Patient 364

Laef Matthews wants to prove that he isn't the same as everyone else, but one little hobby leads to the most painful experience of his life, where he meets someone who changes his perspective of everything he thought he knew.

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2. The Lacking Past

A young girl woke up, checked her phone. Seven minutes past eight. The light would be just right. She stood up, changed clothes and put her make up on her face, then posed. The camera cracked. “Good enough.” She muttered and uploaded it to her blank profile. She updated her status: Hello world, Meggie Snit here, 23 and looking for fun. Then she backspaced then wrote: Amy Rhodes, funny, cute and 17. She backspaced a final time and typed: Lily Swire, 14, bored and in need of entertainment. She clicked on an image of her mother and scoffed at the status: Loretta Swire, 31, model and occasional office worker. “Thirty one? As if. And definitely not a good photo.”  

 

 

The sound of water glugging into a jug woke the young man up. He forced himself into a sitting position and nodded at the maid. She made a strange giggling noise and hurried out of the room. He pulled the sheets around him, and drank the water the maid had poured. Lemon infused. He checked his phone to see the new lies that would never be investigated: a robbery, an insurance claim, a puppy, a murder. Tomorrow the headlines would be wiped away without a trace. He wrote them down. Paper and ink, so that they would always have a chance of being seen again. Nobody else did this, of course they didn’t, it would mean revealing a horrible secret to the real world, not the one they saw made up of screens and blaring lights. No matter how hard people tried they couldn’t forget things. That would make everybody’s lives so much easier, he thought, if only we could forget our lives as they happened. He thought it bitterly and resentfully but he still thought it.

 

He wrote things down. That meant buying paper, pens, things that couldn’t be deleted. It wasn’t illegal, just immoral. His parents had been disgusted when they saw the contents of his bags, they had learned to live with it but were praying to a deity they didn’t believe in to make him stop. He had learned to accept that he was strange, that people would talk about him wherever he went- they always had at school.

 

The door opened and he knew it would be his mother, nobody else would ignore his privacy with such blatant indifference. She sighed when she saw him. “For God’s sake,” She snapped. “Will you put some clothes on?”

He rolled his eyes and wrapped his dressing gown around his previously naked body. “Better?”

“Much. The Hamish’s are going to be here in twenty minutes. Be presentable.”

She closed the door behind her and the young man groaned like a child. But he got up, pulled on his trousers, a shirt and a green tailcoat. He made a conscious decision to leave his feet bare. He grabbed a couple of chocolates from his top drawer and popped them in his mouth. He heard the doorbell, the sound of voices and forced himself to go down the stairs. 

 

Of course, the Hamish’s included their daughter, Persephone. He heard her polite voice thanking his mother for the invitation so he produced a book from behind the sofa and then crumpled in a chair with one leg dangling over the side. He turned a page lazily. His mother offered the guests tea and his father attempted to crack a joke. It was met with courteous laughter. “Come on through,” His mother said, the forced smile added an audible strain to her voice. He waited for them to spot him. “Oh,” A small voice said, presumably that of Persephone. His book was snatched from his hands by his father. “Sit up.” The man grunted and he obeyed crossing his legs on the armchair in defiance. The Hamish’s sat in a line opposite on the pristine sofa. He ran his eyes over them, Mrs Hamish was a smart looking woman who wore her hair short, her husband a tall man starting to go grey and between them, Persephone. She was nothing impressive. She looked the same as every other girl his parents had traipsed through their home in the hope that he would fall for one of them.  

“Octavia, these scones are delicious.” Mrs Hamish said to his mother.

“Oh thank you dear. I got the recipe from some website, you know… one-thousand scone recipes dot something.” She replied, simpering.

He could feel himself slipping away into his mind, where he could immerse himself in facts of the past. His thoughts were interrupted by the loud voice of Mr Hamish. “It’s a waste of time, I don’t know why people pursue it as a hobby. Of course, Sephie here’s had a bit of an interest. Tried to get it out of her but apparently it wouldn’t.” The girl smiled meekly.

“Yes,” She said. The first word she had uttered in half an hour. “It’s just a silly hobby of mine. The stories you know, they’re interesting, knowing things actually happened. I think my favourite period is the novus-modern.”

Silence. She shifted uneasily. “I just think the transition into this era is so interesting. The death penalty had been abolished for hundreds of years and we reinstated it. The reasons why are fascinati-”

“Laef.” His mother interrupted her, a sure sign that the family would not be invited for coffee again. “Can you go and fetch my glasses? Thank you.”

For once he was obedient. He stood up, sparking with excitement, then walked into the kitchen. He went to the fridge and pulled out the bottle of white. It was dry, crisp. He took another gulp and let it wash away the feeling of irritation he attributed to the Hamish’s. When he looked up, Persephone was leaning against the door frame. “Hello,” Laef said awkwardly and put the bottle on the side. “Hello.” She replied. “We haven’t introduced ourselves properly. I’m Percy.”
“Laef. I thought it was Sephie?”

“Please never say that again, I can barely stand it from my parents.”

“Glad to hear it. I had to stop myself from gagging when they called you that.”
“Why did you stop?”

“I don’t know.” He smiled.

“Pity.” She finally said. “I’d have liked to have seen my parents’ reaction.”
“So would I.”

“So how old are you?”

“Twenty one.”
“Oh dear. I’m only seventeen, my parents really must be scraping the barrel.”
“What do you mean?”

“My mother and father want me to make a good match, how backwards is that? Marrying off? Bloody historical.”

“Historical? What would you know about that?”

“Didn’t you hear my little speech? I dabble in history.”

“How do you get away with it?”

“I don’t, my parents have had endless emails from my teachers complaining about this fascination of mine.”
“Is the curriculum the same?”

“Oh yes, always the same.”

“What school did you go to?”

“Should I say? I know but should you?” She laughed. “We went to the same one, not that you’d remember, you were…four years above me, but everyone knew you.”

“Why?”

Octavia shouted from the sitting room, “Where are my glasses?” The moment snapped and Percy puckered her lips in a smile and rolled her eyes then hurried back to their parents. Laef followed slowly behind, holding the glasses which had been on the side. He handed them to his mother who put them on and then sat down, watching Percy with suspicion.

 

They left twenty minutes later. “I like her.” Laef said. His words echoed around the sparsely furnished room, his mother looked up and sighed. “Of course you did.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He retorted.

“Nothing, just that she isn’t quite suitable is she?” She coughed with a decided glare at her husband. He glanced at his son. “No, no not at all.”

Laef narrowed his eyes. “Did you even look at her? Did you listen to anything she said?”

“Did I need to?”

“Yes! She seems clever and interesting.”
“Laef!” Octavia snapped. “That is enough. Why is it you can’t let us sit in peace?”

“I’m going out.” He stood up.

“You’re doing what?”

“I’m going out.”
“Of the house? What for?”

“A walk.”

“You? Go for a walk? Why?”

“Because I’m irritated.”

He slammed the door. The neighbours would be talking about it for weeks, the Matthew’s boy, who was strange anyway, had got into yet another fight with his parents, and this time he was leaving the house, storming down the road and into the city.

 

He caught a bus, something his parents thought was below him. He fixated on the world outside, a world that was slipping away from him with every minute he enclosed himself in the confinement of his room. Outside was a glaring eye-ache of adverts, broadcasting themselves across every surface. Women breezed down the street in their knife like stilettos and flimsy white coats and men passed them occasionally stopping to offer flattery. One woman turned away disgusted but most of the others would stop and engage in polite conversation, while screens projected images of handbags and perfume that enticed them into the shops like bees to a flower. He got off two stops later and joined the few people on the streets. They were always empty. He had asked his mother about it when he was younger but she said she didn’t know why. She didn’t know anything as far as he was concerned. Eleven hours to the reset. He wondered how many new advertising campaigns would be launched, presumably all of them would be new but surely that was impractical? There must be some shops, he reasoned, that would reuse something new. There were only a finite number of ideas in the universe.

 

“By God it is him!” A voice declared behind him, that was the only way of describing it and it meant that Laef knew exactly who it was. Nobody else could have that much pomposity in one utterance. “No it can’t be! What’s he doing here?”

Laef turned to see them They hadn’t changed much. Atticus Finch still had slicked back ginger hair and a sleazy smile, and Crispin Havelock still had the same scarf tied pretentiously around his neck. “Laef Matthews. What are you doing here?” Atticus beamed. He had a peppercorn stuck in his teeth. “Nothing.” He replied.

“Well you can’t be doing nothing.”

“Walking then. I suppose.”

“Of course you’re the kind who’s walking. What do you do now, anyway?”

“Nothing.”
“Nothing? Come on Matthews, what’s your job?”

“I don’t have one.”
“You don’t have a job?” He scoffed.

“That’s what I said.”
“So are you still living with Mummy and Daddy?” The boys both laughed and Laef tried to ignore the power his fist could have if he just swung it correctly. “What do you do Atticus?”

“I’ve got an excellent job actually, I’m working in the government. Deleting Archives you know? Now it’s just an administrative role but within 2 years I see myself as head of department and within 5 Minister. Havelock here’s managing three of his father’s establishments.”
“Yeah,” Havelock murmured the first word of their exchange.

“Impressive.” Laef replied sarcastically.

“Then again,” Atticus’ smile was as dreadful as ever. “You never had much ambition did you Matthews? Never wanted to do anything with your life, so I suppose you’re the most successful of us all.”
“Thanks.”
“You’re bloody welcome. See you around Matthews. I don’t suppose I’ll see your name anywhere anytime soon.” He laughed and walked away. Laef spat on the ground. That was probably a criminal offence, but he was well past caring.

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