Where wild minds come to rest
(This is a story that I lost interest in halfway through, and it vividly depicts life in one city from my DD. Share your own work and critique mine! :D)
And they fall.
But I am still here.
The graffiti on the side of the graying depilated brick office complex was getting more poetic.
I stopped from my daily walk home from the black market to take a look at the graffito. It stood an imposing several stories high on the bare concrete side of the building. The red blocky words rest in neat rows, each letter the size of a normal person standing straight. The poem seemed to pop out of the building with the help of the red and black lines of paint behind each individual letter. The bright colors juxtaposed with the faded cool hues of my city made it look out of place, alien even. This wasn’t here when I came through in the morning, and from the looks of the still drying paint, whomever did this is still in the area. People who tag walls are always gang members, and from the looks of this elaborate motif, it was probably at least a ten man job. Reminding myself that the gangs are vicious, even more so after the coming darkness arrives, I decide to return home for dinner.
I briskly walk past heaps of stinking refuse under the motif; it was smoldering in the later afternoon hours. I kicked several aerosol spray cans aside as I reposition my heavy rifle and backpack. The gun shouldered on my back has not been loaded for a very long time; it’s mostly just to scare away the numerous gangs that operate in the maze of streets and narrow alleys we call home.
My city, Northland, has been officially severed from the rest of the world several hundred years ago. Instead of solving the problem of the gangs, our government sealed us off and left us to rot. Northland, once a mighty industrial giant hailing over one million citizens, fell hard after the Empire’s invasion. Half of the city left afterwards, not wanting to pick up the mess. Gangs settled here, and took root, deep. People were starving, and the only way to food was joining a gang. Five years after the invasion, over seven hundred gangs existed: selling drugs, trafficking people, and many other illicit activities. The police were overwhelmed to the point that two officers were shot every day. Soon the police force was gone. The local government was filled with gangs members, officials were getting assassinated left and right. Martial law. Government trucks would drive in convoy through the city’s gates. Gunfire would shortly pursue. After awhile I think the people in the Capitol, only twenty miles away, were getting weary.
2142 A.D. The gates were shut for the last time. “Quarantine” the politicians called it. Half a million citizens swept under the rug. The 30 meter high stone walls surrounding our city no longer protected us from the world; it protects the world from us. Inside the walls, everything was deemed legal, all government terminated.
The gangs got smarter; they consolidated, grew harsher, and took over. Now there are only about 25000 people left. The Northland experiment had begun.
* * *
“Mike! Michael Woodman!” a voice booms out of the shadow of a doorway. I glance over, trying to remain inconspicuous. Even in broad daylight gang warfare can occur, plus there are snipers in various church steeples picking people off just for fun. I walk closer to the doorway; my friend George greets me with a warm hug. I quickly walk through the door and he shuts it behind me. “Hey George, how are you today?” I ask idly.
“I’m fine, with the exception that we’re out of food again. On the other hand, Mike, no offense, but you look like shit,” he jeers as he jokingly jabs me in the chest.
“George, I want to stop this madness. I want to get out,” I whispered to him even though no one else was in the room.
“I know, Mike. You, I, and the rest of the whole damned city would leave if we could!” His face grew a little red after noticing that he was shouting. He then continued to whisper, “Building that wall was the dumbest idea ever. It didn’t stop the enemy, but it has us locked in forever.”
I knew my friend George since before the invasion; he was the only one other than me to stay living in the apartment building even after the Hoffman troops marched through the city. He was a nice fellow, filled the room with his spirit. Only about five feet two inches tall, George looked like he was still thirteen, but in fact he was well over one hundred years old.
Well everyone looked adolescent; thanks to the Empire, the glory of immortality was unleashed upon the human race through their horrible biological weapons. Everyone over a certain age was killed off by a disease, the very same one that is in all of our veins that keep us alive. People are born and they age until some point in their teenage years, and live like that indefinitely.
George used to be my fat friend before the quarantine, now he just looks emaciated like the rest of us not in gangs. His reddish hair is cropped close to his head, and it seems to shimmer in the light through the glass window. His blue eyes of his look at me reassuringly. I move to sit on a wooden bench adjacent to the entryway, obviously tired from searching the city for food and goods to trade.
“Mike. What are going to do? We can’t just keep living like this. Like rats. Being afraid of getting killed for no reason is not how I envisioned my life. Fuck the walls. Fuck the gangs. Do you even think people notice that we’re gone? A whole fucking city! And an important one too!” He said while trying to remain calm.
“I don’t know, George, no fucking clue,” I say, looking at a faded framed portrait of the Queen on the wall. “I want to save this city from the hell it’s in now. I think they closed the gates so we can figure it out for ourselves.”
George sat down next to me on the bench, I could smell him. No one in the city has taken a proper shower since the gates were shut. He looked at me, puzzled. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“The gangs have us living in fear; we’re shaking in our boots. The nine sectors of the city have been partitioned off. Divide and conquer. We just need to band together and take them down.” I say at him more than to him.
“You’re an optimist. Here it’s called being—out of your fucking mind!” He jokingly yells at me, but inside I knew he’s not lying.
I get up from the bench and take off my rifle. I open up my backpack on the kitchen table and empty its contents for George to see: a water damaged map of the city, five cans of spam, three fresh apples I picked from the tree in the city’s heart, and a notebook. I unclip my water bottle from my belt and hand it to George. “Is this it?” he asks, clearly disappointed.
“Better than nothing.” I retort. “Dig in.”
As George starts on supper, I walk over to the mirror on the wall and comb my pitch colored hair. The downside of being forever sixteen is that I can never have a manly beard. My face is nice and round, a little prickle of facial hair grows out of my chin. My brown eyes see into my own soul. One maimed with sadness and violence. “Hey beautiful, quit looking at yourself and eat your food or I will.” George hinted.
I shrugged and joined him at the table. The sun no longer showed itself through the front window, dusk is approaching, and with it, violence. Lighting a candle in the center of the table to lighten things up, I grab a can of spam and work it open. George looks up at me from across the table. “How romantic, an evening dinner date with my main man Mike.” he snickered.
“Oh shut it,” I answered. “I think I should find you a girlfriend. After all, you're not that bad looking.”
“All the pretty girls are with the gangs, Mike. Plus I’m short; no woman enjoys a short man.” George explained. “The only place I know of that girls hang out is Prophet’s Diner, and that’s on the other side of town. Frankly, I don’t want to die while trying to hook up.”
I picked at my spam. It is expired by only a few days: fresh food is dropped by relief helicopters every other month or so. Last month might have been the last time they do it though because it was shot down by one of the gangs while dropping aid for the citizens.
“Oh whatever George, I just want some new faces; I am kind of tired of seeing your ugly ass every day.” I piped. “Sid got shot dead last year, and Abdullah went missing ten months ago. Our friends are all gone. I think we should move into the poorhouse down the street. It has other people, a nice wall around the yard, and food is always abundant there.” Pleading with George is never easy; his old Irish stubbornness is ever present.
He looked at me, at his food, and stole a glance around the decrepit room. “Yeah, you’re right. Living alone with you is lame as hell, plus this place smells like shit.” He confided, “Do you think that they still have room? Only non gang members are allowed, but not many people are left in this sector. One thousand, maybe two.”
The city is split into nine different sectors, eight around a central one, all separated by 20 meter high partitions of houses. The only official way to get from one sector to another is to go through a gatehouse, most always guarded by a gang asking for tolls. Our sector, sector four, is relatively the safest, because no gang has control of it. We’re the unwanted sector: mostly industrial complexes, office buildings, and a few apartment buildings.
I stare idly at the washed-out head of our Queen, thinking to myself. I answer after awhile, “there is no harm in trying. We’ll go tomorrow morning after I get back from the market to check it out.”
“So it’s set. Mike, pack your shit, and I’ll pack mine.” George said as he got up from the table, finished with his dinner. George stood at the table, his head slightly higher than mine sitting down, “you’re the only thing that keeps me from blowing brains out. Mike, you’re a true friend.”
“Um, thanks? Let’s get ready for bed,” I say trying to lose the awkwardness. “You know the drill.”
We struggle to move a bookcase in front of the locked door, lift up a piece of rotting wood board and place it carefully in front of the window. This routine is daily, a deterrent for nocturnal thieves that roam the city after dusk. The room falls dark. Only one candle flickers, creating elongated shadows over the bare white walls. To make noise after dark is to have a death wish, so George and I play card games silently on the uncovered floor.
Strident bangs and muffled shouts fill the darkness. It seems someone was caught outside by a gang. We try to focus on the cards and not the cries for help outside on the street. I cringe when the final gunshot pierces the night. Silence.
“I’m going to bed,” I mumble at George, who seems to have the same idea. Getting up from the bare concrete floor, I stretch my arms towards the cracked ceiling. Living on the first floor has its issues. The building that we currently squat in is the old “town homes” project. Nothing is centralized and the only way to get into each unit is from the street. Our “home” is tiny; but just perfect for us. It has one dining room, a kitchenette, a bedroom, and a broken bathroom. Everything was looted when we came here, except for the framed portrait of Victoria Corona, America’s Regent; and a bookcase full of classics like: Walden, Common Sense, These Chicago Knights, the Book of Prophecies, among many countless others. We filled our nights with reading and rereading books in the two single sized beds in the bedroom.
“Hand me the Book, I want to see what’s going to happen next.” George asks nicely from the bedroom. I walk over to the shelf, pick up the oversized dusty white volume, and carry it toward the bedroom. Inside the book are over ten thousand prophecies, in chronological order. These are all written in some emblematic words; to me it’s just gibberish. Some prophet sputtered all these out several hundred years ago, and apparently everything has been true so far.
I don’t believe in that stuff, but I am sort of religious. In fact one of my ancestors technically started his own religion: he cut out all of the misogyny, racial hate, useless history, and homophobia from the Christian Bible and made his own annotations. The end product was a new Christian religion that only worried about helping others, not judging their lifestyles. Let’s just say it caught on like wildfire in the Free State of Kennedy, my homeland.
“Here, you superstitious oaf,” I utter as I toss it at him. The bedroom is tiny, and it has no natural lighting. It’s pretty clammy. In the corner in front of a mirror are twenty candles, beyond usable, but still burning. The shadows it casts only add to the whole gloom and doom effect. I kick off my old and stolen black leather combat boots and jump onto the ancient, moldy mattress.
“Ah. Here it is,” George somewhat whispers to himself.
“What is it now?” I ask, staring at the cracked ceiling.
“Prophecy number seven thousand forty two: ‘Two fallen lions shall surmount the bedlam that is called the Noose.’” George says hopefully as he reads the holy manuscript while sitting up against the wall.
“George, that could mean anything, it is written so that everything is extremely vague so it could be applicable to any situation.” I retorted, adding: “plus, how do you know which prophecy you’re on? Doesn’t the High Council in Asteriskia decide that stuff?”
George was too engulfed in the book to hear. I let out a deep sigh and pulled the sheets over my head. “I don’t care, Mike, I really just need something to hold onto…” George trailed off, obviously engrossed by the meaningless words on those thin pages.
Minutes passed with no noise, other than the annoying sound of George’s intense page flipping. “Hey do you know the new graffiti on the wall outside?” George finally asked after several minutes of quiet.
“Which one? Literally every wall in the city has some kind tag or graffito on it… If you’re asking about any new gang tags nearby, then no; I haven’t seen any,” I answer with some extra unnecessary sass.
“No, no, no… It’s the huge black, red, and white poem several stories high on the blank concrete wall of the office building next door. It’s beautiful… do you know why?” He spoke softly as if trying not to wake an imaginary sleeping child. Without even giving me time to respond, he answered his own question, probably because he gets excited easily. “It’s the prophecy of the one before the one I showed you, word for word.”
“Doesn’t mean anything, George. Just blow out the candles and go to bed,” I snap at him from under my covers.
“I wonder who put it there… Could it be people trying to overthrow the gangs?” George queried almost absentmindedly. His voice grew more tired after each syllable.
“Who else tags walls other than gangs? Plus, it was huge! Only a gang would have enough resources to do that.” I spoke to him from the solace of my putrid bedspread.
George was stumped. A moment passed before he finally answered. “It’s weird for a gang to be quoting scripture in their tags… Don’t they only use symbols? And aren’t their tags relatively small?”
Now I was stumped. “Uh, I think it is a little odd, but it’s probably gangs now trying to outdo each other with their tags…” I knew that was a bullshit answer, I just wanted some sleep. Maybe tomorrow I’ll set out for some answers about the mysterious graffito.
“Maybe, I hope there aren’t any new gangs forming though, I don’t want a turf war in our sector.” George stated while he slammed his book closed with a thump. I heard him wave the cumbersome volume at the warm candles near his side, causing them to flicker and go out. The tepid glow that permeated through my bed sheet that was drawn over my head vanished and it was night.
Cities have fallen from grace before: there was the Detroit of the olden days, and the mighty Chicago’s descent into chaos after the great purge. Unlike our current situation, both of those cities recovered, excluding Detroit, that city crashed and burned out of existence just before the cleansing.
Our city is different. Most big cities that were founded after the purge built high and imposing walls to surround and protect them from outsiders. Neither Chicago nor Detroit had these, and that is what saved them from the menace within. When everything just failed, the national government shut the gates and threw away the keys so we could solve the problems on our own. That wasn't a good idea.
* * *
Mr. Michael Thomas Woodman, reads my now defunct dual citizenship ID card. My weathered face looks a ghostly white in the picture on the plastic that is my only way in and out of sector one. The maroon shield and calligraphic letter K emblazoned next to the great seal of the United States cover most of the card, leaving some room for my personal information. This card is my lifeline, without it, no gang or relief organization will give me aid. George already lost his awhile ago, so we split my rations directly in half.
The gate to Sector One is a small tunnel at the end of a shop-lined street, the ruinous houses that tower over each side of the thoroughfare casted the street in darkness even though it was almost ten in the morning. Shades of grey and brown dominate the landscape. Hundreds of people bustle through the street in an eerie but normal silence; like the color of their clothes, their voices were muted. The only vivid color that could be seen was spray-painted on a battered steel door, marking a gang’s presence.
The long line that I am waiting in is the entry line to Sector One, the central region of the city. Most of the black markets and all of aid stations are located within the sector’s walls, so security is tight.
People bustle around the gate; little stalls are set up with people bartering for goods. It was a messy scene. I was standing silently in line when someone tried to cut in front of me. Her black leather jacket with large angel wing patches on the back only meant one thing—we have a Guardian amongst us. But the fact of the matter is that she is trying to cut me.
“Excuse me, I was here first. I need to get supplies quickly and you’re not helping,” I said to the straight black locks of hair on the back of her head.
Without even looking my way, she reached into her front jacket pocket and took out a folded piece of paper. Ever so stealthily, she moved her hand to her side in a swooping motion. After clearing her throat and shaking the note in her hand, I quickly snatched it from her fingers. This is really weird.
As the line of disheveled people moved forward to the gated checkpoint, nobody seemed to notice an extra disheveled person in front of me. What’s a Guardian doing in this city? How is she not dead? Thoughts swirled in my mind as I carefully pocketed the piece of notebook paper. Why did she hand me this?
Being wiser than most, I decide that I would read the mysterious note once I was alone. For now, I should probably follow this girl. It seems like she needs me for something.
The guard didn’t bat an eye when he saw the girl in the black leather jacket, he just accepted her gold coins and glanced at her identification card and waved her through. Looking at me and silently motioning me to move forward, the greasy-haired attendant outstretched his hand to receive the toll. I fumble through my pockets to find the right amount of change to hand to the man. He weighs it on his scale and lets me walk through the dark tunnel.
I emerge on the other side only to see a loud mass of people bartering for their food at the large market. The mysterious girl is nowhere to be found.
Looking up at the mess of primitive concrete-box high-rises, I’m reminded of the hard times. Concrete was smuggled into the city and the largest gang wanted to show their power to the rest of the world; a tall and haphazardly built structure rose upwards of forty stories in the air, culminating into the largest middle finger gesture the world has ever seen. F-Central, as we would call it, is a literal fuck you to the capital city only twenty miles away. It was the center of the city, and thousands of people lived inside of it.
Remembering what I had to do, I veered off to a side alleyway by the gatehouse to look at the weird paper the girl gave me. Leaning against a crumbling concrete wall, I take out the note and read it. Inscribed in the most beautiful cursive I’ve seen in ages, it read:
Dear Mr. Woodman,
I know that you weren’t born in this city and would love to leave it as soon as possible, I can help with that. I know you’ve at least heard of me before, but we haven’t met in person. I’ve been following you for several days now, trying to see if you are the type of person I need for the work I have chosen for you. You are.
If you complete the task I give you, I will help you and your friend escape the city for greener pastures. As you might have guessed, I’m a Guardian Angel from Queensland. I’m not here on official Angel business, but on my own accord looking to end the Quarantine, or at least harm the gangs in any way possible. If you choose to accept my job for you and to learn more about what you have to do, meet me at the back door of Prophet’s Diner in Sector Eight tomorrow night at eleven. If you don’t show, I’ll take it as a decline on your terms.
Michael, I need your help, but more importantly, the city does.
What the Hell?
I read and reread the note over and over again, each time it seems more ludicrous. How does she know my name? Who is she? What does she want? Confused, I slide down the wall until I’m sitting down. I need to take this all in.
How do I know her? As I put the note back into my pocket, I didn’t notice a group of thugs turn my way into the alley. By the looks of it, they were gang affiliated—all wearing the same orange and black armband. The three of them quickly closed in on me
Just as I tried to jump up and run in the opposite direction to the safety of the crowded street, the three buff figures sprinted to catch me. They grabbed me by the cords on my backpack, and that’s when I knew I was finished. There was no shouting for help from gangs in this city; the gangs were the only authority. “Hey!” I shouted, “What’s the big idea?”
They encircled me, threw off my backpack and empty rifle, and pinned me up against the concrete wall. The sheer force of it knocked the wind out of me. The largest and hairiest of the thugs spoke to me in his clammy voice: “Didn’t you hear? New ordinance stating anyone idling in the back alleys is to be made example of.”
I look up. The examples.
The gang that controlled Sector One was notorious for frivolous violence. They called themselves “The Posse”, and they had a nasty habit of hanging their victims up on telephone lines to ward off other gangs.
Crossing over the alleyway was a telephone wire, on it hung several ropes with decomposing bodies strung through the nooses. They swayed in solemn unison, almost as if they were agreeing to my punishment.
Totally scared for my impending doom, I pleaded with them: “Come on, I didn’t know that! You can take everything I have, just don’t kill me!”
The shortest man of the gang looked up from rummaging through my backpack. “He doesn’t really have anything of value to us, I say we just fillet him right here and show him off in the market!”
“I have a better idea,” said the man who was pinning me up against the wall.
He grabbed me by the hairs of my head and slammed my face down onto the pavement. Nothingness.
The throbbing veins in my head are making it hard to remember what the hell happened. There’s a blindfold over my eyes and my arms and legs are bound too tightly together. They’ve taken my clothes off, and replaced them with a scratchy sack with holes cut for the head and arms. I’ve been kidnapped.
Oh God, I remember what happened. I was on the way to the market to get supplies for the move to the poorhouse when running into that girl ruined my whole day. If it wasn’t for her I would never had gone into that alley, and that gang wouldn’t of have kidnapped me. What am I going to say to George? Am I ever going to see him again?
Cold, I feel cold.
I’m lying down on the cold hard concrete floor in some sort of cell—but I’m not alone. I can feel the heat of another body budding up against my back. The cramped room is filled the disgusting aroma of feces. I’m probably laying in it now. Oh no. I know where I am.
There’s a cold draft blowing through an opening in the wall, as the wispy air flowed over my back it sent shivers down my spine. I must be high up in a building somewhere, mostly likely F-Central, the Posse’s headquarters. There’s only one reason why they would bring me up here.
Remembering almost immediately why the Posse would carry me up so many floors, I freaked out, trying to cut loose from my bonds. It was futile. They were going to publicly execute me.
F-Central has gallows set up on their highest levels so that the world can see their ruthlessness. I’m going to die and rot for the entire world to see. For what? Going down the wrong alleyway? I should have never moved out the safety of my homeland to this barbaric city. I’m going to die here.
Just when I thought all hope was lost, the body next to me started to stir. A hard elbow knocked into my side to get me to stop squirming. A whimpering feminine voice, just louder than the wind outside whispered: “Stop moving, they’ll know that you’ve woken, and they’ll take you!”
“Where are we?” I inquire, softly as possible.
“Slave receiving room. This is where the slave-catchers, bounty hunters, and gang members sell people into slavery.” She replied.
At least they’re not going to kill me.
“How do we get out of here?”
She didn’t reply for a couple minutes, I almost thought she nodded off or worse, but sure enough she murmured a response: “Maybe if we could somehow cut through these ropes and remove our blindfolds before the guard comes in and checks on us.”
“We could overpower him and escape. From my knowledge, I don’t think the Posse is too organized, so we can easily find our clothes and steal a couple armbands and walk right out of here!” I replied, optimistically.
I wiggled my fingers and moved all my joints in my hands to try to loosen the rope’s grip on me. After sometime of hearing me and her heavily breathing to take of the ropes around our arms, I could hear her break loose.
Moments later, after starting and stopping every now and to listen for guards, she finally got her blind fold off and unbound her legs. I could sense her leaning over me through the dim light that casted through my blindfold. She tore it off along with all the ropes, and revealed to me was a cramped concrete cell with a locked wooden door and a single barred window for air. Her features were cast in the shadow of the window; the moonlight surrounded her dark head as if it were a halo. “I’m Olivia. Olivia West.” She said.
“Wait, West as in the Kennedian West? You’re from the Free State too?” I ask, almost not containing my glee. She nodded. “I thought I was the last and only Kennedian to live in Northland!”
“Well, errrm, what’s your name?”
“Michael Woodman, descendant of Saint Nicholas Woodman!” I almost half shouted. I haven’t seen a fellow countryman in several hundred years.
“Ah, yes, Michael, I’m actually fairly new to the city. I’ve been here for about a month now—I was in that relief helicopter they shot down, and they only just captured me a couple hours ago.” She whispered, hinting at my volume. “I want to get out of here as much as you do, as soon as that door opens, we beat that guy senseless and tie him up. We’ll just go from there, okay?”
I stood up on my feet, stretching out my cramped muscles in my entire body, suddenly I felt lightheaded. The room started to swirl around me, as my vision went into a dark tunnel. Olivia grabbed me before I could fell; her short stature against my towering body did little help. She moaned trying stand me up: “maybe we should wait a little bit for you to get better, take a deep breath, inhale, and exhale.” She looked at my face in the moonlight. “Holy Shit they messed you up. There’s a massive gash in your forehead, no wonder you’re not feeling good.”
“Yea, they beat me up in an alleyway, next thing I know, here I am.”
“What were you doing in an alley? I would think someone who’s been here as long as you would know better!” She exclaimed, running her fingers over the wound, surveying the damage.
“Long story, I’ll tell you lat—” I was cut off by the loud sound of the door creaking open.
As the large door groaned open, Olivia and I silently moved to the wall next to the hinge. Peering through with a torch, the lonesome guard, clad in just a tee shirt and jeans, stepped into the cell.
That was his mistake.
At once I forcefully grabbed his torch arm with all my remaining strength, while Olivia put her hands over his mouth to quiet his screams. (THATS WHERE I LEFT OFF IM SORRY)
TL;DR It's a story from my daydream world, I hope you guys enjoyed it, comment on what you think of it!