It was still light outside on a warm June evening, and as she drowsed, she had an awareness of a waking-world soundscape: older children playing in the street; a radio orchestra, her parents’ hushed conversation rising and falling, rising and falling; a lazy fly uselessly attempting an escape against the fluttering window blind, buzzing, droning, resting, buzzing; the mantel clock ticking away the minutes towards reluctant sleep. The sounds began to merge into one lullaby: music, chat, laughter, tick-tock-tick, buzz, buzz, buzzzz, until her book fell from her hands onto the bed.
Then came a different, discordant sound; the street door beneath her window echoed to a sharp, insistent rapping, reverberating through the house and jolting her awake. At that moment it seemed to her, the fly gave up its futile and half-hearted escape bid, the cosy summer parlour chat and music ceased and even the clock halted, poised between ‘tick’ and ‘tock’.
A new, deeper, unfamiliar voice rose between the carpet-muffled floorboards. Occasional words drifted up to her: sorry, inform, son, accident, dead, sorry, sorry, sorry. She strained to make sense of the broken string of sounds as she clambered from the bed, her book falling to the floor. A second’s silence followed in which she heard her own heart thudding and the blood rushing in her ears; and then her mother’s cry, her father’s sobs.
She fumbled the bedroom doorknob with numb and useless fingers as the sounds of anguish overtook reality. Standing at the top of the stairs, she watched her girlish self descend. No feet trod on the steps. No hands gripped the polished rail. She could almost reach out and touch her own pillow-tangled curls, falling down her back. She saw her thin cotton nightgown, clinging to her tiny frame. Almost at once she felt the carpeted tread of the last step beneath her bare feet as she stumbled into the room of blinding grief and despair.
*O.B.E. here stands for 'Out of Body Experience'. The description above records the one and only time my mother had an O.B.E. Her beloved brother, only a little older than herself, had gone out for the evening to his Boys Brigade meeting. His last words as he left the house, my grandmother would often tell me, were, "Goodnight my dears." A policeman brought the news that he had died in a tragic and freak accident. My mother, aged thirteen must have sensed something awful had happened and the sheer stress and sense of impending doom must have brought on this strange phenomenon. You can read more about this here.
I'm linking this to Tess Kincaid's The Mag where the image below reminded me of of my mother's vivid description of seeing the back of her young self almost 'floating' downstairs.
|Rene Magritte. 'Not to Be Reproduced' 1937|
Why not see what other surreal experiences this image has evoked in other contributors.