I wrote this one for a college creative writing class and strangely enough it’s semi-autobiographical. The first five or so pages are actually true (though pieced together through multiple different experiences). There is a video out there somewhere of me boxing one of my buddies in the street and he hit me so goddamned hard I flew out of the camera shot and into the bushes. He would always get me with that punch. Cocking that right arm back while jabbing with his insanely long left. I remember one time we boxed and he hit me so hard I just sat on the ground, dazed. And yes he did, in fact, box prison guards. The institution is also true, though it was really just an abandoned building that was rumored to be haunted. A couple of friends and I went to check it out one day, but there were crazy markings on the walls (looked like blood) and a strange string on the ground. We took a step in, heard a rustling noise (which in retrospect was probably just a rat), turned tail and ran.
The first version of this story was much longer and much more supernatural. There were ghosts hiding around every corner, but when I brought it to class the TA (who I thought was a pretentious pompous ass at the time, but have since changed my opinion) said it was disjointed, there was too much going on and the ghosts took away from the point of the story. I whittled it down, using his recommendations and when I turned it back in it looked somewhat like the story below and he gave me an A+. He also hated the title I had for it at the time which was “Teenage Wasteland” which for him didn’t match up with the story. I still think it does, but the new title gives the reader a warning for what is to come. This also has one of the themes of all my earlier writing. It’s ultimately a coming of age story, just told in a little more brutal light.
The four boys sat on the side of the river quickly downing their Jack Daniels and Coke. They came to this spot often because it was really the only place they’d found where they could be free to drink and smoke as they pleased.
“Hey Tick, send over some more Jack man.” Colin said. “We ain’t got all night man, come on.” Colin often made fun of Pete, calling him the Tick and demeaning him, Colin’s favorite past time was giving the Tick noogies.
“All right, its coming over, hold on, I’m a little buzzing here. I don’t want to drop it.” Pete was more of the loser of their clique. He was often taking orders and requests from the other three, trying to stay in their good graces.
Both Colin and Tom were typical jocks. They spent their time talking about pussy, how to get it and where and Pete always sat by intently listening. Matt was the only one of them that had carnally knew a woman, but Pete was the only one that admitted to never losing his virginity and he loved to hear Colin and Tom talk about it, rampant adulation in his eyes.
Pete slowly made his way to Colin, trying to hold his balance, but not succeeding very well. He saw the rock sticking out of the ground, but it failed to register in his alcohol-ridden brain. Pete took a staggering step into the rock and all his weight shifted forward over his wavering legs making him fall forward towards Colin.
None of them saw Matt reach out and grab him. They rarely saw Matt under the bridge. He always seemed too contemplative to approach. He rarely said anything, mostly sticking to his drink, downing one after another, and looking off into the distance. He almost always drank more than the others and never seemed to show any effects of the alcohol. This night was no exception; he quickly sat up and reached out snagging Pete from mid-air.
“You better watch yourself, my man. Them snipers’re gonna kill ya.” Matt said trying to sound like John Wayne immediately and completely exiting his introspection.
“Thanks Matt, I was just trying to get the JD over to Colin.” Pete said looking up with a guilty smile at Matt’s six-two stature.
“I know, pilgrim, you best run ‘long.”
As soon as Pete tore his gaze away from Matt, Matt grabbed the Jack Daniels bottle from his hands, quickly spun the cap off and took a deep swig from the bottle, wiping his mouth with his sleeve afterward.
“Any a ya care to take me on?” Matt tossed the bottle over to Colin who jumbled it and screamed as the bottle shattered on the hard pan under his feet.
“Relax the bottle was empty.” Matt said smiling over at Colin who was still looking wild eyed at the ground where the bottle had broken.
“You drank the rest of it? There was still a quarter bottle left!” The boys, as most boys, were prone to hyperbole.
“Relax Colin, you dad’ll give us more later. Now, who’s on for a little one on one?” Matt held up his fists for emphasis. Matt loved to box. After school he would get any match he could. There was a rumor going around school that he fought a prison guard…and won. Behind his back the others called him psycho.
Tom was the only one that would ever fight Matt. It wasn’t that he was the only one that was big enough; it was that the other two were too scared. Colin fought Matt once and after some big talk was knocked flat on the first punch. Pete tried to fight Matt once, but Matt punched him in the stomach and Pete ran away screaming. That was where Colin got the nickname from; he said Pete looked like a tick running away from a flame. That and that he was small and annoying.
“Sure, I’ll take you. You’ve drunk enough I ought to be able to take you down.” Tom said shrugging.
“It’s on. Hey Pete, you wanna get the gloves?” Matt was the only one who called him Pete. The rest of them called him Tick.
“Yeah, hold on, I’ll get ‘em.”
“You ready to go down big man.” Matt said taking his boxer’s stance and dancing around Tom.
“Oh, the little man scared he gonna get hurt, he’s gotta pump up his ego.” Tom spouted, flexing his arms and taunting Matt.
Pete came running back with the boxing gloves in his hands, trying to keep his balance but failing and crashed down to the ground once again.
“Hey Tick he told you to watch out for the snipers.” Colin laughed.
Matt, ignoring Colin’s banter, picked up the gloves and put one on. “Minute rounds? That to long for you?” Matt gave Tom a sly smile.
“Anything you can handle bean pole. Bring it on.” Tom reached down and took up his gloves.
“So what do you want to do after Matt beats you Tom? Run off to be consoled by Palmela Handerson?” Colin made a masturbation motion as he said it.
“Best sex I ever had.” Tom said getting the second glove on.
“Alright, you gonna time us Pete?” Matt asked punching his gloves together.
“Sure, how long you guys gonna go for?”
Tom stopped dead in his tracks and looked over at Carl.
“Dumbass, didn’t you just hear him say minute a round.”
“Well, yeah, but I wasn’t sure if that’s what you guys were going for or…”
“Minute is good Pete, just time us.” Matt said.
“Ding, ding.” Tom said pulling his fists up.
The fight was short. Matt kept his right arm back, slowly cocking it as he jabbed Tom with his left. Tom kept his arms up, determined to win the fight and only jabbed when he got the chance. Then Matt made his move. He dropped his left hand to his side, as if tired and Tom, seeing his opening, swung his right fist wildly trying to gain momentum in a roundhouse aimed at Matt’s head. He never got there, Matt’s cocked right hand descended and smashed Tom right above his nose, knocking him backward into the slow moving creek.
When Matt finally pulled Tom out of the river, Colin was still laughing and Pete was still gaping in awe.
“Jesus, man. That was strong. Fuck.” Tom shook his head briefly. “Fuck!”
“You always fall for my tricks. I figure one of these days you’ll figure it out.” Matt said smiling down at Tom.
“So you gonna go wack off then?” Colin wheezed struggling for breath through his laughing.
Tom didn’t respond, just took off a dripping glove, and flipped him off.
“Hey you guys want to go do something?” Pete said abruptly and surprised them all. He’d dropped his gaze and was looking at his shoes, perturbed. “I know this place.” He slowly looked up with a worried look on his face.
They pulled up to the building at about a quarter after two in the morning. It was an old mission hospital, previously used as a mental ward for the State. The building was now condemned and awaiting demolition crews to arrive. Tom drove up in his truck and parked three blocks away.
“So this is it Tick?” Tom asked looking back to the crumpled figure shoved behind the seats. Pete cocked his head so he could see around the seats and above the dashboard. He slowly nodded his head.
“Yeah, that’s it. Hey listen; maybe this is a bad idea. I mean what if the thing falls down when we’re in there?”
“Don’t be such a pussy Tick.” Colin said shaking his head.
Tom opened the door and stepped out of the truck, turning to see Matt jump out of the bed.
“You cats ready to go?” Tom said smiling, his eyes floating from the alcohol.
Matt and Colin answered by walking toward the building; Pete was still trying to climb out of the back.
“Hey guys wait up! Hold on, don’t leave me back here, come on.”
Matt turned around and grabbed Pete’s arms pulled him out of the truck and threw him over his right shoulder. “You ready to go? This ain’t gonna be a walk in the park.” He said it with jest in his voice; as if he was expecting trouble.
“I guess, I just…” Pete drifted off.
“Hey, if you wanna stay back and take watch duty, that’s fine Pete.”
“No, I have to go in. We better get going; they’re going to get there before us.” Pete said motioning to Tom and Colin.
Matt put Pete down and watched him run to the other two, shaking his head he sauntered after them.
As Matt approached he could see fear in the other’s eyes, and knew he’d have to walk them in or they would never actually go. They would talk about how they thought the place was lame and how they didn’t really need to go in there, that the place was deserted anyway. Matt knew the truth…it was a terrifying edifice. It didn’t matter that no one thought of the place as haunted, when he stood there and saw it in person at almost three in the morning, he knew the truth.
The building was menacing.
He knew what the others were feeling, because he felt a little of that fear himself – though he was loath to mention it. He knew the other three looked up to him. He knew they would follow him and despite the fact that he really didn’t care about going in, he knew it would be a story that would impress on Monday during free period.
“Well then, did we come here to wait outside?” Matt questioned the building and let the question hang in the air. They all turned and looked at him wide eyed. This was one of the biggest reasons why they loved Matt; he took them beyond their means. He brought excitement into their lives.
He was taking them in.
Matt walked forward, grabbed the handle on the door and quickly pulled it open.
“Shall we?” Matt said walking in, never looking back.
“So why did you bring us here Tick?” Colin asked his voice shaking with fear as he looked straight ahead and slowly walked into the entryway. “I mean was there a specific reason you wanted to come here, or was this just some place you jack off.” It was supposed to be funny, but Colin’s voice wavered.
“I just thought it might be cool to come in here, you know, hang out? It might be cool. Might be better than under the bridge smelling the crap float by us.”
“Say it man,” Tom said looking ahead the same way Colin was, trying to include some humor into his inflection but failing. “Shit, just say it man. Watching the shit float by us. Shit! It’s easy see? You need to get over your goddamned swearing fear.”
Matt continued up ahead, walking down the dimly lit hallway slowly looking back and forth between the walls, inspecting them. He knew Pete’s reason for coming in here was to show he wasn’t afraid. He wanted to show his friends that nothing could scare him, maybe get a little respect. Matt thought it commendable, but there was something about this place and he knew Pete wouldn’t be able to handle it. There was just something in there, something that compelled Matt to keep moving forward, as if he were meant to go in there.
The other three followed leaving the door open as they entered, relishing the extra light flowing in from the streetlamps. They saw Matt walk in and turn the corner. They heard the empty echo of his footsteps and for a second, nothing, but then, just when the boys were wondering what Matt was up to a bloodcurdling scream permeated the air. Tom gave Colin a worried look then looked back at Pete.
“You think he was serious?” Tom could barely get the words out of his throat, it came out as a squeak.
The answer came from down the hall. Matt screamed again, but this time angrily. Tom broke into a run, tearing down the hall, dreading the corner just yards in front of him, knowing he was going to see something that he didn’t want. Knowing Matt was in trouble.
He looked back right before the corner and saw Colin and Pete waiting back at the door. He couldn’t believe they would just stand back there and wait to see what happened to their friend. Tom gave a wave, indicating them to follow him, then plunged around the corner.
At first he didn’t see anything, only dark, but he could tell in the dim light that there were dark stains on the walls. Ahead of him was another hallway with numerous doors on either side spanning what seemed like hundred of yards, to a window. The only illumination seemed to come from the blue moonlight flooding in that window.
“Matt? Hey man, you down here?” The statement floated out before him in the murky blue light, with only silence as an answer.
“Tom you see him?” Colin called from behind him.
“You want to come down here and check fag?” Tom spat back under his breath as he tried to stem his anger toward the loneliness of that dark hallway.
Tom took a few more steps into the hallway, trying to focus his eyes in the dim light. He squinted and felt a shudder run through his body. The dark splotches on the walls. He understood what they were…blood. They were everywhere. That can’t be from the hospital, Tom thought, but he didn’t want to imagine what that thought really meant.
There was an open door halfway down the hall.
“Matt! Matt, you down there?” He understood the absurdity of the statement, but he couldn’t give up the hope that Matt would jump out and let the joke end. He got no answer.
Tom moved to the open door and leaned up against the wall and craning his neck to see into the room straining to bring the room into focus. Then he heard shuffling from the other side of the hallway. He snapped his head around and saw a figure walking slowly towards him. It was a small figure but in the shadows he couldn’t see any features, but then it raised a hand and beckoned for him to approach. Tom shut his eyes and leaned up against the door jam of the room, terror freezing him in place. He stood there willing the figure away when a hand wrapped around his mouth and another wrapped around his stomach and before he could fight against it he was dragged into the room.
Pete slowly moved into the hallway. He thought the figure down the hallway was Tom, but he couldn’t really tell, the light was just too dim. He tried to wave to him, hoping that Tom would recognize that it was Pete coming to help. It was Pete and not Colin. Colin had turned around and ran when they were standing outside. Without a word; he just turned and ran the other direction. Pete knew the only thing that he could do was to go into the hallway and see what was wrong. He couldn’t just stand outside and wait to see could he? His bladder pressed against him as he walked further into the hallway, freezing him in place. He took a deep breath and tired to forget his fear. Colin was the one who ran. Colin was the one who was scared. Besides they were probably just trying to scare him. Somehow they came up with a plan on the way here and were tricking him. The figure quickly turned and disappeared into the room and Pete’s bladder released.
Matt lay on the ground next to the girl. The knife wound in his side burned him ferociously. He could see the little girl was still alive and that was a good sign, but he didn’t know what to do. He had screamed as soon as he saw the man on top of the girl. The man got up and zipped up his pants as he did so. Matt screamed the second time. He had never known himself to be so angry with anyone. Especially because he didn’t know exactly what was going on. He just saw the girl lying still and the man grunting and moving. Only one thought came to mind. Matt raged and charged the man. He knew it was a mistake, he couldn’t even see his adversary very well and he knew to never let his anger take control, but it had. He charged at the man and threw a punch, not seeing the blade in the other’s hand. The blade flashed a dull blue light and in an instant it was hilt deep in Matt’s side. Instantly he fell. He heard the man cough slightly and suck saliva back into his mouth. Matt looked at the girl, trying to gather his thoughts, knowing that his friends were in trouble, knowing that this girl was hurt. This small, innocent girl.
Tom was twirled around by the strong hands and felt something very hot thrust into his stomach making his legs go weak. He looked up into the man’s face and saw dark eyes, unshaven face and rotten teeth. His breath smelled like a sewer.
“You here to join yo’ frien, ma’ facka” The man hissed into Toms face with a heavy drawl.
Tom could do nothing but groan. His legs started to give out and his stomach blossomed in pain. He felt the blade inside of him, wiggling around, sending searing pain every time it moved.
Tom looked away from the man and saw Matt lying on the floor next to a girl on the ground and his legs finally gave out. He felt himself falling to the floor. He felt the knife slide out of his body, slowly expanding the wound with its serrated edge.
Tom’s knees hit the floor and the man cackled from above him, then turned back to the girl lying on the ground.
Tom let out a wheeze and raised his arm, unsure of his own intentions, just hoping help would come from somewhere. The man noticed Tom raising his arm and without turning he mule kicked him Tom the face. Tom fell backward watching the room spin, wondering why he agreed to come here.
Matt watched as the man pulled Tom into the room and fresh anger flushed back into his veins making his blood flow faster and making his wound ooze with renewed vigor, but despite the free flow of blood he felt his mind clear. He watched the man stab Tom then turn and kick him. The man turned to look at Matt then he unzipped his fly and took his pants back down, looking straight at Matt while he slowly masturbated and got down on his knees in front of the girl.
Matt fought back the anger and waited for the man to stop looking at him.
“Tom? Matt? Are you guys down here?” Pete said in a meek voice from down the hall.
The man turned around and bared his teeth like a feral animal letting out a grunt of disgust at the voice. Matt took his opportunity. He quickly rolled to his back, and kicked both legs out putting all the force he could behind them, trying to make contact with the man’s testicles.
Matt extended his legs with as much force as he could muster ignoring the flaring pain that blossomed in his side. Unfortunately the man moved at exactly the right moment. Instead of connecting with the man’s disfigured testicles, Matt hit his right thigh sending the man off balance and making him fall backwards onto Tom.
Matt staggered to his feet as quickly as he could, trying to beat the man to his feet, but when Matt finally got standing he noticed that the man was already up, ready, with knife in hand.
“We got’s a fighta, huh?” The man hissed.
“Bring it on fucker.”
Matt took his boxing stance, with his left arm forward, throwing a few exploratory jabs at the man. With every jab the man attempted to slash Matt’s wrist. Pete entered the doorway and squealed when he saw what was happening in the room; a stranger with no pants on, holding a knife, fighting with Matt.
Matt kept jabbing at the man taking the slashes to his arm, ignoring the flashing pain, but with each jab his raised right fist cocked back even further.
“You likin this, pretty?” The man said smiling showing his rotten teeth.
Pete stood in the doorway amazed at the sight when he felt something pull on his pissed soaked pants. Carl looked down at Tom, blood running from his nose and a glazed look in his eyes.
“Get help.” Tom whispered before he fell back down to the ground.
Matt jabbed the man one last time, comfortable with the power he’d generated with his right arm, and then dropped his left arm letting the man into his open chest. The man lunged with the knife at the same time Matt his sledgehammer of a right arm. They made contact at the same time, the knife gently sliding into Matt’s chest, while Matt crushed the man’s nose spraying a fine mist of blood in a halo around the man’s head. The man fell backward in conjunction with Matt.
Pete watched the two fighters fall then he ran off, terrified of the knife sticking out of Matt’s chest and the glazed look in his eyes.
Matt lurched on the ground, listening to the rapist’s growls of anger. Pain flared in his lungs, and when he looked down he saw the cause. The six inch Gerber blade was still sticking out of his chest. Matt slowly reached for the knife, while turning his head towards Tom.
Tom reacted to the man falling by trying to roll on top of him, laying the rapist out with punches. Matt watching in pride as Tom valiantly pinned the man down and raised his fists in fury.
“You’re gonna die, fucker!” Matt could see the fire blazing in Tom’s eyes and realized they weren’t going to make it. The rapist, somehow, already had another knife in his hand.
Tom swung his right fist down and the knife came up to meet his neck. Surprise blossomed in Tom’s eyes and his limbs went limp. The rapist threw him off, ripping the knife out in the process, a fountain of blood pouring from his neck.
“Na, pretty, time fur you. Not niiice to enteerupt whilst one’s fuckin.’”
The rapist began to rub his penis, his hands wet with blood. Then he got down on his knees and crawled toward Matt, the knife clutched in his free hand.
Matt said nothing waiting for his opportunity. He knew he would only get one. He closed his eyes and waited.
A hand on his foot. Knife slowly scraping the skin.
Up to his thigh. Matt twitches his arm.
The hand grabs his belt and Matt erupts into a flurry. He whips his hand to his chest and rips the knife out, screaming and coughing blood while doing so. The rapist smiled, relishing in witness to Matt’s pain, until Matt kicks hard and upward into the rapists genitals.
“Fookin’ Aghhh, Fook!” He grabs his testicals and falls to his side, while Matt swings the knife up hard straight to his temple. A wet scraping sound echoes in the room, to Matt it sounded like a butcher preparing a steak, and immediately Matt felt sick.
The only sound the man made was a clicking in his throat. Then he fell, the death rattle continuing as he hit the ground.
Matt looked at the fading light in Tom’s eyes and smiled, intently listening for the wail of sirens.
Tom smiled back and in the hazy malaise of his memory he thought of all the times he had spent with Matt and Pete and Colin. All the time they joked about sex and girls and fighting. All the boasts and lies about their prowess. None of it was wasted. It was all meant for here and now. They had done something grand together, the four of them. The ones who got into trouble for being drunk at school. The ones who snuck liquor and pills from their parents. They stopped this man. They were heroes.
In his last moment Tom felt pride in being Matt’s friend and pride in his actions. Pride in wandering through the teenage wasteland and coming out a man on the other side.