Short Fiction - Him

Benjamin Britworth

The hospital care did the damage. The doctors used something for the pain: an injection that went bad. “Infection,” and “we did our best,” were the worthless words to cross their lips by way of an apology. The situation was a nightmare - a living nightmare. To be made blind by another's careless mistake was hell. He could not see colours, movement, or smiles. Every habit of a lifetime had been lost to something so idiotic. He was a child again; weak and feeble, and reliant on others. How was this a life? Was it even close?
His other senses were nothing when compared with his sight. Sight had been the big kahuna of the five, the be-all and end-all of them all... until now. Now sight was diddly squat. It was dead in the dust. He still had his eyes, which he could feel swivel about like useless apparel. Maybe empty sockets would have been better, at-least then he wouldn't be filled with the false hope of his sight ever returning. Bloody holes would give a reason for people to know he was blind. They would utter a sharp inhale as apposed to a sorry sigh. He would be frightening, not pitiful. Better a monster than a sorry lump. And he was sorry, his sight being not the only thing he had lost... there was more, and it was far worse...
His assistant, Marsha, picked him up from the hospital. She was the only person he had left after the incident. His family was killed, declared dead at the scene. Somehow he didn't care, he didn't care for anything anymore. The pain had rode up and swallowed him in a tidal wave of gloom. He allowed it to come, to control him, and eat him whole. 
Marsha drove him home and carefully lead him inside. His stepped across the threshold, toddler-esque, his footing faltering. He did not suit this reduced lifestyle, not one bit. He had been a powerful man before, worth millions. All that was dead with his family: for what was wealth without love?
Marsha led him to the bottom of the stairs and placed his hand on the banister before turning to close the front door. He remained rigid, not feeling one bit at home. The house was faded. It was too quiet and too clean. There was no children running around, or pots and pans clanking in the kitchen. There wasn't even the screaming of an argument. There was nothing at all, just a dry, dead silence.
Marsha stood beside him, silent, not sure of his intentions. Did he want to be led somewhere, or did he want to wait here, absorbing the house for a time? It was difficult to judge on her part, she had never had to care for him like this before. She hoped it would not be too difficult.
“Take me to my office,” he said, and stuck out a hand.
She slipped her fingers into his and, without question, took him up the three staircases and short hallway to his office. He sat at his desk: she sat him at his desk, showing him his seat and lowering him gently into place.
“Leave me,” he said with a wave of one hand.
She retreated and exited.
Straight away she turned about and waited behind the door, her ear pressed close to the wood. It was not usually in her practice to eavesdrop, however today she felt a necessity to do so. For a time she couldn't hear anything of what he was doing. His pen did not scratch paper neither did his fingers hit the keys of his typewriter. Silence prevailed: a loud, consuming silence. Then there came a cough, followed by his voice.
“Marsha, would you return please,” he said. He knew she had been listening.
She reentered the room, not pretending to have been elsewhere.
“Lead me to the main window,” he demanded.
She did so. Taking him by the arm to show him the path from his office chair to the small window closest to them. He felt around the frame, exploring the crevices with his fingers.
“What are you doing? What's the matter?” she asked, concern furrowing her brow.
“I'm feeling for the catch. I wish to open it.”
“...But this window doesn't open.”
He sighed, “I think I have realised that, thank you. You have taken me to the wrong window. Look around you, are there any other windows in this room? Any at all?”
“Why yes, the bay window to the other side.”
“And which is the bigger of the windows? Which, say, would you go to first if you were told to go to the main window in the room?”
“Why, the bay window of course-”
“-Foolish girl! You will kindly lead me to the MAIN window in the room, the bay window, if you please.”
“Yes, sir. Right away!”
She took his hand and swept him across the carpet to where the exuberant bay stood.
“Good, that's better,” he said, “Open it for me.”
Marsha glanced at him and did so. His expression was unfathomable, his features dark; whatever plan he had brooding remained unyielded.
The catch was stiff, but after several tugs Marsha managed to pull it open. The glass quivered, its old frame loosened through frequent use. It dangled, contemplating slamming shut. Her hand hovered, ready to catch the wood were it to fall. It didn't. She relaxed some.
He stuck his arm through the opening. A cool breeze tickled his fingers.
“Thank you, Marsha. You may leave,” he said.
“If you're certain?”
“I am certain.”
She took several paces away, then looked over her shoulder. He remained where he was, one arm out of the window.
“All the way out, if you please.”
“Leave now.”
She turned and begun walking again. She was about to pass through the door, when instead she made a split second decision to close it and remain on the inside. There she waited, hanging on tenterhooks.
After a long silence he said, “Marsha, I can hear you breathing.”
She held her breath.
“I would rather you'd left,” he continued, “It would be better if you did not remain-”
“Please don't-” she said, the words catching her tongue.
“Don't what? Enjoy the breeze? Feel the cool touch of air running through my fingers-?”
“Don't jump!”
“Jump? Now, there's a thought,” a bitter grin crossed his lips, Why would I jump? I see no reason to do such a thing.”
“But you would, wouldn't you? You lost everything, I can see that-”
He cut her off, his tone sharp, “Stop talking! You have no right to speak like that. No right, at all.”
“No, I don't. Although you know I'm correct. You know you shouldn't jump. Your wife wouldn't have wanted you to go like that, nor the children-”
“You have no idea what my wife would have wanted-”
“I can imagine-”
“Presumption and pretense. You assume, and you assume wrong. My wife would have wanted me to be with her-”
“So you were going to jump?”
“You conclude such from my poor choice of words, nothing more. Were I to do such a foolish thing would I have asked you to help me around my office? Would I have asked you to bring me upstairs- or home? No, of-course not. I would have returned here and made preparations by myself. You are moronic to exercise such an idea... Please, leave me in peace. I would like to think in private.”
“No, I can't. You're upset. Unstable-”
“And what if I fired you for insolence? What if I commanded you to get out-”
“I would remain. Because it would be the right thing to do.”
“The right thing to do?” he hissed, “Or simply what you believe is the right thing to do?”
“It doesn't matter. Ether way I cannot let you jump,” she said, and took a tentative step forward.
“There you go again with the 'jumping'. Why on earth do you think I plan on jumping?”
She took another step forward, “Because you are so defensive every time I suggest it. At the mere mention of the word 'jump' you spit venom.”
“I am incensed you would believe such a thing possible.”
“But it is possible,” she whispered, nearing him.
“As is the Rapture, nevertheless it hasn't happened yet,” he exclaimed.
“Please,” she said and placed a hand on his shoulder.
He recoiled, his hand springing up. Thwack! His knuckles broke across her face and she staggered back.
The loud silence returned, broken only by Marsha's heavy breathing.
“You didn't mean that,” she said, “You're just upset.”
He lowered his hand and rested it on the window ledge, his knuckles red from the strength of the blow.
“If I told you I did mean it could you leave then?”
She didn't answer, she couldn't hold herself to such a truth.
A bird whistled from outside. Its melody was sweet and jaunty, quite a contrast to the pair. Something changed in the air. His lip twisted in a half, almost apologetic, smile.
“Let me feel the place I struck,” he asked, ushering her towards him.
She obliged, approaching and baring her face to his hand.
He caressed her cheek, his hand slipping behind her head. He pulled her close.
She withdrew.
“Your wife-” she began to say.
“Wouldn't have cared one bit,” he finished, and drew her in close.
She succumbed, and they kissed. The moment brimmed with passion, but was short lived. It only lasted seconds: sweet, stolen seconds. He detached himself from her and clutched for the window. She remained in the moment, her body echoing the ecstasy she had felt.
“You may go now,” he said, not unkindly.
“I'll be fine,” he responded, cutting her off.
Without further word she turned and made for the door.
“One last thing,” he said.
She paused, “Yes?”
“Is that why you did it?”
“Did what?”
“Killed them?”
“I don't know what you mean,” she replied.
“Very well,” he muttered, and gripped the window tighter.
With that she exited, closing the door.
From the office came an odd, short scramble, then the silence settled in. After that nothing moved, not even the breeze beyond the bay.

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