The Writer – Part Three

Read Part Two.
Read the whole thing on ‘The Writings’ page.

The Writer – Part Three
May 2011

Groaning springs greeted Fraser as he lowered himself into the same old armchair in the dayroom the following morning.  Another pill had appeared in his cup that day: small, circular, ever so slightly blue.  The armchair had been moved into a corner, farthest from the other patients, to suffer the punishment of solitude.  The chair faced a small barred window.  Few people came near this corner because it was the darkest part of the room and far from a radiator.  There was a cry from the other side of the dayroom.  Fraser leaned back into the chair and did not smile; it would not do to let the watchers see his relief at being alone.

Fraser nursed the torn cover of his book which had been left on the armchair all night in his absence.  He always took great care when reading not to crease or tear his books – he liked the feeling of putting them back on the shelf seemingly untouched, so that nobody would know he had ever read them.  He passed through their pages undetected, as if he had not existed at all.  The damage inflicted by the schizophrenic unsettled him: it made the book human and flawed.

The commotion on the other side of the room was growing louder – one of the patients, who suffered from delusions of grandeur and wore his gown like a toga, was standing on a table, rocking on the uneven floor and proclaiming loudly and repetitively, “Et tu, Brute?”  The pale schizophrenic was dancing around the table clapping and Fraser looked at his fluttering feet.  Several others looked on nervously.  A burly security guard abandoned the woman he was talking to and propelled his bulk across the floor at a scientifically improbable speed. Fraser called this man The Bumblebee.

The woman who had been standing next to The Bumblebee began to walk towards Fraser.  He did not look at her; his gaze was fixed on the Roman tragedy being enacted upon the unsteady table.  Julius Caesar screamed with such force that Fraser could hardly believe the knives which tore his flesh were imagined.  The Bumblebee, arriving unfeasibly quickly, seized Caesar’s legs and pulled him onto the hard floor, where he lay stunned whilst the pale man stood over him and grew paler.  Another guard – The Bear, for obvious reasons – appeared, to assist The Bumblebee in dragging away the pitiful Caesar, who sobbed quietly at his betrayal.

Fraser ran his finger along the tear again.  The pale man sat on the table and drew his legs up under him, thoughtfully.  A woman’s voice spoke behind Fraser and a cascade of shocks shivered down his spine.  He gripped the book too tightly and the cover ripped a little further.  The voice called to his mind the sounds of bubbling streams and birdsong, of honey being spread stickily onto white bread.

“Mr Thomas,” she said.

She walked around the chair and stood in front of him, her head and shoulders jarringly backlit by squares of light from the little barred window.  The book slid off Fraser’s lap and fell open at her feet, its pages fluttering slightly in a draught.

“Oh my God,” he whispered.

“He won’t help you,” she said.

She was not the same as he remembered her.  Her hair was shorter, her skin a little more brown.  She wore a vertically striped dress and heeled boots, which surprised him – she had never been happy with her height but whenever she wore heels she complained that they pinched.  There were the legs, there the torso, the arms and the face that he had described with his hands.  He pushed himself forward, knelt in front of her and took her hand – so warm!  He turned it over and traced its short lines, remembering the last time he had held it and how cold it had become.  A drop of water fell onto her palm and when he realised it had come from him, he rubbed it away.

“I’m not her,” she said and gently extracted herself from his grasp.

He looked at her and for a moment did not understand; then he lifted his eyebrows and slumped back into the chair.

“Of course,” he said, “It’s that extra pill they gave me.”

“No, it’s not that.  Come on, you know who I am.”

Her forehead gathered in a tense frown.  Fraser bent forward and picked up the dropped book, turned it over in his fingers, put it carefully on his lap.

“Reader, I wrote her,” he said.

The woman who was not quite Naomi smiled, and it hurt Fraser to see it because it was not his wife’s smile.

Read Part Four.

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