Saturday, 8 November 2014

'Ambiguity': A short piece of fiction.

As we sat idly looking over the sprawling landscape below us, the late afternoon sun shrouded the entire setting in a golden blanket. The jagged cliffs dispersed into the famous Cornish sea in the distance. Rolling green hills fell away onto the edge of the earth at the bottom of our feet. An aeroplane waltzed across the sky, tracing white messages on a plain summer’s day canvas. 

He continued. “But the unknown is just the unknown. We can't look into the future through crystal balls or flick to the last pages of our lives Jess. The thing that strikes me, is the fact that when exactly do we pay the slightest attention to this all, other than when this vague idea of the unknown traps us?”

“But doesn’t it trap you often?” I leant back against the old wooden bench, drawing my knees up to my chin. “I find it almost impossible to go about life without first understanding the greatest unknown complexities that we, as society, are too complacent, too wound up in our own image, our own lives, our own stories, that we blindfold ourselves to the most obscuring gaps of knowledge.”

“Jesus, Jess.” He paused, lighting a cigarette and inhaling in overwhelming respite. “Here”. He passed it to me, no longer dangling from the corner of his upturned mouth. I inhaled, a mixture of tobacco and oxygen, electric youth and glimmering anxiety. He stood up. “I'm shattered. Mind if I take a kip?” I shook my head, the right side of my mouth slightly upturned. And with that, in a flurry of autumnal streaked hair and lanky limbs, I was left in silence on a rotting bench on the top of a hill in the middle of Cornwall.

I stretched out, allowing the distant muffles of childlike joy filter up from the pathway that snaked up the side of the hill.

Theo stirred, opening his eyes, dazed. “Hey again.” His voice was soft and warm like honey left in the sun. “I’m awake. Again.” He said, emitting a half-awkward, half-genuine laugh. I turned, looking at him. Properly. The shallow of his back against the wood of the bench. His billowing mess of hair alight with the colours of autumn: crunchy underfoot leaves and cinnamon spiced cappuccino. He was the warmth of a blanket, hip flasks of whiskey in winter and the smell of old books. He was Theo. 

"Couldn't sleep?" I smiled.

“No. I remembered something." He delved leant under the bench and retrieved his rucksack. He pulled on the drawstrings and opened it up, swiftly delving his hand inside. "Ah. Here you go.” He handed me a coffee-coloured paper bag, creased around the edges. “I have a feeling it will interest you”. He rolled his shoulders back, smiled, and then closed his eyes. Still with his eyes closed, he said goodnight and drifted back off to sleep.

I slid out a book from its confinements.

The title had worn away. The only visible letter was ‘U’. Me. I had no idea what it contained. But that was the unknown. And I liked that. The binding, cracked and sunlight-worn, left pages loose: simply a faded jacket piecing them together.

I wanted to know its story. Why it was in this condition. Who had loved it, read it cover to cover as a salvage of terror: a method of escapism, a parallel reality. Who had folded the corners down with a heavy heart as their name was called, forcing them to abandon their only comfort.

Yet it was not the book itself, in its ambiguity or well-loved state that truly entranced me. It was the old 35mm film photo that had slipped through my fingers as I thumbed through its pages. A bookmark, I guess you could say. Submerged between pages 278 and 279. Two pages, flimsy with old age and stained with love. I was captivated by its mundane simplicity: an old chair in a light drenched room. This glittering light fell through the windows in glass panes of six, draping the chair in lost emotions and light cloaked secrets.

The 6x4 rectangle held in my hands was taken for a purpose. That was clear. Looking at this restricted segment of a room, the unknown consumed me. I became the camera, with my lens cap placed back on once my duty subsided: never allowed a glimpse outside of my particular viewpoint.

The room to me was a place of secret nostalgia. A place to sit and revel in happier times, lost hours and forgotten promises. The bareness of it all was a simple comfort blanket: the simplest objects providing the most profound emotions beneath a clouded web of memories.

I could imagine the light switched off as the sun gracefully dipped below the equator, leaving smudges of pink and amber tumbling in disorganised passion from heaven. I could imagine this exact sight glimmering through the window comforting the one in the chair, the sunset their only constant companion.

I could imagine brash floorboards and wonky bookcases: large cups of tea and frosty window panes. It was all there, the imagery and associations, but for some unknown reason, mystified by a heavy webbing of familiarity.

The happy screams of children playing, the call for dinner and the slow ticking of a clock echoed in my head: a mixture of sleep deprived imagination and warped reality.

I wanted to find a hidden riddle: something that made my dreamy associations a true reality. A date. A word. A marking. Anything that would organise these chaotic thoughts into some kind of coherency.

Fragile in my hands, I turned it over.

I looked down. 

And then I saw it.

Electricity cursed through my veins, coating each cell and nerve ending in a wild sense of familiarity.

Because, scrawled in a cursive, childlike manner, were 26 characters.


15th June 1996. 

Remember? 

Theo x 

A highlight reel of long, hazy summers; glimpses of autumn and cascades of genuine laughter played back in my mind. Theo, I knew, was part of me. He did not really exist. A character made up in my head. My imaginary friend from childhood. A subconscious part of me used in situations to guide me into the unknown. 

Jesus.

Every, single, time. I felt the truth and compassion for my own childhood return, momentarily. In a train of thought departing so suddenly, only for me to return to the next time I was lost.

Because that is the truth. The book was beside me all along. I make up scenarios in my head. Theo does not exist. He is me, but not me. My own writing is cursive and childlike. They always said that I could never escape the past.

As my thoughts collided in truth, I shoved my hands into my pockets, overwhelmed with awareness at my vulnerability in the expanse of the unknown. Yet my hands did not touch on material. I felt paper. A folded note of some sorts.

Sliding it out, unfolding it, and letting the handwritten squiggles of ink blossom into letters and then into words, confirmation confronted me. The note read:


Name: Eleanor May 


Condition: Retrograde Amnesia 



Progress: Minor. 



Doctor: Dr Abernathy. 



Next Appointment: 12th January 2001. 

Today was the 11th January 2001. I had one day. One day to salvage my memories; to grasp on tightly like a child on their first rollercoaster. 

To prove to myself, that I will not let the constant ambiguity of life to consume me. To prove that I can defeat my burden of ambiguity. To prove that ambiguity is not a burden at all.


***





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