issue four

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(770 words)
         here I am, sitting on a bench, biding my time, getting colder, growing stiffer. It's coming, it's coming, the darkness is coming. Won't be long now, I can feel it. Knocking on the door, waiting, watching. I've never seen this before, never seen me like this before, never known what it was to see me.

From the outside looking in.

And the dark, and the pain, and the swirling, swimming rain, with its fingers scratching and itching my skin and squeezing my soulÂ… my soul.

And my heart? I lost that a long time ago. Sixty years ago. Sixty years ago.

There're guys all around me. We're shuffled onto this bench, hard and austere. It goes on for miles, it doesn't end. Nothing ends, not ever, not really. And here I am, with all the young men. Young men, but oh, they look so old. So tired. So ready.

I'm ready too.

And I'm called into a room and I can't describe it, it's like the biggest corner in the world. It's light and dark, and comfortable, but there're no chairs, no carpets. No walls. It's just, it's just, I don't know. I think it's just me. It's all I am, all I ever was.

And the guy is there. He's in the corner, watching. He's eyes. All eyes. Nothing but eyes. He's watching me, criticising, ticking things off in his fucking book, and I don't know what they are, I don't know what he's thinking.

The bastard's been there all my life.

There's a picture on the wall. The wall's a picture. The picture is moving. It's a moving wall. It's running around me, it's showing, revealing. It's me, there. Me, then. Me. Me.

Just look at me, would you.

I was lovely. Innocent and beautiful. God, I was handsome. A happy man in a happy life. I didn't know what I'd have to know. Didn't know what I'd end up doing. I was a smile. Turned up at one side, down at the other. Like I knew something important you didn't. Cunning little bastard. Look at it. But you can't help liking me, eh? Even if. Even if. Even if I say so myself.

Difficult, this.

And it's in colour. I thought it would be black and white. My memories are. That's all I see these days. My life is in the past, slow motion, staccato. The dialogue is wrong, stilted. No sense of the rhythm of today. Nothing but the past. It's where I live, it's where I am, and there I am and here I go.

And there you go.

You're there too, waiting for me. I knew you would be. Had to be, didn't you? Our lives are linked forever. Funny that. I'll never escape you. Don't even know who you were. Your name, family, nothing. All I see is a face looking up, pleading, crying. Tears, big gobbing tears. I pitied those tearsÂ… and I hated them. Hated the cowardice that made them. Yours, I thought, your cowardice. So many years later, I realised it was mine.

A hand reaching out. Snot. Bubbles sliding from your mouth. The moment of death. The moment I shot you. Hiding, unarmed, your hands in the air. And I was too scared to do anything else. So I fired.

But I couldn't leave you. The noise alerted your comrades and they started to search, so I had to hide, hide in the ditch, with you by my side. Your eyes open, watching me. And I could feel your body chill. I watched you decay, turn grey and green and blue. The Arnhem air, cold and still, steel against my skin, strafing my heart.

And here I am. And here you are. Here we are, together again. Sixty years on. Though we've never been apart. Not for a second since the moment I killed you. You've been my constant companion, looking up with tear-starred eyes, begging for a pity I never felt. You're my guilt, my conscience, the pain that's shaped my life.

And the room is spinning, your image is looming and receding. Growing and shrinking. Colour and black and white. High relief and low. It hurts my eyes. It hurts my soul. I want to close my eyes, but you're still there, etched in my DNA. You always are. Etched in everything I do, I say, I breathe, I feel.

It's over, it's time, I'm ready to go. I'm ready, but not. I want to let go.

I want you to let me go. You've won. After all this time, you've won.

You've beaten me.

So let me go.


M  C  R

This work is copyrighted by the author, Tom Conoboy. All rights reserved.
Sixty Years
Tom Conoboy