Finding Life

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Kneeling beside the bleeding body, he has to choose…

Submitted: May 11, 2014

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Submitted: May 11, 2014

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Harry had not expected to find blood. Warm and sticky, in the darkness he watched it drip from his fingers. The drips fell on the old man, lying on the floor of his library. Blood splattered on his sallow forehead and trickled around his open eye like a red lobster’s claw enclosing a blue lagoon. The eye stared up at Harry, watching, reading every nuance. The intelligence behind the eye was intense, drawing him in. Mesmerised, Harry was as a child, full of wonder, unformed questions tumbling through his mind.

He felt as innocent as Daisy, his three year old daughter, looking into Daddy's eyes. Daddy was funny and kind, Daddy knew everything. He smiled, if only it was true. Yet the old man lying cold on the handcrafted rug knew more than anyone alive, and with his death, Harry's secret would surely be safe.

Moonlight entered through the arched window, noticing his hand still touching the old man, Harry guiltily withdrew it as if it belonged to someone else. An enlarging pool of blood seeped from the back of the old man's head across the rug, staining his thin grey hair, evidence of a life ebbing away. Harry tried with his fingers to brush the blood away from the old man's right eye, streaking it across his narrow wrinkled forehead. He could not believe what he was doing, touching the face of Hilary Hewton, recognised around the world as the greatest polymath since Leonardo da Vinci, artist, scientist, inventor; excelling in all he touched. Creator of so many wonderful things that astounded, delighted and disturbed the world. And he would surely create so much more if he lived beyond the night.

A shiver ran through Harry as the magnitude of the event hit him, the smell of death on his red sticky fingers. He looked away, up at the library walls and ceiling, bluish in the shadowy light, a library that stirred a sense of wonder he could not explain, immersed in another world. Strange glass sculptures, still and watching, seemed to close on him. Four of Hilary's famous blue paintings lived on the walls, unframed, unsettling; a Tardis of ancient books on one side, an array of inventions and computers on another, an ordered jumble of an ordered mind. "How," Harry wondered, "could one bloke think-up and do so many incredible things?" He recalled the time he and his mates had huddled into the local cinema to see Hewton’s masterpiece, "Wish", for a laugh, and found himself stiffly holding his head up, hoping no one could see the tears rolling down his cheeks in the dark.

Harry’s hand stroked his short brown hair and tattooed neck, his gaunt face exposing the misery of his situation. At twenty-eight, Harry Hunt, felt the years slipping by, no better off than when he was eighteen, no car, a suspended driving licence, no wife, a three year old child, no home, he dossed with so-called friends. He had enough. It was not fair. He had no choice. He needed more.

Desperate for a new beginning — or end, he had waited in the shadows watching the house for three days, not a sole entered or left. Then in the cold darkness of night, he forced entry into the elegant house through a library window. The contained loneliness of the room immediately unsettled him. Standing poised in the shadows of the room he cursed his ill luck at the unexpected noise.

It was not fair, he had done everything right, Hilary was meant to be in New York opening a new installation. He had to flee, he had promised Sally when they moved in together that he was on the straight and narrow thinking her easy to deceive. Harry never expected the trauma, Daisy entering their lives. Intended or not, it was the only promise he had kept, until now. Daisy transformed his life, she loved her Daddy Teddy Bear. And Teddy Bear loved Pudding, he would not allow her to grow up with a father that was no more than a crumbled photo and a mis-told story. For three years, her life, he grafted, until this night, bearing the grudge of other people's good luck and his misfortune. A single lapse, unfairly snared, the genius was in.

Harry stared down in a misery of confusion at the wrinkled face and expensive clothes. It was not right. He had lived his whole life in the same rotten neighbourhood, bored and frustrated whilst Hilary Hewton had travelled the world in enviable luxury, conversing easily in a score of different languages with friends on every continent. "I should've been you!" Harry cried aloud, convinced it was not his fault he was alone, friendless, broke, living with Madge the moaner. Sally said she wanted someone more dependable, she did not appreciate how hard he tried. His only relief was Daisy's smile and love, she must never know her Teddy Bear had, and was again, attempting to live of other peoples good fortune.

Those famous blue eyes peered up into Harry's with an insight that cut through pretence and laid bare a cellar of dark secrets. Over three times Harry's age, those eyes treasured a vitality and enthusiasm for life that Harry had never know, but it was not that which unsettled him, it was the compassion. The old man's thin lips moved, his eyes closed and a sigh left his body. Harry's eyes darted away to the darkness of the window through which he had chanced his luck.

Not bearing to look, Harry felt his stomach twist, he pushed his head back trying to control his emotions. It was not fair. With his record Daisy would have doubled in age before he would be free to enter her home again, a lost eternity. He trembled as he recalled her funny walk, her wonderful mis-sayings, her tiny arms around his neck. It was unbearable. In the darkness he recalled "Wish" and felt tears stinging his eyes.

He forced himself to look down, the rug was stained with blood where Hilary clung to life. Harry dared to raise his head to study that dying face, famous throughout the world. Hilary's eyes opened, studying him with no malice but a disturbing comprehension that again made Harry look away. He had to decide but every thought, every act, ensnared him.

Choose. He felt his future and all he touched resting on the moment. Looking down at the old man breathing silently beside his bent knee, Harry watched him shiver with cold in the warmth of the room. The loss of blood draining his life, soon a mind only witnessed once every half millennium would create no more. Harry wondered how his life weighed against such a colossus. The old man had saved and transformed thousands of lives, given joy to millions and would inspire billions. In comparison Harry felt he was little more than an indistinguishable ant amongst an army of indistinguishable ants. Perhaps, but he had Daisy, who did this giant of a man have, living alone, too brilliant for the dull stars around him? He stayed on one knee, as if in prayer, knowing he could rise and walk away. Or he could summon help and face the consequences. How could Daisy ever respect a man who let that great brain bleed to death? What was prison compared to such an act? It was a life without Daisy, a meaningless living hell.

The old man lifted a frail hand and rested it on Harry’s knee, comforting him. Somehow, on the edge of life he understood Harry’s anguish and wanted to comfort him! How could he do such a thing? The realisation stung Harry but not as much as the sob that shook his body, tears brought no comfort. Struggling to control his emotions he peered at the executions of his choice, the elegant phone on the crafted desk, and beyond, the dark window to the lives he loved. The old man’s forgiving eyes read Harry's world and offered a multitude of hopes. Harry stared at him but saw only one.

“You’ll die.”

He felt Hilary's long fingers press his knee signalling yes I will, but I am prepared. Yet the compassion in his eyes said I would be pleased not to die alone.

Harry pushed his head back and stiffly held it there, trying to suppress his emotions, to understand. He had observed the house for three days, the man had friends around the world yet no one came. He remembered a famous painting by Hilary that he had never understood, until now, of a sunburst in a world of candles. "How can you bear it?" Harry wondered aloud, “I love Daisy but a room full of silly kids is a living hell”. Rising slowly, tears wet on his cheek, Harry regarded the phone, regarded the window and thought of Daisy. Thought of his life and what it meant. The old man waited. In that silence Harry learnt something special, he forced a smile and knelt in the warm blood. Geniuses were not the only people who could shape the world.

 

 


© Copyright 2019 Chris West. All rights reserved.

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