Elwin set down his pen. He looked over the ten or so pages he had just written about his time in the nursery. He took half a dozen slow deep breathes and rubbed his eyes. The room he was in looked different to him now. It was a small room. It wasn’t much more than a meter across and two metres deep. It had a single bookcase, a small writing desk, a small window, and a wooden chair slightly too low for Elwin to sit on comfortably. The bookcase had only about two dozen books on it, but the spare space was filled with various pieces of junk. The kinds of spare parts one might find in a mechanic’s workshop.
Elwin felt the thorn on his left cheek itch. It itched all the time. The itching of the thorns was like tinnitus: it never ceased but often one stopped noticing it was there. He continued reading over his account of living in the nursery when he reached the part about Agatha the thorn over his heart started to twitch and his hands started shivering slightly. He stopped and focused again on his breathing. Long slow deep breaths. It would pass soon, he told himself.
He sorted his pages out and put them aside, taking a fresh page he started writing out another entry. This entry was from when he was much older. It didn’t follow from the first one chronologically, but he figured he would sort them out into correct order later on. For now he should just write and worry about the order later.
He resumed writing.
The memory of Agatha must have stayed with me. She had been the kindest nursemaid to me that I could remember. I certainly missed her and thought about her enough that on the very day that I was allocated to my first appartment in the city proper I left to go out into the streets. There were queues of people outside the grocers, the bakers, the butchers, the tailors, and the dozens of other stores. I looked from queue to queue seeking her out. She said she might see me again in the queues. I wanted to see her. I wanted to show her the man I had become. I felt certain I would see her there, yet I couldn’t find her.
I ended up wandering by myself in the street surrounded by the crowds. After a while it dawned on me. I did not know anyone here at all. There was not a single person I had known from school nor the nursery in this city street. I felt my thorns begin to twitch inside my flesh and I felt an emptiness that seemed to eat at my flesh from within. The thorn in my heart hurt most of all. I briefly stood in the line for the potato seller but I could not stand the feelings stirring inside my gut. I ended up running. Running all the way back to this apartment. I shut the door and realised for the first time that I could not lock it. There was no lock on my apartment.
I searched around frantically for something to push up against the wall, but the furniture had been fixed to the floor. The feeling of panic grew stronger so that I pulled and pulled on the couch in a desperate attempt to shift it up and across the doorway. As I pulled the thorn in my right knee ached and I realised how pathetically weak I was. I was never going to be strong enough to lift up a couch! What was I thinking? I wasn’t as big and strong as a Grood. I was just a weakling Delforian. It was then that I noticed the door to this study. I ran for the study and shut myself up inside. I pushed the desk that I am using to write this one up against the door and sat on it.
At last. At last I was safe. Shut up inside this tiny room. No one could see me. No one could get in. No one could even hear me. I breathed, I heaved, I puffed until at last my breathing slowed down. I sat there for hours. I remember thinking about how when I was a child I used to feel afraid that if I fell asleep I would forget to breathe and that I would wake up dead. It never happened of course, but for many years I was seriously afraid of drowning in my sleep. This study room would become my favourite place in the house. My place of withdrawal and sanctuary.
Elwin took a deep breath before writing one more line on the page.
It is now the place where I hide all day from the wretched woman, called my wife, whom I am forced to live with.
Elwin looked at this line and felt the familiar feeling of panic in his chest. The thorn over his heart always got agitated when he realised he was doing something that could potentially get him into trouble. He thought about how if the woman whom he shared a bed with each night, Holda, should read this line she would surely report him to a Kelite overseer immediately out of spite. Holda often threatened to report him. He didn’t want to give her more motivation to.
The feeling of queasiness in his chest grew stronger and he reached for an eraser. He read the last line one more time. It was true. He meant it. He didn’t want to see or talk to Holda. He was forced to live with her. He was married to her. But he didn’t even meet her until after the marriage papers had arrived in the post. He wanted to put the eraser down and write a few more lines about how much he hated her. How much he detested her nagging and tantrums. Her insults and put downs. Her inane meaningless comments and pretentious lies. For a second he almost felt the anger burn, but the thorn over his heart seemed to stab deeper in his flesh at that moment and the feeling of anger evaporated as quickly as it had come. A dull empty numbness took over.
Realising how foolish he was being he erased the last line. Folded up his papers and carefully inserted them inside the cover of a large book. Then he placed the book second from the bottom in a pile stacked haphazardly on the top of the book shelf where Holda couldn’t even reach on account of her height. He sat down and buried his face in his hands. He wanted to cry, but the thorn distracted him with its constant itching. A few moments later he couldn’t even remember what he had been so upset about. He stood up and left the study.