k a t e    l a d e w

It Only Feels Like Waking Up

 

It is not for us to feel sympathy.

Clean and cool in the villa. Lunch, superb.

He is a prophet and they have been warned.

Light everywhere. Not difficult to see time passing slowly in a place like this. Where they have chosen to think, to discuss, not a room for living. For display, for discussion, for showing off. It is a room to brag so the occupant need not.

It is final. It will solve any and all future problems.

They look like a painting, he thinks. All so still and solid, hair perfectly combed, boots shining, uniforms crisp, glints of silver sparking, aflame.

We will sign. We have all agreed. It is right, what has happened here.

He is unsure. He has wondered, What if God sees?

I will damn my soul to hell. Spoken and thought in the same moment.

Objections will be met with torture. With death.

Smiled, breathed in pretty words but he sees it in their eyes. What if the Führer sees? He will sign. He is as certain of this as he is of the devil Every man knows in his gut what waits when he falls asleep the final time. Every man has written the story of his life with the decisions he makes. Few sign their own death warrant. He is in rare company.

Suddenly sick. Suddenly running. Staggering into the world outside, stomach expelling its contents on expensive German stone. This is real. This is vital. This has happened and he is gasping.

The sun is shining. It is beautiful. It is beautiful and bright and there is a breeze and there is nothing more one could ask of a day. The remains of the superb lunch are running down his mouth, mixing with the grass. Green and now, raising his eyes, clear blue. It is the color of heaven. He will not see it. He is certain.


Years. Everything that came from 5400 seconds. Over. Men, women, children seeping into the earth like water, and he is farther from home and closer to where he wants to be. Where he does not think of it, where he thinks only of working and gardening and the trust granted by those who do not know him and what he has done. He lives a very long time. He lives outside of those 5400 seconds and is happy.

One day he stops living, alone in his warm bed in his warm house and it is sudden because one loses sight of things when it is helpful to forget. One loses sight of things when seeing is painful. It only feels like waking up and he is seated in a room, facing a young woman. It is very nice in this room, very clean and very cool and very bright. The young woman does not look up from the papers on her desk and he smiles. She is lovely. He sees a door behind her. The only door in the room and it is puzzling to him. Where am I?

And she looks up. She sees him as if she were waiting, waiting for him to speak, as if she knew what his voice would sound like. The young woman asks, Mr. Metzer ? Hans Metzer?

It is surprising but he answers. Yes. And again, Where am I?

Picking up a pen, such thin, graceful fingers, the young woman draws a slow line on the crisp white in front of her, then, standing, speaks softly, carefully forming each word, Wait here, Mr. Metzer. She opens the door, walks out, closes the door. It is a single motion and Hans Metzer waits.

It has been some time. It seems a long time. Pacing now. He has not looked at the papers on the desk. He has waited but it is hard not to wonder. Walking to them now, he slides the white, angling it to his eyes. Recognition. He has seen this paper before. He has seen this type. He has seen these signatures, lining the bottom in black ink. Some are marked through. Marked through with a slow line. The letters are familiar. They make up the names of people he knew. His own name flashes like sun through trees. It is split in half by a slow, slow line.

He waits. He is waiting. He watches the door. No one comes. Striding to it, placing a firm hand, turning the knob. Nothing happens. It is locked. It must be locked. It means something, he knows. This is very vital, very real. It means something, and he looks, as if his eyes were pulled by a string up, up, up. It is blue. Clear blue. It is the color of heaven. He has nothing to reach it with. He is so heavy. He could never lift himself that high, that far.

Clean and cool in the room. Light is everywhere. He is alone with names that were people and they feel no sympathy.

 

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KATE LADEW is a recent graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art. She is currently working on her first novel.


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