• Fraser du Toit

Grey Skies


Our Lady of Assumption Convent, 1933


My body trembled with convulsions of increasing severity. Sweat rolled from my brow, falling into the sodden pillow below my head. I was only vaguely aware of its discomfort.

Outside, the sky roiled as if to share in my agony. Lightning split the stars as thunder rattled the buildings below. The booming sound and flashing lights made their way into my feverish dreams. Those attending to me spoke in hushed tones about the unlikelihood of my survival. Thankfully, I was far beyond the reach of their words.

I stood at the edge of a cliff overlooking a mighty fjord. The sea below churned in viscous fury, wholly unlike water. Peering through the pelting rain, I could not discern the composition of that black bay. The wind pressed me away from the edge, whipping my jacket and nearly tearing the hat from my head. I gripped my briefcase as it too was pulled away from the cliff.

My feet stepped back to brace against the driving winds and stinging rain. The bay below held my gaze, and I fought to discern its nature. Thick waves crashed into the cliff face with destructive force, tearing stone away. Thus, the bay advanced on my perch.

The wind whipped around me and was now gusting from behind. I fought the sudden change, but felt myself be pushed up to the edge of the cliff. Unbalanced, with both feet on that evil lip, I swayed and flailed to no avail. With the sickening turn of my stomach, I felt terra firma abandon me as I fell.

Falling past the cliff wall, I perceived a reflective sheen and for a single moment, I could see a vision of myself drenched in convalescent sweat. My pity for that wretch was short-lived as I glanced down towards my fate. The dark liquid had churned itself into a whirlpool right beneath me.

I held tight to my hat and briefcase as I disappeared into the abyss. Thick waves enveloped me in darkness. My body was not crushed as I thought it would be, rather I awoke to a new reality.

Somehow I found myself in a beautiful glade of flowers. All around this glade stood tall trees of gray wood, bare of leaves. I stood and regarded the dichotomy before me, bountiful life within the glade surrounded by corruption without.

The trees seemed to strain towards the glade like a leper seeking alms. My clothes dripped as I strolled through the glade. Far beyond the trees, I could see the dark clouds and hear the rumbling of thunder. I am safe here within the glade, as long as the flowers survive.

Memories of a life filled with regret and hurt flooded my mind. The memories felt detached somehow, as if they were someone else’s. The trees loomed nearer as the thoughts filled me.

Wherever the trees touched with their gnarled limbs, the flowers would succumb. The color was quickly being drained from the glade, and the gray skies crept ever nearer.

I fled to the center of the flowers, as if to surround myself with loyal soldiers. Still, the gray advanced through the ranks of flowers. The darkness heralded by the approaching thunder.

My sanctum fell to the leeching corruption just as a bolt of lightning struck my hat. The pain was great as I sat upright in my cot.

Nuns scattered like spooked doves at the suddenness of my movement. Outside the window, I could see a barely perceivable lightening of the sky, gone from black to gray. The nuns were quick to inform me that the storm within had broken simultaneously with the storm outside.