I woke up after a seven and a half hour flight just before we landed. The movement of the other passengers standing up to remove their baggage from the overhead compartments had awakened me, although there weren’t very many of us onboard. Silently, we followed each other one by one past the gloomy flight attendants as they mumbled their farewells. Thankfully, I had not brought very many bags with me because I was not planning to stay here in this foreign country for long. That meant I could bypass baggage claim and head straight for the exit, where I could find a taxicab and make my way to my father’s address. Walking through the nearly empty airport corridors, the drowsiness still clouding the corners of my mind would hardly allow me to register the muffled anger reverberating through the air. Only vaguely could I detect the itch of the foreigners watching me from the corners of their eyes, from beneath the shadows of their brows, from the dark heat of their squinting stares.
Driving through the city in the back of the cab, I found it uninteresting how empty the streets looked. Perhaps this particular place was merely densely populated. Knowing how very close to the verge of being an antisocialist my father was, I figured maybe this was one of the qualities that convinced him to move here, outside of the exceptional and highly affordable healthcare the country provided. My aging father had lost one of his legs in the U.S. Marines while fighting in the Afghan War, so I understood his need to prioritize the best for his health.
My father’s residence turned out to be a large building made of pale tan brick. It was six stories high and was very plain to look at from the front. One glass door served as the entrance, and two small windows flanked the door. There were no other windows on the front of the building. The building was large on the inside, however, with a lot of open space and white walls that appeared to be freshly painted. Dark red carpeting covered the steps of the dark wooden staircases that lined the walls. Black-and-white tile made up the floor of the lobby, which was decorated with a large mirror, a vase of yellow azaleas on a cherrywood table and two high-backed cherrywood chairs.
Father’s apartment was small – just one studio space with a kitchen in the back and a twin-sized bed off to the left side as soon as I walked through the door. There was a small round brown table beneath a sliding window once past the tiny bathroom on the right. Only the window served to let the summer air into the hot, stuffy room. My brother and his girlfriend had arrived before I did, and the three had obviously already cracked open a bottle of vodka in celebration of being together again.
The four of us settled down at the table to begin a game of spades after our hugs and greetings were exchanged. During the game, I kept noticing that only several feet outside of the window we sat beside was the balcony of the neighbors that lived in the building next door. The balcony doors remained open in an effort to fight off the heat of the season, and we could hear the occupants inside throughout the day – talking, laughing, fighting, cooking – just as they could hear everything that was going on inside of my father’s apartment. Several times, they came out on the balcony, talking and cursing loudly. As the day turned to night, I eventually asked my father if his neighbors were always so noisy or if they were having a party.
“Don’t worry about them, son,” my father replied. “That’s their business.”
“Hey!” one of the men on the balcony called over to us in his foreign accent, obviously overhearing our conversation. “You have a problem with what we do over here?!”
“We should stomp your fucking skulls in and burn your whole building down to the ground,” another of the men said, throwing the rest of his cigarette over the balcony. A few of the other men laughed.
“Ignore them, boy,” my father said. “And go get me a glass of ice water from the kitchen.” I wasn’t used to seeing my father back down from a fight, but I did as he told me to do, as I normally did.
The next morning I was the first one to awaken inside of the small, sweltering apartment after everyone had drank themselves unconscious. Craving more fresh air than what the one window could provide, I stumbled outside into the daylight for a short walk.
After a couple of turns here and there, the warm summer breezes had cleared away enough of the cobwebs from my mind for me to think a bit more clearly. For the first time, it occurred to me just how awkward the place that I was in actually was. I became more cognizant of how empty the streets were of people or cars and how much trash was blowing around in the wind. It was almost like a ghost town. I remembered the feeling of animosity that I could feel aimed toward me like the point of an archer’s arrow from the moment I had stepped off of the plane. I remembered the unnecessary hostility of my father’s neighbors. I could see the helicopters off in the distance, circling above the city. I could hear the dull whir of their blades. Was it really simply a matter of this place being different, or was something more seriously wrong here?
Fighting the ominous feeling aside, I focused on the fact that I was hungry but did not know where I was or where to find the nearest open restaurant. I called my father from a payphone to explain my situation and ask him for advice. He made me describe some of the buildings, street signs and other landmarks around me. “I’m gonna pay a friend of mine to pick you up and take you for something to eat,” my father said. “Stay there and don’t move.”
My father’s friend found me within all of ten minutes, and I climbed into his rusty old blue pick-up truck once I was reassured that my father had indeed sent him for me. After a short drive, the man pulled up to a tall brown wooden fence below a viaduct. He pointed at the gate. “That’s a McDebbie’s there,” he said.
I looked warily at the gate. “That doesn’t look like a McDebbie’s,” I said.
The man shrugged. “That’s the way we do things here,” he replied. “You go through that door.”
Nervous but hungry, I got out of the truck and went through the gate. There were brown and green dumpsters lined up on each side, but still I continued walking toward the back door of the restaurant. The screen door across the back door was closed, but the door itself was open, probably to let some of the heat out.
I stepped through the screen door and timidly tried to ask one of the employees for help. His head jerked up toward me in surprise and anger. “What are you doing back here?” he demanded.
“I – I’m sorry. I’m just looking for some food, sir,” I explained.
“You’re not supposed to be back here,” the man insisted, grabbing a meat cleaver and taking a step toward me. His agitation caused several other employees to look our way.
“I didn’t know. I was told it was alright,” I said. “I’m not from here, you see.”
“Intruder,” one of the other employees seethed. I noticed that all of them were now approaching me, many of them holding dangerous weapons – knives, sticks, mallets, glass.
Taking a couple of steps backward toward the front of the restaurant, I lifted my hands in plea. “Please. Please, I don’t want any trouble. I’m just hungry, that’s all.”
“We’ll show you to barge in where you don’t belong.”
“You’re not one of us.”
“We’ve got to kill him.”
“You should have never come here.”
By now, I had backed up to the front of the restaurant, its employees in pursuit. Seeing that there was about to be trouble, the other patrons immediately began rushing out of the front door.
“Don’t let him get away.”
One of the employees reached out a hand to grab me, but I lunged back, turned and ran for my life out of the front door and into the streets.
I ran, not really knowing where I was going. I ran past burning buildings, cars and stores, past people here and there, all of them either dead or fighting, past violence and destruction of all kinds. The helicopters were much closer now, their rumbles thundering right above my head. I was frightened and angry, angry at my father’s “friend” that had led me astray, angry that my father had entrusted me with someone who would set me up and abandon me this way. But I had to find my way back to his apartment. It was the only place I knew to go where there might be safety.
I don’t know how long I ran, sweating, on the verge of panic, wondering what had happened and what was wrong with this place. But eventually I did stumble upon my father’s building, and I rushed blindly inside through hordes of people and blood until I was finally up to his apartment.
The apartment door looked as if it had been bombarded with bullets, and the handle was missing. The door stood ajar and I rushed through it, hoping that my family was alright, which they were. My brother was comforting his shaking lover at the table, and my father was lying calmly in the bed. Once he saw me, he told me never to mind about the door, that a gang had broken in but left back out when they saw that he did not have much to steal.
I was in the middle of saying that something was still wrong here, that this city was going crazy or something, that I didn’t understand why he would move here or want to stay, when I heard a banging and crashing coming from the halls. I ran back out of the apartment and into the halls. I looked over the banister and down toward the lobby. The mob attack had exponentially increased in energy. I saw a group of six or seven men beating on one, kicking him all over his body, punching him, stabbing him, beating him about the head and shoulders with bats and hammers. A loud crash made me look up, and I could see all up and down the stairways on all sides of the building how gangs of people were kicking open apartment doors, dragging people out by their hair or legs, even women and children, and brutally beating them. I saw that some of the apartment doors had already been broken into, and I could see the blood on the doorposts and on the carpet inside. Brain matter was flung about the walls. Entrails were stretched across the carpets like strings of polishes. As I stood there, gazing in horror at the uproar, hearing the cries and screams of the victims ringing in my ears, I began to see certain aggressors turning their heads to look at me. Like a swarm of bees, several of them began dropping whatever it was they were doing to head toward me as if on cue.
I ran back into my father’s apartment, yelling that we had to go NOW, trying to pull my heavy father up by his arms so that he would put his prosthetic leg on and follow me toward the kitchen and out of the back door. Stubbornly, he pushed away from me, shouting curses and defiance, ignoring my urges.
"Daddy, please," I begged, tears of urgency beginning to well up in my eyes. "I can't believe we're arguing over this."
"This is my shit, and I'll leave when I got damn well please!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs.
I decided that I had no choice but to leave him. My brother and his girlfriend had already run out of the back door, leaving it ajar, and I could not carry my father alone.
I ran out of the back door just as a horde of angry, violent people rushed in through the front. Heading down the back stairway, I could see more angry, violent people coming up toward me from the bottom. My brother and his girlfriend were somehow no longer in sight. Right before the mass of attackers were upon me, I could see a multitude of officers and soldiers burrowing through, attacking the attackers, and there were cries upon cries, blood upon blood, destruction upon destruction.
And suddenly there was darkness. And I can remember no more.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
this certainly grabbed my attention and held it. I wanted to say, 'look out' or 'run', in several places. I think this would work better as a novel as it just begs to be filled out a lot. Good word flow, and it certainly kept interest. I'm not much into gore, but could appreciate that it was necessary in this story. Now, I just want to know what happened next. Good work.
Sylvia, thank you so much for your compliments! This was actually a dream I had a few years ago, and I woke up where the story ends. I didn't really know how to create a better ending without drawing the story out into something of a novella that definitely would have went over the required word count limit, so I decided to just leave it to the reader's discretion. Probably a wrong choice, but I'm sooo happy that at least you didn't think it was boring!