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J.A. Aarntzen

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One Hundred Days
By J.A. Aarntzen
Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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"One Hundred Days" is another story that I have entirely forgotten about. It is a tale about madness and about numbers.

One Hundred Days

 
 
It was the eve of the five thousand eight hundred and eleventh day of her life. Thus far it had proven to be one of the more special days of her existence. She conservatively estimated that only 6.62 percent of her days had been better than this one.
 
With such a high rating for the day why was it then that she felt so rotten? Was it because he did not call?
 
Sondra Allison Bevelhead lifted her head and stared full-faced at her reflection in the purple mirror. It was the head of a Medusa – a head that was contained within a cocoon of electric blue hair. Her eyes moved along the jagged contour of where hair touched forehead, brow, cheek and chin. Then they discovered themselves. In these luminous pools of gold she was beckoned to wallow.
 
He didn’t call!
 
It was the one-hundredth day since his departure. In the purple mirror she recalled Lynden Endicott Thompson as he was one hundred days ago. He was standing under the awning, his hand tentatively holding a garish green umbrella. A motley military jacket with tattered epaulets draped his broad shoulders. Sondra remembered Lynden’s eyes. They were intense eyes. Eyes that said that they had seen everything yet they had never seen anything as beautiful as her. It was these khaki eyes that made it hard for Sondra to recall anything else about Lynden’s face.
 
This always was the case for her with anybody that made an impression on her life. They never seemed to make a lasting iconic impression. It was hard to remember what they looked like. Sadly, this held true for her memory of Lynden.
 
He had told her on that rain-soaked porch that he would be back in her arms within one hundred days. She remembered her own vexing emotions that clogged her heart with a sanguine ache. One hundred days seemed so long to her. Eternity had nary a hundred days within its boundaries. In choking words, Sondra told Lynden her perceptions on the matter.
 
Lynden’s hands found tenuous mounts upon her heaving shoulders and told her in understanding terms that one hundred days was barely three months in length. “Think of December, Christmastime. Does not that entire month fly by as if it never even happened?”
 
Sondra remembered nodding. “Yes,” she sobbed. “December whisks by with the urgency of an autumn bat.”
 
“Then, Sondra darling, think of July and August, the summer months, the only time of the year that you can truly be out in the environment with the only and true trappings of the human condition – your bare skin. Do not July and August disappear faster than cookies on a tray?”
 
“Yes Lynden. The summer months are but fleeting moments of nirvana between somber gray servitude.” She recalled that his light talk brought fancy into her soul.
 
“Now add Sondra. Add in your memory the urgency of December to the fleetingness of July and August. They do not make a very formidable temporal stretch now do they? I daresay that an anxious moment can have the same duration as these three months. Don’t you think so?”
 
Her face was angular and singular in smile. Lynden had coaxed worry from her heart with his bright words of mild coercion. “Yes Lynden. They do not mark much time.”
 
“That is all that I am gone for darling. Only one hundred days! Then I shall be back and it will be as if I had never departed. Oh, darling, kiss me so that we may feel the sprightly tenderness of each other’s lips. We will make that sweet taste into such a strong memory that we could relive it at any moment as if it were truly happening again then and there. By the time that we cannot revel in each tangy moment of our memories, we will have our lips to revitalize it again for I will be back.”
 
Sondra felt her breast rise as she lingered in that delicate kiss that took place a hundred days ago. Good Lynden was very right when he described the embrace’s lasting power in memory. She felt every quiver in his lips as they molded against her own.
 
If someone had timed that kiss one hundred days ago and compared it to the length of time that Sondra relived it that person would have found that the two lengths of time were exactly equal. Its length of time was two minutes and forty-three point six four seconds.
 
When 2 minutes and 43.64 seconds elapsed in her memory she felt the same powerful jolt that riveted against her baited breath. Lynden’s finger slid down the stainless steel shaft of the umbrella releasing its olive parasol into battle against the enlivened rain pellets that sought with a demon’s vigor to cast a gloomy pall onto her life. There was a wink in his khaki eyes and the phrase “one hundred days” on his lips.
 
Then Lynden Endicott Thompson’s head turned and bore down into the rain.
 
It was the last that Sondra had seen of his face. She watched his heavy military frame disappear into the haze of the driving rain.
 
She did not know to where he went or did she have reason to concern herself about it. All that she had to do was wait – wait one hundred days.
 
To amuse herself in her wait for Lynden’s return her mind turned to the intricacies of arithmetic. In these instructive exercises she learned the number of days that she lived upon this good and bountiful Earth. The day that Lynden left was the 5,711th twenty-four hour cycle she had experienced since her nativity. She had met this kind spirit on the 5,084th day of her terrestrial stay. This meant that Lynden’s physical presence spanned 627 days or as she calculated roughly 10.804 percent of her life.
 
To be more exact however since Lynden was not actually there for all of the 627 days, Sondra reworked the figures. Using an estimate that Lynden was there in her physical company 471 days, she computed that she shared 8.247 percent of her days with him. If, as she worked out, she spent on the average 2.5 hours per day in his company that meant in reality that she had only shared 2.061 percent of her life with him.
 
Just a mere two percent!
 
What a waste the other 97.939 percent of her life had been! Sondra could not even contemplate what existence would be like if she did not have Lynden there or at least his promise. One hundred days was just 1.751 percent of her life. That was nothing to get through.
 
On the fifty-eighth day of her respite from dear Lynden she did receive correspondence from him in the form of a missive in a plain white envelope with the letters S.W.A.K. printed boldly both on the fore and the aft the correspondence. Despite an overbearing urge to read every word in the letter, she decided that she would not take any message from him until she sees him again on the one-hundredth sunrise. She was determined to see this one hundred day saga through in the true spirit that it was set.
 
One hundred days.
 
What are one hundred days?
 
But on the 64th day her catlike curiosity got the better of her. She had been calculating how many written words had transpired between the two of them. In this ongoing correspondence, she figured she was responsible for 75.22 percent of the words between them. She had an unceasing urge to count how many words Lynden had wrote in his letter. With the ferocity of a man jumping off the wagon, Sondra tore open the letter.
 
She was careful not to attach any semantic meaning to the words. She did this by starting at the end of the letter and going backwards through it. Her chest was pounding heavy as she came up with a sum of 244 words. With her pocket calculator she discovered that Lynden was now responsible for 30.05 percent of the words written by them. She put the letter back in the envelope. Not one word had any meaning for her.
 
On the 79th day of Lynden’s sojourn Sondra received a letter from the same address that Lynden had written from. It disturbed her somewhat that she was able to retain such information as this address but in a sense she was thankful that she did remember or else she may have opened the missive.
 
She was going to stick vehemently to her hard fast rule. She did not want to discover anything about Lynden until the one hundred days were over. This letter was placed beside the earlier correspondence. Her eyes would peruse it later when good Lynden was back in her company.
 
Three weeks had elapsed since that time. Twenty-one days. Five hundred and four hours. Thirty thousand two hundred and forty minutes.   One million eight hundred and fourteen thousand four hundred seconds.
 
And counting.
 
She had spent these ceaseless tickings of he chronometer in a myriad of different activities all somehow related to her new passion for numbers. She repainted her home. Upon each wall she embossed a number in black glossy enamel. Any visitor would have learned that Sondra had a total of forty-two walls in her dwelling.
 
All of the carpeting in the house was thrown out. Sondra hired out the services of a handyman whom she put to work at refinishing the hardwood floors. Once this task was complete she had the handyman paint a complete one-inch grid upon the floors. Inside each square Sondra painted a number. The visitor would have learned that besides having 42 walls, Sondra had three hundred and thirty six thousand six hundred and seventy two square inches of flooring.
 
But no visitor ever discovered these facts. Sondra was virtually alone for these last three weeks – much the same as she had been for most of the one hundred days. In many ways Sondra was a very lonely person during this period. She did not have the interaction of other people to give her a semblance of sanity. It was in creating her own amusements that she found release from the overwhelming turmoil of her solitude. Her amusements drifted into a craving desire for the simplicity and straight-forwardness of numerals. Her attachment to numerals became so powerful that she started to call herself LIV or sometimes DIX.
 
Everything was numbers. Everything could be counted. She found great delight in counting in systems not based on ten. She programmed her PC to count continuously. Many an hour she sat vexed before the monitor watching the unceasing display of marching numbers.
 
One million eight hundred fourteen thousand and four hundred seconds elapsed from the time she received her last missive from Lynden. It was getting close to five o’clock in the afternoon. It had been a good day for LIV. It was in the 94th percentile as far as excellence was concerned. On her computer terminal the count had surpassed the one billion mark and she was there to see it. She had fooled around with integrating different numerical bases. She had relived her last kiss from Lynden five times.
 
And it was the one-hundredth day! Lynden was wrong when he said that the time would fly by. One hundred days is a very long time. Eternity could barely encompass it.
 
A lot of change can happen in one hundred days. She had changed. She was not Sondra Allison Bevelhead any longer. She was LIV or sometimes DIX when the mood took her. Physically she had changed as well. She had hewn her long dark locks and dyed the remaining crop an electric blue. Her body took up less space. She had lost sixteen pounds. The impeccable skin that had allured Lynden was now a pale leather that did a terrible job of hiding the blue veins underneath it. And although she had no way of ascertaining it she was convinced that mentally she had changed too.
 
She wondered if Lynden would accept her now. It caused her some uneasiness because if he didn’t then ….well he better accept her. Her body sprang up from the tender comfort of her fur-covered sofa. She sprinted to the other sitting room. Her mind counted out each step in base seven. Her eye caught the monitor. It read 1,000,021,433.
 
“Lynden should have been here by now,” she said out loud. A pall of anxiety waved over he and made her cower within herself. Without realizing it she felt her fingers fumble over the two envelopes coming from the same address, APO#21.
 
What were the contents of those letters? Did they bear any reason for why Lynden was not here now? She almost started to pull out Lynden’s missives from out of their sheathes but before she did so her mind’s eye suddenly saw his full face. His powerful khaki eyes boiling out of a sea of pocked skin that made his nose and lips look like relief stations where one could get respite from the beleaguering complexion storm. Those lips wavered out the words, “One hundred days”.
 
Lynden would not let her down. He had said one hundred days. He would be back in one hundred days. He would be back today because it was the one-hundredth day. She was fretting over nothing at all. She went back to the other room and straddled herself upon the fur-covered sofa and proceeded to imagine three-dimensional numbers that not only preceded the x-axis but also climbed out into the y-axis. It made her heart take flight in the excellence of numbers.
 
She wanted to find a way to get to zero without having to take it all away.
 
The number on the monitor was at 1,000,038,227 when Sondra was suddenly aroused from her sleep by a rap at the door. At first she was somewhat confused and disoriented. She did not realize that she had drifted into a sleep. The room was taking on the shades of the evening.
 
Who was that at the door?
 
She ambled through the half-dark room. Her mind was dutifully placing numeric value upon each pace. Could it be good Lynden? Has he finally made good with his promise?
 
One hundred days.
 
It was one hundred days.
 
Lynden, good Lynden. He has returned. Life can be resumed. Reverie can become truth. She was delighted in so many ways. It was a time to cast out those numbers. Throw them to the wayside and allow fantasy to regain mastery of her spirit.
 
Her hand took hold of the doorknob but she would not twist it.
 
Eighty-three. Eighty-four.
 
There was another rap at the door. She felt all at once more afraid than she had ever been before in her life. She did not want to open that door.
 
Eighty-nine. Ninety.
 
The doorknob felt icy cold upon her hand. She sustained a shiver that raked through her body. Her breathing started to get rapid and very shallow. She could not open the door.
 
She would not open the door. LIV demanded that she shouldn’t. DIX expressly forbade her. The door will not be opened.
 
The door did not open. Even though it faced a relentless barrage of pounding that cried out for it to be opened, it would not be opened. It stayed locked as it was rattled by a fury that could not be appeased. Sondra watched the door stand up to the punishment. In her mind she was reliving the moisture of her last kiss. She could hear the desperation upon the breath of the one on the other side. It wanted so much to be with her.
 
She would not give in.
 
One hundred and eighteen. One hundred and nineteen.
 
The monitor read 1,000,039,104 when the assault upon the door ceased. She could hear the one on the other side turn around and leave quietly, leave defeated. She sensed an easing in her body. She no longer felt tight and constricted. The pall was gone.
 
One hundred and twenty-four. One hundred and twenty-five.
 
She started back toward the sofa room. She was counting how many square inches her feet physically covered in that distance. But before she reached the succor of her sofa she noticed that one of the envelopes had fallen to the floor.
 
It covered square inch numbers 1,919 through to 1,938. She picked up the envelope and noticed that it was not Lynden’s letter but the other one with the same return address – APO#21. It was a military address. The hand that wrote the letter was that of a man. It was a hand that displayed the paradox of looking awkward but being capable of doing the most delicate of functions.
 
An overwhelming urge to read its contents swept over Sondra. Her thin fingers started to pick at the envelope’s corners. The sound of the paper ripping was magnified a hundred times over within her mind.
 
It was the sound that ripped Lynden forever away from her mind. She put down the envelope. She had no urge to read the letter any longer. She knew what it was going to say.
 
One hundred and twenty-nine. One hundred and thirty.

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Reviewed by Lois Christensen 6/4/2008
So she did not find true happiness with him, This is an enduring and sad write but has happened to so many. Stuck with it and read to end but kind of thought the ending was going to be this.




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