November 15, 2012 Fiction









Paul William Johnstone



Memories are only as reliable as the point of view they exist within. When I run my fingertips across the sofa I get flashes of a hundred TV nights punctuated by hungry thirstful sex. The remote control lost to the sofa monster as we pushed each other’s buttons.  It’s so very man of me to be dominated by the memories of physical sensation, or possibly that’s just a side effect of being dead. I don’t really have a physicality anymore so these memories which are contained within pockets of energy on all that we touched, is all I have now.

Death is more than just a passing for me; it was an inconvenience of the highest order. Wait, that sounds stupid because no one welcomes death in a civilized world. My death came with poor timing;  coinciding with your discovery that you my dear were pregnant. Just as the culmination of so many sofa, staircase, kitchen floor trysts reached there point, I was taken.

I let my fingers touch the bathroom door handle, to relive that one minute thirty seconds while we were waiting for those little blue lines instead of piss streaking the white of the test strip. I remember the way the tears rolled  slowly down your cheeks, arching around the crinkles left behind by your once smiling face.

Now your tears  aren’t  accompanied by a smile, replaced instead by just questions of why? I wish you could see that I am still here and that I have never left you despite the flames that robbed you of me that night.

I don’t really remember how it happened you know.  It’s strange, one minute I was at the office and the next I was here. I suppose you can`t form new memories if your dead, you can’t leave your energy anywhere. If I had a choice whether to stay here with you or move to somewhere else I don’t know what I would do, but I’m glad I am here with you. The truth is,  I would be lost without you.

I can hear the heartbeat of our baby too, as if it pulses from your body. When I look at you it’s as if you’re vibrating slightly and  I love every movement. I can still feel love; in fact I only really love. Everything seems coated in it. There are brief moments when you are not around when anger begins to manifest itself, but then I see you, or touch your scarf and it subsides. You bathed my world in colours when I had breath and now that I am dead you’re the glue that keeps me together. I love you Jane I always will, for all eternity.

The Mother

For a while it was almost impossible getting up without you. The sun just never seemed to rise, replaced by darkness that dripped like ink from every corner of the world. I would return to our house and you wouldn’t be there. For a while I cooked for two and the waste bin never ate so well. Of course our parents wouldn’t let me wallow. How could I when I was carrying our baby, the last piece of you that remained. So I kept on going and as the baby grew, I gained in strength. My due date came closer, your funeral further behind and I managed to smile occasionally. I loved you John, you were everything to me. I missed the way you twitched in your sleep, the way you smelled, walked, even the way you cut your bread.
After Alice was born things changed for me, I looked in her eyes and saw you. I felt like a part of you was back and I don’t mean that in some scary child possessed way or reincarnation. I just mean it in the sense that we made Alice together; she was as much me as she was you and it made things easier. I no longer felt I had lost something, I began to appreciate what I had gained.
When Alice began preschool I felt lonely and that was when I realized I needed something else in my life, something more than the latest Tom Cruise romance. John,  I started to date again and it didn’t feel wrong, or like cheating or some grand betrayal. It felt normal. It wasn’t like our first dates listening to Smashing Pumpkins in your bedroom while we both tried to discreetly wipe our hair from our eyes and hide our spots. Now it’s all restaurant meals, discreet drinks and cinema trips. It’s so different from that awkward initial fumbling of our relationship which turned into first love. I felt like a person again for the first time since…well you can guess.
After a year I met Darren. He was funny, smart and treated Alice and me like the most important people in the world.  At first I hated the fact that I was falling in love because it meant I was beginning to forget you. No, not you as a person, I could never forget you John, but I began to forget us and the feelings I had for you. That’s part of life though I suppose. Feelings like people aren’t meant to last; we’re not designed that way. Everything ends, but every end means that there has to be a new beginning and John I now have one. I’m getting married and it’s the happiest I have been since Alice was born. It’s time for me to make the final move forward. You left this world many years ago, but I am still here, with a life to lead and nothing I do will bring you back. I loved you John but you are gone and now I love Darren.  He is here, I can feel his touch and taste on my lips. Nothing and no one lives forever John, that is what I have learned.

The Daughter


Father, it’s strange when I look at pictures of you. Your face almost looks familiar, but I have no memories of you. No feelings to relive. You were gone before I was born so we have no connection really. I never dream of you, I don’t hear your voice in crowded rooms and I can’t remember your touch.

It’s strange because I don’t even have the memories of mother mourning to remind me you were around for her. By the time my memories began to form mother had mourned and moved on. It was almost as if you were talked about in the same hushed tones as Father Christmas and like him you didn’t really exist for me.  You were just another bed time story that I was told as a child; a fairy-tale.

We’re packing to move soon and that’s when I came across this photo of you. You look so young and happy and my God, I can’t believe the clothes that mum is wearing. You could be just another Facebook generation knockabout tagging photos of yourself or tweeting about last nights Walking Dead. But I suppose that’s silly because you died before the invention of the internet.

I’m not sure either how I am meant to feel about you, they say family love is unequivocal but I don’t feel love for you. how could I? My friends all pretty much think Darren is my Dad and to be fair I feel that way too. He’s been here since I was 5 and surely my father is the person who raised me not the sperm that created me? Is a parent who adopts a child from birth not the mother and father? Does blood trump physicality?

I know this is selfish but sometimes I wish Darren was my father, because then  Millie, Peter we  would  be connected completely, not just half sisters and brother. Even so, they are my family.

After we move all that will be left of you are the photos. They will be boxed away and eventually forgotten about until some family gathering, when after too much wine you’ll be remembered. No doubt someone will mention at some point how we share the same eyes, it’s sad really because everyone will expect me to get misty but I cant because I simply never knew you dad.  People might expect mum to get weepy and she might for a second but the truth is she has a new life. It’s been seventeen years since you went and the reality is that life goes on, people forget and all pain heals. I look at these photos and I see a man, a man I never knew and the only link is that people used to tell me you were my father. I think it’s time to put your pictures away let go of you.

The Ghost

There is nothing now that I can feel, nothing but something nagging, something forgotten. Once I had a family or at least  I think I did. There are flashes sometimes when I touch a dent in the wall or a chip in the window frame but it’s fleeting, replaced by anger and sorrow, nothing more. This is eternal I think, feeling this way, disconnected and remote. There really is nothing now and I am no more.

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  1. Jan Anderson January 02, at 13:20

    This story is so close to home so to speak. It brings to mind at this time of year that I was blessed with so many happy times to remember my father yet so many people do not have that opportunity. A father gone before his child was born or barely time to know who he was is tragic. A father to take over that position is a blessing though not such a blessing as your own father. I cry for those who have such sorrow and applaud those who take their place. A beautiful read. thank you.

    • Paul Johnstone January 12, at 13:23

      Thanks Jan i am always hesitant to reply to people praise bt your words touched me, thank you very much.

  2. Rosie Kightly Stoker December 09, at 19:36

    Such a lovingly woven story about the realities of loss and how life must, and essentially does, move on. Emphasis on life, as the conclusion is so sad that it has a sorrowful claustrophobia hanging above the "what ifs" about after we pass from this mortal coil. The build through each perspective has a soft harshness about how strength to move on with life essentially crushes the ability of any happiness for the ones left behind. It has an air of callousness when read with the perspective of the father on his own, which I think was a lovely twist to have as the story unfurls from unrequited love to the movement of life. A brilliant read, thank you.

  3. James Bruce November 19, at 16:52

    Wonderfull,unique like Edgar Allen Poe at his best on a good day.


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