Chapter 4

Chapter 4

A Chapter by Kerry Yang

The sun barely skimmed the top of the Evergreen trees as the world slowly stirred to life around Hunter.  He could see his wisps of breath expel into the chill air as he ran up the mountain trail in the early morning.  This was the one time he could truly be himself.  When he ran up to the mountain peak racing only against himself, he could only hear his thoughts and shut out the rest of the world.  He found the trail after moving to Charon when he spotted the towering mountain looming in the skyline and knew he would conquer it.  It became his relief and his salvation: a place to retreat to and recharge himself when things became too hard.  After Grant dropped him off last night, he saw his foster father had company, which usually spelled some kind of trouble, so he grabbed a back pack and hiked to the park, where he broke into a shelter and spent the night. 

            It was the last leg of the well-traveled path and although his muscles ached, he pushed himself the last half-mile and reached the top, which overlooked the entire city.  Close by on adjoining cliffs, kids would drive up at night and park.  You couldn’t beat the view or the intimacy of the place.  Hunter could make out criss-crosses of streets around neighborhoods, the bustling downtown, and the industrial center that regularly pumped smog into the air.  On the other side of the town lay the prestigious university that many kids from town aspired to attend.  Not Hunter though.  College wasn’t even an option.  He knew he just wanted to leave.  He wanted to get in the car and drive as far away from everything as possible until even he didn’t know who he was anymore.  Charon was a big city, but he found he still couldn’t escape his reputation.  Hunter drew in the cold air and let out a guttural cry that reverberated between the cliffs.

            He was supposed to meet Grant at his parents’ apartment in an hour and he knew he would be late after his morning run, and he needed food badly.  When he got into town, he stole a kid’s bike and rode it the rest of the way to the apartment downtown.  After Grant’s father lost most of their money gambling, his mother decided to sell the house and move the family into a modest, three-bedroom apartment.  Hunter loved eating with Grant’s mother and four siblings, but had yet to see his dad.  Grant said he usually slept passed out in the bedroom or if he wasn’t there, he was probably drinking or gambling somewhere.  Hunter tossed the bike in the bushes and ran up the stairs in the apartment lower-income apartment complex. 

            Grant greeted him at the door.  “What took you so long? “As he said that, Grant’s brother and three sisters rushed past him with a volley of hellos and good byes as they left.

            Hunter watched them run down the stairs and get into a car.  “What’s up?”

            Grant groaned.  “I almost had to go with them to go see Susan’s play.  You know how boring that would’ve been?  I told him I had to wait for you.  Plus, my mom saved you some food.”

            Hunter’s stomach grumbled.  “Thanks.  I’m starving.  Your mom’s not going?”

            Grant shook his head.  “She has a cold.  Come in.  I’ll heat up the pho for you.”

            Hunter stepped inside the familiar home with peach-colored walls and worn rugs spread out everywhere.  Pictures of various, smiling family members hung on the wall along with certificates and trophies for academics and school.  He knew he was welcome there any time, but he hated imposing on people; especially people who cared about him.  He took a seat at the kitchen table as Grant heated up a huge pot of boiling broth and prepared a large bowl of noodles for him.  The one thing he loved about Grant’s house was that they always asked him to eat more.  He could always eat more.  He felt bad about that, so he would always slip Grant a portion of his score to help his mom buy more groceries.  It would eventually benefit him in the end anyways.

            Grant placed the steaming bowl in from of him and he salivated at the smell.  “You got more coming, right?”

            Grant chuckled.  “You know it.”

            A tiny woman with short black hair and red-rimmed glasses stepped out of the bedroom.  “Hunter!  Nice to see you!  I would hug you but I’m sick.”

            Hunter dropped his spoon.  “Thanks for the food.  It tastes great!”

            She beamed.  “Thank you!  I made sure they saved some just for you.  What are you boys doing today?”

            Grant cleared his throat.  “Just going downtown, Mom.  Nothing much.  Don’t wait up for me.”  She nodded and retreated back into her room. 

            Hunter envied Grant his family and close ties, while Grant envied him his freedom.  That was the way it always was.  You always wanted what your friends had without realizing what you had.  Hunter would kill for a sibling or a parent that he could speak to about old road trips, unwanted birthday gifts, and embarrassing moments in front of friends.   He had no one he could turn to who shared memories from the past with him.  All he had was a hazy image of a brunette woman with a golden locket.

            Grant grabbed his keys and they headed out the door into the busy parking lot, dodging kids on bikes and potholes alike.  They got into Grant’s beat up car and headed downtown towards a little bar in Charon’s version of Chinatown.  It was a small strip with a few Chinese grocery stores, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants, and the standard tourist shops with fake knickknacks that were probably made in China, but was of such poor quality, it would fall apart immediately.  They pulled up to a seedy pool hall with wall-to-ceiling windows that faced out onto the street.  Inside were rows of worn felt tables with wooden chairs lining the wall.  A few people glanced their way and resumed their games.

            Grant left him and walked to the back, where a muscular man in dark sunglasses waved him through the curtained door.  Hunter knew it would be a while, so he walked to the bar and pulled out his fake id and ordered himself a cold draft beer.  He drank occasionally, but he found it easier to approach people in pool halls when he had a beer in his hand.  Hunter studied the small groups of people studying the table with a pool stick in hand a cigarette hanging from their lip.  He picked out a single, middle-aged man in a striped shirt playing in the back. 

            Hunter walked up to him and admired a shot.  “Nice one.  You play a lot?”

            The man eyed him warily.  “Sometimes.  You?”

            He took a swig of beer.  “I’m not too bad.”  That was his version of over-selling.  He found the seasoned players did not like newbies.

            The man racked up the table.  “You want to play for 50?”

            Hunter took out his wallet and put a crisp 100 on the worn green felt.  “All I got is this.”

            The man’s lips barely curled into a smile.  “Okay. You can break.”

            Hunter chalked up the tip of his stick and smoothly broke.  He could see the almost imperceptible way the man’s eyes enlarged as he realized Hunter was no newbie.  Hunter thoroughly loved beating seasoned pros at pool.  When he was 11, one of his foster father used to take him along to pool halls, where he learned all the tricks of the trade and saw how quickly money could change hands.  He was a quick study and picked up the game immediately, besting his father by age 13 before they transferred him to another home.   Hunter easily beat the man and they just started talk of another game when Grant finally emerged from behind the curtains.

            Grant nodded at him and Hunter scooped up the money on the table and walked towards him.  As he did, he could hear the bartender turn up the sound on the television louder and they both turned to see a hazy screen where a bolt of lightning shot up into the sky.  Hunter squinted and didn’t believe what his eyes saw.  They replayed the grainy image and the light emanated from the ground and sprayed into the sky like a geyser.  Hunter nudged Grant.  “What’s that?”

            Grant shrugged.  “Dunno.  Heard reports lights and strange activity, but that’s Charon for you.  Something new every day.”

            Hunter walked out of the dingy pool hall.  “Never a dull moment.”

They sat in the industrial sector of Charon, where smog permanently stained the sky an inky blue and smoke stacks never stopped churning out more pollution.  When Hunter was a child, he had thought that was where clouds were made.  How wrong he was.  They got a tip from one of their brokers that bought their stolen goods that a large metal factory always left their backdoor open and if they could get their hands on some copper, they would be paid well.  So they found themselves sitting in Grant’s car outside the premise of the facility, which had a gate where you had to have a badge to enter.    Hunter reclined back his chair and closed his eyes.  “Great.  Hey, forgot to ask, what did your dad want?”

Grant sighed.  “Oh, he won some money and wanted to give my mom some.”

“That’s good.”

“Nah.  He usually needs it back in a few days when he’s down and promises to return double, but he never does.  Hey, can I ask you something.”

Hunter returned the chair to its normal position.  “What’s up?”

Grant clenched the wheel of the car.  “You ever feel like you were meant for something more?  Like there’s another world out there for you if you could just find it?”

Hunter peered at him out of the corner of his eye.  “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know.  I feel like there’s got to be more to this life than just dying and living.  All we do is work so that one day we can die comfortably, but there’s gotta be more than that.  A purpose.”

Hunter was starting to worry about him.  “Dude, are you okay?”

Grant shrugged.  “You ever think about the people we steal from?  What if they got families and mouths to feed?”

Hunter looked at him.  “Hey, if you don’t want to do this, just say so.”

“I don’t know.  I’ve just been thinking a lot.”

Hunter swatted him with his hand.  “Well, quit.  Everybody steals.  Not everyone gets caught.  There’s low-level thieves like us, then there’s corporate thieves who steal profits and cheat their workers out their retirements.  Hell, the system is a whole cheat. They create broken homes to have broken kids who have to be put in homes.  And these broken kids just add more broken kids to the world.  Those are the worst thieves: the ones who steal childhoods.”

“But don’t you ever feel like when you take something that doesn’t belong to you that it takes a part of your soul, too?”

Hunter reclined his chair again.  “You think way more than I ever will.”

Grant smiled.  “No, you just don’t want to hear it.”

“Yeah, maybe.  Just watch the door.”

Just then, a guy in a gray jumpsuit with dark-stained hands came out and propped open the door with a folding chair.  He took out a pack of cigarettes and lit one as he blew the smoke into the night sky.  Grant and Hunter slouched down in the car and waited until the worker threw away the butt and returned inside.  They stepped out of the car and approached the chain link fence with barbed wire on top.  Grant took out a pair of pliers and cut a hole in the fence.  They slid through and silently approached the open vestibule.  Hunter nodded to Grant and Grant stood just within the door while Hunter entered.  A long, concrete hallway approached him as the smell of sulfur assaulted him.  Since he saw no one, he motioned to Grant and they both took down the hallway, exploring the rooms. 

Hunter stood in a humid room with an old furnace as sweat beaded his forehead.  He could hear voices in the distance over the loud droning of machines.  He couldn’t imagine working in a factory like this one day in the future.  Day in and Day out.  He couldn’t imagine working anywhere for that matter.  He heard a high whistle and knew it was Grant, so he followed the sound until he found himself in a cavernous room with rows upon rows of long, cut copper stacked against the walls.  He saw Grant coming towards him and he shook his head.

Grant’s eyebrows arched.  “What?”

“There’s no way we’re going to be able to cut this stuff and get it out.”

“Yeah, I figured.  Wouldn’t make it far.”

“What are you two doing?”  A voice called out.  They turned around and saw a worker in the same gray jumpsuit with a wrench in his hand.  They immediately ran in the opposite direction and the man started yelling and gave chase.  They made it to a small alcove when Hunter told Grant to split up.  Hunter knew it would be difficult for them to reach the car, but if he could draw the attention, Grant could probably slip out unnoticed.  Grant took off in the opposite direction while Hunter quietly walked into an empty locker room.  In an open locker, he saw a black leather jacket hanging with boots and a set of keys to a motorcycle. Hunter took the keys and walked out of the locker room past the busy line room, the break room, and out the employee entrance.  He found a red bike parked by and jumped on.  Just then, a security guard came out of the back door and yelled out into the dark night.  Hunter started the bike and took off without looking back.

He rode like a madman through the industrial sector, then took the backgrounds, not sure where to head to.  He definitely didn’t want to go home, nor did he feel like meeting up with Grant.  Grant would understand.  Sometimes, it was better to just be alone.  He was used to that.  When he was alone, there was no one to disappoint and no one to consider.  He had never needed anyone before, but now, he wanted someone.  He didn’t like the feeling because it meant he could lose them as well.  Hunter never relied on anyone or had sentiments towards personal objects before.  People always left and things could always be taken away, but his memory; that was his and his alone.  That was the only thing that really belonged to him.

A crescent moon rested low in the voluminous folds of the grey clouds as the city lights and pollution drowned out the light of the stars above.  Hunter rode aimlessly through the city perimeters, winding down familiar and strange streets alike.  He rode until he recognized the looming structure of West High School.  The building looked eerily silent in the dark of the night devoid of human life.  Hunter shut off the bike nearby and walked the grounds until he found himself under that small footbridge again.  From the light of the streetlamp, he could see the mural and the ugliness of the red spray paint over it.  He reached out a hand to touch it, but instead, slammed his fist against it.  He ruined everything he touched.  Maybe he just wasn’t meant to be good, but she didn’t deserve this.  He wanted to make things right.

He tried not to think of her, but when he found himself alone, his mind always wandered back to her.  How she smelled.  How blonde her hair looked.  How melodic her voice sounded.  He didn’t know why, but he was drawn to her.  For days, he had tried endlessly to fill his time with things so that she wouldn’t cross his mind, but at night, she would be there waiting for him.  He could not stop thinking about how blue her eyes were and wrong he would be for her.  There was no way it would work, but it didn’t matter.  He felt like if he didn’t pursue her, he would always be empty and he hadn’t known he was empty until he met her.  He placed his hand on the mural and bowed his head.  There was no going back now.  He would forever be indebted to her and he would pay with his life.

© 2017 Kerry Yang

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Added on December 12, 2017
Last Updated on December 12, 2017


Kerry Yang
Kerry Yang


Prologue Prologue

A Chapter by Kerry Yang

Chapter 1 Chapter 1

A Chapter by Kerry Yang

Chapter 2 Chapter 2

A Chapter by Kerry Yang