A Beautiful Place: Simon James

Heel-toe, heel-toe. And so on. And so on.
Heel-toe, heel-toe, down the corridor, the silent corridor.

There are words exchanged by two women dressed in white outside my door. I know they are wearing white because everyone wears white here. I don’t know what they are saying but I know they are dressed in white. My eyes are very tightly closed and I can only move enough to breathe.

Heel-toe, heel-toe. Click. Clunk. The door to the room opened and closed. I know they are here now.

I open my eyes, but only just enough to make out the white women moving dials and watching small flashing lights on a black panel, there are maybe words on that panel too, I can’t see far enough to read them. Thick curly wires that look as if they are going to a giant telephone droop past my head. I can’t move to see where they go and I don’t really want to. Maybe it’s to a giant telephone. I hope it doesn’t ring, it would be terribly loud I’d imagine.

I close my eyes and feel professional hands check straps. Two fingers under each. They’re making sure I’m ready. I suppose I am, if you can be. It’s time to go to that place as it won’t be long now, time to go now. Time is tight now.

My eyes are as tight shut as they can be as I begin to smell something familiar.

I open my eyes wide open again as I walk towards an opening in the wood. The rain has just stopped and the soil under my bare feet is wet but warm as the mid-afternoon August sun is warming the ground. The bark is drying on the trees, leaving the steamy, musty aroma of the recent downpour visible in the air. There are no clouds marring the bluest of blue skys. The birds are singing from their hearts in a joyful chorus that seemed to being giving thanks to every second of this glory. The golden, life-filled greens of the trees, sparkling with dewy diamonds each give out a tiny shine of life. There is nothing as perfect as this place.

I walk through the opening in the woods to the trail leading through it, everywhere is peace. Everything is peace. I can see squirrels gathering and small happy, fidgety birds landing and taking off, it’s as if they are seeing new fantastic things to see but can’t decide where to stop. Nothing in the wood seems to even know I am there, they know that nothing in this world could, or should be, allowed to disturb the order of this perfection. I can see the sun through the trees in trails of light that spot the earth around my feet. The trail goes towards a short horizon which is where the edge of the forest is, I am drawn towards it again, just as I always am. I feel a tense change of atmosphere behind me as I stroll towards it, taking my time. The animals all face one direction for a split second as they sense it too and they reluctantly begin to move away. It’s OK though, they always do that.

I can see the edge of a cliff, the trail leading right over it as if someone scooped a great chunk of Earth away. I walk to look over the edge and the view takes away my breath, it always does, no matter how many times I see it. The land beneath me leaves me powerless; the breeze caresses me, holds me and strengthens me. The view to the valley is an ocean of flowers with every bloom that can be imagined. There is the blood red of poppies, milky white lilies and the crazed beauty of orchids all mingling together in the finest Orchestra of colour. No artist could paint this, no poet could have the words and philosophers would never need to find reason, they would all rest and be content just to be. There is no sense here, there is nothing but this.

I am.

Nothing could spoil these green hills that lazily slip down into the explosion of colour. I can make out a path through the flowers. Is this the perfect place? What if it isn’t, what could be more beautiful? Would I have the mind to comprehend anything more effortlessly exquisite as the land laid out before me? I am gladly powerless.

The atmosphere that I had left behind is behind me once more. The first time I came to this place, the pain was unbearable and I thought it would be forever tainted, the harshest winter after the greatest summer. But it is OK now. The green is always as green as it should be, as are the blues and the yellows and the reds and the whites.

The pain hits me at the temples and it brings me to my knees. I’m still staring ahead as I shout aloud to no-one, I feel myself beginning to sweat. Some of the peaceful birds of the valley begin to fly away unruffled and sorry. Just as I am sorry, I won’t shout again. The pain strikes me again and I fall face down powerless onto the warm, wet turf with my arms by the side of my head. Once more the pain strikes and I begin to smile as I taste the dew from the ground on my lips. I won’t have to feel the pain again today so I begin to drift back into consciousness while holding the grass between my fingers.

My eyes are still closed.

The smell of earth is replaced the formaldehyde sterility of the bright room. I’m back where I started, the valley is gone now. The wind isn’t in my hair, the animals have scattered away for now. The beautiful place has gone
All at once I am aware of my chest heaving, my clenched fists straining and straps cutting into familiar grooves in my skin. I am lying in sweat and my head aches as if it will never be any other way. I open my eyes and the two white women are staring over me with the concerned looks. My dull smile seems only to concern them more. They turn and write things down and check the telephones wires. They begin to undo the straps that secure my head and I can’t help but let it fall to one side as the support is released. The window is open and a breeze licks my face, it’s all finished for today.

One of the white women talks to the other one and as they leave the room and walk up the silent corridor. I can see the outside world as they walk away.

It’s sunny.

Heel-toe, heel-toe, down the corridor, the silent corridor.
Heel-toe, heel-toe. And so on. And so on.


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