The evening before I die
“Why doesn’t this day last forever, huh?”, I say and caress my cupcakes on my lap.
Our tiny life, just the two of us, it couldn’t be more perfect. Mother and daughter, supposedly, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel that way. I mean, she is barely eight, but when she lays her eyes on me, there is so much more there. A little big woman, with an imperishable wisdom beaming from her magenta eyes, assessing me, glowing at me, lulling something deep inside me.
It’s always been just the two of us. As long as I can remember. Father gone a long time ago. Not even worth the mention. Silje has accepted this very fact and never asks or complains. On the contrary, she can lock gazes with me, furrow her little brows, and tell me how glad she is that she has me, all to herself. Mostly I respond with laughter, but truth be told, it’s only to cover the tears. Gratitude.
Frankly I don’t know what I would do without her. And it’s not that she isn’t a pain in the ass. Of course she is. How many times has she left the refrigator door open? Until everything inside it just melted into oblivion. Every time she does that, I tell her the whys and what fors, explaining clearly, patiently, why she shouldn’t. Never scolding, never losing my temper. But halfway through, she sends me one of those innocent smiles, and disarms me before I even had the chance to finish. Yeah, I am easy prey.
“It can mummy, it will. You know it will.”, Silje says, and brings me out of my reverie.
I sigh, I attempt to drag myself away from her, I hate leaving her. But she has to get some sleep. She’s got a big day tomorrow. School, test and all. So I push myself up, use all the will power to release myself from her softness. And it feels as if the mere act had some unexplained finality to itself. An unexpected ending, much sooner than expected. Why does it sting that way? After all, I am going to see her tomorrow. Won’t I?
I shake off these thoughts, I get up, and tip toe out of the room. And just as I am about to lock the door, Silje’s whisper reaches me.
“Get ready for tomorrow mummy.”
I stop and smile. Typical. She should be sleeping by now, that rascal. But I enjoy her games, they are invariably sweet, filled with an innocence and purity I’ve lost a long time ago.
“Why is that honey bunch?”, I flow along with her.
“You will have to leave me, you know that.”, her words sound from her lips in perfect harmony. Their tone ephemeral, just like the rest of her. Yet, the words themselves, they are not phrased as a question, they hold no ambivalence, no intended playfulness. Instead they are filled with a clarity which leaves no doubt as to their meaning.
“Of course, I will not leave you.”
“You will, or you won’t make it.”, she says.
And I just stand there. I try to shake of what I just heard. Ridiculous. An 8-year-old. Right?
So why is my mouth dry, my tongue paralysed, and my mind numb? I feel myself shut the door. And as I walk away, I feel compelled to run. And I have no idea why.
ha(V)en – a holistic solution for what’s unresolved inside us? (Image: Piotr Ryczko)
A couple of Xanaxes managed to knock me out, hard enough to get some sleep.
Despite this, my mind surfaces back up again in the middle of the night. And the first thing that connects me back to reality is a droning voice.
“Your loss. Reeeecovery. Haaaaaven…”.
I whip up my head from the sweat drenched pillow, my eyes scatter for the source, and realise it’s the LED screen beaming at me. I fumble for the remote but it’s nowhere in sight.
My vision blurry, mind dizzy from way too much pills, I realise my whole body is burning. I wobble out of the bed, my knees barely able to support my weight, and I notice the TV is still on. Where is that damned remote?
“Lost someone special?” the LED keeps harping at me.
Then I look up and realise someone is standing in the door. Is that Silje? I can’t make out the details, but it’s gotta be her. Oh God, my forehead is schorching me. The shadowy figure slides up to me, her hand caresses gently against my forehead.
I see her worried eyes through a dense fog. And I am struck by the fact that she isn’t in her pyjamas any longer. Dressed in her pink parka, wool gloves, she is all ready to go out, right into the biting cold.
“Going somewhere hon?”
“We are going for a drive.”, she states matter-of-factly.
I guffaw. Or try to, but my throat fails me. Still, Silje always had an offish sense of humour. But this isn’t the time, nor the place. Not at 2am. And certainly not when I can barely stand, or think.
“Drive? What drive? Why? Where?”
“I told you silly. We need to go.”, she stresses the last word and lays her fingers on my forehead. “You don’t have much time left.”
What the hell is she talking about? How did she know about this? Did she know about this?
“Having problems recoverrrr… Havennn. Haaaaaven…”, the TV hisses at me. And this time it cuts right into my eardrums, punches at all the subtle nerves, blasting my head wide open.
Days that were
I have no idea how I let Silje talk me into this. It must be the fever. Making me do stuff I shouldn’t. Like getting up in the middle of the night and letting an 8-year-old call a cab to take you somewhere. But where?
But here I am, driving straight into the middle of a blizzard, the snow beating against the windshield, heading to some destination I have no clue about. And my fever is about to split my head wide open.
“Please, what’s going on?”, I mumble.
“Shhh. mummy. Will be alright. You still have a chance. Remember what we talked about. Our best moments?”
“What about them?”
“Forget them. Do you understand? Leave me. ”
“No. I don’t. And I am not leaving you?“, I phrase the last sentence as a question. I have no idea why. But considering the situation it just seems right.
She eyes me up and down. Thinks about it. Then nods. I knot that nod. It’s her little moment of acceptance, the moment she knows when not to push anymore. And when I peer into her eyes, it feels like my decision is going to be my undoing.
But then she squeezes her face up against the windshield, then pops the door wide open. Inviting me outside.
I peek out, just barely, but my senses are stunned the moment I process what’s waiting me outside.
No. It can’t be.
Instead of the snowy night, the merciless Norwegian winter, I feel a gentle breeze caress my skin. And with the spring breeze comes something which is most familiar. A smell I thought I have forgotten. Oh, how I love that smell. Pinewood trees blossoming, only the way they can outside of my house. One of my best kept memories at the time I gave birth to Silje.
I push myself out of the car, and take in the glorious sight. I am standing in front of my house, our house. The same house which we left. What? Barely an hour ago? Only that we left it in the middle of the night, barely able to plough through the snow. And now, it’s not only spring but the house is changed. It’s different. In a way I have problems to discern. The paint is more pristine, the lawn cleaner. Where am I? When am I?
I look back and lock gazes with my Silje.
“What’s going on hon?”
“Please, mummy. I can’t. You have to see for yourself. In there.”, she says and glows at me.
Back at the house
When I enter the living room, I notice several medics. They surround something, or someone, by the dining table. I move in behind them.
“Excuse me, guys… this is my living room….”,
No one seems to pay attention to me. Instead, they all try to squeeze themselves to help someone on the floor. I hear someone moaning behind their backs, and then barely audible sobs.
Agitation fills the room, as the medics are doing everything to help.
“What the hell is going on guys? “, I insist in order to get their attention. But either they are deaf or I am just plain insensitive to the ordeal. A high-pitched moan reaches everybody’s ears and the crowd opens up, long enough for me to see.
As I peer into the women’s eyes, I glance into a set of familiar eyes.
My own eyes.
The woman lying on the carpet must be a couple of years younger than me, but there can be little doubt as to her identity. She is me. Or some part of me, I guess. She gazes right at me, and in some unexplained way, acknowledges my presence.
I can’t tear myself away from her, or maybe from her pain, and finally from a simple knowing, this woman is bleeding all over her crotch. The medics sigh, and cover her up, and my mirror self, closes her eyes, then whispers to herself.
“My Silje, Silje..my Silje…”
And I feel anger scorching away at me. Partly because everyone is just standing there, doing nothing, And maybe partly because I’ve never felt so helpless in my life.
I grab one of the nearest guys, or at least try to. But my hand passes right through his body. And at that instant, as if to dispel some bad illusion, everything vanishes, and fades into a pitch black darkness.
My breath is scattered, and I try to force open my eyes. But I realise they haven’t been open in many years. I try to move my body, but none of my limbs are moving the way they should. A shattering clarity envelopes me. I haven’t used them in half a decade.
I realise where I am, as I am barely open my eyes and lay my sight on a bed placket. An insignia with one word only. HAVEN corp.
I eye my hands. Swollen, grubby with sores all over it. The only way muscles tend to get if unused for a prolonged time. And then it all comes back to me, crushing into my consciousness, obliterating the illusion I’ve upheld for… For how long? I don’t want to know. I really don’t.
I close my eyes, and refuse to open them again. My mind keeps churning away at one thought only. They can’t force me to wake up. They just can’t. They can’t push this on me. I won’t wake up.
And if I could talk, I would scream.
I want to go back. To my Silje.
The next moment I walk out of the house. I can still smell the pinewood trees blossoming. And I see my Silje, sitting in the car. I sit down beside her, and hug her into me. My fever is back and this time, I don’t think will make it.
But at least I know where I am. And maybe even why I am here.
I just whisper to myself, maybe in the same tone as the woman on that carpet, Silje never died, Silje is right here with me. She has been and will always be with me.
I am with my hon. I cuddle her, and in spite of what I know is to come, I feel a calmness wash over my body.
I am where I should be.
I am in Haven.
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Piotr Ryczko is the published author of the Scandinavian thriller “A child made to order” and a multi-awarded filmmaker. Born in Poland and raised in Norway, he loves both countries, but has a soft spot for his hometown, Oslo.
Piotr is passionate about dark and multi layered thrillers which handle ethically difficult scientific issues facing humankind today.
Piotr loves to hear from readers and writers and can be found on Storygeist where he writes flash fiction, html5 stories, non-fiction and screenplays for his films.
Narrative inquires into the collective consciousness