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Requiem for Youth
Tires screamed for mercy. The car unleashed a groan like thunder. A concrete wall imploded with a deafening thud. Then only a wailing car alarm disturbed the shadows gathering outside the boulevard.
Conner Reynolds flipped and flopped through the twilight from his dorm. His eyebrows raised and his eyes glanced curiously at the sounds to his left. Then he shrugged and meandered a block or two more before swaggering into the twilight of Brand Boulevard. The street lamps chuckled nostalgically at the bright floral minidresses swishing on the young lovers and shoppers and strollers milling across the street. The store lights peeked from behind their glowing letters to catch a glimpse of the voluptuous and rosy girls striding down the brick sidewalk swinging their handbags and shop bags. The backlights on the cars flushed at the glinting ankles and bronze shoulders and tan thighs. The sun never sets on Brand Boulevard and for good reason.
While the college pondered mortality and longevity on the hill, the students danced down to the boulevard. Jockey's hurled bowling bowls to flaunt their biceps. Future scientists and historians studied dungeon crawl manuals and the art of troll slaying. The quiet and moody boys ran up to the ridge of the hill and jogged under the stars. And the romantics contented themselves to gaze into their lovers eyes over a steaming brew of coffee.
Liz said yes. The funny girl who wore the sleeveless tops with faded symbols of long forgotten rock bands. The quiet girl who religiously adjusted her glasses as she poured over her laptop, the glow caressing her flushed cheeks and soft playful nose. The pretty girl whose auburn hair rippled over her shoulders like a tiny and carefree waterfall in a hidden creek. The stubborn girl who ignored him in chemistry, but had allowed him once to hold her hands as he helped her pour a chemical mixture into a graduated cylinder. The perfect girl who had said yes to Conner, or rather yes to coffee.
Conner Reynolds cargo shorts slapped against his thighs as he shuffled toward the coffee shop sunbathing in its own artificial glow. His shoulder commented that someone had banged against him, and he blinked and focused on his shoulder, and noted the runner who had collided with him.
The runner’s bulging and bloodshot eyes smouldered in his eye sockets. A hideous blue and black stain like a smeared tattoo marred his forehead. Oily black streaks glinted from his mane of hair.
“You okay pal?”, asked Conner.
“Yes, yes,” and the runner staggered forward and then resumed his limping trot. A siren sliced through the air, and blue and red lights flashed in Conner’s periphery vision. Glancing toward the lights, he noticed a bottle of water darting down the sidewalk. He squinted, bent down, reached forward his hand, and caught the water bottle. Wet. Probably condensation, but the bottle felt like room temperature. He grimaced, and then realized the runner had almost made the corner, and that when the light turned, the runner would cross...without his water bottle. He darted toward the runner.
“You’re water bottle,” cried Conner, brushing against the denim jeans of the runner.
The runner growled and spun around on Conner. He snatched the water bottle, sneered at Conner, and lurched forward into the crosswalk. Then his body jolted and he stepped back. A hand clenched around Conner’s arm.
“Thank you,” whispered the runner, running his eyes up and down Conner. He flashed a wily grin, “Thank you.”
“No problem,” replied Conner. “Enjoy yourself.” Conner’s arm told him the runner, a complete stranger, had his fingers flexed around his bicep, but before Conner could look down, the droning of a helicopter yanked his eyes upward to the aircraft hovering like a glistening black beetle with red and blue wings. His eyes darted toward his arm, but the runners hand had released, and brooded in his pocket.
“Where you off to?”, questioned the runner.
“Oh, hanging out at the cafe tonight...,” smiled Conner envisioning Liz arriving just now and him not there yet. “And you,” he asked quickly, picking up pace.
“Same way actually,” then quickly, “not to the cafe of course, up to the pharmacy...meds...I mean medicine for my...daughter,” lied the runner.
“Oh...”, Conner frowned, “What’s she have,” asked Conner sympathetically. His blue eyes met the turbulent and worn eyes of the runner.
“Pneumonia...very sick...”, said the runner, moving his eyes slowly but deliberately toward the boulevard.
Conner's head swung backward, he saw two police officers strolling down the sidewalk, toward Conner. No, one police officer shoved aside a pretty girl in a short skirt, pretty thing, and the other almost bowled over that cute Asian women. They were not strolling.
“Well, I turn here for the pharmacy...You do to?”, said the runner. Conner’s wrist yelped at his brain as a wet warm hand clenched around it. His feet begged him to believe the man was forcing him off the boulevard, and towards Lilith Drive that left the boulevard at a right angle and sneaked around the back of the pharmacy. Conner ignored his wrist, his eyes, and his feet. He focused on his memory of the coffee shop and its relative location to the pharmacy. A back entrance, he mused, a back entrance from the pharmacy, is there a back entrance from the pharmacy?
No. The runner shoved Conner out of the light of the street lamp and dragged him into the murky darkness of Lilith Drive. He grunted as the runner forced a gun between his shoulder blades. The droning of boots pounding on concrete echoed in the bottom of his ears. The shrill wail of a siren pierced through his ears. A single tear fled from Conner’s eyes. Liz finally appeared in his mind, and he saw her disappointment. He wouldn't be at the coffee shop on time.
“Run,” growled the runner. Conner ran. His girlfriend Liz grinned pleasantly in his mind, and he saw her in a sleeveless pink Ramona shirt and short jean shorts chilling out in the coffee shop. Alone. He shivered and cursed himself for wearing shorts. His feet ached. He stole a glance at his arm and choked on a shriek. The runners hand had left a bloody stain on his shirt.
His flip flop blew out and he lunged forward. The runner grabbed his collar and wrenched him to his feet. The runner spun Conner in front of him. Conner felt a gun at his back slide up his body to his head. Then Lilith Drive erupted into light. Three flashlights bore down from the hands of four police officers. The helicopter unleashed a flood of light from the sky as if dousing a fire. Two high beams of two police cars blazed from both ends of the street.
Conner’s knees shook. Sweat beaded and bolted down his neck. The runner moved him backwards then turned him slightly and then dragged him backwards away from the left side walk. Then after three minutes had clicked away, one hundred and eighty excruciating seconds, a shadow descended and embraced both Conner and the runner. They had backed into the alley that led to the pharmacy.
“Stay put, and you’ll live.” The gun left his head, the warmth of the runner vanished, and as he turned he saw the runner rushing toward the end of the alley, toward the blinding high beams of a mercedes benz. If the runner made it to the car...The cops just now had r./ealized where the runner had fled. The cops had just now came through the alley. They'd be to late. If the runner reached the car...
“Why me,” muttered Conner. He chuckled. Then shivered. Then removed the unbroken flip flop. He bolted after the runner. Liz staggered into his mind again. He saw her leave the coffee shop disappointed and annoyed and alone. Again. Then he saw Liz smiling broadly at the police medal glittering on his chest, and forgiving him, and...kissing him. He gritted his teeth and ran harder. He chuckled ironically. Not alone. He saw her again, but on Gordon’s couch, curled in his arms, passively watching Gordon flip to another channel as the news of another bystander murdered in Los Angeles flickered onto the screen. He broke into a sprint.
He hit the runner and threw him to the floor. The bodies smacked against the asphalt. He grabbed the runners arms and tried to hold him down. The cops ran toward them. The runner rolled him over, and a boom thundered into the night air, and a bullet sliced through Conner's liver.
“Get off of me,” yelled the runner and he cursed wickedly. Conner screamed and gaped at the red stain blossoming on his t-shirt. He saw himself in a cap in gown, he saw his future paycheck peeking out of his estate in Juniper Florida.
Why me? “No!” Conner yelled. He pounded a fist into the belly of the runner. A bullet shattered a window, and Conner kicked the runner hard. Another bullet found its mark just shy of Conner's heart, and Conner saw Liz and himself standing before the pastor with a ring, then he saw Liz standing before the pastor dressed all in black with a rose and a million tears.
“Get off me, or I'll kill you,” threatened the runner.
The american flag flew over the pharmacy. He heard his third grade history teacher lecturing, “White for purity, blue for justice, red for...courage.” The police were coming. He remembered when he asked his father to buy him one of the shiny silver badges on the police department field trip. His father said no; that he'd have to earn one of those. He grunted and pressed down harder on the runner. The chapel bell rang at the college just as it had when the pastor baptized him before the congregation
“Liz, I hope someday you come home with me...”, He shuddered and gasped and pounded the runner once more. His lips curled upwards into a desperate smile as a police man grabbed the runner. Then Connor Reynolds blacked out.
A sleeveless top with a faded symbols of a long forgotten rock bands brushed against a white hospital smock. The girl who wore this shirt, slowly adjusted her glasses as she grimaced at the ECG. The glow grated against her tear soaked cheeks and soft, playful nose. Her auburn hair rippled over her shoulders like a tiny and carefree waterfall in a hidden creek and caressed the pallid visage of the man in the white hospital smock. The stubborn girl ignored her knowledge of chemistry, and biology, and reality, and convinced herself this boy in the white smock would live. She pressed her hands into his. She pressed her lips against his.
“Kiss me again,” he pleaded.
“Yes.” She kissed him again. The perfect girl had said yes to Conner, and not to coffee. The ECG flatlined.