Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Speechless: The Way Part 2

The Price of Inner Peace

He just lay there, his nose bleeding. Everyone stared at me. I suppose that would put a damper on any welcomes Angela and I would be receiving. It was his fault though. Even that stupid rat Sleeper knew better by this point. Angela’s mouth was open. I’d have to correct that. I tucked a finger underneath her chin and lifted her jaw closed. As my finger touched her chin, we spoke. Quickly.

“He cussed. I don’t allow that word around me.”
“So you dropped him? He’s the resistance leader at this safe house.”
“How am I supposed to know these things? I told you, I’m antisocial.”

And I had too. In the three hidey-holes we had to take shelter on our escape route, a great deal had been discussed. Well, after Nagumo had put down his little revolt. I almost felt bad that Angela’s bomb had caused such a pleasant individual so much trouble. Pleasant individual that ate human flesh. Right. Like I said, almost felt bad.

We had discussed where to go as we fled and Angela had persuaded me (without any sexual favors, curse her) to head to this particular safe house. She was educated enough now to know that I was terribly antisocial, even if she wasn’t aware of my… predisposition to self-elimination. She had gushed her appreciation for my “advancing the cause” at risk of life and limb.

I won’t lie (I did enough of that to her) and say that the thought of having a groupie didn’t turn my crank a little. It was just… awkward. Getting the “my hero” speech in the middle of a sewer shortly after barely surviving an incredible assassination and rescue attempt wasn’t what I had expected. Hell, I’d been hoping not to survive it at all.

But here we were, just come up through a sewer access point, and already making trouble. If he just had the common decency to greet us like normal people. Not “What have we here, a couple of fucking fish eye spies?” If he had just thought ahead, he wouldn’t be laying there like the catch of the day.

Angela turned away from me and stepped forward, adjusting her glasses.

“I understand that you’re wondering who we are. My name is Angela, Angela Hargreaves. I doubt any of you know who I am. This fellow here though, you all know.”

“Don’t fink so. Ne’er met him before.”

“I didn’t say you met him, only that you know him. He’s Rascal Jack.”

Oh hell. That was the exact opposite of what I had wanted to hear her say. How about “Don’t mind the mute, he’s a retard” or maybe “I’m not with him, shoot him if you want to.” No, she had to go and do it.

The room was silent again, just like when I had laid out their leader. Then, with only a quickening of heartbeat and the stringy tightening of tendons, they saluted.

No. No. No. No. No no no no no no no no no nononononononono.

“We’ve already heard about what you did for all those prisoners. Almost everyone escaped. It was amazing. That one man could pull it off like that.”

I was gesturing wildly to Angela and she was blushing wildly.

“You were there too Miss?” “What was it like?” “How many of those damn fish died?”

She nodded to their questions.

“I was there, in a very limited capacity. A bit of double agent work set up long ago. It was absolutely amazing. More fish were turned into cat food than we could’ve hoped. Our Rascal is one slippery fellow.”

She wouldn’t even fess up to saving my life. It was maddening, absolutely bloody maddening.

“We need a room to stay in for the time being. We’re heading back towards the docks, specifically, out to Pier 451. We’ve heard about the trouble they’ve been having holding back the invaders.”

That wasn’t too much of a lie I supposed. Really, Rancid had told us after rewarding me with a vest full of explosives and another box of ammo for my rifle. It was the little things in life that REALLY got me going.

They were more than willing to get us a room. Someone helped their boss up off the floor and got him back to consciousness as someone else was pulling the guns out of a room so we could have a place to crash. The moron was honored (HONORED) to have been struck by me. What a crock of shit this all was. All these people running around thrilled to be in the present of a turd like me.

Angela knew what was in my brain and as soon as the door had closed behind us, she grabbed my shoulder.

“C’mon, what’s eating you?”

“What’s eating me? They’re worshipping me!”

“What’s wrong with a little hero worship?”

“There’s nothing to worship here.”

“Sure there is. You’re responsible for almost a dozen captives escaping from being served as dinner. You’ve slaughtered more Judges than most safe houses I’ve ever spoken with put together. You can’t tell me that’s not impressive.”

I slapped her hand away, jammed my hands into my pockets and began to pace. She was frowning by the door where I had left her. Angela took her glasses off, wiped them on her shirt, and slipped them back on. Christ, we were filthy. Coated in sewer shit and all sorts of other waste. It was disgusting.

She slipped forward and touched my cheek.

“What’s wrong Jack? What aren’t you telling me?”

“Angela, I’m not doing this for them. Hell, I’m not doing it for anybody.”

“I understand. You told me before you’re antisocial. It’s alright. You’re still performing a wonderful service for so many people.”

“Angela, I’m doing this so I can die.”

THAT finally woke her the hell up. She backed away, blinking slowly. She stayed at arm’s length as long as it takes a glacier to get through a doctor’s office. At least it seemed that way. The watch on one of the resistance guy’s arms out in the other room said it was five minutes. Angela stepped forward again and put her fingers in the exact same spot on my cheek.

“What do you mean by that?”

“My hearing. I can’t stand it. When I detonated those bombs at the festival, when I blew up that safe house days before, even when I hit bozo out there, I hear too much. The bombs make my ears bleed. My body repairs them faster than normal, I guess as some sort of trade off for eating sound. I can’t stand it though. I heard the gate get torn off its hinges when the Judges came Angela. I listened to it for days. I can hear everyone talking in the next room. I can hear the people talking the building over from us. I can hear your heart beat, your lungs fill, and your muscles tighten. It’s enough to drive me mad. I want to die; I just can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t really give a crap about being a hero; it just seemed like the most dangerous job at the time.”

She stood there without saying a word for a long time. Then, so slowly, so very slowly, she kissed me. Her lips touched mine and I could hear them collide, slamming together like a marshmallow car crash.

“Follow me.”

She took my hand and led me to the attached bathroom and into the shower. She never rushed, never hurried. Every movement was slow and deliberate and so very quiet. Every moment, every touch, as we passed through the shower and back into the room where the bed was but sleep wasn’t, was quiet. As we lay together, sharing each other’s breath, my ears turned off their fluorescent signs and locked their doors. I heard nothing past my fingertips.

And for a time, dying was purely optional.

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