Fiction Friday: Disengagement

The room was a sullen gray with brutal fluorescent light raging down from the high ceiling. Nothing was on the walls except a long mirror on one side of the room. A long black table sat positioned in the room’s center with only two chairs; one on either end. Peter Dominic sat alone, handcuffed with his head in his hands sobbing. As he sulked, trying to remember how the last few hours must have unfolded, a man and a woman entered the room. The woman carried a manila folder. Peter believed this folder contained everything that happened and personal information about him.

“Good evening, Mr. Dominic.” The woman said.

The man who entered the room with her stood behind by the door.

The woman continued.

“My name is Detective Hartley. You know why you’re here so why don’t you tell me what happened.”

“What was her name?” Peter said.

“I’m sorry?”

“The woman I… I killed. What was her name?”

Detective Hartley looked surprised. She looked through the file.

“Her name was Sarah Nicole Morris.”

Peter wiped his eyes.

“Sarah Nicole Morris. Could you tell me about her? What did she do for a living? Did she have a family; children?”

Peter still felt upset about the incident. He was not a killer.

“She was studying at the community college to be a radiologist. She lived in an apartment with her boyfriend, they didn’t have children.”

Peter closed his eyes.

“Please tell the boyfriend I’m sorry.”

Detective Hartley grew impatient.

“If you’re sorry, why did you kill her?”

“I wasn’t trying to kill her. I thought she was someone else; something else.”

“What do you mean something else?”

“I don’t know if what I saw was real or not. I’m not sure if I was being brainwashed or if I was hallucinating but I never wanted to hurt anyone. I never wanted to kill Sarah.”

Peter sobbed and dropped his head back into his hands.

“Mr. Dominic?”

He didn’t respond.

“Mr. Dominic?”

Detective Hartley felt Peter was playing her for a fool. She smacked the table causing Peter to jump.

“Tell me what happened. Why did you kill Sarah Morris?”

Peter wiped the tears off his face and cleared his throat.

“It was an accident. This all started in the morning on my way to work. I had finished eating breakfast and was about to leave.”

***

“Thank you, sweetheart. I need to go now before I’m late.”

Peter kissed his wife as he finished chewing the toast his wife made for him. He was double-checking his briefcase when the phone rang.

His wife answered.

“This is the Dominic’s. Oh! Hello Jason. Peter was about to… I suppose he… all right hold on.”

She covered the receiver with her hand.

“He needs to talk to you.”

“Can’t it wait until I get to the lab?”

Jason had never called him this early.

“He sounds upset. Something could be wrong.”

Peter took the phone from her.

“Yes Jason? What!? No, nothing was unusual last night. Around four in the morning? You’re sure? And it’s already hit? Yes, I’ll meet you at the sight. Okay. See you in about… twenty minutes.”

Peter giggled as he closed his briefcase.

“What is it dear?”

“A meteorite landed last night outside of town. Jason got a call from the lab’s security about all the instruments making loud noises. He’s on his way out to the site now.”

Peter couldn’t contain his enthusiasm.

“That’s wonderful Peter. Take lots of pictures for me.”

She was always supportive of Peter’s interests.

***

“I rushed out the door and drove ten miles over the speed limit all the way to the meteorite. This was something that excited and thrilled me and I was proud to be a part of it all.”

Peter was silent for a long period.

“What kind of music do you think she listened too? What might her hobbies have been?”

Detective Hartley thought the only way to keep Peter talking was to tell him about who Sarah Morris was. She had information in the file but not a great deal. She gestured to her partner to come closer and whispered in his ear. He left the room. The detective continued her questioning with a different approach.

“I will tell you what I can about Ms. Morris, but I need you to continue with your explanation Mr. Dominic.”

“Have you ever killed anyone, Detective?”

“No.”

“Then you don’t understand how it feels to take someone else’s life. It’s sickening, like I may vomit. Please tell me something and I’ll continue.”

Peter said with hopeful eyes. Remorse was the only emotion he could display.

Detective Hartley sighed.

“She was five-nine and brunette with green eyes. She was very healthy and was a life guard volunteer with the YWCA.”

“She sounds like my wife. Tell me more, please?”

“The more information you give me the more I give you.”

Peter took a deep breath.

“When… when I arrived, Jason was taking samples. He was running tests to check for any radiation and magnetism. I couldn’t believe how large the meteorite was…”

An excerpt from “Disengagement” from the short story collection The Morbid Museum.

Fiction Friday: The Demon’s Favor

I first met Mr. Yao at a political rally, although this meeting didn’t occur in the conventional sense. Everyone attended the rally to raise money for street repairs. It didn’t seem like the sort of thing anyone would protest against. But you never know what motivates other people.

Everyone’s cheers and chanting fell. Muffled screams and load pops moved closer to the door. A man with a white beard crashed through the glass doors.

“Everyone run! He’s got a gun!”

Screams filled the room. Only the loud pops from the rifle broke through the screeching and yelling. I hid around a corner with two others. People fell like sacks of potatoes. Blood crawled along the grout between the tiles. Constant screaming. More rifle pops.

The active shooter turned towards me. I closed my eyes with my hands in the air; waiting. The screaming stopped; no noise.

Am I dead?

I waited a moment. Silence. I opened my eyes. Everyone stood frozen in place; like wax figures.

Is this death? Does time stop when you die?

That’s when I met Mr. Yao. He walked up to me while everything else remained motionless.

“Good evening, Mr. Pion. My name is Mr. Yao. I have a proposition for you.”

“What?”

“You see, you are about to get shot. I can stop this from happening. I can save your life.”

“How? What’s happening?”

“As you may or may not have noticed, I have stopped time. I can only hold it for a couple more minutes, so you must make a decision. Would you like to live…”

He pointed at the active shooter.

“…or die?”

“Of course, I want to live!”

“Excellent!”

With a smoky poof, a stack of papers and a pen appeared in Mr. Yao’s hands.

“I need your signature before we can move forward.”

I stared at the contract.

“What’s the catch?”

“Simply this, I do a favor for you today and in return sometime in the future, I will call upon you to do a favor for me.”

“That’s it?”

“That is it. Nothing more and nothing less.”

“What if I don’t do your favor?”

“Then you die like you should have to today.”

He remained calm and cool during the whole conversation. Everything about him looked pleasant except his smile; that wolfish grin.

Is this a lie so he can eat me?

“Time will be starting up soon, Mr. Pion. Sign or do not. It is your choice.”

I walked forward, took the pen, and signed my name.

“Excellent!”

He turned the page.

“And sign here.”

He turned another page.

“Initial here. Initial again. Sign here. Mother’s maiden name. Sign again…”

“Can’t I do this all with one signature?”

“And finally, stab your index finger with the pen and smear the blood on this page.”

“What?”

“I am kidding. That is a terrible joke.”

“What the hell, dude!?”

“Hey, lighten up Mr. Pion. I saved your life. And please do not call me dude.”

With a puff of smoke, he was gone.

“NO!” The shooter said.

The rifle jammed. Police fired their pistols. The shooter dropped to his knees and the rifle fell to his side. He choked on his own blood and fell to the floor.

“The target is down! Move in!”

The shooter looked up at me, struggling for words.

“Your turn.” He said.

***

Seven years passed, and I never thought of that day; a bad dream long forgotten. I lived alone, with my dog Max. I got home one evening excited to see my floppy eared friend.

“Hey Max. I got you a new bone.”

“Hello Mr. Pion.”

“Jesus Christ!”

With a lump in my throat and chest pounding, I grabbed the umbrella next to my door. Max put his head on the floor with his tail wagging in the air ready to play.

“Your jasmine green tea is delicious. And my name is not Jesus.”

“Who are you? How’d you get in my house? How’d you get passed my dog? Why are you sitting in the dark drinking my tea?”

“I am very offended that you do not remember me, Mr. Pion. I only saved your life many years ago from a misguided shooter. But to answer your questions, you may recall my name is Mr. Yao. I come and go as I please and Max is unaware of my presence, and I’m waiting for you to turn the lights on. Allow me.”

He snapped his fingers and the lamp next to him lit up. Max didn’t acknowledge him and acted as if only I stood in the room.

“I apologize; I didn’t recognize you.”

“No harm; no fowl. Do you recall the agreement we made?”

With a poof, a stack of papers appeared in his hands.

“I owe you a favor, don’t I?”

“Excellent memory, Mr. Pion. Yes, it is time to repay that debt. I am afraid you will not commit to what I am going to ask of you. Do keep in mind, by signing this document, you have already agreed to the undertaking. Would you like to review the contract before I continue?”

“I remember the agreement. Let’s get this over with.”

“Very well. Please sit down and enjoy this fabulous tea with me.”

A cup of tea poofed onto the coffee table. I couldn’t help but examine it before taking a sip. The aroma climbed up my nostrils with hot steam almost burning my nose. I burned my tongue and the roof of my mouth. It tasted sweet, as though Mr. Yao knew exactly how much honey I like in my tea. How did he make things appear out of thin air?

“Simply put Mr. Pion, in exchange for your life, you owe me another life. As I have said, you have already agreed to this and backing out now is not an option. We cannot go back in time to when you should have died so you must take a life. You can choose the life, or I can choose for you. I will give you one day to decide. I will return this time tomorrow.”

Poof.

He vanished as quick as he appeared. The cup of tea left with him and Max never noticed things coming and going in my living room. The lump in my throat wouldn’t go down and I felt nauseous. I’d never taken a life.

I couldn’t sleep. Max snored all night on the floor. I felt anxious the next day. Small children even scared me.

“Hey, mister? Bang! Bang!”

“Steven don’t point your toys at people!”

I walked by a movie poster covered with monsters and demons and a big, bold ‘Coming Soon’ on the bottom. Every time someone spoke, I heard something different.

“You gonna kill some people?” 

“What!? What are you talking about?” I said.

“I said, do you have a light?” 

“Oh! No, sorry.”

I avoided everyone the rest of the way home. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I decided not to go through with the contract.

It must have a loophole.

~ An excerpt from “The Demon’s Favor” from the short story collection The Morbid Museum.

Fiction Friday: TG #3

I’ve never finished reading a book. I’ve never finished watching movies or TV shows. I find it all so…boring. How long have I been alive? I don’t count years of life but years of boredom. The trivial things everyone else finds entertaining; it all feels like nonsense to me. Even now, I’m sitting here waiting to meet this, this vigilante. I have a book in my hands but I’m not reading it. I stare at the words and make up things when others ask me about the book. I usually get caught for being wrong, but those who’ll never read the book won’t know who to believe. My supporters will support me.

I’m not interested in this vigilante business, but the Department heads say he causes social backlash and financial hardship. He hasn’t caused any major problems and he’ll eventually get killed trying to save people. The Department heads disagree and think he’ll become a greater threat. I keep telling them if someone could stop me from ruling the richest country in the world, they would have by now. They tell me I’m too arrogant and then I get bored again and ignore them. They think I’m dumb because I play dumb for the public, but they have no idea how smart I am. I’m the smartest man. No one knows how smart I am. People wish they could be as smart as me.

Acting dumb for the public? My publicist’s idea. At first, I liked the idea. It felt like I played a character on TV. Play the fool to win the hearts and minds of the people. They never saw that coming. The cattle. The poor. These disgusting people. If they weren’t needed, I’d get rid of them all. Honestly, there are just too many people. You kill one and ten more pop up. They’re a plague. A disgusting virus on the Earth. I could do it. I mean, I’ll probably have someone else do it, but I could do it if I wanted to. I’m strong enough. And with enough bullets, I can do anything.

I stopped being the fool once I took over the media. They do whatever I say, when I say, and they don’t ask questions. I hate when people question me. They don’t know how smart I am and they’re not smart, so they ask questions to make up for being stupid. No one questions me anymore. If they do, they aren’t around long enough to get an answer. Questions are boring and don’t interest me. When people do as I say, I’m not bored. I like it.

I don’t want to wait this long, but my generals tell me they’re bringing in a specialist to interrogate this vigilante. Part of me has some interest in this. My generals think an extremist group or cult or something funds the vigilante. I never listen to what they say. I’m getting restless just sitting here. I need to do something. Why hasn’t he woken up yet? Doesn’t he know how busy I am? I have things to do and places to be.

Life felt easier in my youth. I didn’t have as much power, but I had more fun. I managed and funded many businesses. I even spent some time working in film and television. I won the election because everyone knew my name and had known it for years. You can’t buy decades of publicity in a few months on a campaign. You can’t buy my kind of celebrity. I enjoyed life more before the celebrity. I could do what I wanted when fewer people had their eyes on me. I participated more in my organization back then. I got my nickname around this time. The Tommy Gun. Ron Teagun. The T-Gun; the Tommy Gun. A lot of people died by my hands and by my guns. I’m proud of this nickname.

They didn’t make those Thompson rifles at the time. When I started out, I had to steal one from a museum. I didn’t think it still worked; I just wanted it. I got hired for this jewel heist when I still had pimples on my face. We got the gems but, as we left, I saw her in a glass case. I had always liked them because they were different from other rifles. I never saw one in person. I didn’t think. I just took it. All the guys laughed at me for grabbing a piece of junk, but I cleaned it up and tested it. It still worked! I used it on every job until I became the boss and sent other guys out on jobs.

I had a new line of rifles made just for my men. All new Thompson rifles. They were popular again and everyone had one, even police departments around the country. I made millions just from weapon sales. I still have my first Thompson in my office at home. I call her Trisha, my most prized possession. I still clean her once a week.

Thompson rifle sales generated good money; legitimate money. I had my first successful business venture. I continued most of the illegal activities. An accountant suggested investing in other companies and businesses. Many of them failed, but I still made a profit. I knew how to work the system and get everything I wanted. Whether the businesses failed or not, I always gained something. My power and influence grew.

I built a name for myself the hard way, from the ground up. I’m smart like that. Not like this vigilante kid. He wants attention; blowing things up so people know his name. He won’t build a career from that. He won’t make money from that. But he does have money. Where did he get it? He needs money for armor and explosives. I doubt he buys anything else. He should buy a hairbrush and deodorant; such a dirty person, unkempt mange of hair. He needs a shave. I can smell him from ten feet away. My generals are threatened by this guy? I’m insulted. I’m better than everyone; especially this guy. They don’t know what they’re talking about. I should have them killed. I’ll kill them some other time. I still have use for them.

This book makes my hands sweaty. Why am I still holding it? This guy clearly has never read a book. He looks homeless. That might be why we can’t find any information on him; no work history, no finger print records. I’ve never met a ghost. He mumbled a name, but my sources have no information on that person either. Someone named Sasha. Perhaps he has Arabic contacts. He doesn’t look like a terrorist and my men don’t think he has any ties, but we’ll learn more once the doctor arrives. I can’t wait to see that.

As exciting as that sounds, nothing compares to holding my Trisha. I love the feel of her cold, black steel in my hands, the fine wood finish of the handles, feeling the curves and mechanisms. They made her in 1926, model M1921AC; so beautiful. Her model inspired the new rifles. They have better manufacturing, but nothing compares to Trisha. My irreplaceable Trisha. I still have her in my hands every day. We haven’t gotten to play in so long. I miss hearing her sing. I would give anything to hear her sing again, but I don’t get my hands dirty anymore. I’ve had no need for that in a long time.

We used to make beautiful music. I remember, years ago before I became a boss, we had to teach a lesson to a rival gang. Not just a lesson for them, but a lesson to anyone who wanted to mess with us. Me and a couple boys went in, but I got to have all the fun. Trish and I serenaded the warehouse with a symphony of gun fire. Continuous, rapid fire, a swarm of bullets; the air filled with smoke as the floor filled with blood and empty shells. I truly felt at peace during those moments. I felt I lived my purpose; my dream.

I’m probably restless and bored so often these days because I miss all the fun. I can’t remember the last time I joined in a firefight. I haven’t directly killed anyone in several years. I always have someone else do it. I always saw beauty in taking someone else’s life. I remember my first bare handed strangulation. Barely twenty years old, I had to take out some nosey police detective for my boss. It felt like poetry in motion. He struggled against me, but my strength overpowered him. I’m the strongest man in the world. I would have used Trisha, but the boss wanted this to be quiet. Every time he struggled, I’d slam his head on the floor with my hands around his neck. Time froze in this moment. I watched as the gleam in his eyes faded away. They became glazed over and dull. After that day, I always stared into the eyes of the lifeless bodies of my enemies. I see beauty in how the body changes.

I’ll be there when the light fades from this vigilante’s eyes. I consider it a guilty pleasure; a treat I give myself for a job well done. I never treat myself anymore. I’m just growing impatient. Where the hell is that doctor? And why hasn’t this guy woken up yet? I don’t think they hit him that hard. Maybe I’ll read a little more of this book.

“Massive genocide, man was crazy, blah, blah, blah.”

Bored again. I’ll just flip through a few pages, so others think I’m progressing. Does anyone read anymore? You can learn everything you need from television. Does anyone watch television? I just want to go home and feel Trisha in my hands and maybe watch a movie; something with explosions. I haven’t been around any good explosions lately.

Finally, the doctor arrives. I’ll start the conversation. I quickly assert my dominance by starting the conversation.

“Hello doctor. I’m looking forward to seeing your work.”

He’s a short, older man with a full head of grey hair. I hate him already. He moves slowly like a turtle; a skinny, wrinkly turtle with no shell. He moves slowly, but with purpose. His real hair is mocking my toupee. No one knows I have a hair piece. Anyone who found out lost their job before they told anyone. He hasn’t said a word. I’ve only heard wheezing noises. I’ll try again.

“I’m told you are the best in your area of study. I only work with the best.”

“You’ve never been around for this kind of interrogation. It is not a business luncheon. Save the small talk. I despise it.” The doctor says.

He speaks with a high shrill voice. He speaks his words carefully and slowly just as he walks. What a strange little man.

“Very well. How long before this pile of stool tells me what we need to know?”

“Most break within four hours. I’ll start when he wakes.” The doctor says.

This immediately makes me impatient. I have things to do. Doesn’t he know how important I am?

“I don’t have time to wait for him to wake. Is there anything you can do?”

The doctor smirks. Now I really hate him.

“I have a sedative I can give him. It will wake him, but I must wait a few minutes to make sure he is fully awake before I begin my work. It would be best if I was left alone. This is tedious work and I don’t like distractions. Shall I prepare the sedative?”

“Yes, please. Do it.”

It feels so painful listening to him speak. A sloth could beat him in a race. He pulls things from his bag one at a time. Just pull it all out, dump it. He mocks me with how slow he moves. I should remember to have him killed once we’re done with him.

“It doesn’t seem like you have enough tools there for an interrogation of this kind.”     

“This is only my medical bag. I have a briefcase outside with all my toys. The sedative will be ready in a moment.” The doctor says.

He putts gloves on. How long does this take? I’ll die of old age before he ever has this stuff ready. He pulls from the bag a needle in plastic wrap, three little bottles of clear liquid, one empty bottle, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and a bag of cotton balls. Why does he need so much for one sedative?

He mixes the three liquids into the empty bottle. No, don’t go back into the bag. It’ll take him twenty minutes to finish this. Why does he have a popsicle stick? Oh, he stirs the liquids. Dear Lord, I’m watching the most boring activity in existence. Now he unwraps the syringe. He fills it with the liquid. How long does this take? I’ll fall asleep before he finishes. Why does he flick the needle with his finger? I’ve never understood why people do that.

Don’t put the needle down! Okay, he putts rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball. Oh, thank Heavens, he picked up the needle. Yes, he walks over. He cleans the neck; almost done. He even puts the needle in super slowly. The needle sits there. Is he done yet?

“Well!?”

“Patience, Mr. Teagun. He’ll awake in about five minutes. I will wait outside until you are ready for me.” The doctor says.

He putts everything back into his medical bag one at a time; even the trash. It feels like time itself has slowed down since he got here. He finally leaves, but this guy still sleeps.

“Mr. Johnson.”

Yes, Mr. Teagun.”

“What’s this guy’s name again?”

“His real name is Brent White. His alias is Al Hafiz; or the Guardian, Sir.”

“Thank you, that’ll be all.”

“Yes, Sir.”

So now I just sit here and wait? I’m bored. I hate everything about this. Did he just moan? He stirs. I better get my book ready. Maybe if I hold it this way. No, I’ll sit like this with the book on my knee. Yeah that looks great.

“Oh! He awakes.”

His brown eyes have a fire behind them. He doesn’t look happy. I will have a lot of fun with this guy.

“You’ve been very busy interrupting all of my good deeds for this country, Mr. White.”

He looks surprised that I know his name. That gives me power.

“Oh, yes we know your real name Brent. May I call you, Brent?”

An excerpt from the novella The Tommy Gun.