by K.S. Conlon

Her mind was slipping. Beneath her cobweb hair and paper skin, I imagined shuddering cogs and pistons that were losing steam. It was that quiet slipping that took her away from us.

The others were fragile in their own ways. They had clouded eyes and muted ears. Their stiff limbs relied on wheels and sticks to get around. They slipped pills under their tongues to dull the pains.

But she was different.

They stopped correcting her, long ago. They put up with her mistakes, her failing words, and faded memory. So did I. I was the one who wrote her nametag. Fey. With an “e”, just like she said.

They all spoke of the olden days. They remembered the war and the depression. Their eyes became glassy and threatened to break. But Fey’s eyes became like fire, and she spoke of trolls and pixies. Most of them nodded vaguely and walked away, trying to shift their discomfort by adjusting their terrycloth robes.

Fey was restless as the sun went down. The nurses called it sundowning. It was part of the disease, they said. They let her wander in the garden. Treading barefoot on the grass and whispering to the night seemed to ease her distress. She said that her husband was in the garden – right at the back where the trees hid the wall. And she said he was making her some wings. I knew he was dead. His plane was shot down in the war. She had told me the story when she’d first arrived, years ago. But she got the details jumbled up now. Or so I thought.

I blame myself, in a way, for what happened. The nurses were busy with evening pills and pots of tea. I usually watched Fey as she went into the garden. I usually watched her meander in the dying light, calling for her husband, her cobweb hair turned to embers. But I suppose, like the others, I forgot her that night. It was as though she slipped out of my mind.

Her body was found in the morning, at the back of the garden. She was wet with dew, and butterflies covered her pale skin. The wings glistened in the sun. They left her like that until the doctor came. Then the butterflies scattered, flying high into the crisp early air.

And when the doctor asked me what her name was, I told him. Fey. With an “e”.

5 Responses to “Sundowning”

  1. T Conlon says:

    Excellent short story, very moving and clearly told.

  2. Beautifully written, poignant and lyrical.

  3. Bob Hamill says:

    Well written, nostalgic story. I enjoyed it.

  4. Miranda Northrup says:

    this is a very touching story, and very well written. I love the way you emphasized the ‘e’, it made it all the better.

  5. Don Bagley says:

    That’s a beautiful story.

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