I'm in the midst of state exams at the moment, but I couldn't resist the temptation to post. I have received a number of requests to publish something in my journal, even though no one bothers to comment - hence why I assume no one is reading, which is why I don't post. It's all very cyclical, you see :P
Two questions were looming on my mind as I wrote this in May 2010.
1. Having just encountered the most misanthropic individual who served me at the local supermarket, I started to wonder what the life of a scan-man involved.
2. What do people think about before they die? People's lives don't flash-before-their-eyes". It makes a good film sequence, but I bet it's rubbish!
This also became my creative writing piece for the Crime Writing topic we did at school, hence the extremely stitled middle section for genre subversive effect (I can't write anything abiding by the rules of the genre without it sounding like a Junior Nancy Drew paperback).
In fact, my first draft for Crime Writing was a story about online cannibalism (inspiration: Armin Mewes, google him, what a freak! xD). I had written 300 words and submitted it to my teacher who looked at me as if she wanted to call the police, so I started from scratch and ended up with this!
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this - even if it's just for the soccer ;D
Felipe let out an exasperated sigh as he glowered menacingly at the endless queue that stretched before him. Thursday nights were the bane of his existence. Once again, he found no escape from the excessively generic muzak that dominated the airspace which deafened the pneumatic hiss of his cash register. Slumped over his work station, his head throbbed in a seizing pain as he clutched at his temples in an attempt to regain composure, but to no avail – his brief serenity interrupted by the screams of a toddler throwing a tantrum amongst the confectionery in aisle three.
It was happening again. Hands shaking as perspiration began to collect at the nape of his neck, Felipe fumbled with the “Register Closed” sign. He sensed thirty pairs of eyes channel their collective irritation and rage at his general direction as he gingerly slinked away from the register, yelling, “I’m taking a break!” at his manager, who was nowhere to be seen.
Felipe’s feeble saunter turned into a bolt as his airways began to constrict. Nausea and confusion and panic and vertigo rose within his ribcage as he battled desperately to suppress the meaningless stream of barcodes which began to surface from the depths of his memory. Imprints of binary and parallel lines of varying width tainted his mind black and white and infrared as Felipe ran down the aisles crammed with stacked shelves full of products and price he new by heart, grimacing as his mind strained to forget in a fraught endeavor to assume control.
Weak with fatigue, Felipe slowed to a halt, his chest heaving as he tried to steady his shallow breathing. Heart rate abating, the plod of heavy, shuffling footsteps became audible, suddenly ceasing behind him. Squinting at the strobing lights that adorned the ceiling, Felipe caught sight of the man.
He was a short, potbellied man with a face like a kicked-in peach; his prominent jowls sagging southwards. Sparse, greasy strands of hair were gelled in a comb-over that exposed his sunburnt and cratered scalp. He stood unnaturally upright which served only to exaggerate his minute stature as he grinned maniacally at Felipe, revealing jagged, missing teeth. Felipe felt his skin crawl in a mixture of disdain and condescension.
“Could ya tell me where the pantyhose are, mate?”
The man’s blood-drained lips quivered as he spoke in a hurried fashion. Felipe raised his eyebrows quizzically, bemused at the very thought of the man donning fishnets. Meanwhile, the man shifted his weight from one leg to another, his pupils darting about the aisle, failing to maintain eye contact.
“Sure,” murmured Felipe as he waved his hand, motioning the man to follow him.
“They’re for my girlfriend, you know,” the man gasped, trotting alongside Felipe, unable to match the speed of his gait.
“Ah, she must be a very…lucky woman,” replied Felipe, lying through his teeth.
They stopped in front of the neat rows of women's pantyhose.
“Well, thanks,” the man muttered.
Before turning on his heel and strolling in the opposite direction, Felipe gave the man a cursory glance as he began to peruse the aisle.
“Oh my god! He’s got a gun!”
Chaos ensued as shrieks pierced the muzak dominion of the supermarket, shoppers ducking behind sales signs as they clutched their children, others fleeing in a frenzied stampede. Felipe bolted to the scene, surveying the cowering customers, about fifty in all, wide-eyed and whimpering.
“Get on the goddamn floor, NOW!”
Felipe stared, bewildered.
It was crater-face, his asymmetrical head in an opaque stocking, wielding a miniature revolver. Felipe collapsed into uncontrollable peals of laughter.
“Oh bravo – makeshift balaclava, Aisle 6. Women’s underwear.”
“One more word from your mouth, and I’ll blow your fuckin' head off!”
“With what? Humour me, a plastic Colt? Aisle 18. Children’s toys,” spat Felipe, as he advanced upon the gun-toting assailant.
And with that, the stocking-clad man raised his pistol and fired.
The bullet pierced through layers of skin and tissue before exiting between the discs of Felipe’s spine with a spurt of cerebrospinal fluid, propelling fragments of his shattered sternum into the atrium of his heart. It is worth mentioning what Felipe couldn’t remember in that split second between life and death, given that there was nothing that was previously known to him in time, space, touch, symbols, taste, signatures or billboard signs that he would have forgotten.
Felipe did not remember the significance of today, November the 21st, being the second anniversary of his stale and predictable relationship with Danielle – a woman he dreaded. He did not remember her horse-like features that he once found alluring, nor did he remember what he considered attractive in a woman; charisma and an irresistible grin, of which time had robbed Danielle of both. Felipe did not remember the dilapidated flat they shared; its substandard workmanship and creaking doors, its mean little rooms crammed with books filled with now useless knowledge. He did not remember being enthralled by knowledge in his youth, scouring books in the quest for enlightenment. Felipe did not remember any of the languages he spoke fluently (three), any of the Beatles hits he had ever sung in succession (fourteen) or any of the university degrees he had ever signed up for or dropped out of (eight, and still counting). None of these things did he remember, not one. He did not remember an instance in which a customer was ever right – even though one such circumstance had occurred seconds ago, he did not remember that either.
But what he did remember was the sensation of the knobbly cobblestones underfoot as he marveled at the afternoon sun lengthening the shadows that slid down the street – a memory of 20 summers ago almost lost upon the chain of exploding neurotransmitters that extinguished the synaptic tinkering encased within inanimate grey matter.
Transported in a fragment of suspended time, Felipe is sitting on the flood wall, tracing sea chill with his fingertips, the crusty salt-laden air engulfing his senses. The eager yelps of the neighbourhood boys milling on the esplanade in tense anticipation fill the air. The main attraction, a frayed and regurgitated mess of a scruffy soccer ball. He feels his body gravitate toward the action, a small jerk in his stomach willing him to partake in the game. Now amongst the crowd, the other boys rearrange themselves to accommodate his presence. He introduces himself and smiles with gratitude; they acknowledge him with a curt nod.
They advance upon the deserted beach as the game unfolds, feet pattering against the sand as the faux leather of the ball skims the surface – he’s enthralled, transfixed, memerised; sold on the sport’s exquisite simplicity, spellbound by its physical rhythm, its raw energy. As Felipe’s brain faces its prolonged, horrific end, this memory freezes as his concept of time is lost upon nostalgia and poised consciousness. But for now, Felipe makes time. Time for memories tangled in slivers of music, sand and euphoria; his youth, the sea breeze and an endless summer.