Fishing for Kings

Each morning William wakes up wanting to feel different, and each morning he is disappointed over breakfast again. Had those winds blown in a different direction, had that unknown butterfly beat its tiny wings to a different rhythm, perhaps he would be sitting somewhere else now filled with joy rather than pain. He had often wondered what happiness would be like, it was the dream that seduced him to sleep as a child, as the darkness around him resounded with the crashing of doors and furniture driven by his parents’ bickering.

Perhaps if had he declined that job in London that year and accepted the one in New York, maybe things would be different in a different country, a different time zone — he could have been a different person. Love, true love knew no distances and at one stage he would have travelled the world in pursuit of it. But like some half-remembered refrain of a long forgotten song, like sauntering around a dim, dusty house on a lost Sunday, that’s how life was now — vague and meandering.

He manages a grin as Penny walks past with her plastic badge and smile handing out pills. He occasionally talks to them but it’s difficult to feel that anybody really cares anymore. The world is full of hurt and always will be it seems.

It had initially taken him by surprise. And then he grew accustomed to it, now the sorrow which had consumed him long ago threatened to touch everyone he came in contact with. He had stopped counting the number of times love had died or passed him by because of it. And no matter how he tries to fill it, it seems to rage and grow daily despite the medication.

In the summer things had been different, somewhat lighter, but now winter has arrived the dark nights press against him like cold hands inflicting him with numbness. William finds it difficult to sit without feeling its great, dark weight pushing down on him. At night he senses the terror of time like a hot breath against his neck, like a hunter chasing him down relentlessly in his dreamless sleep.

Sometimes the medication helps him forget and brings small relief in nothingness until they change the medication again. At least here he is isolated enough to be out of society’s harmful gaze. They watch him sometimes in his sleep to ensure he keeps the promises he made when he came here and doesn’t hurt himself.

‘Some folks just don’t see things the way we do,’ he says to Lucy.

He likes Lucy but she doesn’t say much, she is naturally shy and the drugs keep her glazed and silent.

He deals the cards anyway, takes a sip of hot, tasteless tea, rolls a cigarette and peers out into the dying garden behind Lucy’s shoulder.

To many, at various points in his life, William seemed to be the epitome of contentment — loving, caring, self-effacing — but it was an improvised act he’d committed to long ago to hide the pain that grew from an early age. It’s an act he’s honed after the pain refused to go away. Now after years of disappointment, William accepts that life doesn’t have to be full of drama to validate it, life can still be meaningful without the crises he both longed for and dreaded.

We all walk the cliff edge, but the trick is to do it while looking into the distant horizon without feeling the terror that you will fall at any second. But William dreads that if he learns to walk it well enough they may let him out, back to where he must rebuild everything from the remains of dust and ashes.

William fans the cards in his hand. ‘Kings,’ he says.

‘Go fish!’ says Lucy.

William takes a card and feels the unwanted twinge of disappointment again.

‘Queens!’ says Lucy with a shy smile.

William manages a smile in return and hands Lucy his Queen of Hearts as Penny passes him his morning’s medication in a plastic cup, with a plastic smile.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
Image: hospital by PoL Úbeda Hervàs / CC BY


10 thoughts on “Fishing for Kings

  1. my mind just exploded with this story – where do you get the ideas for these – are you taking some of those magic pills? Seriously! I thought I saw a man so tired of life he has to feign insanity to be among those who aren’t in the race anymore – and he has to pretend to be insane to remain there, for the outside is harsh and he may never rebuild his life if let out. I identify with this so much, struggling to be sane in an insane world – easier to be locked up in an institution where the tempo of life never has to have a new beat. you are really master class above the rest when it comes to sadness and gloom and I loved this one very much. Thank you David!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could equally ask the same about the origins of your magical stories! I guess sometimes stories just write themselves — this was one of them. You summarised it well, sometimes it feels a struggle to stay sane in a seemingly insane world. Thank you for the compliment re: sadness and gloom :). But I’ve often said, I’d rather be in the shadow looking towards the light than in the light staring at the shadow, and that’s where I write from. Thank you for reading and lending your insightful comments, as always.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am sorry I never discovered your longer pieces till now always reading the flash and micro fiction! I have been missing out on your brilliance and sensitivity. Well better late than never won’t you agree. Now, this is where my story will appear first – right here in this comment section, I suspect not many I know will follow me, having such few followers anyway – but this is part of my story that I have not been able to talk about before – but you make me feel this is a safe place to speak – nothing scandalous or earth shattering but important to me nonetheless. I stopped writing for more than 20 years and by this you would probably guess my age (i.e. – old!) and only started again last year. But I never stopped telling stories, to myself and my kids as a safe haven from things we had to go through. And this is just a small collection. Lets see how much this rusty old mind can remember going forward. thank you for taking the time to connect and read the stories that hide a lot of the real me. Your gentle inquiry has been very comforting. As for me I am a sad person but I am not a bitter person and I write the sad stories to remind myself not to take life for granted – so there you have it me in a nutshell – crazy and sad! But not bitter or mad! I love how you describe yourself and where you write from sitting in the dark looking at the light – that’s very uplifting and I can see you may be another meteor shower in my life. Thanks for all the loveliness David!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, Gina. I appreciate you taking the time to read them. And thank you for sharing your personal story. Your love of stories shine through in your writing. My story is similar, I also gave up writing some 20 years ago (old too!) and picked it up within the last year or so, realising it’s all I ever wanted to do. I’m happy that we can create and share such bittersweet stories — thank you for yours.

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      3. Stories and friendship go hand in hand and its lovely to meet like minded people here – where we can inspire and encourage one another -life is too short to let good friendships slip away. I would love to know more of your story and similarly share more of mine but not in such open spaces, but during the course of time, we will keep each other informed. Similar stories especially intrigue me, whenever you have the time drop me a line, if you feel inclined.
        Thank you again for making my day very memorable and reading your stories inspire me to write better.


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