Parts and Parcels

There is much, much more of this to come and I’m going to try and stick with it this time, instead of writing a beginning and losing faith like I normally do. Many thanks go to the lovely, if slightly perverse denizens of The Choke for their myriad childhood stories involving impossible memories, it was massively appreciated. Benjiva EDIT 13/08/08: Instead of creating a new post for this story every day, I have simply been updating this original post and extending what has been written, as I think serialising this story will confuse both myself, and you also, gentle reader. So don’t accuse me of not writing something every day as promised…I am! I have no idea what this story is about yet. Some sort of Gnostic parable I think. Anyway, keep reading, its going to get good soon.

EDIT 21-aug-2008 This is still a work in progress! Keep checking to read the next installment.

Memories are hitting me in the face like bricks, spraying bitter dust through my hair and raising vicious welts under my eyes. How did I get here?

I can remember… I remember some sort of impact, a sharp pain and immense weight crushing the side of my body. I remember seeing the street from a strange angle, feeling like an insect looking down at the world from the underside of some roof guttering, and then feeling weightlessness as I flew, free from my body for a few brief seconds before hitting the puddled concrete like a collapsing pillar dragging down the temple walls. I remember tasting rainwater, tar, then blood and what felt like death on my tongue. I remember seeing the paint on the house above me, in minute, incredible detail (every crack in the brushwork, each microscopic growth of lichen and mould) for half a second. Then red. Then black. Then white.

There had been some sort of an accident, and I had been hurt. I cannot tell how long I have been asleep for… I cannot tell if I am still asleep. I feel no pain, apart from the dull aching at the back of my eyeballs when I attempt to let some light into my head. Quickly forcing my eyelids open, I brace myself for more stabbing agonies and confusion, but they do not come. I see… I see that I am in a dark room, on a bed, in a hospital ward. The mattress beneath my bare thighs is rubbery to touch, the ever-present antiseptic green and mouthwash pink are easily distinguishable even in this dull gloom. I shiver involuntarily as a draught hits my body, and I notice just how thin I have become; ribs jutting forward out of my chest, arms looking like nothing more than pathetic mechanical offcuts, emaciated pistons for a broken engine. I study my hands; they are clean, and softer than I remember them being. My hands look good.

“Hello?” I call into the room. My voice sounds bizarre; it takes me a couple of seconds to realise why; If I have been asleep for as long as I suspect, I’ve simply become so used to only hearing the voice inside my head, my dream monologues, my everyday commentary. No one replies, but through the window I can hear the drone of traffic (this affirms I am not back in London, thank god. London has its own steady, indeterminable hum all of its own, once heard, never quite forgotten), the swishing of tyres against miles of wet tarmac. Snaking its way through the pounding of rubber on concrete, a melody is being carried on a penny whistle, some sweet flute battling to be heard in the miasma of the urban. I try to sit up, to no avail. My arm is bound on one side, and I cannot feel it. The other arm has a sickening mess of tubes coming out of it, clambering for attention into my veins and being vomited out of a clean slit above my wrist. My finger traces the route of one such pipe to a box with a button on it, labelled ‘morphine’, which I press, and return to a painless, heavy, poppyfield-filled sleep.

This time I dream, and I dream well. I am walking home, whistling, dodging cracked eggshells that spread around my feet, and the clouds of moths that form around my head and then disperse, like starlings massing in the autumn or a shoal of fish confounding a predator. My attention is dragged to a drain that lies a few feet ahead of me, and I watch, transfixed, hypnotised, as a line of ants emerges one by one and begins a harshly synchronised, regimented march down the road towards my home. I find myself unable to do anything but walk in time with them, my heavy footfalls matching their millions of legs striking the soil, which has become soft and lush and green. I am staring at my feet, staring at the disappearing road beneath them, and it is only a matter of seconds before I am outside my door fumbling for my keys like I do every single day. As I push metal through metal and begin to twist this tiny knife, my eye darts to the side and sees a vivid orange splash on the outer wall of my house. A painting has appeared in the past few seconds, the paint is still wet, and it runs along the cracks and drips onto windowsills and awnings. An enormous man (or woman) adorns the entire side of the building, his/her body split down the middle, with snakes stretching either side into the huge gaping hands that govern them. The legs are muscular, sinewy. A gash splits the figures in two, separating and blending the sexes, and this laceration is an appalling, hungry red that… that becomes something else if you tilt your head to one side. I shift my perspective slightly, step back and quickly realise what I thought was a space between the separating bodies is merely a crest on a rooster, and the serpents are feathers, the head an egg. The painting suddenly looks nothing like an androgyne holding two snakes, and I laugh at myself for thinking that it ever did, for not seeing that what I had thought was highly detailed leg muscle is merely reflections falling off of irridescent feathers.  Looking now, It is quite clearly a fowl being born from an egg, fully grown and stretching its wings to a rising sun. Symbols surround the beak that hangs open, and, as I blink I see the double figure once again, before it disappears. Still laughing quietly to myself, I turn back to the front door and fall over a man curled up on the doorstep, asleep at my feet. A breif moment of panic as I feel myself weightless once again, waiting for the agony of impact and the blackout, but it does not come. I merely stumble like a fool, with legs like misshapen paper-clips before landing numbly on my knees next to his head.

The man is old, and his beard is long, woven in plaits and filled with moss and snail shells. As he untangles himself from his foetal position, I see that he is clothed almost entirely in old velvets, a patchwork menagerie of antique fabrics swaddle his form. Looking up at me, he lets loose a thick, heavy cough, and then stands up so quickly I step backwards in fear and surprise. Flies swarm in his eyes, and my view is briefly blanketed by the moths that have returned to dance around my face, billowing inwards and outwards, the dust on their wings falling onto my lips and eyelashes. The man, now standing tall on my doorstep grabs my shoulders firmly, opens his mouth with its cracked lips and gold dust and shouts, screams one word whilst his gaze fixes me to the wall.


I wake up suddenly, and harsh, grey light is pouring through the window onto my bed. My eyes ache with dehydration, and the tangled tubes and wires spilling over my fingertips have numbed my arm, and as the blood returns to my weakened veins, the heat and heaviness slightly sickens me as the word ‘Abraxas’ continues to echo inside my head. Rolling onto my side to get a better view of the room I find myself in, I see a row of beds identical to mine stretching in an unbroken line. They are all empty, apart from mine, and one other.

The boy has his back to me, and is breathing with a low, thin rattle that sounds painful. I watch him turn his body onto its side in a complicated series of shuffles, and pull the over-starched sheets down below his chest, so they fold and wrap and bundle around his waist, covering his small legs and feet. He can’t be any older than ten or eleven. I wonder what is wrong with him, why he would be placed in this empty ward, this empty hospital, with me. Whilst his eyes remain closed, I study him carefully. The boy’s skin is black, a deep, intense, jet black that would look magnificent if it weren’t for the greyish pallor his illness or condition was obviously forcing onto his body. There must be a fascinating story behind his parentage, his family tree must circumnambulate the earth; for his face held traces of many different ethnicities, a global melting pot forced into two eyes, a nose and a mouth. A cough suddenly erupts from the bottom of his lungs, and his chin is thrust upwards while his eyes remain shut. I watch his upper body rack itself and contort in his sleep, and I see that his throat is a startling blueish-violet colour, so clear against the black I momentarily doubt my senses. But no, there it is again; this unlikely hue stains the front of his neck, a solid, bruising streak tracing its way from his chin, down his oesophagus to his clavicle. I feel unkind for staring, and try to distract my eyes from this bizarre marking. I look down toward his feet, and see that one of them is turned inwards at am agonising looking angle, and has many flies busying themselves on it. Another harsh, dry sounding cough, and the boys eyes spring open and fix immediately on mine. I quickly shut them, ashamed, and pretend to be asleep.More hacking and spluttering burns dryly from the child’s pigmented throat, and then the coughing ceases, and the boy returns to his restful, rattling slumber.

I think I have fallen asleep again, I cannot tell for sure. Asleep or not, I am beginning to grow concerned about the numbness in most of my body, the amount of time that has passed since I entered the hospital, who had brought me here and what had happened. If I could move (which I cannot), I would get up, enquire as to what is going on. The morphine has thankfully killed my appetite, and some contraption and another assortment of tubes is apparantly making sure I do not die of thirst (despite my mouth being dry and cracked), but surely soon I will be brought food, water, an explanation? Perhaps I have been forgotten. Perhaps something catastrophic has happened, the outside world is changed completely, and I am alone, with this child, trapped in a sunlit cell. Perhaps only a few hours have passed since the accident, and I am delirious from medication. Or in a coma.

Nonetheless, I look up to see the child sitting crosslegged, his gaze falling onto my frame. I look back at him, and he has none of my foolish shame, he does not look away.

“My name is Chris. I was here when you arrived, and I will be here when you are gone. You have been in that bed, grunting and moaning for a week now. They fixed you. You were a mess.” His tone is alarming frank, his voice high in pitch, innocent and adrogynous as any other child’s.

“What happened to me?” I ask, quietly. My vision is beginning to blur again slightly, the wings of the moths are dancing at the peripheries of my vision.

“You fell.”

“I was… I was asleep. I had so many dreams; I can’t even tell if I’m still dreaming now. This is such a confusing place…I don’t understand why I haven’t seen anybody else, I mean, where are the doctors? Who is tending to me? Who is going to feed me?”

The boy blinks once, slowly. Purposefully. He lifts his hands to his head and teases a finger through his matted, black hair, and smiles at me.

“The staff here have done their job for now. I watched them; they worked solidly for over a day to keep you breathing. They set up the machine to keep you alive and to feed you. They gave you this bed, next to the window, and they gave you the drugs to dull the bruising, to help you sleep.”

I am frustrated, and I start shouting.

“And how long will I have to lie here? How long will I have to go without food for? I need to speak to someone who knows what is going on.”

The child is clearly upset, offended. He uncrosses his legs and turns over to sleep, again flashing me the strange colour on his throat as he lets loose another long run of spluttering coughs. My tirade has exhausted me, and I lie back awkwardly, the opiate numbness and crooked joints causing me difficulty in finding a comfortable position. I hear Chris’s voice escape from beneath the sheet he has pulled over his face.

“You complain about lack of food, and yet are you even hungry?”






About Benjamin Norris

Published writer of short stories, long stories, poems. Well received art critic and cultural commentator for Berlin magazines. Collaborator with operatic societies. Co-writer of fictional historic psycholinguistic journals. Lecturer of architecture and art history at a Budapest University. View all posts by Benjamin Norris

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