Asleep In the Mother's Bosom: My response to Bill Holland's Story Challenge (Updated)
Bill Holland recently issued a challenge to anyone on HubPages who wanted to write a 1000+ word story based on a series of five photographs. The story is to follow the order in which he posted the pictures. This is my response to that challenge. If you would like to see the challenge, visit https://hubpages.com/literature/Billybuc-Photo-Challenge-Prompt-Installment-1#comment-17867482
Asleep In the Mother's Bosom
Sleep has evaded me for weeks, and this remedial stroll through the trees of my Father’s country estate seems to be accomplishing what I hoped for. I feel so drowsy, I could lie down in the middle of this path and sleep the sleep of a weary warrior. Though not a warrior, I am a person to be feared on Wall Street, where I work 80 hours each week. I live in a Manhattan loft overlooking the Hudson.
People attend to my every demand, falling over themselves to be the first to fulfill my desires. I am like Caesar; Julius, not Nero. Right now, I would love nothing more than to fall into my luxurious bed, pull my duvet up to my chin, and sleep. But I am so tired, I would settle for a straw tick and a grain sack blanket.
This urge to sleep seems as unnatural as my recent bout of wakefulness. If I don’t find a place to rest soon, I might fall to the ground. Is this what it feels like to die? I stumble into a clearing, a meadow where the aroma of wildflowers invades my nostrils, and the prism of light and colors blinds me.
When my sight clears, I follow the faint remnant of a path through the flowers and weeds to a place where a bed of succulent grass and a two-hundred-year-old tombstone welcome me. The earth in which this lushness grows is so soft, I lie down, and it draws me into itself like a mother pressing an infant to her bosom. I sleep.
How long have I been lying here? I can’t move. I taste decay as dirt forces its way into my mouth. The same soil that is finding its way down my throat plugs my nose. I try to blink, and the grit of sandy soil scratches my eyeballs. Something is pulling me down, but to where?
For an instant, I see a twisted face barely more than a skull with worms crawling in and out of every crack and hole. The head twists on a bony neck, looks at me, and, if possible, I believe it smiles.
In an explosion of hot, moist, rank air, the same mother who drew me to her bosom for sleep belches me out onto the ground where I land on my back with a loud thud. Everything hurts. I feel sick. Not just my head, but my stomach and bowels as well.
I scramble to my feet. Like a drunk leaving the bar at two in the morning, I weave across the meadow, casting my arms around to gain my balance. I see a man and woman having a picnic. I wave to them and cry out for help. They abandon their things and disappear into the trees on a gravel trail. I continue to call, “Help me, Help me!”
The trail opens into a clearing where a barn and silo stand in desperate need of repairs and a coat of paint. I feel the same as the barn looks: old, twisted, joints separating, the inside filled with corruption.
Beyond the barn stands an old house. At the front, wooden steps creak beneath my feet. I drag my aching limbs across the porch until I come to the door. Over and over, I slam my fist against the wood. I scream and cry. But no one comes.
I need water. On my hands and knees, I crawl off the porch. By the time I reach the back of the house, I’m on my feet. A pond lies on the opposite side of the yard. I run toward the water. Several times, I trip and fall. At the water’s edge, I lean out, close my eyes, lower my head, and drink like an animal.
When my thirst is satisfied, I open my eyes and look at the pond’s surface. Water drips from my mouth creating ripples that distort the image. Clouds drift across the reflected sky. Trees create a dark border. Then I see my face and shove myself away. What has happened? I run back toward the house where a car is backing out of the driveway. It speeds away with a rooster tail of gravel spraying out behind.
I race down the gravel trail to the meadow and see the tombstone on the far side. Stretched out on the ground in front of it is the body of a man. As I approach the grave, the body does not move except for the rise and fall of his chest as he breathes. I crawl forward on my hands and knees until I am looking down into his face.
It is me.
No wonder that poor couple fled and cowered in the house. It was not me who staggered through the meadow, along the gravel trail to the barn and house but the hideous corpse from the grave, and I was animating it.
I lie on the lush grass and the soft earth, still inhabiting the body of the corpse.
My face appears above me, looking down into the empty eye sockets of the ruined body in which I now dwell. With my voice, another speaks.
“After all these years, you have come to visit me.” He looks around at the meadow and smiles. “This estate should have been mine, you know.”
I open the mouth of the corpse to speak, but he goes on.”
“It really is a fair trade. My body for yours. Yours for mine. I’m weary of lying here, and you are in great need of a long rest. Sleep well, my dear nephew.”
My body stands above me, turns on its heel, and walks away.
I, on the other hand, sink into the mother’s bosom.
© 2020 Chris Mills