A Short Story

A Small World

My world shrinks then expands with ever decreasing size. 

Time collapses.  I’ve lost track of the whens and the whats of whatever happened.  Fantasy and reality merge.  Memory scattered inside a void.   

I am a ‘being’ who once felt like a vast field of wildflowers in bloom, now reduced to the confines of this room, sharing a space with a bed, a desk, a chair, a vanity, a cupboard, a potted plant, colourful spaced lamps.  The last four items are a blur.  They are fictions in my mind. 

A memory of a room I once shared with him. 

There’s a window at one end, calling light in like the summons from the end of a tunnel.  

It is a glorious window, a window through which I look from these four boxed walls … out.  From which sounds penetrate … in, children playing a way off, cars, trucks, buses passing, also birds, a Spring orchestra of shrill melodies.  The fluctuations outside contrast with a momentary stillness in this strange place. 

A refuge.  A space capsule.  A prison.  A resting chamber.  A vault of memory. 

This place is all those things, depending on the mood and inclination. 

My imagination is all those things as well.  If I believe it so.  It is.

My gaze floats high. 

I catch an old cobweb, arching loose and grey, attached at each end like a precarious bridge.  At one end it is old, unused, in need of dusting.  My mind wanders.  I am too weak but, in my mother’s house, I would’ve needed a stool, I guess, a broom, a duster.  I would’ve needed the energy to congeal around the task of fetching, positioning and executing.   The heat would’ve been unbearable.  Then, I ponder further.  My lens shifts.   

Which do I dislike more?  Back home would it be mosquito or spider?  The former. 

Definitely the former. 

This spider does not look dangerous.  Perhaps their presence is a good thing.  I decide. 

The spider gets elevated in the mind. 

Visa granted.  Permission to stay.

He’s re-employed, his position negotiated, his presence placated, a minor disturbance now, hardly noticeable, or rather, easily ignored. 

It is only if you take the time to look.  I say.  To look acutely. 

Yes, there is use value in the infinitesimally small. 

The alarm rings, my eyes snap right, then left, then right again.  The table upon which the intercom sits absorbs the hum like a mini-earthquake.

I watch the lights dance on top.  I wonder what it means.  I wonder what so many things mean. 

My tongue is foreign.  I do not speak this language.  I wish I’d paid better attention.

I close my eyes and will the noise to stop, my heart races, breathing stutters.  I hear voices scurry the hall.  There is a scream.  The painful one has awakened.   Unlike her, I choose not to scream.  Hateful intrusion.  I say.  Seventh ring, and all is quiet.  The sound vanishes and I can breathe.  Just about.

A beam of oblique light suddenly floods the room. 

It illuminates, my heart quietens, my eyes widen, calm breaths begin to return.

The majesty of the light feels like watching God’s limbs unfurl.  The light speaks to me.  I listen.  It reaches, spears, retreats.  Gold, white, dazzling colours, shimmering playfulness, smooth surfaces turned to mirrors, splitting, refracting, dancingA cloud passes, the loving visitation vanishes. 

My heart aches for its return, the way it aches for so many others. 

People, places, things.  In that order.

Old things, blotted out, like a long hateful list of fate.  I try daily to forget.  It is a triumph of trauma only remembering the last two items of note.

I remind myself to stretch.  I bend my neck.  I hold it.  I count.  I do it like the nurse instructed, in her broken English, a language my beloved said he would teach me given time.

Now the other side.  The same procedure.  Bend. Hold. Count.

I register how I feel. 

The stitches are healing.  I think it feels a little better.  

Better than yesterday, for sure.  Last week was a highlight however, surviving.  The weight of the comparison collapses under heartache, unable to measure the rate of fall, the distance, from where too here, from now to what next?  There are no fixed points.  I can’t remember the start.  It’s become a blur, punctured by what my dearest would’ve called episodes.  Each episode has a book of its own, a going in and a clear departure, with records, identification, signatures and the like.  I remember some of it.  Not all. 

My dearest is dead.

I watch the spider come out of its hole and set to work.  He’s a brown speck, the same colour as my skin, dangling high, suspended, no bigger than an average pimple, from the point of view of my station in the bed below.

He appears to be cleaning, then mending, his movements repetitive, feverish.  I say ‘he’ and don’t correct my inner dialogue.  Curious acceptance. 

I feel to touch that corner of the room with the tips of my fingers like I used to do a tablet’s screen.  I want to see more.  I wish I could enlarge the space, draw it out between forefinger and thumb, the same way I would do anything to reverse time.  As if hearing my thoughts, the spider stops, stills.  Ahh it is the vibration of a bus passing, I feel like a naturalist now, in tune with the sensory awareness of small things.  The thought dissipates, the dizziness returns.

I float, the sensation akin to a thousand prickles cascading down my spine.

I give into the buzz. 

I feel weightless, bodyless, part of a majestic invisible stream of consciousness.

I say ‘invisible’, as such perception requires a sixth sense.  A skill I’ve been learning to discern.  Training my body in the art of surrender, I stretch or curl then stretch again at the middle of this four poster bed, seeking a comfortable position within it.  The metal posts reach high.  There are shelves, upon which is housed a single picture book.  Then the rectangular ceiling above.  Nothing more to report, other than its colour.  Ceiling? White.  Walls? White too.  

There is a door in one wall.  It is silver, made of metal, bolted, cold. 

The floor is brown, herringbone patterned stone, so named after the skeleton of a fish. 

I shift to my side and peek over the edge of the mattress, over my crumpled blankets, to the abyss.  I imagine steep craggy ground, a cliff, home to mountain goats, and sparse vegetation, crumbling rock.  Home.  His favourite goat skips and jumps laterally, trying to catch-up with the others.  Bits splinter off, in varying size and plummet to the valley floor.  We laugh.  I relish the warmth of my beloved’s hand in mine.  As afterthought an echo witnesses the stone’s splintering on the ground.  The goat bleats and continues its travels.  It eyes me now from a great way below.  A great distance has been traversed.   I was once below now I’m above, presently fearing a rock cascading to his skull.  I skuttle away, not wanting to be the cause, lying flat, computing the danger, the danger of lying in no man’s land.  The danger of being alone.

The bleating sounds louder.  I close my eyes.  My imagination stretches.  I feel delirious.

I run faster, my hands flap aimlessly at my side, I stretch, I kick, I panic, I sweat, I … fly.

Get on the boat, they shouted.  You fly to new life.  You fly to riches. 

My beloved’s hand presses protectively at the small of my back, guiding, reassuring.

The delusion continues.  We must go.

We paid the money.  All the money, my Uncle gave. 

The waters ripple small waves, waves which soon crest, lurch, waters turning choppy.  None of us can swim. 

Wings protrude from between the shoulder blades at my back.  They are at least three metres long on either side, shimmering purple-black.  I stretch them wide.  I know this is fantasy but I rise.  I glide.  I weave, spiral, climb and fall like a master of flight.  I will myself the agility of an angel, a sweet angel, uplifted, no longer part of this downtrodden world, but a rescuer of souls instead. 

Voices sweep upwards, a vortex appears above my head, a great winding Jacob’s ladder reaches upwards. 

Angels voices sing louder and louder, bathed in iridescent light.

A low knock sounds to my door.  I watch the vision sink back into the recesses of my mind.

A clang.  A rattle.  A slicing sound of metal.  The hatch opens, then slams shut.

I squeeze my eyes and attempt with a deep intake of breath, followed by an exhale, to hold onto my dream.  My dreams are all I’ve got. 

But my wings have folded in on themselves. 

I relent, and open.  My watery gaze rests upon the tray, its contents upturned in hurried disarray.

Who would believe my story, eh?  I ask.

Who would believe this citizen of the world?

A Small World© 2021 L. S. Bergman

Image Accred: L.S. Bergman (2018)

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