Perhaps this is as good a time as any to let you know that you’re going to die. No I don’t mean that in an existential kind of way, ‘All living things will die’, no I mean that you, sadly have no further part to play beyond this story. This is the end for you. I figure we should get this out of the way already. It’s like I said earlier, we know the destination already, we’re here for the journey.
So enjoy the ride while you can, indulge in your speculations and draw up plans for escape as much as you please, but just keep your hopes low.
The teenager stares you down like a meal then points you to the chair with his mighty arm. Something is choking you at the base of your throat, there’s a high possibility that it’s your heart in its new unnatural position. The chair looks a fairly long journey away, but you couldn’t move your legs if you wanted to anyway. Your knees almost fail you, but a pair of strong arms grab you before that happens and dump you into the now empty chair, its former inhabitant having being dragged to his final destination, be it six feet underground or the dumpster outside.
Your hands are fastened to the arms of the chair by leather belts wrung so tight your palms almost immediately lose color. The young man rinses his bloodied fists then dries them with a dirty looking towel.
It’s at this point when I say unto you, ‘Goodbye, Adios, Kwa heri ya kuonana.’ It doesn’t really matter that I don’t know you very well, I still cannot stand watching you slowly decay under the assault of a brute. You deserve better.
So forgive me, once again, for I must exit this story here, and I only pray that you have a happier afterlife!
“Wait!” You shout to the young man before he lands the first punch. Now, now what’s on your mind?
“I have something you need to hear.” No, you don’t, but I can’t wait to hear this.
For some reason, you seem to have the brute’s attention too.
“Would you willingly jump into a pool of boiling oil?”
“Would he what now?”
“Is he teaching metaphors or something?”
The dissenting voices around you quiz in confusion but the teenager stays silent, so you continue, “I doubt Vickie would appreciate her messenger going back in a casket, after all the trouble I went through to get here. How do the English say it? ‘Don’t kill the messenger?’”
The effect is immediate. Fred turns towards your two captors who shrink back in response.
“And you two never thought to ask him who he was first before offering him to me? Before bringing him here?”
“No, they never seemed to care. Never once stopped to wonder if I was a police in civilian clothes, wearing a transmission device with an army of backup waiting to swoop in here at my confirmation.” Oh yes, fan the flame. “I understand the risky nature of our business, but to tolerate such recklessness among your officers can only mean you are comfortable with an early doom.”
The teenager seems to be mulling over your words, a reaction you were hoping for but not really expecting. You’ve stumbled upon something here. Maybe a past history between these three? Fred turns to his apparent second-in-command, an old looking man.
“Am sorry, but this is the last straw. Their recklessness has been too disruptive to ignore anymore.”
The lieutenant hangs his head in disappointment but then nods in concession. The two men who have caused you so much unpleasantness this evening are dragged out by half the gang in attendance into a remote room in the building, where their cries and pleas die off to the curt sound of two gunshots.
That bit of business done, attention shifts back to you and a question that’s been gestating for what might be an eternity is finally spat out…
“And who are you precisely?”
…but you’ve been preparing for it…
“Vickie said it would be best for all concerned if I don’t tell you. Just in case, someone snitches.”
…the hook is cast…
“Fine.” He grumbles after a long pause.
…and the fish bites on the bait.
“Why did she send you here?”
“She wanted me to give you a message. The gang is pushing through with that heist they’ve been planning.”
Oh yeah. No good has ever come from talking without constraint, but your now-deceased captors’ inability to stop yapping might prove to be your savior tonight. But you’re not out of the woods just yet. The young man stares you down skeptically, before finally turning to his clansmen.
“Do you hear that? The Stupid Ones are walking to their deaths tonight.”
The place erupts in guffaws and howls.
“The army couldn’t be happier to have live volunteers for target practice.” One man shouts in the background.
“The bullets will slice right through them, haha.” Someone in another corner laughs.
“So all the stash and money,” you try to amplify the burgeoning prospects, “…only two guards looking after it all. And the ladies…”
“What about them?”
“All unguarded and bored and waiting to be rescued…”
“What good are they to us?” You are taken back by the question.
“Um…uh…some of them are excellent bookkeepers, they can help you guys keep track of all your money and assets…”
The subsequent boos give you momentary pause. Clearly these men are hard to read.
“…and uh, most of them are excellent cooks and will help you with laundry and keeping the place clean…”
It’s cheers and nods of approval this time. Bingo!
“Enough!” commands the young man, “We will attack immediately!”
The hall erupts into a flurry of activity as the gang proceeds to arm themselves with all manner of potent ammunition and drench their bodies in concoctions that their local witchdoctor promised would grant them invincibility.
The moral standing of these people aside, they seem to have neglected the place they’ve chosen to call home. It’s stuffy and dark, puddles of some disgusting liquid litter sections of the floor, and the squeaks from the roof above give you the feeling there’s a colony of rats up there enacting a Game of Thrones-esque political thriller. You really can’t anticipate parting with the place more fervently. As you prepare to take your leave, however, Fred asks you to slow it down.
“You’re coming with us, messenger boy.”
“But nothing, come on.”
The gang sets off in an armada of pickups and jeeps that carries itself with the pomp and noise of a wedding procession and the urgency of a presidential motorcade. You find yourself sharing the company of Fred and his silent deputy who takes on driving duty at the moment. Freddie pulls closer to you and gleefully shows off his ‘toy’, a rocket launcher with cryptic-looking controls and a name etched to the side in paint: SPARKY.
“Oh, that’s just her name.”
“Why do you call it…her, Sparky?” You ask.
“Because, doofus, when she’s on song, she makes a lot of sparks.” He laughs like a maniac and rubs the machine intimately.
Somewhere along the way, your car breaks off of the procession into a dirt path that’s soon swallowed by thick forest. You think this is it. Maybe they didn’t believe you or they were planning to dispose of you even if they did. Your fears are not even remotely allayed when the car pulls up just at the edge of a clearing, a cabin in the middle of it with lights on. Fred’s deputy honks twice and the lights inside the cabin blink twice in response.
“Well, gentlemen, that’s my cue.” Fred pulls his hair back with a comb, “I’ll be asking Vickie about you, errand boy. Now hold on to this for me.” He winks and hands you the rocket launcher as he leaves the car.
You’ve dodged bullets all night so far, you figure this is where your luck runs out. It’ll take Fred a minute tops to discover Vickie has had no correspondence whatsoever with a scrawny, clumsy eleven-toed nerd that fits your description, and then after that it’s curtains down for you. First, you’ll need to take out Fred’s mute lieutenant.
As if reading your thoughts, the man leaves the car and jumps on the car’s bonnet where he lights a cigar and merrily puffs away. You figure you could make a run for it, go for the thick tree cover but the tree line is too far away from the car and a seasoned gun wielder would make waste of you before you got far. So you decide to join him outside.
“Fred’s gonna get himself killed for this kind of stupidity. Taking his rival’s wife to bed.” The man complains, “He used to do it because he loved her, but now I think he only does it to spite his opposite number. Worse, I think Vickie is beginning to realize it too. But warn him however much I want, he never listens to me anymore.”
Something about the way the man talks ropes you in. There is some undercurrent of pain under the man’s shaky voice. He’s also quite possibly the only sane person you’ve met so far since the turn of midnight. You get the distinct feeling that he, like you, is here not by choice.
“Forgive me for asking,” you intrude, “but I get the feeling you’ve known Fred for a really long time?”
The man pauses a few seconds too long as if weighing the question, his eyes focusing into the distance.
“Fred’s parents were passionate career criminals, just like him.” He narrates. “It, of course, cost them their life. Then it was up to his failed businessman of an uncle to look after him.
“I tried my best, God knows I tried my best, to stop Fred from following his parent’s path, but I suppose I didn’t try hard enough.
“When finally, he took up his parents’ throne, I saw no other choice for me except to…stick with him, keep him in check, stop him from doing something stupid, like executing his own gang members.”
The last part seems laden with accusation, “Am sorry if I made your job hard today.” You say apologetically.
“No,” he responds, “Those two were always too clumsy for their own good. Still, it doesn’t help with team morale.”
A long silence passes between the two of you…uncomfortable and palpable.
“But we’ll pass through whatever storm, him and me. Together till the end if need be.” The old man adds.
It’s a charming sentiment, one you don’t get to admire though. Because, latching on to the old man’s last words is a chortling yell from the direction of the cabin. The old man jumps immediately from the bonnet, on edge.
This is it, you think, time to make like a ghost and disappear. But you figure a blow to the old man’s head with the bazooka in your hands will knock him out cold and you can truly be free and safe to make a run for it. However, because you are clumsy, you struggle with the machine, and fall flat to the ground. From down there, you see horrors that will stick with you to the end of your times.
A lady emerges from the cabin, you can only guess that it must be Vickie, it’s hard to see in the darkness. In her hand she carries a sphere of some sort, round like a football, only it can’t be a football because you notice that there’s hair on the top side of it, and upon further inspection, you notice two eyes and a mouth and you realize that Vickie or whoever it is, is carrying the miserable remains of Fred’s thinking faculties.
You see the old man break down in front of you, like his life had meaning no more. You see him fall down to his knees and cry like a pained parent. You see him defy his anguish and rush towards the lady with his gun out and you see him meet his own end as a man hidden in the bushes flanks him and mows him down with his own semi-automatic firearm. You watch Vickie walk towards the man and laughs heartily at some joke you’re not in on.
“I can’t believe they actually fell for that.” The new man says, “Yet they call us the Stupid Ones.”
Vickie says nothing, just stares at the body on the ground before her.
Now’s the time. Your feet respond to your command and you run. You run like you never you thought you could. Your feet are cogs of a mighty machine, your lungs and heart the engine of NASCAR racecar. You run until your shoulders ache, and force you to stop, and you realize you’re still carrying that awful bazooka. You examine the name etched to the side, and find yourself taken over by a fit of laughter.
You finally get it, the joke, and it’s not a funny one. Which is why you’re laughing.
The world is filled with people tormented by a need for something. A need for purpose, others a need to break free from a prison only conceived in their minds. For the men and women you’ve run into tonight they are tormented by a need for superiority, to stand over the remains of the biggest threats to their perfect little worlds.
Your own torment is a need for establishment, for a grand stage where you can talk and people will listen, where you can paint and people will be drawn in.
Which is why you put your life at risk tonight, chasing that elusive spark you were fortunate enough to experience through a half-daze.
You’re laughing not out of humor but out of sheer want of anything else to do.
“What’s wrong with it?” You don’t quite notice the car pull up next to you.
“Is he one of them?”
“He might be, they seem to have an intimate connection with their weaponry. See how he’s cradling that bazooka and smiling at it like it was a baby.”
“So he is one of them.”
“I’d stake my writing arm on it.”
“So, what to do with it?”
Before the end comes, you do finally notice the car, and more importantly its occupants. A firm faced lady, who could only be Vickie. Now that you see her close up she seems a perfect match to the idea of her you’ve been carrying in your head all night. Next to her, an unfamiliar face carrying the ghost of a smirk as the man behind it draws his gun on you and pulls the trigger.
Oh hello there, welcome back from the dead. I have a teeny tiny request to ask of you. When I was halfway through writing this piece, a friend of mine challenged me to create a story with a relatable and/or adorable and/or dynamic character(s) and then kill them off. So I had to change a few things around, including the ending to accommodate his homicidal cravings.
So you, brave soul who has read through all the horror of the story, I would love to hear your feedback on whether you think I’ve successfully stood up to the challenge, character-wise and otherwise, in the comments section.
Thank you so much for reading.