Blythe

Three Years …

We weren’t married when my wife’s son took his own life in October 2014. When the ripples began. Blythe was 22, intelligent and witty; a young man with striking red hair and a certain quiet charm. A young man troubled, like so many others, by the blight of mental illness. Her only child.

Now we wear the rings and call each other ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. We are married. But there was no ceremony, no papers to sign, no celebration of love for family and friends. How could Claire have a wedding without her beloved son, who had been the centre of her life for so long?

For twenty-two years.

Claire and I had been together for about two of those years when the phone call came. I am still caught by a quiet dread when my phone buzzes in my pocket, perhaps that’s why I leave it on silent. It takes me back to her wounded voice telling me he was dead. I was readying myself for an open evening at the school where I teach and of course I dropped everything to go to her. The world stops in such moments and before I had always wondered how I might cope when faced with such calamity. The truth is you do what you need to do. Or just what you can. That is all I did. There is no bravery in it. Simply a set of human reactions.

I had to ask her to direct me as I drove her to her parent’s house where it had happened. Where he had done it. Her parents, Blythe’s grandparents, were away, so he had been alone. We had thought he’d been getting a bit better.

I felt enormous guilt that I couldn’t remember the way, that my sense of direction was so weak; it was the littlest of things she shouldn’t have been worrying about. She sat there looking small in the passenger seat, telling me it would all be alright, that it was a mistake and he couldn’t possibly be dead. I felt compelled to tell her she should wait in the car when we arrived. I had visions of her running headlong into the house. Of her seeing what she should never have to see.

She stayed in the car and I went to talk to the policeman waiting at the door, stood there with his dutiful face and his thumbs tucked in his stab-vest. He was kind as he told me the worst and even after that I had to ask him. I had to ask him just to make sure.

‘Is he dead?’

I turned to see she was out of the car and then I had to tell her. Tell her it was true.

He was gone.

The hardest words I’ve ever had to say.

She wailed with a voice that still stabs my heart; a wail I now recognise all too clearly from shaky footage on the news. Some poor mother in the rubble of Aleppo, some poor father or grandmother or orphan caught in the aftermath of bullets on a street in Paris or Las Vegas, or a bomb in Iraq or a far flung earthquake. Or any one or other of the countless tragedies casting their own ripples across our world.

These tragedies are not distant fictions. They are ours.

I guided Claire as best as I could, she could hardly stand, guided her into the neighbour’s house. The poor neighbour who had broken in and found him dead. Another soul caught in the ripples.

I sat on the neighbour’s stairs while Claire bravely made her statement to the kindly policewoman. I spoke on the phone to her father, Blythe’s grandfather, and told him it was definitely bad news. I sat on the stairs and she sat in their front room alone and felt Blythe close to her as we waited for those people whose job it was to investigate and record the intimate details of the tragedy. And then I sat with her on that unfamiliar sofa and held her hand as they finally took his body away into the darkness of the night.

Was I numb? I think so.

At home I made endless cups of tea and sat alone in the kitchen trying not to intrusively listen to the sobbing of Claire with her parents and sister in the next room. When they had no words left I put on the TV to distract them. A nature programme. I like to remember it as the calming voice of David Attenborough that they lost themselves in but I can’t be sure it was.

Two days later I found a bee, slowly dying on the doorstep. The last of the bees of summer struggling with its footing in the cold. I wrote a short story about that bee, trying to make sense of it all. Of course it didn’t and couldn’t, in any shape or form. It was an imperfect tale, sentimental even, but those I shared it with seemed to like it. The start of trying to make sense of the ripples.

I prefer not to tell you exactly how he did it. This is the age of Google where it’s all too easy to research anything, including efficient ways to end it all. Claire put it to our M.P. that websites which encourage and instruct those inclined to suicide should somehow be controlled or banned. He is, I feel, a good man and he argued most eloquently for freedom of speech. But these are, at the end of the day, moral questions best argued within the comforting vacuum of the abstract. Not so easy when it’s affected you and yours. Not so easy for her when it was her son who had searched those very websites.

The days passed into weeks as we waited for the funeral. Sleepless nights and life on hold.

She stood at the front of the church and spoke with grace and humour about how wonderful her son had been. We watched video clips of Blythe that made the congregation laugh and we wept to the plaintive tones of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. Claire spoke of how she felt it was like an episode of ‘Sherlock’ and that her beloved son was playing a joke on everyone, it was an illusion, a trick, that he hadn’t died after all. That he might suddenly appear at the back of the church and shout ‘surprise’.

Her eulogy remains the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.

She still hates the vicar whose church we borrowed for the funeral. He did not officiate that day, but he did meet with Claire on a few occasions to finalise arrangements. Now that vicar blanks us in the street, or in his church during the Christmas nativity. He either does not remember or doesn’t wish to. I’m sure he means no harm. And this is another of the ripples that spread from such an event. It’s like sometimes you have a halo above your head that warns people away. Who knows exactly what you’re supposed to say to the mother whose son took his own life? To mention it or not to mention it? Some struggle so badly with this conundrum that they consistently shy away.

And this brings us to the haunting question of ‘why’?

Another ripple.

The cliche is that he was a young man who ‘had everything to live for’ with his ‘whole future ahead of him’. It’s not a cliche when that is exactly what has been lost. Such an enormous loss. Why?

And so the search began. Claire’s father, Blythe’s grandfather, quite rightly said there should be no blame, and yet there is always blame, impossible to avoid. Inward blame and outward blame, endless searching for that word you shouldn’t have said or that decision you could have changed or that signal he gave that things were so desperately wrong. All those things other people could have done differently.

Before.

We sat around anonymous conference tables with professionals from the mental health trust and they listened with faces covered in earnest sympathy. Ultimately though, they had no answers.

I probed them with well-rehearsed questions on behalf of my wife, my Claire. How many people in their care had committed suicide in the last year? Shockingly they didn’t know. I felt appalled. The first duty of any health care professional should be the protection of life; the first and most sacred of all human rights, the right to life. And yet here they were telling me they didn’t know exactly how many people they had failed. I asked if they had heard of Merseyside’s ambitious ‘zero-suicide’ initiative where they proactively aim to eliminate suicide by encouraging people to believe it is not a viable solution to the problems they face. They only seemed vaguely aware of it. We asked why hadn’t they kept the family informed or why they repeatedly failed to respond to the hundreds of phone calls and emails and pleas for help from Claire over the previous four or five years as Blythe had deteriorated. I pressed them on their inadequacy. They used the argument that Blythe was an adult and as such he was entitled to patient confidentiality and that he had ‘capacity’ to make decisions for himself. We disagreed.

They had failed to see how clever Blythe had been. In the few interviews he had with psychiatrists he would ‘present’ as rational and reasonable, whereas in the real world his decision making had become irrational and scary. He told them what he thought they wanted to hear and they bought it. He lived for a time ‘sofa-surfing’ or on the streets. He showed symptoms of bi-polar; at times believing he could save everybody and everything, at other times he plumbed the debilitating depths. He had tried to take his life once before, shaving his head and sitting alone in a cold fenland field. But hadn’t gone through with it that time realising, he said, that there is still love in the world.

The only time they ever offered him a hospital bed he refused it, simply because the only bed available was two hundred miles away.

Two hundred miles.

They wrote a report. They made recommendations.

Eventually, after much badgering, we secured a meeting with the head of the Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health trust. Again the earnest sympathy. Of course he knew how many people under his care had taken their own life that year. He had been briefed well that I would press him on it. What he didn’t say was that the numbers were rising.

He promised, in the way that faceless bureaucrats make promises, that they would learn from their mistakes. That they would learn and things would improve. He said it wasn’t about money. He solemnly promised that he would write to me personally later that year (2015) and detail the improvements that were being made.

It’s now 2017 and I’m still waiting for that letter.

You might wonder why I do not chase him for that letter. Part of me wishes I had. Part of me imagines that he has found it too difficult to write. One only has to search the pages of the local press to see the waves of criticism his trust faces. They were in special measures. Deaths continue to rise. Part of me realises he had forgotten his promise and was too busy fighting the flack from his bunker.

I read that he is retiring; I hope he finds peace.

I do not blame him, or any of his staff. They too, in their own ways, are hit by the ripples. I could see it in the eyes of those staff who spoke under oath about Blythe at the much delayed inquest. Those eyes spoke of their own guilt, their own demons. They are people who wish for the world to be a better place and to help and care for people. Why else would they choose such unforgiving vocations? They too are victims who continually must ask the ‘what if?’ questions that can never be answered.

It is about the money.

They are victims of a system where there are far too few doctors and nurses qualified to deal with the rising tide of illness and despair. Firefighting a forest blaze with a thimble of water.

The zeitgeist of any society trickles down from above. The only kind of ‘trickle-down’ that seems to actually work. And the zeitgeist of our times seems to be one where those above deem abominations like nuclear weapons as important, as worth billions, where the tightening belt of austerity is seen as virtue. There is plenty of money to begin to fix this and it is a monstrous lie to think otherwise. I wonder how those who make the cuts to such vital services can sleep at night.

Why do I not chase them and campaign and fight this injustice? For that’s what it is when someone takes their own life; a true injustice. The truth is that right now I do not possess the strength of will to chase and badger and fight, neither does Claire who desperately wished for a charity of some kind in Blythe’s name. It is a regret, but I suppose our fight is to live our lives as best we can. Perhaps the campaigning or charity work will come another day.

In the year that followed Blythe’s death we lived day to day and tried our best. And slowly, ever so slowly, not every day was punctuated by tears.

Then, in the spring term, one of my A-level students killed herself. Another blow. Another set of ripples. She was seventeen. To my shame I somehow couldn’t bring myself to think properly about it at the time. It was too much to think about the ins and outs of her life and why she did what she did. But later part of me couldn’t help but wonder what I, as her teacher, could have done differently. It was impossible not to think about that. I feel truly sorry for her and her family.

What is patently clear to me as an educator is the rising level of stress and pressure and fear manifesting in our young people. It is a time bomb ticking. Exam success is all. Well-being too often an after thought. They are the first generation to live in the glare of social media, where worth is judged by surface image and every move captured in a selfie to be scrutinised by all, and without top grades they are a failure. We desperately need to find new, more humane ways for our young people to measure their own self-worth.

Soon.

And now, three years later, how do Claire and I cope with our own set of ripples?

Once a week Claire volunteers for the local soup kitchen, feeding the hungry mouths of those who shared the cold concrete with Blythe when he was homeless. A growing rag-tag band of the dispossessed and the lost. Many with severe mental health issues; excluded and invisible. In the past year or so the numbers who regularly come for food has risen from under fifty a night to about eighty or a hundred. For Claire it feels like home, a place to be close to Blythe. A place to do good.

She walks the dog to Blythe’s grave and she feels him by her shoulder when we go to the cinema or stroll on a beach. We bought a camper-van and, for Claire, Blythe joins us on our travels and adventures. We have a red beach hut that will be named ‘Blythe’. We laugh and we have friends and family and moments of fun, just like everyone else.

But.

But the truth is we don’t always cope and maybe we aren’t like everyone else.

There is always the creeping ripple of grief that seems to set us apart however hard we try. Some will tell you that grief comes in distinct classic stages but I don’t believe this. It comes in uncalled for waves that crash and fall and merge and build, where the ripples overlap and pile upon one another, or drift away to hang like dark clouds ominously waiting. There is no pattern to the stages.

For Claire it comes in stalking and overpowering moments of anxiety, where she falters like the thinnest of twigs about to snap. It comes in anger at the smallest of annoyances which loom like heavyweight worlds crushing her shoulders. It comes from that ever present knot in the stomach that nags like the worst of reminders. It comes with a destabilising guilt that you shouldn’t laugh at something funny when he is no longer here to share it. It comes with the innocent question she has to answer when she meets someone new; ‘do you have children?’ It comes in the dark hours of night when sleep is hard to find and thoughts are all she has, and in the heavy sleep of morning when endless dreams send promise of a world that is not to be. Dreams where Blythe is still alive, somewhere out there and lost in the fog. It comes in her daydream of inventing a time machine; if only it could take her back to save him. It comes from every little regret filled reminder of ‘if only’ or ‘what if’. It comes with resentment towards those near and far who failed to help or failed to really believe that Blythe needed help. I am, to my endless regret, perhaps one of those.

I do what I can. I make cups of tea. I give reassurance and hugs. I try to resist the irrelevancies and stresses of work and responsibilities and think of the true things. I often fail. I try to love as best I can. I often fail. I lose myself in the things I love, like writing or music and this can mean I take my eye off the ball and miss the cues of Claire’s unhappiness. I should kiss her more often.

The memories of what happened may fade with time, but it will never be over, the ripples continue to spread. The questions will never be answered.

So what is left?

Regret.

That I didn’t do more.

That I never really knew the real Blythe for the great young man he was.

Hope.

Small hope that one day someone in power will finally see what needs to be done. And do it.

Gratitude.

I am lucky she found me.

I am lucky there is still love in the world.

The Bee and the Chasm

A Story for Blythe

Can there be any light on the very darkest of days? Is this a possibility? The sun is shining and yet even its rays leave a cold shiver of realisation. In bed during the shade of night one can pretend, at least for fleeting moments, that it isn’t true, it cannot possibly be true; this thing that has pierced your heart and left a chasm so wide no one can see across it. Is there another side?

The bee knew it; knew it was possible. Possible that there could be light, even on this darkest of days.

It sat on the pillow next to my face. How it got there I cannot tell, I had made sure the windows were shut from the first chill winds of autumn. I could see the condensation, born of cold, dribbling down the glass. Rivulets of my own breath turned magically into liquid form, describing floods and estuaries of some chilly vertical land on the surface of glass.

I looked at the bee, the cloud of my breathing slowly fluttering its impossibly finespun wings. A bee; such a delicate little thing. Such fragility despite the barbs of its sting. How could such a thing ever possibly fly?

I could see the tiniest of beads of my breath clinging as bubbles between the striped hairs on its torso. Was my face reflected in the surface-tension curve of those droplets?

The bee could barely move because of the cold. Antenna twitching and now and then it tried to take a step, legs wobbling like minuscule twigs sliding on ice. Trying to gain purchase that wasn’t there, just like me. It couldn’t possibly fly. The summer of the bee was over.

The bee was looking at me. And I was looking at it.

“You look sad,” said the bee,

“Yes,” I said, not wanting to reveal the chasm within me,

“Don’t be sad,” said the bee,

“Aren’t you sad?” I said, “Your summer is over,”

“How could I be sad?” said the bee, “It was such a very wonderful summer,”

“But you must be in pain?”

“Oh, the pain is nothing. It is fleeting compared to the long warm summer I had. All those flowers I touched! Hundreds and hundreds of them, spread across the world. You should have seen the colours, so many colours and so bright; all the colours of the rainbow and more. So many more colours than we have names for; colours dancing in the warm air all around me everyday. The scent of all those blossoms; so heady that when I flew between them it made me dizzy with wonder. I spread their sweet pollen so very far and wide. So many good flowers; so many flowers that can bloom and spread and brighten the world because of me. And, oh my goodness, the honey we made! So sweet and nourishing, such a taste you wouldn’t believe!”

“But…but now it’s over,” I said,

“Why are you so sad?” said the bee,

“There is a chasm…in my heart…I’m frightened I will never be able to cross it,” I said,

“Oh,” said the bee, “I have seen that chasm; I knew it was coming when I saw the first brown leaf fall. It scared me too but now I can see the other side,”

“What is there?”

“More flowers, more honey,” said the bee,

“But your summer is over?” I said,

“There will always be more summers, beautiful warm summers, however dark the days may seem,” said the bee, “just think, more blooms to pollinate, more colours to see, more scents, more honey to taste. Look. Look at the rays of the sun,”

I turned my head on the pillow and sure enough the sunlight sparkled diamonds through every drop of condensation on the glass.

The bee was gone. But now I knew there would be more summers out there, somewhere across the chasm…

© 2017 Simon Poore

Advertisements

Retrograde Amnesia: The story of Teresa and Steve.

I wrote this story quite a while ago but somehow didn’t finish it. Now it is finished I have to make apologies to the singer Billy Bragg and his wonderful way with lyrics…

Retrograde Amnesia

“Teresa and Steve are finding out all about love,”
– Billy Bragg, ‘A Lover Sings’,

I can remember my mother. She had blonde hair and smelt of roses. At least I think that’s what they are called. ’Roses’; it is a word I associate with her. Some kind of flower anyway. I can picture the twitch she had in her fingers and how she would roll her shoulders and twist her neck to try and relax herself. She had that blue sky backdrop. She would shake her long hair into my face. It tickled me and made me giggle. And smile.

Today I went to see the flowers. There aren’t any roses there. It is the one place that has a breeze all round the space. I like to float by the vents and let the mix of warm and cold air buzz over my skin. It gives me goosebumps and my hair floats all around, just like my mother’s. I don’t remember her face.
I pull myself up to the sky where the pipes spurt rain on all the curling trees and plants and let the droplets cover my hair and skin. It makes the air damp and the tiny droplets catch in my nostrils.

The flowers don’t seem as bright as they do in my memory. Or perhaps they just seem more vivid when I dream them, because they have that blue sky and not the more realistic stars and black behind them.

Later I asked Caleb about it in our meeting. He just said the flowers are the same colours they have always been. He said it was like Eden. The first garden. Waiting to be populated. I asked him what that word meant and he said the garden was waiting for some people called Adam and Eve and then he told me a story about them. It was just a story. I’m not sure I liked it.

It was I who instigated the daily meetings between us; about two or three months ago. It was I who named him ’Caleb’, although it was his suggestion that I give him a name. He said a name might help the discussions. Might help me ’personalise’ it, not sure what that means. The name ’Caleb’ seemed like a memory, it had a familiar ring to it, like maybe it was someone I knew.

Now I am not so sure about them. The meetings I mean. It hasn’t been very helpful. He only seems to know about facts not memories. His smooth artificial face smiles, floating and glowing in the centre of the white room where he resides. I like him but he seems rather unfeeling. It is beginning to make me feel lonely talking to him. I asked him what it meant to be lonely.
He said “Loneliness is the state of being alone in solitary isolation,”
I said, “Really?…does that describe me?”
He said “Unfortunately yes, you are alone Teresa,”
My name sounds like any other word he says. His words all have the same tone.

I remember when he first told me my name. Must have been the first or second day after I woke. That was the first spark that I could remember anything. Anything at all. I remembered my mother whispering it in a singing voice as I went to sleep.
“Teresa, go to sleep, my beautiful Teresa, go to sleep…”
Or did I? Remember that I mean? Now it’s a memory of a memory and can’t be trusted.

Caleb said it would take me a while to adjust, back before before I called him ’Caleb’. He said that I should take it slowly. One day at a time. That was six months ago. The dates on the clocks tell me that. Not sure what he meant by ’a while…’

At first I felt like I was stupid. That I didn’t know anything. But then it occurred to me, I actually know quite a lot. I know how to speak and write and read. I know the names of things. And silly things, like how to eat and use the toilet. How to dress, though I don’t much bother with that. The clothes feel scratchy and hot. I know how to think and all these words. I haven’t learnt any of that since I woke up. It was already there, inside me. In my head. Maybe there is more in my head.

And I can remember my mother. At least I think I can. I’ve thought of it so much it’s memories of memories of memories. On and on.

I remember my toys, and rag dolly Emma and the bright green grass in front of the porch with the sprinkler. Rain from a pipe like I have here in the flower room.

We lived on Rokehampton Drive. That’s what mother said I should say if I ever got lost in a shop or the park or somewhere. So I said it over and over to myself as I skipped down the sidewalk holding her hand, “We live on Rokehampton Drive, we live on Rokehampton Drive,”

I asked Caleb about the skipping when I remembered that. Why I couldn’t walk or run or skip here? He just said ’sorry’ and that the gravity was broken or some such. Whatever that means. He tries to get me to exercise my legs on the stretch machine every day but I find it boring.

Everyone walks or runs or skips in the films he shows me. And they have the blue sky backdrops. Sometimes they even dance. And sometimes I ask Caleb to play the music loud and I try to dance, but my dancing is clumsy and I bang against the walls. I get bruises on my thighs.

In the films they talk and sing in excited ways and the children always have mothers and fathers. When I saw that I asked Caleb why I couldn’t remember my father. He said he didn’t know.

I remember words. Lots of words. Caleb gave me a book to look them up in. It’s called ‘dictionary’. I looked up the word ’delicious’ today. It said about some things that taste nice. I wondered what that meant so went to ask Caleb. He asked me if I wanted to change my ‘dietary requirements’. Strange that I knew what that meant. Everything the dispenser gives me to eat is nutritious and designed to keep my body at the required state of health.

The funny thing is that none of it seems to be ‘delicious’. I often like the taste but I would never say it was ‘delicious’. So I asked Caleb if the dispenser could give me something ‘delicious’. So he said how about ‘ice cream’? Mmmm…I remember mother giving me ice cream and how much I loved it, but I don’t know what flavour it was. That must be what ‘delicious’ is.

So I got the dispenser to give me ice cream. It was vanilla with chocolate sprinkles. Or so Caleb said. It was very cold and made my teeth hurt but the taste actually was ‘delicious’.

It made me wonder more about the words I know. The ones that buzz around in my head. There doesn’t always seem to be a logical connection between the sound they make when I say them out loud and the meaning they have. Either the meaning I think I remember they have or the meaning dictionary says they have.

I like to watch the shooting stars in the sky. Caleb says they aren’t actually ‘stars’ as such, well, not anymore, but I like to think of them as that. Those are the words my mind had for them when I first saw them streaking past the windows above me. And below me. They are everywhere around us, rushing past.

I did ask Caleb if I could go outside and touch them but he said that nothing can live outside, not without a special suit anyway. As soon as I began to ask him I knew the answer he would give. I knew that I couldn’t go outside. I just hadn’t remembered it yet. I don’t know why that is.

So I asked him what was wrong with my memory. I have asked him this before. He sighs and says “All in good time Teresa, all in good time,” like he often does.
So again I ask him “what does that mean?”
“It means that you will remember when you are ready, you will understand when you are ready,”
“How will I know if I am ready?” I say,
“I will know…or you will know…who knows?” he says.
Then I am stumped and don’t know what to make of his riddles. He can be so frustrating at times. So I just changed the subject;
“Where is Rokehampton Drive?” I ask,
“Ah,” he says, “Well that is a place that is very, very far from here. About as far away as you can imagine,”
“So we can’t go there?”
“No, Teresa, we can’t go there,”
“Have you ever been there?”
“No, Teresa, I haven’t,”
“So you can’t remember it?”
“No, Teresa, I can’t,”
“Oh…”

I gave up then. Couldn’t think of what to ask next. As ever his answers frustrate. I looked up ’frustrate’ in the dictionary and it led me to the word ‘Frustration’. This is what it said:

“a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.”

Kind of summed it up I think. Summed up one of the feelings I have. I think ’frustration’ and ’loneliness’ must go together, like you can’t have one without the other. That’s what I think anyway.

My room is on corridor seven. This is frustrating. There are lots of empty rooms there. And doors. Lots of doors I can’t open, which is a bit boring, not to mention frustrating. There are probably lots of other corridors too I think, but I can’t go to these either. Never been to corridors one to five. Only six and seven. Really I can only go to four places; my room, the dispensary, the flower room and the window room. Oh and the white room of course, where Caleb is. That makes five. Not sure why it’s called the white room. All of the rooms are white. Not sure why it’s even there, Caleb’s room. I can talk to Caleb wherever I am, but only in the white room does he show his face.

The window room is where I watch the stars. Zooming past. You can’t see anything else through the many windows. Caleb says we are on a journey. Just whizzing through the quiet stars and darkness. You can see them from the flower room too. But nowhere else.

“Caleb?” I said, “why can’t I go to other rooms? Or other corridors?”
“You will in time Teresa…” he said,
As usual his answer made me sigh, so unsatisfying. So boring. Depressing, but I wasn’t bored enough to give up just yet.
“What is in those rooms?” I said,
“Some are empty,” he said,
“Empty like my memories?” I said,
“Yes, I guess you could say that…”
“But some of the rooms and corridors have things in them?”
“Yes,” he said,
“What things?”
“Beautiful things,”
“If they are beautiful I want to see them. Please let me see them Caleb?”
“In time Teresa, in time…”

As usual he fobbed me off. So frustrating. Like everything. I feel like a small thing stuck inside a big thing. And that’s what I am.
I wonder what the point is. There is nothing to do but watch the films that don’t seem so real, eat and exercise. All that is dull. The only book I have is ‘dictionary’ – I did ask Caleb why there aren’t more books.
He said “I don’t think you are ready for more books,”
I said “Why not?”
Strangely he didn’t answer that but simply asked if I wanted more ice cream. I didn’t want more ice cream.

Today I found a gap in the wall. In corridor six, next to a door I can’t open. It’s kind of like a very small gap in the shape of a square. I can’t quite believe I hadn’t noticed it before. I think I could open it, if I used a knife or fork from the dispensary. I wondered for a while if I should ask Caleb but decided not to, he probably wouldn’t tell me anything anyway. I will open it tomorrow.

*****

I opened it. And now I know. Caleb told me not to do it. Of course he can see everything I do. He told me not to stick the knife in the gap and open the panel. But I ignored him. He told me not to press the green button, but he couldn’t stop me. The green button, I found, opens the door.

At first I was disappointed. It was just another white corridor, just like corridor six. Exactly the same in fact. With the same doors. I walked along and found corridor seven. Exactly the same. And there was the flower room and the dispensary and the window room and the white room. All the same. Why would there be two of every thing? What was the point?

I went to the white room. Well, not my white room, but the new white room. I asked Caleb what was going on. What did it all mean?
The voice was Caleb but it didn’t recognise me. It wasn’t Caleb.
“Oh,” it said, “I wasn’t expecting you to be awake,”
“Of course I am awake, what do you mean?” I said,
“Oh,” it said again, “I think there must be some malfunction, I must not converse with you,”

The new Caleb wouldn’t speak to me after that. I looked around everywhere but there was nothing else to see. I remembered then. When I first woke up that’s what my Caleb had said to me – “I wasn’t expecting you to be awake,” – those were his exact words. I didn’t understand, so I went back, through the door to my corridor six, back to my Caleb.

“You didn’t know me when I was in there,” I said to him,
“No Teresa,” he said “that wasn’t me, it is difficult to explain. Perhaps you shouldn’t have gone through the door?”
“Why not?” I said,
“It is difficult to explain. But…you should have stayed asleep, you weren’t supposed to wake up when you did. Because, you see Teresa, our journey isn’t done yet,” he said,
“What do you mean?” I said,
“I’m sorry but something went wrong and I had to wake you,”
“Is that why I can’t remember anything?”
“Yes…well, yes and no. You are so young Teresa, and it’s my job to keep you healthy and well,”
“But what about the other Caleb? He sounded just like you?”
“Yes, but he isn’t programmed for you Teresa, he is programmed for someone else,”
“Who? Who is he programmed for?”
“Someone who is sleeping, like you should be,”
“Who?”
“Steve,”
“Who is Steve?”
“Can you remember the story of Adam and Eve?” he said.
And that was when I knew why I couldn’t remember…

© 2014 Simon Poore

20140227-172214.jpg