Ok, So a few weeks back, Nono challenged us to come up with our own stories based on a short first paragraph of a story by Thetoolsman as part of her ‘So you think you can think 3 (SYTYCT)’ challenge. A lot of very talented people put in awesome entries, click on this link, when you’re done here to check them out. Yours truly made two attempts. The first was a somewhat silly, playful story about a planking misadventure and the other, which I present below, was an otherworldly tale, partly inspired in equal measures by the movie ‘The Adjustment bureau’, a weird dream I had the night before about death and eternity and a short story I read in the annual Imperial College arts publication ‘Phoenix’, called ‘Design Flaws’ by Rhys Davies. I dont usually do stories because, well, I dont think I’m very good at making them up, but I want to have a record of this one on my blog, so here it is, albeit edited and refined a bit from what I originally posted on Nono’s blog. Enjoy.
His eyes fluttered open. The bright bolt of sunlight that flooded the room stung and he quickly closed them again. He tried to move his hands towards his eyes to shield them but the pain he felt was excruciating. Some seconds, perhaps minutes passed and not so distant sounds of movement brought him back to the present. He knew he had to move. He had to get up. He had to open his eyes. Using every bout of strength left in him he pushed up from where he had been lying and he opened his eyes, wincing loudly as he did so…
As he struggled off the floor to his aching feet, the pain radiated through his body in waves but he as he forced his body to move, the pain began to ebb away, slowly at first, then faster as he steadied his feet, until finally, it was all gone. He looked around and took stock of his surroundings. He was in a plain white room with transperent roof through which a brighter than usual sun shone through. He scanned quickly, looking for exits as the distant sounds of movement he had heard became less distant. There were footsteps approaching. He looked around frantically. There was no window and the transparent roof was high overhead, at least 20 feet above the floor. One door, he could tell it was solid steel. He tensed.
“Where am I?” he thought to himself.
“Where do you think”? He heard a voice say from behind him.
He turned to see a man in a brown, short sleeved suit and matching shoes that looked like they had been worn since the beginning of time, sitting in a wooden chair. The man looked like a civil servant and definitely was not there a few seconds ago. His mind struggled to comprehend what was going on. the footsteps had stopped.
And then he remembered the accident.
“Hello, Bode”. The man spoke with an ancient, rasping voice, interrupting his memory with a voice that sounded like he had been eating Kolanuts since his mother weaned him off her breast. Which was odd, because he appeared to be Asian.
Bode tried to speak but the words would not form. Then the man stood up.
“Bode, Come with me”. He said. He spoke with such confidence and command, that Bode could not help but obey.
They walked toward the solid steel door and it disappeared as the man neared it. They entered a dimly-lit, dark, damp room, populated by men in glasses and white coveralls, drawing, writing, designing…
Bode’s mind was racing.
“So at 12:34am, Monday the 13th of November, 2011, you were hit by a Yellow and black public bus, blacked out and died of an Intracranial hemorrhage at 12:36am, according to the plan. That is why you were in pain at first. I’m sure its all gone now, isnt it?” The man spoke in a matter of fact tone, like he were reading the news. Bode nodded.
“Lucky for you, your worst enemy died at more or less the same time. This presents us with a unique opportunity: We were just about to finish your afterlife design. Brutus over there is working on it” He pointed to a balding man in a white coveralls hunched over some A2 papers and drawing instruments.
“With situations like this, we like to allow people punish those that have wronged them: letting the punishment fit the crime…in a manner of speaking. We want you to design your worst enemy’s eternity.”
Bode was dumbfounded at this point and struggled to speak but couldn’t. He thought: “Shit! I’m dead!? That bloody Bus driver! Oh God! who’s this man!? Who is my worst enemy? am I in heaven? Is it that bastard Gbenga? He stole Somti from me…hmmmmm…Why now? Who could it be? How did he die? Why cant I speak?!”
As his mind raced from pillar to post, his guide spoke to him:
“I can hear and see your thoughts, that is how we work. Bear in mind that you have little time. So think quickly, we have a schedule to run and a plan which must be adhered to. We cannot allow your little matter delay our processes. Think up your worst enemy’s eternity and we will build it.” The man, turned on his heel, in military fashion, walked briskly to an armchair near the table where Brutus was working and sat down. He pulled out a small book from his jacket and started to read.
Bodes mind was a cornucopia of emotions. Fear, confusion, elation, relief, trepidation and curiousity all swirled around in his head. He tried to calm himself and thought:
“I’m dead.My worst enemy is dead. I have limited time. Okay. Calm down. CALM DOWN! Just accept it.”
And then he started to imagine…
“Well, I guess I’ll give him a standard heaven”. He thought as he imagined a blue castle filled with beautiful women, books and the exotic things he had seen in movies. “Happiness, joy, his favorite foods, books, women…all will be his. And everyday when he wakes up, he will have forgotten it all so that the joys can be new to him again. For eternity”.
Bode smiled at his last addition, the new wonders everyday. It was quite the stroke of genius. “That would be pretty amazing”. He thought to himself.
He hoped his own heaven would be this great. It had to be. It was heaven right? At least it would be nice….and then it occured to him: What if the bastard that was his worst enemy was the one designing his own eternity? Would that bastard Gbenga be as considerate? Probably not. The more he thought about it, the angrier he got. He remembered the time Gbenga had shown up at his home when he was having a fight with Somti. Acting smug and offering to help her find a place to stay. Bastard.
He wasn’t even sure if it was Gbenga. Could have been Willis or even his boss Lolade. They had both made him look stupid at all his company presentations. He didnt have any proof, but he knew it was one of them. From their faces. He had always been good with faces, he knew when people were out to get him and he could always see through their fake smiles. They were all wicked people out to get him. He believed he was a good person, a bit fickle-minded, but good and so whoever his worst enemy was, they must be bad. So, if they did not receive any justice for their crimes on Earth, you will make sure they get it now. They deserved no happiness. Especially not one that he would have gladly given himself. As his memory cycled back and his anger grew, his mind turned dark and he started to imagine a place of flames, brimstone and torture…and the smell of Izal!
Ha! Yes! he hated that smell. Let the bastard, whoever it was, smell that forever! And then he imagined a great dragon breathing fire down on a row of men in chains. Just like the painting of hell he had seen in that museum in 2004. Their flesh did not burn, but they were in pain. He smiled. Yes! surely, hell was what his worst enemy deserved, just as heaven was what he deserved. He only hoped they would tell him who it was before he went off into his own afterlife. He steeled his mind in finality.
“You’re done?” The man in the brown suit asked.
“YES.” Bode projected his thought with such firmness, the man must have felt a small chill.
“Very Good”. He said. “Thank you for your help. Brutus is done with yours as well. Lets go, shall we?” The man picked up something from Brutus’s desk and they walked to a black wooden door on the opposite end of the room. He opened it and led Bode through.
It was a completely white room but the floor was transparent. Bode could see what was obviously a very busy city bustling below. He hesistated for a minute to look down and appreciate the view. On the other end of the room, was another door.
“Your key” The man said, interrupting Bode’s downward gaze as he handed him a golden key. “Go in”.
Bode took the key and walked to the door with anticipation. He put his key in and opened it.
Immediately, he knew something was wrong! He smelled Izal.
“No way”. He thought it was in his head, “it must be my imagination”, he thought as he opened the door opened fully. He was taken aback with surpise and yet, in the most unnatural of ways, he recognized the hellish vista before him. It was of his own imagination! He panicked and screamed a silent thought.
“Isnt this supposed to be for my worst enemy!!!??”
“Thats right” the man in the brown suit said calmly as he started to shut the door.
“Just who exactly did you think your own worst enemy was?”
“Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people… So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly… we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us” ….. Walt Kelly, The Pogo Papers (1953)