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mike's Belated Story.

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#1 mike_


    Student of Homer.

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Posted 28 December 2009 - 05:56 AM

Hello all. This is a short story I started some years back, but stopped working on due to lack of motivation. Picked it up again tonight to finish it, just 'cause. So the level of the content is a little different.

Disclaimer - Features violence, depressing motifs, and strong language. But it all has a place here.

I walked alone down the monochromatic street. It was late; I was returning home late from the weekly poker game at the pub. Surprisingly, I’d fared well; beating the local sharks like a drum. The roll of money in my inner-jacket pocket would please Felicia, my four months pregnant girlfriend slash fiancée. The names had been swapped and lost so many times I’d forgotten which was in current use, or mattered. We’d been getting behind in our rent for the apartment, and my cubicle-based, monotonous profession didn’t pay as much as it used to. Or the money didn’t stretch as far.

So absorbed in my innermost thoughts and worries, I failed to notice as a powerful, unyielding force seized the back of my coat and threw me – hard – into an alley between a run-down shop and an unidentifiable building. I briefly fell into a freezing-cold puddle of rainwater, but was lifted by the scruff of my coat and hurled into the ancient brick-and-mortar of a wall.

I had no chance to move as an iron-willed, metallic, unseeable blow crashed into my forehead. Blazing, crimson agony washed over my skull – scarlet pain dispensing itself asymmetrically down and over my body. Another congruent attack occurred; this time on my collarbone. But the pure shock and terror of the first bash dulled the pain into a vague, dull “thump”; the effect was marginal, albeit, but present. Yet another brutal assault on my person ensued. And the next. And the next.

Suddenly, it stopped. Amid my haggard breathing and the soupy mixture of blood and tears coating my body, I noticed a pair of objects – more squirrely than god-like, less unrelenting and more… pretentious? than my attacker(s?) had at first appeared – patting my sullied jacket. Searching… deliberately. My aching mind raced amongst the various physical and mental breaches incurred upon it. I could reach no conclusion as to what could provoked such monstrously brutal behavior.

Suddenly, my nostrils cleared; only to be assailed by the artificial aroma I had come to associate with the volatile concoction that is partly the cheapest of whiskey and partly musty cancer sticks. This was soon joined by my own ‘funk’, transforming this eye-watering cocktail into an orgy of copper-like blood, stale tobbac’ee, and various others I could not and never will be able to adequately describe in words.

Shivering, realization kicked in. I was being mugged! At this monstrously delayed epiphany, I tried to raise my hands into a suitably defensive position, cringing like any pitiful victim would under the circumstances. I received a kick and a curse in return.

As the red receded from my field of vision – and unnatural, shooting pain from my mind – into a dense throbbing, I saw that there was another figure in the alley than my attacker and myself. It stood tall, in a classical tweed overcoat, directly behind my attacker – who was occupied with searching my wallet, which had been retrieved from my upturned rear pants pocket. In the dim lighting of a dying cigar, I recognized the bearded face of the spectator – it was Juelient. The man was an occasional visitor to the pub, preferring to sit alone on the garden-encircled veranda out back. I’d never really spoken to him.

I was then shaken back to the present problem when the anonymous mugger stood with my grandfather’s watch, my phone, dissected wallet, and night’s winnings in his now-grimy hands. The valuables were shifted to one hand while it’s partner drew something from a shaded pocket.

A gun. It was lazily pointed in the general vicinity of my head.

My one functional eye widened.

I aimed a last, probably-useless kick at the man’s kneecap. Juelient sprang forward simultaneously, faster than a striking snake. Not that my urban upbringing and subsequent lifestyle had ever allowed me to actually observe a live one.

The man crumpled under one or both of our blows – the adrenaline pounding in my veins obscured any impact I may have felt – in surprise and pain. Falling to his knees, he dropped both my things and the weapon of death.

Panting heavily, I watched, paralyzed, as he scampered to his feet and took off down the alley in a staggering lope. A mad dash to escape this scene of horror.

Juelient begrudged him the right, lifting his hand. I did likewise; no idea why. It just felt… natural. There was a terrific bang.

The figure collapsed in a heap, and Juelient wordlessly stalked over to the motionless body. He put the barrel of the weapon a few centimeters away from the dying man’s upturned face and pulled the trigger. I didn’t know how, but it seemed like his face was right before mine. There was a second flash of light and detonation of sound, and the terrible vision vanished from my eyes but not my memory. I felt like I would never forget the image of that clean-shaven, thin-haired face, mouth slightly agape, spattered in my blood and illuminated in the blinding light of his own gun. And as far as I know, I was right.

In that secondary muzzle flash, I’d recognized the man and would-have-been mugger; Charley, more regularly known as Carl, a barfly and occasional card shark at the pub. He was a well-known gambler, more often the prey than the predator, whom I’d somehow managed to win over heftily tonight. Too heavily, for him, it seemed.

And now he was dead.

I didn’t have time to remember him, or even what was going on – Juelient was working his way back towards me, gun in his hand like it’d always been there. He’d thrown his cigar over into a puddle of water of slime and drainoff. Oddly, it had made no splash.

However, I could not dwell on such an obscure phenomenon, as he had offered me his unencumbered hand and lifted me to wobbly feet.

Blinking like an owl in the daylight (another gift of nature I’d never seen with my own eyes), I was shocked when he laughed boomingly and plunged the gun he’d killed a man (and I’d been threatened) with into my hand, which had, strangely, already been in the correct pose for wielding it. I almost threw it away amongst the other refuse – in this nation, such firearms were extremely contraband. In my city-bound life, I’d never learned how to use – or even touched – one.

Shuddering, I looked into Juelient’s ruddy face, with his jovial amber eyes, attempting to descry some meaning in all of this – hidden, obvious, obscure, plain, it didn’t matter. I needed to know what the ever-loving fuck was going on! A man was dead, I was beaten bloody, and his murderer – and my apparent savior – was standing in a debris-strewn alleyway, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

Completely ignorant of the smoking gun in my hand, it seemed, he inquired of me, “So, mate, where’ lie yeh den? You seem a mite weary and sick o’ bein’ out o’ doors at ‘tis hour; ‘tink you ‘oughta ‘ead ‘ome ‘for you run ’mok so’ tro’ble.” He laughed again, slapping me on the back like I’d seen old men do.

Still shaking, and once again fearing for my life, I staggered to the sidewalk and gesticulated desperately at a red-brick boarding house almost a block away. Squinting, he leaned passed me, bending at the waist, and apparently saw my destination. He then straightened, took a wide step onto the uneven road, took me by the elbow and rumbled harshly – yet strangely friendly, “Aye, y’do seem a bit wonky m’friend. ‘Tink I’ll ‘elp yeh find yer way back.” Adjusting his grip into a vicelike embrace around my still-shuddering shoulders, he then led me out of the alley and down the twilit path home. I was utterly and completely bewildered.

We walked down the dimly-lit street. Having wiped my face clean with a shaky hand, I was now able to determine the physical appearance of my strange savior. He was tall and broad; several inches my superior in both dimensions. Juelient walked with an odd stride; his demeanor was pompous. Boisterous, almost. But it possessed a sort of foreign, predator-like lope. He was humming an aimless, detached, sort of tune under his breath, beady eyes set firmly ahead. I couldn’t see much of his face beyond that; thick jowls and mutton chops were vaguely visible, but that was all to be seen in the glare emanating from a replacement cigar smoldering between his teeth. It smelled like vanilla.
A deep drift of fog had settled in by the time we reached my place, making it impossible to see anything below the torso, or much above. The overall effect was eerie at best and bone-chilling at worst.

The eerie silence was broken with a gruff, “A’right, mate. Found yer ‘ouse, ‘ee did.” Juelient then cocked an eyebrow and turned his head slightly, so that one glassy eye was fixed on my person. It seemed… puzzled.

“’ell? ‘re yeh gonna ring ‘teh bell?”

My mouth opened and closed soundlessly several times, like a fish out of water. I couldn’t articulate my speech – or even breathe, it felt. Sighing, he patted me on the shoulder with his left hand, then gracefully ascended the cement steps leading to the doorway. He lifted a fist to knock, but paused at the last moment. Turning towards me, he winked with a toothy grin plastered across his hairy face. Then he stood tall and straight like a well-mannered schoolboy, and rapped twice on the wooden surface.

There was a seemingly drawn-out pause; several hesitant seconds later the door flew open (well, inwards) and the landlord – worn old wifebeater shirt and grossly distended gut both ready for action – stuck his well-proportioned, balding head into the open space. Searching the gloom with wary, strangely-alert eyes (Barry was his name), he then spotted me and noticeably relaxed. Leaning against the cheap framework, he appeared to ignore Juelient, not even glancing at the towering figure before him.

“Well, I’ll say! Nice to see made it back, lad. Thought one of them damned kids was a-knocking at me door, the hour ‘n all. Right, yeh comin’ in, boy?”

I sputtered an unintelligent response. Juelient stood stark-still.

Fingering the gun.

Barry was eyeing me suspiciously, “Somethin’ wrong? Why ain’t you comin’ in-a-doors? Lad, yer lady’s up-top and Johan is topped out in his room… study, whatever the hell he’s callin’ it. Oi.. when’s that rent comin’ in? You two’re fallin’ behind. Two months, already. Us landowner’s gots to eat too.”

He continued to stare at me, like a small child at the zoo. My throat felt constricted; I couldn’t talk, couldn’t breathe. Barry’s brow began to furrow in frustration at my apparent incompetence.

A visible wave of recognition mixed with some other, unidentifiable emotion washed over his face.

“Say… how’d you knock on me doo- “

Bang. Juelient had brought his pilfered weapon up in one concise movement and pulled the trigger. Barry’s disproportionate belly imploded in on itself, a small black hole appearing below his drooping, fat moobs. He gasped and fell twitching into the amber light behind the doorway.

I gasped in shock and leapt up the stoop, brushing Juelient out of the way. He moved aside without so much as a whisper of wind, and his countenance was grim. Angry, even.

Barry whimpered like a little dog, his blood spilling out from his stomach and onto the dusty hardwood floor of the hall that lead into the boarding-house. His eyes were wide and bloodshot, his face was pale, and he shook madly. I tried to hold him still with my hands but he shirked me away, terror evident on his visage.

He was crying now. His own hands, and mine in places, were covered with his lifeblood. He didn’t scream, for which I was sickly thankful. That’d draw attention, and God only knew where things would go from there.

Then I thought; why did Juelient do this? Seeming to mirror my introspection, he stared at me with those big brown eyes of his and softly gasped, “Why?”

And then he convulsed once, twice, thrice. Then he died.

I sat on my knees next to him for a few minutes in shock. Two men in my life were dead tonight, by the hand of someone I barely knew.

I spun on him in anger, speaking fast and harsh under my breath.

“What the fuck is this? What did this man do to deserve a fate like this?

“What does any man do?” The bastard was being thoughtful and cynical.

I was confused, still in shock. None of this made sense. It was all wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. “The hell? Do you fancy yourself a philosopher? A bloody murderous one, at that? A goddamned new Socrates?”

“Goethe, actually.”

“Fuck you! This is madness!”

“This is Spa-“

I hit him. Hard. I was crying now, nothing made sense. This stupid Irishman that waltzed around with his gun and his mass of unruly hair. His coat of tweed and plaid. And that godforsaken hat.

He took the hit and rolled with it so that I didn’t break my hand. Strangely, the sensation of my flesh slamming into his was minimal. I almost didn’t notice it. At the time I put it off as my nerves being at the end of their limits.

I had no idea what was to come.

I shook terribly, trying to make some kind of sense of it all. I couldn’t, no matter how much of my faculties I put to it. Mouth working furiously and fruitlessly, I turned from him once more and walked down the hall and up the stairs. Juelient did not follow me. Or so I thought.
I stumbled drunkenly past Johan’s room in a stupor. Some youth singing about money and the faults of capitalism wailed over a stereo. Through his almost-open door I could see the far wall of his room. A poster of a balding American wearing huge sunglasses and smoking a cigarette stared back at me. I shivered and walked on, trying not to attract the notice of the room’s sole inhabitant.

I made it to my room. Ours, actually. My mate (in more ways than pertaining to sharing a room) sat cross-legged on our bed watching the ratty little television set, which she had turned up much too loud.

Not bothering to adjust it, I walked past the noise-maker (my father had always called them the ‘idiot box’, and for once I agreed with the man) and fell on our bed. Felicia jumped in surprise – she’d been napping, or near it, ignoring the movie that was on. Somewhere in my mind I recognized it as Fight Club.

She lifted up on her arms and lay next to me, hair unkempt and wild. Her eyes were tired, but beaming as they looked on me. I opened my own and dreadfully watched them change from that benevolent gaze to one of worry, then fear and revulsion as she took on my appearance. She’d worked her way over my from my usual garb to the stains from my attempted mugging, to Barry’s blood on my hands.

She hurriedly said, “What happened, baby?”

“I won a game of poker.”

“Don’t be a smartass.” She knew I didn’t like her to swear, but these were quite extenuating circumstances. “Especially not now. Is… is that blood on your hands.”

“Yes.” I answered her quietly, distantly. I was scared for what might happen.
“Oh my God. Are… are you hurt?”

“Yes. No. Not like that. Felicia…”

“Yes? Talk to me, please.”

I paused, painfully. Then I let the hammer fall. “It’s Barry’s.”

She said nothing, but I could see the sickening realization setting in on her face. Her eyes watered, and she clasped her hands to her mouth in fear. She said to me, “What happened to him?”

“I don’t know.”

“You must, if his blood is on your hands. Did… did you kill him?”

“I don’t know.”

“Stop saying that! Please, my love, explain this. What is going on?” She moved a hand to her stomach as if something was troubling her. It probably was.

I couldn’t answer her. I could only sit there with my face in my arms on the dirty bedsheets we couldn’t afford to wash. Neither of us said anything for a moment.

I lifted my head to say something, anything. I had no idea what.

And then Juelient made his demonic presence known.

There was a low crack, and a hole I could fit my thumb into materialized in Felicia’s abdomen. She inhaled in surprise and pain, doubling over backwards. She moaned in agony, and I realized he’d shot her.

I jumped to my feet in anguish, trying to do something, anything. It seemed there was a lot of that going around in those days.

Slowly, I watched as my love’s life oozed out onto our worn bedsheets. There was nothing I could do. I held her hand and her head and crooned softly, weeping, trying to make the passing easier. She jerked a little and went still.

Then she was gone. And so was the fruit of our love, our child.

And it was all Juelient’s fault. I turned on him, feral and furious. Spittle flew from my mouth as I screamed at him, “Monster! What have you done? What is this? Why! Why, why, why?”

He looked at my pitifully, face crestfallen and worn. This strange, archaic man said to me quietly, “It was necessary. Just as killing the man in the alley was necessary. And killing the man at the doorway was necessary. I’ve only been acting in your best interests, my friend.”

Friend. What the Hell did a daemon like this know of comradeship and friendliness?

“I know much of both, thank you. I’ve only been trying to help you. You’ve been through too much in your short life, my friend. Bullied by your peers at your job. Thieved out of your hard-won money at the pub. Harassed and hated by the man whose house you live in. You live next to a neighbor who you don’t know, and doesn’t want to know you, because his head is shoved so far up his nihilistic ass he can in fact see out of it.

“And you’ve conceived a child with a woman you haven’t known for a year, who claims she loves you. She didn’t love you, my friend. She used you to have a place to stay until she could support herself. Then again, she was just as happy leaching off of your meager income to up and leave.

“It was all much too stressful for someone as delicate as you. As introspective as you. As brilliant and creative as you. You deserve more than a shitty job, worse friends, and all the rest that’s come to pass. So I came up to give it to you.”

He smiled gently. This time Juelient had lost the thick accent from earlier and spoke in easily comprehensible English, in tone not dissimilar to my own.

“I gave you that bit of will that was enough to fight back against those that would cause you harm – like that rat in the alley. If you’d done as you always have you wouldn’t be where you are now. You’d be lying still and cold, beaten and broken in a pile of your own piss and blood and teeth and tears.”

No. No, no, no no no. This was not right.

“It’s quite right, actually.”



He could hear my thoughts?

“Seeing as they’re mine as well, yes, I can.”

And with that simple statement it all came rushing to me. Me, alone in that space behind the dumpster having my brains bashed out by a jealous acquaintance. Me, kicking him the knee and causing him to drop his gun. Him fleeing with my valuables, me pursuing. Me dropping him, and executing the poor bastard for following base human instincts.

The memories continued from there. I walked alone down the cobblestoned streets, talking idly to nothing. There was no one next to me, just me all by lonesome. Some lost sod with a gun and a bruised head. Soon I’d made it to the boarding-house, and killed the landlord.

“The fat bastard despised you, my friend. He had to go.”

My train of thoughts, looking at them from a new perspective, continued. I walked away from the still-warm corpse and up the stairs, revolver in hand. And come to my quarters and killed the girl that could have been my wife, and the child that would have been mine.

“You’re better off without her, you know. I wouldn’t be saying so if you’d never thought it.”


He shut up.

I prowled around the room like a cat, eyes surely burning into him. Juelient did not move.

“You’re telling me… that I did all of this.”

“By extension, yes. You see, my friend, I am you and you are me, but we are both each other. Trippy, I know. That New Ager down the way could explain it better.”

“He won’t be involved in this.”

“A pity. Anyway. If this is not how you want your life to be – then change it. You have the power,” he gestured broadly. “Literally, in the palm of your hand.”

I looked down and I was holding the gun. My grip was white-knuckled, and from the looks of it, had been so for a long time.

“If you want cheery old Juelient to go away… then have him go away. Do like you have before and point the gun and pull the trigger.”

I did so with no hesitation. It felt right. It felt wrong. But worst of all – it felt good. Natural. Like this was my calling, or something.

The slug hit him dead between the eyes, and the mirror before me exploded into a thousand sparkling crystals.

I was alone in my bedroom. Well. Not alone. Felicia’s body was still laying on the bed. I heard voices down the hall, and figured the authorities would be on the way soon.


I stooped above her and kissed her gently on the lips. She did not respond, and fresh tears of mine fell onto her increasingly-cold face.

I stood and walked away. I went to the bathroom and shut the door behind me. I looked into the mirror.

Juelient stared sadly back at me.

I turned away from him, though I still saw his reflection in the corner of my eye. I rested an elbow on the sink, propped my head against the mirror, and put the gun to my head.

Then I killed us both. For good.

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