The Malevolent One — Part Four

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Joe followed his father down the beautiful white steps of the historic building, staggering his steps. A servant opened and closed the awaiting car door for them as they slid inside; the valet handed the General a small shot of whiskey.

“Oh Joe … why did you make me do such a thing? You should know how much I enjoy going here … now we won’t be allowed to enter again without the police being called.”

“But what about your friend’s father? Did you not just tell Mr. Reese that you had top friends who could fire him — or worse?”

The General sighed deeply and looked into his drink before he took a gulp. Finishing it, he winced a little bit and leaned back into his seat.

“Yes, yes, of course, Joe, I have friends who could set him and his entire extended family ablaze — but what would that really accomplish? There would be no doubt that I had done it after what I said here today; it wouldn’t be worth all of the bloodshed to make such a ridiculous point. You’ve lived a sheltered life, Joe, at my best efforts. You talk a big game, but you have never really experienced the crushing hollowness of taking another person’s life. Unlike me, you aren’t kept awake every night re-watching the moment where you pulled the trigger for the first time and some poor soul’s head whipped backward and was blown off … but I guess it doesn’t matter anymore.”

The General snapped his fingers at the servant’s general direction.

“William” — he snapped again — “can you take us out of here now? I want to go home. It’s been a long day and I need my rest.”

The two of them sat in an awkward silence as William pulled out of the valet section of the museum’s driveway and turned onto the road. Joe tried not to allow what the General just said to phase him; to get his mind off of it he played the car game he had enjoyed whenever he was bored. The limo’s windows were heavily tinted so that only a glimmer of light could be seen from inside, and because of this, Joe enjoyed staring out at the other drivers on the road without having to worry about being seen himself — he found it so incredibly rewarding because each commuter was so different. One man sang loudly in tune with his radio that was blasting a song from a famous junky pop star; a woman with zero shame plugged one nostril with an index finger and went mining for gold.

There were always the people that pointed in excitement toward the limo Joe was riding in, the people from the suburbs who had grown accustomed toward this type of wealth. But the people in the crappy car — most likely from the city — never disappointed. Their faces would always light up as they nudged the other in the car and then they would all stare together. Whenever that happened, Joe could always feel his ego being stroked vigorously — on one occasion, he rolled down his window. He first waved and then gave the family in the rundown car a pair of middle fingers. Their shock had made Joe that day cackle like a hyena he had felt so pleased with himself.

But there was something about the General’s tone that took all of the fun out of people watching. What did he mean by, ‘It doesn’t matter anymore?’ Does he know something about the war? What’s he not telling me?

Joe averted his gaze for the window and reached up and held the button to isolate William away from the conversation he would have with his father. The panel clicked with a pop and the Joe was free to have his curiosity quenched.

“Father, what has gotten you so upset? If it’s the Museum, you need not worry; it wasn’t that great and there are far many more.”

Joe didn’t want to be direct with his questioning for fear of ticking off his father; he would have to be subtle if he wanted to pry any information from his old man’s lips.

“Joey,” began the General in an especially melancholy tone, “believe me when I tell that there are things that are better not to be known. Enjoy being naïve, Son. Trust me, you will be better off for it.”

The grave way that the General spoke those words only worked to inflame Joe’s curiosity.

“What is it that you’re to afraid to tell me, Father? Come on; you can trust me. I’m not going to lose my head just because of something you’re to afraid to say.”

For a moment, the General’s face became the definition of anger — so fierce were his face and body language that Joe looked around desperately for means of escape or a protective tool. Slowly, the General’s fury dispersed; he once again became Joe’s normal and incredibly overworked father.

“Are you really sure you want to know, Joey? It isn’t going to make you feel any better than you do right now.”

“Tell me, Father — perhaps it would help yourself relieve some stress telling someone else the secret you are keeping to yourself.”

“Okay, Joey — but remember, I tried to keep you blissfully ignorant and you’re the one who asked for this information. As you know, Son, our country has been intertwined in a conflict of war for many years now. It all began when that fool in Moscow began making empty threats — at least that’s what we thought they were at the beginning. And then he invaded Poland and the world was sent into its Third World War. Alliances were made and some friendships were shattered; our country was lucky to throw our hats in with some powerful people, Joey. I don’t know if I can justify that enough with just these few moments — if we hadn’t, I can’t be confident in saying that we would still be here. We are very fortunate that our friends have been able to keep the battlefield from our soil for the entire duration of the war — at least so far. You’ve known from the rumors the media is spitting out from their corrupted mouths that our country’s young ones are going to be drafted in order to protect the border from invasion, right? Well, Joey, sadly, there’s no weight nor truth to that rumor anymore — our enemies aren’t going to give us that chance. Already the pieces have been set to wipe off all the life in ours and our allies’ countries because we wouldn’t just let them get away with it we have taken the same steps as them. It appears that the vaults aren’t going to be so useless as we might have first imagined they would be.”

Fear began to grow at the bottom of Joe’s bowels.

This can’t be true, no way. The old man has to be pulling some asinine joke on me. Why would they want to invade us? We can’t possibly be that great of a threat. And those vaults no way am I going into one of those — that would be madness, having to spend the rest of my life inside one of those contraptions. I’d rather die than be trapped in one of those; it would be like a rat at the bottom of a garbage can. Sure, we would have food, but that would be it — we would never be allowed to leave again, never see the sun again…

“I’m sorry, Joey — I can tell what I just said frightened you. But I suppose if I started telling a part of the truth, I might as well go all the way. The government has been saying that some of the vaults have been completed — including the one that we have here. From what my connections have told, that is a lie, Joey. Only a handful of vaults have been successfully completed; we aren’t one of the lucky few. What this means, Son, is that a fewer amount of people are going to be allowed into the vaults than expected. They don’t have enough space to accommodate all the people who are going to flock to it. Even though our family and others have made generous contributions to secure tickets in for our safety, we aren’t even secured a spot inside. We’re going to have to fight for our right to live — the same as everyone else. However, there are some good news that I can share with you.”

Joe’s father took another sip of his whiskey and twisted both sides of his mustache. In the front seat of the car, a hum radiated as William listened to the radio. Joe could see the dull man nodding his head side to side as he sang along with the rapper, spitting out incoherent lyrics. The General coughed.

“As I was saying — we have an inkling of good news. From my sources that I can rely on, Joey, the attack has already begun. Whatever they sent at us isn’t going to land for a few more hours — a little late into the afternoon. The government isn’t going to ring the alarm until all of the high priority people have already gotten to safety. Don’t worry, Son — I have a plan. First of all, I’m going to tell William to take us back home. Then we’re going to round up your mother and pick your sister up from school. Next, I’m going to send William home for the day so he can see his family one more time again and then we’re going to head to the vault to our salvation.”

Joe sat a few incredulous seconds with his father.

He’s prepared to leave everyone we know to meet Death. I know I would do the same but I had no idea he was capable of this, as well…

The two of them were sent hurtling back into their seats as the limo broke out into a breakneck speed. The sudden jolt sent the General’s head clashing into the window as the limo turned to the right to avoid traffic. The General held his hands to his nose and was meet with the sight of his own blood as it drained from his nostrils.

“What’s the meaning of this, William?” the General coughed out as he was being waterboarded by his own blood.

As Joe looked in the direction of the action he realized that the sound of music had dissipated and the sound barrier was cracked open.

How long has that been open? What did William overhear?

The faster the vehicle went as it weaved its way between the other cars occupying the road, the more it swayed.

“William, what are you doing?” The sound of the General’s voice sounded strange because of the handkerchief he had plugged up his nostrils.

“You bastard!” Was the only thing William said as he kept his eyes looking forward, barely avoiding a woman crossing the street during a red light.

“After all these years” William screamed, “you were just going to throw my entire family’s lives down the drain? I have children!”

“William, listen to me, please, slow down we can talk about—”

“No, shut up, you old man! I’m not taking you back to your house to save your lot. If you were so prepared to kill mine then I’m going to treat yours just the same. I’m driving to my house so I can save my wife and children. If you don’t want to go—”

Joe heard a click as the mechanism in the door unlocked.

“—you can go ahead and jump!”

Joe had only once been to William’s shack of a house before but he still remembered how far it was; it would take hours to get there.

“Okay, William, just slow the car down — you can’t save your family from the grave. Just let Joe and me out and then you can continue on your way.”

“No chance, you old bat. I heard you say it yourself — ‘We only have a few hours left and I need to get home and rescue my family.’ You know how far I live; I might not make it even if I waste the slightest moment.”

The limo grinded against a parked car as it squirmed its way between a lane of cars. Joe watched as the passenger seat rearview mirror broke off and flew past his window. With those last words, William held down the button above his head, once again sealing the barrier between the front and back. In the seat beside him, the General held his chin higher than normal as the cloth held to his nose saturated with blood. Outside, the cars and buildings flashed by as the limo whipped past them.

William can’t possibly continue at this pace for very long, Joe though, as he began to crawl to the front of the limo. The carpet of the vehicle was clean and smelled of the artificial new car smell that the General expected every day. With his close proximity to it the smell was especially pungent; it began to sting at his nose. The limo was only about fourteen feet in length so it wasn’t long until Joe found himself underneath the panel dividing the two parts of the car. Making a guess, Joe assumed the panel was four by two feet large, more than enough to fit his body through and into the front seat. He lifted both his legs up and grabbed the cushions on either side of him. He pulled his legs back and then kicked as hard as he could. Immediately the car swerved.

Did I scare you, ya coward? Joe thought as he looked up, saw that his initial kick was able to dent the upper left side. Alright, Bud, here I come.

This time, Joe held back on the pressure and kicked a lot gentler than before; his feet launched through the hole where the panel once was. On both knees, he looked through the hole he had created. William sat forward, focusing on the road more than what was behind him. The panel of this plastic laid bent but unbroken beside him. Carefully, Joe began to slide his torso through the panel — first his right shoulder, then his head, and finally his left arm. There wasn’t enough space to sneak his entire body through so he did what he had to in those conditions.

Come on, Joe; just like they do in the movies…

Without any thought of repercussion, Joe managed to grab William behind by the chin. He dug his hands into the driver’s freshly shaved face and yanked his neck back with a quick snap. A wicked crack resulted as William’s neck was torn open. Bone splintered out of the man’s neck, covered red and dripping. As Joe stared into the eyes of the man who had driven him throughout his entire life, he forgot what he was doing; the stare he received was too chilling. William’s eyes had turned a dark shade of purple, his face contorted with pain.

“Why?”

William’s last words came out a croak; the life in his eyes dimmed as they remained open. Joe continued to look into the man’ dead, pain-filled eyes. He was unaware of his father’s shrieks behind him and even less attentive of the car that they crashed into.

 

next: The Malevolent One — Part Five

previous: The Malevolent One — Part Three

more by FRANCISCO LEYVA

photograph by Caleb George

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