From the Malafarina Files, ‘The Age Of Man’ a short story by the master of horror Thomas M. Malafarina

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By: Thomas M. Malafarina
© 2010 Thomas M. Malafarina

 The world is beautiful, but has a disease called man” – Friedrich Nietzsche  

 “If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.” –  Albert Einstein  

 “Man is the cruelest animal.” –  Friedrich Nietzsche  

 The man known only as Peter, sat quietly in the guest chair waiting for his automotive service to be completed. He was participating in a ritual the humans of this world referred to as “getting the oil changed.” His vehicle was visible through the large glass show windows, which opened onto the “Speedy Service” area of the Mega Lube Quick Oil Change garage where a team of young men dressed in oil-stained coveralls worked like an army of ants to change the oil and do a sixteen-point inspection, whatever that was, on his compact automobile.

Peter did not know if the vehicle actually needed to have its oil changed and suspected it might not, but he understood this was another good opportunity to observe them, to see how they interacted with each other. Unfortunately, Peter had arrived a bit early on this Saturday morning and was one of the first customers at the facility, so he sat quietly, alone, looking around the empty waiting area.

It was a fairly small room perhaps ten feet square, the periphery of which was surrounded with many comfortable metal and leather covered guest chairs, identical to the one in which he sat. To Peter’s left was a break in the chairs where a door stood closed displaying the sign reading “Rest Room” with universal symbols for both male and female creatures. Peter understood these illustrations meant the room was considered “unisex”, which to the best of his comprehension did not mean it was for humans equipped with both types of genitalia, male and female, but that it had facilities capable of handling the needs of both human sexes. From his months of living as one of these beings, he knew the purpose of such a room was to be a place where they went to “relieve themselves” as they called it; to empty their bowels and drain their bladders of waste material. He quickly did a mental checked his body to see if it required any such evacuation and determined he was not in need for the moment.

There was a square black wrought iron decorative coffee table with a transparent glass top situated between the u-shaped row of chairs leaving very little legroom, upon which sat a large low, rectangular box bearing the logo and name of some eating establishment called Dunkin Donuts. Peter stared at the box curiously for a few seconds noting its pleasant design. He determined, whoever Mr. Dunkin might be, he really knew how to market his product.

“Help yourself.” A kind sounding voice said from across the room. Peter observed over on the far side of the small room was an area reserved for employees, equipped with machines, which he knew were called cash registers. In the background, behind the service counter were some additional windows and doors leading out to a larger shop that he determined was used for more time-consuming repairs, as opposed to the “quickie oil change” which was conducted in the area where his vehicle was currently being serviced.

The price for the “quickie” oil change was $29.99 and also included their checking all essential fluids, checking tire pressure, the mysterious sixteen-point inspection and also a complete vacuuming of the interior of the vehicle. The smiling man who was addressing Peter appeared to be the proprietor of the establishment, or perhaps the manager. Whoever he was, Peter understood him to be the male human in charge of the entire operation.

“Excuse me?” Peter said with something of a confused look on his face.

“The donuts.” The man explained. “Help yourself to a donut while you wait. There is also a pot of coffee brewing which should be ready by now.” The man pointed to a pot of coffee across from the service desk against the far wall.

“Thank you. That is very kind of you.” Peter replied, determining it was the appropriate response to such an offer.

“You are most certainly welcome.” The man predictably said. Peter had become quite familiar with the proper comments and responses uttered in the various service industries he had been observing. He suspected when his business transaction was completed, the man would suggest he either “have a nice day”, or perhaps indicated he should “have a good one”, whatever that meant. He never understood that particular phrase. Peter was not even sure he had “one” of whatever it was they were speaking, let alone whether he had a “good one” or perhaps one which might be deemed less desirable. Then the man said, “It is just one more way we try to provide the best service possible for my customers.”

Peter cataloged this reply for further consideration and analyzed the phrase “best service for our customers”. Although the man seemed cordial enough and the gesture of providing complementary food and beverages appeared to be quite generous, Peter assessed from the man’s comments, the purpose of the kind act was derived from the perspective of increasing business revenue, rather than simply being an act of kindness. He could not comprehend how offering him a bit of food would do anything to increase the quality of the oil change service he was about to receive however.

Then Peter finally understood; the proprietor was hoping by providing such a free enticements while some of his competitors may choose not to do so, he would be able to steal those customers away from those competitors. The donuts and coffee were not so much an act of generosity as some sort of bait to lure customers into a trap; that trap being the subliminal planting of a motivator to get them to offer him their return business. Peter suspected if he took the time to check out the various competitors’ prices he might find the costs at this particular establishment to be perhaps a dollar currency unit or perhaps two higher than the rest.

He quickly did the calculation and determined if his assessment were true, and assuming the business did fifty oil changes during a typical Saturday morning at two dollars more than his competitor, the business would earn an extra one hundred dollars for an investment of about ten dollars. Peter believed that to be what was known as a substantial profit for a minimal investment. In addition, if the customers were pleased with the service and remembered the additional snacks, they would perhaps pass the information on to their friends. This would result in not only return business but in additional business as well. Peter had read somewhere during his research, “word-of-mouth” was the best form of advertising in a capitalistic society. The more analysis he did, the less generous the gesture seemed. “Interesting” he thought.

He reached into the box, retrieved an item he knew to be a Boston Cream donut and began to eat it. He did not know what the city of Boston, which he understood was in a state called Massachusetts, had to do with the donut he was currently eating in Pennsylvania, but he enjoyed it nonetheless. He chose to pass on the offer of coffee, as he had never been able to acquire a taste for it. In fact, he could not understand how humans could possibly be drawn to any of the high-end coffee shops and coerced to pay exorbitant fees for a simple cup of something that he smelled and tasted so foul. This phenomenon always perplexed Peter.

He sat enjoying the delicious creamy center and chocolate topping of his donut, watching the big screen television, which was suspended from the ceiling and was playing some twenty-four-hour network news broadcast. As he did so, he heard a one-way conversation coming from behind and off to the right of him. He determined someone was entering the waiting room through the outside door and was speaking on a cellular telephone. Peter never ceased to be amazed at how when some humans were conversing on a cell phone, the rest of their surroundings seemed to disappear from their field of vision. They could often be counted on to speak about the most intimate of subjects right in front of a room of total strangers as if no one could hear their conversations.

“Yeah. I fixed her but good.” The voice said as a large overweight man about six-foot three inches tall with a head of uncombed hair dressed in blue jogging pants and a gray stained sweatshirt walked right past Peter as if he wasn’t there. The man flopped into a chair along the wall perpendicular and to the left of Peter, next to the door to the rest room, and continued with his conversation.

Peter did a quick analysis of the man. He was perhaps forty years old, appeared to have been once athletic, perhaps a high school or college football player, whose muscle had gone to fat many years ago. His face was somewhat bloated and red; his nose showing the signs of veining Peter understood came from drinking too much of the substance known as alcohol. Peter determined based on his quick assessment the man would likely be dead of a heart attack or stroke within five or ten years if he kept up his current lifestyle, which Peter had no doubt he certainly would.

He also judged the man to be much wealthier than his outward disheveled appearance, by the confidence the man exuded in both his posture and mannerisms. The man was obviously an alpha-male type in a very high-paying, perhaps stressful position, who was used to getting what he wanted when he wanted it.

The man had probably just gotten out of bed, thrown on some previously worn clothing and rushed right out to have his oil changed. This was another fact, which always astonished Peter. He could not understand how some humans thought nothing of showing up in certain department stores and places of business such as this with total disregard to their personal appearance. It was as if they felt the people providing the service were so insignificant that they, the customers, had no need to care about how they looked, or smelled for that matter. Peter felt if he were one of the employees working in such an establishment, he might feel slighted by this lack of respect. Then again, neither did these people seem to take much pride in their own personal appearance.

“I figured it was her own damned fault.” The man said continuing with his conversation, “She’s the one who had the wreck. She tore the door off of her freaking forty-thousand-dollar Lexus luxury SUV. Let her suffer.” There was a hesitation while his friend on the other end of the conversation responded. Peter liked how he had been obviously correct in his assessment of the man’s affluence; as such a vehicle was beyond the reach of most common workingmen.

The man resumed his side of the conversation. “Yeah, the insurance company gave her a loaner… a piece of crap KIA. Oh my God I laughed my ass off.” Peter found it quite disturbing how the man used the name of his God and creator in the same sentence with a word commonly used as a term of profanity for ones posterior. It appeared some humans showed as little respect for their chosen deity as they did to the people around them.

“She asked me how she was supposed to take the kids to school and show up in a KIA. Ha ha. Dude! It was hilarious. Can you imagine a car like that parked on my street? All of the neighborhood women were like feeling sorry for her because of her having an accident, while all the husbands were thinking how stupid she was. The dumb bitch.”

Peter found this also incredibly offensive. How could the man demean the woman whom likely only a few years earlier, during one of the human most sacred marriage ceremonies he had sworn to love, honor and cherish for the rest of his life? Yet here the man was joking with another male friend at his so-called life-mate’s expense.

Peter had observed many males such as this during the time of his research and often wondered if these men who acted with so much of what was known as machismo or behaved in a fashion, which could be determined to be perhaps a little too masculine, were actually covering up for homosexual tendencies. He understood what homosexuality was and as an outside observer, found the practice quite curious. He had no moral stand on the practice, just a natural inquisitiveness. It appeared to Peter, this man enjoyed being with his “buds” as such men called their male friends, much more than he enjoyed the company of the woman he had chosen for his partner in life. Although he was not being judgmental, he found the entire state of affairs very odd indeed. There was another pause while the man listened to his friend respond over the cellular phone.

Just then a serviceman walked in with a piece of paper showing two drops of some viscous fluid. The customer told his friend on the phone to hold on for a moment while he spoke with the serviceman.

“Sir.” The serviceman said “On the right is what your transmission fluid should look like and as you can see, yours on the left is much darker. It indicates its time to flush and replace your transmission fluid.”

“How much?” The large man asked curtly, cutting right to the chase, as humans were fond of saying.

The serviceman replied confidently, “Only ninety-nine ninety-five and we can have it done in about half an hour.”

The large man looked at the serviceman as if he were insane and said, “No. Don’t bother.” The serviceman walked away obviously unhappy that he missed the opportunity for a sale and the man resumed talking to his friend.

“Dude! This guy from out in the garage just tried to rip me off. He wanted to charge me like a hundred bucks to change my transmission fluid. Screw him, dude. You know Vinny? … Yeah, yeah that Vinny. He’s got a bunch of illegals working for him at his garage and I know I can get it done there for like half that price. This dude here was trying to screw me over.”

“Anyway, where was I?” He asked, “Oh yeah. Well, last night we went out for our sixth anniversary dinner and I told her we were going in the KIA. I even made her drive it, as a punishment. We showed up at a top-shelf mucho-expensive restaurant driving a piece of crap. It was wild… no… no, I told you, I wouldn’t let her take my Lexus. Screw her. I made her take the KIA. Dude! It was great! She cried her freakin’ eyes out.”

Again, Peter was troubled by what he heard. This human was actually taking enjoyment from making his so called “true love” suffer what she had perceived as obvious humiliation on the celebratory anniversary of the couple’s taking their wedding vows. Peter found himself becoming enraged. He assumed the feelings were a side effect of his being stuck in the human body.

“Ford Focus?” The man behind the counter called, jarring Peter from his angry thoughts. That was the make and model of the vehicle Peter was driving, which meant his service must be completed. Peter looked out the windows and saw his car outside the garage waiting for him. He walked to the service counter and paid for his service with cash, all the while listening to the man’s conversation and determining his next action.

When he finished his transaction the man behind the counter smiled and said jovially, “Have a good one.” There was that strange statement again.

“Thank you very much, and the same to you.” Peter said, issuing what he determined to be the appropriate response. He wondered once again silently, “What is this mysterious “one” which this man hopes will be good for me? Strange, very strange indeed.”

As he walked away from the service counter, he heard the man on the cellular telephone tell his friend, “Sorry man, I gotta go. My Lexus is finished.” Peter walked outside and got into his car, preparing to drive away when he heard the door to the shop opening as the large man walked out onto the pavement. He looked down at Peter in his small compact Ford, as if actually seeing Peter for the first time, giving him a disgusted look similar to the expression one might make if he stepped in something nasty a dog might have left on a sidewalk.

Peter slowly nodded in direction of the large man appearing to offer a greeting, and the man’s face immediately turned to one of complete shock as he involuntarily reached up grabbing his chest as if experiencing incredible pain. His face became ashen and foam began to seep from the corners of the large man’s mouth as his tongue began to swell, extending over his lips, which had become blue. He began to shake and convulse and he was obviously having difficulty breathing. A moment later the large man collapsed in a heap on the ground.

Peter turned his car to the right, heading away from the service center. Looking in his rearview mirror he saw the main door burst open as several workers rushed out to come to the man’s aid. Peter knew the men were wasting their time trying to revive the big man, as he had been dead long before his body had hit the ground.

Turning out onto the busy highway, Peter followed the flow of automobiles to the next traffic light where he stopped behind a sub-compact automobile adorned with three bumper stickers that he found very interesting. Peter was fascinated with the humans’ use of bumper stickers and he loved to read them, determining from his research they told him a lot about the person who was driving the vehicle.

He was amazed at how no matter how grand the vehicle being driven or what the person behind the wheel might look like upon first inspection, their real innermost feelings and passions, their heart and soul always came to light in their choice of bumper stickers. He recalled the words to a song he had heard once on the radio saying “Out on the road today I saw a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac.” He did not know whom the performer, a human named Don Henley was, but the man certainly was accurate in his lyrical assessment. He knew about the counterculture band from the 1960’s called the Grateful Dead and understood the irony of the juxtaposition of a fan of the band now driving a luxury vehicle. Peter noticed the vehicle in front of him was being drive by a young girl.

The far-right sticker showed a globe-shaped illustration of the earth with the slogan “You only have one mother.” After a few moments of contemplation, Peter realized the slogan was a positive one suggesting other humans should respect “Mother Earth”. He thought that was rather clever.

The center sticker was letter in pink and read “Save the Ta Tas.” This one confused Peter for a moment until he recalled the expression “Ta Tas” was a slang term for female breasts. Then he understood this was some sort of support breast cancer awareness slogan. He believed anything, which supported raising funds to help medical researchers battle such a scourge was a good cause as well. He believed this young girl and a lot of very good ideals.

The final sticker on the far-left side of the bumper curiously summed up exactly how Peter was feeling at the moment. The bumper sticker read “Mean People Suck”. Peter knew when a human said something “sucked” it meant it was a bad thing, and this bumper sticker was saying mean people were not good. He could not find any flaw with that concept either. Peter supposed mean people certainly did suck.

He thought about the big man he had just terminated, and how one of his final actions was sucking desperately for air, which would not come. This caused him to chuckle at the unplanned bit of humor. He was quite relieved to see the young girl’s noble philosophies displayed for the all to see. Peter knew it was a rare occurrence in this badly troubled world.

During his short time of observation Peter was amazed at just how mean-spirited the entire world had become. It was as if everywhere he went, everyone he met was immediately looking for an argument or a fight, even with people they were allegedly supposed to love. It was an international epidemic; no one seemed to have kind words for anyone else, as if meanness was the normal mode of operation and kindness was all but non-existent.

Peter felt a rumble in his stomach and realized his body needed nourishment. He pulled into one of his favorite fast-food establishments, and decided to skip the drive-through and dine inside. It would also give him another chance to do some additional last-minute observations, as his time was now short. He recalled this would be one of his last opportunities, because he had to make his final report very soon.

The lines were long inside and the restaurant crowded, but he did not mind the wait, as it gave him another occasion to study the people around him. While waiting, he noticed a woman in the line next to him with two unruly pre-school age children. Peter loved studying the children most of all. They were so young, so innocent and as yet, still for the most part untainted, although he saw many examples of that innocence being destroyed as much too early an age. He believed if there was any hope whatsoever for humanity it surely was to be found in its children. The two children were obviously bored with waiting, and the older child, a male was picking on his younger sister who was whining to her mother.

Peter knew it was the nature of children to behave as such, and whether they chose to admit it or not, humans were simply higher-level animals who needed to be properly trained in regards to appropriate behaviors. It was up to the parents of such children to supply that training and discipline, no matter how arduous a task it might seem; but Peter’s experience had been that few parents were actually willing to provide the necessary guidance.

It was true that humans were at the top of the food chain thanks to their highly developed brains but they still had to be taught right from wrong, acceptable behavior from unacceptable. Perhaps that was major part of the problems he had observed over the past several months, perhaps lack of parental guidance was what allowed the meanness to grow, then flourish, then become the societal norm.

Peter understood if humans did not have their brainpower and were they forced to rely on their physical strength alone they would be much further down the food chain indeed. Homo sapiens, thinking men, toolmakers were only in their place of superiority, because of their brains and their ability to form a cohesive, functioning civilization.

Mankind tended to take this civilization and civilized behavior in general for granted when in reality it was as fragile as a porcelain figuring. Peter knew under the wrong circumstances; civilization could break down into anarchy within a day. So-called civilized man could revert to a savage practically overnight. Unfortunately, most of the humans did not believe such a thing was possible.

“Sit still you little bastard.” Peter heard the woman say to her son. His heart sunk once again with despair. How could this woman, a mother, say such a profane and despicable thing to her own child? This was the fruit of her womb, what most humans once considered the greatest gift of all. Yet this was how she treated the child. The older boy looked at his mother with a level of anger and hatred Peter could not believe, even from a human. He knew he once again had been accurate. This was where the meanness, distrust and anger began. The younger girl watching the encounter said nothing, but Peter knew she was learning and someday she would likely treat her own children with the same level of disrespect.

Up at the front of the line, an obviously frazzled cashier, a teenage girl stood behind the counter while an angry woman shouted at her relentlessly.

“What is wrong with this place?” The woman ranted, “Do they go out of their way to hire retards to work here?”

“I’m very sorry ‘Mam” the girl implored, “I will be happy to get you another burger. It will just be a minute.”

“I don’t have a minute, you moronic fool.” The woman screamed as her face reddened with rage. “I don’t want your stinking food and I don’t have time to wait. This place disgusts me!” With that, the angry woman took her tray of food and threw it at the terrified girl behind the counter. French fries and soda covered the girl’s uniform and the corner of the tray struck her on the side of the forehead, making a slight cut as she cried out in pain. The woman stormed past Peter toward the door in a rage. “Such outrageous anger over nothing”, Peter thought.

Peter looked sternly at the woman as her hand touched the door to leave, nodding his head imperceptivity. She stopped in her tracks, her hand still on the handle, and then she slowly turned around to face the staring crowd. The anger had left her face, replaced by a look of extreme horror as she stood, mouth agape, unable to utter a sound. She began to quake all over as if having some sort of seizure, her eyes rolling back into her head as foam began to flow from her mouth, he swollen tongue lolling out over her lips. Suddenly her mouth clamped down hard and the crowd of onlookers gasped as the convulsing woman’s teeth bit through her tongue, drenching her blouse with blood as the severed tongue fell to the floor with a sickening splat. After several more spastic tremors the woman collapsed like a rag door to the floor.

The people in the restaurant looked at each other for a moment as if unsure of what to do. Peter would not have been surprised if they suddenly broke out into applause based on the mean-spirited behaviors he had observed in the past. Instead, they did something almost as bizarre; they turned to resume waiting for their food as if nothing had happened. The workers went back to their tasks as well; no one attempting to offer aid, although Peter knew it was much too late for such actions anyway; this woman was dead.

Still, despite the woman’s rude and unacceptable behavior, she was still fellow human, and Peter thought someone might at least attempt to offer some form of assistance. The manager of the restaurant half heartedly dialed 911, Peter believed not so much out of concern, rather to avoid a possible lawsuit, and then business went on as usual as the people waited for the arrival of the ambulance and their lunches. Peter thought perhaps the break down in civilization actually was already occurring but at a slower pace than if some global catastrophe was to occur.

Peter turned away in revulsion at the behavior of the humans, his body no longer feeling hunger. He considered eradicating everyone in the restaurant, and he could have done so with ease, but instead he chose to leave. He walked from the restaurant via the opposite door got into his car and headed toward his apartment, hearing the whine of the approaching ambulance in the distance.

As he drove, he thought about all he had observed during his time among the humans, and about the report he would have to make very soon. The age of man had been one of great and meteoritic advances in science, medicine and technology but simultaneously seemed to have declined equally as fast when it came to the simple act of respecting one’s fellow man. It sickened him to have to do what he knew he had to do, but it was his responsibility to report the facts as he observed them.

He thought about the meanness, which permeated the world. He recalled the various television “action” programs showing countless acts of violence committed by one human on another, not to mention the evening news, which he considered much worse because it was reality and not fiction. Even the television situation comedies which were the most successful touted lead characters that were basically mean, antisocial despicable beings, albeit portrayed in a manner which was extremely humorous and entertaining; making such behavior almost seem acceptable to the viewers.

Some of the actors in such programs were often idolized like Gods for their real-life off-screen despicable behaviors as well. It was as if the entire world had forgotten about the importance what the humans once called the “Golden Rule” the idea of doing onto others, as you would have them do onto you. Instead, it seemed to have been replaced by a new rule; “Do onto others, before they do onto you.” The finality of the realization caused a sinking feeling to enter the stomach of the body, which Peter inhabited.

Peter walked head down into his apartment, knowing what awaited him and the weight of what he had to say. He staggered into his bathroom, stripped and took a long hot shower. He hoped the cleansing water could symbolically wash away the filth and grime he felt his encounters with the human had left on his body this day. Although he knew he would not have this human body for much longer, he felt it should be in pristine condition when he made presented his final findings.

After his shower he walked naked out into his bedroom and stood before the double doors leading to his walk-in closet. He looked across the room at the clock radio on his night table seeing the time was 11:59. He waited until the clock read exactly 12:00 noon then opened the doors to his closet. Peter was immediately bathed in a wash of incredible white light, brighter than anything ever witnessed on earth. With is humanoid eyes practically closed to shield them from blindness, Peter entered the closet and walked directly into the light, which enveloped him in its warm reassuring glow.

A booming voice he knew very well spoke to him inside of his mind. “Peter. The time has come for you to tell of what you have observed.”

Peter’s head hung down in humble acquiescence. “What I have to report makes me sick in my heart. What I have observed is wanton hatred, distrust, corruption, greed, promiscuity, disrespect and ingratitude for what all creatures should perceive as the greatest gift of all, the gift of life.”

“Are they all without hope Peter? Is there not one among them who can be salvaged?” The voice asked again. Peter stood trembling with tears flowing from his eyes saying, “I do not know. Their only hope is with the children, unless they too are likewise already on an irrevocable course of corruption. I suppose somewhere among these creatures there might be a few who are worthy, but as you know, determining who they might be is beyond my capabilities. Most of them, I believe, are beyond redemption. While some may be basically good people, they too have become tainted and morally corrupted by trying to exist in their fetid environment.”

“In a sewer teeming with a thousand rats there are bound to be one or two basically pure of heart but when forced to survive among the worst of the worst, they too can become contaminated and become something less than pure.”

The voice spoke again. “Yes, Peter I know of what you speak. If the majority of the creatures are corrupt than eventually the good ones will likewise become damaged as well. The question is should we eliminate the bad in favor of the good, or eliminate them all and begin again.”

Peter asked uncertainly, “Would you do such a thing? Would you destroy them all and start over?”

“Not all but most. It would not be the first time we have had to do so, and I suppose it may not be the last. Mankind has incredible potential if properly focused, and we believe in that potential, but it always seems like just when man is on the verge of achieving his predetermined greatness, he falls prey to his darker animal side and we must intercede. It has been a long time since we have had to take such action against man, but perhaps the time has once again come. What say you Peter?”

Peter raised his head and as tears rolled down his human face he said, “Yes, I am afraid it is time. The age of man is over and mankind must be made to start again.”

The loud voice said in resignation. “So be it. As before, we will allow a few to survive to begin again, without their technology or medical and scientific advances. They will be as they were in the beginning, innocent, and they will either survive or they will perish. They will either advance down the road to enlightenment or they will repeat the mistakes of their past. We will return again someday and see which direction mankind has taken and once again decide their fate.”

Peter felt himself lifted out of his human form and drawn upward toward the incredibly bright light as behind him the body, which had served as his host collapsed to the floor of the closet.

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