Monsters in Broad Daylight (Short Story)

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  1. #1

    Monsters in Broad Daylight (Short Story)

    Hey guys, here is a surrealist short story that I wrote recently. Thank you for reading

    Monsters in Broad Daylight

    Isn’t it odd the tactics parents use to win an argument. For instance, walking out the door knowing that an eight year old boy was too vulnerable to the dark corners of a home, to a balaclava intruder, to smoke coming from the kitchen, to the monsters in broad daylight, to not want to follow his parents out the door and feel safe. Or for eight-year-old Peter, the fear of collapsing on his own from the lung disease that was consuming him.

    Only moments ago Peter’s Mum said, ‘I’m sorry, hun, but when we get to the beach you can’t swim in the sea - it’s not safe. And remember, stay under our umbrella at all times, ok. The sun could damage your skin. Hunny, did you hear me?”

    That stupid pink girlie umbrella,
    thought Peter. He stomped his feet and yanked his shoe laces on all sorts of directions making them tangled so he couldn’t get up and leave with mum and dad - making his parents wait there with him until they caved in. Peter said, “You always say to grow up you gotta be independent and meet and play with other kids, Ma.”

    “Yes, but not today, Peter.”

    No, not any day. Because as mum, dad and my doctor always say to me,
    ‘you’re not like kids your age. You’re . . . special.’ But Peter knew they meant ‘you’re going to have restrictions unlike other kids because of your horrible lung disease.’

    Peter could see mum was gritting her teeth and dad was marching on the spot, urgent to top up his tan. They too had put their lives and jobs on hold while they carted Peter up and down from the hospital for months on end. Now, they just wanted to make the most of the week they all had off before he had to go back for more treatment next week. So neither mum nor dad were going to stand there and spend the morning arguing with Peter what he could or could not do at the beach. He would follow them or he wouldn’t.

    So mum and dad headed out, walking at a slow pace waiting for the door behind them to open and shut. But Peter tried to hold firm. Sitting in the shadows of the bottom step until that shiver crept up his back and the shadows began to consume his loneliness and the fear of coughing to death alone overwhelmed him.

    He ran outside. The sun drenched street with perfect, neat bungalows and manicured lawns was empty. His parents had gained quite a strong lead on Peter. To catch up quick, he tried to get his weak legs pumping faster, deciding they couldn’t have gotten that far ahead. But he couldn’t gain too much momentum as he had to stop and cough up mucus every couple of houses. I’ve never coughed up mucus before . . . It’s always a hard lesson when this disease progresses.

    He reached the beach after a spluttering half-hour jog full of coughing and choking, but there was no sign of his parents. His heart skipped a beat. And then almost stopped. There was no sign of the beach either. The wooden decking that usually led down to the dunes and sand had been replaced with wooden boards like what you would see around a construction site. The image that had just been described of the wooden decking leading down to the dunes and sand had been painted onto the boards like an artist’s impression. All along the coastline were more boards, painted with a true-to-life scale of the beach. And instead of waves washing the sand he could hear machines cranking, cranes creaking and drills searing. Peter walked along looking at the boards like he was in an art gallery trying to see if he could spot his favourite painting. And the favourite painting he was looking for contained a pink umbrella and two mid thirties parents.

    As he continued to walk the coastline an elderly man was sitting on a park bench. The man was struggling to take deep breaths like he had been on a very long exhausting walk. His puffy snow white hair and soft facial features made him look like a granddad who would greet you with tickles and a pinch of the cheek, and he had a fully stuffed hamper parked next to him. He must have lost track of people he loved too.
    Peter said, “Do you know what’s happening?”

    The elderly man looked at Peter straight in the eyes as if he knew him and said with a hoarse voice, “They’re all undergoing treatment.”

    “Who are?”

    “ . . . The healthy ones.”

    A sharp surge of anxiety shot through Peter, “W-What are they having treatment for?”

    The man’s eyes became glazed and distant, “To live forever.”

    An image of all those healthy beach goers receiving genetic enhancements from giant robots came into his head. The sudden cold loneliness overwhelmed him. The old man nodded at Peter like Peter had just said something he agreed with and said, “Us ill ones cannot be fixed, dear boy,” the man’s eyes suddenly became distant and vague like something had possessed him, “We need to be analysed like test tubes so God knows what will work better next time.”

    He backed away from the man. Not wanting anything to do with him. Not wanting to hear the next doomed statement to come out of his mouth.

    To take his mind off the strange exchange Peter analysed more wooden boards along the coast. He still hoped his parents were going to be sitting on one of the coastline benches. They would be waiting for me and they’d tell me that they turned down that treatment to live forever as it did not include their beautiful boy. ‘All we want is you, Peter. That’s all we ever wanted’. He hoped.

    The dusk light settled in. I’m sure it was midday only an hour ago. The winds started blowing through the dunes. The landscape to his left spread a chill across his whole body. There were skyscraper sized factories burning waste by setting alight hills of dirt and junk. It was like witnessing metal churches incinerating their bibles. Kids with frail hair and pale skin in white soot covered robes stood by these burning hills, waving to Peter. Their hair blew off their heads and twisted and contorted in the air like they too were being burnt from the inside. Peter kept his head down and carried on moving. Keeping his focus on the wooden panels to his right.

    As he neared a bend in the panels - where the corner turned towards the pier - Peter caught a glance of the pink umbrella stuck in the sand. He squinted, and saw mum in her blue swimsuit and dad in his blue swimming trunks. They were both giggling, holding small toy shovels as they dug into the sand. A blonde haired boy dug with them. He was also giggling. He also looked like a healthy, happy, obedient little child. Peter’s throat closed a little, he spluttered a cough and clenched his whole body to stop every emotion from flooding out. All Peter had wanted was for his parents to return to him, but now he questioned why he even did?

    I guess now I know what they really wanted. A healthy boy.

    Peter stood there for what felt like an hour but was probably more like fifteen minutes while he just waited for something to happen like the boy who had lost his parents in the shopping mall and was waiting for a friendly old lady to help him. But Peter was alone. There would be no friendly old lady. And he knew it. He reassured himself (like he always did when he received further bad news about his illness) by saying: come on Pete, you can do what you want now, no parents to stop you, aye? So he left the wooden board with that happy scene of a ‘perfect family’ and skulked around the bend in the panels and walked down the empty pier, brushing away thoughts of his parents laughing and playing with another child and all of them living forever with their new robotic hearts. Instead, he focused on how much he always loved the pier. How it was the thing he loved most about the beach, with its giant swimming pool and massive slide. He was never allowed to go on it of course. It was always ‘too unsteady’ or ‘Peter, look at it, its blowing in the wind for goodness sake’. But who’s to stop me now?
    As Townes Van Zandt said, ‘it’s easier than just waitin’ around to die’.

    He climbed the ladder leading up to the slide and from the top he could see back along the empty pier to the road but he still couldn’t see that stupid beach. The wooden panels surrounding the beach were a lot higher here. Probably to stop people like me from climbing up the water slide and seeing.

    At the end of the pier near the road he noticed a black van had pulled up and a man in a lab coat was dragging a metal trolley in his direction. It’s alright. He’s just a stranger. I’m no use to him. I’m not a ‘healthy’ one. Then Peter shot down the slide like a kid who didn’t have a care in the world. Like a kid with their whole life ahead of them.

    The slide chugged like an engine for a few moments before steam billowed from the top of the slide like a factory chimney. At the end of the slide, or what more resembled a ‘conveyor belt’ a test tube full of clear liquid slid and plopped into the water. The lab coat man looked down into the pool, and plucked the tube out of the water. He placed it on the trolley and gave the tube its new name. Number seven. Number seven ready for testing.

  2. #2
    Whoah. I was not prepared for THAT. It is truly horrifying. I read it twice.

    You capture the boys emotional landscape perfectly, its heart-wrenching. I can feel it all myself, especially the jealously. And as I've never even had to deal with being jealous of a new sibling, that's impressive.

    My only note would be that it might be beneficial to make it a tad more explicit that when he does see his parents, it's still in the wood. Both times I read it, it felt like a love image, and the way he goes around the bend made me think there was a deviation on the curve, a little gap to see through. Other than that, I wouldn't change a thing.

  3. #3
    This was a brilliant piece! You captured characters well and the language was so evocative and eloquent. The conclusion was one to behold as well.

    Great work!
    ďAs far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being,"

    -Carl Jung

  4. #4
    Yes, a nice ending. My only slight catch was if an eight year old who had never coughed up mucus would know the word, I would have made him call it something like 'Yeuch'.
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  5. #5
    Wow thank you for the very kind and helpful feedback guys! It’s really apreciated

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