I wondered for a long while afterwards what he meant. Some nights I will sit up after wrestling out of a dream and I see his drawn, pale face and those dark eyes and it’d be back again to tug at my thoughts. My wife has taken to sleeping in the spare room when I’m like this; I try to talk myself back into the world. When I touch things it feels like it takes a second to register, my nerves surprised to find they are still expected to report to me on the world that seems to be more and more distant.
There was no mention of him in the report, they had asked me a few questions about what I had seen as I was being checked over by the paramedics, said they had a special record for events like these. I had asked what that meant by that but they wouldn’t go into any more detail. A friend of mine had gotten a copy of it for me, told me not to show anyone else otherwise or he might have gotten into quite a bit of trouble. I had mentioned it to my wife anyway, thinking that you should talk to your wife about these sorts of things, but she hadn’t been interested. As I remember she had looked quite angry when I brought it up, said it wasn’t something she wanted to discuss with me.
It was the way the explosion had happened, that was the odd part, probably was the reason they were there to file a special record. There had been no trace of anything started it, no bomb or combustible material, no residue or remains of anything that could have caused that much damage. In fact the only proof they had that any explosion had happened at all was the damage itself. I suppose that would be something you would treat specially, that sort of thing doesn’t happen every day.
They say it should have killed me, being so close to it, when they sat me in the ambulance and checked me over I remember how they were shaking their heads and saying I can’t understand it over and over in that odd way that makes you feel like you’re on a TV programme. My wife was waiting for me when I had gotten home, said someone at work had called her to let her know and she had been there for an hour worrying herself sick.
That night was probably the last night we made love, she was so happy I was alive she took me right upstairs and we had sex in the middle of the afternoon which we never did. In the next few days though she started remarking on my behaviour, said I was being odd, started avoiding me. I think she is having an affair with one of her work colleagues, it would explain a lot of her behaviour and I don’t want to upset her though, so I try to pretend like I don’t know.
I do wonder if they’ll move in together, after I’m gone. I don’t think I will be here for too much longer now. The figures that follow me have been appearing more frequently and I can only think that it means something is going to happen soon. They must be working with him or for him and they must think I am going to tell someone what happened. I can understand why they would be worried.
Not that they should be though. I didn’t mention anything to the people who talked to me or to the people at work or my friends, even my wife doesn’t know. She would only look at me in that way she does quite frequently now, as if she isn’t sure who I am. I wonder if she will miss me when I am gone, or if she will be relieved. All that I hope is that she is happy; I do love her after all.
In my happier moments I like to think that it is not a threat, what he said to me that day, I alter the memory so he looks embarrassed and flustered rather that coldly regretful. When I think that I can think that nothing will happen to me, that they won’t take me anywhere and the figures I see are all in my head. I think I would quite like to be mad, at least then people would treat me nicely.
Maybe it will be ok. Maybe he was embarrassed and not there at all, just in my head and harmless like anything else that isn’t real. That would be nice. I think I would like that. When he first walked out of the building, the building that was on fire and ruined that had all those bodies of people who had used to be people who worked in the office where I worked; I thought maybe he wasn’t real. He didn’t look real, he wasn’t hurt and all his clothes looked neat and tidy just like they said mine did. In his hand was an old leather briefcase battered and black and his hair has short and set perfectly in place.
I knew he hadn’t been there before, I had just left the building and I hadn’t seen him there and it was quite a small building so I knew he couldn’t have slipped in without me noticing. When I saw him there walking straight towards me with precise little steps I thought he must have rode in on the explosion, from some place else. The image of him appearing in the middle of the fire and noise just popped into my head fully formed. There was something very determined about him, he didn’t even stop to talk to me, just said those six words calmly and evenly as he passed me. I have wondered what he meant by them.
“You weren’t supposed to see that.”
Photograph by John O’Nolan