• Fraser du Toit

Sinking


Abandoned, decaying, and partially submerged building at Salton Sea Beach - slworking2


Harold sank in allegorical sympathy with his family’s fortunes. They had once been a mighty clan of aristocrats, lately fallen to their slovenly successors. He himself was guilty of squandering more than his fair share of the family’s liquidity.

Many years ago the clan was established by the inimitable Duke Penbrook Penrose. He came from the old European stock, the family legend held, and was a close relative of the queen. The exact area of Europe and the exact queen had been lost to history.

Harold was up to his ankles now as he stared at the previously exquisite manor that Penbrook had built. The once flying buttresses now precariously perched upon the rising sand.

He wondered then if the sand was rising or if he was sinking into it. The storms of his many failures rattled in his brain, freezing him in place as surely as the sand now covering his knees. There was nothing left to be done about it. Penrose hall would soon become another dusty relic for future archaeologists’ eyes.

The sea breeze whipped at his matted gray hair. Bathing was the first thing he abandoned when news of the failure arrived. He knew it was coming, his plan had been the product of an opium-dream after all.

Harold knew that it was too late to kick the habit. The bill had already arrived to claim everything he holds dear. Sand hugged his hips as the breeze grew stronger.

There had been hope earlier in his life, before his wife left. She would say that he left her for the opium, but he was incapable of leaving, incapable of moving at all. The irony didn’t escape him now as he felt the sandy wetness clamp around his legs.

Pain hadn’t been a part of Harold’s life for years, except for the dull memory of heartache. That memory filled his heart as he watched the stained-glass windows of Penrose Hall crack and shatter into the whelming sand. Soon the pain would be gone, along with the memory of the failed line of Penrose.

Harold had of course failed to produce an heir, much to the disappointment of his uncles, who themselves had produced no sons. Those uncles had all been claimed by history in much the same way that he was now being claimed. The failure of his loins was partially due to the fraying genetics of a man of his breeding, and largely due to the opium.

Sand lapped gently at his hands as the horizon rose up around him. His last chance at mobility would come soon. This chance like many others he would surely squander. He thought only vaguely of what would happen when the sand reached his chest. There would be a tightening and a gradual darkening, he assumed.

Penrose Hall was almost entirely gone now, and only the two tall spires were still visible. Those spires that had dominated the island’s skyline for generations now looked like fingers desperately clawing for air. The final act of a dying house.

He wondered what would go first, him, or the house. Would he be forced to endure the sight of it, or would the manor outlast his line after all?

The sand soon passed his elbows and he tried to flex his fingers, they shifted slightly. Great effort would be required to raise them from the Earth’s grasp, and he doubted his resolve. Perhaps, he thought, there was a way to save himself yet.

Harold strained to lift his right arm free, but he stopped when he saw the spires sink below the sands. Penrose Hall was gone. He stopped his struggling and let out a great sigh.

There was no point in fighting the inevitable, he decided. The sand crested over Harold’s shoulders as he felt it tighten around his chest. He felt a moment of panic when he thought the sinking had stopped, but with a gurgling rumble it resumed at great speed.

Harold Penrose sunk into the Earth, never to be seen again. It was peaceful.