Charon – 09

Part ii: Martin

Chapter Nine

But there was no end then for Martin, there was only darkness, and in the dark were thoughts that Martin could not stand. He was alone now, there was no one to comfort him, no one to distract him, nowhere to hide. He screamed but there was no answer, he cried but the tears brought no relief.

He remembered the vodka and the pills and wished he had more and tried to bring his hand up to pour more raw fluid across his cracked lips but his hand was too far away. Much too far away.

The moor was endless and he walked across it. Occasionally he would glance back at that town of Hypnos but then he would remember how it ended, and he would walk on, hopeless, endless, wishing the images, the thoughts, the feelings would go away, that over time they would fade but they didn’t and they never would. They would remain and he could not cope with them.

He had loved so hard and tried and fought and struggled to grab hold of it all and when he had it he could relax but then…then it was taken and he was left alone, the futility of his life, the unfairness of his fortune, the meaninglessness of his life, of all life, he couldn’t comprehend it, he couldn’t stop trying to comprehend it. He couldn’t even cry anymore and his voice was gone. And all that was left was the moor, and his mind, his cursed, cursed mind.

The wind blew. Constant, unending. And as he walked it seemed to become solid, gathering itself into black shapes that spun and fluttered above his head. At first he thought they were vultures, or crows. But as they coalesced their wings became tipped with sharp, insubstantial fingers, long nails clutching and scratching. As they descended he turned his face from them in terror, for their faces were those of women, furious and vengeful. And he thought he knew their faces, and he knew what crimes they’d come to avenge.

Martin and his wife, seated beside each other on the sofa. The tension gently rising.

“Katherine, please, take this down,” Martin was saying as he handing her his notepad. And Richard caught the edge to the voice, Martin already exasperated, perhaps from Katherine, perhaps from something else entirely. “We need to make a list, of everything to do on the trip tomorrow. I don’t want to forget anything, not like last time.”

“I told you, last time wasn’t my fault, I told you…”

“Last time doesn’t matter Katherine, don’t keep going on bringing up things in the past.”

And Katherine kept silent, knowing what Martin was like in these moods, so jovially pretending everything was all right, so outwardly sociable, insisting on bringing an audience to his moods. And they weren’t fooled, they caught the edge as she did. She tried to mollify him.

“All right darling, what goes on the list?”

“Well, do I have to do everything here? What do you think should go on the list? It’s your trip as well.”

“I don’t know…”

“Start with Charles and Rachel, we need to discuss with them, what do we need to discuss again?”

“Um…something about the gallery?”

“Come on Katherine, you took the call from Emma. What did she say?”

“I don’t know exactly…”

“Well, didn’t you make any notes?”

“Yes, but it was a long message, I didn’t take everything down.”

“Well you’ll have to call them back.”

“I don’t know their number, they’re your friends. I don’t even know them.”

“What’s wrong with you today Katherine, you’ve been in a mood all day.”

“Nothing.”

“What, nothing’s wrong, with you bitching at me like this. What’s up with you today?”

“Nothing. Let’s just make the list.”

“Well forget Charles and Rachel. We need to book a night at a hotel on the Saturday. Write that down at least.” Katherine wrote down the words.

“And we need to pick up the posters from George’s house.”

Katherine wrote that down as well.

“Oh and of course we can’t visit London without dropping in on Jeremy.”

Katherine wrote that down as well, knowing it would all be like this. A week of Martin’s colleagues and friends, dry professors, intellectuals and art critics. And she would tag along, happy just to be away from home for a week, just to have a break. Yet, somewhere, at the back of her mind, wishing she would be left alone for a moment, to walk the streets of London, to see the sights without being dragged to a plaque or a sign explaining it. To sit in silence with a book without being asked what the matter was. To be alone.

“Write it down Katherine. You really are in a stinking mood today. And you won’t even tell me what it’s about.”

Katherine wrote down the latest note as Martin dictated it to her like she was his secretary.

“What are you doing!” Martin cried in suppressed rage, glaring at the notepad in her hands. He ripped it from her grasp, tearing a nail from her finger. “Two lines between each note, you’re wasting paper. You’re wasting my notepad. My notepad! Look.” And he pushed it up to her face, forcing her to lean back to stop it being forced against her nose. He was up before she could react, hurling the notepad against the wall.

“Forget it, Katherine. Forget the whole thing. You obviously can’t do that one task. That one thing. I have to drive the car, schedule the week, book the hotel, buy the food, pack the bags, and you can’t even help me with this.”

He wrenched the door open and yelled as he slammed it shut.

“And if anything’s forgotten it’ll be your fault!”

The pelting rain, a drum roll against the sopping tarmac, the heartbeat of the windscreen wipers, that nagging, incessant nagging from behind. How could he concentrate with that voice, raised high, piercing the haze of his mind.

He wasn’t drunk, he wasn’t even close. He’d only had a couple of glasses, just to be sociable. It would have been rude to refuse. Then it was late, Jenny sleeping in her seat, but Brian was motioning Martin to meet someone, wanted to talk about the conference. Couldn’t leave now, not right now, a few more minutes, no need to waste money with a cab, how would he get his car tomorrow before work, no, no, only a couple, only a few.

Rachel’s voice, too loud, wouldn’t stop, Jenny woken up, fractious, shouldn’t be up so late, never cope with school tomorrow, should have cancelled when the babysitter phoned. Words that pounded the back of his brain as he peered through the sleeting rain.

Not his fault, couldn’t be, the other car, his fault, his fault.

   Martin staggered on, fleeing the furies that descended upon him, that chased him, harrying his steps. They were too thin of substance and had no flesh or bone that they could harm him, but they pursued him relentlessly nevertheless, flaying his soul as he staggered ever onwards, thinking only of keeping moving, knowing that if he stopped they would be on him. He knew he was dying of exposure in the endless moor that seemed to stretch for ever.

He didn’t know how long he had been out here, sleeping under the stars in the cold wind that whistled endlessly through his head.

He didn’t know how long he had stumbled on, drinking dew from hollows in the moss, starving slowly to death. The ground had become hard and rocky, sharp rocks drawing new wounds on his flesh.

The ground had risen and fought him as he traveled, throwing ridges in his way, slowing his progress. He didn’t know why he kept going but there was something up ahead, there had to be something ahead.

> Chapter Ten

Chapter Eight <

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