Posted in Books & Stories

Lost Thoughts — Volume Two: Deadly Nightshade

It was the early hours of the morning and it was raining outside. I could hear them in the other room. They were fighting again. It wasn’t unusual but this time it was going one step further. She was scared, we scared, and she wasn’t the only one. I had my back against the wall and my hand on the door knob of my room. I was shaking. I slowly open the door and look into the hallway. Their door was closed. I slowly walk down the hallway not making any noise and go downstairs. I look into my mother’s purse and take out the credit card, the bank card and the remains of her money out of her wallet. I shove it into my pocket, grab my coat and quietly step outside into the pouring rain. The thunder rolls and the lightning strikes. I touch my coat pockets. I had it, I’ll be fine.

I run down the street that leads to the highway. All I could see were the transport lights that come and go. I walk down the highway to the other side of the bridge. I would have time to freeze to death before I got to the airport. I would have time to freeze to death by the time morning came. I see a taxi coming down the street. I stop it.

“Toronto…” I tell the driver.

I sit in front next to him and patiently stare out the window into the dark. He talks to me but I don’t pay attention. My heart was beating faster, I couldn’t breathe. I could feel my temperature rise. I was feeling restless and alone but I knew I could make it on my own. I bite my lip and try to calm myself. The airport there would be open. I could get far away from here before they would even notice that I was gone. I lay my head back on the seat and close my eyes. I could still feel myself shaking. The driver asks me what was going on. I didn’t reply. Just drive, just drive.

“Airport.” I tell him as we approach the city limits.

There had to be an ATM machine at the airport. I would never have enough money. The taxi didn’t even come to a complete stop but I flew out the door. I left $200 and a note on the seat. You never saw me. You don’t know anything. You were home on Friday. I wrote on the note I left the driver. I run inside the airport and go to the ATM machine that was only a few steps from the door. I withdraw $700 from the machine. It’s all I could get. I then go see the lady at the counter.

“Outta here..” I tell her.

“The next flight is in 20 minutes.” She tells me.

“I’ll take it no matter what.” I reply.

“You’ll be the only one on the flight.” She adds.

I pay for a one-way ticket to the first destination with the credit card. I sit alone in the waiting room, 20 minutes couldn’t go by fast enough. I was stressed. I quickly bolt off the chair as soon as I saw the boarding signal come up on the screen. I sit in the 5th row of the small 37-passenger plane. I was all alone. The storm wasn’t as bad here so the delay wasn’t too long. I would be in Toronto in two hours but that still wasn’t soon enough. I look outside as the storm was clearing and the sky was becoming of a dark navy blue. I still hadn’t calmed down but I was safe now. It would be a while before they even figured out I was gone. I at least had until noon today. I would be long gone by then.

The plane touches down at some big airport. I get off and go inside the terminal. There were so many people here. I wouldn’t be noticed. I didn’t know anybody here. That was a good thing. I run into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. I looked like hell. There were huge bags under my eyes and all my gothic makeup was smeared. I didn’t care. I run to one of the many desks inside the terminal and wait for service. A plane landed at least every three seconds here. I knew from experience, I had been here a few times when things were better.

“Yonkers?” I ask the lady at the counter.

“New York City?” She asks.

“I’ll take it.” I reply.

“Here you go, 6 a.m.” She says handing over the ticket.

I look at the time, then at the screen reading the boarding times. The plane was boarding now. I run across the gigantic airport and right through security. One of the guards stops me before I get on the plane. I pull out my passport from my coat pocket and show it to him. He nods and I board the plane. Most of the seats were full so I sit next to an old woman who looked like she would fall asleep any moment now. I had no more cash money on me. But at least now they couldn’t track the credit card transactions, there wasn’t any. I just look outside at the pale blue sky and patiently wait.

Landing in New York City I had to show my passport to a million people before I could get out of the airport. The flight had been long with a few delays. It was noon now, I was hungry and I hadn’t slept very much. I would sleep in the bus. I sat at the very back and closed my eyes. No one would find me here. I slept for a while, it was 4 p.m. when a NYPD officer woke me up. I got off the bus and stuffed my face at a restaurant. New York food was the best. I had first tasted some last year. I had the time of my life! I take my time not rushing anything before walking all the way to Grand Central Station. I take the metro to Yonkers. I was almost there.

The metro was filled with people but I still had a good spot. The ride to Yonkers would take a while because we had to make so many stops and believe me this wasn’t the fastest thing I had ever been on. I checked the time and it was 9 p.m. I still had two hours to ride in this thing. I would probably only set foot on Yonkers soil in the early hours of the morning. I took the time to think about certain things. Did they notice I was missing? Did they report me missing? Were they looking for me? I hoped that they weren’t but you never know. You never know.

When I get out of the subway station in Yonkers it was raining here too. It was cold and I was still partly soaked from the last storm I had to walk in. The street was empty here. I needed to find a taxi or a bus. I had a place to go. It was probably sometime past midnight now. I didn’t care. There were only a bunch of drunks coming out of a bar so I start walking. I finally get to Palisade Ave. This was one long street and I had to get to the very end of it. The only thing I could do now was walk and believe me, I walked for a long time.

It was 4 a.m. but I was here. The payphone I had been looking for was right before my eyes. He would find me here, I just needed to call him. I knew his number by heart so I start dialling. He wouldn’t like his phone ringing at this hour but he would help me, he has in the past and he never hesitates to help a friend in need. The phone keeps on ringing and ringing until his answering machine picked up. I breakdown.

“Hey! Pick up your phone! It’s me, it’s Melissa! I need help!” I spit out crying.

“Melissa?! What’s going on?” He answers.

“Just come and pick me up, please just come.” I reply.

It wasn’t long before I saw his blue Ford Mustang speeding down the street and coming to a sudden halt when he saw me. He looked exactly like I remembered him. He just didn’t have that sweet smile he wore when we hung out last summer. He opens the door for me and I quickly sit down next to him.

“What’s going on Melissa?” He asked me.

I never told him how much I hated my name. He was the only person who still called me by my name. I look deep into his caramel brown eyes. They were filled with sympathy, confusion, chaos and fright.

“Just drive, I’ll tell you when we get there.” I reply.

I try to calm myself as he drives me down a forest road to his amazing house. He talks to me but I ignore him. I didn’t want to hear it. I just wanted to his car’s engine and the music playing on the radio. He never seemed to drive fast enough because it seemed to take forever just to get to his house. The sky was turning a light blue once again. It was only a matter of time before the sun rose and that I would be missing for 24 hours. Finally at the house I barge in and go straight to the kitchen. I look into the drawers of every counter until I found a big steak knife.

“Ah this is what I was looking for.” I say to myself taking it out.

He was standing in the hallway just staring at me. I walk right past him with the big knife in my hand and stomp upstairs. I open the first door that I see. Bathroom. I go to the next. Storage room. And the next once again. Bedroom. I slam the door beside me and look into the drawers of the dresser. I grab the first shirt I see and take my wet clothes off. I put on the shirt and lay the knife on the night table beside me. I get under the covers and just wait for him to come up. It was only a matter of time before he did and next thing you know the door of the room opens.

“Explanation?” He asks me.

“Let me sleep. I’ll tell you in the morning.” I reply.

He lies down next to me in the bed and takes the knife from the night table. I don’t even bother to turn around and look at him. He would know sooner or later. At the moment I just wanted to sleep. I wake up not too long after falling asleep. I had only slept five hours. I look around the room. My clothes were washed and neatly folded on the side of the dresser. I put them on and head downstairs. He was at the table drinking tea, waiting for me. I don’t sit down. I just stand there and stare at him.

“It’s only a matter of time…” I whisper.

“For what? What is it Melissa?” He asks.

“If there was one place I would go, it would be here. They will come.” I tell him.

“Take it easy Melissa, relax.”

“Relax?! They know I’m here! They’ll find me!”

“Let’s go for a little drive okay…?”

I nod and follow him out the door. I sit in his blue Ford Mustang and wait for him to drive away. We go passed the city limits and onto the Hudson River Bridge. This was a big bridge and my heart was starting to beat faster again. My breath was accelerating at a high rate and my temperature was rising rapidly. We were right on the edge of the bridge. I could see all the water.

“Do you love me?” I ask him.

“Of course I do.” He replies.

“Do you love me a lot?” I ask.

“Yes what is this about?” He asks.

“If you love me like you say you do you will drive off the bridge.” I reply. “If you love me enough you will drive off the bridge.”

Posted in Books & Stories

The Distant Factory — Chapter Fourteen

My new .44 caliber handgun was one hell of a sexy thing. The chrome-like color was amazing to look at and the patterns engraved in it were even more impressive. It was a true collector’s item and it was entrusted to me. I could almost see myself in the metal, it was that shiny. Damian had also given me a few magazines full of ammunition and a nice leather pouch to carry the weapon. In exchange I gave him my Glock for him to sell as he distributed a large portion of illegal guns for sale in the entire state of New Jersey and a few parts of New York. The amount of weaponry that came out of a little moldy apartment was incredible. Damian only had a few so-called “employees” but his guns sure got around. That’s how Damian Welker and Connor Peterson rolled. I was part of the team now too, and that’s how I rolled as well. Hell yeah!

“I told you that I can’t pay you until he pays me,” Damian’s tone of voice was boiling with rage as he berated somebody over the phone, “so it’s just going to have to wait!”

Damian eventually just hung up the phone mid-conversation and angrily flopped down on the couch.

“Son of a bitch!”

I cautiously went to sit down next to him and asked him what was wrong.

“You and Connor have four days to come up with half a million dollars,” he finally muttered after an exaggerated deep breath.
“And what’s my cut of that?” I asked him, ready and willing to go on a mission.
“Your cut of that is that you don’t go to prison and the person I owe it to doesn’t come and kill us,” Damian was belligerent, “and maybe I’ll take an huge risk for you and kill Dwayne Jackson.”

As much as I would have liked to get up right then and there and tell him to deal with his own problems and whatever trouble be had landed himself into, I had vowed to work for him and I was not a hypocrite or a pussy. I was a soldier. I did my duty without objection.

“How do you want us to get this money?” I finally asked.
“How the hell would I know?” he was still just as belligerent, “That’s why you and Connor work for me! So figure it out!”

I barged out of the room with my head about to detonate and went to see Connor down in the streets below. He was cleanly dressed and smoking a cigarette, seemingly waiting for something.

“What’s going on?” I asked him as we both started walking.
“It sounds like my uncle is in trouble with debt,” he spoke gently.
“And he’s entrusted the two of us with finding half a million dollars in four days.”
“That’s insanely risky to try to sell that amount of weapons out on the streets. We’ll all have our asses in jail and no money at all.”
“Who says we have to sell weapons?”
“What are you getting at? How the hell else do you want to get half a million dollars?”
“The boys in the gang I used to be part of used to be robbers. We stole stuff for a living. It got messy a couple of times and a few of the guys served some time on the inside but we always managed to keep a low-profile lifestyle.”
“And you guys robbed for half a million dollars in four days?”
“Probably not, I only went to a couple of robberies in my lifetime, but I know how the job is done.”

Connor looked pensive, contemplating my proposition.

“I’m listening,” Connor finally let out a sigh.
“Okay,” I grinned at him, “I’ll teach you the basics. All we’ll need is a car.”
“I’ve got one.”
“And a couple of tools such as a crowbar to open windows and doors”
“I’ve got that also.”
“And I guess I don’t need to tell you that we’ll need a small concealed weapon.”
“No you don’t.”
“When the sun goes down we’ll be headed to the boonies of New York and your uncle Damian will get his half a million dollars.”

Connor wasn’t convinced.

“I really admire your determination,” his voice was just as desperate as it had been before, “but I don’t think it’s as simple as robbing a couple of stores and a couple of houses.”
“I know it’s going to be tricky,” I tried to reassure him, “but if we’re all in this together, we can do it. I have no doubt about that.”
“I’ll take a leap of faith and trust you on this. Let’s just not tell my uncle Damian.”
“Let’s rock and roll!”

Just as the sun was about to go down, Connor and I jumped in a metallic blue 1991 Chevy Cavalier and set out to get some money. To avoid being seen, we avoided the downtown and heavy populated areas of Whitehaven and the surrounding communities. Connor took me on a ride around the Conservation Area of Whitehaven and eventually we ended up on a small dirt road by the Hudson with a big sign that read Old Mill Road. I didn’t see any sort of mill or factory in the area but a little further down the road there was a clearing in the trees by the river and on the other side of the river there was the factory. It was haunting to see it at sunset from the other side of the river, that was my one and only home.

“I had no idea you could see it from here,” I whispered to myself.
“Why do you think they call it Old Mill Road?” Connor’s voice was soft, “Have you ever been to the old part of Cobalt?”
“I live there.”
“That place was the biggest manufacturer of industrial metals in the entire United States! Then the government shut down the plant like sixty years ago and that’s all that’s left of it.”
“That’s where Dwayne Jackson murdered my brother.”

Connor didn’t speak. Both of us were beyond words as we looked at the factory in the distance. Seeing it like that just gave me one more reason to kill the son of a bitch that murdered the last person I had left on earth. It was just one more reason why I wanted to get Damian his money so he could help me get the job done.

“Tell me where you want it.” Connor spoke in a dry voice as we crossed the bridge into New York from New Jersey.

I gave him directions to a neighborhood just east of Yonkers where the boys and I had once ripped off a bakery and a house. The following day Cap’n Crunch had seen some security footage of four of us during the robbery on national television so we stayed away but we never got caught. I knew how to do it right the second time around and I was going to show Connor how we did it in New York.

“We’re going to park a few blocks away from the places we are going to rip off,” I told him sternly, “and we’ll do the rest of the magic on foot.”
“I didn’t know Yonkers was such a beautiful city,” he spoke in an absent-minded tone of voice, completely ignoring my instructions, “it’s almost paradise.”
“It’s a twisted paradise.” I muttered as I pointed towards an alley behind an old building.

Connor parked the car behind the building in a position that made it easy for us to make a run for it if we ever landed ourselves in hot water.

“Survey carefully your surroundings,” I commanded, “this is the kind of occasion where it’s good to be paranoid.”
“Oh don’t worry,” he replied blandly, “I figured that much.”
“Go around all the nearby buildings, seemingly minding your own business or looking for something, and spot any cameras or other junk that isn’t too good for us.”
“And what will you be doing during that time?”
“I’ll go rip off the apartment with the open basement window over there.”

Connor shook his head but I simply grinned back at him. I walked over to the basement apartment on the adjacent street and looked for any signs of life in the area. Things were quiet. It was pretty late, the sunlight was almost completely gone, so there was a good chance I was going to get away with what I was doing. So I stepped in through the basement window into a dark room and looked around again. There was nobody. I walked around and eventually found a small bedroom. I checked around for valuables and found two pairs of cheap golden earrings so I shoved them in my pockets and left the premises without incident. I knew it was going to be a long night if the only things we were going to get our hands on were old junk to be recycled like broken earrings.

Connor was patiently waiting for me on a park bench when I returned to the site I had designated to be the meet-up area after the jobs were done. I quickly flashed him the earrings under a dim streetlight but he didn’t look impressed. He knew that it was going to be a long night too and a very long four days and that at the end of the line we probably wouldn’t have all the money Damian needed. I didn’t know what was going to happen then, but that was something I didn’t want to think about. I wanted to focus on getting as much stuff and money I could get my hands on so maybe I could skip town if whoever Damian owed money to came after us. Or maybe I’d just have enough to kill Dwayne Jackson and whatever happened to me afterwards was just going to happen.

“This is one of the quietest neighborhoods I have ever been in at this time of the night!” Connor chuckled softly.
“So I take it that you didn’t see anything,” I raised an eyebrow at him.
“Nope. There’s nothing here. What’s next?”
“That little corner store at the end of the street. It closes in just a few minutes. Let’s sneak in.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“Just come! Worst case scenario, they will see us and tell us to get out because the store is closed.”
“Unbelievable. Just freaking unbelievable.”

But it worked. We opened the door just a bit, and very slowly, so nobody would notice and slipped inside. Connor hid behind the enormous potato chips rack while I creeped behind the counter as the hispanic woman was closing up the front doors and left through the back. When I heard the back door close, I signaled for Connor to come out. At the same time I got up on the counter and disconnected the sole security camera that was videotaping the entrance.
“Pretty impressive,” Connor spoke in partial satisfaction, “so now what?”
“Look around for cash or valuables,” I told him as I examined the cash, “go in the back room and I’ll join you. Oh, and snatch some food while you’re at it.”

Three thousand dollars later, we left through the backdoor into the night.

“That was pretty sweet,” Connor spoke softly to me as we walked around the block, “but we’ll never get enough money.”
“Let’s try a fancier neighborhood,” I spoke after a moment of silence, “because this won’t be enough.”

As we drove around the boondocks of Yonkers with the car lights off, a man from my past named Robin Crowley came back to mind.

“I know someone whom we could rip off,” I spoke in an upbeat voice.
“For another three thousand dollars?” Connor wasn’t impressed.
“Nah, maybe ten or fifteen and a couple of prized possessions.”
“Okay, try me.”

I told him my plan regarding Robin Crowley. I had come up with a scenario where I would call him and tell him that I was in trouble and I needed him to come and pick me up right away at the corner of so and so street, but during that time Connor and I would break into his house and take whatever we wanted and leave by the time he came back. Connor sighed loudly, still having his doubts about my plan, but he didn’t have any better ideas so he handed me his cellphone and told me to dial his number.

“Tell him you need some money or whatever,” Connor joked.
“I’ll do my best to improvise,” I grinned as I punched in Robin Crowley’s number.
“Best of luck, and this better be worth the drive!”
“I promise this will work.”

I had to promise it more to myself than to Connor, but I knew that Robin wouldn’t let me down.

“Hello?” Robin’s tired voice answered the phone.
“Robin!” I shouted in a distraught voice, “I need you help!”
“Where are you darling? What can I do for you?!”
“I’m on Palisade Avenue in Yonkers and I need you to come pick me up and take me back to your place and hide me there until morning!”
“I’m coming right away! Just hold on baby, I’m on my way!”
“I’ll need enough money to fly out of New York first thing in the morning. Please prepare that before you leave. I promise I’ll get you the money back as soon as things get settled!”

I gave him some fake address to come and pick me up at and kept him on the line for nearly ten minutes, which gave Connor and I plenty of lead time to get to his place while he was coming for me. We calculated that we’d have about an hour and a half to rummage through his property and maybe some surrounding properties as well. And so we went on our way.

“Amazing!” Connor laughed his head off as he drove down the empty streets, “I’ve gotta give it to you Drifter, you’re quite the little criminal.”
“Maybe my guys could help you out too for a small cut of what they get,” I proposed as I looked at the clock and saw that our days were quickly counting down.
“I have no doubt that you’re guys are good crooks, but I do not want anyone other than the two of us in on this. My uncle Damian doesn’t do business with anyone that he hasn’t done business with before.”
“But he’s doing business with me, and these are my guys.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but the man feels sorry for you. You really got him somewhere it hurts.”
“But that wasn’t any of my own doing.”
“I know. But just keep things the way they are right now and I have no doubt that my uncle Damian will come to have tremendous respect for you.”

The rest of the drive to Robin Crowley’s place was as smooth as ice. When we got there we easily got in and right there on the kitchen table we found the bag he had prepared for me. In it there was five thousand dollars and some clothes. I rummaged through his room and found a few pieces of gold and silver so I shoved them in the bag and went searching through another room.

“Too bad we can’t steal that stove of his,” Connor joked as he looked through the kitchen, “and how the hell did you get under this guy’s skin like that?”
“That also wasn’t any of my doing,” I laughed, “the guy just completely pitied me. I reckon maybe I hit the same soft spot with him that I hit your uncle Damian with.”
“You’re either amazing or just really freaking lucky!”
“Maybe this is just the universe telling me that I’m doing the right thing!”

We both did our best to not disturb too many things as we searched Robin’s place high and low. Connor swiped two laptops and some computer accessories in the living room while I managed to find a portable safe under a bed.

“Connor!” I shouted, “I just found a safe but it’s too heavy for me to carry by myself!”

Connor immediately came over and the two of us brought the safe to the car and shoved it in the trunk. We also both agreed that it was probably time to leave so we packed what we had into the car and drove out of there in a jiffy. Connor and I both cheered as we drove back into some of nastier neighborhoods of New York.

“How much do you think we have now?” Connor asked me in a joyous tone.
“About ten thousand now,” I admitted, “but it’s unknown what’s in the huge safe.”

Connor decided that before we should report back to his uncle Damian, we should still try to rip off some of the nice houses in the south of Yonkers just like I had told him I wanted to do. So we drove back down there and roamed around like complete creepers until we found a neighborhood that was to our liking. Nice houses with nice toys outside meant nice things and valuables inside as well. All we needed to find was a house with absent tenants, manage to get inside unnoticed, take what we wanted, and leave. It just happened that Connor had packed some break-in tools in the trunk of the car before we left so busting open a patio door or a basement window would be too easy.

“This is almost like a movie!” Connor laughed again as he parked the car down the street from the house we had picked.
“Actual break-ins are so much easier than what they want you to believe from watching movies.” I added, “People all want to feel safe, and when they do, they let their guard down. And when they let their guard down, it’s people like us who profit.”
“I’ll give it to you again Drifter, you’re pretty good.”
“Now let’s get going!”

Breaking into that house was a lit trickier than I had originally thought. Most of the basement windows were very securely locked with pieces of wood jammed from one side of the window to the other to prevent them from opening unless someone inside removed the pieces. The windows on the main floor were too high to reach without climbing onto something and there wasn’t anything to stand on without having to move a large trash can and the last thing we wanted to do was make any kind of noise. Eventually Connor and I just decided to use the sliding door in the back, and it was easy enough to open, but the moment we opened it an alarm system went off that sent us running for the hills. We drove out of that place in a hurry unlike anything else and just decided to go back to New Jersey and look at what we had collected.

Posted in Books & Stories

The Distant Factory — Chapter Thirteen

Cold, that was the only thing I felt. A cold, hard damp surface. My back was sore and it ached painfully as I tried to get my face off whatever it was that I was laying on. I was face down on my stomach on something not all that comfortable and as I slowly started to become awake I though I heard the sound of flowing water. It was close but I wasn’t quite there. All sorts of sounds came alive all around me as my mind slowly awakened. Even my head seemed sore and momentarily about to blow but that kind of pain wasn’t unknown to me. Despite everything I still managed to pull myself up and sit up on my knees, tilt my head back and just stretch my aching body.

Everything around me wasn’t so black anymore. The sky was of a dark blue, progressively becoming lighter on the other side of the river. The sun was about to rise somewhere above the tree line not too far from me. The distant sky had already began turning blaze orange with a few patches of dark yellow. There was also a slight breeze, very slight but chilly. That did not help the fact that my clothes were still damp from being soaked in water from the rain that came down the previous night. The bottle of Captain Morgan was still there as well. I had almost gotten to the bottom. There was no doubt in my mind that I totally could have if I hadn’t just passed out right then and there on an enormous boulder at the mouth of some unknown river right in the path of a dam. It hadn’t opened, probably because I would’ve been way too happy if I had gotten swept away.

“Hey!” an unknown male voice shouted from behind me, “Hey! You down there! Get back up here right now!”

At first I thought it was the police wanting to arrest me, after all trespassing on the property of a hydroelectric station was a pretty serious offense. But when I got up on my two feet, grabbed my backpack and turned back to put a face to the voice I saw that it was a young man of not more than eighteen years of age. Maybe even a little younger. He was waving his arms up and down and shouting something in gibberish.

“Get out of the basin!” the young man shouted again through a bunch of other things that I couldn’t understand.

Then it occurred to me when I heard an overly loud sound of screeching metal only a few feet from me. The old rusted dams started to open up and water came violently rushing out. For the first time in a long time I felt pure fear. As much as I would have liked to put an end to everything right then and there, the overwhelming sense of fear that swept over me in that moment was the only thing that prevented me from being swept away by the water that seemed to be coming out of everywhere. I rushed as fast as I could across a couple of boulders separating the water from the land and up the small rock wall separating me from the bridge up above. By the time I got there the boulders were completely submerged underwater. The young man only had time to grab me by the collar of my shirt and violently pull me up onto the railroad before most of the rock wall was underwater too.

“Holy smokes man,” I choked out, “you just saved my butt.”

Above the hydro dam only a few feet away there was a bridge for cars and not too far from it there was the skimpy narrow bridge for the train that the dude and I were standing on. Below us there was nothing but raging water. The bridges were two small sections, connecting on each side of a miniature island only housing a single building surrounded by an enormous barbwire fence. The place was old, the concrete had started chipping off the walls and crumbing down nearby. The old 1930s windows looked like they were about to fall off the building at any moment and were covered in large, rusted steel bars. Nothing and no one was going to get in or out of there through the windows. There was a large brick chimney sticking out from the far left side of the roof like it was a giant smelter or some other creepy thing like that.

“What is this place?” I asked as I looked in horror at the decaying building.
“Welcome to the Old Sylva power plant!” the young man replied giggling, “The creepiest thing in Old Sylva and probably in the entire state of New York.”
“Damn, that thing looks like Alcatraz. Honestly, a lot scarier than Alcatraz. Maybe more like Auschwitz.”
“So what brings you to the Alcatraz-Auschwitz power station yo?”
“I just wanted to get away from everything and everyone, yo.”
“Well it sure looks like I came at just the right time eh?”
“Yeah, thanks for that, whatever your name is.”
“I’m Connor Patterson, nice to meet you.”
“Thank you Connor Patterson, I’m Ana Sims but everyone calls me Drifter.”

Before I continued the conversation I just had to stick my hand in my backpack and make sure that my gun was still in there. It was. Despite all the fear, the confusion and the commotion, just the tip of my fingers touching the muzzle of the handgun enabled me to breathe easier. I was still quite shaken up by the whole thing, but having Dwayne Jackson loom over my head all the time made what had just happened seem like a grain of sand on a beach or a drop of water in an endless sea compared to what I had to go through when I lost my precious big brother.

“Where are you headed to Drifter?” Connor asked me as he started walking and signaled to follow me.
“Anywhere but here for a while I guess,” I replied somewhat angrily.
“Are you headed anywhere towards Queens? That’s where I’m going.”
“I guess that’s where I’m going too now.”
“Come and take a ride in my time machine!”

I followed Connor off the railroad bridge and passed the deserted bridge for cars. Just a few feet on the other side of Alcatraz station Connor’s 1972 Nova was parked on a small dirt shoulder. The car was old and rusted and had been spray-painted a deep forest green because there were a lot of inconsistencies in the paint job. In a way it kind of made the car look like camouflage. I grinned as I opened the door on the passenger’s side and sat down inside.

“You’re brave eh,” Connor spoke softly as he made the engine roar to life, “to just climb into a car with somebody you don’t even know.”
“Well I’ve got a gun in my backpack and I’ve got nothing to lose,” I taunted him in return.
“You sound like a girl on a mission.”
“I am.”
“That’s hot.”

I didn’t speak for a while as Connor turned the car around and drove back to Queens from Old Sylva. The sun was just rising making it for a spectacular view before everyone else woke up and turned the day into a waste.

“So, Connor Peterson,” I taunted again, “what were you doing at Old Alcatraz generating station at this time of the morning?”
“That’s where I go when I just want to get away from everything and everyone and simply watch the sunrise over the water in peace,” he replied with a smirk on the side of his face, “and by the way, look at what’s on the backseat.”

I grinned menacingly at him before quickly peaking behind me and seeing a black pump-action shotgun in plain sight just sitting there on the backseat. I just grinned at Connor before turning back and noticing some red shotgun shells lying around the floor.

“When did you decide you wanted to be a thug, Connor Peterson?”
“When did you decide you wanted to be a thug who carries a gun in her backpack?”
“I was eleven years old. My brother was murdered when I was thirteen. And now I think that after three long years it’s time that I kill the man who did it.”
“Interesting. Well my uncle raised me pretty much my whole life and he’s a thug, so it’s kind of in my blood you know.”

Despite the surrounding circumstances Connor and I managed to engage in a mitigating conversation during the short drive to the outskirts of Queens. In a sweeter kind of way, Connor kind of looked like a really badass version of Zac Efron with his dark sandy hair falling over parts of his eyes like that. The early morning sunlight brightly illuminated his green diamond eyes and I couldn’t help but notice a small scar over his right eye. The little white scar was barely noticeable on his light skin. His nose was slightly crooked to one side, another barely noticeable feature, but I figured that it had ended up like that after being broken when he was younger. He was a young man of your average build so he could’ve been anyone but he wasn’t everyone, because not everyone rides around with a twelve gauge shotgun in the backseat of a classic car.

As we rode back to the city from the boondocks of Old Sylva I saw Connor checking me out as well and examining my features and dirty clothing. My black hair had started to grow out, despite recently getting brand new clothes there were already holes and tears in them. I had a few other pieces in better condition in my backpack but I wanted to save them as much as possible just in case an occasion presented itself for which I needed to look at least semi-respectable and not like the homeless bum I was. There was no doubt in my mind that Connor new I was a drifter and a gangster not only because of my stereotypical appearance but because of my demeanor and behavior towards him. And then there was the one in a million chance that Connor and I were known to each other. Or maybe he was part of an enemy gang. But at the end of the day the government was our common enemy.

“Where are you from?” I asked Connor out of curiosity.
“A little of Bronx and a little of Whitehaven, New Jersey,” he replied keeping his eyes fixated on the road, “and you?”
“Cobalt. You know, behind Dobbs Ferry.”
“Yeah, I know where that is. Some of the best wine in the entire state of New York comes from that little vineyard on the lake over there. It’s also close to the bridge I always use to get back to the New Jersey side. Have you ever been to Whitehaven?”
“Nah, never crossed the bridge to New Jersey. But I know where Whitehaven is, it’s like right across the Hudson from where you can overlook the river from the waterfront in Cobalt.”
“Exactly! Right next to Palisades Park! Just an old piece of crap little place in the boondocks right on the border of New York and New Jersey. But that’s home really.”
“That’s cool man, so what are you doing so far from home in a place far worst than whatever old pieces of crap you can find in Whitehaven?”
“I’ve got some business to do in Bronx but I also have some roots in Old Sylva. I used to spend my summers there and from time to time I like to visit again and get a little taste of the days when things were better.”
“I understand.”

And I did all too well. I felt the exact same way about Florida and living with my mom. I missed my mom a lot, about as much as I missed Jeff. I had coped well with her death though. I understood terminal illness a lot better than murder. To the day I still had no dang idea as to why a city councillor would want to murder someone like my homeless bum of a brother.

“So, Connor Peterson,” I began again after a few moments of silence, “are you some kind of Heisenberg?”
“No,” he chuckled, “I’ve never been into drugs. My uncle Damian is a weapons dealer and I’m the deliveryman.”
“The black market I take it.”
“The only market.”

I grinned at him and I saw him grinning back from the corner of my eye. There was a mutual understanding between us as to why we were both there riding in his car.

“Is that a special delivery in the backseat?” I taunted.
“That’s actually to deliver a very important message about crossing territorial lines,” Connor replied in a very serious tone of voice, “one of the assholes who hang out by the abandoned shipping docks just south of Queens pissed off my uncle and he really shouldn’t have done that.”
“So you gonna go blow his brains out with that?” I chuckled.
“No,” Connor replied in a serious tone again, “just give him a little warning.”
“Well I must be in the wrong business.”
“And you, where are you from? What do you do? Let’s stop talking about all the shit I’ve done wrong and tell me more about you.”
“Homeless. Got some homies in Cobalt. I’ve got a gun and a single bullet and I want to kill Dwayne Jackson.”
“From Washington Heights.”
“That’s right.”

Connor and I had some mutual respect for each other and what we did. He wasn’t too far from me and I wasn’t too far from him. We were on the same level. Different worlds did not separate us. Maybe to some degree he reminded me of Eddie.

“So,” I rambled on as we arrived in Queens, “you’re taking me on a ride-along?”
“You and me,” he replied smiling at me, “we belong to the same class of people. So yes, I’m taking you on a ride-along. Have you ever done this before?”
“Yeah, my gang bros have done some pretty nasty shit in front of my face but I’ve never actually done it myself. I want to, but it’s the city councillor that I want to do.”
“We can do him after. It could be pretty fun. Bonnie and Clyde. Natural Born Killers.”
“He’s away for now, that’s the only reason I haven’t already killed him.”
“Why aren’t your gang mates with you on this?”

I chuckled under my breath. They thought it was okay to just break into some old man’s house and rob him of his life savings but it’s not okay to get your rightful revenge.

“They don’t think it’s worth it to kill Dwayne Jackson,” I finally spit out after a long moment of silence, “they want me to stay gold.”
“Ponygirl huh?” Connor laughed loudly, “But your guys have a point. They care about you. You can’t hold it against them.”

Connor had a point. The guys did care about me and they only did what they had to do in order to survive. It wasn’t a good life. It wasn’t a nice life. But in gangs as small as the one I belonged to, we had to defend our territory. There was going to be some blood spilling and a rampant infliction of fear. Eastern Cobalt belonged to us. The world belonged to me.

“When we get near the docks I’m gonna ask you to hide in the back of the car so they still think I’m alone,” Connor spoke seriously, “I don’t want to get you into trouble because I’m sure my uncle Damian will have great plans for you if you wanna stick around.”
“Help me kill Dwayne Jackson,” I was more serious than I had ever been in my entire life, “and then I’ll do whatever you want.”
“You’ve got yourself a deal, but first I’ve gotta take care of this business.”

As we arrived near the old shipping docks south of Queens, Connor gave me the signal to jump in the backseat and crouch down so nobody would see me back there. I felt vulnerable because I had left my backpack with my handgun in the front seat. While I was at it I collected a few of the shotgun shells and loaded the gun for Connor and whatever he was going to do with it. In the matter of just a few minutes the old car came to a screeching halt and Connor got out, letting the door slam behind him, and then reach through the open window and grab the shotgun.

“You really shouldn’t have done that Ratablavasky!”

That was the only thing I heard Connor say as he walked farther away from the car before gunshots erupted in the distance a few moments later. Fast forward a few more seconds and the shotgun came flying back in through the window and landing on the backseat before Connor practically jumped in the car and took off in a fury. More gunshots erupted from behind immediately after and some bullets shattered the back window of the car and Connor muttered a long list of profanity.

As sat up to see what was going on and I saw that Connor had blood on his face and there was some dripping off his hands and onto the steering wheel. He didn’t appear to be in pain and he didn’t appear to have been shot, but he had obviously done something.

“Get down!” he angrily shouted at me as I climbed up into the front seat with him.
“Yeah right, get down,” I snapped back as I got the shotgun and loaded a round into the chamber, “I’m in this too now.”

Connor grinned at me for a fraction of a second but the smile was soon wiped right off his face as more bullets broke the windows and one completely obliterated the mirror on the passenger’s side. Connor then made a very sharp turn that send me plowing into him with a loaded pistol grip shotgun and him plowing into the door on his side. All the loose junk in his car went swinging around all over the place as well but the only thing going on in our minds at that point was to get out of that piece of crap abandoned shipping dock alive and in one piece. Nothing else mattered. A million dollars could’ve flown out the window and it would not have mattered. All we wanted was to hang on to our dear lives for just another few moments.

The adrenaline running through my veins completely consumed me. It had been so long since I had stepped out onto the battlefield. There was an aspect of it that I liked. It gave me some twisted sense of satisfaction. It gave me the feeling of making a difference. I was just going to leave the world a colder place than it already was, but I was standing up for a cause that I believed in. I would die a martyr. I would go down in history. Everyone would remember my name. But I wasn’t ready. I still had a mission to accomplish. If I was going to die, it wouldn’t have been a satisfying death. I simply wasn’t ready.

“I see the message wasn’t received,” I spitefully told Connor as we left the shipping docks.
“Now we’ve just gotta get rid of these punks,” Connor’s voice was shaky, “but we’re still in the boonies and it don’t look like they are going to get off our butts.”
“Well they won’t ignore my message,” I spoke apprehensively as I stuck half my body out the window and sat on the car door with my feet on the seat.
“What the hell are you doing?!” Connor shouted in return as he grabbed my foot and tried to get me back in the car.

But he didn’t succeed. I had the shotgun loaded and ready to go and I was going to blow away Ratablavasky and whoever else was in that little yellow Jeep behind us. As the got closer and got ready to fire at me I noticed only two individuals inside the vehicle; the driver and some other dude with blond hair holding a pistol in his hand, kind of like Connor and me except that my gun was bigger and the two of them were going to find out the hard way when I pulled the trigger.

“Get down right freaking now!” Connor shouted as he did his best to drive and watch out for the punks inching closer and closer to us.

And then I fired the gun. The thing recoiled into my right eye, probably giving me an enormous black eye but I loaded another round into the chamber and fired again. The second time I hit the Jeep and destroyed the window but I wasn’t able to see if I had hit anyone. The Jeep swerved a little bit but it wasn’t long before the shooter stuck his arm out the window and that hand had a very itchy trigger finger. I briefly ducked back into the car to avoid a fury of bullets coming my way, but a few seconds after the shots were fired I got back out there and fired the two remaining rounds in the shotgun. I hit the driver fair and square because the Jeep swerved and was about to plow into an abandoned industrial garage but the passenger, still armed with his handgun, shot one last time, having a very good and clear aim at me, and hit me. I dropped the shotgun into the street below me and ducked back into the car holding one side of my head with my hand. That’s where I had felt the bullet. I reluctantly took my hand away and looked at it. There was only a small amount of light red blood on it, so the wound wasn’t all that bad. Half of my face wasn’t missing.

“Oh gosh!” Connor seemed frightened, “Are you okay?! Turn around and look at me!”

I turned over to his side, pulled my hair out of my face and let him examine the wound. He seemed to be incredibly relieved to see whatever it was on the right side of my head.

“The bullet only grazed you,” he let out a huge sigh of relief, “but part of your ear is missing.”

Connor pulled out a purple rag out from under the seat and gave it to me so I could apply pressure to the small wound. I could breathe a little easier knowing that it was just a little piece of flesh at the bottom of my ear that had gotten destroyed by the bullet and not anything more serious. The message had been received, that was one less problem looming over my head, but Connor and I still had to get out of that thug neighborhood without getting stopped by the police in our bullet-ridden car.

“Is it bad?” I asked Connor as I removed the towel pressed against my ear.
“Nah,” he said in a soft voice, “but you won’t be wearing pendant earrings anymore.”

I chuckled in relief.

“You’re lucky as hell that you turned at just the right moment so the bullet only got the bottom of your ear and not something more serious!”
“Yeah, no kidding. I just hope that this is to the liking of your uncle because it cost me a piece of my ear!”
“Oh Drifter, he will love you!”

That gave me a twisted sense of satisfaction. A sense of belonging, making a difference. As the reality of what had just happened began to sink in I raised my hands up in the air and cheered. Connor began to cheer along with me for a while until he parked the car in the back alley of an old corner store and signaled me to follow him.

“We’ll leave the car here and take public transit the rest of the way,” he said as he unscrewed the New Jersey license plates from the car, “and you’ll put these in your backpack and take them back to my uncle Damian.”

I nodded in agreement and we went on our way. At the bus station we cleaned ourselves up in the bathroom before boarding the first bus out of Queens. To avoid being noticed by possibly witnesses to what had gone down in the shipping docks we changed busses and trains often and took the long way back to New Jersey. That meant passing through the heart of Washington Heights and right passed City Hall. Both Connor and I looked intensely at the building and there was no doubt in my mind that he was thinking the same thing I was. In that moment I prayed that the police wouldn’t arrest us before we had the chance to carry out our mission. The pressure was mounting on me to accomplish what I had set out to do. My train of thought was interrupted when Connor’s cellphone rang in his coat pockets. His clothes weren’t all that much nicer than mine.

“Uncle Damian!” he spoke with a grin on his face, “Yes, it’s done.”

A grin appeared on my face too as I listened to him have a very brief and cryptic conversation over the phone. After a couple of hours of hopping off an on of public transit constantly, the two of us finally arrived in Whitehaven in the early afternoon. Upon being dropped off at the bus station there, I looked around the little neighborhood. It was a mixture of antique beauty with modern functionality. Of course as Connor and I walked to the neighborhood where his uncle Damian lived, things changed. The old buildings were decaying. It awfully reminded me of that poor old neighborhood in the boonies of Yonkers where Eddie and I used to shack up. Damn, I missed Eddie more than I was willing to admit to myself.

Damian Welker lived on the fifth floor of an old six storey building with faded burgundy bricks. It was one of the much older neighborhoods in the town of Whitehaven but it sure looked a lot better than Yonkers and Cobalt. A few blocks down the road, passed the trees and the river, I knew that Cobalt was back there and in the distance the factory was there too. It was an odd feeling being on the New Jersey side looking across the Hudson to the place I called home. It was so close yet so far away. It was right there right in front of me yet it was unattainable, I couldn’t get there. For the first time since I had set out on my mission, I could see the life in front of my eyes for what it really was. My entire life I had never been able to appreciate the basic concept of life.

“C’mon Drifter,” Connor grabbed me by the arm and pulled me towards the building his uncle lived in, “my uncle Damian doesn’t like it when people keep him waiting.”

We had to enter through yet another hefty metal door of the Ku Klux Klan and Jehovah’s Witnesses only to come into a building that smelled like mold and smoke. Eddie’s shack hadn’t smelled like that because almost all the windows were broken but Damian’s building was a disgusting place to live. There was no elevator either so Connor and I had to climb up a long and narrow flight of stairs all the way up to the fifth floor. Most of the tenants there were out working in the middle of the afternoon but the place was still loud with a bunch of kids crying and dogs barking. That place was no place to try to raise a family. The streets and the factory weren’t either but I still preferred that over Damian’s building. I swore the stench of that place clung to your soul.

“Give him a little bit of time to get acquainted with you,” Connor warned me as he was about to open the door to his uncle Damian’s apartment, “he’s not exactly the trusting type, you know.”
“I can understand that,” I spoke softly, not knowing what to expect from his uncle, “if you don’t watch your own back in this world nobody will.”

Damian’s apartment was filled with cigarette smoke and a small man was sitting on an old black leather couch smoking another one. The place was incredibly claustrophobic and it was dark, almost like there weren’t any lights at all. Most of the windows were taped up so there was no natural light coming in from outside except for the small cracks in between each of the pieces of red and black tape. That apartment was the definition of a dark lair.
“So this is what you brought me?” the man, probably being Damian Welker, spoke curiously as he got up off the couch and came to take a closer look at me.
“No,” Connor spoke seriously, “she’s for me.”
“Oh,” Damian seemed somewhat surprised, “okay, then move along.”

I glanced over at Connor in the dark room hoping that he would explain what had just happened.

“He wanted me to bring someone over,” Connor spoke in a low voice almost like he was embarrassed, “so he could have a good time, so to speak.”
“Oh,” I had to refrain from cracking up in laughter, “I understand.”

Connor looked like he was about to burst out in laughter himself but that probably would have insulted his uncle, and Damian looked like a pretty uptight guy.

“There are some bandages and some alcohol in the bathroom just to the left here,” Connor pointed out as his uncle played around with the TV remote, “if you want to take a closer look at the bullet wound.”

I thanked him and ran off to the bathroom. I turned on the bright white light and looked at myself in the mirror. Okay, the wound wasn’t all that bad. I wasn’t dying. It was just a small piece of my right ear at the bottom. The small amount of blood had dried and I felt no pain. For a little while after it happened there was been some slight tingling but then again, the adrenaline was pumping through my veins and had taken complete control of my body. There was no time for the stinging and the pain, but thankfully I had been spared that. I had also been spared my life, and that was the most important thing of all because I still had something to accomplish before I was ready to join my mom and my brother in the realm of the dead.

I took out some rubbing alcohol from the cabinet in the bathroom and cleaned up the small amount of blood from my ear but didn’t need to bandage it any further. My ear was fine but otherwise I looked like crap. I needed a haircut. Since I had a clean change of clothes in my backpack and there was a cheap stand-up shower with a big hole at the bottom of the door in the bathroom, I decided to jump in to clean up a little bit if I was going to present myself to Damian Welker as a semi-respectable criminal. After I got out of the shower and after making a big mess of water on the bathroom floor, I put on some black skinny jeans and a leopard top. I shoved my dirty clothes, my Pennington’s hoodie, Connor’s license plates and the gun in the backpack and left the claustrophobic bathroom. I swore you had to go through the door sideways because everything was so crammed up together in there.

“I see you’re making yourself at home!” Connor joked as he invited me to sit with him and his uncle in the living room.
“I’m sorry,” I muttered as I approached cautiously, “I haven’t seen a shower in a long time.”

The living room was another dirty and dimly-lit tiny room. It was almost completely square with an enormous TV mounted on the wall near the door to go out into the hallway, a small couch on the wall opposite of it, an industrial spindle next to it as a coffee table and an expensive massage chair in the corner. In the other corner next to the TV there was a small pool table and plenty of cases of beer with cans in various stages of consumption littered all over the room. The dark red living room rug was stained with stuff I didn’t want to know and I could see silhouettes of decorations on the walls but I couldn’t quite make out what they were because the room was too dark.

“Come over and have a seat!” Damian commanded in a tone of voice that I didn’t want to disobey.

So I walked over and sat down next to him on the couch while Connor was very vocally enjoying the massage chair.

“Connor told me what you did,” Damian spoke in a low, scratchy voice.

I waited for him to continue.

“I know a warrior when I see one,” he went on, “do you know what I brought you here to do?”

I didn’t, but I knew that Connor had mentioned that his uncle wanted to “have a good time.” And it was a bonus that Connor had recruited me because I was one of his own, there was a mutual understanding between us that only two people who stood for the same things could comprehend. I decided to prove myself to Damian by showing him what kind of good time I could give him, so I scooted over to his side of the couch and came onto him. I climbed up onto his lap and gave him a big wet smooch on the lips. And he didn’t like that very much.

“Get off of me!” he shouted angrily as he pushed me off of him, “Don’t come on to me like that!”

Connor was doing his best to refrain from laughing in his massage chair drinking beer and I somewhat wanted to crack up laughing myself but it was no laughing matter for Damian. It was apparent that the blood was boiling in his veins.

“I guess you don’t want to have a good time after all,” I muttered to myself as I rearranged myself on the other side of the couch.
“I don’t screw little kids!” Damian angrily snapped back.

Damian got up off the couch abruptly and went to fetch a glass of water from the kitchen sink that was just nearby. Connor was no longer finding it so funny as well but I was lost in what was actually going on.

“You see this picture right here,” Damian spoke apprehensively as he shoved a picture frame in my hand, “that was my daughter Tanya. They found her body facedown dead in the rain down by Marble Hill. And I wasn’t even there to hold her when she took her last breath!”

I looked down at the picture and saw a young woman of about twenty who somewhat looked like me. Damian’s voice was cracking up as he struggled to stay more. It was obvious that he had a lot of remorse for whatever had happened to his daughter. He hadn’t forgiven himself, and to some degree I knew how he felt because I myself was on a mission of revenge.

“It’s just too bad that I never told her that she deserved much better,” he finally choked up crying, “maybe if I had just been there for her she wouldn’t have went looking for love and acceptance from all the wrong people.”

Despite all the things going on through my brain, I still managed to find a place in it where I could feel sympathy for Damian. I extended my hand towards him and pulled him over next to me on the couch and wrapped my arms around him. He cried for a while but soon just returned to being apprehensive and unforgiving.

“Come down to the warehouse with me and we’ll get you a proper gun,” Damian muttered as he shoved on a leather trench coat and signaled me to follow him.

The two of us walked a few blocks down to a group of storage warehouses near the Whitehaven Conservation Area where Damian opened one up and invited me inside. In the remnants of daylight I finally got to see what the man looked like since his apartment was so damn dark. Damian was about 5’10” and very skinny. His neck was covered in various gang-related tattoos but I didn’t know what they meant and I didn’t dare to ask. He had short dark brown hair that was starting to grey and a matching extended goatee-style beard. Connor had told me that Damian was in his forties but he looked more like he was in his fifties. There were big dark bags under his liquid copper eyes that made it seem like he hadn’t slept in over a century. His leather coat was muddy at the bottom and the rest was quite dusty, almost like he had been playing around in some artificial desert. His black jeans had faded to grey and I noticed a dried bloodstain on the tip of his left boot. His olive green shirt was the only thing on him that looked clean. Considering what his apartment looked like, I couldn’t hold him to any sort of higher expectations.

“I still have your license plates in my backpack,” I spoke softly, not knowing how he was going to react, “I’m sure Connor told you about that too.”
“Yes he did,” Damian’s voice was sharp but not aggressive, “you are a true contender. You and Connor will do a couple of things for me and then I’ll make sure the job you set out to do gets done.”

Posted in Books & Stories

The Distant Factory — Chapter Twelve

My plans had already been made. I had already taken the money under the counter without Cap’n Crunch’s knowledge. I walked the short distance to Dobbs Ferry from Cobalt and took public transit all the way down to Marble Hill and then walked the rest of the way down to Washington Heights. By the time I got there after all the delays and the waiting and the stopping to breathe in the fresh air the city had woken up and business as usual was under way. City Hall was open and in session so it was my chance to get Dwayne Jackson once and for all and just finish what I had spent so much energy on to accomplish. I asked for some directions to City Hall and then barged right in through the front doors.

“Good morning!” I was greeted by the secretary at the reception desk.
“Is councillor Dwayne Jackson in the building this morning?” I asked trying to be as civil and polite as I could.
“No, I’m sorry, he won’t be in office for another week or so. Would you like to leave your name and number and I will pass along a message to him to get back to you?”
“Uh, no thanks. I’ll come back in a week or two. Thank you.”
“Have a nice day!”
“You too.”

I walked out of that city hall feeling more deflated than ever. I had wanted to badly to just see that one last look on his face before I blew him away in the middle of City Hall. I had gone through all that trouble to finally get down to Washington Heights for absolutely nothing because the fucker wasn’t even around!


For the longest time I sat on the sidewalk at an intersection near the City Hall, just waiting for some idea regarding what to do next to just pop into my head and get into motion. The only thing I could possibly think of was either walk back or take public transit back to Yonkers and see if Eddie was home, apologize for all the shit I had done and ask him to help me somehow. I regretted the way things had ended between the two of us before I left. If there was a single person I still cared about in the entire universe, it was him. I wanted to feel the warmth of his presence again. After having spent extended periods of time away from the boys I missed their annoying company. And then something I had heard Jeff say echoed in the back of my mind.

“I’ve done nothing that requires forgiveness. I’ve only done what I needed to do to survive.”

I smiled softly at myself. Eddie lived according to that philosophy as well. Do what you’ve gotta do and fuck the rest. But it wasn’t like that for me. I went round and round aimlessly in circles not being able to find what I was looking for. I wasn’t even sure what that was supposed to be anymore. I didn’t know anything about life. I didn’t know anything about anything.

“I miss the sound of your voice Jeff,” I whispered to myself as I held back tears, “sometimes the silence screams so loud and the loneliness won’t leave me alone.”

In a surge of anger I got up from the sidewalk and got to the nearest bus stop and made my way to Yonkers to see Eddie. Thinking about Jeff made me realize just how short life really was and how even the last person I loved on earth could be taken from me in the blink of an eye. I would have been completely lost without Eddie after Jeff died. He and Byron were really the ones that kept me walking in a straight line after Jeff was murdered. The others cared, it was obvious, but they weren’t Eddie or Byron. They weren’t Jeff. They couldn’t fix me. They couldn’t bear my grief for me. They couldn’t take the burden of survival by yourself out in the streets for me. Were all the things I had done really forgivable because I needed to do them in order to survive? Maybe Byron’s God would go ahead and say yes, but I didn’t know anything about that. Getting even was all I wanted.

Back in Yonkers I barged into Eddie’s shack but it was empty. There was nothing left in his room either. He had moved out. There was nobody except me in the neighborhood it seemed. In my despair and loneliness I collapsed to the floor and started to cry and ask out why. WHY?! I knew that Lennie would probably be able to fetch him for me but I wasn’t in the mood to have to go through that or see the others. I knew that they’d give me an earful about my long walk and not even writing or calling for two weeks straight. I wasn’t up for that. I didn’t have the courage to face that. Once I dried up my tears I unloaded the gun and put it in my backpack for my own safety. It was the first time my own safety even crossed my mind. I suddenly longed for Eddie and I wanted to live another day to see him again. I simply laid down on the bare floor and listened to the wind blowing through the broken window.

After an unknown amount of time passed by, I heard footsteps coming up the skimpy metal staircase. The Ku Klux Klan? Catholic nuns maybe? The door to Eddie’s old room was still open but I was arranged in a way that I could see out into the hallway. I had no way of knowing who was coming up or what that person was coming up to do. I closed my eyes and imagined that it was one of my own coming up to see me. Or maybe it was Jeff coming back to get me and everything was just one big nasty dream and I would soon wake up from it and everything would go back to normal. I wouldn’t have to go out and kill Dwayne Jackson because he wouldn’t have ever killed my brother. I would still live with my mom and my dad and Jeff in a little pink house on a hill with blue skies up above. But that’s not what I saw when I opened my eyes.

“There you are!” Robin Crowley’s voice exclaimed joyfully as he walked into the room.

I wanted to cry when I saw him walk through that door but I couldn’t bring myself to shed a tear. I stayed on the floor right as I was and Robin got down on his knees to push my dirty hair out of my face and gently stroked my cheek.

“Why did you leave?” his voice was just a soft whisper, “Did you get scared?”
“I don’t know,” I choked up almost crying, “I couldn’t keep on doing what I was doing.”
“What are you running from? Just come back home, I’ll take care of you.”
“No, I can’t go back.”
“You don’t have to sail this world alone.”

I didn’t speak. I only wanted Jeff, Eddie. Robin eventually just got down next to me and held me in his arms. I held on to him with a tight grip so he wouldn’t leave me. I couldn’t stand to be lonelier than I already was.

“How did you find me?” I couldn’t help but ask after an eternity of silence.
“I knew you were headed down to Washington Heights,” Robin’s voice was gentle and tender, “so I called up some of my friends and asked them if you had made it okay or if something had happened to you and that’s why you disappeared on me.”
“I’m sorry about that. It just couldn’t wait.”
“You could’ve just told me and I would have made arrangements for you to get there and do what you had to do.”
“I’m sorry. So did you follow me here after I left Washington Heights?”
“No, actually the person I called to see if you were okay was the clerk who sold you the tickets to come here.”

I chuckled under my breath.

“Go figure.”
“And considering the condition I found you in at my place, I kind of figured that you were homeless so I asked around the place and some street guys told me that you and your friends bunked in this neighborhood.”
“Yeah, the homeless communities kind of all know each other around here.”
“It’s good that you all look out for each other like that.”
“Yeah, you can say that.”

Robin Crowley and I spent the long cold and lonely night in Eddie’s former shack. I refused to go back to Robin’s duplex so he sacrificed his time and dignity to stay with me instead. For that he earned my highest degree of respect but I knew that in the morning he would have to go to work and I’d have to go back to being lonely and having to figure out how to move on without having to deal with my old life.

I’ve come way too far to give up now. I know that’s just the way it goes. Inside I realize that I’m the one confused. I understand the consequences to my choices and my actions. It is crucial that I don’t lose focus. It is essential that I keep my eyes on the prize in this mission of mine. This world can break my back but it cannot break me. Things may be pitch black around me, but I still find a way to see. In life there are so many missing pieces and only so much that you can do to fill in the blanks. I do not want forgiveness for what I’m about to do, I only want the world to know that I had to do it.

In the morning, as expected Robin had to leave for work but not before he gave me some money for public transit and his home address. After he left I did the only true thing I knew how to do, so I started walking.

Learn to walk away, but I’ve been walking my whole life.

Posted in Books & Stories

Lost Thoughts — Volume Two: The Hunger

She woke up on a hard surface, with her head on his chest. She had no idea how she got there, or where she was. Her blue eyes were wide with worry, not knowing which time it was whatsoever. She was lying on the floor of an empty passenger train car, with two other men. The unconscious one she was lying on, and another semi-conscious one sitting in one of the seats on the other side. It was day out there, the sky was pure blue with only a few fluffy white clouds lingering through the blue.

The train was going at high speed through the woods, the only thing visible from the floor of the car were the tip of the green pine trees. Squinting her eyes, the girl gathered all her energy and got up from off the floor, and sat down on the nearest seat. The soft grey material caressed her exposed thighs. Tiny jean shorts barely covered her buttock, and black military boots covered her feet and part of her calf. A thin black zip-up hoodie with buckles and studs covered her upper-body. Her shoulder-length black hair was perfectly straight and in place despite being passed out. Her thick little lips were covered in faded plum lipstick, contrasting with her extremely pale skin.

“Hey there,” the other semi-awake young man greeted her.
“Hello,” she replied in her Italian accent.
“I’m Steven,” he said in a friendly, gentle voice.
“Ana,” she replied, grinning a little bit and making the best of the situation.
“So I assume you have no idea how we got here….”
“No, sorry Steve, I don’t have a clue. How long have you been awake?”
“Not very long, I woke up fifteen minutes or so before you.”
“And who is this guy?” she asked, shooting a glance at the man on the floor.

He was quite tall, slightly built, short light brown-blondish hair, wearing a pine green shirt underneath a leather jacket and some black pants. He was still unconscious, and nobody knew how they ended up on the train.

“I don’t know,” Steven replied, “I had barely noticed him there. I don’t know where we are or how we got here.”
“Neither do I, and most of all, why is it just the three of us? I mean, if America was being bombed there ought to be more people on the train!”

As soon as she spoke in her angel voice, the man on the floor woke up. He was dazed, and his head was sore, but he sat up and looked around just as Ana and Steven had done upon their awakening. He was tantalized by one of the first things he saw, Ana’s bare legs. He looked at them in wonder for a moment before rubbing his dark hazel eyes. He wanted them, he wanted her. He got up and sat across from her on the seat, not taking his eyes off her beautiful long legs, one crossed over the other as she sat there staring intently out the window.

“What’s your name?” Steven asked him.

The man looked in direction of the youth with wonder. The young man with an all-American accent and long black hair pushed back out of his dark brown eyes was wearing a green plaid shirt, kinda like the one he used to wear as a child. His long slim legs wore torn blue jeans and his feet were covered with old suede boots.

“Jeremy,” the older man replied in a scratchy yet tender voice.
“I’m Steven,” he replied.
“Ana,” she added, grinning at him, noticing his wonder for her legs.
“So, is this heaven?” Jeremy laughed.
“No,” Ana grinned at him, “we have no idea where we are or how we got here.”
“But I sure like what I see!” he smiled wickedly at the girl.

She flashed her perfect white teeth at him as she crossed her legs, taunting him. He took in a sharp breath, trying to resist the temptation Ana had just imposed on him. She tilted her head back, exposing her throat and closing her eyes. Come here and bite me her body language told him. She then sat up on the headrest of the seat, she was doing this purposely to distract Jeremy, not that there was much to focus on in the first place.

“So how old are you guys?” Steven asked, genuinely friendly.
“Twenty,” Ana stretched the word.
“I’m thirty-nine,” Jeremy replied, with a somewhat down expression on his face.
“I’m gonna be nineteen in four days, or maybe I am nineteen,” Steven spoke mostly to himself, “I don’t know what day it is, my birthday is June 22nd.”
“I don’t know how long we have been on this train,” Ana spoke letting out a sigh, “I have no recollection of how I even got here, but if there is one thing I know is that I’m getting hungry.”

The two men agreed, they were hungry too. Ana provocatively moved her fit body, making Jeremy even hungrier than he actually was. She seemed to have great delight in making him suffer, she grinned to herself and continued her provocative movements. She then turned around on the seat, pressing her stomach against the headrest and purposely holding out her rear end so Jeremy could examine it closely. Her jean shorts exposed most of her skin, without revealing anything explicitly. Jeremy could not control himself, and he caressed the cheek before sliding two of his fingers underneath the thin jeans and continuing to fondle the young woman.

Ana smiled to herself, enjoying the sensation of Jeremy’s rough fingers massaging one cheek. To him she was an angel sent from Heaven after his country had been obliterated by a nuclear bomb. Only it had not been obliterated, because they were on a train in the middle of a perfectly intact forest.

“I said I’m hungry.” Ana bitterly reminded them when she became irritated at Jeremy’s grinding.
“Well, there don’t seem to be much food in this car,” Steven sighed.
“And what about the others?” Ana interrogated. “I bet nobody thought about checking the others.”
“This train is going really fast, I don’t dare to venture outside.” Steven reminded them.

The three of them simultaneously looked outside, the trees were only a blur. Jeremy finally left Ana alone and looked around the rows of empty seats in search of anything he mind find, food, clothes, anything that might give some indication of where they were going. Jeremy walked awkwardly, seeming oblivious to the situation and only thinking about Ana. She stroked her hair while Steven rubbed his eyes. How long had they been on that train?

Jeremy pulled out a single granola bar that had fallen under a seat and smiled at himself. A single bar for three people, but he was determined to have it. He was good-looking, charming and entitled. He’s the one who had found it, so it was his, but Ana wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity.

“I want to eat it,” she declared, “ladies first.”
“Fine then, give me what I want and I’ll give you what you want,” Jeremy suggested in a flirtatious tone.
“Bring it on,” she challenged as she got up off her seat, “but I eat first.”

Her long skinny legs were marvelous, Jeremy had had his satisfaction of touching them but now he wanted more. He extended out his arm, holding the granola bar in his hand, as Ana walked in a sexy fashion over to meet him. She took the bar out of his hand without speaking and turned back, returning to her seat where she devoured the chocolate-flavoured bar. She threw away the wrapper and rubbed her eyes in anticipation of Jeremy. She had to give him her part of the deal now.

He walked over to her and gently pushed her against the seat so he was faced with her back. He felt her up with his hands before unbuttoning her flimsy jeans and pulling them down. He grabbed the back of her thong with his teeth and pulled them down too. He penetrated her with force, making her moan in delight and finally relieving his mounting stress. She loved his steady, fast rhythm and enjoyed it just as much as he did. He bit her neck, making the sensation surge all over her body. Jeremy moaned himself as his stress dissipated inside Ana.

Neither of them knew how much time had really passed, their kissing might have lasted hours but the sky outside had not changed at all. As for Steven, he kept on staring outside, lost in his own thoughts. Ana and Jeremy had not bothered to cover up their sensual display of affection. Neither of them had shame, Ana was entirely comfortable with her own body and Jeremy had gotten what he wanted.

“I’m still hungry,” Ana said laughing as she climbed up onto a seat.
“Oh me too,” Jeremy replied, still breathless, “but this time I actually want food.”
Ana looked at Jeremy lustfully before she returned to sit on him on a nearby seat. She ran her long fingers through his hair and stared directly into his eyes. It was like looking through a galaxy, the blend of color tantalized her as much as her legs had tantalized him. She proceeded to tenderly kiss his cheek as her hands felt up and down his neck. In the middle of a seemingly hopeless situation, she had found something she liked.

The sky turned to dark as time was wasted away on the ever-moving train. The scenery outside had not changed, it seemed liked the trio had been riding around in circles all day except the train moved in a straight line. Ana eventually drifted into a tormented sleep in Jeremy’s strong arms while Steven drifted away to the green coniferous vegetation outside. Jeremy stayed awake for a while, looking at the unusual stars up in the sky, who seemed to disappear and reappear as they pleased.

In the morning, Ana walked over to the door at the end of the car. She grabbed onto it, holding herself up and looking out the window. She was delightfully suffering from Jeremy’s assault on her senses, but she was hungry. Most of all, she was confused. Nothing made sense inside her mind. The three of them were in the dark, even though the sun was shining through the train windows.

“Where are you guys from?” She asked, struggling to catch her breath.
“California,” Jeremy replied, uninterested.
“Ohio,” Steven replied with a little more interest.
“And I’m from Wisconsin,” she added, “how did we all end up on the same train?”
“Did you know that it’s unlawful in the state of Wisconsin to kiss someone on a train?” Jeremy laughed, “I can only imagine what kind of consequences we would get for doing what we did aboard this thing!”

For a few moments, the three of them laughed.

“Does it really matter?” Ana was serious again, “How did we all end up on this train?”

Neither of the men had answers to her question. California was quite a ways from Ohio and Wisconsin, but then again, the three had ended up on the same empty train.

“And where’s everybody else?” Ana continued, “We can’t be alone on this train when everyone was running for their lives.”
“Did you get on in Wisconsin?” Steven asked, curious.
“I remember that day very clearly, but I never made it to the train,” she replied, thinking deeply, “it was a beautiful day, warm, with blue skies, kinda like now… So many people were running for the train, it was the only way out. Nobody knew where the train was going, or if it would even get to where it was going at all, but we just wanted to get the hell out of Wisconsin. Huge crowds gathered at the train station and scrambled to get on the fourteen-car train that would leave the city. I don’t even remember getting on, I just remember running through the crowd. The train could now hold all the people that ran for it, and I was rather far in the back, there is no way I could have possibly got onboard.”

The revelation shocked Jeremy and Steven. Neither of them had a single clue what was going on, and much less to make of the current situation. Jeremy looked at the ceiling and sighed, he was beat, defeated.

“I don’t remember going on the train at all either,” he began, “I seriously didn’t care. I don’t remember California being struck first either.”
“The last thing I remember was being with my family and hearing loud noises crashing through the sky,” Steven added.
“Is there even anyone else on this train?” Ana asked warily, “How many cars are attached?”

Nobody answered. The three looked at each other, unsure what to say or what to think. What was happening? Where was everyone? So many questions had no answers, and the three were becoming suspicious of each other. Ana twisted the door handle and the hot, muggy air came rushing in. She stepped outside, her black hair flowing all over the place. She held on tightly to the metal railing, and that’s when she realized that the car she was on was unstable, it could break apart from the others at any moment. Fear swept all over her body, and all the color was drained from her face.

They needed to get on another car, but they hadn’t really noticed the constant shaking motion of the car. They had been too lost in their own thoughts to realize it. Ana returned inside the car and explained the situation to the boys. They had her same reaction. What were they supposed to do? The only thing they could think of was jumping onto another car if they wanted to get out alive. And so they did. The other car was also empty, except for one small blue schoolbag that had probably belonged to a child.

“Where did they go?” Ana asked herself.

Jeremy grabbed the backpack and looked inside. Four cookies and a single bottle of very warm apple juice was inside. No identification whatsoever was found in the car, there was nothing except the small pack. Ana dared to look into another car, but the door was locked, there was no way to get inside. She could not see inside either. She turned back and returned to the men who were waiting inside. She shook her head in disappointment and horror. Was there any way out?

Posted in Books & Stories

The Distant Factory — Chapter Eleven

I had no idea the kind of burial my brother really had been given until I stumbled into the charity area of the boneyard. His grave was the very first one next to the little paved path about halfway through the cemetery, on the far left side. At first the place looked like an empty field with nobody buried there yet, but that was a far cry from the truth. The place was filled with many unmarked graves. Only little rectangles of concrete were flat over each grave with only a last name and a number. That was all that was left of my brother. Just a last name and a number.

J. Sims
Plot #307

And nothing else. As a matter of fact, how did I know it was even him? How could I know? Anybody could have our last name and have a first name that started with J! Was it even his cardboard box of ashes that they put in that plot? I fell down on my knees over his grave and broke down in an uncontrollable sob.

“Does it hurt when you breathe Jeff?!” I choked out through my tears, “Because it hurts when I do!”

I never got the chance to say goodbye to you. Is there really a life after death? Is it true what Byron tells me about seeing you again once all of this is over? When you’re young life is a dream, but when you get older you realize that there’s nothing to be seen. The light will never touch your face again. Now that you’re gone somewhere far beyond this world, I’m alone out here. Is anybody there? Does anyone care? The world will never know you like I do, Jeff. Nobody will ever love me like you did. Nothing in this life will ever fill the void that Dwayne Jackson created inside of me. That is the reason why I have to do this now. You are the reason things have to change Jeff. You are the reason I cannot turn back now.

“I am so sorry Jeff! I am so so sorry!” I muttered out as I took a deep, painful breath, “It should’ve been me instead of you! It should’ve been me and not you.”

For a moment I considered again pulling out my gun and pulling my brains out right then and there so I could be with him for eternity but I couldn’t bring myself to be such a coward. I couldn’t turn back without having gotten the answers I set out to find. Why did Dwayne Jackson have to kill my brother? Why did he want to kill me? What did it serve him? What did it leave me? Most importantly, how was I going to get him back? Because I couldn’t let him get away with the murder of my brother.

“I’ve gotta go Jeffrey, I’m sorry I can’t stay with you. I’ve got a mission to do. One that I have set out to do for you. Goodbye. I love you.”

And so I collected myself, got up, and started walking again. I wanted to turn back so badly and just forget everything, put it behind me, but there was no doing that. Despite the fact that Cobalt was nothing but a small town, I didn’t really know my way around it. It was spread out across miles and miles with nothing but rural roads and trees and vineyards and industrial lands and a billabong somewhere in the middle of that left by a massive flood in the early 1900s. I knew my way around Yonkers and most of upper Bronx though. Those were usually the places we hung out around, not the outskirts of Cobalt except for the factory lot, but nobody wanted to go back inside that building. All I had to do was find my way out of the village and find my way to Dwayne Jackson. The only thing that was left for me to do was find my way up to Washington Heights, pull the trigger, and deal with whatever resulted of that.

Once again all the streets seemed to be the same. I seemed only to be going round and round in circles again. Big buildings, small buildings, fancy buildings, abandoned buildings. Brown bricks. Concrete bricks. Missing bricks. Vacant lots. Dirt roads and paved ones, white Mercedes-Benz cars and black Ford trucks. I had no idea if I was coming or going or even moving at all. What if I was just kidding myself by creating some illusion of progress? What if I was nothing? What if I was never able to get to where I was going? It didn’t seem to matter what I tried to do to keep the doubts and the fear out of my mind, they always found a way back inside. For the first time I was truly alone. There was no Jeff, no Eddie, no Ricardo. Just me. For the past three years I had grossly failed to realize what those boys really meant to me.

Dear Jeff, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you. I would lie. I would cheat. I would steal. I would kill. I would die. I would do it all for you my brother. I would break. I would crash and burn. I would suffer. I would do anything just to have you back for one more moment. I don’t expect the world to understand this. The colors that this place shines surely aren’t the nicest that I’ve ever seen. Oh Jeff, don’t let me be lonely out here on my own. For you I would burn this whole world down. Light it up and sit back and watch the glow of the flames reaching up all the way to heaven. They say that everything black turns to grey and everything beautiful fades away. The radiance inside your eyes had never faded from my mind and this hatred has never faded from my heart. I am already dead. I will only rise to fall again. There’s no turning back now. That’s a choice I made long ago. Now I have some clarity to show you what I mean.

Eventually, after hours, if not days of walking, I came to a secluded neighborhood behind a lonely railroad. The rails were always there, but the trains seem to have followed the underground railroad because they weren’t around anymore. I first passed by several streets of run-down houses and low-income families before reaching the end of the very last stretch of road. It was just like in the movies where a poor neighborhood is built on a rich neighborhood. Or is it the rich that do that to the poor? But right in the middle of the street the two merged. Suddenly the shacks falling apart met houses with triple garages, backyard pools the size of New York City and driveways longer than the road I had walked lined with more cars than anyone could ever use in a lifetime. I should have been appalled by what I saw, but I wasn’t. People who like to use fancy wording would call that being desensitized but I called it life. By that point I was so thirsty that I actually considered siphoning some gasoline out of one of them fancy ass cards and quench my thirst and just freaking die. It would have been a preferable alternative than dying of thirst.

About halfway down the street, right next to a big fancy grey brick house there was a medium-sized duplex with pink and white bricks and behind it a trench filled with water. It was the only middle-class building in the entire neighborhood, and I guess that it was right in the middle of the rich and the poor for a reason. But what I wanted more than a lavish lifestyle was the dirty water sitting in that trench in between the two properties. I walked over there without hesitation and threw myself on the damp ground near the trench, bent over on my knees and dunked my entire head underwater. I opened my mouth and swallowed some with a loud gulp before pulling out my head and letting the cold water drip all over my clothes.

“Well you sure look like you could use a drink!” a man with a Scottish accent called out from behind me, “Let me get you something.”

I turned around, expecting some dude dressed in a fancy suit giving me a drink and telling me to get lost and to never set foot on his property again, but the man wasn’t like that. He was an older man, grey hair, matching grey stubble, dark blue eyes with big bags under his eyes like he hadn’t sleep in centuries and some casual clothes. There was a black oil stain on his faded blue jeans and I noticed that the nearby garage was open and he had some sort of industrial project going on in there with big creepy machines that looked like the kind that you use to build stuff. The man’s dark blue shirt was clean but it didn’t look new. He introduced himself as Robin Crowley, from some English place that ended in shire somewhere far away from New York. He walked over to me and handed me a can of club soda that wasn’t too tasty to drink but I felt better almost immediately. I gulped down the whole can in only a few sips before standing up and walking over closer to the man.

“Do you want another one?” he asked me already knowing what the answer to that was going to be, “Come inside there’s plenty more to drink.”

I deliberated with myself for a few seconds as I trailed behind him to his side of the house weather or not I should go in with him but I reminded that I had a loaded gun in my pocket. I could make that man do anything I wanted him to by putting it to his head. So I decided to follow him inside the narrow entrance of the right side of the building. Immediately we were in a small kitchen with blue tiles everywhere and natural wood cabinets in one corner and the appliances in another with a tiny dark brown wood table right in the middle. It was covered in power tools and stuff like nails and screws and other creepy little gadgets. Robin brought me to the adjacent room which was a comfortable little living room with a very clean white carpet, two leather couches and a colossal flatscreen TV mounted on the wall. Dark drapes covered the windows so nobody could see in or out of the living room. I figured that Robin Crowley was a man that valued his privacy in a neighborhood where everything was probably nothing more than a big fake joke of a competition just to be better than the guy that lives next door.

“Here’s some tea dear,” Robin gently spoke in an almost whisper as he handed me a cup of what looked like green tea.

I took a sip and yup, it was green tea. I hated that crap. But I drank it anyway. If I was desperate enough to drink some of that nasty water in the trench, I could easily drink some of Mr. Crowley’s warm green tea prepared with love just for me.

“I have to go finish up a project in the garage,” he went on, “I need to bring it to work tomorrow but please feel free to take a shower and put on something warm. We can get you some more clothes later on, I just need to finish this first.”

I nodded my head as he put on a plaid jacket and walked through the door, gently closing it behind him and leaving me the entire place to myself not knowing if I would find something of value or even a stash of money and run off with it. That idea was quite tempting but I was paranoid of getting into some petty trouble before having had the chance to carry out my mission. I started rummaging through the fridge for something to eat that wasn’t disgusting or taken out of a garbage can. Downtown people threw their unwanted food out their windows as they drove down the street but in the outskirts of God knows where, I wasn’t so lucky.

And where the hell am I exactly?

I was incredibly dirty so I stripped off all my clothes in the kitchen as I filled the large stainless steel sink with warm water. I rummaged through the counter until I found two brand new bottles of flower-smelling purple dish soap and started pouring some of it in the sink until enormous bubbles started to overflow everywhere. I sat down on the counter, put my freezing feet in the water, took some towels and indulged in a sponge bath. Water and bubbles overflowed everywhere onto the counter and the carpet and the floor but the experience was incredible. Real soap, clean warm water, nothing to worry about. After I was done washing myself I picked up my clothes off the floor and dunked them in the remainder of the water. I washed my clothes as best as I could before letting it dry on top of the back of the chairs and finally dunking my boots in the water. I was scrubbing with sponges and towels, still wearing nothing, when I heard the door slam behind me.

“What in the world are you doing?!” Robin’s voice was shocked.

I was standing in his kitchen completely naked, with all my clothes wet except my Pennington’s hoodie concealing a handgun folded on top of the kitchen table. For a fraction of a second I searched my mind for something to say but the only thing I could think of was GET THE HOODIE BEFORE HE FINDS THE GUN! So that’s what I did. I bolted for the kitchen table and grabbed my hoodie in a fury before he could make a move. I put it on as fast as I could and put my hand in my right pocket. My gun was still there. Robin Crowley hadn’t moved a single muscle. It was nothing but my paranoia of failing my mission settling in. Robin was not out to get me.

“Come here I’ll get you something decent to wear.”

I followed him into his bedroom where he pulled out the first shirt and underwear he found in his drawers and handed me the clothes.

“I’ll properly wash yours,” he said softly, seemingly taking pity on me, “you can wear this in the meantime.”

You know, the way I wash my clothes does just fine Mr. Crowley.

“Thank you,” I blandly whispered in return as I sat down on his bed and put on the clothes.

The white briefs were enormous but I managed to make them stay. The shirt was more like a dress too but it was definitely more decent than being naked. I buttoned up the brown shirt and looked at myself in the mirror behind the closed bedroom door. I didn’t look all that awful. My hair was decent and the clothes, well, they were Robin’s clothes. I dug up some socks from the bottom drawer of his dresser and put them on and unrolled them all the way up to my knees. Next up I looked through the closet for a hat and some sunglasses and paraded for myself in front of the mirror. I dug through some more clothes and switched up my outfit again once my little parading around was over and I started again. I eventually ended up with a camouflage coat and an NYPD hat so I took out my handgun and pointed it at the mirror. I looked pretty badass.

“This is it,” I whispered to myself, “the apocalypse.”

Afterwards I took off all the clothes and tried to put it back where I took it and put back on the original clothes Robin had given me to wear. I grinned at myself in the mirror one last time and for the first time since I had set out on my mission things weren’t so bad. I had fun playing dress up, like teenage kids are supposed to.

“Mr. Crowley, are my clothes dry?” I asked as I walked into the living room where he was sitting, “I should get going soon.”
“I’ve just put them in a dryer love,” he replied gently, “but you know you don’t have to go! At least have a bite to eat and spend the night! Tomorrow before work I’ll bring you to the train station if you want.”

I contemplated his offer for a moment. After all I did need to get to Washington Heights. But more importantly, where the hell was I anyway?”

“Uh, yeah, sure,” I mumbled out, “and by the way, which city is this?”
“We are in Pigeon Creek, New York, dear. The municipality has been amalgamated with Croton-On-Hudson so if you need something we’ll have to take a little ten-minute drive to the downtown.”
“How far is Croton-On-Hudson from Cobalt?”
“Half an hour by car I’d imagine. Is that where you need to go?”
“Oh God! I’ve been out here for days and I’ve only made it to here?! But no, I need to get to Washington Heights.”
“I’ll take you there no problem dear.”

I agreed to Robin’s proposition and we made arrangements to get me to Washington Heights first thing after breakfast in the morning. In the meantime, Robin took me downtown Croton-On-Hudson to buy me some new clothes since he said that mine were rags. Yes, I had had them for years, probably most of my life, and they were quite torn but they were still very much wearable. I wore them to the store and some people looked in my direction in disgust since Croton and Pigeon Creek were mostly upper-middle class communities without people like me. People looked at me like I was either an alien that landed from another planet or a domestic terrorist looking to hijack a shopping mall. But all of that crap didn’t stop Robin Crowley and I from going on a little shopping trip.

“Here, I’ll give this to you while it’s on my mind,” Robin told me as he handed me a twenty dollar bill, “in case Washington Heights doesn’t pan out and you need to come back.”
“Thank you Mr. Crowley,” I replied apathetically, “but once I get to Washington Heights I will not be coming back.”

I skipped the part regarding why that was.

“Ready to do some shopping?”
“Rock and roll!”

The two of us started by visiting a few downtown shops selling your average clothes. Not the thrift store but not the Queen of England’s wardrobe either. Robin pressured me to buy myself at least two complete outfits but I hadn’t shopped for clothes in such a long time that I didn’t even know what I was supposed to look at in the shops. So I started by checking out the price tag on a black windbreaker but it indicated $130 so I moved on to looking at something else.

“Did you like that jacket Anastasia?” Robin asked as he trailed behind me.
“I don’t like the price tag,” I replied in a neutral tone, “that’s all.”
“Come on! I’ll buy it for you anyway. That’s why I brought you here didn’t I?”
“Mr. Crowley, I didn’t agree to this to ruin you.”
“I have more than I could ever need. It’s you and me now, come on, bring the coat.”

He twisted my arm and finally I just grabbed the jacket and lugged it around over my shoulder as I looked at the other clothing in the store. Robin went on and on about how the cold weather would soon be moving in and I should pick out a hat for myself and some new boots and blah blah blah. I nodded my head every time Robin asked if I liked something just to save everyone unnecessary trouble. There was a part of me that felt guilty to just let a complete stranger spend money on me without having anything but a bullet to give in return. I stuck my hand in my pocket and ran my fingers over my gun. I needed to find a way to Washington Heights before the morning because the weight of the situation was really starting to fall over my head.

“Let’s head to the mall a little further downtown for some shoes?” Mr. Crowley glanced at me in approval as he gave his credit card to the clerk in order to pay for my clothes.
“Yeah,” I replied looking in another direction, “sure.”

The two of us walked two blocks to a small strip mall with a bunch of women’s fashion stores and outlets. It wasn’t really my style but I went anyway. What did I have to lose? There was no other way I was going to get that kind of clothes otherwise!

“Shoe store first.” I muttered to Robin as he walked up to the front of the mall.

He nodded at me and we walked in to a small shoe shop where they sold almost every kind of shoe imaginable as well as making custom footwear for people with fat wallets. I spent most of my time glancing out the window instead of looking at the actual shoes. My boots were fine. And I wanted out of Croton-On-Hudson.

“I have to go to the bathroom.” I told Robin as he was chatting with the clerk, looking for a particular kind of footwear for himself.
“Just over here,” the young woman pointed to a door near the front entrance of the store.

I looked up and saw a washroom sign so I walked in that direction with some bags of clothes from previous stores under my arm. Robin had the rest but I had to make a run for it right now. There could be no waiting around or making plans to get the rest of the clothes and then run off. The time is now. So I slipped out of the front doors and made a run for it down the street, just hoping and praying that Robin hadn’t seen me. I knew that it would take some nine and a half hours to get from Croton to where I needed to go but in spite of time, the weather and my own body not being on my side, I started walking anyway. I did my best to stay out of the downtown areas of places I passed through just in case Robin was somewhere behind me wanting to pick me up off the streets again. The only thing I regretted when I ran for it was not having been able to properly thank him for everything he had done for me.

Keep it together Ana. Dammit keep it together!

After some three hours of walking I made it to Millwood and took a bus to Hawthorne. I hopped on without paying and jump off paying even less. I grinned at what I had done in delight. I then walked the remaining three hours to Lennie’s loft in Cobalt. Robin hadn’t come after me. Nobody had. But Lennie was quite surprised and alarmed to see me on his doorstep after having been gone for nearly two weeks.

“What are you doing here?!” the old man asked when he saw me on the other side of the door.
“Can I crash for the night?” I asked in shame and embarrassment, “I need to get to Washington Heights in the morning.”
“Where the hell have you been? Eddie said you just bolted one day and nobody ever saw you again!”
“Yeah, that’s kind of what happened. I got angry and I went on a really long walk.”
“Well thank goodness you’re alright! Come on in!”

So I walked into his loft and nothing had changed except that there was more dust than there had been two weeks ago. The boys were not in the house. It was just me and Cap’n Crunch.

“We were staring to think you were dead out there, kid.” Lennie’s throat appeared to be clogged up as usual.
“It’ll take a lot more than that to kill me!” I snapped back, “Will the boys be back tonight?”
“Nope, I’m not expecting to see them tonight but I can take you to them down in Bronx though.”
“Nah, I don’t want to see them. I need to get to Washington Heights.”
“Can you wait until the morning? Take the train! At least sleep in a real bed tonight!”

Cap’n Crunch twisted my arm and I eventually agreed to stay for the night. As I laid in bed that night it came to me that I hadn’t gotten any farther in the day than I would have if I had just stayed with Robin Crowley. I could have easily gotten on some form of public transportation instead of stopping by the loft but I was hungry and tired and at the end of the day sleeping in the cheap bed I usually got at the loft was probably the best thing I could have landed in. I slept about five hours, a quiet and dreamless sleep, before I grabbed a few snack bars and shoved them in my pockets before I barged out the door. I had on some of the new clothes Robin had gotten for me with the rest plus my old clothes in a blue backpack. Despite Robin’s words echoing in the back of my mind, I still wore my old Pennington’s hoodie. After all, it was the hoodie that carried my murder weapon, I kind of needed it. I tried to be as quiet as possible when walking out the door so I wouldn’t wake up Lennie but he heard me anyway.

“Take the money under the sink for the bus!” Lennie had heard me anyway.
“Thanks man!” I shouted as the door slammed behind me.

That was the last time I heard the old man’s voice.

Posted in Books & Stories

The Distant Factory — Chapter Ten

At Jeff’s makeshift funeral nobody had had enough money to buy him a real casket, so they put his body in a cardboard box. Not just some cheap wooden box, a real cardboard box like the ones you get when you buy a fridge. It was taped up with silver duct tape so nobody could see inside where the box had previously been cut up to liberate whatever fancy appliance was once in there. It didn’t even seem real to me that it was my brother in that box, just lying there dead in a cheap box on top of a frame of metal pickets behind a run-down church that had long gone bankrupt because we had nothing else. The preacher man or whoever that man of God was that used to run the place still lived in the area and offered to have Jeff’s body cremated at no cost to us. Randy gave himself permission to speak for my brother and allowed the old white-haired man to take my brother’s body away, not knowing what he was really going to do with it.

“Jeffrey! Jeffrey!” I screamed out crying furiously as the preacher man was given my brother’s body to be taken away.

Eddie and Richard pinned me down to the ground because I was freaking out and completely losing it. I screamed at the top of my lungs to no avail. I cried but there was nobody to dry my tears anymore. I hadn’t even gotten a chance to say a proper goodbye to my brother.

“Calm down! Just please calm down,” Eddie’s exasperated voice begged me as I finally finished my fit of rage and grief, “we’ll get him back, I promise you Ana.”
“You don’t know jack shit!” I snapped back.

We did get my brother back. A day or so later the man came back with a clear bag of grey dust, my brother’s ashes. Ricardo literally dragged me out of Cap’n Crunch’s loft back to the vacant church to say goodbye again to a bag of ashes that was put in another cardboard box. In the middle of my fistfight with Ritchie, Eddie arrived and gave me the medallion in Jeff’s ashes. I put it on a chain and wore it around my neck ever since that day. Since nobody had a safe enough place to keep my dear brother’s ashes, the municipality buried him along with a series of other bodies in plots that a local charity paid for. I knew it was going to be a cheap burial, but I didn’t have the heart to be there when he was put into the ground so I stayed home and clutched my new necklace.

Posted in Books & Stories

The Distant Factory — Chapter Nine

It’s a long and lonely road when you know you have to walk alone. Where are you Jeff? Where did you go? Does your soul even still exist? Is heaven for real? All that stuff Byron tells me about eternal paradise and being repaid according to what you’ve done. Justice will be served here in the physical because I am here and I exist. I exist and my own existence is a mystery even to me. I don’t think the same way others do. They take life at face value but I don’t. I look beyond, I seek the meaning, the soul. Why can’t they be more like me? Why can’t they understand that the struggle alone is just too much?

I look up at the stars at night, they are like satellites watching over me. All my thoughts come out of their den when the shadows fade. Maybe if I could fall asleep somewhere and see you again Jeff, maybe we could meet somewhere in my dreams. You’d be here and I’d be there and together we could go somewhere. I feel like I’m lost out here, like the stars in the sky at night just floating around in the atmosphere. Oh God, how I wish you could be my satellite. Come here and be the light that will guide me through the darkness. The guilt just shames me more. All the things that I try to hide are so much more obvious when it’s not my own life. People are jealous because they see in me what they couldn’t achieve. I will not be backing down this time. There is no forgiveness, or letting go, or letting God. If you’re somewhere out there, I am calling out to you. Can you hear me now? They will hear me after this.

I remember that day that everything changed. I’m losing sight of reality and I’m losing the fight to still walk in a straight line. But what the fuck is straight in life anyway? I remember when something died inside of me. My heart? My conscience? And the world thinks that I have a problem now? They’ve got another thing coming! I don’t walk around in blind obedience to life at face value. I walk around these streets with no hope with my eyes open just to remind myself that I can never let the memory fade away. Memories are trivial as they fade away and they can never be immortalized as the even the conscience will fade away along with whatever we preserved of our dear memories. And soon again we will all die and in a century there won’t even be a memory of us. The stories will not have been passed down through the ages. If it’s true what they say about the afterlife, it better be a nice freaking place.

If I die tomorrow, will there be anyone here to remember me? Do memories really go on until the end? Where does time begin and where does it end? I am so done with these endeavors. Meaningless. It’s over. No longer. I will live to fight another day until I too fade away. But that’s not enough. It never ends. Time is an endless waiting and in it it’s so easy to fall apart completely. A concrete pillow, a man with no home. And I’m just supposed to get down on my knees and pretend that all the invisible people in the sky can mean something to me? There ain’t no God on these streets! We’ve become desolate and hopeless, not that there was ever anything for us here in the first place. What is a battle without a cause? A bullet without a gun? Without you I can’t bear to face the truth.

All I have is one last chance. I will not turn my back on you Jeffrey. Maybe I can’t preserve what’s left of you but there’s nothing left to lose. I will do this for you. You left me but I will never leave you. An endless waiting passes me by but I’ve never left your side. In another place in another time I will see you again. My days begin and end with you. I wish I could forget and I wish I could forgive but it won’t change the bottom line. I am here. With you. The end.

It rained for days on end and there was no seeing the sunshine since I can’t remember when. The people in the streets went about pretending like it was a day like any other. Their same faces looking like plaster, if they cracked a smile the whole face would fall apart. I wished I had my incredibly expensive stolen stray cat to cuddle with but it had probably been sold off to some Chinese restaurant to be cooked as expensive stew. At times my thoughts raced back to Eddie or even Jeff, but I didn’t bother thinking too much about them since it wasn’t healthy for me. It didn’t feed my hatred. Thinking about them just made me want them back, yet it was for that very reason that I had set out on my mission. I was going to take back what was rightfully mine. The question was just how I was going to accomplish that. The days were long and the nights were cold. My stomach grumbled hungrily as I went on walking for days on end without a single bite to eat. I just wasn’t hungry. I was weak but that didn’t matter because I was a soldier. No matter where I seemed to walk all the buildings seemed to be the same. Only the faces in them changed.

I don’t know where I’m going, but I know where I want to go. God help me, I’ve come undone. The road is only long where you’re missing home. Wherever I go, I arrive with nothing to show. I see all of these mindless people with smiles plastered across their faces like nothing else but the present moment matters. It’s apparent who has never had to face a hard day in their life. We hold our hands up to blind the sun because only the light is to blame for what we’ve done. This isn’t the world I know. These thoughts are not mine, but belonging to someone I don’t know. When I’m in my human form knowing too well what I’m about to do, everything has a glint of triviality to it. There are no glimmers of hope that shine in these eyes. Just what I think and what I know. But then again what’s the truth in anything when all you know is said to be a lie?

If I could turn back the hands of time, I would change the entire course of history tonight. If only I could be granted a second chance, whatever it is that was done wrong would be made right. There would be no more tears, no more pain, no more nightmares and no more shattered dreams. Life would not be the absolute zero it is. Is there really such a thing as anything? Or only what we perceive it to be? Only what others tell us it is? So many people have told me to walk away, but what I never told them is that I’ve been walking my whole life. I’m in this world all alone and I realize that it’s always been that way, and it’s always going to be that way. I wish Jeff could still hold my hand through the storm but I know better than to think that way. Now it’s a little too late.

Byron says that there is a time for everything. A time to laugh and a time to cry. A time for joy and a time for tears. A time to live and a time to die. A time to stay in the shadows and a time to step out. A time to walk in a straight line and a time to take a calculated risk. He says that God’s hand is at work in everything in its due time. Well it looks like I haven’t only been walking my whole life. If what Byron says is true, I’m going to burn for eternity in the lit coals of hell; the same place I am going to send Dwayne Jackson for what he did to my brother.

The roads twisted and the roads turned, they went downhill and uphill. They wrapped around bodies of water and then there were some with fences right in the middle of them. I always managed to crawl underneath the fences of the gated neighborhoods to go do my creeping business. Nothing in life was foolproof or homlessbumproof for that matter. The fancy Mercedes and the Jaguars sped right passed me and didn’t give me a second look. The cars and their paint jobs changed but the road seemed so eternal and without end. Finally I arrived to a place where the water met the land. I went around searching to see if I could find Jeff’s footprints in the sand but his soul hadn’t washed up on shore. I was never going to see him again. That very same day, whichever day that was, my hunger became unbearable. How long had it really been? To me, time meant nothing more than counting down to the day Jeffrey was murdered. And even I couldn’t see straight as to when that was exactly.

I must have been still in Yonkers because there were plenty of beautifully preserved parks. The suburbs were quiet and the buildings awfully reminded me of Eddie’s shack. For a moment I wondered where he was staying at. I shook the thought out of my head as I looked up and saw the sun peaking through the puffy white clouds. Oddly enough the rays of bright yellow sunlight illuminated only me and where I was standing, everything else was still dark. I wanted to break down crying but I put my hand in my pocket and touched my gun. The bullet in the chamber was still in there patiently waiting for something that I didn’t know would even be coming. So I kept walking. A neighborhood filled with nothing but government housing was up ahead. It brutally reminded me of Florida and my mom. We lived in one almost exactly like that. The light brown brick was exactly the same. The only difference was that we had lived in a duplex, the ones up ahead were all glued together like a puzzle gone bad.

I decided that it was time for a bite to eat, and one of the low-income housing apartments was going to be my restaurant. I walked quietly, minding my own business, down the mostly quiet street with only a couple of young kids playing around all the way to a lonely field behind the houses. A small body of water was the only thing back there. I couldn’t see the bottom of the pond but I figured that it wasn’t all that deep. I contemplated taking a bath for a while but I was too hungry and the place was probably not going to stay quiet for very long. And so I walked back to the other side of the field up to the backyard fences of the cheap government houses. They were quite tall, all made of the same dark wood, but they weren’t tall enough to keep me out of the yards.

I climbed the fence of one of the houses, not knowing what I was going to find on the other side, and came crashing down in the green overgrown grass in the backyard. There didn’t seem to be anyone home, but I could hear some people conversing and children playing in nearby yards. I couldn’t see because the fence was too high but I could tell that they were close by. Underneath the kitchen window of the house there was a big plastic garbage bin, giving me access to the window which was quite high as well. I did my best to quietly mount the trashcan without falling off or causing some sort of distraction that would make the neighbors notice me. From up there I could see two yards away, there was a young couple outside with a child playing in the yard. On the other side there was only a dog lazily sleeping outside in the sunlight. I was safe and undetected for the moment.

The window didn’t appear to be locked so I put both hands on it and began sliding slowly. The window gently glided along with my hands until there was a crack big enough for me to enter the premises. I put one foot inside and then pulled the rest of my body through the window and successfully onto the kitchen counter inside. The place was almost exactly like ours on the inside. The same old off-white paint so darn old that it was beginning to peel off the walls. The beige doors were just like the ones I used to have, only the living room was arranged differently. Instead of being merged with the kitchen, it was crammed in the corner of the place in front of the staircase to go upstairs. Our place didn’t have a second floor, only an ugly unfinished basement. When I was little I was always afraid that the monsters who lived in it would one day come up to get me. They never did, because I was the monster.

I opened up the door of a big stainless steel fridge and immediately saw some cheese so I took the slab of cheddar and devoured it whole right then and there. I sat in front of the fridge with the door resting against my shoulder and pigged out in whatever I could find that was to my liking. There was some spicy Italian lunch meat, some chocolate milk, ice cream in the freezer, as well as a half-eaten chocolate bar on the coffee table in the living room. For a while I laid down on the couch to let my food digest before continuing my journey and eventually fell asleep entirely. It was much more comfortable than sleeping under bridges or under patios and other odd places that were shielded from the frigid nightly winds, that was indisputable. I only awoke when I heard somebody inserting keys into the lock of the front door. I got up in a jiffy and tarted back out through the open kitchen windows.

Jumping out I underestimated how high the window really was from the ground and I landed on my face again basically. I quickly recovered and kept running like a mad person all the way to the end of the yard that was quite big for the kind of house it was and jumped back over the fence, only to land on my face again. At that point I had no idea if anyone had seen or heard anything so I ran towards the little pond and jumped in it once and for all. It was only about four feet deep or so, shallow enough for me to walk in it with my head sticking out well above the surface of the water. For a short moment I regretted not taking a shower or a bath in the house and maybe getting a new pair of clothing if I could find something that fit me nicely. Since it didn’t seem like anyone was coming for me, I kept walking.

Dreams come slow and they go so fast. I still see him in my dreams sometimes, maybe one day I’ll come to understand why. Never to touch and never to reach. Whoever said this pain would ever go away obviously didn’t know what it meant to be here without you. Somewhere far beyond this world, I will feel nothing anymore. I will come again to join you, and nothing will ever be able to separate us from the eternal bliss that we deserve. We all make ourselves believe that we’re going far. But in reality, are we even going anywhere? Progress is nothing but an illusion and in the end it doesn’t even matter. Things aren’t the way they were before. Once upon a time there seemed to be something called hope going around in the lives of people. What happened? It’s like I woke up from a century-long sleep one day and this is all I came to find in life. There’s honestly gotta be something more to life than this! There’s gotta be something more to everything that we know exists! What about the unknown? Things unseen? There’s no telling what those could be, and that’s probably makes them so damn scary.

Somewhere along the beaten path there was a lonely industrial railroad leading to somewhere different than where I was at. I figured that I must have gotten myself all the way back to Cobalt by then, like I had only kept on going round and round in circles the whole time, not looking for anything in particular, just telling myself that I was a soldier on a mission to keep myself from going completely crazy. As I walked by myself through a wooded area surrounding the railroad I couldn’t help but wish that a wild animal would find me have a good lunch. But then again I would probably only have ended up pulling out my gun and shooting it, making a lunch for myself and whatever else lurked out there in between the trees where I couldn’t see.

I walked all the way up to a clearing, and past it, the site of some new construction project. There wasn’t anybody on site working, there wasn’t anybody around whatsoever. I began feeling lethargic at that point in time. It’s not like I hadn’t been weak, famished and sleep-deprived before that point, but somehow it was different. I hadn’t seen familiar civilization or even actual people in what seemed to be the longest time. I had only seen zombies programmed to do what they were told walking around in the streets with emotionless faces. I felt a complete separation from my own existence. Only my unspoken thoughts and bittersweet fantasies accompanied me on my journey. The voices in my head they didn’t even talk to me. They didn’t even tell me to lay down on the railroad and wait for the train to come rolling around the bend, I did that all on my own.

Maybe, just maybe that bullet in the gun is meant for me. Maybe I am not supposed to be here either. Maybe this is nothing but a sick and twisted fantasy. There is nothing more to lose, and nothing more to be gained. All has already been said and done. There is nothing here left for me to do. You don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it all over again. I will find the enemy within and I will end right where I began. I hate feeling this way, all my days feel the same. Yesterday was proof that tomorrow will too. How long had I really been gone? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? A lifetime maybe? My clothes are dirty, the water is cold, the clouds loom over me, and the train still hasn’t arrived. So what am I waiting for? And then I woke up to the truth one day. And I went walking away to some place where nobody is ever going to find me.

I came to realize that the train wouldn’t be coming because there wasn’t a train at all. The railroad hadn’t been finished. The place wasn’t a construction site in development, it was one that had been shut down years ago. By Dwayne Jackson. I was completely alone in my desolation. The half-finished buildings didn’t even dare to loom over me. They stood their distance and didn’t approach. I didn’t look at them as I passed by because I was afraid to catch a glimpse of a choice that I had made long ago. I knew at that point that I had no choice other than to kill the motherfucker because the memories would simply never fade away.

My focus shall not fail. My soul will prevail and I shall not despair. The memory is here to remind me. I remember that day that everything changed. It never fades away. I never want it to fall away from me. I don’t know how I got this way. I know that I’ll never be alright. Not until this over. If it ever ends. Pain is limitless. You cannot measure it or contain it. You can only choose how you’re going to deal with whatever results of it. What goes up must come down. I wish that someone could be here to save me when I hit the ground. I never pictured life like this, with no shooting stars to grant my wishes. This is not the way life is supposed to be, somewhere along the way I must have gotten caught up somewhere in between. Sometimes I just take things way too far. I am going to do this. I am going to overcome this. But there are moments that I find myself not feeling so strong. The struggle alone is just too much. When I’m dead they’ll know just who I am.

The railway was a road to nowhere. But I kept on walking where the trees had been cut down for the train to pass through. I could hear water flowing somewhere nearby but I couldn’t see it. I sure could have used a drink. I could barely see the sky through the overgrown trees as I stepped off the path and went looking for the source of flowing, delicious, cold water. I thought I could see a clearing up ahead but I couldn’t be sure. The Cobalt Conservation Area? I had never been there, but I knew it was out there somewhere. It hadn’t just disappeared in the three years since Jeff had died. Maybe the fountain of life was flowing there, or maybe it was just sewage water, but whatever it was, I wanted to drink some. No matter how much I walked, the clearing seemed to be just as far as it was before. It was almost like the horizon over the Atlantic, you swim towards it and you’re almost there but you look up ahead and the horizon is just as far away. Where time is an endless waiting, you never get to where you’re going.

With my luck I fell face first into an empty ditch. There was no water, not even some mud for me to land in. Thankfully the ditch wasn’t very deep, I got out easily and climbed up onto the other side. There were only a few leafy trees and when I got to the other side I didn’t find the Cobalt Conservation Area. Instead I found the Cobalt Cemetery, that’s where my brother was buried. I had never dared to venture there. I didn’t even know where his grave was! The graveyard wasn’t very big so I figured that it wouldn’t be too hard to find but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go there. I wasn’t sure if I was ready, or able at all, to face my inner demons and pay my respects to my brother who had given his life to save mine. I owed it to him to get down on my knees and mourn for a few minutes. It was enough as it was with the fact that I had never even gone to see his grave once after he was buried. I had had enough of the funeral. It would have been too much for me to see him be buried in a cardboard box. He had gotten the burial of a dog.

Posted in Books & Stories

The Distant Factory — Chapter Eight

“Can’t we just go back to your loft?” I asked Eddie, “Please?”
“You mean my abandoned shack with only one half-decent room?” his voice was emotionless, “Sure, let’s go.”
“Yay! You’re the best!”
“Don’t you ever forget it.”

When the intersection to head towards the boonies came up ahead I made a sharp turn, Eddie muttered some swear words under his breath, but he followed me faithfully. The sun came out through a small patch of clouds and warmed my skin. For a moment I missed my cat. When moments like that struck me I put my hand in my pocket and stroked the handgrip of my newly acquired pistol. Giving up the cat was worth it. It couldn’t be all for nothing. I was a soldier on a mission, and I couldn’t let soft moments get the best of me. All that was left to figure out was how I was going to get to Dwayne Jackson and teach him a lesson about what family meant to me.

“What are you thinking about?” Eddie asked me as he faithfully walked beside me, still in his green coveralls and the rest of his usual outfit.
“Oh, just pondering life and death.” I muttered in an absent-minded tone of voice not really wanting to tell him that I was plotting murder.

Eddie and I pondered together up until we made it back to his shack in East Yonkers. The red brick building never looked any better. It was crumbling more and more with each passing day. Sometimes floorboards randomly gave out and went crashing down into the basement in the middle of the night. If the city knew that people were living in there (which they probably did actually) they’d put a fence around the place with a big yellow and black no trespassing sign. That place was my home. Nobody could take it away from me. As awful as it was in there, it was my favorite place to be because only good memories were made in that tiny storage room on the second floor. No blood, no hate, no nightmares. It was the only real refuge I had.

“Wanna attempt the metal door?” Eddie joked well knowing that it was too heavy for me to open, “If one day we ain’t around you’ll have to find a way in.”
“I can always climb through a window, this building doesn’t have much left you know,” I joked in return, “but let’s see what this big ass door is made of!”

I grabbed the doorknob, turned it, and started pulling with all of my might, not that I had too much of it in the first place. I managed to get the door open a few inches, just wide enough for me to stick my hands inside in order to get more leverage and pull some more. I had no idea what kind of person would need such an enormous metal door for a fancy apartment building. What were they so afraid of? What needed to stay outside at all costs? Cannibals? Werewolves? The Ku Klux Klan? Catholic nuns? Jehovah’s Witnesses? Why the big metal door and cheap windows that could easily be punched through? But then again, what in life ever made sense anyway? The place was my home and I did manage to open the big metal door.
“Okay, you can go in now!” I muttered through clenched teeth and it took me everything to keep the door open long enough and just wide enough for skinny little Eddie DeSalvo to fit inside.

I then jumped in myself and let the door slam loudly behind me. It made a huge crashing sound and the entire building shook and resonated in response. For a moment I thought the whole thing was going to crumble to the ground but the other thing that happened was glass breaking on the second floor.

“That’s not good!” I laughed in defiance at the fact that I had successfully opened the door and let myself in without any help.
“I just hope that wasn’t my bedroom window,” Eddie muttered, “I really can’t afford to board up that one right now! It’s all I have!”

We both raced up the skimpy spiral staircase up to Eddie’s room, being careful that the staircase wouldn’t give out underneath it because apparently the slamming door had managed to break a window. Sure enough when we barged through the door of Eddie’s closet, the window was shattered and parts of it were lying on his makeshift bed. The hole in the window was big enough for me to stick my head through it and look down into the streets below, where I saw that more pieces of broken glass were lying on the sidewalk. I didn’t feel so defiant anymore. There were no other livable rooms in the entire building and living in the basement was not an option because the building might as well fall on top of us at any moment.

“I’m sorry man,” I sincerely apologized to Eddie, “I really am.”
“Hey Drifter, it’s not your fault,” Eddie reassured me by giving me a pat on the back, “you’re not the one who broke that window.”
“Well, I am the one who slammed the door like that in order to get the window broken.”
“So what? It’s not your fault that this happened. It was not your intentions, no worries.”

I cleared the bed of broken glass before I let myself flop down on the mattress and looked at the ceiling feeling guilty no matter what Eddie told me. I wasn’t one to usually feel guilt, but I was straight with people. I was fair to the ones who were fair to me, and what happened was unfair.

“What are we going to do?” I asked Eddie after a long moment of silence, “I really don’t want to move out of here or have to board up the window.”
“It’s gonna get hella cold if we don’t board up the window Drifter.” Eddie replied in a calm pensive voice, “But I don’t want to have to leave this place either. It’s like my own private sanctuary away from everyone.”
“We’ll figure something out,” I promised him, “we always have.”
“Yes,” he affirmed in a soft voice, “we always have.”

Eddie and I went out to a homeless shelter for some food and an extra blanket to spend the night. No matter how hot it was during the day, it was always chilly at night in an old half-insulated abandoned building like that. It was windy near the waterfront and not having a window to cut it out even just a little bit wouldn’t be anything pleasant at night or during any time of the day as a matter of fact. So that night Eddie and I bundled up tightly together, hoping and praying that it wouldn’t get too cold, that the warm weather would stay at least for another few days until we found a way to fix the situation. I could hear the wind whistling angrily outside but thankfully the bed was right below the window, sparing us from direct contact with the chilly breeze. The room was still considerably colder with the broken window but it was manageable until the morning arrived and the sun rose yet another day.

It was quiet, almost like the moments after a murder. I sat adjacent to the bed under the broken desk shoved in the dirtiest corner of the room. The rays of sunlight had just started piercing through the broken window and illuminating patterns on the wall. The city was just starting to wake up, I could already hear crews arriving at the docks down below and some more humming of engines in the distance. I held out my brand new weapon into the morning sunlight and admired it, but most of all I admired what I was going to do with it. It was a beautiful gun, handily fit into the enormous pockets of my enormous hoodie. Nobody would ever have to know! I had no problem giving a couple of years of my life to get that bastard back for what he did to my brother. Only, someone had already found out.

“Where in the world did you get that?!” Eddie’s voice was more than surprised.

I hadn’t even noticed that Eddie was awake. It was too late to put the gun back in my pocket and deny that I had such a thing. I easily could have stolen a gun from Cap’n Crunch’s hideout but a missing weapon would have been too obvious. I wanted my own, mine and mine alone, mine to do what I wanted with it and the only person responsible for it was me. I hadn’t stolen it, I had paid for it myself. The money might have dishonestly been gained but I still hadn’t stolen the gun.

“This is what I got in exchange for the junk I pawned off.” I blandly replied, already knowing what he was going to tell me in response.
“Why didn’t you just tell me you wanted a handgun for protection?” Eddie’s voice was sympathetic.

I wasn’t expecting that.

“I don’t know Eddie,” I whispered softly, almost ashamed of myself, “I haven’t quite been feeling like myself lately.”

Part of me almost cracked up laughing at Eddie’s naivety but I had to refrain from grinning too much because I knew too well that he was a very smart man and a very accomplished criminal.

“Or is that to kill Dwayne Jackson?”
“A little of both I guess.”

Eddie got up off his bed and squeezed himself underneath the table and took me into his arms. I motioned to shove the gun back in my pocket but Eddie grabbed it instead and the two of us were in a dangerous tug-of-war for a loaded weapon.

“Eddie it’s loaded!” I shouted for him to leg go.

He did.

“How dare you bring a loaded weapon into my home?” he was angry, “You can’t possibly be plotting murder for real!”

But I was. And he knew it.

“If you don’t want me to have weapons in your home, I’ll get out of it.” I snapped back at him as I got up to barge out through the door.
“Hey!” he shouted back angrily, “Get back here right now!”

But I was already gone. I barged out through the door with mighty force. I was a soldier on a mission and I was not going to be stopped, not even by Eddie. The huge door slammed behind me but I didn’t hear glass breaking, I guess it had already been all broken a long time ago by that point. The Ku Klux Klan and the Catholic nuns could enter the building, all that was left to fall off was the big metal door and the rest of the roof. I didn’t look back when I barged out into the street. There was no turning back. I had already crossed that line and there was no turning back. So I started walking.

Dwayne Jackson, I am coming for you and you will never know what hit you.

Posted in Books & Stories

The Distant Factory — Chapter Seven

A car was coming at high speed in the distance. I couldn’t quite see it because there was a big cloud of dust floating in the air but down the deserted dirt road there seemed to be a black vehicle coming towards the factory. I leaned on the side of the building and stuck my head out through the broken window to get a better view. There were no more windows, all of the glass had long since been broken, not that there were many windows on an industrial factory to begin with. I saw what seemed like a fancy city campaign car racing towards the factory passed the old containers and the barriers from one side of the property and the gang in the middle of some sort of commotion on the other side. I didn’t know what was going on almost four floors below me on the ground but it appeared to be intense with a lot of yelling and people running around.

Jeff was running towards the factory with his arms up in the air trying to signal me something but I couldn’t see what he was pointing to. I looked to the other side of the lot to see where Jeff was pointing to but there was nothing but a few trees and bushes near the river bank and some civilization far away in the distance on the other side of the water. It wasn’t there that Jeff was pointing to so I looked back at him down below. He had almost reached the factory and was waving his arms up and down. Ricardo was running behind him, weapons in hand, and the rest of the bunch were hidden behind a metal crate. Only I could see them from where I was standing, the people in the campaign car couldn’t, but they could see me.

Eddie was beside the orange container the guys were hiding behind and he was waving something at me too. He put his hands over his head seemingly in a motion to take cover but I still didn’t know what all the commotion was about. So okay, maybe some people who worked for the city came by to check out the property to sell it to some land developer or whatever but they weren’t the police, they couldn’t arrest me or anyone of us for trespassing or whatever the hell else we were doing by basically camping out on the vacant lot. We weren’t the only ones who had called that old factory home, the place was littered with graffiti on the inside. You could barely see the old rusted metal walls underneath all the spray paint and whatever else that had been splashed on the walls over the years since the operation had closed down.

Jeff, Ricardo and Eddie were still yelling something at me and eventually Eddie just pointed at the campaign car who had stopped at the foot of the factory. A big fat man stepped out of the car and pointed a gun right at me. I immediately understood what Jeff and Eddie had tried to signal me. Jeff wanted me to run, get out of there, and Eddie wanted me to duck. I threw myself to the ground just in time for the bullet to fly in through the broken window and make a piercing popping noise as it hit the wall across from me. Through all the resonating metal I could hear Ricardo’s voice yelling something and shooting his gun at the people in the city car. I then heard some stomping on the old metals floors down below coming up the stairs. I knew it was Jeff so I ran downstairs towards him. I didn’t know what was going on, but I did know that no matter what it was, he would protect me from it.

I’d gotten up in a panic and went running for the skimpy rusted metal staircase leading down to where the commotion was and about halfway down I encountered Jeff who grabbed me by the hand and pulled me down behind him in a not-so-gentle fashion. Jeff was unusually tense and apprehensive. His usually soft and gentle blue eyes were wild and panicked. He usually kept his cool during situations like those, he was the one to remain calm, like a good criminal he didn’t let the adrenaline get the best of him. He could think, unlike people like Ricardo whose first instinct was to pull out his always-loaded gun safely tucked inside the waistband of his pants and fire until whatever he’s shooting at is dead at his feet. But not that day. An unexplained intensity was present like electricity in the air as gunshots rang out and as my brother dragged me down yet another floor into some sort of industrial semi-basement on a lower level.

“Run!” Jeff commanded me as he gave me a push to propel me forward, “Just run out through that hole in the wall and run towards the river and don’t stop!”

So I ran. I knew how to swim, if it ever came to that I could swim across all the way to New Jersey, or so I liked to make myself believe. I didn’t look back once I darted out of Jeff’s arms, I knew he’d put an end to whatever it was that was going on. I had my eyes fixed on the rectangular hole near the top of the old rusted wall when my foot fell through something and I landed hard on a metal grid in the floor. I let out a scream as I looked down in panic at my foot that had gone through and saw how far down the other floor was, I’d kill myself if I ever went through that.

“Are you okay?!” Jeff’s anxiety-ridden voice shouted and echoed all over the place.
“Yes!” I yelled back as I got up and out of the grid and kept on running.

I safely made it to the other side but I came face to face with another large hole in the floor, one without the grid to walk over. I looked around to go around it but there was debris everywhere and in my state of fright I was afraid that it would be too long to run around it to get to the window. I wouldn’t have time to make it out, plus I’d have to find a way to climb up there in the first place. A person my size couldn’t just jump and make it out safely on the other side.

“Jeff! Jeff!” Ricardo’s alarmed and overly panicked voice kept on shouting to the point where I thought his lungs were going to be ripped open.

In a freak moment of insanity I stopped to look over my shoulder and that’s when I saw the big man from the city car standing only a few dozen feet away pointing his gun at me once again. I had nowhere to run. He was going to kill me. I was over for me.

“Jeff!” I yelled the same way Ricardo did.
“Jump! Jump Ana!” Jeff shouted back as he came running in my direction.

I looked at the huge hole in the floor in front of me. I wasn’t going to jump. I couldn’t. That would be just as good as committing suicide. I had to run. As I was about to lunge in the other direction to get around the hole to get to the window there was a gunshot and Jeff tackled me so we would both practically fall to our deaths down on the completely underground storage floor below. For the few seconds it took for our bodies to hit the ground it felt like floating. It was a disturbing sensation because of the eerie calmness in me present in that moment. In a moment like that your life does not flash before your eyes. There was no peace knowing I was going to die, but there was no fear either. All I could do was stare at the ceiling way up above progressively falling farther and farther away from me. Or actually, I was the one falling away from it. And then everything went black.

I didn’t know how long it took for me to wake up after my body hit the floor, but there were no out-of-body experiences or floating sensations. There was no pain, only darkness and some obstructed light somewhere higher above. I wasn’t in heaven, and I hadn’t gone to hell. That meant one of two things; the afterlife as they like to make you believe was a lie, or I wasn’t dead at all. My eyes rolled around the place for a little while, seeing all sorts of weird shapes like dogs and cats floating around over me. Eventually the shapes manifested themselves to be Eddie, Richard, Freddy and Nick. My head began pounding like a bomb about to blow and I was freezing. There was something very cold underneath me with patches of warmth here and there. As the dogs and cats returned to where they came from it clicked in my brain that I didn’t see Jeff.

“Oh my goodness!” I could hear someone’s voice somewhere around me, “Are you okay Ana?! Are you still with me?”

I don’t know what I muttered, or if I said something in the first place, but a pair of strong arms lifted me up. The ceiling replaced the floor and the cold metal floor was floating everywhere around me. My eyes darted rapidly from side to side finding a mixture of light particles, darkness, and dust floating around in between. There was a staircase somewhere but I had no idea if I was going up or down or if I was going somewhere in the first place. My head flopped over somebody’s shoulder and I saw faces of people I knew but I couldn’t remember who they all were. I managed to close my eyes for a few seconds or a few minutes, just long enough to take a breath and to open them again, only to see my brother’s body covered in blood lying facedown in the basement.