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  • Writer's pictureMichael Stewart

The Cycle of Life


The day began just like every other day recently, with the cold, soft November sunlight just beginning to break through the darkness of the bedroom. I lay there, cosy in the half-light, allowing my mind to crank itself up, letting all sorts of thoughts run through my head, just as I’ve always done. All my life I’ve felt this was my most creative part of the day, the time when I’ve often come up with a solution to a problem or contemplated some deep meaning of life, or the workings of the universe, or on the odd occasions penned a story in my head. I’ve always felt there was a good novel in me somewhere, I just haven’t managed to write it yet.


Lying there relaxed, letting the thoughts come, how could I have possibly known that the grim reaper would come visiting today? I don’t suppose anyone does, do they? Maybe we all should consider it, would you do anything differently if you knew?


Looking in the bathroom mirror I saw the usual haggard old face. Unshaven for about a week, I tried to convince myself that even though I was old, I still looked rugged and handsome in an Earnest Hemingway sort of way. I’ve never really known if I suit a beard or not. I don’t think I do really, I think I just try to convince myself that I do because I’m lazy. I hate shaving, always have. It seems such a waste of time. Showering and drying off is such a chore too when you’re old. It takes so much time and effort just to get your feet dry. Every bloody thing aches.


After struggling to get on my favourite old jeans, tee shirt and faded blue sweatshirt — which has admittedly seen better days — I headed off to the kitchen for breakfast. A treat today, melted cheese on toast with marmite and a big cup of Earl Grey tea. My favourite. Very healthy — and refined. If I’d known then it was my last day, I might have had another piece of toast.


Whilst eating I tuned into the Radio Four Today programme with Mr Humphries to catch up with the goings on in the world. Breakfast is a bit of a lonely time now — mind you, so is lunch and dinner. I used to love making breakfast for my darling wife and the kids.


Memories.


Happier times, but painful now when I dwell on them — I think there’s a song there somewhere. I miss my lovely wife, she’s been gone ten years now. I’ll never get over her. It’s like I’m only half a person without her, maybe less than that. Still, the kids are all doing well and are happy with their own families, which keeps me going. I’ve had a good life. Better than many.


Pulling myself out of it I decided to go out and face the day. A nice walk to the library and losing myself in some science should do it. I’m no scientist or academic in any way really, but I’ve always enjoyed exploring the world of quantum physics and wondering about the nature of reality. That sort of deep—big thinking certainly takes you away from the reality of daily life — and those ‘darker thoughts’.


The November sky was clear blue with just a few wispy white clouds meandering by. I could see my breath glistening in the sharp cold air. My wife and I always loved days like these, they were the best. Still so dreadfully lonely experiencing these moments without her.

Before I knew it I’d been in the library for over four hours. Mid-afternoon now, time for a pie and a pint. I thought I’d take a table outside the old Fox and Hounds pub today and enjoy the November sunshine, watching the world go by for a while.


Midway through my pint of Guinness it happened. It was a strange pain deep within my chest. If I’m honest it wasn’t really painful, uncomfortable more than anything, like a cramp in my chest. It was when the tingling in my arms started that I thought, uh oh. Everything began to go hazy and I remember feeling very sick and wanting to lie down; I think I may have slipped off my chair. I certainly had the impression of people rushing to me — I remember hearing some comforting voices and someone putting something soft under my head. People are nice I thought. I didn’t want to make a fuss, It was just nice to be lying down.


The cramp in my chest had peaked and was easing off, I started to feel so sleepy. I knew it was my heart, I remember thinking it was probably that cheesy bloody marmite on toast that did it. I could hear the sirens in the distance as tiredness enveloped me. I just wanted to sleep. I let it take me. That was it — blackness, oblivion, nothing else. No voices in the distance, no movement, no sense of being, just nothing…


Or was it? I sensed someone talking, a tinny sort of voice, quite close by. I couldn’t make out the words though. I was lying on something soft, it felt nice, comfortable and warm. Very cosy.


I was struggling to think clearly, maybe I was drugged? Probably in intensive care, I thought. My eyelids felt very heavy, too heavy to open just yet. I wanted to sleep again and my mind felt like soup, but I heard a soft voice talking, very close — talking to me I think. It was a lovely comforting sing-song sort of voice, I’m sure I recognised it. The other tinny voice carried on in the background, but there were no other sounds. Then the tinny voice stopped and some music started. It was an old number, one of those old big band sounds. Radio. That’s it, it was a radio. Must be the hospital radio.


It was so warm and cosy lying there, I was reluctant to break the moment, but I had to know where I was. I dragged my eyes open. Finally managing to focus, I looked up and saw a beautiful young woman standing close by. She was smiling and humming along to the music while she was concentrating on something in front of her. What was it?


She was ironing. I struggled to make any sense of the scene. I tried to make out more details around the room but for some reason, my vision wasn’t working great. Probably the drugs I assumed. I could just make out what looked like some blue cupboards and a sink, and a large old cooker with an old-fashioned kettle sitting on top. I was in some kind of an old retro-style kitchen.


The music finished and I heard the same tinny voice back again for a while before another piece of music came on. This certainly wasn’t a hospital. Where the hell was I?


I struggled to get up. I couldn’t feel any wires on me — which was a good sign — and I found I could move easily enough, but for some reason, I just couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t even lift my head off of the pillow. Frustrated, I tried again but this time I caught sight of my hands. No, they weren’t my hands, they were tiny. But they were my hands. I tried to move them in front of my eyes to get a better look, but it was difficult, I couldn’t control my own hands.


I don’t mind admitting it, that really scared me and I let out a loud cry. I don’t think I meant to, it just came out. It startled the beautiful young lady and she looked down at me, peering closer.


I studied her face, I knew her, vaguely. A distant memory. She smiled the most beautiful smile ever and reached out her arms to me. Involuntarily I reached out to her too. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to do, and she picked me up.


I knew from my earliest memories where I was now — my old home, my old kitchen.

And I knew who the beautiful young lady was, MUMMY! I gurgled.


I was back, starting again.


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