Chicago’s gone to the gutter. Whole worlds going that way it seems, right on down into the lair of the rats. Rats, that’s what we should call them, not Epics, gives them too much credit, makes them seem… well, epic. The 7-Eleven glowed in the night, it’s rays beaming through the foggy mist like opulent beams spreading out into a beacon of hope. A beacon of hope with gas prices double what they used to be and window’s smudged to calamity.
“ID please,” said a disinterested worker, a bullet hole sitting precariously above her head.
“Here,” I handed her the card, glancing up at the wound, strange how their still doing ID’s, annoy the wrong person and your bones just might explode. You never know these days, no one can control these slontzes, the only thing they’ll listen to is power, raw, unrelenting, power.
She barely glanced over the card before handing it back, “That’ll be 13.99,” prices have been getting jacked up over the past year, either more people are looking for a distraction, or the corporates are starting to take stock. Probably a bit of both, everybody’s just waiting for the fall.
I grabbed my pack before the worker could count the cash. She stuttered to stop me, but stayed her tongue, even someone as disinterested as her knew where we were headed. Subservience. I hated it, seething as I reached back to pull up my hood before I realized I had none. I clenched my hands in a fist and shook it at nothing in particular, it was my own fault picking the leather jacket today. People didn’t like coming out at night, not if they could avoid it, word was getting around that a couple Epics—Rats, had gotten into town, no one wanted to risk it. But I needed to clear my mind sometimes, maybe I’d enjoy a drive, I wouldn’t know, my families never been able to afford a car, so I chose to walk instead.
I tried to light up one of my cigs forgetting that the condensed air around me would never allow it. I stuffed it back into the pack and continued on down towards my rank bunk of an apartment. This part of Chicago was built like a trap, with rising steel forming brick complexes and skyscrapers that deteriorate in a month and cost just enough to keep their subjects from ever saving a drop of money. No way out, and a million ways in.
Smoke was billowing out a nearby alleyway, seemed someone found out how to light a cig in the drizzle. I would’ve ignored it, kept on walking just to sleep on a pile of blankets I called my bed, but something set me off, a sizzling pop, like a fire being constantly lit and put out again. I turned my head for a second trying to catch a glance at whatever it was down that alleyway. A metal stairway was in my way, but I made out two figures, a woman, her actions hidden by shadow, and a gun held by a hand glowing and popping off like a smoldering ash. A Rat, in the flesh.
I should’ve just left it, let the woman die and appear on the news the next day as just one of a thousand casualties done by an Epic, but I couldn’t. Slinking down the alleyway I heard her whimpering cries as she tore frantically through her purse trying to find something.
“I know you still got that necklace honey,” said the Epic, his voice bathed in the arrogance of superiority, “all you gotta do is give it to me now.”
He cocked the gun and the woman began crying in loud uncontrollable sobs, “I swear I put it in hear, please, j-just let me go.”
“Can’t do that little honey,” he pressed his hand against her shoulder and the eerie sent of burnt flesh rose into the air as the woman held her mouth shut and screamed, “it’s a personal affair.” He slammed her to the floor, sending the contents of her bag all over the alleyway.
“Please,” she cried, the gun being lowered to her head.
“Sorry honey, but Fyrette’s not intereste—” I slammed into his side, burning the side of my jacket and sending him staggardly into a puddle of collected rain and city sludge.
“Leave her alone,” was all I could muster, it was weak, and this Fyrette guy knew it. He gave a wicked smile that burned like charcoal freshly shoveled into a furnace.
“You got any gold mister,” he asked, waving his gun around nonchalantly, I stumbled on my words, but the answer was no, “Well, that’s just to bad isn’t it.”
He raised the gun to my chest, and shot fire, burning bullets glowing red got like a cast iron brand. I closed my eyes expecting the worst, I should’ve never come down here, this woman was a lost cause, we all were. Nothing could control these people, nothing ever would.
Clunk, clunk, clunk, the three bullets rang uselessly against my chest and dropped to the ground. I opened my eyes not believing it, and it was obvious Fyrette didn’t either, but his surprise quickly turned to rage as he lunged forward to grab my face. I punched him straight in the gut and heard an audible shatter as he flew back into the sludge from whence he came, dropping his gun at my feet. I didn’t know what to think, I couldn’t be one of them, one of the Rats. I reached down and picked up the red hot caliber, feeling nothing. I was just another piece, they would hate me, they would fear me. I aimed. I feared me. I shot.
They would kill me. I turned to the woman scrambling on the floor, she was a witness, she saw what I was. Her grace didn’t say it, but her eyes knew I was monster. Sooner or later I would be ousted, killed by the very community I’d become a part of. I aimed, I shot.
Weakness was not an option.