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The Misanthrope

fantasy by Janna Silverstein

I hate people. Really. Big genuine hate. So when I discovered that if I hated someone enough I could make them die, disappear, whatever, it seemed like divine intervention.

First it was Jasper Collins, who lived down the hall with his nasty, yappy little dog, Elmo. It was a pug, I think, with a pushed-in face and a constant frown.

Collins played his damn guitar at all hours of the night, croony-swoony songs you played in high school to impress cheerleaders. He was tall and lanky, with black hair too thin and straight to do anything but hang down on either side of his face like cheap tassles on a whore’s lamp shade. He had this adenoidal snort when he talked that made you want to push a handkerchief up against his face and make him blow the snot out of his head.

I went to bed one night wanting nothing more than to sleep when, on the other side of the wall, Jasper Collins started to play his guitar, strum strum strum, the same damn thing over and over again. It went on for hours. I wrapped my head in my blanket. I covered my ears with my pillow. I got up, put on my bathrobe, traipsed out into the hall and knocked on his door to politely ask him to stop. No dice.

I went back to bed, and my last thought before I finally passed out to the strains of “Mandy” was, “I hope he fucking dies, and his little dog, too.”

Sure enough, the next day the paramedics broke down his door.  I heard something about an eating disorder and cardiac arrest. A serendipitous coincidence, I figured. But then they brought out a stretcher with a pug-sized lump beneath a sheet. Never heard the yappy dog yapping its fool head off again.

Two days later, Lorine Martimer from Accounting flitted by my cubicle. Mid-forties, single, a little heavy and with hair a blond not found in nature, she had a voice that could etch glass. She stopped by mainly to flirt (no chance) with the excuse of reminding me to turn in my expense reports on time — like I ever had expense reports to deliver. At my level at the company, I was lucky if I got to leave the office to have lunch.

What finally set me off was her damn eau de cologne. She traveled in a cloud of pachouli so thick it set off my allergies. I’d be sneezing my sinuses bloody for the next two hours.

I wished she’d choke on her own perfume.

Damn if she didn’t suffocate in her apartment that very night; she’d let the pilot light go out on her gas stove.

Coincidence? I wondered. One way or another, this was getting interesting. I decided to get strategic and see what would happen.

When the lunatic president of North Korea started sabre-rattling, testing nuclear weapons and, in general, threatening the status quo, I wished he’d just disappear.

He did, two days later. They said it was kidnapping, assassination, whatever. Point is, he was never found. His successor laid off the nukes but still starved the populace. One less thing to worry about, anyway.

When a South American general attempted a coup on a struggling democratic state, I wished him a happy firing squad. That one backfired.  He was replaced by a tyrant worse than he himself would have been. Them’s the breaks, I guess.

I got a certain satisfaction out of seeing mayor of New York City choke on his own blood at a press conference. The bastard had worked to regulate the content of restaurant menus, gasoline, and cable television. At the televised funeral, his wife was hard as marble. His children, on the other hand, cried a river. I was sort of sorry about the kids. On the other hand, I never liked kids much, anyway.

There’s nothing like the New York City subway in summertime. Hot. Humid. The acrid stink of urine in the stairwells. Too many bodies too close together with too much sweat and not enough air. Once you’re on the trains you’re a captive audience for every nutcase and evangelist looking for a hand out, a convert, or a hostage to the Manhattan-to-Queens commute.

And there I was, crammed into a seat between a sumo wrestler and a drag queen when two homeless guys pushed their way in from the next car forward after the train lurched into motion. They begged as a tag team, hitting passengers with their old-sweat stink before they hit people up for spare change.

“A fucking plague,” I mumbled. I didn’t think about it. That’s what the homeless were in New York City in those days, a fucking plague.

A month later, after 280 people had died of a previously unknown virus, patients zero and one were identified as a couple of homeless guys who haunted the N train to Astoria every night.

The population of New York City, the tristate area, and then the entire eastern seaboard thinned considerably over the next eight months. Travel in and out of the city was restricted. Businesses fled or went under. And pockets of plague sprang up wherever people who’d visited the city retreated.

Both China and Europe got hit hard, losing several million pretty quickly. Efforts to contain panic and paranoia seemed to exacerbate the spreading fear.

It was something to see.

My health was excellent.

But I couldn’t get a decent cup of coffee anymore; the corner coffee chain withdrew from the region. Irritating.

The diminished population in New York City meant a new assault.  Rodents and other vermin encroached, more populous than ever before. It was like a goddamned alien invasion, and I remarked as such to the exterminator when he fumigated the building.

What I hadn’t expected were the saucer-shaped ships that arrived a couple of weeks later, and the wide swaths they cut as they scoured the city with their orange death rays.  My mistake? I fled towards Long Island. There are only so many places you can go from Montauk Point.

From the Sound, I can see smoke rising out of New London, Connecticut. If nothing else, all that destruction will bring down real estate prices. Queens was getting too pricey anyway.

copyright April 2011 by Janna Silverstein

Janna Silverstein lives in Seattle.  Her fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, TalebonesMarion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy MagazineOrson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show and the anthologies Ghosttide, Swordplay, and The Trouble with Heroes.

[return to the April 2011 main page]

2 Responses

  1. Great story!

  2. Lots of hidden implications here, if one continues to think through the premise. Delightfully, lightly played. Fun piece!

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