The Wandering Pulpit – Days Gone By (Part 2)

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This is the second part of the short story Days Gone By.  If you haven’t read the first part take a minute to catch up before reading on.

Days Gone By (continued)

“Welcome to Day’s Gone By, if you would please follow me.”  The woman followed as always but for the first time she was nervous to go back into her room but she couldn’t help it. She had to go back. As they went deeper than ever into the facility the woman could not contain her question any longer and asked, “Yesterday, the door to my room locked and I couldn’t get out. What was that?” “I can’t say, mam. Only you can know.” The woman thought for a moment and then said “But I don’t know, that’s the problem. Nothing like this has ever happened before.” The attendant never broke his gaze or pace further down the hallway as he said, “This sort of thing happens more often the deeper you get into the facility.”  “This has happened to others?” asked the woman in surprise. “Oh, yes mam. Like I said quite often down here. Sometimes individuals lock themselves in their rooms, never leaving.” “Why would they do that?” “I can’t say, mam. Only they would know.” “Can you at least tell me some of the reasons you know of?” “There are some who could leave but simply choose not to because they love what they recall in their rooms. They would rather live there than outside their room. Others become trapped by the images they recall; the individual is unable to turn them off and the door won’t open until the room is blank.” “That’s what happened to me!” exclaimed the woman “But why was I not able to turn it off?” “I can’t say, mam. Only you can know.”

The woman thought about this for a while but then decided to ask another more general question hoping to get some more information, “Can you tell me some of the reasons you know of why people can’t turn off their memories?” “Sometimes it has to do with a medical condition. Sometimes it is because there are others outside their door reminding them of it so that the same scene loops continually.” “Wait!” Interrupted the woman. “You are saying that others keep people in their rooms?” “Oh yes, we have many that are brought to Days Gone By by others.”  “People come here together?” the woman asked in surprise. “Yes, of course” replied the attendant. “Groups come in together all of the time. Don’t you remember being here with others before?” The woman thought about it and she did remember, though she wasn’t sure why she had forgotten. She wanted to know more so she asked, “And sometimes people keep each other locked in their rooms?” “In a way yes, this does happen more often the deeper you get into the facility. A matter of fact we even have many cases this deep down of individuals or groups dragging others and throwing them into their rooms.” “You mean against their will?” “Yes.” And for the first time, the woman noticed this happening in the hallway. People were being carried or drug along the floor. Some were crying as this happened, while others were visibly angry and resisted their attackers and yet a great majority of them endured their trial in silence. Some were forced in by large or small groups others by solitary figures some which appeared oppressive while others jesting. Saddest of all though was one young woman who somberly and willingly was marched before a heckling crowd into her room. Even after her door was closed the group did not disperse but continued in their rant outside. The woman was shocked that she had never noticed this before but she knew it had been going on all along.

In frustration, she asked, “Why do you let this happen?” “It is not up to me mam.” The attendant spoke without a hint of passion in his voice. “I am just an attendant. Who takes you to where you want to go.” “What about those poor people being forced into their rooms by others!” Ask the woman defensively. “Where are their attendants?” “They are right there, mam.” The woman looked back over and she saw that he was right, every single individual heading for a room had an attendant just like hers all along. Why had she never noticed them before she wondered. “You said the attendants take us where we want to go.” “That’s right, mam.” “Some of these people obviously don’t want to go to their rooms.” As she said this she watched as an attendant of a boy who couldn’t even be a teenager yet simply stand by the door of the young man’s room as he was thrown in by a group of bullies. “So why do their attendants lead them here?” She asked. “Because they came into the facility and have not chosen to leave.”

“I wanted to leave yesterday but I couldn’t.” said the woman her anger rising again.  “You wanted to leave but you never choose to, mam.” “I did choose to. I went to my door but it was locked!” she desperately explained. “Yes but this is because your recollection was not yet turned off.” “I couldn’t turn it off!” “And this is where your problem comes from. The room’s owner is the only one who is able to enter and leave their room but sometimes outside events affect those decisions. Yet if they have the will they can choose to ignore or overcome those outside events and again have complete control over their time here at Day Gone By.”  The woman thought on this as they continued their walk further in and then asked, “So though someone else may bring you here, you are the one who ultimately chooses whether you will stay or not.” “That’s right, mam.”

This was helpful for her to know, however, this still did not answer her question of why she was locked in yesterday so she inquired further, “What are some other reasons you know of why people become locked in their room?” Sometimes it is because of great emotional pressure.” “What do you mean by emotional pressure?” the woman asked puzzled. “Like great joy,” replied the attendant. “Though that is not nearly as common this deep in.” “What is more common?” “Guilt, regret, shame, sorrow really just every manifestation of grief when it comes down to it.” “So grief is what keeps most people here?” “Yes, mam.” The woman reflected on this for some time and then said, “That is what locked me in yesterday.” She then angrily asked, “Why don’t you warn people about all this happening?” “I am just an attendant mam. I am here to serve you.” “To serve me?” She asked defensively. “Every time I come here you have moved my room deeper into the facility and now you tell me that things get worse the deeper I go!” “I am sorry mam, but I must disagree with you. We do not move your room.”  Said the attendant still without any change in his pace or tone of voice. “Then who does?” asked the woman in frustration. “You do mam.” “I do not! I just show up and find things the way they are.” “That is just it mam.” “What is?” “You just show up. Surely you must realize you have been coming to Days Gone By much more frequently than you used to.”  She had not realized that but now that she thought about it, she knew the attendant was right. “So you are telling me that the more time I spend here the deeper I move into the facility?” “Yes, mam.” “And the deeper I get into the facility the more often people become locked in their rooms?” “Yes, mam.” “But I have been coming here my entire life, why has this sort of thing never happened before?” “I can’t say, mam. Only you can know.” “Yes, yes, yes.” She said with frustration but then catching herself she took a deep breath regaining her composer and spoke clearly and slowly, “What are some of the reasons you know of why this happens?” “There are many different reasons but most often it has to do with events which take place outside the facility which bring individuals here.”

The woman knew exactly what “outside” thing had been bringing her here more regularly and for far longer than ever before. It was the absence of the one she saw appear on the wall every day in her room. This was the only place she could be with him while everything outside the facility reminded her of him. With every reminder, she made her way back into the facility and now she fully realized exactly how often she entered her room and for the first time realized exactly how great of a problem this was for her. Because she spent so much time in her room she didn’t have a life outside anymore just the one found in the images recalled in her room. “I have to stop.” she whispered as she froze in place. The moment she did the attendant did as well. She stood there in silence a battle raging within her. “Mam, would you like to go back?” asked the attendant turning to face her. “I don’t know.” Said the woman in a hushed voice. The great urge to return to her room persisted but now her heart and her head told her it was time to leave. She opened her mouth to speak, to expose what was on her heart and as she spoke, her words dripped with pain and sorrow, “If I leave I am leaving him”.  The attendant then spoke again, “I am sorry mam, but I must disagree with you.” The woman looked up into the attendants face through tearful eyes as he continued, “You are not leaving him you are leaving your room and this facility.” “What?” asked the woman trying to process what he had said. “You are not leaving him you are leaving your room and this facility.”

That was it! What kept bringing her back wasn’t found here. What kept her locked in her room wasn’t found here.  It came from events outside of her room. It came from people outside the facility. She would never find what she was looking for here. The more she looked the deeper she went into the facility and the deeper she got the worse things became. Causing the line between life inside and outside to blur. She had been living her life in that little room for so long now but now she knew she didn’t have to be there. By leaving this place she wasn’t leaving him but living for him. Life wasn’t in here it was out there. She knew she could return whenever she wanted but now her life would exist in the present rather than in the past. She had made her decision but it wasn’t easy. Yet when she did she smiled with great relief and said, “I think I am ready to go now.” The attendant then moved past her and said, “Thank you for coming to Day’s Gone By, if you would please follow me”.

You might be wondering whatever happened to this dear old woman. I will tell you. She really began to live again, not being controlled by her past but instead by looking to her future, which is the best way to live in the present. She did return to Day’s Gone By on many occasions but now she often did so with friends and relatives but most often with Grace and Gracie and together three generations shared a room full of sunshine and blessed hope in memories both old and new.  Best of all her room never again became a prison going too far down that endless hallway, which she learned was called “Memory Lane” but instead her room always sat near the entrance so that her time outside would not escape her.

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1 comment

  1. says:

    Thank you, Josh, for this reminder that it’s our choice whether we live in the past so much that it keeps us from enjoying the present and future.

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