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It's strange how time can manifest itself in many omniscient ways, both cruel and heartfelt, both past and present. Strange that a life can flourish through, onward down the length of a brook, turmoil and rest, to end up puddled then splash out in one final cascade or trickle away gently from sight.
The brimming clouds, iron-grey, drizzle downwards: a steady pour. The fleshy smells of leaf and loam coat the sticky air as my feet sink in the sand. Compact claps of thunder roar, sending the world momentarily into disaster, a beat of a heart oncoming from the sight of a secret lover, before rolling distantly to lullaby. Foaming waves crumple, like old paper, onto the shore of the beach and a single hawk circles high in the zenith afar.
Ember Island is far from home but closer to heart than any other place. The small rock is a paradise with warm weather, salt-sunlight, white sand and crystal waters. It holds in it memorabilia, old pieces of my life glued on – from force by my part – and tearing at the edges. I haven't been in ages.
I walk to the cottage. Its walls are sodden from the storm and the whole place is in disrepair. Entering, my eyes come immediately to the table. It is circular and ruby-red. I can see the dinner laid out on the surface; roasts, salads, rich sauces and raw fish to stuff stomachs full. My mother was a culinary genius – a goddess of the household. She'd start preparing dinners from midday to sundown, and decorate and garnish them extravagantly. She was a simple lady. She'd take strolls down the beach and look out longingly at the sunset as if it were a relative from time immemorial. She was content with her own company, daydreaming of something out of reach, and for that she was detached from the family, neglecting us as infants. We'd cry our eyes sore, our blistered cheeks stained with hot tears, but she'd remain determinedly still, unwavering to give a soft kiss. There was no maternal instinct in her whatsoever. It was as if her neglect was out of spite. We had set her in ruin, a deteriorating wall with its brickwork in shambles, and she hated us for wasting her away. I suppose there is blame on her part for what has happened. But Ember Island forgives. The dunes watch over you, and the stars shine down wisdom; it's all a matter of accepting it. And yet still I have not accepted what she did or what everyone has done. This bitterness inside rages like the tempest out, and I'm waiting for some light to stab in.
I put the jar down carefully on the table, an agile beetle swiftly runs away from sight, and I walk through the room. The drumming of rain clamours on, filling my head with noise. I begin to pant, as if waking from a nightmare, my heart thudding to my ribs, as I expect something to materialise in front of me. My mother, perhaps, or an implacable spectre should come now and speak to me as if a disciple, sorry scorns uttered to me fast like lightning. But slowly I realise nothing will come, not even a thought of her, no – not in reference to my mother. There is another female figure in my life who shall not be seen again. I can barely utter her name without shaking miserably. She was pronounced with love; tender and bruised in my heart she had left her mark just as she wanted. I look up at the laced wall before me. The material is slipping from its place and ripping downwards from the pull of gravity, the world telling it there is no purpose for its being. It shall rot to nothing soon much like the entirety of this cottage.
Pinned on the wall, dim to see, is a painting. The two of us are there, posing jovially with our buttocks pressed on the other and smiles broad on our chins. The storm shakes the roof and puffs of dust spiral down to the floor, which I see is laden with fallen things from recent movement. I'd rather forget that, too. As much as I hope to expend these memories, throw them, as if they were heavy stones, into the deep ocean and walk away, something keeps bringing me back. A magnetism that pulls me to orbit in strife and sadness, in joy and jubilee. As much as I want to be alone, which as I can now see mirrors the mannerisms of my vacant mother, I can feel something next to me breathing down my back. From it there is no escape, and I can feel the tug of some haunted umbilical cord urging me not to let go. Parturition does not cut me off from death and as a gale howls past I start to sense something that is not there. An iron-ball inside my stomach weighs me down. This feeling has always been here. Ever since a child I've felt this presence of something interconnected that heralds me to people and places fortuitously yet somehow deliberately. And it is this, played either by chance or fate, that keeps me together. I can feel it now, only slightly though, like an echo of a falling wine glass before it shatters brilliantly to crystal shards. It, as it had so in the past, comes as a soft punch similar to the momentary spout of fright that comes from stepping onto something that is not wholly present of which has been blackened out amid deep dreaming. The spectre's white hand points to me, and it is her who I feel this connection to. It is this, a haunting memory, that I am bound to – and was bound to in infancy before it had flourished from the brook to existence.
My fists clench. The memories are served cold to me. And I can no longer throw them out to the water. The beach will send them back on its waves, and from their jagged, painful origins, they shall return smoothened, like everything that comes to visit Ember Island.
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