A short story.
The little gravel stones made crushing noises under his shoes. His eyes were like small, dark lines in his face. It was almost mysterious, the light that was falling through the leaves of the trees. It made little islands of light in a sea of shadows. It was beautiful. The light of the early April sun rayed wonderfully on the people walking on this street. As if it was saying; ‘don’t worry, I will keep you from any harm’. Like warm rays of love send from the sky.
It turned on and off as he walked under the big trees on Saint Simon Avenue. It was radiant. The whole atmosphere that is. Everything seem to come back to life after the paralyzing cold of the winter month. Even the people seem to be more cheerful. More joyful than before.
The beauty of this avenue was that it took you back in time. A hundred and fifty years back in time. The shops, the homes, businesses and a grocery store, they all didn’t appear as being made by men. It was the organic shapes, the incredible fine details and unexpected lines and curves in the architecture, gave you the impression that all these buildings were made by nature self. The streets were made with the small, dark grey, square stones which would give a classy, high heeled lady some serious trouble walking. Around every tree base you could find those typical iron fences, not higher than one and a half foot. In his eyes, it was just perfect. Nature and men’s labour together in harmony. A cooperation so divine that it could happen only once every two or three hundred years.
He never came here while being in a hurry. And if he was, he made sure to un-hurry as soon as, or even before he would enter this avenue. He just loved this street. It never could disappoint him. To see everything again. The houses, the shops, the trees and the little islands of light in the sea of shadows.
At the square, last year they planted a field of lilies which he really enjoyed, he stopped for a while. This was his favourite spot; Lily Square. The square was originally named after some doctor; Doctor A. Handersson. Who became famous for finding a cure for some sort of serious brain disease. But because he never knew this doctor or the famous cure and he loved the colour and the smell of the lilies, he called this square; Lily Square. He really loved this place. Especially now. Last year, the city council finally decided that it was prohibited for any motorized vehicle to enter the avenue. Cars, motors and mopeds were all forbidden to come her which made this place even more peaceful than before.
At first there was some serious protest, mostly from the people which had some sort of business or had their home here. But the city council expected this and agreed with this party that everyone who needed to use the avenue or square for business or home purpose would receive a pass for entrance.
he would come here in the morning, preferable. Spending his time lying in the grass, looking at the trees and surround himself with hundreds of beautiful, sweet smelling lilies.
At some nights, during summer, when the temperature rose to an unbearable heat, he would sneak out of his apartment, bring a blanket and sleep on the square between the lilies. But this time, although he was early and it was tempting to lie down between the flowers and smell their sweet incense, he crossed the square and went down direction to the harbour. He was on his way to the German bakery, which he found about a month ago. The bakery opened its doors only recently. The owner, Miss Berger, came from the southern part of the island. Her business didn’t do very well there so she took the leap of faith to start over here. And a good choice it was. Already after the first month she had more than enough regular customers.
With a striking beam of April sun, he entered the bakery. Miss Berger greeted him most heartily. He looked and smiled. He never really spoke much and for this, Miss Berger took a special interest in him. Most of the time he would enter the bakery, point at the bread he wanted for that day, pay for it and leave. Not saying a word. For most people this would be considered rude or impolite and it wouldn’t be the first time that someone would start an argument just for the sake of getting him to speak. But for Miss Berger he was just a very sincere man. And she liked people who could be sincere.
So, every time he would enter the shop, she would greet him with a smile and help him without saying a word.
He waited for the woman in front of him to finish and looked at what he was going to take this time. He noticed there were some new items. Something that looked like pretzels but with a different shape and some very delicious looking pastries filled with cream.
Miss Berger smiled at him.
‘Would you like to try them?’ she asked.
‘would you like one of each?’ she asked.
Again he nodded.
‘And the same as before?’ she asked.
‘Yes please.’ He said.
This made Miss Berger look up. This was the first time he spoke to her. She looked at him and smiled. She picked up a piece of floor-bread and wrapped it in paper.
‘That will be seven ninety-five.’ She said.
He gave her the money, accepted the change, smiled and walked out of the bakery back into the April sun.
Five years, it was, since he came from the main land to start his first independent chapter of his life. He had his own apartment, a sufficient monthly income and a reasonable knowledge of the world around him. He came from St. Hillfort, one of the many homes for the mentally disordered. Or ‘lesser gifted youngsters’ as Mr. Brown would say, the janitor of St. Hillfort.
It was awkward to see that the west coast became dominated by these institutions. But apparently it was needed, each one had a full range of potential clients, but perhaps the people were just to paranoid to see that there was absolutely nothing wrong with their children. Perhaps they didn’t want to see that they were being money-milked by just another placebo institution and preferred to stay in their little dream of doing the right thing by sending their loved one to a rehabilitation centre.
For him it was different. He couldn’t remember anyone sending him to St. Hillfort. He had been there since he was two years old and was considered ‘the son of St. Hillfort’. But, although he was an exception to the rest of the inmates, as his room-master used to call the youngsters, he, just like everyone else, followed a full prescription of therapies, received an education and did his share in the chores and responsibilities.
But most of the time he was wondering around the coastline. In his later years, after he turned eighteen, most of the time he was alone. Not because he didn’t have any friends or people had a dislike towards him. No, he just preferred to be alone. He would do the things that were expected of him and would go out for endless walks in the dunes and on the beach. The staff of St. Hillfort couldn’t see any harm in letting him wonder around. By now they knew he had a kind heart, wouldn’t do anyone harm or be a danger to himself. He always came back whenever he was a bit later than usual he explained that he had to see the sun sink in the ocean or that he met a grasshopper that needed to have a chat with him.
That’s why they agreed that perhaps it was time for him to start a life outside the walls of St. Hillfort. For six months they waited to see how things would evolve and see if they had to reconsider the options but it became very clear that he would be just fine. He was a bit ‘slow’ but was very capable of taking care of himself.
It took some time before they found a suitable apartment for him. They hoped to find something somewhere close by but unfortunately, and to their disappointment, the only available apartment, which had to be suitable as well, was on Doily Island in the city of Goldsbury. An old historic city with a famous castle from the rural middle ages.
The staff preferred to keep a friendly eye on him while he would settle down in his new surroundings. Now that they found this apartment on Doily Island they could agree with a nearby cooperative institution that they, every now and then, would go and see how he was doing. Also the room-master, which he favoured, promised to come and see him every three months.
It was a trip he would never forget. As soon as they told him he could live on his own on Doily Island, with his own apartment, he couldn’t sleep anymore from anxiety. He started to read every book available about the island and especially Goldsbury city interested him a great deal. When the big day arrived, together with his room-master, he took the ferry that would bring him to his new home. At first he had some trouble adjusting to his new surroundings, the new sounds and people. but the joy of being independent and having his own apartment soon shaded away his confusion and he settled in just fine.
He started to stroll around and when he discovered the square and Saint Simon Avenue, he immediately fell in love with his new home. Everything was so different here. The streets were amazing, so different from the beaches but nonetheless very exciting. Hundreds of people were passing by each day, busy with their things and going to unknown places. He wondered what those things and places could be. For hours he walked in the streets, on the avenues, watching people and making up stories about the lives of those he passed by.
The only thing the staff was worried about was the fact that he didn’t seem to make any new friends or was willing to make any sort of social life. He wasn’t socially disordered, he was always very friendly with other, but he didn’t seem to be interested in making new contacts. They all knew he wasn’t much of a talker, in fact, he appeared to be the happiest when he didn’t have to say a word and when he was alone. For the major part they were very pleased with the progress he made and his ability to take his place in society. After four years they decided that they would visit him only once a year.
As he entered back into his apartment, he noticed a strange, half familiar smell which made him speed up to the kitchen. Again, the fresh made coffee had burned. As usual he went out much longer than anticipated and forgot completely about the coffee. He always thought that it was a smart thing to do, to make coffee just before he went out. Then, when he would be back, there was a fresh coffee waiting for him. But, unfortunately, it always went wrong. He should know it, he should remember this from all the previous occasions, but he didn’t. This time not only the coffee went dry; the bottom of the coffeepot was completely vanished, gone and burned through.
With an expression of surprise, he tried to understand the possibilities of metal getting burned. To him it seemed an impossibility. Wood burned, paper burned, well, there were many things that could burn, but he never imagined metal to burn.
‘I should have bought a new one while I was out.’ He thought to himself.
He took the burned coffeepot and threw it with its containment, or what was left of it, in the garbage. To make himself a new cup of coffee, he grabbed one of the aluminium cooking pots, pored some water from the tap and put it on the stove. It would be instant coffee this time.
He put the groceries in the fridge and set himself at the kitchen-table and looked what was remained in the grocery bag. To his astonishment he found a pencil. This was very odd. He didn’t buy a pencil and he didn’t remember anyone giving him a pencil as a present. He did remember, though, buying some other things of which he couldn’t remember anymore what it was. This was troubling him. Could this mean that he started to forget certain things?
He knew, that in St. Hillfort, the staff told him he was a little bit “different”, but he couldn’t remember them saying that he was forgetful as well.
‘Or maybe this is what they meant with saying I’m a bit different?’ he thought.
It confused him seriously. What made him so different? Was it because he was forgetful? And if so, why didn’t he remember this? Or was it because he couldn’t remember that he was different and why he always tried so hard to remember something that was already forgotten? But this was troubling him even more! This would mean that he would never know why he was different because he would always forget it. He would always be too late to remember it!
‘This, probably, was why they always had to remind him that he was different.’ He thought.
‘But, why? Why would you remember something that is already forgotten? What is the point in that? Really?’
He took the pencil out of the grocery bag and put it on the kitchen table in front of him.
‘What use is a pencil to me if I don’t know if I bought it or not?’ He thought.
Then a revolutionary idea came to his head.
‘A pencil is made for writing. So why don’t I start to write?’ he thought.
For a short time, he was pondering on whether this idea was really a good idea but, eventually, he thought it was a waste of time to think this over. Probably he would have forgotten the idea again.
He went out again, realizing he still wore his jacket, walked straight to a nearby bookshop to get himself some paper. He didn’t have any paper in his apartment, or much else for that matter, that would be sufficient enough for writing. He strongly believed that it was useless to have something of which you weren’t sure if you were going to use it.
For the first time he came back to his apartment without being welcomed by a peculiar smell of something burned. The water, which he had put on the stove earlier to make his instant coffee, was completely vaporized and the only thing that took his attention was that peculiar smell of aluminium when it gets too hot. But this time he was in time to prevent anything from getting burned. He switched off the stove, forgot all about having a coffee, took of his jacket and set himself at the kitchen table. for some strange reason, which he couldn’t explain if anyone was curious enough to ask him about it, the man bought himself twelve packs of writing paper. Each pack contained a hundred sheets of paper. It gave him a total of twelve hundred blanc pages to write on. He never gave it any thought or doubt whether he, a simple man with no previous desire to write, was going to write a story of twelve hundred pages. He just picked up the pencil, which mysteriously had placed itself in his grocery bag, and started to rub his forehead with it.
‘What was he to write about?’ He thought.
He didn’t have a clue. His head was empty; no thoughts were presenting themselves to him or gave him a slightest inspiration to start the first sentence on paper. It was becoming a wiry moment. The wondering started to create a life on its own, leaving the source of wonder behind. And there, in that moment when wonder becomes isolated from the wonderer, when fantasy start to detach itself from where it first sprouted, the strangest thing happened.
This poor man, who never had the privilege to have something as, what we usually call a talent, something that gives us a respectful place in our demanding society, who was an easy going, a bit reluctant, and simple minded fellow, suddenly fell in a state of most obsessive writing. Out of nothing the words seem to being catapulted out of his pencil. As if finally, this moment could be born, in which this man could release himself from the enormous pressure which restrained him for all those years from giving birth to his wealth of words. Finally it could run free.
In less than 10 minutes the first page was born. A second page, a third, fourth, fifth, and then a first chapter. More than fifty pages were born out of the hands, the imagination of this man who never ever wrote more than a memory note to remind him what he had to buy that day. Now he could not stop writing. There was no intention for taking a break, or even to evaluate what his writing was about, to see if it was any good. He kept on writing and writing. In a hurry the hours passed by, as if they were afraid for not being on time or not doing the day justice. What could they do? The man didn’t seem to care anymore. It was getting dark outside while the man kept moving the mysterious pencil over the paper producing word after word, not conscious anymore of his surrounding world. Every page he wrote he immediately put next to him in a hurry. Every split second of replacing the paper was a disturbance for his writing. The floor with the blue carpet soon became filled with a growing pile of paper.
The night had fallen and still he was as progressive as the moment he started. He didn’t turn on the light, just didn’t crossed his mind to do so. He was absorbed, obsessed by his writing. By now the outdoor sky was pitch black. The only source of light was coming from a lantern on the street next to his apartment that shone its shimmering light through his window.
But the poor man didn’t even notice the darkness. Still the pencil in his hand moved like a heroic knight over the virgin paper, leaving a track of its wildest adventures.
The night passed and a new day made its presence, making sure that it was seen by anyone who was willing to take the effort. Unfortunately, the newborn writer was not one of them. Nothing but the white squares of paper on which he was writing took his notice. With this new morning he forgot all about his morning coffee, his breakfast, brushing his teeth or even to relieve himself. He was out of memorizing anything. His most deepest thoughts, his unconscious self, finally revealed itself and nothing on this world could stop him or pursued him to do otherwise. This was the moment. His moment! This was his time to make a difference in this world where you wouldn’t be noticed unless you were able to deliver something remarkable. There was no one to support him or to help him to find the right way of expressing his feelings and thoughts. He was alone and very busy. He didn’t get up to eat, he relieved himself on the spot as if he had forgotten all about the lavatory.
Days passed by while the pile of paper was growing. By now, it was covering most of the apartment’s floor. Without showing any sign of tiredness, the pencil kept on moving like a fury that finally had broken free. Word after word, sentence after sentence were born directly from the core of their creator. Thoughts after thoughts where materialized on paper. A flower that learned to blossom after many years of being kept in the shadow. It was an unlimited supply of inspiration that directed this man to create an obsessive, borderless desire to produce something that could be understood.
But, did this man himself understand the magnitude of his creation? Was he even conscious of his own ability? His action? Was he in knowledge of his enormous productivity? No one in this big city knew of his existence and yet, here he was doing something that probably would be remembered by all those who set an eye on his work. It just didn’t seem to make itself knowledgeable to the man. His only conviction was now making itself visible with this pencil. A pencil accidentally found in a grocery bag.
You would think that any person living in a city would have someone, some friend or acquaintance, who would pay him a visit every now and then or call to see how this person is doing. Unfortunately, this is an assumption that only the mildly naïve, who most probably did not live in a big city, are able to produce. The disappointing truth is that, not only a big city is just the place to fall into oblivion, the person of which we are talking about was also one of the, what we call outcast of society. Just because this man was a bit different from anyone else. Not only did he live a solitude life, he also was one of the rare people whose only gifted possession of character was his strong ability to be completely forgetful.
Now this man was caught in an act of such obsessive eminence, forgetting all about maintaining the main support of his life and literally forgetting himself in the act of writing. His mind was stripped from anything that could interrupt or disturb the writing. Nothing but words were coming as an indefatigable flood, explaining the unexplainable, showing the unseen, coming from his deepest centre, materialized on paper.
The experience was more than beautiful. Every step he made gave him the feeling he was the hero of that moment. Everyone knew this although no one was near enough to notice him. The briny northern wind made its notice but it felt great. The sand was getting in his mouth and his skin tasted salty. He walked slowly without a clear destination, watching the ocean crushing its enormous waves on the endless sandy shores of the west coast. It was his favourite place to be. Here he was complete, surrounded by the elements, not disturbed by the knowledge that he was supposed to be different from the rest.
‘The rest! The rest!’ it always raised questions for him.
‘What was it, when they spoke of the “rest”? Was it the rest of the world? Or did they mean the inmates who lived together with him at St. Hillfort?’
To him it seemed there was no difference between him and the other inmates. They were all there, he was there, and as they were a part of him, he was a part of them. He stopped asking questions to his room-master or to the shrink or anyone else of the staff. He soon found out that they, too, didn’t know what the right answer was. But here, being absorbed by the light of the setting sun, moved by the force of the wind and carried by the sand of the west coast, here he didn’t have to ask questions. No questions that needed to be answered. Here, there was nothing to think about. Everything just took place and it couldn’t be more perfect.
He narrowed his eyes as the setting sun made him spellbound by its enormous intensity. The orange light absorbing him. Disappearing in a different world, a different reality, he watched the sun make its magical performance. Deep orange light changed to yellow, which slowly disappeared in a velvet violet in which little white sparks were dancing to a non-understandable rhythm.
Slowly he closed his eyes, making the light slip through his eyelashes. The beauty was incomparable. Nothing what so ever, that he had read, learned during those long and boring classes could make him understand what he was seeing now. Perhaps this was the reason for having such tremendous urge to come out here. To make some sort of balance between what people wanted him to learn and what he was experiencing while being in contact with all that is unteachable through words.
He looked back to where he came from. In the distance, he could see St. Hillfort lying hidden between several dunes. Sand, scattered from the top of the dunes made the institution appear to being gorged by an ever-defying mystical mist.
He soon would leave. Leaving for a new place, a new surrounding with a new home. It was unknown to him, where he was going. Het turned back facing the ocean. The sun was set and the wind started to retreat. It was perfect.
Since the first day in his new surroundings, the new city and his new home, he felt, as an explorer would while discovering new territory. Never before he was in such a big city, never before there was so much to see, to learn from, to feel and to experience. So much, he could not talk about. It was almost overwhelming. Only after being convinced that everything would be still there on the next morning he felt the peace to go to bed at night and sleep. Already, after three days and nights of exploring he realized how limited his world was during his stay at St. Hillfort. He felt a bit sorry that all this was there without him knowing it. It made him realize that, most likely, there were many more places such as these which he didn’t know about and where waiting to be discovered and experienced. Why didn’t they tell him about all this? To think of all this made him very confused and anxious.
Now, five years later, he moved around this big city as an independent man, full of information, experience and knowledge. And he kept discovering. Day after day exploring new parts of the city. Parts, of which there were still so many calling him to be found.
Yet still, he was a bit different.
The pile of paper had grown bigger and larger as the weeks past. The apartment had become significantly smelly and dusty. Whoever would decide to enter this apartment would very fast conclude that it must be an abandoned home. Until they stumble on the extremely smelly man surrounded by a big pile of written paper. Not one muscle he moved except for his arm that ferociously kept moving across the paper. All those days he had kept himself writing without consuming any sort of nutrition. His body had become almost totally deprived from its essential fluids, making it appear in a most horrific way to anyone who would catch him in this act of writing. His skin was wrinkled and lost its normal, healthy colour. It had turned dry and started to loose flakes of dead skin. His hair had turned grey and at some parts started to fall out. The man seemed to be slowly losing his bodily form, slowly vaporizing into oblivion. Turning from substance to nothing, from live to death. He was vanishing for was it not that he still kept on writing.
The story was getting to its end. Only two pieces of paper left from the twelve hundred he had bought. The man probably didn’t notice it anymore. The words were still coming with the same speed, the same unstoppable flood, produced out of the most unexpected source. Not even a slightest hesitation or some sort of recognition was given to the fact that he was coming to the last two pages. He just kept producing words, writing them down one after the other. There was nothing else for him to do.
He turned the last page and wrote down the last words that would make an ending to his writing. Twelve weeks of uninterrupted writing. Twelve weeks of producing a creating a story that nobody would ever forget. It was God-given as it was satanic. Heaven and hell bound together with the use of one man. A man who, accidentally, was a little different.
Different or not, this man, who never knew what he needed or what was required to get a desired result, had magically bought an exact amount of paper that was needed for his writing. The whole story was set on twelve hundred pages without any mistake. Not a word had been wasted, not one piece of paper had been lost. The whole story was written and conducted in a most perfect and admirable way. Grammatically and literally.
As he proceeded to the last page, the clock on the kitchen wall struck the hour of twelve o’clock. He wrote down his last words, the last sentences to his enormous story:
… ‘As the little girl started to learn, the experiences of growing up where not only a given knowledge. More important perhaps, it was a celebration of youth. The celebration of youth!’
The pencil came down on the paper to end the last sentence with a dot. It touched the paper, left the ink on the chosen spot to produce the dot, came back up from the paper and immediately fell from the man’s hand on the paper. There was a slight hesitation in the man. As if at that moment, he finally realized what he had done. It was over.
The head of the man followed the pencil. Slowly it moved forward and lowered itself until the head rested on the last page he wrote while seated at the kitchen table. His eyes were wide open and very clear. No sadness, no sign of disappointment. He almost looked happy, relieved. Everything about him gave the impression of total serenity. As if dying was his self-given reward for writing this memorable story.
What else could he do?