She stood outside his room, listening intently to the sounds coming from the inside. There was a distinct clicking and a muted noise from the video he was probably watching. She was thinking about opening the door before he could hide his phone or whatever technology he was using. That’s all they talked about on the news. Kids using their phones too much, it damaged their eyesight and stops them from sleeping. She had heard from her friends that they use the same technology as in an oven. Her best friend had said it cooks their brain cells and makes them stupid, but her son wasn’t stupid, he was quite clever she thought. Successful at school, good grades, good reports and he was very stable.
James was in his room, on his phone. He knew he probably shouldn’t be and he could hear his mom’s breathing outside the door a slow intake of air then quickly let out. He could tell her apart just from that. He didn’t really like his mom, he thought she lacked understanding of the world and he couldn’t speak to her of the things he liked because she was always on her phone and not really listening, so they didn’t talk much, just the occasional, ‘how was your day?’ James would love to talk about quantum mechanics or the crazy theories he had read about but no one cared about what he had to say. He just watched his videos and hoped that one day he would understand the world at a molecular level. His passion was life. He wanted to be a doctor so he could save lives. No one understood that, no one understood him. Not even his friends. He wasn’t a very good speaker but was good at listening and a good friend, he didn’t have a best friend, and no one he trusted with his deepest secrets and could speak to in complete understanding. He dreamed of escape, to live in a world where he was understood and the people around him were clever and liked him. James wasn’t very popular at school, he was a bit of a daydreamer. His friends thought he was dreaming about girls, that’s what he said it was but in reality he was thinking about solutions to global peace and cures to terminal illnesses and how he would achieve them in the future. But for now he was stuck in his room, watching a video on cancer and its cures.
She took the decision and opened the door. Sure enough he was on his phone, “I’ve told you before James, you won’t be able to get any sleep now”
“Sorry Mom, I won’t do it again, I promise”
“OK, switch off your phone and go to bed, goodnight" “Goodnight”
She knew him all too well, that’s all he ever did, every day when he got home the first thing he would do is get on his phone and start tapping away. Texting girls, he’s going into puberty she thought, he was 14, that’s the age when things start to happen and they affect how he thinks, we’ve all been through that. She wanted James to be a lawyer, he was a great speaker and could always formulate an argument, that’s what his reports had said, so it must be true. It could earn him a lot of money so he could have a nice house, get married, have kids and live a nice life. That’s all she wanted for him, to live a nice life. She wasn’t very good with education, she had failed her A levels and been forced to drop out, she had worked for her uncles business until she met George, he was great. Although sometimes they did have loud arguments and he had never really listened to her point of view and mostly relied on his own opinions. She could remember the countless number of times they had gone to see some terrible art gallery with him that they had both hated. Nevertheless, she loved him and would do anything to have a lasting marriage.
Sure he was annoyed, but he was also grateful. If his mom hadn’t come in he probably would have kept on watching videos until past midnight and never had gotten the sleep that was so cherished. He had observed with time that the older you are the more you come to like sleep. When he was younger, before his fifth birthday, he could remember hating going to sleep and waiting for the latest time to go to bed but now he went home just to lie down and take a nap, it was so relaxing and he woke up re-energised. He noted that as you get older you start to notice more and more things about the past that you couldn’t possibly have realised then. He decided to get some sleep for the next day so closed his eyes.
He could see his patient in front of him, she had recently gone into ventricular fibrillation and needed a desperate heart transplant. He had decided to work over time so was the only doctor there capable of succeeding in such an operation. He applied the anaesthetic and opened her chest, he had the replacement heart next to him and could see how he would operate; he cut the superior and inferior vena cava and sewed them carefully to the new heart. Then he did the same for the aorta and realised he needed to get the heart pumping. He took to his bare hands and rhythmically pushed onto the ventricles and the atria. His hands were covered in blood. He had lost hope, but his hands kept pushing. He was sweating in desperation. Then, the heart started beating. He looked, unbelieving. He had just brought someone back to life. He closed the young women’s chest and called for help, he had just saved a life completely against the odds and the reality of this shocked him. Suddenly, the women jumped up and shook him “Wake up! Wake up!”
She went into his room quietly, he said his alarm didn’t work but she could clearly see that it did, the light was on and all that had to be done was to set it. She silently opened his cupboards and took out his clothes for school; his white shirt and black trousers that made him look so smart, his tie was in his pocket and she thought it made him look like a solicitor. She pulled up the blinds and took him by the shoulders before vigorously shaking him and his white blanket on her deceased grandma’s bed. She had given it to her when she had bought her first apartment. The memory brought tears to her eyes. She quickly shook herself out of it and resumed to shaking her son awake. He awoke with a shock and she rebuked him,
“You should have your alarm on or you’ll miss the bus!”
“I told you mom! My alarm is broken!”
“I put your clothes on your bed, get dressed quickly"
She knew she was too nice, but he was her son after all so she had to take care of him. She would always do every little thing he desired. When he wanted some food she was there to get it, she always said ‘no’ at first but her refusal didn’t last long.
He was ready for another day at his boring school, he already knew everything they taught him. He was top in his class for all his subjects and didn’t need to focus in class, just raise his hand from time to time to show the teacher that he was interested. In all his exams he received top marks. There wasn’t much to be said about his friends though. The way he put it was ‘unpopular’ but it was clearly worse than that. People spoke behind his back and people he thought were his friends were slowly drifting away from him. Once I become successful it will all be fine he pondered. All he wanted was someone that would listen and not care if what he said was stupid and give him advice for his daily problems whether it regarded things including his social life or something as minor as homework. It was lunch time and as usual o he sat on his own and thought carefully about what he was grateful about and what he wanted the most. He wasn’t like the other boys he thought, I understand that sometimes I can make mistakes and that other people can be correct, it’s just that other people don’t understand me, no one really knows me, not even my own family. Everyone else just cares about football or new cool ‘vines’ and their social statuses within the ‘popular’ people.
Michelle was at home, as always. It had become her daily routine. She just sat in front of the computer looking at things she really wanted to buy knowing husband would disapprove. Sometimes, she would go shopping or go out with friends, but she had only seen them once in the last couple of months. She didn’t have a job and only relied on George’s small business to run the family. They lived in a small house and could have been considered as being the ‘modest background’ that so many celebrities claim to have emerged from. She hoped it would be the case for her son, she wouldn’t admit it to anyone but she didn’t like her lifestyle. She could only hope that James wouldn’t have to live like this, she was confident that he would become a great lawyer. He had shown all the traits to become one so far although he had never really shown any interest for a particular career path. She had some news to tell him when he got home. She was sure he would love it.
His school day had ended as usual, he took the bus and was abused by his peers. He was called names and accused of being a homosexual, he knew he wasn’t though, he reassured himself; he quite liked the girl that sat at the back of his French class, but he had never dared to speak to her and just sat from afar making sure she couldn’t see him. He was sad, as usual, and sleep deprived from having been on his phone the night before even though his mom had stopped him watching more documentaries. He was thinking about going to his cousins, he was a doctor with a good reputation around London and he was he could set him on the correct route to becoming the doctor that he had dreamed about on so many occasions.
She heard the knock on the door and was quick to answer it. "You took long was the bus late?" "No, there was some traffic" "Anything interesting to say?" "No not really"
"What’s the matter? Had a bad day?"
"No, nothing I’m just tired"
"Well, you’ll be glad to know I got you some work experience with some lawyers this Sunday!"
"Why Mom? I don’t even want to be a lawyer"
"James, I’m sure you’re going to like it"
"Mom, you don’t get it, I don’t want to be a lawyer"
"So what do you want to be?" She said, a bit shocked at this, she didn’t know anything about her son’s career choices. She realised she didn’t know much about what he wanted to be, It doesn’t matter, a little work experience is always good isn’t it?
“Mom, how can you not know this?! It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to become! I’ve told you so many times, I want to be a doctor! I was going to ask you if I could do some work with my cousin!”
“I’m sorry James but when did you tell me that you wanted to be a doctor?”
“Mom, I’ve told you thousands of times, you’re just always stuck inside your phone. You never listen, you just stare down at your phone all the time”
“How dare you speak to your mom like that! I raised you and you will listen to me!”
“Mom, you raised me to be like this and now you don’t want to be like this, I’ve had enough of everything you’ve told me. I don’t want to be like you!”
She was stunned by the reaction of her son, she could feel the tears coming to her eyes at the sudden rebellion. She had thought he was stable but evidently she had been wrong. She was scared at the possible consequences of their argument and she ran upstairs to cry in her room indignantly, she felt like a small child having been told off by her strict parents. She wanted everything to be sorted, she realised she had to speak out for herself but for now she sat huddled up in the corner of their small bedroom at the highest point in the house.
He knew what he had done was wrong, but he realised it was necessary if he wanted things to get better between everyone in his family. Yet he felt bad, bad because his mother was probably now crying in her room, as she did when his father neglected her feelings so often and she was too scared to raise her voice against him for fear he would leave her. He hated his father, for inflicting this upon them, he was at work now and would never hear of this. He hated it. Hated this way of life where no one understood him or even wanted to understand him. He knew that one day things would get better, but when times were at their lowest point of desperation, sometimes, he would forget this and in the midst of his sadness despair at the thought that his situation would never get better. He stayed downstairs and sat on the old black leather sofa, it had always been there, since his birth. He lay down on it and thought about what he could do to possibly sort himself and his hopeless family out, and occasionally, a tear would make its path across his distressed face.
She woke up with a shock, she had cried herself to sleep like in her teenage years after a bad break up. Her husband hadn’t moved her, she knew he probably thought it would worsen her mood if he did but in the dark hidden and forbidden corners of her was the thought that he didn’t care about her. She realised her face was red from the tears falling down her face and her eyes were heavy and only partially open. She wasn’t going to get up. She was going to stay there until her husband had left and gone, calmly inside her room to avoid confronting him.
He got up and dressed without his mom coming to his room for the first time since starting at secondary school. He felt the lack of something when his had breakfast but he didn’t do anything about it. He didn’t want to talk about it, he regretted everything he had said that fateful night, and he knew nothing would ever be the same. He wanted to disappear. To take a ticket to a hidden place of complete silence where no one could ever find him. A place where he could see people weep his disappearance, see who really cared and who would cry. Then he would come back, and finally have a part in society. He would be accepted, everyone he knew would realise what he meant to them, how much of a hole it created within their lives. He would start planning, an escape plan to find somewhere to go. Somewhere peaceful where he could continue his studies in only Biology and Medicine so he could become an established name in the field of Medicine, then he would get married to a nice wife and have children, live in a nice house and have nice friends and live a great life without having to worry about his past. He knew. He would escape after school. He ran to his room and packed dark clothes inside his bag.
She knew things wouldn’t get better, their argument had opened a wound that would be fatal if it wasn’t treated, and even then it would leave a clear scar that would disfigure the face of their relationship to an extent where a transplant wasn’t an option. She could only hope they would eventually talk to each other again, conversation was the start of everything wasn’t it? I have to get him off his phone. No! I won’t listen to those ‘experts’ anymore! I’ll talk to my son properly as soon as he gets home. So she started waiting, for hope that would never arrive.
School ended quickly, all day he had been thinking about what he would do after school, he made sure to make the most of his few friends but none of them noticed and he was mostly ignored. It won’t be the same after today he pondered to himself. In all his lessons he hadn’t been focused, he was up in the clouds, with only himself to talk to. He was able to converse with himself, when he deleted all the background noise from pointless chatting between friends about recent ‘vines’ they had seen or a singer that had released a new song. He had found a solution to his troubles, he was going to disappear even though he would encounter a few problems along the way. He would enter a new life.
She was thinking about what to say when he would come home, she was formulating apologies and expecting some from her son, she was impatient. She decided to take her car and go to the bus station straight away. She arrived 10 minutes early and carried on thinking about what she was going to say, she knew it was going to be something about change, about becoming a different person, more educated, she wanted to start reading more complex books, she hoped it would improve her situation. She could only hope for the best. She knew James would think about it deeply and maybe not respond, but she could only hope. Hope was the last thing she had.
He didn’t get on the bus, he stayed at school and changed into his dark clothes before taking it to a run to get out of school without being noticed. He took the bus to central London. It was a long ride, he sat on the first seat he could see and put himself next to the window and looked outside. He looked at the moving background, the trees from his school neighbourhood then the tall, grey city buildings that dominated the centre of the city like giants in an ancient time and smelt the different people that sat unknowingly, there were some that smelt of old age, like when you kissed a great-grandparent, he wouldn’t call it a stench, but a strange smell that he commonly associated with it. He could also feel the air around him, it was stiff and unwelcoming, full of bacteria that had been shared with everyone around it and he could feel the bizarre tension that always filled a crowded bus, nobody spoke and the silence it caused was deafening. He thought about what he was going to do and the implications of it, the sadness he would bring upon the whole of his family. He looked at the people in the streets knowing none of them were worrying about him, none of them knew what was about to transpire, but it would be heard everywhere on the news. Then they would all know and he dreamed, although he knew it was desperate, of the sad faces with tears streaming down their faces, dark blue bags under their eyes from lack of sleep and their hair in messes because all they would do watch on the news for any possibility of him coming back, but he knew there wouldn’t be. He started stressing, was it the right decision? He had so much inspiration, so much good to do in the world, so much people to save... No, if I continue I will inspire hundreds, maybe even thousands more.
She started worrying. James hadn’t come off the bus so she had called him but to no avail, maybe he missed the bus? No he would have called, maybe his phone was out of battery? No he would have used a friend’s phone. She couldn’t think of a reason and looked at the station in despair. Raindrops started falling. The station looked haunted, the rain fell onto the dark grey pavement, it was a mix of colours but they were all a shade of either grey or black now rendered darker with the rain. The station itself was a pole about two metres high with a sign on top displaying the name of the station and the numbers of the buses that passed, there was no one there, the station was deserted apart from the occasional pedestrian walking passed, they were mostly young teenagers in dark coloured tracksuit bottoms with black coats above their head but occasionally an older person in beige trousers, shoes that could be worn with a suit and a drenched shirt worn with a dark coat and an umbrella that didn’t work. Those were the people that made up their neighbourhood, they didn’t fit into either categories and had the money to move but it was up to her husband, not anymore, she thought on, I’m going to make decisions now, it won’t be him taking all the decisions in and out the house, but right now her son was the main issue. She called him again. It rung once, twice.
He had gotten off the bus at a station near London Bridge. He now stood on the outer edge. He looked down at the drop beneath him. His ticket to a new life. People were looking at him now, staying at a three metre boundary to avoid any sudden movement. Downwards, he saw his feet, and below the crashing waves of the massive river. They were black at this time of day, the wind was up and displayed the true nature of the enraged waves. They shouted at him, showed their true face, “Come to me!” They bellowed
“What about my mom?”
“It is only when you come that anyone will finally take notice of who you really are”, the river replied with its large yet obviously fake grin. He started to hesitate. What if it’s the wrong decision? Maybe I should just...? He couldn’t think of anything. His dark, wavy hair blew across his face covering his spectacularly hazel eyes, even with his dark tracksuit bottoms and hoodie he was affected by the chilly wind that blew across his body and burned his throat with freshness. He felt his hands loosen around the edges of the side. His phone rang. He knew who it was and he searched in his trouser pocket
“Where are you? I’m really worried and we need to have a serious conversation”
“Mom, please don’t be alarmed. I’m standing on London Bridge above the water, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now. I’ve wanted to disappear-”
“James...” Her breath came out in quick sharp sobs
“-Mom! Listen, I just wanted to make an impact on this world, I’ve never made an impact. No one ever listens to me, I don’t have any friends at school I can talk to, I want to speak and to be listened to, to ask and to be answered and I’ve resolved that the only answer is this. All I’ve ever wanted to do was to contribute goodness, no one ever saw that, no one ever saw me. I know it’s sad and that you’re going to miss me, but I just want people to realise what they’ve done, to finally make everyone notice that if they don’t... All I ever wanted was to be a doctor, to save lives, I hope I will be a martyr, to show that if you don’t nourish those who truly mean good but just can’t communicate it through speech”
“James... I’m sorry, I know you must be angry and I can’t possibly understand what you’re going through, but you don’t understand what you’re leaving behind!” She shouted in despair, she was in tears. They streamed down her face like an enraged river at the peak of its height, “I need you! You’re my only pillar of support, I won’t be able to cope with your father, and I will live the rest of my days in desperation and solitude. Please don’t do this to me!”
The rain crashed down in large masses, his hair was drenched in his own sweat and the rain, he clenched the phone in his hands until his knuckles were white
“Mom, I love you. I want you to know that, you’re the only person who’s supported me through harsh times, I know we never really talked much, I wish we did...” The rain turned to thunder, and vicious vivid lightning lit up the sky showing his face in a flash but then disappearing back into the shadows, “Mom, I wanted to leave a message, I guess this is it-”
“No, James, think this through”, her sobs were clearly audible through the phone, she was running outside now, she had her hair in a mess from the last fateful night, she was running as fast as she could, she didn’t know where from or to. Too many things were rushing through her head. Filled with the cries of thousands, some voices that tremored and some analytic, she debated with herself but nothing was audible beneath the thick sheet of her sorrows, “Please!”
“-Mom, I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done”
“I can do so much more now! I understand! We can be happy! It doesn’t have to end this way!”
“But so much more happiness can be gained if I take the step! How many people will realise the harm they have been doing!”
“It isn’t going to work!” It was all she could think off, she had fallen into an abyss that she feared would never be able to come out from. She wasn’t talking, it came from a deeper part of her, the part that she had hidden from her husband, it rebelled and pushed the only reason she had left into the form of words, “Everyone will be sad, then you will be forgotten and another child with the aspiration for life will be lost, you can’t stop it, all you can do is fight it!”
“You’re wrong! I can stop it, the feeling of despair that you get in your darkest moments of sadness!” The rain fell across his emotionally scarred face, tears falling and glowing bright under the lightning of awesome power
“I’m sorry Mom” he cried out. “Goodbye, please don’t weep for me long, know that I am sacrificing myself for a just cause, I am going to save more lives than I could have during a lifetime. I love you mom. Goodbye.” He dropped the phone down the endless drop that lay before him, it shimmered under the trembling lightning and screamed a final call for help across the midst of the death marked fall.
He stood there in the blinding darkness and looked down. It’s worth it. He took a last breath and his hands began to slip from the rough, wet stone. He fell forwards and spun in the air, time slowed down around him. I was inspired, I could have felt the pulse of a needy person in my hands and have been trusted with the lives of complete strangers. I’m going to pass my inspiration to everyone now. Those in need and those who have run out of any inspiration. I could have become anyone I wanted, a singer, a scientist, an athlete, but now I am a martyr for the cause of sadness. To remove evil from the world, the evil that caused this upon me and my family. Those like me will be spared, the evil will become good and push the world to perfection. Is that even the point? Why am I sacrificing my life? Is it for anything? Who says any of this matters? Maybe all this is a waste, maybe life is just... Luck. Maybe it was a meaningless part of our universe that just happened to produce such complex life as humans. Isn’t that pointless? Surely the world has a meaning, surely everything we know was created for a reason and my act is just part of a bigger plan envisaged by a greater mastermind inside the universe. Maybe a God, maybe the powers of mature. All I want is to understand. That was my inspiration, to understand the world. To know what everything meant rather than it just being something that we took for granted. A wasted inspiration.
His body fell down to the waves and a last tear came from his eye. A tear filled with the sadness of thousands, it was crystal and had a slight glow around its pure edges. It slowly drifted among the thousands of tormented raindrops as though it were flying smoothly inside the agonised winds that blew the ghostly tune, the tear sang in a beautiful voice of truth a song too pure for an ordinary ear to hear. It felt the air around it and lit up in godly light under the powerful lightning. And slowly landed on James’s lifeless head taking it away to the bosom of the darkness.
She screamed at the top of the voice and fell down onto her knees and her head fell into her arms, she shouted again “Why!” A wimpy last attempt to call for help to higher powers, to gods? To nature? She cried and didn’t care about the passing strangers in the dark of night. Her back lit up with every bolt of lightning and glowed in the destructive rain. She was cold but didn’t notice, her legs were covered in dirty water, her clothes were a wretched mess of brown and green. She shouted at passing pedestrians in her sorrow, looking for an answer in the unknowing, emptiness of the air around her. She screamed incomprehensively, completely powerless to anything. Attempting to gain any understand, any help from anything. It’s what people do her deep hidden feeling said they don’t understand, they shout powerlessly and can’t achieve anything, yet they know there is nothing to be done but mourn. They keep on shouting, looking for a voice of reason when there is nothing to be heard. All has been done and the future is the only thing that will keep you sane. She stood in this new mood of understanding, and, still in pitiful sobbing, she walked towards the station to find the final burial place of her anguished son.