Flash Fiction Friday – Caretaker

flash fiction“Ahh, right then, hello. I am… well, actually I don’t know exactly who I am. Which, I guess means I can be anyone I want to be really. If you could be anyone you wanted, who would you be?” Kaitlin’s eyes followed the strange man as he rushed around the room, babbling. She corrected herself, substituting ‘strange’ for ‘crazy’ inside her mind.

“I’m not sure,” she answered finally, the skin between her eyes furrowed, something she did often enough that, at the age of eighteen, she already had permanent wrinkles lines etched into the skin.

“Me either,” he stopped suddenly in front of her, arms akimbo, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “We could find out, together I mean.”

“I’m afraid I can’t go anywhere just now.” Kaitlin gestured to the machine behind her, tubes and wires spread out from it like thick spider webs attaching to various points on her head, arms and torso.

“Oh, right.” The man sucked his lower lip as his eyes flicked quickly between the machine and her body, as though he was trying to work out how he could get around it all. “Ah, I think I can take care of that, yes, yes I can.”

“No! Stop, don’t touch anything.” Her voice on the verge of hysterical, her eyes large with alarm she shook frantically shook her hand in front of the little man.

The man froze, for the first time since he had appeared in her room, he moved not a single bit. Even his chest seemed to stop rising and falling, as though he had stopped breathing, when his face started to turn red she realised he really had stopped breathing.

“Breathe you idiot.” He sucked in air loudly, but made no further advancement towards her. “Why are you here?”

“Where else would I be?”

“In a mental asylum?”

“Why on earth would I want to be in one of those? Terribly depressing places, and they also haven’t existed for around 453 years, give or take.”

“I think they should bring one back, just for you.” The cheshire grin split his face once more.

“You know, you might be right about that. Still, I can help you.”

“Nobody can help me. Especially not someone who doesn’t even know his own name.” She sank back into the pillows, her gaze sliding off the little man to stare blankly out the window. “I’m dying you know. If I’m being honest, the truth is that I’m dead already. If they turned off all these machines, I’d just stop, like a clockwork doll that’s wound down.”

“You’re right, I don’t know my name, or who I am, but I do know I can help you.” Kaitlin turned away from the window, a strand of chestnut hair falling limply over her shoulder. She could never decide if her hair made her face look pale or if her pale face made her hair look darker. She couldn’t remember how any of it had looked before the accident. She had been stuck in this room, in this bed for almost a year now. Her parents poured money into the machines that kept her ‘alive’ but they hardly visited anymore, she never saw any of her friends either. Of course they had all called and visited in the early days, once the machines had revived her to a conscious state again. But as the weeks and months passed, they all got on with their lives. Nobody wanted to be stuck at the bedside of someone that wasn’t really alive, who couldn’t venture out beyond the confines of her bed to share in their adventures.

She’d turned off the link following their social buzz just as soon as they had stopped visiting. It had taken just weeks for her past connections to cease their existence. If she had siblings they might have visited her still, but she was an only child of two busy parents. Parents who had to work even harder so they could afford to run all the bells and whistles inside these four walls.

“How can you possibly help me when all the money and science in the world can only keep me in this bed, breathing, thinking, seeing but not living. How did you even get up here?”

He chose to ignore her last question, he didn’t really have an answer for it anyway, all he knew was that he was here and so was she, and he could help her.

“I can take care of you.”

“Are you here to kill me?” Kaitlin felt a little regret at seeing the horror suffuse his features at her words. For a moment she had actually liked the idea of him bringing her death, release from the monotony. She watched him edge closer to the bed, small mincing steps, like he really wanted to jump to her bedside but was desperately trying to control his enthusiasm. She didn’t stop him this time.

He had looked taller from further away, standing beside her he appeared to be no more then chest height, if she had been standing. His eyes were round, like he was permanently in awe of whatever he was seeing, the pupils were passive green, gentle, soothing eyes. She fell into their depths, seeing nothing but the soft, reassuring world within his face. A cool hand pressed against her brow, but she ignored it, lost in the swirling mist that began to surround her.

Slowly the mist began to clear, Kaitlin took a step forward, her toes sinking into the verdant expanse of grass beneath her feet. The sun cleared its way from behind a cloud and she lifted her chin, allowing the warmth to fill her completely. Her next step disturbed a flock of butterflies that rose up around her in their dozens, their soft wings tickling her skin before they flew off to find a new resting place.

“Shall we find out who we are then?” The caretaker asked, appearing beside her to slip his tiny hand into hers.

Creative Commons License
More stories by Tracey Ambrose @ traceyambrose.com
Share it around, but please include this licence message

Leave a Reply