The last thing he remembered seeing, was the laughable piece of wood the man had swung toward his face. It should have been an easy maneuver to dodge the plank and counter, leave the man bleeding on the floor but his hands were full and his mind was focused on the score; an imprint of an exclamation mark etched into the wood and now etched into his mind; the moment he lost it all.
It was already a low point for Alan Hill, another day picking pockets, swindling kids on the train and mugging ladies in alleys. Frankenstein hated late payments and Alan was already late and now he had nothing to show but a rectangular bruise across his left eye. He looked down at the chess pieces before him and blinked liquid out of his swollen eye,
“Can’t see a damn thing,” he uttered in frustration, wiping the running tear off his cheek
“All I hear is excuses Al.” replied his opponent, a young man dressed in jeans and a plain black rounded t-shirt hidden below a white coat. They sat opposite one another on hard wooden stools with no backrest. The furnishing they were utilizing as a table was a make-shift wooden object that was neither table nor box.
“Do you see this swollen eye on my face?”
“Forget you Luke!” he exclaimed rather strongly. The dormitory was quiet for once as Luke’s room mate had stepped out when Alan had entered. The scowl on the dark haired boy’s face didn’t even faze Alan, who had been a frequent visitor to the college hostel. The bare walls were a reminder that life here was coming to an end soon.
“Calm down its just a game” Luke replied, moving a pawn piece on the board.
“I can’t be calm. I need the money Luke.” He hoped the desperation did not sound as weak as it sounded to his own ears. Alan shifted a castle across the board.
“I can’t just give you money.”
“Why not, you’re a doctor aren’t you? You should be earning heaps of money by now.” Luke dragged his queen diagonally.
“You know I’m not a doctor, not yet anyway. It’s my final year sure but just because I’m at the hospital doing my practical, doesn’t mean I’m getting paid a doctor’s salary.”
“But you’re getting paid right? I’ll pay you back. I promise.”Alan hated begging but desperate times called for desperate pleas to his only remaining friend; the only person left from his previous life. While Luke had been starving, refusing to resort to crime for his next meal and choosing instead to devour books at the library, Alan had been the one out in the streets providing the next meal. How the tides had turned. He moved the bishop towards the middle of the board, exposed.
“Promises, promises.” Luke shook his head as he said the words,
“Bro. Come on. You know me.”
“That’s exactly the point. Besides, you have as much potential as I have to make a clean living, in fact a greater potential than me. I don’t know why you choose to let all that genius go to waste.”
“Sleeping with a full stomach has never been a waste. You should know.”
“And for that I am thankful but…” Luke hesitated on his next move, index finger placed atop the glossy white knight,
“But you can’t bother looking after a brother after all that he sacrificed for you.”
Luke shot Alan a dark look at the end of the statement,
“Don’t use that on me, guilt trips aren’t going to work any more. I paid back every last cent.”
“What about jail time?”
“You paid for that yourself. I told you to stop but you never listen. And let’s not mention who paid your bail money.” The tension was becoming palpable as it always did when money and history came up in conversation. Luke attempted to disperse it by finally moving his knight to take Alan’s bishop; Alan countered the move with a knight of his own
“Tsk.” Luke stared at the board for a long time, “How much?”
Alan’s lips smiled broadly,
“At least R200. That should keep Frankenstein happy.”
“Why do you guys call him Frankenstein?”
Alan shifted uncomfortably and blinked his swollen eye rapidly
“Do you have the money on you?”
“When are you going to pay me back. No. Where are you going to get the money to pay me back?”
“Ask no questions…”
“Receive no lies. I can’t work on that code any more, not if I’m a friend. A true friend mind you.”
Alan rose to his feet angrily, the desperation clinging to his chest
“You know what, keep your money friend.” He moved Luke’s queen, his only move, then moved his own queen.
The air outside was cool, the sun was setting behind the buildings of the city center and the bustle of people was skimming down to the last few late workers. Alan slinked between them like a cat, using the tight spaces to extend a hand further than permissible; a jacket, a purse, the back pocket of loose fitting jeans and whatever else he could slip his nimble fingers in to. He walked away as part of the commune, slipping away before anyone was aware let alone suspicious of him. He’d become a master thief in the many years spent on the streets.
“Al.” A voice called to him. He stopped dead in his tracks and drew in a breath. As he breathed out he turned around to face the familiar voice
“Eddy. Fancy meeting you here.”
“Not so fancy considering what street we are on.”
“What happened to your face? Looks like someone got a head start on what is coming to you.”
“No no no, look, I have…” Ed was a big man but he moved quickly and before Alan could show the man his stash, he was on the floor clutching a bleeding lip.
“You hit my streets, I hit you. These patrons are under my jurisdiction and you know you don’t get your hits here.”
“Yeah but…” Ed was on him just as quick as the last time and a fist connected with Alan’s face twice in quick succession.
“No buts. Hand it all over and remember this doesn’t count towards what you are supposed to give to Frankenstein.” Faintness took over Alan but a slap to the face brought him to, unfortunately. Ed clicked his neck, the action revealing stitches halfway around Ed’s neck and Alan had to hold back the need to lurch all over the large man’s dark shoes. To think they’d stashed something in Ed’s neck then stitched it up again had Alan wonder what exactly they were transporting that had to be kept in such a dangerous place. His neck tingled with the sensation. Ed stood up and pulled his sleeves up, revealing another set of old stitches criss-crossing along his arm. He flicked through the wallets and pocket-sized purses, sifting out the valuables and leaving the empty leather shells littered around his feet.
“Not even enough to pay Frankenstein back.” Ed shot Alan a smirk, “but I know a way that you can.”
“I’m not going to become one of Frankenstein’s monsters like you.”
Ed’s smirk grew into a genuine smile
“Oh I’m not as bad a monster as people make me out to be.”
“I’ve seen you snap a man’s neck with your bare hands because he looked at your shoes funny.”
“And I’ve seen you walk a man into a train for his sports jacket, which you sold to pay Frankenstein back what you owed. We are both monsters, some of us just look like them too.”
Alan stared up at the man. Ed’s face had become solemn and thoughtful
“There’s a reason we call him Frankenstein, and its not because of these stitches.” Ed said lightly running his fingers across the scars on his arm. Alan regarded Ed queasily. “and it sure as hell ain’t because we are monsters to society. It’s because he has breathed life into these lifeless bodies, given us purpose. A life. All he asks in return is our loyalty…our life for the life we never had in the first place. You would know, growing up on the streets.”
Alan stood up, still clutching his throbbing face, fighting the urge to nod, to agree to what Ed was saying as a part of him cried out in despair at the jarring reality staring at him in the face. Who would he have become without Frankenstein? Another street urchin. Another petty thief. Another homeless man on the streets with no purpose, nothing to look to except survival. With Frankenstein he had a place to call home, food, friends if he could call them that – he had a life.
“I like the look on your face Al, that is the same look you had that first time you held a gun to someone’s head, the moment you realized it was either them or you. And you chose yourself.”
“The moment I joined the group”
“The moment we decided we would take the world. You still have that option available to you.” The two men stared at each other, one contemplative the other solemn.
“So. Do you want to make up that extra cash you owe?” Ed asked, stuffing his hands into his sweat pants. Alan considered the proposition again, hesitant
“Sure but… is the stitching painful?” Ed laughed at the question.
“Pain is necessary for what we do.”
Who put the hurt on our villain? Who gave rise to this darkness? Read that post here.