New Short Story – ‘The Chimes’ by Sian Evans

The Chimes

 

The chimes sway in the breeze – zephyr; it blows though me.  Puff, puff the north wind blows.  Puff, puff the magic dragon.  Watch it burn.  Burns bright, burns high, burn it burn it burn it burn it until it dies a crispy death.  Tears fall; my eyes don’t like the smoke.  Red rimmed, scars of red across the white, the devil lives in her, the devil lies with her, the madwoman, the scary woman, the woman who babbles, babbles like a baby, cry baby, cry until daddy comes to pick you up, to cuddle you, to croon to you, he’ll give you the moon.  Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are?  I do, I do wonder and then my mind is distracted by something else, what else? I don’t know.  My memory is not so good anymore.  That’s what I choose to believe, that is what they say.  Or do they say my memory is not so good anymore, believe that if nothing else.  Who’s to say?

“This is Alice.  She has been with us a long time,” the middle aged woman says to the younger version next to her.  “Alice, it is fish tonight.  You like the sea, fish come from the sea Alice.  Do you remember the sea?”

“Stoke the oven.  Make it hot, hot, hot, hot.”

The chimes: precious chimes, memories hanging from the frame, to dance before my eyes.  There was an old nail stuck deep in the wood and I hang my chimes from that.  I ask for nothing and that is what I receive.

“We allow them to have a few possessions.  Alice made hers into a wind chime.  She’s very creative.”

“Grease a cake tin, the one Grandma gave me for my wedding.  I like that one, it’s so nicely round.”
So I used my hair.  It was long, it still is, my long beautiful hair.  My treasure, my trophy, my dowry, mine, mine, mine, I covet my hair, I love every filthy encrusted lock of it.

The chimes go tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, as the stars go twinkle, twinkle, twinkle and the fairies sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle dust all over the earth.  To make us sleep.  There’s a good girl, go to sleep, mummy will protect you from the monsters, mummy will protect you from the monsters but not from the monster that you will call husband, ruler, lord and…

“Beat the butter, sugar and orange rind until they are light and fluffy; slowly add the eggs.”

“Eat your fish before it gets cold Alice.”

…master and commander of the ship that you built to take me away.  Sail away, sail away, to the port of true love, a storm brewed, it brewed, the Gods kept stirring with the silver spoon, making the brew darker and darker and darker until I could see nothing but you.  Dear husband – the man of my dreams.  Do I dream? I can no longer remember.

“Fold in the grated carrot and chopped nuts.”

“Hi Alice, I’m Mary, I’m going to help look after you.  Would you like that?”

“No!  No nuts my husband is allergic.  Bad nuts.  Nuts are bad. Husband allergic.  Fold in the grated carrot and chopped nuts.”

The chimes hang from strands of my hair, blonde, grey, white as the pure driven snow, driven to where?  Where are you taking me?  Will I like it there?  Will it be safe?  Who else will be there?  Will you leave me there?  I don’t mind if you do dear loving husband, I don’t mind if you go away every now and again in that ship that you built for me.  I won’t mind if it springs a leak, if it fills with water, if it sinks.

“Finally, add salt to the flour and sift the flour and fold into the cake mixture.”

“Alice is a lovely name.  When I was a little girl I had a doll called Alice.”

“She doesn’t talk much.”

“Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 45-60 minutes.”

I can’t move.  My hands are tied.  I hop everywhere.  My feet are unbound.  I like to hop.  Toss the marker.  Hop, hop, hop, straddle, hop, miss, hop, hop and turn.  Count to ten, there’s a good girl.  Show the gentleman what you can do.

“To make the icing, cream the cheese and the butter together until smooth.”

“Pardon?  What did you say Alice?”

“Or just butter if money is tight.”

“Alice?”

“Add the icing sugar and vanilla essence, and beat…”

The chimes are still.  Blow, blow, blow the candles out, a deep breath and then whoosh.  What fun!  I keep a candle on one of the chimes, a little one from the birthday cake of that little girl from so long ago.  I keep a bone.  I keep a small knitted bootie – a stitch dropped.  A slither of ribbon from a grand ball so very long ago when I was young, fresh, fresh as a daisy, milk the cow and drink the milk and you shall thrive, thrive like a rose between two thorns, pull out the splinter and suck, suck the blood, the life force, from the small digit, dig it, hurry, dig the hole, to put the bundle in, to hide the thing, that no one is to know about, that thing that should never have been.  Not to be seen.  Close your eyes and it will all disappear, close your eyes and sleep little one there’s nothing to be afraid of in the dark.  The dark is your friend, the dark is safety, your husband will never wear black.

I feel better now mummy.  Sing to me mummy, sing me a song, sing me to sleep, sing me a hymn, singe me, singe my tiny hairs, singe my pink flesh, make my skin ripple, ripple like the waves on the beach.  Bury me mummy, bury me under the shingles and then I can play forever.  I like how the fish nibble my feet.  Ten tiny toes and ten tiny fingers – perfect.

It feels so guh-ooooo-udddd.

It feels so guh-ooooo-udddd.

Guh guh guh guh.  No mummy don’t, don’t hurt me, I didn’t mean to, I didn’t honest, I can’t help the s-s-st-st-

The chimes they stutter in the breeze.

Give me the baby or you’ll die.  I gave you a baby and you didn’t care if I died.

The chimes sing to me mummy.

“Eat it all up Alice before it goes cold.”