Made in Shepley, the Hub and Library are championing young, local talented authors. Today, Ben Hramiak publishes his first in a series of chapters on his short story - The World According to Oscar
“Without family, man, alone in the world, trembles at the cold.”
“Don’t look at me…”
He could feel it forming in the back of his head, a pitch-black pit of animalistic rage. He struggled as hard as he could, his vision blurring and fracturing as tears formed in his eyes. His mouth let out a series of guttural bellows and grunts as he thrashed forward, spittle forming around his mouth and covering the inside of his helmet.
While the sky had remained peaceful for the most part, the snow had been caked with Anne’s blood, as the enemy soldiers hammered her with blow after savage from their fits.
Oscar would have torn their throats out were it not for the behemoth of a warrior holding him back, clamping his arms behind him. This had left him to simply scrape away at the snow with his armoured boots, the plated coffin of a suit only serving to slow his feet down. The suit had long since run out of power, leaving Oscar with only his now hate fuelled body. Except even that was failing him: he wasn’t getting any further and he could feel the exhausting creeping into his bones.
“DON’T LOOK AT ME!”
He wouldn’t give up, he wouldn’t let her go. No, NO! He refused this, he would prevail, he had to.
“I’ll save you—”
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!
Oscar felt the rush of consciousness, felt the holler of his alarm, felt a stinging as his eyes adjusted to a sudden rush of light. Slowly, he registered it all, rolling from his side and onto his back. Grumbling to himself, he took a deep breath, smelling the dust and sweat of his pillow case. Just barely managing to lift himself, he looked over to the window, the rays of sunlight—or what passed for sunlight on the space station—breaking through. He hazily rolled toward the clock, only managing to wrap himself in his duvet and falling off of his bed with a loud thump.
He growled bitterly once more. This isn’t going to be a good day, he thought to the ghosts in his head. Or rather, ghost. Rising up, he stepped gingerly out of his duvet and looked down at his alarm clock. Bob had bought him it two days ago. They’d both spent the best part of an hour trying to get the thing to work. At least they’d managed to get it to go off at the right time. Oscar thought of the memory for a brief moment before picking the damnable device up with both his hands and, with an almost animalistic bellow, hurled it across the room. The device was silenced almost immediately, smashing against a nearby wall, just missing the funeral suit that hung from his wardrobe’s handle.
Oscar looked from the wrecked alarm clock to the suit, his breath now coming out in low, sharp bursts. Narrowing his eyes at the suit he whispered, “Today’s the day.”
The red mist quickly dispersed from his mind as he snapped his head back to the alarm clock. Oh no… What have I done?
He rushed over and knelt down before the broken heap of circuitry and plastic casing. Almost afraid to touch it, Oscar’s hands hovered reverently over the former alarm clock. He could hear himself making small grunting and sobbing sounds, as though he would break down at any moment. He noticed that the clock’s screen was flickering, the numbers flashing over and over; 10:30 AM.
Quickly, he turned off the power to the clock and brushed it off to under his desk. Perhaps he’d sort it out later. At that moment, he needed to calm down and wake up properly. Although the adrenaline had done something to awaken him, it would soon wear off.
Shambling his way over to the kitchen, he fiddled around with the kettle, shakily pouring himself a cup of tepid coffee. Oscar looked down at the coffee in disgust. He pondered the decision to drink it for a few more seconds, before mumbling grumpily once more and pouring the contents of the cup down the nearby sink.
Maybe the bathroom then. It wasn’t much of an improvement. He’d stopped shaving a few days ago, leaving his face dishevelled and sullen: hardly the look for a “proud member of the Army.” His hair wasn’t much better, with waves of brown flopping down over his head, giving him the appearance of a 37 year old trying to look like a 20 year old. His face was sullen and pale, with large bags under his eyes and a broken roman nose.
He looked in the mirror, the abyss looking back at him for a brief moment before he brushed it from his mind and went about cleaning his teeth and face. Shower was the most bearable in his opinion, his mind drifting into emptiness, a swirling darkness as his body was washed and cleaned.
Drying himself off, he walked once more into his bedroom, eyeing the suit. A small part of him dreaded the coming day, knowing all the people who would be there—all the questions he would be asked.
“Are you okay,” NO! Of course he wasn’t okay, the one woman he’d loved in the whole world was dead and it was his—
Calm. Down. Oscar Freeman took a deep breath and sighed heavily, looking down at the suit he would wear. He’d never been good at guesswork, but even he could tell that today would not be a good one.
More next month, thanks for reading.