It was December the 11th.
At 15:59 in the afternoon, there was a soft knock at the door. I felt the wooden echoes pulsate deep inside me. The door cracked open and he stepped inside without waiting for my consent. He hastily measured the room, trying to amend his erratic boldness, but there was no one inside. The floor released a high-pitched screech as he walked towards the brown couch. He sat and looked around. His palms were hanging heavy and they were drenched in cold sweat. His feet ached of bitter coldness and his stomach was tied into a fisherman’s knot. Facing the couch there was a wide and empty desk. It had thick wooden legs of what he suspected to be a prematurely darkened oak – a way to mask the artificial brightness of the wood.
Alongside stood an armchair with armrests coated in thick dust. Across the room, and next to the entrance, rose two tall shelves. They were filled with books. He couldn’t read the titles because there were none to be read. The covers were muddy, mostly dark brown, but there were some black, beige and even green – a shadowy green, and not a grassy bright one. However, the books had signs of neither authors, nor titles. His spine trickled with anxiety as he suddenly felt extremely uncomfortable. The sudden realization that there was no actual perception of life in the room struck him. As his eyes squinted throughout the chamber, he started to notice the unusual thickness of the dust scattered on the furniture. Assumptions of when life had lingered alongside the gravy carpets and dark green walls were long overdue. He rose and walked towards the large window, failing to notice the wardrobe on the opposite side of the curtains. He drew the thick drapes with a swift pull and that was when a second door opened.
‘Tell me about yourself.’
At first he seemed puzzled and for a couple of minutes the room embraced the worthy silence and the echoless conversation. But then he moistened his dry lips with one movement of tongue and spoke.
‘My name is Adam and I was born on the 12th of December.’ He gazed through the foggy window and made himself comfortable in the armchair as he was trying to comprehend the validity of his own words. The sun made the process easier. He felt peaceful. Sharing made him peaceful. ‘It had been a sunny day up until the skies started pouring at the break of dusk. The streets were ransacked of filth, and people of their gloomy thoughts. I always thought that rain brings a muted purity.’
I was confused. ‘What do you mean?’
‘It’s just that when the theatre offers bread and circuses, you know, we allow silence to bestow us with its trust because we owe respect to those who drag us out of the everyday life. Respect breeds silence and silence breeds peace. Either way, the nature’s time to shine was on my birthday and, as dutiful as always, everyone clammed up. At the time when umbrellas started to pop as snowdrops, or milk flowers as my sister used to say, I had not been born yet, although the mechanism was in motion. Black ink was quietly pumped into the fountain pen whilst the mug of black coffee was repeatedly taken from the wooden desk to the replenishment of the dry lips. My father was writing his latest novel.’
‘Wasn’t he there too? With your mother?’
‘No, and I never blamed him. How could I? He had his separate family, filled with ink and sovereign homes build on dry papers. We were just his anchor in reality, something to keep him afloat.’ Adam paused and took a sip of the sizzling tea.
‘Hot, is it?’ he asked.
I nodded. ‘Indeed, it’s been a dazzling afternoon. Haven’t had one in ages.’
Adam smiled and placed the cup on the cramped desk. There were stacks of paper with messy handwriting which he couldn’t break down. However, folded amongst the written dizziness, stood, red on white dryness, four names in smudgy ink. He looked at them, at first in a curious manner with the corners of his eyes, but then he fully turned and picked up the piece of paper. The red ink had been stained by salty drops of water. As it had dried up, each letter looked like a self-sufficient nervous system, spreading towards and merging with the other letters. He touched the paper and closed his eyes. The paper still felt soggy.
‘Do you miss your father?’ Adam asked.
‘Kind of, yes. Although, I might say, I always thought of him to be our creator and not my father. He always used to tell me that as long as he lives, we are immortal. He was playing with his fountain pen the last time I saw him. The fountain pen was in his left hand. I never noticed the right hand. You know, in these kind of situations, people cease the existence of rational thoughts and fatedly beseech the darkness to take them. Here, in front of you, I beg forgiveness to Gods I have never met. A forgiveness that would raise the guilt that weighs on my shoulders in the same way as death weighs onto the body until it drags it into the soil. I never noticed the right hand because he vowed that he will never leave us. I was naïve, I know. It was supposed to be different because as long as he lived, my mother, my sister and I were immortal. The fountain pen had been his primary weapon, but when he met my gaze, as I stood in front of his office, he dropped it. The shallow noise that erupted when the stainless steel touched the wooden floor startled him. I didn’t flinch because I knew something was wrong. Now, as I recall what happened, I can’t blame the gun itself. The pen had been his primary weapon all along. But when there were no targets left to focus on, he found alternative depths. His pen, his hands and his mind became dry. I still remember the muffled noise and the splattered brains onto his work desk. I was never meant to see him, I guess, but I was meant to save him. I still have the handgun after all these years. It still has a few drops of blood on the barrel. When he shot himself, the gun held four tiny bullets. After I picked it up it only held three.’
Adam reached the inside pocket of his coat and took out the gun. A small carriage of death, built by those who ride it and driven forward by anxious metal horses which, when met with sudden kicks, take the sky and tame the winds themselves. There is no other order of power. The nature bows before the metal stallions.
‘There is one bullet left.’ I managed to whisper after gazing through the metal barrel. Adam didn’t say anything, placed the gun on the desk and continued.
‘I was only twenty years old when my father left us. He realized that the writing realms had left him as well and I could never blame him.’
He left the last word to trail in the rising dust, slowly resting on the echoless conversation. The tea’s steam rose and gleamed in the afternoon sun as the drapes slowly danced in the hypnotic rhythms of the wind. As the room caught a dark – orange melancholic glow, the shadows grew steadier, lively outlined against the green walls and dusty furniture. The sun was dragged against its will underneath the skyline. Adam stood up and walked towards the window. He placed his hand on the convulsive drapes and rested his mind.
His shadow also spread and merged with the opposite closet. Oddly enough, the shade seemed not to cast itself on the wooden doors, but to completely enter the wardrobe. Adam gazed at his feet and let his eyes follow the pitch-black contour of his shadow. His elongated limbs, darkened and scattered along the muddy carpet, were shrinking as he was cautiously approaching the closet. He raised his hands and followed the shadow of his arms being engulfed by the wardrobe. The doors were slightly ajar, but the gap showed nothing but oblivion. He reached the wooden knob and closed his eyes.
‘I always had a special relationship with my mother, you know. Even after she killed herself.’
‘Is that so?’ I asked. He didn’t answer. His hand was slightly trembling on the cup’s handle. He could not feel the hotness anymore. The steamy scent was gone.
‘Yes, of course. I loved both of my parents, don’t get me wrong. I also loved my sister because she was independent and she knew how to take matters in her own hands. She also became my only pillar of support after mother and father passed away. But my mother was golden.’
‘Well, she planted some seeds in my childhood. Sweet seeds, I tell you. You must believe me. There were seeds that, eaten by themselves, would fill your mouth with innocent sugar. But I grew and the resulting fruits have darkened my adulthood. I don’t blame her. Who I am now is the result of my own actions. However, I had a glorious childhood. I was never spoiled, but I also had everything I seemed to want. Sometimes I never knew that what I needed was not exactly what I wanted and my mother made me realize that. The seeds finally grew and I did the same. She was the one who brushed the hair off my forehead and the drops of blood off my cheeks when my father killed himself. The fruits were as bitter as dry soil. She picked one fruit up, as she left her hand trailing along my spine, and went along to lift the gun.’
He turned his gaze towards the wardrobe. It was empty and that made him feel uncomfortable.
‘I apologize. Don’t mind that. My childhood was great and that’s what matters. Gosh! We had this house in the countryside, fifteen minutes away from the city centre. I do not have enough fingers and toes to count how many nights I have spent under the lucid sky. And this cat. This fat cat. Its name was Rasputin. It used to jump onto my lap and tickle me with its whiskers. It was a gift from my mother. My heart still aches over her. She shouldn’t have died.’
‘What happened?’ I asked the empty room.
‘She took the gun, I told you. What do you make of that? Did you think she polished it and went fine and dandy to scrub my father’s blood off the floor? No. She didn’t do that because that’s not what a loving wife does. For God’s sake, she sent me to my room. I remember her eyes. They were sparkling. I could see them clearly. Seconds later, the gun went off a second time. I found her squirmed in a fetal position. The gun was in her right hand. She used to write with her right hand. She had beautiful handwriting, I tell you. Victorian style with curls and dangling letters, always leaning on the right side of the page like a man drunk with poetry.’
Adam stood up and walked the few steps that separated the armchair and the office’s only door. He cracked it open and pushed his head into the opening. The hallway was empty and drowned in darkness. The half a dozen windows were no longer of use. Dusk had overwhelmed the world and his spine shrivelled at the lack of light. The office felt empty. His head started to hurt and he was losing his concentration. He approached the brown couch and sat down once again.
‘Well, as for my sister, I haven’t seen her since. She was not home when all this happened. I had to cope with death myself and I was jealous because she had escaped the desperation I felt. It wasn’t fair. She was 24 at that time. She graduated a couple of years before and settled in a dodgy European city. I didn’t want to tell her by phone, you know. It was not right. It did not feel right. Six months later I flew and met her at the airport. She didn’t know. She was happy to see me. I looked around in the departures lounge, but there were no wardrobes. The next day, after we depleted the first cups of coffee, I laid her down on the brown couch and told her everything. She started to cry, but I was passed that phase. I stood up and left the room as quickly as I could. You know, the universe is weird. It’s as if it wanted for my sister to die. I don’t know if I regret forgetting the gun in the coat or my mind left it there on purpose. It’s useless to say that she managed to find it. I remember her husband. Acknowledging he was rich is an understatement. It’s been ten years and I still remember her wide and deep wardrobe. She was a fashion addict, or something along these lines. She liked clothes. Well, her body fit quite well and the blood didn’t manage to spill on the carpet. That’s a plus on my side.’
He stopped and laughed. Laughter breeds sadness and sadness breeds tears. Adam stood up and approached the desk. He took a pen and removed the piece of paper out of his pocket. The first name, written with red ink on white paper, was his mother’s. He took out the cap with his teeth and crossed a line on her name. The second name was his father’s and the third name was his sister’s. With tears in his eyes, he crossed both their names trying to avoid spilling on the already crumbing paper. The last name was his. He crossed the thickest line he could, without feeling any remorse. He picked up the gun, walked towards the wardrobe and locked himself inside.
‘My name is Adam and I was born on the 12th of December. The gun I’m holding is the only act of love I’ve ever witnessed. They were never around me. My father was cheating my mother with fictional maidens and my mother focused on the development of my sister. I believe in hatred. I believe in tears and I believe in sadness. Life wasn’t meant for them because I wasn’t part of their lives. In the end, I believe hatred breeds death and death breeds love. In their death, I found the love I secretly kept over the years and in my death, they will find theirs.’
Even after the loud noise, the office stood as empty as it had always been. Adam was right, there had been no perception of life in the room. The armchair held the thickness of the dust with the same vigour as always, and only the couch kept an anachronistic artefact of Adam’s presence. In between the armchair and the couch stood one large mirror. In the reflection, Adam’s wardrobe filled the empty corner of the room. The door was slightly ajar and, in the utter silence, blood, as red as a summer rose, trickled on the muddy carpet, filling the room with the life it had never held.