The International Writers Magazine: Street Fiction

Street Spirit
en Gerhardt

Should God have shed a tear when Lucifer fell from Heaven? God must have understood what he was doing when he created free will, even if those with that would turn him. Certainly He must have; He created Lucifer. He would not have made something if it has the opportunity to go against His power.

Randolph Street smoldered with carbon dioxide as traffic staggered to a standstill in the late October afternoon. Businessmen and women fought for and flagged taxis as the Red and Brownlines of Chicago’s Loop packed passengers into windowed tins. Life traveled fast in those blocks. Big city commerce had an ardor for speeding and tourists were usually at risk of verbal beatings if they trolled in one place for too long of time.

Those who dared drove their BMWs and Audis to and from work, feeling secure and narcissistic in their luxury automobiles. The trek was time-consuming, but not having to deal with the riff-raff of the inner city and their electric seat warming, leather-matted seats provided them with gratifying self-satisfaction. Brian Cranston didn’t need a Pakistani’s cab to smell up his $2200 suit or some junkie to vomit on his wing tips. Traffic gave him slight headaches, but it was well worth it to listen to the banter of sports-talk radio and the stop and go commute rather than to dwell with the less-than-common folk.

As he sat at a red light, the interior of his pocket began to vibrate. Cranston groaned. He knew what this call was going to be about and struggled on whether to answer. It was his wife, wondering why he wasn’t home yet. His place was less than an hour’s walk, much less drive, away. Her routine was being threatened by his unpunctuality. He had stayed later than usual at the firm, mostly flirting with one of the new interns. Her name was Jennifer and her hair smelled of baby powder. She was single and seemed vivacious but nothing had yet panned out. There was, still, quite a long time until the company Christmas party. She reminded Brian of a stripper he once dated while in college except her legs were going to be harder to open he expected.
"Hello. Hey, hon…what? No Dolores. The account isn’t closed yet. (PAUSE) I had to stay late for Christ’s sake… (PAUSE) Give me a FUCKING break! I worked one hour later. (PAUSE) The dinner is not going to spoil."

The passion had long since died out of his marriage and it had only been a little over two years. Dolores had gone to drinking red wine and playing bridge with her girlfriends while Brian worked later and later and sometimes smelled faintly of perfume that intertwined with his cologne.

As he yelled he watched the swarm of natives scurrying down the crosswalk. All of them were in a hurry to go somewhere, either to their empty apartments, to their loved ones in condos, to solicit themselves on a different street corner tonight, etc. The scene, along with the present conversation, filled Brian with rage. They all needed to move out of his fucking way and now. He needed to get home and out of this car, out of this suit. He would fill a tumbler with scotch and ice, turn on his recently purchased, state-of-the-art, 72-inch Sony HD with surround sound in the den, watch the Cubs and then pass out.

His demeanor changed as the opposite streetlight yellowed and he let off of the brakes. The Escalade inch forward. His light turned green and he thumped on the gas. The car lurched forward, scuttling the remaining pedestrians. He laid on his horn for good measure. He did not really need to get home in a hurry. Warmth and comfort would not be waiting for him. He just felt a sickening numbness in his stomach as he watched everyone around him. He wanted to get away from this scum.

He began to surge ahead when one from the mob stopped in front of his car. As Brian screeched his brake pads, a scowl projected itself at the figure that interrupted his journey home. The man had short scruffy black hair, scraggily facial hair covering a burnt face, a yellowed white T-shirt under a black coat and black torn khakis. He glared back at Brian and his pretty Escalade. This was one of the scabs on the Earth’s crust that Brian hated. The pedestrian’s eyes peered through the windshield and grimaced at Brian.
"Move your ass, moron." Brain didn’t have time for this. He began rolling down his driver’s side window.
The guy continued to stare. He did not budge; he just continued to glower at Brian. Reaching into his pocket and fishing out a busted cigarette, the stranger then produced a beat up, silver lined Zippo from his coat pocket. He lit the smoke and stood there, like a Gothic cowboy, in a standoff with the Cadillac. The smoke snaked its way out his nostrils and ruffled through his hair before it dispersed into the smog of the skyline.

Brian stretched his head out of the window and shouted, "I haven’t got time for this buddy. Move y…"
He didn’t finish the sentence. He suddenly became too preoccupied with getting his head back into the car and rolling up the window. The stranger had flicked his cigarette towards the curb and was now approaching Brian’s side of the vehicle.

Sometimes we make choices that we immediately regret. Cranston was cursing himself. He never talked to the streetwalkers. He held his nose above them. But for one moment he had let down his guard and had confronted one of them and because of it, something bad was going to happen.

Glass shattered into Brian’s left temple as his foot tried for but missed the gas pedal. His mind was in a state of disbelief as he felt his throat tighten. He heard a lady scream as his new friend plucked him off of his seat by his necktie. His right cheek was torn by shards of dangling glass as he unpredictably exited out of his window

He experienced a brief flashback as he was being dragged from his car, He recalled a similar feeling years ago when his dad was scooping him up to safety. He had been running into the neighborhood lane after a soccer ball that had gotten away from him. If it was not for his father, he would have been flattened by the mail truck that bustled it’s way down the street. He had lost the soccer ball that day to the pressure of the truck’s tires but he had felt the security of his father. Today he felt no such security but rather the intense presence of fear. He was going to be beaten to death on this street by a junkie gorilla that he had caught on a bad binge.

Brian flopped on the ground and curled up, hoping that there might be a Good Samaritan dialing 9-1-1, or a local beat cop ready to save the day. His body tensed up, ready for the blows. He held his breath until he had to exhale violently. Nothing happened. He squinted one eye open and noticed that his Escalade was not where he had unexpectedly left it, or rather, where it had left him.

Slowly he got up, straightened himself, and looked around. There were still plenty of bystanders in the vicinity, but none of them were helping him. They were all peering on down the road. His eyes traced theirs. There he found his car, speeding away from him. Exhaust was kicking up a broken trail for him to follow. He had just been hijacked. The first thought that entered his mind was how many payments he still had left on the car.

Brian looked into his pockets. Had he left it in the car? Ha, he still had it in his suit coat. He flipped the phone open and began dialing.
"Hello? My name is Brian Cranston. My car has just been hijacked and I have been assaulted…I am on Randolph St. near the Metro stop…The man is Caucasian and seemed to be disgruntled… He is heading towards Michigan Ave near…"

The words ceased. Brian was silent. The cell phone lowered and slowly left his hand, falling to the street. He was in a dead sprint when it occurred. His head was suddenly filled with questions. What just happened? Am I going to be billed for this? Was anybody hurt? Did that man just die…in my car? Should I call the fire department or are they already notified? Am I going to be on the news?

The next few moments of Brian’s life would remain a baffling haze, always swimming in his brain. He knew a man had just hijacked his automobile. He remembered seeing his car flying down the street. But the next part seemed like a hallucination, caused by the impact of what happened to him.

He watched his 2005 Cadillac Escalade motoring through traffic. He thought that he saw it jump the curb and begin fleeing onlookers off of the sidewalk. He then feels that he dreams seeing the car speeding through an intersection… before smashing into a Guns N’ Ammo shop on the corner of Randolph and Adams.

The tires did not seem to screech or burst. The car did not seem to lose control. It was as if that stranger behind the steering wheel had knowingly, by design, careened into the small store. But this was Grand Theft Auto. Why would it only last for three blocks? It didn’t make any sense. A man steals a car, endangers the lives of dozens of innocent bystanders, just to purposely crash said car into the side of a building, and in the process injuring or killing himself. Drugs make people do crazy things, but this was just too much.

Brian quit sprinting and walked the rest of the way to the store. When he was a hundred yards or so from the accident, his prized automobile’s hood caught fire and in an instant, the whole car was ablaze. The remaining windows exploded from the body, spraying debris, warning all of possible explosions to come.
"Oh…just great," Brian muttered under his breath. "I got a roasted addict in my driver’s seat." This shows you Brian’s feeling about the lower class of the human race. His idea of charity is giving 100 dollars to a rotary club for the chance at winning a million.

People flocked to the scene, hoping to help the driver, but were soon sent scurrying at the presence of stray ammunition exploding from the gun shop and the sounds of sirens in the distance.
That’s when the stranger exited the vehicle.

Brian stopped. No man could, or would, wait in a fiery car, cooking for a minute, just to exit now. He would be burnt to a crisp. He would have to be dead; but the walking carcass making his way into the street was proving this clearly supported fact false.

The man’s coat was on fire, if you could still call it a coat since it had now scorched itself to the man’s body. His face, which was once recognizable, looked like one big charred lip. But there he was, strolling out of the car as if it were his own. He began to pat the remaining flames out on his body. The dead was walking, the apocalypse surely was at hand. Brian, half-dazed, shuffled up to the outsider, mouth hanging open like an airplane hangar. "What…what happened? Are you okay? What did you do to my car? (Pause) What the FUCK is going on?"

The well-cooked stranger reached into the blazing car and came out with something in his hand. He walked over to where Brian was standing, his mouth agape. Burnt flecks of skin flaked off of his face as Michael grinned at Brian.
"Nice car," he smirked as he outstretched his hand. Brian drew back in horror and shut his eyes. For an instant, he was sure that his singed assailant was going to do him some sort of bodily harm, but once again Michael did not strike him. Rather, he reached for Brian’s hand. As he grasped it, he unfolded Canton’s fist and held his palm skyward.
Brian flinched as he felt something warped and smoldering fall into his hand. He closed his hand around the object.
"Open your eyes." Brian opened his eyes. "You are starting a new life. I have killed your old ways. You shall not worship any material possessions nor shall you stray from the path of righteousness. You have been given a new breath of fresh air. This breath can be stolen from your lungs at any point in time, so make sure you inhale deeply."

Brian, speechless, dared not move from the grip of the man. He wished he could leave this scenario. He wished to be in a church right now, confessing his sins, for he was sure that he was face to face with the Antichrist, or the second coming of Jesus, or something really God Damn holy.

As the stranger talked, his face healed itself; he could see the new flesh come together and restructure. His clothes remained burnt, but his body was magically repairing itself. It was a horrible science fiction movie moment that was being played out in front of him.

Around the pair, a group slowly gathered. Some were asking if Brian needed help, some were calling for an ambulance or 911; some were just staring. Michael felt this to be as good of a time as any to touch a few more people’s lives.
"Listen up. What you have just witnessed was an awakening for this man. No more will he be destined to live a life of unwanted fabrication. I have just shown him the errors of his ways. He has seen the light and will, from now on, live a good and fruitful life that will benefit all mankind."

As Michael was preaching, Jason Colo, a local beat cop noticed the smoke from the gun shop and as he drew closer, observed the scene that was transpiring. He saw a man holding onto another. He saw a finicky crowd and knew that the situation was not going to get better before getting worse. He drew his firearm and slowly made his way into the street.
"Sirs," the Jason pronounced stridently, "Are both of you all right?"
Michael stared at the officer. "We are fine officer."
At that, Brian was stirred back to reality. "This freak just wrecked my car. He’s insane. Arrest him man."
Michael turned abruptly to Brian. "You shouldn’t have done that."
"Down on the ground," Jason yelled.

Officer Colo had had to shoot a man before in the line of duty, but he had never needed more than one bullet to subdue any of them. He knew the right spots, the proper procedures. He was by means no high man of society, but he did his job, he did it well, and he liked it. But he hated this part of the job. Lives were in the balance and these situations never ended wrapped in a pretty pink bow.

"We have a simple miscommunication officer. Please do not make this more complicated than it has to be. I advise you to walk away. Please, sir, … walk away." Michael was growing impatient.
"Officer needs back up. I repeat… I need back up." Jason kept his eyes on the man in the tattered clothing. He forgot to ask for the fire department. He hoped on of these bystanders had phoned it in. "This is the last time I am telling you sir. For your safety and the safety of those around you, get down on the ground and place your hands behind your head."
Michael turned to Brian, his eyes glowing. "Now you will see."

As he let go of Brian’s arm and began walking towards the officer, Michael understood what he had to do to make all of these people receive his message. He wanted everyone in the world to know it, but if he could reach handfuls at a time, he would be satisfied. He also knew that within the next couple of minutes, he was going to have to withstand a large amount of physical anguish to prove his point.
He took a step and heard the hammer of the officer pistol cock back. He took another. "I will fire mister. You will stop or I will have no other choice."
Michael stared into the pupils of the officer and took another step.
The searing metal entered his right shoulder, right below the collarbone. It knocked Michael back and he stumbled to one knee. "We have a man down. Shot fired. Medical attention needed."
The pain dulled and Michael regained his composure and struggled to his feet. He was about a dozen feet from the officer and knew what was coming next.

This was new to Colo. This guy had to be really doped up or wearing a bulletproof vest or something. His next bullet would have to enter the right leg, approximately striking the kneecap.
Michael felt it again. It spun his lower half around and he momentarily lost all sense of balance. He crumpled to the concrete, his blood washing away the dust that had accumulated from the afternoon traffic. He hated dealing with these nuisances but he knew that this was the price that had to be paid for the message. He waited for the metal to be expelled from the wound and then he made his way to his feet again.

An anxious pang rose in Jason’s chest cavity. Where was his backup? He did not want to do what he felt he was going to have to do. When he went into this profession, he knew that there would be a high possibility that death would be part of the job, but that did not mean that he ever wanted to take part in it. But as the bloodied man took another step toward, Jason fired, losing all faith in his innocence.
Michael would later think to himself that he could smell the gunpowder as the bullet shred the layers of skin on his neck. He felt the tepid flood cascading into his coat, soaking into the blackened cotton. He made sure to revise his plan in his head before it smacked onto the concrete.

Officer Colo closed in onto the fallen body. He could clearly see the blood flowing and the eyes glazing over as the attacker’s lifeless body was brought to a focal point as the anxious crowd now pondered over what was to happen next. Colo reached for his pager and began calling off the backup.
"We need an EMT. We have a gunshot victim, probably D.O.A. to same location. Please respond immed…"
A sentence cannot be finished when the person speaking has no more air exhaling from his lungs. The reason that there is no air presently exiting the lungs of Jason Colo is because is the hand that was clasped around his neck stopped his breath. The hand that found its grip around Colo’s neck belonged to a man who had just been announced dead to the world. But death was already a lie for Michael. Death was a formality for mortals. He had no use for it.

With his left hand he held the officer steady. With his right hand he slowly reached for the firearm. He wrapped his paw around the officer’s hand and brought the firearm up against his own temple.
"What you are witnessing is not an illusion, ladies and gentlemen. I send a message. You are not superior…"
He paused. He hated God for what he had to do. He hated this soapbox. The only reason that he kept going was the hopeful knowledge that he might actually reach a few of these pathetic maggots. He placed his finger on the trigger, over the officer’s index finger.
"You will die…soon. Live your life knowing that your ego will die as well. Live a good life. It can be taken from you at any time. For if you don’t…"

The gun went off. Michael felt overdramatic as he lost consciousness again. His skull rattled due to the bullet traveling from one temple, scrambling his brain, and then exiting out of the other. Screams and yells arose from the crowded streets.

There was a pause in the air. The swarm didn’t know whether to help the man or to wait and see what miracle would happen next. They didn’t have to wait long. Seconds after the gun went off a final time, Michael rose to his feet, his knees wobbly from the shock of the past injuries. As the multitude took a step back, he took a book from his coat pocket and placed it on the ground. It was the Bible, burnt from the crash but pretty much still intact. "Your soul will not receive mercy."

With this Michael left the crowd, parting through them as he walked home for the night. After one of these episodes, no one would touch him. Most would say it was a stunt, probably for some new shock reality show. Some would not believe the scene and erase it from their memory. But a few would believe. A few would turn their life around for the good. And that was what Michael wanted. All you needed was a few to start believing then get a few more, then a few more. He had enough time to convert them all. He had all the time in the world.

© Ben Gerhardt May 2006

Dreamscapes Shifting Reality


© Hackwriters 1999-2006 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy - no liability accepted by or affiliates.