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The story

Thereafter is a collaborative story which began on 18th March 2024. Click here to read about how it is written by you and others.

At first, when they arrived, there was an air of curiosity around them. An hour ago, they’d known exactly what to expect. Grandma would be laying out cups and saucers for the mourners. The teapot with the cracked spout would make an appearance. But here they were. In the palm of the creator, at the end of their chapter. A string of pearls on the brink of collapse. The intake a sharp chord plucked from a single breath. Nightfall would incite a hailstorm of depleted stars. The grandfather clock echoed the witching hour. Grief stood at the door with a stretched hand.

“Please, come with me…”
….
The words hung…
…with finality.
The teapot had made an appearance, but not in quite the way expected. Instead of being used to dish out tea and condolences and comfort, it had sat in the middle of the room with no Grandma to put it into action. Just a silence that drowned their eardrums. Had them wondering where the… last amount of time…had gone.

Then she came, and here they were. Grandma was ready for them now, as she ushered to the outside air beyond the door, teapot in hand. They had been reunited, and she looked different. Glowing, light, un-aging…deathly. “We’re going to get some tea, I’ve run out. Your Mother would have wanted her family to be comfortable in such times.” She lined her finger down the edge of the teapots crack.
She stepped out into the nightfall, and they followed, Grandfather clock chiming them off.

The air was intense, what a strange mix of sorrow, anger and loss. These are the usual feelings of grief, but with a sprinkle of bitter sweet deceit. My eyes had stayed solely on the back of grandmas head, her salt and pepper hair in a neat bun, wiry and yet soft. Every single thing in this room seemed to be contradictory, even grandma. Of course she would have known, all these years, she must have known… but you wouldn’t think it, she is so composed, then again, maybe that’s just her character. Her strong shoulders must have felt so heavy all these years, I’m feeling all the feelings, all at once, it is all just racing, and I am trying not to ping-pong from one perspective to another. Empathy, rage, hurt, betrayal, happiness… how can it be so interlinked? My gaze now follows the calming slow movements of this old ladies feet, in those slippers, faux fur lining the rim of the suede, short steps, shuffling along to meet the corner armchair, that has always been grandmas chair. My emotions are so raw, and confused, my thoughts are on overdrive in a chaotic loop, how could Mum do this to us? I can’t even comprehend or fathom how she could have even managed it.

I’m still fixated on grandmas feet, she’s now fully seated, on the old fashioned red velvety armchair, silence sweeping coldly through the room for what feels like a century. I’m building my courage internally to look up.. 1,2,3, okay, I’ll count down again from 5, not that swapping the numbers about or adding on a few is going to make any difference.

I land on the one with the familiar waives of dark auburn hair. I thought I recognised her when she approached me the day of the storm at the book shop two months ago, I had greeted her just like any other customer, apart from my facial expression, which was almost accusatory.

It’s raining now, I can feel the wind howling, battering against the windows of this small otherwise peaceful cottage. I raise my head and meet her glassy celadon and sage eyes piercing into my skin, I imagine quite possibly a mirror image mimicking mine on that grey afternoon. The realisation hits me like a soothing slap, I also have central heterachromia, so does Joshua, Evelyn and Zachary, as does Mum. So did Mum.

The wind began howling even stronger, and the rain was pouring so hard that you couldn’t see through it. We all stared at each other, not knowing how to proceed. She didn’t tell us the next step to continue with this meeting of strangers. We all stared at her, waiting.

I could feel the draft coming from beneath the floorboards, the howls began to get louder and deeper as they were vastly approaching , the door started to shudder and I could hear the screws parting from their hinges, with every thud I could see the clay particles falling from the cracks in the teapot sat on the coffee table infront of grandma.

I got up from my chair and looked out the window. The storm was surrounding us now and we were sitting ducks in this broken down cottage, the windows creaked and the glass slowly cracking, I looked back to see the horror in everyone’s eyes. ‘We need to barricade ourselves in and stay low, Grandma stay down here’ I pointed to a small cellar door, it wasn’t big enough for all of us but the others found different hiding places, we could now hardly hear one another. the storm was on top of us, windows bursting and glass flying through the air, I caught grandma’s eyes as she peered out of the cellar door, believing this was the last time I would see her I shouted ‘ Grandma, what was it you wanted us to know!?’ Holding on for dear life to the leg of the dining table.

Grandma didn’t reply and the howling was now suffocating, the roof blew off with such force leaving us fully exposed and vulnerable, a loud static noise pierced our ears and everything seemed to go in slow motion, I saw my siblings heads tilt back with abruptly as if someone had a yanked them back and a bright yellow beam shot from their eyes into the night sky, terrified, I caught a final glimpse from grandma who mouthed the words ‘you only have each other’ before my head flung back and my eyes blinded by a yellow light.

As my head was forcefully yanked back, a sharp jolt of panic shot through me, my muscles tensing involuntarily. The night air rushed past my ears, mingling with the sound of my own rapid breaths. The blinding yellow light flooded my vision, searing through my eyelids even as I squeezed them shut, leaving behind an eerie glow that danced behind my closed eyes, like a haunting afterimage.

 

With my eyes clamped shut, I gasp for breath as my body convulses violently. A soothing warmth caresses my skin, contrasting with the chaos engulfing me, as if a gentle hand tries to comfort amidst a tempest. Amidst the swirling debris, I feel weightless, untethered from the relentless pull of gravity. My limbs twist and contort in the air, a dance of agony amidst the swirling fragments that gnaw at my flesh like voracious beasts. Each bite sends a surge of pain coursing through me, painting the scene with hues of torment.

The last story part was submitted by emergingwriterjourney on May 7, 2024 3:40 am.

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