Short Story: Four Days

Gerald leaned back in his chair, another chapter finished.

Things were going well, but there was an odd feeling still eating away at him. Some vague, subconscious thought he couldn’t quite place.

Four days.

He hadn’t been out of the house in four days.

The shock of the realisation was quickly replaced by a quiet sense of achievement.

No wonder things were going well – he was finally knuckling down. Finally concentrating.

Or was it just that he was retreating more and more from the real world? Slowly losing himself in a fantasy that he was an author.

He didn’t think anyone could blame him really. He took a quick look down at the wound on his chest from the bypass. It had bought him more time, sure, but the operation itself nearly threw up its own share of complications.

Waking up, alive but alone, Gerald decided there and then to grab life by the horns. Live for the moment. YOLO.

That’s what all the kids were saying now, wasn’t it? YOLO.

He was going to YOLO.

He had big plans for the coming months, but first things first – he had to finish the book. His life’s work.

Four days…

Of course, waiting for the wound to finish healing was making staying indoors easy enough. Even if it did itch like crazy now his skin was busy binding itself back together.

But four days? He played it back in his head; that was the last time he’d braved the short walk down to the shops. He definitely hadn’t gone out since.

But then he’d not heard from any of his friends either. Sure, he had lots of visits and good wishes sent to him when he was in the hospital, but now he was ‘safe’ things were different. What if this sort of thing happens again and he doesn’t make it? People would notice, wouldn’t they?

Four days must be getting to the point where you start getting paranoid.

He checked his phone again. Nothing.

What if he died right here, right now? At his desk. Four days without contact with the outside world – people would notice eventually, wouldn’t they?

But then he could have died on day one of his current self-inflicted prison term. It’s not as if people are banging his door down to check he’s OK. The cat could be eating his face right now for all the world knew.

That same moment, he looked at Snowball. They locked eyes. Her gaze pierced through him with that inimitable feline blend of pure love and intense fury at the fact you can get to their food and they can’t.

She licked her lips.

It must either be dinner time, or she’s read his mind. Again.

No. He’d had his brush with his own fragile mortality. Now it was time to do some living. He only has one life, and he wasn’t going to waste it. YOLO.

He leaned into the keyboard with the best of intentions. This book was going to be finished.

Three key strikes in and he found himself wondering what would happen if he died and the book wasn’t finished.

Someone would need to finish it in his place.

In a hurry, because time was of the essence, he scribbled down his computer’s password. Password1! – The exclamation mark made it tricky to hack.

He suddenly thought it would be handy for the same person to tie up all the other loose ends of his life too. So we wrote down all his other passwords. Social media accounts (silent though they were), bank details (empty), email accounts (silent again). Everything.

No sooner had he done that, he realised that this little sheet of paper meant any Tom, Dick or Harry would have access to his entire life.

He tore it up into tiny pieces and replaced it with one showcasing a series of indecipherable codes representing his passwords, including his computer’s. Then he hid the sheet on the inside of a bulky, locked tin he’d been keeping files in.

This way, his passwords would be safe from casually prying eyes and people wouldn’t be able to just type the passwords in verbatim. Security was important, especially when it came to his life’s work.

Happy with his new insurance arrangements, and confident whoever found him would now be able to finish his book for him, Gerald made a cup of tea.

It was funny… Four days of being in the same house, and he wasn’t sick of it yet. He had plenty of things to do in here. Besides, it wasn’t as if he was sat in the same room all the time. Variety is, after all, the spice of life.

And, for the first time, he was living.

He went back to his desk, steaming mug in hand.

It wasn’t long before an odd noise interrupted his train of thought. He looked around, thinking Snowball was purring somewhere nearby.

Then he saw it.

The screen on his phone was lit up. A call! From a London number too! Maybe this, finally, was an agent! A publisher! A friend!

He snatched the phone and flicked the button across the screen.

“Hello?”

Nothing.

“Hello?”

“Hello! This is Laura calling from DTT Insurance. Our records show that you’ve recently been involved in a car accident that wasn’t your fault. Is that the case?”

“No. Your report is wrong.”

Gerald kept his cool, ignoring both the urge to say how good it was to hear from a human, and the fact that the prolonged gaps in the call suggested he was actually talking to a machine.

“I’m sorry to hear that. Are you sure that it wasn’t somebody in your household, or that you didn’t notice?”

Maybe she wasn’t a machine. Maybe she was just thick. Gerald checked his empty driveway, just in case.

“No. I don’t have a car. And can I be removed from your calling list, please?”

Gerald looked at the phone to confirm what he already knew. The line had gone dead as soon as he’d said ‘car’. He’d carried on talking anyway. It felt good, but he’d never admit it.

He stared at the blinking cursor on his computer screen again, resisting the urge to scratch the healing wound on his chest.

It continued blinking, daring him to make a move.

Gerald smiled. This was living.

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