Another short story, destined for a life of loneliness in a miscellaneous folder. Hug me.
Nine Seconds of Anonymity
He shuffles down the street, his mind as heavily laden as the stormy clouds above him. Each step he takes is wearier than the last, and, at times, he thinks he will not make it. He is struggling, yet persevering; he needs to reach his destination, for it is where he belongs. As he walks, he observes. He examines the buildings full of memories, and the gutters full of mistakes. His feet are bare inside his worn-down leather shoes, and they are slipping in the sweat created by the stifling, stormy atmosphere. In the house to his left, he observes a faceless woman cradling a newborn baby. A male looks lovingly over her shoulder to peer at the crinkled face of his son and heir. Seconds later, they all disappear from sight, and he knows deep in his heart that they will never be that happy again.
He looks ahead; a sign pointing to the menu at a pub catches his eye. He stops, and then looks in the window to observe the clientele. A man, aged approximately thirty-five, is standing at the bar. The man is drunk and he is leaning against the bar for support, fumbling with some change in an attempt to purchase another pint of their finest. Grabbing onto his leg is a small boy; he has tears rolling slowly down his ruddy cheeks. The child is desperately trying to get the man’s attention, trying to say something important. The words are indecipherable through the heavy, frosted pane of glass, but he knows that all the boy wants is to be picked up and held. All he wants is to be listened to.
His feet are aching, and his stomach is churning with the anticipation of what is ahead of him. Onwards, towards his destination, his home; his mecca. The walk feels like it is taking hours, but he can sense that the length is deceptive, and the journey poignant in its slow motion.
A teenage boy cycling towards him at high speed startles him. He sidesteps to avoid collision, and winces as the boy hurls a string of expletives in his general direction. He curses the reckless lack of respect of the youth of today, as he bends to adjust a lace that is sitting uncomfortably inside his shoe. As he straightens, he tries to view himself in the glass of a shop window, but his focus is blurry, and all he can see are the people inside the premises. The shop is a model shop, selling plastic aeroplanes and cars, all sitting neatly in their boxes, until an enthusiast deems it essential to purchase and lovingly nurture them to life. A scruffy-looking man in his mid-twenties is inside the shop, and he watches with disgust as he picks up a tube of model glue to work inside his coat sleeve, until obscured from the view of the shopkeepers. He briefly ponders why it is necessary to steal such an item, as surely its value is negligible, and hardly worth a stint in the cells. He suspects the man will use it to get high. He shakes his head, and moves on.
He has arrived at a cul-de-sac, decorated by young trees and bushes with their best years ahead of them. He bends down to pick a rose, but cannot feel its silky petals between his sweaty thumb and forefinger. He hears a scream, and looks up to see a partially opened window, a female face pressed against it. A man is standing behind her, pummelling blows upon her broken body, shouting above her screams. He can see blood and he can see tears, but what can he do? He can do nothing; it is too late.
He walks on, despite his aching feet, and sees a church. It is magnificent, regardless of its impoverished location. He peers through the arched doorway, and notices an elderly lady sitting on a pew at the back. She is alone. He steps gently inside the church, and listens as the lady softly utters a prayer, a prayer of salvation for a loved son who has turned bad. He feels like holding her, holding the anonymous woman who has loved so utterly deeply and unconditionally, yet achieved nothing but hate. The lady turns, and he is shocked to see bruises upon her soft face. Painful darkness, disappearing between the deep lines of what could have been a beautiful life.
He is shocked, and stumbles back towards the doors of the church, reaching forwards for support as he feels nausea welling inside him. Through the darkness in front of his eyes, he can see a beautiful horizon, but this cannot stop him vomiting violently on the tiled floor at the entrance of the church. He wipes his mouth, and urges himself onwards. He must keep walking, for his destination is looming. His stamina is waning, but he calls upon his inner strength to move himself onwards. There is no one left to support him, nobody to show him the way, he needs to find the right path on his own.
There is a young woman heading towards him on the footpath. The woman is approximately twenty years old, and simply stunning in an understated way. Her blonde hair is tied in an almost child-like ponytail, and she bounces slightly as she listens to music through foam-covered headphones. As if from a clichéd nowhere, a man appears behind her. The man looks familiar; the anger on his face is proverbial of a mugger, a rapist, a murderer, or perhaps all three. The woman screams as he pushes her to the floor and rips a purse from her pocket. The sky is turning blacker by the second, and he feels its ominous presence crushing him. He is as powerless as she is, and the words he needs to shout to stop the brutal attack are stuck in his dry throat as he cowers behind a bush. He silently and helplessly watches the dying woman as she attempts to fight off her attacker. This is the last fight of her short life, it is a fight against a man almost twice her size; a fight she cannot win. He knows that her lifeless body will remain in that exact position until a passer-by happens upon her later in the day. To that passer-by it will seem a merciless killing, but he knows that she paid the ultimate price in an exhibition of power and control. The man who killed her feels like God right now, and he will feel like God until he is scorned for his actions. He notices a glove on the ground, carelessly dropped by the attacker, and he tuts his disapproval as he knows that this innocuous item will be the killer’s downfall; the last downfall of many.
The sky suddenly lightens, as the storm clouds part to reveal a beautiful sun. The darkness has lifted, and the light is welcoming and warm.
Clusters of buildings are ahead of him, surrounded by a high wire fence. The irony is not lost on him, as he considers that the brutal crime was committed just metres from a prison. He can hear joviality, which strikes him as odd. Joviality in the face of oppression does not sit well with him. He cannot see them, but he knows that amongst them is at least one who does not laugh, who does not cry, who does not wish to exist anymore. There is one who knows that to repent for his sins, he must die. There is one man inside the prison block who is slashing at his wrists, because the overdose did not work. That man is he; I am that man. This was my life; these were my memories, my mistakes, and my countless sins. This was my journey, and now I must leave. The nine second flash of life before the darkness of my death is complete. This is my destination.