You walk, slowly, one foot after the other – basking in this rare showing of winter sunlight. The rhythmic droning of arterial roads contrasts with the silence of the byways, these abandoned car graveyards too far from the high street. The droning fades, as though in counter-point to the beat of your heart – as close to silence as you could wish in this vast, teeming cradle of humanity. As close as you could be to silence and still bear it. The thin sun paints your shadow alongside you even as you cast it as your companion – or as your accomplice. Temporarily alone yet always together. You watch as your feet dance above the cracking concrete, watch your reflection projected as you try to count the shop windows. Watch the mannequins as your phantom reaches to embrace them. You’ll watch anything, as long as it’s not the world around you.
You hate reality TV.
In seven minutes the strings of your life will unravel at the fingertips of the Fates. In seven minutes you, the protagonist, will die.
Tommy and Kate are bored – bored in the way it takes a child’s mind to truly grasp. bored out of their six years young lives. Bored of their almost unquenchable minds. “TV is boring! Lego is boring!” they chant the words over and over, an incantation designed to test their mother’s pantience, to provoke her. Any reaction is, after all, a reaction. Any attention is better than none.
She rises, admirably, to their bait – “Shut up or bugger off! Take your whinging somewhere else!” They took that as her permission to leave as she crashed back onto couch, hung over and under-medicated. Unable to tear herself from the scandals unfolding for the thousandth time across her television screen – across her portal, taking her away from the indignity and the unfairness of her life.
Your feet are getting tired, snapping you out of your revery, pulling you from that gilded cage of your own imagining. Forcing you to step back into reality. Desperately your hands flutter against your pockets, searching for you cigarfettes – searching in increasing desperation for your fix, for any distraction from the pain now spreading to your calves. With a flourish a crumpled five dollar notes cascades from you fingers, promising your decaffeinated brain an escape back into that reality you have so painstakingly forged for yourself. The reality where you wear your skin with pride, where your self image is written bold across the world. You are at the center of that universe.
A universe set to implode in four minutes.
They were still bored – they had found nothing to do outside either. Nothing to do except watch the crimson faces of the movers as they strained under their loads, to imitate their gruff, cursing voices. To see them pause in the doorway, absorbing another moment of warmth before taking yet another taste of the winter skuy. Even they stopped working as they succumbed to the tempting odour wafting from the rose-tinted cafe straddling the corner. Its braziers burnt in an invitation too warm to be ignored. They stacked their boxes in the half-open door way, slammed shut the rolling door on their truck with a BANG – a bang that alerted Tommy and Kate to their departure. As well as a chance of fun. A baby grand piano hangs from the small orange crane attached to the back of their lorry. Gentlely swinging in the breeze, dangling above the pavement it sings a whispered siren song into the washed-out blue of the winter sky. Children being children, how could they refuse?
You didn’t see them as they crossed the road. That scampering, pausing, looking-out-for-trouble caper – an unwanted reminder of your own childhood, a childhood not as far behind you as try to profess. Too busy looking along that road and into the fantasy of your self-constructed future. Too busy looking away to see your own death looming above you.
They bumped the lever – accidentally, they would, in future, claim – pushed the little button on the end, the button marked “RELEASE.” You made then local news, a kind of modern day cautionary tale – though you missed out at the Darwin Awards. Tommy and Kate will almost certainly never forget you. It was much less funny than when it happened on the cartoons.
Another short story written for BeKindRewrite, I used the prompts Rapidly Unravelling, Count the Windows and Death by Piano. I love that last prompt so much, I am writing another story for it (the third so far.) I also used Trifecta‘s prompt scandal but this story is way too long for them so…