A Fragment

He died much the same way as he lived after one hundred and thirteen years. Slowly deliberately, prepared for anything. Unsurprised, unconcerned. He had seen too much, forgotton so much, and learned so much the twilight hours when they came were a release more than anything.

White dense fog seemed to crowd in around his ears. He could hear muffled sounds, people talking but he couldn’t make out quite what they were saying. Someone pulled at his arm, another damp hand he felt on his chest through his pyjamas pushing, pushing. He recognized the touch.

Once as a child he fell in the river almost drowning before his cousin saved him. The muffled cries he heard now were similar to that underwater terror. He struggled against the weeds and the torrent and the inexorable pull of the water dragging him down. He could imagine his own eyes gaping wide in terror.

But now he felt safe, slightly cold, as if someone had left a window open. A cool breeze soothed his  face. He could see faces from before. His friend Albert from school, kicked a leather ball and smoked a long white cigarette. The girl from the next street whom he admired from afar until he saw her in action with an off duty soldier behind a bar.

Mr Smithers his teacher who battered his pupils senseless before heading off to join the expeditionary force. He saw him again in France minus a leg as he begged his chums in the sanitorium to finish him off. Cruel bastard as he was it was hard not to feel sorry for him.

The muffled noises gradually slipped away to be replaced by a piercing white light and a feeling of safety he remembered from his time in his mother’s arm as a child.

Soon. He was welcomed by familiar faces. . . they appeared one by one. His father. His grandmother. His best friend. A child he didn’t know but one he still recognised that called him ‘daddy’. Gradually he felt safe. And warm. It was over.

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