It was in the morning when he Fell. Things were always falling around him: plastic trays, cups, food, and now bodies. Somebody must have tripped a switch in recent years and turned gravity on full. Boxes, grandchildren, memories, dinner: everything carried more weight. Even his eyelids, pressing down. Wait just a second, I want to see this. He would tell them. Not a chance, big guy, they’d say, slamming down, locking up. It’s half past nine. Time to close up, come back tomorrow.
He worried sometimes about closing up but not coming back tomorrow. It was hard not to since he arrived at what he liked to call Mini-World, or a terminal station where the arrivals were many and the destinations few. It had been determined, by the powers that be, that Mini-World would be the next best place to the real world and he would be way more comfortable there. He was assured it was complete with a Barber Shop, a Doctor’s Office, and Exciting Games & Activities. All in the span of a hallway. All for only $2,500 a month. What a steal! said the brochure.
The day of the Fall began as it ended: with gravity. Only his thoughts escaped it. His mind was out of bed, dressed, and out the door. But his body was still on the edge of the bed, a pendulum swinging, tick-tock, tick-tock, his bones creaking. Then he was swinging up, all the way up, his center of gravity rushing forward, bringing him to his feet. He walked into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Gravity stared back with swinging jowls. It’s hair and teeth had fallen out long ago.
“How ya doin’, handsome?” he asked it. It didn’t smile.
Instead he opened the medicine cabinet, removed the medicine, and closed the cabinet. Two big ones in the morning, one white in the evening. Take with food. Take on an empty stomach. Take twice daily, on alternate days. Every night, for the rest of your life. Prescription lasts one month. He pops the pills out of the container labelled ‘Morn – Tuesday,’ fills the cup by the sink with chalky water, swings and swallows. Down the hatch.
He combs his hair over his head, opens the denture container by the sink, and puts his teeth inside his mouth. Then he’s off to his closet: comparing, contrasting and choosing colour schemes. He picks one, then pictures his wife beside him, chiding. But she exists only in pictures now. He waves her off. Her opinion carries no weight. Her embarrassment is not his burden anymore. He pulls his trousers on, fighting gravity, the solid oak desk his ally. He wins the war and declares his independence.
Outside is the hallway where pictures of lakes and swans and trees hang crookedly on clinically-approved flower wallpaper. It is covered in waist-height scrapes and dents from the highway-hallway where scooters, walkers and wheelchairs race past pensioners and pedestrians. Collisions here still bring ambulances and concerned citizens alike. He sets off along it, keeping to the right to allow others to pass. Occasionally he’ll throw out his thumb like he’s flagging a cab or hitching a ride, and the residents wave as they drive by.
“How ya doin’, handsome?” a pretty young woman asks him, coming the other way. He smiles.
He reaches the Restaurant. It is not, of course, a restaurant, but a cafeteria, poorly named by good intentions. There were workers, but there were no waiters. There was food, but there was no menu. The residents at the tables clumped in groups, with the lonely bumping around the fringes. Former teachers with former plumbers with former firemen. Formerly the backbone of society, now with bad backs and bad bones.
He sits down at his usual table with his usual friends. Sometimes one of them is missing, which is not unusual. Given that they share the present they have no choice but to talk about the past, where they used to do this and once did that. Their platters come with paper slipped under their plates, detailing their diets. No salt, his says. No sugar. No dessert.
In the Mini-World, gravity is on everybody’s mind. You’ve got to get up, the care-workers say. Don’t spill. Don’t slip. Pick that up. Put that down. Take the elevator, not the stairs. They had a Fall, they would say, with an emphasis on the F, an emphasis usually reserved for a word like Fate. Because gravity kicks you even when you’re down. Once you Fall, it’s you and the world spinning around and around. Then where does gravity drag you?
Luke Alexander is a writer living in Toronto. Sometimes he writes strange things in caffeine-induced frenzies. You can follow his Tweets here.