Note, the unusual nature of the first and third chapters, aimed at giving voice to Sam and his condition, does not necessarily reflect the way the rest of this book is written…
Chimera – Chapter 3
:: bumps, battles ‘nd bruises – cease your bleating oversized lump – is that all you can do, moan and groan – whinger – is it not enough that my stomach growls and my ears roar and my head throbs and my lips smart and my hands sting – wise the fool that keeps his eyes closed in the dark – I sniff – the air smells of shelves upon shelves of dusty books and candles long snuffed out and the Persian rug that covers my sofa at home – how did I get here – pianissimo dad plays piano – despite muted fingers the music is sharp and cutting to my ears – unpredictable rhythms trouble me – deep inside a sigh surges, inundating me with nostalgia and delight – HER! – how could I have forgotten – she followed me home – she wheedled her way into my house – her joy at the music has me doubting – I sense centuries of misty memories spreading before me like so many winding paths coaxing me to step back in time – get out intruder – this is my body – I don’t want your memories – leave me in peace – I fling myself to the floor – lashing out, my fists connect with the sofa – I cry out in pain
“Stop that Sam!” Dad orders.
:: firm hands nail my arms to the carpet – I buck up with my hips and writhe like a serpent struggling to slither free – it is not me, it is her – get her out of me – I want to scream, but only inarticulate grunts and groans issue from my mouth – when a hand covers my mouth I bite hard tasting blood – dad screams and slaps me knocking my head sideways – I cease struggling – my limbs rigid – never has he hit me – I cry – it is unjust – it is not me – it is her – please dad, take her away
“Oh Sam,” Dad says and sobs.
:: my eyes fly open at the unfamiliar sound – I stare into his face only inches from mine – tears roll between the folds of his skin, disappear into his beard then fall onto my cheeks mingling with my own – his mouth opens in short gasps – terror grips me – is he going to flicker out and pass away – did I do this to him? – do not leave me dad – I love you – he leans forward, pressing his lips lightly on my forehead – my whole body heaves – she too is grieving – all of us are – and through the mists I see the lifeless bodies of children old and young carried away by an immense wave
“I’m so sorry, Sam,” Dad says wiping the tears from my face. He leans back against the sofa. “I didn’t mean to…” Fresh tears flow. “It’s been too much.” He brushes them angrily from his face. “I wish your mother were here. She was so good in a crisis.”
:: mother – an unfathomable word – a dark hole in my being from which only absence makes itself felt – I peer in from time to time – the emptiness makes my head spin – I wonder what would happen if I threw myself in – other kids have mothers – people who bring them to school – people who fetch them afterwards – but who hardly ever take them in their arms
“I have never talked about her, Sam. It is not safe. What she did could get us in trouble, but I think you should know what a wonderful person she was.”
:: the girl is on the move again – she has stopped crying and I sense her shifting forward, greedy for dad’s words – he is not your dad – she backs away retreating into a distant corner of my mind – you cannot hide from me – I know you are there – get out and leave me alone
“You won’t remember the Disaster, Sam. It was shortly after you were born. You and I were lucky, this part of town was spared the illness. There were few vigilantes bent on ridding us of the infected. Your mother wanted to tend the ill. It was her calling. She would have saved many lives had they let her. Healing was not yet illegal, but it was getting more and more dangerous to do. People were so frightened. They hunted down anyone in contact with the ill. Despite the dangers, she insisted on visiting parts of town where many were dying. She was such a lovely person. She would never have hurt anyone. All she wanted was to help the sick and for that they shot her in the back…”
:: dad breaks off and begins crying again – his tears are greeted by a thoughtful silence – the girl has ceased her round, her grief abated – I hold my breath trying to still my twitching fingers – the whole world hangs suspended, waiting to see what comes next – ring softly ring – someone is at the front door downstairs – dad looks up wide-eyed
“That can’t be them,” he says. “They wouldn’t ring. They’d kick down the door.”
:: he scrambles to his feet and, tugging at his beard, hurries to the window – hiding behind the frame, he looks out – he mutters a word I don’t understand, then rushes to the door and is swallowed by the stairwell – I crawl behind the sofa and peer out, afraid of what he will bring back – I hear him on the stairs – he’s not alone – then he hurries in closely followed by Nan, her breath coming hard – she pushes the door shut, making sure it is locked