You’ve stood up too fast, you know that. But you’ve taken a moment to steady yourself and gather your thoughts. You’re 80, you’re in the bedroom. You look around and say, “This is a dead man’s room.”
Books piled high reaching toward the ceiling. A made, unmade bed; creases indicating where you’ve sat. Furniture with torn-stretched shrink-wrap still clinging to the knobs. DVDs you’ve never watched. You know you never will, you don’t bother with the DVD player. You look at the curtains and they’re drawn and you say again, “This is a dead man’s room.”
Anxiety works its way around your body. You sip water. You sip more water, you feel it swilling around your gut refusing to assimilate with the body. Each sip should be a medicine, saturating the anxiety, but it sits there and asks you, Am I helping? It’s not helping. You know that. You know that this advice to drink lots of water, stay hydrated; it’s bullshit. You think about “the frightened position”.
You draw the curtains and wonder if it’ll help. A sip of water. If you assume “the frightened position” now, you may never wake. You remember trying to articulate the position to Leo, to Zelda, Helga, Michaela, and you see the eyes rolled back and forth; a rolling eye wave they share that taunts you, ignites the anxiety and the shame, and the anger, and then all you can do is let out a grown, a childish whimper, the same that all four of them croaked in their formative years, when you scoffed, when you sat there and patted knees and said, “C’mon, Leo, head’s up or lights out.” You said it to them all. “The frightened position” is the only way you can articulate the fear: to lie down, head upon the bed sheet, well you’re closer to death than you are standing up. You’re 80. If you sleep, you may forevermore. You’re thinking all this and reading the spines of books piled high, books you’ll never read because the Le Carres have all been read.
Sunlight flashes once. Shocks the room. A sip of water. You’re 80. The sunlight flashes again, maintains a glow, it sets upon your gut and you want to hate it but somehow, it reminds you of the park, of Leo and Zelda, Helga, Michaela. It reminds you of your wife, long gone. She was a park person, a person of sunlight. And that shines through your children. Sunlight was her gift. You’ve got the eye-rolling genes. That doesn’t matter now. What a wonderful grace there is in sunlight. Sunlight, like life in general, tempers. Curtains are nothing. You’re 80.
You assume “the frightened position” but you don’t feel frightened. You lose yourself in thought. You think of sunlight. You sleep. You sleep. You sleep. You never wake up. You never wake up. You never wake. You never. You ever. You did. You dream. This is a dead man’s room.
About the Contributor
East Londoner Sean Preston is the editor of short fiction magazine Open Pen, considered “unpretentious, edgy, and utterly readable,” by author and broadcaster N Quentin Woolf. Sean is an ex-pro wrestler, Dockland aficionado, full-time thing-maker in the world of music, and short fiction writer, obviously.
The Tragedy of Fidel Castro - Joao Cerqueira
Cerqueira's story, a satirical reimagining of the nuclear lives of God, Jesus, JFK and Fidel Castro is at its best when it reminds us that the world in which it exists teeters on imminent destruction; loss in the absolute. The absurdist narrative is playful, smirk-worthy, but at the same time utterly serious in its message of what is truly lost in the battle between good and evil, Capitalism and Communism. No ideology can die, but the collateral is so dire, it loses none of its impact in what is, otherwise, a bizarre fantasy. It’s everything that a satire should be, honest, brutal, and relevant.
More from Issue Six:
- Give Sorrow Words by Anna Vaught
- Pull me in by Melissa Fu
- Variations on Girl with a Red Balloon by Tessa Torgeson
- Written in Advance by Nathan Fidler
- Mrs Fox by Marian Womack
- Tomorrow by Vivienne Burgess
- The Kulaks Of Chelsea by Tadhg Muller
- Some Kind Of Happiness by Heidi James
- Dust Covers and Margins by Jennie E. Owen
- Sitting, Standing, Mending by Alison Jean Lester
- Ghosts by Catherine Mitchell
- And I was filled with such delight by Catherine Edmunds