In a near future distopia an old woman tries to remember what used to happen on Dec. 24.
As evening melted into night, Adie sat by the window in her pyjamas and watched the fat snowflakes fall silently from the sky. For over an hour she watched them fall.
Something was not right about it, but she couldn’t quite grasp what it was. It should be cold – snow was cold – but it was never cold inside the home. The environment was too well controlled to allow for cold. But that wasn’t it, anyway.
Something about the light. Shouldn’t there be more than one colour? More than the sodium glow from the streetlights? Amber was nice on white, but where was the red? And the green? And the blue?
How long has it been since I saw them together, she wondered? And what is it when those colours come together with snow, she puzzled? What was that called, she was curious to know?
So many things from the past would not come back now. Just fragments here and there – images and sounds and smells all tumbling around in the wash, but never coming into focus. So much had changed, it was hard to recall how things had been before she had come here.
Without the screens on, there was always a pristine quiet inside the home. The kind of quiet that made your ears buzz the more you tuned in on the nothing.
As Adie thought more about the colours in the snow, the buzz began to turn to bells. Little bells, not a clock bell or a dinner bell, but little silver bells, and lots of them together. It was an exciting sound, but she couldn’t remember why. Her breath caught in her throat, half a gasp, half a sigh, as the bells faded into the distance and the dull buzz returned.
Looking around her plain, functional room, Adie saw and knew that it was exactly the same as it had been yesterday – everything tidy in its place – and the day before that – clean and organized – and the day before that – safe and re-assuring – and for weeks and months reaching back through time – always the same.
There was nothing special here. Nothing different. Nothing magical and dangerous. Nothing to make the breath catch in half a gasp, half a sigh. Only memories could do that now, and they were thin and slippery at best.
She longed to remember childhood, but mostly it was gone. I am a woman now, Adie remembered. I am an old woman now, she recalled. How old am I? She did not know.
Time and dates were always muddled. Everything was the same now – routine kept her healthy and alive, but it was hard to distinguish what was when and who was what these days.
Looking back at the snow outside, still glowing monotonously amber, she pondered: How long ago was I a child? And: What does it mean when colours mix with snow and there are little bells? It was sometimes painful not to know these things any more.
Tenderly, she moved away from the window and asked the smaller screen by the service table to engage. The saver image blinked into life and awaited her next command. She had a question, but in this moment had no idea what it was.
As was protocol, after sixty seconds of silence the image of her guardian, Elen, appeared in the top right corner to enquire if Adie was alright? Was there anything she needed help with?
Adie looked back at Elen empty faced, lost for a second, and then let her eyes drift to the bottom of the screen, where the time and lifedate ticked remorselessly away.
Can I help you, Adie? Elen serenely tried once more.
Dec. 24. Said Adie. Is it today, today?
Today is Dec. 24, that’s right, Adie. What can I do for you today? Are you in pain?
Yes, thought Adie. No, said Adie. And after a pause: I need you to come. I... have something for you to see. Something special. Something for... Crizmers!
Who is Crizmer? Elen replied with mild anxiety. Are you in pain? Never mind, I’ll be right there for you, Adie. Just hold on for me.
A flutter in her chest and a smile on her quivering lips transported Adie seventy years into her youth! Here, to supplant the sterile routine of her daily home, were three rare things from back then, all packaged into one exciting whole: a secret, a surprise and a gift.
Her feet shuffled and hopped on the synthetic floor, and her fingers twitched as she strove to hold on to the idea. It wanted to slide away, but she must not let it. The girl would be here in a moment; she always was when it was needed – she was nice and kind and deserved a kindness in return, thought Adie.
The twitching fingers reached the loose skin of her neck and, searching for the right thing - just the perfect thing - closed around it.
With a soft tone and a mechanical swish the main entryway opened and in walked Elen, concerned, yet calm and neutral, as befitted her generation.
Seeing Adie clutching her neck she responded with haste. Are you having trouble breathing? Are you in pain? How can I help you? I’m here to help you now.
Come closer, please, Adie whispered with a tremor. I have something...
What is it? Elen stepped closer, prepared to assist in any useful way possible, yet entirely innocent to what was happening; insensitive to such emotion.
Adie withdrew her tremulous hand from her neck and held it out, teasingly, towards the young girl that was here to help.
What is it? Intoned Elen, a note of agitated confusion in her voice as she cupped the hand in hers and encouraged Adie’s fingers to unfurl.
In the palm, a silver chain. And on the chain an angel. Elen looked at it and smiled.
Is this your past Adie?
No, dear! It’s yours. It’s your present.