25.A Chapter by Shiloh Black
It felt strange to sleep alone. Even though Rachel had slept across the hall in another room, at least Amphion had always been able to feel her presence, like a shapeless thing in the darkness. When he returned to the empty apartment, he yanked all the sheets off his bed, dragged them out into the kitchen, and slept on the floor.
In the morning, he awoke to very little on his mind except thoughts of bills and payments. The rent would be due soon; why was he so worried about it? He did the dishes, and thought about that. Of all the rotten trappings of life, the only ones people worried about were bills and retirement.
After cleaning up, he simply stood in the kitchen and starred at the sink. It had been years since he’d been unemployed. Even as a high school student he’d always found some odd job or another to keep his pockets lined. What was there to do all day? In the end, he sprawled out in front of the television with just his boxers on. He couldn’t bring himself to watch anything, but merely flicked through the channels. His body was tense and refused to settle; more than anything, he was anxious to be out and about and doing some good, but while the body was willing his brain lacked the resolve to do just about anything.
Around midnight, when he was considering getting up to go to bed, the phone rang. At first he ignored it, but then the thought sprang to mind that it might be Rachel on the other end. Perhaps, just perhaps, she’d gotten some sense about her and was calling to apologize. He scrambled across the living room and yanked the phone off the receiver.
“Hello, Oswald residence,” he said.
On the other end he heard a heavy, laboured breathing that made the palms of his hands prickle. “Afternoon, Love,” a voice replied.
For a moment, Amphion stood in a daze. From a nightmarish, foggy din the memories of the night before took shape in his mind. He nearly threw the receiver away in disgust. How he just wanted to forget that hideous, sickly shape-of-a-man!
“Garrett,” hissed Amphion, “how’d you get my number?”
Garrett‘s voice was husky, as if he was trying speak through a throat full of dust. “You don’t think much of me, do you? Well. You might soon, Love. I’m going to go down the NSPD station today and turn myself in.”
“Good riddance!” A sudden worry gripped him. “You’re not… I mean, you realize we weren’t accomplices. You don’t can’t tell them anything about my involvement.”
He could hear Garrett cough on the other end.
“You were awful at being a not-accomplice, Phinny.”
“Don’t call me that!”
“Why not, Love?” even with a gravely voice, Garrett’s words still managed to come out a sweet and sticky syrup.
“I hate that name,” said Amphion.
“Very well, Love.”
“Great. Now if you haven’t gotten anything else to say, I suggest you hang up now.”
There was a pause on the other end. Amphion was about to hang up when Garrett’s voice crackled through the phone, “Oh, I suppose there’s one more thing you might want to know. There’s a -- a little bomb I put together, strapped to my belly. I’m going to blow every one of those sorry b******s at the NSPD to hell in about fifteen minutes. Have a splendid day, Love.”
The receiver slipped from Amphion’s hand and clattered to the floor. Down the hall he sprinted and flung open his bedroom door. Blood-a-boil, he ripped the drawer free from his night table and snatched up his gun. His heart strained against his chest -- it was a call to battle, a call to kill.
When he arrived at the station it was still very much intact. Not wanting to risk suspicion, Amphion parked his car at a mall down the road and took off running.
At first, he thought of staking out the NSPD station’s front entrance. Garrett wouldn’t be that dense that, though -- no, this was a very viperous kind of crook, the worst kind. The boy was exactly that, too -- a crook, no more, who took bribes from mobsters and threatened to rip down all the pillars of society like some carnage-hungry child.
As he fumed over these things, Amphion turned down an alley. He didn’t know where he was going -- he charged ahead blindly, driven by a consuming rage that throbbed in every inch of his body. On the ground, his feet kicked up empty cigarette packs and newspapers -- all the garbage left behind, the broken bits and pieces of lives scattered like chaff on the wind. He paid them no head, and they were crushed beneath the purposeful, rumbling force of vengeance which advanced like a thundercloud.
He found a scant but visible trail of blood that was warm to the touch and metallic in scent -- it was fresh. He didn’t need to follow it long before he caught up with the source; only a little ways ahead, cloak draped over his head like the reaper’s swath, shambled Garrett. Amphion sprinted past the boy and planted himself in his path.
Ten paces away, Garrett came to a stop, slowly lifted his head, and scowled at Amphion. The sight of the boy’s face caused the joints of his knees to weaken. Garrett had smeared black paint from the crest of his nose up, so that only the whites of his eyes, each fitted with a smouldering coal, could be seen. The rest of his face, however, was all too visible: his lips were stained scarlet with blood, which trailed down his chin from his mouth and nose. Bruising crept from his neck and swarmed around the edges of his face; some had turned into sores and reeked of rotting flesh.
Beneath his sweatshirt, an object bulged.
Garrett doubled over coughing, splattering flecks of blood on the asphalt. From Amphion’s face his eyes never moved and his mouth continued to hang open, letting blood and saliva trickle down his lips.
“Looking for me, Love?” Garrett muttered.
Amphion’s fingers brushed his holstered handgun, but he made no other move to draw. “I’m going to disarm you,” said Amphion. “It’d be better for the both of us if you don’t resist.
Lips warped into a sneer, Garrett opened his palms to reveal a detonator pieced together with refurbished wiring and a broken light switch -- stuff one could find at the Rectory. “Ever been blown to smitherines before, officer? I bet it’s not much fun -- no, not at all.”
“You’re out of your goddamn mind. All those people -- !”
“ -- are s**t to me.” Garrett cackled. “Protecting the good citizens! Puh! Not one of em’s ever stuck their pinky out for the likes of me.”
Out came the pistol. Garrett gazed down the barrel with a smirk on his face, and yet his hands trembled. “The likes of you? I’d soon as kill the likes of you!” snarled Amphion.
“Oh, go ahead if you want. Have your day.” Once again, a cough gripped the meagre remains of Garrett’s body. At Amphion’s feet, he spat a gob of blood. “The people who know there are kids being shot and raped in the streets, and don’t do a thing about it -- between them and the ones who’re doing it, I’m not sure whose guts I’d rather spill! But that’s exactly how it goes, hmm?” He laughed. “You should see your face right about now!”
There was something about Garrett’s words that struck him, but he chose to ignore it. There was so much adrenaline gushing through his body that his field of perception had tightened into a single-minded pinprick. “What gives you any right at all to judge these people, Garrett?” he demanded.
He was taken aback when, from his cloak, Garrett drew a Ziploc bag with a page ripped from a manuscript inside. “This,” gasped Garrett, fighting for breath now. “We only need to obey people… as long as they can protect us.” Feebly, he turned the page over in his trepid hands and began to read: “The obligation of the subjects to the soveraign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them.”
“It’s from Hobbes’s Leviathan,” murmured Amphion. “That stuff -- well, it’s old and outdated, that’s all it is! No one takes him seriously anymore.”
It was useless; by the way Garrett’s eyes swivelled from side to side, pupils contracted, he could tell the boy was beyond hearing.
“It’s all -- all there is, all we need. Here, it’s the word -- don’t you see it? It’s our right! We… I…” he turned his eyes upon Amphion and let the bag drop from his hands. In a hoarse voice, he whispered, “Why didn’t you protect me, Amphion?”
Garrett then began to move again; a sense of urgency promoted his steps this time. Amphion caught up and grasped the boy by his shoulders. “Garrett!” he said. “Come on now -- you need to snap out of this! I never meant you any harm Don’t take it out on these people!”
Garrett glanced over his shoulder. Tears trickled down his cheeks and left streaks of makeup behind. “I’m sick because of you,” his voice broke on the last word. “Amphion! I don’t want to die!”
“You don’t have to,” said Amphion. It was a lie -- a lie he wanted to believe so badly, that he himself was convinced. “Come on… let’s stop this bomb foolishness and get you to a hospital. They’ll take care of you there, they’ll -- Garrett! Quit walking away on me!”
Garrett had already pulled free from Amphion’s grip and was headed towards the station, one foot after another, as if an invisible track guided him.
“Garrett!” screamed Amphion. “Garrett, stop this! I swear to -- I said stop! STOP GODDAMN YOU!”
The next thing he heard was the deafening crack of a gun.
In his trembling hands, the pistol issued smoke from its barrel. It took him a minute to confirm that he had actually pulled the trigger.
Garrett stumbled, then slumped to the ground.
When he realized what he’d done, Amphion raced to the boy’s side and ripped open his sweatshirt. There, exactly as Garrett had promised, was the bomb -- a half stick of dynamite, just enough to kill himself. Amphion tore the dynamite from Garrett’s body and threw it away. Just below where the explosive had been, an exit wound gushed blood. It suddenly struck him as incredible just how much blood the human body could hold.
In their sockets, Garrett’s eyes swivelled. Somehow, through a fog of pain and stupor, the boy managed to detect him. “Am… Amphion?” he croaked.
He propped Garrett up on his knee. Any violent passion he waged against the boy evaporated; the bleeding needed to stop. Garrett was already clawing at the wound, making it worse in his fit of panic. Over Garrett’s hands, Amphion pressed his own to keep the boy still. He had no medical supplies, nothing to give the boy -- he cursed himself for it, for his own stupidity. Even with two sets of hands applying pressure to the hurt, blood bubbled up between their fingers and eddied down the bruised planes of Garrett’s stomach.
It frightened him too see Garrett’s hands beneath his own, so small and elegant and pale. He could break the boy’s every finger if he wanted. They were the hands of a child, and it was a child who had sloppily painted those nails black, but there was no power to be found in this realization: only a rising feeling of dread from which he could not reason his was out. There was no menace to be found beneath those cloaks of ambiguity; he was just a shade of a frame, a series of groves and hills that made for the ribcage which wrapped around the hollow cavity of a chest.
Blood was smeared all over his hands. He wanted to vomit
“Garrett,” whispered Amphion. “Someone shot you.”
Garrett’s mouth parted. “W…who?”
“A -- an awful man. A murderous crook with an eye patch, missing a few teeth.” desperation touched Amphion’s voice. “I -- I got a good look at him though. I’m going to catch him for you, Garrett. He’ll get justice.”
The boy’s eyes widened a little. Almost imperceptibly, his lips curled into a smile.
In Amphion’s lap, Garrett Quinn died. According to his Russian birth certificate, he’d been seventeen years of age.
Amphion sprang to his feet and fled into the night. He let the shadows envelop like a cold, ruthless cloak -- he embraced them, wishing they could engulf him in full so that he might be hid from all the world's sight. The chill night air sucked all the oxygen from his lungs as he legs flew wildly beneath him and carried him through a netherworld of blackened alleyways.
As before, he raced all the way to the pier. The salt air soaked the collar of his trench coat as he leaned over the rail and tossed his pistol and Garrett's homemade bomb into the sighing ocean below. His eyes began to fog. Throwing his head back, Amphion gazed up at the deep, gray sky that hung like an infinite mantel above the city. By the light of a floodlamp, he watched as the first large, wet snowflakes of a New Seattle winter drifted to the ground and mingled with Garrett's blood, which dripped softly from his hands.
In the distance, he could spy the cathedral of the Last Supper Church. Its soothing power of elevated humility had vanished: traced in shadows it became a draconic monolith, no longer a place to exalt the repentant soul but a mechanism which crush it.
He’d forgotten that it was the morning of November 1st -- the tenth anniversary of the minute war. The red lights above the city looked like the billowing mushroom of a nuclear bomb -- the penumbra of apocalypse. For all anyone knew, there would yet be many disasters in scope and in form of the Minute War to come. As Amphion watched white, gossamer snowflakes dance about his head he thought to himself that, should all the world be consumed by fire, innocence was perhaps the one quality he would not miss.
© 2010 Shiloh Black
Added on July 9, 2010
Last Updated on July 9, 2010
A Stone to Kill
Saint John, Canada
AboutI presently reside in Atlantic Canada. My interests, aside from writing include drawing, reading, and indulging in my love of all things British. I'm currently attending the University of Dalhousie, w.. more..