Tonight I’ve added a couple of free-writes, here is another one.
‘Seven, no more, no less. Has to be seven, always seven.’ So quiet was the whisper he could barely hear himself, but he knew. Seven rings and then the machine would answer the call. He couldn’t answer it himself, he never answered the phone. The phone was too near the door, no more than three feet.
Seven wasn’t a number that had no significance. He was seven when his Dad had
died. There were seven white flowers in his burial reef. His funeral was seven days after he passed; seven people doffed their caps as he passed.
He had to be sure. It couldn’t be eight rings or six, it must ring for seven he’d told the bemused sounding girl who’d answered his call.
He was a problem customer, a Koala. That’s what they called the awkward ones. A sweep stake pitted all the girls against each other in a find the loony competition. Koala had been thought up by someone no longer with the call centre, for their laziness and general spaced look. Not all Koalas talked slow. No, our man here, he jabbered, tripped over his words and repeated, repeated, repeated, repeated, and repeated. He had to be sure and he told the girl over and again what he wanted.
Three days wait for the new phone. He’d begged for seven but they said three and, he had to have a land-line phone. The actress Penelope Wilton, she had BT, so he had to have it too.
The Post-man rung the buzzer and he went slowly into the corridor. The dry air, scratching his throat and the breeze whistling around his head leaving a ringing in his ears. It was too bright in the hall. With wax coat zipped to the top, a button around the collar, scarf so tightly wrapped he was losing consciousness, a butcher’s apron and clear plastic gloves taped around the wrists he took the parcel in.
Only one space in the whole flat was safe for contaminated objects from the outside. The furthest door from the living area bolted shut across a small pantry or walk in wardrobe. Once the door was bolted nothing could get through.
Safety – after his cracked skin bubbled – as he violently scrubbed with anti-bacterial soap. A new set of gloves, a new scarf across his mouth and nose and he could open the post. The same ritual every day, from credit-card applications to psychiatrist appointments. In all receiving the post took fourteen minutes, it could never take any longer. Seven minutes for collection and seven minutes for opening.
His new phone. The phone could now record appointments he wouldn’t attend, messages from concerned friends he never answered and creditors he could not afford to pay. A way to keep in contact with the world he no longer lived.
Every story always says ‘it wasn’t always like that.’ In the case of our man he was born with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Playing outside was never considered. He couldn’t go to dinner at other boy’s houses. No birthday cake in a party bag. Nights spent alone, sat in his room arduously arranging polished, plastic, perfect army figures into rank. Replaying battles as they were initially fought according to logs written.
It was quite disturbing for other boys. He didn’t mean it to be, his fascination with battle made him accepting of all military actions. The battle of Pearl Harbour, Agincourt, the Boer war for every battle he played the parts on both sides, unaware that he incited violence towards his Mum from other children’s parents. No children ever visited after his re-enactment of the battle of Brzsec and the afterward where the Polish Jews and renegade fighters and war criminals were marched through the streets of Krakow to the train for Auschwitz
Loneliness became the normal and now he lived alone, his only contact with the world beyond the five Chubb locks was the Internet. He could be whoever he wanted on the World Wide Web. In the chat rooms he was brave and brazen. He had a rakish charm on the dating sites; Jim Speed was his game name. He fought zombies, flew daring raids, raced Ferraris and… the one thing he used the internet for more than anything else he looked at every illness and convinced himself every time that he had all the symptoms. A sore throat was cancer. Headache was a brain tumour. Heart burn was heart attack. Tired vision from scanning the screen for hours, that was Cataracts. A sore leg was Deep Vein Thrombosis, Pins and Needles, Fibromyalgia. Cold finger joints were Arthritis and almost every other symptom – not just a sore throat – was Cancer.
Just because he didn’t have any serious illnesses didn’t mean he was a picture of health. He wasn’t… convinced he had every illness he would eat foods recommended for anyone with intolerances or allergies. He did not have an allergy for Wheat or Gluten, but he avoided it, not realising his body was craving the nutrients and he was starving it. It started as stomach cramps which were self-diagnosed as Bowel Cancer. Next followed convulsions which were expected to mean Parkinson’s disease. Blood sugar decrease from the lack of sugar and carbohydrates in bread was seen to be Diabetes.
Believing himself to be struck with these horrific illnesses he lived in a space too small to spend every day in. The flat was divided into safe, slightly safe and danger areas. The bedroom and lounge were safe, providing no movement was ever made towards the windows. The curtains stayed shut permanently. The bathroom was slightly safe. It was cleaned to army Sergeant’s standards but there was linking with the outside through the drains. The water that flushed wasn’t clean. The fan sucked air out, but a little could trickle back in. The door was always closed, bolted from the outside as well as from within. The Kitchen had to be clean. Different knives were used for different chopping boards. He had three knives for lettuce. The bin inside another bin stood in the kitchen. The lid jammed down, disposable glove dispenser on the wall above. The Kitchen was a slightly clean room. The bedroom held a bed and a wardrobe with absolutely nothing else. No pictures, no trinkets or keepsakes, empty. Apart from the 3’ surrounding the window it was a safe room. The lounge was super safe. Thick velvet, rubber backed curtains were nailed to the wall blocking the window. Everything about the lounge was safe. The sofa, the desk, the PC or the dining table were all completely harmless.