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Thread: DOTC - John (Continually Updating)

  1. #1

    DOTC - John (Continually Updating)

    I've been working on a short story called, John, which will be part of a collection called Decalogue Of The Contemporary. It originally started off as a decently long short story, no more than about twenty or thirty pages in total, but it seems as if it's going to end up a lot longer than that, closer to novella in size. There are currently five parts written.

    I've been uploading the stories to deviantArt so I don't have to spend money on copyrighting, so if you have a dA account, please comment here.

    *Before I begin, please not that the story has some adult language, though not in extreme excess. If you are offended by any strong language, please do not read on. Also, the story delves into some of the darker aspects of religion, and the opinions and views of some of the characters may offend some people. If you are offended by that, as well, also do not read on. Thank you.

    __________________________________

    Part 1

    John Gott stood solemnly in the back of the church, listening to the reverend speak. The man’s words flowed smoothly form his lips, with all the fluidity and grace of a snake-oil salesman. The Religious Salesman hid behind his amplified podium, not pausing for a breath or allowing a thought to register in his head before spilling from his mouth into the all too willing followers of his teachings. His hair was neatly combed and slicked back, adding to the Religious Salesman’s lawyer like quality. For a man who not moments ago claimed that God’s favor could not be bought, he sure seemed to care about his appearance. John assumed that the only expensive car in the church lot, a white Rolls-Royce, belonged to this man. John shouldn’t have been surprised, but for some reason he always thought that the next one was the guy he was looking for. Turns out he was wrong again.

    The walls were decorated with the many faces of Jesus Christ. Jesus on the cross; Jesus performing his miracles (the most impressive of which was a large, stain-glass window which portrayed Jesus walking across a large body of water); and Jesus being reincarnated. Candles were strewn about, which offered most of the illumination. There was a single electric light, but it was close to burning out, and the solitary window opaqueness offered little sunlight.

    John turned to walk out of the church. He knew that he had drawn attention to himself, for one he was not a local of this town, and two, he was the only person was not seated quietly in the pews. He expected that he was going to be noticed leaving, though he didn’t fully hate the idea of being called out, either.

    “You there, boy!” John stopped in his tracks, but did not turn around. Apparently his sixth sense was working perfectly today.

    “Do you have no time for Gawd in you’re busy schedule? Stay in the church, boy, for out that door lies nothing but eternal damnation, and an eternity in hell!”

    John slowly turned around, and looked straight into the eyes of the Religious Salesman.

    “Come here, boy! Come here and be saved through the power of Gawd!” he shouted.

    John slowly bowed his head, and then shook it in disgrace, “I was actually hoping to be saved today, now that you mentioned it. It turns out; however, that I’d rather burn in hell right next to good ol’ Satan that follow the God you babble on about.”

    The room stood in absolute suspension; every body seemed breathless, every brain thoughtless. John was always amazed at the reaction of man when routine and repetition’s comfort is taken away. These poor fools were not taught to think for themselves, and it appeared when the Religious Salesman was speechless, the crowd also maintained his awe.

    “Tell me, Reverend, do you believe those who have never heard the word of ‘Gawd’ will forever burn in hell?”

    “Gawd makes himself known in all life, and –“

    “Even the poor in Africa?” John rebutted.

    “Well, Gawd –“

    “Even the retarded?”

    “I –“

    “The stillborn? Does God damn those who die as soon as they have entered this world? Does God punish those who have not yet drawn a breath on our world, let alone committed sin on it?”

    The Religious Salesman remained silent.

    “And while I’m at it, good Reverend, why the hell should I have to believe in God to be ‘saved’? What, is God so selfish and so insecure he needs praise from every man, woman, and child on earth, as does a child who wants praise for the pretty finger-painting he drew at pre-school?”

    “Blasphemer!” shouted a woman from the front row. She was a portly woman, dressed in what appeared to be her finest church apparel. She was breathing heavily, as if the act of standing had winded her, and she had the burn of hatred shooting from her beady eyes, “You’ll rot in hell, sinner! Stop shouting you’re Atheist Propaganda here!”

    “I believe the only one shouting here is you, ma’am. Please, take a seat. I’m almost done here.”

    She grew red, but didn’t take her seat. Instead, her eyes began to water and with a gut-wrenching yell, bent over and began to sob hysterically.

    John looked back towards the Religious Salesman.

    “You, sir, are no more than a con-artist, fooling these poor saps into believing that there’s only one way to achieve happiness. You run nothing more than a cult, and having the label ‘Christian’ doesn’t give you a free pass. I hope that there is a God, and I’m wondering what you’ll say to Him when he stands before you at the gates of heaven, asking why you would whore is name and ignore his teachings. I suppose ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’ and ‘Do unto others what you would have done unto you’ are forgotten quotes in this church.”

    A young man, who was sitting next to the crying woman, stood up from his seat. He was strong, he could tell by the looks of him, and in all likely hood either the son or grandson of the aforementioned Crying Woman.

    “Get the **** outta here, man! The hell’s you’re problem, anyway!?” he demanded.

    “No need to get testy, good sir. I was in fact on my way out until the Reverend here interrupted my escape.”

    John walked up to the double-doors at the front of the church. Behind him, in their rows of pews, every attendee was watching him, besides the Crying Woman, the Young Man, and the Religious Salesman, who was looking down at the floor. He pushed the doors aside in one great motion, flooding the church with light. Several people had to avert their eyes because of the contrast of the morning sun compared to the under-lit church. John walked into this great flood of light, and the doors closed slowly behind him.
    I was walking down the stairs,
    And I saw a man that wasn't there.
    I didn't see him again today,
    Oh why, oh why won't he stay away?

  2. #2
    Part 2

    The room was dark, though not utterly so. There was a decent likelihood of injury form the lack of light, but one accustomed to the room could certainly navigate themselves to the switch. The only illumination was provided by a large window on the far side of the room, directly opposite of the door. It gave a marvelous view of a dirty alleyway, filled with tin trash bins, rotting cardboard boxes, and the occasional wandering homeless man.

    The door creaked ominously open, in all the beautiful stereotypic fashion of a haunted house on a haunted hill. Light poured in from the lit hallway, and standing at the doorway was John Gott. Behind him was a dusty corridor, lined on the sides by about ten or so doorways, all with a small, gold-painted number.

    John had a thin leather jacket on, obviously not very expensive, though you could tell by his living quarters that he was not a member of the upper class. The zipper was unzipped, revealing a stained white T-Shirt, covered with car-oil, grease, and good old-fashioned sweat. His old denim jeans were faded badly at the knees, and the bottoms of each leg were filthy with dirt and dust.

    He took off his jacket and threw it on the floor. He began to skillfully cross the room. If you walked into the room, the first thing you would notice is the rather large window with the horrendous view. To the left of the door was a small kitchen (which was no bigger than a walk-in closet without a door). On the right side was a wall, with a rather strange picture John had gotten from a close friend one day. That friend had come and gone just as so many things had done in John’s life, but that picture was forever there to stay. It showed, from a first-person perspective, a road, which came right out of the bottom of the painting. It went forward, but then took a sharp right. Straight forward was a huge brick wall, about seven feet from where the road curved. There were yellow stripes on the road, but at the curve, someone had drawn, crudely, lines that, instead of following the road, went straight into the wall. It looked humorously similar to Wile E. Coyote’s attempt at catching that damn Roadrunner. Above the wall was a beautiful night sky. The left half of the sky was covered with approaching clouds. On the right were both a sun and the moon. The sun was dim and weak in appearance. The moon, which was a crescent, in this case, was distorted and quite large and bright. It held the impression of a giant mouth, which was about to swallow the fading sun. The stars were all in the shape of small, gleaming knives and razors. Finally, in front of the huge brick wall, and to the left edge of the painting, was a bike. It was overturned, balancing on the handlebars and the seat. There was no rubber on the wheels; instead, the spoke design looked like a twisted metallic spider web.

    John continued to work his way around the room. The switch was located next to the window, so in order to run on the lights, you had to cross the room. It was, John thought, a wonderful example of the inadequacies which were strewn about the pitiable estate. His couch, tinted yellow with age, stood in the middle of his apartment. About five feet in front of it was a small T.V, balanced on a tray advertised to hold microwave dinners.

    Thankfully, John reached the switch. A small light bulb came awkwardly to life, giving detail to the formerly shadowed room. The floor was surprisingly clean, which was surprising considering both the status of the rest of the building, and the fact that he was a twenty-seven year old single male. The only thing which covered the floor was his coat, which he planned on picking up soon anyway.

    Plopping down on the couch, John grabbed his remote and turned on the T.V. It showed a promise that if he paid with his credit card, he would get two pieces of **** for the price of one. He quickly changed the channel. A clearly distraught woman, speaking in Portuguese, was yelling at a young man. When the woman finished, the man responded in a smooth, but equally indistinguishable, voice. He then reached forward and grabbed her by the waste, and proceeded to push his tongue into her mouth. The continued to make out for several seconds before John turned the channel, disgusted in what they call “entertainment” nowadays. He changed the channel one more time.

    “– and this only three days after the last church shooting in the nearby town of Plympton, Massachusetts.” The woman who was speaking looked familiar to John, as all local T.V. personnel usually do, but could not place a name on her. She had short, blonde hair and an extremely plastic looking face. She was infamous for he ability to look exactly the same reporting on a mass murder as she did reporting a kitten award show.

    “Robert Thompson has more on this story. Rob?”

    The image of the woman held for several more seconds, and awkwardly switched to another newscaster. This was a man, undoubtedly the aforementioned “Rob”. He had parted, jet-black hair, and had eyebrows which arched towards the end, giving him a distinct Jack Nicholson feel.

    “Thanks, Sarah. Just several hours ago, a shooting occurred at the First Baptist Church in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. An unidentified man entered the church wearing all black and opened fire after insulting and threatening the minister and the churches attendees. Six people were killed, and later the gunman who was shot in a fire-fight by a police officer.”

    Another rather uncomfortably scene change showed the outside of the church. It looked rather unspectacular; painted white, with a large golden cross standing at the top. It looked well taken car of, and the trees and plants surrounding the building looked as if they were well groomed.

    “In the quiet Massachusetts town of Bridgewater, a deadly shooting rocked its inhabitants early morning yesterday. A young man, dressed solely in black, entered the church just as the service was beginning. Halfway through the minister’s sermon, he began shouting and raving madly. Then, he pulled out a gun and began firing randomly. Six people were hit, all of them near-instant fatal shots, and then the gunman ran out of the front door. A man called the police on his cell phone, and they arrived moments later. They found him still in the parking lot, although several minutes had gone by. He still had the gun in his hand, and when the police pulled in, he began firing at the cars. He was then shot by one of the arriving officers, and died at the scene.”

    Another scene transfer brought John to an image of an old woman, scarily similar in appearance to the Crying Woman from the church. She looked like someone who wanted to cry, but simply had no tears left to shed. She began talking in a nervous, wavering voice. She had just the slightest hint of a southern accent, as if she lived there as a child, but moved early on.

    “It was terrible. As the minister was talkin’, he kept arguin’ with im. He was rantin’ and yellin’ about Gawd and how he wasn’t real and if he was, he was evil and didn’t deserve to be followed. Then, h-he took out a g-gun, and started shootin’ at people! I was so ascairt I didn’t know what to do. I just ducked under my seat and sat there ‘till a police man brought me outside.”

    The T.V. now showed a man, who John originally thought was a lawyer to either the church or one of the victims. But soon a banner appeared at the bottom of the screen which read, “Rev. Joseph Aliprandi”. John was again caught off guard. It seems this reverend was just another in a long line of Religious Salesmen, selling their used beliefs and discount happiness to the poor and the ignorant.

    “I have been asked if this terrible tragedy will cause us to cancel church as the investigation continues. Well, I’m here to say I refuse to let this man succeed and shutting down the church, if even for a week’s time. Also, when but in times of tragedy do we need God the most? I hope to see many new faces joining our mass this Sunday.”

    Rob now graciously returned to the screen, “This horrible incident occurred only a week after the Plympton Church shooting, where six more people, including the minister, were shot and killed. Police are desperately trying to find if these two crimes are linked in some way. We’ll have more as the story develops. Sarah?”

    “Thanks, Rob. Now, on the lighter side of thi –“

    John shut off the T.V. It appeared that religion will always cause death, even the lack of it, in some cases.
    I was walking down the stairs,
    And I saw a man that wasn't there.
    I didn't see him again today,
    Oh why, oh why won't he stay away?

  3. #3
    Part 3

    John got up from the couch, and began to shuffle towards the kitchen. All he wanted right now, all he needed, was a stiff drink and a good book. He stood in front of his fridge, about three feet wide and five feet tall. It was off-white, with about thirty magnets and only three pieces of paper. One was a messily written number, which John had no knowledge of its origin. He had planned on calling it one day, just to satisfy his curiosity, but never actually found the time to do so. There was also an empty envelope with some numbers of what remained of his family. It had not been touched in years, and he had no intentions of disturbing it. Finally, resting under a magnetic cartoon penguin was small calendar, with not a single date marked or event planned.

    Opening the fridge, John saw what little he had of both food and drink. There was a bag of baby carrots, a tuber-ware container filled with meatballs, a large container of cream, and finally a large bottle of generic brand vodka. He reached for the clear time-killer, and slammed the fridge door shut.

    There were three lone cabinets in his kitchen; two of which had plates, bowls, and cups, and one of which had the state-required fire-extinguisher which hadn’t been inspected since the President had gotten the world’s most infamous blowjob. He reached into one of the cabinets and brought out a small glass cup, and poured some of the cheap drink into it. He filled it only about a fourth of the way, and placed the bottle back on the shelf. In all likelihood, he would be back to it sooner than later. Some people think that straight vodka is disgusting, but John had always been –

    John stopped in his tracks. He heard a shuffling sound from behind his door, and the echoes of someone’s feet moving down the corridor. John, drink in hand, walked stealthily towards the doorway. At first he didn’t see anything amiss, but that was until his eyes made their way to the floor, several inches from the crack between the warped wood of the floor and the metal of the door.

    There was an envelope. Unlike the one which adorned his fridge, this one was expensive and ornate. There was no address label, return or otherwise, but instead had one word printed in extravagant lettering.

    John

    No last name. Not “Johnson”, just John.

    John reached down, with his free hand, and picked up the envelope. It felt just as expensive as it looked. With shaking fingers, he slowly peeled back the paper to reveal its contents.

    There was a piece of parchment, folded neatly, inside. John let the envelope drop to the floor, and crashed loudly to the ground. John winced at the unexpected noise, and nearly dropped his drink. He reached back down and looked back inside of the envelope. There was a rectangle-shaped object, either hard plastic or metal. It was jet-black, with a golden crescent on both sides. John placed the envelope and object on the counter, and went back to the piece of parchment. It had calligraphic black font, same or similar to his name on the front of the envelope. It looked like a mix between a wedding invitation and a notice of eviction.

    Good evening, Mr. Gott,

    We regret the unusual manner in which this letter has been delivered. Unfortunately, a group in our position isn’t at lengths to rely on modern postage to deliver a message of this urgency. Also, secrecy is one of our more well-known traits, though I suppose if that were true, than how could a group which prides itself in its inconspicuousness be known to carry such a trait?

    I apologize, Mr. Gott. You must be terrible confused. You see, I represent a group, an organization, if you will, which requires persons such as yourself. One of our men witnessed you’re little outcry in church this morning, and we are quite interested in having you with us. Unfortunately, our hands are tied at the moment, so we are unable to disclose much information to you at this time. All I can tell you is that we are a group filled with young men and woman such as yourself who pride themselves in protecting the people from what has plagued our race for far too long.

    If you wish to learn more, stand outside you’re apartment building at midnight, wearing all black. You will not see anyone, but be assured, Mr. Gott, we will see you. If you wish to know no more, than simply stand outside at the same time, and using the lighter we provided for you, burn this letter and walk back inside. You will never hear from us again, and we will make no attempts to contact you. Be well warned, though, Mr. Gott, that if you do wish to learn more, there is no going back. We pride ourselves in our exclusivity and in our secrecy, as aforementioned. If you join, you are a member until death or injury disallows you to continue your work for us. But also be assured, if you do join, you will be saving many lives from the disease which afflicts them, and be spreading the true message of life and how to be truly happy. We look forward to seeing you soon.

    The Group – (United Front Against Religion)


    John’s head was spinning; his thoughts were racing, and his stomach churning. He felt as if he was going to faint, go crazy, and vomit all at the same time. He felt like he needed to sit down, sit down and finish the drink he hadn’t even started.

    He didn’t, however. He wondered if maybe he ran outside he could see the guy who sent this letter. He knew there wasn’t much of a chance, he didn’t know how long he had been standing here, but he felt the urge none-the-less. He walked towards the door, and swung it open. He began walking down the corridor, but something out of the corner of his eye caused him to stop. He slowly turned around until he was facing the outside of his door. He dropped his drink, and it shattered on the wood floor.

    On it was a large, red symbol. It was a straight line going vertically, and a shorter horizontal line crossing the lower half of the other line. A cross. An upside-down cross. The sign of the Antichrist. And beneath that was a single line.

    ”And the moon will engulf the sun,”

    - John 3:14


    He knew the bible well, and knew that that line wasn’t in the bible. Yet still, that line made him scream.
    I was walking down the stairs,
    And I saw a man that wasn't there.
    I didn't see him again today,
    Oh why, oh why won't he stay away?

  4. #4
    Part 4

    John stood, hands and shirt drenched in soap and water, washing away at the front of his door. His scream had gone mostly unnoticed by the fellow apartment dwellers, for screams were more common than gunfire in this part of town. He did still go down to Sammy, the landlord, downstairs. He explained, rather shakily, that some punk had sprayed graffiti on his wall. Sammy, a rather portly man of forty, who always seemed as if he was ready to lean over and puke out a lung or two, had simply shrugged and said, “Well, you better start scrubbin’ before dat **** dries too bad.” So here he stood, four o’clock in the morning, washing away the Antichrist sign which had found new home upon the metal of his door.

    The red paint washed away about as smoothly as a butter knife through concrete; sure, after awhile it started to cheap away, but not until you really worked at the *****.

    Every now and then, however, usually when he reached into his metal bucket to re-soap his sponge, his eyes would come across the quote. “And the moon will engulf the sun”. Why did that ring so ominously late that night? He knew he made a connection, at least for a moment, but that had slipped away long ago. The quote still held its impact, but not any relevance. And “John 3:14” simply made no sense to him. He figured, rather simply, that the “John” was just his name. What “3:14” stood for completely baffled him.

    After about forty-five straight hours of scrubbing, the door was finally clean, or as clean as it could be. You could barely see a transparent red line striking down the center, but it was really only noticeable if one was looking for it, and even then could be passed as a trick of the eye.

    John reached down to open the door. He needed desperately to change before he headed to work. He grabbed the golden knob, and began to turn.

    Or, at least, attempted to. The knob held firm in its place. Fruitlessly, John pushed, pulled, twisted, yanked, and did all but knock down the door. He had locked himself out, somehow. He didn’t remember locking the door when he ran out last night, he knew that he was in too much of a worry to care about someone stealing his last ounce of cream and bottle of booze, but apparently he had managed to do it anyway.

    John cursed loudly, gave the door one final, half-hearted kick, and turned around. He walked down the under-lit corridor and scaled down the stairs. He made it to the front desk where Sammy was sitting, reading a story in the paper undoubtedly about violence, a sex scandal, the Red Sox, or somehow all three. His face was covered in what looked like grease from fried chicken, and has shirt was already soiled from sweat. Some people consider consistency a strong suit; some people haven’t met Sammy.

    John walked up to the front desk, “Hey, Sammy. Finished with the bucket. Got basically all of it off.”

    “Good ta here.” Though “here” came out more like “he-a”.

    “By the way, I locked myself out of my room. Any chance you have a spare?”

    Sammy smiled a toothless smile. John wondered how he managed to get covered with grease when it looked like he couldn’t eat more than cream of wheat and Jell-O, “Well, you’ve been havin’ a pretty ****ty day, haven’t ya? Sorry ta say I ain’t got no spares. Usually ‘spect people to be smart enough ta not lock themselves out.” Sammy looked back down at the paper, “Looks like you’re gonna hafta find a locksmith, less ya already know the trade.”

    John, in fact, did not know how to pick a lock, though he supposed if he asked around he could found someone who could, and mostly likely in minutes time.

    “I suppose I’ll get someone after work. Take it easy, Sammy.”

    “I’ll take it however I damn want. See ya later, Johnny.”

    John always liked Sammy, though he supposed he shouldn’t grow too attached to the man. John didn’t know what he was suffering from, but whatever it was appeared ready to take it all.
    I was walking down the stairs,
    And I saw a man that wasn't there.
    I didn't see him again today,
    Oh why, oh why won't he stay away?

  5. #5
    Part 5

    John sat on his cold, metal seat and began to eat his breakfast. He had an hour or so to kill before he had to worry about getting to work, so he figured a good breakfast would be a smart idea. Unfortunately, do to recent fiscal restrictions, his good breakfast consisted of a stale Boston cream donut and overly sugared coffee. He had ordered it dark with no sugar, but of course had gotten it as white as the moon, and as sweet as a rainbow kitten with a unicorn horn whistling “Zippity Do Da” while skipping down a road made of marshmallows. Yes, that sweet.

    John got up, tray in hand, and dumped his trash and his kitten-like coffee. There were about six other equally disappointed patrons crowded in the small coffee shop. One table was occupied by two aging gentleman talking quietly amongst themselves. There was a middle-aged woman with bleach-white hair sitting by herself, with an XL cup of coffee in her shaking hand. Finally, there was a woman with two small children, one a boy of about six and a girl of no more than five, holding a lit cigarette in one hand and talking on her cell phone. Smoking in public buildings had been illegal for some time now, but John doubted anyone was going to try and tell her otherwise. Her kids, or at least that’s what John assumed, were busy trying to make a mountain from sugar packets on the table, and doing a rather commendable job.

    John glanced to the workers behind the counter. He saw, out of the corner of his eye, a large young man move stealthily out the back door. He also saw a rather portly man sitting in the back with one half a donut in his hand and the entire other half in his mouth. John was pretty sure that employees weren’t allowed to sample the baked goods, and this man seemed perfectly aware of that rule, eating faster than he thought humanly possible.

    The front door swung open, ringing a pair of bells at the top, and John stepped out. He was looking towards the far side of the road, where traffic was at a complete standstill. Honestly, John had no idea why people bothered with cars in the city. You couldn’t get anywhere with them, and you had to use up half a tank of gas to get three blocks down the road. People really should learn to –

    John was in the air. He felt himself weightless for a split second, but it soon passed as his body came in contact the concrete of the side-walk. John’s head was spinning, but he looked back towards the door he had just exited. Standing there, with a smirk on his face, was the same man he had saw leave so quickly out the back door of the coffee shop. Only this time, now that he had a good, long look at his face, he knew exactly who it was.

    “Small ****in’ world ain’t it?” said the Young Man from church.

    John got up, with his head back where it was supposed to be, and looked back up towards the Young Man.

    “Do ya know how many hours I hadda listen to my mom rant about you, ya little ****? Well, none of dat matter now, though. Cause I’m gonna knock your face into the ground so hard yer teeth are gonna fly outta yer ***!” The Young Man stepped forward menacingly, hoping that John would be intimidated. He was not, and he too took a step forward.

    “Well, how was I supposed to know a tough guy like you still had mommy make all his meals? I tell you what, I would take you on, but I’m too afraid you’ll go home and cry to her about how I kicked your ***. Then your mom would tell my mom and I’d be grounded for weeks!” John smiled right back at him.

    The Young Man’s faced tightened, first in shock, then in rage, then in pure, animalistic fury. John knew what was coming next, and he also knew he was in no position to stop it. He just had to take it and hope it wasn’t going to knock him off his feet.

    It turned out, it didn’t. The punch landed right on the bulge of the cheek-bone, but most of the contact was with the weak two knuckles, and he’s pretty sure the Young Man had hurt himself more than he hurt John. He quickly realized that this man had little actually fighting experience, and was most likely used to hitting small kids half his size. This was going to cost him, and badly. John moved his left arm to his jaw-line, and raised his body up. Using his momentum, in a text-book boxer stance, he brought his left fist into an upper-cut, landing right under the Adam’s apple and forcing up. John was brought up on the streets, and though he didn’t allow the streets to change who he was, he did learn that the best way of fighting was to render the other person incapable of doing so, and as quickly as possible. He found the neck and below the belt to be the quickest methods, and he didn’t care about whether it was defined as “fair fighting”, because there isn’t anything fair about starting it up with a random kid on the streets.

    The Young Man went down, and he went down hard. He was still breathing, thankfully, as he didn’t feel like dealing with the police today, but it was staggered enough that he was not getting of the ground anytime soon. Hopefully he could come up with a good excuse on why his voice was so raspy when he came home to mommy.

    John felt the left side of his face. He was squinting his left eye without even trying, so he knew it was swollen a bit, but when he made contact a sharp bolt of pain went through his whole face. Even if he was a crappy fighter, the Young Man still had strength. I bruise was going to be there soon, if it wasn’t already. John just hoped he didn’t damage the bone. He had no insurance, a stupid move, but he knew half the time they refused to cover you, and the only way you could expect any kind of coverage was if you had a lawyer who was more cut-throat than they are.

    John moved quickly, even though he didn’t have to punch in for another hour and a half. John didn’t want to explain why one of the employees of the coffee shop was currently unable to speak, or move, for that matter. That would only complicate things, and that’s the last thing John needed right now.

    While he was walking, he was dead-focused on not thinking about anything. He tried to distract his mind, and decided on counting all of the objects that were yellow. One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . .

    After John had reached 1,477, he had arrived at his work. Some people, arriving over an hour before he was supposed to be, would be excited for the hour’s worth of overtime. Unfortunately, overtime was a myth at a local garage. You showed up about when you were supposed to, stayed until about when you were supposed to be gone, and every week you got exactly $214 in the mail, sometimes on Monday, sometimes on Wednesday, but always before Friday.

    John worked at the same time as two other guys; Frank, who, besides just his name, was the perfect stereotype of a small-town garage-worker, and Larry, who looked more like a lawyer and somehow managed to still do his job and leave just as good looking as when he started. John had always liked Frank. John had always hated Larry.

    Frank looked up from the car he was currently working on. It was an old ’72 Chevy pickup, with a beautiful mix of primer and rust which would make any car lover cringe.

    “Hey, Johnny, I need you to – Jesus, man, the hell happened to you?”

    John looked up with a face as serious as he could muster, “You wouldn’t believe it, Frank. I was walking down the street, and I saw a man steal the purse of a beautiful young lady. I chased him down, but when he reached a dead end, he pulls out a pair of nunchukus and starts spinning them around like a ****ing ninja and landed a cheap shot right in the good ol’ face. Turns out he was a tenth degree black belt, but after ten straight minutes of fighting, I finally laid him out. The young lady ran over to me and gave me the biggest, wettest kiss you ever saw and thanked me over and over again. She even gave me her address and told me to swing by later for a ‘special reward’, whatever that means.”

    Frank just smiled and said, “You can’t lie worth of crap, Johnny.”

    John just shrugged, “Okay, fine, I admit it; it was actually two beautiful woman. I just didn’t want to brag.”

    Larry walked out from the back of the shop, “What the hell are you guys yappin’ about? Good God, John, the hell happened to you?”

    “Got sucker-punched by some ******* at the coffee shop.”

    Frank looked back up, “Ha, I knew you was lyin’!”

    John looked at him sternly, “Shut up, Frank, and go back to you’re Chevy.”

    Larry looked back up, concerned, “You really outta put some ice on that, John. It’s lookin’ pretty bad.”

    He just shrugged it off, “You only need one good eye to work on cars.”

    Looking unconvinced, Larry began to speak. The whole time, John noticed his eye’s never left the left side of his face. Either it was really pretty bad, or Larry was just being Larry, “Yeah, we got a ’97 Dodge Caravan. Somehow the guy managed to not only drop the tranny, but snapped the whole suspension in two. Need you to just check it out, cause the guy says the insurance wants an estimate.”

    John walked over to the car-riser. On it was a silver Caravan, staple of soccer moms everywhere. It looked like whoever used it pretty hard. There was mud cased on basically most of the bottom half. The windows were smudged, and gave the illusion the inside was filled with white smoke.

    Larry hit a button, and the elevator slowly grinded to life. The car rose an inch or so about every few seconds, and looked as if it were about to give at any time. John trusted it, however. Hundreds of cars, many bigger than the van, had been lifted on here, and every time it held true. No reason not to trust it now.

    Finally, John stepped under the car. Larry wasn’t lying; the suspension hung at two separate angles between the front two wheels. He looked at the blackened metal of the under-carriage. To the untrained eye, it appeared to be nothing more than some twisted artwork of an untalented abstract scrap-metal artist. Even to John’s well-trained eye, though, he noticed something amiss. On the gas tank, there was something sticking out of the bottom. It appeared to be a piece of rubber, maybe. John reached forward and pulled, without a lack of force, mind you, until it yanked free. As soon as the piece of rubber was gone, a small stream of black sludge cascaded out of the tank. The polluted waterfall only lasted for a second or so, and created a large crescent on the ground in front of him.

    “Sonafa*****!” he shouted.

    Larry came down to where John was standing, “What is it, John?”

    He sighed, “The idiot plugged up a hole in the gas tank with a piece of rubber. Some black stuff, I don’t know what, leaked out, too. Either he’s made his van run solely off human excrement, or something rancid has been growing in there.”

    “Since when can anything grow in a gas tank?”

    “I don’t know, Larry. All I know is he’s got something in there that isn’t gas.”

    Larry just shrugged, and began to walk away. You could always count on Larry when you needed him, John thought.

    He walked back under the car and, carefully avoiding the gas tank, grabbed the axel. It moved one wheel, while the other stayed in place. John didn’t know how he managed to do it, but somehow he –

    John’s hands slipped off the axel and scraped against the jagged metal. A deep cut formed on the inside of his palm. A good deal of blood came down from his hand, and landed on the floor.

    “****!” he shouted again.

    Larry came running this time, “What is it now, John?” He looked down at his hand, “Damn, man, whadija do?”

    John glared angrily at him, “Don’t just stand there, Larry, get me a rag or something!”

    Larry stood for a second, still staring at his hand, before logic finally caught back up with him. Apparently it hit him hard enough to cause him to recoil, “Oh, right. I’ll be right back.”

    He came back a few seconds later with a white rag. John was just happy he remembered to grab a clean one. He took it and wrapped it tightly around his hand, and tied it in a knot. He sighed, and looked back down at the ground. He stood for a moment, and then he screamed.

    The blood was in the shape of a circle. It had landed right next to the crescent, inside of the opening. It looked like Pac-Man about to eat a pellet, but that’s not what John saw. It wasn’t that at all.

    This time, Frank came over, “God’s sake, John, what is it?” John was still looking at the mess on the ground, and couldn’t remove his eyes from it. Larry looked down, as well, “Come on, John, never knew you to be the type to get queasy from blood. Come on, John, walk over here, I’ll clean it up.” He grabbed John’s shoulders and walked him to the back corner of the shop.

    John snapped out of his trance, “I’ve gotta get outta here.”

    Frank looked at him strangely, “What’re ya talkin’ about?”

    John looked right into his face, “I’ve gotta get outta here. Right now.”

    Frank looked at him for a second, and then let him go.

    “You gonna be back later on, Johnny?” he asked.

    John shook his head slowly, and then kept walking out. Larry came back to see John walking out towards the street.

    “Hey, John! Where ya goin’? You’re shifts not over!” except “over” came out as “ov-a”

    Frank turned him around, “Let im go, Larry.”

    Larry looked up, almost hurt, “But his shift ain’t over! That cut ain’t so bad as to just up ‘n leave!”

    Looking at him solemnly, Frank simply stated, “If you say another word, I’ll shove my foot so far up yer ***, you’ll be able to taste the bubble-gum on my boot.”

    Larry opened his mouth as if to say he won’t condone such threatening to fellow workers, but smartly closed his mouth. He then crossed his arms over his chest, and walked towards the van. There are simply some guys you just can’t help but like. Then there’s Larry.
    I was walking down the stairs,
    And I saw a man that wasn't there.
    I didn't see him again today,
    Oh why, oh why won't he stay away?

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