Appeared originally on: https://12shortstories.com/2017/07/12/coming-undone-by-jose-enrique/
Prompt: Coming Undone Word count: 1200 Genre: Fiction
He closed the door, with conscious effort of minimizing the creaking sound, which it had been making since a month or so. With a ten-hour shift job at a warehouse floor, he had not had enough time nor energy to fix the door, or buy the carpet which he noticed every day on his way to work, or finish his first novel which still was only few pages written. When he was just few stairs down, he turned back and stared hard at the closed door which he could see only partially as the stairs were awfully helical. For a split second, it seemed as if he would run back to the door but he noticed that he had only few minutes to the bus to work on his wrist watch, gifted from his work for his long service of 9 years in the company. While running on the street towards the bus-stop, he still managed to gaze quickly onto his bedroom’s window. He made it to the bus-stop just in time.
He was at his work-station like any other day, and the train of packages to be inspected and stamped, lined up as always. During his early days at work, he used to work fast and effortfully, deliver the packages to their respective belts rapidly, in a hope that his packages would finish and he would go home early that day. It’s been 9 years, he has dropped his pace a little and his body cramps once a while, but he has not given up on the wish to finish his lot of packages and go home early someday. Unlike rest of his colleagues, his desk was well-lit. On the left wall, there was a loosely hung calendar, which exposed a female model in nude posing against a fancy motorcycle. On the right, onto the flattened cartoon box, there were many stickers of his home country’s flag and a photo which showed a small grey-sand coloured brick house. It was more than a decade ago, he was happy in that house with his parents. He was 22 then, he was studying Arts in the only university of his country, teaching part-time in the local school. His parents were farmers and proud of him as he was the first one in the family to complete the school. He had many plans for his parents, community and country but unfortunately, a war broke among the religious rebels, the state and the other countries who supported the rebels and the state. The war claimed his parents, his community, his country and above all his dreams. He was so angry that he even wanted to take a revenge of his loss but against whom and how? He had no one particular enemy. He became so confused and tired, and all the anger just died within him. He had no plans and desires, so he went along with flow; a dead fish in the river, until he found himself in this foreign land where people looked different, talked different, wore different, eat different, prayed different and enjoyed different.
It was lunch time. The floor was deserted expect for him, there he was still in his desk with no intention to leave for the lunch. He picked up the phone and dialled his supervisor’s number. After a minute, he looked more cheerful than he has been all this time today. While reading an order form, he involuntarily grabbed his rucksack, took out a dead sandwich looking thing and started munching it. During his first days, in this country, he even found difficult to eat the sandwich which he was given in the refugee reception centre. After few months of waking up from nightmares, he finally started getting hold of himself. He joined the language courses which generous volunteers conducted. In that reception centre, he found his future wife, who was one of the volunteers helping the refugees. With her support, he mastered the language in no time, learnt about the country’s culture and history. She had to go through many rejections from her family, friends and society, as they didn’t approve her being close with him. She was a strong, independent woman and eventually, they got married. His papers were ready and he even got the warehouse job. These were few rare happy moments which he could recall after the war. Meanwhile, he and his wife tried to seek jobs that would fit his talent and interest but unfortunately no one took refugees in Arts. With no choice, they accepted what they had. In following years, he fully recovered from his nightmares and finally settled in well with his wife, who worked as a social worker in an international NGO, in his new country.
He packed his rucksack and turned off the light at the station. His floormate, looked quite astounded at this act as there was still an hour to go before finishing the shift. He just smiled back his floormate and headed straight towards the exit. He could not understand why many foreigners who worked in warehouse, found his supervisor arrogant and racist. He asked for an early leave today from his supervisor which the supervisor approved happily. He also frequently heard other foreigners complaining about abuses, threats and misbehaves from the locals. This was a complete surprise to him. He had not experienced any of those ill treatments from anyone in the country, on the contrary, he found the people friendly, open and accepting. He rushed in no time to the city centre, where in the central shopping centre, there was a certain gift centre. He waited for a while and the man in the shop brought him two nicely and colourfully packed boxes. He held a box each in his either hands and left off the place gleefully towards the bus-station.
He had rarely taken this bus to this place where he was now. He used to come here directly from his work which was very short trip by the metro. He was not sure how he was feeling at that moment outside the gate, but it was certain that he was waiting for certain someone with boxes hanging from each hand. He felt odd, something that is between dread and excited. Then suddenly, he felt sharp piercing pain in his back almost through and towards the chest. The very next moment, it was all warm and he was losing his focus and stumbling.
‘You stink! Looser! Go back to your country! My God is greater!’, a young boy appeared out of nowhere, in front him with a revolver and shouted angrily. The boy fired one more shot at him, this time right into his chest and spat on his face which was now almost pale and facing towards the sky. Then, the boy ran towards the gate firing random shots at frenzied small crowd of people fleeing the scene.
The boxes too fell off ajar, like his wounds, on either side of his trembling legs. One box had a beautiful pink dress, which was now dipped a little on sides in red of his blood. While the other had a birthday cake, surprisingly, almost perfectly in shape. It read, “Happy Birthday Princess, Annie, 7”.
Photo: Tom Pumford