Today I am one thousand years old.
I intend to visit Hannah, back in the year 2000, on the day of her birthday.
Hannah feels my presence. She sits straight up in bed, alert, and she looks directly at me. I wonder if she has an image of me, of the real Miranda. I wish I could communicate with her. As she calms I stay and watch over her, as if I’m a carer tending to someone who is sick. She relaxes in bed. This is timeless for me. I want to stroke her dark wavy hair and to feel the texture of her clear, pale skin. I want to learn to smell and taste her body, but these are not senses that I can enjoy.
In the year 2000 Hannah is pure. It is her birthday and she is in no hurry to rise. She doesn’t know that in five years’ time she will tape a clear, airtight bag over her head and will inhale deadly gas, gasping this into her system, inhaling its poison until her body dies. I have watched that scene, more than once, but I cannot intervene. Even during those moments Hannah seems to know I am there. She struggles, but I cannot relieve her suffering. Nor can I punish those responsible.
But for now, Hannah sits in front of the tryptic looking glass in her room. She is examining her profile. It is as if she is looking for another person, trying to find a different identity in the multiple images she can see. Is she looking for me? Does she think she can see me? When she cut out those letters and placed them on a table in a circle, and begged the glass to tell her who was present, then it must have been her own mind that encouraged the glass to spell my name – M.I.R A.N.D.A. We of the thirty-third century are not able to interact with the past. That is neither possible, nor would it be allowed. We cannot alter the past. We can observe and reflect, but we cannot participate. To these people, living in the so-called Age of Digital Information, our visits are ethereal. They only register a fleeting sense of our presence. We are ghosts to them. Phantoms. They believe in us if they will.
We that have conquered death, and fear, and the need for love, can observe, and can celebrate the progress that precludes us from the suffering that Hannah experiences. Her story unfolds for me. I have watched her many times. I know Hannah intimately. I have seen all her moods, her private musings and her moments of despair. I have observed how her life, and death, unfold. I have seen her confusion over the adoration that she is given by another, not knowing how to respond to the person involved. Not knowing if she wants to respond. Maybe she is wondering about the spirit that she can feel, that she is aware of, as I circle around her space. Her guardian angel. She comes back to her looking glass and then reverts to the cut-out letters. Asking for information. Asking for help.
But I am not able to respond to her request. The response is not from me. Hannah takes from the talking board only what her mind is able to invent. It is all wrong. It is fake. But I cannot reach her to explain, to influence her. I can only be registered as a fleeting moment of disturbance, an airy spirit.
The talking board continues to invite her to speak with “Miranda”. The messages suggest she is communicating with someone long gone. This Miranda says she cares for Hannah, is her guide, and gives advice. Miranda tells Hannah to close down the relationship with the man, the relationship that she has developed, that is confusing for her. Hannah is coming back often to the talking board. Now she has stopped registering my presence. Or, maybe she has become used to it. She is obsessed with this “other” Miranda, this supposed spirit from the past.
I should like to tell Hannah about life in 3250. We have endless time in 3250. We are timeless. Our bodies are forever replaceable. We are small in number, simply those who received the gift of eternal life when the mechanisms of human evolution and regeneration ceased.
We do not have conflict in 3250; there is no need for it. Why would we have conflict? Hannah would recognise the natural world that is here, the biology that makes up those inhabitants of our reservations, though nature itself has been tamed, is changed from the year 2000. This is a carefully controlled world, harmonious. However, we are continuously alert, aware to the possibility of visitors that may arrive from a different cosmos. This is our fear, our anticipation of Armageddon. But there is no evidence of any kind to suggest that these visitors exist, or that they are on their way to challenge us. We can therefore concentrate on our primary task, our research. Our research that involves revisiting and learning from past epochs. We learnt how to reach back and observe previous periods of time. This access provides opportunities for knowledge. The great challenge remains the 21st century, the Age of Digital Information, from which little survives. Even the buildings are mostly gone. This was a dark period for archiving, and a period of destruction, and as a consequence many of us return here to observe at first hand, and to conduct research that will enable us to share more detail of that momentous Age. It helps us to understand our own trajectory of progress and change. Change that has led us to our current world order, our structure for survival, our safety. We are the beneficiaries. The chosen. We live in a world of order, and of calm. Unlike Hannah.
I met Hannah for the first time in her year 2000. I have not journeyed further back to meet her prior to that birthday. My contact with her is sacred to that first encounter. I watched her, and was present with her, through until the day she took her life. That was five years of her time, her life. For me it is moments in eternity. I have time to invest. I liked looking at her body. I liked hearing her laugh, watching her move, especially when she was carefree, before the man and the talking table intervened. It was a pleasure to see Hannah prepare herself for an evening of leisure. Her clothes and adornments were chosen with such care and appreciation. We do not need these things in 3250.
I do not comprehend the concept of suicide. Perhaps it existed because the world of the 21st century was confused and chaotic. I try to understand, to unpick the route that Hannah followed. She shared my birth date. Five birthdays I shared with her. The last though was not pleasant.
When the man became part of her life, things changed. He made new demands on her, required responses of her. He touched her. I know she didn’t want him, but he seemed insistent, forceful. Hannah pretended that she wanted this man, but I observed that she increasingly locked herself away, taking out those letters and the moving glass. She was more and more often speaking to that person through the talking board, that person she believed existed; that person her mind had constructed, and to whom she chose to give my name. She wanted to know how this Miranda had died. How old she had been when that happened, whether she had been in love. It was as if she was in a relationship with that person. That person from the past. A person who seemed to haunt her, to need her and to want to live through her. Hannah was being consumed.
The man became increasingly attentive. He would expect to see her at different times. He brought gifts. He wanted to share her bed, and sometimes she let him. It was with dismay that I saw her comply. This was an attack on her purity. She was increasingly becoming damaged.
That night of the final birthday party, I liked watching her get ready. She had a long bath. It seemed as if she was calm in my presence, and as if the other was not disturbing her. She looked in the tryptic mirror to fasten those earrings, long, dangly, sparkling earrings. He had given them too her. They framed her pale face. Flawless. But yet she frowned in the mirror.
Now it was as if she knew that someone was watching her. Did she think it was the other Miranda? The fake Miranda from her talking board. I wanted to explain it was me, but that is not possible. I cannot communicate. Her new composure had cracked. She became restless, clumsy, knocked her chair over, fell against the dressing table, the mirror rocked and fell. When she stood the tryptic up, she saw the glass was broken. Hannah was distraught. She took it as an omen, rushed to the letters that she had avoided using that day. Miranda was telling her she must die, must join her, so they could be together. Hannah threw down the talking table glass and wept. Then the man came. He accused her. She had no right to cry. It was her birthday. She must celebrate. Come to the party. They would have a great time. People would be there to see her. She left with the man, but she was always looking around her, as if she was being followed. I watched, carefully. I don’t think she wanted the man at her side. At the party I think she was always hoping to escape his presence. He would slip his arm through hers, but she would unhook it, she was uneasy. People commented, asked if she was alright. She was in distress. I could see. Drinking a lot. It was her birthday. It was mine as well of course. At the party she was introduced to new people, to some friends of the man. She asked one if their name was Miranda. The man was angry. He told her she had an obsession, that she needed help. He could not carry on, he said. He was shouting. I could not protect her. He is responsible. She left.
When she gets back to where she lives, she does not return to the talking board. I watch her take out the canister of gas, the canister that she had purchased for this one special occasion, whenever that might come. She places an envelope on her dressing table. I could see that it was all ready, all planned ahead, waiting for the right moment. She drinks some wine, and then she places the death mask over her head, pumps the gas and sucks deeply in to draw the poison into her. She is gasping, her face is distorted, and then she sleeps. I can watch no more.
I don’t understand why I keep returning to Hannah. There is much to keep me in my own time and so much else to research from this time. It is as if I cherish hope that each time I return the outcome may be different. Perhaps she will not take her own life, maybe she will be more aware of my presence, of the real Miranda, instead of this fake, talking table persona that Hannah has increasingly come to believe in and to listen to. But I know I cannot change the past. It is not possible. My Hannah must die.
It is the year 3250 and I am one thousand years old. I will have a party. What a party. Not like the party that Hannah experienced, that day when she opened the gas canister, prepared the face mask, and took her life. Now I have decided that I will, after all, visit the time after Hannah’s death. I will find out whether those responsible were made to suffer. Whether the man was made to suffer. I hope so.
This is my treat for my thousand-year birthday. So, I am in a room and it is another party. This is a different party. It is a death party. They are all sombre. There are many people there that I know from Hannah’s life. He is there. The man I mean. The man that caused Hannah grief, and that led her to determine to end her life. He is very sad though, and he is being comforted, not rebuked. There are pictures of her life, moving pictures. People are whispering. They say she had an illness. That she was spooked. That this is why she became ill and took her life. That the man had been a comfort, had done everything he could. The man is shown her letter. The letter she left when she decided to end her life. It was in the envelope on her dressing table, by the cracked tryptic. He reads it and I stand close. He is not aware of me. No one is. Only Hannah could feel my presence. But this letter is burnt into my knowledge.
“When you find me I will have gone to another place to find peace. I am invaded and I cannot escape. I am being taken over. I hear the voice, feel the presence, and this fills all my waking moments. It is impossible to bear. I am no longer me. I have no identity. I am losing my mind to Miranda. She is ever present. I have to get away. Hannah”
I go back to the year 2000. I watch Hannah once more, when she is perfect, carefree. I like this year. Where better to spend the rest of my birthday.
I love her.
I love her and she will never know. I love her and I want to live in the 21st century.
I love her and I want to live in confusion and chaos.
I want to know what it is like to die.
About The Author
D. R. Hill initially studied Drama and English at Hull university and subsequently worked in theatre as an actor, director, and writer. He has also completed an MA Acting at East 15 Drama School. Job roles have included being Artistic Director of Theatre Station Blyth in Northumberland, Associate Director at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham (where he produced and directed, amongst other works The Official Tribute to Dennis Potter) and Marketing Director at Birmingham Hippodrome. His published work to date includes the non-fiction works Under Scan and Voices of Culture. In 2019 D. R. Hill was shortlisted as one of three writers for the Eyelands International Book Awards, for his collection of short stories
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