Purgatorium

 

Purgatorium

By Victor Frank

(For Leanne)

I always hoped that my death would be a speedy affair, or as the result of one. This is slow and painful. If I’m in purgatory then I don’t like it. But I don’t know. I don’t know anything: who am I? Where am I? What I do know is that I woke up this morning with no memory of how I came to be wherever it is that I am. And I don’t know where “here” is.

Vaguely familiar people passed me by earlier. Vaguely familiar because they were stereotypes: extras who blend into the background. They looked at me and I wondered if I knew them, or they me. But as I opened my mouth, nothing came out. Or maybe they didn’t hear. I’ve lost my voice.

And now we’re in the present moment.

I’m writing this down as I can’t speak – or at least be heard – and hoping that I may be able to piece things together.

I check about my person for clues as to who I might be. My wrists are bare: no watch to tell the time; no bracelets; no sentiments. Did I have such things anyway? If I did, were they stolen? I can’t ask anyone. I have no voice. No-one knows me, least of all me. What next?

No rings on my fingers: no indicators of a life. The third finger of my left hand bears a graze from the bottom knuckle to the top. Was I married or engaged? Or both? To different people? To many? Do I have kids? There are marks: products of a scuffle I don’t recall or where rings once were?

Back pockets of my jeans: no wallet. Front pockets: no money.

A heart murmur. But there’s a sound which accompanies it. In my inside coat pocket, a mobile phone. Someone’s calling. The screen says “Mum”. I can’t answer; I can’t speak. I press the green button and just sit here, hoping that “Mum” might recognise something in the background noise and gain a clue which allows her to find me. If indeed this is my mum. It could be someone else’s. Is this phone mine? Why would I have a phone and little else? I notice that the battery is low and check the remainder of the pockets of the jacket I’m wearing to see if I might have a charger: I don’t. Why would I? I don’t have a bag. Maybe there was a charger in a bag I may have had (with what else?) So much missing.

With the mobile phone battery about to give up the ghost, I find contacts and scroll through them. There are two “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) contacts. I manage to flag down a passing stranger and gesture to him to call the ICE people. The phone has no credit. The stranger is kind enough to call the numbers using his own phone: one goes to voicemail and the other answers but won’t give their name. It’s a “she” and “she” states apparently that “she” doesn’t recognise the caller’s number, nor the description he gives of me. Is this my phone? Who am I? I can’t talk to “her”.

I write a note for my newfound phone whore:

“Please phone Mum”.

But she doesn’t recognise the person described either. This is obviously not my phone. With the last few percentiles of battery life left on the phone, I go exploring. I find photos: photos of children; some of them in various states of undress and in the bath. Are these children mine? If this isn’t my phone, then who’s is it? Are these the photos of someone else’s kids? Is this the phone of a paedophile? Why do I have the phone? Is this a set-up? So many questions. No means of asking them. No voice.

I decide to take a walk. There are no landmarks that I recognise where I lie; no people either: they all seem to have just gone; somewhere: where? Where am I? I can’t ask.

I wander and I wonder. I see people again; people I may recognise. Some approach me. I’m in a silent movie: their lips move, their faces are expressive but I can’t hear them. I become aware of where I am: somewhere unspecific and anonymous. There’s traffic but it makes no noise. I witness an argument on the opposite side of the street but I can’t hear what it’s about. I want to intervene but I can’t speak.

I find a bench to sit on and gather my thoughts. I find a newspaper and begin to read but I can only make out the headlines: the articles are illegible to me.

I don’t know where I am. I can’t ask and even if I could, I wouldn’t hear the answer, nor be able to see whom I was enquiring of. I can smell the distinct fragrance of beer though and surmise that there’s a pub, bar, or hotel nearby. Through the haze of my diminishing vision, I’m aware of a figure approaching.

Suddenly I’m struck: a searing pain in my head; a warm feeling on my upper lip and a metallic taste seeping into my mouth from above: that of iron. I’ve been bottled. I think I know where I might be now.

As I rise to my feet though, I’m unsure again. Objects which I thought were in the immediate vicinity of the bench I was sitting on are no longer there. The pub, bar, or hotel is gone. And neither is there a metallic taste in my mouth. I can no longer taste nor smell.

I walk through treacle, holding my notepad and pen aloft. But after a while, I can’t feel them for the cold: I’ve lost touch.

*******

To whom it may concern,

My name is George. My family name is of no consequence but my first is one handed down through my family. I mention this merely in passing.

I found this notebook in the hands of a guy I happened upon in the street. He had it clutched to his chest where he lay. I don’t know what happened to him but from what I’ve read, he was dealt some pretty bad cards. He’s safe now and I must move on also. I don’t know what this guy endured (does anyone care?) Judging by how old he looks, he may well have children. Assuming that to be the case, I can empathise as I miss my dad who went missing when I was younger.

I shall leave this note upon this guy’s person and hope that someone finds it and him and that they recognise him. I found a note in his pocket:

“Abandoned. Senseless.

“I like it here though; it’s alright. I’ll never know what I did wrong.”

“”Knowledge comes with death’s release” (Bowie)”

 I also found a mobile phone but it’s dead.

 

(c) Steve Laker, 2014

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