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A Clinging Regret
"Like this," he said while positioning my hands on the gun. I was only 9 years old: innocent, but more importantly, ignorant. "Now Janis," he continued, "you have to hold tight. Sometimes, the gun will push you down, but you have to hold on tight, ok?"
I nodded cheerfully. This new toy seemed fun. My 14-year-old neighbor, Derek, had wanted to show off, and I was the only one willing to listen. "The gang out of town- the Tottenham Mandem- let me join, so now I'm a gangster!" Dereke bragged.
"What's a ... gagstar?" I asked, confused.
"Well, er... its a bloke... who... er, why don't I show you?"
"Okay! Let's go!" I cried, happy to go somewhere new. Unlike most children my age, I wasn't afraid of the dark or death or new people or new places. On the contrary, I embraced the unknown, excited by the endless possibilities. Even as a child, I was exceptionally curious.
As we walked down the sinuous alleys, poverty began to seep out of the shadows. Beggars, limb-less creatures, small and furry animals, garbage, unwanted junk, endless cardboard boxes- they all littered the path as we made our way to the heart of the maze.
"Aaaaargh!" A scream of pain echoed off the grimy walls. Dereke jumped and I lifted my head in search for the source of the disturbance.
"Oy, stop shouting! Just gimme yer money," a burly man growled to a body he held in mid-air with one hand.
"That's... that's them, I mean him, I mean the TM," Dereke stammered, "I'm one of them now!" The giant turned around then threw his victim to the ground. The pitifully misshapen man groaned then gathered a couple of plastic bags filled with a sort of white powder and crawled away. I turned my attention back to the man lumbering towards us. Dereke, the bloody coward, squeaked then backed.
"Who are you?" I asked, expressionless. This man reminded me of a sloth and sloths used to completely bore me out of my mind with their slow lumbering and sluggish movements.
"Eh? Whas tha? Oh, HA, you're looking at the BoneCrusher," he laughed.
"BoneCrusher? Are you like a shark? Sharks are one of the few creatures that eat their prey whole: bones and all," I asked excitedly, hoping to have found a new source of entertainment.
"What the 'ell? Now, listen 'ere, don't talk wack." With every word, he inched closer and closer. "You just lost me 'bout 200 bucks. Tell me this: watcha gonna do 'bout it?"
"What're you doing," I inquired, slightly tilting my head back in order to maintain eye contact. BoneCrusher grinned then seized my arm and jerked me towards him. Clutching me to his bare acrid, moist, and hairy chest, he lifted a dagger to my neck.
"Alrighty, son," he rumbled, "stop trying ta' sneak away, and gimme 200 bucks like a good boy or else I'll give the girlie a new breathin' hole." Dereke froze and whimpered in a puppy-like fashion. I, on the other hand, squirmed, disgusted by the foul man's dirty beard. The threat on my life didn't bother me in the least- I'd read about scenarios like this in books and the girl was always rescued by a prince or a hero or her true love.
"W-wait, please," Dereke cautioned, "I'm a friend." He rolled up his sleeve and revealed a pattern of knife slashes. BoneCrusher's eyes widened then he laughed in a slightly hysterical manner, "You? A-a- an actual part of the Tottenham Mandem?! That's crazy, its absolutely mad! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha HA!" Then he quieted down and said, "That's not the problem now, kid. Right now, I got your sis under a blade and you need ta give me 200 whether ye like it 'er not!"
Dereke frowned and took a few steps backwards. Then he charged straight at me, knocked me away from BoneCrusher's grip and slammed a fist into his throat.
"Owwww," I whined. Heroes were supposed to be noble and dashing yet gentle, but Dereke here was just desperate. I could see that he was incredibly weak as he lay under BoneCrusher, flat as a pancake.
"Janis! The gun, Janis, the gun!" Dereke's voice was muffled, nonetheless I could make out his screeching words just fine.
I had forgotten about Dereke's gun. He had allowed me to carry it as we walked through the alleys, so I pulled it out and stroked its side. Cold and smooth, I remembered the metal bars on my bed at home. Like my mother's kitchen knives, it was sleek, but its color similar to a glossy raven's feather.
"Janis... hurry... he's heavy," Dereke moaned.
Snapped out of my reverie, I excitedly placed my fingers onto their positions. "Body centered, balance checked, elbows locked, grip tight..." Dereke's voice whispered through my mind as I recalled his previous instructions.
"Janis, he's waking up!" Dereke warned, his voice significantly sharper. I took a deep breath, and then pulled the trigger.
An ear-shattering explosion followed after that. I couldn't really hear much of anything for a while but a distant buzzing in my head. It was an interesting sensation yet nearly impossible to describe.
My shoulders tingled with pain, but I aimed at BoneCrusher's skull again and shot him two more times. Muscles now burning, I threw the gun aside and knelt to grasp Dereke's arms. I helped pull him out from under the corpse that had been alive only seconds ago, blood staining my white blouse and jeans.
Dereke sighed with relief then asked, "Where's the gun?" I pointed to a shadow lying 5 feet away. I had thrown it away in fear : I hadn't anticipated the harm it would cause, the pain it would inflict on both me and the man. It had saved me, yes, but as I stared at the blood seeping into asphalt cracks and breathing in the bulky man's stench, tears streamed down my cheeks. His massive muscles had been useless against me: there was nothing he could have done. That fleeting moment of power and absolute control ignited me with desire and that terrified me, hoping I'd never encounter it again. If I had to describe how I felt at that moment, it would be this:
A man immersed in hurt can easily fall asleep, but the one who inflicts it can never escape from the pain.
Even now, 5 decades later, I have nightmares. I lay in my stone cold cell awaiting my own death as retribution for the many I had killed. I could have taken any path in life with the possibilities endless, but I chose wrongly. Here I am listening to the ghosts of my past victims who haunt me, but none as freshly preserved as my first kill. He comes to die every night but sometimes our roles are swapped and the man shoots me as I plead for mercy, for forgiveness, and confessing my regret.