"The Light for My Mother" by Laura Makabresku.
© Please do not reproduce without artist's permission.
WHERE THE REST OF
THE WORLD BEGAN
by Gary Emmette Chandler
“I am the keeper of your memories,” I remember her telling me once, and I thought her true. I was young, and ready to believe anything; my world needed magic. And she was a mystery to me.
We had been walking the road, following the wheat fields, when I asked her why she'd chosen me. She hadn't answered at first—just kept glancing back at our house, like she was afraid of something. Far above us, dark clouds stretched and billowed, threatening the dust with rain.
"So, everything that I know—you know too?" I asked.
She shook her head, pulling at a snarl in that black tide of hair.
"It's not like that," she said, examining something in her hands that I couldn't see.
"What's it like, then?"
"Everything you forget—that becomes mine."
I thought about this for a while, and we walked on in silence. There was a lot I couldn't remember about myself; what she said made sense.
As we walked, I watched the telephone wires that stretched out across the dirt, stapling the earth together. I imagined the places they went: the cities that I'd forgotten, or hadn't yet had a chance to remember.
We stopped where our metal gate met a cement road and the rest of the world began. I checked the mailbox, even though the tiny red flag had been lowered. It was empty, and she seemed relieved.
Soon, the clouds would tear wide and we would go back to the house to watch the rain as it drenched the fields. She would tuck me into bed, hand me a cup of steaming chocolate, and tell me one of the stories from her mind.
I remember wondering if it was mine.
My parents died in a car accident before I could walk. I was too young to remember anything about them or their death.
Sometimes, before bed, I asked her to tell me about who they were—about everything I'd forgotten.
She left out the blood and the broken glass. She told me that my father had a wide, balding head, and green eyes. That he hated sports, and loved to read: murder mysteries; science fiction; pulp noire.
"Had a moustache like a feather," she told me.
"And my mother?"
"Golden hair," she said. "A cellist. Would hum scales to you, instead of songs. Fond of Chamomile."
She told me about the orphanage where she'd found me and how she had swept me away.
"Any set of bones had more meat on them than you," she told me. "Couldn't stand the sight of that. The waste."
And that was enough for me, then. It was just the two of us out in the countryside, far away from everyone and everything else, with the stories that were mine, and hers, together.
I've forgotten so much, now: her name; the color of her eyes; the sound of her voice.
Soon, I'll forget everything else, and she won't be there to tell me what I've lost.
When someone asks me who I was when I was a child—where I come from—I don't know what to say.
The truth changes over time.
I grew older and restless: tired of the wooden house and the endless roads, and the isolation. Tired of the fields, and the empty skies, and the heat, and the dust. Tired of what she wouldn't tell me.
When I showed her the box I found in the basement, next to a crate of pickled beets and old video cassettes, she started to cry.
As I took out the clippings—the car accident; the missing child; the photos of a crib through a window—and placed each shred in front of her, she stopped sobbing and her face grew pale, taut.
"They wouldn't have loved you like I have."
And I knew, then, that the truth is only what we think it is.
I didn't hate her. Perhaps I should have; everything that she had stolen from me—my memories, and dreams—I wanted back. But I couldn't hate her.
She was my mother, even if she wasn't.
Before I left, I asked her what she would do.
She just looked at me, with so much love that it hurt, and smiled.
"I have known for some time now how I will die: at my own hands."
Gary Emmette Chandler works from his apartment in Portland as a copywriter and web developer, mostly in pajamas, with a cat nibbling at his leg. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Bastion, Pantheon, and Daily Science Fiction, among others. You can follow his hungover ramblings on Twitter @TheWearyLuddite.