The pace of which these things are coming out is a bit scary, if you are still reading I thank you. These experiments are fun to do, and as I will be breaking off to a little winter vacation soon I’m dedicating myself to shorter projects. These stories aren’t my only projects at the moment, but they are the fun part. They take me about two hours to write, and then another hour to correct (and I’m sorry for all the imps that escape me).
This story is a bit different from the others, however, as it was more planned. When I set out to write a short story or flash fiction (or whatever you want to call this) I never plan anything. I just let my mind roam around and tell me the story (I’m sorry if you thought I was telling you the story, although I love it when people do read, these short pieces are mainly a way to tell myself a story, a way to find a story that might later become something bigger, grow-up so to speak). I sit down and I improvise. This one is different in the way that I knew what it would be about from the start and I had an ending planned out. It was an exercise in planned storytelling I guess. I’ve done that before, but only on a larger scale and it’s rarely ended well, unfortunately.
This one didn’t end up the way I had thought. But that’s alright. It got to the right place in the end I’m sure, and if it didn’t I’m sure I’ll revisit it somewhere else. I hope you are enjoying these as much as I have enjoyed writing them. And if the frequency of these entires is bugging you, then walk (or browse) away and be consoled by the fact that it’ll soon be quieter around here.
Waking up in the morning has always been a bit of a task for me. I wake up, I realise quickly that I’d rather stay in bed than do whatever tasks await me. I open an eye and look out the window. I’ve always kept the drapes up, even during the Icelandic summer when it’s bright all nightlong. It gets annoying from time to time, but I much prefer seeing the world as I am awakening, than being trapped in an isolated room.
I like seeing the world out there.
When the first lethargy has turned into awareness I get up. I take my glasses, my phone and I put on my robe. Then I head down towards the kitchen. I used to drink nothing but coffee in the mornings, but it didn’t agree with my stomach and now the mind settles with a strong cup of tea.
I’ve never actually liked tea, but I’ve learned to love it. If that makes any sense. It perfects my morning routine and I can eat a biscuit or sometimes even a slice of bread with cheese or ham. When the tea is finished I put on clothes and then I can start my day. Some mornings it may be daunting to get up, but having a routine like this has always helped me settle right in the day.
This morning, however, was different. A whiff of cool air came in through the open window and the first thing I needed to do was get up and close it. I half expected the kid to be up and about already, watching television, playing with her dolls or perhaps even playing video games but when I poked my head into the living room she was nowhere to be seen.
I did what I always do. I put my robe on, took my glasses and my phone and I went downstairs to the kitchen, expecting her to be there. Joe was still in bed sleeping, I thought. He usually slept in on the weekends, so when she wasn’t in the kitchen either I assumed that she had slept in too and I decided to enjoy the unusually serene atmosphere. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was different, but there was something strange in the air. As if the fabric of my soul was different somehow, more quiet and less strained than it had been in a long while.
I ate in peace, watching the autumn colors in the backyard, thinking I should do some gardening. It’s an idea I often get and on beautiful days, it’s easy to go outside and muck around when the weather is beautiful. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I can mow the lawn and pick some weed in summertime and when autumn arrives I rake the leaves.
My body felt stiff and uncomfortable, however, and I couldn’t really imagine going out into the autumn chill. Instead I decided I would use this morning to catch up on some reading I had been wanting to do. So when my breakfast was finished I entered my study in hope of finding the books I was going to look at.
It was strange walking into the study that morning. It was dark in there, so the first thing I had to do was pull the drapes from the windows. Outside a little boy was smelling a flower by the road, he picked it and ran with it to his mother who was walking with a stroller a few meters up ahead. I sat down by my desk and wondered why everything was so dusty.
So I got up again, fetched a wet cloth and started to wipe some of the dust away. I couldn’t remember when I’d done that last, so it was about time. Again I wondered why the kid slept in so late, but I reasoned that she was probably just tired from a busy week and needed her sleep. When I was finished dusting I tried to find those books I had been wanting to read, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I was sure I had left them on my desk the day before, but Joe must have taken them. Or perhaps I placed them somewhere else?
I got up again and looked in the shelves one more time, then I went into the living room and into the den upstairs, but the books were nowhere to be found. Irritated I went into the bedroom to wake Joe up and ask him if he’d seen the books. He was always a light sleeper, but he never had any problems falling asleep again if he wanted to, so I didn’t hesitate.
He wasn’t in the bedroom, however, and there was nothing on his nightstand. Nothing at all. He normally kept some things there; the book he was reading, his phone always lay there when he wasn’t off somewhere and his watch almost always lay there, even when he wasn’t home.
I shook my head and went into the kids bedroom.
And that’s when the real shock hit me.
It wasn’t just that my daughter wasn’t in her bed. It was that her entire room was nothing like it was supposed to be.
I slowly realised that the entire house was slightly different from what I remembered. The changes were subtle, but quite clear when you thought about it.
A quiet dread came over me. Where could they have gone to? Why hadn’t they told me they were going? And why was my daughter’s room so different? Most of the toys were gone! There was a teddybear sitting on top of her bed, but it wasn’t the bed I remembered but a small double bed. There was a lamp and the walls were white, whereas before they had had a slight pink hue.
What had happened?
I stumbled to get my phone out of my pocket. I would call Joe. He would explain everything.
At the time my hands were shaking so hard I could hardly find him in the list of contacts. When finally I did manage I held the phone so tight that my knuckles became white. I tried to breath evenly as I heard the signals go through.
“Hi, Mom” I heard a chipper voice on the other side of the line.
“Who is this?” I asked.
“It’s Emelie, mom are you alright?” the woman asked.
“Alright? Emelie? Who is this?” I asked.
“It’s your daughter,” the woman said, “You called dad, didn’t you?”
“I did,” I told her quietly, dreading whatever response I might get.
“I’m sorry, mom,” she said, “I’ll be right over.” She didn’t hang up the phone, though, so I managed to tell her to tell me what had happened, in the same harsh voice I always used when I wanted her to do something.
“Mom, dad died two years ago.”
I couldn’t believe it.
“What is happening to me?” I asked.
“It’s your memory mom, it’s alright, you’ll be fine. I’ll be right there.”
I managed to tell her I was sorry before she hung up. I could hear it in her voice that she was already walking briskly.
I decided to lie down while I was waiting for her, but stumbled a bit by the doorway and ripped my shirt and scraped my shoulder. I lay down in my bed again and patted the side of the bed where Joe used to sleep. I lay there a while, leaning my head backwards on the pillow. I realised that I was probably suffering from some form of dementia, but it was very strange, because I could clearly remember falling asleep the night before. I had put Emilie, who had been six years old at the time, to bed and I had spent two hours watching a film with Joe, the film was rather dull and left me sleepy so I went to bed early instead of reading the book I had been planning to.
And now Emilie was a grown-up and Joe was dead? What on earth had happened to the years in between?!
Emilie found me sobbing into my pillow.
She was a beautiful, dark haired woman with short hair and she wore baggy trousers and a large blouse.
“I’m so sorry,” she told me. “We really need to get you some help,” she said. “A place where you can be safe and carefree, where there are always people to explain these things to you right away.”
I turned towards her and couldn’t believe my luck, getting to see my daughter all grown-up and beautiful, to get to see that she had turned into a well functioning individual and that all my worries and headaches had been worth the effort.
“Do I get a lot of these episode?” I asked her.
She shook her head. “This is the third one, mom,” she said.
I just nodded my head and leaned back on the pillow.
“Are you happy?” I asked her.
She showed me her protruding belly and smiled, “Yes, you know that I am”.
“Good,” I said.
I could see fear in her eyes. It was the same kind of fear I had experienced just moments ago when she was just a six year old child and came home with a fever.
I have always been a bit of a worrier.
“I’m alright, Emilie” I tried to sooth her. “I’m just tired, that’s all”.
She nodded her head and put the cover over me.
“You sleep, mom” she said. “I’ll be here when you wake up, everything will be fine and we’ll discuss this, okey?”
“I nodded my head and thought about what it would be like to become a grandmother. Was it as good as they said it was, all the fun of a child without all the worries and the sleepless nights? As I drifted off into sleep I found myself hoping that I would learn those things.
When I woke up again Joe was sleeping beside me.
I got up in a panic that can only be caused by a strange sound emanating from somewhere in the house, or by a terrible nightmare and I flew into Emilie’s room.
I was greeted by the pink hue of the walls and by Emilie who sat in the middle of her room with all her teddybears gathered around her. She looked at me, smiled and said “Good morning, mom, I was just playing a game.”.
I smiled at her, feeling so relieved I cannot begin to describe it. I walked back into the bedroom and lay down beside Joe who was sleeping on his back, snoring lightly. I kissed him on the forehead, which woke him up.
“Good morning, sleepy” I said. He smiled, mumbled and turned on his side and fell back to sleep.
I lay still in bed, letting my heart calm down after the rush of waking up. I calmed my mind by telling myself that it had all just been a very vivid nightmare. One of these nightmares that root themselves in an existential anxiety that always seems to set when the sky starts to dim and the autumn colors root themselves in everything around us.
It took me a while to notice the rip in my shirt and the bruise on my shoulder, but it was there and I could still taste the tea I had had for breakfast. The realisation came slowly, with another bout of a thumping heart. I got up again and went into my daughters bedroom. I sat down beside her and I picked up one of the teddybears.
It was a favourite of hers, his name was Dr. Jackson. “Are we going to have fun today, young Emilie?” I asked through the bear.
She cheered and hugged me and then she became serious. “It’ll be alright, mom” she said in a way that only children can do. “You know that, right?”
I hugged her back and found that the day was back on track. The strangeness of the morning was slowly subsiding and whatever magic I had experienced was gone now, and would never return.
Of that I was sure.