Letting Go

I’ve just watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes again, which is a fantastic movie by the way. Anyway, there’s a really nice scene where the lead character’s dad (John Lithgow) refuses any more treatment (he’s suffering from Alzheimers) and passes away quietly in his sleep. The scene inspired this piece. It’s another of exactly 101 words.

Letting Go

John sat gently on the bed. It rocked slightly but Jennifer’s sleep remained undisturbed. Reaching down, he pulled a small syringe from his briefcase.

After all this time, he found the routine no less painful. But each new day was a blessing, proof that the serum worked.

As he pressed his lips against her cheek’s dry skin, John felt his wife’s long forgotten touch as her hand clutched his. Sitting up, her weary eyes conveyed his saddest fear.

“No,” she whispered softly, “no.”

He forced as comforting a smile as he could conjure.

Then watched as her eyes closed one final time.

The Rabbit’s Foot

It was a cold Monday morning when Baby Claire’s rabbit died. It had been ill for a few days and her dad had the burial all prepared. Tears were shed and dirt was shovelled and Fluffy was laid to rest. Minus one furry white foot.

Several days and a bucket of water and borax later, the foot found itself keychain bound to the dad’s set of keys. It was for Claire of course, and it would be hers one day, but at only 3 years of age, her father would be using it for some time yet.

But not that long.

Several Fluffy-less days later, the dad’s drive to work was unexpectedly halted. He was a reliable, attentive driver, never easily distracted. Usually anyway. However, on this misty morning, a small bump in the road would undo his many years of good driving. As the car bounced up from the concrete below, Fluffy’s fluffy foot fought itself loose from its keychain prison. Trousers riding up as he drove, his bare skin felt the gentle tickle of fur, creating just enough of a distraction for him to take his eyes off the road. As his gaze dropped down, a car pulled out, and the lives of all involved changed forever.

The first person on scene was a Good Samaritan who witnessed the accident as she went to pick up her laundry. She quickly raced over to the father’s car, but, so intent was she on helping an already dead man, she failed to hear the gushing sound of fuel leaking from the engine. A small electrical spark later the car, the father, the Samaritan and the surrounding area exploded up in a wonderful display of twisted metal, blood and flame.

A paramedic reaching the scene minutes later discovered the foot miraculously undamaged at the side of road, having been blasted from the wreckage by the explosion. Saddened by the scene around her, the young woman, only two weeks into her professional career, consoled herself by travelling back to the hospital one item heavier.

It did not stay in her possession for long.

After a suspiciously long lunch break, a rushing young paramedic missed a stairwell step and enjoyed a short, sharp drop and broken neck. The rabbit’s foot was found, and kept, however, by a notoriously brilliant and well-liked doctor, who intended to give it to his wife as a surprise gift, making up for the fact he had missed their anniversary a day earlier.

Later that same afternoon, the brilliant doctor, a specialist in infectious diseases, was called away on a very important and highly classified matter. Just hours later, he found himself in a small town in the French countryside. He didn’t know it at the time, but the man he had been sent to see was infected with a new, and highly dangerous virus for which there was no cure.

It took the doctor three days to discover this fact. Many died in the meantime. On the day he discovered the cause of the outbreak, his symptoms began. Within twenty-four hours, the doctor died. On his deathbed, as hundreds of other infected people spluttered and convulsed around him, the doctor passed the rabbit’s foot on to his research assistant, wishing that it bring her better luck than it had him.

It didn’t.

Word soon reached the assistant that the French authorities intended to cut their loses and eradicate the town. She left within the hour. Three hours after that, the entire town was bombed and along with it any trace of the virus.

Or so they thought.

The assistant didn’t realise it, but she infected everything she touched and everybody she came in contact with on her frantic journey to the airport. Hundreds of people now unwittingly carried the virus’ deadly spores as they went about their daily routines. Within days, half of Europe would be infected. Several weeks later? Well, I’m sure you can guess. But that’s a tale for another time.

And so, on a stormy Friday night, the rabbit’s foot found itself on the red-eye travelling north to Manchester airport. It’s new owner was already feeling the debilitating effects of the virus as she boarded the aircraft. One hour in, almost all of the passengers were also feeling the effects. Two hours in, and the research assistant was dead. Three hours in, and the pilot spluttered his last breath and promptly died at his controls.

The plane quickly fell from the sky and found not its intended destination, but an equally desired one. Witnesses from miles around saw the ensuing explosion. There were rumours at the time that the fireball could be seen from as far away as Bristol. What was true, what was indisputable, was that the house the aircraft landed on would never be lived in again.

Luckily for its widowed owner and her only child, known throughout the family as Baby Claire, they were out at the time.

Malcolm

This one contains a little bit of swearing, so turn away now if some colourful language offends you!

Malcolm

Some people love cars, others shoes, and some, like John here, loved dogs. Seriously. Dogs! But bullets are my thing, my favouritest things ever. I fucking love ’em.

I mean, I’ve just sent one of the little lead bastards 700 yards, bang on target. They’re awesome! I know I’m good n’all, but 700 yards? Do me a favour!

I suppose it is a little strange to be thinking these things right now. They always said I was a bit weird, always laughing at me. Especially John. Not laughing any more, are you mate?

Anyway, rest in peace, John. You and your fucking dogs.

Hero

“It’s over.”

I can’t move. Those two little words have frozen me to the ground. Did she really just say that? I can’t be sure, I can’t think straight. Despite everything I was now able to do, I didn’t see this coming at all.

I’ve let the silence become uncomfortably long. I know she’s waiting for me to respond, but I can’t find the words. Even if I did, I’m not sure I could voice them.

“But-,” is all I eventually mumble, but she’s already prepared to counter.

“Don’t do that, John. Please. You must have known this was coming?” she says.

I think I’m still in shock. I mean, we’re on the sidewalk, just had dinner, and now this. Words usually come quite easily for me, but not tonight. She’s caught me entirely off guard and I don’t know what to do, what to say.

“No,” is all I can manage. Brilliant.

“Please don’t. Last night was the final time, I swore it. I needed you and where were you? I needed my boyfriend with me and you weren’t there. Yet again.”

Her tone tells me she’s waiting for an explanation, the reason I couldn’t be with her. The thing that was so important I let her sit in the hospital alone. I guess it’s one thing to miss a date or two, but not this.

“It was work. I’m sorry, Kate. I would have been right there if I could,” I say, but it’s clear from the look in her eyes it’s not enough. They’re glazing over: she’s going to cry.

“That’s the thing, John,” she starts, tears streaming down her face now, her voice stuttering, “I rang your work..last night..several times…asked for you..and they said..they said..you weren’t there..that you quit months ago!”

I move in to hold her for what I’m beginning to realise will be the last time, but she moves away. Behind the tears are eyes of anger now, not sadness. She’s still waiting for an explanation. A reason for all the missed dates, the late nights, the early mornings, my whereabouts last night. Something to explain all of it, something that will suddenly make sense of it all so she can forgive me and we can stay together. I know this is what she wants, and I want nothing more than to give it to her. But I can’t.

“I’m so sorry, baby,” is all I say. It’s not nearly enough.

“Then so am I.”

As she goes to turn away, I reach forward and grab her arm. She turns around and our eyes meet again. She pulls me close, leans toward my ear.

“Don’t do this. It’s really over. If you can’t trust me, be there for me, then I can’t trust you. And without that, we’ve got nothing,” she whispers.

It’s strange, but I swear she knows more than I think. I sure this can’t be true, I’ve been so careful, but the way she speaks sends a shiver right through me. Is she saying my secret would be safe with her? Does she know? This and a thousand other questions run through my head as she turns and walks away. It’s all happening so fast, I can’t make sense of it. The love of my life, the woman I was just eating dinner with, walking away to start a life on her own. Without me.

As the outline of her body fades, calm begins to creep back over me. More composed, I realise all of the things I could have said to make her stay. All of the good things I have done since that day six months ago. All of the people I have helped, and the bad ones I’ve stopped. They’re called superheroes in the comics and on the TV, but there’s nothing super about what I’ve done. It’s just life, and doing things other people aren’t able to. There’s no use in me having these abilities if I’m not going to use them. I could have told Kate this, she may have understood. She may have even loved me for it. But to tell her one side of things would open the door to the other. Of the people who want me dead, and the ones who would use anybody and everybody I love to make this happen. She doesn’t know it, but it’s all for her. Maybe one day she will. Maybe one day I’ll be able to tell her.

I feel an odd sensation coming over me as I skip around into the alley, something I feared had been lost to me forever. A single tear rolls down my check. Its warmth is oddly unfamiliar, yet comforting. I enjoy it a moment as I allow myself a brief thought of what might have been. Of a life lost, of a different future. But I’m shook from these thoughts by the sound of a woman’s scream. I judge it to be no more than ten miles away.

And so I catch the last remnants of the tear in my fingertips, allowing its warmth to moisten my hands, protect them against the winter’s cold. Then I fasten the button on my coat, rise myself from the ground, and soar up into the dark of the night.

Not Today

Another piece 101 words in length for you. Enjoy!

Not Today

The firing squad took position and awaited the order.

An assistant shuffled through the crumbling doorway and unfolded a small screen.

“Shoot him,” the screen ordered.

At the end of the room stood a lone man, eyes fixed ahead. The guns unloaded every last round, but he did not wince.

As the smoke dissipated and the dust settled, confusion quickly filled the room.

“Turn me around! What’s going on here?!” the now angry screen shouted.

The lone man smiled, his hologram flickering ever so slightly. “I’m sorry, Mr President, but if you couldn’t make it today, then neither could I. Rain check?”

Top 11 Films of 2011

Yes, one of those lists.

As 2011 is now behind us, I thought I’d share my favourite films of last year. Firstly, I appreciate there’s a lot NOT on this list. Some films are excluded simply because I have yet to see them (Blue Valentine, Tinker Tailor, Senna), others because I simply did not enjoy them enough to include them (The King’s Speech, True Grit, Black Swan, The Artist)!

Oh, and I’ve included my favourite bits for the top 5, just ‘cus, you know, it seemed cool or something. Anyway, enough babbling, here’s the list:

11. The Fighter
10. Super 8
9. Moneyball
8. Fast 5 (yes, really)
7. I Saw The Devil
6. Source Code

5. Kill List
Best bit: The librarian, in the kitchen, with the hammer.

4. Drive
Best bit: Opening getaway. Playing it nice and cool.

3. Thor
Best bit: Patrick Doyle’s score, all the way through.

2. Rise of The Planet of The Apes
Best bit: Caesar scrawls his own window.

1. Warrior
Best bit: “You don’t knock him out, you don’t have a home.”

The ‘Nearly-but-not-quite List’: Attack the Block, 127 Hours, X-Men: First Class, Captain America, Bedevilled, Rubber.

I really do recommend checking out any of the films listed above. I’m sure you won’t regret it (too much).

Also, please comment below with your own recommendations, just in case I’ve missed anything glaringly obvious. Or if you think my list sucks. Ta!

Past Transgressions

I offered out my hand and took the map from him.

“Cheers mate, I’m a little bit lost, I reckon,” he said.

I didn’t recognise the man, but part of my cover involved helping the locals, blending in, so I knew I’d better.

“No worries,” I told him.

But as I glanced down, I realised he was lost for a reason. I was rusty, had taken my eyes off him entirely. He knew this.

The second-to-last thing I remember seeing were the pages of that stupid “Bristol Pub Guide.”

The floor racing up at me was the last.