Far From Home: Chapter 10 – Coming Home

The water here is cold. Memories of a childhood I knew could not be mine flowered in my mind; giggles and splashes with fingers trailing in a steam and cold water flicked at friends. If I tried that now I wouldn’t even know if the few fingers I had left froze solid and snapped off. Now only the custom-made fleece-lined leather gloves kept what was left of my hands safe from injury and the elements. The childhood squeals of joy faded until only the quiet lapping of my oar in the river and the occasional bird cry from the bank remained. I liked it that way. Memories were useless out here, they would only slow me, make me careless, drag me down with them. What was gone was just that, gone.

I looked ahead, my landing point approached, a stream flowing into the river where the forest at the base of the mountain dipped to meet the lake. The trees in the forest were snow-draped as if a funeral shroud had been cast over them, white and smothering…

“You’ll have to wear this under your clothes,” the doctor from the slums stood in my room and held up long white underwear. He’d been coming every day since my return. The hospital in Caledon offered me accommodation in the local sanatorium, promised me a job, promised me rooms, promised me a prison with lunatics for cellmates. I declined. I had a home. I had a jungle. I left and I went home only to find it had gone, burnt to the ground, not a trace left. I sat on the sand and didn’t move for three days.

I saw things. They spoke to me. They pointed and they laughed and they danced.

On the fourth day the rain came. I sat on the sand and made believe the rain streaming down my face were the tears I could no longer weep. It rained for a day and a night.

On the fifth day I left the island. I didn’t know where else to go so I travelled back to where it all began. Back to the epicentre. Back to Steelhead.

People stared. They whispered and pitied and taunted and joked. In Steelhead my misery was compounded by the unruly children that inhabit an underworld no adult can hope to enter without their permission. Oh yes, the Steelhead Scamps thought me great sport.

I wasn’t sure where to go, so I went to the slums to find the doctor. He stared. They all stare. Still, he helped. I don’t know what he said and to whom but by nightfall I was in a comfortable room in a nearby hotel. From my window I could see Spirit Lake flowing out into the river as it passed through the wilderness of St Helens.

“You’ll have to wear this under your clothes,” I turned from the window (how many days had I stood there staring out into the isolation beyond?), “and these gloves I’ve had made for you. Likewise your boots and socks. You are going to have to protect yourself if you are insistent about going through with this.”

I stared at the while underwear in his hands and the other garments on my bed. “Thank you. Is everything else ready?”

He sighed, “Yes. There’s a canoe and supplies ready and Lunar has stamped your purchase order. You’re the proud owner of very remote, very isolated forest by the mountain. I’m guessing that will make you happy, eh?”

I looked at the man with concern etched across his brow and said nothing. He shook his head and placed the long thermals on the bed, “Well at least promise me you’ll make our agreed meetings. Every two weeks. If you miss one, I’ll only come looking for you and neither of us wants that; I hate the great outdoors with a passion, you know.” I tried a smile but my skin wouldn’t move like that any more so I just nodded and told him he had my word.

The next morning I set a hat on my head, wrapped a scarf around my face and walked away from the hotel, away from the city, away from the scamps and everyone and everything. I checked the canoe and set off rowing, I let the river take me for a while but I liked to row, the exertion warming me in the frigid morning air. Since the fire, since Shade, The Erase, the would-be killer, since my recovery, winter had come to these parts and it held the land fast in its white silence. There was no one around, not a living soul for miles, and it was perfect. I looked down at the river, clear and blue beneath me.

Steelhead St Helens

The water here is cold, I thought to myself…

****{}****

The End.
All the “Far From Home” posts can be read here.

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14 comments

  1. Welcome to Steelhead St Helens. If anybody points or laughs, please let me know – we pride ourselves here on accepting strangers as they are and looking beneath the surface. Why, we even took in those outcast urchins and gave them the status of Scamps. 🙂

  2. Why thank you Miss Homewood, but for now I think I’ll be keeping out of the way of everybody. I will ask Dr Beck to pass by the library and pik up some information on joining the lending service if that is alright?

  3. Hon, I love how you can cover so much ground, tell so much story, but do it so economically.

    And the way you brought it in such a nice circle, starting with the cold water, and ending with it. I liked that. Really well done.

    Good lines like:

    “I sat on the sand and made believe the rain streaming down my face were the tears I could no longer weep.”

    I loved that.

    And the picture–a gorgeous image, perfectly composed and in just the right place.

    1. Dio, that means a lot coming from you so thank you 🙂

      I tried with this chapter, more than the others, to depict a man who has shut down (as much as he can) his emotional core. The isolation and the forzen nature of his new home mirrors his withdrawl from the world around him. I kept the sentences short (shorter than normal for me) to indicate a man running through facts alone with a detached air, as thought they happened to someone else and didn’t matter in the slightest. The only clue to his locked-in, boxed-off, deep-down pain was his time in the rain when the loss of his home brought into sharp focus all that his journey from that home had cost him. And with no tear ducts left the rain was the only thing that could have allowed him such a release.

      Someone asked (Hiya Darien) if this was me putting HBA out to pasture, but let me assure anyone interested that it’s not. HBA is a problem to Steelhead in so much as he knows that Steelhead is created within a computer generated world. The trouble is, so is HBA and that’s where he is now trapped without a typist. I’m going to play down HBA’s stories and instead concentrate the tales of daring do towards Ryne. HBA will have a more emotional story arc ahead of him – I want to see if he ever becomes ready to rejoin society.

      Did you ever read how HBA came to Steelhead via the portal on the Island?

      https://headburroantfarm.wordpress.com/2009/06/28/the-lost-journal-the-end-of-the-line-part-2/

      and

      https://headburroantfarm.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/the-lost-journal-an-ending-of-sorts%e2%80%a6/

      1. I should add that part of my future story arc for HBA will be gaining acceptance of his new home – the realisation that because a world is created within a computer there is no reason why it can’t be every bit as real and as meaningful to its inhabitants.

  4. Well-ended!

    As a Caledonian, however, I take pride in my nation and must defend her honor: we have a very *nice* prison with lunatics for cellmates!

    I hope HBA regains his equilibrium (and some skin) in his Steelhead retreat. As for the Scamps, I recommend a high-pressure water hose. Great fun for all, especially as the little buggers go tumbling down the mountain!

  5. Nice ending! The solitude and the coldness really show his emotional state. I felt so sorry for you, sitting alone in the rain like that! I’ll be interested to see how things unfold as HBA finally lets out all that bottled-up emotional pain and begins to heal!

    1. Cheers Ilia – I’ve been chewing over HBA’s next move a lot of late and I’ve got a few ideas. For now it’ll be Dr Beck stories with occasional ‘updates’ from HBA but HBA’s story arc is far from over… after all, he’s got a long way to go to accpet his new found status as a virtual lifeform… 😉

  6. Just read the whole lot in one go while sitting around in my hotel in new babbage, absolutley fantastic writing and brilliant ending.

  7. Bravo, sir. What I liked best about this chapter was the poetic dissonance between the lush, beautiful, vibrant landscpe in which HBA has settled and his internal emotional barrenness. Additionally, I loved how it very was very clearly an end. Not “the end” but definitely a conclusion.

    It makes my own departure from the grid seem crass and common by comparison.

    1. Not at all! And beside, I sincerely hope your absence from the grid is no more than an extended break 🙂

      As for HBA, I’ve not really managed to re-start his tale. I have toyed with the idea of having the Formorians reappearing but Steelhead just doesn’t seem the right place. My attention moved to Ryne Beck – I hope you like his tales 🙂

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