11th post, Short Story: The Number Five (part 1)

I almost got melanoma when i wrote during the day, so i’m going to stick to after dark. I had to take a break for a day on account of all that sunlight, but now i’m back, and with something that may resemble a short story. I have no idea what it’s going to be about yet, so fingers fucking crossed:

The Number Five (Part 1)

Eric thought that “gaggle” was a fitting term for a group of douches.

From the upper deck of the number five bus Eric looked down on a gaggle of douches.

Then Eric thought “gaggle” unoriginal and decided instead that they were a “clusterfuck” of douches. In the end he settled on a “clusterfuck of cunts”.

From the upper deck of the number five bus Eric looked down on the clusterfuck of cunts, already hearing their conversations coming from outside the bus, loud and obnoxiously in English- a language that connoted a diminishing superiority in some circles. The city was once an English colony. The clusterfuck boarded, their sandals slapping, collars popping, and big grins disturbing all the quiet workers on their way home, at the end of the day, this being rush hour.

It seemed to Eric that the clusterfuck of cunts flaunted their lack of employment.

The sounds of conversation floated up through the double decker’s staircase, growing until the first indoor hat wearing, sunglass sporting face appeared, followed by the rest of the clusterfuck. All eyes on the bus seemed to glance briefly at them then evade. Eric thought he smelled contempt in the air. Then the bus started forward and Eric dropped his Ipod. The loud sound bought Eric some unwanted attention and suddenly he felt shamed. He became very aware that he wasn’t going home from work either.

Eric was on his way to the science museum to make use of the free two hours entrance they had right before closing on a weekday. Eric suddenly felt a realisation- that he didn’t have a right to judge. After all what did he know? This revelation suggested to Eric that their was a certain threshold of suffering people had to achieve before judging became acceptable mental behavior. Eric tried to locate this threshold, wondering about how many people are in poverty in the world, or whether you were allowed to judge relative to the poverty of your subculture, and then he thought of the mega rich, the materialistic, and how such reasoning would endorse elitist quibbling, and then he was quite unhappy and completely lost.

Still, the shame persisted, despite Eric’s noble efforts.

The sounds of conversations in English on topics as varied as women and video games followed Eric all the way to the museum until he got off, leaving the clusterfuck and his shame behind. Outside under the sky Eric let out a deep breath. A tiny stream of people accompanied Eric off the bus. The majority stayed on, the residential areas being farther away. Eric noted, carefully, how everyone else that got off the bus at the museum did so in groups larger than alone. At this observation Eric whipped out his phone and started checking his emails, as if to demonstrate that he too was connected to someone somewhere.

No one gave the slightest shit.

Eric had inadvertently examined his email inbox whilst trying to prove something.

This brought back a painful memory, fresh and sore to the touch. Eric’s mind became dominated by two things. One was a surface image; specifically the subject title of his latest email: “We are closing down.” The other was the iceberg-beneath-the-water, the specific emotions attached to the subject title “We are closing down.” It is difficult to measure accurately which of the following memories was evoked first, so it would be safe to say that simultaneously Eric remembered the smell of dusty unopened video game packages that never sold, the taste of the cigarette he was smoking illicitly as he took in the aroma of said video game packages, and the sound of his boss speaking from behind Eric and surprising him, saying “Don’t bother coming in tomorrow. We’re closing down.” His boss didn’t seem to give a damn about Eric’s illegal smoke, up till then undiscovered and this more than his boss’s words signaled finality.

Eric would never work at that store again.

The next day (today), Eric would wake up at 6:30, the same time he always woke up, shower at the same time he always showered, and ride the bus he took to work from it’s usual stop, all the way past the science museum, the mall, and the store he worked at the day before, until he reached the last stop. Eric had never been this far before. There he found a coffee shop, and spent far more money than he would usually on a coffee or lunch. He thought in order to get some value out of it that he ought to stay in the coffee shop for as long as possible, and he did, reading every single unique magazine in the shop (only three), cover to cover, and watching the rhythmic movements of people who still had work. They flooded in at lunch, dispersed by four, and returned towards the end of the workday in growing numbers.

Eric left the coffee shop around 5:30, joining all the workers going home, as he usually did, but instead of going home, he went to the museum. This decision resulted from Eric wanting to appreciate what he thought of, for a little while, as newfound freedom.

So here Eric is, walking towards the Museum entrance, the memories of the day before rotating in his mind. He has not been to the museum in many years. He recognizes the entrance from when he was just a boy. The ceiling is lower, the entrance narrower, and the colors and images changed, but the basic geometry, the skeleton is still recognizable. This is both a sad and comforting thing for Eric. Sadly comforting, he labels the experience.

Suddenly Eric feels a rush of euphoria. From somewhere inside him something has welled up. Lacking a better word he labels it hope. He thinks: Fuck it all, i’m going to smile at everyone today. With an invisible tenacity that only one girl will appreciate later Eric did indeed smile his ass off. First at the three children who dashed out the entrance as Eric approached it. He gave each one a good half second grin. Inside a security guard looked at him and made some abortive gesture directing Eric towards a massive sign that was clearly visible and just next to him that said “ENTRANCE.” Eric smiled at the guard, and the guard nodded back.

Eric was ecstatic.

He collected his free ticket smiling at the ticketing provider, and proceeded through the museum.

At first it was great. Eric wanted to know things. Eric wanted to read all the little words on the wall, to gaze at the photographs for awhile, to contemplate the many different exhibits inside their variously shaped glass casings. The whole museum smelled of new carpet and open spaces. Eric even had a few incredibly original thoughts and ideas, stimulated as they were by the exhibitions. It is only a minor tragedy that the events that will take place downstairs will dispel most of these temporary epiphanies.

Eric spent a full twelve minutes (he thought it was four) staring up at full size replica of a fossilized tyrannosaurus rex. He tried to imagine what it would be like to spot one in a forest, hunting for food. He thought it would be a lot better if he had a gun. Then he realized that a gun would probably not be much good. For a man submerged in the technological parade of the twenty-first century it was a humbling moment. Until he read the details, and realized their were no men around during the time of the dinosaurs. At which point he moved on.

Yet over time, Eric’s attention began to wander back inside his head. He thought about rent, he thought about what his friends and family would think about him, he thought about how he didn’t have much experience at anything else. Soon he was searching around the museum not for curiosity’s sake but for some kind of distraction. He began to want something more penetrating, less demanding. Like a strip club. Or tequila. His wanderings took him to the stairs, and the prospect of that downward journey grabbed his attention. He took it one step at a time, each foot practically falling from step to step, till he looked like some club footed, or otherwise disabled individual. Eric was completely situated in his head at this point, so he did not care in the least.

Till he reached the bottom, and once more on the ground he reverted back to something a little less despairing.

That is when Laura first noticed Eric.

She was wondering why the man who could barely walk wasn’t taking the lift and had resolved to point him directly to the nearest lift once he reached her area of the museum. When Eric began to move normally Laura became confused, till a small child demanded she explain one of the various logic and mind puzzles that dominated this area of the museum. She bent to her task.

Eric was in a complete daze at this point. A certain question kept floundering around his head, mixing with the weird noise of background conversations and lives till it seemed to take on an emphasis, a profound emphasis. The question was: “What the fuck am i doing here?”

And strangely, in answer, he heard the voice of the girl name Laura directed at a little boy, but also at him, saying, “This is exactly where you should be.”

The little boy thanked Laura, before proceeding to examine some of the puzzles in the puzzle area that the nice lady had confirmed the existence of. Eric thanked her too, but silently, and then walked towards the mind games.

[End of part 1- i will finish this tomorrow)