This story is the first one of the #52weeks52stories challenge. You can follow my progress on the stories on Twitter and Instagram!
Ed only saw the puddle of water in the middle of his room just after almost slipping on it. The young man, almost in his thirties, followed the trail to the short hallway, to the door. The whole department looked flooded, and he let his head fall while rubbing his temples.
He was tired in the morning, his head hurt like hell, a slow pain that came and went, like sea waves. And some idiot must have tried to wash the corridor outside his department. Way to start the day. He put on the first trousers and shirt he found clean and opened the door outside.
The passageway was empty; light could barely filter through the filth over the glass of a little window if it wasn’t for it; the place would be drowning in darkness. Ed touched the floor, and it was, indeed, wet. He looked at the stairs, almost in front of him, and wondered what probability it was for him to slip there and break his neck; and if it was higher than the probability of the old, damaged elevator to fall to his death.
The pain came back, stronger, stabbing his head.
He dried the floors, cleaning with it the dirtiness glued to the ground from before he came. Then he made himself a coffee, from a jar he had shoplifted successfully the week before and sat at the table, in front of an unopened envelope.
He knew what was inside. It was full of money.
“Look, people get paid for doing these things out there. I know you don’t want it, but you helped me, Eddy, you helped me a lot, and you kind of need it, so… Accept it” Said his brother, when he lent it to him.
Ed took it, like a robot that would do anything, following an order without questioning.
He didn’t want to think about it at that moment. He had been thinking about it constantly the past three days, letting the thought consuming him from inside. If he slept at night, it didn’t look like it.
He broke the paper and looked at the cash inside. Damn, how much was it? Still, he couldn’t wish for anything, even for coffee that didn’t taste like dust with sugar. He grabbed some and prepared himself to go downtown. He hadn’t got out since that night, spending all the day alone inside, playing video games from a used computer someone got him and that was, most probably, stolen. Three days and he looked like an outcast already.
But he had run out of painkillers. It wasn’t safe outside, but it didn’t feel like it was safe inside either.
The sirens waked him up later that night. The lights, red and blue, were shining all over his room through the window. It took him a moment while laying in bed, to recover all his senses to understand what was happening. Then he heard the door exploding down below. And it hit him.
Ed stayed still like it would make a difference like it would turn him invisible. His hand clung to the old bed sheets, while he heard steps somewhere in the building. Then, the sound of a gunshot. Someone screaming, down below. What happened?
“Leave him alone!” Cried a woman.
Ed rolled to his side and crawled over the floor, like fearing to be seen through the windows, as if that, somehow, counted as a legal penalty. He spied through the border. Three policemen were pushing a man out of the building and into a car. A woman tried to fight them off, grabbing one of them by the jacket. A few neighbors came out of their homes, in the middle of the night, just to see the spectacle.
He sat back down on the floor, still breathing fast.
It took him a few seconds to calm down. They weren’t there for him. They weren’t there for what he did. It took him a few more seconds to realize his trousers, knee high, were wet.
There was water on the floor, again.
“What the fuck is going on?” The loud of the sirens stung his ears so, he could barely hear himself. A headache pierced him again.
Ed followed the glimpse of the water under the colored lights with his eyes, across his room, and through the open door. There was something standing in the hallway. He looked at the weirdly shaped figure, barely distinguishable in the darkness, and at first, he thought it was his imagination.
Until the sirens sounded softer than the car starting, and the wheels running across the street, further away. The lights went off and the apartment drowned in mid shadows and silence. The sound of the water dripping off the figure became noticeable.
“What the…?” But he couldn’t finish the thought as it started to walk to him, the steps over the puddles echoing in the little apartment.
“There is money in the envelope, over the table. There. There is a lot of money. Take it; it’s all I have now”
Ed mumbled while fighting to get up without slipping on the wet floor. Why did he felt so bad all of sudden? His legs would barely answer him, not strong enough to keep him standing. The unknown man stopped in front of him, but the light from the streets and the moon wasn’t enough to see his features in detail.
The hand pressed his throat and there was a spark that ran through Ed’s spine, finally waking him up.
They fought. In the middle of the darkness, Ed could barely see what he was doing, but he knew that in some moment he could take off the hand from this neck, and gave the attacker two good punches. The other man was a better fighter, managed to throw him to the floor and punched him in the face a few times before Ed could escape. Somehow he ran across the room and clung to the light switch.
The light bulb flickered before filling the place with a milk-white light.
Then Ed saw him. Ed recognized him. He couldn’t help his mouth to fall open in a scream of horror. He couldn’t feel his legs, but the next thing he knew was that he was running down the stairs, one foot after the other in a poor attempt to avoid falling to the ground miserably.
The man, that man, followed him with the same eager, wet steps full of anger, but the clear mind of a beast hunting. The main door was open, shards of wood and glass splattered over the floor, and it was when Ed stepped on them that he remembered he wasn’t wearing shoes. He ran, faster.
Somewhere along the way he lost him, but Ed kept running, across the creaked walls, and through a neighborhood, he well knew. When he reached the broken wooden door with the words ‘THE KING’ paint sprayed in, and he started knocking and shouting as loud as he could.
His brother opened, half asleep, and confusedly let him in.
“What the fuck happened to you?” Asked, turning the lights on.
As he saw the inside of his brother’s house, even though it was considerably wrecked, Ed felt some sense of security. He dragged his feet to the couch. He couldn’t feel anything in his body but the pounding in his chest and the sharp pain of the air trying to enter his lungs.
“For real. Did you get in a fight or something? Who did this to you?”
Ed coughed and managed to sit straight enough to see the poor state of his clothes. He was completely wet, his shirt was stretched and broken on the neck, and he must… The hands on his throat.
“He wasn’t dead. I thought he was dead, but he wasn’t dead, and he tried to kill me last night”.
Ed wondered why he didn’t shot him in the head. A bullet, through the brain, that night he first came back to see him.
His feet hurt like hell, but it hurt worse when his brother tried to take the pieces of glasses deeply buried into his flesh to then burning him with alcohol.
“It’s okay. This apparently kills all the bacteria or the virus. I can’t remember” He said, half smiling at him, shaking the bottle with a red cross on it.
On the afternoon, when he could move again, he borrowed some clothes and left. The sun marched slowly to the horizon as Ed walked down the street with a storm of thoughts bashing inside his head.
Four days ago he followed the man that was threatening his brother through the park. Ed didn’t know what it was about, but he knew it had something with a drug deal that went wrong, and even though he wanted nothing to do with it, his brother convinced him to go along. What for, Ed had never been good at scaring people into reason. The discussion became violent quite quickly and turned soon into a fight. Ed had never been a good fighter either. Everything went out from his hands when Ed, fuelled more by fear and desperation than anger, chocked the man to death.
He didn’t know, still, what he tried to do. If he wanted to knock him out, or what, but the fight had gotten on his nerves, and he only wanted to push, push to the ground.
He remembered he kept pressing even when the man stopped moving.
He remembered he cried terrified when he slowly realized what he had done.
So, he dragged the body even more inside of that hidden spot. He took him to a part of the lake that looked dark under the trees and the rubbish accumulated, covering almost the entire surface. He was shaking when he tied the dead man’s legs with a length of rope he found buried in the mud and attached a weight made of broken concrete.
Then he pulled him through the lake’s coast to a little dock no one ever used, and placed the body there, under the trash and under the wooden protection of the platform. He didn’t look back. He was afraid to do so.
He walked across that dock with his eyes fixed on the ground, then he took a deep breath, he lay down and stretched his arm. The moved the trash around until uncovering the dark hair floating under the water. The man last night attacked him was there.
Ed couldn’t understand what was happening. He tried to get up, but a kick in the stomach took him back down and he found himself dragging backward, desperately, as the dead man approached him in the middle of the day.
He had a heavy, rusty iron bar in his hands. He swung it from side to side, in front of Ed’s terrified expression as he reached the end of the dock. His legs wouldn’t move, wouldn’t answer him. He was shaking, and suddenly, he felt sick.
The man, that face, that exact same face that fought him days ago, bent to look at him. He was smiling, a grin that could only mean all the bad things, while looking at every detail of his face.
“You killed the wrong one”
Ed then saw the man swinging, the bar hitting him on the side of his head.
He woke up when he felt the cold water on his face, as the hands pushed him down it and into the lake.