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Sunday 12 April 2015

NZ Writing: The Mist Wanderers

Posted in: NZ Writing
By Sebastian Langfield - 27th October 2012

          - by Sebastian Langfield

The footlights faded and the curtain closed on the final performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth for this leg of the national tour. It had a been a tiring experience for Liam. Stress had been high, fighting and bitching would come and go on daily basis, theatres would never provide the facilities they promised, and in some cases audiences were so small that the speeches echoed into the rafters and dissolved into nothing.

He stood on stage for a few moments after the rest of the cast had gone, just taking in the smells and sights that the old theatre had to offer, then made his way into the wings and into his dressing room. He left his Macbeth skin lying on a wire coat hanger for the costume department to collect and threw the face of the King smeared on baby wipes into a bucket posing as a rubbish bin, until the next time the make-up department once more gave the face life and stared at his own in the stained mirrors before him.

Liam crept into the dimly lit green room with his gin. In the early days of the tour, the after-production drinks used to be wild affairs- drinking, dancing, impromptu musical performances, clothes flying all over the place, boundaries of sexuality pushed and sometimes trampled over, but things slowed down a bit as the tour went on, they became more civilised and often didn't last that long. After enough gins to feel relaxed Liam left the theatricals to their party and went to their motel room for the night to get some sleep.

Liam lay awake on the uncomfortable bed in the cheap motel room he had called home for the last few nights. He wished he was able to explore the city, he had been told that this part of the country was a geothermal wonderland unlike anywhere else in the world, but all he had seen was a very brief glimpse of a park with some steam and sulfur, the theatre and the same four walls of the budget accommodation that now seemed to taunt him. He lay in bed and looked around him, it was bland, characterless. Even the flowers sitting on the table with a half eaten dinner sitting beside them were lifeless.

He longed for the plain, white concrete walls to have some art on them, something to take the very blandness away from it all. He wished he had company to pass his twilight musings, Liam knew he longed for a purely physical connection. He wanted to feel wanted, and he to get the feelings in the pit of his stomach out. For weeks he had a feeling growing inside him, taking over his entire body, it was a craving, from the depths of his very being. He tried everything he could think of, all of his favourite foods, chain smoking, alcohol, marijuana, pills. All seemed to help- but only for a very short time. It took him weeks to realise that none of these were what his body was screaming out for, and as lay in the lumpy single bed, it dawned on him, he was actually after was good shag. Not even necessarily a good shag, just a shag, the feeling of release. As he stared at the silk flowers on the table he couldn't recall the last time he had experienced the feeling of a man taking over his entire body. It was probably some drunken fling after a party, he wanted to release all his frustrations onto an unsuspecting stranger.

He had heard about the secret happenings in Porehu Park, a place he had quickly visited when he first arrived. A reserve conveniently close to the motel. Among the plastic play equipment and meandering pathways were giant pools of bubbling water, geothermal steam rose and slid over the park in every corner, the usual green grass of a reserve made way for sulfur and mud which appeared in random places, places where nature's fury had burst through the supple crust and created the strangest atmosphere Liam had found on his travels. Among the steam and geothermal activity lay a secret. The secret lives that belonged to the wanderers of the mist.

Liam soon came to the realisation that really he had two options before him: try and get to sleep or leave the sudden comfort he felt in the motel to get better acquainted with the mist wanderers. Getting to sleep could be difficult, and he did want to experience a primal thrill again. But then again they were going to a new city, a bigger city in a few days, and there would be no shortage of talent there.

But the outdoors seemed thrilling, feeling the cool air on your body as you were taken over by a complete stranger did have a certain, forbidden, appeal.

Liam wondered whether maybe he would regret if he didn’t at least give it a shot. He struggled out of the lumpy single bed and put on his thick black coat and his shoes. As he looked down at his frame he mused on how impractical it was to hide behind the blanket of night in the colour of the world at this time.

Liam ducked below the low hanging sign saying “Vacancies” and stepped onto the dark, cold and surprisingly empty streets. He reached into his pocket and brought out his cigarettes, produced one, tapped it twice on the box before lighting it, then taking a deep drag felt the rush of calm take over his whole body. He walked down the deserted street, just enjoying his space alone.

In time his wanderings led him to the entrance of the park. The thing that struck Liam was how much darker the night seemed here. By day, Porehu seemed a happy place, a safe place. But by the blanket of night it took on a rather more sinister view. There were very few streetlights. He saw a dark station wagon slowly turn into the entrance of the park.

He walked further and further into the park, further and further into the unknown depths of darkness. He heard and saw rustlings within the bushes around him, and saw men entering and exiting the shabby, dilapidated toilets. Feeling as if he had walked inside a secret society, Liam felt eyes from all directions staring at him, shaping him up. The eyes of the predator had locked onto their prey. For the wanderers of the mist this was fresh meat.

As he moved further into the park he looked around at the atmosphere. All around him were thick manuka bushes and grasses and everywhere the ground was smothered in a strange white mist, the pungent geothermal steam spread itself where it wanted. In his mind Liam was thinking of Macbeth.

Fair is foul and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air.

He felt as if he was walking through the land that Macbeth was meant to live. As he saw the men rise from the steam, he thought of how they looked like the apparitions appearing from the witches’ cauldron. The mist wanderers, emerging from a cloud of steam that had hidden them, clothed them, emerged from everywhere, looking for that forbidden pleasure

As an actor he was used to feeling on show. He was used to having people’s undivided attention. But here he didn’t feel comfortable. What should something once pleasurable now feel so sordid? He couldn’t could go further with the wanderers of the mist around him, all searching for one thing...

The orgasmic rush

Liam turned and slowly walked down the long drive way toward the road and left behind him the hope of finding the release he craved, left the mist wanderers. He wandered through the sulphuric atmosphere. Leaving the devils to play in the molten brimstone all around them. Each man letting the demons within them live, in the protection of the mists that Porehu Park.

He walked past the bushes where the men were exploring each other in secret, not even thinking about them. All Liam was thinking about was his bed at the motel, and how he would sleep.

The innocent sleep. Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care.

As Liam walked along the driveway he found himself reciting lines from the play out loud, he often did this, just to make sure he had them fresh in his mind.

So fair and foul a day I have not seen.

He looked behind him, and he gave a small smile.

Fair and foul.

  A description of Porehu?


By day visitors flock to the place, families, tourists, even the locals come and enjoy what the park has to offer. Where else in the world do you get to walk through a luscious park and see geothermal activity first hand?


The secret life of Porehu, the hidden depths, the mist wanderers, the secret visitors, the secret games. Liam was nearing the end of the end of the drive way and to his left he heard a man moan in the throws of ecstasy.

I have done the deed- dist thou not hear a noise?

Liam wondered if the mist wanderer who inhabited the bush was aware of his audible cry or was it simply an involuntary sound, deep from within the man’s innermost feelings and fears?

After what felt like an eternity Liam reached the end of the driveway and was finally on his way to his motel, his way back to normality, his way back to a real world.

I heard the owl cry and the crickets crow- did you not you speak?

A morepork bellowed in the tree above Liam and he jumped. Still on edge from his night wanderings in the mist. As Liam jumped he heard a voice laugh at him. He turned and a man in a white station wagon looked him in the eye and mumbled something to him.

I heard the owl cry and the crickets crow- did you not you speak?

Liam walked on, ignoring the man. The car started behind him, and drove past him. The driver smiled and called something out to Liam, the words lost in the night.

Did you not you speak?

Liam walked out the driveway and onto the road and saw the car turn right, and drive into the night. Liam started on his journey back to the motel.

Liam walked a slow walk. Enjoying the night air and relishing the street lights above him. No longer in darkness. In just a few minutes he would be lying in bed, falling asleep and dreaming of the future. Then he noticed it once more.

The car.

The white car drove past him. The driver once more looked. Stared at him.

Liam increased his pace, the car turned, Liam kept to his path. As Liam threw his cigarette into the gutter, the car came past again once more. This time it slowed when it was level with him.

The driver stared, and gave a signal to Liam. Suddenly Liam realised he was being targeted. The two men carried on their paths for some time.

Liam, the prey, stalking the street by foot and the predator, the man within the car, the man with the machinery observing his moves. Always one step ahead.

Liam was in the middle of a twisted chess game.

Each man planning his next move.

Trying to catch each other’s kings.

Long live the King.

The car went past another time. How many times has this happened asked Liam to himself? He had lost count. The car flicked its lights on full beam at him and pointed toward a grass verge ahead.

Was that the next space on the chess board?

Liam walked, fearful of what the next move would be. He saw the car speed into the grass verge and turn its lights off. He watched as the vulgar vulture of the mist swooped into the place of the attack. Liam walked towards the car, his head held high. If he could walk past and not acknowledge the predator, then surely the game will end. The attack will never happen. He walked toward the car, slowly, his heart racing, his chest caving in. This was check.

But was it check-mate?

As Liam drew closer to the car he made sure he didn’t make eye contact at all. He made sure his eyes were fixed squarely on the main objective. Getting back to the motel and defeating the man in the car. As he grew level with the white car sitting in the grass verge, he noticed, out of the corner of his eyes that the lights of the car had flicked on. Then he heard the sound of the motor starting up. Does this mean he had given up?

Less than a minute had passed when Liam learned the game was not over. The car drove past once more. It was then that Liam knew he had to change his course.

He couldn’t walk along this road anymore.

He had been targeted.

He couldn’t walk toward the motel.

He would be followed.

He had to try and get away. He saw a street to the right up ahead. He looked all around him, and saw only empty streets. The car was gone. Now was the time to act. He wouldn’t be seen walking down there. He’d be free from the mist wanderer. As he carried on his pace increased. So did his need to urinate. It had been in the back of Liam’s mind since he was within the park.

As Liam turned into a side street he realised it wasn’t as safe as he had hoped it was. The street had no lights on it and was a barren wasteland. There were shadows of trees and dying grass, a long corrugated iron fence. Nothing else. He was comforted by the fact the car had gone, but grew fearful of the wasteland in front of him and knowing that he had moved further and further away from his ultimate destination. The security of the bland white walls of the motel unit with the fridge that sounded like it would take flight and the cheap silk flowers.

The need to urinate took over every aspect of Liam’s being. He moved to the edge of the corrugated iron fence and undid his fly. As he brought his member out into the air, he thought how strange it was that this was the situation it was coming out in, not what he had planned at all. Then again, he thought, the release and relief he was feeling now was greater than any climax could ever feel for Liam at that point. As he was just preparing to return himself to his pants, he heard the sound of a car slow down.

He looked up and coming toward him was the white car, with its lights on high beam.

The driver had somehow worked out Liam’s foil. He must have driven around the block, or some strange side street only a local could know, and Liam found himself, at the most vulnerable moment, in the spotlight. The driver stared at him. He signaled a secret sign to Liam. A signal he didn’t understand.

Liam just stood there, in shock. Then as he watched the car drive away he returned himself to his pants and slowly did up his fly. He knew he would have to do something to get out of the situation.

Liam walked back towards the way he had come from. Back towards the motel. He realised that the car would be following him, he would be unable to escape the driver. As he walked, his heart pounding inside his chest. The car parked on the grass verge. Liam quickened his pace. He walked with his head held high and his eyes solely on the horizon. He would just walk past the car, like he had before and return to the motel.

When Liam was opposite the car he heard the voice once more.

Me thought I heard a voice cry


 The slightly gruff voice called from the car. Liam walked on, ignoring the voice.


Liam turned to look at the voice. Why he did this he didn’t know. But it was too late to go back.

“Yeah you…come over here. Have a chat”.

Liam knew that the man wouldn’t leave him alone. He was scared of what might happen if he didn’t approach the man. So carefully he walked toward the car.

“Hi” Liam managed to say. “You wanna smoke?” the driver pointed a packet of cigarettes toward Liam. “No thank you. I don’t smoke”.

Lies thought Liam.

“Suit yourself. So what you doing wandering the streets at this time of the night then eh?”

“Can’t sleep. Walking helps”. Liam was keeping his answers short. He wanted to make it obvious he wasn’t interested so he could leave. “I can’t sleep either, that’s why I drive”.

Lies thought Liam.

“You’re not from around these parts are ya?”

Liam wondered how the man had known this. Did he look like he was out of place?

“Nah. I’m from Wellington”.

Liam looked at the car in front of him and the man driving it. The man was in his late thirties. The man took a drag of his cigarette and blew his smoke into Liam’s face. Liam had never found smoking so unappealing in his life.

“So where you staying…ah…I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name”.

Name? Once one lie is told many would follow. Much like Macbeth, one action leads onto another and suddenly it snow balls.


“So Andrew, where are you staying?”

Did the man really expect him to expose himself that much?

“With my brother. He moved here about a year ago. He has been on at me about coming and staying with me for yonks. Seemed like a good idea you know.”

Where were these lies coming from?

“Your brother live far from here?”

Liam opened his mouth before he had a chance to think.

“Nah, not really.”

The motel was just around the corner from where they were standing. Liam could be back into safety in less than five minutes.

“I can give you a ride if you like”

I’m sure you could, thought Liam to himself.

“Oh no, it’s fine. I like walking”

How he wished he could walk now.

“You never mentioned which street it was in. Could be on my way”

Liam didn’t know the names of the streets. He wished he had never started the lies.

“I can’t remember the name of the street. I will know it when I see it”.

Liam once more found himself looking into the man’s car. He looked into the backseat and saw a package. It was done up in pink wrapping paper and had a bow on it. A present for a girl. He looked closer and he saw a child’s car seat in the boot of the car. The car was a station wagon. A family station wagon.

The man brought the cigarette to his mouth and Liam noticed in the soft light of the street light above him, the glistening of gold on the man’s ring finger. His wedding finger

“It’s no trouble for me to give you a ride mate”.

Liam stared at him. He knew the game had come to an end. There was no way it could carry on. He stood there staring at the man’s ring. At the intricate work on the gold band that stood for so much.

But ultimately stood for a lie.

Liam stood there and told the man he had to get back. The man started the car and Liam lit a cigarette as he watched the station wagon pull into Porehu Park. The man of the mist was once more at home. Where Liam wanted to be more than anything.

Liam arrived back at the motel once more. He slid his key into the door and lay on the bed. He heard the humming of the fridge that was once offensive, now it provided comfort. He flicked on the television. He needed to unwind. He needed to chill out for a bit and not think of anything.

Television as usual had nothing to offer.

There are only so many times you can watch an infomercial for an inflatable bed or the latest in makeup revelations without being completely bored by it. He flicked through the stations and saw reality television, news, and trashy talk shows. Nothing he wanted to absorb himself in. He turned the television off and lay in darkness. He lay there and ran over his lines from the play. As he remembered these lines he once more had the mist wanderers take over his mind, he couldn’t remove the images from his visit to Porehu.

The wanderers of the mist were now inside his mind, his mind as foggy as the park, as these men trampled through his memories. He knew now, that he was one of them. He had wandered in the mist, like them, looking, waiting and wanting, craving.

He relived the twisted chess game with the station wagon. He managed to control his urges. Why hadn’t the mist wanderer done the same?

Liam began to feel sorry for the man the more he thought about it. When first confronted with the man he was disgusted, now he felt strangely sad. The man was living a double life. He had a family. But that wasn’t enough.

Was that ever enough?

He had to wander through the mists looking for fulfillment, looking to fill the gap within. The calling that needed to be answered, the calling that would start off faint, quiet and slowly grow into a primal scream.

A primal wanting

A primal release

Fulfillment in life.


Is that that what the man felt? Liam doubted it was. Short term perhaps, but knowing that you had left a family behind? Knowing that you were constantly battling within yourself and living a double life? Showing the day world one side of yourself and then releasing your darker side under the blanket of night? Could that have fulfillment?

Liam got out of bed and walked outside. He sat under the stars in the garden and brought out his cigarettes. He tapped a cigarette twice on the box, as was his way and lit it.

It was then that Liam understood a line from the play he had failed to comprehend. The phrase repeated in Liam’s mind as he smoked, wondering whether the man was back at home with his wife or if he was still wandering in the mists, searching for his answers.

False face must hide, what the false heart doth know
False face must hide, what the false heart doth know
False face must hide, what the false heart doth know
False face must hide, what the false heart doth know
False face must hide, what the false heart doth know

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Sebastian Langfield - 27th October 2012