Contest #205 shortlist ⭐️

George William Scrivens

Submitted into Contest #205 in response to: Make your protagonist go through a rite of passage.... view prompt

30 comments

Sad

George William Scrivens died the way he had lived – quietly and without a fuss. It came as bit of a surprise, even to him. One minute he was sitting in his cosy front room, preparing to watch his favourite programme on the television with a piping hot cup of tea. The next he was floating in the air staring down at his own body, slumped in his comfy chair as if he had fallen asleep. Perplexed he looked around. He watched as a diaphanous wisp of steam curled from the cup of tea cooling next to his neatly folded newspaper. The usual adverts could be heard from the television. Not that he would be wanting a cheap holiday in the sun or even shopping from a cut-price supermarket anytime soon. Nothing had changed except that he was hovering near the ceiling while his body was lifeless in his MaxiComfort dual control recliner.

‘Bugger me,’ he thought, ‘I’ve only just bought that. Cost me a bit, too.’

Time passed and George William Scrivens was disappointed to discover that he was not missed. The television churned out the same old programmes and he heard the clicks and whoomphs as the central heating came on and then went off at its appointed times. His newspaper flopped through the letterbox each morning and the junk mail built up on the hall carpet. He had locked both front and back doors against the possibility of burglars the night before he had sat down and died. No one could just walk in, but no one came knocking either. He was of an age when many of his friends had already breathed their last and his social life seemed to revolve around funerals. Even his son did not ring but then it wasn’t his birthday for another few weeks. ‘He’s a busy young man, George thought to himself. ‘Always busy with something or another.’

Some things did change though and George William Scrivens was not sure they were for the best. For a start his body turned quite pale, and he began to look shrunken and frail. ‘I don’t look so good,’ thought George to himself. He felt a little faded if he was to tell the truth and hanging about on his ceiling was giving him vertigo.

Then there were the flies. The room was quite warm. The little gas fire was on and because the door was permanently closed the heat had built up. There were blasted big blue bottles buzzing and crawling all over everything, especially him – well, the body that had been him.

‘It’s a good job I’m not still in there,’ George told himself as he scratched a non-existent itch. ‘I’m not as nimble with the newspaper as I used to be.’

Having so much time on his hands George William Scrivens began to ponder why he had not been missed. He found there were many reasons, all the result of a neatly automated and soulless lifestyle where computers ruled. His pension was paid straight into his bank and his bills were all dealt with by direct debit. That meant that not only did he not have to visit the post office to collect his money, but no one arrived to check why he had missed a payment or to turn off the electricity. He rarely saw anyone when going about his daily routine as most of his neighbours drove everywhere. Those that did walk had their eyes turned firmly to their phone screens.

There had been a time when George knew everyone on the little housing estate where he lived. People he stopped to talk to; people who spoke to him. Now he wouldn’t recognise his next-door neighbour if he met him in the Co-op; should his neighbour went to the Co-op rather than having his shopping delivered. You didn’t have to see a person any more.

And how long was he supposed to hang about near his ceiling? Didn’t you have to do something when someone died? Inform people - the authorities? Perhaps he would try something later, he was very tired. He felt faded like a favourite shirt after too much washing, colourless and limp.

George William Scrivens watched his body bloat and his shade fluttered like smoke in a sudden draught when he heard it break wind loudly as the built-up gases were released. He would have been in trouble if his wife, God rest her soul, had heard that.

He considered the putrefaction of his mortal remains. People must be able to smell him. The postman? The next door neighbour? He couldn’t smell anything. He didn’t feel anything much. He was tired though and wanted to move on but seemed anchored to the room watching himself slowly deteriorate. He began to wonder if this was what it was going to be like for the rest of eternity. If so it wasn’t going to be much fun. He wasn’t particularly religious but had rather hoped he might end up in heaven after his demise.

He was just beginning to think that even hell might be a tad less tedious when a sudden banging brought him to the present. He didn’t know how long he had hung there. Time was becoming fluid, and he was beginning to drift in and out of reality. He heard a key in the lock, the living room door burst open, and his son was in the room. Then he was not. Thomas William Scrivens heard retching from the kitchen. He had to admit that the body looked pretty bad now. The skin had blackened and stretched over his bones, leaving his face in a grimace that was quite frightful if you weren’t expecting it.

His son had left all the doors open. ‘Born in a barn, that one. Never did shut a door.’ George muttered to himself. The flies would be all over the house. George William Scrivens found he didn’t care. He could move on to the next plane now that the way was open.

July 02, 2023 16:53

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30 comments

Amanda Lieser
13:10 Aug 08, 2023

Hi Susan! Welcome and congratulations on this well deserved shortlist. It was beautifully haunting with just the perfect amount of reflection. I loved the way this story had plenty of funny moments while also maintaining the realistic perspective of search. I’m glad this story ended with peace, I suppose that’s the most we could possibly hope for at the end. Nice work!!

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09:00 Sep 05, 2023

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Angela Ginsburg
14:35 Jul 21, 2023

What a delightful voice: at the same time detached and cheerful while describing horrors and isolation. An excellent story!

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Philip Ebuluofor
17:15 Jul 18, 2023

First class work here. I am waiting for your follow-up. Congrats.

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Sue Eaton
12:32 Jul 19, 2023

Thank you. I'm working on it.

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Philip Ebuluofor
15:21 Jul 20, 2023

Good to hear.

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Story Time
21:28 Jul 17, 2023

This was a succinct and effective character study, Susan. I think your writing style has a classic edge to it, and it's enjoyable to read. Good job.

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Sue Eaton
12:31 Jul 18, 2023

Thank you.

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Pauline Julien
10:30 Jul 16, 2023

It was a pleasure to read this story and shortlist it! Seemed the obvious way to go :) Good job on your first submission, I hope to read other stories from you in the future!

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Sue Eaton
21:49 Jul 16, 2023

Thank you. I'm working on it.

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Wally Schmidt
22:39 Jul 14, 2023

Susan-congratulations on the shortlist and welcome to Reedsy! Your writing style is so easy to read and I think you chose a really unique way to address the prompt. Glad someone finally opened the door so that your MC could leave the building. Looking forward to reading more of your work..

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Sue Eaton
21:50 Jul 16, 2023

Thank you. I shall continue to submit.

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Mary Bendickson
14:59 Jul 14, 2023

Welcome to Reedsy. Sort of a humourous take on a not so humourous situation. Wow,just finished reading this and it gets shortlisted! Congrats on first time out!👍

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Sue Eaton
18:49 Jul 14, 2023

Thank you for your lovely comments.

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Mary Bendickson
14:59 Jul 14, 2023

Welcome to Reedsy. Sort of a humourous take on a note so humourous situation.

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Sue Eaton
18:49 Jul 14, 2023

Thank you.

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Shahzad Ahmad
18:43 Jul 10, 2023

Susan, you have exposed today's reality in which nobody cares for each other. We have turned into soulless machine like creatures where all our responses are devoid of emotions. The love, care and warmth of feelings that we had for each other has disappeared. Extremely well written piece. Deserves to be shortlisted.

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Sue Eaton
11:19 Jul 12, 2023

Thank you. It wasn't the original intention but the story went its own way once started.

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Shahzad Ahmad
12:15 Jul 12, 2023

It is a great story by all accounts

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Will Oyowe
16:03 Jul 10, 2023

The sad reality is that this story is too common in the UK for our eldely brothers and sisters. It also reminds me that one day I too will be old and having to face my mortal existence. Also that life we take for granted can be end in the most mundane ways. It was short but sweet and well written, and despite the sad tone tone there is a little humour that grants levity and but in a strange way dignity to George William Scrivens.

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Sue Eaton
18:07 Jul 10, 2023

Thank you.

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Will Oyowe
13:05 Jul 11, 2023

No worries

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Chris Miller
17:27 Jul 09, 2023

Hi Susan, Sad but not unusual. Still, there are worse ways to go! I like the way you made George quite sanguine about the whole thing. There are a couple of bits you might want to check: "Should his neighbour have went to the co-op" Thomas hears retching from the kitchen. Isn't it George hearing Thomas retching? Thanks for sharing. Good luck with your first submission.

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Sue Eaton
17:35 Jul 09, 2023

Thanks for the input. Something always gets through!

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Russell Mickler
16:52 Jul 09, 2023

Loved this, Susan … I appreciated the tone, social commentary, the introspection. A good read … R

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Sue Eaton
17:35 Jul 09, 2023

Thanks.

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Éan Bird
19:14 Jul 08, 2023

Oh, I loved this! Creative, imaginative, strangely light-hearted despite the context. The language is rich in cadence and imagery, and I felt akin to George's spirit. A truly delicious read.

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Sue Eaton
07:33 Jul 09, 2023

I'm glad you liked it.

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Galen Gower
15:50 Jul 08, 2023

This was quite a well-written story. Thank you for sharing with us!

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Sue Eaton
07:32 Jul 09, 2023

Thank you for reading it. Sue

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