So what would you do if someone steals your wallet? You run after them, right? But what if that could be the worst idea ever?
…Well, that’s all I could say. I really have no idea what I should write for the second chapter but since I’ve started it, I should just continue with the flow. Enjoy and feedback please!
2 – Society
Termites had already been everyone’s less crucial thing, since anyone could die anytime and anywhere whether or not you’ve tried different medications. In the cheerful streets of Paris, a young man suddenly passed out when he and his girl walked out of a restaurant after a sweet romantic dinner where he asked for her hand in marriage. The girl screamed, got on her knees and started unsuccessfully shaking her beloved into consciousness. Her eyes were sacred waterfalls of loss as she looked around and begged for the others to help her, but all she got were apathetic stares. Ah, so it has finally reached here, they all thought. Everyone walked past the couple, and the girl had to watch her fiancé got his colours slowly drained from him, leaving her just a limp, soulless shell.
The news spread to Britannia like wildfire. At first, there were some panic and hopeless denial but as soon as it had come, they started to accept the fact as easily as breathing. They were next. The people in Hispania instead were throwing ruckus by demanding the government to do something about the Termites despite everyone’s knowledge that nothing could be done – at least they still have the will to continue living. Maybe that was the reason Mr. Maverick forbid Linck to go outside the city, but Linck had never considered that.
For the next weeks, Mr. Maverick had been distant and secluded; even though he had always been like that, at least he had tried to bring up a conversation and responded to Linck’s actions and words. Unlike this. Breakfast was over-the-top awkward for the two of them though if Mr. Maverick had felt even the slightest bit awkward, then he might have hid it well or had simply ignored it. On the other hand, Linck observed Mr. Maverick with every bite he took from his toast, waiting for any response from the purposefully loud chewing. Nothing. Usually, Mr. Maverick would scold him for being poorly mannered – he would stand behind Linck and clamp his jaw shut if he were to chew open-mouthed.
The Mr. Maverick sitting in front of Linck was just a living doll reading (or maybe not) a newspaper with a steaming mug of cafe au lait just to his front-right. Having finished four toasts, Linck slammed his hands as finality and loudly scraped the chairs on the floor as he got up. “Well, I’m done. I’ll get going, then,” Linck said.
That had certainly pushed the wrong button. Linck gathered his bag and stormed off outside, fuming in neglect. Over the slam of the door, Mr. Maverick muttered, barely audible “Be safe.”
It might have been considered childish and embarrassing when Linck stomped off for the first few paces from the house if he hadn’t seen red everywhere. Linck was always the cheerful boy, always throwing easy smiles despite situations but this – this was stupid for him. Utterly stupid and cold.
Right, so if Mr. Maverick were to ignore his existence entirely, then he’d do the same and go out afterschool; he could come home with one of his Walhaz friends and give a sleepover as an excuse, or he could just walk to Walhaz like none of Mr. Maverick’s words really mattered. After finally cooled down, Linck strode down to his school calmly, listening to the morning city orchestra and looking at different scenarios in front of him – a man on his morning jog, a dog owner and her pug on a walk, a pair of schoolgirls complaining about school as they were approaching it, and shop owners lazily but determinedly opening up for business. It could be hard to realise the current state of the world with how normal things were going, and that was what made the whole situation scary.
With the peaceful silence, we know not of the incoming dangers; for that, the peace was mostly contradictory, for we could never be calm not knowing what may come and that would cause restlessness instead. Linck wondered whether the people around him were aware of the whole Termites business or if they feigned ignorance in order to live in whatever peace they had at the moment. If Linck were to be put in a category, then it would be in the later – he knew his life was in danger, but he chose to never acknowledge such threats just for the sake of living.
Before Anglia, he had no memory of such thing as living; everything was extremely vague, even the explanations Mr. Maverick had told him about his parents. He told him that his parents were immigrants that died due to a fire but he had never mentioned especially who they were and where they had lived before Anglia.
However, Linck remembered dead bodies.
Tens to hundreds of them, piled up atop him.
It was cold and dark; it stank and his body felt numb.
And then he remembered scarlet –
No – not the colour…
It was a name.
That name had some great meaning, he was sure, though he couldn’t place significance to it. Was it his mother’s name? It could be, for he had no sisters (that was according to Mr. Maverick, anyway). Or was it a crush? Possible – Linck was eight when he was picked out from the group of orphans.
Now that he was thinking about it, what about Mr. Maverick? Mr. Maverick had confirmed that he once had a family – a wife and a son, to be precise. He had shown Linck a picture of his late wife, Mrs. Maverick; she was a beautiful woman with wavy chestnut brown hair – “Preferably kept short by her,” Mr. Maverick noted – and kindly honey brown eyes that complimented her jovial smile. On the other hand, Mr. Maverick had never shown a picture of his son (he said something about burying most of his things with him), however Mr. Maverick had commented on how much Linck was alike to his son. Maybe it was why he had adopted Linck in the first place. He was lonely.
Guilt stabbed Linck quicker than lightening. Oh, how apathetic I had been to him, he thought. Mr. Maverick had never been one for emotions, so of course his worries were conveyed through weird methods! Such as one time when he had left mugs of hot chocolate with mini marshmallows on Linck’s desk for everyday Linck was down with a cold, or when he had disappeared for most of the day to patrol the area for any bullies or suspicious figures (he returned late at night, the only explanation for his disappearance was “I went on a bear hunt”). Linck had the rest of the walk to school mentally face-palming himself for his lack of empathy.
* * *
“So, made peace with father?” Teddy asked as they were walking home.
“Hmm? Um… no, I actually stormed out this morning because he’s not talking. I mean, it’s really unsettling, you know, because I was doing really annoying things in front of him and he still wasn’t responding,” Linck ranted, ending with an exasperated sigh, “But when I was walking to school, I just realised that he’s really, really, worried; he’s just unique in showing it, I guess.”
“Great! So I guess you won’t be sneaking out to Walhaz then?”
“…Dude, you know me so well that I find it really creepy,” Linck admitted.
The walk home was littered with school subjects banter, girls and new TV series episodes – pretty normal for everyone’s standards. It was only three in the afternoon and the streets were still busy with mothers on shopping errands or other buyers who were fished by the sales. The boys stopped at a comic book shop and browsed some volumes of various comics, stopping at some to read without the clerk noticing (the shop’s policy was “Buy to read”). By doing that, Linck was already disobeying Mr. Maverick, but some fun wouldn’t hurt, right? And it shouldn’t be deadly, too.
When they had reached the point where they split paths, Linck waved goodbye to Teddy and continued down his path to the house. It wasn’t that crowded in the street where he lived so he could enjoy the distant sounds of traffic and Mrs. Brown’s radio which could be heard from miles (she’s deaf but had never seen it as a disability, instead insisting that the radio was just broken). There were some shops with customers scattered in different places, like the coffee shop or the corner shop, and there were only one or two cars passing every ten minutes or so.
Linck strode down the street calmly, just looking ahead and not really paying a dime to his surroundings. That was just plain careless. Without a warning, a boy about half the size of Linck, shot out of the alleyway like jack-in-a-box – tackling Linck and snatching his wallet like a falcon on a mouse.
Linck’s head crashed into the lamppost beside him. He was too stunned to notice anything – blood? His head was wet. His vision was bleary… Over there – a small figure retreating quickly with something shiny in hand…a leather object? Kind of…a wallet…with a chain… Wait.
Linck bolted up – momentarily regretting the decision – and raced down the pathway, ignoring the sharp throbbing on his left temple and how obscured his vision was. His feet were unsteady, his body swaying, his head swimming – he pushed these complaints aside, trying to keep up with the agile young boy a few paces in front of him. A turn to the right, a corner to the left, avoiding boxes – if Linck hadn’t had experience in exploring urban areas then he would’ve lost the kid a long time ago.
He nearly fell thrice – or even more – and he could feel something warm trickling down the side of his face. The liquid nearly dripped into his eye but his reflexes were quick enough to prevent that. Where was he? The boy was a black figure not far from him, turning into an alleyway and into the dark.
An ambush must have been waiting for him, his conscience told him, only for Linck to brush aside.
Linck dashed up, not without stumbling, into the darkest corner of god’s forsaken place. It smelt sickly sweet like stale fruit, and some hints of faeces and…rotten meat? Must be a dead animal, but Linck’s imaginations were playing nasty tricks to his head; he could’ve sworn he saw a dozen human bodies hung up on the wall with chains or on the ground, twisted into impossible angles.
Cold. It was strangely cold. The sun had finally began to set, creating funny shadows into the alley and adding a spoonful of spook. He hadn’t realised he was just standing at the mouth of the cursed place, rooted on the spot, just trying to figure out what he was really seeing. Forget that – he’s going in.
A step. Rustling among trashcans. He stilled. His eyes were still unused to the dim environment, his ears ringing slightly. Linck walked deeper, taking cautious steps, legs ready to jump into action and hands in ready fists. A crunch beneath his feet – movements at the far corner. “Cut the crap!” Linck warned, trying to steady his voice, “Give me back my wallet and I’ll go; do otherwise and I’ll resort to force.”
Chuckles. “Why, you’re injured! You can’t even walk straight, let alone fight!” taunted the voices – children’s voices.
“How about a truce?” Linck offered, “I have some important things in my wallet; you can have the money but I’ll want the rest back. If you still won’t comply, I’ll have to tell the police –”
“Oh, trying to play justice, are we?” an older voice called out, “We aren’t afraid of police; we don’t want your stinking money!”
“Then what? Give it back!”
More laughter. Linck was restraining himself from acting foolishly and took deep breaths – it was a bad decision, for the air was never pleasant to begin with, and it left him to gag and wheeze. That sparked more glee from the children. Really, what was their problem?!
Suddenly, the children gasped, and seemed to be calling a name. “Doe! John Doe! – Here! Come here! – John Doe! We got the kid! – He’s weak, so finish him quick! – Give us what you promised! – Aneantir! – Save our family, Doe! – Aneantir! – Aneantir! –”
There was the sound of metal clanking, the sound of a thick slice – shlrop – a heavy drop of an object. A shriek – high and shrill – some wails of helpless souls – some more slices – slice! Chop! Splash! – thunks; heavy objects hitting the ground.
Linck’s eyes widen, beginning to adjust. He was right – bodies; adults, children – male, female – animals, humans – a massacre. Fresh blood wafted into the air and Linck lurched forward, retching, choking on air. Dead. Linck trembled, daring himself to look up; he couldn’t stop from looking at the lifeless shells, their limbs separated from their body or twisted grotesquely, eyeballs like pearls on marble floor, faces of horror and pain and surprise.
Heavy footsteps were heard, closer and closer and closer; combat boots stopped in front of his face. A human… the killer? Death?
Linck slowly looked up, shaken, tears of fright spilling free. A man, around early thirties but healthily built, bloodied sword in both hands – a dead stare, lifeless like the audience in the alley. They held their gazes, unspoken words exchanged silently, grimly. Yes, it was his end.
“But.. why?” Linck croaked.
The man stayed silent.
Ah, yes… murderers must not have a purpose.
But even knowing his doom, Linck tried to get up – he pushed his body up and stumbled to the exit –
A sharp, searing pain on his back. A cry of pain – where did it come from? Linck fell flat onto his face, forehead hitting the ground unceremoniously. Heavy footsteps approaching, stopping, a heavy boot on his wound. Linck hissed; he tried to push the man off, his arm going into action –
Stab. The first through his hand. Stab. Another to his shoulder. Linck howled, sobbing, screaming. The man didn’t stop him, letting him relish the last moments of being alive, of feeling the pain of living. Linck heaved and panted, turning his head to the left, seeing the man atop him through blur and blood. “…W-why?…Who – gah! – are… why…?”
The man lifted his left arm, readying a strike clean upon Linck’s neck, blade reflecting the retreating sun.
Linck clenched his eyes shut; letting the nausea he held back flow in, trembling fists grabbing onto blood –
A fast sweep. A light breeze.
… … …
Mum, what’s wrong?
… … …
Mum? Where’s Dad? Is he coming back?
… … …
For me? But…Mum? Where are you going?
… … …
… I’m sorry…I might not be home tonight…And neither might you…
… … …
… … …
…Robot…red…What’s his name?
…Scarlett…just like her –
Bright light – shouldn’t have snapped eyes open like that. He blinked several times, trying to rid the unpleasant glare and the nasty headache that was brewing inside his head. He coughed, once, twice, and then inhaled air, trying to replace the stink in his mouth. What’s this smell, anyway? Garbage…rotten food…blood–
Blood. Blood? Blood?!
He jolted upright, cold sweat bathing him, eyes flashing towards a million directions at the same time – pain, sharp pain; the throbbing originated from his left side, at the head, shoulder and hand, and another one at his back, going across diagonally. He yelped, his right hand shot up to claw up and down his arm but never touching the fatal points.
Rushing footsteps and soon the door was jerked open, revealing a rather pale Mr. Maverick. After an eternity staring at his fiery eyes, Linck finally found his voice, hoarse from overuse, “Ah, um… Hello, Mr. Maverick…”
Mr. Maverick stepped up to the bed and stood there, boring holes onto the ground. Finally, he looked straight into Linck’s eyes, a scowl upon his angled face; however, whatever he had to lecture Linck was never said, instead Mr. Maverick opened and closed his mouth like a fish out of water – he had always have speaking troubles to begin with, anyway. “I – ah! – argh! – I – L-Linck – y-you – I – na! –”
“I know, I know; I’m really sorry that I worried you… But that kid stole my wallet and it had all of my things, you know, like civil ID and whatnot,” Linck explained, “and before I knew it, I followed the kid to an alleyway. It was dark and smelt horrible, and there I tried to persuade them into giving my wallet back and before I noticed anything, this man appeared and killed them all – his name was John Doe, if I’m not wrong – and when I tried to run away, he attacked me and I thought I was… I was…” Linck gulped harshly and looked at Mr. Maverick.
Mr. Maverick’s scowl had softened and he offered a glass of water that had been at the bedside table the whole time. Linck drank every bit of water greedily, relishing how the cold liquid soothed his throat, and handed back the glass to Mr. Maverick who placed it gently onto the corner table. He sat there for a while, just playing with the hem of the blanket, not meeting Linck’s gaze. “…Sorry,” Mr. Maverick said quietly.
“Why are you sorry?” Linck frowned, “I was the one who didn’t take your warnings seriously; for that, I deeply regret my actions, and you’re the one who deserves an enormous apology from me.”
Mr. Maverick nodded but said another apology, anyway. Then, he got up and lingered in the doorway before saying “I’ll bring the porridge; you need to eat.” Linck nodded curtly and watched Mr. Maverick’s shadow disappear as he walked down the stairs. Things happened far too quickly for him today and though most of them were explainable, there was still one unsolved mystery:
Who brought him home?