Waiting Again

Inspired by John Looker. Thank you, John.

“With the voices of those who were dead speaking even now in her ears

she was lost in a world beyond place or time …” from “How the Dead Spoke to Odyssea,” in Shimmering Horizons by John Looker, Bennison Books, 2021.

Waiting again. As always.

DANGER. NO ACCESS. The sign stared at her from high up. There were other signs, in ten different languages each identified by a flag icon. The print was too small to read and even up close would have required glasses.

Two thirty.  That’s what it said at the bottom of the xeroxed form she had spread out on her lap. The x-ray appointment was for two thirty.  The panes of the double glass doors at the end of the corridor were covered, both above and below, with faceted patterns. Not the slightest crack through which to see. Red shadows occasionally moved to and fro behind the barrier, raising false hopes. A quarter to three. Still nothing happened. No more movement. Absolute silence on the other side. Two women dressed in black moved up from the elevator door  and sat on the empty bench across from her. The younger one was hatless and with bleached blonde hair. Sensible soft shoes. Papers fluttered in the hands of the older one, a form printed in red. Like hers.  “Yes, my appointment was for two thirty,” she said, “how do they do it here? Last time it was for my spinal column. No, here it’s the heel” she explained to no one in particular. 

The black plastic chair on which she had been sitting since she arrived began to feel very hard. She got up and looked out on a metaphysical scene of a cement bridge and arches framing brown hills. Ten to three. Red shadows moving again, in human shape. Only briefly, before the panes were again empty. Three o’clock. At last the shadows once more filled the pane, seemed to linger. Did that door handle really seem to be moving?

Her phone in its out of the way pocket trilled, reminding her to take her medication. Reminding her that,  like so many others, she didn’t have games stored in the memory of  her phone, but that she did have photographs, in a sense a by-product of her memory. They were not arranged in any special order, for that wasn’t in her nature. She flicked from one picture to another and found herself traveling back in time.

Familiar faces came and went and she forgot that she was waiting for the door to open. As one and then another flashed on the screen, she could hear their voices. So many of those whose images appeared now lived in another dimension. Their voices, some whispered, barely audible, came through from the shadows as she invoked their names.

And then there were the landscapes. They too spoke, with songs of spring and summer, the rustling of leaves in the wind , the fragrance of roses and calicanthos.

Each image clamored to be heard and vied with other images that

existed only in her mind, but whose voices were even stronger.

And then the door handle moved, and she was back in the present.

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