The beasts of the Serengeti adorn themselves in sharp suits and suave ties but this is merely a rouse of surety for the gullible masses. Not expositing the truth and bringing to light the night’s labour spent behind the lighthouse lamp, hidden from the ships that slumber around the harbour of life. Before day breaks, sweat lays shattered at the feet of mirrors malevolence. Reflected back is the creature with his iron spiralled victims sprawled across the matted terrain, all gifts from the Greeks, he tested their weight and found himself ascended. His sculpted muscles sway in prominence as a treadmill cowers in the shadows just used but still vibrating in vulnerable anticipation for its next inclusion. When the world sleeps he’s here, the iron abattoir that cultivates kings for the concrete jungle outside or exposes the court jesters. Most peculiar that this tribulation is self imposed and fought for against the eels of idleness that compass his mattress. With powered palms he strikes his chest leaving a white print of victory, a sign of oaths fulfilled; his ego now validated as is needed before stepping out onto the asphalt to rub shoulders and brush manes with the other lions. The rising sun dares to peek into the windows, the man dashes to turn off the lamp so he can bask in the natural rays. It pays homage to his righteous victual and he accepts its offering as sufficient. For many this sparks the stir from slumber but not for him this light sirens the start of the daily hunt. His nostrils flare at the invoked smell of smouldering flesh, validating his secret conviction he was born a few centuries too late. More inclined to sword and spear, he entertains fantasies of performing his own rituals of dousing himself in sackcloth to cut a mockery mourned figure to the enemy slain. Revered he would be and a conqueror of lands, lamentation and lust; fathers would display their daughters’ chastity to gain his favour. Alas here he is in the modern metropolis of London, no daughters aligned but charm bestowed allows him to assure his bed rarely supports only the one. He takes a devouring gulp of the purified liquid the earth has blessed such men as him and still can’t help but let it drip upon his already glistening torso. An abrupt hunger tickles his navel feeling neglected. So he goes to retrieve his bag but the sun’s smile broadens teasing his majesty to tarry at the spectrum of beauty it provides. He obliges placing his forehead against the soothing cold window, he saviours it before his eyes peruse the landscape of conformity outside. Skyscrapers betray their name never able to reach the heights to deserve their title. Metallic beetles scuttle along the road huffing quiet flatulence in their wake. On the streets rivulets of mice in professional costumes peter out from their holes for the government cheese promised to them for their servitude. He considers himself not one of them baring more in alliance with the three black lions that rest as custodians of Trafalgar square. These people have jobs, he has a career; they’re employed, he employs life. His sinister smirk relaying the belief of another truth that he’s been elected by an omniscient power to rise before the day. There are men and there is deity and he declares himself a demigod, no one shall crush his shield or ever sit upon his throne. He’s a master of the day and usher of the dawn, the sun’s rise was only for him, he is king, he is the one, he is the— Wait… there! Squashed between a rotund stomach of a waddling comfort eater and another struggling to walk in stilted heels designed to shroud their vertical challenge, there is her. Dignity and poise. A lady fortuned with a physique that required no sculpting to retain a marble monument in many a lustful man’s mind. To declare her exotic beauty as helmed from the island of Patmos would be too far a description. It wasn’t her beauty that enchanted and recoiled him, it was the murals she painted. Oil paintings of passion splashing across the windows glass, of him and a certain her— Dawn; a couples joy; clasped hands and tandem woolly hats. This woman below was not Dawn though; for shame to the curve of her elegant spine that resembled the posture of the one that still catwalks in the coliseum of his mind. Catalyst though this woman is he fought the familiarity of the archetype swiping viciously across the glass fettering the imagined oil paintings into a melancholy rainbow. On the pavement the lady stops and his stallion heart stops with her, delicately she adjusts her belt unaware of the sweating puppeteer up above quivering his own fingers to lend celestial aid. A conjured grunt striking his throat as her belt buckle latches shut as if its finality preyed pincer to the valves of possibilities. On the move again she strides, now with every step of her high heels puckering tiny dents into his torso. A miniature march of an invisible cherub perforating his flesh as it passes through the valley of his abs, treks the hills of his ribs and climbs the mountain of his chest. He follows its trail with slashing fingernails scratching at the irritation, though his vision won’t leave her too hypnotised to make the connection between her journey and his discomfort. Suddenly his eyes go big, his flickering eyelashes casting away the perspiration they’d collected; the woman coming to the end of the street and in cohesion the tiny footprints had made a military halt upon his neck. His elbows slumping onto the window pane, into his trembling forearms he growls guttural denigrations at the respiratory warfare. His back arches as if at Zeus’s bidding jellyfish of violent gagging writhe around his rib cage, condemnation for his former arrogance. Contorting his neck up with all his strength he slams his face up against the glass, forcing his bloodshot pupils down so he can witness the beauty of his demise. Profile to him now he can barely see her, hidden behind the traffic light pole only her pointed nose, puckering lips and folded arms peek out to tease him; the green light above her head playing guardian seems to twist itself and grin at the man’s suffocation. He begs the light to change to crimson tone his eyes had taken, the very bones in his spine sharpening with every jerk threatening to burst through the skin.
‘Please.’ The light’s fun absolved it changes, she crosses, and the man collapses onto the matted floor. He gulps the air as it playfully passes his mouth unbothered by his current plight, the footprints tiptoeing up his chin, over his face and getting lost in his hair as down below the woman disappears into the distance. A few moments later the man is up, shakily but alive, striking a glare at the traffic light that now looks away and seems sheepish about turning back; its light flicks quickly to amber and the man flinches realising too he doesn’t want to be caught in its gaze again. Searching his bag his timid hand fishes out a key with a worn leather-bound key ring attached, hoisting the bag onto his back he heads wearily to the door. Reaching for the metallic handle the key ring dangling between his fingers reflects in it, swaying in protest for a moment’s audience with the king. Unsure why but he acquiesces and engages the struggle to pull away the cover with a lack of strength most acquainted those who know famine by vivid recall. A strip of leather peels unrelenting to give up its prize before its beauty until with a slurp a clear plastic frame slides out. He holds up the frame and inside is a picture of Dawn, the real Dawn, his Dawn, not the imposturous wench outside. The image faded and pixelated but still her defined cheeks retain poignancy in the moment and in chambers of his core. He lets it fall off of his finger and watches it bounce on the floor, propping up against the door refusing to stay down; she still smiles. His feet dash to the treadmill; he turns it on and begins punishing the spinning belt with his pounding soles. Where is he going? Nowhere. How far from her? Carnal is this plane they share. Gone are his salubrious claims of exaltation, forgotten the adulation his reflection always provides, her gaze binding the beast to this cave of familiar shadows forsaking his own legend. The world outside goes on without him after all, he’s just a mortal man.
Written by Nathaniel Rochester.