A Story for Our Time: Echoes

Hi my name’s Dora and I can see through my own eyelids.

We didn’t mean to go to sea. It was night and sleeping below deck, a strange scraping sound woke me. At first I lay silently listening to the new noise, it seemed almost magical, perhaps because I had not heard any such thing for so long. It was as if the sea were singing a new song, but it wasn’t the sea. I got slowly out of bed and crept quietly through the dark, out into the night on deck. I looked around trying to establish from whence the sound came, close to its source I saw a strange jagged shape rise from the water like a shadowy hill. 

I wondered if I was dreaming, I often dream of land, I reached my hand out to touch the darkness, to feel the shape of the wind. Does the wind have a shape? Can something so fluid have a shape? Holding the wind between your fingers is similar to how it feels to write a song, the notes are out there, they dance illusively around my head, and just like the wind they cannot be seen but there is no denying their presence.

Each note is tried and tested, tasted even, then pinned to paper with pencil point, still it does not really exist, not truly, just a mark on a white page, a small dot, a smudge with no sound. It only becomes real and solid for a moment when it is played, and then it’s gone as swiftly as it came, I can still hear it in my head, the echo of something with no shape, how can it leave an echo in my mind?

Is that what will happen to me? To us all, we will leave no trace, perhaps an echo will remain for a while, a shape in somebody’s mind, until they have moved on into another realm. Gone without a trace. Like a boat in a vast ocean; never to be seen again. 

I realised then that I hadn’t moved for a long time, I was shaking with the cold of the moment just before dawn. Lost in my thoughts and my certainty that this was a figment of my imagination awake or sleeping, I had been trapped in time like one of those notes on the page, my frozen hand still outstretched. The scraping sound re-entered my consciousness and brought me back into the present. Since being lost at sea I prefer not to linger in the present. After all those years of learning to be in the moment, the moment stayed the same for too long, so I dived back into my memories and dreams to save me from the inertia of greyness.  I don’t think every day is supposed to be the same, there is no right way to be or to live life. Unless my life ends I am living it

My arm went stiff, as the sun rose but I perceived it through my eyelids and the warmth on my skin. I was afraid to see what was right in front of me. I was drowning in a sea of what ifs. When I lived on the land I occasionally bought a lottery ticket, then I would dream up a reality that could only exist if I won a vast sum of money. The day of the draw arrived and sickness flooded my being, the words of other people would stomp through my consciousness, the know-alls who presume to pollute other people’s realities with their wisdom. Moments before the draw I would wilfully set fire to my ticket or better still I would eat it, or perhaps tear it into a thousand tiny pieces and let it fly away on the breeze. What does it matter anyway?

Music and the wind are similar; even though you cannot hold them in your hand, they can move you. They are magical beings which seem to have lives of their own. If you were to trap the wind or music in a box they would cease to be, they can only exist if they are free. Perhaps everything that is trapped in a box will die eventually, I know that I would. But I am not trapped in a box, I am trapped on a tiny boat in a vast ocean poised to discover a different reality and yet I am afraid

Panic coursed through my body and my heart raced, what if I opened my eyes and there was nothing there? What if I opened them and there was something there? 

When I was in my late teens I went to a rave and in the early hours I had a drink with some young men I didn’t know, it seemed harmless enough, but later on I woke from a dreamless sleep and I knew that something was wrong.  I couldn’t remember my name, I wasn’t at all sure where I was and after some time I lost the power of thought and the entire world became a sea of white with occasional pink and yellow psychedelic flowers floating randomly past me. I noticed that the world was the same whether my eyes were open or not, I could see through my eyelids. I have seen through them many times since when half asleep, it’s a strange feeling that never ceases to amaze me, it’s almost as if that bizarrely powerful acid trip, rather unkindly bestowed upon me (I never could work out what their agenda was), had given me x-ray vision but the only thing I could see through was my own eyelids! 

Imagining myself at super-heroes anonymous: Hi my name’s Dora and I can see through my own eyelids. 

I can’t see through them now, I am going to have to open them. That acid trip lasted about three weeks. I can’t imagine what kind of a person would do that to somebody, I was afraid to tell anybody, I thought I might never be the same again, and perhaps I never was. The wallpaper in my bedroom had tiny little brown flowers which danced upwards, the way strings of fairy lights sometimes do, for those three weeks, the water that flowed from the taps sang the strangest tunes and the leaves on the trees all looked like neon alphabites. One day I woke up and it was all over, it had faded gradually over time but the last bit simply switched off like a light. It was a huge relief that I couldn’t celebrate with anyone. I had flashbacks for years. 

Perhaps this is a flashback, maybe there is no shadowy hill, what then? Back to bed I suppose; and the humdrum reality. What if there is an Island? The sun is shining brightly in my face now, I notice just how tired my eyes feel, they are stinging and I have an urge to lie down on the deck and go back to sleep. What’s with the big drama? Perhaps I can’t face the disappointment, I have read stories about people who win big money on the lottery and then lose it all in a year, apparently we are habitual creatures and don’t like change. 

I am not going to be that person, I brace myself for disappointment, I can totally do disappointment, I have had tonnes of it and I am well practised at it, in fact usually I move on quite quickly. 

I open my eyes. 

Sea photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

Flower photo by Hunter Desmarais

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