Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Long, Unhappy Life of Alfred P. Wincock

Alfred rose from his bed, as he did every morning, tired and dreading the day.

He had his coffee and cereal and drove to work in a deadlocked rush hour.  At work, he couldn’t concentrate until nearly the end of the day, when he had to rush to get everything done on time.  His boss laughed at him.  His coworkers ignored him.  Alfred drove home in a deadlocked rush hour to dinner of a plain salad and flat beer.  There was nothing on television, but he watched anyway.

That night, his wife gave him a break and went to sleep early.  He lay and pretended to sleep until he heard her snoring, then he reached under the bed and pulled out Blade Man #23.  He’d been waiting to read it all month, but his wife had been particularly insatiable (perhaps trying again for a baby).  As he pulled the covers over his head and switched on his flashlight, Alfred felt like a child again.

Later, as he drifted off to sleep, he had a fleeting wish: if only he could be a super hero.

Alfred rose from his bed, as he did every morning, tired and dreading the day.

He had a breakfast bar and orange juice while trying to pull his tights on.  They were getting harder to squeeze into, and he worried he was getting fat.  He was almost to work, feeling the tights chafing under his street clothes, when the red phone buzzed in his pocket.  Dreading calling in sick yet again, he pulled over into a McDonald’s parking lot and parked behind the dumpster before flying to the Mayor’s office.  King of Death decked him.  Psychic Leech got away with three million in bearer bonds.  When he finally got to work, everyone asked why his nose was bleeding.  Alfred drove home, stiff and sore, to an empty house.

He watched a science fiction movie on his home theater and fell asleep halfway through, wishing for a life with servants to do his work for him.

Alfred rose from his sleep shell as he did every hundred years, tired and dreading the day.

As the intravenous tubes fed him nutrition, he looked at the readouts of local planetary bodies.  He chose a little blue-red planet and watched for three weeks as it grew larger and larger out the window.  Halfway into orbital insertion, a set of metallic satellites fired ceramic spikes at his ship.  Most of them missed, but one cracked the integrity seals and he had to spend three hours breathing oxygen gel before the hull spiders fixed the leak.  Eventually, he managed to drop the diplomatic probe before the ship was able to kick back into hyperspace again.

As he felt the longsleep drugs drop into his bloodstream, he had a fleeting wish to live in a simpler time.

Alfred rose from his bed as he did every morning, tired and dreading the day.

As he swept out the cave as he chewed on the salt pork the clansmen of Um left him as an offering.  He summoned his three fate daemons into their warded cages, rose two spirits of greater kings, and made psychic contact with the Wise Dragon of the Upper Hills.  Six soldiers came for protection charms, costing Alfred nearly a cup of blood and two years off of his life.  One woman asked him to resurrect her baby who hadn’t survived the winter (another half cup of blood and year from his life) and then ran off with her child in her arms when it was time to pay.  Complaining bitterly of the fleas infesting his clothes, he dismissed the daemons, returned the spirits to their resting places, and paid tribute to the dragon.

Lowering himself on to his bed of hay, he said a prayer to the southern gods for an easier life.

Alfred rose from his bed, as he did every morning, tired and dreading the day.

He had his coffee and cereal, kissed his wife, and headed to work in a deadlocked rush hour.  Halfway to work, Alfred turned off the road and drove to the comic book store; they always opened early on delivery day.  They kept his books in a brown paper bag behind the counter, and he paid for them greedily, without looking inside; he’d save that happy glance for his lunch break.

Back in the traffic, he sighed pleasantly.  Life wasn’t so bad after all.

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