#TuesdaySerial – No Longer Alive, p5

Going into Shock.

The gunshots splintered the last crude hope Jack and Amy was holding on to. They cracked through the night like a dry whip and in the distance they were answered by a much louder and deeper sound. It was the sound of something big exploding, a gas-station or a big truck. Jack turned his head, too exhausted and numb to care about the implications of the explosion, he saw a deep orange cloud of fire reach above the buildings a few blocks down, just outside the city core.

Amy didn’t look. She burrowed her face into her father’s warm shirt, trying to squeeze out any remaining comfort but there was only a lingering feeling of safety left in the familiar smell of the fabric, a memory of a time that now felt strange and distant. “What should we do?” She whispered, afraid that her voice would invoke further gunshots.

“Let’s get inside” Jack replied, “I don’t feel safe here.”

Amy nodded, “Yeah, no kidding.” She didn’t mean to say the last two words. The words just sort of slipped out of her, but she was glad they did, at least she wasn’t going crazy with fear. Maybe the explosion had shaken it all into place, maybe she was in shock. She couldn’t tell, but it didn’t matter. Anything was better than going bat-shit crazy with fear.

Jack had picked up on Amy’s slight change in mood and it reassured him. He would deal with whatever this shit was, for her.

“Amy, I’m gonna go upstairs and check on the Grimes,” Jack said, “and I want you to stay her, watch the news in case there is something new.”

“No, don’t go up there,” Amy replied instantly, feeling suddenly very small and afraid again.

“Look, I have to. The Grimes are old, and Marys been sick lately,” Jack sighed, “They might need my help.”

“Stay, please.” Amy grabbed her dad by the wrist as he pulled away from her. “Someone else will help them.”

“Amy, please. I’m their doctor. I’ll just be gone two minutes then I’ll be right back alright. Promise.”

“I don’t like it,” Amy said and creased her forehead in a disapproving frown, like she had done as a child.

“Yeah, no kidding,” Jack replied and tried to smile.

Amy tried to smile back.

“Lock the door behind me, I got the keys.” Jack held up the modest key-chain which held the key to the apartment, a car-key and the key to Jack’s locker at work.

“Alright,” Amy replied.

“Don’t open for anyone, even if you know who it is alright, wait for me,” Jack said. He pulled open the closet in the hallway and pulled out his emergency medical kit.

“Promise. Just hurry back, dad.” Amy said. She was looking at the green square medical kit but didn’t really want to see it, “I’ll make us some tea,” She added.

“Good idea, Amy,” Jack said, “I’ll be back soon.” But he didn’t feel it. If he was lucky the Grimes would be alright, but that would be some real goddam luck. Most likely, someone was shot.

Jack opened the door slowly. He waited until the automatic lights would blink to life. The hallway was empty. “Alright,” he said, “Don’t open for anyone.” He didn’t wait for Amy to reply. He slipped out into the hallway and quickly shut the door behind him. The sound of Amy locking the door behind him sent a single icy chill down his spine. The otherwise safe and familiar hallway felt like a scene from one of those bad horror movies. He felt terribly lonely.

To be continued…

© Hugo Oddlane, 2014

List of episodes for No Longer Alive: http://wp.me/P4cKL8-l

#TuesdaySerial – No Longer Alive, p4

Gunshots.

Time had vanished. It had rolled out through the open balcony door like a slow sluggish tar. Instead a heavy heat had settled in the apartment. Amy sat next to her father. She was staring at the news, trying to comprehend the images. It had only been a minute since she woke from her comforting nap and a low voice in the back of her head tried to convince her that she was still sleeping.

“It can’t be real,” Jack said, breaking the silence. His voice came out real calm, almost like he believed himself.

Amy heard that her father spoke, but didn’t take in the words. She replied, more out of habit than anything else. “They are all dead,” she said, “All of them,” when she said that she wasn’t thinking of the lifeless bodies lying in the city streets. “Look at them dad, they are all…” the last word stuck in her throat like an uncomfortable fish bone, stabbing painfully, insistently.

“Yeah,” Jack nodded, “and they are killing everyone.”

Silent tears streamed down Amy’s cheeks.

“I didn’t wake you,” Jack continued, “I thought it was just rioting or something. I didn’t see. I was rationalizing.” This last word he said without any conviction. Maybe there was a hissing voice deep down in her dad’s head telling him that he had fallen asleep on the couch next to her, Amy thought, she felt dazed.

A sudden noise broke the numb moment. It was coming down on them like a storm, demanding their absolute attention. The TV’s spell was broken, replaced by a new fear. Jack turned his head towards the hallway, expecting a horde of those stumbling and awful creatures come crashing through the apartment door. The sound grew in strength but nothing broke through the door. The sound kept growing, and growing until it was right above them.

“Outside,” Amy almost had to shout, she pointed towards the open balcony.

Jack got up from the couch and took a few quick steps to the balcony. In the same moment a formation of black helicopters swooped into view. He quickly counted seven identical helicopters, no numbers or logos on them. Some kind of military black ops he thought, he had seen one just like them once, while doing a stint in Iraq for Doctors Without Borders. Maybe they were here to resolve the situation.

Amy came out on the balcony, “They are flying so low” she said. Jack had trouble hearing her over the roaring noise. The helicopters flew low and fast and the noise faded out quickly as they flew out over the city and split formation. Three helicopters held a straight course for the centre of the city with the two on each side breaking off in opposite directions, then they vanished into the dark night, the only evidence of their passing was the low humming of the propellers spinning angrily.

“Who were they?” Amy asked. They were both startled by the volume of her voice now that the noise was gone.

“I think they were military, I’ve seen helicopters like them before. They send their best guys in those,” Jack replied, “They’ll soon get things under control,” he tried to sound reassuringly but didn’t do a very good job of it. Amy bit her lip nervously, a habit her mom had possessed and Amy had picked up when her mother had passed away. Jack took his daughter in his arms and held her, “Everything is going to be alright,” he said, and now, holding Amy he could almost believe it.

“It has to be” Amy replied.

The night had gone silent again. The only thing breaking it was two sharp gunshots from the apartment above.

To be continued…

© Hugo Oddlane, 2014

List of episodes for No Longer Alive: http://wp.me/P4cKL8-l

#FridayFlash – The Room and the Box

The walls were closing in. Rick could barely stand it. Time was lost to him, the monotonous red wallpaper kept it at bay. Rick had forgotten his wristwatch, very uncharacteristic, and the first thing he had done entering the room had been to look for a clock. There was none. In fact, the room was almost completely naked. An old rickety table stood in the centre of the room, and behind it a rickety old chair. So he had sat down, placed the box and his gun on the table and lost time.

   Rick knew that he had dozed off, more than once. He wasn’t worried about that, the door had squealed loudly when he had closed it behind him, and it would squeal when someone opened it, plenty of time to wake up and regain composure.

   He thought about opening the box but hadn’t, so far. As his mind slipped away from him it was harder to keep up being a professional. If someone didn’t come to collect the box soon he would open it. And after that, only god knew what would happen. Rick wished that they had put a lock on the box. As it were, they hadn’t, and the only thing standing between Rick and whatever was in the box was a small hook latch. He ran his fingers over the hook latch, the rough texture of iron burned. His senses were jacked up with fatigue and tangled nerves. He tried the gun, ran his fingers over the familiar shape and the steel was ice-cold. He put his hands in his pockets and they were too confining. Somebody had to come soon.

   That cursed wooden box, in this cursed room, where time was stretched out until you could see right through it. Rick put his palms on the box and the surface was oily and cool to his touch, inviting. He would open it soon, he didn’t care what happened.

   Suddenly he heard heavy boots walking up the creaking stairs. Rick looked up at the door. His eyes wide like those of small children on Christmas, so goddamn much anticipation. The footfalls grew louder. The boots came closer, closer, closer. Someone was right outside. Then the footsteps started to diminish until they vanished. Silence settled again. Rick couldn’t believe it. He just couldn’t fucking believe it. He grabbed the lid of the box carefully with the tips of his fingers, why not open the box, he had earned it, sitting in this dead room, waiting for no one to show up.

   He took a deep breath and steeled himself, unhooked the latch… There was a sudden and loud knock on the door.

© Hugo Oddlane, 2014

#FridayFlash – The Patient Man

Tonight he was going to kill a man. He drew a last hard breath on his cigarette and flicked it, casually, to the sidewalk. The night air was cool on his face. It coiled around him in a slow breeze. Above the tall buildings clouds darker than the night sky were gathering, muttering ominously, looked a lot like rain was coming. He didn’t mind, the only thing better than the cool wind blowing through the city was a good hard rain to wash the streets clean.

   He stood, leaning towards a red brick wall, just outside of the yellow spotlight from the street lights, watching the building across the street. Lights were lit on the second floor and in a dark night like this a lit window was just as entertaining as the films they showed at the drive-in. He had seen this particular movie before. Over the past weeks he had spent many moments standing right where he was standing right now. Watching and learning. Gangsters were men of habit, and the one he was watching right now was no different.

   The hooligan would scream at his girl for an hour or so, actually until he was red in the face and his throat was soar. At this point she would break down in tears and lock herself inside the bedroom. Sometimes she would sit at the window, sobbing, looking at the dark city streets with longing eyes. She was a beautiful girl. Tonight he couldn’t see her. He assumed that the nights she didn’t spend at the window were spent in bed.

   The gangster was combing his hair in the lime tile bathroom. He could see the hoodlum’s reflection in the mirror. The goon had his best suit on. It certainly was his favorite, he wore it a lot. It was a dark pinstripe suit. Soon he would be done combing every stand of greasy hair to perfection and jam a ghastly white hat on his head, which probably made him think he looked like Al Capone, but only made him look like a man that wanted to look like Al Capone.

   Lost in the moment of watching the scenes unfold in the lit apartment he hadn’t noticed the rain. Big drops of cleansing water landed on the street in great splashes. He pulled up his coat collar and walked away, following the ant trail of street lights that shone up his righteous path in the lonesome night. He knew where the gangster was going. No need to stand around on the street in the rain. It would look suspicious. Besides, gunning the lawbreaker down in the street wasn’t what he wanted. He needed to make a point. It had to be public. He had to show the low men in pinstripe suits that they weren’t safe anywhere. Not even if the cops and city officials had been bought of proper. He would get them a belly full of lead. It was the western way, the way of his forefathers who had come here looking for opportunity, but found that it had turned to corruption. So he walked through the city with determined steps.

   The bar was a bleak affair. Grey walls caked over with cheap burgundy wallpaper and a dirty floor hidden under second rate carpets. The yellow lights had been dimmed down to hide the cracks, but it gave the patrons a sickly look. Their teeth looked yellow and beads of sweat clung to their skin like flies. No one cared as long as the booze flowed freely. He hated places like this. It was sickness.

   He pushed his way through the rowdy crowd to the far end of the bar and sat down with the door to the bathroom right behind him. From here he could see the small basement door that served as an entrance to this horrible hole in the ground. The other advantage was that the bathroom was right behind him, and the bathroom was the key to getting out alive. In one of the stalls there was a narrow window that led into the dark, unlit alley outside. He had visited the day before to make sure that he would fit through. He did, barely.

   Sipping greasy coffee from a greasy cup he watched the crowd. There were a lot of big hitters here. Men he’d seen in papers, their mug shots displayed mockingly as justice failed to be served. He didn’t care about any of them, not tonight. The goon he hunted tonight was a rabid dog, a violent and savage beast, barely a man. And when it had gone this far there was only one course of action left to take. A dog sick like that had to be put down.

   As he waited he slipped his hand into his pocket and ran the tips of his fingers over the cold steel surface of his police badge and felt that it didn’t mean much anymore. The comforting bulge under his arm that was his heavy revolver meant so much more in this day and age. When the law went silent, the gun spoke.

   Time dragged on and he felt his nerves tangle into a right good bunch. He waited until he was sure something was wrong, the hoodlum wouldn’t show tonight. Right at that moment the small basement door swung open, he could hear the creak of the hinges rip right through the crowd, could almost taste it. The man who wanted to look like Al Capone walked down the narrow stairs, slowly.

© Hugo Oddlane, 2014