The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
It was a cold bleak day, somehow fitting for what was to come. The building, brick red and smog stained had stood as a crossing station of life for many years. Filled with peoples coming and going, toing and froing, it was always a bustle of noise and tumult, and not just to ones ears.
The automatic doors rolled back to admit him, with a whoosh of warm air against his skin. The breath of the building was heady with many trace scents. His nose took them in and as he feet moved assuredly towards the stair he began to catalogue them.
The stress laden smoke of the cigarettes was left behind outside, the peaceful green of the manicured plants about the reception absorbing it.
Next the chemical polish used to clean the counters and floor in this entry area, layered again and again over the many scents of the hurried passage in and out of this space.
Stepping his big frame to the side he moved passed a cadre of nursing staff, all smelling of antibacterial agents and exhaustion. Unseen to all he could not help note one in particular, whose head hung lower than the rest carrying more than just exhaustion.
Stepping carefully passed he allowed his shoulder brush very briefly near. The nurse shuddered to the close passage and straightened up to join in the conversation with the others.
He moved on by.
The first appointment was on the third floor over in the east wing. The room was small and dark as he opened the door softly. Taking off his long coat he folded it over his arm and removed his hat as he stepped inside.
This room smelt of must and the stale sweat of the occupant. The curtains were closed forcing a darkness upon the room. His eyes roamed about the space and he took in the sparseness of the place. A small sink set beside a small partitioned toilet, a slim wardrobe that could not hold more than one set of clothes. A single slim hospital bed, a small bedside cupboard and beside it one unused chair.
Silent and unseen he moved over to the seat, and settled down into it. The visit had begun, but would not last long.
The occupant was old, age having weathered their skin and taken the strength of their limbs. They lay back propped upon the pillows, eyes closed and breathing shallow.
He moved his eyes from the patient to the bedside cupboard. A jug of water and an untouched beaker were all it held. No pictures. No flowers. No keepsakes or mementos.
Returning his gaze to the patient he sat and waited, wondering over their life and their choices and what stories would never be told again.
The last breath was naught but a whisper as it left the body. No big gasp. No fanfare farewell. No one but him to witness.
Standing slowly, he drew back the curtains and allowed the grey light fill the room. Reaching his big hand over he turned the handle and opened the window. The crisp fresh air came in, and the scents of the room passed out.
Silent and unseen he stepped around the empty vessel without another glance and left the dying room closing the door behind him. Straightening most of the slump from his shoulders he turned down the corridor.
He moved on by.
The next appointment was second floor and through a secure nursing station. Stepping through and around the desk was no challenge as he strolled unseen by the beleaguered and swamped staff.
The door was open and kept as such with a wedge, the occupant needing some supervision at times. This room smelt of chemicals, blood and pain. The occupant was of early to middle age and life had seen them taken on a hard road.
The bed was pushed far back towards the window were some light could fall on the patient. That light filtered colours through the clear liquid which dripped steadily from its elevated packet down the tube and into the veins and blood. The arm supporting the needle was scarred here and there and torn with many other signs of bruised puncture marks, leading down to the wrist where it was shackled to the bed frame.
The eyes of the occupant were wide and vacant, the blue of them diminished by the maze of red shot around the iris.
No chair here. No cards of family or friend. No loved ones near.
Worse yet, a glance at the paperwork told him there was no Name.
This living breathing person, born of this world, child of a mother and father, lay here at stories end, without even a name to recall them to the world.
He steadied his feet and his own breath, setting aside the roil of his own emotion.
The patient's arm began to twitch, a tightness formed around their eyes, mouth beginning to move soundlessly as some spike of pain formed in them.
He lifted his big hand and placed it lightly on the restrained arm of the young person. A slow breath out and a push of his Will removed the pain.
Removing his hand he felt the ache of it run up his arm and settle upon his shoulder. It was all he could do, but he would do it. Long ago tales spoke of a weapon with the power to destroy or restore. Such times as these, with no tales told, no one to believe, what can a man do but that which he is able with his own hand.
The nameless one, never reacted to his closeness. Whatever horrors their story had held for them had been beyond their ability to face alone, and with no name to claim them, who would help share their burden?
The last breath left with a sigh of release and a catching throb of sorrow.
He stood still, silent witness, working their features into his mind, he would remember.
A machine by the bed began to wail and in a rush the small high risk room was full with nurses and doctors. They moved with rapid professional actions around the empty vessel, working for a life which was already gone.
No one saw the big man in the plain suit, step from the room, long coat over his arm and hat held in hand.
He moved on by.
The heaviness weighed upon his shoulders as he made the third appointment. The room was bright and colourful. Light filled every corner of it and showed the dancing whimsical characters painted upon its walls with as much glee as it could. The room smelt of sickly sweet perfumes attempting to mask the smell of poison and sickness.
His brow furrowed to see this place as he entered. These appointments were often hardest to bear. The bed here was small, not one needed for an adult. The child within it could not have seen more than 12 years.
His furrow became a frown as he looked about the space. Filled with toys and entertainments, foods and water, the place was missing one of the most important things a child needed. Family.
He found his answer on the chart hung at the end of the bed. No surname, no parents names.
He knew of children such as this one, wards of the State. With no family to claim them as their own they became the children of the country's government.
His frown deepened from confusion to anger. Where was the hand for this child to hold? Where where the arms to cradle them? Sure the nursing staff would do all they can but where was the depth of community that looked out for the weakest amongst it?
His anger departed in a breath as his eyes rose to take in the frail little form in the bed, and the sadness rolled back in.
The pillows were propped up high to help them sit upright, the characterful cartoons decorating the bed covers drawn close. The child's skin was pale and drawn, on a face that age had yet to touch. Not a single hair stood on the child's head, lost to the poison the doctors had poured in to try kill that which was killing the patient.
The child’s eyes were open, their deep brown showing a wisdom that only pain can bring. They looked about the space, not seeing the big man in the worn suit and his long coat. He wondered what stories this child may have had, what tales would not become realized with this life cut so short.
The child folded its hand in its lap, closed its eyes, and smiling faintly, released the last breath.
It was a long while before he could move. Shoulders made heavy by his witness, slumped low. The sadness was settled upon him but it was only right that someone witness the last breath and when there was no one else who could, He would.
Shrugging himself into his long coat he straightened it about his bowed form and stepping unseen from the room he settled the hat upon his head.
He moved on … and stopped.
Confusion crossed his broad face and he cocked his head to the side as if listening. Nothing beyond the ambient noises of the hospital disturbed the space, yet still, something was amiss.
His confusion set a frown on his face and turning away from the exit he moved between the spaces searching.
He moved slowly, following the faintest of traces which none of his five senses could detect. Moving across the grounds and wards and wings of the hospital he patiently traced the sensation back to its source. Moving past staff, patient and security, invisible to them, unknown to them, unremarked by them.
He found it in the most unlooked for place.
The children's ward was a noisy frantic place smelling of baby powder, creams, milk, sterilizing fluid, fear, joy, and happiness. It was a jarring rush to the senses, surrounded by clamouring kids, happy frustrated parents and patient smiling reassuring nurses. So many stories starting and continuing together. So many new chapters to existing stories and so many new tales getting their first words.
The sensation ran strong here beneath all other input and his unseen form moved between the spaces tracing it down until his feet stuck to the ground and refused to move any further.
He turned about slowly moving his deep dark eyes around seeking and searching.
The toddler stood in a cot bed, little fists wrapped around the bars, part supporting its chubby weight, part using it to accentuate with thudding thumps the happy hollering issuing from a voice new to making noise. No more that 2 years old it set quite a ruckus about the place evidently enjoying the noisy sensation of its new story.
As the confusion reached its height within him, built up on the sorrow he carried and the pain in his shoulders, he wondered why his feet had lead him here? What story was this that he needed to witness?
Then the toddler's eyes met his. Dark brown as the earth itself, the hollering ceased in that split second. The eyes sparkled and a toothless smile split the chubby dimpled cheeks.
The child witnessed Him.
He stepped back in sudden surprise as the child saw him. Literally saw him, acknowledged him, following his movements with its eyes. His mind reeled in that moment seeking and searching for some sense and reason.
He had done this service to the people almost every day for years and decades and generations. He had passed unseen and unremarked in this land for more lives than he cared remember. Existing on an echo of a memory which was too strongly tied to the land to be released. He had done as he always had, seen to the work, put shoulder to the challenge, and served the people.
His mind tumbled back along those lives until he found what he was looking for at last.
A collection of sounds spoken aloud to identify something. A unique arrangement of syllables configured to define something and to give it a particular place in a conversation. A word, a brand, to recognize and recall everything that was and is for this one special thing existing within the entire scope of the Great Cycle.
Unheard to his ears, his heart, his Soul beyond the shade of that echo tied to the land.
The whisper of breath escaped him, carrying the Name out of his mouth and to the his ears before he even realised he had spoken aloud.
The toddlers smile broadened as those dark eyes showed it had heard the Name. the next moment arrived and it was all a holler and clamour, reveling in the sounds it’s little voice could create.
The wetness rolled unrestrained down the big broad cheeks as the Dagda look upon the child, wonder and gratitude filling his deep dark eyes. So much lost to him with his Name, could may yet be restored in time. He slowly inhaled the scent of freshly turned earth and the green of old trees which seemed to spring up around him.
“Maybe it’s almost time for My stories again.”
If you enjoy this along with my other work, and would consider buying me a coffee or a pint for the purposes of a chat, maybe pop over to the Patreon.com/Dagda
An Scéalaí Beag