The Analekta 1959

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A Short Story

Sheila Sodhy

It is strange to think that it was only yesterday that I last saw them. I remember that it was three weeks exactly after the day that they first came.

Three weeks ago I was sitting in a chair in the verandah of my house. It was hot. The air came closer and closer around me until I wanted to scream and never stop. I could not keep still. I tried to think about the spot on the wall in front of me. I stared at it. It stood still, swayed slightly, then disappeared. It was impossible to concentrate. I told myself to stop shaking and jumping in my mind, and to think, think, think. Panic shook me. I thought of my father and mother. They had not written to me for over a week. I held my head and shook it, but still I could not think. For five minutes I had stared at the same page, but it would not tell me anything.

Then I looked up and they were there. I did not see them coming, or hear them, nor did I wonder how or where or why they came. All I knew was that they had come. It did not seem necessary to say anything, or ask them who or what they were, or where they had come from or why. We were very quiet. I sat in my chair with my book in my lap and my pen in my hand, and they were almost four feet away from me. We looked and looked. It did not seem odd, or out of place when they said the only words that they have ever said since: I did not consciously see their mouths forming the words, but I could feel their power filling me, and I heard them. Just three words: "It is strange." It was said softly, almost apologetically, but it was so strong and so firm that the power intensified until it hummed and became a part of myself. The peace I had, when they were said! My hands stopped shaking and my mind slowly sighed to rest. How could I have been so restless but a moment ago? How long they were there, I do not know.

And then they were gone.

It did not seem odd at the time, nor does it seem now, the way they came and then went. What was odd was the peculiar sensation of calmness that overwhelmed me then.

Since that day, they have come eight times. On each occasion, I am absorbed in my work or in myself. Then I feel the sudden surge of power, and they there, amused, perhaps a little sad, and always very calm. On each occasion, wherever I am, and whatever I am doing, they have found me, and as always, the strength of their "It is strange" has drowned me in peace. The little petty trifles which so bothered me then, now seem unimportant. I began to look forward to their arrival, because whatever frustrations and fears I had collected, would be swept away by them.

And then yesterday it happened.

The book that I had been reading when they first came, crumbled in my hand as I held it. I was suddenly holding a small handful of yellow dust. I looked at my pen: it was there. I touched it. All that was left was few wisps of greyish smoke. Fear caught me. Throughout the day everything - plants, cushions, paper, chair, glass, blouse - everything that had been on or near me when they had come, decayed and turned into dust. One by one they all went from me.

Yesterday I was brushing my dog when they came. As before, their very presence, and the soft, lulling song of "It is strange" quietened my fears and gave me the peace and contentment that I longed for I stopped dreading.

This morning my dog died.

I have not been at peace today. They have taken all from me, first my lifeless possessions, and then my dog, who was life and flesh and blood. I want them to come today. I want to hear them say, with their infinite serenity: "It is strange." What is strange? Is it they who are strange, or is it I, or the world, or life itself? Does the strangeness lie in what I have done to myself, or what they have done to me? I do not know. I do not want to know.

I am in my room now. Today they will come. I am sure of it. I am waiting. They will give me peace and calm and then they will take something away from me. I cannot, I dare not think what they will take today. It is very still now. I know that when I look up, they will be there. I am afraid. My hands will not stop shaking. I sit in my room and I wait.

Now I can feel the power. It grows stronger. It rises to a crescendo. It fills my ears and my head and myself. It hurts me. It is like an ocean, surrounding me and covering me until I am nothing. They are coming. I know it! I look up.

They have come.

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Created on 08 December 1999.
Last update on 08 December 1999.

Ooi Boon Kheng