A Prologue

The following is the beginning of the prologue I wrote just now to a story that has been floating around my head for longer than I can remember – four years at least. I like the story, but I somehow could never bring all the pieces together even inside my head. My working title was and still is “My Second Life”. It’s a silly title and I need to come up with something better soon before abandoning the idea completely, but it’s the only title I have right now so now it’s public. The subtitle is “A Tall Tale”. The point is that the entire story is beyond ridiculous. It’s silly. It’s preposterous. And I think it’s a lot of fun.

But I fear that I may be alone in that assessment. There is no way anyone would ever want to read and, more importantly, publish this. Furthermore, I was worried that people would think it was autobiographical. So it never bothered me much that I couldn’t make it work quite right in my head. And so the bits and pieces of it I’d written over the years just sat around on my computer and didn’t amount to much. Until I had an idea for how to start the other day and decided to just give it a go and see where it leads me. Please understand that this is a very, very rough first draft. I wrote it in under an hour just now. There are many things wrong with it. But I thought it might be fun to put on here. Also, this is only about two thirds of the prologue. The rest gives a much clearer indication of where the story is headed and I don’t want to share that quite yet. So basically, this is a pointless exercise in patience. Read on at your own risk.

My Second Life. A Tall Tale by Christoph Hartwig

Prologue

I left home early. I didn’t bother to lock the door behind me. I picked up the rental car I’d gotten online the day before and started driving. The contract said that 100 kilometres were included. I abandoned the car at a train station after driving 800. I left the keys in the ignition, the door open and the tank full.
I bought a train ticket east with my credit card. The train was early and was already sitting at the platform. I got on and looked around for the shadiest character I could find. I settled on a young mother travelling with her baby daughter. Unlikely to give chase, I though. I gave her my credit card, the PIN for it and told her there were about 200 in the account. It was a lie, but I figured it didn’t matter.
I went to the bathroom on the train. I put on a hat, sunglasses and stowed my coat in my bag. I left the bathroom and got off the train just before it departed. Back at the ticket window I bought a ticket west and paid for it cash.

Twenty two hours later I got off at my destination. I hadn’t slept. First fear of missing the stop where I needed to trains kept me awake. Then just fear. I had spent most of the journey ripping up my passport, driver’s licence, debit card and other forms of ID and throwing the pieces out of the window whenever it seemed opportune.
It was late in the afternoon. The little village was quiet. I had meant to come here for a long time, but never gotten around to it. It was the end of the world, literally. I walked to the shore and out to the westernmost point of the continent. My bag felt heavy, so I took my coat out of it and put it back on. Night was falling as I looked over the endless ocean. After dreaming of it for years, the view was disappointing.
I went back into the town, to the train station, and bought dinner from a snack machine. It tasted as disgusting as it sounded. I walked around the little town until it was truly dark, then went to sleep in a dumpster. Why the hell not, I reasoned.
I woke up to the rumbling sound of a big truck coming close. Before I knew it, the dumpster was moving, shaking from side to side as the garbage truck gripped it. Luckily I had the presence of mind to grab my bag before frantically scrambling out. Without it, my plan would never have worked and I would have to abandon it. Going home didn’t seem like a sensible option. I had made sure it wouldn’t.
I twisted my ankle as I jumped to the ground and winced at the pain. One glance at the cheap plastic watch I had bought two days before showed me that it had stopped. I silently cursed my luck and limped away. It was still very early in the morning and I regretted not having brought the axe along. But if I had been stopped anywhere along the way, I would have been able to explain all the things in my bag quite easily. But an axe would have looked suspicious and I wanted to avoid that at all cost.
I got an idea and went over to the only pub still open and ordered vodka. The bartender’s look was disapproving, but when I showed him the shiny, crisp new 100 bill, he relented. I got drunk quickly, an easy thing on an almost empty stomach. There was only on other customer this early in the morning – it was after four. He seemed a surly sailor type and just what I needed. Bolstered by half a bottle of vodka, I sat down at his table.
He looked up from the drink he’d been nursing since I’d come in, regarded me coldly, and shooed me away with one hand. I didn’t bother to get up but knocked him square in the jaw. The pain in my hand was excruciating. The sailor jumped up and shoved me off my chair. I hit my head on the paved floor and couldn’t understand what the bartender shouted. I’d misjudged the sailor’s size – he was at least twice as heavy as me and none of it was fat. He gripped me by the scruff of the neck, hauled me upright and pasted me one, before shoving me towards the door, opening it and throwing me outside, all with one hand. I fell to the ground and just lay there for a few minutes. So much for my brilliant idea. I felt my raw jaw, but nothing seemed to be broken. I unsteadily got up and lurched towards an alleyway, hitting the walls a few times. The small alley seemed to wobble unsteadily and I decided to play it safe and sit down. I missed the floor and crumpled into a heap. Deciding that throwing up would be helpful, I did just that all over my coat.
I must have fallen back asleep because when I looked up next the sun had risen. I felt much better, that is until I got up. My ankle hurt. My wrist hurt. My jaw felt broken after all. And I somehow had managed to lose my hat. Luckily, I had a replacement base cap in my bag. It was then that I realised I had no idea where my bag was. I raced, or rather lurched, back to the pub and with mounting elation saw that it was sitting just outside the door, apparently untouched. I decided that this was going to be a good day after all.
Half an hour later, my cap drawn deep into my face and hiding some of the worse bruises, I walked out of the local hardware store with an axe and a cheese grater. The clerk hadn’t seemed interested at all in my unusual appearance and purchase and I felt sure that today was a lucky day. Then I remembered that I didn’t believe in luck. Nevertheless, I whistled through my sore jaw on the way to the small port.

 

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