Blind Light

Wednesday Night

The city was desolate, dark and glistened in the glow of neon lights; rain had recently begun washing away the grime of the day. However, in the distance, amongst the apartment high rises of downtown, the faint noises of a silenced pistol whizzed through the air; certainly, not all the grime could be washed away in this city. The sins embedding themselves deeper within each shot, a heart-broken man had finally been broken.

Standing over the skinny, scabby and life-less corpse-shaking as the barrel of his silencer smoked-Daryl was frozen in time when the bullet shells finally bounced off the shag carpet; full realization he had killed a man was now sinking in (slowly) like an infection. His skin crawled furiously with disgust; sweat dripped off his long, greasy hair and still work-dirty-body. But time was now of the essence.

I need to move, his mind yelled at him while standing in the apartment-sized living room. Swiftly unscrewing the silencer off his pistol, he placed the barrel back into the inside pocket of his black, leather coat and stuffed the gun in the back of his blue jeans. Time was still ticking.

Dry mud covered work boots boomed across the floor, Daryl’s body cutting through the beams of light radiating off the TV, he marched his way across the living room past the blood soaked couch- nothing but the sight of garbage, glass pipes, various bags of drugs, and other unknown, foreign objects lay scattered across the dimly lit room. Immediately noticing the gapping mouth dropping off the familiar face of the dead body, Daryl’s mind wandered through all the events that had brought him to this life-defining moment.

Wednesday Evening

The day prior, after finishing up another twelve-hour day down at the steel fabrication shop- a job he had finally hunkered down and kept for the past six months- he drove home. Elbow resting out the driver-side window of his 1996 brown, Dodge Ram with the rust around the wheel wells, he eagerly anticipated the sight of his beautiful pregnant wife, Sarah, as the blazing, setting sun in the horizon spread across his bearded, weathered face.

Turning off the traffic-jammed highway onto the final stretch of gravel road, leading to their driveway, Daryl began feeling so certain about the future- and very proud of correcting his past life’s trajectory- that when he got home that night, he wanted to finally start piecing together the baby’s room for Sarah. It was something she had been asking for the day he first got the job; the day they found out they were pregnant; the best day of Daryl’s life in his eyes. But the programmed worry “that something was going to go wrong” kept him from finding the motivation to set the room up; whether she left him, something happened to the baby, or anything else that hindered a happy future together presented itself, Daryl’s past had been of trauma, and he was not at a point in his life where he wanted to be hurt or disappointed- ever, ever again.

Although “the life” howled inside of him like a lone wolf in the night, it was Sarah that took him in and showed him a life worth living for; spending multiple drunken, high nights crashing on Sarah’s couch in her downtown apartment after meeting in rehab-Sarah was the one that stayed strong and never relapsed after treatment. She also never gave up on Daryl; sticking beside him through his months of relapsing, constant late-nights with friends and drug dealing, Sarah finally had enough one-night and told him: “either you stay sober or you lose me. One week Daryl. I FUCKING mean it this time,” her voice boomed through her then open-concept apartment. He knew she was serious, because he had never seen that look in her eyes before.

This immediately prompted him to clean up his entire life in exactly one week. He cut off everyone while Sarah was able to get him a job with her Uncle at the local steel fabrication shop- life was beginning to shape up. But Doug wasn’t having any of it when Daryl told him he could no longer party, sell or do drugs, or “live a life where I’m not happy anymore”.

Doug informed him, “you’ll regret this one, bud,” and hung up the phone before Daryl could say anything else.

He didn’t think much of it after that though; he figured if Doug was the “true friend” he always claimed to be, he would listen to Daryl, and join him in sobriety. But Doug, Doug had other plans- and it was something far more sinister than Daryl ever thought he was capable of.

Finally reaching the end of their gravel parking lot in front of the modest countryside home, Daryl noticed the front porch light wasn’t on: “Sarah always leaves that on for me… she must’ve fallen asleep, I guess,” he announced out-loud to himself before taking the keys out of the ignition.

The sky was now a deep, dark purple and bright yellow as the sun was close to being swallowed by the night- which welcomed the cold for all; the loud opening squawk of the old truck door screeched out into the deserted fields as the slam of the closing door brought one big clap for Daryl and his work day. Crunching gravel underneath his muddy work boots, he slammed each foot into both front steps- shaking the entire porch- while simultaneously stretching his right arm out for the front door handle. He hoped he would of been greeting his lovely wife. But something seemed off in the air, and as soon as his hand touched the door handle-he felt the negative void like a surge of electricity through his body. He ignored it as long as he could.

Entering the entrance, he saw the staircase immediately to the right leading up to their bedrooms and storage closets; the kitchen sat to the left with it ending into a dining room that joined the living room; and the living room was directly down the hallway in front of Daryl with one single lamp light on. This was strange, he thought, crunching his eyebrows down while he leaned towards his feet. Unlacing his work boots, he set his red and white lunch bin on their bench and placed his hand on the wall for support. His long, greasy, brown hair covering his eyes, he put it all behind his ears, straightened up, and trudged his way down the family picture covered hallway.

“Sarah… Babe? Are you home!?” he hollered out into the stillness of his home.

Entering the living room-looking to his right- immediately seeing the back of Sarah’s head leaning over to the side, she sat on the couch in her white bathrobe and faced the blank TV that sat upon the wall above the fireplace.

“Oh… you’re sleeping,” he began to whisper with a slightly amused chuckle stepping towards her, “I guess I’ll start making dinner, but first, I. Got. To. Steal. A. Kiss” he continued to whisper while walking around to the front of the couch. But what he saw next, would change their life, forever.

The sight of her gapping mouth falling off of her face and the sound of a heart shattering was all Daryl could see and hear in that moment; devastated, he jumped over the coffee table and began shaking Sarah to awaken, but the several bullets lodged in her chest proved that he was just wasting his time. His baby and wife had been murdered in cold blood. Sobbing into her brown, long, silky hair that smelt of flowers, he could not come to a conclusion as to why she or this innocent, unborn child deserved this.

This had nothing to do with them!, Daryl angrily clutched onto this thought as he closely held his wife and child in his arms for one last time. Their house no longer felt like a home, which emptied Daryl’s soul like a broken change vendor.

When the police finally arrived, he told them she nor he “had any bad air with anybody”; however, certainly, he knew exactly who murdered Sarah and his baby. And nothing, nothing was stopping him from handling his own justice.

Never taking the time to shower away the day after the police were done-but not before taking in an entire bottle of rye, several pain pills, and copious amount of cigarettes and pot tokes-Daryl grabbed his keys, black leather coat, and one family picture from his bedroom shoving it into his coat pocket right above his heart. Looking back into his home before departing, he softly spoke: “goodbye, Sarah. I’ll be seeing you all soon. I love you and I’m sorry”. He felt the photo he held kept what he said alive, but the uncertainty of it all made his heartache while closing his home’s front door.

Menacingly walking to his truck, he drunkenly slammed the driver-side door as he sat down, revved the engine, and spit gravel everywhere as he sped off into the darkness- he hoped that he could find some sort of light before it was too late. But all he was able to discover was the familiar (but unwelcome) creeping shadows between the cracks of the city, and Daryl’s past demons, supplying the tools needed for this fatal venture.

Parking the Dodge between a Chinese restaurant and a very-old, brick built, fourteen floor apartment-Daryl turned off his engine, lit a cigarette, peered up at the second floor balcony hosting the flicker of TV light shining out the window, and proceeded to take one, long deep breathe before exiting his truck.

Walking towards the back door-knowing this may be the last night he had on earth-nothing felt more surreal than the situation he had in front of him: retrogressing and killing one of his past friends for having killed his best friend and unborn child. But Daryl questioned this no longer, suppressed all emotion, shattered the back door window with the butt of his gun, and sprinted up the staircase to apartment 209.

Thursday (Early) Morning

Now climbing down the fire escape, Daryl squeezed his whole body out the tiny window that had held the flicker of TV light and jumped down into the box of his truck. Gazing back up the building, he spotted the small head of a child staring down at him in curiosity from the fourth floor; Daryl’s emotions began to bounce around his head again, but quickly, he swallowed the pain, jumped over the tailgate, and hopped back into the truck’s driver seat. The eyes of the child now burned into his mind, Daryl sparked the engine and sent his tires squealing into the streets of the city. Tears cleansing his dirt ridden face, the street lights flashed down on him as his truck raced out of the city.

Sirens could now be heard all around downtown; the old lady downstairs hearing the excessive banging from Daryl’s work boots, she sent security up minutes after he had fled the crime scene. Police arriving in moments, they identified the body and found Daryl’s prints all over the window sill within minutes of investigating. But Daryl, Daryl was now an hour out of the city in the middle of nowhere-buying his time-until fate came knocking.

“You want the single or the twin bed bedroom, sir?,” the old-man at the motel’s front desk asked Daryl in his Texan-like accent; wearing a trucker hat, a dirty, white muscle shirt, and glasses, the man appeared to be an extreme alcoholic behind his sunken face, missing teeth, and slender, malnourished body. However, Daryl could only stare off in a daze- this annoyed the old man; his eyes bugging out of his glass lenses, the bottom lip of his mouth seemed to engulf his entire upper lip as he stared up at Daryl waiting for an answer.

“Single” Daryl stoically answered back while standing inside of the hut that held the motel’s front desk.

Now the man asking for a credit card to hold, Daryl quickly handed over Sarah’s. Reaching behind him and looping the first key off a hook on his index finger, he placed the yellow keychain on the counter (room 209). What a coincidence, Daryl consciously thought to himself staring into the wide eyes of the old-man assisting him right now.

Leaving the motel’s front desk, Daryl walked to the store attached to the motel and bought the biggest bottle of rum he could find. Stumbling his way up to the room he rented for the night, the motel formed a c-shape around the parking lot and hosted one floor on top of the other. So when the trek up the stairs finally ended, it seemed to be a mountain for Daryl. Completely out of breathe he violently opened the door, sat down on the end of the bed and chugged a quarter of his rum; the taste was vile, but the feeling was splendid as the liquor burned his chest and warmed his core.

Laying back a moment, Daryl dozed off to the mental image of Sarah and her long, brown, flow-y hair bouncing down a sun ridden beach line. Smiling with his eyes closed, within minutes he was snoring atop of the bed still completely clothed.

Thursday Morning

Waking to a sudden voice booming outside of his motel room, Daryl could now hear police officers shouting: “we have you surrounded! step out with your hands on your head!”

Quickly jumping off the bed-out of his dreams-he ran and began peering out the blinds by the front door; spotting multiple police cruisers in the parking lot below, the officers were now posted up behind their cars with guns drawn. Light cutting through the slits of blinds into the single bedroom, the face upon Daryl’s scraggily head looked on like this is what he had planned all along and his “company” had finally arrived.

Patting his leather coat down to make sure he had all his possessions, Daryl finally opened the front door and stepped out into the blinding daylight. He felt as if his sins were bubbling out of every pore now.

“GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND PLACE YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEAD, NOW!,” the young, in-shape, female officer yelled up at Daryl.

Staring up at the sunlight beating down on his greasy, dirty clothes and body, Daryl smiled with teary eyes and continued to look back down at all the guns pointing up at him. He knew he could not run any longer- from anything. Past or present.

“GET DOWN!” the female officer demanded one more time. But Daryl could not live on his knees any longer- he was ready to go home. Praying to himself in front of that beating sun, Daryl swiftly went to reach into his inside coat pocket. Suddenly, an orchestra of gun blasts went off and sharp pains spread across his entire chest.

“I..I..I’m coming-” Daryl began saying to himself as blood spilt out of his bottom lip. However, swaying around, standing outside his motel room door, he finally fell and broke through the wooden railing of the balcony. Daryl landed (dead) on his back upon the parking lot pavement.

The officers stepping slowly towards him with guns still drawn- a small smile lay upon Daryl’s face as he gripped a photo of him, Sarah, and Doug at a local park. All sitting on a bench together, their arms reached across each of their shoulders with wide, toothy smiles gave way to a past that did not seem as it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Loathing A Lone Mind

First Chapter

 “Ey! Ey!” shouted the disgruntled customer, spit painting Quincy’s face waking him up out of his daze within the depths of thought.

 “I told you! I did not want MY four litre of milk in a plastic bag! Damn handles are going to bust soon as I leave this place!” the man yelled. Throwing his arms in the air- making sure the entire section of store witnessed his temper-tantrum- the largely round and balding man in grey sweat pants, a dark blue t-shirt that barely covered his midriff, and a face that seemed to hold a permanent grimace, he proceeded to rip the jug of milk out of the plastic bag leaving the young, slim, and trembling “Save-As-You-Go” employee wondering… “Why is this man so fat, and why do I put up with people- like him- for roughly $385 every two weeks?”

With a half-amused chuckle, and smirk, Quincy got back with the “program”. “Oh damn! I…I…I mean sorry sir! Your total comes to $56.45,” he nervously announced over the cash register. The entire section of store now with all of their attention on the altercation taking place at till three, Quincy’s forehead began to bead with sweat and his brain swirled with anxiety.

“Any slower, or if you continued to not follow simple direction, I was about to make you pay my bill for the inconvenience of this “supposed” convenience,” the disgusted man hastily explained reaching for the rest of his bagged items.

Eventually, everything else that he had to complain about turned to white noise. Looking past the obese head upon the man’s shoulders, Quincy saw the most beautiful girl ever (well, certainly in Quincy’s world) enter the slightly busy shopping centre for her night’s work shift. His heart fluttered. Her long, straightened blonde hair, fit body, and spandex pants… Quincy thought Amanda could possibly be “the one”. However, one has to know one exists for that to be plausible. But today, today he knew he was done with the world’s “shit” and was ready to face his fears.

By quarter after six it was time for lunch break; Quincy quickly closed his till, went to the washroom to check his breathe and hair, and immediately spotted Amanda sitting alone in the store’s cafeteria- where they often served over-priced hot dogs, runny milkshakes, and the worst hamburger you’ll ever have.

The sweat and anxiety proceeded again walking towards Amanda. Quincy was speechless- as usual. Again, he could see and grasp his dreams, but his emotions hindered every move that he felt could lead to growth in his life. Quincy felt sick. He felt hopeless. The twenty-three year old b-lined it for the closest table without occupants and hung his head for the duration of his break. He watched Amanda gracefully swipe through her phone during its entirety. He imagined a world where he was “that guy” and she was “his girl”. He imagined a world where he was truly, genuinely happy to be alive- a world in which he felt he belonged.

Enough of this self-pity!” he convinced himself into thinking while walking back to his work station. The thought of self-defeat twisted his guts. As it always did. However, curbing the negative thoughts was only one step in this process of change. He thought about the action to change and felt exhausted already- he saw a mountain instead of a step. But today, today was the day he knew he was moving towards something greater. And time was about to play an undoubtable factor.

Second Chapter

 Closing in on the last hour of his shift, Quincy had drifted into drone mode without any more thought. Hours passed without checking the clock. He looked up above the cafeteria menu and could see how much time passed. It was time for one more fifteen minute break he remembered while simultaneously increasing the speed of his scanning, bagging, small-talking, and approving payments.

Amanda was working over on till one when Quincy had reached his final fifteen; he couldn’t envision any way of making the move he obsessed over all-night. Straightening out his apron he began walking over to her anyways- but out of nowhere, without warning, three masked men stormed into the front entrance. Shooting their rifles into the roof of the building, they demanded: “everyone hit the fucking floor, you fat fucks!”.

Quincy’s mind flew into a frenzy seeing the terrified faces of colleagues and customers. Tears streamed down Amanda’s face, as she laid flat on her stomach in compliance of the madmen’s orders. Now anger beamed throughout Quincy. Anger that was unlike any other, because it was laced with fear unlike any other.

 “Now was not the time to feel anything,” Quincy conjured it over with himself. “Just act!” he whispered. Pushing himself back to his feet, the three masked men towered over the pool of shaking bodies sprawled across the white tiled floor.

Hey! Little fuck in the back! I’m going to shoot you if you don’t lay back down,” the bearded tall one in the green ogre mask shouted out, “lay down!” he immediately insisted again, now pointing the barrel of his gun across the room at Quincy’s head.

“Why don’t you just let these innocent people go and you can take what you want without the theatrics!?” Quincy shouted back- surprising himself with the response-as if he was having an out-of-body experience. But, although a breakthrough for Quincy, nothing but the quiet sobs of the hostages and muffled laughs of three gunmen filled the store. This irked Quincy even more.

Amanda peered up at Quincy from two tills down. He felt his heart flutter again. But emotion had no place within these circumstances-he had to think fast if he wanted to see tomorrow. Shifting his eyes around the store, while they stupidly chuckled, Quincy searched for a weapon to throw at one of the goons, so he could possibly run off for help. It was a chance he felt compelled to make.

“Hey, ball-sacks!” Quincy yelled while launching a roll of quarters from the countertop directly into the crotch of the bearded ogre. The shot was magnificent and sent the three of them into a panic. Quincy took the moment to duck and scurry into the food aisles as bullets ripped the store apart around him. Now was his time to shine.

Third Chapter

 Quickly glancing back before sliding into the cereal aisle, Quincy seen the gunmen running forward against the crowd as they all push and shoved for the door- his plan worked. But now he was these guys center of attention, and he had little to no cover from here to the emergency exit four aisles down.

Getting to his feet, he ran in a hunched position as he pushed up with his hands and straightened out. The aisle ending, Quincy now faced a wall of dairy, meat, and frozen food products. But still, the sounds of cereal boxes ripping apart soared in the background. Trying to think quickly (again) he slipped into the freezer full of large pieces of meat- all mostly legs of lamb.

Quietly closing the freezer door behind himself, the cool air settled into his bones like deaths final breathe while the smell of dead flesh engulfed his nose. Quincy figured it would be karma for all the delicious pork chops, burgers, and hot dogs he had enjoyed throughout his carnivorous existence: dying beside the ones his fellow humans viciously slaughtered to gain nutrition. Quincy’s sick sense of humour in this potentially fatal moment made him laugh quietly out loud. Suddenly, the sound of clomping combat boots in the distance reeled him back into his right mind. Every stomp that got louder, the shorter Quincy’s breathes were; now the ogre was right outside the iced over, transparent freezer door.

“Where the fuck is this kid!” he shouted to his henchmen in the other aisles, “he didn’t look that smart… the stupid fuck!”.

Quincy was as frozen as the meat all around him, but he felt insulted, scared, and tired of being oppressed by garbage humans like the ones holding up this small town grocery store. He thought back to the man that complained about his milk earlier that day, and how viciously he attacked Quincy- but now Quincy felt he had a justified reason to viciously attack someone else, who certainly deserved it. This overwhelmed him with the feeling of power and in one violent push, Quincy slammed the freezer door against the back of the “ogre man”.

Glass shattered all over the floor and robber as he crashed into the glistening tiled floor. The rifle was now out in front of the bearded man, and Quincy could see the opportunity to capitalize. Booting the man in the junk (again, again) he cried out in pain and rolled to his back from his stomach. Quincy ran, leaned over, and now held the most power he had ever possessed: a loaded weapon.

Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!” the glass covered buffoon screamed. Suddenly, shots rang out all around Quincy’s head shattering the glass of the freezer doors. Gripping the rifle to his chest, he raced towards the emergency exit ahead of him, but the door was locked. Looking behind him he could see the other two helping their downed comrade off the floor. He fired some shots hoping they didn’t hit anybody, but created enough time for him to escape- and it worked, perfectly. Missing all three of them, but rattling them beyond what they expected out of their “job”, each one was determined to have Quincy dead before they were shot or locked up. But first they would have to catch him.

 Last Chapter

 Quincy sprinted for his life towards the front entrance. Seeing several cop car lights beyond the store’s front windows, a barricade of cars blocked any chance of an exit for these guys. Although this gave Quincy some peace of mind, the three heavily armed men were already at the end of their aisles with guns drawn. Popping off several rounds, Quincy hit the ground behind the conveyor belt of till one.

Come out with your hands on your head!,” announced the voice over the speaker outside. All together the three hostile men readied their weapons and began blasting everything in their way of the police outside of the Save-as-you-Go. The sound felt like the shattering of Quincy’s eardrums as he squirmed (somewhat safely) behind the till Amanda was working on. And with the fact of this thought making him think of her amongst all this madness, he wondered if she had made it out safe. Shaking his head to rid the bothering thought periodically, he quickly prayed in his head, peered over his shoulder, and began soldier crawling towards the exit.

As bullets flew from outside and inside of the store, Quincy crawled underneath the blind fire with ferocious speed; passing the bird feed spilling all over him, the cafeteria was directly ahead and the umbrellas sitting atop of the tables now kept no shade. Scanning his surroundings momentarily, the store was in complete shambles, but freedom was only feet away, and Quincy could careless about this dump he hated slaving away at anyways. This was the change he weirdly wanted if he could survive the next few moments. Swearing to himself-crawling across the dusty, dirty floor-  he promised that he “would never return to any job he loathed so much again“. He felt he was in control now.

All at once the shooting came to a close, Quincy could fully hear the ringing in his ears and the moans of pain coming from all around. It was hell. But life never seemed more exhilarating. The adrenaline was something else for Quincy, however, now was the time to check his surroundings for this all to finally end.

Staring to the right, the three masked men lay riddled with bullets. Quincy looked on with a horrified, shaking face and quivering lips- he had never seen a dead body before, let alone three of them. It was if he was now sympathetic for them, but knowing they had brought this on themselves was really the only peace of mind for everyone. So, Quincy cleared his mind of any burdens and stood up while dusting his chest off in the entrance of his former employer.

Setting off the chime of the front door, Quincy stepped out into the cool night air with a new confidence- especially since Amanda was watching it all safely down the road with the ambulances. And besides the fact that he smelt like dead lamb, was covered in dirt, sweat, cuts, and specs of blood from the glass shards: Quincy was on top of the world. His slender, tall body was as tattered as the store, and his clothes matched along with his now uncombed black, short hair. However, directly to his left in the distance, Quincy had spotted the girl of his dreams looking on at him in the glow of the police lights, their eyes locking as flickers of red and blue bounced off of their young faces. Walking towards all those emergency response vehicles, and most importantly Amanda, Quincy felt his heart flutter (once again).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Peculiar Gift of Benjamin Klatch

Life for Benjamin Klatch up until July.29th/2050 had been one uneventful day and night after another; every morning consisted of putting on the same black dress shoes, white buttoned dress shirt, black pants, and walking several blocks from his modest one-bedroom apartment to his father’s mattress sales company.

Benjamin’s long and slender limbs swung joyfully by his sides as he hummed an old rock tune, gripping his brown-paper bagged lunch tightly in his right hand. He wasn’t exactly happy, but the sun was shining and he couldn’t help but notice all the beautiful, spandex clad joggers bouncing along the wooded trail that lead him right onto the parking lot of the strip mall where his father’s business resided.

Breaking free from the shade of a thousand towering trees, the hot summer sun beamed down on his black, short hair and fair, white skin while he almost leaped across the slightly empty parking lot that consisted of many well-known consumer driven corporations: Wal-Mart, Jysk, Micheals, and a few food spots.

Benjamin didn’t pay many of these places any mind, but he did frequently visit the book store on his work breaks. He dreamed of becoming a well-renowned author since he could remember, but at twenty-three years old, he felt this vision becoming blurrier each and everyday he walked through the door of Sleep Haven. But today, on July.29th/2050, he was determined to finally write and finish an entire short story after his shift. It was a start he thought.

His day trudged on with each and every second that passed by. “Smile Ben! Who do you think will be taking over this business when I pass on? It sure as hell isn’t that beached llama Troy over there”, Benjamin’s large bellied and balding father barked at him from the other side of a pillow-top mattress, pointing his sausage sized thumb behind him towards Benjamin’s brother. He chuckled and asked “beached llama?”

“Yes, cause he’s dumb as shit and does nothing but sit there” Ben’s father laughed back. Behind the top of his father’s head, sat a chubby, muscly bodied and curly, long, blonde haired former high school football player.  During high school Ben’s father praised Troy as the one to go on and make a legacy for the family; but trading in gripping the pig-skin for gripping ecstasy every night would surely erase any future for Troy in sports. He was everything Benjamin was afraid of becoming, however, his father’s life didn’t seem much to marvel at either. But at least he stuck around to keep them together, unlike their mother.

Benjamin idolized his father for his work ethic, leadership, loyalty to him and his brother, and the ability to have a sense of humour as a single father all these years. But going on to run Sleep Haven felt like one more nail in the coffin on his dreams. So, in expert fashion, Ben avoided the topic by implementing humour. Something that always distracted his dad long enough for another customer too walk-in.

Behind Ben entered a dirty, average sized and bearded man with a tattered trench coat and combat boots. His eyes were a piercing sky blue. “Yo merchant man! I can smell your fucking ass from here!” Troy hollered over the sea of display beds while leaning on the front counter like a drunken goon. Their dad immediately shot his head around and glared at Troy as if to say, “shut up! or die!”.

Turning back around with an ear-to-ear smile, he began to waddle towards the eccentric man with his hand out, apologizing for his son’s ignorant comment. “I’m sorry for my son’s uneducated outburst. He’s been tested for Tourette’s syndrome but we found out he’s actually legally retarded”.

The man stared blankly into the eyes of their dad, and then grabbed his shoulder and shoved him slightly making him trip a couple steps to the side. Benjamin looked onward with worry as the mysterious man approached him. His gaze made Ben feel stiff and stuck; like he had complete control over his every move.

Stopping inches away from Benjamin’s face, all he said was one sentence: “every tale brings forth a new surprise” in an enchanting whisper. This meant nothing to Benjamin. But before he could ask questions, the man turned around and left while harnessing the power to silence the room with nothing but his presence. The front door bell rang and the man was never seen in the flesh again.  However, his words and impact would never be forgotten by Benjamin.

Shaking his head in disbelief, their dad called the guy “a crack head”, and left the front floor for Benjamin for the rest of his shift while heading to his office too finish some paper work. But Ben couldn’t stop thinking about his personalized message. Why him? What did it mean? None of it made sense.

Walking home he began to mull over short story ideas as he still felt obligated to stick to this mornings promise he gave himself: write and finish a complete short story. But inspiration was escaping him. What was he to write about when he felt he had no valuable experiences to pull from ?

Hours went by without any productivity, until it dawned upon him: “why not write about what I want to experience? And who I want to be through fiction?”. And that’s when everything began to change around Benjamin; the story he wrote began altercating his life in ways he couldn’t imagine. He named his story New Money, Old Money and based it on a character that was born into a family of no financial privilege that goes on to become the world’s best boxer, writer, and actor. Although most would call Benjamin a “wimp” or “skin n bones” throughout his life, Benjamin’s physique changed dramatically within a week of exercise. He outsized Troy now.

Also, his writing got extraordinarily better, and he felt as if the perspectives of all walks of life were easily understood through his eyes. Benjamin felt on top of the world. Nothing could take away this strange gift that that odd smelling man in the trench coat told Benjamin he had. But he wondered if it came at a price? Was the energy of his stories stealing from others so he could fulfill his most sought after goals? Or was it pure luck or magic? All Benjamin wanted to do now though was make another story to keep himself from ever ending up as the owner of Sleep Haven. But as the saying goes: “careful what you wish for”.

This time his story was called A Long, Lost Haven; it was about two sons and a father that owned a clothing company that burns down while they deal with the passing of their mother and wife. But everyday Benjamin woke up he still had to go to work, and his father still talked about Ben owning the company.

Weeks went by until one morning as he emerged from the woods he saw a sky full of red, hot flames blazing from the store he once worked at. He felt terrible now. His father’s business he had worked so hard for was gone, and he wished it. But this wasn’t what he wanted. He just wanted an out from the business.

Firefighters, police officers, and bystanders all surrounded the smoking pile of debris and ash. Benjamin, Troy, and their father stood behind the yellow tape with the rest of the people to hear the cause of the fire.

Eventually what the emergency response team would find just behind the burnt business was the remains of the culprit that donned a pair of combat boots and a trench coat. Benjamin swallowed hard and stared horrified as they lifted the charred body from the blackened pieces of wood. Nothing felt real anymore.