11.08.2012

Freddy - Stolen Car (pt. 2)

(part 1)

White flash. Vibration. White Flash. Reverberation. Cold air and ringing, stinging pain. Bright light. ‘Ay bitch.’ White flash. ‘Look at me, eh?’ Head pounding. ‘Ay! Wake the fuck up!’ White flash. ‘Wake up!’

Dry mouth. I went to speak, nothing. ‘Well, you didn’t kill ‘em.’ I looked to my right to see just the midsection of a man in a leather jacket. I heard a muffled reply from Toni. I was in the car next to a dead Dave. The man outside turned back to me and leaned down. ‘Nah, I don’t think he’s hurt. Ay, you ok?’ He leaned in a slapped me across the face. White flash. He crouched down and grabbed my leg. Pain shot up my body. ‘I think he’s alright.’ He turned back to Toni.

‘Good, I have work for him,’ Toni stated as his voice faded from a dampened mumble to appearing just in earshot. He was now right outside the car. My body was still constantly reminding me of the accident. I felt sick, I remember that; In pain all over, but also just sick, nauseous, my whole body.

I look back on it now. Maybe I felt sick because it was where all this had started. Maybe it was because somehow I knew the path my life would take from there on out. Toni quietly took place of the other guy standing outside the passenger-side of Dave’s wrecked car. ‘Ay, my man! What’s your name, son?’ White flash. ‘I’m talkin’ to you!’

‘I know who you’re talkin’ to.’ My voice rumbled through my throat like I had just been asleep for days. ‘Stop hitting me, please.’

‘Oh, look...kid has manners. Well, my amigo, how’s about doing a little work for your homie?’

‘Do I have any choice?’

‘Well--’ Toni chuckled to himself a little. He looked over to one of his guys and smirked with his tongue in cheek. He raised his eyebrows as he looked back at me. He was such a self-proclaimed genius. ‘You can always spend some more time with your buddy over there.’ I’m sure it is easy to to feel smart when the people you surround yourself are given little chance to think for themselves, when you are the one calling every single shot.

‘I guess I’ll go with option A, since you’re leaving me little choice.’ I guess I should have been glad I was given the option to live.

‘Oh, man, there is a lot of choice. It’s a tough decision. You sure you want to answer so quick? I mean, your best friend, well, he might still have that same stupid grin on his face, but who could really tell with his, ah, you know his head and how most of it’s missing and all.’ He leaned in real close, like an intimidation move. ‘Maybe you’d want that to happen to you?’

I remember being paralyzed with more anger than fear, I am sure it went over Toni all the same. ‘I just want to go home.’

Toni smiled big. ‘Good, seems as though we have ourselves a understandin’, eh?’ He gently smacked my face a few times. ‘Now get up.’

It was horror. I felt like I was trapped. I had to do whatever this criminal wanted me to do until he was done doing whatever it was he needed to do. I needed to go to my job and make money. I needed to pay off my debts. Three of Toni’s men came with us. We walked across the complex, every step left my leg throbbing until we got to my car. Toni tossed me the keys. ‘Get in.’

‘This is my car!’ I pointed at the car and stared down Toni and his guys.

Toni took a fast, half step toward me and pulled out his gun. ‘Excuse me? I believe that this is Tukeo’s car. Am I incorrect?’

‘Tukeo has good taste.’ I backed down. I was not in the best position to argue possession at that time.

‘It’s a piece of shit.’ One of the three henchmen spoke up. It was the same guy in the leather jacket from moments before. ‘The car, it’s a piece of shit.’

That was a challenge. How I played my next move would affect how this journey went. I was guessing it was Tukeo who was speaking. ‘I was just being polite.’

‘About the shitty car?’

‘Yeh. About the car.’

‘The shitty car?’ He was definitely trying to get a rise out of me, I wasn’t going to let him.

I nodded.

He leaned his head toward me. ‘You can’t admit it’s a shitty car? It’s a shitty car.’ It was my shitty car. He was getting to me a little. I had to keep my cool. I had to stay calm. Maybe it was a test.

‘I had one like this before.’ I relaxed my posture and started to walk toward the driver’s door. I called Tukeo out. ‘I got rid of it. I sold it to some jackass for a blowjob from his mother.’

‘I stole it.’

‘I still collected.’

Toni’s laugh was a relief. I remember thinking about how much harder it would be to kill someone that made you laugh. Even the other two guys started in on Tukeo as he let out a defiant ‘fuck you’ before biting his bottom lip in distaste. My nervousness slipped away for a moment. I was able to humor the idea that I may be able to see the next day when all that was over.

I started driving to Toni’s command. He didn’t tell me where I was going. He just guided me turn by turn. Toni sat in the passenger seat and the other three squeezed in the back. I had to run the wipers but only on the lowest setting. The sun was just barely beginning to light the city. The radio was on but I couldn’t really hear what was playing. We came to an old abandoned industrial park. The rust-covered skeletons of old machinery really played into my mood that morning. We came up to a bridge where a luxurious car sat setting off an odd tone as the one object to stand out amongst the withered-away backdrop. Toni got out and instructed everyone to stay in the car. He walked over to the other car. The window rolled down. Toni said a few things and the window rolled back up. Toni opened the door and got in the car.

About five minutes had passed before one of the three in the back of the car got out and smoked a cigarette. Tukeo started at me again. ‘Hey. Hey! Hey you, funny guy.’

‘...what?’ I was really hoping that he was going to keep his mouth shut.

‘You’re a dead man. You know that? You’re gonna die. Toni’s gonna kill you.’ He was mocking me through the rearview mirror.

‘Why didn’t he then?’ I made eye contact with him.

‘What? He’s going to.’ I could tell he was trying to convince himself.

‘Well, why didn’t he before?’ I felt like I was entertaining a child in traffic.

‘He didn’t want to.’

‘So, why do you think he is later?’

‘You’re a piece of shit. Just like your car.’ It was ridiculous how obvious he was trying to anger me. What bothered me more was how he wasn’t even trying very hard.

‘Oh great, back to this piece of shit thing. Don’t you have anything else in your vocabulary?’ I was getting more annoyed than upset.

‘I have plenty in my vocabulary. That’s just how much peices of shit I think you and your car are.’

‘Tukeo!’ The last passenger interjected. ‘Would you just shut the fuck up? You’re not funny, you’re not clever and we all know you aren’t that much of a badass. Just shut the fuck up?’

Tukeo pouted. He looked up at me through the mirror as the last sentence echoed in all our heads. Toni emerged from the other car with a small brown package and made his way back to mine. Toni got in and the guy smoking the cigarette right after. Though I had little faith in possessing my car again, I did appreciate that guy for not smoking in it. Toni then guided me out of the industrial park. He explained that we had a few jobs to do and that he needed me to stay calm. He then proceeded to threaten my life again. I just continued to drive where he lead me.

We were coasting downtown when he pulled out the package. He slowly opened it. He pulled out a clear vial with two square foil ends. In it looked to be a pink substance. ‘Do you know what this is?’ Toni’s voice boomed as he asked the question.

I remember being at a stoplight as I answered. ‘No.’

‘It is the newest thing. This is God. Life and death. Good, evil. Happy...sad? This is awakening in a tube. What is your name anyway?’

‘Freddy.’

‘Freddy is a piece of shit name.’ Tukeo had to chime in and I didn’t care that he was jabbing at me again. I was intrigued. The substance seemed to be lighter than liquid but more dense than air. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. My thoughts were interrupted as the car behind us reminded me that the light had turned green.

Toni looked at me like he knew me. ‘Freddy, let me ask you, when was the last time you believed in heaven?’ He was leveling with me. The question caught me off guard. He wasn’t looking at me like one would look at another that is beneath them. He was giving me a little respect. He really wanted to know that answer.

I thought back. It was her, that charming whore. The one who destroyed me. She made me believe in heaven and in hell. ‘Her name was Kayla.’ I wasn’t going to get into it. No one needed to know my relationship history. They didn’t need to know even the littlest thing about me.

‘Heh, we all have one, don’t we, Freddy?’ Toni’s eyes lit up. He looked at me and testified with pristine righteousness. ‘Kayla ain’t got shit on Hale. Nothing has got anything on Hale. Feel me?’

I didn’t know what to say. I have heard of Hale. I never thought I’d ever come across it. The government was really focusing on containing the substance. It was all over the news. People were killing for it. Hale was the new super drug and people were dying. All the same stuff you hear about any new thing. I thought it was some pop-news fad like everything else, you’d hear about it all day for a couple weeks and it would be back to what celebrity was doing what when whatever happened at the time of them doing it normal bullshit. I never thought I’d be in the same car with Hale, let alone my car or like this.

‘Freddy, listen to me.’ Toni’s voice became calm. ‘Today. Freddy, today, in just a couple of moments, you are going to do Hale.’

I was terrified. I never had done anything like that before. I was a little excited but that feeling was marginal in comparison to the amount of fear that the idea of Hale, the super-psychedelic, pumping my through my body destroying my mind and melting my brain. I gathered up as much courage as I could when I pulled my eyes off the road to vocally stand up to Toni. He had his gun pointed at me already.

‘Freddy, I will shoot you.’ Toni smiled. It was one of those smiles that could get you out of trouble when you were a kid. ‘Look man, you cool? I need to know you’re cool before we continue our little adventure, you know?’ Toni shrugged his shoulders as he pulled the sights of his gun away from me. ‘It won’t hurt you. You might actually have a little fun. So, pull over.’

I pulled to side of the road. Toni handed me the vial. My heart was racing. My hands were trembling. I was afraid of freaking out. My mind jumped from possibility to circumstance, from any situation to the ends of my imagination until it ran through the darkest scenarios that resulted in my death. The more frightening of which were the ones where I went so crazy that I saw it coming and there was nothing I could do to stop it. The ones where I perpetuated the outcome and cared little to put an end resulting in the end of myself. The vial felt cool in my hand. ‘I don’t want to do this.’

‘Well, you don’t really have a choice. You do know what option B is.’ Toni pointed the gun at me again. He pushed it all the way to my throat. I felt the cold barrel burrow itself into me neck.

‘There’s alway option C. You know, Freddy, where we all get out of your piece of shit car and leave you piece of shit life alone. How’s that sound?’ Tukeo mocked me from the back of the car. In that moment, I really began to hate him. I wanted option C so bad. I would have done anything for them to all just get out and leave me alone. I wanted to snatch the gun out of Toni’s hand and shoot Tukeo in the head. I wouldn’t care if I got blood over my car, that would show Toni. He’d piss himself and everyone would get out. I would drive home.

Toni pressed the gun into my neck even harder. It hurt. It grabbed my attention. ‘Freddy, I’m gonna tell you exactly how to do this. You are gonna want to listen very closely, if you do this wrong you can die. Whatever you do, do not swallow the dose. It is very important that you only inhale.’

‘Get it, that’s why it’s called Hale, bitch!’ Tukeo was getting excited. He reminded me so much of a child.

‘Don’t listen to him. Listen to me, Freddy.’ Without moving the gun off me, Toni motioned with his other hand, ‘now, pull off the top piece of foil. Place the open end in your mouth. Freddy, I do what I’m asking.’ I was hesitant. I was stalling in hope of some miracle. Nothing happened. I did what he asked. ‘This is where is gets very important for you to specifically do what I say. Out your nose, breathe. Breathe out your nose.’ I did. ‘Breathe in through your mouth. Now you should have created a vacuum. As you continue breathe in, pull off the bottom piece of foil. Take a deep breath through your mouth.’ I felt cold air fill my lungs. ‘Hold your breath. Hold it in. Don’t cough.’ My chest felt heavy. I felt sharp, tiny pricks consuming my lungs as they felt to expand. I wanted to cough. My eyes began to water. My throat burned, my stomach turned and my mouth went numb. ‘You can breath out now.’ I did, my mouth tasted like vinegar. I took a few short breaths to catch normal pace.

‘You ever do this stuff before?’ I looked to Toni for reassurance since I had no idea of what to expect next.

‘Hell no!’ Toni’s reply shot through me like electricity. ‘You ever see anyone on that shit? They ain’t right.’

Freddy - Stolen Car (pt. 1)

The sound of my mother yelling at me in a frantic sort of panic woke me from my sleep. Her screaming became an audible tone of necessity. She kept repeating that we had to leave this place. We had to move. I asked her why but she just kept reiterating the effect and not the cause. She had just moved in with me after getting laid off. She hated it, however, it was no picnic for anyone.

Times were hard. I was barely affording rent. It was a bad place. The kind of place that the landlord only appeared when rent was due. Jabbaar would show up with his knock-off, name-brand sunglasses and greying chest hair poking through his button-down, sweat-stained shirt, talking with his middle-eastern accent about how I owed him his money. I could always buy a day or two by mentioning how my freezer didn’t freeze or the tap water wouldn’t stay clear for longer than thirty seconds at a time. Nothing ever got repaired, he’d just show up within the next couple of days with his mentally handicapped nephew. My small-time tyrannical landlord took advantage of his unknowing nephew by using him as muscle. I once saw the kid dent the quarter panel of a sedan with his fist for a lowly pat on the back. Jabbaar would point and his nephew would destroy. He didn’t know any better.

This was the kind of neighborhood that when walking though, you wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone. The kind of place that you wore cheap headphones that connected to nothing but your pocket so you wouldn’t get beat up for ignoring anyone. Drug abusers and dealers lived side by side. Gang members would hang out in the parking lot looking for trouble. It was what one would call a bad neighborhood.

I had to live there because I had a gambling problem, well, not so much a problem, more a situation that one could explain as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was a brilliant poker player. I made a lot of money. However, when you’re staring down a barrel of a gun you can’t really keep accusing people of cheating, which they were, but I kept my mouth shut. I lost all my money and acquired quite the debt with the wrong people. The kind of debt where you skipped meals just to ensure your ability to walk.

My mom never knew what kind of trouble I was in. How were I to tell her what happened? She would just tell me I should not of been playing poker with those kind of people anyway and she would be right. Not to mention, she would have more fuel for her campaign to leave this place. The poker tournament was a scam and I fell for every part of it. My mother didn’t ask too many questions as to why I lived where I lived or where all my money went. She was not a stupid woman by any means and definitely knew I made at least minimum wage and worked, most of the time, sixty to eighty hours a week between two jobs. Maybe she just kept my business as such. However, she did not like the situation that I had lived in and, now that she was living with me, became much more vocal about it than ever.

When I really think about it that day was different. She was really upset, more than usual. It was as if someone had done something to her. We usually were able to stay in the background. She never left the house and I would only venture out in the moonlight as little as possible. Still, she was thoroughly upset. She was stomping back and forth throughout the apartment grabbing things and attempting to pack them in boxes or sort them in piles. I was finally able to get a response out of her as she walked me to the window, pointed at parking lot and she asked me what was missing. It was my car.

I began to panic myself. It was not a panic that was on the same wavelength as my mother. It was more like a how was I supposed to get to work now panic. Either job would fire me if I didn’t have transportation. I wouldn’t be able to pay Mr. Chikko and I would then be lucky keep my life.

I can’t really explain why I left. Maybe I thought that if I went to where my car was I would find answers. Maybe I thought someone was playing a joke on me. Maybe I don’t know what I was thinking but I took off. I went out the door and down the stairs with nothing on my mind except my ride to work. One job I could have used a few sick days. I didn’t know about the other.

As my thoughts started to consider options for my night job, I ran into Dave who was a shift supervisor there and who I could probably talk into giving me a lift when we have the same shift.

Dave looked upset. ‘Hey Dave. What’s going on?’

‘Shit, just shit.’ Dave grumbled without looking at me as he stood against the railing, staring off into the early morning sky while smoking a cigarette heavily.

‘Is something wrong, man?’

‘Yeh! Isn’t it fucking obvious?’ Dave brought his trembling hand to his mouth and, as he took a long drag, he turned to me. ‘It’s all gone,’ he paused. ‘Everything. All I have been saving. Everything I had.’ You could hear the anger and frustration booming in his voice.

‘I hear yah.’ My words were cut off with a glare from Dave, implying that I had better relate. ‘Dave, my piece of shit car is missing too and you know better than anyone that I can’t miss another shift at the plant and I can’t miss another bill and, well, I’m tired of this shit too! Man.’

Dave took one last hit of his cigarette and flicked it off the balcony before he exhaled into the cool winter air. He stuck his tongue to his cheek and squinted as if he was searching for something profound to say. He turned back towards me. ‘Okay.’ Dave nodded. ‘Let’s go.’

I stood there, confused. ‘Okay? Okay what?’ I cocked my head to the side with a puzzled look on my face. ‘Where are we going?’

‘To look for clues.’ Dave began to walk to the stairs. ‘I have a feeling that your car and my stuff has been jacked by the same dead man. I have an idea who it might be.’

‘Who?’
‘That fuck, Toni. And his punk-ass friends.’

‘Who?’

‘Don’t worry about it.’

We took off down the rest of the stairs and made our way to the parking lot. Dave was walking at a fast pace. I wondered what motivated him so much. He didn’t say another word until we reached his car.

‘Get in,” Dave demanded. I got inside.

As we made our way to the other side of the apartment complex Dave started to act a little odd. He started to ask questions about who I have seen around lately and if I have noticed movement between the gangs. Before I had a chance to explain that I keep to myself, Dave asked me something that caught me off guard. ‘You’re with me, right?’

‘What do you mean, Dave?’

‘Are you with me?’ He looked at me for confirmation. ‘You know if shit goes down, are you with me?’

‘I don’t know what you’re asking me. Is shit gonna go down? Look, I didn’t come out looking for trouble. I just want to get to work. I just want to make a paycheck.’

‘Shut up! You know exactly what I am asking. Freddy, man. You got this. I believe in you. Do you believe in me?’ He sounded like he was bargaining.

‘Yeah, man. I trust you. I trust that you won’t do anything stupid.’ I was the one looking for confirmation now.

‘Alright. Then you’re with me?’

‘Yeah...If you don’t do anything stupid.’ The dumbest thing I had ever said.

Dave began to slow his sedan to a neutral roll as we approached a group of people. They ranged from early teens to mid-twenties. Dave rolled down his window. I slumped down in my seat. This was not my kind of situation. I was a non-confrontational sort of guy, but Dave was not. ‘Ay. Let me do the talking, ‘k?’

‘Sure Dave. That’s not a problem. Just don’t get us killed, yeah?’

‘Hey! Punks!’ Dave leaned out the window as we came to a stop. Half of the group turned around. ‘Which one of you assholes is Toni?’

‘Dave,’ I whispered. ‘you don’t even know who this guy is? How do you know--’ Dave motioned for me to be quiet. This is when my heart started to thump in my chest.

One guy stepped out of the group. ‘I am.’ He replied as he made way to the driver’s side window. ‘Who the fuck are you?’

‘I’m a customer. I heard you’re the kind of guy that can get things?’ Dave nudged me as if celebrate a small victory. He must have thought he was being clever.

‘Yeah. I do, but I’m all out of candy for little boys.’ Toni licked his lips. Half of his posse laughed. ‘Maybe you should bark up some other tree.’

‘Look man, I got credit.’ Dave pulled a wad of money out of his pocket. It was neatly organized and looked to be a lot. I wondered, if this was the amount of money Dave carried with him, how much did he have stolen?

‘Nice.’ Toni leaned in. ‘What are you looking for? Chemicals? Grass? Hale? I got Hale, man, but it goes fast, you know? It’s when everybody be diggin’ on nowadays. It ain’t cheap.’

‘I was looking more for merchandise. You know, like, an antique dish set? Some jewelry? Or, maybe, I don’t know, a fucking shoe-box full of my kid’s college fund! Eh? You know anything about that, Toni?’ Dave really did a good job publishing a tone of dominance even though his efforts were likely to be squashed.

I remember my heart pumping so hard and fast that I’m sure Toni and his gang could hear it through the metal cage of the car. I felt it shaking my entire chest. I felt a cold chill meet halfway with the bead of sweat that ran down my forehead, off the tip of my nose and onto my chest. What was Dave doing? I thought he knew what he was doing.

‘I see.’ Toni pulled down his sunglasses just enough to look Dave dead in the eyes. ‘You thought that you and your renegade friend were just going to come up in here and ask for your stuff back, maybe, I don’t know, act like you were cool at first and I would just be all about being a homie and, and, just, maybe, give it back?’ Toni reached into his coat. ‘Look man, that stuff is mine now. As for your kid, if he wants, he can go to Toni’s College. I can teach him a few things. You know, a few things that his bitch-ass dad wouldn’t know a thing about. Whadda say about that, hmm? That sound like a plan?’ Toni bit his bottom lip to hold back a smug grin while holding out his empty hand to seal a deal.

You could feel the blood boiling within Dave. I could see him clenching his jaw as hard as he was the steering wheel. This plan of Dave’s wasn’t going very well. Toni turned halfway around to address his group. ‘Well, boys, doesn’t that sound just fine and dandy? I’m not a total asshole. I have compassion for the kids. Man, for the kids!’ He turned back to face Dave. ‘After all, they are our future.’

‘You know, Dave, we should really get out of here.’ I pleaded. ‘This isn’t going well, we should cut our losses.’

‘Yeah, Dave.’ Toni mocked his name. ‘You should really...’ Toni paused, ‘bounce! Before things go bad.’ As Toni finished his sentence, I heard a loud bang and another followed. My ears were ringing. I felt Dave’s hand grab my arm. I looked over to him as he turned to meet eyes with me. Dave tried to say something but, blood streamed from his mouth instead of words. I looked down at his chest and saw a dark, red shape begin to appear from the two holes in his shirt. I felt Dave’s grip tighten over my arm. He again tried to tell me something but all I could hear was Toni muttering something to his group as I peered into Dave’s eyes.

I remember hearing the engine power to a rolling rumble before I was sprayed all over with what felt like hot, sticky pancake batter. I felt the car take off. Dave must have slammed the gas down to the floor. I looked over to see Dave slumped toward the center of the dashboard. I remember the agony of sudden reality piercing through my heart as it sank in my chest. The top of Dave’s head was missing and, though it wasn’t clear in the moment, it was brain matter, blood and Dave’s face that was all over me. I remember shock consuming me as the car sped toward a brick wall. Dave’s lifeless leg must have been on the gas petal. I vaguely recall bracing as the wall approached.

11.05.2012

Adam - Ben's House (pt. 2)

(Part 1)

I’m trying to analyze what had just happened. I am down on one knee, struggling to find strength. My phone is face up on the pavement in front of me. I can feel a surge of adrenaline, greater than anytime I can recall, pumping throughout my body. There is a dull pain radiating from my stomach. Due to a sudden weakness, I am lacking the ability to stand. I fall into a sitting position and brace myself against a car. I look down to my stomach and realize I have frightening amount of blood seeping through my sweater. Suddenly sharp agony consumes my entire body as I become aware that I have, in fact, been shot. I count two wounds. The worser of the two is located next to my right hipbone just above my jeans. The other is on my left side just below my ribs. I try to apply pressure to both. I begin to become extremely worried. I need to call an ambulance.

Reaching for my phone, Anna crosses my mind. I can hear her justifying why I should have stayed with her tonight. I should have. As I unlock my screen, I see the nine and one I had previously dialed. I should have finished dialing and hit send as that man had the gun pointed at me. They would have heard the gunshots and probably already had sent someone out. That could be the difference between my life and death in this dismal situation. I hope it isn’t. I finish dialing. Send.

The phone is mid-ring as I hastily struggle the phone to my ear. They pick up. ‘Sampson County 911, how can I direct your emergency.’ Her voice sounds angelic.

‘I have been shot.’ My level of calmness catches me by surprise. I have been shot, how could I not panic? ‘I’m in the parking lot of the “Sunny Glen” Apartments. Right off of Hawthorne Avenue.’

‘We will send an ambulance immediately. Stay on the line.’ I feel a level of relief drape over me. I feel light headed. ‘Where were you shot?’

‘In my stomach, twice.’ Anna. Oh, god. I need to talk to her. ‘Do you have an ambulance on the way?’

‘Sir, someone will be there shortly. How much blood have you lost?’

‘I don’t know. I’m getting pretty light headed. Dizzy.’ I realize that I may save time if I move to the main road. I have to call Anna. ‘I am going to be on the side of Hawthorne Avenue. Tell the ambulance. I have to call Anna.’

‘Sir! I need you to stay--’ I hang up. Please, relay my message. I need to talk to Anna; It might be my last chance.

I feel as though I am about to nod off. I have to stay awake. I have to stay conscious and make it to Hawthorne. It takes everything I have, every ounce of strength, every fiber of muscle and all the will I possess to pull myself to my feet. My stomach throbs in a deep, dull ache as I push my weight onto my feet. I clench my teeth and let out a low, throaty groan. Time seems to stand still and I balance myself off the car. I hear a few drops of blood hit the cold, dry concrete. A deep breath turns to a long, exasperated sigh before I focus my gaze across the parking lot to my destination. I tell myself if I can make it, I will be safe. I have to call Anna. I am too weak to multitask. I’ll call her when I get there. I will call her when I am safe.

Following the contour of the car for balance, I begin to walk. Each step costing the consequence of rippling misery as I shift my weight to each foot. I take a quick deep breath and whisper to myself. ‘I can do this.’ Breath in, ‘Adam, you can do this.’ Breath out, ‘You are stronger than this.’ Clenching my jaw, I focus on the goal. ‘Your father didn’t raise a quitter, Adam. Move.’ I imagine my father watching over me, cheering me on, like he did at every sporting event I ever tried. He was always there, every game, until he physically could not. I will remain strong.

A hundred feet might as well be a mile in this condition. I am almost there; one more row of the lot, about ten to fifteen feet of grass and I should be at the sidewalk. I stop to lean against a cherry-red sedan. My gut is throbbing, and all I can think about is the woman I had left behind. If I find this almost unbearable, then how must have she felt? I just left her. Karma, I suppose. But, I’m a fighter. I will make this. Without lifting my hand off my wound, I push myself from the car with my elbow. I drop my head and, looking up to the road, I really start pushing. I have almost a steady stride now. I’ve reached the grass. I just have to break the line of well-maintained shrubbery and I’m golden. I will be my own personal hero. I will call Anna. I am through. I drop to my knees. I catch my breath and pull out my phone.

Looking up and down the road I realize that there is absolutely no traffic. I find that extremely odd. Hawthorne is a major road in our city. Most days you cannot even cross without a stop light and everyone knows to stay away during rush hour. Where’s my ambulance? If there is no traffic, they should be here by now. I uncontrollably roll off my knees onto my left hip. Calling the feeling that cut through my body a shock of discomfort would be a large understatement. It just about stopped me from breathing all together.

I pull the phone to my blurry line of sight as I lay on the chilly pavement. Time to call Anna. Keeping my eyes open long enough to find her number becomes a difficult task. Finally, I get it to connect. It goes straight to voicemail. I bet she turned it off after I left. Why does she do that? She always does that, then she’ll turn it long enough to send a text just pissy enough to infuriate me but with nothing victimizing enough to complain about. I guess I’ll have to leave a voicemail. ‘...please leave me a message after the beep. ‘K, thanks!’

Beep. ‘Anna? Uh, hey, it’s Adam. Listen, well, tonight hasn’t really, um...’ I take a deep breath trying to let out some of the pain twisting throughout my voice as well as to buy time to find out how to say what I need. ‘Anna, tonight...it hasn’t really gone to, uh...Anna, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I don’t want your last memory of me--’ Damn it. I’m making this sound like I am going to die. My fleeting alertness and the fact that I have seen no sign of rescue are really starting to tug at my optimism. ‘Anna...I just need you to know that I really care about you. Be careful. Something is off tonight. Stay home. I...love you.’ I hang up.
My last sentence left a fleeting imprint in my mind. That was the first time I had ever told Anna, let alone any other girl, that I loved her. I don’t know if it’s the lack of blood, the overwhelming fear or the very real possibility that I may actually die, but I do care about this girl. I may never see her again. There is no sign of an ambulance. I am barely keeping one eye open. Don’t fall asleep. Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay...


(Part 3)

Adam - Ben's House (pt. 1)

I hate fighting with my girlfriend. It wasn’t much of a fight. It never is, really. We just stop talking until it is forgotten. We never resolve anything even though we communicate better than most of the other couples I know. Man, I hate red lights. They are never timed correctly. Doesn’t matter, I’m almost to Ben and Kyle’s place. I know there is a cold beer waiting for me in a stress-free environment loaded with good friends. Also, the game tonight should be very entertaining. It’s bound to be a pleasant night, despite the passive-aggressive text message I’m bound to get from Anna at some point. Hopefully it will be after the second half when I’m equipped with a nice buzz.


What do you know, no visitor parking at Ben’s. That’s so frustrating. Guess I’ll head to the apartment complex down the street to find a spot. Good thing my fantasy team is doing well. I could really use a win this week.


Funny how there is an amazing amount of extra parking spaces in this part of the development. I guess apartment renters have more visitors than people in townhomes. Whatever. Line it up. Neutral. Handbrake. Park. Turn the car off. Grab the keys. Wallet, check. Cell Phone, check. Coat, check. Lip balm, can’t forget the lip balm; it’s been too dry lately. Deep breath. Brave the cold. Lock the car. Head to Ben’s.


Man, is she really upset? She’s not that upset, is she? I mean, she doesn’t even like football. We hung out last night and the night before. I met her parents last week. I’m really in to her, I think. I am. Why is she so upset? I asked her if she wanted to come. She, of course, didn’t. She never does. I hope it’s not my friends. I hope they aren’t the problem. Ben is my best friend, she has to like him. I know Kyle can be a bit of a tool at times, but, in small doses, he is an alright guy. I do wish they would fix this parking problem. Send an email or something. Why are there so few visitor spots? It doesn’t make sense. It’s too cold to walk this far. Walk faster.


Screeching tires. I hope that dude wrecks. I hate it when people just peel out for no reason. Show offs. That was loud. Holy shit, he actually wrecked? That sounded bad. That sounded like it was right in front of the gas station, only a block or so away. Oh, god, I hope he’s alright. I hope he’s not dead or killed someone else. I would feel bad. Sirens? That was fast. Good, they are on top of it. They sound like they're moving fast. They went right by. Weird. They are moving fast.


That is a horrible scream. It came from the other direction. It ripped through the air like cold with the wind. She needs help. I don’t know who she is but I'm coming. I can help. I can feel the frigid sidewalk trembling through my sneakers. With my legs pumping toward her, I call out. 'I’m on my way. I'm coming!'


She's screaming again. The screams trailed with hints of utter pain and dissolved into a weeping conclusion. I hope I can help her. It sounds like she may be in more trouble than an energetic twenty-something with little background in first aid can help with. I rounded the corner of her block. Not too fast. She is calling for help. It sounds like she's only halfway down the street. I feel I may outrun my own feet.


'Run away!' Wait. I stop. My heart is racing. Run away? I'm waiting. Taking deep breaths, I’m listening. 'Run away! It's too late.'


Run? I'm standing three driveways away. You are serious. I feel like I should say something, but I can't find the words. Something about this situation, the air. Something seems off. I look back. I think of the accident, briefly. She screams. 'No!' It echoes through the air. I pause.


'I-I'm...' Where is my voice. Man up. 'I'm here.'


I begin to walk toward her voice. I am moving very slow. One foot over the other. Quietly. Toe. I'm leading with my right ear. Heal. In position. Toe. Ready for anything. Heal.


'It's too late.' I can hear her sobbing. Sniffling. Cringing in pain. I'm close enough to hear it, too far to know why.


'Do you need help?' I pause. 'I can call 911?'


'No!' The command came from between clenched teeth, without a pause. It bolted throughout the houses and echoed down the street. It was centered with supreme affirmation. Then, there was silence.


I do not know what to do. I feel conflicted. What if she were getting raped? What if it was twenty-five feet from me? What if the rapist had a gun to her head? What if he is directing everything for her to say? What if she ends up dead? It would be because of me. I'd see it on the news. What would Anna think? No one else would know. I would know. I can't. I won't. I have to see. I have to see if she is alright.


'Run! Away!' It almost sounded as if she were pleading. As if she was looking out for me. I can't. Please, let me just make sure. I begin to move toward her. Staying focused on where I heard her. I don't want to give my location away, but I do not want to surprise anyone either. I can hear her in pain, uttering quiet moans and silent grunts. She is not far.   


'I told you to run.' Her speech was juggling between dialog and panting. It came from the carport. I can almost see her. Her Silhouette. It is just her. I missed him.


'Are you alright?' I approach her. She is sitting up against her car just out of the glow of the streetlight. The ground is wet beneath her. I can hear her breathing in small intervals of short, shallow breaths. She says nothing. I'll ask again. 'Hey, are you okay? Is everything okay?’


'You're...' She swallows. 'too...late. I told you.'


I scramble for my cell. 'Are you hurt? Where are you hurt?'


'They...they already got me. You.' She begins to cough. I got my phone but in need of a flashlight. Turn the screen on. '...too late.'


'Who? Who got you? I'm not too late. You're still alive, you are okay.' I have the screen lit up. 'I'll call an ambulance, they're not far. I heard...' I pause as I feel my bones shudder. My gut turns as I point the light toward her. So much blood. I could feel the horror grip my worst thoughts and squeeze the pulp out of my darkest imagination. This can not be real. I feel a stinging sickness take hold of my skin. I now know why the slick concrete lay wet.


'They'll get you too.' Holding her insides in her hands with a sudden calm she whispers, 'run.'
I go to make an argument but I hear a dreadful moan from the other side of the house; or, was it a growl? It doesn’t matter. I activate my internal chicken shit and choose flight. I go to release a soft apology but she interrupts. ‘Just go. Run. Save...yourself.’


Her words trail off with the distance as I start heading back to where I came from. I begin to run, even faster than before. I don’t know what is going on, or why. I do not care. Poor lady. Getting somewhere safe becomes the predominant thought in my head. Ben’s house or my car? I’m standing at the crossroads. I’m halfway between. With a light jog, I start to head toward Ben’s and I hear another scream slice through the air.


‘Noooooo!’ It radiated from just past Ben’s place. It was more of a horrified realization than a plea. My gut tells me to drive. Get to my car. Get away. I turn around. Heading to my car, I decide to call Ben. Panicking. It goes to voicemail.


‘Ben. Ben! Lock your doors, some crazy shit is going down. Listen. Call me as soon as you get this. Don’t wait. I saw a lady, with...with her intestines...they, she, in, uh...’ I struggle with the words. I have to actually analyze what I had seen. ‘Ben...they were in her hands. She was holding them.’ The image flooded my brain. I could see it. They were darker than I had ever thought, purple and veiny. I can’t believe they once all fit inside of her. Poor lady. ‘Ben, I heard another scream close to your place. Make sure...just call me!’ I hang up.


I am almost to my car. I decide to call the police. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before. Why did I call Ben first? I should call Anna, too. I’m pretty sure all I have is ninety-one dialed as I hear a strong voice boom towards me. ‘Stop.’ I stop. Easy now. I scan my eyes from my phone to the pavement in front of me. From the pavement, I find a shadow and, from that, I find boots attached to a small, older gentleman. I gaze up his figure to see outstretched hands, pointing a handgun. ‘You just stay right there.’ I can hear his southern drawl quiver in his voice. He is not from here.


‘Look, man, I’m just trying to get to my car.’


‘Shut up!’ I stand like a statue. What does he want? I await another command. His hands are shaking. He is scared. ‘How do I know you isn’t one of them?’


‘What do you mean? One of who?’


‘Shut up!’ Why does he keep telling me to shut up?


‘You asked a question, I was jus--’


‘Shut! Up!’ I put my hands up. I don’t know why. I try to look him in the eyes, but all I can focus on is that cannon being tightly held in his grasp. ‘I don’t want any trouble.’


‘Neither do I.’


‘I don’t care what you want. You are not eatin’ me. You hear? I will shoot you dead. Dead!’


‘Please...’


‘I won’t ask you again.’ I can feel my breathing accelerate. I close my eyes as my jaw staggers. He won’t even let me make a case. ‘Now.’ I await instruction. He doesn’t know what to do. Can I make this easier for him. I open my eyes to a blank stare at his feet. Maybe I should kneel on the ground. Please don’t shoot me, please don’t. Please, please. All I can focus on is getting shot. I should have gone to Ben’s. I should have called Anna. ‘I’m gonna count to...three.’ What? ‘And when I get to three, you...’ He pauses. Oh, god, he doesn’t know what he is doing. Oh, no. Don’t. Just don’t shoot me. For god’s sake.


A loud sound cuts the air sounding like a heavy construction site. It comes from behind the gunman. He twists around, turns back and frantically fires his gun, quickly squeezing out a few rounds. The shots blended together;; it was thunderous. I can still hear the echo cracking through the air around me. It reverberates on every surface around.

‘I’m sorry.’ He backpedals away in remorse. ‘Please, forgive me...’ He turns away and mumbles to himself before trotting away. I watch his portrait fade in the distance as I unwillingly drop to one knee. I’m sorry too.