This is the nightmare…narcissistic ramblings lurking forever in some minute corner of the internet, remaining isolated and gathering virtual dust for decades before being dramatically pulled up before me on my death-bed as evidence of a wasted, deluded life…or of having been coerced into being part of some giant internet mega-cult simply by signing up…a huge sea of collective consiousness, churning out constant updates on our everyday lives, perpetuating the cycle until we are one, organic, demented whole, and no matter how much I twist, writhe and scream, I can never be freed…no, probably this will not happen…probably it is just a blog. I like to try and write things…below is a short story of mine, ‘The Same Snowy Day’.
The Same Snowy Day
So how long has it been since I was here?
The falling snow formed a shimmering gauze wall in every direction, and each step taken drove my feet into a thick white cushion. A distant black silhouette through the tumbling blanket, the old stone house that I knew so well stood as a solid monument to the constancy of time.
Not far to my right I could make out the shapes of the two men, ever present in some form. But returning to this house again had not served them well, and they sat despondent in the snow, throwing lumps of it in the air and shouting angrily. Indeed as the sound of these curses reached my ears I realised how youthful they sounded, and by straining my eyes I could see that they were really no more than children now. Small figures rolling around, little mittens hanging from the end of warm jacket arms, initial anger fading to youthful frolicking. Shortly I could discern laughter and a snowball flew towards me.
The old house appeared to be the only discernible landmark in the near vicinity, everything else was consumed by a whirling flurry of white. I thought there had been trees; bare and skeletal, twisted black limbs skewed in contorted shapes, but maybe I was thinking of someplace else, or my thinking had become muddied through the passages. The derelict stone home was buried in parts under a heavy envelope of snow, and through the cyclical torrent of flakes I perceived two faces solemnly staring from a window on the first floor. An old man and woman maintained a silent vigil in spite of the growing cold, and even as I looked the weather intensified to become a blinding wall, pure white blockades rising up to imprison me.
Sometimes I forget the other places and sometimes, after so long, memories blend, expand, contract, warp and become disoriented, but I always remember the first time they came to the front door. It was the same day – really, it always is – and the two of them stood there ashen-faced, mournful expressions lingering distantly, as if it were not them who had rang my doorbell at all, but mere chance that I had opened it expectantly.
Their faces were always curiously unremarkable – even now, after so long, I struggle to recall exact features, and certainly in those early days I could speak to them at length and on leaving their company, be completely unable to recollect their image. In this first instance, it seemed an amalgamation of bland facial characteristics I had seen before on many occasions. Short hair, broad foreheads, slightly deep set eyes, thin lips. Their clothing was black, and resembled everyday casual wear, but seemed a single, whole piece rather than say, individual jeans and sweater. At a glance I could not make out separate items.
are you supposed to be here now?
The man to my left broke the silence and ventured to speak, a tinny, weak, hollow voice that rang, almost vibrated in my ear.
‘I beg you pardon?’
Their morose faces maintained steady, unwavering eye contact, and I felt a palpable, gnawing sense of vulnerability and, like some carried memory, a horrible feeling of regret.
you checked it, why did you come here first?
‘I’m afraid I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.’
you saw because you came here
you never ask us first
Words tumbled monosyllabically from his thin lips and seeing no end to this pointless back and forth I made hasty excuses and slammed the door. Safe on the other side, the wooden body of the door providing a thick barrier, I rested my head against it. There I waited until I was sure they were gone, shaking slightly, and watched as a thin layer of frost spread around my hand still firmly gripping the door handle.
The second time our paths crossed was only three days after that first interaction, as I was wandering aimlessly around town, tossing up going for a coffee to kill a couple of hours. On the direct opposite side of the street to me, weaving in amongst the bustle of pedestrians, I saw the sad, broad-foreheaded faces marching along in tandem. They looked slightly different this time – their clothing was more regular, and seemed to blend into the stream of passers-by. Thick jackets, woolly hats and large boots befitting the weather. It was a mere glimpse of those deep-set eyes, but I knew they were the same. I myself had stopped in my tracks to observe, and as I stared dim-wittedly, I saw one glance in my direction, through the busy line of cars that packed the street, and raise a hand in acknowledgement. I started towards the traffic lights on my side, straining to maintain a view of them, but they were lost amongst the flow of life as quickly as they appeared.
The third time we met, and the last before we began moving, was in a small cafe in town. By now several months had elapsed since that first, fateful knock upon my door. I was hugging a coffee close to myself, secure in a booth in the corner when they strode in, a small bell above the door heralding their arrival. I think by now I barely registered any surprise, just the same dejected feeling, an appropriate response to their miserable faces.
They sidled up and slid into the booth opposite me. Leaning forward, the one seated to the right of me fixed his glassy eyes on mine intently.
they were the wrong words, he said, and for that we apologise. they were the wrong words for that moment. but our work takes us so far.
It was with a jolt that it struck me, for the first time, that their mouths were not moving when they spoke. I was hearing the words but there was no movement.
and i must express haste at this time. you and i know this well; if truth be told, it is not as if you are doing anything important here.
I clenched my coffee cup defensively, but really, I had little argument. I had fostered this notion that I would have so much done, that I would set aside time for projects that I wanted to work on, and that every year I would chalk off which of these I had achieved. But it had amounted to no more than plans, and I had for all intents and purposes been slowly creating this moment for myself rather than doing something tangible. I was sad for the real relationships I had sacrificed, but, well, conversation is just a filter anyway, and you never truly can get to know someone. In another way I could have wasted my life trying and failing to get to know one other person.
you were here first, he said, and you need to take us back.
I looked out the window beside us, and in the vague reflection it cast my eyes looked even more sunken than usual.
It was so much later, so many wasted decades, that I found myself back on the snowy hill overlooking the house. It was the same house – it was more than the same house, it was the house as I held it in my most treasured memories. Through the slow wall of descending snow I could still see my mother and father at the window, their faces cast in equal stillness, their own eyes now deep-set too and eternally searching, but they had clearly long since forgotten what they were looking for, and stared at the mass of snow flakes out of obligation, or some stoic sense of purpose. Their hands clasped the window frame, frost bit at their fingers.
I knew I would be unable to walk any further, and indeed as I raised my left foot a crushing sensation, as if my mass had suddenly quadrupled and I could bear my own weight no longer, overcame me and I was on my knees, pathetically grappling with thick lumps of snow, writhing in frustration. They were beside me in a flash, and they were not children again, at least they were only for a split second, for that second they were me and my own brother as children, chasing each other across the hill, playing cowboys and indians, brandishing imaginary sticks as axes of war. But by the time they laid their arms on me they were those two awful men again, shouting their wordless orders of action, instructing me to take them back to the starting point again, perpetuating this constant cycle of routine, certain that one day we would arrive back at the point where we lost ourselves.