Post by ER Of Clan Sci-Fi on Apr 4, 2017 11:36:58 GMT -5
An ode to josh200612 Chapter 1: Josh...The Man, The Myth, The Legend
Josh rocked back and forth, the rhythmic sway of the 6:19 Lexington Ave Express train made it quite difficult for him to remain awake. At the same time the constant banter from his train car’s passenger’s made it quite difficult for him to remain sleep.
Two women stood over top of him, going back and forth about who’s day at work was worst. Somewhere behind a woman was accusing her boyfriend of not taking their relationship seriously. While two seats up from him another woman did the same… but she did it through the phone, fortunately for him, he was not on this train. Across from him sat a man, who talked just “loud” enough how good of a day he had in sales at his job.
“That bonus will be… awesome, just you see!” he bragged to whatever poor soul unlucky enough to be on the other end. Directly in front of them, sat a little girl and her father, facing adjacent in the direction that Josh sat. All Josh could think about was how much that little girl talked… and talked… it was a wonder the little girl didn’t simply pass out onto her little face from oxygen deprivation. Josh hoped that this would be like the other times, when eventually all their words would coalesce into an amalgamation of blended sound.
After stretching, he instinctively reached down to check for his personal belongings Between his thighs lay his gym bag. Confirming his bag was still with him, a feeling of contentment came over his body. He checked his sweat pants… keys and wallet still present - check. Sweat top pocket… cell phone still present - check. He re-placed his phone back in his zippered sweat top pocket. Next, Josh withdrew his favorite new book, Everyman and Other Miracle and Morality Plays. Josh considered himself many things, one of the things he’d never consider himself being was a dramatic thespian. Nevertheless, these were the type of books Josh felt the most at peace reading.
Then Josh reached for the one thing that meant so much to him, he took it everywhere he went. Reaching inside his bag, Josh withdrew a small envelope, held it to his chest, before returning it back into his bag.
“This is New York,” he thought. “I wouldn’t be the first person to wake up, realizing I was no longer in the possession of my belongings.”
He then checked for what he knew was still with him, his boxing gloves. You would have to be insane or incredibly bold to try to remove the boxing gloves that hung from around his neck like keys hanging from a hook near a door. Josh was no longer as “chiseled” as he once was ten years ago. A lot of the muscle cut-ness he had in his prime, now carried a light layer of what he considered baby-fat over top of it. But if he were to remove his shirt right now, despite him only being in his mid-190’s… he’d appear to be a man-god in comparison to the average male.
This was a tradition for Josh. He’d put in a solid hour at Modo’s Gym, sparring with some of the new up and comers, reliving the days of his former glory. Former glory is all Josh had at this point in his life. Sure he rose through the ranks almost as fast as anyone else in NY’s history. Only some fella named Iron Mike rose faster, and that was at the heavyweight class. At that time, Josh was a machine, 5-10, 175… 5% body fat.
He went through his first 12 bouts...without even seeing the fourth round. As his reputation grew, so did the respect of his adversaries. If you stepped in the ring with Josh “The Jet” Hawkens and made the mistake of overreaching your swing… you quickly discovered that the floor of the ring contained a myriad crisscross of red, green and white fibers.
Josh’s expression of contentedness almost grew into something more uplifting. This happened whenever he recalled how things used to be. Upon that acknowledgement of said expression, Josh quickly made that expression vanish. Because to remember some things… is to remember all things. Josh never smiled nowadays. He actually couldn’t remember the last time he permitted such feeling. When he’s home… he’s all business. When he’s in the gym… he’s all business. When asked why he never smiles, Josh would look at the inquirer sternly in the face, meeting the person eye to eye,
“I’m not that dude…not anymore,” and he’d just leave it that.
Josh pulled out his phone … “6:37… can’t risk nodding off again... don’t won’t to miss my stop.”
Modo’s Gym was in the Bronx, Josh was traveling southbound on the Lexington Ave Express, his stop, was the first stop in East Harlem. When Josh looked up from his phone he felt two pairs of eyes looking at him. When he returned the stare, one set of eyes looked away, the other did not.
When one of the pair of eyes didn’t leave him, he knew what was coming next.
“What’s that hanging around your neck?” the non-stop talking little girl who sat next to her father, who was sitting adjacent to Josh’s seat asked. The little girl looked to be no older than five… six tops. She sported a light blue school uniform, with a backpack strapped to the front of her, themed after Minecraft. The man sitting beside her reading a paper, must of been her father. He was dressed in fancy business attire, all the way down to his shoes that Josh could almost see his reflection in, despite him being over six feet away.
Josh sighed, hoping that the thoughts he had of shaking his head, wasn’t actually manifesting itself to action. Or maybe that is what he wanted to do?
When Josh didn’t answer right away, the father seemed to become slightly annoyed. “Don’t bother the man sweetie, it's obviously he’s got more important things right now ….”
Josh felt his fists clench, even though he hadn’t given them the command to do so. The father… this man, just took an underhanded shot at him. Josh felt his blood boil, but quickly repeated to himself, “Eight more stops… Namaste’.... Eight more stops…”
“Boxing Gloves” Josh said aloud, but not nastily before finally turning in the little girl’s direction.
The little girl’s face transformed into that of curiosity… and confusion.
“You wear those to work on boxes?” the little girl said in a way, only the innocence of a child can convey.
“No miss… I use them to fight people. The fighting is called boxing. These gloves… it protects your hands.”
If Josh thought he was done, he didn’t know the mind of a five year old. Or perhaps he just simply forgot…
This time the little girl regarded Josh more comfortably, as if they were long time friends. Her inner confidence emerged, as she talked less hesitantly, and much more precise with her wording.
“Well, I think if you are going to hit someone, those gloves - “
“Now… now dear, “ the father said, cutting the little girl off. “I’m sure the man doesn’t want to be bothered.”
Josh would of let it go at that point, but as the man continued on reading his paper, he glanced back up at Josh… giving him that look. Josh knew that look very well. It's the same look that Josh used to give his foes as they stepped in the ring.
That look… it’s the, “I’m better than you look!”
Josh looked outside at the station they just went by, “6 more stops…”
Ordinarily, Josh would of let this go. But not this day, not with this little girl involved. As he sat forward in his seat, Josh raised his left arm chest level in the direction of the father and in a deep, loud voice announced, “Hold on sir… a minute ago you was copping an attitude cause in your mind, I didn’t answer your little girl fast enough. Now… you are getting mad cause I’m talking too much to her? You can’t have it both ways.”
The normally bustling train car, that usually had over a hundred people on it during this rush hour, now all became quiet at the same time. They all eyed the little girl’s father as now being put on the spot.
“You listen here! I thought I was doing you a favor, allowing you to not to be bothered before your stop. Its obvious you’ve put in a hard 9-5 today!”
The train got even more eerily quiet than it had before. The woman who was standing up, almost between Josh and the man started to shake her head. She looked down at the father, “You don’t know who you are talking to… do you?”
“Should I?” the father snapped back at the woman.
The woman continued to shake her head dismissively “If you did… you’d let this go...right now!”
The father looked up to the woman, than back at Josh, who now eyed him up like he was sizing up an upcoming opponent in the ring. From Josh’s vantage point, this well dressed man was in his mid-30’s like himself, but that’s pretty much where their likeness ended. The little girl’s dad was taller than Josh, by several inches, and had about thirty to forty pounds on him But none of that mattered. Josh could see by the way the man sat in the seat, a couple of inches of belly fat creased over the man’s waist line. He had the very beginning of a double chin, his wedding band creased in on his fat fingers like someone tying a knot over a sausage link. His hands appeared smooth and unscarred, ending off with well manicured nails. Josh quickly assessed that this man would last no less than thirty seconds if things turned south.
“4 more stops…”
“Listen sir, please take this kind woman’s advice. Cause right now you are on a train. Just not any train though sir… You are on a train that has many stops. I’m going to give you a way out upon the of this situation… let’s call it a changing of seats.”
Josh’s glared intensified.
“Better yet, I’m going to allow you to get off at the next station. But if you keep riding in the direction in are going… trust me sir when I tell say… you will NOT like where this train let’s you off at.”
Echoes of “whoas… and wows” reverberated through the car.
The father sits there for a second, still processing the words Josh just said to him metaphorically.
“Now… when you have a little girl like yours sir, you have to allow her to - “
Josh stops in mid sentence as a near deafening boom rocks the train from side the side. The lighting of the train immediately break out into a kaleidoscope of on again, off again illumination. Despite Josh sitting, he can feel the center of gravity of the train transitioning, as his body began leaning towards the left in the direction of the little girl and her father.
“THE TRAIN’S DE-RAILING! Someone yells before horrifying screams leapt from the mouths of women, children and men around him. The last thing Josh saw before his world went dark was the window behind the little girl and her father leaping over to kiss him in the mouth.
Post by ER Of Clan Sci-Fi on Apr 4, 2017 11:39:58 GMT -5
Chapter 2: After
When Josh woke up this time on the train, it was like no other experience he could ever compare it to. Instinctively his body attempted to spring into a defense position… he immediately wished it didn’t do so. Despite Josh being in over a dozen professional bouts, also in hundreds of sparrings / amatuer tussles, never before had his body ached with such excruciating non-alacrity.
A sudden cough came over him, as he got a good whiff of the rancid air around him. Josh concluded that even a pain-free cough, but that too was a good sign. The fact that he was able to breathe in, breathe out and cough so easily confirmed two things;
a. His lungs weren’t compromised.
b. His ribs weren’t broken.
Everything seemed ok except his left ankle seemed to be giving him more trouble than anything else. Josh couldn’t see very well… at all. Sure, in the distance, he could see the flickering light from the connecting train car, but his car was pitch black.
Josh reached into his zippered pocket to retrieve his cell phone. He activated the home button, saying a praise to the heavens when his bright screen lit up his portion of the train. His cell had a crack in the screen that ran along the bottom eighth of the screen, as if someone etched an upside down mountain on it. Josh was relieved that it didn’t seem to affect the overall functionality of the touch-screen. Before he even tried 9-1-1, the first thing he had to do was figure out his surroundings.
If Josh’s home screen lit up his section of the train, the flashlight app was like a flaming torch in the murk of darkness about him. He picked up his bag, re-checked its belongings before panning the cell about, taking in all the carnage around him. Growing up in Harlem, nothing prepared him for the nightmare he was now seeing.
The train… his car in particular… if no one told you where you stood… there’s no way you’d know you were on a train at all. The metal was twisted in such a way, it made it difficult to determine if it came from the interior or exterior of the train.
And the bodies around him…. human flesh had no chance against the strength and jaggedness of twisted metal. As Josh looked about over the dozen or so remains at his feet, he had no clue if they were that of a male or female. He did recognize the jacket of the woman who tried to clue the little girl’s father on who Josh was. The beam of Josh’s flashlight followed the impaled, bloody khaki colored jacket, all the way down to what was left of the woman on the floor.
“I’ve seen enough!” Josh says, “Time to get the @#$^% out of here, I’ve had enough images burned into my brain to last a lifetime.”
Josh began to make his way to the doorway of the train, before the sound of someone coughing stopped him in his tracks.
Josh whirled around with his flashlight, its beams cutting the darkness like a super long lightsaber. He panned around, not being able to find the source of the cough.
“Wait… over here…” a voice called out from the floor a few feet away. Josh thought he knew that voice, almost pondering to ignore it and walk away.
It had been a long time since Josh heard that title outside of a boxing gym. The cold reality was that Josh never earned the title of Champion. Fans of The Jet referred to him as Champ not only as a term of endearment, but also because they believed under normal circumstances… he would of won the WBC Lightweight Belt.
Initially Josh resented being called Champ, feeling it was a reminder of his loss. But after a while, Josh got tired of correcting folks. He figured if folks cared so much … let them call him whatever they want.
When Josh ducked / climbed his way through the obstacle course back to voice that called out to him, he wasn’t shocked that it was the little girl’s father.
“Please…” the father continued to beg.
“You!” Josh says more as a confirmation, less as a question. “Oh so NOW… you know who I am?”
The father pauses for several of what had to be excruciating, body jarring coughs, “I knew it was you from the very beginning. I heard about your tragic fall from grace. I just didn’t want to acknowledge you. When you were an amateur… you beat my cousin...badly. Never liked you from that moment on…. sorry.”
“There’s nothing I can do for you,” Josh pointed out, choosing not to even touch upon the man’s reason for contempt against him. It was rather mute at this point. As for the father’s predicament, he seemed pinned beneath half a mountain of metallic debris. His upper torso was indeed partially free, while his lower extremities appeared to resemble a amalgam of part-man part-broken metal. After the beam of light hit the father’s eyes, his eyes slowly dilating into distant globes of blue and white.
"I know this..” the raspy voiced-father says in almost as a chuckle. “I know I may not have a lot of time… I can taste blood, barely breathe… fighting to stay conscious. I need you to find…”
“Don’t say it!” Josh warned through gritted teeth. “I know where you are going man, I’m not about to tear through this train car, only to find your daughter’s mangled body. Don’t ask that of me sir!”
With tears that now began to run freely down the man’s eyes, in a broken shout, “MY DAUGHTER’S NOT DEAD!” the father spat out through bloody lips. “I h-heard her call out to me a couple of hours ago. At first I thought it was a dream, but then I realized it was a nightmare as I realized I was powerless to help her. So I’m begging you again Champ, on the other side of the train, not far from where you sat, she’s under that crap.”
Chris checks the time of his watch (8:38) and his eyes became wide as saucers, he couldn’t believe the amount of time that had passed. “You said you heard her hours ago? What makes you think…”
“Cause a father knows!” the father yelled again, this time, much more weaker than before. Josh knew the man didn’t have much left. If this is what he wanted as his final wish, he’s carry it out for him.
Josh shined the light in the debris cluster that the father pointed to. As Josh’s eyes adjusted, he could make out the fine particulate the seem to suspend in the air… defying gravity. He stared intently at the pile and indeed made out a blood streak leg sticking from out the pile.
Josh felt numb as he carried out this task. He’s been in this place before, not that many years ago.
He placed his cell about the debris behind him with the light pointed in his direction, using both his hands to free the trapped girl. Once free, the little girl looked even smaller than she had seen the first time. She had dried cuts all up and down her legs. The girl’s curly lockes were smashed down around her forehead.
Josh just stared at her as time slowed around him. He knew as long as he didn’t check for a pulse, this girl would never officially be dead. A powerful headache, increasing in intensity every few seconds quickly began to overwhelm him. For a moment Josh’s world suddenly changed around him… to another time… to another place. But the girl remained the same. Or did she? A girl sat there… laid there...unmoving, but no one seemed moved enough to cry. He slowly reached to touch her with the to confirm what he already knew....
When he did so, he was whisked way back into the present, back onto the train. He reached down to touch the little girl, his movements alike to someone who was about to touch a potentially live wire. Wha Josh assumed was assuming that he’d be met with the cold touch of death, which had visited her a long time ago. Instead… he felt warmth. She was very hot actually. Upon giving her a few shakes, the little girl re-emerged into the world of consciousness the same way Josh had earlier. She coughed almost uncontrollable for nearly thirty seconds. But the good thing Josh noticed was that her cough sounded clear, and it didn’t appear to be blood coming out as well.
Josh went to stand the girl up and the first thing she did was ask for her father.
“Of course little miss, your father is right - “
Josh caught himself, realizing that the father on the floor had been eerily quiet the last minute or so. Surely he would of heard some jubilation from upon hearing his daughter cry.
With the little girl to his back, Jost shined the light onto the floor where her father’s was. He was still there of course, his eyes were as open as they were before, but this time they didn’t blink.
“Daddy?” the little girl called out to again.
Josh pondered this for a moment, either let this girl see her father now, so she can say her last goodbye, or lie so he can keep her mind level to leave this place.
Angling the light away from the father, and towards the doorway.
“I don’t see him miss, the accident was pretty bad, perhaps he’s outside the train looking for you.” Josh lied.
“I’m scared,” the little girl proclaimed.
“Then you are in good company miss…. cause I’m just as frightened as you are. Let’s say we make our way out of this dark tunnel.”
Post by ER Of Clan Sci-Fi on Apr 4, 2017 11:44:23 GMT -5
Chapter 3: Beginning of The Walk
It had been over twenty minutes since Josh and the little girl left the train. It appeared as though they weren’t the only ones who survived the initial crash. They came across over a half dozen bodies of people who must have willed their way off the train and unto the tracks below, only to eventually succumb to the severity of their injuries.
Josh did all he could to keep the little girl from seeing bodies. Once Josh saw it first, he’d immediately turn the light elsewhere.
The little girl didn’t say much, she was probably still in shock. What she did do, which was comforting to her, as well as annoyed Josh was re-establish the grip on his hand every minute or so. All Josh could think about was that for a little girl, her hands were like mini vice grips.
When Josh wasn’t illuminating their way through the dark tunnel, he kept checking his phone for a signal. It wasn’t uncommon to lose signal while being being on the subway. What was uncommon was to not get even the briefest of cellular network connection, even if just for a few seconds.
“And where were the emergency first responders?” he thought. “A train derailment should have brought dozens of personnel down here by now, especially since I’ve been down here for hours!”
“Where am we going going?” the little girl asked.
“We are getting out of this tunnel, then I’m going to try to get you home by notifying the authorities.”
“Oh… will my father be there?”
“I don’t know miss, but we will see”
Josh and the little girl continue on their plight down the tracks. Josh’s cell phone battery now at 62%, at least that’s what it read the last time he had saw it. He had passed it to the little girl ten minutes ago, so she could be the captain of pointing the light. But of course with the little girl pointing the light, she made sure we would see everything from the ceilings, to the far adjacent walls. What she didn’t concentrate on… was the tracks themselves.
“WOULD YOU POINT…” this would be the third time he’d catch himself from totally snapping on the little girl for pointing the light elsewhere as he stubbed his toe on a rail tie.
Every time Josh would settle his anger, concentrating on how happy he’d be getting rid of this girl to the first cop she sees. And hopefully, this wasn’t that far off. By Josh’s rough guest-a-mate… they should be at the halfway point between Cypress Ave Station and Burnside Ave Station. Any moment now we they should start seeing signs of the latter.
As they walked along further, Josh felt uncomfortable with the long, awkward pauses that kept creeping up between him and the little girl. They had both been through a lot, the little girl obviously losing her father trumped Josh’s body trauma.
Truth be told, Josh didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know this little girl, and the fact that’s he’s avoided kids over the past decade, he was far from the authority on the subject. Just as he was nearing the point of uncomfortness, Josh’s eyes squinted at the very extent of his vision.
Up ahead, the dim flickering lights of Burnside Ave Station gave Josh the perfect segway into breaking the silence.
“Look at that miss… that’s the station! We can hop up onto the platform and use the steps to the surface.“
Josh didn’t know what the little girl was going to say about this revelation, but figured whatever it was… it was a start.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggghhhh!” Josh shouted in his head. “I promise once we get above the surface, I’ll grab you a bite to eat once we call the police.”
If Josh was wondering why the lights of the station were flickering, and why no one was there, he didn’t address it verbally. In his mind the train’s derailment could have affected the power along this corridor. The cops probably roped off the station from passengers, hence the station was empty.
Although one thing kept bothering Josh, “How come we haven’t seen anyone to help???”
Josh easily hoisted up the little girl to the platform above, her weight being almost nothing in his hands. He did this, pausing briefly to warn her about the danger of the third rail. After joining her on the platform, the little girl quickly re-seized his hands in her death grip.
Josh looked down at her, even in this low-level flickering light, the smile the little girl gave off almost made the station… brighter. For a half a second, Josh almost let himself get moved by this. But that moment passed as quickly as it came.
But Josh did indeed feel a certain eagerness, a pep to his step. It wasn’t from the little girl’s smile, rather it was his acknowledgement of once they reached the top of the dozen and a half steps to the outside, the steps to freedom… this unfortunate nightmare would soon be over.
But as Josh got to the halfway point, the churning in his gut told him something wasn’t right. First it was the smell, the coming that rushed past him on the steps was different. Josh couldn’t put his finger on it, but the air smelled… baked, or kind of toasted.
As he slowed at the halfway point, each step gave off a progressively louder crunch of dust underfoot. Josh didn’t like where this was leading to at all, but he was trying his best to remain optimistic. Not just for the little girl, but for himself as well. Josh was in no position to do any more...than what he had already done.
When Josh and the little girl got to top, the little girl’s hand fell to her side. Josh needed both his hands, to seize the railing at the top of the stairway. As Josh staggerly spun in a three hundred and sixty degree rotation, all the power that he contained in his powerful frame left him at once as he fell to the ground.
Now eye level with the little girl, she looked at him with confusion. She appeared nowhere near as devastated as Josh. Kids handle chaos differently, we all know this to be true.
On this day, at this moment, the destruction of the city of New York traumatized Josh way more than it did the little girl.
Post by ER Of Clan Sci-Fi on Apr 4, 2017 11:47:08 GMT -5
Chapter 4: Nightmare of Descendance.
“What happened to the buildings?” the little girl asked with little emotion. The same way someone would ask you, “Our your done reading that?”
Josh knelt there, his knees caked in the powdery remains of the buildings that have been felled around him. Nothing in his immediate vicinity looked like it was over one devastated story high. No cars drove by, nor did Josh see any people. But in far off in the distance he could barely make out the sound of multiple car and property alarms.
“What could've possibly happened?” Josh thought to himself.
As if on the same mental wavelength as Josh for the first time, she put in words what he was pondering,
“What happened to the buildings?” the little girl asked again.
Josh knew whatever his answer was going to be was pure speculation. But at this point, Josh knew that everything has just changed. There wasn’t going to any emergency responders nearby, at least not anytime soon if the devastation was as widespread as it appeared to be. But Josh’s role, his role of a temporary escort was going to have to be extended… perhaps way longer than he had earlier anticipated. He no longer had the privilege of being so… detached.
“I’m sorry honey, I can only assume that we must of gotten attacked… or some sort of earthquake occurred. I do recall feeling a jerk before our train derailed.”
“”Daddy said the terrorists are trying to get us.”
“Your daddy is a smart man” Josh says as a means of comfort, not as a matter of fact.
“Are we still going home?” the little girl asked.
Josh opened up his shoulders placatingly, “I’ll do my best honey. Do you anything about the neighborhood you live in, address… street name?”
The little girl, who again had took ahold of Josh’s hand again, began to twirl her left foot in circles at the toe, “NOPE! I just know we live in Upper East Side!”
“Upper East Side? That’s a start honey.” Josh replied. That may of been what Josh said aloud, but internally he screamed, “UPPER EAST SIDE??? That’s like THIRTY blocks from here!!!”
It could've been worst Josh thought, Upper East Side wasn’t terribly far from Harlem. She could've just said East Village … or Chelsea. Then Josh would of just given up, tossing himself headfirst down the stairway in angst.
“Alright honey… time to move on… that way.” Josh said, pointing in the direction of their of both of their home.
“I’m hungry!” the girl reminded Josh. Josh stirred, but reminded himself that the little girl wasn’t being rude, she just had the spurt of the moment bluntness… that all little girls had.
“You don’t have any snacks in your bookbag?”
The little girl looks up at him, with an unwavering smile, “Nope!”
“But you didn’t you look” Josh responds as his shoulders droop in frustration.
“Mommy gives me a banana and raisins as a snack, I ate them while waiting for daddy.”
“Oh, well in that case, I’ll see what I have”
Josh pulls his bag from across his shoulder and begins sifting through its contents, “Deodorant, witch hazel, gauze, sports tape… ah, I think I’ve got something!”
Josh pulls out a power bar, but in doing so a small envelope falls from bag. The little girl bends to pick it up, “No! I’ve got it!” Josh says as he quickly kneels and scoops it up.
He unwraps the bar and after breaking off ⅓ of it. After breaking off section, he hands it over to the little girl as she gobbles it down. Immediately her face becomes twisted in disgust.
“That’s nasty!” she says, wiping the remaining fragments of the bar off her tongue.
“Yeah, but you won’t be hungry for a while, and please stop touching your tongue. It's bad enough we are eating the bar with our dirty hands, you wiping your tongue that way is going to make you sick.”
“I’m going to get germs?” the little girl asks.
“What are germs?”
“For another time.” Josh promised
Josh was expecting a follow up question to even that, but when he didn’t get it he looked up at his cell phone. “10:10, battery life … 52%. Still no cell signal.”
Given the circumstances, Josh was not at all surprised over the lack of a signal. Given this degree of devastation, no cell towers would survive.”
“I tell you what honey, we aren’t going to make it back to your neighborhood tonight, not with us both being exhausted. We need to find a place to rest at.”
“I’m tired… I want to go home!’ the little girl pleaded.
"I know you are honey, but trust me, we wouldn’t be able to make it home by foot. There’s no one out here driving. Heck, I haven’t seen anyone at all. I hope everyone is not - “
Josh caught himself from going any further, remember who his audience was.
“Where are we going to go?”
“I don’t know.. but we have to find something soon, my dogs are killin me?.”
They continued on as Josh scanned the buildings for anything that resembled anything structurally sound. Josh’s concern was that if they were lucky enough to find an intact room, that there could still be some settling with the foundation. The last thing he’d want right about now is to be crushed by falling debris.
Their best bet…
The cars they did find intact on the street, Josh would go one at a time… trying the door handles.
To save time, and to give her something to do, Josh had the little girl try the passenger side doors, as he tried the driver’s side doors.
It took them 33 vehicles before they found one that not only opened, but didn’t trigger a car alarm.
They climbed inside a Ford Edge, Josh cursing his inability to hotwire a car. He could have this little girl in her neighborhood in under thirty minutes, especially in this convenient lack of traffic. But whet the Edge didn’t provide in transportation, it more than made up in comfort and shelter.
They laid down the 2nd row seats, creating a flat surface of 6’x 3’. As he laid down, his body felt like he’d just gone ten rounds… back to back. He had begun to favor his left ankle by now, which at first only felt like the tiniest of sprains. Now… it had begun to seriously hurt him. The last couple blocks, he actually began to limp.
They crawled up in the SUV, Josh checking his surroundings before closing the door. The little girl again removed her bookbag, using it as makeshift pillow as he laid down. Chris removed his boxing gloves, un-slung his bag from his shoulder and stretched out along the back seat. He removed the envelope from before, beginning to read the paper that was neatly folded inside once he shined his cell’s light on it. He knew he should be saving its electricity, cause he knew it may be awhile before he gets to charge it again. But he figured… he wouldn’t be making calls for a little while.
He could've used the Edge’s interior light to read, but Josh had no interest in being a beacon in the middle of the night.
As Josh read the letter, a tear began to well up in his eye, the same tear that wells up every time he reads the letter. Sometimes that tear is not alone, inviting many of his friends and coworkers. But on this night, and under these circumstances one would have to suffice.
When Josh was saw little eyes looking up at him and his letter, he immediately re-folded the letter before carefully securing it back inside its envelope.
“What were you reading?” the little girl asked.
“Nothing… nothing of importance.”
“Are we ever going to see my dad soon?”
The question punched Josh in the stomach. The pure randomness of this little girl’s mind was almost overwhelming to Josh. But he knew the time for avoiding this had long past. She deserved to know the truth.
“Honey your father never left the train back underground. He asked me to find you and when I did … he had passed. I’m very sorry I didn’t give you a chance to say goodbye to him.”
The little girl didn’t say another word that night… she didn’t need to. The heartfelt sobs she let out was enough to convey her pain. Josh did all he could to remain detached from her emotions, but when the little snuggled up against him, it was like her anguish transferred into her osmotically.
It has been a long time since Josh wept this much, this powerfully. The tears that flowed from him were not all for the pain the little girl was going through, rather it was the mutual loss of what him and this little girl had endured
Post by ER Of Clan Sci-Fi on Apr 4, 2017 11:55:54 GMT -5
Chapter 5: The Day After
Josh awoke to a stiffness and body ache that he had never experienced before. The little girl was still exactly where she cried herself to sleep at. It wasn’t until Josh went to stretch, did his body’s convulsions wake the little girl. He’d pay a price for disturbing the little girl from her slumber.
Like Josh, the little girl stretched her limbs out in all directions. But unlike Josh, this girl didn’t care where her limbs went. One tiny fist fitting nice and snug into the eye socket of Josh’s right eye.
Josh cursed in frustration, his right hand flying up to his now watering eye.
Sunlight beamed through all the windows of the Ford Edge. Josh sat up in its backseat, observing the world around him. Daylight allowed him to get an even better ascertain of the devastation around him. He gasped at once familiar landmarks, some local and distant was no more.
Before he went to sleep, Josh turned off his cell to conserve battery life. Upon its power on, Josh confirmed a great deal of what he already expected. “Still no cell signal…. Check. Battery level 50%... 9:55.”
“9:55???” Josh sighed heavily. “I’m usually up at 6:30. Last night's ordeal must of really taken a lot out of me!”
Despite the fact that Josh’s mind had just concluded the time. Josh’s stomach needed no such confirmation. It growled angrily over the status of its content, or more importantly… the lack thereof.
On cue, the little girl sat up and turned to Josh, “I’m hungry… and thirsty!”
Josh withdrew the remaining portions of the bar, giving half of it to the little girl before quickly consuming what remained. Josh gathered whatever belongings that had escaped his bags overnight, and returned them back inside his bag.
“This will hold us over until we find something else,” Josh says.
As they step out from the back of the Edge, “Still thirsty.. and I’ve got to pee!” The little girl announced.
The little girl wasn’t alone in this need, Josh escorted her just inside the tattered facade of a convenience store. The smell of stone and brick decay that they had gotten used to during their travels was now concentrated inside the much “cozier” confines of this store. Josh knew that if the establishment should have an employee restroom in the back, but Josh didn’t wish to try to trek through such a hazardous terrain with the little girl. Josh relieved himself first right inside the vestibule, his head on a swivel… keeping constant surveillance of the surrounding area. Seconds later, the little girl did the same, not before the little girl insisting Josh give her privacy.
Just as the girl was finishing up, Josh saw something just at the outskirts of his visual acuity at the halfway part of the store. What appeared to be a beverage fridge, sat facing upward on the floor Josh celebrated, internally of course, as his eyes adjusted to the miniscule light, they locked onto a multitude of candy bars littered around the same area.
“Don’t move,” Josh informed the little girl, her eyes trying to squint to pick up on what Josh saw. Josh was only able to access half of the machine, fallen debris preventing him from getting any further. He was able to scoop out about a dozen various drinks, some of which Josh swore he’d never let touch his tongue again. But given these circumstances, beggars couldn’t be choosey.
Quickly guzzling down the first thing he grabbed and telling the little girl to do the same, Josh tossed as many beverages and snacks into his bag as he could comfortably carry without feeling the weight was compromising. Before he closed up his bag, he insured that the envelope from last night remained unaffected by the bag’s new payload. Josh’s bag went from something that was once unnoticeable to his back, to something that’s weight was now a constant reminder. Josh really didn’t care much for this, but he knew that the location of their next meal was far from guaranteed. This way, they’d have enough liquids and snacks to pass the next couple of days.
They exited the store, not making it several feet before the girl reacquired his hand for support.
“Are we going home now?” the little girl asked him out of the blue as she as she begins to swing his arm in long arch’s.
“We are headed that way honey.” Josh replies mildly, stiffening his shoulder so that it no longer swung like a pendulum.
We he thought about his once swing shoulder, it reminded him about what used to be dangling from his neck.
"My boxing gloves!" Josh shouted, startling the little girl. But Josh knew it was too late, that the boxing gloves were about an hour back in the opposite direction. "If it's meant to be... they'll make their way back to me."
It takes them almost thirty more minutes before they see their first signs of life. In the same direction they traveled, across the street a woman walked gingerly on a limp that was more pronounced them Josh’s. A few minutes later a man, similar in age to Josh, walked quickly by. This hands were stuffed tightly into his pockets, his head too on a swivel. The little girl’s grip on his hand tightened, as a few minutes later a group of older men past by them on the sidewalks, their faces still in a frozen moment of shock.
This expression was mirrored on the next dozen people people they had came across.
“Where are these people going?” the little girl asked Josh.
The little girl put into words what Josh was thinking.
“Honey, I really can’t say. Maybe they are looking for someone… something. Or maybe like us, they are just trying to get home.”
Minutes later, they saw a man across the street, sitting on the back of a Honda Accord, who asked for assistance from every passerbyer. Josh increased his pace, hoping they could slip past the man unnoticed.
“You got anything?” the man asked roughly, almost in the form of a demand.
The girl slowed down, in anticipation of Josh answering the man. Josh gave the little girl a little tug. They would not be stopping to help this man out.
Josh knew the question was coming, so he had already formulated his response.
Josh looked ahead as he walked, but made his words more stern to get his point across. “Honey… something has happened in this city. And it's got people scared, perhaps frightened. When people are frightened they make foolish choices. Under normal circumstances, we might not hurt one another for supplies. Now? Anything is possible. I can’t risk “anything” when I’m with you. So for now… I’m going to continue to play it safe and avoid people as long as I can. And I will NOT be sharing our supplies. Me and you went and found some food… they can do the same.”
Josh waited for the follow up… but then get anything. He didn’t know how well his words would translate. But it was the best he could come up with to get his point across.
Their plight remained uneventful for the next hour or so, the little girl would go through her ups and downs emotionally. Sometimes she’d be down in the dumps when the memory of her father comes surging back to her. Then a few minutes later… she’d be back to normal, smiling like she was on her way to a picnic. They managed a full fifteen blocks before someone finally made contact with them.
Making direct contact with Josh and the little girl was not an easy endeavour. Every time it looked like someone was coming their way, Josh made sure they avoided them at all costs. He knew he wasn’t going to be successful forever, but with the little girl in tow, he wanted to keep his distance at much as possible. He had one goal today… get this girl home as quickly and as safely as possible.
An hour later, which included on again… off again piggy back rides, they ran across a man who wasn’t going to be ignored. He was in his early 50’s, wearing blue pants no shoes and and a white t-shirt. Josh saw him from a block away. Usually that was as close as he’d allow them to get before he either ducked down a side street or just crossed over altogether.
Josh tried the cross the street method, cursing silently to himself when the man mirrored their movement. For a man who lacked proper footwear, he moved pretty briskly. If Josh was alone, he’d have no problem out-pacing this man. But with the little girl… Josh’s overall foot speed was cut in half. Add in his ankle that was starting to favor him again… Josh knew he wouldn’t be getting away from anyone in a footrace… not anytime soon.
As the man got within twenty yards he followed the man’s eyes scanning him and the little girl up and down. Josh knew exactly where the conversation was going to go.
“Excuse me sir -”
With a stiffened posture, shoulders widening like a panther ready to strike, Josh cuts the man off.
“Let me stop you right there man, I’m trying to get somewhere, and I really don’t have time to stop.”
The man got even closer, stopping within a few feet of them, allowed Josh to get a better look at his person. The blue pants that resembled jeans from far away was actually dress pants. The white shirt, no where near as white as probably it once was, was a Yankees t-shirt. His hair style reminded him of the little girl’s father, although on this man it was clearly dissolved. A grey twelve o’clock shadow becoming more apparent on the man’s face and under neck area. Instinctively, Josh reached for his own face, confirming the fine fuzz that he too was sporting because of his lack of shaving this morning.
What stood out more than anything else to Josh, giving him pause was the size of the “shiner” over top of the left eye. It was apparent that somebody had clocked him good.
Josh’s statement was all but ignored, as the man went into a full diatribe that came out like this wasn’t the first time it rolled from his lips, “Look… I’m hungry, tired and I haven’t had my medication. I haven’t eaten since lunch at the office yesterday. I… I ride my bike to and from work and I was just trying to ride my bike home when these guys jumped in front of me, making me crash. By the time I got up, they were all over me!”
A part of Josh actually felt sorry for the man, his posture became more relaxed.
The man must of picked up on this, as his pleas became more urgent, his voice beginning to crack from the coming change in temperament, “They took my work bookbag… and my wallet. You think things wouldn’t get any worst for me huh? I found what I thought was a good spot to sleep last night on the sofa of a messed up office building. I awoke in the middle of the night to someone going through my pockets. I shoved the guy off of me… and he punched me in the face. I awoke with this (referencing his eye) and no shoes.”
Josh indeed felt sorry for the man, but he didn’t feel sorry enough to part ways with his supplies.
“I’m sorry to what happened to you sir, but again… there's nothing I can do for you. As you can see...I’ve got my hands full here,” Josh said, referring in the direction of the little girl.
With that Josh was done talking and began to walk around the man, switching her from his right hand… to his left so that Josh would be the one who passed within a close proximity.
That’s when the man’s expression changed. Gone was the teary-eyed face of a man in despair. In his place stood a man teetering on the fence of pure madness…. PURE RAGE. This man… he seethed with almost uncontrollable anger, as with every inhalation, his body seemed to grow in relevant size.
As Josh and the little girl attempted to walk around the man, the man took a step to the right, jabbing his finger into Josh’s chest.
“You look here!” the man said as he scanned both Josh’s and the little girl’s bag. “I know you guys got food on you, so you WILL give me something.
This time it was Josh’s turn to be something … be someone… different. He looked down at the man’s finger, cocking his head to the side as if it were something alien to him. “I get it sir, you are really having a bad day. But trust me when I say you aren’t alone. But right now sir… you’ve put yourself on a certain path. Prior to now, this path led to you getting home… shoeless with only a black eye. But I guarantee that if you continue on this current path...that something you are looking for… will lead you to Whup-Azz street. And you know who’s the landlord of Whup-Azz street sir? Me! And sir… your rent’s almost due. You may think you’ve had a bad day as of late. TRUST me when I say your day is seconds from being worst.”
The man looked deeply into Josh’s eyes.... and he knew it. He knew it all along, it just took a moment for sanity to re-reveal itself. He knew that had Josh wanted to, he could beat him to within an inch of his life. Just like that… the man’s green skin vanished, replacing him was mild-mannered Dr. Bruce Banner.
As they walked away, Josh kept one eye on the man, ensuring that desperation wouldn’t lead to a sneak attack from the rear. But it never happened. What the man did do, which stunned Josh was issued him a warning, “The direction you are heading in… it gets worst. And I’m not just talking about the level of destruction. The people… that way… they aren’t your friends, so I’d pull that girl tight and watch your back.”
Josh stopped in his tracks, his feet unable to move forward.
“Whatcha doin?” the little girl asked.
“What a man sometimes has to do, which is go back on his word.” With that Josh, unslung his bag and began to dig through it. He withdrew a 20 oz bottle of Mountain Dew and tossed it to the man, who appeared to be too stunned too comment.
“About twenty blocks that way, there’s lies the ruins of a convenient store on the left side of the street. If you step carefully, you should be able to sift out some grub.” Josh informed the man.
With tears again in the man’s eyes… this time of joy, he nodded his head in appreciation, before turning back away.
“Heeeeeeeyyyyy…” the little girl inquired. “Why you do that… that was MY soda.”
Josh did his best to hide his smile… he succeeded again, but couldn’t help not debating this.
“How did it become YOUR soda honey? I’m the one who got the soda’s from the store.”
“But Mountain Dew is my favorite soda,” the little girl said, turning back to look in the direction the man left in and giving him a cold, icy stare.
“I tell you what… by the time I’ve gotten you home, I’ll have your Mountain Dew replaced, deal?”
The little girl nodded in agreement.
As they continued to travel southward, the density of people they came across increased. The time when they’d only see a single straggler every fifteen minutes was now hours in the past. Now.. they were seeing about a dozen people per block. Josh no longer had the option of switching sidewalks anymore, because now folks lined up both sides of the street, as well as the street itself.
Every time they’d pass a group of me, he’d pull the little girl tightly against him. At this point, they had passed by a few hundred people.
What happened next, Josh was surprised that it took this long to occur. Two men approached him out of a gang out of a gang of a half dozen. When one of the men locked eyes on Josh and then little girl, then mentioned something to his partner, Josh still didn’t think anything of it… at first. They had seen dozens of people who had looked them over from afar, just to not even say anything as they passed. A couple, a man and woman in their early twenty’s actually smiled.
But Josh knew these men were different. The group Josh may have thought they were moved on at the original gate… those two men slowed. As the first group of men past Josh and the little girl without incident, the tailing duo began to widen their stance about the crumbling sidewalk.
"Stay close to me honey!” Josh told the little girl, pulling her in title.
The little girl, who had talked nearly non-stop for most of the day, didn’t have a rebuttal. This trek that Josh and her was on, zapped the little girl of her reserves a long time ago. She had asked for something to eat, but Josh kept putting it off, hoping to stretch their resources. Now Josh cursed himself for not taking indulging the little girl’s request. Cause if she would of eaten… so would he. The consumption of a Snicker’s bar an hour ago would of really come in handy if things go south in the next few moments.
Once Josh noticed the two approach, he straightened his gimpy ankle, trying his best not to appear weak. Of course if these guys were paying attention enough, they would of noticed Josh’s limp from a half a block away.
The first of the men who walked up, was a young white male, perhaps mid-20’s. He stood about 5’11, 210 pounds. He had a little bit of weight to him, but no noticeable muscle definition poked through his New York Knicks uniform. Unlike the man he saw early in the day, this guy wasn’t sporting a new 12 o’clock shadow, more like a 12 day shadow. He wore a full arm band tat on his right arm,with two piercings on both of his ears .
His partner was a shorter fellow, perhaps 5’7 of Chinese descent. Instead of Knicks, his New York team of choice this day was of a New York Giants. HIs Eli Manning uniform looked like it had never been dirty a day in its life. Faces of wear and despair were absent from these two, so more than likely wherever they are from, they weren’t affected as critically as others whom they came across.
The first wasted no time cutting to the chase. In words that sounded too professionally rehearsed coming from those lips, the man inquired, “Where are you going on this fine afternoon sir?”
His buddy, who was drinking from a water bottle, almost spit it out upon himself in laughter. This confirmed Josh’s suspicion.
Josh purposed looked up and down both men, “That would be none of your business young man, so I’d appreciate it if you’d step to the side.” With that being said, like last time, Josh shifted the little girl to his left hip and began to step forward in their direction.
“Don’t think so!” the second man said, before he spat an array of water at the feet of Josh’s Puma’s. “One couldn’t help but notice you guys… just don’t look like you belong together.”
Waiving a pointed finger between Josh and the little girl the first man concluded, “I’m going to go out on a whim and say you aren’t this little girl’s father.”
Josh thought for a minute, he could talk his way out of this… maybe. He could just say he was this girl’s uncle, or stepdad. But deep inside Josh knew this would of been a waste of time. He knew these guys had already made up their minds. Even if Josh produced a birth certificate and a family photo they still wouldn’t of believed him.
Josh saved them the trouble of pussy-footing around the point they were trying to make. “Yes, this indeed is NOT my daughter. I met her and her father on the train… our train derailed… here I am...”
“So you are…” the second man let in.
"...taking her back home.” Josh finished for him.
The two men looked at one another and became beside themselves from laughter
“Let me tell you what I see here,” the first man said. “I see a guy, who may have indeed seen this little girl and her father on the train, but now that the father is dead… he figures he get his sick, funky, perversions on with this little girl. Tell you what Good Samaritan, we’ll take this little girl home. No need to worry about this any more.”
“If this was twenty four hours ago, I would of seriously given your offer some consideration,” Josh thought to himself. “But now… “
Josh who was on the verge of losing it, caaaalllmmlllyyyy explained his position, “I’m going to be straight with you, you guys...perhaps you do have good intentions. Perhaps you are as sincere as I am in regards to just wanting to get this girl home. Only problem is, just as much as you don’t believe me… I don’t believe you. Sooooo….”
“Soooo… you are on the wrong side of the numbers, since it's two of us and well..., just one of you not counting the little girl.” the Eli Manning fan said.
The two men began to spread outwards, flanking Josh from both sides. “She comes with us either way, just a question of whether not you want to get your azz kicked in the process.”
Josh raised his finger in the air, “WAIT! Right now you guys are on the edge, consider it a precipice -”
Josh never got to go any further, because the first man punched him squarely in the face. It’s not the first time Josh has been sucker punched, probably not the last. Truth be told.. life and experience raised him to see that punch coming from a mile away. He allowed it to connect… just to know what with what he was dealing with. If his attacker had a trained eye, he would of noticed Josh roll with the punch, easily taking away 30 - 40% of the punch’s impact away from his jaw.
The little girl screamed out in horror as the second continued his tirade of laughter
“Wow… you almost knocked dude out!” The second guy falsely ascertained.
What happened next would be a blur to some, but to others, a brilliant display of magnificent execution. In the span of less than two seconds, Josh stopped being nobleman Josh Hawkens, instead taking a timewarp back a decade. Who stood before the two men now was a man they were probably too young at the time to know, or at least fully appreciate. Josh Hawkens was no more, The Jet now stood in his place and The Jet was on the move...
The Jet released the hand of the little girl so smoothly, she didn’t even notice the loss of grip. Half a second later The Jet was among them like a panther who jumps into the middle of a pack of caribou. The first man, who seconds ago was beside himself with confidence, now found himself face to face with a predator. But not the same predator who he had moments ago accused him of being, but more like he looking into the eyes of something that was no longer …. human. As the man’s eyes became wide as saucers, Josh delivered a series of blows that connected so quickly… every time the man’s body would register one blow, he was already on the receiving end of another.
A gut shot!
Then an overhand right was all it took to make the first man’s saliva and blood wet the broken pavement at his feet.
The Jet whirled on the second man, whose face no longer expressed his earlier jovial accord. His face was now replaced with an emotion less… comforting. By the time the man thought to himself, “Oh #&@%#* … this is really happening!” He found himself on the receiving end on The Jet’s finishing move… his devastating right cross.
In the ring, this was a combo ment for one person. Amongst non-pro’s… The Jet found it safer… for them, to split it amongst two people.
As The Jet slowly came back down to earth, resurfacing back to the forefront was regular ole Mr. Hawkens. If Josh thought his thought his onslaught terrified the little girl, he had underestimated the word. He turned back to the little girl, whose expression was that of the pure embodiment of fear.
He went to reach out to the little girl’s shoulder and she recoiled from his touch.
“Why did you beat up those men?” She pleaded, tears welling up in her eyes out of fear.
Josh, coming off almost embarrassed, “Because they were going to try to take you from me. I couldn’t let that happen.”
“Why didn’t you let them take me home?”
“Because right now… you are my responsibility. I gave your father my word. If nothing else, only thing a man can keep true to is his word. Perhaps they were telling the truth, wanting to take you home. But I can’t know for certain what’s inside someone else’s heart. I can only account for what’s in mine. And I know that NOTHING is going to prevent me getting you home.”
“Why did the man hit you?” the little girl continued.
“They were under the belief that I wasn’t trying to take you back home. So they were saying that they wanted to take you home instead.”
Josh looked down at the little girl, knowing if she was older, she’d understand his words a little bit better. She had a look of indifference across her face. It had been a while since he’s talked to a child of her age. So his adult to child translator probably needed a bit of work.
“Are we almost home?” the little girl followed up, her face returning now back to normal.
“Hopefully by this time tomorrow, we’ll be almost there. By the way I’m sorry you had to see that honey, but there’s a reason why I try to warn people first. When they don’t want to listen… they let the tiger out of it’s cage.”
The little girl began to peer around both sides of Josh, “Where’s a tiger?”
The next few hours went by uneventful. From time time, they’d fine a safe place to sit down to take a rest. Sometimes it would take Josh upwards of twenty minutes to gather his geographical bearings, the destruction around so devastated that no street signs… no landmarks were apparent. One blocked they traveled down, they had no choice but to reverse their course. This was due to the street itself having a gaping hole that expanded three quarters of the street top’s diameter. There was walkable sidewalk that was broken, but appeared structurally sound on both parts.
But Josh took it upon himself not to risk fate. Any sort of obstacle they came across, he remained vigilant to avoid it at all costs. On another random streat groups of guys duked it out over… who know’s what. Josh quickly performed a one-eighty just as the little girl began mimicking the punching pattern of the guys ahead of them.
“Why don’t you go beat those guys?” she asked that only a chil....
It was all Josh could do to keep his smile inside, ‘Honey, even I can’t take on all those guys at once. I’m no superhero.”
“You are a superhero to me,”the little girl nonchalantly responded.
Josh so wanted to follow that up, wanting to know how could this little go sometimes make statements that appear to be beyond her maturity.
He let it go, allowing the moment to have a special meaning to him, that just was unique in its own, no explanation necessary.
Two stops for breaks later, the little girl was done. No amount of brief rest periods were going to bring back the weary legs of a child her size. Josh had to admit to himself that he was done as well. He had easily walked longer on this day, then he had ever walked in his life.
From his bearings, they had made it to Harlem, which mean they were about six blocks from his apartment, twenty blocks from the little girl’s neighborhood on the Upper East Side. For the briefest moment he considered powering through it, but to come across a threat right now, being so exhausted would mean doom for them. A roving gang of half-nourished eight year olds could probably take him out. Plus it was getting dark. Seeing weirdos from a half block away was easy in brightness of day. At night time… that was another story. They needed to find shelter for the night and needed to find it right away.
They were now only a few blocks away, Josh saying a silent prayer that his building was somehow intact, knowing more likely it would be rubble like everything else they’ve past thus far. The people along the way, didn’t get any kinder the closer he got to home.
Some folks would just stare at him and the little girl as they walked by. Gawking at him, then the little girl, their bags and then back to Josh himself again. Some even got indignant with their pleas for assistance.
“Hey man, you got anything to eat? Hey… I’m talking to you. Don’t you hear what I’m saying to you?”
“Did you hear the man?” the little girl would ask Josh.
“Yes I heard him honey” Josh responded placatingly, “ I’m just ignoring him… for his own protection.”
One man even went as far as to take a few steps towards Josh rear. This was met with an immediate response by Josh, who’d whirl back in the man’s direction, matching the man’s eyes. The death stare Josh gave the man was almost intense enough to freeze the man’s blood. The man’s eye’s narrowed upon Josh, till the tiniest bit of recollection alerted the man whom he was face to face with. Then like that… the standoff was over.
A few minutes later, Josh stood before the ruins of the brownstone he called home. He knew his home didn’t stand a chance when he first turned the corner. Half the block was leveled. Some homes still stood… others were totally leveled. Josh was lucky… the third floor looked intact, At least from outside. They stepped inside and a cold emptiness nearly overwhelmed Josh’s body. The stairs that lead to his third floor apartment… had collapsed.
From the little girl’s perspective, Josh stood motionless gawking at the stairwell.
“Is your house?” the little girl asked Josh.
Josh, pointing to the inaccessible third floor, “Let’s just say I live up there.”
“How we gettin up there?” the little girl asked.
“Well… I don’t think -”
Josh froze in mid speech as his eyes locked unto the damaged steps that lead towards the basement apartment. A long time ago, when this triplex, was just a regular house, the steps before him lead down to the basement. Today, Brian Blue, a similar aged man as himself lived alone in this apartment.
“Blue? Blue? Big Blue?” Josh called out as he knocked at the door at the bottom of the steps.
When Josh knocked the last time, the door to the apartment creaked open on the broken hinges of his door frame. Josh pushed in on the door, the little girl stood frozen in the doorway by Josh’s command. Josh turned on his phone. Not to make a call, he knew there’d be no signal. He’d walked past too many people to not see someone on the phone as they walked by. Josh needed his phone for one thing right now, the same thing he used it for when this nightmare first began.
"Battery at 48%.... No Cellular Network"
Josh turned on his flashlight app, its beam cutting a path of brilliance into the dark swamp of Blue’s apartment. Josh couldn’t see past the dining room, that’s where his downstairs neighbor Susan’s dining room was coming down upon Blue’s.
But Josh didn’t care about that, what he did care about was that Blue’s living room and dining room were intact. If he was going to lay his head anywhere tonite, let it least be a place where the owner wouldn’t shoot him if he were to come home in the middle of the night.
Only one thing was left to do. Josh turn to look at the girl, a pained expression was written all over her face, as her knees were locked together, her feet were pigeoned inward.
He’d have to risk squeezing past the rubble to Blue’s bathroom. Seconds later, they were successful and oh how it felt to use the bathrooms indoors. Josh thought about how so many things we take for granted, all it took was to be place in a situation where going to use the bathroom outside was the new normal. You get to fully appreciate the privilege of indoor plumbing once you go without it for nearly twenty four hours.
After the little girl, he himself race into the bathroom after doing his own version of the pee pee dance. He didn’t shut the door though. Without being able to fully shut the front door, no way he was going to let that girl out of his sight. Josh finally relieved himself, acknowledging it was indeed the best pee in his life, if one choose to categorize such an event. He choose to NOT flush the toilet. He knew with no water pressure that once he flushed, no water would replace that which would quickly vacate the tank. Just in case of one them would have to use the bathroom again, especially a deuce, he wanted to save that last flush for something that was worthy.
Since they were on the other side of the rubble, they had full access to the Blue’s kitchen. Josh and the little girl gorged themselves liberally with everything they could get their hands on. After they split a can of room temperature Spaghettio's, Josh knew by the little girl’s look that the ITIS was calling to her, and he wasn’t far behind her.
After re-squeezing through the rubble, Josh curled up around the little girl on the sofa. And by the time he pulled out his letter, the little girl was fast asleep. It was a good thing too, because per his nightly ritual, the letter… although not sad in nature, always brings with its painful memories. The shouts, the screams and the scrambling of doctors. The image of a man, staring through a glass window….unable to move.
If anyone would of walked close enough to the ruined brownstone at 224 E. Walnut, if they listened intently enough….they would of heard the sound of a grown man crying.
Post by ER Of Clan Sci-Fi on Apr 4, 2017 12:08:14 GMT -5
Chapter 6: Almost Home
If Josh thought the night he spent in the back of the Ford Edge was one of his best respite’s ever, he didn’t know it would be so quickly superseded by the night on Big Blue’s sofa. Granted, a lot of this was due to the added exertion he had placed on his body from yesterday, in comparison to the day before.
As he stretched, narrow beams of sunlight peaked through the cracks of Blue’s front door. Instinctively, he reachs out for the little girl… she was gone.
A panic rose in him, sending him into borderline hysteria as he began to frantically began to scamper about the apartment, calling out to the little girl at the top of his lungs.
“SWEETIE! SWEETIE! Where are you?”
But silence was the response to to his question.
He angled his body through the rubble to the second half of the apartment, thinking she awoke before him to use the bathroom and just didn’t hear him. Or perhaps she went to lay down in Blue’s bedroom. Josh’s heart sank even further as both the bathroom and bedroom were both clear. He turned on is cell, “7:48 … Battery life 43%.... No cellular network.”
He turned on his flashlight app and checked the toilet. The toilet was EMPTY. A tremendous sigh of relief went over Josh over this discovery. IF someone would of come into here and taken her, Josh would've doubted the person could of been kind enough to escort her to the bathroom first. So Josh concluded that she must of gotten up early, went to pee, flushing the toilet like she’s been taught ever since the early days of her potty training.
Josh quickly returned to the living room, gathered his things and bolted up the steps from Josh’s front door to the broken pavement above. He had no idea which direction to take. She could've gone to the right … or left. Josh just threw up his hands, picked a direction…. Went with it. At the first intersection he was a man sifting through the rubble of the house of the corner. Josh recognized the man as the owner of the home, just not by name.
“Sir… excuse me!” Josh shoulted in the man’s direction.
The man nearly nearly leapt from his shoes, Josh’s booming voice catching him off guard. The man spun to meet the voice that gotten his attention, his facial features relaxing upon the recognition of his neighbor from across the street.
“Have you seen a little come past here while you’ve been out here?”
The man seemed to dig deeply into his own mind, as if scrolling though a thousand pages of a textbook for the answer of 2 + 2 = 4.
The man’s face brightened up, his finger rising to his lip, “Half an hour ago, she stumbled her way up the street, turning right at the corner.”
“Thanks!” Josh responded with deep appreciation. “You have no idea what you did here today.”
Josh took off, hobbled ankle and all and make a break in the direction that his neighbor sent him in. After the first ten steps… Josh’s ankle flared up as if he hadn’t rested it at all. But to Josh, this didn’t matter. Pain was irrelevant to him right now, only thing that mattered was speed. How awful would Josh feel if the worst occurred, his excuse for his failure was that his ankle hurt. He knew that every moment… every second was precious. And this girl needed was to run across the wrong person, the anti-Josh and her life would be turned upside down forever.
First block… nothing!
Second block… nothing!
Josh contemplated turning down each block he passed, but figured he’d first create an outward perimeter, before making his way back down the adjacent streets.
Up ahead of him is where he saw it. Up ahead was where he saw HER! She was walking away from him, holding the hand of another man. Josh called out to her, but with his labored wind from his running, to her it was just a whisper.
Twenty feet away!
Josh increased his gate, the girl and the man was only about a half a block away now. The pain in his ankle all but vanish completely as adrenalin made the Josh ceased calling out to the little girl at this point, it would only freak her out, plus warn the man upon the his pending destruction. Yes… destruction, perhaps this was too kind of a word to Josh. He continued to close the distance rapidly, like a Lion charging down the prairie on an unsuspecting fawn. Josh was rearing up to beat this man to within an inch of his life..
Ten feet away!
A sense of momentary pleasure came over him, for he felt righteous in this act he was about to do. Like a judge who was handing out a well deserved verdict to a guilty villain, Jost felt like this was proper punishment to that he thought this man was up to.
One foot ahead!
Josh reared back… “This thrashing was going to be biblical,” he thought to himself.
Just as Josh was about to strike he shut everything down. He overheard the man who he was seconds from tearing apart as the girl. “Is your dad, ‘the boxer’ live on this street darling? We’ll try to walk around the corner again, perhaps you’ll recognize where you came out from.”
This man, unless he was playing some clever game, just to earn the little girl’s trust didn’t appear to be a bad man at all. By Josh’s ascertain the man looked like he was indeed attempting to help the little girl.
“Sweetie!” Josh called out. “There you are!”
The man spun in surprise to the man who had spoken up behind him and the little girl. Then his eyes narrowed into slits, “This your father darling?”
But the man could already see the little girl's face brighten in recognition. “No….. “ the little girl said incredulously. “He’s not my dad silly. He said he is taking me home.”
The man then followed up, still questioning the girl directly as if Josh wasn’t even there.
“Where’s home at darling, because - “
Josh stepped before the man, “Inquisition’s over sir. I appreciate you finding her for me. I am indeed taking this girl home, she’s spent the last two nights with me and if all goes well, she will be with her family before the sun goes down.”
Not backing down, the man get’s right up in Josh’s face. This man was far from a small man, he edged Josh in both the height and weight category. “How do I know you will keep your word?”
“I don’t give a %@#$@ if you take my word for it or not. I’m taking this girl home… so either take a walk with us or get the $#&%$ out of our way.” Josh relents.
The man’s eyes go from the little girl … back to Josh again.
Before the man can comment, Josh can’t resist the urge to add one more thing, “Or… I could always just kick your azz”
The man takes two steps back, allowing Josh and the little girl to pass by, not before giving Josh the meanest of stink eye.
Once out of earshot, Josh turns down to the little girl, who had already reacquired his hand, “Why did you leave?”
In a voice almost too low for Josh to pick up on, without drawing eye contact she replies, “I thought I heard my dad calling out to me from outside.”
“I know, but I thought maybe…”
The little girl didn’t say another word for the next half hour. Josh wanted to further scold her… but concluded that was pointless. Josh wanted to warn her never to do that again… then figured if everything worked out right, this would be the last morning he’d be with the girl anyway. “Where are we going?” the little girl broke the silence by asking.
Josh shook his head, ever so slightly so that the little girl wouldn’t see it, “We are taking you home Sweetie. We should only be about a dozen or so blocks away from your neighborhood. Hopefully once we get close, there will be some landmarks present for you to recognize.”
“What is a landmark?” the little girl replied.
“Something… anything… that is different from the normal buildings that you see everyday.” Josh answered.
“Oh,” the girl responded. As she seemed to scan her own mind for examples, she let out, “You mean like a park.”
“Exactly!” Josh said. “Do you live near a park?”
“I live right across the street from a park. My daddy takes me there every Saturday to spin.”
A light went off inside Josh’s head. “This park sweetie...is a BIG park?”
he little girl, opening up her arms as wide as she can like the letter T, “The park is this big!”
Josh sighed a sense of relief. This little girl just confirmed she lived across the street from Central Park. Since she had already said she lived on the Upper East Side, that means she lives on one of the dozen or so blocks that mirror the Central Park.
“Sweetie… I think… I think I have a pretty good idea where you live at.”
The little girl curled up excitement, pumping her fists as she straightened back up, “YES!”
As they continued on, more and more people were out and about. This was slowly looking like the New York Josh was familiar with, minus the ruined buildings. But the buildings, weren’t in the same level of shambles as they were when he first left the tunnels. Now that Josh had thought about it, the further south he went…. The less level of damage seemed to be. It was clear that whatever indeed occurred, the epicenter was further north in the city.
Just as Josh began to appreciate this part of the city which appeared to suffer less of the brunt of the torment of where he came from, he heard it. He heard the sound the most folks ignore… unless it is directly relevant to their situation.
In this case… it was directly relevant to EVERYONE’S situation.
Sirens accompanied two ambulances as it made its way down street, carefully avoiding the hazardous obstacle course that was the street they were walking on. People immediately began their veined attempt to flag the ambulances down… to no avail.
Two minutes later several police cars and a patty wagon traversed the same path that the ambulances paved before them. Again dozens of people in the street tried to garner the attention of the passing law enforcement. As most folks were trying to wave down the vehicles, Josh’s eyes narrowed on the half-dozen or so men who did not wave, who did not try to get the attention of the police.
These young men went out of their way to do the opposite of everyone else. They didn’t run up and wave, instead they turned their backs to the police, separating from their group into individuals.
Now it could've been several reasons why these guys did this Josh pondered. But none of the reason Josh thought about were good.
As the police sirens too vanished off into the distance, the group of young men displayed why they didn’t want to be noticed by the police.
One of them, a tall skinny kid, no older looking than twenty-five jumped in from of another young man and woman, “Where ya’ll goin? I said…. WHERE ARE YA’ll GOING???”
The first young man slowed the couple long enough for his boys to surround them. Just like that, twelve hands rummaged through pant pockets, fondled breasts, scavenged through book bags and palmed a very ample heiny.
And when the woman protested these guys assault, the boyfriend had had enough. He became enraged with lividity, shoved the guy closest to him to the ground. Embarrassed from his comrades laughter… he shot to his feet, punching the boyfriend in the hose, causing blood to shoot out from all sides of a broken nose. If the boyfriend thought he’d get away with just a bloody nose, he was far too optimistic. Still fueled by being the mockery of his cohorts, the man then jumped on top of the boyfriend, straddling at the waist, continuing to deliver blow after blow.
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” a voice boomed out from behind them, almost is if it was broadcast from an outdoor PA system. The men froze, assuming the voice came from some sort of police loudspeaker. They spun around with the assumption that the “gig” was up and that they were about to get arrested. What they didn’t think they’d see was a lone man in his mid-30’s, being accompanied by a little girl who repeatedly echoed the man’s statement.
The little girl repeated in a low tone several more times until Josh shook the little girl’s hand slightly as a signal that her part in this was indeed enough.
The men took looked up and down Josh and the little girl, at first being too dumbfounded to actually say anything. Then… smiles began to come across their faces as they tried to entertain what was going on here.
The supposed “ring leader” of the group was the first to speak up. “So what do we have here fellas? Two very brave souls who wish to help out these fine folks here?”
Josh looked over this man, he was much bigger than the punk who had pulverized the boyfriend a few moments ago. He was closing in on 6’3, if not already there. He easily had a cruising weight of 235 lbs.
“Now… we are feeling in a good mood right about now. So let’s just make it real easy… why don’t’ we. You leave your bag on the ground… and the little girl’s bag as well. (pauses for snickering) And then you guys can go about your way. I promise to not even give you a gut shot for interrupting us from our fun we had here.”
Josh looked around on the street. Between what these guys had already done, and their aggressive stance towards him and the little girl. The other folks who were around, had suddenly vanished. It was like an old west town… minus the tumbleweeds.
A smirk came across Josh’s face as he tried to mask his concern over how he and the little girl was going to get out of this.
"Let me tell you what is going to happen here. You guys are going to part ways here to let me and my friend here pass. You will NOT be having our belongings and you will cause no more harm than you’ve already done to this couple here.”
The ring leader looked to the left and right of his comrades. “Can you believe this #!%!@? This guy must have balls the size of boulders, unless he’s on something. You on something sir? Actually… scratch that, Miz… go get their things.”
The one named “Miz” indeed left the group, his eyes fixated intently on Josh.
Josh cocked his head to the side, raising his index finger of his left hand, “WAIT! Right now you are at - “
“Crossroad!” Miz finished sarcastically. “Yeah… that’s right. I recognize who you are. You were a hasbeen when I was little, and you probably suck even more now!”
Josh was far from a psychiatrist, but what he was good at was reading his opponent, especially their body language. With each breath, Miz appeared to become more confident in himself. As he began to step forward, his posture loosened… his shoulders widened. That little little speech he just gave, it was more about hyping himself up… then to put down Josh.
Josh knew in the back of this guy’s head he hoped that Josh was just a shadow of what he once was. Shame part for Miz… he couldn’t be any further than the truth. This truth was Josh may not have been as fast as he once was, but that devastating overhand right was just as deadly as it was when Miz was still playing with Hot Wheels.
Miz stepped in… way over balanced, going with the usual street fight attack… wild haymaker first. Josh could never understand why everyone wants to go with the instant KO. Too many movies he thought.
Josh released the girl’s hand and easily side-stepped Miz’s wild first punch. Instead of going for the counter, Josh waited patiently for Miz’s immediate second attempt. Miz didn’t know it… but he had just turned on the runway lights… “The Jet” was being given the signal to take off.
Miz didn’t let Josh down, for as soon as he connected with nothing but air on his first swing, he immediately tried to rebound with an even wider arcing blow with his left hand. But Miz, being untrained and uncoordinated… threw that punch from the toe of his left foot. By the time he missed horribly with the second swing, he was so off balance that Josh swore he could hear the man swear as he stumbled by.
Sadly for Miz, he would never get a chance to recover. Two steps into jumbled gate… Josh was upon him. Josh’s first jab landed in the sweet spot where the abdomen meets the ribcage. The air in Miz’s lungs ran screaming out as if set on fire. That blow alone was enough to end this fight, Miz was already on his way to the ground… clutching his abdomen like he had just gotten shot. Miz looked up just in time to see it coming, that same punch that others before had seen… right before their night in the ring was over. Miz wanted to cry out, he wanted to be somewhere else, when the punch landed… he got his wish.
Josh quickly performed a 180… he knew what was coming next. The skinny punk who had beat beat on the boyfriend came at Josh with a head of steam, another couple of flunkies were a good dozen steps behind him. Instead of Josh waiting for the attack to come to him… he met it head on by stepping into the attack. This caught the first man off guard, screwing up the timing of his swing. By the time his right arm had cocked all the way back, Josh had already swam past the man at his shoulders, but not before delivering an elbow to the back of the man’s skull. This was a not debilitating blow, but it would send the man headlong into the damaged van that sat thrust up on the curb behind them.
Now Josh was upon the next wave of attackers. Two young men who looked to be brothers in their early twenties had some size to them… but that’s about it. These two had just experience a wide array of emotions of the last thirty seconds. Their advantage of numbers against Josh had their optimism fixated upon a foundation of solid granite. Seeing 40% of said advantage vanish in seconds after Josh’s onslaught made that solid granite look as porous as a sponge.
The first of the two brothers had slowed his rapid advance just enough … to be on the receiving end of a solid punch in the throat. Yes… Josh did indeed punch the older of the two brothers in the throat. That wasn’t his intention… but the man who had lowered himself slightly prior to his attack, at the last minute straightened himself right before impact. It changed the punch that would of rocked his jaw… to that of something which almost crushed his larynx. The man crumpled to the ground, both hands wrapped around his neck like he was struggling for air.
The man’s younger brother had to make a decision. He had half a second to go with the rage he felt from seeing his brother get felled, or go with the other emotion of fear that that was telling him to run. He decided to go with the former instead of the later.
Instead of going for an attack, the man actually raised his arms up in defense. His fists near the back of his head, bent at the elbows near his face. This caught Josh off guard… just for a second. The brother’s arm protection for his face was typical of street fighters. Everyone wants to guard against the haymaker. This could even cause a problem for Josh’s crossover. Only thing is, Josh doesn’t throw the crossover first, he opens you up with the jab. The man was guarding the sides of his head well, but left an opening the size of a football. Josh faked one way, went to straight through the opening and connected to the brother’s nose.
A scream let out from the man’s mouth, his hands instantly clutching at what remained of his destroyed nose. Between the brother’s fingers, blood flowed from his nose like a red faucet with a wide open valve left in the “on” position. He dropped to one knee, continuing to clutch what was left of his nose.
This now left -
A scream let out from the little girl as the pack’s leader had grabbed her by the arm, twisting it at an upward angle that even Josh could feel the pain of.
“Now it's my turn, to say that’s enough,” the man said with a menacing smirk. He quickly removed the little girl’s bag and tossed it to the ground. Then gestured towards Josh to hand over his bag.
“NO!” Josh yelled, pacing back and forth like a lion in a cage.
“No?” the man asked, squeezing the little girl’s arm even tighter. “You sure this is the route you want to go? Cause I’ll break it.. I swear it.”
Josh stopped his pace, taking a half step towards the man in outward aggression, “And I swear I will break you… permanently.”
The man then glances around Josh, focusing in on two of his men, whom Josh didn’t seriously maim. A devilish grin emerged on the man’s face, “Doubtful!”
It was the man who Josh gave the elbow to. He had withdrew a knife from somewhere, placing it to the lower part of Josh’s back near where his ribs ended.
Josh sighed in defeat, slowly slings the tight strings that kept the bag tight to his sides. One by one, Josh tosses out the bags of eateries onto the dusty ground. Josh also tosses out various toiletries, hand towels, and other personal grooming devices. He empties out his entire bag… except one thing. The one thing he hopes will go unnoticed.
“That everything?” the ring leader asks.
A shaking of a near empty bag is Josh’s response.
Josh hopes to the untrained ear that the slight, paper rattle goes un-noticed from six feet away.
“No that I don’t trust you… but I don’t,” the ring leader says.
“I said the bag was empty!” Josh snaps back, jabbing his forefinger into the air between himself and the ring leader.
“You didn’t say sh@%$#t!” the man who kept the knife to his back.
The leader slowly approached Josh, keeping his eyes set on Josh’s hands. After seeing what Josh is capable of, the man knew that even restrained, Josh could strike out at any moment. After releasing the little girl’s shoulder, he reached into the bag himself, striking it's lonely content several times before finally withdrawing it.
The man stood there with an envelope held high in air by his hand. “Is this what you were protecting?”
“I didn’t even know it was in there,” Josh lied.
The ring leader opened up the envelope, withdrawing the letter from inside before a snap of the air signaled him popping the paper out of its folds. His eyes narrowed on the letter, then back at Josh.
“This… this is about you?” the man asked.
“DON’T…” Josh tearfully warned with his voice broken, his head shaking in disapproval.
“Because it means so much to you… I’m going to do it!” the ring leader said rather menacingly.
The man took in a deep breath, and reads off the content…
As the man starts, Josh’s world slows down. Seconds… becomes minutes. Each word that comes out, contains barbs that stab into the deepest part of his heart;
“THIS was what you were protecting? This is what you were going to risk your life over? What’s so important about this one little letter?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Educate me mutha-$@#%#@!”
“That letter… that was the last thing my daughter wrote… the last thing she touched before -” Josh let his words trail off into silence.
The ring leader looked at the letter, then back at Josh. “I see…“ Sighing heavily, “That’s messed up.”
The man neatly folds the letter back into the envelope, before gently opening up Josh’s bag.
Josh watches with nervous apprehension as the man handle his belongings with the delicateness of parent attending to a newborn.
The ring leader looks up at Josh one last time, his facial expression transforming from that of indifference … to disgust. As soon as Josh sees the ring leader tighten his grip on the envelope, he knows what’s about to happen. In a laughter that borderlines nearly orgasmic… he quickly retrieves the letter and shreds it into more than a dozen pieces. Each piece helicoptering its way down to the ground, like a leaf that has just departed from the highest tree branch. As the pieces hit the ground one by one, so does the relevant remaining pieces of Josh’s heart.
With a sound that could be heard from more than a block away, Josh released a scream that sounded instinctively primal. The pain he was feeling, brought him back to that day, the day he lost his little girl. To Josh that letter represented a tangible manifestation of his daughter. There were her words… written by her little hands. To see this letter so blatantly… so hatefully torn asunder… was like seeing someone attack her right before him.
What happened next Josh couldn't explain to you if you had asked him. The best way to describe it was a blackout. But not in regards to the loss of human consciousness. Josh was still there physically… but his mind was elsewhere. In the ring Josh had to flip a mental switch in his head for “The Jet” to take over. This time… no mental command needed to be given.
Josh made his move, half a second before everyone else, but to the untrained eye… it “appeared” as though three people moved at once.
The ring leader…
The man who had the knife at Josh’s back...
That man… from around Josh, he saw the look on the ring leader’s face. He also felt Josh flexing to move, as he pulled away from the tip of his blade. He immediately went to stab him.
The man was indeed successful!
He was successful if his goal was to stab the air where Josh was at. The ring leaders eye’s resembled miniature baseball’s as part of him pondered, “Did I go too far?” He saw Josh coming, knew his only chance was to use the little girl as a shield.
He reached for her… she was just a two feet out of his reach. “Why did I let her go?” He yelled at himself in his head. He turned back just in time to face the inevitable. What must of looked like a meteor coming from out of the sky, Josh’s fist connected upon where his jawbone met his cheekbone… shattering both in multiple places.
The ring leader’s body reacted to the impact in a way where it seemed like someone had pulled a plug on a standing robot. The man’s body’s just melted unceremoniously to the ground, as if being pulled by invisible hands.
Josh looked over his shoulder for the man with the knife, anticipating his sneak attack. But to his disappointment… the knife wielder was already half way down the block, running at a good clip in the opposite direction.
Looking down at his vanquished foe, “EVERY TIME you open your mouth to speak, I hope you feel the tiniest bit of clicks from your surgically repaired jaw… as a reminder of what you made me to do you today.”
Josh looked over at the little girl, who by was no longer shocked when Josh put a whuppin on someone and she smiled. “Bad men” she uttered just under her breath.
Josh retrieved all the parts of his daughter letter, placing them safely inside its envelope. Josh also scooped up the various packs of grubs and drink he had tossed onto the ground. Everything he had tossed out, had made its way back inside his bag. He turned back in the direction towards the little girl’s home, not before stepping over the body of the ring leader. He made sure to put emphasis on step, like Allen Iverson over Tyronn Lue in the 2001 NBA Finals.
Looking down at the little girl, “Anything else we need to do here?”
The little took a moment, confused about Josh’s question. Concluding she didn’t have a reason, “Nope!”
The duo continued along their way. Each few blocks southward, not only introduced them to areas less and less damaged. But it also brought them back to regular, civilized people.
The witnessed two men carry a woman on a makeshift stretcher to an awaiting animal rescue vehicle, that was obviously doubling as a medical transport because of the emergency the city was in. Across the street a group of guys, who looked too eerily similar to the guys him and the little girl left behind a dozen blocks ago, was nursing the wounds of a woman with a damaged arm.
Him and the little girl even took a moment to help an elderly man retrieve items from his car. From half a block away, they saw the man struggling with the multiple trips, so with their assistance. Two more full trips was all it took.
They made it another half dozen blocks, before they could finally see Central Park in the distance. The houses on the this street for the most part were intact. Just felt a sudden sense of resilience, a sense of excitement, knowing this little girl’s journey may soon be over.
Josh’s inner feelings of excitement soon went away. His main goal since he left the train was to get this little girl home. Now that he appeared to be cusp of completing this project… a feeling of angst came over him. These last couple of days… Josh felt… alive. He felt as alive as he’s felt since his little girl was alive.
He felt -
“There’s the park!” the little girl announced, snapping Josh out of his mental funk. “My daddy would take me there all the time.”
“Which part of the park sweetie?” Josh asked her.
She looked up at him, shrugging her shoulders, “I dunno… we always went in at the spinny thing.”
Josh squinted as far as his eyesight would take him, up ahead was an entrance to the park… which included a kid’s playground right inside its opening. The little girl broke free of Josh’s clutches, making a beeline to the playground.
“Wait-” Josh started to warn, but instead decided to run with her. They made it the playground, the girl playfully going from play area to play area.
“So, where’s your house from here?” Josh asked.
“Oh… just right over there… brown door.”
Josh looked over his shoulder, across the street sat a ten story apartment complex. Then it hit Josh, there were no single family homes along Central Park. The park was line with dozens of apartment complexes. The one the little girl pointed to...Manhattan Valley Apartments.
Josh took the little girl by the hand, and escorted her across the street to the front door. The door of course was locked, but inside the vestibule stood a middle age man placed his face almost near the glass as he scanned by Josh and the little girl.
“What do you want?”
“We live here!” Josh lied.
The man opened the door skeptically, “This isn’t your child!”
“No sh#@$%@#t! But I’ve just spent the last two days getting her home. So it would be really great… if you would let me complete my journey.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not the regular guy here… he got hurt on his way going home. So I wouldn’t even know who she is. Do you know what apartment number sweetheart?”
“Nope! But I know it's on the 8th floor.”
In a glass of celebrating hands, the man announced, “Great! I’ll take you right on up. Thank you kind sir for bringing her home!”
Josh chuckled, “If you had any idea what we’ve gone through the last two days… you would know that nothing is going to stop me from hand delivering this girl to her mom. Now if you want to come with us… by all means do so. But I’m NOT just going to go about my business, like I can just wash my hands so easily prior to seeing this thoroughly through.”
The man shrugged his shoulders before turning towards the steps. “For emergency reasons, they had to shut down the elevators. Only the direst of circumstances did they use them… for transporting hurt people.”
They got off at the 8th floor, and before Josh could ask her which way… she was already on her way down the hall and to the right.
As they gathered outside the apartment, Josh could make out commotion going on from the inside of the apartment. Many voices talking aloud over one another.
“Go ahead Sweetie!” Josh said, urging the little girl to knock.
The little girl took a step towards the door, and gave the door a knock in a special pattern … a special cadence, that had almost a cartoony rhythm to it.
Several footfalls rapidly made their way to the door, before the sound of locks desperately trying to be opened feverishly filled the entire hallway. Finally, a woman in her late twenties opened up the door.
“Rebeccah!” the woman squealed, her body slamming down to her knees as she gripped the little girl… Rebeccah and squeezed her with all her might. Another woman exited into the hallway, similar in look as the first woman, ut noticeably a little older.
After joining the hug of Rebeccah with the first woman, she was immediately up to her feet, uncontrollable in her appreciation towards the bellhop.
Josh was already halfway down the hall. He didn’t do what he did.. .for the adulation of congrats. He did what he did… because it was the right thing to do. It was what he would've wanted for someone to do for his daughter.
Just as Josh was about to turn the corner of the hallway, and hit the steps where he would of been content to disappear into obscurity. Josh heard the bellhop call out, “It wasn’t me… it was THAT fella!”
Jost may have kept on going, if it wasn’t for the little voice of Rebeccah…, “Yup… the boxer saved me mommy!”
That caused Josh to momentarily freeze, giving time for Rebeccah’s aunt to track him down and drag him back to the apartment.
Inside.. Josh was not prepared for what he’d encounter.
Post by ER Of Clan Sci-Fi on Apr 4, 2017 12:12:35 GMT -5
Chapter 7: Home … It’s Not Always Where You Lay Your Head
It had been thirty minutes… thirty minutes since Josh stepped through the door of the apartment of Rebeccah’s family. Josh knew the time cause it was at that moment when he checked his cell… did it finally die. During that time, he had been regaled as a hero of the most highest honor. Rebeccah’s aunt had taken numerous pictures of him… with him, while Rebeccah herself would come by from time to time to squeeze his hand.
These actions shouldn’t of surprised him. What family wouldn’t be overjoyed to have a loved one return. What did blow Josh’s mine was what happened shortly after entering on the apartment. One of male voices Josh had heard from the outside, he chalked it up to be an uncle or a family friend. What he didn’t think it was going to be was Rebeccah’s father!
Stretched out on the sofa, with his head bandaged, arm wrapped up, leg in a brace lay Timothy Cowen. Sure he looked like @#%$@#! His face, with its variations of black and deep red scarring, looked like The Jet went five rounds with him… with no gloves. When Josh accompanied Rebeccah and her mother through the front door, he was anxiously trying to sit up from his horizontal position on sofa. Tears ran freely from his eyes, like rain coming off of a slanted roof. The man was going through an entire body convulsion from the overwhelming emotion impact of seeing his daughter walk through the door.
“I knew you’d bring her back to me…”
“I knew you’d bring her back to me…”
Timothy Cowen would repeat these words over and over again as he held Rebeccah in his arms for the first time in what seemed like an oblivion.
Josh would soon discover that as bad as his last 48 hours were, this household was far from a picnic. When Samantha Cowen had heard what happened uptown, she immediately reached out to her husband by cell… to no avail. She wouldn’t hear a word from him for another twenty four hours. Her gut, no matter how optimistic she tried to be… told her her loves ones were dead.
Timothy Cowen was pulled from the rubble of the B train on the Lexington Line seven hours after Josh had left him for dead. Timothy sure felt like death, when he had lost consciousness after telling Josh where Rebeccah was, he didn’t think he’d ever see the light of day again.
It wasn’t until the horrid whiff of stale coffee breath from one of the first responders extracting him from his metal tomb Josh knew he was still among the living. As he was transported to a makeshift trauma center, he was told that if he was found just an hour or so later… he wouldn’t of made it.
When he was brought through the door of his apartment, although Samantha was thrilled to see her husband still alive, she careened her head around his stretcher in the hopes of seeing a little person walk through … or even carried through the entrance. When that didn’t happen, her heart literally stopped beating. When the medical personnel escorted Timothy in, they attempted to communicate with her, but their voices sounded muffled, like they were talking in a vacuum. She prepared herself for the worst, but Timothy’s words kept her hopeful… kept her grounded.
“Before I blacked out, I sent the Champ to go get her. They didn’t find her body when they rescued me, which meant she’s alive. I can’t see him removing her body if she was dead.”
The moment before Josh and Rebeccah arrived, they had actually been arguing over what Samatha considered their inactivity. She felt like they should be doing more… especially Timothy.
“What would you have me do Sam?” Timothy said to her, gesturing his good arm in a wave over his well-bandaged body.
When they were at the highest of their angst, they heard the Rebeccah’s signature knock. The knock she uses after beating her father to the door when coming home. The Cowen family was now complete, now… it's Josh’s turn.
If Josh had it his way he would of departed soon after his meal. But it was obvious this family was not going to let him depart so quickly. What he did next he hadn’t done before, and under normal circumstances… he would of do what he was about to do.
Josh opened up… about EVERYTHING!
He told the Cowen family and guests how fifteen years ago, at the start of his boxing career, he married the most beautiful woman in the world… Jessica Bradley (Hawkins). One year after they welcomed into the world Amber Michelle Hawkens… the most beautiful baby ever. As The Jet quickly rose through the ranks, so did Jessica through her medical field. She had become Assistant Director of Pathology at NewYork Presbyterian. As a family.., they were living the high life.
They were just discussing the possibility of having another child when Amber started to complain of headaches. The first few days, they thought it was related to a cold she was suffering from. After a week went by, they took her to the Pediatrician. When stronger medications didn’t work, the Pediatrician had her sent to New York Methodist.
When the doctor came back in with her ct scans, they knew by the look on her face that she had found something.
“Mr. and Mrs Hawkins… we’ve found a tumor,” that’s what the doctor said to Josh and his wife. “Because it's pushing against the cerebral cortex (hence the headaches), we have to operate right away. We’ve already placed a call to our resident surgeon, he’ll be here in just under an hour.
Josh looked down at his watch, then over to Jessica. His hand comes to his mouth, wiping downward before looking at his watch again.
“Go!” Jessica says supportively.
“I can’t Jess… not tonight.” Josh responds with resolved complacency.
“This is your last practice before the most important day of your career… you need this.
Josh begrudgingly agrees, going back into Amber’s room.
Amber was sitting in the bed, remote control in hand, smiling away at the goings on of We Bare Bears. Josh walks over, leaning in, “Amber… daddy's gotta go right now baby. I’ve got to get ready for the big fight. Mommy’s going to stay with you tonight.”
Amber’s face immediately saddens over words of her father’s pending departure.
Picking up on this, Josh smiles, bending down to kiss her forehead, “Tell you what … in a couple days when you are all better, we are going to the park.”
Amber’s face comes to life, “The BIG park daddy?”
“Yes my baby girl… we will go to the BIG park baby girl.”
Minutes later, Josh left New York Methodist, endeavouring his thirty minute trek to Modo’s gym. If he was lucky, he’d get in and out… and be back home before Amber would be done her surgery.
Josh wouldn’t be so lucky.
Josh’s training on this night took longer than normal. There were extra talks with his team, with other boxers. Even the local press was there. By the time that Josh got showered and dressed… he knew when he pulled out his phone something was wrong.
The muscles in his face grimaced, his cell phone showed FIVE MISSED CALLS!!!
He switched to his messages… there was only one. It was from Jessica, simple stated, “Call Me!!!”
Josh immediately called Jessica’s phone, but it went to voicemail.
Josh jumped on the subway, trying Jess’s phone… still not getting through to her. After several more times, Josh sent a text to Jessica, “I’m on my way… what’s going on???”
Twenty seven minutes later, Josh burst through doors of his subway car, sweat permeating his brow despite the fact that stopped training over 45 minutes ago. He only stopped running upon entrance into the hospital, not wanting to mistaken for a mad man by hospital security. When he arrived back to Amber’s floor, he was so focused in on getting back to her room… that he didn’t see the crumbled form of a woman on the bench in the hallway.
“Josh?” a voice called out to him.
Just before he turned to enter Amber’s room, he spun back to see a woman sitting next to Jessica on a bench. Jessica sat with her head lowered, feet tucked under her body native american style. Bundles of tissue paper littered the area around her lap, some making it to the floor underneath.
Jessica didn’t respond verbally, instead she handled him a letter. As Josh began to read the letter, the woman who sat with Jessica opened up.
“Mr. Hawkens, My name is Katherine Heart. I’m a Grief Counselor at the hospital. I -”
Through lips, that had instantly become numb, Josh uttered, “Wha… what happened to my daughter? What happened to Amber?”
The woman placed her hand on Josh’s forearm… but if he didn’t see her do it, he wouldn’t know it was there. She would go on to say there were some “complications” during surgery… and that’s all it took. That’s all it took for Josh’s world to be turned upside down. As Josh looked down at the last tangible thing his daughter touched, his vision blurred to the point of near blindness. He knelt down, burying his head into lap of his Jessica and he screamed an agony that was felt deep in chest of everyone on that floor.
On the ride home that night… no words were said between Josh and his wife.
Two nights later, an empty man entered the ring of Madison Square Garden. This man… many thought the actual fight was a mere formality. Josh “The Jet” Hawkins was the next BIG thing. That’s what the people were saying.
“Give him the belt now!” a voice called out from the stands.
What people didn’t know was… The Jet didn’t enter the ring that night. The Jet never even made it into the building. Who entered the building that night was the distraught and dismantled psyche of Josh Hawkins.
Two rounds was all it took, although it probably shouldn’t of lasted that long. His opponent took it easy in the first, kept thinking Josh’s lack of effort in the fight so far was a trap. By the end of the first round, he concluded it wasn’t. Josh thought he could turn on a switch… and be the fighter that he knew he was. The Jet would never make an appearance that night.
Josh would fall by the end of the second round.
Jessica would leave him one month later. Initially it was their mutual grief that created the wedge, but Josh retreated into himself, what emerged was a much darker person. That person… allowed no one close to him, not even the woman that meant all the world to him. The woman who right now… needed him more than she needed air to breathe.
He would return to the gym six months later, but the desire to box competitively had completely vanished. His desire to to be more than a hollow shell of a man, was gone forever.
Post by ER Of Clan Sci-Fi on Apr 4, 2017 12:13:28 GMT -5
Josh would depart the family the next morning after breakfast. But not before having them share with him something he believed needed to be done.
Josh and the extended Cowen family gathered at the children’s playground section of Central Park.
“She always wanted to come here… I promised, but never got around to bringing her. Today, I feel like I’m fulfilling my promise.”
Josh knelt down, rubbing Rebbacah’s cheek with his thumb before turning to her father.
“You told me yesterday that I saved your daughter.” Josh said, slowly shaking his head in disagreement. “Nothing could be further for the truth, for it was your daughter who saved me.”
As Josh continued, he rubbed his fingers through Rebeccah’s curly hair. “Before these last couple of days, I was a broken man… a man who had ZERO interest in being fixed. But she made me see things, she made me see that I was more than the tragedy that happened to me a decade ago. I was in a bad place, refusing the help from anyone who would try to get me out. Your daughter.. your Rebeccah... did something to me that in turn made me do something I’d never do again…”
Josh knelt down next to Rebeccah, rubbing the top of her shoulder as she smiles. “Your daughter taught me how to care again. Not just about myself… but about others. Three days ago, I would've never envisioned myself doing anything for anyone again. Today… I feel alive again. I realize after today that there is more out there than allowing one moment in time to define you.
Josh stands back up, digging the letter containing Amber’s letter out of his pocket. “To my beautiful little girl… I keep my promise!”
Josh hands the envelope to Rebeccah and is not surprised that she knows exactly what to do with it. With an exuberant giggle, Rebeccah shakes out the pieces of Amber’s letter to the ground. The pieces fall to the ground close to one another, Rebeccah's height not being high enough for a larger free fall. Then the the still air was broken by a sudden gust that scatters Amber’s letter in all directions.
A hand grabs the back of Josh’s shoulder, belonging to Rebeccah’s father. The crutches wedged under both arms groaned under his shifting weight to reach Josh. It was Timothy’s touch that stopped both Josh’s eyes from shedding tears.
“Thank you all for putting me up for the night, now I’ve got to be getting home.” Josh said to him.
“What’s back home? You said your building was half ruined?” Timothy asked.
“It was… but there’s folks up that way that could need some help. And there’s some folks out there… still taking advantage of the situation. Let’s see them do that with The Jet flying around.”
Josh meets Timothy’s hand, before giving hugs to the rest of the Cowen family. The last hug, the biggest hug of all was saved for Rebeccah. He knelt down, embracing her with the same passion as he did his Amber As hard as he hugged her, it was equally met by the little girl’s death grip around his shoulders. When Josh stood back up, both his eyes were streaked with tears.
As Josh stood to turn away, he knew it his heart that this was not a good-bye, just a see-you-later.
“Champ?” Rebeccah’s mom called out.
Josh turned back around.
“We never did pick a Godfather for Rebeccah…”
“Is that a fact?” responded Josh, half turned around..
“You know anyone who would like the job?”
For the first time… in what seemed like an eternity, a smile came across Josh’s face.
I still don't see how you can go through it so fast.
Oh well... just wanted to see if I could write a action - drama. No monsters... no zombies... just the human equation. May be awhile before I con throw another one up here. I've got tons of writing to do. But we'll see.
When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like discrimination.
I still don't see how you can go through it so fast.
Oh well... just wanted to see if I could write a action - drama. No monsters... no zombies... just the human equation. May be awhile before I con throw another one up here. I've got tons of writing to do. But we'll see.
I was reading it when there were only 4 chapters posted. Very well written, you've definitely improved.
I still don't see how you can go through it so fast.
Oh well... just wanted to see if I could write a action - drama. No monsters... no zombies... just the human equation. May be awhile before I con throw another one up here. I've got tons of writing to do. But we'll see.
I was reading it when there were only 4 chapters posted. Very well written, you've definitely improved.
But what happened?
I decided not to dwell into the "what" because I wanted to make the story about the people... and less about the disaster. Think the movie Cloverfield. More about the love story... less about the monsta.
If you held a gun to my head, I thought If I ever had to explain it...I would say it was an small asteroid (about the size of a large house, traveling at 30,000 mph) strike. That would give the most hope for the future. A terrorist bombing wouldn't of effected many blocks. An EMP would not have caused the physical damage. A nuke would of given you the physical plus the radiation to deal with. I didn't want Rebeccah growing a third arm. Whereas if you go with an asteroid, it would explain the localized damage... with conditions getting better the further and further away you got from the epicenter. The house-sized asteroid would effect an area a quarter size of a large city.
When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like discrimination.