All Stories, General Fiction

An Act of Courage by Robert P. Bishop

Jacob Mundy glanced at the ominous cumulonimbus clouds boiling overhead. He clutched the sack of groceries to his chest and hurried down the sidewalk toward his home, trying to beat the coming storm. It wasn’t the rain he feared; it was the lightning that came with the storm. Jacob knew if he were caught outside he would be struck dead by a bolt of lightning, fried in his tracks, his groceries, sodden and disintegrating from the rain, scattered like so much litter next to his charred and twisted body. This vision terrified Jacob. He leaned forward and increased his pace. “Oh, God, oh, God, I’m going to get zapped,” he whimpered and walked faster.

Static electricity in the air made his skin feel prickly and the hair on his arms and neck stand erect, a sure sign a lightning strike was imminent. His scalp began to tingle. He felt the hair on his head respond to the electricity of the charged air. The air grew more alive. Jacob felt it humming with energy. He gripped his groceries tighter and hurried on. “No,” he sobbed as the air thrummed with suppressed violence.

Rounding the corner near his house, Jacob cried, “I’m going to make it.” He ran up the steps and stood under the protective shelter of the porch overhang as the first lightning blazed across the blue-black sky, followed immediately by an enormous thunder clap.

“Oh, come on!” he muttered, desperately trying to steady his hand so he could insert the key into the lock. Jacob stepped inside and closed the door as another streak of lightning flashed across the sky. He leaned his back against the door. “That was too close,” he said when a blast of thunderous air hurled itself against his house.

Catching his breath and thanking Zeus for a narrow escape from a fiery death, Jacob carried the groceries into the kitchen. After putting them away, he poured himself a glass of scotch and took a long drink. Then he went into the living room and opened the curtains. Rain, whipped horizontal by the savage wind, hammered against the windows. Lightning streaked in a ragged dance through the clouds. Thunder boomed and rattled the house on its foundations.      Jacob imagined the lightning and thunder trying to break into his house to get to him, to sacrifice him to the storm gods. He raised the glass. “Not today,” he said and took a drink.

He would empty the scotch bottle tonight. Tomorrow he would have to walk to the liquor store to replenish his supply. Jacob Mundy didn’t own a car. He was afraid to drive, afraid of being in an accident and ending up maimed, or crippled and confined to a wheelchair, or even dead, so he walked wherever he went. Sometimes he saw his shattered body lying in a pedestrian crosswalk, run over by a crazed or inattentive driver, or by some lunatic on a cell phone. His mind filled with horror as he imagined being dragged under a car, his flesh sandpapered to bare bones by the rough asphalt, the roaring engine drowning his screams.

Jacob Mundy drank more scotch and thought about tomorrow.

He hoped he wouldn’t meet anyone walking their dog tomorrow. Jacob was afraid of dogs. Their teeth were always so big. And their tongues! God, was there anything more repulsive than a gigantic red tongue slopping out of a dog’s drooling mouth? Jacob shuddered at the thought of a dog’s tongue licking his face, stripping away flesh with every swipe of that gruesome, slobbering organ until his skull was nothing but a bare white sphere with a toothy death’s head grin, bathed in a layer of shimmering dog drool.

Jacob shivered and took another drink of scotch. “Safe inside again,” he whispered.

Of course, Jacob knew there was going to be a tomorrow. Yes, there was always the dreaded tomorrow, which terrified him because he did not know what tomorrow might bring. Tomorrow might be the day a crazed driver lost control when Jacob was walking to the supermarket, crash into a power pole and bring it down, snapping the power lines. One of the broken lines would fall onto Jacob, wrap around him in a 5,000 volt embrace and sizzle him right there on the sidewalk.

Jacob forced the image of his electrocuted body to go away and imagined arriving safely at the supermarket only to find himself in the middle of a robbery gone bad, taken hostage by the bandits and used as a human shield, or worse, shot in a ferocious shootout between the robbers and the police. Jacob saw himself lying on the floor, bleeding profusely from multiple gunshot wounds, pleading for help as the robbers and police shot it out to the bitter end. Jacob shuddered with apprehension as the robbery and his untimely death played out in his mind.

Depressed by the visions of the many horrible events that could befall him tomorrow, Jacob prepared for bed. He turned off the television, threw the empty scotch bottle in the trash, rinsed the glass and put it in the cabinet. Then he checked to see all the windows and doors were securely locked before going to bed.

Jacob Mundy was afraid of burglars. He had never been burgled, and he didn’t want the experience, either. He dreaded waking to see a masked hoodlum standing by his bed, pointing a huge gun at his face, demanding sums of money Jacob didn’t have. So he took precautions to see this never happened to him. He had security bars bolted over the windows, sturdy metal security doors installed as outside barriers to the house doors, and had an alarm system put in. Once inside his home, Jacob felt completely safe. Well, almost completely safe.

Just to be sure his home was secure for the night, Jacob made another round, checking window and door locks and the alarm system.

Jacob set the alarm clock for 6 AM, climbed into bed, pulled the covers to his chin and closed his eyes. The 300-watt ceiling light blazed, illuminating the bedroom as brightly as if the sun had invaded the room and was hovering overhead. Jacob never slept with the lights out.

Jacob Mundy was afraid of the dark.

His fear went deeper than a mere fear of the dark. Jacob lived in terror of being placed in a coffin after he had died and having the lid screwed down so tight not even a slender shaft of light could get through to him. When he thought of being confined in the utter darkness of a coffin his knees trembled and he became faint. On several occasions he had visions of his body lying in a casket. Just before the lid was closed he would shout, “Don’t close it!” but he knew it was lunacy to think the dead could see, much less talk. The fear these visions stoked in Jacob was so intense he nearly fainted when they played in his mind. Of course, he realized the absurdity of this fear. After all, the dead were just that, dead, and not aware of what was going on around them. But, he reasoned, what if his soul, assuming he even had a soul, did not have enough time to escape his body before he was confined in a box for eternity in total darkness? Then, added to that outrageous abuse, dropped into a hole in the ground and covered with dirt so deep it trapped his soul forever.

And there his body and his soul would remain, incarcerated, deep in cold, unyielding earth. For eternity. In total darkness. Jacob nearly fainted at these thoughts but sleep overtook him before fear robbed him of sanity.

After breakfast, Jacob looked at his watch; almost time to leave for work. He checked his appearance in the mirror one more time. Something was wrong with the position of his tie; the knot was a tad off-kilter with the shirt collar. He adjusted his tie and was satisfied with the result. He looked at his watch again; getting close to the time when he had to leave the house.

He dawdled, trying to postpone the inevitable.

Jacob went to every window to make sure the locks were still secured. An examination of the back door proved the locks were safely engaged. Jacob looked at his watch again; getting closer to departure time. Then he opened his wallet to see that his credit cards and money had not been misplaced. One last look at the spotless kitchen assured Jacob everything was in order. Then he checked the thermostat setting. It was correct. Jacob knew it would be, but he checked it anyway. A quick pat of the pocket assured him he had his cell phone. He pulled it out just to make sure it really was his cell and not a deck of playing cards.

He looked at his watch again. “Oh, God,” he groaned. “It’s time.” Jacob grabbed the front doorknob, paused for a moment, lifted his chin and squared his shoulders then walked out the front door and locked it and the metal security door. From the safety of the porch Jacob peered up and down the street. He didn’t see any cars, hear the sounds of screeching brakes, or see people walking their dogs. He looked up to a pale blue morning sky. No storms appeared imminent. Then he studied the overhead electrical wires. They seemed sturdy enough and not in danger of collapsing as he walked under them. He listened for the sounds of gunshots but didn’t hear any.

Sucking in a deep breath, Jacob Mundy said, “Here goes,” and stepped off the porch.

 

Robert P. Bishop

Image – dd

10 thoughts on “An Act of Courage by Robert P. Bishop”

    1. Hi Harrison…Woody Allen said, “I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there where it happens.” I’m with Woody on this one. Glad you enjoyed the story.

      Like

  1. Hi Robert,
    His paranoia was probably more about life in general than any specifics.
    You just feel that whatever he thought about would become an issue for him.
    The title was inspired and it tied into the ending.
    I really did enjoy this.
    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh

    Like

  2. Amusing, darkly funny story, the irony of being ruled by fear…anxiety destroying his life, not any of those other things….well, not yet…. hmmm, I guess you can never be certain…. he he. A guy I used to know once told me “death itself is no problem, it’s the getting there that freaks me out.”

    Like

    1. Hi Kim
      Thanks for the kind remark. Sometimes my imagination even worries me. That’s why I keep a bottle of wine handy.

      Like

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