A soft voice is heard when the 'play' button is hit on a voice recorder. It says:
The setting is such, I am sitting at home telling a story at Alfred's request. He went out and bought me a voice recorder the other week. If there's anything I can do now to bring him peace, so be it.
It started out with small things. I would forget little things. Al would chastise me:
"Hey, Arthur, did you get my voice mail?" "Did you... forget or something? I texted you at least three times." "Arthur, did you forget that you had turned on the stove for your hot water?"
And so on.
There is a pause and the speaker collects himself.
Of course, I suppose I had forgotten and not thought much of it. It wasn't until I started to get headaches that I knew something was wrong. It started with small, sharp pains in the front of my forehead between my eyes. I would be bothered by it but able to continue on. The headaches grew worse into migraines. I would feel fine and then suddenly my vision would go out and I was blinded by this pain inside my head. It was just never ending. What was I supposed to say or do when the doctor's told me, well, us really since Alfred was there the entire time, that my days were limited.
Alfred was so patient. I could not ask for anything better or anyone more understanding. My only regret is that I am... leaving him against my will.
I have one final tale to tell to Alfred so maybe he can understand. It goes like this:
A man parked his car and stared vacantly at the dashboard. He wondered how he got here-it was the park he visited frequently as a child. It sat on the outskirt of town. The perimeter of the park was a good five mile walk. There was a farm on the inside along and also an old gazebo.
Alfred locked his car once he was out and stretched his arms. He was parked in a lot that was shrouded by tall evergreens. He felt great anticipation for the freedom of this walk.
He smiled as he walked by a family but it felt forced. Really, he just wanted to get away from all human life. Finally he cleared the trees and blinked as he entered the sunlight.
He scowled as he walked underneath the power lines. Their magnetic buzz sounded through his head. He walked a while until the path veered to the side, away from the power lines. Here, he was far away from anyone or anything. He kept turning back to make sure he couldn't see the power lines. He wanted to make sure he couldn't see any man-made remnants.
He walked a trail and listened to the birds and animals scurry around in the trees. The green of the foliage was reaching its peak as summer started. Sunlight drifted through the trees until the trees became more sparse and turned into farmland. Arthur went off the path and trekked through the long field grass. Grass scratched at his ankles and the pollen irritated his nose but this was trivial to him.
He reached the middle of the field and threw his arms open and just stood in the sunlight. He needed this escape.
The city was too stuffy. There were too many power lines, too many cars, too many people. Here he was able to turn completely around and not see any power lines stretching across the sky.
But quickly he put his arms down and looked around as if he was afraid someone would see him. He turned away from the warmth of the sun and hurriedly returned to the path.
He followed the path further until he could see the farm house and beyond that the old gazebo. Even further was the parking lot where his car was at. He sighed as he eyed the power lines and streets beyond that. When he turned and looked behind him, all he could see was blue sky and green, rolling hills of the farmland. But he pressed on to the end of the path.
He came upon an old tree that stood in the middle of a field. He could not remember this part of the park. As he approached the tree, he noticed a bench underneath the tree. He sat down.
As he sat there, he could hear a distant roar of cars traveling down a busy street. He was never too far from civilization to his discouragement.
He arrived home and Alfred sat at the dining room table, looking anxious.
"I've been calling you and texting you, why didn't you answer me?"
Arthur doesn't answer him.
There is a long pause in the tape. It appears to almost end until the voice continues:
Slowly he says, "I'm starting to lose myself. I don't know if you can see it, but... I can feel it inside. Al, I don't know who I am anymore."
He looks up to concerned eyes.
"Arthur... Do you at least know where you went this time?"
Arthur closes his eyes and smiles, "I went to a park. It has been a while since I went. It felt so liberating. I thought about everything and I thought about nothing."
His eyes are still closed but he imagines the park in his mind. In his mind he sees the rolling fields, the forest with trails, and open grass. He doesn't see the family having a picnic, he doesn't see the power lines jutting up to the sky, he doesn't hear the distant road. There is just peace inside his head.
There's some static and then the voice recorder stops.