April 12th, 2005
I can't believe it's been four months since I last updated here. Oh, well. I'm back to present a short story which came to me in the middle of class today, and refused to leave until I wrote it down. Without further ado...
Fandom: Harry Potter
Author's notes: Thanks to Jenny for the beta, and my neuroscience textbook for the inspiration.
"Do not trust your memory; it is a net full of holes; the most beautiful prizes slip through it." - Georges Duhamel
"Mr. Roberts? The doctor will see you now."
Jude looked on silently as her father stood up from his seat, putting aside the copy of the Guardian he'd been pretending to read. He took a few tentative steps, then looked back at her, face full of confusion.
What am I doing here? she waited for him to say. Who are all these people? Who are you?
"Where do I go?"
She breathed a soft sigh of relief and pointed at a small door next to the nurses' station. She sank back down into her chair and fumbled for a magazine.
"Do you come here often?"
It was such a standard pick-up line that Jude had already answered no before she looked up at the man who'd asked it. He had white hair and kind eyes, and a wrinkled, sincere face.
"I thought I saw you yesterday," the man explained. "And the day before last."
"Oh. Well. They're running my father through a series of tests. Today's the final one."
"What's the matter with him, if you don't mind my asking?" He added quickly, "My name is Arnold, by the way."
"I'm Jude." She shifted uncomfortably, but then, she was always uncomfortable. "He's got severe anterograde amnesia - they're not sure how or why, though."
"How or why?"
"Usually when someone has memory problems it's the result of an injury, like a lesion, or a disease like Alzheimer's." It occured to Jude that the old man might be at the doctor's office for precisely that reason, but if he was, he didn't react except to nod with faint interest. "But my father hasn't got that. Just a bunch of dead brain cells that they can't explain."
"You know a lot about this." Arnold looked impressed.
"I have to."
There was a silence that stretched so long Jude went back to reading her magazine. A few minutes later she felt Arnold's hand on her arm. It was dry and bony and made her shiver. "How old are you, dear?" he asked.
"And how long has your father been having problems?"
He looked pained. "Isn't there someone else that can help you take care of your father?"
She shrugged. "My mother does what she can, but she has to work if we're going to be able to pay my dad's medical bills. And my brother - well, he's only fourteen. Can you really expect him to do anything besides play football with his friends?"
"Don't you like to play football?"
She shrugged again. "I used to."
Arnold had removed his hand, was holding it with the other to keep it from trembling. "That's a crying shame, if you don't mind my saying so."
"I don't," she replied, although it didn't give her any comfort, either. She smiled at him anyway, giving kindness for kindness. "What about you?" she asked, trying to change the subject. "Why are you here?"
"Oh, I - I am waiting for someone."
She glanced down at the wedding ring on his finger. "Your wife?"
He blinked at her. "... yes."
It was probably his wife that had the Alzheimer's, or maybe she'd slipped and fallen on some icy steps and gotten a concussion. "Well, I hope she's feeling better soon," said Jude politely.
"So do I." Arnold seemed to realize what an obvious statement that was, and smiled. "And your father, too."
She looked across the room at a painting of an empty field, at the dark spots near the edges where field met forest. She thought maybe she could make out a squirrel, or a deer. "There's not much chance of that."
"It's been six years," she reminded him. "He just stays the same. The scientists like to observe him and ask him questions, but they never give us anything useful back."
"Like I said, they don't know what's causing it. We just know the summer I turned twelve he suddenly stopped being able to remember things. We've tried everything since then. Neuroscientists, therapists, witches. In the end, all we go was an empty wallet." Listening to herself, she felt embarassed, laying all her problems out like that to a virtual stranger, even if he was a sweet old man.
"Oh, you know. New age crackpots. Crystal balls and incense and all that rot." It had been a foolish idea, but they'd been desperate.
"What did these 'new age crackpots' - " his lips stumbled over unfamiliar words " - what did they say?"
"Nothing useful," she repeated.
"But what did they say?"
He was very agitated. Jude was so used to answering questions, it didn't occur to her to refuse. "They said it had to do with our dreams."
She frowned, uncomfortable again. "About the time my dad started having problems, my mum and my brother and I started having these dreams. We still get them. We dream - I dream we're flying, picked up by the wind, and on the ground are hundreds of masked people laughing and jeering and - " she shuddered, clamped her mouth closed. She took a breath to steady herself, then finished: "When we went to a therapist, she explained that it was our own feelings of helplessness in the face of father's illness."
"That's sensible." Arnold had calmed down - he'd been staring at the picture on the opposite wall as well, Jude realized. "Nothing's changed."
She looked at him strangely. "No," she said, slowly. "It hasn't."
"I meant in the painting - " He dropped his hands back into his lap. "What I mean is, I'm very sorry."
"Most people are," she said.
"No, but I - please, look at me, Jude, dear."
Frowning, she did as he asked. His eyes were old and sad, but clear. "I am so very, very sorry. We forgot about you all too easily - "
Was that some sort of joke? She swallowed thickly. "I don't understand - "
He began to reply, but the door swung open then, and Jude's father walked back into the room. He looked around, disoriented.
"Excuse me, but have you seen my daughter? They said my daughter was waiting here for me."
"It's me, dad," she said, standing up quickly and going to him. "It's Jude."
He wrenched his hands away. "No, Jude is only a little girl. Just about five foot tall." He gazed at her more closely, then added, "You do look a great deal like her, though."
"I'm Jude, just six years older. You've been having memory problems again." She could feel Arnold's gaze upon them, and she tried to keep the frustration from her voice. "Jude, remember? You named me after the Beatles song. When you taught me how to ride a bicycle, I skinned my knee and had to have stitches." She rolled up a trouser leg. "See, here's the scar."
He kneeled down to touch it, then looked up at her. "... Jude?"
They embraced then. There had been a hundred embraces like this before, and Jude found herself looking over her father's shoulder at Arnold. He was standing, too, and backing away slowly.
"Please, sir - " she began, then stopped, not knowing what to say.
"I fought a war for you," said Arnold, incomprehensibly. "I fought a war for you. I thought I'd won."
She was still clutching her father's hand, struggling to answer, when the nurse came forward and insinuated herself between them. "Arnold Peasegood?"
"Please, come with me..."
As he was led away, Jude thought she glimpsed him taking a long, thin stick out of his pocket. But she dismissed the idea.
There was already enough madness in her life.
Hi - I found my where here from your story Into the Woods on schnoogle.com. I was wondering if you finished this fic and posted it to another archive? If you haven't, you should. I was really enjoying it. Harry and Ron's characterizations were perfect.
|Date:||April 29th, 2005 04:41 am (UTC)|| |
Whoops, wrong journal.
I never finished the fic, and I don't intend to - I'm sorry, I'm a terrible human being. I always hated people who left fics unfinished, but once you've (mostly) dropped out of fandom, the inspiration isn't really there. I *do* think I have another chapter that I finished but never posted. If you'd like me to dig it up, I can probably manage to do that sometime over the summer.