by Norbert Kovacs
(Originally published in FIVE:2:ONE’s #thesideshow, May 12, 2018. The author has revised the text.)
For three weeks, Phil’s veins ran with anticipation. He woke with a tingling in his arms and a warmth suffusing his head that he could not explain. He imagined he had keyed into a sense that something good was about to happen to him. He did not understand the reason he should, but he felt it anyway.
Since he worked in corporate, Phil read his feeling as a sign that he would succeed in his career. For years, he had toiled to complete difficult analyses to impress his boss. He had slogged through mountains of paperwork and handed in reports earlier than any of his colleagues. He thought, warm with his strange, new feeling, that this diligence soon would receive its reward in job advancement. He would be promoted to department manager; he would win the raise denied him twice. He labored harder to achieve these things now that he believed them in reach. The whole while, his sense of anticipation grew. It pressed at his mind as he interpreted data sets. His breath came shorter and quicker when he presented at a department meeting. He felt different even as he surveyed the sky from his tenth floor office. He tensed observing a heavy, gray cloud pass above the trees and noted the gold sunlight that touched its edges.
Then one morning, Phil went for a run before he was to go to work. He had cut through the town park into the woods and started up a wooded hill. The hill was high and his legs braced as he ran. He pumped his arms to push forward. His face reddened; a bead of sweat trickled down his forehead. I’ll make it, he thought. I have to. As he came midway on the hill, the feeling that he had been having the last three weeks hit him. It came harder than he had known, however. His chest tightened. He panted but was unable to breathe. With a hand clutching his heart, he fell onto his back by the path.
Two months ago, Phil’s doctor had warned him to tend more to his health. He could not continue to eat steak sandwiches at power lunches and expect no harm to come of it, the man warned. Most of all, he could not stay under stress constantly. Completing perfect reports and exceeding his boss’s every goal taxed his heart too much. He was not meant to strive so. Phil had not listened, trusting instead the strange anticipation that had seized him. He had not even considered his doctor’s words that there might be signs of heart trouble to come. He simply had not. Now as he lay on the ground fighting to breathe without a sign anyone would come by and find him, he shook his head and thought, No, this wasn’t supposed to happen. I was ready to realize something important. I believed it. My feeling had to mean something else. As the cold penetrated his jacket, his head turned to the barren trees that loomed over him. The sky above lay blue and open right to the zenith, a distance greater than any he could fathom.
Author Bio: Norbert Kovacs
Norbert Kovacs lives and writes in Hartford, Connecticut. His stories have appeared in Westview, Gravel, STORGY, Corvus Review, and The Write Launch. Norbert's website is www.norbertkovacs.net.