In the background, the TV blares its unending stream of commentary on the latest disaster, a voice of despair in a world breaking down around him. Click. Another channel, another disaster. Everything is crumbling, helpless against the inexorable tide of time.
The digital alarm clock beside him starts to beep insistently, a strange siren call as the end fades away in the echo of a groan. Time to replace the batteries before they give out. Else he’ll surely forget to take the cocktail of drugs that keeps his blood thinned and his pressure low and his cholesterol under control and keeps him alive, still alive and breathing and shuffling through this strange twilit world that contains only echoes of the one he sees in his memories.
But he dutifully takes the pills, carefully sorted into compartments of a sterile plastic container and labeled by day and time of day. His daughters, his wife, each of them have taken it in turns to measure out the pills, divide them into the halves and quarters of the latest round of prescribed doses. They’ll be home soon, asking if he’s remembered his meds, asking if he took them at the right time–asking, underneath it all, if he will live to see another day.
Outside the kitchen window, he can see the old mountain bike still chained to the verandah pole. The lock is rusted shut from all the time it’s remained untouched and exposed to the whims of the weather. He’s asked his daughters to buy a bolt cutter and take the lot to the tip, yet it’s still there, all these years later. He’d do it himself, if it didn’t require strength that has long since been sapped away from atrophied muscles. It’s just about the waiting, now. Waiting for others to do what he’s no longer able to.
He settles back into the familiar indentation in the recliner, braces himself for the squeal of the aging spring as the footrest lifts back into place. He closes his eyes, weary from the mental exertion of day-to-day life that once went unnoticed amidst the clamouring plans for his family, plotting out the best schools for his children, the most exciting places to take them on holidays. A family now grown and changed, living their own lives.
He lets the lassitude overtake him, succumbs to the beckoning of sleep that is harder and harder to resist.
And he dreams of his glory days, when the sea was no limit, the sky a challenge to be conquered. He dreams of the world that he once ruled.
This is the third post of Flash Fiction Week VI: Fathers, Mothers, Others, a theme week on Magnificent Nose.
Leanne Yong is an aspiring Aussie author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.