A Kind of Kind Thing to Do
When someone acts in an uncommon way and disappears in a way that confounds, those still cosseted by habitual comforts; those still capable of placing a hand on familiar objects – an enamelled cerith, a wooden salvator, the eucalyptus bush in the far corner of the garden – imagine many monstrous things. But they needn’t always worry. I’m missing and I’m fine. It happened at 25%.
There’s an opinion I’ve encountered many times – a glamorous notion with many friends. I’ve heard it from Mr Cantanter and Mrs Veresay, and again in the pub, as Denis hung from Gerald’s tie and Jack pounded the table, making his usual, senseless demands. Initially I’d dismissed it as hearsay until I read it in muddy books and listened to it choired in high and dusty halls. It is this: by the time you take your first breath, you are already dying. I had always believed the first cracks appeared at 25%. After which, the absences compact and accumulate until nothing remains. I began to doubt myself but eventually rallied: it wasn’t possible: not even Death’s appetite whets before 25%.
The day began well: I’d made it to the post office and, despite my indulgences, was holding steady at 85%. I can cope with 85%. 85% is a stirring walk in expensive boots, a solid two course lunch. At 85% there are songs and conversation and if you become lost – a constant risk now McGoverns is a pawnbrokers and the Greenman is gone – you can always find a way home.
Posting my letter invariably gives me a thirst – not raging, but a thirst all the same. And as surely as the envelope is sealed and stamped, this thirst provokes, besides an artless compulsion to be sated, too many memories. Each arrives rendered like a stock photograph – filtered and lacquered and accentuated by others more recent and more dour. A couple (laughing) cross a pathway of flat stones over clear shallow waters as evening drops like sycamore seeds. Of course, my physical want is just the crude delineation of an enduring desire to return – not as the letter returns (ignored or rejected) – but accepted and understood.
Someone touched my arm (38%). I could barely see. I had no idea how long I’d been standing staring at the sun like a fucking idiot. I started to run and when I stopped (31%), I found myself beside a derelict swimming pool fringed by fallen Victorian arches. Nearby, a man (Mr Warrington?) in bleeding soles and deceased tweeds sat guzzling Rotten Tommy’s, and as I joined him on the bench (Dedicated to Maggie, For Her Endeavours), I saw I’d fallen lower than ever (28%).
Instinctively, I handed him everything – a kindness that surprised me as much as him, and as he fussed and thanked me (definitely not Warrington!), I wished him good day and left. Further on, I discovered a broken fence panel and, climbing through, guessed I was nearing 25%. Unable to accurately gauge my status, I decided to stop, just stop and, emerging onto an empty road, was relieved to find myself intact and, for the first time since, entirely lost.
GJ Hart currently lives and works in London and his fiction has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, The Jersey Devil Press, The Airgonaut, The Harpoon Review, 99 Pine Street, Foliate Oak and others. He can be found arguing with himself over @gj_hart.
(Next story: No One by AJ Atwater)
(Previous story: These Hands by Yasmina Din Madden)
Fancy a blast at our Intergalactic Planetary special issue?
Or feel like submitting for our regular issues? Check out our submission guidelines
Art by philhearing