Writing With Reuben

Short Stories

 BY K R OLALEYE


A short story about a husband & wife, nuclear fallout and love.


Ophelia had scanned herself when Hamlet her genius husband had fallen asleep. She had a tumour in her brain, no doubt brought on by the radiation Hamlet had always been insufferably banging on about. It didn’t matter that they died, as long as she was in his arms, but to him she was invisible. Hamlet had died during world war three, he just hadn’t noticed. This ghost of a man was so convinced that he was him but he was a shade of the man he once knew. His great heart no longer matched his great mind, a characteristic she had loved about him more than any. The one thing he had passed on to their bright daughter Juliet . His heart was gone. That had passed on into the ether. What remained was a mirage of a man, bent on a vengeance of sort, like a ghost with unfinished business; his sole purpose was to kill every last Photoferian alien.  She felt cut out like a cancer, rejected, part of a body that no longer wanted it. She thought it was funny that a cancer had begun to claim her life; it was closer to her than he was.

Ophelia had worn her wedding dress today. Hamlet had traveled to the US via teleport to assist General Othello, he couldn’t stop her. Though day it seemed like night almost, the clouds were unusually thick and rain had begun to fall. Ophelia didn’t care perhaps these once green hills would become green again, their muddy countenance were odd an unnatural. They resembled her marriage, they had all the making of beauty but grass didn’t grow on them anymore. She sat under the only tree that had any leaves, a willow tree. How it had survived was beyond her comprehension. She was sure Hamlet had some smart way of explaining how but she didn’t much care for hearing his voice let alone hear him natter on about the scientific phenomenon.

She blinked and for a moment saw Hamlet sitting across her on the white woolly sheet laid out, full of jam sandwiches and a jar of peach slices. He loved peach slices. They were his favourite. He reached over and grabbed them. Romeo their son-in-law laughed at the vigour with which Hamlet was eating them. Juliet their daughter kissed baby Richard, he had her lovely red hair and was a lively little ball of joy. His yelp frightened two amorous doves in the vibrant willow tree above them and Hamlet made a joke about the doves reminding him of when he and Ophelia were young. Ophelia laughed and watched the doves invade the bright blue sky decorated with an embroidery of pure white clouds that could have passed off as candy floss in a dream-world. But this was a dream-world and the bright sun she had seen smiling upon the whole scene vanished to be replaced by the gloom she was really in; alone, surrounded by a picnic basket, willow leaves and a mirage for company. 

She screamed at the top of her voice in one load protest, her throat in the end surrendering to silence. Hamlet was in a meeting with some engineers headed by general Othello but his attention snapped. Ophelia snapped the twig that had rudely landed on her sandwich in a metaphorical salutation to all sanity. She noticed the river a few paces away. They had loved dipping their feet in the river as youngsters when they were childhood sweethearts. 

Hamlet remembered, for one day, it seemed as if all was right with the world, his family-his world. Romeo had come by along with Juliet and he’d eaten humble pie and given Romeo Demeter a chance even if he was the son of his rival of sorts. It was all Ophelia’ idea, obviously, the life blood of their relationship. He was a partaker; he’d taken so much but in recent years had come up short. It wasn’t always like that. He had taken her and Juliet on holiday and when they weren’t on holiday a simple trip to the park to bond was priceless but the world outside had destroyed their happiness, or rather he had allowed it to. He had been so consumed by his father’s passing, nothing mattered anymore. What was the point in trying? So like an un-watered plant, his family withered. Juliet ran off with Romeo without his blessing and Ophelia, she’d become as inconspicuous as bland wallpaper -aging silently without being appreciated. If she was a plant, she’d be dead, Hamlet thought. 

“How’s Ophelia?”

Hamlet snapped out of his rueful reminiscing and back to reality. The meeting had been over for almost two minutes and rarely did anyone talk about anything other than work to Hamlet, he had become that sort of man, but that was the whole reason why General Othello had given him the time off, so that he could be a person again, make amends with his family...not make a doomsday device. Hamlet remembered Oppenheimer’s words quoted from the Bhagavad Gita ‘Now I have become death, the destroyer of worlds’. He had destroyed his world and his wife’s too. So upon hearing General Othello’ question his rash answer seemed somewhat exaggerated but correct. 

“Dead,” he said, his voice cracking slightly. It was at this moment he realised that if losing his father could turn him into a soulless machine then losing his wife would kill him. Ophelia walked slowly towards the river. There used to be a barrier running along the river but that had long since been uprooted by scavengers to use for upholstery for shelters. She dipped her feet in and giggled, it was freezing cold but she was happy, it was a reminder she was alive. 

Ophelia looked in horror as the jar of peach slices rolled down the small hill and plopped into the river. That was Hamlet’s favourite. She jumped in after it, her wedding dress soaking with water like a sponge. Hamlet’s cardiac tumour arrested him and the only comfort he could afford himself was the memory of his youthful wife swimming in the river as he watched, eating a jar of peach slices that she had lovingly prepared, his feet kicking the river gently as he sat on the river bank

A jar of peach slices sunk to the riverbed ignoring Ophelia’s plea for gravity to ignore its job but much like Hamlet in later life, gravity did its job regardless of the repercussions.

Written by Kingsley Reuben Olaleye.