Nobody knows how to offend better than the world
Who allowed the consequential “tik-tok” of the futile wrist-watch, which by now engraved itself into your wooden side table?
As the light peeked through the juicy, green leaves, the warm summer breeze grazed your cheeks, and the soft chirping of birds filled your ears with an uplifting mantra, the world seemed to be giving little care about whether it’s comforting you. Why did the Warsaw sun decide to come out of the omniscient grey precisely as you settled into the broken chair, painfully squeaky after a year and a half of being abused by your bad sitting habits? Why did the hanging greenery, so full of life and sublimity, almost smirk at you as you peeked your nose out of the dark cave which once used to be your room? Why did the blinking sky force you to breathe deeply and inhale all these views at once when it so clearly took pleasure in your inability to do so?
It just so happens that around the time you got used to living without the world around you, it began to scare you, stripping you of the ability to enjoy the simple, experiential pleasures of life. Your newly developed mental disability is pointed out painfully by your entire surroundings, as they squeeze the very last of your sanity out of you.
You’re infuriated, offended, and taken aback. And with your eyes fatigued by light, ears dreading the soft sounds, and skin imperiled by wind, you return, gaping at the floor, back to your comfort zone, back to your room, as you reject the world which once meant the most to you.
The curtain falls, the comedy ends, but you’re the still life actor, and the world is the laughing audience.
And backstage? Where are the other actors? You’re not sure. For all you know, they might be over the ocean of wooden floor boards, somewhere in the kitchen, or across the forest of paper-thin walls, yet, through which you barely hear any sounds indicating life. A morose silence fills the backstage, or something that used to be a warm home, with an eerie mist, as if it has been haunted by voice-stealing creatures who devour all radiance and vigour from the fellow actors.
The Harbinger Prize
Short Story Competition
The Harbinger Prize Competition 2021
Submit a short story, no longer than 2,000 words, on the subject line:
Create the perfect villain.
With the sun already set, you lose track of time. Who allowed the consequential “tik-tok” of the futile wrist-watch, which by now engraved itself into your wooden side table, to cease all work, and allow the hours to reshape and become more of a slack guideline for when the haunted church bells were meant to ring? No-one. There is no-one around, but you. You and the book you were meant to finish two months ago, your pet begging for a walk, and the Netflix opening sound, which seems to be the only divertisement for the sedentary quiet which had begun to force a white hum into your ears.
With the world asleep, you should have found peace. Yet, you find yourself anxiously snacking on the week-old bag of crisps, the origin of which you’re not certain. The social media feed becomes repetitive, and your brain forms into a brownish slug, slowly treading in search of something moist to subsist its livelihood. All to no avail.
It’s to the melody of your computer, the chirping of your phone, and the slight stench which settled in your claustrophobic cave, that you find the arms of Morpheus. He seems to be the only one who is never disappointing; As he slowly rocks you to and fro, you too settle in the melancholic pit, where, as a hibernating bear, you shall remain until the next day, when the whole show repeats, with the audience amused as ever.
You dreamt a dream – someone is bending over you. Shaking frantically, your parents decide to wreak havoc on your disastrously disorganised room. As she forces you out of bed, your mother shouts, piercing her sharp voice deep into your eardrums – you’re late again. Lackadaisically, you throw on whatever was on the chair yesterday, put on the same old jewelry, which by now has acquired a suspiciously green hue slowly transfering onto your finger. Just as you leave your room, the grey clouds outside the foggy window express their sorrow for you – their fat raindrops almost form a maleficent laughter, baptising the ground which you will haunt on your way to the same place which strips you of any creativity and will to pursue every, single, god-given day.
Back and forth, awkwardly encountering other people’s backpacks and shoulders, you sway, becoming one of the thousands of zombies who had decided to plague the metro system this gloomy morning. Look up! In the glass window of the subway door you see something – the image is convoluted, unclear, as if a milky mass passed through the mirrored creature’s eyes.
Back bent unnaturally, black under eyes, and a socially awkward smile you put on especially for strangers – this view greets your eyes, rather unenthusiastically. You arrive, finally, yet you must fight your way out of the train station, together with taboons of fellow zombies, never sharing a collective consciousness, yet all having acquired the same goal – get. to. work. Having treaded through constellations of puddles and mazes of curbs – you arrive, at last, fifteen minutes late. Sitting at your desk your body loses all energy, yet is fueled by everlasting anxiety, which will probably run out sometime around five o’clock in the afternoon, when you will be gratefully allowed to repeat the commuter’s track all over again. Next morning, the same screaming, same clothes, same green hue, rain, metro, strangers, work…
You woke up sweating. It was only a nightmare.
The five o’clock sunrise reminded you of where you were. Yet the day doesn’t begin – it doesn’t exist. The wrist watch stopped working; Who is there to tell you “You must get up now!” The sun slowly increases the pace with which it greets you, rising out of its shy initial position, now fully illuminating your sweaty face. Yet despite its swift apparition, the day still hasn’t arrived. At any stage during the 24-hour realm, on which the population commonly agreed, do you decide to move, do something, feel anything. As you rest in the fetal position, you not only now share the responses of a child, you also physically resemble one. And so you will remain, for yet another show to commence.
As the light peeked through the juicy, green leaves, the warm summer breeze grazed your cheeks, and the soft chirping of birds filled your ears with an uplifting mantra, the world seemed to be giving little care about whether it’s comforting you.
Whether you like it or not, the world runs on recurring elements – your state as of now, the elementary-human position of your mind and body, your entire being, has become a part of this vicious cycle, which recently began to accelerate with further encouragement to antagonise the outside world.
At this point, the shape of a trolley problem forms: will you keep going down the track of destruction and lead yourself to an inevitable end? Or, will you switch lanes of the speeding trolley and expose yourself to elements you fear, which you aren’t aware of, which have so far forced you to stay crouching, trying to protect yourself from the unknown? Both paths will have skeletons – which one will you choose?
Politics & Society Section Editor
Co-founder of Harbingers' Magazine
Born a Pisces in 2004 in Warsaw, Poland, Mary Stabińska is currently preparing to complete A Levels in Politics, French, History, and Polish. She speaks English, Polish, and French fluently, and is in the process of self-teaching Italian.
Her interests include creative writing, international relations, American politics, and Soviet propaganda poster strategy. On the less academic side, however, she is a fan of Hieronymus Bosch, skiing, and music ranging from MF DOOM to PinkPantheress.
Mary plans to continue her studies of politics and international relations at university level and collaterally extend her writing career.
At Harbingers’ Magazine, Mary writes and edits the Politics & Society section.
Co-founder of Harbingers’ Magazine