4 comments

Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

Warning: Some sexual content.

“Today is November 3rd, 2007; the time is 5:02 pm. It’s quite ironic, I’ve been laying in this bed for the past three weeks, but I’ve never quite seen the world from this perspective.

Charles lifted his gaze to burnt-orange light shining through clouds of deep magenta. Smiling as he wiped his face of tears, he chuckled to himself and continued to write.

“Things are so small, and yet so big. From the 9th floor of this hospital building, people, houses, and even everyday problems seem so much smaller than they usually appear. My health condition, my life, seems so much smaller than it usually appears… Despite this, I can’t help but feel very, free. Free like a single autumn leaf hidden in the forest is free. Free like a bird is free. Watching, listening, and writing. It gives y–,”

“Mr. Charles, I’m coming in with your lunch!” A young nurse called out as she carried a tray filled with plastic-wrapped food into his room. “Ah, Thank you, Patsy. I was just wondering when you’d be coming in,” Charles said endearingly as he watched her place the silver tray on his overbed table. “I come in the same time every day Mr. Charles, there’s no need to wonder,” she replied smiling, then just as quickly as she came in, she left, and silence filled the room once more. Charles smiled, then looked back outside, then back down to his journal. “It gives you… Hmm, what does it give you…” Charles muttered to himself while staring at his journal, eyebrows furrowed.  “Oh, right,” he whispered in relief, “It gives you the humility to see the world beyond the limits of your own walls, and the gratitude, to love it deeply. The wisdom, to love it deeply, and thus, transcend your own suffering.” Satisfied with his words, he stared at them for some minutes while whispering them back to himself, testing there truthfulness, searching them for any secrets. 

Finally, Charles set his journal aside and turned his attention toward his meal: a sandwich, a bag of chips, a cup of yogurt, and a cold blueberry muffin. He looked at these items for a short while, then closed his eyes and said a short prayer before eating. The sky darkened as Charles ate and watched old Noire Films that played quietly on a small analog television set. The busy streets beneath him eventually emptied, but the city was still bustling with tones of wailing sirens and clacking train tracks. 

“Excuse me, Mr. Charles, I’ll be leaving now! Will you be alright with the next nurse taking over?” Patsy asked as she walked into Charles’ room. “Yes, I’ll be fine Patsy, thank you.” “No need to thank me, Mr. Charles, I’m just doing my job,” she said smiling, “I’ll see you tomorrow, have a goodnight alright!” He waved his hand and smiled back at her as she left, “Have a goodnight, Patsy.” The entire floor became much quieter at this time of night, quieter, and smaller. Small enough to bring one closer to their own thoughts, and eventually, to God. Charles looked back out the window and stared at the night sky, dazzling with blue stars that glimmered gently over a darkened city. He reached for his notebook, opened it up once more, and continued to write.

Death can bring out the best in people, as well as the worst… But so can life. In my life… In my life, I was the worst a man could be. But as I die… As I die I would like to believe that I am becoming, someone different. Someone better. I was an alcoholic, now I am not. Now I only drink water and cranberry juice. I was mean, and I was spiteful. Whenever I was given the opportunity, I would assert my dominance over others, I would do it immediately, and I would enjoy it. I was mean and I was spiteful, but now, now I am not as much. Now I am more soft, and more kind. I was violent… but now I read the bible, and listen to Gospel. I was a coward, and now… Now, I am sick. I am sick and I am dying with there being no meaning to my existence.”

His fingers trembled as he wrote, and the words that filled the page began to blur. He felt the small hospital room closing in on him, getting smaller. He felt himself sinking, suffocating, disappearing. Being overcome by grief. He quickly gripped the handle of his bed and desperately tried to concentrate on the rutted rhythm of his breathing. He kept breathing until the distinct voices of the Noire Film returned to him, breathing until the distant clacking of the train tracks steadied his thoughts. He sat still for what felt like hours: first terrified, then grateful, and next, empty. He thought of Patsy, the tender tone of her voice, and the warmth of her smile. He thought of her slender waist and wide hips. He imagined the curve of her naked back and the feel of her full breasts. These images cascaded through his mind relentlessly as he lifted his pen, and began to write again.

“Patsy is a beautiful and kind woman. Beautiful and kind, like Marie was… Although she is black, she reminds me of her, in so many ways. Now that death approaches, all I do is think about the things I ignored the most in my life. My children, my family, my wife… I do, however, doubt they think of me. If they do, it is probably in resentment and gossip. I do not blame them, If I were them, I too would resent myself. I resent myself now. I too would gossip about how terrible a man I was. How my existence took more from others than it gave. How I was a burden, and a devil, and a tyrant. I am reminded of this every day that I dwell in the dungeon that is my mind. I am reminded that terrible men do not get to enjoy sunsets in peace, nor do they get to start life anew, no matter where they run. This is because truly terrible men can never be redeemed. They are rejected by God and cast into the darkest depths of hell. Terrible men are not human, they are spirits that are forced to haunt the earth, and torment the souls of the living for years until they are finally forgotten. Then, they are forced to torment themselves. They carry the weight of their sins until death, and even after death. Even after eternity. After 83 years of living in this rotting heap of flesh, I think I’ve finally figured that out.”

Charles laughed to himself as he wiped bitter tears from his eyes, then, he continued to write.

“I never took the time to watch sunsets, or to create poetry. Maybe things would’ve ended up differently if I did… maybe not. All I can do now is what I’ve been doing my entire life, write. Write, and continue to write, knowing that as wise and benevolent as I may be able to fool myself of having become, I will never be released. I will never be free. I will spend the rest of my days suffering, toiling to transcend a boundary that cannot be overcome."

November 11, 2022 18:33

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

4 comments

Murray Burns
01:08 Nov 18, 2022

Very interesting and well written. Sisyphus is one of my favorite characters, mythology or otherwise. I'm a fan of Albert Camus' take on Sisyphus, that he imagines him happy - his struggle gives meaning to his life. I'm just curious as to why you chose Sisyphus for your title...that Charles' life had been pointless?

Reply

10:59 Nov 19, 2022

When I came across the story of Sisyphus I thought it was very interesting as well. I actually first encountered it through Camus' re-imagination of the story, as you mentioned. I chose Sisyphus as the title because I wanted to compare Charles to this character, and relate his struggle to the never-ending struggle of Sisyphus. The main difference with Charles, however, is that instead of finding meaning in this activity, he despairs.

Reply

Murray Burns
13:31 Nov 19, 2022

Very interesting. The story of Sisyphus and Camus' book have made a lasting impact on me. I like your use of it. Thanks for getting back to me.

Reply

12:14 Nov 21, 2022

Thank you for leaving a comment man, I appreciate the question.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.