Homicidal Translation

A fictitious short story

Title entrusted to me from my good friend, Colin Belfiore–Thanks!

Foreword: The only real people characterized in this piece are Former Chicago Mayor, Carter Harrison, Sr., and his assassin, Patrick Eugene Prendergast. This is a complete work of fiction set in a real historical event, the World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893. This work started as a simple murder story that I used history to embellish. Please let me know of any major inconsistencies with my writing or if something does not make sense. I will probably revise this story due to confusion with the protagonist being unnamed, but let me know if it makes sense as it stands too! Thanks and enjoy.

Homicidal Translation

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In great detail and focus, he looked at his pocketwatch ticking. Regarding each shift of the hand and measuring the distance between them with his rapidly deepening heart beat.

“Six minutes,” he whispered under the stillness of the cold night.

He stood tall, clad in: a dark black overcoat and a dark tan slouch hat; a dark, navy blue pair of slacks and a dark leather pair of boots; a set of dark, amber spectacles and two dark leather gloves.

He was out on the solemn 63rd street. Dignified gas street lights ran distantly down 63rd.

Above him was a lone lit candle looming from a tenement window and wafts of smoke tumbling from the tops of the five-story tenements.

There was not another person outside at the time, but the trolleys were running later than expected this night and he knew a man named ‘Norman’ was coming.

From the inside of his coat pocket, he withdrew a cigarette from a case and placed the cigarette in his mouth with one hand and put the case back in his coat pocket with his other hand. From the right front pocket of his coat, he grabbed a Zippo lighter, lit the cigarette nodding his head down and placed the lighter back in the right front pocket.

He exuded deep and tense breaths with each drag from the cigarette. He looked up to the sky and saw stars and clouds from deep in space. Exquisite purples and vivid blues melded in spectacular light and the stars gleamed in bright clumps unlike any night sky he had seen before. A gust of wind blew and whipped his
long, straight hair wildly and he looked down and held onto the front tip of his slouch hat.

As the wind died down, he once again heard the ticks of his pocketwatch distancing in between the beating drum of his heart. A sole two minutes had passed since he first inspected his pocketwatch.

. . .

“6:00 PM 30 April 1893

“Last night dreamt I was gliding through decadent, white clouds and then over what I believe to be the South Side of Chicago. It was too fantastic for myself to have confidence it was reality, but it seemed real–I could feel the water vapors of the gaseous bodies glide over me.

“I then came upon the White City; to be open to the public in two days. The luminous white buildings stood erect and distant to the tenements I had seen moments earlier. I could not see a single soul walking on the grounds of the great ‘World’s Fair.’ I looked upon the sky to see hastened and warped overcast fleeting and I felt a sickness inside of me, like the fearful lament of a dear passing. The lake stormed and crass waves shattered into a fine mist up on the shore as though some god had thrown them down with all his might and fury.

“My soul waned to an insignificant shard in comparison to the alabaster buildings. I felt me to be a bastard for my flout appearance to the order and structure radiating from the monumental achievements of classical architecture.

“Against my wishes, this mystical vision had descended me upon the refined Jackson Park. With each descending distance my fervor and fright grew increasingly. The clouds turned thicker into a heavy haze speeding off faster in an enduring, ominous hold over where the sun should rightfully reign. The surge of Michigan had crested higher with more ferocity and struck the docks with roaring tenacity.

“I then appeared in front of the Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building. What had begun as a magic and awe-inspiring sky voyage had transpired into a haunting captivity during my night’s rest. The superstructure had been designed and tailored to fit a king of men or a giant of children’s folklore. Colossal columns held the wide crown up as Atlas is said to carry the world upon his shoulders. Precisely trimmed shrubbery lined the exterior like a fence is exactly manufactured.

“In the bewilderment of the Herculean building, I sensed the being of some wickedness in the place. The foreboding signs rose to a crescendo while I felt immense feebleness and weakness as though I was soon to breathe one’s last and rise to meet the Reaper’s sickle and spend eternity in the blazing furnaces and arid, toxic landscapes of the Underworld.

“No matter what effort I mustered, I could not crack my surely fastened eyelids from the horrifying apocalyptic torment of this night-terror. Then I saw one of the mammoth doors crack open and a man arose from the umbrageous crevice. He jaunt down the steps across from myself with the devil’s smile slathered upon his face.

“I catechized the mysterious man to identify himself. He simply responded: ‘Norman and if you do not slay me, I will conjure forth the end.’ He proceeded to put his right hand in his pocket delicately, removed a revolver from a single shoulder gun strap and fixed the ironsight upon my face with only the right hand and a fully extended right arm. Waves of grave terror ran up from my feet to my head and my eyes burst completely open to the apprehension of the lethal force to be ministered in a second’s flash.

“He pulled the trigger in, what seemed to be, a fraction of the normal speed one perceives reality. I could see the smoke expel from the chamber and the metal projectile spinning and whipping the air as a ravenous vortex rips the plains. Tears suddenly welled from the depths of my eyes as I was stricken with the complete knowledge that this would be my end. My jaw slacked as my lungs repleted with the bullet nearing it’s fated target. I anticipated the impact with my head snapping back.

“I soon saw nothing but could feel my heart lumped in my throat and sweat excreting from all the pores that riddled my skin. My breathing was more rapid than ever before and my limbs were cold. For some odd moments I had no answer to my state at the time other than I conjectured I would never again be able to walk another day in the realm of the living.

“Although, the wind blew and I witnessed it’s sound. My eyes moved to the window after I was able to break the trance that bound them to the deep darkness in front of myself. I saw to my marvel: the tenements across the street; the street lights; and a cat! The feline night-hunter must have been real! The sky had subdued! Time passed and my eyes gradually developed to see through the dark. I was then capable to light the candle next to my bed and I could see I was in my own chartered studio.

“I was immensely fortunate to have survived such a fright that I devoted to-day to find out who Norman was and what succubus’ symbolism had blighted my mind with a connection to the white plastered grounds housing the World’s Fair. My inquiries were this: is this ‘Norman’ character folly from my sub-conscious or a substantial individual with real intentions? what did his words mean by ‘the end?’ what would the World’s Fair have to do with all of this conjecture? as well as, could this hellish omen be completely absurd?

“I cautiously approached the Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building and recalled the identical image in certain detail from last night’s episode. At the front was a doorman who requested I would not be allotted to enter the building and that I should come back the next day when the Fair would be opened to public attendance. Upon his saying and for my starving curiosity, I told him ‘I would need to meet a man named Norman that could be inside.’ The doorman’s face looked rather unsure of my purpose, but my face sparked with astonishment as I could read by his look that there was, without any irk of doubt, a Norman within. I then told him ‘my reasons are sensitive and imperative matters that I must speak to him about.’ The doorman asked for my name and I pleaded without giving away my identity that ‘Norman is in dire need to speak with me and the Fair could conceivably hold drastic consequences.’

“Finally, the doorman nodded and motioned for myself to follow him inside. Elegantly decorated with no shrew dollar spent, embellished gas lights hung off tall columns and a multitude of kiosks and attractions were being setup for the grand opening.

“We approached an office in the back corner of the building with translucent windows that revealed the silhouettes of several men whose chatter crept under the tactfully carved door. The doorman told me to wait where I was, about twenty feet away, and went inside the office. Some time later, the doorman emerged followed by another man. When I observed his face, an immediate recollection blitzed before my eyes and a chill ran through my body.

“He asked who I was and why it was necessary we spoke. I rebutted asking if we could converse in private. He thought to himself for a second and then asked me to follow him to his own office. Norman’s office was nearly the same as the one he was previously in. We entered his office and asked me to answer his previous questions. I told him my name was not important but that I wanted to know exactly his role in organizing the World’s Fair. ‘I gather the world leaders, artists, scientists, engineers, architects, and speakers for the Fair.’ He turned his back to me and continued speaking about the various guests and their importance; however, I looked on his desk and under a sheet of paper a note peaked out, reading in bold type:

‘HARRISON, SR. WILL DIE DURING THE FAIR BY MY HANDS … YOU NEED TO ORGANIZE AND EXECUTE A MASS MURDER OF THE WORLD LEADER’ AT THE RECEPTION TOMORROW … YOU WILL THEN ASSUME THE POSITION OF CHICAGO’s MAYOR AND IMPLEMENT THE SINGLE-TAX … CAPITALISM BROODS CORRUPTION, COMMUNISM IS BROTHERHOOD, CONTROL IS FREEDOM–PRENDERGAST’

“Norman quickly turned back to me and asked why I was inquisitive to his role. We sat in silence and his look grew suspicious as I already was of him. I then demanded his opinion of Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr. to whom he said ‘is a corrupt show off, nothing but a façade of wealth and the people’s love.’ Norman then took a large breath and looked at me with stern eyes. He then turned around again and said he hoped for more practical politicians in the world who could empathize with the poor and struggling working class. I glanced around the room once more and between two cabinets saw a book. It was ‘The Communist Manifesto’ and barely in reach for a man’s hand to grab if even detected.

“I realized then that the World’s Fair would become a massive revolution and send the western hemisphere into chaos and hysteria. It seemed Norman’s role was key to bring about ‘the end,’ as the end of western society and strangle American Exceptionalism.

“Thinking quickly and in order to realize my dream, I asked Norman if tonight we may meet and discuss ‘The Communist Manifesto’ and his suspicions and anger turned into the same wide and devilish grin from the nightmare. He wrote down his address on a business card and told me he reaches his home everyday on the last trolley of the night.

. . .

The trolley would arrive in one minute.

Norman would walk off the trolley and see him standing there at the very last stop. His heart started to beat faster and his lungs took fast, yet deep breaths. His eyes stared into the middle of the street as the wind picked up and an overcast sprawled over the sky. Some blocks behind him, Lake Michigan had become unrestrained and the waves slammed into the pier and Lake Michigan began to seep onto Chicago. The wind became ravenous and heedlessly flowed the waters further into Chicago.

A trolley approached and he extended his right arm and hand down the side of his body. The surge of water and wind grew from the east and forced on west, beginning to flood Jackson Park and the entire coastline of Chicago.

The trolley stopped in front of him carrying but a single passenger, Norman.

Norman saw that he was at the stop, but he did not make eye contact with Norman. Instead, he watched the trolley doorway with promise.

Akin to the dream in his sleep the night before, the speed of reality seemed to decimate, he could no longer feel nor hear the wind howling or water flooding, he took one deep breath as Norman’s foot stepped at the edge of the doorway. He looked up to see Norman’s grin and said: “This is the end.”

He threw off his overcoat and grabbed his Bodeo revolver from a hidden hip holster. He raised the ironsight directly eye level to Norman and pulled the trigger with such enthusiasm as though he were delivering evil from all corners of the world. The bullet flew with such grace and spun round and round–tight–like a trained ballerina’s passionate climax, whirling in a perfectly executed fouette.

And the wide smile appeared on his face and then quickly faded. He knew exactly what Norman saw, the fear he felt, and he saw the fated bullet rocket towards Norman who knew his death will come in a seconds flash.

Tears welled up from the deep crevices of his eyes as Norman’s head snapped back and the bullet impaled in between his eyes. His hands trembled uncontrollably covered with two dark leather gloves and the stain of murder. He dropped the gun out of abhorrence from the notion that his nightmare pushed him as far as to kill another man.

He ran back to his studio room some blocks away and hampered his thoughts from coming to terms with his action.

Shortly after Norman’s death, the sky cleared and the winds quelled, Lake Michigan ebbed and the waves waned.

Whenever he looked another person in the eyes, the nightmare flashes before him, as does his slaying of Norman. Perpetually isolated and paranoid, he could never remove the unfathomable stain of death from his hands, from his mind.

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Comments
One Response to “Homicidal Translation”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I love the plot. . . but the writing was a little confusing, I felt like there were two very distinct voices.

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