If one were to look into the eyes of the man holding the key to salvation, the only key, the natural inclination would be to worship that man or at least show a deep level of commitment to him; an obligation that transcends the norm. When the man that holds that key is supposed to be dead…by your own hands…but is instead staring down at you intently, offering you salvation – well only one response is suitable.
He asks. I think about it for a few seconds, wondering to myself why I would offer the man who almost snuffed me out, a solution to his predicament. I can see that the ankle bracket doesn’t really fit around his ankle; it squeezes the skin tightly, pulling it taut above the folded leg pant. His eyes are a puffy red though one of them is almost closed to a slit thanks to the swelling rising from his cheek – a thin red line runs around his neck. The bruises and marks on his face bathe my chest with a calm rage, and a single word rises to my lips.
“Revenge?” He cocks his head to the side, his foot with the bracket shaking either from the pain or from the toxins creeping through his blood stream. “On…him?” He smiles but its not an amused smile; his eyes are emotionless . “There is no way you can find him.”
“There’s no need to find him. He’ll have to find us.”
“And why would he want to find us? We are as good as dead to him…like your auburn haired friend.” I cringe at the mention of that instigator; a part of me is angry at her for dragging me into this. Instead of answering him, I hold my hand out,
“Pass me your phone.” He eyes me warily as I descend the stairs until I am just one above him, taller for the moment. More out of curiousity than anything else, he reaches into his back pocket and produces a small black phone; the bright green screen and black font greet me. I bend down and grip the ankle bracket
“Lift your ankle.” I say. He grunts in dismay but concedes, holding on to the wall for balance. I dial the number on the bracket and after a few seconds, static bursts against the phone speaker, followed by the *click* of the bracket releasing its hold. Standing up I come face to face with his relieved and somewhat open face,
“Okay then hooded fellow,” he grunts out, rolling the pant leg back down, “What’s this revenge plan you have?” he asks. I hoist the laptop bag a little higher on my shoulder, feeling the weight of the baton in my pocket.
“I’ll tell you over some food. I’m starving.”
We arrive at my friends house just as he is about to leave the house – where he is going is obvious but he quickly hides the pipe and syringes into the kit bag in his hand. He is also, quite obviously, not pleased to see me and the tape over his nose doesn’t hide the blueish-purple bruise that has spread over it.
“What do you want?” He spits at me standing by his door – he pays no attention to the security guard even as the guards phone suddenly bursts to life in a melodious 8-bit ringtone; the guard reaches into his pocket and shuts the phone off.
“Do you want to get paid for helping me or not?” I ask my friend. He glances quickly at his watch, gives the security guard a cursory look and with a sigh steps aside to let us in,
“I got places to go so be quick about it… and it better be cash.”
“Its going to be delayed.” I reply, stepping into the cool interior. I’d barely made it in when he grabs me by the collar and begins to haul me out but the security guard steps in, breaks his hold and sends him sprawling into the house – the guard closes the door and stands in front of it.
“He’ll pay you triple…if you help us.” The guard says. My friends looks at each of us suspiciously, sniffling habitually, shaking miserably, his nose flaring angrily.
“You pay up front or forget it.”
“Fine” I reply, “You got some food?” He lifts himself up and gives me a dirty look that would have killed me on the spot had it been a weapon, but he moves to the kitchen anyway.
“What do you want?” he asks opening the fridge but I shove him out of the way, picking out a few things from within, though there isn’t much to choose from and most of the shelves are holding frozen bags of powder. I ignore them completely and put the food on the table,
“We need a favour from you …”
“As usual…” he cuts in, leaning against the fridge door protectively with his arms crossed.
“yea…as usual…but this isn’t like last time.” I butter the bread. “…yeah this is a bit riskier…” I put cold meat and cheese on the bread “…yeah we need you to be a decoy…”
“…for whatever trouble you were in?” He asks fearfully, “No ways. That thing I pulled off your leg was dripping some crazy toxic substance I’ve never seen before. Don’t want that running through my blood stream.”
“Yeah there’s better things running through it yeah?” I replied immediately without thought and after a while without remorse – I saw him cringe.
“It’s a somewhat simple plan” the security guard chipped in, producing the ankle bracket that was once clipped to his ankle. “You will use this…”
“No freaken way is that thing touching my body! Didn’t you hear what I said about the poiso…” my friends interrupts, breaking away from the fridge to animatedly show his refusal.
“Would you shut up and listen!” I muffled out from between bites – his mouth remained open for a while as though he was going to say more but he shut it, his arms folding back against his chest defensively. The guard continued,
“You will use this as a sample to attract the attention of our guy, explaining to him that you found some guy in a hoodie delirious and clutching the laptop bag while his thickened veins pulsated, close to bursting. The evidence on the laptop, coupled by the amazing handy work of this toxin was enough to convince you – as a doctor – to seek him out as a potential business partner or something of that sort – you should be able to be convincing enough given your knowledge of the medical field.” The guard looks at me as though to corroborate the plan; I nod with a mouthful of what was left of my sandwich. The guard continues. “The idea is that you look to meet him face to face, discuss details…and that’s when we jump him. Simple enough yes?” My friend looks at each of us as though we are crazy but our determined faces must have convinced him – well either that or the wad of cash the security guard pulls from inside his shirt. With glazed eyes, staring at the bank notes, my friend nods in agreement. The guard sighs as his money lines the kitchen counter. I chew on.
Of course when one has a plan in his head, the plan never fails. Everything is counted for, probable situations countered and overcome with a simple conversation here or a baton to the back of the head here or a good beating there. The plans always come out positive for whomever is doing the planning, but reality tends to throw in unassailable curve balls that don’t merely tip the scale but crush it into a twisted ball of metal; and the first curve ball appeared the moment we stepped off the train.
My friend steps off the train first, the dark suit that drapes over his skinny shoulders glimmers somewhat – his graduation suit. He looks the part too, young entreprenuer seeking to make it to the big times by any means necessary – including a history of drug trafficking which is what we hope sets him up as a suitable candidate. Does it concern me that a childhood friend has become what he is today? A little bit, but the purple tinge that lines the veins on both my arms and on legs, pushes away any sort of sentimentality that would cloud my desire for revenge. He walks amiably through the crowds and I step into the crowds with my hoodie up, following far behind, so as to not attract any attention to myself as we head to a local Plaza that the guard says is one of Mr S’s hang out spots. My nerves are already strung out, I’m sick with worry as I realize the flaw in our plan and my stomach tumbles in my gut insistently – I’m hoping its not the sandwich. My gut makes another lurch once we approach the plaza, my hand is sweaty and slips around the handle of the baton which I am clutching tightly in my pocket; everywhere I look, men wearing chino pants and carrying briefcases make their way up and down the cobblestone pathway, laughing benevolently or talking animatedly into the devices against their ears. Anyone one of them could be Mr S. I scan the area and a groan escapes my lips as I realize even the guard looks lost and confused amongst the group. I turn around only to find my friend walking up the small set of stairs with a man holding a briefcase – they enter a side door and disappear behind its glass facade. With a wave, I alert the guard and we rush towards the entrance, past the irritated faces and into the cool dark interior.
“Damn!” I shout; my voice echoes down the passageway; the laptop bag lies empty on the floor. The guard and I run in. I am unaware of where we are but the guard takes lead, twisting and turning and leading us deeper into the building; I assume its because of his knowledge of the the place. A scream breaks the sound of our footfalls against the tiled floor. Rushing through we turn a corner and find not my friend or Mr S but a speaker against the wall, next to it a camera. A voice booms from the speaker, its Mr S
“Well well well, look what we have here, an unlikely alliance. I must say that this has been quite an excursion hey? How did you enjoy my 5 star hotel? Nice ey? With people who oh so generously leave their clothes out for you to change into. How nice.” The condescending voice breaks the paralyzing fear that had glued my feet to the floor. With a shout I pull the baton from my pocket, ready to bash the camera and speaker only to have it pulled away from me.
“Hey now, that would be rude of you to break my stuff. Gosh, it must be that hoodie. Hmm so yes, unfortunately there is no alliance here, you are alone surrounded mb people who have betrayed you, isn’t that right partner?” The speaker fizzles with static and I hear my friend over the intercom.
“Hey bud, listen, I’m not sorry about this. You freaken broke my nose and you just carry on, on your stupid high horse, rocking up at your leisure, drag me into this hell and I’m supposed to just jolly-well play along? Ha! End of the road for you buddy, I got quadruple what you were going to pay me and I get to see your fall!” The shock that fills my chest is unbearable and with no fight left in me, I watch the guard swing the baton towards my face.
The Alternative Universe (Unhinging Light), can be found here. Enjoy and please let us know what you think.