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Harold’s Homecoming

December 3, 2010

Homecoming Game, 1911

The bell tolled for the final time. Still, there were a few students running frantically to get to class. Harold didn’t mind being a few minutes late. He found it loathsome to arrive to class out of breath, pens and notebooks trickling out unorganized onto the desk. He liked to stroll in casually, notebook and pen in hand and begin writing.

When Harold entered the classroom his heart began palpitating. The room was empty. The windows were low and faced the south and in the distance a curvaceous figure, shadowed by a seven foot noble fir, stood under it, her head tilted as if she was listening. The curtains came down from their brief sway, dimming the room and directing a sliver of light over the board covered in peculiar writing. Maybe class was cancelled. Or switched to another building.

As Harold tried to read the phrases scrawled across the board he noticed an open book on the desk. When he drew closer, shuffling his feet to the sound of his breathing, the phrases moved away from him. The pages of the book flipped back and forth with startling velocity.  Quickly, Harold held them down trying to read something, but was met with uncanny resistance. The words sprung up and fell like water from an in-ground fountain. Harold’s hands were large, but not nearly robust enough to push the words back onto the page. After a moment he pinned down page seventeen and brushed his palm over it. Some of the words landed on the desk and dematerialized. Stunned, he repeated the same motion and watched as the daggers, periods, semicolons, and bullets fell near his feet. Unlike the words, which were sooty and fragile, these punctuation marks seemed resilient and flowing.

Liquid spread across the tiles and soaked the tip of his boots. He thought he saw a message within it. But it suddenly seeped out of focus. Harold was slowly acclimatizing to the strangeness. He left the building and emerged at sunset. How long had he been inside?

He decided he needed water. Something cool to soothe his dry mouth. The coffee cart near the library was close. He approached with caution, anticipating a continued apprehension and spotted a large bottle of water placed directly in front of him. He took it and drank. It wasn’t as refreshing as he’d expected. He took another gulp and spotted a poster pinned against a nearby pole. A tutoring ad. The girl had placed a photo of herself using her hand to form the shape of a phone. Her brown eyes were relaxed. Her smile unfading. For almost a minute there was no sound. His own breathing ceased to exist, then as he felt calm, a woman’s voice, a guttural sobbing that came from the library.

No more buildings he thought. He was conscious of the subtle time manipulations. While the tension in his body swelled he found himself moving toward the familiar howls. They grew more deafening, maintaining a steady intensity. Blind panic surfaced until Harold could no longer control the thoughts in his head. His knees buckled and crashed into the hard, concrete surface. First, only a glimmer of memories. Then, without notice bottomless memories rose, unfiltered, dismantling his defenses with infectious voltage. They burrowed like viral worms, zigzagging between what was left of his denial and the surrounding trenches of dissent, until he was left gasping for breath.

Harold was coming home.

He was a forty year old man. Over the years the women that had inhabited his bed were different versions of the weeping woman he’d met seventeen years ago. As the memories of that life found a safe place to dwell, the dream unveiled its local layers and comforted Harold. The pain is his knees diminished, his defenses were restored.

This was not a good place for him to visit. It catered to his age old tendencies, to the bliss of his willful amnesia.

Months after this woman left Harold, he made a place where he could see her again. All he had to do was go inside the library.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2010 10:20 am

    It’s immediately apparent that you’re affectionate for Harold and his world. Poor fella, though – desiring amnesia and all.

  2. December 5, 2010 10:52 am

    I enjoyed the surreal quality of this story. I particularly liked the phrase: “Stunned, he repeated the same motion and watched as the daggers, periods, semicolons, and bullets fell near his feet”; it created a great image in my mind.

  3. Wendy permalink*
    December 7, 2010 8:37 pm

    John – Yes, poor Harold does use his dream world to stay reunited with the past. Thanks for stopping by!

    Aidan – Thanks! Glad the story evoked surrealist images in your mind!

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