Evenly Spread

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“Good morning Mr.Williams. I noticed your advertisement, and I thought I’d come along and check out your service.”

My customer was a ‘walk in’ which was not how I usually did business, but there were almost two hours until my next client, and I was feeling magnanimous so I steered him into my office and gestured toward the big overstuffed leather chair that Doc had commissioned all those years ago. Doc was proud of that chair and even though it was showing its age the customers loved to sit in it.

“Just sit comfortably for a few moments while the chair adjusts to you. It’s very old but also quite intelligent, for a chair.” My client smiled which was a good sign. I find the stiff, awkward ones a bit much this early in the week.

“Excuse me for a moment, just sit there and think about what it is that you want me to ‘recollect’ for you.”

“Oh, I already know what that is,” he said excitedly.

“That’s excellent; I’ll just be a moment. I need to lock the front door. We wouldn’t want anyone wandering in off the street and interrupting your reading.” My client smiled at me again, and I was having difficulty reading him. It crossed my mind that he might be a bit simple, but time would tell.

I shot the old brass bolt on the front door and flicked the communication module to ‘answer mode’. The module had been playing up for the last few weeks, and I made a mental note to put it into diagnostic mode. I’d been putting it off because, like everything else in my shop, it is ancient and I have to attach a USB cable to it and dig out an old laptop computer and go through a manual connection. At least I’m old enough to remember how to upload manually. Top of the list will be its hover mode. The damn thing skates all over the desk. The clients think it is hilarious, but they don’t have to clean up the mess. Why a communication module has to hover is beyond me. Back in my day, the stupid things made video links, and that was it.

The proximity light was blinking on the security panel, but I ignored it because it always acts up during the school holidays. The damn thing is too sensitive. I’ve told the tech a dozen times to tune it down. Teenagers are a pain in the neck, but not all of them are a security threat.

“Now, are you comfortable Mr……..?”

“Applegate. William P. Applegate. 27 Blossom Lane Deepdene 3056. You can have my glidephone number as well if you like.” My client was very keen indeed.

“That’s kind of you Mr Applegate, but the Iris Scanner will record all of that information for me. Can you look into the lens for me? Thank you. That’s the housekeeping out of the way. Now down to business. How can I help you?”

He told me what he wanted me to recollect for him, and it was easy enough for me to find the memory in his mind and it was all going along well until we got to the part where he shot both of his parents and put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

“What the fuck was that?” I heard myself say.

Part of being a ‘recollectionist’ means that you are in a mild trance when you retrieve and replay the requested memory. I have to be sitting very close to my client so that the energy fields that surround us are close enough to merge.

The whole thing works a lot better if the client is sitting in my lap, but you can see that this method has some practical drawbacks. Sitting close enough is good enough.

I held the image for a few moments, fully expecting the dead murderer to get up and laugh and say that it was all a joke, but he didn’t.

The scarlet red stain around his head just kept on spreading evenly.

I remember thinking that the floors in that house must have been very level for the blood not to flow in one direction. It’s a strange thought for such a moment, but this was not my first murder.

In the early days before the invention of the Hello-Motion-Brain Scanner, the police would bring me murderers who had made a confession and my job was to ‘recollect’ the exact details of the crime for the court records. I have to say that even though they paid very handsomely, I don’t miss those days.

I brought myself out of the trance a little too quickly and vomited in the waste paper basket. We haven’t used paper for many years, but I just couldn’t bring myself to throw it out, it belonged to Doc, and it came with the business, lock stock and barrel, as they say.

Mr Applegate was still sitting where I’d put him, and now he had a silly grin on his face.

“Now you know too,” he said.

“Know what?” I was aware that I was shouting, but it seemed appropriate.

“This memory has been playing in my head for a month and a half, and I’d like it to stop, please.”

“I’m not a head doctor Mr Applegate, I don’t do ‘stop it’, that’s not what I do. Have you been to the police?”

“Yes, of course, I have, but they said that both of my parents are alive. They don’t want to speak to me, but they are definitely alive, so the police will have nothing to do with me. Oh yes, they did say that they will lock me up if I keep bothering them.”

“That is your parents in that recollection, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and that’s me as well,” said Mr Applegate with that same silly grin.

“I have to say that I’ve never come across anything like this before, and I’ve been doing this for most of my life which, right now, seems like a lot of years. I don’t know how to help you, but I would say that you definitely need help. Professional, medical help.”

Mr Appligate’s retinal scan had already deposited the fee into my account so there was nothing else to do but see him out and wish him luck.

“You will see a doctor, won’t you Mr Applegate?”

“I’ll make an appointment as soon as I get home.” Same silly grin.

He didn’t make an appointment, at least I don’t think he did. There wasn’t anything about a doctor in the note, just a brief explanation that he did it because he needed to make the memory match the deed. That’s exactly how he phrased it, ‘match the deed’. Who says stuff like that? Who kills three people just to make a cross-wired memory into a fact?

William P. Applegate, that’s who.

The police showed me the crime scene photos.

Big hole in his head, scarlet stain unevenly spread and that silly bloody grin on his face.   

I’m Not That Good at Breathing In.

Version 4

I’m really not that good at breathing in.

My mum was the first to notice it.

It has a name and everything — dyspnoea.

It created a few problems when I was at school.

I would talk really fast on the out breath, and everyone would stare at me, waiting for me to finish the sentence, which I was unable to do until I managed to breathe in.

As I got older, I learned how to say stuff in a precise manner, but when I was younger, it multiplied my embarrassment.

One of the upsides of my affliction was that I rarely needed to be banged on the back because I had ‘breathed something in’.

You know the scenario; you are eating a biscuit, and someone says something that requires an answer. You breathe in quickly and down goes a chunk of biscuit followed by you coughing and sputtering followed by some large bloke pounding you on the back or worst still, trying the Heimlich manoeuvre on you resulting in three cracked ribs and flying biscuit crumbs.

Doesn’t happen to me.

When I breathe in small children, stop and stare.

The convenience store is open [I’m pretty sure that they stay open unless someone dies, and even then it’s only a ‘half day’] and I don’t recognise the person behind the counter, and more importantly, they don’t recognise me. I grab a newspaper and a pint of milk. I might be technically on the run, but I’m not missing out on milk in my cup of tea; a person must maintain standards.

The newspaper doesn’t have anything in it about me, and I’m not sure why it should, but it is reassuring all the same.

The date on the newspaper tells me that I have travelled forward in time by one hundred and fifty-eight days.

People are still driving cars and talking on mobile phones, and there are no longer any unmarked police cars parked outside my house.

Amazingly my letterbox is empty; someone has been collecting my mail.

When I get back home from the convenience store, I see Mrs Wilson waiting for me.

It’s too late to hide so I keep on walking, and I say ‘hello’ as though there is nothing unusual about this day.

“I’ve been collecting your mail for you. The man on the TV said that burglars notice if the mail piles up, so I have been taking it to my house each day. Not Saturdays and Sundays, of course, they don’t deliver on the weekends. They used to on a Saturday when I was a little girl.”

Mrs Wilson is pleasantly nuts.

She’s been pleasantly nuts for as long as I’ve lived on this quiet little street.

The other neighbours talk about her behind her back, but I’ve always liked her, and she has always been friendly to me.

She babbles on for several more minutes without mentioning the police raid or my boarded up front door. She doesn’t ask me what happened, and she doesn’t want to know where I’ve been, she’s just happy to see me.

She reminds me of a large faithful dog. They don’t care where you have been, what you have been doing, or why you have been away for so long — you are home now, and that’s all that matters.

As I mentioned, Mrs Wilson is more than a little bit crazy, and I wonder how she has escaped the attention of the authorities and her greedy family.

Her house must be worth a small fortune, but somehow they have not been able to sell it out from under her.

I asked her about it once, and she gave me the best answer.

“I know where they live, and everyone’s scared of people like me. They never know what we might do,” she said with a cheeky grin.

I listen patiently as Mrs Wilson continues her monologue but it occurs to me that I’m somewhat exposed standing on the street, in daylight, in front of what remains of my front door.

“Would you like to come to my house for a cup of tea Mrs Wilson?” I say, remembering that it has been six months since I’ve had a cup of tea.

The thought of that much time makes me wonder how I managed to go that long without a cup of tea; then I remember it has been only a few minutes for me.

I feel a little silly and hope that the next time I’m drunk I don’t mention it to any of my scientist friends — I’d never hear the end of it.

“That’s all right dear; I’m fine for the moment. Besides, you don’t have any gas or electricity.”

Mrs Wilson is sharper than people think she is.

“That nice young man was here a few days ago. He was carrying a large black bag when he left your house. I asked him about it, but he said that it was okay, and I was not to worry. He did ask me to say hello to you when I saw you and to tell you —— now what was it? I know I can remember it, just give me a moment ——- that’s right he said to tell you, ‘thank you, and remember Custer’s last stand’. He said you would understand.”

I must have looked a bit confused because Mrs Wilson asked me if I was feeling all right.

I smiled and told her that I was okay, but in my head, I was working out how I was going to get to Blairgowrie.

‘Custer’s last stand,’ was what we called Michael’s grandfather’s holiday house.

Now I know where he is, and I’m going to beat him with a very large stick when I catch up to him.