5. Albatross

I am the Albatross. Built to soar vast distances without need for rest. I, myself, my mind, have been set to rest through this journey. My body, my vessel, has been set to soar on above the waves of static and electric hum, cast out by distant explosions across time. In sleep my mind has been left to wander, flickering across memories and dreams like fingers scanning the spines of books along shelves in a darkened library. Each memory illuminates briefly, before it’s triumphant light is extinguished by the next memory in cue. A poached egg fades to an eyeless neighbour, fades to a lone jogger. A cat (my cat?). A feeling between jobs. An ice-cream cone. Chairs. Desks. A settee. Flying past me quicker than ever now, I claw them. I try to spend a moment longer with each.

I am asleep but there is something inside me that is shaking my cells awake. Like a cartoon character being drawn, I am between frames. I am waiting for my next movement to be made known. Static in my fingertips. An electric hum in my leg. Are these the beginnings of a new memory, wading to the forefront of my mind? I feel cushioning along my spine, around my shoulders, down my legs. My breath is doubling back (from where?) and is hitting my face. I am agitated, terrified, awake. My eyes are open.

I cannot see. This claustrophobia, is it real or simulated? A familiar memory of a kitchen fades from the darkness. A lady (where is she now?) that I love works busily around me, talking, drawing me in. I know this for what it is now. A memory. A boundary exists just before me. It is writing “return to sender” on my exhalations. I reach out to swipe away this kitchen scene and its crumbed countertop. I touch cold glass. I can see now. I can see the capsule.

The lid of my capsule slides away, hissing, repulsed by my touch. My fingers are left hanging in limbo, five stranded souls made ghostly and alien by the muted fluorescent lights. Coldness wraps me up. The capsule’s hiss echoes and sings out to the distant reaches of the unfamiliar chamber.

I throw up. Stepping into the second layer I feel my irises fighting against a throbbing in my head before finally adjusting. Other capsules, like my own, line the walls. Beside each is a display terminal, softly beeping and humming to themselves in the darkness. I lean over the capsule neighbouring mine and wipe the condensation from it’s lid. A girl (early twenties? Do I know her? In a memory? I thought she was me, but no, she) sleeps here. The glass opposite her lips gently fogs and clears in a steady rhythm. Her eyes turn softly beneath her eyelids. She is watching a memory. Her partner cooking a poached egg, an illusive neighbour with hidden eyes, a jogger in a turtleneck with hair flowing down her back, a cat, fur falling, between jobs, ice-cream cones, furniture. I know this because I have had these dreams. I am her in these dreams. Her face in the pod may as well have been my reflection on the glass lid. All these coffins are the same. We are the Albatross.

Words by Tanner Perham, Illustration by Jade Newton

‘I Am In Your House’ is a collaborative story by the creative writers of Pelican. It is published in weekly installments, every Sunday. Read more ‘I Am In Your House’ here

If you would like to contribute, either as a writer or illustrator to ‘I Am In Your House’ contact the web editor (pelicanwebeditor@gmail.com).