A mangled fortress twists up and wildy into a threatening sky. The lower half is a dirty shade of gray and concrete with a dingy blue border and a red stripe around the top. Above, various levels jut out like thorns, platforms made from wood and other materials slathered together haphazardly reach up beyond the sky line. Some are illuminated by torch light, with others disappearing into the depth of night.
Jak’s never been here before, but it’s all too familiar sight. A sickening feeling overwhelms him. How could it have come to this he says to himself.
In the distance, two pudgy, misshapen figures lumber towards Jak as silhouettes against a collapsing sun. They approach with loud, squishy footsteps and hefty breaths.
"What is this?" the little fat one says with snot bubbling from his nose. His blue vest clings to his grayish green skin, its saturated in sweat and on the back, a yellow smiley face is stretched a ghoulish grin.
"Let me see," snarls the older looking one. The optical' he wears is fused to his eye socket, wrapped in a protective layer of fat and infected tissue. He waddles when he walks and the weight in front of him swings like a pendulum.
"You there?" he growls. Jak lifts his head. The old one roars and hisses, "What? It can’t be!" He vaults backwards, bouncing like a rubber ball on the pavement.
Jak is quickly dragged across the empty parking lot. They reach the entryway and two older looking, blue vested fatties guard the doors. They see Jak, gasp and step aside.
Inside, the stench assaults Jak’s senses and he begins to choke and spit.
"Quiet down," the little fat one says.
The interior is otherwise empty and hollow, except for trash and debris. At the center, a massive staircase rises up through the ceiling. As they begin their ascent, more blue vest meet them along the way, some run, others cower at the sight of Jak. They climb and climb, until finally the rickety structure changes to one made of gold, more gold than Jak has ever seen. It trickles down, flowing under his every step like slow moving lava. As they climb further, piles and piles of gold create various rooms of different sizes. The stairway narrows and they enter an enormous chamber. A golden hen sits squawking in one corner, in the other, a harp is playing itself a wondrous tune. The ground began to shake and the coins jump in unison.
“Fee, fi, fo, fum,” a thunderous voice echoes through the chamber and the little fat one begins to tremble. A grotesque likeness enters the chamber, his body is deformed and writhe with pieces of gold embed into his skin, swollen and surrounded by bright yellow pus.
“I thought that might bring back memories for you. Good to see you again or shall I say myself, Jak.”
Jak looks up at the giant, the resemblance is uncanny, undeniable. A monster.
“What have you done?”
“What have I done, what we’ve done you mean. I’ve given us everything. We are happy ever after.”
“You have taken everything away from everyone in the process.”
“Say’s the thief. That giant we bested might think the same of you. Have you come to best me?”
The giant Jak roars with laughter. The golden harp ceases it’s song.
“You’ve forgotten one thing. Your axe. How is mother by the way?"
"She's dying." Jak yells.
"Oh yes, that's right. Pity."
"The gold is poison. Look at you. Look at what you've become."
"Yes, look at me. I am a giant of all things."
“I went to see the butcher again," Jak says.
“How is our old friend?”
“He gave me more beans.”
“More beans, we have no need for beans, we have no need for climbing.”
Jak removes the beans from his pocket, “These aren’t for climbing,”
He tosses the beans high into the air and they scatter all throughout the chamber.
“they’re for re-claiming.” Instantly they split apart and small vines begin to wiggle their way across the floor, growing bigger and bigger, burying themselves into the gold. The chamber floor begins to rip and shake violently apart. Giant Jak is knocked off balance and comes crashing down, narrowly missing Jak.
Jak grabs hold and wraps himself tight around a vine just as an avalanche of coins gives way. Above him he can see the whole thing collapsing. The nights sky is breaking through and gold rains down like shooting stars. The vines reach the lower platforms, engulfing them and crushing them into tiny splinters. The little fat one hangs from a nearby vine while other fatties fall to their deaths, popping like grapes on the pavement. Large green stalks slam into the foundation, rooting and plowing through concrete. They quickly envelop the strongholds walls, bringing them down in one single, cohesive grip.
Jak loses his grasp and falls, bouncing off several vines before meeting a soft landing on the fat little ones limp body. Jak struggles to get up, his foot tangled in the grip of a vine.
Above him, the giant plummets, his enormous size and weight snapping and pummeling crisp stalks as he descends.
"This is a one way trip for you Jak," the butchers voice echoes in his.
Jak closes his eyes and thinks of his mother as the giant crashes down.
Jak awakes to the warmth of the sun on his cheek. He shakes off his sleepiness and sits up. Quickly he jumps to his feet and runs home.
He burst through the door and his mother sits at the table peeling potatoes.
"Jak, what has gotten into you?"
"Nothing mother, just happy to see you."
She gives him a warm smile and continues peeling. Jak puts his hands in his pockets and pulls out a handful of gold coins. They shimmer and shine. Jak smiles.
Monday, January 7, 2013
"86, 400 seconds Hart, 86, 400 seconds in any given day. That's 86, 400 chances to do the right thing, to be the hero for once, to make a fresh start. Or you can do the opposite and do the wrong thing, be the villain, go to jail for the rest of your pathetic little life."
Detective Adams leans back in his chair and kicks his boots up on the desk. His shoulder holster seems tight against his massive frame and his .38 rides a little high on his ribs.
"Unfortunately we don't have 86,400 seconds to dance. You have till that clock hits 11 to tell me what I need to know, which leaves you with only about 2,820, 2,819, 18, 17...rumor is that you’re getting into some deep shit with the wrong sort of people. Then you go and punch an officer, what are you thinking Hart?”
“He’s a crook Adams, you know that, he’s one of yours.”
“You've been singing that song since we were on the force together ten years ago. Who’s the dame from the bar. You know, black dress, red hair, great tits. Gorgeous. We've been keeping close tabs on you old friend."
"She's just some woman," I tell him.
She's not just some woman. She's more than that. She’s the woman. More beautiful than Gene Tierney, more shape than Veronica Lake and eyes a deeper blue than I've ever seen. Hair the color of the sun, heavy and thick with curls that coil around her like flames, kissing and licking her face. She wore her dress like it was part of her, like it wasn't there at all, she was of two shades, black on milky white.
“What’s her name?”
“You went there to meet her?”
He stares me down like a disapproving father and pulls out a cigarette from his shirt pocket and taps it against the heel of his boot, lights it and takes a long drag.
"Here’s how I see. You take a seat at the bar and have a few. You're an older guy, not bad looking. You see this Helen sitting a few stoles down, she's young and she starts giving you "the eye." You lie to her, tell her you’re in advertising and her ears perk up. She leans a little closer, casually touching you on the elbow, accidentally brushing her knee against yours. Something starts to move downstairs, in a way your wife doesn't move you. The booze begins to flow, eventually making its way to your head and suddenly you can see all this happening. The room key, her bare shoulders as her dress comes off, her on top of you.”
“I’m in love with her.”
Adams smiles and slow streams of smoke slip out from between his crooked, coffee stained teeth. He reaches in the top drawer and pulls out a flask and pours a little into his coffee and then takes a pull for good measure.
“A beautiful distraction, maybe, but not love. That’s one of Louie Genovese outfits. I want to know the truth Hart, what were you doing in a mob bar?”
“I told you, meeting Lilith.
“Times running out Hart, 2,420 seconds, if I had to guess.”
“We were discussing our future.”
“You’re lying,” slamming his fist down, “I know what you are, you're an ex-cop who's lost his way and his badge because he couldn't keep the bottle down. You have a grudge against me and the department. I know you've been meeting with the Genovese family and I know you’re up to something. I've been doing this for a long time. I always get my man, you know that!”
"May I have one of those?” He passes me a cigarette and offers me a light. I remove my Zippo from my coat pocket and light it myself. The smoke fills my lungs and I expel the awfulness.
“You don’t remember her do you?”
“Remember who?” Adams launches back from the desk, his boots hit the floor with a thud.
“Lilith, she was much younger then. Only a teenager when you gunned her father down because he wouldn't go along with your schemes. She remembers you! Could even tell you what you were wearing. She saw it all Adams.”
He takes another swig and adjust himself in his chair and starts to laugh. “Hart, you've really gone off the deep end. Your little girl is all you have in your corner against this heavy weight. Half an hour I’ll have her picked up and silence you both forever.”
"1,440 seconds detective." He stares at me with a blank expression, void of comprehension.
"That's the amount of time you've spent telling me how you have it all figured out. How you think I've come to be in this chair. Your arrogance has betrayed you detective. You've been working against yourself." I take another drag from the cigarette. “See, the thing about a woman is, there’s always something deeper than beauty, there’s fire too. Beauty is the distraction, get’s them in the door. Like a scorpion's claws teasing you, all the while the venomous tail is posed above, ready to strike.”
The door slams open and a young officer in his freshly pressed blues rushes in out of breath and screaming,“Detective, the redhead just walked into the precinct.”
“The woman, Lilith Black! She has a bomb strapped around her waist.”
The detective looks at the young officer and then at me. I exhale and snuff the cigarette out on the floor. I see the blood flush from his face.
“You’re a bad cop Adams and bad cops have to be dealt with, even if it means spilling a little innocent blood. You gotta destroy the nest if you wanna rid yourself of the wasp.”
Adams legs begin to give way like a bested prizefighter about to hit the canvas.
“10 seconds detective...if I had to guess.”