Short Story – The Cave

Inception

Walter wakes from a deep, comforting sleep. Last night, he met with a mysterious girl at the bar. She had one of the most profound subjects to talk about, and although he didn’t drink very much, he came home drunk with infatuation. That girl’s beauty was not in her shape or the fact that her eyes were so tantalizing. No, the amazement came from the way she composed herself and the depth of her language. Although he did not get her phone number, Walter went home with a new love.

“There’s more to life than this,” she said. Oh yeah, he’d heard it a thousand times before, but that night, their discussion had led to this point. It wasn’t a simple phrase uttered by some person on the street. From the beginning of life to recent history, the practices of ancient civilizations and the debauchery of the new. Why are humans stuck in a 9 to 5 job which, although it pays well, provides so little in terms of personal empowerment? In the past, a man could spend his life building a domain with his bare hands. Now, all he does is use his fingers to program or crunch numbers. Once upon a time, his fingers touched his wife’s skin, when he made love to her. Now, all he can hear is the repetitive sound of his fingers playing on the keyboard.

It pays the bills. That way, he doesn’t have to end up on the street, even though all he wants is to escape. Yeah, it feels like if he does little but change any one of the pieces in the puzzle, everything will crumble. Upon waking up, though, Walter has a realization; an epiphany. It strikes like lightning, to the point where he drops his coffee on his feet. For some, this sort of stuff happens when they are in their bath, while it happens to Walter while he’s enjoying some routine peanut butter and jelly toasts. Small comfort when all he does all day is sit in front of computers. His life is wired to the internet, and much like in the movie The Matrix, if he wants to get out of this life, he has to… unplug?

Exploration

Walter goes to work in a different mood today. He sings on his way to the subway. His smartphone is playing some of the tunes he used to listen to when he was a carefree teenager. His air guitar is tuned and he’s jamming it up to Led Zeppelin and Sweet. “Ballroom blitz!” he yells in the train. Normally, his train ride to work is eventless, monotonous, but today, he is singing in the rain; celebrating an infinity of possibilities that have now opened to him. As he goes to work, and begins his daily routine, his boss comes to him to ask him to do overtime next Saturday.

He says no and to pick someone else for once. His boss is shocked at this behavior, but decides to honor Walter’s wishes and picks the colleague who never does overtime. At the coffee machine, that colleague has a lot to say to Walter, who spends most of his time imagining various kama sutra positions with the executive assistant. All the things his colleague lies about having done so he wouldn’t have to do overtime fly over his head. Finishing his coffee, Walter nods and leaves the break room with a nonchalant: “That’s great, bud.”

During lunch time, his colleague spends some time writing a defamatory e-mail to the boss, explaining all the wrongdoings of Walter over the years, which most are false, but the boss trusts him. Walter eats while listening to the vagina monologues. During the afternoon, his boss takes him away from that project he’s working on to see him in his office. The discussion escalates here and Walter decides to quit, when his boss throws a number of unfounded accusations on him. “You know what, Jim, I’ve sweated and bowed out of too many vacations for you to give me that crap. I quit.” Walter storms out of the boss’s office and the tower, leaving behind unfinished work, but still… he smiles.

Revelation

Life is good, better make the most of it. With his job not about to bother him again for a while, Walter decides to go downtown and try all the things that once scared him: going on the wrong side of town, crossing the street where it is forbidden, flipping the bird to an impatient driver, hanging around with a bunch of youngsters, talking to a homeless man – giving him money for his trouble, hitting on a woman and getting rejected.

The afternoon is filled with adventures that are as chaotic as they are amusing. Passed six o’clock, Walter has a small following of people who like him, have recently had a self-actualizing discovery of life. They go to a bar, and then he sees her… the mysterious girl. Without a word spoken, he goes to sit with the woman, who appeared to be waiting for someone. Noticing the different attitude of the man she met last night, the woman presents herself. “Maria,” she says. “Walter,” he responds.

Rather than exchange words, the impromptu couple share flesh and sweat. In the bar’s alleyway, Walter has a meaningless sexual encounter with Maria. Once they have finished, Maria takes her things and moves to leave. Walter holds her arm, but she rejects him. “Why?” asks Walter, shocked that his new forward demeanor has not allowed him more respect from Maria. “I don’t date men that I fuck on the first night.”

Walter interrogates her, begs, even, to know whether there is something between them. He goes home saddened, knowing that he will never see Maria again, because the answer is no. For all his confidence, all his brash behavior, the woman he fell in love with was in love with another man. The man whom he once was. That man he can no longer see himself becoming, because that man is back there… back where the world was so bleak and confusing.

He can’t be that man anymore… and yet Maria, she hasn’t changed. She won’t.

The Cavern

Walter does not sleep tonight. He cannot. Although he allowed himself to live an absurd life for 24 hours, he realizes he no longer has an income to pay the bills, does not have anyone around him still. Shadows of doubt entrench him between life and his anxiety. Calling his boss back yields nothing… He has been replaced. During the year, he struggles to find a new job, and ends up going back to university, on his savings, moving back to his mother’s home. A psychiatrist diagnoses him with depression, and for the first time in his life… he feels candid with himself. Life has shifted, and the worries of the past have gone, the Sun’s light has illuminated him for a moment, but now he is back inside the cavern, looking for a way out.

 

 

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