by Lewis

Harry’s mind was tumbling around like a drunk on a slip-n-slide. Then with a cold splash of conscious thought, he awoke. “What have I done” he thought. He listened to the sound of nothing washing over him. A dull dead silence. His back and neck ached from last night, a constant reminder of his actions. He grabbed his t-shirt from where he’d thrown it on the floor and pulled on his mud soaked jeans. As he did he noticed the cuts down his leg and arms that had started to scab over. His body physically shuddered as he tried to stop his mind thinking about what he'd done. He stood and headed downstairs to the kitchen searching for some food and finding only the kids last box of cocoa pops. How long had he been keeping that. With food so scarce recently, he had hidden it away for a special occasion. He stared at the box, unthinking, trancelike. If he moved an inch his mind would kick in and that would be it.

There was a sudden slam of a shutter come loose. The wind was picking up again. This he could fix and throwing his boots on he ran outside with the hammer and nails, fighting against the wind. When he returned the shutter was secure and moments later it started to rain. He wondered how long the wooden shutter would even last. Then he heard a scratching at the door faint but persistent. What the hell was that he thought, there was nothing alive out there. He opened it slowly, Gremlin, slunk in his black fur on end frantic in his haste to get out of the burning rain. He must have followed him out. Behind the rain sizzled as it hit the deck and the acrid stench wafted in. Harry shut the door quickly. The cat purred against his legs and for a moment he thinks that perhaps he could feel affection again. But then he thinks about how much Joe loved that cat and the last look in his eyes as he watched his father. A look that simple said, why? The cat slinked of without a word. Free of judgement.

Harry put the cocoa pops back and had a glass of water from the tank. He turned the generator on and clicked the television into life. A desperate distraction. But the news tells him the same sorry story as yesterday and every day before. Slowly day by day. There was nothing anyone could do. He was still here. He had done what he had to do. There was no shame in that. Anyone would have done the same. Except that wasn’t true. He had had a choice. And that choice would stay with him for ever.

Something makes him wander over to the piano. He's never been very good. Sarah was the star and used to play for hours, from memory while Joe sat and watched. Why was he doing this to himself, he thinks. He feels like a dam about to burst. His hand shakes as he reached down to the dusty lid. He lifts it slowly. There is a scrap of paper he recognises instantly as Sarah’s notebook. He unfolds it and reads the perfect cursive note. Each word breaks his heart apart piece by piece, until finally the dam bursts.