I urged her to remain calm, that prying eyes wouldn’t take kindly to her screaming. We were sat together, in the confines of a homely room, but we were by no means alone. I let my watch drift from her face to that of the grandfather clock’s, ticking, ticking ever away. Oh wretched thing. I mused, distrusting of its oaken glare. Father time is waiting, and here he’ll be, soon enough.
She was a divine sight for old eyes, that much I had to admit, even in her shaken state. Sun burnt, autumnal hair hung over her shoulder in a frayed plat, the colour singing into her eyes, lighting even the freckles of her pale cheeks.
I shook my head, reaching out with gnarled fingers, long weathered and worn. Her hand fell limp beneath my own.
“Don’t worry.” I tried on a smile, but it was scarcely believable.
“Who am I…?” she asked again, her voice quivering from behind stained lips.
I turned fitfully in my chair, to look for the door. Still there. I cursed. Those that watch, from out within the halls of this damnation.
My gaze flitted upon the scattered collection of photographs strewn untidily across my table. I had been enjoying my… tea? No, this was coffee. And biscuits? I dare think not! She had brought them with her, the photographs, perhaps a puzzle she hoped I could decipher.
There were faces, I’ll admit freely, that were familiar to my mind. Old Aunt Geraldine, the crippled brute. Broke both her hips and knees to boot, but that had never stopped in her delivering of a swift kick to the rump of a misbehaving swine.
“Arthur!” I exclaimed, grinning stupidly ear to ear. I could see the watchers from the corner of my perch, out in the hall, now prying with delighted hunger…
But Arthur! Third cousin, extraordinaire! Many an adventure we’d partaken in together. So many, too many, years ago.
“Once upon a time,” I began, “Arthur and I had troubled ourselves down to dear old Geraldine’s lagoon.” there was an itch about my mind, the watchers? I lowered my voice, and she leaned closer in to hear, “It was the peak of summer… ah, no, forgive me… it was the lull of winter, yes! The lagoon had frozen over, now it all comes flooding back.”
I told her of the time that Arthur and I had tried our hand at skating on ice, without the skates, and with barely the ice. Halfway out, and trapped at sea, the ice began to crack. Needless to say we both fell arse over ankle deep into the waters. A week? Four days… no, five! Or perhaps it was a week in all? No matter the length, it was long enough that Arthur and I had spent in that deplorable hospital ward. Pneumonia. They’d said, nurses and all. Only a mild case, and you can thank the almighty for that! I still to this day believe that we were the first (and only) in all the World to be stricken by a mild case of pneumonia.
“Who am I?” she persisted, there was a tear in each eye that glistened gentle as the stars upon night. So beautiful, was she. Yet to say I recognise her?
“I’m afraid I don’t know, I simply can’t help.” I look away, from shame? What of it! Foul demon that torments the weaker minds of men. How cold the room feels now, void of memory, of Arthur and that damned lagoon. I curse. The curtains flap with bitter discontent against the calling wind of a World outside. Outside these walls. I seem to recall that it was a nice place, outside, as nice a place to be as ever there was.
“Who am I?” again she asks the torrid question.
I can’t help you! I scream, but only in the mind. I wish to be polite… but for how much longer?
“I can’t remember who I am,” she professes, taking up my hand, “so you must tell me. Please. I know you will remember. Who am I?”
Then comes a spark, and two plus two makes four, the mind delivers! “Jessica. Oh, my sweet Jessica.” I feel a lump rise up in my crooked throat, and just as water fills my eyes I see tears flow freely from her own. Jessica.
“You do remember.” she smiles faintly, some vestige of grief now long forgotten, “Please, don’t you ever forget again.”
I promise her I won’t, how could I! Jessica, dearest daughter of mine. Never again should I forget her! But there in lies the trouble, life is as cruel a mistress as they come, and with age goes the mind, never as sharp as it was.
I will forget her, dear daughter of mine, and only for now I might remember why. Cursed, am I. This strange surrounding plagued with watchful faces, a home of care. For me? For age. So cruel a mistress.
My mind, you see, is victim to disease.
Who am I?
Copyright © K R Perry 2019