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Ashes to Ashes                                                                                                         by Les Lea

I lay in the bath contemplating my existence. These days I don’t get much chance to luxuriate in a deep warm sudsy bath but this was a ‘special occasion’. My latest caregiver had no idea what the ‘special occasion’ was about nor did they know not to leave me alone. So now, when I had time to myself, I was able to think.

I looked along my body. I’d like to say it had served me well but, the saggy aged skin, the tumescence I called a stomach and the fact that it had been three years since I’d be able to walk unaided made me think about death.

My partner had passed away almost ten years previously and I’d become a cynical, boring, aggressive old twat. I knew that because my last caregiver was only too pleased to call me that to my face. I didn’t mind, she was right.

However, now I had time I wondered to myself how easy would it be to disappear under the water and drown? Would I slip easily into a pleasant sleep, awash in the bubbly fragrance of lavender, or would I create a tidal wave of splashing and fear as my lungs began to fill up? It would be nice, very nice in fact, to just slip under and have nothing further to worry about. Let the vultures make of my tiny estate what they will.

Contrary to rumours (which I never denied) people thought I must be some kind of miser sitting on top of large amounts of money just waiting to be accessed. I suppose that’s why various folk have put up with my moods in the hope of gaining some kind of access. They never will because I have very little.

As my partner instructed just before I pulled the plug.

“Spend and enjoy... leave nothing... but if you can help someone on the way... invest in that future... for them.”

Not very prosaic but the upshot was that the money we’d saved together was now already gone, distributed to several charities and to a young man who picked me up when I slipped and fell in the street. He tried to help me up but unfortunately that was the point when my hip finally gave up and the fall was the end of my independence.

However, the young man stayed with me until the ambulance came and offered to accompany me to the hospital if I had no one else I was able to call on. Never before had I been so overcome with such selflessness in one so young. Well, he may not be aware of it but the sudden riches he received as a mystery gift from an old relative who wished to remain anonymous, was in fact me.

I liked the anonymity of the act and the fact that I then had absolutely no say in what became of him or the money. Nonetheless, I guessed, he was a lad with his head screwed on and someone that he would use his wealth wisely. Well, that’s what I hoped.

So, perhaps I have done some good in the world but now, the water is cooling so, if I’m going to slip into oblivion, I’d better do it soon before any one comes and gets me out of this fluid coffin.

Another look, and yes, my body has deteriorated speedily over the past few years. Illness, sedentariness and an almost nonstop excess to awful daytime TV have taken its toll. I hope I don’t make too much of a spectacle of myself as I try to go without frantically creating waves... so to speak.

However, now I know what I’m about to do there is a calmness I wasn’t expecting. I feel so relaxed and my eyes are feeling heavy... the lavender living up to expectations there... so perhaps if I just close them for a few moments and then...


I woke up.

A sudden realisation I’d fallen asleep and I was under water. Another second or two to comprehend I wasn’t breathing but when I did, I was filled with cold, cold water that spiked my brain and panicked me. I splashed and fought my way to the surface and gasped for air. I didn’t like this drowning malarkey one bit. I can forget about that it’s far too scary.

However, breaking the surface and the coughing fit that eventually brought up most of the liquid I’d swallowed also had a sudden impact... I was more mobile than I’d been for years. That flailing around must have released some surge of adrenalin... or something. I held on to the edge of the bath for dear life.

As my heart rate settled I began to take in my surroundings. I mean, the water was freezing, dark and had a strange scum like coating to it... not very pleasant at all. I mean, how long was I in the damn thing for? It couldn’t have been more than minutes, or surely I would have drowned. But, as I looked around there was definitely something wrong, although I wasn’t too sure what.

I called out for Winnie my carer but received no reply. I called out a general request for HELP, but no one was listening, or if they were had decided to ignore that old twat in the bath.

How was I going to get out and if I did, where were the towels?

I lay there for a few minutes trying to work out what was what. Again I called for Winnie but nothing, not an echo, not a bird twitter, no radio blaring... absolute silence. This was totally unlike the home as there was nearly always some noise going on. Even if it was from Elsie who was hard of hearing so her TV was always on full blast.

I attempted to pull myself up into a sitting position and surprisingly found that relatively easy... hadn’t been able to do that for a while. I felt quite light, I mean it took ages to get me into the damn thing in the first place but now, well, I felt lighter, if that’s possible.

‘Okay,’ I thought, ‘try prising yourself out of this waterlogged coffin and get free of the sludge that’s settled on the surface. YUK!’

Actually, I could move with a great deal of freedom. I pulled myself upright, turned and heaved myself into kneeling position and was surprised once again that I had this manoeuvrability. Actually, I looked at my skin and it was like I’d been given a thorough cleansing; skin bright, tight and amazingly young looking.

I mean, was that purple lavender bath soak, as Winnie called it, a special new rejuvenating bubble bath? No wonder there’s all that scum on the bath surface, it must have had to dissolve years of old wrinkly skin to produce this new...

Then I caught sight of myself in a cloudy full length mirror hanging on the back of the door.

Bloody hell... is that me?

I mean, for f*** sake...?

No it can’t be but, the image moves as I do so...

Oh shit this is stupid.

“Winnie, Winnie, WINNIE!”

Still no response from anyone... but I look like a teenager.

I mean, I can vaguely remember how I was at sixteen and this, this, reflection is definitely like me.

No, it is me, look it’s doing everything I’m doing.

But this is complete madness.

What the hell’s happened to everybody?

“Winnie, Winnie.”


Okay, okay, okay I can’t stand around naked all day. Winnie took my clothes so they must be somewhere, well my dressing gown must be...

Actually, I don’t suppose much of what I wore will fit now, not that I’d want to wear an old man’s clothes... blughhh... no let’s see if there’s anything else?

I know that some of the medical supplies are kept in this room because I’ve seen the nurses and caregivers slip in here and emerge with all manner of stuff. All the cabinets are locked except...

Mmmm... what have we here... towels? Ooops, no, adult incontinence wear. Yep, I’ve had to wear that on a couple of occasions when the old bladder flared up. I’m grinning to myself at the thought of wearing an adult disposable... it must be my teenage hormones. I mean, this is a serious situation and I’ve got the giggles.

Settle down now... and think.

I try to smash open a couple of other cabinets but I’m not strong enough. In fact, I don’t feel... oh Jeez... look in the mirror... I must be only about seven or eight. What the hell is going on?

I was still holding one of the disposables but my reflection saw a skinny little lad who would be engulfed by such a thing but, I was still naked and needed something. I wondered if perhaps they had a smaller size, or at least something I could just temporarily wrap around my bits.

I need to try and find someone; some sort of life. So far there’s nothing here - maybe outside.

With some difficulty I climb up on a chair and look out the window. The road is empty except for all the dust everywhere. A stiff breeze seems to be carrying little clouds of the stuff from corner and then on down the street... at least, I think it’s a breeze.

Eeerrrmmm, perhaps not.


The smallest disposable I’ve been able to find hangs heavily on me. The tapes on the thing try to hold the material tight to my scrawny body but it’s not having much luck. I grab the only other thing that’s in the cabinet; a pair of pink plastic pants. The other colours look awful and far too voluminous for me to fit in. I’ll just have to make do at least they hold the damn nappy thingy tight against my hips. Although it feels like there’s an awful lot of padding I’m packing... I look ridiculous but... oh f*** I appear to be around five years old now.

This isn’t a good look but I suppose it’s better than nothing, though barely.

I make my way down the corridor, which, like everywhere else, is empty apart from piles and piles of dust. It looks like some has drifted and taken up a large part of the walls. My mind is racing to try and think but every time I try I get another thought which drives it out... now... what was I saying?

My plastic pants have rustled all the way as I’ve waddled to the door. I can hardly reach the latch but by standing on a chair I’m able to open it and let myself out. I stare nervously down the street and see several whirling shadowy gusts of dusty wind and shiver although it isn’t particularly cold. I need to find some proper clothes as soon as possible but thankfully, this make-do nappy is at least holding. I wonder where everyone is. I mean, this place is like a scene from some desolate Sci-Fi movie.


I had been wondering what could possibly have happened between me getting in the bath and getting out. I mean, I wasn’t in it that long... was I? Everything has changed but yet still looks the same except, there’s no one around. I feel my nappy slipping so grab hold of the soft, glassy vinyl and my mind switches to worrying about the damn thing falling off and leaving me naked. It seems a strange thing to worry about but I’m holding on to that piece of fabric like my life depends on it.

Two mini tornados seem to rush down the street and stop right in front of me.  The swirling powder feels like it’s checking me out and, and... ermmm, are those eyes... and looking at me? I tremble and a shot of fear makes me leak into my nappy. Thank god I was wearing something but I can still feel those eyes boring into me... oh crap... I think I might be crapping in fear... yes... ohh no.

I’m standing with my legs apart and with a full nappy which the pink vinyl pants are barely holding in place. In my head I hear someone talking

Don’t worry little one... we’ll look after you.”

I’m crying as I feel a dusty shape take hold of my right hand. It doesn’t feel solid but there’s no doubt my hand has been grasped. Then my left hand experiences the same sensation, and again I hear the words echo around my head.

“Don’t worry little one... we’ll look after you.”

I don’t know what to do. I feel rooted to the spot but yet I’m moving.

“Don’t worry little one... we’ll look after you.”

There’s a gentle pat on my padded bottom, as if I’m being encouraged.

“Don’t cry sweetheart... these things happen.”

I’m gently being led down the road by two strange breezy things. I have no idea where I’m going or what all this means but...


Winnie returns to the bath and her patient. Her two minute trip to the ‘little girl’s room’, as she so sweetly put it, had taken the best part of twenty minutes. Her stomach had been feeling strange all day and the effort of lifting that cantankerous old man into the bath had been too much. She needed to get to the toilet pretty damn quick.

To her horror the old man had vanished. How the hell had he managed to get out and disappear, he could hardly walk without someone propping him up? She called his name and looked around but then a ghastly thought struck her.

She moved the lavender foam bubbles and there, under just a few inches of water lay Mr Phillips. The old wrinkly body didn’t move as she plunged her hand in to drag him to the surface. She attempted to pull him out of the bath but had trouble getting hold of the slippery old sack of bones.

“Oh Jesus,” she thought, “I’m in deep trouble now... I should never have left him alone.”

She searched for a pulse. There wasn’t one.

She tried CPR but that was useless. She remembered there was a defibrillator somewhere in the next room and although she’d been trained on it... the entire ‘half-hour course’ now escaped her.

Panic was setting in and still there was no movement from the naked wrinkly form that now lay on the floor.

She pressed the panic button to call for help but she already knew it was too late.

She would be sacked for this.

“Fuck the old twat.” She spat angrily. “Why did you have to die on my shift?”

Help arrived and tried the defibrillator but got no response.






A shake of the head.

“You’d better call this in Winnie, he’s your responsibility.”

She looked daggers at her ‘helpful’ colleague but knew she was right.

“Fuck, fuck, FUCKKKK...”


As the full nappy and plastic pants slip from that now small glowing body the eerie agitated whirling mass transports a new infant up into the heavens. The swirling flakes and motes glitter and sparkle in the sunlight before the eddying fragments of life slowly dissipates into the clouds.


... ashes to ashes, dust to dust...

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