True Slayers: A Boy’s Tale, Part 11

Since the feeling hit again I’d been moving fast, faster than I’d have thought I could. But the instant I hit that doorway, I was moving faster than I should have been able to. I knew it but it didn’t matter to me. I had work to do.

That’s kind of weird, too. I’m the oldest of nine and I grew up in a part of New York where you learn to fight if you like to keep living, but I am far from an expert. Sure, I’ve defended siblings and been in more than my fair share of my own fights but I also lost more than I’d like to admit. Honestly, I would normally talk my way out of most fights – fewer bruises the next day, as Poppa would say, and I’d never so much as taken beginner karate. Batman, I’m not. I knew I was being stupid – five to one does not bode well for my continued good health – yet I wasn’t running in to get myself killed – I had every intention of winning this thing.

It’s hard to describe what happened next. Everything should have been a blur but instead it was crystal clear, in perfect focus. I was moving inhumanely fast but it was like time had slowed to a crawl. I noticed everything I needed to and ignored everything unimportant. Each position, what each banger was doing, the way the dogs were drooling, I saw it like I was examining a photo, not running into a hopeless fight.

The angle iron was in my left hand and the little arrows in my right. It wasn’t accidental – I meant to do that but I couldn’t have told you why. The angle iron was obvious enough – to get those guys off Chester I was probably gonna have to get past a few of the others. The arrows? They were for the dogs and yes, it sounded stupid to a part of my brain then, too. But the part in charge at the moment knew exactly what it was doing and those arrows were going to be put to good use.

I expected someone or at least a dog or two to get in my way but none did. Suited me just fine as I slammed the angle iron into the side of the guy I reached first. Still moving, I whirled around and brought the angle iron crashing into the second guy’s jaw. That sent them both flying in opposite directions, exactly as I’d planned.

I glanced at the others who were finally getting into the act. Again, it was like time stood still even though we were in fact moving insanely fast. I tossed the angle iron skyward and grabbed some rusted rebar out of the dumpster – I’d noticed it when I first looked out the door. I threw the whole bundle out into the parking lot. It scattered like pick up sticks but that was what I wanted. I noted the position of each bar as I caught the angle iron and brought it down on the head of the first guy to reach me.

There was a bunch of scrap wood sticks further in the dumpster. I bashed the next guy as I reached for them. I grabbed the bottom one and used it to force the rest out of the dumpster and onto the ground. Without letting go of my arrows, I smashed the remaining stick into the dumpster wall to break it. The third guy slid to a stop and back pedaled fast, eyeing the broken stick in my hand.

The first dog made its move, It leapt high enough for me to be looking it in the eye. I rammed the stick and both arrows into its throat as the huge paws hit my chest. I knew instantly it was dead. The momentum pushed me back into the dumpster but I just rolled on in and came back out the top. I lost the stick but still had the arrows. Insanely, I grinned as I jumped out of the dumpster and onto the back of the next dog. The arrows found its throat and it crumpled into a lifeless heap.

I grabbed the collection of sticks and tossed them around just as I had the rebar. Now it was my turn. I charged after the nearest guy, dropping the angle iron and snatching up another stick instead. He literally jumped over me. I slid to a stop and threw the stick like a knife. It caught in his jacket but didn’t have enough heft to go through all the way. Nevertheless, the guy jerked the jacket off like it was on fire.

The next guy decided to team up with one of the dogs. Dog to the left and him on the right. I took off, diving between them. I snatched up a rebar and put it through the guy’s leg. Without thinking, I threw myself into a one handed cart wheel, and came around with the arrows. The dog dodged just barely. It stopped growling and started to whine as it dashed away from me. I ignored it, grabbing another stick and scanning for my next target.

The first guy I’d hit was back on his feet and had evidently had enough. He whistled and ran. The two guys still up and the remaining two dogs ran after him. I took a step to chase them when Chester groaned.

I watched one guy stumble as he hit the loose rebar and the other limping from his wound. It would have been so easy to catch them but I stopped. Chester needed help and whatever those guys were, they were no longer my top priority. A siren blared in the distance, reaffirming that decision. The cops shouldn’t have trouble finding a bunch of idiots that didn’t even get the gang colors right – presuming real bangers didn’t get them first. I waited for the last one to disappear from sight then finally knelt to check on Chester.

He was in a bad way. At least two ribs busted – don’t ask me how I knew because I don’t have the slightest idea – I just knew. I was examining his head when I noticed the worst smell. It was like someone had just opened a crypt. I looked around to see the guy who’s head I’d bashed up and walking away, none too quickly. The other guy was crawling off. Neither made a sound despite the obviously grave injuries.

I was deciding if I needed, or cared, to do anything about that when I realized the bodies of the dogs were bloating – they were rotting at an incredible rate.

Once again, everything came into sharp focus. The guy with the head wound was bleeding – but the blood was so dark that it looked black. The other guy had a rib sticking out but no blood came from the wound. He was beginning to bloat just like the dogs.

What the … What were these things?

I acted. There was no decision, just movement. I dropped the arrows and grabbed a piece of the wood. I snapped it in two like a tooth pick and flew after them. No rage, no anger – I had to finish my job. It was a simple as that. The head wound began to run. I slowed just long enough to ram one half of the stick into the other one’s heart. It was dead instantly, I knew, even if I wasn’t interested. A second later, I caught the other one. It turned toward me, screaming in terror like nothing I’d ever heard before. I drove the stick into its heart and turned back without even bothering to watch it crumple to the ground in death.

Trotting back to Chester, another thought occurred to me. What the heck did I just do?

I had fetched a blanket and pillow for Chester and had gotten him into a position better for his breathing by the time the cops finally got there. There was nothing left of the dogs or the two ‘bangers’ by then but dust. The official version would be that the bangers ran off when they realized the cops would be coming. The cops never would have believed the truth. I wasn’t sure I did.

As I knelt by Chester, wondering when the heck the cops would finally get here, another question hit me hard. What am I?

 

 

True Slayers: A Boy’s Tale, Part 10

I woke up before the alarm went off the next morning. Despite my midnight jaunt, I felt fine – good, even. Weird because I usually drag if I don’t get my full eight.

Figuring that there was probably a pile waiting for me at work, I got up and started the day. Once squeaky clean and well groomed, I jogged into the kitchen and tossed a pastry into the toaster. While it warmed, I pulled my sack lunch out of the fridge. Momma had made her chicken salad Sunday so she had popped a couple chicken salad sandwiches into the bag.

My Momma has made my lunch since I was in grammar school. Just because I moved across the hall was no reason for her to stop – at least in her opinion. I gave up trying to fight it long ago. If she knows I’m working she’s gonna put a sack lunch in my fridge. Nothing shy of changing the lock would stop her and I’m not sure that would do it. I know it’s not an extra effort – she has eight other kids to make lunches for, after all – but for a long time I felt like I was being a burden. Then I realized she did it because she wanted to and got over the whole thing.

The toaster poked up my breakfast finally. I looked out the window toward the fire escape as it cooled enough to eat. I wasn’t sure what to make of the night before. After a moment I decided I didn’t have time to think about it now and grabbed my breakfast from the toaster. I downed it in a couple bites as I headed out the door.

I work as a welder at Gordon’s Welding which is just off 15th street. It’s a short walk to the bus stop and a short ride to the shop so I was there by seven. I’ve worked at Gordon’s on and off since high school. I fell in love with welding in shop class and managed to cajole Mr Salvador into letting me work odd jobs around the shop back then. Eventually I worked up to doing preliminary work for the welders and finally to welding. I have my basic certification and am working on becoming a commercial welder. Working at Gordons these three years has made a big difference – at the risk of sounding smug, I’m a better welder than most of the guys my age with the same level of training.

I’ve had a key to the place since I became an actual welder so I let myself in. Bernie greeted me with a wag – for him, that’s enthusiasm. Bernie is an ancient German Shepherd Mr Salvador keeps at the place as a guard dog. I suspect the old boy would just wag at a burglar and go back to his pallet just as he did for me. Grinning, I trotted into the break room and shoved my lunch into the fridge. I went to my locker and changed into my work clothes. A few minutes later, I went into the shop and headed for my station.

The only thing on my table was a wrought iron gate I’d been working on the last time I was at work. I looked at my box but there were no work orders. I smiled, realizing the guys had taken my load while I was out.

The gate was done when Mr Salvador walked in at 7:55. Mr. Salvador had bought the place twenty years ago from Mr McCall who had bought it from Mr Schmidt. The best anyone can figure, Mr Gordon was two owners ahead of Mr Schmidt. None of the owners had changed the name over the years since everyone they did business with already knew it as ‘Gordons’.

Mr. Salvador came over to my station as I put the gate into the finished bin. "Jack, my boy, why so early?"

I grinned, "I figured I’d get an early start on the huge backlog here…"

He smiled, "I told them leave all the work for you. See? I was right. You come back and get it all done before time to start!"

He patted me on the back and headed for the office. Guys were filing in and the work day began in earnest.

There was a lot of explaining to do during break as I filled the guys in on my absence. I didn’t fill them in on the new red head in town – no way was I going to risk competition in that field!

I ate alone at lunch. The guys had tried to talk me into joining them at Guido’s down the street but I had my lunch and I like Momma’s chicken salad. It was the same most days so I actually enjoyed the normalcy. Sometimes I would tell Momma the night before that I planned to go with the guys so she wouldn’t fix lunch for me but only rarely. I like my Momma’s cooking and I enjoy a few minutes of rare solitude in my family filled life.

Bernie was standing by the break room door as I came out. Weird, he rarely comes out of the office during the day.

I scratched his ears, "What’s with you, fella?"

He was tense and kept looking around. Really weird now – he usually just lays on his pallet like a lump and even when he’s up, he’s never tense. Having never had my own dog I’m hardly an expert but this didn’t seem right.

Thinking he might need to go out, I grabbed his leash and took him out to the back lot. He kept looking around but otherwise acted okay. He finally decided to do his business and we wen’t back in. Mr. Salvador was already back from lunch and I told him Bernie seemed tense.

He watched the dog for a minute and decided to lock him in the back office until he settled down. Bernie actually stopped moving as we got to the door. For a second he looked around at the shop door and bared his teeth. Then he dutifully walked into the office and Mr. Salvador shut the door.

"He no like that." Mr. Salvador commented.

I nodded. That was the first time I’d ever seen Bernie show his teeth like that. Weird.

I’d finished the few small projects Mr Salvador had had for me that morning so I got started on a new one. It was a simple repair to a broken couch frame but of course, the frame was huge and I had to wrestle it out of the in bin and over to my table. I had just convinced the stupid thing to quit warping as I tried to clamp it to the table when I felt something down my spine. I shot a quick look at the outside shop doors but nothing was there.

I was beginning to question my sanity. I’d have sworn something was there. Not that shadow thing, this felt different, but something. I went back to clamping the frame down. The feeling didn’t stop, it got stronger.

I kept looking at the door. In the back office Bernie had begun to growl. Maybe it was a coincidence but I wasn’t inclined to believe in coincidence at the moment. I took another look at the outer doors and headed to Mr Salvador’s office. I might be crazy but what were the chances Bernie and I both went insane on the same day.

None of the other guys were back yet. That was normal; Mr Salvador took lunch earlier than we did and I’m a fast eater. But Mr. Salvador wasn’t in his office where he’d normally be.

Marta, our secretary, said hi as she walked in the lobby. I nodded at her absently.

"You sick?" she asked, probably because i was at the boss’s door.

"No, no, I was looking for Mr. Salvador. He was just here."

She smiled, "He go to the bank today. Big meeting, he say. I see him leave just a minute ago. You might can catch…"

I shook my head. The feeling was leaving and Bernie was no longer growling. I was starting to feel silly. "No, I’ll catch up with him later. Thanks, Marta."

She smiled as I waved and went back to my table.

I wasn’t there five minutes when the feeling hit me again, this time like a ton of bricks. A split second later, Bernie was barking his head off and Chester, the shop foreman, was screaming in anger from the parking lot outside the outer doors to the shop.

I couldn’t see him until I got closer to the door. He was backed up against the dumpster and was surrounded by what looked like gang bangers. Wrong colors and I didn’t recognize any faces, but more than that, they looked fake to me – like they were not only not gang members, they didn’t even seem human to me.

I couldn’t have given a reason why – they just didn’t look like humans. As I got to Vinnie’s station, I saw the dogs. Huge, shaggy and mostly teeth, even the dogs didn’t look right. I counted four and ran to Marta’s window. Marta’s office has a window that opens to the shop. I banged on it and yelled for her to call 911.

Turning, I passed Gino’s station. Gino does fine metalwork – decorative stuff and often, plated stuff. He had a couple silver arrows for a finial he was working on. Don’t ask me why but I grabbed both. Little silver bars when I had a bin of rebar a couple steps away, but that was what I grabbed. Still not thinking, I snatched up a three foot section of angle iron as I rounded the corner to go out the outer doors.

The situation was worse. Chester was on the ground with two guys kicking him. I counted five guys and four dogs instinctively. I knew full well I was about to commit suicide but it didn’t matter. I’d lost Mr J, I wasn’t gonna lose Chester, too.