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"I was a hero, you know."

I jumped at hearing the old man's raspy voice break through the hushed quiet of the hospital room. Turning back I stared at him in some sort of wonder that he could even still talk, considering the condition he was in.

Hesitantly, I said that I didn't know that about him, my voice a bit louder than usual to make up for his failing hearing.

"Oh yes, quite the hero..." his voice trailed off as his eyes rested on the wall opposite his bed, as though he were focusing on a distant memory.

After he was quiet for a time I thought he was finished, but just as I was turning to leave again he found his voice once more.

"I used to own the whole building. Everything, right down to the nooks and crannies in the boiler room to the flagstone out on the patio lunch area. I owned it all."

"Oh," I said, unable to come up with anything more profound to say than that.

"I knew everyone's name too, even the interns, provided they stayed at least a week. I could hear everything, that was why, so I learned everything about every one of them.

I had to, you see, because nothing could happen in that building without me. They all depended on me for all the most important decisions and even the less important ones. Nothing could happen without me there."

The man seemed to drift back into his silent dreamworld and, again, I waited to see if he was done.

"Are you that important to this business?" he asked, though it took me a moment to realize he was talking to me and not some memory.

"Ah... no, I don't think so sir," I responded as politely as I could while still speaking at a volume he could hear.

"Bah, what good are you then?" he said. I'll admit I was a little taken aback by the insult but Ive been learning that people in his condition were oftentimes mean, and not necessarily because of anything I might have done to offend them.

"I was always the most important person. Nothing could be done in that building without me ," he repeated, as old people will do.

"And I was a hero," he continued, his voice quietly prideful in the afterthought.

"What kind of hero were you?" I asked, partly because I was curious and partly because I felt it was what he wanted to hear.

"The best kind!" he responded with more vigor than I thought he was capable of.

"Saved that whole business from going under. Do you know how many jobs would have been lost if I hadn't been there? How many families would have been ruined?"

I waited for him to continue but the length of silence told me he expected me to answer.

"I... have no idea, sir. How many?"

He harrumphed at me as though frustrated at my inability to read his mind.

"Thousands!" he said, as though that was the only number I should have thought about picking.

"There were thousands of them, all across the country and every one of them with families. If I hadn't been there they all would have been lost!"

"What did you do?" I asked, seated in a folding chair beside him now. He was a rude old man but I was now genuinely interested in the rest of his story.

"My job," came his surly answer. As with his earlier responses, he said it as though I should have already known before asking the question. As annoyed as he seemed though, with my apparent 'slowness', he continued his story like a proud war veteran.

"Everyone thought they were about to lose everything because of one mistake someone from before had made. But not me, I knew the building codes had been recorded wrong and I still had the original ones. I was the only one who thought to keep the original codes and it's a good thing I did! The whole company could have been closed overnight and all those jobs lost if it hadn't been for me."

I have to say that I was rather amazed. I didn't know things like that could happen to big, national companies.

The man started coughing hard and his heart monitor speed up to a frantic beeping. I got up hurriedly to get help but he stopped almost as soon as he had begun and laid back with a tired sigh.

"Do- do you want me to get the doctor?" I asked, not sure if he was still conscious.

"No, no, there's no need for that. I haven't much time left and that whole building is going to shit anyway."

"Why? I thought you saved it?" I asked while cautiously taking my seat again. I kept an eye on the heart monitor, just in case.

"I did! But they've replaced me since then, got some upstart in my place and they don't know what they're doing anymore... those young folks, they don't listen..."

I straightened my back self-consciously. I thought I was a fine listener.

"No, I'm all washed up now. Even heroes eventually die and let me tell you something," he paused and I thought for a moment he might tear up, but the moment passed, "it doesn't matter how many people you saved... when you get this old no one gives a rat's ass."

"I don't think that's true," I said with some sense of defiant hope. "I think it sounds like those people will always be grateful for what you did!"

The man looked at me with some surprise and then rested back into his pillow with an amused chuckle and a sigh.

"Well, what do you know anyway..."

I was going to respond but he closed his eyes, a silent dismissal.


The next morning the man died of a heart attack. His son came to get his body and settle everything at the hospital.

I saw him and felt I had to say something, even if I hadn't known the man very long... I could at least offer my condolences to his son.

"I'm sorry, sir, about your father. I- he told me how he had been a hero and I think he must have been a great man."

The son looked at me with a confused expression on his face.

"Miss, I think you've mistaken me for someone else... my father was just a janitor."
This was created for the Swan Song Contest. A swan's song was described as a dieing farewell, most commonly attuned to heroes of old or the death scenes of Shakespeare's characters (do they ever die?). I've had an interesting experience with the failing health of my grandfather these past few years and it made me think of this.

The final chance an old hero has of passing on his story, and what he has learned from it... I think that constitutes as a swan's song if ever I heard one :)

Enjoy and please tell me what you think!
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PennedinWhite Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
A very interesting read. I also find myself wanting to know more, but perhaps that is for a different time.

ActsofArt Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Very good, it was written in such a way that I had to read more and before I knew it I'd read the whole thing.

I like the concept and feel you delivered it well.

The only thing I might change would be at the beginning where he says he owned the whole building. While that does mislead the reader I feel that it doesn't quite make sense and I think it would sound better if you put something like "I used to be in charge of the whole building." that is more fitting yet still misleading.

But otherwise it's a good read.
Cionie Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thanks for the feedback!

I am taking another look at much of the wording in the story so thank you for pointing out that line :)
orientalbunny Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013
I think this is really lovely. You write very clearly and i enjoyed your story very much :)
Cionie Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thank you :)
Pauper-Circumstance Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2013
This story-- I just, I can't find the words to describe it! :D I really felt like I was reading a D.H. Lawrence story for a while. :D Amazing work here. My only suggestion is to maybe switch the title of the story from "I was a hero, you know" to just "I was a hero". I think it would be a stronger title that way. :) That's all. Beautiful job.
Cionie Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thank you very much! That's one of the nicest compliments I've gotten :heart:
I thought about have it as just "I was a hero" but I thought it sounded too common a title? I have been considering changing a few things about the story and I really appreciate the feedback :)
Pauper-Circumstance Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013
No problem. :) You should be proud, you've written a fantastic story.
monstroooo Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Congratulations! :boogie: You've been featured in our Weekly Round-up :party:

Thanks for sharing your work with the group :love:

Cionie Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thank you! :onfire:
monstroooo Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
hehe, you're welcome!
monstroooo Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I really like the mixture of young and old here. The clash of styles and attitudes was excellent - the old man with his lack of patience, slow manner and quick judgement; and the young girl with her pride, self-conciousness and irritation. Both characters come of as being a little out-of-line, but also as being good people.

I really like the story, but I think the last line doesn't have the impact it's supposed to. Perhaps it's just me, I sort of assumed he was in maintanance. Someone with more power would have taken pride at something far bigger than just keeping a backup of door codes. But a man without much to be proud of would remember a thing like that and call himself a hero for it. It's worth saying here that i loved that aspect of the story - the play with the question over whether this man was really a hero, or just telling himself he is. But that last line comes in a little weakly for me because I'd pre-empted it.

I guess that's fine of itself, but it's phrased and structured as if it' supposed to be a big surprising conclusion. I didn't think it was, and so it lost the desired effect. And I think that's the sort of thing that you, as the author, would like to know: did the killer line have the big impact?

There was one other tiny, tiny error (probably just a typo):

:bulletred: ...I had to, you see...

When a speaker continues talking in a new paragraph, you should start that paragraph with speech marks (but you're correct in not closing the previous paragraph). So this line should read:

:bulletgreen: "I had to, you see...

Really fine work though, ~Cionie :)
Cionie Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thank you so much for the feedback! I really appreciate your thoughts on the last line, I was wondering about the impact it had... do you have any suggestions on how I could make that stronger?

As for the grammatical error, I'll get that fixed, thanks :)
monstroooo Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Writer

Well, to make the last line work, I think the problem doesn't lie in the last line itself. The problem lies in the build-up: I guessed that he was a maintenance type guy, which meant the "big reveal" didn't resonate with me. I also know from some internal discussions in #WritersInk that other people find the piece a little predictable.

So rather than trying to fix the last line, I think you need to better disguise the man's role in the company. Perhaps you can imply that he had a higher-level, more executive role? Perhaps you could imply that he was wealthy and powerful? Ideally, you should find a parallel between a big-cheese executive and a janitor, and sell it throughout the piece. Make us think he's a businessman, and we'll be surprised when he's a janitor.

The challenge is to find that hook - to find a way to misdirect the reader and surprise them at the end.
Cionie Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Professional General Artist
Great advice! I'm going to take another look at this then and get back to you :)
monstroooo Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Great :)
monstroooo Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
And as ~arabesque-o says, the suspense and curiosity is enthralling: once you start, it's very hard to stop!
arabesque-o Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2013  Student Photographer
this is amazing.
i almost didn't read,
(because i'm lazy and tired)
but then i did and it pulled me under to the end.
really well written.
Cionie Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thanks very much! :boogie:
GentlemanAnachronism Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I really love this. Proof that a swan song doesn't need to be all guts and gods and glory to be worth remembering. Really nice work :)
Cionie Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thank you very much! :D
OfOneSoul Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you for the lovely entry, my dear! :iconrubcheeksplz:

Unfortunately I cannot provide an in depth comment in the hopes of remaining impartial, you understand? I just wanted to let you know your entry was accept. :huggle:

Thank you again, and good luck in the contest! :squee:

:heart: `OfOneSoul
Cionie Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thank you and I can't wait to see all the winning entries!
OfOneSoul Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
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Submitted on
January 28, 2013
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