Did he have any premonition that on this day he would disappear from his own life?
He opens his eyes and knows instantly that something is terribly wrong. He senses it through his skin, his nerves, his synapses, even though, spread-eagled on his back, all he can see is the frosted light fitting on his bedroom ceiling. The room is white, violently bright and he knows that it is a sunny day and he forgot to close the curtains. Just as he knows from the belt cutting into his side, the denim fabric against his legs, the clammy cotton sticking to his chest, that he slept in his clothes. Arching his foot and finding it weighed down, he lifts his head just high enough to see that he even failed to take off his shoes. And then, slowly, his eyes focus beyond his mud-caked trainers and begin to take in the rest of the room. For a moment he holds his breath, convinced he must still be dreaming. Then, with a gasp of horror, he snaps upright as if from a nightmare.
The walls around him immediately begin to sway, colours bleeding together, fraying at the edges. He screws his eyes tight shut and then opens them again, hoping not just to clear his head but rid himself of the vision – the chaos of his wrecked bedroom around him. But sunlight is pouring in through the windows, illuminating the anarchy of his usually immaculate surroundings. Fractured furniture, crippled objects, torn clothes and smashed glass are all that remain. The room looks like a scene from a crime show. The breath is wrung from his lungs by the harsh and ugly landscape that surrounds him. Things are beginning to take on a particularly tactile, vivid, saturated look. He puts his hand to his mouth and tears at a cuticle, then just stares at it all, stuck like a record with no more play.
Beyond the windows, the day is still. The branches of the trees don’t move; the sky a deep, impossible blue. The sun appears to blaze brighter for a few seconds. He seems to be in some kind of trance, staring around him with a kind of guardedness, a horrified fascination. From the wall hangs a brutally twisted iron picture frame, like something salvaged from a medieval castle. On his desk, pieces of a smashed mug catch and reflect the late morning light like scraps of glass, adrift in a pool of coffee, its surface skimmed with oily iridescence. Spread out beneath his bookshelves is a tapestry of splayed books, pages ripped from their spines and scattered like leaves. Broken sports trophies, splintered and ragged, lie nearby like the contents of a suitcase lost at sea. There isn’t a single surface or stretch of carpet that isn’t covered with the flotsam and jetsam of the night.
He slowly slides himself down to the end of the bed and levers himself to his feet, a time-consuming manoeuvre which requires great orchestration and willpower. His muscles are stiff and sore and unyielding. A sharp scorch of pain rips through his leg – he looks down to find that his jeans have a tear just above his left knee, threads darkened with blood sticking to his skin. Prickles down his arms reveal a multitude of scrapes and scratches. Pain corrodes his body – his head, his neck, all the way down his spine and into the backs of his legs. His ears fill up with water and he focuses on the humming in his skull, the maelstrom in his head. Below him, his body hovers, unattached. Then all of a sudden the breath is kicked out of him and he is shoved onto the cold hard concrete floor of his life.
His first thought goes to his brother. He wrenches open his bedroom door, skids across the marble landing, and stands in the doorway of the adjacent bedroom staring at the perfectly made bed, vacuum paths still fresh on the carpet. He continues through to the other rooms, the empty, hollow house seeming suddenly sinister and ghostly, like a mausoleum. But nothing is out of place, everything is in its usual, immaculate state. The front door, the back door, the windows – all locked. No sign of anything missing - stolen. No sign of forced entry.
Back in his room it is as if he is looking through a shattered windscreen. His mind is running on several planes. Everything he sees seems freighted with significance but he cannot put the pieces together to create a comprehensible whole. His mind races back to the previous night and chases it, failing scenes stuttering, disappearing. Memories pull and bend, mixing and blending like watercolours on an abstract canvas. He is on a carnival ride, being sucked to the wall, glimpsing faces, colours, lights. His life is disintegrating, bits and pieces of it flying off into the dark. His mind hits the self preservation button and turns blank, like a ream of unmarked paper. He lays out the facts with which the room has provided him, side by side, in his head. Nothing of value seems to have been taken, in fact at first glance he can detect nothing missing at all. His desktop, his PlayStation, his laptop – all smashed and twisted beyond repair but present all the same, mashed gruesomely into the carpet. Muddy footprints crisscross the floor but on inspection, perfectly match the soles of his trainers. The windows are locked from the inside.
He takes a step forwards, losing his breath in the ransacked room. Abject horror slides under his skin, borrowing his body without asking: his hands are its hands, and its hands are filled with an otherworldly strength. Fear, like a pinball, bounces against his heart, his head, his throat, until finally settling in his gut, heavy and cold. His chest churns with unspecified, wretched thoughts. He wants to hurt someone for all the hurt he is feeling right now. He wants something that will knock him flat and keep him there until the world goes away.
Slowly, painfully, he begins to pick through the remnants of his belongings, looking for missing items. He avoids his reflection in the mirror but finds himself glancing at it periodically, like a motorist peeking at the gruesome remains of a roadside accident. Suddenly he can take it no more and straightens up to face the stranger before him. He barely recognises himself. Running his fingers through his tangled fair hair, he watches in stupefaction as a small twig and a couple of dead leaves fall at his feet. His face is pinched and bleached – violet staining the skin beneath his eyes. There is a cut on his cheek and dark shadow beneath it. The corner of his mouth is encrusted with blood and what appears to be the beginnings of a bruise blooms purple on his forehead. He looks shocked and thin and insubstantial, his collarbone visible through his cotton sweater, his cuff torn and his jeans streaked with mud.
What the hell happened? Silence fills the room as fragile and intricate as frost; so much silence, refusing to be stirred. His world suddenly appears before him as an unmarked road, where visibility is poor. His headache persists, a heavy pounding that refuses to let go of his temples. Fear fills him like a strong current in the sea, pulling him down, looming in him like a rabid animal, digging its claws into his gut. He feels gun shot and bleeding. Then fear abruptly is replaced by rage, fanning through his veins, his own fury seeming to spike the very air around him. What if he suddenly just goes crazy and starts to scream? It scares him because he feels as if he is about to do it – any second now.
His whole life seems to have been erased by the wreckage and the blinding sun. Whatever it once contained is gone, bleached out. All that remains is himself, and even that seems to be fading in a way that feels almost tragic. He is filled with a deep, black desire to fall to his knees and weep. It’s as if he knows that he will never recover; that from now on he will have the monopoly on grief. He senses himself desperately trying to cling to the person he once was, hanging on with both hands whilst spinning away from the real world.
His life is over . . . His life has just begun.
© Tabitha Suzuma