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Fiction Historical Fiction Contemporary

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

I wake.

Dim, hazy, featureless nothing. I blink. A bar. Light comes from somewhere above or around. Dim, warm, yellow. Cheap. I grimace. A man. He nods to me. Me? My drink.

“Another?”

I look down. Empty. I look up. I smile. Something of a smile.

“One more.”

He nods. He turns. He pours. He returns. He nods. I nod. I drink.

“You always drink the cheap stuff?”

I laugh. Something of a laugh.

“Sure. Why not?”

He shrugs.

“Cause it’s shit.”

I laugh. More of a laugh. I shrug. I smile. More of a smile.

“Buddy. Everything’s shit.”

He laughs. Something of a laugh. He leaves. I drink.

I wake.

Bright, ethereal, evocative nothing. Beyond the haze, it twinkles. I blink. Focus. Light on glass. Light on mirrors. Light upon the shine. I blink. Dreaming again. What about? Don’t recall. I blink. I forget. I move on. A bar. Exposed filament bulbs in shining brass fixtures dangle from on high, radiating their soft brilliance onto the black marble counters below. A glass. Caramel whisky, still, serene in a crystal lowball. I drink. I sigh. I lean back. Plush leather takes me in. I set it back down. Empty. I check my watch. Navy blue band, alligator leather. Sterling silver casing, thirty-millimeter diameter. Quartz movement. Eleven fourteen. I look up. The barman catches my eye from the other end. He sees. He knows. He’s good. He holds up a finger. One. I smile. I shake my head. I draw a check in the air. He nods. I pay. I leave.

I wake.

Darkness. I won’t open them. Let me have this. The peace. The darkness.  I groan. I protest. I resist. I submit. I open my eyes. Fuck! I close my eyes. The sun invades, its harsh, untamed beams streaming in through the blinds. I should open them again. Why bother? I think. I should. I resist. Five more minutes.

I wake.

“Captain?”

Rolling green hills to the fore. A treeline to the south. Dark. Thick. Impenetrable. Beyond? More. Else? A flat to the north. A blanket of wild grass dancing in the breeze.

“Captain?”

I scan. I think. I nod.

“Lieutenant.”

I wait. He hesitates.

“Scouts have the report.”

I frown.

“Don’t mince words with me.”

He hesitates. 

“The east, sir.”

I frown. One last, longing glance to the flat. But it’s not to be.

“From the south then.”

He hesitates.

“The scouts-”

“Not a horse among them, Lieutenant. And we are cavalry, all. It’ll be from the south.”

He pauses.

“Orders, sir?”

I look back to the men. Uneasy. Untested. The horses fidget nervously, stamping the dry earth beneath. The men are no better. I frown. I shake my head. I must steel myself. They come.

“Ready the men. We ride.”

I must steel myself. I need a moment. I need quiet. I need peace. I sigh. 

Peace.

I turn my horse. I call to him over my shoulder, for I am already leaving.

“We cut them off in the hills. If we ride now we might intercept before they reach the trees. It is the only way. Those trees will be the death of us all.”

I nod to myself.

“Steel and fire, Lieutenant. The sooner the better.”

He hesitates. I leave. They come.

I wake.

I scroll my phone in the kitchen over a cup of coffee. Stale, somehow, but steaming hot. I wait. I drink. I scroll.

Social media. Everyone is beautiful. Everyone is glamorous. Everyone is smiling. I look around me. I frown.

E-mail. A sale. Still can’t afford it. Ignore. Another sale. The same. Ignore. Bill. Ignore. Another bill. Ignore. A sports and outdoors advertisement. I shake my head. Ignore. News. Click. A flood. A plague. A death. A shooting. A war. A recession. I frown. Ignore. 

I shake my head. What’s the point? Nobody’s going to change this. No me. Not anybody. Not anything. I have nothing. Nobody does. No money. No power. It won’t get better. Just how it’s always been. I feel it. I hate it.

I drink.

I wake.

I feel it. I smile. Ambition. Drive. Power. We’ll change things. I will. We will. Somebody will. It’ll be better. How it was supposed to be.

The doors open for me. Two men do it, but they don’t. It’s me. The power. I smile to myself once more. I turn to my assistant.

“Time?”

He checks his watch. He hesitates.

“Eleven-thirty, sir.”

I grimace.

“That can’t be right.”

He humors me. He checks again.

“I’m afraid so, sir.”

I grimace again.

“Well, it’s too fast. Somebody should pass a law about that.”

He laughs. I look to him with a wry smirk.

“We have a guy for that?”

He smiles.

“Sure.”

I smile.

“Well get him on it.”

He nods.

“Yes, sir.”

I wave away the formalities.

“And don’t call me sir.”

He nods.

“Yes, sir.”

I smile.

“Don’t make me pass a law on it.”

He smiles.

I wake.

It comes in a stream. Hot, wet blood. It’s all over me now, all over my face. I blink. Not in my eyes. Good. There’s work to do. They come. I wrench my saber from his throat. He falls with a foamy gurgle. I look. Left. Right. I yell.

“LIEUTENANT!”

Silence, but not silence. The clamor, the chaos, the madness of battle all around. But no reply. Dead. Like the horse. Like the flank. But not like me. I look. Trees. Trees everywhere. A rustle in the brush! Raise the pistol, cock the hammer, point the muzzle, press the trigger. Flash! BANG! Muzzle flips. Drive down the muzzle. Cock. Point. Press. Flash! BANG! Look. Survey. Nothing. He’s dead or he never was. I move on. I turn. They come! He lunges from behind the trees. I see the sword swing. I drop down, from the knees. I hope I drop low enough, fast enough. It sails past. I swing. It comes in a stream.

I wake.

My arm swings up and left, my body with it, carried into the dark. I blink. I survey. Bed. Walls. Darkness. Peace. I blink. Dreaming again. I grimace. What about? I frown. Don’t recall. I fall back to bed. Exhausted. It takes me in. I turn, unlock my phone. Two-fifteen. Fucking dreams. Phone off, turn over, eyes closed. I sleep.

I wake.

Chaos. Everyone is everywhere. Keyboards chatter, mouses click, papers rustle, chairs slide. I look. Survey. Where is she? There! I swing. I wave. She sees. I point to my office. She nods. I move. I open the door, hold it open while she enters. Manners. I remember. The door slams behind me. Decorum. I forget. I move on. I look to her. My face is not anger. Displeasure. It’s not her fault. I remember.

“What the fuck?”

She shrugs. Frazzled. Uncertain. Fearful?

“It’s fucking everywhere.”

I seeth. I sit. I gesture. She joins.

“Everywhere?”

She shakes her head. She sighs.

“Everywhere. Times, Post. Fucking everywhere.”

I pause. I think. I shake my head. I sigh.

“Fuck.”

Silence, but not silence. Outside, turmoil. Inside, resignment. She looks to me. Fearful.

“What will corporate do?”

I shake my head. I shrug.

“What can they do?”

She looks down, away.

“Fuck.”

It sits there and it festers. The silence.

“Just…”

I look to her. Survey.

“Put some feelers out.”

She snaps back to me, aghast.

“We didn’t fucking do anything!”

I shake my head. I look away.

“It doesn’t matter. We’re a small branch. They’ll take a look at everything, figure out where to downsize. We’re not essential. We’ll be first.”

I shake my head. Her shoulders drop. Surely she knew?

“Fuck.”

I look to her. Her head hangs low. I frown. I lean forward. I reach to her. I take her hand.

“Cathy. Cathy. Look at me.”

Her eyes rise. Tearful.

“You’re good. You’ve always been good.”

She nods. Tears. Her lips purse. She steels herself. Decorum. She remembers.

“I’ll take care of you. We’ll get through this.”

I nod. I squeeze her hand. She squeezes back.

“We’re going to be alright.”

She nods. She turns away. She wipes her eyes. She stands. She leaves. The door closes behind her, softly this time. I lean back in my chair. Memory foam takes me in, gentle. Full-grain leather caresses my skin, supple. I’ll be fine. I have savings. Investments. Severance. She? I frown. I’ll write her a reference. A letter. A call. A word. I shrug. I check my watch. Navy blue band, alligator leather. Sterling silver casing, thirty-millimeter diameter. Quartz movement. Nine fifteen. I lean back in my chair. What now? I think. I steel myself. I move on.

I wake.

BANG! Muzzle flips. Drive down. Cock. Point. Press. Flash! BANG! Muzzle. Drive. Cock. Point. Press. Flash! BANG! More. BANG! More! BANG! MORE! BANG! BANG! Click! Click? Look. Empty. I curse. I throw it away. There’s no time. I look. They come. No time! I slash. I slash! I duck! I step! I slash! I dive! I slash! I wince! I look down. I bleed. I look up. He’s before me. The man. I look down. It’s in me. The blade. Buried. He pulls. I wince. It does not budge. A part of me now. I steel myself. I move on. I slash. He falls. I look. They come. I grit my teeth. I clench my blade. They come.

I wake.

BANG! I look. I frown. It gurgles its way down the street, more rust than car. BANG! I wince. He should get that fixed. I scoff. With what? I smile. I laugh. Every car is that car. There are no cars. Just rust. I smile. I laugh. Every man is that car. There are no men. Just rust. I smile. I laugh. We should get that fixed. I scoff. With what?

I wake.

Microphones raise, but they do not reach me, for I am on high. I smile. I wave. They call to me. They wave them back and forth, thrust them forward and back. They call to me. I smile. I wave. I step away. My work here is done. I clear the stage, step down the stairs. Leather soles on pavement now. I look to my right, and he is there. I look to him with a wry smirk.

“That was good.”

He smiles.

“Great speech, sir.”

I scoff.

“What’d I tell you about that ‘sir’ business?”

I smile. He smiles. He looks to me.

“Was it yours?”

I scoff again.

“I delivered the damn thing!”

I laugh. He laughs. I wave away the thought.

“Would you believe me if I said it was?”

He looks to me. Skepticism.

“You wrote that?”

I look to him with a wry smirk.

“Adderall and a whisky, my friend, and you’ll be writing the Gettysburg every fucking time.”

He laughs. I laugh. He opens the door. I step through. The crowds. Chaos. Everyone is everywhere. Microphones raise. Hands. Faces. Questions. But the men are there. The Service holds them back. They clear the way. I smile. I walk. That was good. The car is there now. I smile. It’s too loud here. Too much chaos. Too much exposure. I need a moment. I need quiet. I need peace. I sigh. Peace. To the left. I see it, but I don’t. He parts the crowds. He’s in the front now. It’s in his hand. He raises the pistol, points the muzzle. I see it, but I don’t. Flash!

I wake.

He falls. I stand in place. My lungs heave. My head pounds. I look down. Blood. Blood all over me. But not mine. I look up. Nobody comes. I look back. My men. They live. I turn. I raise my saber. I raise my pistol. I scream. I yell. I shake. I celebrate. I am victorious. I win. I live. I feel it. The power.

I wake.

I bleed. It pools around me. I feel it enveloping me. I am heavy now. The grass, the dirt, the blood. They take me in. My breath comes hard. Heavy. Shallow. My eyes. They darken. I bleed. I look. I try to look. Through the darkness. Dim, hazy, featureless nothing. I blink. They come. Raise the pistol. Point the muzzle. Cock the hammer. My hand slips, fingers slick with blood. Cock the hammer. Press the trigger. Click. Cock the hammer. Press the trigger. Click. My eyes. They darken. I blink. They do not focus. Dim, hazy, featureless nothing. I see nothing, but I do. Flash!

I wake. 

I blink. Furiously. It comes back, but spotty. I frown to myself. These people and their fucking headlights. I smile to myself. I ought to make a law. I look. Darkness all around, darker still from the heavy window tint. I look forward. The screen is down. Through it, the driver.

“How long?”

He looks back at me through the rearview.

“Ten or fifteen.”

I frown. Too slow. There ought to be a law. I close my eyes. I sleep.

I wake.

I look to him with fearful eyes.

“But-”

He halts me with a solemn shake of the head.

“My hands are tied.”

I won’t. I’ll change things. I will. I’ll get through this. I’m going to be alright.

“Sir-”

He halts me again.

“I’m sorry, but my hands are tied!”

I look to him. Aghast.

“There are no assets-”

“I sold them!”

I swing.

“I had to sell them!”

They come.

“What else was I supposed to do?!”

He frowns. He leans back. Memory foam takes him in, gentle. Full-grain leather caresses his skin, supple.

“And your credit.”

“I-I…”

I swing. He ducks. I miss.

“But…I…”

My eyes. Tearful. I wipe them. Decorum. I remember. I look to him. Fear? I forget. They come. I grit my teeth. I clench my fists. I steel myself.

“What am I supposed to do?”

He shrugs.

“There are other options if you truly need a loan.”

I scoff.

“I can’t take a fucking payday loan! They’ll fuck me harder than I’m already being fucked, and I can’t fucking live being fucked any harder!”

I look. I plea. I miss. He shakes his head.

“My hands are tied.”

He frowns. What for? He’ll be fine. He has savings. Investments. Severance. Me?

“I-I…”

I wake.

I look all around me. I weep. Bodies. God help us. How many bodies? I look. I weep. I shake my head. Too many bodies. For what? I think.

“Captain?”

He lived. God help him to keep living with all he’s seen.

I clench my fists. I steel myself. I swing. I miss. I fall. Not down. Not to the ground. But I fall, nonetheless.

I wake.

I clench my fist. I grit my teeth.

“What are our options?”

He says nothing, but he says everything. He leans back. Fuck him. Fuck his chair.

“The party?”

He shakes his head.

“The party will not support this.”

I scoff.

“Am I no longer a part of this party?”

He says nothing, but he says everything.

“It’s not about that. It’s just…”

He shrugs. He says nothing, but he needs to say nothing. I already know. I know everything.

“Fucking politics.”

It sits there and it festers. Nothing sits with it but the silence. Ambition. Drive. Power. We were meant to change things. I were. We were. Somebody were. It was supposed to be better. How it was supposed to be. I shake my head.

“Fuck.”

They come.

I wake.

They come.

Cock. Raise. Point. Press. Flash. Bang. Repeat. They come. They’ll always come. And I will be here. I smile. I slash. They fall. Cock. Raise. Point. Press. Flash. Bang. I do not weep, for I smile. I feel it. Ambition. Drive. Power. We’ll change things. We will. I will. It’ll be better. How it was supposed to be. I slash. I slash. I slash. I do not miss. I smile. God help them, for I have arrived.

I wake.

I blink. Bright, bland, incandescent lights from on high. Tall, white, bland shelves as far as the eye can see. I look down. Cereal. But is it healthy? Who cares? I throw it in the cart. I move on. My cart rumbles down the aisle. What’s next? Vegetables? Sure. After. Meat. I’ll get a steak. She won’t love it, but I will. I smile. I check my watch. Navy blue band, alligator leather. Sterling silver casing, thirty-millimeter diameter. Quartz movement. Five thirty-seven. Damn. There’ll be traffic. I shrug. I could go look at TVs for twenty-something minutes. I shrug.

BANG!

I look. What the hell was that?

BANG!

Fuck me, that was close. What was that?

BANG!

I hear them now. The screams. Oh God, oh God. Not now. Not me. Fuck. Fuck. I move on. I run. Where did that come from? Behind?

BANG!

Oh God, oh fuck, I don’t know!

BANG!

I freeze. 

Where? WHERE?!

He comes. I see him round the corner.

I come. I see him round the corner.

I raise the pistol.

I freeze.

I point the muzzle.

I cower.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The lie.

Just how it always has been. The truth.

I weep.

I smile. I feel it. The power.

He comes.

I come.

God help me.

God help them.

He has arrived.

I have arrived.

I close my eyes.

I wake.

Dim, hazy, featureless nothing. I blink. A bar. Light comes from somewhere above or around. Dim, warm, yellow. Cheap. I grimace. A man. He nods to me. His brow furrows. Concern.

“You alright, man?”

I blink. Yes. No?

“Fuck.”

I shrug. I forget.

“Yeah. Just dreaming again.”

He nods.

“What about?”

I scoff. Fuck. Don’t remember. I shrug. I tap my empty glass on the bar.

“Another round.”

He smiles. Something of a smile.  I smile. Something of a smile. He pours. I drink.

I sleep.

July 30, 2022 00:31

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