Nine minutes to One, part two – Like Her
And as he grew he dreamt of the mountains. Vast ranges of freedom in which his ideas would fly and soar through lake-filled valleys in the high passes, and his heart would beat in a different way, as though the body she fed had no place in those heights.
And as he grew he grew to be like her. Not in everything, but in so many ways. His young self watched and copied, imprinting itself with the rules that led to the smiles, the hugs, the squeals of joy. When he began he knew he was studying what was happening out there, on the clock face, knew that there was something else that wasn’t the studying. But later that faded, and there was just the studying; and the studying became him.
And then he copied much more of her, and at a faster pace, like running, until he could act and–to others–be, as she was. He copied her thinking, her icy drive for what had to be right, her sense of knowing how to reach for the heights…and sometimes…no, often…he copied her anger.
And the sun moved around the clock face, every day the same.
He watched her make things becomes perfect, and he loved what she did, but then she would tear them up, to begin again, ending up exhausted when the latest thing fell short of the taunting chimera in her mind. At such times he couldn’t bear her pain and would walk away, to lose himself in the flowers or climb the little hill nearby that she never seemed to notice, and gaze into the blue sky; and then she would be the most angry and shout for him as she searched. At first, he would run back to her, becoming little again and throwing himself into the arms of her forgiveness; but one day he noticed that there was a special place in the unseen quiet; a place where you could watch dramatic things unfolding but not be them…and in that moment he began to understand fear – not experience it, for that had happened many times – but understand it… and someone laughed, and he turned to find the source of the friendly voice, but there was no-one there, just the blue sky and the sun.
The first time he did this, he found her, hours later, crying in the early afternoon. He watched the small, thick hand of the clock face cover the One and turned to see her holding her head in her hands. He held her then, with his little arms, knowing that where he had been was higher than where she was.
But he loved her… Her loved her so much that he wanted to understand the anger and fix it for her. But he couldn’t do that here… He didn’t understand why, or even if it was right, but it felt right. So he knew he had to be not-here, so that he could find a way to fix it for her, because here couldn’t be where that healing was, and his love wasn’t strong enough to fix her anger.
Then came the day when he climbed his little hill and saw it…
The Sun, his lovely sun, high overhead, began to be two Suns, and something new begins. The new Sun shows him that there are hidden pathways from his little hill to the next place; the place where he might find how to fix what is wrong with she-the-most-warm.
The second Sun glides down in the sky and hovers over a point on the horizon where it kisses the green grass, though he can see that it is far away, as the best horizons appear to be. The second Sun draws a line over the earth, a line that is not on the clock face and leads straight to where he is now; and he begins to see that the clock face is beautiful, but is also a cage. That, in its never ending circle, it sets a pattern for all to follow, but that there are other paths which are not shown on the clock face.
And he begins to dream of another clock face that would look very different to the one in which she lives and to which she has brought him.
And so he leaves; with only what he is wearing and the penknife in his pocket, and the old, yellow rain mac tied around his waist. He walks across this new path, towards this new sun, and he knows he is, finally, going somewhere new… But he is also leaving home, and, though it is quite a new home, he knows no other, apart from the dreams of the mountains.
He walks for a whole day and is very hungry. Eventually he falls asleep under a bright moon, with the things of the night around him, but he is not afraid, and neither is he angry, in fact, deep within, he glimpses a great serenity. Falling asleep, against an old apple tree, he says a prayer as she taught him. The prayer is for her. In it, he holds her and tells her that he is coming home, soon; as soon as he knows how to fix things.
When he woke, as the summer sun was rising, he was cold, but rested.
A small man with intense green eyes was standing over him, and the little yellow mac felt very tight on his shoulders…
©Copyright Stephen Tanham 2016.
Nine Minutes to One is a short story, in 20 episodes, published on Thursdays.