Short Story – ‘Bubble on a Mud Puddle’

Imagine if you knew you were dead, but couldn’t remember how it happened? Would you want to remember?

Bubble on a Mud Puddle

No one knows that that bubble on the mud puddle they call a pond is me. I died a week ago and no one seems to know yet. I’m sitting at the edge, staring at its grimy surface and rimed edges and it seems intimately familiar. But I can’t quite remember if I waded in on my own, ignoring the cold water and oozing mud. Someone might have pushed me, I suppose. I may have tripped. Maybe I was drunk, stumbled into the stagnant water and gave up swimming.

It’s tempting just to drift on forever determined I was pushed, fume with righteous anger and haunt to buggery the guilty party or parties involved in my murder. But that leaves me the whole issue of who was it?

Sounds a little too much like effort. Maybe I’ll just wait around and wait for someone to find my body. Not like I’m going to die of exposure or anything.

Now I’m dead maybe I should turn over a new leaf; use this whole death thing as a lesson. A lesson about what? Don’t go wading in murky water? Don’t antagonise people strong enough to hold you down in murky water.

How about appreciate life? Bit late for that lesson perhaps.

If I really concentrate, perhaps I can remember what happened. Not entirely keen on that idea, though. If I did this to myself, there’s probably a good reason why. Why relive it.

Also, if I remember it was just an accident, that’d be even more depressing; dying for no reason other than a slippery path is not exactly much up on being miserable enough to take your own life.

Might as well not bother trying to remember. This isn’t all that bad. Maybe it is pretty grim sitting at the edge of the pond where I died, but hey, no one’s complaining. Only got me to worry about now. At least I’m not cold. Not even sure if I can get cold.

I wonder if I’ll forget even what cold and hot feel like. If I concentrate hard I can probably remember. But I still have this worms-in-the-gut feeling that I don’t really want to remember too much. If I look too deeply I may see bits of myself I never really wanted to; lonely, stale parts, painted over with peeling whitewash in the dusty corners of my brain.

Well, not my actual brain, obviously. That’s all lovely, gooey and swollen inside my shattered skull at the bottom of the duck pond. The duck pond with no ducks. Although, since my skull was shattered, perhaps it wasn’t actually my fault this time after all? It’s always possible I hit it diving in, with whatever intention. Or some inconsiderate little kid could have cracked it throwing rocks in after I’d already been lying there a couple of days.

I thought bodies floated. Mine’s not. Maybe I’m weighted down, stones in my pockets or maybe I was trussed up to a rock or something. But that doesn’t help me figure out whether I did it myself or someone did it to me. Or if I stumbled and part of my ragged clothing is hooked underwater on some foul, unseen obstruction. Another body perhaps.

I should really stop looking around for someone to blame. It’s just that there’s not an awful lot else to do.

I wonder if it hurt.

Am I actually supposed to do anything about it? Still, if no one’s thought to look in the pond after I’ve been missing a week I can only guess no one really cares where I’ve gone.

I suppose the whole world must be a little to blame. Even if I did technically walk in on my own, I bet I felt the hands of a hundred people pushing me forward then holding me down in the mud. It’s all too easy to feel alone; it’s even easier to give into it. I’m more alone now than I ever could have imagined. How lovely irony is.

Even though I can’t feel the biting air, I shudder. That’s a little weird, didn’t think I could shudder. Maybe I just think I’m shuddering because I feel I ought to; even though I don’t want to remember, flakes of my life are floating through my mind like fish scales. I remember grey walls suffocating me. A room closing in silently to strangle me with its emptiness. But better alone in an empty room and alone amongst others.

I’d built that prison strong. Boarded up my windows, locked the door. Installed a hatch for deliveries.

It wasn’t so much people staring that made me want to escape them forever, it was the whispers. The more subtle the comment, the more easily I could tell it’d been made.

A disgrace. Despicable. Sub-human. Catching a disease like that.

Maybe someone did kill me then. A mercy killing, even? Although I’m sure they didn’t actually ask me, whoever they were. To be fair, I don’t think I was the most likeable person even when I was healthy. I never really thought about it when I was alive and shrouded in my fine clothes with my fine friends and imported drink. I suppose I was perhaps too big a part of my life.

Guess I’m paying for it now. I’m sat here more alone than is truly comprehensible and I’m fairly certain no one’s playing my requiem on their blood-smeared piano, mercy or no mercy.

Although, if I was going to be disagreeable, I would argue that I seem to remember that the confinement, solitude and agony of my last few weeks on this miserable planet were more punishment than any uncreative murderer could have dealt out.

I thought I wasn’t going to think about it.

Death must be something that would get a lot of people down but I’m sure that if people forgot about life’s perception of death, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. I’m sat here, issues such as comfort and company are just not important any more and all you have to do is sit and think.

Think about what? My life, the deeds I did whilst I was inhabiting that slimy, purpling hunk of flesh decomposing happily to itself at the bottom of a stagnant water hole?

Maybe this is hell.

Would have thought people may have been a little curious as to where I’d got to. I’m not entirely sure how long I’ve been sitting here now, but it must be a fairly decent helping of time. Surely the man that delivers my food must have noticed something fishy when I stopped collecting my parcels from out of the hatch?

I can just about make out the ugly black hulk of my house; a darker shadow amongst the dark shadows on top of the hill through the death-grey trees. No one’s come looking, I’m pretty sure. I’m sure I would have noticed.

If something doesn’t happen soon I’m afraid I’m going to just give in and start remembering again. Maybe I want to know what happened to me. I suppose that’s reasonable.

Although I’m either going to find out that my life was so bad that I ended it or that someone thought I was bad enough to end. Unless it was an accident, which of course would be just lovely.

Maybe I went mad, that’d be fairly exciting. God knows those last few weeks were enough to send anyone mad and then some. Hell, now I’m definitely remembering. I had to grope my way around, my joints pulsing with pain. I couldn’t find silence anywhere, the agony constantly screamed through me.

It must have only been someone knocking on my barricaded door, but I was convinced something was in my head, scratching at the insides of my skull, and not quietly either. It’s all very blurred after that and even if it weren’t I’m sure I’d rather it was.

I wish I could feel the cold now. The memories of the heat are so suffocating a decent chill would be refreshing.

How long have been sat here trying not to think? Trying not to, but the pain is there again, clamouring at my door with bloody fists and diseased teeth, waiting to tear me apart as soon as the wood splinters away. I don’t want to remember and if I try hard enough I’m sure I don’t have too.

Thank God, a leaf fell onto the pond. Ripples, movement. Something to watch.

It’s so curious how the leaf travels across the surface of the pond even though there’s not a single breath of wind. Maybe water is constantly moving, no matter how still it seems. I wonder when the shadow of the leaf will pass over my body? Just about there? Or maybe there?

I can’t remember the difference between day and night. No wonder I don’t know how long I’ve been here.

If I could, I’d ball my fists in my hair, clench my eyes shut and rock back and forth. But I have no hair, no eyes, no fists. Nothing to fight back the memories I can feel clawing at the edges of my determination, memories of the pain, a black shroud with a pulsing heart of madness slowly bleeding through my tissues, threading every inch of me in my own poison. A shroud of splintering gauze pulling tighter and tighter over my vision, foul humour running down my cheeks and no matter how I pulled at my hair there was still some left.

And always, the black thing with foetid fingernails scratching away at the inside of my skull, determined, rhythmic stokes, each as loud as the last.

I try and stay focussed on the brown pond water in front of me, the single free-floating leaf meandering on the grimy surface. Why should it matter, now? Why should it matter? Why? I can’t feel any of it now, the pain, the madness, the isolation of the blackness that flowed through my blood from myself. The stuff in me they called filth, the despicable disease for the sinners.

I can’t bare it, I haven’t any eyelids to shut against this onslaught. Time, space is all lost. Everything swirls screaming into the pit of me and I cannot fight back anymore the memories of those last few days. They close in, I can see, smell, feel it all, all of it, again and close and real…

I can’t take it again. This must be hell.

The bubble on the mud puddle pops. I scream and hurl myself into the murky depths, desperate to drown my own screams. I don’t make a ripple.

No one knows that that bubble on the mud puddle they call a pond is me. I died a week ago and no one seems to know yet. I’m sitting at the edge, staring at its grimy surface and rimed edges and it seems intimately familiar. But somehow, I can’t quite remember if I waded in on my own, ignoring the cold water and the oozing mud. Someone might have pushed me, I suppose. I may have tripped. Maybe I was drunk, stumbled into the stagnant water and gave up swimming.

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4 Responses to Short Story – ‘Bubble on a Mud Puddle’

  1. This was a good piece. A lonely, somewhat willingly amnesiac spirit pondering its past as it keeps its former vessel company.

    Did you see the POV character as an ethereal ball? Up until the ‘no hair, no eyes, no fists’ line, I saw a ghostly figure sitting at the edge of the pond.

    I would guess the character was pushed, due to the ‘despicable disease’. To be described in such a way implies a somewhat fanatic community.

    I look forward to your newer works =)

    • jcollyer says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. This piece is years old now, but I’m glad you liked it and it’s been rather fun for me to remember it existed. You’re right, I saw the narrator as a sort of incorporeal fog or presence and, though it’s taken me a while to remember the disease he caught was supposed to be syphilis. Hence the judgement of the community and the self-imposed isolation. Reading back through it years later I think some details may need to be clearer: the concept is that its hundreds of years later but the narrator is trapped in this cycle of trying not to remember but then ultimately reliving the last hours of his life in which the pain and madness drives him to throwing himself in his garden pond and drowning himself. I think the despair and the pain come through, though maybe the fact that he was supposed to be a rather unpleasant person in life, rich, decadent and pleasure-seeking, (though not out rightly evil), but ended up trapped forever alone and reliving the culminations of his actions. I think it was loosely maybe supposed to be his own, self-imposed hell. Cheery, indeed!! Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment. When I get further along with the novel I plan to post sections of it here, though it is still very much in the draft stage. If you go to my ‘novel excerpts’ category, however, you can read some sections from a sci-fi that will be a future project of mine, if you’re interested 🙂 Thanks again, it’s been great reading your reactions

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