Last Man Standing
Frank Nolan is flustered, a state compounded by his drowsiness. As he hurries down the road, he still can’t figure out why his alarm didn’t go off. His FitSmart is pre-programmed for 7.15am every weekday, it has been for years. He had to rush out of the house without having a shower or breakfast, which he hates. If he doesn’t make his usual 8.03am train, he’ll have to wait for the 8.15am one, which will make him late for work.
He strides past the anonymously identical houses that make up the sprawling estate in which he lives. He could have sworn he saw the builder from the corner house loading tools into his van just a second ago but now he is nowhere to be seen. The busty jogger with the blond hair that he likes to watch out for each morning is coming straight towards him in the middle of the path. Suddenly, she vanishes. Frank does a full three-sixty-degree turn but her Lycra-clad butt is nowhere to be seen. He considers all logical causes but can find no plausible explanation. He hasn’t had a blackout since he over-did it on Tequila in Tenerife two summers ago, hasn’t even had a drink since Friday. His blood pressure was fine according to his FitSmart on the run last night so he probably isn’t having a stroke. There is no history of mental illness in the family, though his mother’s obsession with line dancing does make him wonder sometimes. He reminds himself of the time and quickens his pace.
Frank presses the button for the pedestrian crossing when he reaches the main road. Just as he steps out, a cyclist with a GoPro camera on his helmet breaks the lights and almost takes Frank’s right elbow with him as he speeds past. Frank glares at the man’s back, wishing poxes on him. The cyclist disappears. A strangled shriek escapes Frank’s throat. Something very weird is going on. No one else seems to have noticed anything amiss so he continues on his way, carried along by the wave of commuters, keeping his eyes on the ground.
He hears a familiar booming voice coming from behind. Without looking, Frank knows that it is the overweight man in the expensive but ugly pinstripe suit whose loud phone calls frequently interrupt his morning journey. He purposely turns around to face the buffoon. Zap! The man disappears. Good riddance, Frank thinks. He waits for the signs of hysteria or panic from passers-by but the mob carries on as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Frank is bewildered.
As he arrives at the station, a young man with huge headphones walks by him, radiating a pulsating bass that Frank can feel in his chest. He too gets a sharp stare. Zap! Another one gone. None of this makes any sense but Frank is starting to think this new power of his might actually be useful, if he can control it.
He hears the train pull into the station and hurries himself. Taking a seat in the least crowded carriage, he stares out the window, intent on getting through his journey without causing any more damage. He catches sight of the reflection of a woman with pretend messy hair that probably took her an hour to do and he can’t resist just this one more. He turns his head towards her. Zap! A flip-flop wearing forty-something year old man with a ponytail comes into view. He feels like he is doing a public service now. Zap! There is an old woman across from him silently mouthing every single word of the book she is reading. Zap! The slob of a man whose belly is peeking out from beneath his t-shirt. Zap! Before he knows it, Frank has the whole carriage to himself. He breathes a sigh of relief. Despite feeling somewhat apprehensive about what has happened, he finds the quietness delightful.
Frank lowers his eyes as he alights from the train and walks the remainder of the way to work with his head bowed, careful to not look at anyone directly. But as he passes the reception desk he can’t help staring at sour-pussed Rachel. Zap! No loss there.
“You remember I need those quarterly figures by the end of the day?”
Frank cringes at the sound of Jonathan, his Team Lead’s, voice behind him. He can’t help but turn around to confront him. Zap!
The hum in the open-plan office starts to grow as more of Frank’s co-workers arrive. Work would be much more bearable without their constant inane chatter. He walks to the first row of cubicles towards Charlene, who thinks the characters in Eastenders are real. Zap! He keeps going. Greasy Frank and his greasy moustache. Zap! Doug with his stupid American name. Zap! Tracey with her long flowing skirts and Ugg boots. Zap! Sean with his st-st-st-stutter. Zap! Aileen with her baby photos and leaking breasts. Zap! He empties the entire room. Zap! Zap! Zap!
With no one left to disturb him, Frank spends his morning drinking coffee and watching YouTube videos. There are no emails to deal with, and oddly, not a single phone call across the whole office. He eats Sean’s stash of wine gums, cuts his toe-nails with Charlene’s creepy engraved nail clippers and has a wank over photos of the boss’s wife he finds on his laptop. He eats lunch at eleven, which according to the handwritten labels on the Tupperware boxes he raids from the fridge, is a combination of Tracey’s, Doug’s and Jonathan’s.
He saunters down to the loo right around the time he should be in a team meeting and plays Scrabble on his phone while sitting with the cubicle door wide open. Eventually, he gets up and makes his way to the sink to wash his hands. He reaches for the soap but stops dead as he realises he is looking directly at himself in the bathroom mirror. Zap!