Fiction: The Things We Do

It’s been six days since they laid siege to our city. First we heard their jets screaming overhead, their missiles and bombs whistling as they fell on our homes. Those were followed by artillery strikes, accompanied by the thundering of tanks just a few kilometers from the town’s borders. Dust clouds filled the air, choked out the lungs of the oldest and youngest. Whatever left were burned to cinders by their soldiers. Our favorite restaurants, the supermarkets where we’d pick up our groceries every weekend or so, the houses. By the end they were all gray remnants of what they once were.

We were not to be spared. Or maybe the lot of them just went trigger happy. Anyone unlucky enough to end up at the crosshairs of a squad out on patrol would be shot. Dying slowly or instantly, it didn’t matter. The shooters would just walk on, not checking up on their latest kill. Surrender really wasn’t an option

Some of us hid. In hollowed out malls, stores, subways—the rather naive ones chose abandoned houses—or whatever place gave the illusion of a safe haven. I knew better. Staying meant waiting for the inevitable. Leaving, as risky as that sounds, at least gives us a slim chance to get our lives back. And I’m not about to let us stay here to die.

The second-story skylight’s giving me a pretty nice view. A patrol of four riflemen, lightly-equipped by the looks of it.They’d be leaving in a few minutes, I hoped. A warehouse isn’t really the most obvious of places to hide in, with its wide-open first floor. The second though, had endlessly branching hallways, good to disappear in, if it came to that.

A sudden pattering of feet, taking my eyes off the roads. “Dad? I need to go to the bathroom.”

“Could you wait a bit more? I’m kind of in the middle of something here.”

“No, really, I need to go. Now.”

I sighed. Can’t really ditch my post now. “Just this once, you can pee on the floor.”

He looked surprised. That was one of the first no-no’s we’d taught him.

“Mom would get mad!” he retaliated. Good to know he listens to his parents.

“No she won’t, I’ll explain things to her. Now then, back away a bit, and go on with your business, okay?”

He didn’t say anything else. Probably still a little confused that I’d just told him to whizz on something other than a toilet. Two years ago he’d do that on anything close by. They sure grow up fast.

I turned back to the window. The four were still there. Chatting, passing cigarettes between themselves. I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. Was that Russian? Chinese? Japanese? I needed to know if they were planning to sweep the area.

Oh no.

They started walking over. Did they see me? Did they hear anything? Shit, shit, shit. Gotta get Tommy. Gotta hide. Gotta leave. Run.

I whispered, “Tommy.” No answer. A little louder, “Tommy!”

“Yes daddy?”

“We need to go, c’mon.”

“Huh? Why?” that puzzled look on his face, totally unaware of the danger out there. God I wish I could feel the same way.

“I’ll tell you about it later. Now c’mon. You have everything with you?” He nodded, face still not showing even a hint of comprehension. Better that way.

I carried him in my arms. “Now, whatever you do, don’t make a sound okay? Not even if scary things show up. Okay?”

He snuggled to my chest, hiding his face. Good idea, wish I’d thought of that.

I walked with the heels of my shoes, making as little noise as possible. Where should I go? The stairs? No, too risky. Fire exit? Their friends might be waiting outside. No choice, have to wait for them to come up here and sneak past.

Voices. Footsteps. They still talked, loudly. Did they think nobody’s home? Or that whoever’s in here would pose no threat to them. I prayed for the former.

Broken pieces of glass cracking under the weight of their boots. Things thrown to the floor, couldn’t tell what. Or why they’re even doing that. One of them shouted something. The same phrase again and again. Is that a demand for surrender?

They know we’re here. Please, God, please. Fucking listen to me for once!

Another voice, one speaking a language I could understand. “Don’t shoot! Please don’t shoot!” A woman. Faint mumblings, from the soldiers probably. They were talking over something. One of them barked, “Strip!”

Nothing.

“Clothes. Off. Now!”

Nearly inaudible, the woman muttered, “No. Please.”

A barrage of gunfire followed, aimed at the top of the first floor. The rounds poked holes a few meters from where Tommy and I hunched over.

“You do,” the lecher reiterated, “now!”

“No, no, no. You can’t do this. You can’t! Please!”

Then the sounds of beatings. A bone cracked. A burst of air escaping the mouth of someone whose gut had just been pummeled. A skull smacked into concrete.

“C’mere Tommy,” I held him close, as much I could. “Close your ears, don’t ask why, just, just don’t okay? Everything’s gonna be fine. You just need to close your ears and everything will be fine.”

I could see tears welling up in his eyes, but he did as I asked. I helped press his hands further—no child, no son of mine should hear any of this. And for the next eternity, I listened to a woman being beaten senseless, wailing for help that I could never give, her pleading the soldiers to leave her alone.

HELP ME SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP PLEASE

The tune of rape. It—she—had saved us. Ah Christ.

Then one single shot, a round of laughter, and the beasts strolled back to the streets. They went away, far from where I could see them. It was safe enough for me to let Tommy go. And vomit.

We awoke the next morning, not remembering when we fell asleep. I gathered our things, checked Tommy’s little rucksack; his toy cars, Superman comics, they were all there. Mine was still full of canned foods, from fruits to beans to ground beef. At least food wasn’t all that hard to find.

I peeked through the windows, and saw no one. I tried to hear anything as best as I could HER SCREAMS and could pick up only the caws of birds SHE BEGGED FOR HELP. The roads are empty YOU DID NOTHING. They have to be.

“You ready, buddy?” I asked.

“Yeah.” I put his green beanie on his head, patted him twice, and carried him downstairs and to to the streets.

The border, it can’t be that far away anymore.

We passed empty homes, parking lots with burnt out skeletons of metal, parks with their trees, bushes, and grass turned gray. Tommy kept asking why they were all like that. I answered, “because something bad happened,” and he didn’t reply.

When my arms started to give, I let Tommy walk by himself. It hadn’t been long since he learnt how to, but his legs still wobbled each time an uneven surface popped up. It’s adorable, really.

“Daddy, daddy!” he wobbled towards me, face bursting with excitement. It’s good to know he could still feel that way. “I think a storm’s coming!”

“Hmm? Why do you suppose that’d happen?” I played along.

“Cause I can hear the clouds rumbling,” his hands both cupped next to his ears, pointing upwards like radar dishes.

To my surprise, I could hear it too. But not from up there. Not the skies, no. The ground was shaking.

Tank.

I didn’t say a word, instantly dashing and grabbing Tommy of the pavement, sprinting as fast as I could. Houses, no. Too visible. Malls? Supermarkets? First places they’d send their footmen to check. Dammit. Dammit. Someone’s running.

I didn’t know who he was, where he was headed, but maybe, just maybe he had an idea. I followed him. Tommy clutched my arms until they heard. He was scared. I haven’t said anything. Didn’t want him to know the kind of things we face. But he knew.

Left once, right twice, straight until he found an abandoned house identical to any other. I was far from him, couldn’t keep up with his pace. He crouched down, and opened a trapdoor. From a distance it seemed as if he’d torn open a square of grass. He didn’t turn to look, and climbed down, closing the hatch behind him. I ran faster and faster, already out of breath.

Reaching the hidden latch, I put Tommy down and tugged. I pulled until my fingers turned white. I heard something creaking, then cracking, and the latch sprang open, tossing me flat on my back.

“Let’s go, Tommy.”

“It’s dark down there.”

“It’ll be okay. I’ll be right beside you.” The rumbling grew louder, they were getting closer. I yanked Tommy off the ground and he yelped, but there was no more time.

The ladder was rusty, brown all over. I managed—somehow—to bring Tommy with me downstairs. I climbed up again, and shut the latch. By the time I was done, i sprawled myself on the ground and gasped for air.

“Get out,” said a voice.

It was pitch black, I couldn’t see anything. “Please, they’re out there, they’ll slaughter us.”

“This is my house.

“You have the space. We’ll leave as soon as they do. I’m begging you, let us stay for a little while. You’ll save our lives.”

“You’ll lead them here!”

“No one followed us, I swear it!”

A figure, small or large I couldn’t tell, leapt from the darkness. It tackled me to the ground. Its claws maimed the skin of face, its limbs assaulting whatever part of me it could find. My hands flailed wildly, looking for purchase. While its found my throat, and squeezed. Pain, in my neck, in my chest, everywhere. Not yet. Not yet. . .

A  loud bang and the beast howled. I sucked in all the air there was. Slowly, far too slowly, I pushed myself upright. There it was, eyes gleaming in the dark. Face ragged, covered in hair, eyes wild. But it was smaller than me. I tackled it to the ground. Again it tried to pry to skin off my face, yet I managed to slap its arms each time. My hands were now on its throat. I found its larynx, and put forward all I had to crush it. “We just wanted a place to stay!” It trashed around, its eyes dimming, its knee found my gut, and I spared a fist for its chest. Then it stopped, eyes still open, body unmoving.

I backed away on all fours. Repulsed by the thing. It’s dead. It’s fucking dead. Thank God. Thank the goddamn Almighty.

Light poured out from the ceiling. I frantically twisted my head, looking for who had caused the sudden illumination, noticing that Tommy. He’d found the light switch. Good boy. He was also holding a small shovel, the kind someone would use to dig up spots for flowers. Did he. . . he did, didn’t he?

My kill. What was it? I couldn’t see its face, but it was male. It wore khakis, and a floral shirt which hid its generous belly.I inched myself closer, to see it, its face.

An old man. It, was an old man. White and balding hair, brown spots all over his skin, wrinkles wherever one looked. Seventy,. Maybe eighty. Those gleaming eyes? They were his spectacles. And this weak, decrepit man was my kill.

“Papa? Papa?”

My voice came out, raspy, wet, “Yes?”

“Why’d the grandpa hit you?”

“Because he was a bad man, Tommy.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“Will we meet more like him?“

“I guess so.”

“Will they hit you too?”

A clicking sound, then the creaking of a door. Someone’s entering the room. I tucked Tommy behind a wooden box, moved frantically to the source of the sound. Moments before the door opened, I placed myself behind it, invisible to whomever’s entered the room.

“Gramps?” the unknown said, “is that you? Did you find—“ he screamed, noticing the body on the floor. He was a kid, no older than sixteen by my guess.

“No, no, no, no, you can’t. . .” his mouth repeated again and again. Hunched over, I could still tell that he was a large boy, big enough to be trouble.

I slipped my shoes off, and walked with no hurry towards him. He hadn’t noticed me. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, as I grabbed his head and slammed it to the concrete floor. It made a crunching, splattering sound. I held it and waited, and he did not move.

“Tommy? It’s all right, you can come out now. The bad men can’t hurt us anymore.”

He peeked at me, from the corner of his box. He didn’t move, leaving his one eye wide open, staring. Not at the bodies. At me.

One green, piercing eye. Unblinking. Unwavering. Focused.

But why?

Fiction: Hello World!

On and on and on Miller kept on droning about how “this wouldn’t work.” We’d get caught, sentenced to life in prison, shot in the earliest opportunity, bla bla bla. I mean, sure, the man does have some credibility to his argument. When there’s an opportunity for something to go wrong, then something will probably go wrong. But it doesn’t matter though.

I kept on telling him, “It’ll be fine, you’ll see.” Hell, I even told him that it wouldn’t matter if we died. If we succeed, hopefully the people will listen. And if we fail, then nothing would really change. No earth-shattering catastrophe would come about just because a few men died because they decided to do something for the world they live in.

Well, if he wants to back out now, it’s way, way too late for that. Worst case scenario, I’d have to shoot him myself. And that’s not the kind of thing you do to your closest friends. But man was he getting on my nerves.

Thankfully, the other guys didn’t spaz out as much as he did. They’re nervous, it’s inevitable, yet they maintained some level of composure. Checking their clips every few seconds, humming tunes that may as well be random keys fluttering without structure.
Whatever floats their boats, I guess.

Our van got in without so much as a hitch—much easier than I expected. There were sniffer dogs, but we weren’t carrying any explosives so they didn’t matter. The routine of flashing mirrors at the underside of the car, scanning the trunk for anything ‘inappropriate’ made for nothing interesting to the security. I mean, we were driving an AC maintenance van, so there were bound to be boxes and boxes of heavy equipment. Plus, the guys checking seemed like they couldn’t give less of a crap if we had brought in a nuclear warhead. Two in the morning isn’t particularly helpful for perception.

Well, this one’s for them anyway.

After they waved us through, we parked at the most obvious of places in the basement: the cargo spots, where we could freely unload all our gear without anyone batting an eye. The truckers next to us didn’t even glance at our stuff. Still, we had to wait for them to leave by pretending to look for missing equipment. I’d be an idiot if I’d let some of our stuff slip out. Which, when I thought about it gave a convenient spot for the cleanup crew to park in.

So they left, and we began our preparations. Kenny pulled out all the electronics from his box. Miller took out the guns, hiding the bigger ones in that ridiculously oversized leather jacket of his. The smaller arms—the handguns, the submachine-guns, etc.—I took for myself and Naomi. We’re not the bulkiest members of the group. Last time I unloaded a shotgun, I dislocated my shoulder and shattered one of my fingers. How that last part was possible, I will never know.

Naomi and I hid our gear in backpacks. Miller’s were in his jacket. And Kenny’s duffle bag was stuffed witch cables, circuits, all the technical things whose functions would fly way over my head. He held a gun of his own, of course, purely for safety reasons.

We were prepped and ready to go. Kenny, not saying a word as he left, went to wherever he said he’d be most comfortable to work in. Miller darted to the emergency stairs, while Naomi and I climbed up via the freight elevators. Not to sound insecure, but fully black t-shirts and trousers just wouldn’t fit into the general cocktail party vibe.

On our ride upstairs, Naomi kept fidgeting. Her legs kept tapping the floors, her eyes couldn’t pry themselves away from the rising numbers above the control station. This would be a very bad time for her to lose her cool. “You all right?” I asked.

“Fine, fine. Getting a little bit of stage fright, is all.”

“Alright then.”

The elevator chimed and it opened. We went out, and was immediately greeted by a dude in a security uniform. I gotta say, I worked really, really hard to stop the laughter rising up my throat.

“What are you two doing here?” the guy asked.

“Fixing the aircon,” something believable, c’mon JImmy, you can do it, “got a call an hour ago, heard the one for the buffet started acting up. Pretty soon—from what I’d heard anyway—the thing’d start leaking.”

“Shit, why didn’t anyone tell me? I would’ve caught hell if that happened. Well, you guys go do your thing. Just keep the noise to a minimum. Important guests in there, the kind who’d fire a guy for handing ’em the wrong type of spoon.”

“Rich people and their spoons. . .”

“I know, all that money and you still give a damn about spoons,” he sighed. “Well, see ya two later then. Good luck with the AC.”

“Thanks.”

That, was a freakishly lucky break. I could see Naomi sweating up. Heck, she could’ve filled up a pool with just her sweat. Thank God she didn’t start talking. I urged her to keep going.

We found a dark, abandoned enough corner to get changed. Into a more suitable attire for this special occasion. Nothing screams cocktail party more than baklavas and bandoliers. Gotta say, being in your underwear with an attractive woman who’s wearing barely anything kinda tugged my focus away a bit.

“Was that a good enough show for you?” Dammit, so she did notice. As nonchalantly as I could, I mumbled, “let’s keep moving.”

All the waiters, waitresses, cooks, ushers, what have you’s were all busy with the event. We met no one else as we strolled to backdoor of the ballroom. Kenny’s probably mucking around with the security systems right now, inserting false images to the cctv feed, yada yada yada. Any second now he’d set the lights to go out, and that’d be my cue to move on in. And Miller, assuming he didn’t blunder into a squad of private bodyguards or something, would be in there as well.

And everything was dark. I could hear the surprised yelps coming from the other side of door, then the calmer moms and dads telling their kids things would be okay, the staff composedly shouting to one another trying to figure out just what was happening. I opened the door.

I could barely see anything. It was like a bundle of shadows bumping into one another. Couldn’t tell which of them were male or female. Pretty sure they’re all old enough, though. So I started pushing forward, trying to remember as best as I can where the center of the room would be. Ah, the chandelier, that was the X. Thank you sparkling pieces of crystal.

Naomi was nowhere in sight, neither was Miller. But if they’d followed instructions, they’d have stayed put at the entryways, chaining them up. No point in waiting anymore. I pulled the trigger at the closest figures I could find. They instantly began to scream. Another barrage of gunfire to my left—Miller. And from where I came, rounds of a semiautomatic flew through the crowd. Hope they remember the ‘no kids’ rule.

Some people bumped into me, not knowing that I was the source of the first shots. How could they anyway? The sparks were too short-lived to notice. I emptied my clip, as did Naomi and Miller—maybe they were out, or just tired. Who knows, it didn’t matter.

The lights came back on, and there they were, Naomi and Miller forming a loose triangle around me. Thinking about it, it was quite a miracle we didn’t shoot each other. Well, time to introduce myself. I fired once at the roof. They shouted, screamed, the kids started crying—the predictable things in life.

“Goooooood evening, ladies and gentlemen! And the beautiful and wonderful children you have here with you. Sir, ma’am, kiddies please move back a little. Go on, it’s okay.”

I’ve seen the pictures, but damn this place looks gorgeous. At the farthest end of a room is a multi-tiered fountain embedded into a wall, not splashing even a single drop to the carpeted floors. The buffet section had roasted chicken, pork, sushi, salads, fruit platters, and whatever else you can imagine. There were no tables as all the guests spent their time standing, good idea that, really shows off the marbling of the floor.

“Now, when I introduce myself I usually come with a name—my real one, of course—maybe even where I work, my fondest childhood memories, so on and so forth. But, as I’m quite sure, you understand that I cannot divulge any of this information due to current predicaments. For that reason, you can call me ‘John Doe’.”

Predictably, no one said anything.

“Well then, with the pleasantries out of the way, I guess we’ll head straight to business.

“Now stay calm, I promise you that some of you will make it out of this room alive. Even if my friends might exceed the tally I set. Now, now. before you all get riled up—try to call the police, do something as stupid enough as fighting us, just know that you cannot communicate with anyone outside this room—your bodyguards are being taken care of by my cleanup crew,  your cells and even your carefully concealed panic buttons won’t work. An acquaintance of mine has made sure of that. And I’d heard the soundproofing in this place is unparalleled.

“So, since there are no other options for you, I suggest that you lay down and accept whatever action I so choose. Who knows? You might be the lucky ones. I mean, I don’t plan to murder every single person in my sights. Pray that your Almighty—whoever that is—will choose you as the lucky ones,” I ended with a smile.

All of them laid down on the ground. Some slowly, others as if the flooring was their long lost lover. “Oh and I’m not gonna kill your kids, so don’t worry about that.” One shot, two, three, four, five, I lost count. Cue gasps, yelps, screams, and weepings now that they can see people they know dying.

“How’re your ivory towers holding up? Not so well? They can’t protect you in your hour of need? That . . . is unfortunate.”

I stopped shooting, and asked them, “Why do you think I—my friends—are doing this?” Silence filled a room of more than three-hundred people. “It’s simple, really. Your kind has trampled us for decades, centuries if you read your history books. You have kept us at bay, made us into nothing more than figments of your imagination. Boogeyman who’ll never pop up since we’re all make belief. But we’re not. This, this is not revenge. This is a demonstration. A show of what happens when you ignore the needy, the starving, the homeless. This is the will of all those you had forsaken. All in your mistaken belief that hard work would be justifiably rewarded. Without ever considering that it is you who bar us from what we rightfully deserve. Simply put, what we are doing now is an illustration of what’s to come.”

The crowd said nothing, than an old, essentially derelict man came up to the front and yelled at me. “You’re insane!”

“Now, now, well, that may be true. But not having one’s marbles doesn’t necessarily mean that one can no longer speak of truth.”

“What the hell do you want?” he demanded.

“We want nothing,” and that was true, “not a single thing from anyone of you.”

The geezer looked puzzled, aghast at the thought that nothing in his pocket could bail his sorry ass. Some of the kids began crying again. The wives held their husbands closer and closer—even if most of them probably only saw each other as trophies and wallets.

“You see,” I continued, “what we want is no longer here. We, my friends and I, alongside all those people outside having nightmares about their mortgages, student tuition, even the lack of a roof above their heads, want nothing from you. Because you can give nothing. You’ve already taken it all.”

I began laughing, didn’t know why. “All your money are safe and sound in analog and electronic systems far too complex for all my peers to break. Even if you gave us the cash in a duffel bag, the bills’ numbers would likely be traced. So what’s the use of stealing from you?

“We, are here to do something different.” I scanned the crowd and saw a very well-known face, one that’s popped up in the covers of Time, Fortune, those pages with the sole purpose of allowing the rich to admire themselves. I pointed my gun at him. “You, yes you, stop darting your head around this isn’t a classroom. Come on up. Come on. Now that’s a good boy.”

I held him with one arm on his shoulder, gun pointed down. “Would you mind introducing yourself, mister…” And he said nothing. I suppose that should be expected, given the situation. “Don’t be shy,” I said as I prodded the barrel to his cheek.”

“P-P-P-P-Peter.”

“See. that wasn’t so hard. Now what do you do Peter?”

“I’m a businessman.”

I practically guffawed at that statement. “Don’t sell yourself short, Peter! You’re practically an oil tycoon! You’d be a rajah, a sultan or whatever else the Arabs call their rich!”

Peter kept quivering in my arm. “What’s wrong, buddy? No no, don’t tell me. You know how you got here. You see, ladies and gents, Peter here is a ruthless son-of-a-bitch.”

He said nothing, eyes set on the ground like a kid caught cheating in a test. “Would you care to explain why, Peter? Or would you have me do the honors?”

“What are you talking about?” he dumbly asked, pretending to know nothing. I knew that was what he was going to say, hearing it felt better though.

“Now’s really not the time to play the idiot card, Peter. The good men and women here deserve to hear the truth, don’t you think?” another smile. I gotta say I’m enjoying this. Where was Naomi and Miller anyway? No gunshots or anything. Probably just scanning the crowd for another equally fascinating person.

“Now, my friend Peter, is the CEO of a very, very prestigious company. With lucrative ventures wherever there’s one to be had. For almost thirty years he’s headed tens of thousands of people across the world. Giving them jobs, opportunities, and so much more. That all sounds fair, of course. But then again . . . can anyone in this room guess how much Peter’s salary is?” Not a one said anything.

“Since you’re all so clueless—or shy—let me just say that it’s almost, almost, a-hundred-eighty-two times that of the average worker. His average worker. This might sound a little blunt, but that does seem a bit unfair, doesn’t it?”

Peter started struggling a bit. To my surprise, he even looked at me in the eye. “I built my company!” he shouted, “from nothing, from scratches, from begging to countless people to give me a chance. And you say that after all those years of hard work, I do not deserve what I have now!” More of a statement than a question.

“Well that is true. I do suppose you should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Though you’re forgetting something, Peter. Did you not realize, or simply tucked away, the millions and millions of our fellow man working as hard or harder than you did in your youth? Yet were unfortunate enough to not land in your same shoes.”

“How the hell is that my fault?”

“Oh it ain’t just yours, Petey. It’s everyone in this room’s. I should clarify.” I shot Peter’s leg. He wailed, people screamed, the kids bawled their eyes out.

I waved my gun around, sweeping the crowd with my aim. “You are all incredibly lucky to be able to stand in this room. Some of you are here because you have been blessed in your honest struggles to success, while others found enough dark nooks and crannies to get to where they are now. Either way, you’re all filthy rich.” They kept on staring, not a single person saying anything. Was the scare tactic with Peter that effective? Wow.

“The problem with that is, you guys have basically pooled most of the money and opportunities out there. Which aren’t inexhaustible resources. Leaving people like me with your leftovers. You sleep in castles, cruise in yachts, speed with your favorite Lamborghini’s and Ferraris, feasting on caviars. . . While my kind go through our days shaking ourselves with utter terror for our upcoming bills. That’s quite simply unfair, wouldn’t you say?”

Some random woman in a dress that looked like it had been generously bedazzled piped up, “So what? We did what we had to do to get here. Maybe we were lucky, but that doesn’t mean that anything’s wrong with us!”

I looked at her with pity and contempt. “True. True enough. But then again don’t forget the affluent mothers, fathers, grandmother, grandmothers, and all the other wealthy folk in your bloodlines. You can’t seriously hope to convince me that they had no effect. Yet this is not the point, really. What’s your name, ma’am?”

“Excuse me?”

“Your. Name. Please.”

She stammered slightly, “Priscilla. It’s Priscilla.”

“Well, Priscilla do you remember me asking you to speak up?” she looked puzzled at first, then turned to her feet. “I did no such thing, huh? I very much hate to be interrupted when I’m talking. I used to be a teacher, you see, and I absolutely can’t stand whenever my students would start chatting mid-lecture. Of course, back then I had to use restraint.” She looked at me then, I could see the fear in her, the sense that her time’s about to come up. Then I shot her.

The crowd panicked again. I started to aim up again, but Miller poured out his shotgun shells, drowning out the screams. “So glad to have your attention again. And thank you, Mr. M.” He grunted his acknowledgement.

“As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted. The point of this charade isn’t to milk any of you. We’re not hoping to get out of here with bags of gold on our backs, no. We are conducting a show to be watched by millions and millions of people. If you would all be so kind to turn your heads to the surveillance cameras in the room. They’re practically everywhere, I’m certain you’ll find them.”

They followed my order spectacularly. Though quivering, silently weeping, they seeked the cameras and found the ones closest to them. An impressive display.

“Good, very good. Well then, time to explain the show’s premise. We, including myself and my colleagues are no longer being broadcast to security. Instead, all that has happened and will happen are currently taped. And that piece of digital imagery will be broadcast throughout the world. Via the internet, primarily. The mainstream media would only pick it up later anyway. So, put your best faces on, ‘cause the whole world watching.” I couldn’t help but smile again. I might have a problem.

“Well, as the rules of storytelling dictates, it’d be better to demonstrate what’ll happen than tell you about it. Mr. M, Ms. N?”

The three of us emptied our ammunition to the crowd. Bodies fell left and right, red splattered the once spotless-white of table cloths, the marblings, everything. Yes they screamed for help, yelled empty promises of revenge, begged to be spared. None mattered. As our bullets ran low, we stopped. And admired the scene we had painted.

Corpses on top of corpses. Bodies sprawled on furnitures priced in the thousands. The color of spilled wine mixing with the red of blood. It was a sight to behold. And the children, they sat and wept, stood and stared into nothingness, held the cold hands of their deceased caretakers. I didn’t say a word to them, choosing to immediately face one of the cameras.

“This, is what happens when greed festers in the human mind. Decadence, laziness, arrogance. The finest for the ones who least deserve them. Admittedly, there may have been a few decent individuals here, but they have regrettably become collateral. Not because we intended to strike them down as well, but because your kind has pulled them into this repulsive world of yours.

“The children, we shall spare. That they may remember the lesson each of you must heed: Do not forget those who clean your bathrooms, the ones who hide the trash you produce each day, the people who are handed nothing but scraps from your fat wallets. This day is not the last. We have waited long enough for your kind to change. Our patience is no longer enough. It is our turn to act.

“Hello to the world of the prosperous. We will be your guests for quite awhile. I will see each and everyone of you soon. That, is a promise. Goodbye.”

Well, time to make my exit then. Kenny’s very likely dead. Cops will get wind of us sooner or later. Security could still pose a problem. But the job’s done. Whatever happens next, doesn’t really matter anyway. Others will take up the torch.