Short Story: Error. Goodbye?

Short Story: Error. Goodbye?

Error. Restart? 

I stare at the ceiling as a sweet scent of chamomile engulfs me. I am safe in my cocoon, safe and cozy. My eyes gloss over as I stare dully at the ceiling. My arms feel like they are being stabbed; pricked over and over again. Should I be mad? The crickets were singing as they took in the aroma of the night, a soft breeze of buttercups mixed in with a light touch of fumes. Are cars passing by? I try to focus on the noise of revving cars, of the tiny crickets and the roaring arguments of my neighbours. Are they fighting about the missing cat? A sweet thing that loves to run away in search of gifts for its human parents. One time, it entered my apartment looking for the chamomile scent. I remember laughing as it searched all over, eyes widening and narrowing at each corner, claws sharpened ready to snatch its prey. Was I leaning on the wall, arms folded, biting my lip to stop the giggles threading to come out? 

The neighbours are loud and loud. I shut my eyes hoping for silence. But all I see is an old couple, a woman with greying hair and a man with a tendency to roll his eyes. Stupid fights would happen once a week, it is odd not to hear them. My skin is sizzled red and I tightly close my eyes. A tingle shimmers its way up my arms, slowly like ants. Or would it be turtles? As slow as a cloud, deciding to be lazy on a hot day, I lose feeling in my hands. I should be scared but my heart beats slowly. Tick-tock like an old vintage clock. I feel my mouth turning upwards. Colourful ribbons blanket my blackened vision, the little blurred spots shaping and forming into something new. I can feel the wind caress my skin as I enjoy the beautiful carousel moving slowly. Ribbons from children’s hair flying around as they chase one another will always be a sight that threatens the giggles to spill. No one mourns here. 

I can hear the soft breeze of the ocean as I open my eyes. I find that I don’t mind my bed, four pillars beneath me keeping me safe. My soul cheers and the chamomiles wave hello as I get up, ready for a new day. I try to ignore the murmurs of the neighbours, wrinkles moving up and down as they argue about the cat. And argue about the dead sister. 

Restart. Error? 

I stare at the ceiling as a sweet scent of chamomile engulfs me. I was okay yesterday, wasn’t I? Or was it a week ago? 

How does one know how to say goodbye? Is there a specific time or place? How do you know that you can say the words? Do you just whisper it in your dreams? Practice and practice until you’re able to face reality? 

I splash warm water on my face. My hair drags down as I lift my head to face the truth hiding behind the mirror. Black circles are painted messily around my eyes. My skin pale and my mind clouded with grey. I can’t bring myself to cover up the little tell-tale signs that I’m anything but okay. It’s as if a cloak of melancholy is draped over my shoulders. I couldn’t let it fall so I held on tight. Yet no warmth clings on to me. It’s the only thing that anchors me to the floor, nowadays. The neighbours are shouting again. 

I feel the sun streaming through the window. The mirror is shining in a pretty white and I think of stars. I can feel the cold air kissing my skin as I run around the small garden at night. My ears are filled with laughter and gentle hands pick me up. I’m swinging in the air laughing and laughing till my throat runs hoarse and big worried eyes look at me. But the pinched points of the mouth give away what they feel. Joy! 

A low meow is heard somewhere. Did the cat get out again? 

Water drips down my face. I drag myself out of the bathroom. My mind is ricocheting between low and lower while my shoulders slump with the cloak getting heavier. It’s comforting in a way. Twisted, the way it reminds me I’m alive. I’m alive. I’m alive and alone. I laugh a little as the energy leaves me and I collapse into my bed. Alive and alone. 

I’m unmoving while the rest of the world moves on. Plants are ageing and wilting while the clouds turn scraggy, rolling around to start a new day, a new colour palette is seen as the volume of the argument increases. Oh, so, the cat brought back a kitten? New life moves in while I wait on my bed. Or is it that life moved on? The neighbours get louder. Poor cat, it brought life and, in return, it’s being shouted at. Or are they arguing about the new dishwasher the husband bought? Or is it the usual nonsense on how to comfort someone who lost their sister? The cat seems to answer for them as I can hear an angry hiss. I want to giggle. It seems the cat wants food. Or is it the small kitten? I can imagine a cute kitten glaring at its human parents demanding food. It’s probably baring its teeth and claws in a threatening manner. The dead sister is no longer on their tongues. A cat hisses and my ears sting, I stare at the ceiling, eyes too heavy to stay open. Why couldn’t life just stop? Why did it let you go? 


I open my eyes and get up. I look around the room for any signs that you existed. A photo! Clothes! Shoes! Anything. 

Sunlight forces its way in as I blow up in a panic, searching for something. The room seems to pause as I frantically try to find proof that you were here. I can’t hear the buzzing shouts. 

I trip and see my vision blur. Tears run down my face as I wonder, why did I throw everything away? Why did I let grief and rage cloud me? I close my eyes burning with emotions strong enough to throw off the cloak, if only for a second. 

“You can’t sleep on the floor.”

I snap my eyes open and stare. A sweet scent of chamomile comforts me as I stare, my mind trying to process what’s going on. My mouth is opening and closing, trying to justify what is going on. 

“Come on, get up.”

You point towards me, a soft smile on your face. I raise my hands slowly, trying to understand what was going on and stare at your face.  My ears are filled with the neighbours’ voices. Oh poor girl they whisper over and over again. Too loud but you smile and smile, eyes wrinkling and brows raised. I remember you smiling at the carousel. Too slow for you, who wanted speed. I smile as the neighbours are replaced with your boisterous laughter. But where joy shines, sombreness tiptoes its way back. If I had only steeled my heart, maybe the first rays of dawn would stay with me forever. 

I remember holding the yellow buttercups in my hand so tightly that the stems broke. I cried and cried as the urge to rip off every petal was strong but knowing that they were your favourite was the only thing stopping me. I looked at your pale face and I wondered if the sweet scent was gone now. I remembered letting anger coarse through me at the funeral. I let myself pump more hatred at everyone as they kept telling me over and over again they were sorry for my loss. It was alright to move on. It was not your fault that you died and I lived. I remember feeling ready to explode at anything. I was looking for something to aggravate me. Anything! I wanted to feel anything but that empty sadness that laces itself around me like a snake. 

The neighbours knock on my door but as always I ignore it. Or did I answer them last week? 

The air is sweet, filled with the saltiness of tears. It is excruciating to be there, with insults and curses blossoming in my throat. Why did you leave? All I felt was the silent anguish when those disgusting buttercups were put down on a coffin filled with dirt. I imagined myself shouting at you in the spring meadow with the sickeningly sweet scent of chamomile flowers surrounding us. And as I placed a wilting and broken flower down, I hated how dull this funeral was. 

The neighbours leave with the usual words. We’re here if you need us. 

You smile at me, as if everything is okay and all I can think about is your pale skin and your ugly green veins, “You don’t look good in black.” 

You freeze, eyes widening at the insult. And laugh with no care in this world. It’s stunning to hear but I can see the dirt falling from your face. I can hear each teardrop fall loudly on the cold floor. It was tiled, lights flickering, as a man  (or was it a woman?) took the sheets off your face, asking me to identify you. I could see the rosy cheeks turning a blank white on the shell I called sister and feeling swept away that my feet no longer touched the floor. I saw the ugly black clothes they made you wear in that claustrophobic space while I giggled at how ridiculous you looked. I felt bubbles and bubbles of grief exploding and re-emerging to remind me what happened.  

My throat chokes up as I slap your hand away and collapse onto the floor. I drape the melancholy cloak on me. It keeps me grounded to the floor or else I’ll fly away and I’ll get lost. I get up and look around at the empty room. My hair sticking to my neck and a hammer pounding in my head. I walk over to the bed and jump on it. I bury my face in the sheets and breathe in. The air tastes like joy and my shoulders sag in relief. 

I don’t stare at the ceiling but I can smell the chamomile scent and I close my eyes pretending it is giving me one last hug. I would be alright on my own. 

Restart. Goodbye? 

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