“Monsieur Robin, are you sure you don’t know them?”
“No, I don’t. Aaaaah,” I groaned. I was experiencing an overwhelming amount of throbbing pain on the right side of my face. Somebody had given me a cloth wrapped in a bit of ice to help with the pain after. But now the ice was turning into water and the pain was coming back.
I was at the police station giving my statement. It felt like I was being interrogated. According to the police, my attackers probably had a personal enmity with me. I was having a hard time convincing them that that was not true, and I was fast getting annoyed. “Look, Leonardt. You’ve known me my entire life. For God’s sake, we were neighbours!”
“Robin, I’m just doing my job. It’s part of the protocol. I do what the boss asks me to do,”
I burst out in a tirade of anger, “What is with everyone doing what everybody else has ordered them to do? I was attacked! And it feels like all everybody is doing is asking me to confirm what happened to me instead of going after people walking around with knifes and attacking random people,” I immediately regretted my speech. Even if what I’d said was the right thing, it wasn’t the right time and place to do it. I bit my lower lip, looking away.
“I think I need to remind you this is also the law,” Leonardt was a friend, but he was also a stern follower of the law. I wasn’t in the mood to argue with him on his unshakable love of it, and it wasn’t the right time for me to do so anyway. I also genuinely cared about the number of frown lines he was getting.
“I’m sorry, sir. That’s all I can remember of the incident. May I go now?” I said, gritting my teeth. This was of no use. I should head back to the office; Marcus was going to be in a fit.
“Yes, that should be fine. I’ll contact you when I have some news. You have a good day now, Robin. And next time, please don’t go walking by yourself in parts of town dressed like you own half of the buildings in that area.”
I decided to go home instead. I was too tired after the incident and jittery too, to admit the truth. I had heard about knife attacks in the more crime prone parts of Gratia, but thanks to my sheltered life, I had never experienced one. It was raining heavily by the time I left the police station, so I was grateful to change into warm clothes and make myself a cup of tea when I got home.
I looked in the mirror to inspect what I assumed was going to be a new face. I had a right black eye and a thin, straight cut on the cheekbone underneath. The cut had already stopped bleeding, and the throbbing had died down leading to a different kind of pain- a constant wave. I found some ice, wrapped it around a small towel and put it on my eye. I soon dozed off on the arm chair, and was woken a short while later to the sound of my whistling kettle.
“I’m coming, Missy!” In an effort to bring some warmth and liveliness to my house, I had given a name to my kettle. I settled onto my study-table, and took out the book I had found in the library. I turned to a new page.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
Poe’s magnificence was unattainable, I thought to myself as I re-read the piece of poetry. The brilliance of the intensity and depth of his feelings had always held a power over me- I grew up reading his work. One day, my tutor upon noticing the trend of my English essays taking a Poe-like trend (this was soon after I had been introduced to his writings) had joked about how I was going to end up like him. I was a young child, unaware of his backhanded comment. I hadn’t realised at the time how dark that joke was, and taking it as a compliment had told it to my grandfather the next day, at breakfast. It was the doing of my desire to impress him. The tutor did not visit that day, or the day after, and by the next week I had a new one. I really had wanted to impress my grandfather.
The memory of this incident now plunged an aura of sadness over me. I thought I had forgotten it. I wasn’t sure if I was sad because I just realised the dangerous vulnerability that children have, or that I preferred not to reflect too much on my childhood- even the moments of happiness.
I turned my attention to the book once again. I searched through the book’s empty pages for what must have been the thousandth time. No clues about the publisher. What was the point of so many empty pages in a book? Wouldn’t one want to fill it with one’s own thoughts if one was going through all the trouble of publishing a book anyway? The empty pages made up almost one third of the entire book. What a waste of pages in such a worthy book.
Might as well put them to good use, I decided. I took out my pen, and started writing:
I am not sure why I am writing this. I think it is because I need somewhere to write my thoughts in, and you are here, all perfectly bound and with a nice, ancient look as well. I wonder if the frankness of my writing would ever come even near the graceful likes of the writers I have grown up with.
I leaned back in my chair. I sounded like a blabbering idiot. Suddenly a great gust of wind blew in sending all the papers on my desk flying around the hall. Outside, a storm was raging. I shut the gallery’s glass doors just before another gale blew in. I sat back down on the chair. A second attempt had to be made to fix the previous bit of writing. I ruffled through the pages to find where I had left off. I reached for my pen but dropped it a second later when I realised a sentence that I had not written had appeared below my own:
I was stunned. I jumped out of my chair and let out a gasp of astonishment. “How did that… what… where… I was right here!” How could this be? My heart pounded in my chest, and I felt a cold shiver run down my neck.
The writing was delicate, and graceful, almost like calligraphy. Was my mind playing tricks on me? Was there somebody in the house who was playing some sort of joke on me? The first one seemed possible, but not the second because the door to my apartment was right in front of me.
I glanced at the page again. There it was. Perfectly clear and imprinted. All logic and scientific theories had just gotten thrown out of the window. I stared at the writing, and astounded myself by reaching for my pen and writing below it:
Who are you?
And then, I waited. But there was no response. Half an hour later, I was still sitting in my chair staring at the page, in a confused daze. The wind was still blowing eerily outside. My tea had lost all its warmth. My black eye was still hurting. But nothing was the same.