Wednesday March 8th, 2017

The exercise:

Write about: agoraphobia.

Inspired by the feeling I got when I went out of the bakery this afternoon to bring the sign in from the road. Just seemed like I could feel the weight of the sky on me, even though the sun was shining. No idea where that came from, but it lead to what follows so I won't complain.

I walked home from the bakery today and was still home by quarter after three. I think we were basically out of loaves by noon. It was a nice change from the previous two Wednesdays at any rate.

Kat was on the computer when I got back and the boys were up at her parents house, so I wrote mine out by hand. It got long, in other words.


He studies the world from the (relative) safety of his covered porch. Many would consider it a beautiful day. Perhaps even idyllic.

He finds it unsettling in the extreme. And edging toward terrifying with each passing moment.

Well, that is not entirely accurate. His disorder feels that way. The part of him that is still him, buried somewhere far below the surface, finds the day warm and welcoming. Perfect for an afternoon stroll.

He has tried to keep the anxiety separate, often reminding himself that it's not him thinking those thoughts, feeling those fears. It is a struggle - often a mighty one - but he still wins the battle on occasion.

He has decided right here, right now, will be one such occasion.

With a deep, steadying breath, he leaves the porch behind. By the time he reaches the bottom step he is already feeling the weight of the sky pressing down on him. With every step the white, fluffy clouds grow more oppressive. The sun's rays push him downward with greater insistence.

He reaches the sidewalk covered in sweat. He forces himself to turn to the right and begins to follow the path of the street northward.

Overhead the telephone line droops under the weight of a dozen or more crows. They caw at him as he trudges by. He can feel their eyes on him, judging his nonsensical fears.

He makes it to the end of the street and turns right again. His goal is to complete a walk around his block. All the way around, just once. A simple loop. He tells himself he is patrolling the perimeter of his territory.

But there is a group of six men and women walking toward him. Three elderly couples, laughing and talking loudly, enjoying the sun-kissed afternoon.

He watches their approach, his feet rooted to the pavement. His heart races. They are only twenty feet away now. He wants to scream - in anger, in frustration, in fear.

Instead he turns and hurries for home. Defeated, yet again.


Greg said...

Agoraphobia doesn't sound like a nice thing to come out of the bakery too -- I hope it's all passed now! It would certainly hamper you doing your jobs around the farm. Still, it is always nice to have a slightly longer piece from you, so I'm not going to complain at all.
The care with which you build the scene is amazing; I really like the touches like the deep steadying breath and the distinction between the disorder and his sense of self; the idea that he is aware of the problem and yet helpless in its grasp is very strong. The crows and the weight of the line is also very effective, bringing back that idea from the start that the sky is somehow weighing down on you, and the finale where the fear wins out and terror pushes him back is very convincing. Great work!

[This is the last of these, I promise, but the vignette from four sides was kind of how they were always planned.]

Greg said...

Bare feet on snow. Skin so white -- it reminded her of the high windows in the house at Westwater where the doctor grew his tobacco plants that reflected blazing sunlight into the eyes of visitors -- that the blue veins were like lines of mould in cheese. The snow was torn up around them as though there had been a fight or a flight, intense activity. Maybe she'd been dancing and all that was left was an afterthought, a remnant left behind as a reminder to those who followed. White police tape with red markings delineated a pentagon through the trees keeping everyone else away from the body; in one corner of it was a marquee-like tent where the agoraphobics huddled together looking miserable. There was a scent of diesel fuel from the East and she imagined she could hear the roar of the Engines that brought realities together.
"Footprints in the snow suggest barefoot for a while," said a Scene-Of-Crime-Officer. She turned and pointed to the agoraphobics who were all bare-footed. "They'll get frostbite you know."
The doctor loomed over her, the smell of polished leather vying with tobacco smoke and she felt the couch pressed around her and the leaden weight of her legs. He smiled thinly and leaned in, his teeth as while as the feet here and now. "You're a bit of an afterthought," he said softly and his fingers pressed firmly against her temples.
"Are you ok?" The SOCO looked at her curiously. "Do you want to go and wash your hair or something?"
"Do you ever wonder," she said slowly, feeling her thoughts fray away. "Do you ever wonder if the Engines don't run continuously?"
"I have to go and group round things together," said the SOCO. She waved happily. "I think they want you to find the afterthoughts."
"You're a bit of an afterthought," said the doctor, leaning over her. The smell of tobacco smoke was overwhelming and she started to choke.
She reached out to steady herself and her hands touched the ankles belonging to the feet that were like gorgonzola cheese. The living and dead met again and the Engines made her head pulse like it was gripped in a vice. The world fell away from her, leaving her standing on a wide open plane that stretched on forever and she felt agoraphobia stir. She turned, and there was a young girl yawning, holding out her hand for a cigarette. Her mouth opened wider and wider until her head hinged over and the mouth was 180 degrees open. The head was nothing more than a red maw with teeth and a probscis-like tongue licking the sky.
"You're a bit of an afterthought," said the maw-monster and she felt dizzy. "Have you got my shampoo?"
"It's in the evidence bag," she said. "They smoked your cigarette and took the shampoo away."
The doctor leaned over her and his hand touched the switch he'd set into her skull. For a moment there was nothing, and then she could hear the Engines of Reality roar. "You're a bit of an afterthought," he said patiently. "But we need you to find out what they keep killing Jenny."

Marc said...

Greg - it wasn't anything too serious, just an odd sensation that I'd not experienced before. Haven't felt anything like it since.

Thanks very much for your kind words on mine!

Ah, this scene, one last time (really? Are you sure you don't want to visit this one again?). Just as excellent as the rest. Bravo.