Carelessness: Flash Fiction - a Humble Offering to Frank Atanacio
George was looking at his cigarette, but his mind wasn't there. The heat from the hot cherry, licking at his fingers, brought him back to the dark reality. He took the ashtray from the bedside table. It was full of butts because he had been chain-smoking for the last two hours. George drew in one last breath of smoke, and he ground out the stub. A few seconds later, he breathed out the smoke which his lungs had been unable to keep. The sad truth was that they could not hold much of it anymore. The smoke travelled for a little while in the air and stopped! It was unable to diffuse into a room full of smog. The atmosphere was really suffocating as if there was no air, just smoke. But George didn't even care to breathe.
He grabbed the bottle of vodka. He had drunk a lot, too. Vodka had been opened half an hour before, after the inglorious end of the empty Johnny Walker on the opposing wall. Now the alcohol was fooling with him from the middle of the bottle. George downed a big sip. Big enough to make him cough and curse. He rested the open bottle on the bed, by his feet, and lit his last cigarette still cursing.
He turned and caressed the pillow next to him and continued touching the sheet. He felt the traces of her body and shivered. George remembered her, naked, lying next to him, just a few hours ago. Then he saw her face again, malformed by the anger, screaming to him. She shouted that she did not want him to exist in her life any more, not even as a memory.
He loved her, loved her immensely. He wanted her in his life more than anything else in the world! But he had failed to change, he had broken his promises once more, leading her to the exit. And this time it was the last, George knew it, he had seen it in her eyes. She had formerly been angry with his mistakes, she had walked out in the past, banging the door with anger. Anna had sworn many times before that she would not come back, but this time George knew she meant it.
George, it was also disgusted with himself, with his stupid behaviour, his unacceptable selfishness which had hurt Anna again, so terribly. It was the first time he understood that Anna was so right and he was so awfully wrong. He had seen it in the pain of her tearful eyes, in the anger of her face and body. George knew that this door had banged behind her for the last time.
A bomb of several megatons exploded in his head as he remembered the bang of the door.
"That was it, it's over..." he whispered "... and I'm done too. I will have the end I deserve. The end of every Judas who betrays those who love him. I've betrayed everything, I've sold everything. What's left for me? Nothing but a damaged soul. If it had any value, I would sell it to Devil just to get her back. Do you hear me, Devil? Can you hear me? I give you my soul in return to make her come back for one last time!" He shouted with all his remaining strength.
A man who had never cried again since he was a little boy wiped some tears with his sleeve. He leaned his head against the back of the bed, half-closed his eyes and drew in another puff. George blew the grey poison away, and his eyes followed its path to the edge of the bed. In the limited light that the lamp shed, he noticed something strange. At that point in the room, the smoke made some strange swirls.
He sat up and focused on that point -not the easiest thing for his addled mind- trying to clear up what was happening. It seemed as the smoke was forming a pattern. As seconds were passing, it was becoming increasingly clear that it was a large or rather a monstrous figure reaching up to the ceiling. George rubbed his eyes with both hands because he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Something like horns on what appeared to be the figure's head. And a tail that was shaking like a snake, behind the body of the monster. Yes, indeed it was a monster which it had now acquired more distinct features.
A breath of agony passed through his vocal cords and stimulated them, without being instructed by his brain, forming the words: "Who are you?"
It was evident that his brain could not have asked for these words, because at that time, it was wrapped up in its own problem. His brain's problem was that the eyes of the monster were made of unspeakable darkness. So deep and black, like two black holes which were absorbing all its sanity!
"What do you mean, who am I?" the thing answered with a voice that could horrify you only with its sound. "I'm the one you have called. I came to give what was asked of me and take what belongs to me."
The gruesome laughter that followed the beast's words made George's eardrums break. If they didn't break by his own scream!
Anna had been walking for over an hour, all the way from George's house. It was quite a distance, but she didn't want to take a taxi because she couldn't stop crying. So she had chosen to walk. The darkness of the night and a hood would be the best cover for her tears and pain. She had arrived for some time now, but she hadn't got into her apartment. Something was stopping her. She was still walking, without a destination in mind, on the streets around her house. Anna was wandering because she didn't know what else to do while her tears were continuing to become one with the city night's humidity.
Although she tried, she couldn't stop thinking about him. Anna has still loved George so much, and now she was not sure that has given him the opportunities he needed. Maybe it was her own selfishness that didn't let her show George the ways that would really help him to change.
Her mind was split and cluttered. On the one hand, she wanted to turn her head and see him coming, while on the other, knew that it was time to forget about him and go on with her life. A life without him anymore. And yet there was something, something weird and compelling, that was forcing her to go back, to give him another chance. It was like a voice in her head, ordering: "Turn back to him, he needs you now!"
Anna stopped, indecisive, lost, almost ready to collapse. And then she felt a frightening shiver. It was as if the cold night had run through her spine and concentrated on her head. She stood motionless and breathless, with her eyes wide open, as if watching the most nightmarish scene. A distant howl, mixed with an awful laugh, arrived at her ears.
Anna jumped on the road and stopped the first taxi.
Taxi driver hit the brakes, startled by her scream as soon as they turned onto Eternity Street. Anna almost emptied out the contents of her bag onto the front seat, while at the same time was trying to break through the door with her body rather than open it. When she finally managed to get out of the car, she started running like hell towards the end of the street shouting George's name. Toward the firefighters who were trying to put out the last flames coming out of the charred remains of a house.
Two hands grabbed her, and she heard a voice saying, "Stop, you can't go there!"
She was trying to break loose while she was muttering:
"George! ... George? Where is he; Tell him I came back ... I came ... I am here..."
The firefighter held her tight and while he was looking at her red and emptied eyes said:
"I don't know how to tell you, apparently he was close to you. Probably an accident. I'm sorry for carrying the bad news. When we arrived, it was too late. It looks like the poor man has fallen asleep with a lit cigarette. We found an empty bottle of vodka beside his body. I am sorry ... Carelessness, fatal carelessness!"
About Frank Atanacio
Frank's spirit is something that you can't ignore. I have loved it from the first words I read. He has a luminous Heart, trying to cover it with a dark and mysterious veil. This makes his writings irresistible to read! You can also find this spirit and humour in his comments to fellow writers, where he is always ready and willing to support and encourage. I hope my story to be worthy as a tribute to his great talent.
Frank, my brother, I am blessed to know you through your writings. Thank you for your friendship. God bless your talent and your life!
© 2019 Ioannis Arvanitis