You sit alone in your armchair, waiting. I’m hiding in the darkest corner of the room as you rest in silence, unaware that I’m staring at you. From the viewpoint of anyone passing by it would appear as though you’re quite content. But from my all seeing eyes, I know you’re riddled with uncomfortable thoughts, and your mind is unable to find the off switch you desperately seek.
The years have trickled through your fingers and you wonder how on earth you became so terribly old. Even to the newly retired generation you’re classed as very old. Sometimes you struggle to remember exactly how old you are. You’ve lived alone for the past few years and your family visits you once a week. Soon, they will come again. To check you’re okay. To check you’re still alive. You have a helper who comes every Monday at noon, but it’s Thursday now and despite the hunger pangs you know your bad leg and stiff back aren’t yet ready to carry your fragile body to the kitchen.
A power cut two hours ago sent your house into darkness whilst you were watching TV. You sit awake in your front room with only the distant glow of an emergency solar streetlight. It acts as a simple compass to denote the direction of the window. You can’t use your stair lift so it’s impossible to get to your bedroom, or climb into bed, during the blackout. You dread waking up in the night when your arthritic joints begin to scream for relief, and in some ways you’re thankful for an evening without your endless grooming rituals. In a dire emergency, you know you can always call on the couple next door for help. You’ve nothing else to do but sit and wait until the lamp or the TV flashes back into action. As you sit patiently in your armchair, with time hopelessly passing by, your imagination is your only source of entertainment. You begin to patch together your most memorable days during each year of your life. This proves to be both distracting and relaxing. You hit a snag when you remember the most regretful time of your life, but then you quickly refocus your attention on the good old days, flipping through your scrapbook of memories, until the smile on your face reappears.
You stop short when you notice my presence in the room. Your eyes remain closed. You’ve already guessed the identity of my unique existence looming toward you from the shadows.
‘It’s you, isn’t it?’ You utter your first words in three days.
‘Yes; I answer in a flat and emotionless voice. ‘This is the end:
‘I’ve been wondering when you’d come: Your breathing slows and you sink further into your armchair. ‘I’m ready. I am. I really am.’
‘You are not ready:
‘What do you mean I’m not ready?’
At first I’m silent and take no action. Then I force the pages of your memory scrapbook to start turning once again, but now it only contains my biased account of your lifelong regrets and sorrows. I hit you with a barrage of grim moments from your life. You understand perfectly because you’re fluent in your own melancholy.
You start to breathe faster and it’s clear that what I’ve shown you has evoked an emotional response. Anxiety begins to take hold and your face tightens, pumped with blood and pressure. A cyclone in your mind catches the pages of the scrapbook, turning them over, wildly out of control.
‘But I thought this was the end for me. You said my time ends here!’
‘This is the end and your path ends here, although your time is not yet up.’
You begin to notice an eerie ticking sound that’s unfamiliar to you. Tock, tick, tock tick. It sounds backwards, but you’re confused as to whether it’s just your clouded interpretation. It speeds up and becomes a banging that reverberates through your skull. You feel like you’re upside down and your feet are bent backwards around your head. You become dizzy like in the last few moments of consciousness before an anaesthetic takes hold.
I scoop up your dying existence in my makeshift hands, but instead of sending you upwards or downwards, I catapult you backwards, sending you hurtling through the air and as far away from me as possible. You travel at incredible speed, developing a warm inner-glow that comforts your bewilderment and begins to peel away your old and dying outer layers.
You experience so many feelings, thoughts and sensations that your mind struggles under the strain and tarts to collapse. You can’t hold on any longer and you let go, sending your consciousness into darkness and your senses into nothingness.
Your mind reawakens and tunes in to the sound of my voice, telling a story about a possible future you. Yet, you are in the here and now, and you’re not old anymore. I’m guessing you feel normal, or possibly even great. Understandably, there’s some confusion as to what it is I’ve done to you, or what it is I’ve done for you.
My story comes to an end and you continue on your beautiful path. We will meet again, many years from now. I will tell a story, perhaps the same story, or maybe a different one. Either way I expect you will welcome me with open arms, a glad heart and-most importantly without regret.