lamp in hand. She froze in her tracks then. Seeing the outline of their silhouettes in the dark. Strike first, think later! was what their instinct told them. It’d happened many times before, in many other houses. They’d been used to it. How this time could be any different than other times eluded them. They’d never suspected she might’ve been a detective’s wife.
Victor’s wife was left bleeding out in a neighbouring gutter. They’d not finished the job. No, that wasn’t their style. She was incapable of moving. They’d known time would take care of it. That was how she’d died. In the company of rats, hidden from sight, in silence and darkness and filth. It was their modus operandi. Time, their reliable accomplice, an accessory to their crimes, always took care of it. And, as days clocked by Victor began to suspect time was protecting them and made sure they weren’t caught.  Eventually though, Gloria’s body was found. After a long month of searches. Battered, bruised and unrecognizable – rats had begun eating away at it. Police concluded she’d died two weeks ago. Scientists in criminology went to work, Victor made sure of it, until they’d managed to find a trail. This crime was coupled to a few others which had occurred recently in the city. There was a pattern. Crimes with a similar modus operandi. These three men were recidivists. Serial killers.
A week ago, he’d confirmed the whereabouts of their lair. And now, Victor finally had them within his grasp. Vengeance was at a hand’s length away. Since then, he stayed in a small guest house nearby, biding his time and awaiting the perfect moment.

A street urchin had come to the police station looking for him one week ago. The urchin wore crummy clothes. He struck Victor as being very young, scrawny and sickly. He reported that only two nights ago, he’d seen the trio of criminals stroll into a small house. It was lodged between two tall buildings down in Sufren street, not far from his own. They’d likely been returning from another evening of wrongdoings. Those three were known for being wary and distrustful people. They’d have killed the child had they seen him. This one though, they missed.
Victor sits at his desk. Thinking. This is a blunder they’ll pay for dearly, he resolved, he got up from his chair and prepared to head out, grabbing his gun.
The day he decided to go rogue and take care of matters alone, Victor took off his badge and left without a word. For a whole week after this, he disappeared from the lives of all who knew him.

*

Steeling himself, he enters the premises of their den. Gun cocked and at the ready, eyes tensed with concentration. Muted steps carry him past the door. He creeps into their living-room, does a roll, hides behind a sofa below a window. He inhales. And, ready to make them pay for their dastardly deeds, jumps out, all guns blazing. Victor was sure he’d seen them enter through this way only fifteen minutes ago. He’d seen shadows move from behind the shutters. But, as he stood there pointing his gun at thin air, he understood, there was no one in. The house remained motionless under his gaze. Soothing his nerves, he began surveying the place.  Soon, a noise came from outside; the sound of hushed voices, orders and wheezing horses.
Victor partly parts the shutters and peers out the window. Outside, the air is thin and murky. Driftwood floats atop the cold river surface which runs through town. The sound of horses galloping down pebbled streets rents open the night in half. From afar, Victor sees the back of a lone rider astride his steed. The rider is heading straight for the outskirts of town. Their frame reminds Victor of Gloria’s own – short, delicate, with tapering limbs and a large waist. An overall stocky appearance. The mere comparison makes Victor sag into nostalgia. The rider wears long trousers, rife with pleats, and a pair of rawhide boots strapped into the stirrups of their saddle. In the span of but a few seconds, rider and horse disappear. The veil of night covering their tracks. All noise abates. Victor shuts the curtains, letting his shoulders slump along his sides. He turns from the window and back to the room. They’re gone now. He groans. A sunken look on his face, displays the depth of his anguish.  Escaped out ov’a hidden back door, he suspects. He’d checked, of course, made certain. There were supposed to be no escape routes. Yet now there they were, completely gone. And here he was feeling angry with himself. Attempting to calm down he begins familiarising himself with his surroundings.
Opposite him is a four-legged table. With one of its four sides pushed against a wall. Three chairs flanking each of the three free sides. Their lengthy legs draw shadows of crosses across the living room floor as they intertwine. When he touches their seats, he feels a certain warmth emanate from them. On the table are plates. Resting upon which are half-eaten slabs of bread. Slathered with melted ghee, cream and blood-red jam. They rest limply at their centre. Greasy strips of bacon sit in a separate plate, assailed by a family of flies. No one would eat them now. They left in such a hurry, seeing this amuses him. But his mind keeps wandering back to the horse rider and their eerie resemblance to his wife. The more he thinks about it, the more the two seem alike. A bright white light flickers overhead. Each flicker sending blinding spears flying into Victor’s eyes and into the room. Revealing a large array of articles and newspaper cut-outs that have been tacked across the walls. Victor plods away from the table. With his hat obliquely placed over his head and his long pelt coat drifting smoothly over the wooden floor. Wooden planks creak under his weight. Already broken glass breaks further below the soles of his boots. Wailing warnings which, resonate with Victor’s current pained and broken mental state. As he nears the entranceway, he detects a trace of cigarette smoke. They’d even had the time to smoke. They’d known he was coming, had prepared in advance, had laughed with contempt at his attempt, had rejoiced at his impending failure. They’re probably laughing right now, reckons Victor. The red mist descends upon him then. And he draws closer to the flight of stairs facing the doorway. He supposes he might as well have a look at what sordid objects lay upstairs before calling the police to apologise. He would have to find a good excuse. A stench of cabbage permeates the air at the staircase’s feet. Warding against cleanliness and justice. Victor grabs the railing and heavs himself forth. It’s hot, mucky and uncomfortable. As he moves forward, he feels sweat rise from the walls at his sides. Reaching the landing, the temperature seems to abruptly increase.

In the silence of the deserted dwelling, Victor pauses at the landing as he hears a sound. It travels down the stairs from the first-floor. With caution heavy in his heart, he trudges on and arrives in the upper-floor room. There is a kitchen. He’d found the source of cabbage fetor it seemed. Yet Victor perceives another odour mingling with the putrid cabbage smell. Something resembling a melange of sulphur and rotten eggs. He looks around and notics the oven open. Timid metallic clicks issue out its gapping mouth in a metronome-like rhythm. Inviting him to dance. A hob and a set of four dark burners brood above the stove. Gleaming with the grease covering them. One of the knobs of the hob points in a different direction from its twins. It’s rebellious. Invisible flames burn and dance, jutting from its sides, vying for oxygen and a spark. The oven keeps clicking, each click producing specks of light. Sweat drips down Victor’s forehead, falls from his jaw-line and plops to the ground. Now he knows. They hadn’t just escaped. They want to kill me! Again, the oven clicks, this time more resolutely. By now, he is already running but… too late. From behind he hears a bubbling explosion, feels the scorch of flames crawling through the air on his back. He has reached the top of the staircase and is about to hurtle himself down its steps when, suddenly, nothing. Nothing more.

As everything disappears, Victor finds his mind wandering back to the rider again. And he suddenly he thinks, No! That’s not possible. All this time, he’d been caught in a game of mouse and cats. Not a game of cat and mice.

Brother [Poem] by Issa Dioume

I Write This For You

My dearest brother, for you I do grieve
As a days’ light was stripped away by night
Wrongfully, bereaved
Leaving you many a hurdle in sight
And your garden-tears briskly mourning eves.

Our Lady Fortune, this whimsical goon
Veiled by a jet-black restless cloaked-sky
Mindlessly, before noon
Coating our dear world’s hair, a darker dye
Has wrongly robbed one of life, much too soon

In what was pilfered lies what is gifted
Where fire has passed, so too must there grow ash
Salt waves, and sand below
When it’s dark and there’s no moon: you thrash
Yet wind still does blow and has just shifted

Therein lies hope in absence of hope-thoughts,
Therein lies sweet life in absence of life
Joy devoid of scope
Toils betwixt you and the now over strife
Beseeching brother to view past blue knots

Which ’round your hands dangle like wrung bangles
Woven with flows of thread binding you to-
– Your blue mind-street angles
Hiding from your sight red-roads where cows moo
Which all good memories do bespangle

Tear that grief away, let it fly today
And beneath souvenirs of him grinning
Like the cold heated-snow, you are brewing
Let it atrophy, and then I will say

My dearest brother, for you I do smile
Knowing you had the rarely chanced upon
Friend to rest on even just for a while
A most indissoluble truth beyond –

…. – even time and space,  now life’s breath is gone

The Fall [Short-Story] by Issa Dioume

…I’ve been falling for a while now – uncontrollably tumbling downwards. I’m certain I have already seen this very same scene before, somewhere deep within the misty forests of my memory. Surrounded by grand blue skies as I ride the gusts of winds leading me earthward, to the ground. There’s no use resisting, of course, so I simply let myself be guided without insisting; gliding in a whimsical sea of air-currents rocking me to and fro as though I were the ball in a prolonged ping-pong match between two great invisible beings.

Time stretches out differently up here. At the confluence of sugary heaps of clouds and the brown delicious earth, one sort of loses that sense of belonging one has when seeping into earth’s soil or assembling in sweating cotton skies. Gravity can make one feel overly heavy and confined, sometimes. And, in clouds, one is just waiting – anticipating the inevitable fall. So, out here a considerable weight is lifted off one’s shoulders.

I am falling – still. Of course. Closing in on the awaiting ground. Nonetheless, I am not worried. It is natural, after all – that I should fall. Don’t we all? I half-expect to see flashes of past events traverse my mind’s eye. It’s what one would expect, right? Unsurprisingly, nothing happens, it’s far too clouded for thoughts to pierce through. The sound produced by my body rushing through space is mellifluous, and the rays from above – oh! Those elegant rays! Carrying warm caresses from the sun which bounce off my coating; in sum creating a sort of ethereal dazzling molten light. Making me into liquid-sunshine. What a sight to witness and experience!

Everything appears so much more beautiful from up here. I can probably see everything, surely. But, I am falling. At such a speed and from such a high place that I could have been thrown from the very heavens themselves. One could surmise that I would be burning up right now. Like crashing meteorites do when seduced by earth’s charm. Strangely, I feel fresh, fresher and more alive than I can recall ever feeling.
I know this moment is short-lived, but I also know it is worth a lot on the scale of things this biosphere has to offer.  And, I am a part of it. Under my belly, humans are occupied – scurrying about, always in a hurry, always busy, occupied with their well-recited day-to-day routines, never truly taking the time to look above their own heights, at the looming skyline and, at me. Comparatively the sky gives off the impression of moving in slow motion, impervious to the commotion of those gravity-chained creatures.
Yet, some of those beings, like me, are in the sky. On that aircraft, over there, leaving noxious imprints of white over softly lapping sapphire oceans – spreading its great dead wings which reflect sweltering rays at me.
I can see their fleshy faces behind bizarre transparent discs. Do they take the time to look out their windows and let the view sink in?  I wonder. A view so resplendent and breath-taking it would take years for one to describe fully. A view composed of a deep blue sky and, with a radiantly blinding sun illuminating everything in its path, and birds chirping and soaring through the sky like tiny little arrows piercing through clouds; those magnificent clouds rolling and roaring like the rushing waves pounding the shores. Sometimes puffy, or, at times no more than mere wisps of all shapes and sizes dashing across our azure ceilings’ tapestry, as if guided by the hand of a painter ceaselessly accomplishing his masterpiece. This view is priceless when compared to all million-dollar paintings, the spectacles that can be seen on this little planet are jaw-dropping. One might even say ineffable, you must see it in order to understand it. At times, our emotions speak of what our minds’ dictionary cannot.
I only just dodge the plane. Had I hit it, my course would have undoubtedly met a violent end. As with every race, there must be a start a middle and, naturally, an end. In this world all of us tend to hope that dreaded expiration date never comes knocking at our doorsteps, but, it never fails to do so and, always will. Despite everything, we might tell ourselves. Just like proud petals gliding off the summit of roses – one day or another, we must all fall. It is vital to the very cycle of nature and life we so avidly safeguard.
Below, the houses which used to be, but, vast fields of dots spread across a wide plane have morphed into big square cement blocks. I am sailing directly to a tree surrounded by greenery lazing like lizards in the sun. It seems the time to play my part in the natural cycle of life has arrived. I only hope that……..

I am in a park, standing there, fairly vertically and doing nothing. I could probably move, run, or, even dance but, I see no need to do so. All that I require is already here, around me is the beauty of life. I feel the wind rustling my skin causing me to shudder. It is so powerful that, sometimes, I need to bend and twist my body in order to not be uprooted. However, today it is not so robust. So, I stand there, sturdy and disinclined to move, merely observing the pedestrians pass by. Some solitary, some coupled in twos or threes, sometimes reading books next to me, or, running or walking those four-legged creatures called ‘good dog’, or ‘Rex’, or ‘Max’ or, ‘Cookie’ on leashes. I wonder if they see me. None has ever come to say hello. But their four-legged creatures do sometimes. In their own, bizarre, fluid ways.

I feel the veins of my body beckoning me: I am thirsty. And, this thirst cannot be quenched by what I find around me. I think to myself that, I may have to break my vow to never move. But, suddenly, my worries are stifled as onto me the first droplet of the day hits one of my leaves. And, I know that unfailingly more will soon follow, pouring down like little beads of crystal spouting out from the mouths of clouds, a place I can never see. Once more, I must thank them for what they bring me: Life. For they are what helps me to stay as strong and as long as I am. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to shelter all the pedestrians who are now hiding beneath my leaves from this deluge from another world that is, to them, cumbersome.

…it helps.

–  ISSA DIOUME

The House of Chronicle [Poem] by Issa Dioume

At the house of Chronicle

You’ll be met with quite the spectacle.

The standards you deem normal

Will come across a many great reversal

.

Lies and deceptions galore

Fake smiles and kindness they adore

So many faults to list and more –

– Much more in its rotten deepest core

Water leaking from ceilings, they ignore

.

Denial of blame, absence of shame.

Plain to see they are comparable to no company,

Only hungry crows perched atop a tree, Looking down, smugly,

To see,

Lame, tamed little mice calling their names,

In vain, abandoned to the pitter patter of rain.

.

.

.

– by Issa Dioume &

Inspired by true events

Click for Author’s website

The Healing, Part.1 [ Short-Story Series] by Issa Dioume

During the war, we fought on opposite sides – two factions divided by a common hate for one another – we killed one another’s’ friends, relatives and childhood. We were 12 and we had been told we were fighting a holy war. A war which would grant us revenge. A war which would eradicate the pain in our hearts from losing loved ones, the more enemies’ throat we slit the closer we got. We were told it could only end with one side obliterated. A war which would make us happy. Which was all we wanted.

No side came out victorious, only more blood and pain. Only more hatred layered with sadness. Only more of the same. Then, out of the blue, the war ended. And, it was over. We were told to pack and leave. Left alone, both in our twenties, clueless as to what to do next. The uselessness of what we had done struck us. We had not changed anything. The pain was there, only stronger. Looking back we saw solely the regret of a now long gone childhood. We were left stranded with no skills aside from how to expedite bullets from the barrels of guns to pierce flesh.

At a loss for what to do and where to go. I frantically searched for activities I could do. Dancing, singing and Dj-ing. The sound kept the noises in my ear quiet. One day, I saw a flier glued to a wall. The wall was slightly burnt, scars left from the battles.

It read:

Healing and discussion center for all children who participated as soldiers in the war. We are here to hear and help you. Please come share your story.

I snickered at the flier. At the time, realisation of ramifications of the war on myself had not yet come over my mind. I lingered in a state of absolute denial. However, I went. Out of sheer curiosity. Who would be there? Would anyone even come?

We met in a small hut outside town. The place had a beautiful garden and serving as entrance was a large arch covered in vines and flowers which twirled and intertwined over the archway. I arrived and saw the inner parts of the construct. There were no chairs. Only small red pillows sitting in a perfect ⭕️ circle. I was the first to arrive. So, I simply sat there and waited a while. A fresh smell of earth and grass abounds the air of this little hut, I noted.

Gradually, I heard footsteps making there way through the garden and into the hut. I was on my back, laying down sprawled on the ground, arms stretched. I turned my head to see who had come. And then, I saw him.

That man. The one I had searched for everyday on the battlefield. The reason I had gone through that hell. He gave a short bow with his head, acknowledging my presence then sat cross-legged across from me. I stood up and stared into his eyes. He stared back. We said nothing. A minute passed and then two and then five. Still, we said nothing. We stared. His eyes gleamed shortly as though he had just recalled something. Within myself I felt an overflowing fountain of lava nearing implosion. He was the man I had wanted to kill. His face had been splattered on many posters during the war. He had been the leader of the squad which had killed my family. I scrutinised him carefully and realised he was around my age. Perhaps a year or two more at best. Then suddenly:

I lunged towards him, going straight for his throat […]

—— ——– ——— —— ——- ——–

Poem by Issa Dioume: ‘Tumor, tu meurs’ {Experimental, Bilingual Piece}

Tumor, tu meurs
Like budding petals of a fleur.

Tumor, tu meurs
Like a languidly beating Coeur.

Tumor… Tu meurs
Like the mots of passants.

Tu meurs, tumor
Like the life of mes parents.

Tumor, je meurs
So be it, il était temps.

Tu meurs, ils pleurent
These are the tears des enfants.

Tôt le matin, j’irai cueillir la rosée, des fleurs du lendemain.

– Issa Dioume, 2018, 15th April
Click for more on writer’s website

Jenny Ran Sur The Colline —- French & English !But, Same Themes & Ideas (By Issa Dioume in collaboration with Aimé Lesot)

Jenny courait sur la colline. Ses fossettes creusaient ses joues, témoignaient de sa joie manifeste. Ses pieds martelaient le chemin en terre, laissaient des empruntes et délogeaient les petits cailloux de leur cratère dorénavant appauvris. Devant: un horizon sans ligne – seulement de grands arbres, feutrant les rayons du soleil. Derrière: seulement le souvenir de ce qu’elle avait entraperçu dans sa course dépourvue de but premier. Elle était seule – heureuse – et jouissait de son isolation mouvante.

Solace, to her, was the fruit of exile and isolation. After moving from Maxmouth – a beautiful city in the countryside- to the big concrete urban jungle of San Peregio the stability of her family’s life, which had once been harmonious and a source of happiness for Jenny, came tumbling down. The earlier congeniality now found itself replaced by perpetual pandemonium. This was tantamount to swimming up a river and suddenly finding yourself falling off the edges of a waterfall.

Elle tombait souvent. Ses genoux et ses coudes étaient couverts de petites cicatrices – de croûtes quand elle venait à perdre l’équilibre. Jenny savait qu’il était impossible à l’Homme de remonter une chute d’eau, elle avait tenté, maintes fois, sans succès. Les courants nous poussent en un sens, un peu à la manière de la providence. De ce raisonnement métaphysique elle en avait déduit que rien ne pouvait se rembobiner, que tout était à assimiler, à comprendre, et que le rebond ne valait le plongeon que lorsqu’un soupçon de relief – de joie – pointait derrière un nuage. Et puis elle l’avait vu dans le ciel; et aujourd’hui elle avait décidé de nager à contre courant.
Elle courait, et derrière les arbres et le soleil feutré s’écrasait l’eau en bas d’une chute.

And she declared to the wind, thinking aloud, “Speak my name to the ventriloquist, beg him to stop cramming words into my mouth. Pain is the substance society thrives on. It thrives off of subjecting its subjects to pain” and she suddenly understood” I am the ventriloquist.” The camera panned out, zoomed through the air and framed a boy pedalling up a hill. As he pedalled away, the load became quite substantive and a bit rough on his calves. Nevertheless, the little boy went onwards to the top of the hill and there, stood admiring the sunshine.

By

Issa Dioume (English);poet/writer/lover of words

&

Aimé Lesot (French); poet/writer/ philosophy addict

English Writer’s website:

https://thebiligualwriter.com

French Writer’s website:

https://aimelesot.wordpress.com

Where Do They All Fall? [Flashfiction] by Issa Dioume

My boiling blood told me they all fall one day, grow stark cold, then roll away, forgotten. Leaving behind a sweet serenade of stupor accompanied by the slow dwindling of memories. My boiling blood told me it would go cold turkey one day, too; simply stop warming my bones and flesh.Without warning. I know yet fear the cold. I can’t yet wish to escape its grasp, but then again, where would I go? I am tied by a twig to the tree of life, dangling in midair and ripe for the plucking.

At night, I hear flowing blood reverberating in my ears, urging me to listen to the beating drum of my heart; a repetitive rhythm slowly coming to a stop.

In winter my blood boils warmer, to keep me safe from the freeze. It’s effective. It cares for me, I think.

The landscape unravels like a fakir deploying his magical carpet and slowing floating toward the sky and off into the sunset. The clouds are pretty today. I didn’t quite like yesterday’s clouds. What will tomorrow’s be like? It’s, perhaps, not something people care for but, I do. I care, for clouds.

And, I care about where they all go when they fall. Those boiling fruits of blood. Hanging loosely from that dreadful tree.

Division Revision- [Poem] by Issa Dioume

Sometimes the water flows
Sometimes the water stills
Stilling my hopes in crypts

Sometimes it rains on my face
Sometimes sun radiates off of it
Burning men like cigarettes

Sometimes I care.
Sometimes I don’t.

Sometimes I share.
Sometimes I won’t.

Blue birds fly unseen in the sky.
Only perceived when poked in the eye.
Manichean Mannequins of wonder.

Wanderers under a flattening roof
Unimpaired by water. It’s Rustproof.

Look yonder to cross the border.
As we are: birds of the same feather

Written by Issa Dioume

Author’s website:

Issa Dioume’s writing

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