NOTHING CAPTURED HIS ATTENTION. IT wasn’t as if he wasn’t looking for anything specific or that he didn’t care about anything, but everything became like white noise. Looking down, he spotted a couple squashed beer cans, which had resulted from the constant compression of car tires repeatedly running over them. Now they lay in the gutter unnoticed—as discarded litter. Out of boredom, he kicked the aluminum pancakes with his worn out running shoes. The compressed disks clattered a ways before landing back in a different part of the same gutter, just as his life.
Roger Case was in one of those moods where everything seemed futile. It was a time when his temperament plummeted; he entertained the spirit of defeat, which was becoming more common these days. His concentration slipped farther into the dwindling mindset of drugs and crime to the point of mania. Rationalizing his motives, he preferred to enact self-medication.
He needed something strong to take away his thoughts of negativity. The repetitive movements of his hands and arms worsened. He wanted anything that would take away his fears, his depression, and his unrelenting obsession for the next quick fix. Roger knew that even when he felt the most empowering high that there was a high price to pay—and it was predictable and inevitable—the hard, downward crash.
Roger hadn’t always been teetering on that slippery slope, dangling over the life of crime; in fact, he still remembered when things were normal and even mundane. He grew up in a typical middle class family with his mom and dad, along with his older brother and sister. Reflecting on those memories now, he would trade just about anything to have those times back.
Now he waited with anticipation for his contact. It was going to make everything better—at least for a while. He convinced himself that just a little bit of crystal meth would help him get back on track—to see things clearly again. It wasn’t as if he was a full-blown addict, he just needed something to help motivate and push him in the right direction.
He heard a hollow scraping noise and stopped to listen. Standing quietly, still straining to hear, but that sound never repeated. He looked around. Curious. The sound seemed to resonate in his head instead of around the street. Upon further inspection, he realized it came from inside the cement structure.
The old water treatment plant had been decommissioned by the county some time ago, now outdated, and was nothing more than an eyesore gathering the grime and deteriorating aspects of time gone by. Something loomed in Roger’s vision and waited in darkness—he strained his eyes looking into the long structure that seemed to lead to nowhere.
Maybe his connection made a change of plans and the meeting place was at the cement sinew, and out of sight from any onlookers, or cops happening by on their route. It was possible. At this point in Roger’s life, anything was possible.
Roger contemplated his options for a moment and then decided to check it out. He turned toward the water treatment plant and headed inside. The first thing he noticed was the temperature difference—cold and damp compared to the warmer street areas.
He slowed his pace, unsure if he should call out or announce his presence. Fidgeting nonstop with his hands, pressing his fingers tighter and then releasing them, Roger moved farther into the tunnel.
A shuffling sound came from the other end.
“Hello?” he finally said, his voice weak and tinny which made him unconsciously twitch.
A muffled dragging sound was the responded answer. It resonated from the back-left area.
“Hey, I don’t have time for this… you either want the money or not.” He tried to sound tough but his nerves were frayed. It wasn’t something he was used to feeling. In fact, Roger couldn’t remember the last time he felt scared, frustrated, angry or anxious.
The damp cement tunnel seemed to pull him closer to the heart of it—into the bowels of no return. Instead of turning around and leaving, Roger slowly moved deeper into the cavern. It was as if someone or something else had control over his body. His insatiable curiosity had put him in troubling situations throughout his life. It contributed to him getting into deep trouble with a growing rap sheet to prove it.
Most memories had a calming effect on Roger, which had initiated his fidgeting to cease and his hesitation to subside. He didn’t understand many people’s fears and phobias, most things were just benign and didn’t amount to anything remotely scary or debilitating.
There it was again—a dragging sound followed by what he thought were hushed whispers.
He would smack a kid if they jumped out at him or gave him any crap. Most likely, they were tagging gang symbols and looking to get into trouble.
There was the distinct sound of two people whispering to each other.
Roger tried to sharpen his vision but the darkness played tricks on him with weird shadow figure apparitions. He blinked his eyes quickly trying to concentrate on the area and where the kids were hiding; his eyes began to water from the extreme effort. Wiping away the aggravated tears, Roger felt his surroundings close in tightly around him as his perception changed. The darkness seemed to give a strange rippled effect.
The voices became louder. There was nothing sinister about the voices, but they were speaking faster with more of an urgent tone.
“Hey, you little maggots, I know you’re here,” stated Roger.
He stopped and stood still.
The darkness still loomed around him, but there was a quietness that overcame him.
A brief hundredth of a second, a peculiar whizzing noise filled Roger’s ears and then a brutal blow struck his head and knocked him off his feet. With a ringing in his head and a groggy consciousness, he tried to sit up but more savage blows pummeled his body. It sounded as if a tree splintered just before it fell in the forest. His breath caught in his lungs. Everything went dark.
The anonymous whispers stopped.
All buzzing in his ears stopped.
Roger Case’s heart stopped too.