Project 52: Toppling Atlas

1 short story a week. 52 weeks a year.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Week Forty Four: December 27th - January 2nd

Overture for Worms

     Before I have you step into this story, allow me to first explain a little about our antihero: Arthur Donaghy. Arthur is born into one of the worlds greatest shadows – the infamous robber baron Ernest T. Donaghy. Toss perspective into the wind, and consider this political tyrant based only on his merits, in that he has forged a ladder to the top of the world by himself. Cool, calculated, ruthless, and strong – Ernest T. Donaghy is a man seldom loved, but always respected.
     Nora Donaghy is the quintessential image of a 1920's “perfect wife”. No job, or aspirations, Nora's life consists of making sure her husband is happy, and entertaining guests brought home to the house. Elaborate parties are thrown, and large amounts of alcohol suddenly vanish, leaving only a sad, laughing shell of a woman who has disillusioned herself.
     Enter Arthur Donaghy, our antihero. A cold father, who is rarely home, and a drunken mother who acts more often as not as a 16 year old show him very little affection. I wouldn't quite say he was unloved, but rather both his parents weren't made to exhibit the love needed. They would buy him a great deal of toys, and push him off to the corner to be quiet.
     You could not blame Arthur for the way he acted, but at the same time, you can not excuse someone of his nature. You can only excuse a dog's digging in the trash as “nature” so many times before punishing it. Just the same, Arthur never even got that punishment. Even when he started to lash out, craving that punishment, he was just given more toys. Perhaps this was a punishment worse than a spanking, but regardless, it was a factor to who Arthur would become.

     Our story queues by the sound of broken glass. “Oh Arthur, you mustn't keep doing this. Those vases were expensive” a woman with sleepy eyes, and close cut dark hair, sitting in a bob on her head says to the boy. Smirking, the child pushes another off the shelf, and arrogantly strolls from the room. Slowing for only a second in hopes that the harsh echo of shoes on wooden floors would start to chase him. However, as usual, only fading shouts for a maid are heard as he walks into another room of the house. 
     For nearly an hour, he completed his daily ritual of kicking the shins of the butlers, and pinching the behinds of the maids. For nearly an hour, he received haughty stares that melted into fear as they realized who he was, and went back to worth, trying their hardest to ignore him. More priceless antiques were broken, meals were ruined, clean floors were covered in dirt, and more servants were regretting their job choices before Arthur found himself outside. With a heavy magnifying lens, and sweat dripping from his forehead against the harsh Georgian heat, Arthur walked around the large yard, searching for something destructive.
     Some of the smallest creatures in the yard held the largest part of Arthur's attention today. Dropping down next to a fairly large anthill, Arthur drummed his fingers on the soil outside the hive to get their attention, and then held up his lens. Ten by twenty, the ants started to pour out in larger increments, only to be hardened and smoke by the large disc of glass above them, impossible for their eyes to even comprehend. Squeals of childish glee set of a both haunting, and innocent background music.
     After a time, the flow of ants started to dwindle down, and as Arthur started to rise, he saw a small speck of black crawl its way onto his hand. Bringing it up to his face, Arthur bends down his middle finger, and prepares to fire the ant out into the yard, but stops short when the ant just sits there. Tapping near him, blowing on him, and even nudging him does very little to move the ant – Arthur grows furious. “I am human” the boy whispers, “I want you to fear me”. Arthur becomes startled to hear a “why?” whispered back to him.
     Regaining his composure, Arthur turns to the ant, and lowers his eyebrows in anger. “What do you mean why? I am much bigger than you, and just killed a bunch of your friends” the boy says. Just staring back at him, the ant looks confused for a while before answering, “what reason is there, to fear that “death”?”. Incredulous is the only way to explain Arthur's face. Sputtering, Arthur starts to raise his voice as he says “what reason? I could kill you at any moment! Doesn't that worry you?”. The ant just keeps staring, and replies “anything could kill me in this moment, why should I show fear? Do you fear that the sun will rise and set?”. 
     The knuckles of the boy's hands go white as he clenches them in preparation of the anger he subconsciously feels coming. “No, of course not, the sun is the sun. I'm talking about life and death you stupid ant! Heaven and Hell! If I kill you right now, you're entire life is  done, and you'll end up in heaven or hell depending on how you've lived your life. You'll never get into heaven without a little fear, without any belief. Doesn't that worry you!” the boy responds matter-of-factly. A long silence passes as the ant just stares at the boy.
     “Heaven?” the ant repeats, testing the word in his mouth. “Hell?”, he says, awkwardly emphasizing the “e” and almost forgetting the “l”s. “When my time comes, I know what will happen to me” the ant responds – humbly, and without any tone of mocking to the poor boy. Arthur starts to go wide-eyed, but asks the ant “what will happen?”. The ant raises his head a little, to allow his small voice to fully carry to Arthur's ear. “I will finally stop working, and pass on. My colony will use my body anyway they need to, and when they are done, they will stuff me aside, and I will decompose into the dirt”. 
     As the ant continues to talk, Arthur starts to look angry, but more and more, his face shifts into one of fear. “Worms will tunnel through, and devour pieces of me for nutrition. They will dig to the surface, and be eaten by creature, who will in turn be eaten by another creature, and so on, and so on, until finally one of those creatures dies, and places me back in the soil, and the worms start all over again. I start off as an overture for the worms, and I rise up from there. I can be taken freely in the skies, or tranquilly into the sea, but I will always end up back in the soil. There is no finale, because there are no endings you see. Every ending is just another overture in disguise.”
     Weeping now, the boy uses his free hand to wipe away his tears. When his hand drops down, rage envelopes his face. “lies!” the boy yells. “Stupid lies. You go to either heaven or hell, and you should be afraid!”. With that, the boy starts using his free hand to dig through the mound, and killing ants he pulls up. “Was that your friend? Maybe your uncle?”Arthur babbles out through crying. Switching up to pounding his fist, Arthur looks down, and sees the ants just laying there watching him now. Fear becomes him. “Why won't you all fear me!” he screams, his human voice drowning out the ant on his hand trying to explain. 
     The pounding doesn't stop until all visible ants are dead, and turning towards the ant on his hand, his face holds a look of a last hope; desperate, yet strained. “I've just killed your entire colony ant, now show me that you fear me” Arthur pants. The ant just stares at him, and says “I'm sorry you have such a burden on you”. Arthur's head snaps up and his eyes could bore holes through a mountain. Raising the magnifying glass, Arthur poises the ray next to the ant, and says “I'm giving you one last chance ant, tell me you fear me!”. The ant presses itself against the skin of his hand and says “I'm sorry, but I just do not understand”. 
     Arthur moves the glass, and braces himself for the screams, but nothing comes from the ant. In a second, the ants body is fried, and Arthur is sitting alone in his yard again. Weeping, he falls to the ground among the now impossible to pick out ant bodies, and just cries. In the morning, Arthur would go on to break more vases, but something inside him started to fester and grow. You see, the seed of doubt had been planted inside of him, and no mater how adamantly he rejected it, the boy saw the truth in the ants words. For a long time, he felt lonely. Without a family, and even without faith, the boy stopped lashing out, and instead spent him time alone, thinking.

     It wouldn't be until many years later that Arthur grew into a man, and learned to live without fear. He accomplished much in his life, and even raised a family; making damn well sure to give his children all the affection they needed. Together with his strong philosophy, and the knowledge from the finest college money could buy, Arthur grew into a very successful business man, some say even passing up his father. When asked what his secret was during a report, Arthur merely looked at the camera and said “think free, and live without fear”. Arthur lived a great life, and right now is part of a symphony underground, orchestrated by worms. Arthur was noted to be laughing before he died.

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