Monday Project: An agent of change

Audrey was alone, but sleepy and warm. She moved her lips over her gums, getting used to their fleshiness, sans dentures. She remembered, suddenly, having watched her own grandmother do the same thing.

She pulled the blanket up under her chin, neatly folded the top sheet over it so it wouldn’t tickle her, and closed her eyes. The darkness behind her eyelids was heavy, and her bones seemed to sink deeper into the mattress. A deeper heaviness than sleep. But she wasn’t ready for this yet. She wasn’t ready for this change, and so she fought it like she had every night for the last three months.

With her eyes still closed she drew her attention around the room she was lying in — her room, she had to keep reminding herself — repeating a journey she’d made physically many times that day, and for many days before that.

On her day trips around the room, she would touch the trinkets she’d brought with her to this place when she’d moved out of her last home, trying to recall the story behind each of them. Some days she would remember; some days not. Some days seeing a particular object in this place would bring to her an image of it elsewhere — an old house, the hands of one of her children, the store in which she’d bought it. At times she was not sure how many of these trips she made in one day. She’d look back around the room, trying to match the small new memories — a fingerprint in some dust, the way the light fell on a picture of her husband — with what she saw now. But she could never be sure if those memories belonged to another day, or to half an hour ago.

When she made the trip in her mind’s eye, warding off sleep and that bone-heaviness, it was like all the day trips became one. She saw each object a thousand times. The memories — old, new, real, invented — crowded inside her head, keeping her awake for what was probably hours. She floated around the room, and through the many years of her life, until she eventually went towards sleep.

Tonight, however, the heaviness loomed. It sat at the edge of every memory, cast a shadow on every object, every photo in the room. For the first time, the room in Audrey’s mind felt small, and she found herself wanting to go elsewhere. Not to escape the heaviness, rather to find a way to let it in.

For a moment she thought of all the faces looking down at her from the frames on the walls, and how what she was about to do would change them. She hoped they were ready.

~

This is my response to this month’s Monday Project theme. There’s been a bit of delay this month, but we should have the other responses up later today, along with the new monthly theme.

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The Doll

She is just a little bit broken, the forgotten doll on the shelf whose arm is starting to tear off at the seam. Just a few stitches have broken now but, with time, it could easily be the whole arm. She still smiles, mostly blankly, but underneath all the intricate face paint she is terrified of losing her limb. After all, she thinks, it always starts with the arm, and who knows which body part might come next?

Things started to go awry the day she was put on the shelf and left behind. The day was otherwise just like any other; the sun rose, the birds cheeped, some clouds passed over, games were played, imaginary tea was drunk from tiny plastic teacups, dinner was eaten, baths were had, bedtime stories were told. But instead of her usual place on the pillow, the doll was placed carefully on the shelf high above the floor.

That first night she hardly slept at all. She missed the child’s warm breath brushing lightly across the top of her wooden cheek. She could hear the breathing in the dark but it was so faint. For the first time, a tear came to her wooden eye.

For years she sat on the shelf, made stationary and silent by the fear of losing her limbs. After many years no more of the stitches have broken but the doll’s surroundings have changed and her wooden face has aged.

No longer does she sit, lump in her throat, in a child’s bright bedroom. Instead of colourful posters on the walls there is dull mould and damp rot. The floorboards have mostly disappeared to reveal a dark pond of uncertain space. No longer does a door hang in the frame. Curtains still hang about the large windows but they are littered with holes from visits by moths; the light that comes through is mottled and gives the room the appearance of a shadowy underwater cavern. Through the cavern, like the rise and fall of the ocean, echoes the faint memory of the child’s sleeping breath.

The paint on her face is faded and patchy, her hair has mostly rotted away, and what is left is covered in a crown of furry mould. She is the only toy in the cavern and she still sits high above the floor; the sad, reluctant queen of the forgotten room.