Atonement with The Father 2

   What are you doing here, is all I can think to say.
   Yeah, is what she says. But what are you doing here?
   He sighs. The humans, he says, are mutating. Happens every time. Faster and faster of late. But we’re here now. Got it?
   No! I all but bellow. I can’t help the hysteria.
   No, he says. Well, we’ll help you along. He draws a revolver. Just keep calm.
   But I spoke to you, I say, grasping, looking down the barrel.
   You did?
   No, I say. No, your secretary. But I wanted to speak to you.
   He raises his eyebrows.
   Yeah, yesterday. You were, in a meeting, she said. In the capital. Yesterday. I’m babbling.
   He shrugs. Recenters his aim.
   This is not like you at all, I say.

The Belly of The Whale

   Dead man slides inside when I pull open the door. I squeal. What angry shouting is going on up front blots out that particular shame, but I’m going to remember it, even as I watch the man flop to the floor, because I know him.
   But I don’t know the fellow pawing his way in after him. I’d like to tell him to hold it right there but he has hands on my uniform sliding down my front. I step backward. The guy falls forward right down on top of the owner of this fine eating establishment. “Hold it right there,” I say.
   There’s a third man out there too in the back alley, splotching forward in the rain, gripping himself by the arms.
   We are, I realise belatedly, surrounded.
   A good golden dog shoots out into the rain from behind me, bounding over the two men in the doorway. Not modest, those dogs. But they will tackle a walking dead man and that’s what we have them for. Dog leaps for the fellow’s midsection.
  “Door!” I bellow.
   I have to kick away hands. “DOOR!”
   Instead of help with the mess before me, I first get elbowed, then shouldered, then wholly pressed forward into the wall beside the door. None of this is what any of us have practiced. With my cheek flat to the wall I curse the lot of them. The plague is upon us and we let it straight in.
   I’ll not be dwelling on my own role in that. If I hadn’t opened the door, we’d all be squashed in here regardless. The snuffling, shouting and outright screaming says there are a lot of people out front, a whole lot more than there should be, and my god we’re all going to die.

The Crossing of the First Threshold

  “You can’t go back there.”
   I’m astounded by this kid. I’m back there already. “She did,” I say.
   The whole store wants to know what I’m up to now. They’ve all followed.
  “That ‘em sister,” he says, using a local vernacular.
   I am astounded and incredulous. “You him brother?”
   Back here back here is not very attractive. How often do you want to see where your meals are prepared anyway? Past the cooktop, which is itself wedged under the stair, the back room has once-white walls that are smudged blacker the closer you get to the wet floor. Place stinkem meat and blood too.
   He’s defiant. “Yes!” he says.
  “Different parents?”
  “What?” Literally, he doesn’t know what I’ve just said.
  “You’re from here, she’s not. You have different parents.”
  “Still em brother. You can’t know.”
  “So where’d she go?”
   I have to back up. Me, the kid, the tiny woman, the dumbfuck breathing booze and his fellows. Somewhere back there is the grinning idiot. You know how I know? Because he giggles right then, and then he screams.
   Now, I have my banger, and it’s a toy like everyone else’s, converted from throwing foam darts across a room to jabbing a steel spike only so far forward, you work it by hauling back a lever then pulling another one out of the way, but I have never used it, not on a person. So, lucky I suppose, everyone’s turned their backs on me now. Cept for drunk guy. He just wheels and then topples.
   They all start yelling at once.
   And I think she probably went upstairs.
   But me? I’m leaving by the back door.

The Call Refused

  “Hell no,” I says.
   I grabs up me banger and that was to be that but you know when you stabs someone and they’re all abouts the keeping its to themselves?
  “Look,” I says. “We don’t even know each other.”
   I keep on with the explaining for a few more goes. Each one sounding more plausible to me, but it’s like I’m sticking myself now so after a while I calls a halt to that malarkey. It’s dark out already and the street lights are inadequate.
  “I’ll see you later,” I says.
  “Sure,” she says, and sets off into the shadow.
   I didn’t, as it happened, and wouldn’t, do that thing. I wouldn’t see her again.