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Had I known I would have returned I would never have left. Then that skyline that remains in the shadowy distances of my memories would no longer hang over me as it does now.  This city. This horrid fucking city. Frozen, and bitter, just as I had left it.

It's cold. The wall against my back is cold. The floor beneath my legs is cold. Everything is cold. My body breathes in shivers, taking in small pockets of air and exiting them like a machinegun. I can see Wolfe's breath from across the room. He exhales likes he's smoking a cigarette, and it wisps and curls about his gun.

My heart is beating fast, yet my breath drifts out in sluggish clouds. I can see the vague silhouette of the city looming as the fog rolls slowly up my glasses.

And then this world begins to blur into the fog that crept through the buildings on the day I returned. That day, with every formless light I passed, I could feel my memories pressing in on me as I hurried to my sister's store.
"This city is dark," Arthur had said to me once, the memory of his voice pestered me as I walked through the fog. "They all are, once you get to know them well enough."

"Just like people?" I snorted, hovering over my steaming coffee trying to absorb its heat. Arthur's figure was a dull, gray outline through the haze.

"Yeah."

I laughed, and the steam danced into my nostrils.

"Oh shut it, will you?" Arthur rubbed his hands before shoving them into his pockets. "And it's a cold one at that."

"You're just such a miserable old fuck." I looked down at the gray hazy figure on the ground. It was groaning, and rolling pathetically from side to side.

Arthur toed the body at our feet, and cocked his head. "Really?"

"What? At least he ain't dead. This is what he gets for doing what he done."

Without a word, Arthur raised an eyebrow. I set my coffee down and adjusted my eyes. The man at my feet had dark circles in the places I had punched him, and his mouth was bleeding a bit where a tooth apparently had used to be, though I wasn't sure if that was me too. I wasn't really paying that close attention to the before and after.

I hadn't meant to hit him so hard.

"Cities are dark," he said.

His words echoed through my head as I walked the streets I could hardly see, but knew were there. "And it's people that create cities."

It was that memory that repeated in my mind as I tried to look at the city one last time before I ducked my head into the fog and entered the shadows.

The steam in my coffee. The fog as I returned to the city. My glasses clouded from my panicked breathing.  They all moved together like a hurricane you see from orbit, pulling everything inward in slow, lazy turns; its violence inevitable.
Wolfe's silhouette hovers nearer. So, too, does his gun.


* * *

There are times when man thinks that in life, if nothing else, he at least has his feet.  It's a comforting thought, even if it's bullshit. It turns out that all man has is his eyes, and they must watch wherever the feet may take him. It was never my intention to return. The hard pounding of my feet as I dashed towards the West was nothing but the pounding of my heart, for it is here, in this city, that my feet stayed, and it was to the sunrise my heart strayed.

Wolfe's footsteps move in time with my heart. Heel-toe. Ba-dump. Heel-toe. Ba-dump. It sounds like…

I close my eyes, trying to remember the sound that drifts in and out of my thoughts like a vague sensation of déjà-vu.

Heel-toe. It sounds like… Ba-dump. Heel-toe. It sounds like…

Click. Bang.

And then the memory tears through my mind like a bullet.

I was at my sister's store. She had only just bought it, and she was struggling to keep the floor clean. She was struggling in other ways too, but it was the leaves she decided she could fix. Every time the door opened, autumn leaves would blow in. The crisp kind. The kind you go out of your way to step on so you can hear that satisfying crunch as you grind it beneath your foot.
  
When I walked in, she grabbed behind the counter grabbed a broom and dustpan and made her way over to the door. Her apron was stained, her hair disheveled, and her homemade nametag was crooked. "He's not back yet," she muttered, hurriedly sweeping up the leaves.

"You let him go out?" I asked, flabbergasted.

"Just across the street. I can see him. Is it that bad?" She stopped sweeping, and gripped the broom tightly.

"Yeah."  I looked about the place, and then at my father's other heir. The one he liked well enough to stick around for.  "He'll be back though, right?"

"Soon. And then you'll take him, right? Get him out of here?"

"I promise."

Click. The door opened, and in emerged two customers. My sister sighed and fetched the broom. I knew them. From where? It didn't matter.  Any familiar face here could only have meant one thing, and the only thing that mattered then was that they saw me. I launched myself over the counter, throwing the Styrofoam coffee cups by the register into the air. Click-bang. Like the tap of Wolfe's footsteps, came the sharp staccato tapping of gunfire in my memory. It sounded like Arthur's impatient fingers, and suddenly it was his words that were all I could think about.

"This isn't a story, old man," I bit out, staring stonily at the Styrofoam coffee cup in my hand. "Anne and me, we aren't characters."

"Anne and I," he corrected, tapping his fingers against the counter more loudly.  Click. Bang. "Can you read lady? The cigarettes are right there! It's even got a nice picture of a camel so you don't have to know your ABCs."

The clerk said nothing, but moved notably slower.

"And have I not taught you anything?" Arthur turned to me, his fingers still moving up and down.  Click. Bang. "Of course you're a character. What else are you? You certainly in control of what you do. Everything you have ever done is written by whoever you were born as. That's the author. DNA. Call it what you will, destiny, fate, maybe even God. And just like a character, you never know where these 'coincidences' brought on by your choices are going to lead you."

Arthur Catch liked to play English teacher. He used to be one, although I could never rightly understand why. I knew that if you were to ask him for a list of all the things he hated, at the top of that list would always and forever be kids. Even so, he seemed to think it was his mission to teach me what he deemed proper English. I more or less figured it was so I wouldn't grate his nerves so much every time I spoke rather than any act of benevolence on his part.

Finally the cigarettes came, and he gave the clerk the money, which she took and counted slowly. Very slowly. Arthur resumed tapping his fingers. Click. Bang. "Life and stories rely on coincidences. They control you. Why do you think I'm still here?"

"Excuses, old man. Excuses. You're just too weak to control your own circumstances, so you blame it on something else."

The clerk returned his money, and on the last tap of the finger in my memory became the last bullet to rip through the air. It was my bullet.

Bang.

From the other side of the counter, I watched the memories of us slowly walk out the door into the autumn, our dim silhouettes stepping through two bodies. I looked beside me. Next to me was a third.
It was my sister.

And then I heard the boy's footsteps. Heel-toe. Heel-toe. As my thoughts whirl about me, it is hard to tell who is coming closer: the boy in my memory, shouting for his mother, or Wolfe.

* * *

What a man says in his silence is far more telling then his words ever could be.  I know what Wolfe is saying. Nothing. And this is because he doesn't care. This is the way it is, and he has no qualms with it going one way or another, as long as it ends. That's what his silence is saying to me.

I don't like silence. I'm always trying to fill it with something, but now… I can't speak. And in my silence, I worry that he can hear my apathy.

I think that if you listen to something long enough, if it's repeated enough, it becomes silence. The sound of the train rattling along the rails becomes white noise. The gunshots in the city becomes nothing. Like a broken record, it replays and replays, and it no longer means anything. If a tree falls over an over and over again in the forest, does it make a noise?
I try to focus in on the sound of his footsteps, but instead all I can hear his is silence.
Silent like a graveyard.

Silent like that cemetery where her grave was. The silence overwhelms the room, and find myself sitting next to a white headstone in another memory. I didn't even know why I went there, other than I had nowhere else to go. It was dark, and I had to feel the name Hart beneath my fingers to make sure I was in the right place. I took out my cigarettes, feeling the outline of the gun through the thin lining, and leaned back against the stone and took a long drag.

"It seems strange looking for the living amongst the dead," said a lifeless, all too familiar voice that haunted the air. I instantly drew my gun and pointed it in its direction.

"Hey Wolfe." I didn't put the gun down. "Here to kill me?" I tensed my muscles, even though I didn't think I could have won in any case. Wolfe was, and always has been, too fast.

"No real reason to since the order isn't out yet. This your first night here?"

I didn't answer, but I did put the gun away.

Wolfe's smile was feral as he brushed his sandy blonde hair from his eyes. "I just wanted to see if I could find you."
I shrugged. "Well, good job."

"It was rather ego-validating, I must say." Casually, he leaned against a tombstone decorated with an angel whose left wing had long been broken off.  "You know, periodically I send out someone to look for you."

"And what has the success rate been?" I took another drag from my cigarette.

"Success rate?" he smirked. "Well, the death toll has been rather large. It's convenient way to get rid of the dreg while making them do something useful."

"So you're saying if they don't find me in a certain space of time…"

"Their loyalty is considered dubious and as such…"

"Are taken care of," I finished the line of reasoning he seemed to find to amusing to continue. "Still creative as ever."

"Indeed."

And then it was silent. The kind of silence I knew all too well. Wolfe did that a lot. He always seemed to think that half the words were all that were necessary.

"So, what are you going to do?" I asked exasperatedly, unwilling to listen to the quiet.

"The options available are…" and he trailed off. God, I had heard this half a sentence before. He went silent then, too, when he said it the first time. I could feel the anger from the past well up in me from the memory. I could hear myself shouting in another time and place. Warmer, but far less comfortable.

"Well, speak will you!" I yelled then, throwing myself into an armchair. "Who knows how deep Anne has got us into this. At least I took care of her."

"Barely. The bastard is still alive."

"And what do you want me to do about that?"

Wolfe didn't answer. His eyes were looking inward. I looked about his new office, and found myself rather jealous of it. His chairs were plush and comfortable, the fireplace warm, and the mahogany smacked of a certain class I could never hope to aspire to. Whatever chances I had at having them seemed to be dwindling, and it made my stomach turn.

All I could hear was, "only you say she was a traitor and you shot her."

"So what are the options?" I asked, and then supplied, "less than agreeable?"

"Indeed."

A man can say a lot in his silence. By not saying the words I so desperately wanted to hear, he was telling me to… The thought completed itself, but I didn't let myself put it into words. I couldn't. All I could do was stand up and leave that dark office, never to return.

I knew what the options are. "Guess this is goodbye then," I said in the graveyard, echoing the words I had said in his office.

Wolfe nodded, and walked away.

What happens when silence is repeated? It cannot become more silent. When true silence repeats… I can't complete the thought. I'm trapped in the quiet, and I know it will end with a simple click, and then a bang.

* * *

I'm looking at my feet. I won't give Wolfe the satisfaction of being the last thing I see. The sole of my shoe is no longer attached, and the gaping hole smiles at me like a scar. Like her scar.

There are scars that every man holds for himself, and it burdens him with history. The pain, long gone, remains as long as it is remembered, and it that scar is nothing but a reminder. Scars assure you that you'll feel that pain forever.

My shoe was in better condition when I first arrived in the city, but not by much. With every step I took on the pavement, I could feel the sole detach more and more. Behind me trailed the boy. He had red hair like his mother had had, and it didn't fit in this gray city.

"I need to know she's ok," said the boy, but I didn't listen. I didn't want to go to that hospital, and see my sister lying there like his mother. I didn't need to see it twice. But that damn shoe, it kept reminding me.

I had a hole in my shoe when I met Anne Hart, and my sock was soaked with a mix of dirty rainwater and blood that wasn't mine. I was poor, and new, and just finally coming into my own. Still didn't have money for shoes though.

She was carrying her grocery in soggy paper bags, precariously balancing them on her big stomach. When she walked around the corner to where I was, they broke apart, spilling dented cans of various vegetables and bags of expired potato chips all over the ground.

Slowly, she knelt done, her stomach doing its damnedest to keep her off balance. It wasn't until she reached to pick up a can of chicken soup that she saw the dead body at my feet, and it wasn't until she looked at me that she knew I had pointed a gun at her head.

But I couldn't pull the trigger. The things I learned about myself that day... it would have been nicer to  have known before.  Now all I know about myself is that I am a man I cannot know, and I can act in ways I will never know.

I knew that when I would take her to Wolfe and say, "look, she'll be useful," he would just smirk and nod. In that silence, I would know that he was making fun of me. The Cold-Blooded Kid couldn't kill a mother-to-be.

Even knowing this, I grabbed her arm, stuck a gun to her side, and took her to see Wolfe. I explained the situation she had just unwittingly gotten herself into. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her red hair shiver, but from fear, or from the cold, I didn't dare wish to guess.

Then, the memory ended and I was back in the streets staring at my shoes. From the corner of my eye, I saw red hair and I gasped I as I turned to face it. Instead, there was the kid. He was glaring at me, so I concentrated on the toe of my shoe. I didn't know what else to say to him but "no." I did not want see her body lying corpse-like with that scar on her stomach from a bullet smiling at me. I had to get out of this city. My shoe wasn't going to last much longer, and I wanted that scar to go away.

But it is still there, stealing my attention away as Wolfe presses the gun against my forehead.

* * *

"You know, I wouldn't feel too bad." I look up, surprised at the sound of the shattered silence. Wolfe is speaking. "He killed your mother after all."

And I look over at the boy, who is standing in the corner, shivering. Which mother, I wonder. Anne, or my sister?

I still find it strange to look at his face. He never used to have one. He was just this thing inside of Anne that I couldn't kill. What is it about this little bastard that I feel the need to save?

Click. Wolfe cocks his gun.

Arthur probably would have answered that question. He knew all the answers.

"I don't know why you feel the need to save that little bastard," Arthur said, sweating and trembling in motel room. I had yet to lower my gun.

"How did you find this place?"

"I kept tabs on you, just in case Wolfe decided I was disloyal. You're a hard man to find too. I guess I taught you well."

"The only thing you ever taught me was that I didn't have a choice in life."

Arthur didn't say anything. He just eyed the gun.

Slowly, I lowered it, and picked up the novel I had been reading with my left hand. "What do you want?"

"Get me out of here. Take me anywhere. I don't think they'll look hard, but you have go to get me out of this fucking city.

"Why?"

"You know why." Arthur still could not stop shaking. He was so unlike the man I knew before, and exactly how I imagined he would someday become. "God, I don't think anyone followed me. You're the only one that could get away that… but what if they are? Take me with you. If they find out where I went, it'll be my head. They don't see my absence as a retirement. You know that. It makes me a traitor."

I would have nodded if I wasn't keeping my eye on the rat. Such was the life of a mafia journalist. The one person who knows who's responsible for what murders, and why they happened. The one person who knows where the money goes, who understands the politics of the system. It was his job to know the truth. It was his job lie about all of that. He was necessary. He was a liability.

"No."

"You fuck! Why not?"

"I have a chance of getting the kid out of here. I bring you… and the troubles… I don't even want to think about it."
Then the door clicked open behind us. It happened fast. Arthur whirled, with a gun in his shaking hands, and a "it's them" hissing from under his breath. Click. The kid opened the door, and the cock of Arthur's gun rang through my head.
Bang. I shot first.

I hadn't killed, not since…

"You bitch!" I heard my voice scream in my head as I watched Arthur's body fall, but it is not his corpse I see on the ground. It's Anne's, blood trickling from her mouth. Everything had happened so fast then. The guns came out, and I knew it was her that set me up. I had barely remembered pulling the trigger, making sure to avoid her large stomach. All I could feel was betrayed; not only by her, but the man I never thought I was.

But men are plenty of things they don't think they are. That was more evident by the man who lay at my feet. I looked down at his body, still but from serene. I had shot him in the throat. I betrayed Arthur. He didn't deserve it. The kid stared at me, cowering and trembling. He looked the same as he does now.

Now, next to Wolfe, the boy is shaking.

Bang.

And there is nothing.
A short story piece I wrote that is supposed to mimic spiral.

Critiques are welcome, as well as title suggestions.

I'm leaning toward "I, Inevitabilis" but that's really just because I have a hard-on for Latin.
:iconsinesquared:
SineSquared Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2011
I read this again here!

It's beautiful the second time through. It's like finding a bunch of old, faded photographs and trying to put them in order and guessing about what happened in between. This is ART. This is awesome, this is amazing.

I love it and I hate that most anyone I'd show it to would not be able to appreciate the artistry of it.. they'd read it for the story, and the story would be confusing, and they'd give up.

I found a couple things like.. missing a word or a spelling mistake or missing plural.. but I forgot where they were located.

And I can't figure out how his sister got killed......

I love how you do conversations... Wow. I just can't get enough of this. Fav!!
Reply
:iconmapend:
mapend Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Well, the sister isn't really dead... at least, as far as he knows, though it's likely. She got shot during the shoot out in the store. I suppose I'll need to clear that up a little.

And thank you fro the comments~! <3 <3 And the fav!!!! XD
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