Final Words | Quick Piece

The phone rang and I reached over to grab it so fast that I nearly fell out of my chair. “Hello?” I answered, but all I heard was a loud, high-pitched tone. “Damn!” I pulled the phone away from my ear. “What the hell-“ I was cut off when a smooth female voice started to speak. “Emergency. This is a worldwide emergency. All beings are in danger due to imminent comet approaching in 6 hours.” I scoffed. This is probably a prank call from a bored 12 year old. “This is not a joke.” the voice continued. “Comet will make a direct hit in 6 hours. Please stay calm and stay with your loved ones. Further information can be found online through all news channels and keep updated through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.” My hands began to shake slightly. I could’ve imagined it, but the final words that came from my phone will always haunt me. “You have one life and it’s going to end soon. Make the most of it.” And with a final click, the voice was gone.

For the first hour, my phone continued to ring off the hook as I sat still and motionless in front of my TV with my laptop quietly heating up on my lap. Messages flooded into my inbox from bosses, old lovers and high school classmates saying that I was a great worker, apologies with reasons I don’t recall and an onslaught of memories that I had long filed away. As I watched the reporter talk about the axis and momentum of the comet, a part of me wanted to believe that it was all a hoax. The government wanted everyone to stop complaining and pay more mind to them or maybe it was a rich guy’s  sad idea of teaching everyone gratitude. For all I know, the comet could even miss. I couldn’t accept that six hours was all I was going to get. Yet, I continued to diligently answer each call, reassuring, crying and yelling with everyone. What else can I do?

For the next hour, I wandered the street and tried my best not to lose my faith in humanity. Broken glass lay strewn all over the ground, couples straight up naked in the middle of the road while cars honked endlessly at them. Discounts filled stores still with clothes still swinging, but stores with bold red letters screamed, “Take it all! It doesn’t matter anyways!” with things like novelty garbage pails gone within minutes — one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. There was no point in driving because of the amount of people wandering the streets, carefree and carelessly. It was like the illusion of safety was popped and what we were left was who were truly were. By now, my phone had generally quieted down, so I was surprised when I received a call from an unknown number. “Hello?” I answered, hoping it was the same cool voice from 3 hours ago taking everything back. “Hello?” No one responded. I tried a third time. “Hello? Is anyone there? The world is ending and I don’t want to be that jerk that hangs up on you. For all I know, you might be someone pretty important who needs company.” There was a sigh on the phone and a voice so small and fragile that I had to lean in to hear. “I love you. You were the first person I thought of when the mess of the world started to unravel because to me, you are the calamity and color of the world.” A final click ended the call. The final words comforted my soul and I walked down the street under the rapidly deteriorating and fearfully raw world, their screams lifting up to meet the incoming comet.

Grocery Run | Quick Piece

As I drove through the storm, the swishing of the windshield wipers reverberated the rapid thoughts fluttering in my heart. “Give me a break.” I muttered as I squinted at the road as the lines slowly disappeared. “I’m just trying to buy some groceries!” The droplets pelted at the windshield, reminding me of things to do, things I haven’t done and things I’ve half-assed. I aggressively flicked on the left turn signal as a subtle F-you! to the doubts in my head. I finally pulled into the parking lot and with a rumble, the car sighed to a stop. In waves, the rain hammered at my car. The wind howled like a ghost whispering about my impending fate, yet the rain continues to pelt, Finish your work! Get out there! You’re wasting your life! And I shout back, “You ass, I don’t want to get soaking wet!”

I pushed my faithful cart down the vegetable aisle, thinking back to the time when I nearly choked and died on a long green bean. My mother told me to eat my vegetables and as a seven year old, I thought I would “rebel” against her by shoving all the green beans she made into my mouth. My logic was that the faster I ate my veggies, the less time I would have to deal with them. My plan was foiled when one strand decided to hang out in my throat. I shuddered as I headed towards the fruits, picked out a couple almost ripe apricots and picked up a couple mangos. “These would be great in a smoothie.” I said while weighing them the palm of my heads and gently squeezing them. “Or I could straight up eat them.” I wandered around the store for a little longer, passing by the many chip bags and the craft beers. “I like this brand. They put a little more granola in the cereal than that one.” the girl said, waving the cereal box in front of her boyfriend’s face. I passed by and he glanced at me and I just shrugged. “Fine. Let’s get that one.,” he said, throwing the box into the cart. I sighed and remembered when I had someone to bother. “It’s okay.” I said standing in the check out line. “I can always bug myself.” “Excuse me?” an old lady in front of me turned around and looked me up and down. “Are you okay, ma’am?” I nodded and smiled as I watch her pay and wheel her groceries away, her little grey bun bouncing up and down.

I walked out to my car and noticed that it stopped pouring. Little lakes and oceans littered the parking lot, capturing a sliver of the blooming sun in each of them. I glanced at the vibrant blue sky to see a full and beautiful rainbow. And with that, my doubts melted away and splashed into the puddles.

Worth It | Quick Piece

The rain poured down on us, but it didn’t matter. “Hurry up!” I shouted. “We’re going to get wetter the slower you are!” I looked back and saw him walking two steps and then breaking into a soggy jog. I doubled over unable to contain my laughter. “Man, all I wanted was ice cream, but I’m just getting wet and cold!” he shouted through the pouring rain. I continued laughing, but I got a well deserved punch. “Hey! That was uncalled for!” I said, unable to contain my smile. He rolled his eyes and said, “You mocked me! You made me look like a fool!” I took his hand and started walking toward the ice cream parlor. “It’s not my fault that you’re slow.” He pulled me as he walked a little faster and said, “It’s not my fault that you forgot the umbrella!” By the time we made it to the ice cream parlor, we were dripping wet from head to toe and shivering, but it didn’t matter. We held onto each other and ordered ice cream, sitting in a booth across from each other and shared the ice cream we trekked through the rain just to get. He took my hands and started rubbing them and said, “This was unexpectedly worth it.” I smiled back at him and whispered only so he could hear, “You’re worth the rain and the storm. You’re worth it to me.”

Inherently Bad | Quick Piece

Note: This story contains images of crime, violence and grief/loss. If you are sensitive to these issues, I would suggest not reading this piece. Please read my Quick Piece Breakdown for further explanation. I wanted to give a warning because of what’s happening overseas.

We were watching our usual crime scene show with the faux blue and red flashing before our eyes as the police step out of their cars to face the crime scene. I looked at my girlfriend, Jolie, her eyes widening as the crime scene slowly unfolded with the shining red dripping from all corners of the room. Cue the credits and ending music as well as a loud groan from Jolie. “That was so good!” she said as she stretched, her beautiful hair cascading down her back. “I’m not sure if I can wait for next week!” I jumped up from the couch and started stretching with her, purposely bumping my arms into her. “Man, I’m so tired right now!” she yawned and sat on the floor. We sat together in silence, listening to the throbbing of our apartment complex. “Do you think people are inherently bad?” she said. I couldn’t see her face anymore, but something wavered in her voice. “That episode must’ve really gotten to you.” I said, feeling her breathing. She shook her head and got up to get ready for bed. By the time I finished getting ready, she was already fast asleep.

“What is it?” I called down the hall while rubbing the gunk out of my eyes. “What’s happening?” Loud pounding sounded at my door and when I cracked it open, a brisk morning breeze and two police officers met me. “Can I help you?” I mumbled. It was still too early for me to comprehend anything. “Mr. Berry, we have some unfortunate news.” the officer on the left said. I looked up at him and saw his eyes stern, but hurt. “You probably want to sit down for this.” I was still confused about what was happening, but I lead them inside where they perched themselves onto my couch. I sat in front of them and the next fifteen minutes were the worst moment of my life. They started off slow, but the story picked up pace as they explained to me that my dear Jolie set the neighbor’s house on fire, the neighbors who had just moved in and then burst into the house in an attempt to save them. They explained to me that they weren’t sure about her intentions, but they were sorry for my lost. As if their sorry would mean anything to me. As if they understood what it felt like to suddenly be devoid of my beloved. And as quickly as they had arrived, they left. The house fell silent, but the silence was so painful with the ringing in my ears, reminding me of Jolie.

It’s been a week since the incident. My beard has grown long and patchy, take-out boxes litter my floor with small biospheres starting to form. I read through the text messages last sent from Jolie for the thousandth time today. I can do whatever I want.

 

Bella | Quick Piece

Outside the window, the birds happily flitted around announcing their cheer for the world to everyone who was listening. I just happened to be listening, but I wasn’t too happy that I had no choice. I stared at my blank computer screen and saw a sad reflection of myself. I wiggled my eyebrow like a mother would to entertain her child, but I felt no joy erupt from within me. I picked up my phone and checked the time even though I had a clock sitting on the shelf above me. It read 3:20pm, too early for dinner, too late for lunch. My eyes refocused from the numbers and onto the smiling face I had set as my wallpaper. Every part of her was radiating with joy that was matched with a brilliant smile. At the corners of her eyes, they crinkle with a gentle reminder that she was a woman with a story. Perhaps she was a mother or a sister or someone’s lover. I cracked a smile, but the phone’s screen shut off, brutally reminding me of my balding head, unshaven face and acne broken face. I resisted the urge to fling my phone into the wall like I did with my old phone and put it down on my stack of World War II books. My mother gave them to me every single Christmas and birthday until I stood up during one of my forced parties and announced, “I don’t read those fucking books. I don’t understand why you think I would enjoy them.” Needless to say, that was the last party and the last time I saw my mother. In fact, I see that anonymous smiling woman on my phone screen more than I see her or any other female. The last time someone came over to my place was a couple weeks after I was unofficially denounced from the family. That someone was my best friend and when I was younger, he would be the one to bring me out of my “lock-yourself-into-your-room-and-sulk” phase. When he came over, I decided that I wanted to stay in that phase, so he left. I checked up on him, through Facebook of course. He got married three years ago and another bloke was the best man even though I had agreed with him when we were twelve that I would be the one no matter what. I guess that contract was bullshit to begin with anyways. I have to admit that that was what caused me to fling my other phone into the wall. You see, I have a strict bedtime routine where I would check up on him before I fall asleep and you can piece together what happened after I was disrupted from my routine. I just went to Amazon and ordered myself a better and nicer phone and put a new girl as the wallpaper.

I looked out the window and noticed that the birds had quieted down and night had fallen before I even knew it. “Well, I must’ve been more productive than I thought I would be.” I muttered to myself before rolling into bed and pulling out my phone and checking up on my ex-best friend. He has a daughter now named Bella and yesterday he put up a video of him doing her blond curls for the first time. Her laughter echoed in my ears and for the first time, my chest erupted in joy and I burst out in laughter only to end in solitary tears. I reassured myself and whispered, “That was a good laugh. Better save that up. Don’t worry, everything will be okay.” I gently kissed the phone screen and slipped it under my pillow, closing my eyes. A single tear rolled down my cheek, bidding me good night.

A Nod to Life | Quick Piece

In the silence of my room, I sat still, thinking, pondering and considering. Shadows danced around my room and a part of my heart urged to dance with them as well, but it all felt too fake. I threw myself onto the bed and inhaled the dirty sheets, whispering of secrets and betrayals, something I was never part of. I groaned and rolled onto my back and images of my past swam in front of me.

Eight years old and the girl was crying. I think I pushed her down, but I told the teacher that she tripped and fell in front of me. The confused teacher comforted the girl and told me to be careful. As soon as she turned her back, I smiled. It felt good to be bad.

Twelve years old and staring down the bottle. My parents were on a weekend trip to my cousin’s wedding and I found my dad’s stash of beers. On TV, there were always movies of people laughing with their friends and I wondered if I could get the same effect. No one laughed with me, my stomach felt full and my head hurts.

Fifteen years old and I’m holding her hand. I think I liked her, but her hand was really soft. I wonder how soft her lips are. I wonder if she would mind. I think I can do it; I’ve seen people on TV do worse.

Nineteen years and I’m holding my child. Take-out boxes lay on the floor and my phone vibrates, it’s a different girl. “Hey hun, I have to go now.” I say to my girlfriend as I hand her my daughter. “I’ll be back in an hour.” She smiles at me, exhausted and relieved to have a healthy baby and lets me go.

Twenty-three and I’m meeting up with my lawyer to file for a divorce. I guess she found out, but it’s okay because I have the other girl with softer lips and a kinder soul.

Twenty-five and I lost my job. I’m back at McDonalds and my pants are getting tighter, but at least I get dinner and some spending money. There’s no need to rush anyways; I’m still young enough.

Twenty-eight and I finally moved out of my parent’s house and into an okay apartment. At least there’s hot water, but the view outside is just a brick wall — a true image of my life so far.

Thirty-years old and by myself, but I guess I’m okay. I guess I’ve lived and learned. What’s there to remember? My failures? My successes? Or the little steps that I’ve managed to take. I sit up in bed and realized that night had fallen. A cool breeze slips in between the cracks and brushes over my face. My indifference transformed into a simple gratitude and nod towards life.

Mountaintop Sunrise | Quick Piece

Image taken by me at Acadia National Park — 8/9/16 4:46am

The bus finally pulled up to the station and the familiar excitement started settling in. I looked around the station and saw families eager to go on their first trip with bulging suitcases and children carrying their favorite stuffed friend to share their new adventures with. I saw young couples, tugging at each other’s hands ­— their private excitement and yearning for one another evident in just a small gesture. I saw people like me, old and experienced, but still carrying around their young soul and an undying curiosity to see and feel all corners of the world for themselves. I just can’t explain this sensation. It’s as if the places I go to will forever carry a part of my soul once I set foot upon it — a magical and sweet sensation.

We boarded the bus and I settled into a seat near the front. I checked my phone to see if we were still on schedule and I scrolled through my messages to see if there was anything from her. Perhaps a departing good-bye and well wishing or a how are you, but the last message I received from her was from three weeks ago. A child on the back of the bus shouted, “Mom! I need to pee!” I smiled to myself before putting in my headphones and forgetting everything that had happened three weeks ago.

“Why can’t you ever listen?” she shouted, tears brimming her eyes. I reached for her hand. I wanted her close. I wanted to feel her heart beating against mine, but she turned away. “Gabe, please! Now is not the time! Can’t you see that we aren’t going to be forever unless you get it together?” My mouth ran dry and my hands started to sweat. She sighed and collapsed into the chair, exhausted from the emotional turn of events. I knelt in front of her and whispered, “Melly, dear. I’m sorry.” My head was filled with cotton. Nothing I wanted to say, nothing I wanted to mean was properly forming into words. Before I could say anything else, she rebounded and said, “No, don’t. You say this every single time, but we always end up back into this position. I’ll be crying and you’ll be on your knees begging. I’ve had enough.” The next thing I knew, I was watching her pull out of my driveway, every single part within me felt broken and shattered.

The bus rumbled to a stop just as my song finished, an echoing chord fading into the distance. I opened my eyes to see a brilliant sunset stretching across the wide horizon. The bus was hauntingly silent with no previous indication that there were screaming children and chattering friends. We had the time to stretch and get a snack before we had to be back on the road again. I sauntered into the convenience store. The sudden bright lights and colorful snacks filled my field of vision and it felt like I was in one of my dreams. Unaware of where we were, but still knowing that we had some ways to go, I thrived in the change of pace. I picked up a couple snacks before heading back to the bus where I caught glimpses of people deep in their slumber.

For the first couple of days, my heart wouldn’t stop aching. My Google search history was filled with medical inquiries to relationship advice columns, but the only help I wanted was from Melly. My phone was quiet and it haunted me. I spent hours scrolling through the days when our minds were consumed with each other. I ran through everything that lead up to it and tried to figure out what had happened, but the only conclusion that I could arrive at was that I was the cause. I didn’t want to see her curled up on her bed, eyes red from crying yet somehow, an image of myself reflected what would be of her.

In the early hours of the morning, we arrived. We dragged our aching bodies out of our seats and into the cold morning air, picked up our bags and headed into the station. Parents cradled their kids in their arms, greeting me with a simple nod of unifying tiredness. Couples leaned against each other’s shoulders still maintaining how they were together on the bus. I chuckled to myself, Melly wouldn’t mind the early hours, yet I would be the one sleeping. I sighed and looked up at the sky, just starting to blossom in the day’s radiance. It seems like in the early hours of the day, human nature naturally unifies together as a subtle acknowledgement to the simplicities of life.

A week and a half later, the sadness only took up half of my mind and I had been able to settle on what had happened. My restlessness was evident because when Melly and I were still together, we itched to travel. We went on a couple of trips around the state, seeing natural beauties or creations manifested by humanity. I remembered that we wanted to go to the top of the mountains, wake up at an obscene hour in the morning and watch the sunrise, but our schedules constantly conflicted, a telltale sign of what’s to happen. Every time we went somewhere, Melly’s constant hunger for brighter vitality in the world was never filled. She wanted more and I could never fulfill it. It wasn’t until then did I realize that I also carried an undying desire to feel the world even when it was raw and bleeding. I leaped out of bed; pulled out my laptop simultaneously closing the tabs I had opened for instant gratification and searched “most beautiful location for sunrise”.

I felt the wind in my face and the tiredness coursing through my body, but I was elated. I finally made it. My hand grazed my phone, but I stopped myself. Slowly, but surely, the sun erupted from its hiding place and reached its fingers to touch all corners of the Earth coloring the deepest and darkest corners. I nearly leaped for joy as I basked in the emerging colors and welcomed the new day. People started to pose in front of this reoccurring beauty and I found myself sneaking a couple pictures for myself. Like a dream, I heard my name being called out in the distance in a voice that was familiar to my soul.

Submitted to Lascaux Review – Flash Fiction Contest