Here is a short story
I had written for my creative writing
class last semester. This is being noded in the hopes of freeing my mind from the writer's cramp
that has been tormenting me for the past weeks. It is a little on the long side, but I hope you enjoy it somewhat.
Victim of Circumstance
Olaf Henrikson springs out of bed and promptly cracks his head on the low ceiling. The one room apartment he has been living in for the past ten years does not allow for spontaneous movement. It’s location on the lower East side of Manhattan allows the near constant smell of fish to permeate his modest residence. This was good for his cat, Muffy, but made an unpleasant bedfellow for Olaf. However, the size of the apartment and the rank odor of his surroundings would not bother him today. Keeping these thoughts in mind, Olaf stretches his bony legs and turns his aching head to glance at the clock.
"Noon. Not bad," he congratulates himself.
Since losing his job at the construction site two weeks earlier, Olaf had been rising at consecutively later times each day. The lack of a definite place to be had given him incentive to spend more time at home. Olaf rises and stumbles his way across the piles of magazines and videos that constitute his floor to stare out the window. Rays of light reflecting off the gray water penetrate his sleep heavy eyes and Olaf withdraws into the safety of his murky sanctuary.
"Might not be a bad day for a jog." Olaf turns the idea over in his mind a few times and decides that the weather is indeed suitable for such an endeavor. A refreshing jog might do well to preserve the unusually high spirits he found himself in today. Such occasions were rare and were best clung onto because there was never any telling when they might return.
"Here kitty, kitty. Kitty? Where the hell are you?" Olaf scrambles around the room moving various chairs around in search of his feline companion. Stopping in the middle of the room Olaf slaps himself in the head. He had let Muffy out the night before and, as usual, the beast had not returned yet. Actually, it was unfair to refer to Muffy as a beast. The cat had been Olaf’s sole companion since running away from home at the age of eighteen. He had found the animal scrounging for food at a gas station while waiting for a ride. From the first time the creature rubbed its mangy fur against his leg Olaf knew they were meant to be together. Since then Muffy had been both a blessing and a nuisance. Most days they got along fine but, like any inferior animal, Muffy knew how to get under Olaf’s skin. Today was one of those days. Olaf mutters various obscenities to himself as he crosses to a pile of barbells from various failed attempts at self improvement. Hoisting one over his head, Olaf breathes in the musty air.
"Today will be a good day," he muses out loud, "Cat or not, I’m going to enjoy myself."
These peaceful ruminations are interrupted by a soft scratching sound coming from the door. Olaf grinds his teeth at the unfortunate timing of his companion, and begins the arduous journey to the door. An idea causes Olaf to pause and the vague hint of a smile crawls along Olaf’s face as the decision to play a game with the creature is made. Olaf drops spryly to his knees and scratches playfully at the door. His efforts result in a low purr from the other side of the door. Olaf proceeds to scratch vigorously and Muffy hisses a warning. Refusing to desist from his game, Olaf hisses back and promptly catches himself. Images of his own father harassing him after his late night escapades flood Olaf’s mind with regret. He did not appreciate having games played with him and he doubted that Muffy enjoyed them any more. The door flies open and Muffy soars toward his face clawing madly. Before the cat can cause any real damage Olaf leaps backward and slams the door shut.
"Foolish animal! Is that how you repay me for my generosity? If it weren’t for me you’d still be starving on the street!" Olaf bellows further words of anger as he stands fuming over the animal with fire in his eyes. Muffy responds with a soft mew and slinks under the bed. He raises his fists to the sky and slowly lowers them to his side.
"I’m sorry, Muffy. Come out and I’ll give you a treat," Olaf pleads through clenched teeth. He bends down to pet the cat, but quickly withdraws his trembling hand. Afraid of what might happen if he does not relax Olaf decides that a shower is due- a nice, cold shower to ease the barely suppressed rage coursing through his veins. The decision made, Olaf pauses to spread his favorite jogging outfit across the bed before leaving the room.
"Now be a good kittyand stay put. That way there won’t be any more trouble."
Olaf grabs his towel and heads down the drab, tiled hallway toward the communal bathroom. He steps into the dirt encrusted shower and shivers as the icy water envelopes his naked body. The actions committed back in the room frightened Olaf more than anything he had ever done to the creature before. Each day his actions were reminding himself of his abusive father. Unlike his father, though, Olaf had no desire to hurt his beloved friend. Olaf stares at the hideous tiled walls through misty eyes and curses the day that he brought them here.
"I’ll get a job soon, and we’ll be free, Muffy. Free to roam the countryas we used to in our heyday."
Twenty minutes later Olaf returns feeling refreshed. A jaunty whistle fills the hallway as he nears his room. Olaf pauses. Something does not feel right. Hesitantly, he opens the door to find Muffy on the bed making a meal out of the plush purple bandanna recently purchased to complement his jogging regalia. A lurching scream billows from his mouth as Olaf rushes to the bed with monstrous strides.
"Muffy! How could you?" Olaf roars as he grabs the offending animal by the back of the neck. The screams of his pet mingle with his own maddened bellows in an orgiastic cacophany and fall silent as Muffy’s limp body crumples onto the mattress. Olaf jumps back against the door.
"Oh no." Olaf shoves his hand into his mouth and sinks to his knees as the implications of Muffy’s death race before his eyes.
"Muffy? Pal?" Gurgling half screams issue from Olaf’s throat as he slams the door shut and stumbles to the bureau.
"Need to find…need to find. You won’t die in vain. Where is it?" With a victorious shout he thrusts his hand into the air. Olaf violently slashes the box cutter across his wrist expecting to be greeted with large spurts of blood. However, a few more slices reveal the futility of the attempt. No blade. Olaf laughs bitterly to himself and flings the bladeless shell across the room. He was now convinced of his near invulnerability to suicide.
He had tried killing himself before, but each time had met with a different deterrent. For example, after losing his job, Olaf had attempted to throw himself in front of a speeding city bus. The pain of being fired after six years of employment had been too much too bear. If it weren’t for that altruistic bystander he would have been successful. The most recent occurrence had been after his breakup with his longtime girlfriend, Debbie. They had been together intermittently for nearly his entire life in the city, but after one of his violent rages was directed at her it ended as quickly as it had begun. Determined to prove his love, Olaf had swallowed a bottle of pills before going to sleep. It was only when he awoke the next morning with the distinctive taste of orange Tic-Tac’s in his mouth that Olaf realized he had been foiled yet again by fate. In order to be successful this time he would have to conjure up a master plan- a glorious plan that could have no possible outcome other than death.
Scanning the room Olaf remembers a promise made to him by his former employer. Newly motivated, he dons his jogging suit for the last time and slams the door with conviction. Several hours later Olaf finds himself in the middle of a packed subway car. His face is dressed in an unshaven scowl capped with intensely narrowed blue eyes and a mane of unruly brown hair. A bulging trenchcoat and a pair of dark, tattered jeans obscure any other details of his person from probing eyes. Olaf studies his shoes intently in order to avoid eye contact with the curious passengers surrounding him. It was all they could do to keep from staring. In order to distract himself, Olaf runs through the plan once more.
The plan was beautiful in its simplicity. Olaf was to make his way to the top of a large building, preferably one with heavy traffic, rant and rave until a sizable crowd had formed beneath him, and, when there was enough of an audience for an effective suicide, Olaf would throw off his trenchcoat and reveal the twelve sticks of dynamite he had acquired from his former boss. He would then whip out a match and ignite himself at the knees. Olaf had rubbed his body with a mixture of Vaseline and motor oil prior to dressing to promote the quick spread of the fire. Bursting into flames he would then leap off the building and hopefully explode just before hitting the crowd below. It was a masterful plan sure to make news, and sure to avenge the death of his beloved Muffy.
Before long the subway doors open, and Olaf steps into the murky subway station. Now to find a suitable building. People everywhere shoot odd looks at the sight of a trenchcoat in mid-summer, but Olaf keeps his mind set on his goal. As he plods along the platform, Olaf studies the people he passes. None of them seem worthy enough to be splattered with his gory remains. He wasn’t even sure that any of them would notice. No one had noticed when he was mugged the week before so there was no promise that today would be any different. It was a good thing that no one stopped him on his journey. People were the last thing he needed to deal with at the moment. It did seem strange to him, however, that fate had not intervened in any negative way thus far. The plan was going off without a hitch. Olaf stops in the middle of his station and searches his pockets. He laughs to himself at the realization that there are no matches to be found.
"The fates will not win this time," he mutters. Olaf crosses the platform and approaches a newspaper stand.
"Can I have one pack of matches?"
"You want cigarettes with those, Mister?"
"No. I don’t smoke." Olaf glances at the vendor and utters a small laugh. The man doesn’t look up from the newspaper he is reading. "Wanna know what I need them for?"
"Nope. People buy matches every day. That’s .95 cents."
Olaf reaches into his pockets, produces the required change, and slams it on the counter.
"I’m going to kill myself. Does that matter to you?"
The man studies Olaf’s face briefly, and returns his gaze to the paper.
"Whatever you say, buddy." The man swipes the change into a tray and hands over the pack of matches. Olaf grabs them and shoves them into his pocket.
"Well, you’ll be seeing me on the covers of those newspapers over there."
"Don’t count on it, buddy."
"Doesn’t it disturb you that I just told you that I plan to end my life?"
"Nope. People do it all the time. You won’t be the first."
Olaf yanks himself away from the stand and begins the arduous trek up the stairs to the street. The question of where to jump from enters his mind and is promptly answered by the building looming in front of him. Olaf crosses the street and bravely stalks into the lobby of Debbie’s high rise apartment building. A few nervous glances reveal the comforting fact that he is alone in the lobby and Olaf makes his way to the elevator. He presses the button and scans the empty room one last time. The doors open with an obnoxious "ding" and Olaf freezes.
"Debbie, um, hi. How are you?"
"I’m fine. What are you doing here?"
"Oh. Well, I was thinking about moving here so I decided to come check out the place."
Debbie stares at his outfit and nods slowly.
"Whatever you say, O. I have to go to work now."
Olaf begins to say something, but cuts himself off. He has come too far to mess up his plan now.
"Oh, ok. Have a good day."
Olaf watches as Debbie strolls out the door into the crowd of people. Stepping into the elevator, Olaf presses the button of the highest number he can find. As he rides up the building Olaf checks the dynamite. Everything is secure.
"This all seems so unreal. Muffy, soon I will join you in sweet death. This is all for you."
The door opens and Olaf steps onto the paper strewn roof. He walks to the edge and gazes at the tiny people twelve stories below. The air is full of God, and ghosts, and truth. The time is nigh.
"People of Manhattan look upon me! My name is Olaf Henrikson. I have come here in an act of vengeance. Vengeance against myself, and against you."
Olaf pauses and gazes down at the ant-people streaming through the street below him. A small crowd has begun to gather at the base of the building.
"Ha! Now, now you begin to take notice of me. Before I was just a rotten low-life living in a one-room apartment in Chinatown but now you’re interested- intrigued even."
With this, Olaf flings the trenchcoat off and watches it flail helplessly through the air- slamming against the side of the building and tumbling toward the crowd below. A low murmur rises from the crowd as Olaf withdraws the matches from his pocket. With a swooping motion he lights the match against the box and hurls the remainder to the crowd. There is nothing fate can do now.
"Muffy, this is for you."
Olaf ignites his knees and is enveloped in a brilliant halloween orange. Arms outstretched, he laughs as the flame snaps toward his waist. Snakes of fire tear up his arms and explode out from his fingertips. Olaf leaps from side to side mocking the fleeing crowd. With a final, harrowing scream Olaf proudly marches off the side of the building. His body floats through the air gracefully avoiding the brick walls. The crowd panics at the sight of the screaming fireball hurtling toward them. Air swells around Olaf’s sleek frame as the fire licks at the dynamite. The ants grow larger- their vague shape morphing into actual individuals. He can see their horrified faces clearer, and tries to adjust his trajectory to explode directly over the head of an open-mouthed businessman.
"Almost there, almost there," Olaf mutters to himself in ecstatic anticipation. Finally, the flames eat through to the dynamite…
Olaf bellows in rage and stretches his body taut against the ropes holding him to his bed. He is, of course, still in the hospital that has become his home since being arrested on a tip from his girlfriend. The dream has been taunting him during his nearly constant state of drug induced bliss. Olaf begins to weep profusely and closes his eyes to return to a world where everything turns out the way he had hoped.