Friday, 8 July 2011

Chapter One

The sun creeps through the room and falls on my face, as it always does at this time of the day. It takes in the region of five hours for it to travel the room, give or take a minute here or there depending on the vagaries of our planet's timekeeping. In that time I find myself doing much the same as I do every day. I eat my breakfast while listening to the radio; cereal followed by toast and the single cup of tea I'm allowed to have by my well meaning, but overbearing carer, Ann. I used to watch the morning news shows, followed by the twenty-four hour channels, but I've tired of seeing the same old news time and again. I know now that people never change; we all hate and love each other in equal amounts. All that changes are the objects of our hates and our loves. But it takes time for this lesson to sink in; no matter how clever you think you are. Following my breakfast, if I'm lucky, I stay awake for an hour or two and read a few pages of a book or flick through the screens of a newspaper. I’ll fall asleep for a while, then I have my lunch, usually one of those frozen meals that take less than a minute to cook and which always tastes too salty for my liking. I'll have a glass of water after my meal, and without fail I'll sleep until three o'clock, the time at which the sun will have reached me.

It's not an action packed five hours, and most of the time I'm sleeping, but when you get to my age your body tends to revolve in three-hour cycles and all you can do is try to enjoy things while you’re awake (or at least you pretend to for the sake of people, in my case Ann). When I was younger I never really appreciated how much old people must have hated being old. I always looked on them as being supplicants to their age, as if they had always been old, had been born that way. The reality of this age is a different story altogether and explains my inclination to ask God to send a runaway truck through my living room, or for a stray asteroid to come calling in the middle of the night.

But now the sun has reached me I know Ann will only be here for a few more hours before she heads home to her family. It's when she's gone, and so has the sun, that sleep, the irritating bastard, escapes me. Ann will have left a ham roll in the fridge for me and I'll pick it up on my way back from the toilet, remembering to clean my hands in that light cleansing box that is de rigueur for us all nowadays. I remember when soap and water did the trick, but now it's all photons and particles, though as I told Ann one day after the paper I used to wipe myself gave way, "It'll take more than a forty-watt bulb to get yesterday's food out of my nails." I laughed and expected her to join in, but she didn't, and I remembered that she wouldn't have known what a forty-watt bulb was, she being the age that she is.

Once the sun has set, and Ann has swiped her card in the entry port, locking me in for the night, I'm left with only the television for company. Sometimes I'll find a good 3D film to watch, or if I'm lucky one of the Touch and Feel porno channels will be unlocked, and I can enjoy the sensation of an eighteen-year-old calling me "Big Boy" and smothering me with her self-inflating breasts. But usually I turn the television off, fill my whisky glass to the brim and begin drinking until I fall asleep or pass out. Either way Ann will wake me in the morning and mop up the sticky puddle of whisky on the floor. In the beginning, when she first became my carer, she would suggest, in the friendly way carers think work with people like me, that I should try and get to bed in the evening, or at least make for the sofa if I felt sleep coming on, but after a while she stopped and now she only asks me to put my glass away before I lose consciousness. I try to do this whenever I can. It makes for a better way to start the day not having Ann kneel like some worshipper praising the floor about my feet. I admit, though, I only manage to put the glass on the wooden table beside my chair once in a very long while.

It was through my drinking that Ann came to know all about me, and my past. She would ask every so often why it was I drank so much, and for months I palmed her off with flimsy excuses, the kind that tells the asker not to probe too much. But no matter what I told her, or how crudely I spoke, she never flinched in asking me the same question until it became a daily ritual that I rebuffed with increasingly benign replies. Because I'm bored. I'm expecting someone. I had a party. I have to give her credit because sometimes my answers weren't particularly pleasant, and were designed to inflict as much hurt to her as I could achieve, given that as a man of ninety-eight years my days of physical violence are long gone. Not that physical violence was ever my forte.

Eventually the day arrived when I couldn’t find the energy to drawl another lie. I was coming around from a nap at more or less this very same time of day that I’m talking to you now, and I was greeted to the sight of Ann, sitting on the two-seat sofa opposite my chair, looking at me with her saucer shaped eyes, which were a touch more pensive and sensitive than usual. Apparently I’d been talking in my sleep, and what I’d said had made for shocking listening. Or at least it had for Ann. I guess, until that day, she’d had me sketched in as being a cantankerous old man at the end of his days intent on being grouchy, as that was all that was left for him to be, having run through the gamut of son, boy, teenager, lover, husband, father and grandfather. While that description is partly true, my life has run to adjectives beyond the ken of most people, and so it was that I looked hard into her eyes and asked her if she wanted to know the truth, because once I started she might not like what I had to tell her, that the man she thought I was would cease to be. She didn’t say a word. She simply nodded her head in a fashion I’d seen many times before, a reluctant acquiescence to a single choice I’d offered some poor soul who’d happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kindness, to both herself and myself, would have seen me crack a joke, tell another lie and make up a story to get us both of the hook, but I’d come to see Ann as deserving of the most precious thing I had left in my possession. Trust. And so it was I began to tell her the truth about myself. I spoke to her of Michael, Lina, Daniel and Claire. I told her about SethCo and Brager. I told her everything. And now I’ll tell you everything, and I’ll see if you are as trustworthy as Ann, or if you are simply another Michael.

Download PDF version of Chapter One from Google Docs

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