Friday, September 10, 2010

"Tyrannous Secrets of Time"

It seemed that the dark dreams weighed upon everything now. The images of the dead world crept into every one of her landscapes in some way, and whatever else she might paint she could not entirely eliminate a pallor, a strange tint, some deathly hint. And Helen did not even know why she had such vivid, or so consistent, dreams of the dying future -- her thoughts before had certainly not been more morbid than others. Perhaps it was her own failing health that lent her such images of the age when the world's life should itself fail; or perhaps the legend that tuberculosis granted its sufferers strange artistic vision was not entirely false. She doubted this last, however; people spoke of consoling or uplifting visions, not things of darkness and despair.

Even the news, when she troubled herself to read news, was tainted; she could not suppress a shudder of strange remembrance when she read certain things. Most recently, when the news of the fatal fire at the London house of Charles and Emma Darwin -- arson, apparently -- was in the paper; that odd feeling of remembrance displaced in time troubled her greatly. And more disturbing yet, when she slept that night her dreams touched on the event with a disturbing sense of satisfaction -- or perhaps accomplishment.

At times she felt as if the dreams were building towards something, as if some revelation, half-realized in the dreams, was straining to break through into her waking consciousness.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Afternoon Tea (pt. 2)

The doctor looked gravely at Helen across the table. "I would suggest a change of climate. The Mediterranean sun and air are well-known to combat the symptoms, they often help dramatically. Indeed many cases of consumption have been known to reverse themselves wholly..."

"Cases of this severity?" Helen asked sharply.

"Well... there have been wonderful convalescenses..." his reassurances wilted under Helen's eye. "No, not generally."

"And I should leave everything I have ever loved, everyone I know, all my work, and go to wait for death in an unfamiliar country? I think not. Moving to Brighton was enough of a dislocation, stressful enough, and to come here I did not need to leave any of my friends, nor lose contact with my fellow artists and my clients. And the sea-bathing here -- something you recommended, you praised just as profusely as this Mediterranean nonsense -- has done me no good at all."

"Your case is severe, doubtless. But it is not without hope. Furthermore, if you have no interest in my recommendations, why do you see me at all?"

Helen's face became severe, her voice sharpened. "For the medicines. They take away the pain, moderate it at least. But I have no desire for illusions and deceits. I know I am soon to die, and all I seek is a more pleasant experience, less pain, in my last few months or years. You need not continue to hold out the false hope of a complete recovery."

The doctor was somewhat taken aback. "I admire your honesty ... I suppose. But I think you are giving up hope too quickly."

"And the medication?" Helen's voice left no doubt that she wished to end this phase of the conversation.

"Very well then," the flustered doctor responded, taking a pair of small glass bottles from his bag and handing them to Helen. "In another month, then, for our next visit?" he inquired as he rose to leave.