March 4, 2012

Iphigenia - A Short Story

I wrote this short story 1 or 2 years ago for a Creative Writing class in college. This story is not auto-biographical. Let me know what you think of it! All rights reserved, OBVSly!

       Iphigenia was lying in bed at the hospital when she awoke. She could not think of one single part of her body which did not make her suffer, and the atrocious sensation in her stomach, making her feel as if her guts had been put into a blender, made her grimace in pain. Her left eye would not open and felt as if it was blown out, though a quick hand check assured her that it was still whole and in place, despite severe heat and swelling.  Her right eye offered her the morose sight of the hospital room’s faded-blue walls, which seemed to incarnate nothing less than the misery of humankind. Iphigenia started to remember the events of the night before: the church, the ring, the fight and Dolon… Her muscles immediately tightened, which had an effect similar to that of vinegar poured over a fresh wound on her body.
                At that very moment, a small, plump nurse rushed into the room. "Miss White, thank God you’re back in the world of the living!" she exclaimed, lifting her chubby arms towards the sky. "I swear you owe your life to the doctors who healed you, girl! Ten minutes later and you would’a  been pushing up the daisies!"
                "My body feels like a corpse. Can you please tell me what’s been going on for the last 24 hours? I’m clueless and my memory’s all blurry. . . Why am I here, anyway?" asked Iphigenia, unconsciously feeling her head with her fingers.
               "Well, sweetie, the good news is the police intervened before those boys killed you.  Your body’s pretty damaged, though: three broken ribs, one fractured femur and severe internal bleeding. Those thugs were arrested and they’ll be punished, I promise! The bad news is, " she whispered with a profound sigh, "you’re also under arrest, and are charged on four counts. The sentence could be 10 years in federal jail."
                Iphigenia uttered a faint cry, like that of a fatally injured animal. She, who had once been so strong, began to sob like a child.

                Iphigenia was a Quebec City college student from a lower-middle class family in Sainte-Foy. She was a hard-working student, and her efforts were greatly rewarded: she had honourable mentions in nearly all her classes. Her ambition was to become an attorney, and later a Supreme Court judge—never having experienced academic failure, she was confident she would one day be at the top of her profession.  Her interest, however, was not in justice and equity first and foremost—in fact, the recognition and authority conferred by a career in law, not to mention other social and economic advantages associated with the title of barrister, seemed to exercise an irresistible, magnetic attraction on Iphigenia. Even her physical traits seemed to be in symbiosis with her personality: she had fine features, straight auburn hair and piercing forest green eyes. Her gait was quick and her posture radiated a strength uncommon to women.  She would do anything not to sink into oblivion. 
                Her father was the personification of that destiny she wished to escape: Thomas White, a frail and taciturn man, always said he had never recovered from his wife’s death. He looked pensive and distant; he seemed dejected, except for when he contemplated his late beloved’s wedding ring, a huge ruby surrounded by 10 diamonds, and on which he had spent all his savings when he got married. 
               Iphigenia was young and hopeful: she was a student, she had a future ahead of her and she was seeing an actuarial student she had met on the bus, Dolon Black. Dolon was half-Irish and half-Russian, and his enigmatic personality seemed to have cast a spell on Iphigenia’s young and gullible heart.  
             In April, in the middle of her last semester in college, Iphigenia started to receive replies from the universities to which she had applied. However, she was stunned to receive a formal letter from Oxford University, in England. She had applied to Oxford just on a whim, and had never considered the possibility of admission.  Her whole universe was turned upside down: she yearned for the prestigious English university, though her precarious economic situation made it impossible to pay 90,000£ for studies. Unable to refuse this chance of a lifetime, she mailed her affirmative answer the day after. She sighed: she had to send a deposit of 15,000£ by the end of June. One week passed, and still she did not have the courage to tell her father: he would certainly suffer an epileptic seizure when he realized the staggering sum of money involved.      

                Iphigenia had coffee with her boyfriend and shared her concerns with him. Although he was generally not demonstrative and seldom seemed interested in Iphigenia’s daily life, Dolon’s  black eyes sparkled and his whole being seemed to be thrilled as he exclaimed, "You know, Iphee, I been wanting to make you a proposal for a very long time. You know my buddy Mike? Well, he’s been doing, you know, underground stuff for a while, and I've been doing that too for a couple of years now. And don’t flinch, baby, it’s no big deal, I’m telling you. I’m clean, you know? It's no big deal, I just give people packages, and that’s about it. It’s safe and, believe me, it pays off. " As he was talking, he warmly held Iphigenia’s hands and leaned slightly towards her, thus making Iphigenia unconsciously lean back in response to the authority Dolon inspired in her.  
              This tall young man was physically imposing, and his black hair gave him a hard look at first sight, which his charisma concealed most of the time.  He was extremely successful, and Iphigenia admired him for that. She was not too enthusiastic with his idea, however. Sure, she suspected Dolon indulged in such activities; she also noticed he carried a pistol wherever he went. Iphigenia was not too concerned about that: her mother was from Arizona so she had always considered that carrying a weapon is a sure means of assuring one’s safety.   
                 For obvious reasons, nevertheless, Iphigenia said no that aftternoon at the café: she had principles, after all. . . Dolon asked why she did not trust him: he raised his voice, and left Presse Café noisily. Iphigenia had never seen him behaving that way; he surely was upset. The next three weeks went by in silence: Iphigenia did not tell her father about Oxford, and Dolon did not call Iphigenia. She eventually grew tired of the situation: she was penniless and was soon to be loverless. 
               Reluctantly, she called Dolon: she accepted to do small jobs, but only until she had enough money to pay for her university. Dolon greeted the news with great joy, and his love for Iphigenia seemed to have come back to life. Being reconciled with her loved one, Iphigenia thought, "After all, the end justifies the means!"
                Thus, Iphigenia made, both consciously and unconsciously, a gradual entry into Quebec City’s Russian mafia. At first, everything went well: she borrowed her father’s car and only made round-trips between Sainte-Foy and the Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighbourhood. Since she had entered the business, her relationship with Dolon had flourished: he took her out at least twice a week and displayed more affection for her than ever before. In June, Iphigenia paid her 15,000£ deposit to Oxford university.
                During the summer, however, the situation had deteriorated: her missions became more and more risky. Iphigenia now had to go to the Vieux-Port at night to unload and transport to the Basse-Ville the illegal shipments of drugs from other countries. More than once the Russians threatened to beat her up  if she did not obey their orders. She was nearly arrested four times: her father was growing suspicious of her nightly activities and began to wonder about her whereabouts. What hurt her the most was that Dolon quietly forsook her. He defended her with less conviction when she was in danger, and frequently lost his temper with her. One day, he slapped her in the face for refusing to take part in an ambush against a rival gang, and threatened to leave her should she stop working for the Russians. Iphigenia, despite her strong personality, was unable to contemplate a breakup with Dolon: while her life had become an ordeal, she held on to him like a life buoy. She often cried in Dolon’s presence and frequently begged him to find a way for her to stop selling drugs. Dolon was invariably aggressive when she made this type of comment, and squeezed Iphigenia’s arm so hard that tears came to her eyes.
                One day, Dolon knocked at Iphigenia’s door with a member of the Russian mafia and asked to speak to her privately. As the three of them entered Iphigenia’s room, Dolon said: "Ok Eefie, we’re getting serious now," he declared, leaning towards her. "All you need now is 500,000£, right? Well, since you’ve been really bad at this business, we’re making you one last offer: tonight, take your old man’s car and carry a package containing 3 million dollars worth of cocaine from a Colombian ship in the Vieux-Port to Dmitri’s. Then, come and see us in the backyard of St-Sauveur Church. If you succeed, we’ll give you the 75,000£ you need and then never want to hear from you again. But if you don’t succeed..." said he with bloodshot eyes, "we’ll make your father accountable for you." Dolon drew his face closer to hers, and affirmed in a contemptuous tone: "We know we’d be dumb to take your word for it, so we’ll take your mother’s ring as a pledge. " Leaving her no time to reply, Dolon and his acolyte rushed to the father’s bedroom and seized the invaluable ring; they then hurried to the front door and started the car noisily.
                Iphigenia crawled into her bed, not sure whether she should rejoice or cry. She was certainly ecstatic at the idea of putting an end to this vile enterprise; however, the idea of their being in possession of the ring, which was sacred to her father, terrified and disgusted her all at once. The danger involved with this ultimate mission also frightened her: she knew well that the port would be filled with policemen and guards. Her whole life was at stake: her security, her integrity, her father and her fortune.
                That night, Iphigenia put a light leather jacket on and pretended to go to the movies with friends. She took Mr White’s car and headed towards the Vieux-Port. The mission was indeed dangerous: more than once she was nearly arrested by policemen, but her determination seemed to act as a shield. By midnight the shipment had been fully delivered to the Russian mafia’s headquarters, and half an hour later Iphigenia had parked her car two blocks away from l’Église Saint-Sauveur. For a second, she stopped about 100 meters away from where the gang was and stared at the scenery. 
               The backyard of Saint-Sauveur Church was surrounded with an irregular wooden fence, which had probably once been beautiful, but throughout the years the wood had rotted, the paint had faded and mold had covered a great part of it, giving the fence the appearance of a wreck. It was a wet summer night, and the gentle caress of the warm breeze sharply contrasted with the coldness of the place. The parking lot where the Russians and Dolon were gathered was nothing like your typical, urban parking lot: the white lines had faded and grass was growing in the numerous cracks that could be seen. The only light came from a light bulb on the church wall, which emitted an annoying and mesmerizing yellowish and intermittent  light. Iphigenia sighed, and headed towards the gang with long steps. When she was about 10 meters away from them, she noticed that there was a girl accompanying the Russians. She had undeniable slavish features, which made Iphigenia believe that she must belong to the gang in one way or another. She laughed in a unmelodious and silly way: Iphigenia despised her already.
              When Dolon noticed Iphigenia’s presence, he grew tense : "Hey, look who’s coming this way," he said, sarcastically, "I hope you done it good!" A stupid and vile laugh escaped his friends’ lips.
              "I’ve been doing what I was told to," said Iphigenia, unconsciously trembling. "Dmitri’s got the shipment," and, taking a deep breath," I don’t intend to annoy you guys anymore. I just want to get paid, get my mom’s ring back, and I promise you’ll never hear from me again!"
             "Why," exclaimed Dolon, apparently amused, "you’re annoying us already, silly. You go back to your dad's, and shut up. Our business with you is over. Don’t make any fuss," he said, showing his teeth, "or else you’re screwed. Besides, look at how beautiful diamonds and rubies are on Teodora’s hand," he said in a husky voice while taking the girl’s hand to kiss it. 
           "You're an idiot," shouted Iphigenia, whose eyes were sparkling with anger and hatred, "you’re odious! I’m not so desperate as to come crying on your shoulder. Besides," she exclaimed  with renewed vigour, "I will get my ring and my money. I’ll become a lawyer someday, and I’ll destroy and punish YOU!"
            Iphigenia, whose face was distorted with fury, rushed at Teodora, threw her violently to the ground and seized her ring hand aggressively to get her mother’s ring back. She wasn’t given the time to do anything, however, for a fraction of a second after she had leapt on her rival, four huge and muscular Russians, including Dolon, grabbed her feet and hurled her a few meters away. Dejected and confused, Iphigenia was in a vulnerable position when the gang started to beat her. The first kick in her stomach made Iphigenia screech; it felt as if a thousand knives were invading her body, tearing her guts apart. As they were beating her, the Russians laughed nastily and spat at her. Though the pain associated with the kicks and punches was intolerable at first, it reached a point where her body became numb and her vision blurred. The only sound she heard before lapsing into unconsciousness was the distant sound of police sirens…

                The events of the previous night now seemed like a dream, as Iphigenia lay in her hospital bed. The consequences of these events, however, were real. As she was starting to ponder the scope of what had happened, Iphigenia’s youth, prestigious studies, career plans, ambition and reputation were forevermore annihilated as two policemen entered the room and placed her in handcuffs, saying; " You are now under arrest and charged on possession and sale of drugs, gangsterism, and theft. It is my duty to inform you that you have the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay. Anything you say can be used in court as evidence."

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