Authors: Sharon Sant
The Memory Game
THE MEMORY GAME
Edition Copyright 2013 © Sharon
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The sky shows the first pink light
of a freezing dawn. I should go somewhere, but I can’t seem to leave my corpse
alone. It looks so… vulnerable. Stupid, I know – it’s just a body
now, after all. And where am I supposed to go? In films they tell
you there are tunnels of light and other dead people you loved waiting for
you. It’s not like that. One minute you’re alive, lying under the mangled
steel of your wrecked bike, the next you’re looking down at the mess trying to
understand what happened.
I take a seat on
the roots of a bare tree that overhangs the roadside. I’m not doing
anything, of course. Or at least my body isn’t. There’s something strangely
fascinating about it though. I must be cold by now, I suppose. The ground of
the ditch is black with my blood and I can smell the metallic tang from here.
My head is sort of cocked to one side at a funny angle and my leg is twisted
backwards under the buckled wheel of my bike. I suppose it would have hurt
. I think it did at first, but time
seems to be robbing the memory already. I don’t want to stop remembering.
It feels like the minute I forget the pain I’ll be dead for real.
I hear a
rustling coming from behind the tree. I listen for a moment, the sound
intermittent but coming closer all the time. A fox emerges from the dewed grass
and then stands perfectly still as it sniffs at the morning air. It sees the
dead me. Then it picks its way over, slowly, nervously through the long grass
and down into the ditch and pushes its black-tipped snout to my face.
‘Get away from
me!’ I jump up and shout, trying to scare it away but it just looks startled
and stands exactly where it is. After a while, it trots off. I watch it
go and then sit again, head in my hands. I couldn’t even chase away a fox. I’m
nothing, already in the past.
I look up and
see that the sun is rising, a blinding white disc behind the bare trees. I
can’t sit here for ever. Perhaps I could try to tell someone where I
am. Mum must have done her nut when I didn’t go home last night.
Roger probably threw a party though, he always hated me.
I stand and look
up and down the lane. It’s still deserted, as it has been all night. ‘I have to
go somewhere,’ I say.’ I have to get help.’
I don’t even
know why I’m talking as there’s no one here but me. My dead self just stares.
I wish I could close my dead self’s eyes but I tried and my hand is made of
nothing. The films got that bit about
right. I wonder how I’m not sinking into the earth beneath my feet.
So, where do I
I suppose I’d
better go home.
Mum is pacing up and down with the
phone clamped to her ear. Her eyes are all puffy and she has an old cardigan
pulled tight around her. ‘Yes, David
fifteen… dark brown hair – sort of floppy fringe – brown eyes… um, how tall? Oh
my God, I can’t remember… I can’t even remember how tall he is…’ Mum’s voice
starts to crack. I want to hug her and tell her where I am but she can’t
hear me. ‘Sorry…’ she squeaks out a sob and takes a deep breath to stop it.
‘I’m fine. He’s been missing since teatime yesterday. I thought he was at
his friend’s house… we had an argument but I thought…’ The crying takes her
again and she can’t speak.
Roger comes in
from the kitchen. He hands her a mug and takes the phone from her.
‘Sorry, officer, it’s a difficult time, as you can imagine. Yes, we can sort
out a photo… about five-foot-six… What was he wearing? I’m not sure, my
wife might be able to tell if she goes to the wardrobe and sees what’s missing.
Will you send someone round? Ok, thanks.’
Roger ends the
call and gives Mum her phone back. She sticks it into her cardigan pocket and
Roger puts an arm around her. Even though I could smack his big
mono-browed face in every time I look at it, I’m glad he’s trying to make her
feel better. I suppose things are going to get a whole lot worse for her
when the police find me in that ditch and she’ll need someone to make her cups
of tea and stuff because she’ll be crying too much. I hope it doesn’t
take them a long time; that road is pretty out of the way and I might start decomposing
before she has to come and identify me – that would be horrible. My mind
goes back to the fox. What else is out there that might start eating me?
What about bugs and microscopic stuff that no one can see, steadily
devouring my body even as I sit here watching my mum and Roger discuss where I
I shouldn’t have even been on that road but I thought it was a
clever shortcut. Go me.
The thing is,
hardly anyone uses that road because of some old story about it being haunted.
They say the Black Death came to our village and
Roger pulls her
into a hug. ‘Don’t worry about him, love. He’ll turn up; he’s probably just
Where would he have been all night?’ Mum
turns her swollen face to him. ‘I’ve phoned every one of his friends and nobody
has seen him.’
‘Someone could be
covering for him. I’ll bet you his year’s pocket money that he’s holed up in
Matthew Spencer’s bedroom without his parents knowing. It wouldn’t be the first
What would he know about it?
there,’ Mum says. ‘They hadn’t seen David at all.’
mean he’s not there. Matthew’s mum is so dopey she could have Elton John
in concert in her son’s room and she wouldn’t notice.’
Mum tries to
smile. ‘I suppose,’ she says. He thinks she’s agreeing but he doesn’t
know her like I do. I’ve seen that look before, a hundred times with my dad –
she doesn’t think that Roger is right at all, she just doesn’t know how to say
it. And I don’t want her to agree, I want them to come and look for me.
frustration, I shout at Roger. ‘Don’t tell her that! Don’t you want me to be
of course, I worked out pretty
quickly that neither of them can hear me, no matter how loud I shout.
Mum sniffs and
wipes her nose on the tissue Roger has given her. ‘I’d better go and see what’s
missing from his room.’
‘A quick check
in the wardrobe should be enough,’ Roger says, ‘
should take it easy, especially now. Maybe I could go and see.’
‘I’ll know his
clothes better than you, I do iron them after all…’ she gives him a tiny,
strained smile. ‘Besides, I want to see if anything else is missing.’
Roger’s eyes go
wide. ‘You think he’s run away?’
I don’t like the
way Roger looks as he says this, there’s something a bit too close to hope in
‘It’s possible, I suppose.’
‘Do you really
think he would, though?’
‘I don’t know,’
she says, ‘I don’t feel like I know him at all anymore. But I should
check because the police will probably ask us that.’
‘Want me to come
and help?’ Roger asks.
She shakes her
head. ‘Wait by the phone. Somebody might call.’
Roger looks like
he might argue for a moment. Then he gives her a short nod and flops down
on the sofa. I swear I just heard a spring bust.
I follow Mum
upstairs. She’s walking in this really wobbly way, gripping the handrail like
she can’t quite remember what her legs are for.
She opens the
door to my room. Now that I look at it, I’m a bit ashamed. She
spends, like, hours every day telling me to clean it and I ignore her.
The curtains are closed but hanging off the rail at one end where I pulled it
down and couldn’t be bothered to fix it. There’s a strange damp, sweaty
smell like there are wild animals being kept in there. My
t-shirt is screwed up on my unmade bed. I nearly
put it on when I got in from school last night, but it didn’t smell that good
when I pulled it from the drawer. Dad bought it for me, the last time he went
to see them in concert. I wanted to go with him, but Mum said I was too
young. When he gave me the t-shirt, I pretended I didn’t like it because
I wanted to go and see them so bad. Mum told me I was an ungrateful brat but
Dad just smiled; he knew that I did really. It was way too big, of course, when
I first got it because they only had adult sizes. Three years on and it fits ok.
Mum almost trips
on my school shoes as she walks in, but she doesn’t say a word, she just moves
them out of the way. The rest of my uniform is on the floor and strewn
over the bookcase, which does not house books as they’re all on the floor in a
pile next to my bed. I keep all the ones I’m reading out and I seem to be
reading all the ones I own at once. The TV has greasy marks on the screen
and there are chocolate wrappers on top of it. Mum doesn’t seem to care
today though. I suppose she’ll care even less when she finds out I’m
dead. She goes to the wardrobe and rifles through. Half my clothes
are missing, though, mostly stuffed into various crevices around the room, and
I can’t imagine how she’s going to figure out what I’m wearing. Come to
think of it, I can’t even remember what I’m wearing. I look down at
myself. Jeans, blue checked shirt, one of the really soft, fleecy ones,
with the sweatshirt underneath to keep me warm that Mum nags me to wear every
time I go out to do the papers, and my battered trainers. When I look up again
Mum is sitting on the bed with her head in her hands and her shoulders sort of
‘Mum…’ I sit
down beside her. I never hug her or anything anymore, but right now I really
want to. But when I try to put my hand on hers, I can’t, it goes straight
through, just like it did before. ‘I’m ok, Mum, please don’t be upset.’ Of
course, I’m really not ok, but I suppose this is as good as it’s going to get
David… where the hell
you?’ Her breaths are
hitching and she can’t speak without stammering. I wish I could put my arms
around her and tell her I’m still with her. But maybe that would freak
her out anyway. It probably would have freaked me out if it had been the
other way around.
So I sit and
watch her. I want to cry myself now, I feel so bad for her. I don’t think
I can stay here after all. If she’s like this now, imagine what she’ll be
like when the police come and tell her that they’ve found me, imagine what
she’ll do when she has to go and see me at the place where dead bodies are
kept, imagine what the funeral will be like. I’ll be like a wreck seeing
all that crying. But I don’t know where else I can go. I feel like
an empty crisp bag on the wind, blown around, useless and unwanted. So I
sit next to her on the bed; I listen to her cry quietly and stare at the mess
in my room and wonder what is happening to my body now. Your joints go stiff;
how long does that take? Do you turn a funny colour? When do you
start to smell bad? We saw a film once in biology, a speeded up film of a
dead rabbit rotting. I can’t stop thinking about that film now, only it’s
me with all the flies and stuff coming out of me.
There’s a knock
at the front door. I can hear Roger talking to someone in the hallway and
then the door clicks shut.
calls up the stairs. ‘The police are here.’
She’s only just
phoned them so I’m guessing this visit can only mean that they’ve already found
me. Mum takes a huge breath and wipes her face. I wonder if she’s thinking that
too. She stands up, takes a last look at my room, her eyes skimming over
me as I sit on the bed, and goes downstairs.
‘You might want to sit down, Mrs
Smith.’ The policeman has a nice voice, gentle, that bad news voice that they have
on detective dramas. But I don’t like the way he says her name, because her
name shouldn’t be Smith, it should be
mine, like it used to be before bucket-faced Roger arrived in our lives.
Hearing her called Mrs Smith doesn’t stop making me angry, just because I’m
She glances at
Roger and then sits on the sofa. Roger joins her and takes her hand.
figured out what he’s wearing yet…’ Mum begins. ‘But if you give me a few more
minutes I should be able to.’
policeman glances at the first one and then hands her a wallet. ‘Is this
Mum takes it
from him and turns it over in her hands as though she doesn’t quite believe it
exists. ‘Yes,’ she says in small voice.
‘I’m sorry, but
we found this on a boy matching David’s description at the scene of a road
traffic accident. He had a bag on him from Village News, we checked with the
proprietor and he said David never returned after his round yesterday, although
he hadn’t been unduly concerned as, apparently, he often goes straight home
when he’s finished –’
‘Oh God, we
didn’t ring the shop,’ Mum says. ‘We thought he was sulking at a friend’s house
– he’s done it before – we’d had an argument and…’ she can’t finish and I can
tell she feels gutted now that she didn’t ring the paper shop when I didn’t
We did have a
massive row and I suppose she thought I was staying out of her way. I was
pissed off alright but I wouldn’t have done that to her, I wouldn’t have given
Roger the satisfaction. Maybe she was sulking more than me. The thing is
if she had looked for me straight away I’d probably still
be alive; it took me ages to die. I hope the police don’t tell her that.