Here is an excerpt (not available on the site previews) from my book, "Fall of the Citizens"
The moon hung enormous in thick blue twilight. The humid air heavy, as evidence of the rain that had passed. A lazy breeze blew and bent the long brown grass. It was still waking up from the winter spent under the suffocating blanket of snow.
A large, white, unmarked truck drove east. Its sides stretched high in the air, dwarfing the bubble cab in the front. The driver drove fast and in the middle of the night to avoid any attention paid to the precious cargo. Russell held his arm out the open window as he drove, drinking in the clean night air while the headlights burned a yellow halo into the murky darkness.
Russell wore a smile, the open road ahead welcomed him. Not a soul in sight. He was in his element and couldn’t believe his luck. He was hired to drive this truck only a few weeks before. It was the best Russell could hope for considering his education. He hadn’t graduated high school until he was old enough to buy beer.
Russell had always been a proud man, a self-sufficient man. But last year Russell was among the many in Michigan who had been swallowed by the wave of recession. Russell swept floors at a warehouse in Brighton for fifteen years. His boss had let him go when he found a company that would do it cheaper.
The shame of collecting unemployment didn’t sit well with him. Every time he filed for a another week it announced some silent defeat.
Russell’s parents were disappointed. They were always disappointed but this was worse. His father called him a leech and his mother called him a loser. Each visit was a fresh reminder of this. His father wondered aloud why anyone would have a job when you can just take welfare from working people. Russell hung his head. He tried to explain that no one was hiring. He would have stopped visiting but needed the groceries.
Those days were over. Russell worked for Wellco. It’s the largest company in the world now, Russell told his buddies. They showed their congratulations at a party in a bar, clinking bottles and glasses. They lifted containers and sipped in his honor. Russell’s friends were happy to see him get something, they had discussed their worries behind his back for months. Now they celebrated just as much as he did.
Russell’s boss at Wellco told him he had been hired with high hopes. Russell loved hearing that. He was already making more money than he had ever made sweeping floors at the factory. This was a real job and a real wage for Russell, it even had real responsibility.
The job had a real gun.
He fell in love with the gun the first time he saw it at training. He lowered it into the holster on his hip and it felt like home. He loved the matte black finish and its weight in his hand. He felt the power when he pulled the trigger. It was like holding thunder. Russell always thought about having a gun but never had the money to get one. Now that he had one, Russell wondered how he ever existed without one.
When Russell got home the day he got his gun he immediately went to the mirror and found a new man looking back. He was a powerful man, a respected man. He pointed the gun at himself in the mirror and said threatening things. It turned out that all he needed was a gun to complete himself and that gun was in his hand. The gun slept on his nightstand. Russell slept on his side so that he could look at it. The next night, the gun slept on the pillow next to him.
Something this amazing should not lay around, it was meant for greatness. This gun was meant to be a peacemaker. Russell’s gun was meant to exact justice, not punch holes in a paper target. This gun was meant to kill bad people.
He drove down the highway, his hand found the gun in its holster. He stroked the grip and ran his finger to the hammer and tapped it gently. He pushed the flat part of his finger down across the sight. It felt awesome. Like wildfire in your pocket.
“Russ?” said Craig. “You haven’t said anything for a while. You okay?”
“Russell. Right. Are you okay? You haven’t said anything for a while.”
“No. I mean, yes. I was just driving. Thinking,” Russell shrugged with each syllable. He turned to Craig. “You haven’t said anything either.”
Craig swallowed. “I guess I haven’t. Fair enough,” Craig was new to the company, just like Russell. He had mentioned something about being a former police officer. Russell couldn’t remember where. Craig was a distracted man, with a tendency to drift off when other people were talking.
Russell saw flashing signs warning drivers of overnight construction. Orange reflective barrels narrowed the road to one lane. Russell drove in the construction zone for a couple of miles until he came to a truck stopped in the lane. He pressed the brake to slow, then stop.
“Ah hell,” said Russell, his body jerked forward from the final brake press. “This always happens.”
Russell turned to Craig and noticed beads of sweat on Craig’s forehead. It wasn’t hot.
“I’m sorry,” Craig said.
Russell heard a click behind him. He turned around and noticed a pistol pointed straight at his head.
“Step out of the truck, please. Let me see those hands.”
Russell was struck dumb. He watched out the windshield as the stopped truck opened. The men and women inside jumped down to the pavement. One man carried a chainsaw.
“Come on,” said the man with the pistol. He pulled up the lock through the rolled down window and popped the door open from outside. Craig opened his own door and stepped out of the truck.
A blond woman dressed in black met Craig by his door and she waved her pistol to motion both of the Wellco employees to the front of the truck. “Get to your knees,” She said.
The men and women assembled around the Wellco men. Russell didn’t count them, his eyes were clouded with confusion. A man in a green baseball hat fumbled a yellow walkie-talkie from his coat and nodded to the blond woman in black. “Theresa, get the tires. Matt, secure the firearms. Everybody else, start working on the contents of the truck.”
Russell watched in horror while the stocky man with a military jaw line named Matt took his gun from the holster and tossed it to the dirt. It bounced gently before coming to a rest. Russell shuddered.
“Hey!” Matt said to Russell. “You with us?” Russell didn’t understand.
“No, I am,” said Craig.
Russell’s confusion started to clear. The thought slithered like sludge and ate like poison. Russell’s face felt hot, betrayed.
The man with the green hat looked down at a creased piece of paper he held with shaking hands. “Okay, so that makes you…Craig?” Craig nodded. “Nice work. If everything goes all right you leave with us. Just sit tight while we work all this out.”
Russell didn’t feel Matt’s hands wrapping plastic restraints around his wrists. Craig looked over at him with apologetic eyes. He was saying something. Probably explaining why he would do this but the sound didn’t get through. Russell felt like his ears were filled with foam. He heard his heartbeat and the throbbing lump in his throat.
The green hat guy pressed down the large rubber button in the middle of the walkie-talkie. Chirp. “One eight to Max.”
“Go ahead one eight,” Said the speaker.
Chirp. “Cargo’s secure sir, loading it up right now.”
Russell heard none of this. His chest pounded, his eyes burned.
The gun lay in the dirt just ahead of the grassline on the side of the road. It reflected dull light from the headlights of the trucks. It looked helpless. Russell fixed his vision on the precious gun, rendered powerless without the care it needed. It just laid there in the almost wet dirt, pleading. It called to him. The gun wanted to be back, cradled by its master. Russell stared at the sacred metal on the ground. He listened.
Craig did this. Craig knew all along. He was quiet because he knew he was going to do this. Craig tricked you, Russell. Craig is a liar.
Craig is a bad person.
Russell didn’t need to hear anything else. He lowered his bound wrists beneath him. He lifted his ankles off the ground and pulled his hands forward. I’m coming for you, he thought. The gun was pleased.
In one motion Russell pulled his hands forward past his knees and lunged at the gun. His gun. Craig screamed for help but Russell already had the gun in his hands. It felt good. Russell turned back toward Craig. He pointed.
Russell squeezed the trigger. He saw the muzzle flash bright in the darkness and heard the crack echo toward the horizon. The sound of a chainsaw cranked behind him.
Craig fell backward to his elbows. His blue shirt turned red. Russell grinned with extended arms and watched Craig fall to the side. Evil punished by the peacemaker. The gun and its master were one.
The teeth of the chainsaw swept through Russell’s arms. A spray of blood slapped Russell in the face. It was suddenly hard to blink. He looked down to see the arms still holding the gun collapse to the dirt below. Russell saw what was left of his arms among the torn fabric of his uniform.
He felt cold. The chainsaw stopped. Russell heard the thieves yelling but he was having trouble understanding the words. It was a muffled sound, like they were yelling through a blanket. His vision got blurry and dark spots formed in his eyes.
Theresa’s voice yelled. “You were supposed to be watching him!”
Matt rushed to Craig’s side and was yelling too. Matt sounded desperate now “Craig! Are you hit? What happened?” Craig only answered in pathetic high pitched whimpers. The man in the green hat watched the red color on Craig’s shirt grow darker.
“Of course he’s hit! You should have been paying attention!” said Theresa
Russell looked down in front of him. Where his arms had been was now just hanging meat. Blood fell out of him in galloping gushes, clotting in the dirt and grass below. He was still on his knees. He found it difficult to breathe.
Somewhere in the swirling distance, Russell heard the man in the green hat sputter into the walkie-talkie again. “One eight to Max!” he shouted.
Chirp. “One driver shot, one of ours!”
There was a moment of silence before the speaker crackled back. “Use the saw to cover the bullet hole,” Said the speaker with no sign of panic or distress. “Theresa is in charge for the rest of your operation. No more issues. I am so far disappointed in you.”
Russell heard shouting and activity around him as he continued to stare at the stringy gore that only a second ago held the gun. The dark spots in his eyes were growing and he found it hard to concentrate on anything else. Behind him, the chainsaw started up again. He felt a kick and fell forward, his face bouncing hard off of the dirt.
He smelled gas. He blinked his vision clear and saw his gun. It now sat smoking and satisfied close to his cheek. His fingers were still curled around the trigger. Russell felt peace.
Somewhere on his body the teeth of the chainsaw tore him apart. The oily dark circles in his eyes spread and swirled around him. He stared at his gun, surrounded by a cyclone of black. Just the two of them, Russell and the gun, alone in the world. And then everything was gone.
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