When she was little she screamed. Shrieks stabbed at his ears in the nights and in the days he drank coffee. Cups and cups of coffee. He walked stumbling and talked mumbling and when he sat his eyelids clawed themselves closed and he saw only sleep’s obliterating blackness.

White. So much white.

Soft white cloth swaddled her as she first screamed. When he first saw her she was a bundle of white cloth and her bald head shone. He held her and she screamed in his arms.

The fucking baby again. I’ll go this time. You sleep.

When she was older he shouted. Hurry up, we’re leaving. Hurry up and get in the car. Where the fuck have you been? We’ve been up all night waiting. We were worried sick. Don’t fucking give me that. Get to bed.

He drank cheap beer and watched TV. What are we going to do about her? I don’t know. He opened another can. Shouting: I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do this anymore. His ears rang and his vision blurred and his head burned. In the nights he slept on the sofa with empty cans scraping his back. In the days he ached.

My neck feels stiff. Everyone is here. It’s so white.

They walked and walked through grass and mud. In a gale which chilled their fingertips and blew their hair into their eyes they helped her climb a drystone wall. Its pieces were cobbled obliquely but it was strong and it stood firm as she struggled over, holding tight their hands on either side.

She looks taller than usual. Is my tie loose? No. The sky is so bright today.

They tapped their fingers on their car waiting for her to leave. They shivered in the kitchen waiting for her to come home.

We’re ready now. Is this it? Are you ready?

Is she going? She looks so old. The white and the sky are so bright I can hardly see her. Now her face is gone.

They whispered to her and rocked her as she screamed with her eyes screwed shut.

She stopped screaming years ago.

She is going. She came home late but she always came home. Now she is going.

But we will always have her.


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