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The Fan, the Knife, the Snow



I close my eyes, and your room emerges from a darkness so deep almost tangible. The curtains drawn - what time was it outside that room? Inside it had stopped. Just ceased to flow - frozen, it hung in the air next to that awful smell. The smell of decaying flesh.

The decaying lump of flesh that once was a man.

There was a fan to keep the bed cool. It stirred the air, but the smell of death would not budge - it had a weight, it covered everything in the house like a thin, awful cataract. Tyrannically, it made everything else surreal. Even the bed itself, the undeniable object; the white topography. Two mountains at the northern and southern ends of a long stretch. The nose - is it, was it still a nose?- and the toes. The two toes ridiculously tied together. You would have laughed at it. You always had a rather morbid sense of humour.

Someone had left a knife on the long plain that used to be your stomach. At first it shocked me. Could be the twilight that lingered in your room, something about the light or the absence of it, everything seemed eerie, supernatural, superstitious. The room I knew so well appeared -and was in reality too,- unknown and unwelcoming. I did not make any attempt to give meaning to anything in that room, it seemed impossible - everything that lay about me seemed to have been coded in an ancient language I did not speak - except that fan.

Un-light seeped from that fan. I resented that fan. You were always cold in your last days. You would complain about the cold constantly. We used to wrap you up in blankets, turn on the heater in that hellish climate to keep your frail body warm.

How frail, how thin you were. Your kneecaps were like two huge knots binding you to your shins.

Now your legs were like two underground streams, they ran noiselessly beneath the snow-white cotton sheet.

Somewhere in time, somehow, snow had fallen in that room. It had covered you, the cold had settled in your bones. Now you lay there silent, and you were slowly decaying.


I did not cry when I entered your room. The room in which we used to take our afternoon naps - you only let me sleep in your bed, my sister was not allowed that privilege. I was in charge now - my sister hesitated behind me. Something very similar to crying was happening inside me. Something was being violated, broken, defiled.

I touched your bony hand. The awful fan rattled as it turned its head away. You were so cold. The fan didn't help anything. Anger swelled up inside me, a wave of nausea swept over me. I stroked your hand for a while. Then I said "Goodnight, grandpa" and left your room.

The next morning the fan was gone. And you were gone, too. They had taken you away. In your room life noiselessly stole, as it had to. One night later, I slept in your bed. Nothing stays cold - not even a death bed; unless it is kept that way. I would have kept it that way.

We all cried. Except my grandmother. She said she couldn't. She still hears you call her, and says your name every now and then.

I don't know if I could have stood there and watched as they lowered you in your grave, and covered you with dirt. My mother did not let me, so I stayed home with my sister. For the longest time I struggled to keep the memories at bay. And when I finally gave up and let them in, I tried to carve them into my head.

Only after everyone was gone did I think about the knife. I had heard that the stomach gets swollen. Maybe the knife was kind of a weight to prevent that happening. Maybe it wasn't. I told my sister that. She said she doubted it since the knife literally weighed nothing. I said "true," and shrugged my shoulders. Or maybe I didn't.


No one spoke of the smell. We kept the windows open because, well, everyone was smoking. And you never smoked.

umiayanami umiayanami 21-25, F May 8, 2008

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