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PRELUDE: The story before the story begins.

So reader, you want to hear a story.

What kind of story do you want to hear?

A tale of action-adventure? A crime fiction? A fantasy? A sci-fi? Maybe a romantic piece.

Yeah, why not a story of love?

Everyone, even on the smallest scale, can appreciate a tale of love.

Well I’ve got this one story.

But – be warned.

It’s a story about love, but it is not a love story.

This story begins and ends with a man who lies in a hospital bed. He is the only patient in the room. The room is not small but not overly large; the walls are painted in a creamy yellow. A window is placed to the right of this bed while the door in a few meters in front. The man is unaware of exactly how long he has been in hospital but something tells him he has been here for some time. The flowers beside seem to be frequently changed and he seems to have the same nurses attend to him never more than 3 times. By these alternating nurses, he is served three meals a day. Yet he could not tell you the time of their delivery. Sometimes he talks. Sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he watches the television. Sometimes he just stares at the picture frame placed on the bedside table.

Late one night the man is awoken by a terrible smell. It is vulgar; a stench that has no home in a sterile hospital. Slowly reaching over, the man turns on his bedside lamp. The man feels his heart skips a beat as he sees a dark figure standing at the door way. From the bed, he cannot not make out who this figure is. First comes disbelief – the man closes and rubs his eyes, slowly reopening he realises the figure is real, still there and is slowly walking forward. Then comes fear – his heart beat continues to increase as he reaches for the emergency button pad located on his bedside table.

In the scurry of movement, the man knocks the picture frame, the frame containing a photo of himself and his wife. The only photo he had in memory of his beauty wife Nita Deem. It is a photo of them at their wedding. She is young and beautiful; she is wearing a traditional white lace dress. He is also young. His hair finely cut and in an expensive black suit. It is as if time almost stops as he watches it slowly fall to a glass shattering end. A sharp pain suddenly occurs in his chest, causing him to lapse back in his bed. His vision begins to blur as he rasps for air. The dark figure having moved closer is now standing over him. The smell is beyond horrible now. It is suffocating him. The dark blurry figure then leans over him placing its ear only inches from his mouth. The pain in his chest is almost unbearable now. The man cannot move. His whole body is paralysed. In one last gasp of air of the toxic air he breathes his last words: Nita Deem.

According to the hospital records, the body is discovered at 6.04am. By 8.37am it is registered by the hospital morgue. An autopsy is performed the next day. Three days later the body is cremated with, as proposed by his only son, the picture of the man standing alone with a black suit on. It was the same picture that was found broken, glass scattered on the floor in his hospital room.

Reader, you ask: what kind of story of love was that?!

Well, I will reply, here is the twist.

This man, he was my father. He was a chronic alcoholic for almost forty years of his life. And for the first thirty years he was a lucky man. He escaped a long list of alcohol abuse related illnesses: cardiovascular disease, malabsorption, chronic pancreatitis, alcoholic liver disease, and even cancer. Yet he could not escape Wernicke-Korsakoff disease – which is the medical term for alcoholic dementia. Wernicke's disease involves damage to multiple nerves in both the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (the rest of the body). For ten years I watched his health decline. This can explain the smell in the room the night he died – olfactory hallucinations (sensitive to odours that are not present) are a common symptom among level 3 Wernicke’ suffers. Visual hallucinations are common among level 4 suffers, which explain the dark figure present.

As for the picture, well that is him and that’s the day of wedding. But my mother is not in it. She ran away with me still in her womb the day of the wedding for another lover whose name I will not disclose. Level 5 Wernicke disease suffers are reported to frequently conjure memories that never took place. My mother’s name wasn’t Nita Deem either. It was Elizabeth Tremblay. At level five it is also common for suffers to not remember the names of their wives. Nita Deem is an anagram I created from the word dementia for the purpose of this tale.

As for the cause of his actual death: cardiac arrest. His body finally giving in to forty years of chronic abuse. A common end to Wernicke disease.

Which, reader, brings me to the point of why I created this story of my father’s death in my head – because obviously I wasn’t there when it occurred. It was quite a selfish motive actually, aimed ideally at offering myself comfort in the hope of his comfort. I wrote this tale of love in hope. In hope that in those last moments when his blood failed to circulate his body due to his heart contracting ineffectively, which then caused him to knock the photograph down to the ground he caught one last glimpse of it. And in those final seconds I hope he remembered a memory that didn’t exist, a memory that never existed, a memory of us all together, a memory of us as a happy, a loving family.

Yes reader, you were warned, this was a story about love, not a love story.