I’m thankful for my cool chest.
this is a short story i wrote back in may. i was really proud of it, still am, and i wanted to re-share it before i moved on to new work and new adventures. enjoy.
The room is cold as Peter walks the thirty foot ramp between the chapel entrance and the altar, this is his night but it isn’t about him. It’s about her. It’s always about her. Anna and her periwinkle eyes. Anna and her long, flowing white dress. Anna and her deep, red lips. This was never supposed to be about Peter Sharpling. Peter and his bloodied lips. Peter and his disheveled black tie and torn up suit. Peter Sharpling, the idiot.
Peter Sharpling was always the definition of a pacifist. Coward. Always the first one to walk the long way home in order to avoid conflict. His first, and only, fight was in sixth grade when some bully cornered him in the boy’s bathroom. What else was he supposed to do? Sit there and get the shit kicked out of him? Not defend himself? After that, Peter avoided anything and everything at all costs. He missed out on the most formative years of his life due to fear.
Peter Sharpling doesn’t deserve to be in this wedding. With Anna. Peter and his swollen, black and blue eyes. Peter Sharpling deserves to be somewhere else. Somewhere far, far away. Canada. Kansas. Kalamazoo. Peter and his cut up knuckles. Peter doesn’t deserve Anna.
Peter Sharpling is a loose cannon. All his life, bottling up every emotion and fear and thought. All his life, heartbreak after heartbreak, always afraid to talk about them. To do anything about them. It was only a matter of time before Peter exploded. Lashed out. It was only a matter of time before everything faded into a burning white ball of rage and anger. It was only a matter of time before Peter Sharpling, that devil in a suit, destroyed something. That selfish jerk.
Anna, standing in the bride’s room — in a circle of bridesmaids and mothers and nieces — more beautiful than ever in her all-white everything; of course she’d be startled when the door bursts open, almost exploding off its hinges to reveal her fiance, the shitbag Peter Sharpling, standing there, staring at her, in his eradicated suit, panting and sweating profusely. This was never supposed to be about Peter, but I guess we’ll go ahead and change the plan. We always do.
“What’s the matter?” Anna asked through the chaotic circle of her wedding party. Over shrieks and shrills given off by her bridesmaids, aimed at Peter.
“It’s a mess. A disaster,” that dickhole Peter said.
Peter and the giant gash across the entirety of his forehead, gushing blood all over Anna’s white dress. Always stealing focus.
“What happened to you?” Anna faked as much sincerity and heart as she could muster.
“It,” the idiot stuttered, “it, I. I don’t know. I blanked. I. Oh, god. Anna. Shit. Shit. Shit.”
Let’s just jump back a bit here.
The morning was chilly, a brisk wind blowing across the meadows of Redsky, New Jersey, as Peter went out for his ritualistic morning run. The cattails that line the water waving back and forth in the breeze. Peter’s heart was in his throat, he had wanted to marry Anna Sullivan for fifteen years, since he was eleven and she was ten, and finally he was going to do just that. Peter Sharpling was finally seeing all his dreams come true. He just bought his dream apartment in the city, was about to take the hand of the girl he’d longed for since he was a kid, and, unbeknownst to Anna, they were about to spend a week in Greece. Also unbeknownst to Anna, Peter had just accepted a promotion at his office, production manager. Everything was lining up perfectly. So perfectly that, while David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” played through his sky blue earbuds, he didn’t notice the highway ahead of him slowly disappearing, being replaced by more and more meadowland.
Peter kept running, unaware that the land ahead of him was slowly turning back to what it once was. Uncultivated, unharvested, unmolested. Natural beauty at its most terrifying. Peter ran and ran, his sweat bleeding out of every open pore. His heart pounding like a hammer against his ribcage. It wasn’t until Bowie belted out, “Beware of the Diamond Dogs,” that Peter’s gaze lifted from his feet to the vast empty meadows ahead of him. The land slowly expanding closer and closer towards him. Mother nature taking back what she created, one acre at a time.
Peter and his total lack of self-awareness.
The idiot, instead of turning around and running back to the Sheraton the wedding party was staying at, he just stared into the wetlands. The cattails now swaying faster and faster, reacting to a wind that was building in intensity. Dust and dirt and water, all being kicked up and carried by the wind, minimizing Peter’s field of view. The dummy, after a minute of dumbfoundedness, finally turned around and started running back towards the hotel. The miles of open highway leading to the Sheraton, empty and disappearing. The clouds of sand, dust and water devouring more and more of Peter’s life.
Then everything disappeared. Blackness. Void.
Then Peter Sharpling was awake in an abandoned, desolate, demolished church. The floorboards and pews and altar; all the wood of everything, rotting and wet. Everything smelled ancient, the way an old library book smells when it’s opened for the first time in decades. Redsky had turned completely on its head in an instant.
Peter scanned the long dead room, cobwebs covering the wood beams that lined the high ceiling, searching for something that could give him any clue as to where he was. Why he was no longer in his running shorts, tank top and shoes and, rather, in a full suit.
Peter and his complete lack of self-awareness.
Peter Sharpling brought this on himself.
There was a girl in a blue sundress and yellow ballet flats sitting in one of the rotten pews, reading Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. She sat there, almost completely unaware of Peter’s presence. She remained silent and still; her only motions being when her big, blue oceans of eyes darted across the pages or her tiny, bony fingers flipped the pages. Page after page, minute after minute, The Girl In The Blue Dress ignored Peter’s existence. Did Peter even ever exist?
“It’s truly an incredible journey, isn’t it?” The girl asked, as if to an old friend.
“Me?” Peter asked, rummaging both his hands around his coat pockets.
“No, the cat.”
“Where am I?”
“You’re in The Void. Population, us.”
“How old are you?”
“By now, probably fifty-six. I know, I age extremely well.”
The girl, who appeared to be no older than twelve, flipped through the book, page after page, until she was at the end. She turned the book back to the front page and started over. We do nothing but repeat ourselves.
“Well, Miss,” that dumb idiot, Peter, said, “I have a wedding tonight. In Redsky, New Jersey. Not in The Void. How do I get back to Redsky?”
“It’s a cycle. We always repeat ourselves. We never learn. We never learn.”
Wind blew through every hole in the wooden wall and every crack in the faded, dirt-stained windows of the church, shaking cobwebs and dust loose from the rafters above. Peter and his size elevens, slowly approached The Girl In The Blue Dress, squinting to see through the dust in the air.
“Well, I wish I could help,” Peter said as he sat down next to the girl, “but my wife-to-be is probably worried sick about me.”
“There’s no escaping The Void. You just learn to live here.”
“I don’t believe that. Every place has an entrance and an exit.”
“How did you get here?”
“I,” Peter thought long and hard but, because he’s a huge dumb-dumb, he couldn’t think of anything. “I don’t know. I was running along the highway, along the meadow, and then I was here.”
“Entrances and exits aren’t as simple as entrances and exits. A portals only a portal if it actually leads you to where you want to go.”
“So, I’m trapped?”
“Think of it less as being trapped here and more as forced to live here.”
“In my case, they sound like two different ways of saying the same thing.”
Page after page until the book is finished, The Girl In The Blue Dress scans her eyes across every word. Absorbing everything.
“Can you shut that thing and help me out here,” the monster known as Peter screamed as he put his hands over the girl’s copy of Alice. “Please.”
The book hit the decomposed floorboards of the church with a loud thud.
“We always repeat ourselves,” The Girl In The Blue Dress said, reaching her tiny claw-like hands over to Peter’s veiny throat.
Peter and his stupid, skinny black tie and his stupid black suit and his stupid everything.
All ten of the girl’s fingers, ice cold and nails as sharp as a falcon’s talons, now pressing deeper and deeper into Peter Sharpling’s neck.
“No,” Peter squeezed out of his compressed throat. “Get off me, you witch.”
The Girl In The Blue Dress clutched her hands tighter across the bastard’s esophagus, her nails digging deep into his skin forcing blood to ripple out of him. The Monster struck The Girl In The Blue Dress, knocking all seventy-three pounds of her onto the dirty, dusty, putrescent floor like a sack of potatoes.
Peter Sharpling, the pacifist.
Peter Sharpling, the bottled up psycho.
Peter Sharpling, doomed.
“No matter where you go, you’re bound to wind up here, Peter Sharpling,” The Girl In The Blue Dress said from the ground, wiping blood from her mouth.
And Peter Sharpling ran. He ran and he ran and he ran until there was nothing else to do but ran. Through fields of dead sugarcane, the rugged stalks cutting through his suit and his skin. He ran and he ran, his lungs burning a fire he’d never felt before. He ran and he ran, no noticing the rusted stop sign planted in the middle of the sugar field. Not until his face collided with the metal octagon, being eaten away by iron oxides.
All of everything, erased.
This was never supposed to be about him but we’ve already spent so much time on him.
We always repeat ourselves.
Peter Sharpling and his cut and throbbing forehead, lying face up in a field of sugarcane. The sign above him saying exactly what he wish would happen to this nightmare.
In the distance, the husk of a skyscraper sits silhouetted by the setting sun behind it, a murder of crows or ravens or some other evil bird flying around its decrepit spire. This is where cities go to die. The Void.
Peter Sharpling, the dumb idiot. The asshole. The dickbag. He got up and he ran. He ignored the inevitable threat of tetanus. Sweat and blood and dirt covering every inch of his tattered body. Peter Sharpling ran and ran toward the tall, dark, dead tower. Toward the birds. Toward the only life he could see in this God forsaken place.
There was a tractor trailer, abandoned, flipped over on a long stretch of potholed highway. The trailer acted as a centerpiece for a long-since-deserted makeshift camp of other abandoned vehicles, fastened together with whatever wood, sheet metal and other supplies that whoever could find.
Where did these things go?
Peter ran and ran, until he tripped into a pothole, landing face first. When he ran his fingers over his lip, he pulled away to see his fingertips were stained a deep crimson. He was cut all over, blood mixing with sweat mixing with dirt, he needed help. He needed out.
Peter Sharpling, ever the attention hog.
Peter Sharpling, always making stories up as a way to garner attention.
Peter Sharpling, the monster.
The base of the tower was a plaza, marred by debris from the spire that loomed above it. All marble and empty pools where fountains used to be, Peter limped his way slowly through the demolished urban court, towards the hole in the facade. The makeshift entrance.
Candles lit the entirety of the lobby, melted wax and flickering flames everywhere. A stairwell sat off to the east of the building, climbing all eighty-two floors, and Peter slowly worked his way up each and every step. The sky outside getting darker and darker. The number of birds growing and growing. The wind picking up.
This place, Peter thought to himself, is pure evil.
As Peter stepped out from the dark, unlit stairwell into the lobby of the 82nd floor, he felt something. Something familiar. It crept like a cold chill up his spine, covering his body with goosebumps. He felt at home. Peaceful. At ease. A bright, fluorescent light lit up a door window a few meters from Peter, the shadow of a man stood in the light.
Peter Sharpling and his pacifist’s fists knocked on the door and the man’s shadow stirred within. Peter could hear a shuffling of feet inside, he could see the man going from corner to corner of the room, he could smell something burning.
“Hello,” I yelled as the fluorescent light in the window died out, being replaced by the bright orange and yellow of open fire. “Are you alright?”
I, Peter Sharpling, always so worried about myself that I’m incapable of seeing what is right there.
We’re doomed to repeat ourselves.
As my fists rapped on the door another couple times, the door became hot to the touch. The shadow man was no longer anywhere to be seen.
I’m such an idiot.
I’m such a monster.
I hit a child. Sure, she said she was fifty-six, but she was a twelve year old. There was no way she was any older than fourteen. I hit her, knocking her to the ground in a cold thud. I hit a child. I…
A lick of a flame burst out the glass window on the door, knocking me back a few steps into the hall. At the edge of the corridor, a disintigrated hole on the wall, a murder of crows sat perched, regurgitating worms into one another’s mouths. A voice came from, I don’t know, somewhere, told me to run. To jump. So I did. I ran to the edge, looking over the dark plaza below. The sugar fields. The church, way off in the distance. The turned over vehicles. Acres and acres of earth, kidnapped and doomed to spend eternity in The Void.
So Peter Sharpling, the dumb idiot, the stupid shithole, he ran down the corridor and jumped to the ground below.
Then he woke up in the groom’s waiting room, being fanned by his best man. Still bloodied. Still bruised. Still tore apart. Then he ran here, as quickly as possible. Now I’m here.
I, Peter Sharpling, am incredibly sorry. This was never supposed to be about me but, I guess, it truly was. It always was. I’m sorry. Me and my dumb face and feet and body, all disgusting. Bleeding all over you, Anna, whom I don’t deserve. I’m a monster. I’m awful. I’m sorry.
Most importantly, we’ve got work to do.
Same, Mr. Perfect. Same.
GAME! GAME! GAME!
(via yourfriendmitch)Source: tommydreamers