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tearing the rag off the bush again
Hairy Tail by Andrei-Calin Mihailescu PDF E-mail
Dr. Andrei-Călin Mihăilescu is Professor of Suspect History at the University of Cişmigiu. This is his most recent research paper, special to the Corpse.

Hairy-Tail


I entered the park ready to surrender. The same park where Amelia had vanished years before. When we were taking our long, mimetic strolls, she'd pull her hand out of mine, would run to hide behind the trunk of a named oak tree and'd whisper, "Catch me if you can, silly!" She was the world to me. Always let me find her, coquettishly. That evening she ran behind the tree and was gone for good. There was barely enough light in the sky to let things cast their shadows. The oak tree's was the fattest. I started looking there, but there – she wasn't. I looked left and right, behind the bushes, on the benches, in the lake. Every place I looked was mainly Amelialess. She was neither home nor at the university nor at our café nor at her blind parents'. Hospitals and police precincts ignored her whereabouts, as did all the border guards I asked. She never came back. I have been looking for her for years. I lost every bit of everything else. Suddenly, everywhere and nowhere met. I entered the park to surrender.

 

Didn't quite know where to start. I don't make plans. Amelia used to make them for the both of us. I stopped at a cross-alleys; close to the oak tree. The thought of hanging myself crossed a mind; was it mine? Am looking in all directions, undecidedly. I must've looked startled.

– Where to?

– Who the hell would let me in on that?

– Rough, rough, rough! A little engine was purring. It was inside me. No, it was far away. What?

– "You  seem lost," someone said. Velvety voice.

– "Ugh! Yeah, kind of."

I turned to him. Oldish. Dusty elegance. Unctuous manners. A wrinkled leather attaché case in hand. An undertaker? A retired car salesman?

– "You look like a perfect guest for my show, sir,"

– "What's that?"

– "Allow me to introduce myself," he said. "My name is Pop Popescu. I am the host of The Too Late Show."

– "Never heard about it. I don't watch much TV."

– "Now would be the right time for you to learn about it, wouldn't you think?"

He sounded more pedantic than the lightest threat.

– "Que sais-je?"

– "Well-well. Tell me, good sir, what brought you here?"

I really didn't have anything to lend or lose, so I let him in on it all – Amelia's disappearance, my friends who, after a while, started calling her Vanisha and poking fun at me, the loss of my job.

– "I don't see them anymore," I hustled, "but I remember painfully well the many occasions when they were suggesting that she'd gone to Argentina or the States, that she married a stuntman, or was it a banker, you know, Mr. Popescu, the works."

– "I see."

– "That's about it... My life's worth two pennies of a dime."

– "Who's there to count?" he winked, while opening the bag, which had somehow gotten a bit larger than I first thought. He took out a sheet of paper and, with a "maybe this would interest you," started reading aloud. It was almost dark, but he could read, or maybe he knew the words by heart:

"Those things started cropping up now and then at the beginning of the 1900s. After all, this is Cişmigiu, Bucharest’s Central Park and noble detail. What matters and gets lost happens here for the first time. Away from the city’s ostentatious muck, the continuous park vibrates very finely. The unsuspecting would take it as a crypt; the lover would wish to take it away; the old Classics prof doesn’t get to decipher it, but at least he has something to do. Among Bucharest’s cacophony of vibrations (this city is the Buenos Aires of the North East, Aleph's cousin), Cişmigiu is too fast and too slow for the city to catch up. There things appear and disappear too fast; it’s wise to take your lover for long walks. Love here fades out slower than elsewhere."

– "Aren't we getting a bit long-winded? What's this, an unpublished manuscript?" I said.

– "Please, sir, don't get ahead of yourself. There is more to catch up with." And he continued to read aloud, or recite, whatever, but more melodiously now.

"Cişmigiu was exiled from Vienna to the middle of Bucharest, a city invented, rather than constructed, pregnant with scandal and dust. Through the holes in the map above it, the querulous gods rained the city’s houses, streets, false teeth, and the deltas of mud and blood. There are other tales, too, of gods who left Bucharest a moment before it was created out of the stuffy air and some intimation of trees. They left behind, in the marshes, the vow of pestilence and periodic, mediocre epidemics of madness or loathing."

– "What does this have to do with me? Is this your show?" I interrupted.

He looked at me, not taken aback. His eyes were light green now, you could see them well in the dark.

– "It has to do with you, trust me," he said firmly. "This park is something else than you think, and so are you." And he continued from the manuscript, at which I'd glanced a few times, without making out a single word.

"Nights sometimes get rough and real. You can hear all around the noises of the expelled mucus and pukus rustling the bush. Hiccupping pimply youths hide from hiding. Booze hasn't been playing hide and seek with their skulls and skills for naught. The present's tense. In the little cave echoes get choked by unseen algae. And the bush that is playing with fire. Cinderella had one midnight only to spend in her shoe. The Meanderthals are being slurped off the map into crap..."

I got dizzy. He noticed my state. Queen Fatigue, sipping from my veins. I must've fallen to the ground. The grass' wet fur was tickling my cheek. I was silent like a nun. Couldn't pray, though. The stars,  weepy around his growing head. He sat by me. And then there was only his voice, its echo reverberating from the firmament. I was eighteen when, coming from a party, I had a revelation on the Cişmigiu pile of rocks! Humped and dumped by upper thoughts.  I saw my father slurping the scotch I could no longer drink, and telling the stories I could no longer stand. Popescu had restarted his monologue.

– "Those things started cropping up now and then at the beginning of the 1900s. The first to notice the sudden disappearances was a Professor of Suspect History at the University of Bucharest. People would enter the shadow of a tree or a large bush, never to come out. When his mother-in-law vanished, he was relieved; but, then, his wife did the same and he felt lonely. He spent time collecting the names of the vanished and devising a theory for the sequence of events. Say, you are walking on a summer’s sun-setting alley, a shadowfull ahead of your trailing dog. If you are chosen, if you turn your head really quickly, you can see an ethereal shape jumping out of your shadow to fade away in the bushes nearby. The shadow stays immobile for a sec, until the dog covers it and yelps. Then it rushes after you again, like an elastic. What jumped out of it, they say, was Hairy-Tail, the soul of the shadow. Once your shadow was crossed by Hairy-Tail, your fate's clock had started ticking. But you should know where to look. Otherwise, what is to happen will strike unbeknownst to you. Whispered legends have Hairy-Tail go by other names, too – Zîna-Zen, No One’s Sister, or Miss Terra –, for it changes shapes faster than mortals could perceive."

Popescu fell silent for a bit. I, numb.

– "Amelia... Hairy-Tail crossed her... must join in now."

Shadows cast shadows. Chance abolished. Dawn's fingers clack. A giant murder of crows fly off.

 
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