Spider to Fortune
A long short story involving drinking, fucking, loyalty, stupidity, hermeneutics, ‘The Exorcist’, and god knows what else.
Some days before leaving on my journey, I searched for my friend Brad on the internet. He had no idea I planned on visiting him. I wanted to be sure I had his correct address.
And I eventually found a photograph of him on a school website, where he was apparently still teaching. The quality of the scan was so bad that it was impossible to make out his features — or even the features of any of the other six teachers standing with him. Brad was just a dark-haired shape, without a definite face. You could just about tell that some of the figures were male, and some female. Had Brad’s surname — Kramer — not been on the screen, I would have had no idea that it was him. There was some fascination for me in this — my happening across this blurred photograph of these faceless creatures; almost amounting to a ghostly portrait of the undead — as it accurately symbolised the marginal figure he had become for me. It made me think also of psychic photography, where seemingly innocent information can lend itself, with hindsight, to a sinister interpretation.
The road to Brad’s school is through sugarcane fields.
I am driving a hire car.
The road seems to be going nowhere, the landscape is featureless except for the gentle rolling waves of cane.
Then, without warning, on the other side of a short rise, and looming out of nowhere, a startlingly heavy red-brick Gothic archway, with thick, black, wrought-iron gates and, in the distance, the defiant spire of an ornate, Transylvanian castle of a church, its upper reaches densely peopled with saints and other worthies, their hands either clasped in supplication, or open outward in benediction.
The gentle cane fields had now all but disappeared, and in their place stands this amazing scene from a European imagination.
I let the car inch down the hill as I take in as much of the remarkable spectacle as I can.
The startling symbols laid out before me are an invitation — as you might find in a Disneyland — to another world, this time that of Gothic Catholicism, here in an African setting. Later…