Proximity. Short Story.

Harold sat at his desk, fingers hovering above the keyboard. He scanned over what he had written, then deleted it all. It was too long, too wordy. No one would read that, and no one would believe it even if they did. He started typing again, then he stopped, was there any point to this? It’s not like it worked the last few times he tried it. He deleted everything again and typed out four words, “I didn’t do it” There. Simple, to the point. No bullshit to clog it all up, just the honest truth. They already knew he didn’t do it, but this would just reaffirm it all. Maybe all the assholes that were harassing him would feel bad afterwards. Probably not though, they’d most likely just feel a righteous sense of self satisfaction that they finally did it, that he was finally gone. If there was anyone he would have liked to have killed it was them. They followed him around the country, telling his neighbours, his bosses, even the places where he shopped. He never had a moments peace. He had been judged innocent because he was, not because he had some high class lawyer. His lawyer was shitty anyway, unknown before his trial and bombing several trials after Harold’s. Last Harold had heard the lawyer had quit, deciding to retire somewhere cheap and cheerful with the millions he had made before people realised he was an idiot.

Harold didn’t quite tell the truth during his trial. He denied killing anyone, which was true, he never killed anyone. But he never denied total involvement. He could prove, without a doubt, that he had murdered anyone, that he had people to explain each and every one. Because at the end of the day, even though he was probably responsible, he didn’t actually do anything to them. People around him just seemed to die. Sometimes horrifically and sometimes peacefully, but either way they were dead.

The first one was when he was 17, his English teacher, Mr. Benson. Harold never really liked the man all that much, but he wasn’t necessarily bad, just one of those personality clashes that happens every now and then. They had an unspoken mutual agreement to interact as little as possible, so while Mr. Benson would sit with other students, or go over things on their essays, he would just hand Harold’s back and move along swiftly. Harold was glad that he was good enough with English that he didn’t really need that much help for the year. Mostly skating by with B’s and a C or two. There had been no argument, no event that would signal anything at all was about to occur. One moment Mr. Benson and Harold were alone together in the room, they had both arrived early, and the next Mr. Benson was lying on the ground, a pen was sticking up from his throat, blood gushing from the wound. Harold had tried to stop the blood, yelling and screaming for help, but by the time the ambulance arrived Mr. Benson had bled out. Harold had been asked again and again what happened and he answered truthfully, he didn’t know. He had been grabbing books out of his bag when there was a bang, a thud and a gurgling noise, he looked up and he could see Mr. Bensons feet sticking out from behind the desk. They had suspected him for a while, everyone had. Rumours were flying that Harold had stabbed Mr. Benson in the neck with a pen. They had determined later that Mr. Benson had tripped and fallen onto his desk, someone had put the pen upside down in small, short pen caddy and the pen had punctured his throat and went through his carotid artery. Harold could still remember it all so clearly, the hot sticky blood covering his hands and soaking into his clothes, the way the jumper he had used to try and stop the bleeding had become soaked in a matter of seconds. It had been awful. The next few weeks were even worse. He couldn’t go to school, a few of his friends stopped talking to him, even after they had ruled the death accidental people didn’t trust him. He had gone to therapy afterwards, for several months. It helped, not a lot, but it was better than nothing. At the time Harold thought it was a once off, something like that wouldn’t happen again, couldn’t happen again. Until it did.

It was never people that Harold liked, he thought that was mostly the reason why people always suspected him. Sometimes it had been out and out hatred for one another, others it had been a case of cool politeness for any forced interactions. It was always when they were alone together, or after Harold had just left them alone. Always an accident that was seemingly improbable. One after another. Scarf caught in car door and a fall, a tumble down the stairs with a heavy tray full of cutlery, a slip from a ledge, crushed by falling masonry. The list went on. All in all he had been present, or near thirty six deaths. Averaging one every six months from when he was seventeen. Sometimes there was a flurry, two or three in a few months, other times he could go a year or two without an incident. He usually moved after the second, always after the third. He couldn’t take the suspicious stares, the glares, the family members coming to him, asking over and over what happened to their child, brother, sister, husband, or wife. Then that overzealous cop found out about the deaths and it became his own personal vendetta. He hounded Harold day and night, telling him that he knew, that he would slip up sooner or later and get caught. Grieving families clung to it, told by the cop that Harold had killed them, poking around and asking if anyone had any reason to hurt them, singling out Harold each time. There was no case, no way to hold him accountable because he wasn’t.

Harold never could decide if he was lucky, unlucky or if it was some kind of curse. What if he was the one that was supposed to die each time and he just missed it, what if he was the one causing them, what if something was out to get him? He didn’t know and at this point he didn’t care. He was the common denominator between all these people. If something was trying to kill him it was doing a piss poor job. If he was doing it, he couldn’t control it. There was only one solution and he was going to try again.

He had it all ready. Three sturdy ropes, braided together and tied around the heavy beam. He was taking no chances. He saved the document and left it sitting open on the screen. There was no one to apologise to, no one to ask for forgiveness. His parents were dead, he had never married and he had lost contact with all of his friends. He moved the chair over, wheeling it carefully. He stepped onto it, trying to keep his balance. He moved the noose over his neck and took a deep breath, his last. He leaned forward and kicked out with his feet, sending the chair rolling into the wall. The rope went taut, his body kicking out involuntarily. There was a loud crack, Harold fell to the floor, gasping, the rope landing beside him. No, no no no no. He ran his hands along the rope, it was fine, he looked up, the beam had broken. Harold started to cry, every time something happened to stop it. There was no way out. None at all.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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