A Gift for Life and Death (pt26)

“I am not the only creature to both live and die, angel. They have long since been blinded by time, but if they looked a little closer, they would not need a gift from me to see what they have to share. You spend much time with them both?”

Forgiveness nodded.

“Then you would know best, would you not? Perhaps better than I, unless you have died and lived many times as I have?”

“If I have, I don’t remember any of it,” Forgiveness admitted.

For some reason, the phoenix seemed mollified by this, though she continued on as though there had been no doubt. “Without the cacophony of changing forms, you have spent much time with Life and Death. You have seen them occupy the same space?”

Forgiveness nodded again.

“You would know best, would you not? How they do not affect each other at a distance? How destructive they are upon reality when they are close together? Things which are not alive don’t know what to make of near death. Things which are dead do not know what to do with returning life. Yet, at the very crux of it, when touching?”

This time when she extended her wings, it was simply to display her full splendor. The beauty of a phoenix. A gesture she would make at any time in her life. The meeting point of Life and Death.

“Thank you,” said the angel

“Go with this gift, but forget not who gave it to you. Whether in this life or another, I will wish the favour returned, angel. I may lose the occasional detail, but I do not forget what I am owed.”

Not likely to forget such a thing within their own life, Forgiveness climbed back down the volcano. The warmth of the phoenix’s gift gave them the strength where they might not have had it before. Nevertheless, returning to where Life or Death would be might take some time. There were the places that Forgiveness knew well, but the world was vast. While Life and Death might traverse all of it, the angel had yet to do so. Finding either might take longer than finding a phoenix had.

A House, A Home (pt11)

The next time she walked by the shelf, two of the volumes had been pushed forward to stick out. She pulled them out to look them over later.

The dancer figurines had openings in the bottom, where small curls of yellowed paper were stashed. She carefully pried each of them out with her fingernails, slowly flattening them to see what they were. Autographs, she decided, seeing only a single signature on each. Studying the figurines once more, Salma was struck by the fact these were models of real dancers, not simply renditions of anything generic. Every single one had an autograph inside. Salma didn’t recognize any of the names, any of the faces.

But she did remember these figures, up on a shelf higher than her eyes when she was little. Reaching up in order to play with them, her mother would scold her and bat her hands away. Later in the day, her grandfather brought one down for her to look at. He didn’t let her hold it, though he let her put her tiny hands all over it. Her hands were clean, she remembered, someone had made her wash up before. Her small fingers reached into each crevasse, taking delight in the texture and the colours more than anything about what those two things had come together to create.

Nostalgia of newspapers

One of the things I will always remember fondly from my childhood is the crossword in the newspaper.

I never did it myself. I can think of a handful of instances when I did. I never knew the answers. I’m not much better now. They ask about people I don’t know and events I can never say anything specific about. Different ways of saying things I’d never dreamed of. If it helped me remember more things I might drag myself through more of them, but even the interesting facts the crossword would teach me vanished from my mind.

That’s not why I remember them fondly. Before the computer making puzzles easily accessible, the newspaper crossword puzzle was the easily defeated nemesis of my mother. Probably not always easy, to be honest. But every day I would see the day prior’s newspaper, always open to that crossword, completely filled out in pen. I remember the ink most often in blue, though if that was her usual pen of choice… I could be wrong.

My mother’s recollection for words has always astounded me. It’s one that her family seems to thrive in and one I strive to achieve as well. I often think that if I can be half as knowledgeable about words as any of them, it will still hold me far above many. I don’t want to think of that as a sad statement of people’s usage of English as much as a compliment for their prolific vocabulary. I still drag out a thesaurus for every other word I feel as though I’ve used too often and I know I’m still an amateur at that.

But a crossword in pen! I wonder if the reality is as fascinating as my mind has fabricated.

I will always think upon the crossword puzzles of my youth as my mother’s mental workout. Despite her protests, I feel as though they have done her extraordinarily well to this day.

Memory lane

Spencer opened his eyes, only to immediately regret it. Specks of dirt moved up from his cheek, pressed flat against the road, to his eyes, blinding him. Blinking wildly, tears washed his gray eyes clean.

He was on the lane, a straight line shooting out behind him and fading into whiteness in front of him. Spencer sat up and looked behind him.

The lane was meticulous in its details. The details were precise, exact, and incomplete. It should have been fuzzy and messy, it shouldn’t have made any sense. He watched as the world made itself up behind him. A kitchen with two sinks, blue walls. Or had they been green? No, they were blue here. He believed that. A speech he had made, looking out over his classmates, half paying attention and half pretending to stay awake. Clara was watching him. No, she couldn’t have been. She hadn’t been interested in him. But he remembered it so perfectly, that she had been watching him. Had she lied about her disinterest? Or had he been wrong?

This was what his memories looked like. He couldn’t even believe them now.

Spencer did not want to look back any longer. Standing up, he faced forward into nothingness.

There would be nothing there. He hadn’t made the memories yet.

“Time to wake up, Spencer.”

Spencer took in a breath and stepped forward.

At one point, he knew

When they won their fight, they had received all they had asked for.

Objects swirled in the darkness. In sight. In touch. There was nothing after that, absolutely nothing. After taking what had belonged to him, it had all gone. Each of them had wanted this. It was so close and none hesitated to take it, not even the most cautious of them.

And what had awaited them was pain. Objects swirling in the light. In sight. They could finally touch it. Everything came after that, absolutely everything. Everything from nothing was too much for even the strongest to handle. The darkness of unconsciousness finally overtook him. He had watched as one by one, the others dropped to the ground. Because they were other people.

What did that mean?

When he awoke, he groaned. He lay on a bed, in a dark and windowless room that consisted of nothing else. His eyelids flickered open and shut as he examined the ceiling. Dim memories rose to the top of his consciousness. A strange feeling sat in his chest. Breathing in, he tried to figure out what it was.

Beating.

A heart.

Feeling.

Slowly he sat up, his heart beating faster in his excitement. He didn’t know why. It came with the discovery of these emotions. For some reason, he wanted to be calm again to properly think about these new feelings. After the initial exhilaration however, he wondered why. He wondered about everything. He tried to remember.

He and his friends had succeeded. In what? Regaining self. How had he lost it? He didn’t remember. There had been a fight to regain it.

This means… He tried to think about it without being overwhelmed. Darkness waited to claim him if he strained in that direction. My name is… He paused, trying to remember.

My name is.

For the life of him, he could no longer remember.

From the top

The music stopped. He looked at her and waited.

Slowly, she lowered the flute from her lips. “What was I playing?”

He had known it was coming, but it hurt to hear her say that nonetheless. “Poulenc’s Sonata.”

“Oh.”

She began again, from the top. He waited, hoping she would be able to finish.

The function of memory

The photograph that lay in his pocket was an image he could describe perfectly.

He and his brother, standing in front of the tree that stood in front of their old home. He had been sixteen then, his brother thirteen. Their skin was both copper, covering completely different bodies. Even then he had been tall and heavyset, though he had lost some of that height and some of that weight. At thirteen, his brother had much much shorter, yet lankier than even a teenager had any right to be. It fit right in with his brother’s decision at the time to have short hair, dark curls tousled from the outside.

His own raven dreadlocks only reached his shoulders, thrown back in a messy bunch at the back of his head. His arm was wrapped around his brother’s shoulders, a rough hand clasped on a thin shoulder, grimy fingernails showing obviously. His brother’s hands were much thinner – a pianist’s hands – with clean cut nails to match. They both smiled widely, his cracked lips over straight teeth and his brother’s glossy lips over his overbite. His face had been pimply, something he had been grateful to age past, especially the worst of it that had been on his nose, crooked since he had broken it playing baseball when he was twelve. His brother’s nose was small and straight, the highlights of his face were the dimples on his cheeks and on his chin.

They shared the same dark eyebrows, thick over narrowed slate blue eyes. In that picture, the light made his own eyes bright and flecked a bit of darkness in his brother’s.

Ask him now and he could describe all of this. Four years after losing his brother. Four years after losing his sight.