Hermit :

(Based on a real life premonition.)
On the eve of his parents death Alex sat down at the dining table and poured himself a glass of crystalline red wine. He swirled it around in his mouth before swallowing and grimaced at sour grape-like taste that died on his tongue. Alex had never been much of a drinker ‘but then again’, he admitted to himself ‘I was always going to need some help today’. He shuffled in his seat lethargically to look at the dust-covered picture that hung from the wrought iron fireplace. In his mind he could see the hole that he had made in the sepia photo, burned through by three hundred and sixty five days of wonton staring.
His folks were gone, ridden a car into the great here-after, and deep down he knew he’d have to accept it one of these days, but for Alex the grief had not faded.
Far off in the depths of the oaken rafters a small snap resounded through the whole house. A clock chimed for one in the morning.
Otherwise the house was deathly quiet, and for a young man scarcely out of his teenage years the absence of sound rang louder in his ears than his preferred drum and bass solos. He hadn’t felt like listening to music in a long, long while, or doing anything else for that matter except try and re-order his heat oppressed brain. An entire year had come and gone without Alex ever leaving the family home.
Had Alex been born in any other time this would have been an impossible feat, as the hunter-gatherer instinct would have been his only recourse for daily nutrition but with the introduction of welfare cheques and cooked meals that could be delivered to your doorstep, Alex discovered he could withdraw from the world entirely. He could take up a permanent residence inside his head. Resigning himself to yet another evening of moroseness, Alex slumped down into his fathers old chair and felt for the familiar wrinkles in the leather or perhaps, if he were lucky, a handprint. The tragedy was that Alex had been a very active boy until his loss. How he used to run when his folks were still living. Alex remembered how he was able to for miles, and how proud it made his parents to see that Alex had placed a great deal of his time on fitness. ‘Great work ma boy’ his gruff old dad had said to him, a smile wide on his whiskered face. ‘We’ll make an athlete out of you yet, don-cha-know-it, only don’t forget your pa when you make it big!’
Alex sat up, faster than any movement he had made in the past seven months. This was a waste of life, and it was only now, on the anniversary of his perpetuated misery had he come to realise it. ‘This wasn’t the way his parents wanted him to live’ he had thought, and he intended to put that straight. Alex pulled up his grey tracksuit and headed to the green front door. Stretching out a hand, Alex had begun to notice a few things that struck him as odd. Like how whenever he’d look over at his parent’s photo, he couldn’t see them like he could see himself. In the photo, Alex had seen, a pacemaker suspended a meter and a half in thin air. Just a smallish plastic and metal pump floating in front of a Yorkshire countryside backdrop, and floating above that was a set of wickedly grinning dentures. These were the non-organic parts of his father, that and his mothers’ replacement hip; toward the left side of the picture was all Alex could see of them now. Alex placed a hand on the brass handle, ready to feel the cold night air on his face.
What had also seemed odd was that his memories of their deaths often changed. Sometimes he was sobbing uncontrollably into the sofa, allowing the phone to drop out of his hand when it called upon him to identify the bodies. Other times, he was there, out on the road, watching through a windscreen awash with streaky raindrops.
No. No, that wasn’t right. Sometimes he felt like he wasn’t witnessing two bodies flying over the dashboard, and land crumpling into a broken heap some twenty yards away. Sometimes he felt like he had only seen one. The latch clicked but Alex held the door in place, the full terror of his circumstances gripping at his insides. He took a sharp, quiet breath inward and let the final thought drift through his mind.
And sometimes it felt like he wasn’t moving his legs when he walked around the house, couldn’t remember how and when the delivery man had dropped off the takeaways, and why his internet was always dead.
That word. Had he been on the road that night?
Alex opened the door outward. And saw nothing. An inky black fog as far as he could fathom, was expanding and contracting in every direction. No houses, no cars, no street lamps. All Alex could see was a barren space, as wide as the imagination, and as blank as slate.
Slowly, Alex closed the door on the infinite void and let the memories of the past nine minutes fade out from his mind. Just like always, it was too much to bear. So he forgot. He would always forget. And so for the 8,193,495,194th year in a row, Alex locked his front door, and walked back into purgatory.


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