women were so
old it was as though they had been formed in some primordial time
the gods knew what the sky looked like. They had been moulded from the
clays of the universe and now they sat, like boulders, presiding over
watching it from sockets speared with lines. They never seemed to move.
never seemed to age as though they had reached a plateau in their
nicknamed them the Mountain Women.
mother had not
aged with grace. Her face was weathered and worn, a leathery mask over
beauty of her long dissolved youth. She kept her hair tied back in a
ponytail the colour of ash. It annoyed me how she scraped it all back,
nothing to cling to the browned lined skin of her face, left nothing to
worried me that
she had aged so badly and I wondered if I too would age with little
grace. It troubled
me that one day I too would become gnarled and worn like some old tree
the highway. I found myself staring at her when she spoke to me and
walked away I would touch my face, ensure that I had not altered to
told me that my
mother was beautiful, but Mara saw the beauty in everything. She had to
her life was rather ugly. Her father worked for my mother, as a foreman
grounds of the motel my mother managed. He was a rough, frightening man
violent air about him and he always smelled of alcohol. Sometimes
appear then disappear on Mara’s body and we all knew the reason,
yet no one
would openly say it.
wasn’t as though
we were trying to protect Mara’s father, no one particularly
cared for him, but
it seemed easier somehow not to say anything, as though we were afraid
effort it would take to comment on one of those bruises.
connected us all in our small community was situated along a stretch of
between the cities of Johannesburg and Durban called Van Reenen’s
Pass. It was
a tragic stretch, thin and winding, its only advantage being that the
surrounding area was considered scenic by some. We had few travellers,
trickled in every so often, and we all came to terms with the fact that
chosen to exist in some forgotten valley of the universe.
had come to
this stretch of earth on purpose; everyone had somehow been washed up
marooned without a map or compass. The Mountain Women, it is said, had
exist because the unknown owner of the motel had once housed his mother
room of his motel and then others joined her after a while until there
whole population of them, stones that grew and moved. Mara and her
been running from something and had fallen headlong across Van
and my mother and I had left a stagnating father in the hopes of a less
one prison for another.
never saw or
spoke to the owner of the motel, we simply assumed his mother was one
Mountain Women and we knew his name was John. He corresponded with my
via email as though he himself did not want to make the laborious
Van Reenen’s Pass to his dilapidated motel.
bored the day
I met the man with a donkey’s face. I was sitting on the low
and watching some horses graze on the mountainside when he drove up in
car which spat out smoke and rocks like the chaotic tail of a comet. I
really remember his face; all I can remember is that it reminded me of
donkey. Even now when I think of him I trade his face for a
mule’s face. I do
not mean the comparison to be derogatory in any way; some people have
faces, others have horse faces and he had a donkey face.
name escapes me,
I cannot find it. I want it to be beautiful, but I think it was plain
is why I have forgotten it.
smiled at me as
he had climbed out of his car, a tired, sweaty smile. I regarded him
seat on the wall with the bricks poking into the soft bottom of my
the brim of my hat pushing down across my forehead like a sweaty metal
and I wondered what it felt like to hurt a man.
booked a room in
the motel, one with a veranda, and I showed him the way to it. He
me and though I never turned to see where he was looking, I felt his
the back of my body, slowly appraising me. He made me feel both
night I asked
Mara about the man with the donkey’s face. She told me she had
seen a wedding
band on his finger. I wondered how I had missed that in my
asked her what she thought it felt like to hurt a man and she shrugged.
honey and cyanide
at the same time.’ She finally said and the honesty behind her
his ring off
the one day he came to speak to me. Somehow the pale band of skin
finger seemed more obvious than the ring. He had a nervous smile, one
would scuttle across his face like a crab across the beach sand. His
never seemed to know whether it should stay or leave and it had a
effect on his face, as though his entire face was unsure of itself.
are they?’ He
pointed at the Mountain Women.
women who stay here. No one really knows where they come from. They
then they stay.’
place is so
peculiar.’ He motioned at the motel and the surrounding area but
I knew he
meant the whole of Van Reenen’s Pass. ‘It is so separate,
so secluded, like
like that.’ I admitted. ‘It sometimes feels completely cut
off from everything
you like it
came here when I
was very young so I don’t really remember anything else.’ I
don’t know if I
like it here.’
wondered why he
did not leave then.
too far the one night and in the morning we scrubbed away the bloody
the wall. My mother told me that she would never come back. They had
aunt somewhere, it sounded funny when my mother said it as though aunts
to sprout up everywhere, and Mara was to go and stay with her.
not able to
wish her goodbye or good luck. One day she was with me and the next she
not. I felt jealous somehow, of her escape, that she had managed to
from this place. She had left me. I was alone, cleaning up the crusty
her blood along the edge of the kitchen counter.
seemed that blood
was the only way to escape from this place. A bloody highway led away
these mountains and valleys and this old worn motel with my
mother’s old worn face
and her scraggly ashy hair. The ferryman demanded a payment.
different once Mara left. The world seemed dislocated, strange, and I
felt lost. She had gone. I would never hear from her again. And it was
separation of friends which made my self feel disjointed, it was the
terrible fact that she was gone from Van Reenen’s Pass, that she
had been able
to leave. That, that was like gall in my mouth and it made me almost
the man with the donkey face. He was leaving, just like Mara. He could
go as he pleased and yet I would remain here, stuck, immobile, like the
ugly truth that I too would become ashy haired and worn faced and
this place where the world rushed by and never paused to look or care
witness. It was that truth like an iron hand on the back of my neck
me seek him out despite the white ring of untanned skin around his left
That realization propelled me forward into his room whilst he packed
I wanted a way out too. I would pay in blood.
when we were
done, sitting in the dark room, slippery and hot, I felt nothing. I was
empty well and I was sure if I swallowed a stone you would hear it
my body to hollowly hit the stony floor.
He asked and tried to touch my face.
jerked away from
him. I did not want to feel him because when I did I would know the
would know that there was no escape. And I did not care if I offended
angered him because he had wronged me and himself and the nameless,
woman he was married to. I looked at him and I spat at him because in
I saw Van Reenen’s Pass just like I had seen it in my mother and
in the Mountain
Women and even in my father. This place, this secluded, isolated place
out!’ I shoved
at him and kicked him and screamed wordlessly through tears that were
and cold. ‘Get out!’
abruptly left and
I never saw him again, the man with the donkey face who had made me
could feel him on me for days, like dirt under my fingernails, dirt
not come free. Was I more now or was I less? When I looked in the
mirror I only
saw two dark eyes and nothing else. I felt nothing else. I was still as
Van Reenen’s Pass as I had been before the man with the donkey
face and before
Mara had left. It was still part of me and I knew that wherever Mara
part of her too.
cyanide.’ Mara had said.
looked down at my
hands in the bathroom basin as I washed them, trying to rid them of
was not there. They sunk down the bottom of the basin, bloated and
was what it
felt like to be me.
Kerri-ann Bevis is a final year English
Studies major in South Africa. She hopes to further her studies in
Applied Languages whilst continuing to write. She hopes one day to
write both for print and for screen.