People Through The Peephole
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In the heart of the urban jungle that is Johannesburg, three lives converge on a fateful night, setting the stage for an electrifying tale of friendship, survival, and redemption. "People Through the Peephole" dives deep into the dangerous underbelly of the city, where the allure of excitement clashes with the stark reality of danger, and the bonds of friendship are tested in the crucible of chaos. Tate, the enigmatic drug dealer with a mysterious past, navigates the treacherous streets, he must confront his own demons and make choices that will either secure his dominance or lead to his downfall. His journey becomes a reflection of the choices we make in the face of adversity, and how they shape not only our destinies but also our identities. Jenna, the seemingly naive and ditzy blonde, is not all she appears to be. Beneath her carefree exterior lies a sharp mind and a determination to break free from society's stereotypes. Plunged into a perilous situation, Jenna discovers strengths she never knew she possessed. Lunya is a ticking time bomb of frustration and aspirations. When she finds herself entangled in a series of events beyond her control, she must confront her deepest fears and insecurities. As the night unfolds, her resilience becomes a testament to the human spirit's ability to endure, adapt, and emerge from the darkest moments stronger. As the night progresses, the lives of Tate, Jenna, and Lunya intertwine in unexpected ways. Through heart-pounding action and moments of profound introspection, this story paints a vivid portrait of the city's grit and glamour, while exploring themes of identity, empowerment, and the unbreakable bonds of camaraderie.
The Diskus Inhaler
I was 8 years old when I got high for the first time. Let’s call it an inadvertent experience with prescribed medication. This incident came across my mind one night when I was stumbling down the dark streets of Joburg after a lousy night out with friends. “Oh hell, this place is scary,” Jenna said, as she forcefully took hold of my hand. She was right, it was eerily quiet for a Friday night in the city. All we could see were the bodies of the homeless people gathered on the street corners, preparing to go to sleep. My ankles were wobbling like jelly over the 5-inch stilettos I chose to wear that night. “This place isn’t really scary. What people do here is scary. The way people live is scary,” I responded. Tate’s voice hit me out of nowhere. “Would you like something to ease your mind? It starts with a ZZZ and ends with an EEE,” he said before popping a tiny tablet into his mouth. Jenna received his xanny graciously. They both stared at me thinking I would be quicker to accept the pills he was holding out in his hand. The thought of putting them in my mouth made me sick. I couldn’t even imagine where his clammy hands had been all night. You can say no without being rude. I said to myself. “No, thank you. I don’t like how drugs make me feel,” I said. “Come again. You’ve done drugs before…Without me,” he said holding back a smile, he thought I was lying. Tate had proclaimed himself as the all-knowing oracle but to everyone else he was just our campus’s resident drug dealer. Not a good drug dealer if you ask me. He was high half the time and his natural scent was that of marijuana, he was also very broke. I still don’t know how he managed to keep his “operation” alive for 5 years without getting expelled or just dying, he had the look of a troubled teen on the cover of an anti-drug campaign. I don’t really know how we became friends. Actually, we weren’t friends he was just was obsessed with Jenna. He had the tendency to come out of nowhere every time we organised a girl’s night out and she was slowly starting like him. She kept her eyes low whenever he spoke. “I’m not talking about those kinds of drugs. I mean the prescribed ones. The ones you get from real doctors,” I said with full emphasis on the “real” “Excuse me. Do you know who my uncle is? He’s a real doctor. Show some respect,” I could see he was genuinely offended but I couldn’t stop. “I don’t take gents who sell pills out of a van seriously. I’m sorry but that simply doesn’t impress me,” I said crossing my arms. I heard him scoff and mutter some inaudible words to himself. Jenna pulled me into her arm’s embrace affectionately. Strands of her wild, yellow hair made their way into my right eye. I tilted my neck a bit to feel a little more comfortable in her embrace she smelled like blue berries, the ones I used to steal from my granny’s garden. I focused my eyes on the tar road in front of me. I saw nothing but blackness.
The gears of my mind started to grind as I looked into the archives of my memory, it was the summer of 2008 and our parents were tired of us. By “us” I mean me and my sister. We were sent away to spend the holiday at our grandmother’s house and I’m still not sure what we were supposed to learn from that place. It was a dusty town called Koromper in the North West province, there was nothing me for in that place. The vapid rural life left me in a state of perpetual tiredness. My sister managed to keep herself thoroughly entertained. She had the divine quality of hovering over everyone and involving herself in everything. She made friends within the first two days and never spent a day indoors. Lebo, my sister, was a girl who truly belonged to the streets. Half way through our vacation she gave me a tour around the town and a heavy history lesson on the founders of Koromper. She wasn’t afraid of leaving or getting lost. She was everything I wasn’t and I loved her for that. I would look out of my bedroom window and soak in the view of the brown gravel streets and the small children, who were approximately my age, holding fresh loaves of bread and carrying even smaller children on their backs. I couldn’t imagine myself starting a conversation with one of them. My presence in their tiny town almost felt like an imposition. From time to time I would go out and pick flowers in the morning from the large unstructured garden and dance around in the water that sprinkled the wilting leaves. I never wore shoes while I walked around the property collecting rocks and storing them in the shallow pockets of my skirt. I would enter the house with my dirty feet and leap into my grandmother’s warm arms. I was comforted by the softness of her inelastic skin. She would put me on her lap and we would rock together in her favorite chair. She told me the stories of her life with such vivacity. I was saddened by how a woman like that would ultimately die in that old and ugly house.
It was our penultimate night in the old house. My sister had snuck out to go to a house party and my grandmother had fallen asleep in her rocking chair. I went into my room and sat on the military style bed with my legs crossed over each other. I suddenly felt tightness in my chest. I scrambled for the diskus asthma inhaler under my pillow and took a puff. The contraction in my lungs began to ease then I took another puff followed by another and another until the chemicals from that purple disk stopped coming out. I felt my spine collapse onto the mattress. I found myself staring at the grey ceiling. My heart banged against my fragile sternum. What is going on? I asked myself. In that moment, I felt everything, the valves in my heart opening and closing loudly, my lungs greedily swallowed the air only to push out it tactlessly, the ceiling began to blur and I felt tears trickling down the sides of my temples. I was 8 years old. In that moment I realized who I was and who I would be. I closed my eyes and I saw it. A monster, a green pimply monster, it stared back me and I recognized it. It ate more and more with each bite, I saw the cracked corners of its mouth dripping with blood. It opened its mouth widely, the fetid smell of rotten meat reached my nose then it laughed exposing its swollen red gums. That wasn’t the last…
“Earth to Lunya! Hello… is anybody home?” the sound of Jenna’s voice wailed in my ears like a siren. Her gob smacked eyes were inches away from mine. Her hands were on my shoulders and I realized she had been shaking me the whole time. I blinked quickly and she stopped. “Sorry. I was just thinking about something,” I said dizzily. I got down on my haunches and began to unstrap my heels. “It’s so scary when you do that thing,” she said sighing. “What thing?” I was only day dreaming for a bit… how could they have noticed? I thought inwardly. I stood up straight holding the shoes in my hands. “That thing were you stare into nothing for like 10 minutes straight and stop blinking,” Tate interjected, “you shouldn’t do such things around people who are heavily under the influence of narcotics,” he said breathing heavily “Where did you go? What were you thinking of?” Jenna asked sincerely. “I once got high off an asthma inhaler and saw Othello’s monster,” after I said that there were five solid seconds of deafening silence before both Tate and Jenna broke into a chorus of laughter. “You really shouldn’t try drugs. Yeah. Your head is already more hammered than mine,” Tate said giving me a playful jab. Jenna continued to giggle sheepishly. “You sound like a codeine addict,” she finally said. She took a slow drag from the cigarette I didn’t notice was lit and blew rings of smoke into the cold night air. The joints in my feet throbbed painfully as we continued to walk home. I felt a quiver down my spine that made my lungs shudder. The monster still existed and it gripped me so tight I thought would die but I didn’t. It just held me in its vice-like grip and never let go.
It was quarter past twelve, and I was sure she had spent more than half an hour rummaging through the pleather satchel. Whenever I saw that thing, it reminded me of one of those ugly hairless cats you would see prancing down a suburban street. On that particular night, I had a feeling it may have swallowed something important. The brisk night air bit through each of us, and the gusts of wind slapped me repeatedly, making my eyes briny, my teeth chatter, and my flesh turn goose-like. Tate caught a glimpse of me shivering and offered me his hoodie. I had no choice but to graciously accept it, knowing that pride wouldn't protect me from catching a cold.
The floor of our apartment complex was busy and noisy, as usual. Tate leaned against the creaky balcony railing, his face turned away from me and Jenna. He quietly stared at the city lights and the cars that sped up and down our street. I couldn't grasp the reason for his sudden aloofness. He knew this place like the bac
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