series, story

Shut Court: Debut

SHUT COURT

            What could possibly have been the worst part of it all? The long ride to Le Porte Hotel? Was it being crammed up in a car with more passengers than the vehicle was clearly designed to carry? Was it enduring the intense heat, the mixture of exhaust fumes and body odor, marinating in the stench of this two-hour ride all the way to this place? And all this for what? Just to participate in some stupid audition? I think the most irksome part of it all is the fact that my older sister, who is twenty-six years old, continued to practice lip-rolls incessantly throughout the exhausting trip that I never even wanted to take in the first place. But she has to involve everyone in her flamboyant dream, Doesn’t she?

            Look at all these people walking around. Look at them grovelling at the chance to be under the spotlight. Look at the horde of the unsatisfied; Tight jeans, colored hair, impractical hair-dos, heavy make-up. They are wearing signs on their chests. Look at them screaming ‘Me! Me! Pick me!’ They are all hungry for the fame. If only they knew, that the fame was just for the few.

            James sat down in the Lobby of the Hotel with his hand supporting his chin. He wished that he was anywhere but here, right now. The occasion was the long awaited audition for Golden Pipes Talent Hunt. And his sister, Ebony had not given anyone at home a second to breathe without going on about her chance at stardom; her big break!

            “You know how things are in the country for the average person. I don’t want to waste my life pushing papers, James. My voice was made to be heard. I need to stand out.” His sister had gone on and on about the audition. And in the end, he had become her victim, her unlucky escort.

            A giant banner hung behind him with a picture of a woman screaming into a golden microphone and the words “IT COULD BE YOU!” were printed in great golden letters. The contestants swarmed like insects about the place. People who hung instruments were strumming away surrounded by a crowd of entertained observers. A group of boys were break-dancing as a girl spat out sick rhymes to the hip-hop beat-box that the rick-rolling observers were letting out. Behind all the chaos, James saw another group of people with “crew” printed on the back of their shirts, hurling heavy equipment around. One of them dropped a flood-light and an angry looking woman who had been barking orders screamed at the clumsy crew man.

            James shifted his attention from the ruckus and muttered “These people are really taking this seriously”.

            He looked at his watch. 10:30 am. Ebony had promised him that the audition wouldn’t take any time at all since they had managed to be punctual. She had also promised coordination but that was not what he was seeing.

“These people know what they are doing.” Ebony had said referring to the organizers. “It won’t take anytime if we are there early.”

They had been early but James and Ebony had to wait for close to an hour just before they were attended to. During the wait, the crowd increased and when the contestants were asked to make a line for registration, Ebony got pushed to the back of the line. Hours for impatient pushing and dragging and she had finally been registered. The instruction was to wait for further instructions and Ebony had used the opportunity to do her usual aimless wanderings.

Last time he saw his sister, she had disappeared into the room opposite him. Leaving him all alone for close to forty-five minutes. This was taking too much of his energy. Too much of his time. This was not Ebony’s first audition so he wondered why she had insisted that he followed her to this one. She was twenty-six now, but he could remember that every year since she was eighteen, she had been going from one major audition to the other. She had not won any competition yet but she would always say “I’ll win this one for sure.” She liked to see herself as determined, but to James, she was just deluded. He only wished that she would know when to quit or at least keep him out of her futile struggle for fame and recognition.

            The air conditioning had been cranked to freeze-yo-toes-off and James rubbed his shoulders trying to warm up. He was considering just leaving for home and taking a nap. It would make him so happy to leave Ebony to frolic on her own. But as he mulled over the sweet possibilities of leaving, the door through which Ebony had gone in flew open and a cluster of giggling people, all with registration tags pasted on their chests, came walking straight towards him. Right in the middle of the group was his wonderful sister. They stopped in front of him and Ebony introduced James to her new friends.

            “This is my little bro, Jamie. He came all the way just to support me. He is my biggest supporter.” She said to her new friends.

            James eyes narrowed at his sister. “Firstly, not true. Secondly, please don’t call me Jamie. Just James is fine. Lastly, don’t ever call me little bro again. I’ve told you this.” The crowd giggled even though James wasn’t trying to be funny. “Ebony, what took you so long? Where on earth did you wonder off to?” He knew is sister well. She had the attention span of a nine month old.

            Her eyes glistened in amazement. “The Le Porte Hotel is enormous. You could get lost in it. It’s the oldest hotel in the Africa for a reason, you know. The place feels almost magical. It’s like a world of its own. We went to check the place out a little when we actually got lost.”

            “There are floors that are just wasting away. No one stays there and they don’t use it for anything.” One boy chimed in. “Ebony called them The Forgotten Floors.”

            They all laughed at how cleaver the name sounded. “Then we saw a creepy old security man who told us that the Porte Hotel was built on an ancient tethering point, whatever that means.” Ebony added.

            James rolled his eyes. It was typical of his sister to be distracted by such far-fetched fantasies.

            “That man is crazy. That is what I think.” Another member of the group said.”

            James really didn’t enjoy being forced into their pointless conversation. The way they infringed in his personal space was annoying enough, their naivety was something else. Simpletons; that is what his father would have called them.

He peered through the crowd and saw that other contestants had formed a quickly elongating queue at the front of a counter. He tried to get his sister’s attention but she was speaking passionately.

            “I don’t think he’s crazy. I think he might just be right. There is something surreal about this place. I don’t care what you say.” Ebony talked over the voices of the others.         

Two other people opposed her and it was quickly turning into an argument. “Of course the supernatural exists-Do you think the human minds can grasp everything? – There are other dimensions, I tell you – I know, because I know – I don’t need proof -The seventh floor had this eerie air that made my hairs stand. It was almost supernatural.”

            The group laughed at Ebony. She was doing it again. She was embarrassing herself and James had seen it happen so many times. It was only a matter of time until she started crying. And the queue was getting longer as they argued.

James grabbed Ebony’s arm and tugged it. “Look there.” He pointed to the newly formed queue. “Aren’t you supposed to be on that line? And you are here talking about stupid things. You never pay attention. That is my problem with you. I wonder when you will get your head out of the clouds.” He didn’t raise his voice but his irritation was glaring. The argument stopped. Ebony’s new friends grew silent all of a sudden as they watched the angry boy.

            “I-I didn’t see the queue.” Ebony said in her defense. Her eyes shimmered with tears “Anyway, it’s best to be in the middle of the crowd. If you audition first, the judges will be too critical and if you go last, they will either be too bored or too tired to judge you properly.”

            “Then why did you ask me to come in the first place? You told me it wouldn’t take time…” James looked around. The scene was starting to look like something from a soap opera. Everyone stared at him. “Never mind. Just do whatever you have to do. Take your time. Enjoy yourself.” He stood and walked away from Ebony and her friends towards the exit. Before he left earshot though, he heard one of Ebony’s friends asking her. “I thought you said he was your younger brother.”

To be continued…

Missed this story’s introduction? You can check out my previous post to read the blurb and highlight of the story. Previous installments will be posted on a weekly basis.

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