Remembering a better time

From the Story Arc: How the mighty have fallen

(posted Monday, June 13, 2005)

Remembering a better time

Rain streamed down the dirty glass of Khrushchev’s lone bedroom window. It had rained most of the day -- since the end of training, when he received the news. He sat on the edge of his bed, his own cheeks streaked with tears.

Khrushchev felt his eyes growing heavy and he glanced at the clock. It read only 9:30, but he felt very tired. He turned the television off and lay back on his bed, but not before grabbing her photo once more. He ran a finger across her cheek and let his arms fall to his sides. The television had helped some. It always did. Nothing else had helped that day -- not even beating on those circus freaks and throwing one into the trash can. Instead he let it fall from his fingers and drift gently to the floor like a leaf at the end of autumn. He sniffed a couple of times and rubbed his hand across his nose.

Khrushchev awoke suddenly with a gasp. His clothes were soaked from sweat. He was breathing fast and had to sit up from the bed. His hands were shaking uncontrollably, and he cuddled up to his legs. After several minutes, when he was able to calm down, he got out of the bed and walked out of the room, heading for the bathroom. His white t-shirt clung to his chest, from the sweat that was running down his body.

Turning the light on in the bathroom, Khrushchev went in and stood in front of the sink. He took out a bottle of pain killers, popped two into his mouth and swallowed. He rubbed his eyes and pulled his black hair away from his eyes, staring into the mirror. He turned on the water and lowered his head, splashing the cold liquid onto his face.

He walked back to his room it was dark but not entirely black. He could see the streetlights through that small gap in the curtains that he never managed to completely close. The attempt to switch on the bedside lamp left him in darkness. He switched the button on and off a couple of times before giving up. The fuse must have blown, or the bulb. He didn’t care. Suddenly he felt unwell and grabbed the glass of water on the table. Sweating profusely, he brought the glass to his lips and drank thirstily.

The liquid felt warm and thick. Something solid entered his mouth, and instinctively he spat it back into the glass. It was big, and alive, wriggling around in the glass which he threw across the room in disgust. It shattered against the radiator and he winced, picturing the stain on the carpet. The thought of nearly swallowing a spider or beetle or whatever that thing in the glass had been made him shiver. He spat into his handkerchief several times, trying to get rid of the sweet taste of the liquid. What was that? And what had he been drinking last night?

“What have you done with your life?”

The sudden sound of the voice made him jump. Someone was in the room. Without thinking, he darted out of bed and to the door. He flicked the light switch and spun around at the same time, his hand feeling for an object suitable as a weapon should his late visitor decide to attack him.

The room was empty. He wasn’t exactly surprised, considering that he knew he had locked the front door before he went to bed, the windows were closed, there was no way in. He must have imagined it.

The shattered glass had spilled its contents on the cream-colored bedroom carpet, and he walked over to examine the damage. As he approached, a large, black spider scurried away. It looked enormous, and he shuddered, remembering how the insect had briefly ended up in his mouth.

The liquid had colored the carpet red. He must have taken wine to bed instead of water. What was wrong with him?

He checked in the corner and in the wardrobe, and after scolding himself for being childish, checked under the bed as well, but there was no one. Perhaps he had drunk more than just a couple of glasses of wine. He tried to remember as he climbed back into bed.

A statement, not a question. He had left the light on so he was sure that he was alone in the room. The voice which was clearly not his own must have been originating in his own mind, and he decided to humor it. He looked down n the floor seeing her picture lying there. He picked it up and stared at it trying to remember her voice.

He remembered Mary’s funeral. That hadn’t been his fault. Mary had been unstable, weak. How could he have known that she was going to kill herself?

No one knew, no one could know. He kept her a secret, hidden from everyone no one in the CCCP ever knew of her existence. Perhaps if they did they might perceive Khrushchev as normal.

It had been the only time he ever missed an assignment, he remembered talking to Red Saviour that day and how he hid his pain.

“Commissar if I may have a word with you---it will be brief---I promise”.

“Da---go on” she replied never taking her eyes off the stacks of paper work that lay in front of her.

“I need---nyet---I require a day off for…”

“What? Khrushchev takes a day off---that is surprising to me, since you have not taken a day off from missions since…” She began thumbing through Khrushchev’s file, “ah here---since you got here. Well it is much deserved; ---oh before you go I just need to know where you will be”.

“I will just be gone for a day, I don’t think it is ----“

“I just need to know where you are in the event although rare case of an emergency where I need my officers to be present. So again where will you be?”

“Khrushchev slammed his fist against the wall screaming out “God damn it I said I will be back tomorrow, I only need one damn day”. Saviour dropped her pen her mouth slightly open as if in awe. Quickly her calmness changed to one of slight anger over Khrushchev’s audacity.

Khrushchev placed his head down and took a deep breath “I’m sorry commissar---I do not know what over came me. I just---please I need a day off, I have a matter which needs to be attended to and I would rather no one knew about it---even you. I assure you that I will be back”.

Saviour looked on and began to come down over his tantrum. “Comrade---are you sure there is nothing I can do, or anyone here---sometimes it helps to talk about things”.

“Nyet---I am fine” he walked out quietly and closed the door.

He could have handled that better he thought to himself. “I wonder what I am doing. I remember all of my ‘potential.’ How I can be anything. The speeches they made, the dreams they had for me. Now, I realize. Everyone claims that some people believe they are immortal, but the truth is that they are simply hopeful. They still see the world as a place of possibilities. But now my naiveté has been broken, and I know the dreams are not possible. The questioning doesn’t happen as often anymore, and all it takes is a flash of that bloody room in my mind and I remember why I do it.

That color is forever etched into my mind. The dull crimson glow, winking accusingly in the florescent lights. I see it all again, like a horrible stuck record; it keeps playing.

“You know what to do”. He had heard the voice again.

What should he do? Die? Should he kill himself to make amends? Would that make it right?

He didn’t think so, but by now he was so confused that he wasn’t sure if that was just an excuse. What should he do? His eyes finally became too heavy to remain open and even though his mind wandered in a million directions it only wanted one thing, to sleep.

To be continued…