1. A Day of Many Mornings
Sadie, had once been known as the Queen of Elephant and Castle. That area in south London which she had lived all her life. In fact, if truth be told, Sadie had never really got around to going anywhere else. This place was the sun and the moon and the stars to her. It is where she had grown up, watched bombs dropping on her street, and where she believed she would die.
Her routine was always the same. She watched a little of the morning TV until the rude man came on, who shouted at people. Then she would just ‘tut’ and switch the blooming thing off. She would dust a little, then when she was satisfied by what she had done, she’d dress smartly and head into the streets around her home, to buy fresh vegetables and fruit.
In the afternoon, she would have a little nap, then a read, then watch the evening News on TV.
Once the Soaps had finished, she’d whistle a little tune and make her way upstairs. And that was Sadie’s days, and months and years. After her Albert had died, she’d cried, tried drinking but found she didn’t take to it, and finally found salvation in repetition. Then one morning, Sadie came down stairs to find a little girl messing the room up.
“What are you doing here?” Asked Sadie. “Just waiting,” said the girl. “On what?” “On you,” the little girl replied. Every morning, the little girl was there and she had always made a mess. Then a month or so later, the little girl was joined by her family. “Why do they all have to be here,” asked Sadie. And all of them replied, “We’re waiting for you.”
Sadie now found that she dusted and dusted, and because of the mess this little family were making, she was always cleaning up. So much so, that she never got out of the house any more. Each day was just a collection of mornings.
No one came to call on Sadie as she’d never really made any friends after she married Albert. Yet there was a sort of family in her house now, even if they were messy.
She’d make them cups of tea even ‘though she found they never touched the cups or ate the cake she made for them. She would just ‘tut’ and clean up. One day, she told herself, she would make it out of the house and buy food.
That was the way the neighbours found Sadie, the Queen of Elephant and Castle, when she hadn’t been seen for weeks. She was lying dead beside a table laid for guests that were only in her head.
2. THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS
The process started just like it did when I began to lose my hair. I had looked in the mirror one day and there was a freckle on my head that I had not remembered seeing before. It wasn’t that it had suddenly presented itself but that the hair had begun to fall away and expose it. It said ‘things are changing’ but I also remember walking away from the mirror and telling myself I would leave that thought for another time. Yet delay doesn’t keep change at bay, you should know that by now. We should all know that by now.
It was snowing the first time I noticed, really noticed that is. I thought that the reflected light from the outside had somehow diluted my skin and that the usual healthy glow was there to be rediscovered in a warmer light. But alas it wasn’t - the paleness was me.
I sneaked into her room and stole some of the powder that she kept on her bed-side table. It shimmered a rusty brown colour that made my face look as if I were whole again. I was me, once more, and apart from the odd comment about how well I was looking, no one noticed nor cared.
By the second week, my pallor had grown fainter still, so I searched the room for that lotion that gave the glow of a healthy sun tan. This, I spread over all my body, my hands, my feet and my head. Whenever I left the house people would stare at me, and rightly so, it was the cold depth of winter and I looked orange. Better they stare at my orange-ness than what I had become.
There was no sense to any of this but denial does not stop the illness nor does it ward off the disease. This thing wasn’t just happening to me, it had become me. I was defined by it and would soon be known by it.
By the end of the second week I lifted my hand to stop the sun blinding me and it had little effect.
By the middle of week three, I could no longer deny its existence, I was ill and it showed. Friends tried not to stare at it but in the end couldn’t help themselves. As I walked towards some colleagues I heard them mention ‘tracing paper boy’ and I knew immediately they meant me. I had become a joke. If not me, what would have I made of the situation? Would I have wanted to work with a freak? Would I have been his confidant? Or rejected him?
Three days later and I could no longer see my hands, two days after that my arms went the same way. My family tried to make life continue as if everything was normal but I could see the sadness in my brother’s eyes as he watched me disappear.
By the start of week five people would only know me by my shadows.
You cannot see me anymore as I am not there, but once in a while you may catch a movement from the corner of your eye.
bobby stevenson 2015