The doctor’s voice. They are talking about him again. His eyes are closed and he sees a vast space of light and darkness. Her words bounce around his head to fill the silence.
“He smiles sometimes. An effect of the drugs, it doesn’t mean anything.”
His daughter used to have a name but it is lost. She sits beside him and holds the thing that was his hand.
“He has no conscious thought-process. The machine keeps him alive, you see. I am so sorry. Nothing else can be done.”
Their voices murmur on. He breathes easy and the bed is comfortable. He has found there is a depth and a clarity to his memory like he has never known. It spans his entire life, in tiny detail.
He chooses an old favourite. The room floats away and he is standing in the autumn of 1965. The fog is close in, the trees dipped in aspic, and he follows the path to Blakeney Point. He smells the sea. The lip of the dunes comes to him out of nowhere. Below is the saltmarsh, beyond it the shingle ridge of the beach.
The blank face of the fog breaks above the waves to show a cloud of birds, a pulsing fingerprint on the sky that is growing nearer. When it bursts across the water, they swoop around his head in quivers of blurred arrows borne on a feathery rush of air and noise.
In the grip of their unearthly magic he fills with life, and his emotions swell and he laughs long at the wild madness of it all. He shouts out loud with a rare joy, and his is a young man’s voice. Eyes spilling with happiness, with nobody to hear, solitary in the mist, he promises himself this is a moment, the best moment – something he will remember all his life.
They watch the man in the bed smile. He hears his daughter say, “I see what you mean. I suppose it’s only a question of time.”
Time – he has never had so much of it.
Mark Left writes stories and sometimes poetry. He was recently highly commended for his entry in the BIFFY50 Microfiction Contest Autumn 2018. He lives on a hill in the middle of England and can be seen on Twitter here: @ottobottle