P.S.O Jules Stewart
Dorace is the only person who might recognise something in these maps, see something significant. I login to open the door of her cube and her quavering voice calls out from under the blanket in her cot, ‘who is it?’ as the door slides open.
‘It’s me – if you were on the network you’d have seen me coming and you’d know.’
‘Don’t start,’ she says as she pulls herself up and swings her legs to the side.
‘Stay there,’ I say pulling over a chair to sit by her. 'I want your advise. What do you make of these?’ I place the fragments of paper in her lap.
The maps tremble in her clumsy fingers as she takes them closer to her face. Her eyes moisten and smiling she traces the streets with her finger. ‘It’s Aigburth. Right here, that was where your Aunt Margaret lived. You remember she used to cut hair. A mobile hairdresser.’
‘My great aunt I correct her. Your sister.’
‘Yes of course she was my sister, dead now of course and her husband. Frank?’
‘I think so. They both died of Flu.’
‘They were never ill.’
‘That’s what it says in the records.’
‘Was it flu?’
‘You’re sure it was that street, Woodlands Rd?’
‘38 Woodlands Rd. They must have lived there twenty five even thirty years,’ she says peering so hard at the paper as if she can see Margaret and Frank there. ‘Can I keep this?’ She asks lifting her pillow ready to secrete it underneath.
‘Sorry it’s evidence.’ I say. ‘If you were on the network, I could blink it in now and share it with you. Then you could look at it whenever you liked – you could even enlarge it.’
She frowns, ‘That’s not the same. This is real. Not something in your head. Trust what you can touch, smell, taste.’ She wags a finger at me and passes back the scrap of map. ‘Of course I expect their kids are still there,’ she says.
‘They died too didn’t they? In the epidemic?’
I want to say if you were on the network you could read about the epidemic but instead I say,
'In the 2068 flu epidemic. You must remember that. I expect you lost lots of friends. It was after that when everyone moved to the strata. For safety, a clean hygienic environment.’
She shakes her head. ‘Always kept that house spotless Margaret and Frank. Martha, that was their daughter and she married that chap. What was his name?’
‘Keith.’ I remind her.
‘They didn’t have a big garden but they had a wisteria. Do you remember the smell of the flowers?’ Her face shows the strain of trying to remember, her eyes screwed up, at the limits of her capacity, she can’t reach that far back. No memory store, just her own resources but she won't listen to me.
‘They didn’t want to move. They loved that house. Can’t blame them. They’d sanded all of those floors and she had very good taste you know, Margaret. It was a lovely house. But I’m sure they weren’t poorly. I would have known, I would have helped them.’ She pauses and then says, ‘Your mum will know, we’ll ask her when she comes back, she’ll remember what happened to Margaret and Frank.’
‘What about here?’ I ask, showing her the fragment of a map of Sefton Park.
Again she raises it to her face, she breathes it in, as if the paper can transport her there.
'This is where I met your Dad,’
‘Grandad,’ I correct her.
‘At a music festival, he was in a band. We went to all of the protests. They were massive, like giant parties. We didn’t believe they would really do it. I thought someone would stop the towers.’
‘I didn’t know you’d protested.’
‘Everyone did. That was why it seemed so unlikely. We didn’t really fight because there were so many of us. We just shouted, didn’t really think they would pull things down. I thought everything would always be the same. We all did.’
‘It was hardly a majority protesting,’ I say, taking back the scraps of maps and putting them all away in an evidence wallet. 'All the records show small pockets of resistance, trouble makers with most of the crowd wanting to escape the poverty and disease of street level.’
‘What disease? What poverty?’
‘You just don’t remember.’ I say. ‘You’ve forgotten the flu, you lost most of your neighbours. And now you have food and water and you’re warm. You're safe here, thank the crowd.’
‘We need to ask your mum, she'll remember. When will she be back?' She asks.
I leave Dorace sat on her cot, waiting. I can’t bear explaining again that her daughter won't be back.
Maybe Loretta can provide some explanation for the scraps of map and what Estelle wanted with them. She was, it seems, Estelle's best friend after all.