I am not a failure

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Train station Polland, train 51, Agatha, 1100 hours. The train arrived a minute late. All the upcoming passengers stared blankly into the cars as the train braked to a halt. The doors opened. Another silent swarm crossed the line out the train. Those going out stumbled on their way. Those going in had no patience to wait. With all the misguided passengers cramming into each other, the conflict halted Agatha's progress. Yet no one cares. Onto the train this man walked in, and he had stumbled a little less foolishly. More focused, more attentive, and more willing to reach his destination, more inclined to question his environment, he looked at his fellow passengers. All were silent.

Agatha waited for the arduous process to take its toll; once that was over, she could go down the tracks. The silent passengers remained silent. Nothing interesting beyond them except they each had their own name tags. This observant man's tag said “Oliver”. Oliver looked down the long crowded, cramped line. All of them looked healthy and stable - and utterly stagnant. Their dazed expressions faced down into the metal bars and the floor.

Oliver was not very young; he was strong and nearing his adult life. But when he looked at everyone's face, and he looked outside, the discrepancies obscured his sight of the others. Inside was the wobbling, rumbling solitude. Outside was the shadow splintered with light on the grass. He saw no understanding in his age. The world was waiting forever for someone to change something. Agatha smoothly and swiftly sped down the rails. Outside the curving hills spread away into the distance, lined with fences and grazing cows. The houses stood askew on uneven terrain. As Agatha had gone, her clock at the front of the car ticked carefully between each step. The hills gave way to smooth roads, and the fences turned into concrete.

Agatha made it to her destination, Manning station. Manning delivered his share of the populace interchange, and the people stumbled about again. Oliver watched them: constant breaks in the flow as one side opted to let the other pass, until an unreasonable confidence suddenly asserted itself and they took advantage of a tiny gap. Everyone, all those who were aged and some of those who were young, poured in and out. The bells told and the horn blew; everyone had to be in place. They lined up neatly again, but just as disturbing a sight.

Oliver could see a very small girl walk in holding the hand of someone who had almost tripped onto the floor. The girl got farther ahead of him and lead him into the car. Her name tag said “Beverly”. Beverly seemed to be aware of the stagnant behavior of the other passengers. She head turned to shift focus. This sight gave Oliver a great pleasure, a hope in her curiosity. He tore a paper from his notebook. Thinking of the cows in the distant outside, he craftily constructed folds into an origami animal, a horned beast with a hulking body and four legs. Beverly could see him do it. He had cunning and skill, and for a moment she detected a smile widening his face when he glanced at her. The origami animal was very convincing, very real to her. Finishing it Oliver made his way to her hand, and he dropped it carefully. Beverly was eager to take it. Her gaze brightened to where she animated herself infinitely more, holding the paper bull and twisting it to see all sides. But when she held it for a while, her adult friend took it from her hand to inspect. The man studied it at odd angles with an equally curious expression but no evidence of animation; and to Oliver's chagrin took out a stapler from his bag and stapled some of the folds together. The legs stupidly stuck to the sides, and the horns bent neck of the animal. He gave it back to Beverly. Somehow he seemed peaceful as if he excepted her to like it. She clearly did not. Her face became sullen. With a destroyed animal, she had no more fondness for it, and her arm collapsed to her side while carrying the dead figure.

Oliver could not take his eyes off her; and he almost cried. Beverly stilled her eyes toward the floor. Agatha screamed faintly, then loudly for the upcoming tunnel. Her excited yell echoed down the stony walls, and she soon sprang out the other side of the hill. Time had taken the twenty minute mark past the hour. The next station was much closer. Even so the ride slowed into eternity as Oliver's mind jumped around the room and escaped outside where he did not have to look at the girl.

Arriving at Medford station. Oliver moved into the crowded line which slithered in the most awkward way with no thought taken, blocking a direct path to the stairs. They pushed themselves in puzzling formation. A frustration befell him in his stupor, for he was still thinking about what happened, and now the lack of care he had seen was irking him to no end. He had to stop. He escaped the crowd on the first sign of a café when everyone else turned to the opposite direction. The café had few customers; and the emptiness welcomed Oliver to a degree - a small one but assuring.

He watched as an old man with a hot cup stammered on his weak legs until he stood. His cup still half full, he held it badly and the hot drink spilled by his feet before he could hold it upright again. He was about to go into the crowd, but he did not know which way to go. He might have forgotten his destination. Oliver could not possibly tell where the man was going, for as soon as he entered the hall, he got sucked into the flow and lost his freedom to go any other way.

Behind the counter saw a woman mixing coffees. Her tag said “Yvette”. Yvette struggled hard; she could not remember which ingredients to get, which machines to use. Oliver wrote his order on a slip and placed it on the ticket holder. When she saw this, she stopped finishing the drink she had and immediately worked on his. On the burner were some eggs. At this point they were hardened and the burner was very hot. Yvette did not notice. She carried the drink around and occasionally looked into the corner of the room blissfully. The burning eggs stayed in Oliver's mind, and Yvette began losing herself. She remembered something and walked to the eggs to take a look. Her foot thudded into the stove; her grip on the drink loosened; and it splattered on the floor. The eggs started burning. Upon seeing this, Oliver leaped over the counter to assist. Burner off; got the mop in the back room. Dazed, Yvette stood watching him work. He was efficient and careful, unlike what she had known. With no time lost the floor was wiped and the eggs were dumped. Oliver's work impressed everyone in the room. Even some standing outside were amazed. Yvette's stared at Oliver's hand which held the mop. He stood in front of her, and he felt the urge to let her take control, handing the mop to her. She walked to the fridge. Reaching for some more eggs, she cracked them one by one and threw them on the floor.

Oliver was dumbfounded. Yvette stared at the floor, mop in hand. Was he supposed to clean it again? Whatever the circumstance that is what he did. As he finished he saw Yvette turning the burner back on and pouring milk onto it. This was as far as Oliver could allow himself to stay. This maniac almost made him swear, but when he looked at their audience there was only silence. They were not watching like he thought. Nothing made sense.

Even though this city has a high population, even though the roads were full, an eerie kind of sadness fell all over, everywhere Oliver went. The cars were slow; the people sluggishly gazed at store windows. Streets were cold and hollow. Not a hint of the latest news on the monitors. Oliver's hands gripped the wheel but his mind was floating away. He did not need to pay attention; the cars were obediently in line. The shining and glimmering sun, high in air where the tallest buildings could not obscure it, glared into his eyes as his thoughts remained as unfocused and blurred. He was stopped behind a ten wheeler at an intersection. Despite the rumbling noise of engines, he could hear a quiet wind through the streets. He could almost hear the pedestrians' clothes blow in the wind.

The truck ahead of him decided to turn left. Somehow the driver overshot the curve and made a quick effort to realign his vehicle, but it was too late to fix. The trailer blocked the entire intersection allowing no one to move, and nothing happened for a while. Oliver, more curious than ever, had to see if the driver was still paying attention or if he still had consciousness. Arriving beside cab he could see the driver wondering what he could do. He was confused, unable to gather anything that was happening. No horns were blaring; no one was moving; but he did not know what was wrong. Oliver knocked on the driver's door, and the confused man hesitated in shock and eventually opened it. Oliver spoke.

“Let me help you. I'll get this rig going straight.”

The driver said nothing. His eyes fixed on Oliver, who was coaxing to offer help. There was something he did not understand, yet he implicitly trusted Oliver and cautiously moved aside while staring. Oliver go into the seat right away. He had not been familiar with these types of vehicles, and when he asked how to operate the vehicle, they driver said nothing. This deterred him not. Oliver kept his focus as he toyed with the instruments until they sparked his understanding. He glanced at the driver's tag - “Ronald”. Making a comforting note to Ronald and calling him by name, he was now on his way.

The other drivers in the stalled traffic could do nothing but watch. The truck slipped backwards a bit. Oliver barely missed the other cars. He carefully guided the truck back, then forward again, each moment aligning with the road. Clearly Ronald was not comprehending this feat. Almost by magic the truck was ready to run again. The traffic was cleared; everyone could go.

Oliver expected no praise, and that is what he got. Ronald silently was ready to regain control. Oliver left, waving to the man as he geared his engine, blasting fumes into the air. Off the truck went. Oliver held this moment with its satisfaction for a while, but Ronald, steaming down the road, cared not to stop. After the great help he had received, somehow his intention to help back drove him to a solution destructive to his own well-being. The truck was facing a storefront, and even though it had time to veer away, no change in direction was taken, no engaging the brakes. Oliver watched in horror. The truck slammed into the store, shattering the structure, sending a shock across the ground. The truck was on fire.

Something had to be done fast. Oliver tried to urge the people nearby out of the frantic fray. With shattered glass scattered everywhere, every step he took was careful. Ronald was knocked out by the blast. Oliver had to get him out; carefully avoiding the smoke, he heaved Ronald on his shoulder. His eyes could not tell what was on the road, but there was a car coming straight for him. Too late to understand what or why - the car smashed into the back, bringing the two men to the floor, luckily inside the truck. Oliver took his time to regain what few senses he had left, for in this impossible moment he shuddered to think of why anything this conspiratorial - this insane - would happen. His hands felt numb for a while, but even with that he practiced getting up. Once he had the strength, the urgency set itself on him again, and he picked up Ronald one more time.

Oliver made his escape. Ronald was a hefty man, but Oliver managed it; he felt the necessary pressure to carry two men his size. The last vehicle to crash was a smaller one. He saw the driver sitting askew with blood shrouding his neck. He had to prioritize one at a time. With Ronald safe, he was ready to get the other driver. But before Oliver could turn around, the sound of another car caught his attention. It passed him while flying down the road, and like the other car it smashed into the pile. Oliver had to stand still. He could not breathe. Another flame sparked on the new car and it received the worst welcome, an explosion.

Now all his senses and his mind were gone, his breath getting stronger. Oliver did not believe what he saw. His first instinct was too despair, but when he looked at the intersection light on the other side, more cars were turning into the street. They were all going to crash willingly. Oliver could not stop them himself, but he had to do something. He raced to the nearest car parked on the side where the driver was staring at the wreck. Urging her to get out, Oliver took the wheel, leaving the woman in her shock. He drove the car to the intersection. His blockade would hopefully keep more from coming. He parked it broadside and the incoming traffic stopped turning. The cars on the intersection could not get up to speed. This clotted this street, but the other street was still open, and another crash resounded in the chaos. More flames and wreckage. Everyone had gone mad.

The pile-up was getting bigger. Oliver had no room to block that street; more mayhem moved into his path as the destruction spread. He thought about who could help - anyone. Maybe the police could. He found another car from someone, leaving them shocked and standing the road; and he drove to the nearest station. But the police should be arriving to help, he thought. There was no one else helping, so maybe they don't care. He was conflicted on what to do but he was determined to try anyway.

When Oliver arrived at the station, all the police cars had not budged. No activity in sight. No one was even outside. Oliver burst through the doors. All the officers sat quietly. Dumbstruck, Oliver marched up to the first one he saw and grabbed his head.

“Hello!? Hello!”

The officer - name tag “Bob” - had no recourse. He blankly addressed Oliver with a slight nod and not a sound.

“There are people wrecking themselves in the street out there! Go stop them!”

Not a word spoken. For a while the officers looked blankly at each other. Oliver yelled every detail. With some time, they managed to understand what was going on. For a long time he poured out his soul, demanding their duty, demanding they wake up to reality. One of them apparently got the message, and he rose and charged to his cab. More followed afterward. Oliver could not believe what he saw again. With some determination he had convinced these seemingly impalpable fools. It seemed all day that the best of people had dropped from existence, but he could still see they were wary and they were complying with his pleas.

Oliver's eyes became hyper-active as he noticed their name tags. One by one they passed him. Mitchell, Terry, Sarah, Pedro, Alexander - every single one he read.

Oliver got in his car to lead them. The convoy raced down the roads to the crash site. Dozens of more cars lay in a line of rubble burning. Oliver stepped out when he saw this; the police stopped as well. Pointing to the mess, Oliver yelled again, reminding them how important their jobs are. With less hesitation this time, the police drove in front of him. Oliver rightfully considered his success; but perhaps he was always too hopeful, for the moment came where his soul was crushed. The police did not stop. They sped up. They did not turn. None of them changed their minds or thought twice. They followed the example of the others and crashed into the burning pile. No one tried to escape.

No one was left to trust. The flames were getting higher, and Oliver knew that running was the only option with the pile worse than ever before and more drivers accelerating to their deaths. No one else would help. He drove as far away as he could to the opposite side of the city. Even from there, he saw the smoke rising between the buildings. At this moment he paused. The flames, the spreading death, the helplessness of everyone all at once took over his mind. Nothing he saw but the blackness rising between the buildings. Then the smoke moved; it grew. He stood staring long and hard at the destruction.

Submitted: May 09, 2021

© Copyright 2021 horatio.wildebeest. All rights reserved.

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