So this story took me out of my comfort zone a bit; it kind of went down a path that had aspects of science fiction or, at least, a futuristic-y feel to it. That’s not usually what I write about, but I still found that there was something about this piece that I really enjoyed.
The idea of the beat was really something I’d wanted to play with for a while – the presence of this sound/beat that only he could hear, something beckoning him, something leading him “home.” So anyways, here is the story. Hope you guys like it!
P.S. Feature Image courtesy of Avid.
Who Do You Trust?
He staggered backwards, and tried desperately to inhale. He failed. He felt the ground beneath him fall away and the whole world crumpled into a deep spiraling darkness.
Hours later Josh woke up, bloodied, battered and with no memory of anything other than pain. He stared down at his torn and ragged Converses, at untied neon laces spattered with his own blood, and couldn’t force his mind to comprehend what it meant.
Where was he? Who was he?
Thoughts raced through his mind and he stumbled haphazardly towards nothing in particular. The night rolled on before him pitch black, one flickering lamp post off in the distance illuminating an area that may have well been as expansive as the night sky. He walked for miles, or so it seemed. After a time, he began to hear noise. A soft steady thump, at first, but the harder he listened, the more insistent the sound became – he could almost feel the beat, steady and sure like a heart. It was calling to him, beckoning him to some unknown place, some refuge from…this.
He dragged himself forward, around the corner, down an alleyway, always following the beat. In his desperation, the beat promised salvation. Like light in the darkness, like a siren of the sea, it called to him and he was powerless to resist its charms. Finally, exhausted and struggling to draw oxygen into his lungs, Josh found the source of his obsession, the source of the beat. It was coming from behind a heavy metal door, rusted and seemingly melded into place. There was something sinister about the way metal met cement; the fusion of the two presenting a powerful obstacle to the beat he craved. With a strength rivaling Atlas as he held up the sky, Josh raised his fist and pounded against the metal for all he was worth.
Boom. Boom. Boom. No answer.
Rap. Rap. Rap. Silence.
Silence? Even the beat had faded, suddenly, mysteriously. The steady thump replaced by a deafening lack of noise. Without a moment’s warning, it was gone, leaving only Josh, confused and defeated, in its wake. He fell to the ground again, this time voluntarily. He felt like he was going crazy, nothing around him made sense, nothing fit.
Why couldn’t he remember himself? Why was he bloodied and beaten? Where the hell was he? And why did the beat soothe him so, why did he feel as though its loss had ripped his very heart from his chest and left a gaping, ragged wound?
Before despair could sink its claws into his being, a small crack saved his life. Just a crack, and then wider and wider until all that could be seen was a black hole in the face of the wall. With a slow, whining creak, the door had opened. In its shadow stood a man, tall and broad and foreboding as all hell; it looked like he’d picked a fight with Freddy Krueger, and Mr. Nightmare on Elm Street had won.
Puckered gashes in a pale shade of pink adorned a face framed by a square jaw and a uni-brow that rivaled a squirrel’s tail. Dark eyes seemed to absorb every detail about Josh in seconds, made this stranger appear to know Josh’s life and story without the need for words.
“They got ya.” Simple words, growled out in a deep baritone. “When?”
Josh’s blank stare gave him away. He couldn’t place the question, couldn’t place the accent or the drawl.
“Jesus, ya don’t even know. Do ya?”
Again, a blank stare. Before he could even voice his concerns, Josh found himself being hauled up and dragged into the dark. He heard the metal slam shut behind him and didn’t protest as he was pulled into what he was sure was the bowels of the earth.
This has to be what death feels like, Josh thought. Yeah, that’s it…I’m dead.
“Remember anything?” This from Mr. All-in-Black-and-Scary-as-Hell.
“Nah.” Josh mumbled, his feet dragging along the floor as he was half-carried, half-pulled down a dark, winding hallway.
“Couldn’ta been long since they turned ya loose. Usually only keep ya long enough to knock ya around a bit. Damn fibs.”
A sigh of exasperation, followed by, “Federal Internment Bureau Sergeants, idiot.”
“I don’t, I…”
“Ha, knocked ya around good enough. Ya ain’t got no idea what’s going on.”
“Shut up. Ya’re stupid, that’s ya main issue. E’erbody knows ya don’t mess with the feds lest ya got some backup. Coulda got yaself killed.”
Before he could respond, Josh felt the hands propping him up fall away. He acquainted himself with the hard concrete of the floor. Still, there was only darkness, the world around him as pitch black as night.
And then, a blinding light and the beat. It was back, the soft and steady thump thump thump; it soothed his wounds, like a balm for his body and his soul.
Josh closed his eyes against the brightness and strained to hear the voices that now accompanied the beat.
“He doesn’t know…”
“…when did they take him?”
“…he tell them anything?”
“…are they looking for him?”
“…how did he find us?”
Questions that had no answers, questions that seemed to never end. Slowly Josh opened his eyes and found himself face to face with a small band of ragged and dirty misfits. Unbidden, the word resistance sprang to his mind. It lay on the tip of his tongue, but something held it back. Instead, he pulled himself into a sitting position and waited.
The beat pulsed all around him, seemed to weave its way through the gathering crowd, find his ears and sync with the thumping of his heart. It felt familiar. It felt like home, but he didn’t know why.
A young blonde girl, her greasy pigtails half covering an angelic face, held an ID card in one hand and his wallet in the other. She looked him straight in the eye: “Hello big brother, welcome back.”