Ideas On Infamy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A conversation in a car goes bad.

Submitted: February 18, 2008

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 18, 2008



“Ok, here’s one for you; would you rather be famous or infamous?”

“Infamous, definitely.”

“Yeah? How comes then?”

“Well it’s the obvious choice isn’t it, just think about it. I mean, take Jack the Ripper, killed his first prostitute a hundred and twenty odd years ago, yeah? And he’s still as famous as ever now. Like, Hitler, or anyone like that, all the notorious serial killers and what have you. They stick around. Like, forever. And yeah, when you think about it, Jack the Ripper never even got caught. Probably God didn’t even know who he was. I bet he’s sat up in heaven now sipping on a Martini, and laughing about the good time he had on earth, while all those whores he killed are burning in hell for their indiscretions. I mean, as far as God is concerned, they got what was coming, right?”

“Jude.” I pipe up from my position stretched across the back seat and he turns to me. “You’re seriously fucked up man.” I say, and Chris laughs and taps the brakes so I fall off the seat onto the floor, and a car swerves round us leaning angrily on the horn. Jude flips him off and turns back to look at me in my new, much less comfortable position.

“Fuck you, too.” He says, good naturedly, “It’s a valid opinion.”

“Well what about people like Jesus?” Asks Chris, taking his hands off the wheel and taking a massive hit off the joint as the car drifts halfway across the next lane. “Surely you’d rather be like that, good and kind and remembered for being basically holy and healing the sick and shit? I mean... y’know, if you’re infamous, everyone will hate you.”

“Sure, yeah,” Jude pauses as he’s handed the joint and takes a deep drag of his own. He turns and passes it to me as I struggle back onto the back seat, and I take it eagerly as he exhales slowly with his head upturned, the smoke drifting lazily around our heads, “I know what you’re saying, but hear me out, yeah, so they’re all good and holy and loved and whatever, that kind of person, but,” He held up his finger as if he was giving a lecture, “What do they all have in common?”

Chris looks at me in the rear view mirror and raises his eyebrows, and I shrug, then lie back down. “Go on.” I encourage.

“Well, they’re all dead.” A look of triumph, “I mean, they were all killed. Unless you’re talking about like actors and that kind of person, but they don’t even count really, ‘cause they’re only famous while they’re alive. I mean, nobody young has probably even heard of Robert Redford, and in a couple of generations he’ll be pretty much forgotten and he was dead famous in his time. I know like Hitler was killed too, but he’s never ever going to be forgotten is he? He has one hell of a legacy. And most infamous people lived for their whole lives, content going around killing people – no wait, let me finish-” Chris had been going to say something. I passed him the joint instead. “And what happened to all the famous people is they all died, I mean, you got Jesus was nailed to a cross for fucks sake, horrible way to die, and Martin Luther King, he got shot, Kurt Cobain shot himself-”

“Kurt Cobain?”

Jude shrugs. “And you know its they same with all of them, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Diana, all the people who are famous for long lasting stuff all die before their time, and badly, unless they’re infamous.”

Chris looks doubting. “I bet you can’t name one infamous person who died of old age rather than being killed.”

“Genghis Khan.”

“He died of old age?”

“Yep. Well, they think he did anyway. There are different stories. And Vlad the Impaler, I think he died of old age too. Oh, and Stalin.”

“Shit man, can’t you name anyone who isn’t infamous without being a mass murderer? I mean, Jesus, your aspirations are kind of making me mildly concerned that you might turn around and start fucking, killing me or something.”

“Well it’s kind of the definition, isn’t it, yeah? Like, infamous means that you’re famous for bad shit, and who’s more famous than serial killers and genocidal –whatever – dictators? I mean, lighten up man, it’s not like I’m serious.”

At this point I suddenly start overdosing and everything changes, as my whole body begins convulsing violently, my mouth foaming and my eyes rolled right back in my head so you can actually see the bit where the nerves join onto them. The others turn to me in alarm and one of them - I don’t know which - shouts “Shit! We gotta get him to a hospital!” and the other one’s just swearing, saying “fuck fuck fuck shit this is bad” and they’re both really scared, and then I can feel myself floating out of my body.

It’s weird, watching yourself dying, it really is, and I just float there for a while as time kind of slows down. I watch my jaw jerking up and down, working my saliva into this foam that just keeps pouring from my mouth, and at the same time I’m choking on it, and it’s mixed with blood because I’m chewing my tongue off. My arms and legs are rigid and shaking, and my whole body rocks from side to side, but it’s all in slow motion, and I can hear the two guys in the front of the car freaking out, but in these really comical kind of fake slow motion voices, saying “Shiiiiiiiiit! Ohh maaan, whaat aare wee gooiing too doo?” and really if it wasn’t such a messed up situation you’d be laughing.

I hover there, watching myself die for a few seconds, and then I’m completely detached from my body, and because I’m a ghost, or whatever, the car goes straight through me, and I’m just left there, drifting in the middle of the freeway as the car tears off into the distance. It looks like Chris has put the pedal to the metal. There’s not much traffic this time of night, and for a few moments I just hang there, suspended in time and space.

I can look up, and I do, seeing the night sky in a whole new clarity, the contrast between the dark grey blue of the patchy cloud and the brilliant white and black contrast of the sky in-between. I can see more stars than ever before, and more keep appearing, in that way that they do when you stare at the sky for long enough, and soon there’s barely any dark left up there, just billions upon billions of stars and galaxies filling the spaces between the clouds.

A truck horn blares behind me and I look round in time for it to slam into me at eighty or ninety miles an hour. It takes me a second to realise that it didn’t kill me – I’m already dead after all – and I seem to be being taken along by the truck as I hover in the cargo section. There’s a bunch of illegal Mexican immigrants crouched terrified on the floor, staring up at me with eyes full of superstitious horror – apparently they can see me, even though Chris and Jude couldn’t. I make to pull a face, but before I can I’ve drifted out through the back of the truck, and am left spinning in midair above the freeway again.

The night is cold and I notice that my breath is steaming. That seems really odd.

I’m fairly high up now, and below me cars pass, unseeing of this ghostly apparition hovering above their heads. I will myself to move, but nothing happens, so I try swimming motions to see if I can pull myself through the air. Again, nothing. I really hope this isn’t the afterlife, or I’m going to have a really boring eternity. I look up at the clouds again, waiting for a beam of heavenly golden light to poke down through them and carry me up to Elysium.

Nothing is happening, and I glance down nervously, dreading to see a red fiery crack tear open in the ground below. Nothing there either.

I sigh, bored already, and start examining my hands, counting my fingers, and tracing the creases along my palms.

“I mean, sure I’d rather be remembered for good stuff, but all the good people die dead young - ‘scuse the pun. I just can’t think of anybody really good who didn’t get a fucked up ending to their life, y’know?”

I look up at the sound of Jude’s voice, surprised, and I’m back in the car, the guys are just talking to each other, and the car is drifting along lazily, weaving slightly because Chris is at the wheel and he’s totally toasted. He still has the joint.

“I dunno,” Chris’ turn, “What about Winston Churchill or someone like that? Mind you he was supposed to be a bit of an asshole...” He pondered for a minute. “I know, George Washington! What about him?”

“Oh yeah, I hadn’t thought of that,” Jude mused, “Yeah, he’d work.”

I sit up. “Guys!” I say, excited, “You will not believe where I’ve just been!”

They both turn to me, and Jude punches Chris on the arm, “Dude, watch the fucking road.”

“Ok, I was like just lying here, listening to you two, and suddenly I felt like such a mess, and I was shaking and stuff, and...” Something dawns on me and I look at Jude with a raised eyebrow. “Wait, Mother Theresa? Didn’t she die of old age?”

“Nah man, she OD’d in Stewie’s car.”

I stare at him for a moment, and then shrug and lie back down. Chris pipes up from his seat where I can’t see him, “Dude, can you roll another, this one’s about down to the roach.”

I take the baggy out of my pocket and Jude says, “Ok, another one, deaf or blind?”

© Copyright 2019 Sam Halfpenny. All rights reserved.

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