Then he went back inside the house.
This is a story about Errki.
It began like this: at 3 A.M. he left the asylum. We don't refer to it as the asylum, Errki, and even though you sure have the right to call it whatever you like in private, you ought to take other people into consideration and give it a different name. It's a matter of courtesy. Or tact, if you will. Have you ever heard of that?
She was so eloquent, God help her, that her words seemed to seep out of her like oil. After the words came her sound, a shrill electric organ.
"It's called the Beacon," he said, and gave an acid smile. "Those of us here in the Beacon are all one big family. The telephone rings, may I speak to the Beacon please? Could someone get the mail for the Beacon?"
"Precisely. It's all a matter of habit. Everyone has to show a little consideration."
"Not me," he replied in a sullen voice. "I was committed against my will, per Paragraph 5. Dangerous to myself and possibly to others."
He leaned forward and whispered in her ear.
"Thanks to me you can moon around on pay grade 27."
The night nurse shivered. This was the time of day when she felt most vulnerable. This no-man's-land between night and morning, a gray void when the birds stopped singing and you couldn't be sure that they'd ever sing again. When anything might have happened and she didn't yet know about it. She slumped a little, feeling faint. She didn't have the strength to see his pain, to remember who he was, that he was her charge. She simply found him repulsive, self-absorbed, and nasty.
"I realize that," she snapped. "But you've been here for four months now, and as far as I can tell, you seem to like it well enough."
As she said this her lips pursed like the beak of a hen. The organ struck a strident chord.
And so he left. It wasn't hard. The night was warm, and the window was nearly a foot open. It was locked with a steel bar, but he managed to remove the whole bar, using his belt buckle. The building was more than a hundred years old, and the screws came smoothly out of the rotting wood. His room was on the second floor. He jumped out the window as light as a bird and landed on the lawn.
He didn't cross the parking lot but instead headed through the woods toward the small lake, which they called the Well. It didn't matter which route he took. The point was that he didn't want to stay in the Beacon any more.
The lake was beautiful. It didn't put on airs, just lay there without a ripple, resting in the landscape, open and still. Didn't push him away, didn't lure him forward. Didn't touch him. Was simply there. The asylum was only a stone's throw away but invisible because of the trees. Nestor asked him to stop for a moment, and he did. He stared down into the black Well, and thought of Tormod, who was found floating face down in the water, wearing rubber gloves, as always, with his blond hair waving in the greenish black water. He didn't look very good, but then he never had. He was fat and sluggish with colorless eyes, and besides he was stupid. A disgusting, puddinglike fellow who went around asking people to excuse him, afraid of infecting them or of being in the way, afraid that someone would notice his contaminated breath. Now the poor man was with God. Maybe he was sloshing around on a cloud, freed at last from his clammy gloves. Maybe he'd met Errki's mother up there, maybe she was floating on the cloud next to his. Errki loved his mother. The thought of Tormod's fluttering eyes with the blond eyelashes made him swallow hard. He gave a couple of irritated shrugs of his thin shoulders and kept walking.
Copyright © J. W. Cappelens Forlag, A. S. English translation copyright © Felicity David 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, Harcourt, Inc.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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