It’s Friday, so here’s another chapter of my upcoming novel, La Tiers Du Cylindre. If you don’t feel like reading now, or if you haven’t read the previous chapters, you can download a PDF of the prologue and first three chapters here.
If you’d like to see this novel published (and would like to help me do so) you can contribute (donate, buy cool perks, pre-order copies of the book) here.
A couple of weeks ago Chris Packlem boarded his private plane and headed back for Romania. His motives were murky, unclear, but as he stared out at America slowly evaporating into the blue air above, marbled with the fading red of sunset, all he could think of was that he had left everyone behind. His parents, his friends, his life. And now he was trying to get it all back.
They must have seen him on TV, he thought, giving interviews, talking about the economy, about his incredible skills at multiplying money. But no one had called him. Not once. No one had come to visit. Maybe because he had lived a vast part of those five years in hotel rooms.
No. They just didn’t care, he thought, they didn’t care enough for them to even try to find him.
Hours later, he found himself sweating in the burning air of June, trying to make sense of things. His sunglasses on, a cigarette burning between his lips, he knew, oh, he knew it all too well that his dream had just died. Chris Packlem’s dream was over now. It was up to him to be who he wanted to be, it was up to him to choose if he wished to go on or not. Figures kept floating around inside his head; it was not that he needed more money, but he couldn’t help it. A reflex this was, adding more millions to his fortune, knowing the market price for oil, silver, gold, and natural gasses. Every single commodity this world depended upon, he owned it. He owned it all and was proud for this, even though in that specific moment, with his car graciously sliding on the highway, he thought that he had become so poor that his biography was going to contain only numbers.
During the Roman Empire, whenever a general would be successful in battle and return home, he would be awarded a triumph, a celebration on the streets of Rome. It was his moment of glory. All the pain and suffering faded away in that moment, because an entire city cheered for him, and in doing so, they created a moment that gave away the delicate illusion of perfection, as if their cheers and claps were capable of morphing a man into a god. But there was a catch. At all times the general had behind him a slave, whose sole task was to whisper to his ears these two words, “Memento mori.”
Remember that you are mortal. A mere man. No matter how successful, how cheered for, how strong, you are still only human. And you’re going to die.
That’s what Chris was thinking when he stepped into the lobby of the hotel. The receptionist grinned at him in such a way that he thought she’d keep that grin glued to her face even if he’d curse her. From his limited life experience, he knew people smiled to him when they wanted something. This time, she needed a credit card and a signature.
Then he found himself in another hotel room; another room full of stuff he didn’t own. A place he would never call “home.” Because “home” was a concept he couldn’t understand. For a while he stared out the window at the night, dark and gloomy, as if out of a Goya painting. After that he fell asleep fast in his bed.
The next morning he was fumbling around his old living room, with his mother staring out at him with a deep frown carved on her forehead. He tried to reach out for a past he barely even remembered, he tried and tried, but he couldn’t.
“Why?” she finally asked.
“Because I had to. Because I needed to.”
“We don’t want you here,” his mother said, her face expressionless and dead. “You can go back to where you came from.”
Chris raised his hands in the air, like a saint trying to bring compassion into the world. “I came to beg for forgiveness.”
“No one here’s willing to grant you that,” she said, her gun finger pointed at his chest, pointed toward what was hidden inside; something that had stopped working properly a long time ago.
“I want to see father,” he said.
All these memories and expectations and dreams still contained within those four walls. Still echoing along them. The closest he had ever been to being human, inside a past that was now living, breathing inside his head, inside that dark, broken soul of his.
His mother went down on her knees, crying. On her knees, humiliated and angry, sobbing and sobbing, and Chris standing there, helplessly staring down at her.
The picture of him being a failure, of his parents fucking him up with too much love and attention.
No matter how much he tried, he couldn’t cry.
Still down, she said, “You ruined our lives…”
The words stopped. Tears ran down her cheeks, swinging from her chin, dropping on the floor. “He’s sick. Dying.”
In a hospital. Paralyzed from the neck down, bitter and angry and remorseful.
“You killed him,” she said, and slowly, her words formed an echo of pain inside his chest. A tear burned through his right cheek on its way down toward the floor on which he had learned to walk. More tears followed. And a pathetic smile.
Chris Packlem can cry. A graceless victory. Chris Packlem has a soul. He’s not a monster. Not yet.
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