A Short Story by John Carpenter
I hate my life. Every day is a carbon copy of the last. I wake up, I eat, I do little else, and then I sleep again.
I am Fred or Freddie as people often call me. I live with a woman who I have little in common with and rarely see. I am her personal assistant, at least that’s what I call myself. I’ve lived with her, Beatrice, for almost eight years. Eight years I’ve stayed in this job, a lifetime in my mind. I’d leave but I can’t. I’ve no useful skills or qualifications and if I didn’t live here and work with Beatrice, I wouldn’t be able to eat and I’d be right back on the streets as I was before Beatrice. I should be grateful, I often am but still, I hate my life.
I long for freedom, the ability to go far far away. To see all the places I‘ve never seen. To live a life worth living, but I can’t. I can’t ever afford to leave, not even for a day. Beatrice needs me around almost all the time, even if I don’t see her for most of the day. She works in the city and we live in a small country home, far away from everywhere else. I go stir crazy every other day. I almost never leave the house. Beatrice doesn’t like it when I stray too far from my work. Sometimes I go for walks at night., I’d walk for hours and see little more than empty lonesome fields. Every walk I’d try and go further than the last, to peek beyond the precipice that little bit more.
I’ve never had a family nor do I have any real friends. Beatrice saved me in many ways and sometimes I feel she loves me more like than a son than an assistant. These are foolish thoughts. If anything, she pities me more than she loves and I accept that. I am reminded and reaffirmed of this fact every time her actual sons visit. It’s easy to see that she loves her sons. I’ve always longed for an intimate relationship like Beatrice has with her sons, a partner maybe. I’ve never excelled in attracting females and it’s not only because of the remoteness of the house. The truth is, I’m impotent. Ever since a surgery I had when I was younger, I’ve little to no sexual desires. Yet I desire someone, someone who gets me, someone who I can spend the rest of my life with. Someone to take the loneliness away.
I don’t have a hard life. Yet despite this, I don’t feel I really have “a life” at all. It’s too inadequate, too lacking in excitement and enjoyment to really call it that. I live, and that’s about it. It’s not how I want to live. Walking the other night, something inside me was different. I didn’t turn back, I kept walking. It was my time to leave. Past the fields, past the double-edged sword of security, past all I’ve known for the past eight years, past the overwhelming sense of imprisonment. Past fear itself. No turning back. I am a new man. I am my own man. I can survive for myself.
For the first time in eight years, I saw a car on my walk. Some time after, I reached a small town. Cars were now plentiful, I hadn’t seen so many in years. I looked at the faces of the drivers simply because I missed the sight of strangers. I remembered the town. It was the town Beatrice found me before she brought me in to live with her. I walked past the spot we first met in a chance encounter and I feel bad leaving her. “I needed her more than she needed me. I am my own man now, I can provide for myself,” I keep telling myself. After walking for most of the night, I was exhausted. For the first time in eight years, the sidewalk outside a newsagent was my shelter for a bitterly cold night.
The next morning I started walking again but not before investigating the nearest trashcan for food. I was starving and desperate but committed to not giving up, to not going back. I walk and I keep walking. Approximately a week passed before I saw the first poster. It was two towns from the first town.
“MISSING” read the poster with a recent picture of myself and accompanied by my name below. Beatrice must be looking for me. Who else would it be? I managed to put it out of my mind but before long I saw another. Soon after that, I saw another, and another, and another. They were everywhere. They were on every mast, wall, and even shop window. They were unavoidable!
I stopped walking. Breathing heavily and on the verge of tears, each poster was an additional stab to my heart. For the first time in my life, I felt truly loved. The fact Beatrice went through all that effort had me downright dumbfounded. It was the line at the bottom, the one I originally hadn’t dared read as I tried to push on further, which affected me most: “Please bring Freddie home”. “Home”, I’d never associated that house as my home till right there and then. I didn’t think I had a home. Do I go home? Do I keep going? The question almost tore my very being into two separate entities. I kept going. I had too.
I didn’t know where I was walking but the randomness and excitement of going somewhere new everyday were reason enough to continue. For weeks, maybe months, I walked. Until one day, a view of the sea came into view. I’d never seen it before but I knew enough to know it was beautiful. It was so big, and I, I am so small. It’s size, it’s unrelenting mass made me realize something: I could walk for the remainder of my life and still not see it all. It made me question, what did I want to see most? At this stage, the answer to the question was apparent; Beatrice. I longed to see Beatrice again, the woman who had given me a home. Yet the longer I walked, the harder it was to go back, not just for practical reasons, but for guilt.
Upon reaching the vast emptiness of the sea, I knew it was time to return to Beatrice and just hope she’d take me back. The thought made me shiver at the embarrassment of returning after so long. For all I know, she hates me. She probably hates me. I’d hate me. I do hate me, albeit less than I did before. I didn’t think I had it in me to come this far on my own.
The following day, I walked back. The following month, I reached the house. I reached home. Day was fading into night by that time. I waited for what seemed like an hour outside, looking on with unease and feeling queasy at the prospect of returning so rudely after so long. I prepared for the worst, for Beatrice to kick me out, to spit at my ungrateful face and slam the door behind me.
As I walked a bit closer, the sensor light turned on and I heard her voice call out.
“Hello, is anyone there?”
“Hello?” Her voice rang out again.
The door slowly opened and I was just about to dash for the bush, but she saw me.
“Freddie! You came back!” She screamed as if she was a little girl again. She ran over to me and took me up into her arms, squeezing me like I’d never been squeezed before. She raised me high into the air.
“Never run away like that again Mister! You had me worried sick. I thought you were gone.”
She carried me into the house and let me down at the door. She came back with a bowl of milk and some kibble. I missed such luxuries on the road but above all, I missed her. I missed her warmth, I missed the way she cared for me. She noticed my runny nose when I hadn’t even noticed my runny nose.
“I’m taking you to the vet tomorrow and I’m going to give you a bath after that. You stink.”
I hate baths. I don’t hate my life.
At last, I am home.
It’s not exact science but you’re either a dog or cat person depending on which animal you imagine at the end. Enjoy the story? – Why not share it with a friend to see which one they really are?