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Short Story Contest 2020-21


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“My only vice is a videogame. Oh, boy, I can play that all day long.” My squad and I’ve been shooting day to night for weeks now. Outside a monster prevents humans from breathing, in an account of that, a preventive quarantine was enforced on everybody. Some people infected return to their baby’s stages, in a fight for dear life, as if the umbilical cord that before conveyed food, now coils around the chest (as an Octopus’ tentacle) squeezing it until the end in days, months. People standing in the streets unexpectedly fall, given me the impression that my VR pistol independently turned to the window discharging on passersby. I’ve just told my friends I saw from my window a guy collapsing in the corner, someone suggested might be someone we know from the neighborhood, a friend, a store clerk, and want me to check it out.

“Guys, probably he has no more lives left, I saw the numbers,” I said. “Might remain one left, bro. Go there! Hurry!” Reluctantly, I gave in and almost tripped exiting my room, and I was still connected to PC, RV headset, gloves, “Bye, guys, I am going to cross the street to check an actual corpse!” They shouted and cheered, “You are the man!” I took off all devices at once, in a dash, I run downstairs, with expectations of reviving some guy. I dove a flight of stairs, run like a tipsy rocket avoiding several persons in my way. Panting, I got close to that grim corner, a skinny guy was laying down with his face kissing the floor, I recognized his jacket from the bowling saloon, I fought as in the movies; however, disinfectors didn’t allow me to get closer, “No matter who he was, now he is just an infection source. Get lost!” I felt like a dog in the wrong place and time, uncomprehended, missing an owner and rubbing on the passersby’s legs. Get out was echoing in my ears when I overheard, “Hurry, we have to burn this guy right now!” My recognition mission failed; I just wanted to see this guy’s face to be sure I didn’t know him, that my world is not suddenly coming to an end.

I felt an idiot going outside for nothing. It was very risky, and I don’t want to be a nonconformist one day and the next, be disintegrating into dust. I sprinted back directly to my room, disappointed, took my VR pistol and shot a couple of times my fancy wall clock, nothing happened, just the pointer went down to the next minute. In a minute of weakness, I even cogitated in taking out my life; nevertheless, I rather wait my end coming in all this apocalypse than running to it. And we American have thought of us as free people, only because, in this country, everyone minds its own business. It was another day when the critical American president Trump was defending the bill to extend the right for firearms portability; this president must be a GTA fanatic, my generation doesn’t even care for a gun license, we crave for computer videogames, computer network, jobs… Mister president, you prioritized guns, now you’re the jester responsible for a sudden genocide. Most of the country was as, ‘Uh, we are invincible,’ and now, out of the blue, many people are directly falling on the ground, not always recovering from such a contagious disease, no guns involved.

I didn’t appreciate being instigated by my game mates to leave my tower; wherefrom none is supposed to go out, I will stop playing with them now, for a while at least. Besides, I’m the biggest guy in the building, they like me here even more after I have isolated my room sound-proof. From my room, nobody hears a thing – also the chicks like that, match point! They can’t listen to me, my games and reactions, but I can clearly hear high-pitched screams like those, I dash downstairs to discover that the old lady, Ms Scarflat, two doors to the left, fell over the last staircase steps. She is discussing with the janitor; she wants to go to see her doctor, not caring the monster threat out there and the janitor is not letting her out trying to calm her down. Ms Scarflat discusses, “This is my neighborhood, I know each corner. I have the right to walk wherever I want” Janitor, “Madam, you can’t go outside. This disease is even more lethal for people, mm…, with poor health.” “Poor health! I’ll tell you what is poor… I sprinkled my ankle!” Janitor not knowing the right words to convince her, “Madam, I meant elders.” “Ah, you think old people should be kept locked in the house, in my room, perhaps!” Janitor, “There is a lockdown order, madam, all down; nobody shall go outside. And if you go, you may not come back here to the apartment.” The old lady is irreducible, “I need to see my doctor; my doctor’s office is right in the corner!” Janitor, “But, the doctor might not be there; it’s a busy time, especially for doctors!”

I felt the urge to offer my nurse talents, “I may help you, madam, I bandaged myself many times.” The janitor ran immediately for medical supplies, we carried her to the living room and rested her at the sofa to immobilize her leg while my right door neighbor went to make some tea for all of us. Useless trying to say how cute she is! I could try some tea in such desperate times, expecting to tame my inner lion. The water is heating in the quiet kitchen. I sit, thanked for her making us a tea and asked her casually, “For how long have you been in your room?” She doesn’t answer, my question seemed to have triggered some emotions, she started sobbing sitting on the chair next to mine, our knees touched, I couldn’t help to think this is the most beautiful and truthful moment I have seen all week. The hot tea smell fills the room.

She came back to her senses, her sleek brown bang escapes from her ears and swings slightly; she smiles now, her teeth are not too perfect, “I don’t withstand to be counting days anymore, nobody knows when this threat will be securely mitigated. I used to count days for my birthday coming, presents, party, not to go out of a room. I’m here to study, and in the last eleven weeks, I only had classes through the Internet or Skype that could be done at home. It’s so sad, few people go. We are not so motivated as before. They say some teachers have been contaminated too.” Dear’s tears roll down splashing over the table. “You are crying again, please, don’t; otherwise, I’ll cry too!” She, “I won’t. Let’s pretend we are here by our own will. This might help. I’m not used to obeying when people tell me to stay, I rather go off. If you ask me sit, I will raise, or say don’t leave town, I’d take the first train away!”

I smiled, for one minute I feel like I’m in the best place of the Earth. Earth, what’s that now? The distant Earth: that place where crazy people shout all the time! Yelling to sell things, in a car jam, waving good-bye, calling friends, giving repeated instructions… that’s Earth, a boss always shouting that the worker is late; radios and TV programs broadcasting too loud. Her voice sounds soothing; every word takes me farther away from all the terrestrial chattering. My both hands around the teacup are warming up, pleasant hot steam rises to poke my nose. I smile to her with my blushed hurt cheeks, I don’t know another way of expressing how much I’m enjoying her company now. My face gets orange and round, I’m a smiley.

Dear brought some calming tea to the old lady, who drank it and dozed off. Dear and I sited on some cushions on the rug leaned against the dusty burgundy velvet couch, she rested her leg over mine, I relaxed and closed my eyes. I looked to the old lady who was making weird sounds, in the next minute, she was dead, I was distressed, my heartbeat accelerated, this awful world, I had to do something. I raised to ask for some help but found no doors in the room. I woke up sweating with Dear by my side; indeed, the old lady was resting on the sofa and exhalating a calm, sort of loud snoring. I raised to open the window when Dear puts her hand on my shoulder, “It’s better not to open the window, there is still an atrocious mass contagion outside. You can come with me to my room if you wish.”

When in her room, I never thought someone needed so many furniture, a sofa, a computer desk, a big bed, a sink. It made me feel dizzy, I’ve never seen so many books in a small room. I fainted and dozed on the floor between the couch and a desk for more than twelve hours. When I woke up, she was in a conference call with her colleagues and asked me to leave. I raised myself, went to wash my face at the sink of her room, without knowing what to say. Feeling awkward and empty in my way out, I stopped to admire her books at the shelf beside the entrance and choose a quirk title to cover my embarrassment of being thrown out. Dickens, Gulliver’s Travels, Crusoe, Virginia Woolf…

I wanna bring one of her books of adventures with me, but the one I got was sort of stuck between the others. I forced it out as I was plucking a part of her to carry it with me to not disconnect of her. With my effort, the shelf swung and precipitated over us, Dear ran to try to avert the shelf from falling; instead, she slipped and fell, the shelf and some loose books collapsed anyway over us. I was quick to raise the shelf and take her from under it, a blood streak running off from a small cut on her head and other on the arm, I managed to put her on the sofa and take some cotton pad to clean her head and the arm. She babbled, “Oh, no! My class, my books! Why were you taking one of my books? Oh, the conference call, the girls!” I went to the computer to tell them what’s going on, her colleagues cheered up and whistled when I appeared on the screen. I told them about the accident, everyone got preoccupied with Dear and wanted to visit her despite the quarantine. Nevertheless, I became in charge of taking care of her for the next few days.

I placed her on the bed and felt like the Charming Prince willing to kiss her, but the medicine had made her very, very drowsy, I laid down exhausted beside her and slept too. I had a bad dream with wild beasts forcing to enter the house, windows were broken, furniture turned, vases, statues, cups, and a Buddha beheaded, its head rolling on the floor. Dear was still by my side, and I sincerely wished she would be better soon, but then, she would leave the bed and we would not seem like a couple anymore. As a Charming Prince, I could use some charm to make her stay a little longer with me. I put some music on mobile and closed my eyes. I don’t feel like forgiving my squad yet for pushing me to the world outside, when the virtual world uses to be our playland, I understand the situation, but I’m not willing to do that again. The best idea would be to invite Dear to my room; however, she may also become giddy there, missing her own stuff. I don’t want to sleep and have nightmares, not just the outside world is ending, but the dream world too. I’m also exhausted at only having dreadful dreams.

She takes my hand, touches my wrist, and says, “I have to tell you something.” Her voice is so sweet that it makes me believe nothing can be too bad; nonetheless, she fell asleep again. What does she need to tell me? I have no idea. Is she sick? Married? Engaged? Lesbian? Not interested? Wants to be a virgin until getting married… Hooks to pay her studies… Needs money? OMG, what could it be? She opened her big green eyes, “I didn’t want you to leave.” Then, our hero slept as well and dreamed with animals without heads trying to escape from their herds when a violent gush unlatches Dear’s room door letting a fleet of open voluminous books enter flying forming a combat position. I asked her what means to dream with books flying in your direction. You are too impressed with the shelf collapse, she said. Yeah, maybe. And again sleeping, these pills.

I needed to find some internal peace amid that swirl, it would be so perfect to start a loving relationship with my next-door neighbor during an enforced quarantine. I invited her to my room. Dear entered the room, saw VR guns, felt disappointed, wanted to run back to reorganize her books. Deep breath. She stares at him, he has a pleasant face, but she is feeling lost in the middle of a battlefield of a battle that is not even a real one. Our hero thinks how good would be darting back to the game for the next few days, he stares at her, she has a pleasant face. He looks at the king-size bed and smiles; she is beaming too. Soon, they are rolling embraced over his bed; books and games could wait.

They slept deeply, a good night of a well-deserved rest, and he dreams with a heavy knocking on his door, his friends appear with pistols, not RV guns, actual guns pointing at him, he looks for his RV gun – even not being an actual one, it might work – and screams, “Get out, get out!” Dear wakes up scared, she tries unsuccessfully to wake him up from his nightmare. Squad, “You know you can never leave the battleground, otherwise, the combat comes to you. You should not have deserted, not even in a game. You’re a soldier, our best soldier, deal with that or will be consequences!” Our hero reminds of last night, Dear’s warmth and misses the embrace, eventually understands that his friends didn’t come to his room and he’s inside a nightmare. The hero struggles to get up. Hero forces his eyes to open with no success. His arms try to find hers; she is a part of him, the part that can make him wake up in a better life, a life with smiles. He finally wakes up and embraces her sweet body. He sighs feeling relieved, he doesn’t have plans for the day. Regretting beforehand having opened his mouth he asks her, “Should I go back to the game?” Dear feels the urge of throwing one of her big books on him, but he swiftly amends, “I simply realized the world is something better than just playing with friends.”

They got up; she opened the wardrobe to choose some clothes for him while he’s in the shower. She took all the clothes and laid them over the bed, “Which ones do you like most? Are there some that you don’t like anymore? Some old shirts that we could give to the janitor. This way, we are starting a new phase.” He would like emphatically to believe in that.

They are still taking care of Ms Scarflat too, bringing her soups, meals, biscuits in the living room, she can’t walk yet. Ms Scarflat told them about her nightmare also, one in which the doctor irrupts at the front door shouting, “Why didn’t you call me, madam?” and coming closer slowly, the doctor wants her to take a whole bottle of painkillers, one by one while he is sitting beside her. She tries to calm him down to not have to take any pill forced and tells him she is better now, but the doctor acting crazy turns into a werewolf turning her blood cold as ice. Not being able to walk, Ms Scarflat screams desperately, flounders grappling to not swallow any pill, Ms Scarflat wakes up while was trying to find her staff to move the doctor-werewolf away. Ms Scarflat tells them with her breath altered of remembering it, “I woke up with a big stomachache and very scared, seeming that I took a lot of pills. Haven’t you two given me medicines while I was sleeping, have you?” They are changing her bandage. “No, madam. We would never do that.” Ms Scarflat, “The werewolf, my doctor, seemed so authentic that I’m still nervous. Is a werewolf so horrible as my doctor? Is my doctor as terrorizing as a werewolf? Well, do you think I should go there to talk with him (it)?” “Better not. The disease still killing with blind eyes.” “Maybe if I stop taking painkillers, the nightmares will stop too.” “Perhaps.”

Dear is having a dream now. This time she is napping on a gigantic open book, she rolls into the recess between pages to accommodate herself, while the book spine starts to drag her inside and the upper and lower covers were pushing to close. Dear wants to scream, but the words from the book invaded her mouth impeding her voice to go out, the more she tries to scream, more sentences flew in, each is read impulsively by her while her heart struggles to become silent with the mouth shut. Nevertheless, in her sleep, she recites: ‘When the darkness came through, all forest inhabitants prepare a great convention…’ Dear wants to cry harder, “Not a great convention, we cannot have this kind of luxury anymore,” she shivers while reminding the contagious disease and continues, ‘Goblins, dwarfs are organizing their annual party for….’ Dear tries to shout, “No, not a party!” Our hero is hearing her babbling and wants to wake her up but is afraid since people say to not awake someone that is having a bad dream. In her wriggling, he decides to embrace her hard, she might get hurt without him around. He realizes now how one can be helpful for each other in these times of agony. She wakes up, looks at him and smiles; in this chaos, it might be better to stay awake. Dreaming does not bring comfort anymore.

New couples usually believe in sharing a future; however, the future is not so literal for this couple, Dear and our Hero. Dear studies Journalism at university, now, how she could pursue this career not being able to go to any place when her career depends exactly on going everywhere.

As much as a fool I am, I had to tell her I went outside this week. Immediately, she jumped out of bed, screaming “Go away! I don’t want to be sick! It’s just too much, to see three years of Journalism studies thrown away, and now I may be infected because of you!” She raised from bed to dress; my great dreams just shattered like a broken mirror before me. My big mouth! I wanted to take my VR pistol and shoot her. It would be better than to have infected her. “I meant no harm. My friends defied me, well, they wanted to know if a man laying down on the streets was our acquaintance.” She has tears on her eyes, “Every place I look I see no answer or salvation. I was feeling secure in your arms.” She’s trembling with fear of the disease; they have seen how much suffer the people who contract that. “I never wanted to endanger you. I actually forgot about the danger when I was around you.”

Later, Dear tells about the nuances of her romance to the old lady, Ms Scarflat smiles, “I can offer you my painkillers,” both laugh out loud. “Your heart will show you the way, my Dear. You will be new people in a world transformed by a lethal and contagious disease.” Dear, “What if I’m infected?” Old lady, “Then, both of you are! But you both told me, some people might be cured.”

Charming Prince is asleep in his room, someone is knocking, his heart beating loudly, recalling of the nightmare he had with his friends. Now our hero dreams with some people trying to knock down his door, the policeman and the doctor too, they entered the room and shouted, “Why are you sick?” the policeman asks, “Why didn’t you stay locked in your room?” And the doctor breathless from sprinting up by the stairs carrying some bottles on his arms, “Your medicines! Are you not taking some medicines?” Hero woke up, all bed sweat, knockings coming stronger, annoying, wondering if it is the police, the janitor, or the doctor, he opened the door. He can never refrain from smiling when seeing Dear; she threw herself with love and delicacy into his arms, the longest hug he ever gave, they will always remember.

Cintia Trinity Caracushansky (BRAZIL)

Painter and writer for the pleasure of expressing the inner self, translator for making a living, graduated in Translation, Illustration, this anonymous writer would like to share with you 2 pieces of short story and hope you have a delightful Reading. Thanks for this opportunity of reaching the public and for taking your time to read the material 100% original of this author.

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