Back Draft

Chapter one

It was simply put the hottest day ever recorded in the time known to mankind. It was April and the time was 10 pm on the 17th. Conner Anderson ran his hands through is oily hair in an effort to push as much of the vile sweat out of it as he possibly could.

He quickly realised that nothing was going to be able to get rid of the sweaty stink he was surely making so he ran to the ornamented glass doors of a local pub slipping inside to the cool air-conditioned inside, although by the look of some of the clientele not quickly enough, for an early afternoon drink. The bar’s name of course was “Stroh” an abbreviation for the alcohol Strohrum.

The bar was completely packed, it being one of the few on this street that had working air conditioners to which the owner strangely enough referred to as his main source of income. At one end of the bar stood a huge poster of Manchester United; complete with a trophy box and fake Champions league trophy. The owner quite obviously infatuated with a hope and desire that would make a snowball in hell look like it had a chance of surviving.

Conner made for the counter and asked for the house special, Strohrum mixed with ice cream. It was probably his favourite drink just after pure Strohrum but people gave him weird looks when he ordered that, and he was sure to get a few in this place at this time of day. However today it just didn’t do the trick for him and he quickly left for home.

Having arrived in the foyer of his building Conner made for the stairs, it was of no use going to the lift, for in his building it most of the time wasn’t working and when it did work it was a good bet that when it got in between floors it would suddenly cease and strand you inside for a couple of hours.

The flat was nine storeys up with only one floor above it before the roof, and Conner, who was thirty-seven and had only six years previously had a lower back operation due to inter-articularis defects in his spine, was very listless going up.

Inside the flat Conner went to the bathroom and turned on the cold water tap. Strictly speaking there was a water drought with all the water usage restrictions in place with it, but Conner didn’t care. He had two weeks ago installed without anyone’s knowledge an additional and highly illegal water cooling and storage tank in addition to the storage tank that his flat was authorized to have.

He crossed over to his kitchen and took out the pack of ice he had left in the freezer and dumped all the ice into the bath. That should do it he thought as he climbed clothes and all into it, a shot of Strohrum in each hand.

Inside the flat a rasping static filled voice was speaking over the radio he had left on, it was reading out the weather predictions for the following day up and till the weekend. “Warm, warmer, hot, don’t go outside, Walk-in freezer’s selling for only…” triple the price Conner thought as he slowly dozed off.

Waking up during the night Conner climbed out of the bath and moved over to the window. Far down below at street level he saw a smallish feeble looking bum walking along the ally, his merest movement betraying the lack of nourishment with his bony body showing through the overly big clothes he was wearing.

Conner reflected that in the grand scheme of things he wasn’t to far away from that state, and thanked his lucky stars that he had inherited money from his deceased aunt, without which he would’ve been holding the bum in the ally’s bags for him… Outside, the world looked in contrast to reality; no wonder people were lobbying the local government to change business hours to night time rather than the day. He could still see their slogan on the huge advertisement billboard across the street “Cold mirror of the day, the night is our ally”. In the distance he could make out the airport with all the fanfare of lights blinking on and off for the landing and taking off of airplanes.

Two kilometres north of him he knew stood the Tower of Babylon, his place of work and South Africa’s first and only space launch pad. It towered cosmically over the city and its evermore discrepant suburbs. He didn’t know who had named it but couldn’t help smiling when he thought of the ego behind whoever did name it.

This he thought was Durban, capital of South Africa and according to CNN the only first world country of Africa. Durban was probably the fifth largest city in Africa and all due to the spaceport having been build here ten years previously.

The Tower of Babylon or as it was affectionately called TOB was shockingly like chalk and cheese different from any other buildings in sight. It was huge. Towering 200 meters from the ground, it had four base towers with a grid work of bridges inter-twining between them and a 100 meter broad launching pad above the four base towers which each formed corners of the launch pad.

The TOB contained supposedly over five thousand offices with goodness knows’ how many board rooms, staff toilets, entrance halls, tourist attractions, crèches and canteens. In short it was the most future technologically advanced building or buildings, depending on your point of view, in the world.

Conner turned round abruptly and crossed the room into the tiny kitchen to make a midnight snack, by leaving early the previous day he had sacrificed his lunch in the canteen and he was now very much aware of his empty and very loudly growling stomach. His first inclination was to make a sandwich and to watch some late night movies on the television, but as he was buttering his sandwich there came a knock on the door. He ignored it, who ever it was would just have to go away and look for help elsewhere. He took down from a cupboard a bottle of Klipdrift to pour a shot with his coke and started to take a cigarette from his crumpled packet of Stuyvesant’s when the next moment he started violently. There was someone knocking even louder than before on his door with an accompanying call for his attention. He silently crept towards the door, his heart was threatening to cease altogether and it was an effort just moving his legs forward. To many times he had heard on the news of people being mugged in their own homes because of situations just like this one. He didn’t like it at all, but his curiosity was getting the better of him. As he opened the door Conner saw that he had left his bathroom door ajar and the illegal tank was clearly visible within it. It was a incredibly dense thing to do in light of the water shortage and drought, never mind the amount of water still left in the tub, but he realised it was to late to close the door. He took a deep breath and continued opening the door and instantly felt relieved when he saw the woman standing outside his flat.

“Hi Conner, I’m sorry to start banging away at your door like this at this dreadful hour…” she said in her high pitched voice, “I thought I saw your lights on behind your door and well… Do you think you could come and have a look at my air conditioner? It’s not working and my children can’t sleep without it…”

It was Mrs Campbell the wan, trodden-looking wife of a neighbour on the same floor as Conner’s. She was in her late forties having had children late in life with a husband fifteen years her junior who was always away on “business”. These semi-amateur patch ups were a frequent if not weekly nuisance, especially because Conner couldn’t refuse her due to her sisters’ help in procuring his flat for him.

“I’m really sorry Conner but if they don’t get their sleep I wont get any either… and it’s only because my husband left early this morning for Johannesburg on business. Otherwise I’m sure he would’ve done it, he’s very good at this kind of thing and with the children’s air conditioner being the only one in the house in all…” The Campbell’s flat was bigger than his own, but to Conner it felt smaller and more lived in than his own. This in no small way was probably due to the amount of clutter and kid’s toys lying about the flat. This was even more so the case in the children’s room. There were the typical boy band posters on the girl’s side of the room and the even more typical airplane and cars on her brother’s side of the room. Everything in-between was however chaos.

In the adjoining room someone turned on the television. “Oh I told them to put on cartoon network to keep them occupied…” she said as she started half-heartedly to clean the room. The air conditioner was an old wall mounted unit and was covered in dust and what looked like a glue substance… Conner stood on top of a chair to reach the air conditioner. He disliked these people and especially their children. Had he known he would be doing little favours like this… he’d never have moved into his flat. Mrs Campbell looked on helplessly. “Have you got any tweezers?” Conner asked trying to reach something stuck behind the dirt trap in the mechanics of the air conditioner. “Yes, hold on” she said and ran into the adjoining room, returning almost as quickly from another door.

All of a sudden there was a huge commotion in the room next door which resulted in a girl of five years running into the room and hiding under her bed. “I didn’t do it!” she yelled. Her twin brother having followed her into the room was trying to pull her from beneath the bed yelling “Yes you did! Yes you did! I saw you! You broke the television, now I can’t watch anything!”

“Its okay children, it’s okay, you can watch in mommy’s room okay?” Mrs Campbell said as her eyes darted forebodingly from her children to Conner. The children ran out of the room still fighting with each other when Conner finally was able to remove a doll’s head from the air conditioner and it slowly started to work again.

“They get a bit hyperactive if they don’t get to bed early…” she said in her high-pitched voice. Conner took his leave of Mrs Campbell and made for the door, but he had not gone more than 2 feet outside it when Mrs Campbell hugged him and kissed him. He barely noticed as she ran back into her flat. He thought he knew why she had done that. With kids like that and a husband never at home she was leading a life of loneliness and dismay.
Chapter two


The contents of the blog, its pages, including all text and images, unless otherwise stated, are the sole property of the author (Jacobus Gideon Hanekom) and may not be used, reproduced, or reposted in any manner without written consent. All rights reserved.