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Strange Humiliation

It was around 11.00 on a Sunday morning. Sixteen year old Greg was walking up the Main Street, as he always did on a Sunday, to buy the newspaper. He had once wondered why he did this, as he read very little of the newspaper when he got it home. Now though, he doesn’t wonder, he just buys it, looks through it for no more than maybe five minutes, and puts it away until recycling day at the end of the week.

The sky was overcast. No sun, no rain, no wind. There was also no sign of anybody else, and not a single car driving past.

When he arrived at the news agency, he found that the electricity was not being used. Possibly to save power, and perhaps something had gone amiss. The faint light drawn from the sky was the only means for Greg to visually acknowledge the two people standing behind the counter.

They were a man and a woman, quite old, perhaps too old to be working in a darkened store. Greg couldn’t make out much, but did think they were old and old enough to be retired and sleeping in or sitting at home reading the Sunday newspaper.

Greg picked up a copy of the newspaper from in front of the counter and went towards the back of the store. It was a narrow corridor with rows on either side filled with books and magazines. At the very end was the stationery section, and that’s where Greg needed to go, and he needed to go there cautiously, such was the lack of lighting.

When he arrived, he picked up a pack of 100 loose leaf A4 paper, required for school, even though it would be more likely used for crazy drawings and scribbles than for any actual school work.

Greg walked back to the front counter, and handed over the newspaper and 100 pack of A4 paper to the old lady.

He noticed that both the man and woman seemed very nervous, and reacted very quickly when he handed them the money. The woman instantly produced a green plastic bag for the items to go in.

‘Oh no, don’t worry about a bag’, Greg said, but it was like the woman didn’t hear, or didn’t care – she just wanted to bag the items.

Greg being Greg, someone quite polite, didn’t want to cause any trouble, so he graciously accepted the bagging of the items, and wandered out of the store.

The street was as it had been before. It was dull, and lifeless. He walked up the Main Street and then turned the corner to Hailed Street. Even Hailed Street was completely quiet, no sign of anyone but Greg.

He continued on, and as he passed the very high and steep wall that went along the hamburger chain restaurant a small red car appeared and sped away just as fast as it had come.

Greg stood completely still for a moment. It had seemed strange that the car had come from seemingly nowhere, and had then returned to seemingly nowhere else. A strong gust of wind followed then, tearing up through the street. He gripped the green plastic bag tightly, as it started blowing side to side. A feeling of unease had gripped him as tightly.

The wind left, and the street was quiet again, and the bag holding the newspaper and A4 paper was now so much easier to carry – it did not sway. Greg loosened his hold on it, only holding the handles, and he continued his walk home.

Just as he was content again and relaxed, the wind did return, stronger this time. Greg was being blown from side to side. The green plastic bag was torn apart as of it were made of tissue paper. The newspaper and the 100 loose leaf A4 pieces of paper were unleashed on to the footpath.

A look of fear turned into a look of panic as Greg rushed to collect each piece of A4 paper and newspaper as it swirled around him. He grabbed at the paper debris with his hands, then as he collected them he held them down under his feet, knees, and finally, his elbows, as he became so tired that he had nearly collapsed.

He looked a great mess, just there on his hands and knees with piles of paper underneath him.

A parade of cars drove past, and Greg tried unconvincingly to hide his embarrassment which clearly showed on his very red face.

The wind had stopped, and the passing traffic had stopped with it. Greg was sure then, that he had heard a muffled laugh. The laugh itself did not sound human, was certainly nothing that he had heard before. He looked around, but saw nothing.

Greg stood up, and picked up the newspaper and the A4 paper and searched everywhere for the green plastic bag. He searched everywhere. The footpath, the road, the steep high wall where the chain hamburger restaurant was. But like the laughter he was sure he had heard, it was nowhere to be seen.

Strange Humiliation

brendan harkom

Melbourne, Australia

  • Artist

Artist's Description

I found this recently, and I’m pretty sure it was written some time around 1994. I think it was actually based on something that did happen to me, and the plastic bag did disappear without a trace.

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