The Middle Dot

Hiya, how about another little chapter from The Last of Logan. This is chapter seven, the evening after the funeral of Logan, Jefferson’s big brother.

7
I watched your face age backwards, changing shape in my memory

At home, the house lists, a shrine to Before.
I walk in on Dad staring blanks at Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom; Jacob long-gone, off seeking more Lego men to add to the family of hybrids and mutants standing sentry on the fireplace.
Fairy Batman with lobster.
Boba Fett with Robin Hood hat.
Spaceman with cheerleader skirt and Afro.
C3PO with Yoda head.
No,
Yoda with C3PO body.

Details are important, such as two years ago when the cat was losing her hair and I asked Mum is the cat dying of cancer and Mum said no it’s just getting warmer and then the cat died of cancer.

We eat in silence.

In another universe, we were Five, like the Original Avengers.
Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man/Giant-Man, The Wasp, The Hulk.
Captain America came later, just like in World War Two.
World War Two is our topic in History this term.
Anyway, we were Five, and Dad would talk sagely at the dinner table about weather fronts, studied charts he had sent to him from the MET Office.
Take a coat, it will be raining by eight.
And he was right.
I hung on his every word as he lamented the lazy stroke-play of England’s middle-order, quoted Orwell at the news and turned everything I said into a song lyric while Mum cajoled us to eat and washed up with little Jacob swinging from her hip.

But we are no longer Five.
We are Four.
Logan was the middle dot on the dice, the centre of the quincunx, the bridge between us all.
Logan antialiased us, smoothed out our jagged edges.
Without him we spin around a vacuum, lurch like 8-bit characters.
We are alien, our collision detection awry.
We are corrupt code.

And so we eat in silence.

Afterwards, we disperse to our orbits.
Jacob builds a Lego car out of old bits of Millennium Falcon.
Dad empties the shed then fills it again.
Mum empties the fridge then fills it again.
I lie on my bed in the dark, hands behind my head.
The luminous hands on my bedside clock tell me that in our corner of the world, it’s 7.28pm.

The clock ticks.

The boiler stirs briefly, whirring for a few seconds before clicking off into silence. A car moves past outside, about 30mph, its driver-side wheels dropping into the small pothole that has appeared in the last week.
Then a lorry, which makes the house shudder.
I hope the house is more resilient than me. I hope the men who built it were diligent. Everyone has off days. What if they weren’t feeling great the day they set the foundations for 61 Nicholson Road? It was built in the 30s, during the Great Depression, Europe plunging towards apocalypse. What if they were worried about Hitler marching into the Rhineland? A direct contravention of the Versailles Treaty. Something like that would distract me from my homework, definitely.

A sliver of light from the street exposes a crack in the ceiling. I haven’t been diligent in measuring it so don’t know if it is getting larger.
It must be.
Cracks don’t get smaller.

I check my bedside clock.
7.30pm.
I flick the lamp on, stare at the ceiling some more.

My bedroom ceiling has 142 stars stencilled on it.

Inertia.
In. Ertia.
Inert. Ia
Iner. Tia

Inert gases don’t react with other substances.

Their
Atoms
Are
Not
Interested
In
Combining
With
Other
Atoms

Stasis Ensues.
Stazis Ensue.
Stazis Pursue. Haha.

In East Germany in 1975 there lived a woman who’s father was born in 1799. This is my favourite fact. Don’t @ me saying it’s impossible. Someone told me it, but I forgot her name and now I can’t find out who she was. It is a fact though because I choose it to be a fact. Lying here, on my back, I choose it to be a fact. It’s the only thing I know with any certainty. That woman, who was still alive when Dad was a little boy, could have asked her Dad about the Industrial Revolution or the German equivalent of the Corn Laws or Napoleon. He was in his sixties when she was born and she lived to be about 110.
The maths adds up.

My bedroom ceiling has 142 stars and 17 moons.

What am I supposed to do now? Without him. Count stars and moons?

Nothing else for it but to sit up and load up Spelunky.

Spelunky is a roguelike game, which means there is no save function, so when you die you lose everything and have to start right back at the beginning of a randomly-generated world. This feels like the only truth to me. 

I play to lose myself in its repetition. After a while I die deliberately. Then I restart and die again. And again. And again. I get snakebitten, stung, stomped and beaten. I restart and die as fast as I can, each life more meaningless than the last, chasing the feeling, hoping for one skip of the heart, one missed beat, something, anything. If I die often enough and quick enough, maybe I’ll feel something.

There is a knock on the door and whoever it is doesn’t wait for an answer before coming in. Die, restart, die, restart, die, restart.
Something something bins.
Die, restart, die, restart, die, restart, die, restart.
Can you something something please?
Die, restart, die, Restart, die, restart. But it’s not enough. Each death has a death screen, each death is summarised in a post-mortem score of failure, and the spell is broken.
Jefferson please!
It’s Mum. One more go.
Please, come and do the bins!
Restart, die.
Why can’t Logan do it?
And there,
just like that,
the words are out and free to do their evil.

I gasp and feel sick and say sorry sorry sorry and as she gathers me in I feel the weight of all the hurt I’m yet to feel. Every paralysing moment of fear I am still to experience, every stomach turn, coalesces into a single awful leaden lump. Every yawning moment of loneliness, every future twang of physical pain, every trauma, twists and grips my spine so that I struggle to catch my breath and then Mum squeezes me even tighter and it almost comes out, the reaction everyone has been waiting for. But it doesn’t, because this isn’t grief. It’s guilt.
Lamp off.
In the dark I can’t imagine colours and it is a relief.