The Harpist of Souls
Maxwell Borodin stumbled, protecting his bottle of rotgut. He needed the rest because he was still conscious and until he slept, the voices would not stop. They wanted him to remember his past. He tripped, splashing booze, eyes burning, he yelled at the loss, not the pain, spewing a mist of spittle and booze. Memories began. He begged, but the memories kept coming and his bottle was already empty. More
Maxwell Borodin stumbled along, trying to coordinate his faltering steps with the swaying motion of the sidewalk. He didn't have time to ponder why it was moving. The entirety of his efforts were concentrated on protecting the half empty bottle of rotgut he hugged to his chest. He needed the rest of that bottle because he was still conscious and until he was asleep, the voices would not stop.
He stumbled on through the night, oblivious of the city around him. He didn't see its twinkling lights. He never smelled the fragrance of cherry blossoms or felt the soft spring breeze as it blew along the deserted street. When his eyes burned from the lingering automotive exhaust fumes, he was unaware of the tears. A year's worth of unkempt hair and beard flapped in the breeze and his shoe laces trailed in the dirt behind him as he hugged his bottle and ignored the voices. He noticed none of this in his single minded mission toward his nightly oblivion.
The voices wanted him to remember who he was and to find something. He didn't know which was worse, the memories or the voices. Methodically placing one foot in front of the other, he took another swig and staggered, nearly falling. His eyes burned with the wasted booze that splashed onto his face. He shouted at the loss of the liquid, not the pain in his eyes.
The sting in his eyes broke his concentration and the memory of his three year stay at the prestigious private mental hospital, just before his current janitorial job, flooded into his consciousness. He moaned through writhing lips, spewing a mist of spittle and booze into the night air before staggering forward again. Had to walk. Had to keep going.
One of the dreaded voices broke through the alcoholic fog and called begging for his skill and passion. He shouted at the voice, a garbled response into the night air followed by another mouthful of fire and forgetfulness. Despite his efforts to avoid thinking about his former life, he began to vaguely remember the three years of expensive therapy, a menial job and a single room above a ramshackle store. He had brought with him only a fistful of prescriptions and the painfully acquired and pitifully thin veneer of normalcy developed by years of therapy at the clinic. But the his shell had cracked and sloughed away within months. Meds had been forgotten, replaced with any liquid better than twenty proof.
Something hit him in the face. He felt the blood run from his nose. The perpetrator still pressed its roughness into the raw skin of his nose and jaw. With an extreme effort, he forced his eyes open and saw the rough concrete of the gutter only an inch away. The slow realization that he had fallen into the gutter dislodged his concentration again and allowed more dangerous memories to resurface.
He remembered money, a lot of money, and he remembered a clinic were his commitment had not been voluntary. “Oh my God!” He muttered. He had been a performer, a musician. He rolled over to his back and let the last few drops dribble into his mouth. “Please. I don't want to remember.” He begged of no one in particular, but the memories kept coming and his bottle was already empty.
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