The word “loner” was found in the pile of words, spelt in a bottom to up manner. Marcel stared at it and circled the word with his pencil. As a loner, no one knew Marcel ever existed. Even if they knew he existed; they would just stare at him, wondering about his odd behaviour.
Marcel longed for peacefulness and sanity and the only thing he loved was doing word-search puzzles, finding words was his forte. However the noises from the outside, they were always distracting him. The voices were always laughing at him, mocking his reclusiveness.
He lived in a historical town where there was once a civil war. Nowadays the place was bustling with neighbours. Noises of men chanting to the sports channel, women gossiping about kitchen politics and children were all running and playing on the pavement.
Marcel couldn’t focus; needing his peace and quiet in order to work on his puzzles. The horrifying sounds of talking and laughter were making Marcel sick. Soon the environmental noises around him amplified. The clock’s thunderous boom and the fan’s deathly hurricane were all impeding on his ability to search for words.
His hand balled up, strangling his pencil until his thumb snapped it into half. Marcel’s eyes found themselves eyeing the door. Armed with the book in his hands and another pencil, he took off onto the silent streets.
He found himself in a town Park, the best location as nobody would be seen or heard in midday. The summer breeze was cooling off the heat and the Azaleas and Geraniums seemed to welcome him. Marcel took to the benches, sat down and beamed.
He was about to land his pencil onto the book when he heard a noise, it was someone singing. Marcel’s eyes scouted around in discomfort before he finally saw the culprit. It was a black songbird from above. The bird was spiralling about, screaming in sheer elatedness. Soon the bird joined its friends, and the aviary broke into endless chatter. A squirrel scampered in front of him with an acorn, sinking its teeth into the hard shell of the nut. The sounds of a skull caving in and the crash of metal pots and pans were heard. From a far side of the park, there was a yellow butterfly minding its own business. Its wings blew gust after gust and before Marcel knew it, a thousand angry electrical fans blew at maximum speed around him. The fishes and frogs in the pond rattled about; creating tsunamis of skyscraper waves that tore and ripped across his line of thought. It was all unbearable for the poor man, Marcel got out of there as fast as he could.
Marcel found his next location shortly, it was the town’s retirement home. This was the perfect place to be in, he assured himself.
True enough the place was as silent and dead as he had predicted. The nurses were all patient enough to leave him alone so long as he didn’t bother the elderly. Marcel calmed down and worked on his book; for it was peaceful enough for some time.
Pound…pound…suddenly the sounds of cacophonous banging were heard constantly; leaving the wary man intoxicated with fear and pain. There were two old men playing chess by the windows, as if hammering mallets onto the heavy metal in a construction site. One of the men pondered, stroking his beard while his teeth chaffed. The sting of nails ripping onto chalkboard, as well as the roughness of eroded calcium dragging across each other. A grumpy old woman swayed around on a rocking chair; that horrendous creaking squeal! The snapping of old wood, singing of stiff metal and osteoporosis amplified a million times. Marcel’s face was the colour of tomato red, as time slowed almost to a halt. The grandfather clock in the halls boomed, each quaking vibration rattled his lungs and abused his timid heart. A nurse was singing to a depressed old man. The song slow and satanic, her voice deep like a greater demon. All Marcel heard was how the pathetic old man was going to burn in hell. Those dissonance of terrifying noises made Marcel twist and turn in agitation.
He snapped and began to cuss in distraught fits; first at the two shocked old chess players, then the old woman who couldn’t even be bothered with him. Lastly Marcel proceeded to yell at the nurse that he would punish and relinquish her for the sins she had performed. It didn’t take long before security was called down to toss the sad man out of the building.
Hanging his head low, Marcel walked out of town towards the hills. He grinned in pleasure at what he came across afterwards, it might seem weird but nobody would visit the cemetery; not even the animals. This was now the perfect place for him to work on his book. It was still the afternoon, so it wasn’t scary. He took a glimpse at the strange landscape the cemetery was situated on. The hills curved and jutted up like pointed teeth. It was concerning to him that the hills were shaped like that in these parts of town. As he walked through the cemetery, the sight of those irking hills started to wane.
The tombstones camped on the ground while the grass looked wild and uncivilised. The trees all barren, their evil hands tenting. However he allowed a free pass this time as the quiet cemetery was always serene and handsome in the day anyways. He sat on an old, sturdy wooden bench in the heart of the graveyard. He flipped back to his page in the book.
Marcel sensed a presence around him soon after.
“Greetings to you; my young friend.” Marcel jerked his pencil and tilted his head up. It was a spirit cloaked in grey looking at him. Marcel stared with bored eyes at him. He wasn’t scared of the spectre, just bothered to see someone disturbing him once more. And it had to be a stupid ghost.
“Shouldn’t you come out at night?”
“True.” The ghost nodded in deep thought. “But it’s not every day we could get visitors.”
Marcel dropped back to his book, having a half thought out theory that if he continued on with the puzzles; the ghost would leave him alone in peace. So Marcel ignored him at first.
“Oh, is that a cross-word puzzle you’re doing? I just love cross word puzzles when I was alive, let me help you.” The spectre was cooing, sitting beside Marcel who was still focused on his current page.
“They aren’t cross-word puzzles, there’re word search puzzles.” Marcel emphasized it to the spectre with slight annoyance.
“Whatever.” The ghost replied.
The ghost was being a pain with his constant talking and it was getting onto Marcel’s nerves. He had the unfortunate habit of talking faster the lengthier his sentences were.
Marcel learnt that the ghost was named Carlito. He had a bunch of children but sadly most of them died in the town’s civil war. He owned two cats, and three dogs, and four hens, and five horses, and six turkeys, and seven cows, and eight more dogs and nine rabbits; and they all died in the war too. Carlito had more of his sad stories but the man couldn’t even care less about the apparition’s personal life. Marcel was flipping onto a new page with the theme of “vehicles and transportation”.
“Oh I got one, now isn’t that coincidental?” The ghost glanced through the page and traced his fingers along the book to pick out the word he just found. “A-N-N-O-Y-I-N-G”, he spelt it out.
“Thank you.” Marcel said, tone high and snobbish. Carlito, oblivious to sarcasm was flattered by Marcel’s praise.
“Hey guys, can you all guess what the mortal did? He thanked me for doing something nice. Nobody has ever thanked me for doing anything for forever. Why don’t we all help him out with what he’s doing?” As soon as Carlito said that, an army of spectres rose up from their graves and flew towards Marcel. They were all ghostly men, women and children and they were as talkative and enthusiastic as Carlito. Now this was scary even for Marcel’s standards as he took off from the seat, never looking back at the cemetery.
“Goodbye my friend, visit us soon.” The ghost waved at his new found pal.
The sun was setting and Marcel found himself lost out in the countryside. The sun was setting and the heavens were a hue of purples, violets and ambers. He finally spotted his hometown from afar. Between him and the town was this fenced up area and a part of the fence was falling apart. Not wanting to go onto the road which may lead to nowhere, Marcel took the chance and climbed through it.
There was nothing present on the field. There were no trees and rocks. There were no people or animals and there were thankfully no tombstones around, just a harmless prairie. The winds died and Marcel eyed the scenery with awe. This was exactly what he wanted, silence. Marcel sat on the ground with joy, harbouring thoughts of staying here forever. He could finally do his word-search puzzles undisturbed as nobody would do anything to pester his inner peace again. He grinned like an idiot, allowing his back to drop onto the ground. A thin wire broke loose under him.
And then there was an explosion…
Everyone back in town jerked their heads towards the sound and to their horror, found earth clouds at the distant outskirts of town. The men stopped looking at their sports and stared at the cloud of earth with curiosity. The women gazed out from the kitchen and the kids on the streets eyed in amazement at the peculiar sight.
The mayor looked at the now dusty skies like a child and mumbled to his assistant.
“Haven’t we fenced up the minefield?” He asked his secretary and she gave him an uncertain nod.
Marcel woke up with a jolt.
He found himself in a white room with walls that seemed to reach till the heavens. The room was filled with nothing but books that towered along with the walls. They were not just ordinary books, but word-search books. His hands picked up something and it was a pencil. Marcel skipped with joy as he had an eternity’s worth of books to work on and no one to disturb him ever again.
End of Chapter 1