Home > The Sudden Appearance of Hope

The Sudden Appearance of Hope
Claire North

Chapter 1

They said, when they died, that all they could hear was the screaming.

I run ink across the page, watch the world through the windows of the train, grey clouds over Scotland, and though the screaming continues still, it does not bother me. Not any more.

I write this to be remembered. Will you judge me, in reading this? Who are you? Liar, cheat, lover, thief, husband, wife, mother, daughter, friend, enemy, policeman, doctor, teacher, child, killer, priest? I find myself almost more excited by you than I am by myself, whoever you might be.

Whoever you are: these are my words.

This is my truth.

Listen, and remember me.

Chapter 2

The world began to forget me when I was sixteen years old.

A slow declining, one piece at a time.

My dad, forgetting to drive me to school.

My mum, setting the table for three, not four. “Oh,” she said, when I walked in. “I must have thought you were out.”

A teacher, Miss Tomas, the only one in the school who cared, full of faith in her pupils, hope for their futures, forgets to chase the missing homework, to ask the questions, to listen to the answers, until, finally, I didn’t bother to put up my hand.

Friends, five who were the heart of my life, who I always sat with, and who one day sat at another table, not dramatically, not with “fuck you” flair, but because they looked straight through me and saw a stranger.

A disassociation between name and face as the register is called. My name is remembered, but the link is broken; what is Hope Arden? A scrawl of ink without a past; no more.

First you forget my face, then my voice, and at last, slowly, you forget my consequences. I slapped Alan, my best mate, the day he forgot me. He ran from the room, horrified, and I ran after him, red with guilt. By the time I found him, he was sitting in the corridor of the science block, cheek flushed, rubbing at his face.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied. “Face hurts a bit.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay; not like you did nothing.”

He looked at me like a stranger, but there were tears in his eyes when he spoke. What did he remember then? Not me, not Hope Arden, the girl he’d grown up with. Not my palm across his face, not my screaming until the spit flew, remember me, remember me. His pain was diminishing, taking with it memory. He experienced sorrow, rage, fear, these emotions glimmered in his eyes, but where were they from? He no longer knew, and the memory of me crumbled like sand castles before the sea.

Chapter 3

This is not a story of being forgotten.

As memory of me faded, so did a part of myself. Whoever that Hope Arden is who laughs with her friends, smiles with her family, flirts with her lover, resents her boss, triumphs with her colleagues – she ceased to exist, and it has been surprising for me to discover just how little of me is left behind, when all that is stripped away.

If words on the page are the only part of me that can be remembered, and I am to write something which will survive when I am gone, it should matter.

A story of Perfection, then.

For you, it begins in Venice. That was certainly the first time the world became aware of what it was. But for me, and the part I was to play in it, the story began earlier, in Dubai, the day Reina bint Badr al Mustakfi killed herself in her hotel room on the seventh floor of the Burj al Arab Jumeirah.

Because the room cost £830 a night, and because it was clearly a suicide and thus a social faux pas, the body was rushed out of the service door within hours of discovery. A Nepalese cleaning lady was sent in to scrub at the worst of the stains, but Reina had been helpful in slitting her femoral artery in a hot bath, and thus only a few towels and the bath mat needed to be burned.

I found out she was dead because her cousin, Leena, kept on screaming. Not crying – just screaming. In later tellings of these events, she would not say the words, “My cousin Reina killed herself, and this is why” but instead, “My cousin Reina killed herself, and I’ve never recovered from the blow.”

I didn’t like Leena much. It made it a lot easier to steal from her.

I liked Reina. She didn’t know that we were friends, but that’s okay – I don’t mind these things.

I broke into the morgue where they’d taken Reina’s body, a false name on the tag around her toe, skin as grey as the steel bed she lay on. I riffled through the clothes they’d stripped from her, flicked through a notebook of curious ideas and comments on passers-by, found myself in the descriptions there: Woman, skin like milk in coffee, deep, diluted. Pink headscarf, very close-trimmed nails, stands tall, bag in her left hand, looks at everyone without shame, doesn’t care that people stare.

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