A/N: This one-shot was made for Soompi Short Story Battle (for the month of April in Soompi Forums).
And hehehe… It actually won!
For the month of April, the theme was to use this quote and bring out its essence in a story.
"Every hour wounds. The last one kills."
1. To use the quote as the first sentence of the story
2. The story should be set within a 24-hour span
3. The story should be less than 2,500 words
Every hour wounds. The last one kills.
Heck, can't I just skip to the 'last one kills' part?
Coz' every hour sucks biggie.
I wanted to die.
Not tomorrow. Not the day after tomorrow. Not next month. Not next year. This miserable life has to end now. This error of humanity has to be obliterated. Earth's sin to produce a bad seed like me must be purged!
Into the tides of death I shall submerge myself! Swallow me whole!
This is it…
"Attempt number 759!" I shouted as I jumped off the diving platform, almost resembling Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
But I'm not a girl.
And I'm definitely NOT a mermaid.
Before I jumped down to the 20-ft swimming pool, I took off my Lacoste Shirt (which is fake) and my Levis jeans (which is also fake), leaving only my Calvin Klein briefs (which is original - grins). The half-nakedness was part of Plan # 759 to die 'hotly' like that guy, Brad Pitt, in the movie 300.
Huh? Brad Pitt wasn't in 300?
He IS in 300, are you kidding me?!
He really wasn't there?
See, that's the type of guy I am.
A fat ass.
A really fat ass.
It took only a blink of an eye until I splashed onto the cold water. I didn't know how to swim, and bestowed with this 230 lbs body at the age of 18, my whole bulk sank like some Titanic anchor. They say you float better when you're fat, but my bones were really Jurassic (as in 'T-rex' Jurassic). No dinosaur floats.
Death was just a few minutes away. I'm going to die like Brad Pitt.
Not bad – Plan # 759…
Suddenly, I sensed vibration coming from the pool floor. Soon, I was seemingly submerged into a whirlpool of chlorinated water. I continued to scramble against the sudden gush of torrent pulling my body like a vacuum.
I blinked. The motion suddenly stopped. I looked up to the sky. I blinked again.
I'm… still alive?
I lay on the tiles with a bedazzled expression on my face. The water around me completely disappeared.
No… this can't be!
"Hey you! What the hell are you doing there?!" the man holding a pipe said. "Can't you see that we're going to clean? Get your fat ass off the pool!"
"C-Clean the… pool?!" I muttered.
My gaze landed on the announcement board beside the swimming pool.
THE POOL WILL BE DRAINED AT 9am TODAY FOR MAINTENANCE.
SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE.
I stood in horror, my eyes open wide. No, not again! My suicide plan has failed again.
Plan # 759 – the Brad Pitt Death… Down the drain!
If I were to narrate to you all my previous suicide attempts in detail, it would take more than 2500 words, violating Soompi Short Story Battle Rules. Okay, just to give you the idea – I thought of overdosing with sleeping pills, but when I went to the pharmacy, it was out of stock. I tried jumping off a building too, but I got trapped by a net in the middle of the fall. I tried jumping from the bridge, but this dump truck showed up and caught me like a baseball. I tried electrocuting myself, but the power went off just when I was about to put on the switch. I attempted to slash my wrist inside the bathroom with a razor, but this cockroach suddenly leaped on my shoulder. I scrambled like some circus juggler, dropping the blade into the toilet bowl.
Damn, I hate cockroaches, have I told you that?
Anyhow, it just seems like something 'keeps' me from dying.
But I really wanted to die. My life is like a rotting carcass left in the wilderness. This world has no use for a dumb, fat guy like me. My parents run this farm in the south, and they said they'd rather take care of a real pig than raise some swine like me. I was kicked out of school because they said my brain is like that of plankton. I don't even know what 'plankton' is. Was I really that dumb? Then, this girl I liked, she said I'm not her type.
I asked her what her type is.
"I like someone hot like Brad Pitt," she answered.
So I thought that I could be like Brad Pitt for once, even in death. Perhaps, she'll go to my funeral and realize that I could be hot like Brad Pitt after all.
The pool-cleaner reached for my hand and pulled me out of the pool.
The pool cleaner frowned, "Would you stop these ridiculous attempts of yours?"
He just said 'attempts' – with an 'S'.
"And here," he said, handing to me my jeans and shirt. "Dress up, Brad Pitt…"
"Why you…" I grumbled as I grabbed my jeans and shirt from him.
I suddenly paused.
He knew about Brad Pitt?!
"Wait a sec…" I immediately turned around to face him, "How did you know about… huh?!"
I blinked again.
"Gone?!" I exclaimed. I looked around, but the pool-cleaner was gone.
"Get out of here, kiddo! What are you waiting for?" the man shouted from the other side.
"Hey!" I shouted back. "Where the hell did your friend go?"
"The other pool-cleaner!"
"What other pool-cleaner?" he replied. "I'm the only pool-cleaner here!"
Then who was he?
Before leaving the diving gymnasium, I decided to grab a cigarette.
"One puff stick," I said to the vendor, handing to him some cents.
"If burning your lungs out is your Plan # 760, better quit it."
My eyes grew wide when the cigarette vendor turned towards me.
"Listen," the mysterious man frowned. "I've grown tired of these outlandish attempts of yours. You're interfering with my plans!"
"Plans? What 'plans'?" I raised an eyebrow. "Who gives a damn about your plans? I don't even know you!"
All of a sudden, the man reached for his pocket and pulled out what seemed to be a…
"What the HECK is that?"
"Isn't it obvious?!" the man replied.
"Of course it is a scroll but…" I answered as I looked at the ancient-looking scroll on the man's hand. "Why in the world do you carry around a scroll?"
"These are the 'plans' I was talking about!" the man answered. "And look! You're messing around with my queue!"
The man grumbled as he unrolled the scroll and browsed through the small text written on it. "Here! See? Ben Faraday!"
"Yeah, that's me… How the hell did you know my name?"
"How could I not?!" the man frowned. "This is the list of people scheduled to die today. And you! Your name always shows up all of the sudden, overtaking the others in the list. I had to erase and erase you from the queue every now and then. I've gotten tired of erasing you for 759 times! Would you please learn how to wait for your turn?"
"Who the HELL are you?"
"Isn't it obvious?" the man sighed. "I am Death."
"Yup, you betcha."
"Are you… mental or something?"
Death frowned, "You think I'm fake like your Lacoste? Tsk. Tsk."
He browsed through his scroll and said, "Look here… Dana Hopkins…"
"Huh?" I said, reading what was written on the scroll. "Dana Hopkins… 10 am… heart attack at Halesdy Avenue?... Hey, isn't this Halesdy Avenue?"
Then I read my watch, "It's almost 10am!"
"That is Dana Hopkins," Death said as she pointed towards an old lady waiting for a bus on the other side of the street. "Tick tock… Times up!"
To my surprise, Dana Hopkins collapsed to the floor.
"OH MY FREAKIN' GOD!" I shrieked as I rushed towards the old lady. People began encircling the scene. I bent down towards her to check her pulse.
But wait – I'm a dumb guy…
I don't know how to feel one's pulse!
It only took a few minutes before the ambulance arrived. The paramedic bent down towards the woman to check her vital signs.
"I told you…" the paramedic said.
"I guess it's time for the next one on the list," the paramedic said as he took out a clipboard and erased something.
When the paramedic looked up towards me, I almost had a heart attack myself.
"See the tough job this man has, kid?" Death said to me with a frown.
He just might be the answer to my life's misery!
"Come on, let me die right now!" I said as I strolled through the streets, continuously persuading Death.
"You're an amazing sorcerer! And you're also some kind of a kick ass 'death fortune teller'?"
"I'm Death. I'm NOT a sorcerer and I'm NOT a fortune teller. Are you dumb?"
"Yup, I'm dumb," I answered. "That's why I wanted to die."
"Listen," he said. "You wanna know why you still aren't on the list? It's because you still have something left to do. So get on your lazy ass and do whatever it is you have to do. Then by all means, die!"
"But I don't know what I had to do!"
"As expected of a dumb fat kid," Death sighed. "Fine. Let's have a deal then."
"Find 100 people before this day ends," Death said. Then he reached for his pocket and took out what seemed to be a fine golden needle. "Have each person say goodbye to you. After each goodbye, wound your palm with this needle. If you could get this done, you'll die on the last hour."
When I turned around, Death was gone.
100 goodbyes – after each, I'll prick my palm with this thing? Then I'll die?
I spent the whole day running around the city, stopping every person I see and asking him or her to - -
"Say goodbye to me!"
"Just say it!"
"Errr… uh… goodbye?"
The whole process came very easy. I stumbled upon a school bus with fifty kids. I asked them all to say goodbye to me. Then, I positioned myself near the train station and stopped a few more to say goodbye to me. Now on the streets, I got another five. Then another five…
Until I was down to 3 more goodbyes…
"Three left…" I muttered. For some reason, I suddenly felt my previous enthusiasm die down a bit. I examined my palm, which now had 97 needle wounds. My palm was tingling in pain, but I do not care anymore. This pain will disappear in a short while.
Just a little more…
It was already past eight in the evening. I walked by the park and spotted a little girl.
"What are you doing?" I asked her.
"Yes," she answered. "I'm digging a grave for Suzy."
Then, she opened her little palm to introduce me to Suzy.
"She died a while ago."
"Mommy said that you should always say 'goodbye' to each other when you're about to part ways, especially if she is someone you would like to see again or someone you consider dear to you," the girl said. "Suzy did not say goodbye to me. Does it mean that Suzy doesn't want to see me again?"
"Of course not," I answered. "It's just that Suzy can't say goodbye to you because she's a fish. A fish can't talk. But I'm sure she would love to play with you again soon."
"You really think so, mister?"
"Yeah… I guess…"
"Do you also say goodbye to those dear to you, mister?"
"I don't have anyone to say goodbye to. No one likes me anyway," I sighed miserably as I sat next to the little girl, who finally laid Suzy on the small hole. I helped her cover Suzy with soil. We even marked the grave with three stones.
"Because I am dumb and fat. For dummies and fatsos, there's no room for friendly goodbyes," I answered. "Why waste time saying such to those who don't give a damn?"
"Suzy can't talk, so Suzy must be dumb. And Suzy's a fat goldfish," the girl answered. "But I like Suzy. And I like you too, mister."
"Goodbye Suzy," the girl finally said.
Then, she smiled to me, "I have to go home now."
She ran, but stopped midway, turned around, waved towards me, and said -
"G-Goodbye…" I replied.
Then it struck me…
I pricked my palm with the golden needle Death gave me.
Only 2 left…
"So, how are things going?" a voice behind me said.
Death smiled, tossing aside his broom. He walked towards me, wearing a street cleaner's clothing.
"That kid said she likes me," I said. "No one has ever told me she liked me."
"Things could have been better if you started making efforts to become likable rather than preoccupying yourself too much with finding an escape route," Death shrugged. "You're the one keeping your distance from the world around you. You think that every single thing about you sucks. You think too lowly of yourself, and that's why ultimately, you eventually ended up as the unfriendly, 'people-hated-people-hater' you are now."
"It's not because people do not care about you," Death said. "It's because you won't let them. Your door is shut too tightly. You are too engrossed with your misery. You are too desperate to escape that you forget everything else. You are selfish."
"Then I do not want to die anymore!" I cried. "I… I just... wanted to be liked… I'll do everything to be liked! I'd open my door… I'd forget my misery!"
"But the wounds have been dealt, Ben," Death answered, pointing towards my bleeding palm with 98 wounds. "Every hour of this life wounds you, but it is up to you whether to make it heal or to make it kill you in the end. You have chosen the latter."
"What's going to happen now?"
When he disappeared, I pricked myself with the golden needle.
"I have chosen the latter…" I said, falling to my knees. My eyes fell upon the grave of Suzy: The Goldfish – the dumb, fat goldfish that was liked by the little girl.
I didn't like myself...
For this last time, can I still do?
Is it too late?
Mommy said that you should always say 'goodbye' to each other
when you're about to part ways, especially if she is someone
you would like to see again or someone you consider dear to you…
Would I still have that chance some other time?
Perhaps, when that day comes, I'll consider myself dear at last.
Even though dumb and fat…
"Goodbye, Ben…" I muttered to myself.
I pricked my palm for the 100th time.
The last one kills.
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