Welcome again for another free preview of New Middleport: The Senses of Weiland Kershaw. This is the fourth chapter and you can catch up by checking out the first three chapters in my previous blog posts.
Chapter 4 (Ruling Forces)
Inna throws the scissors down toward the girl’s feet so quickly that she jumps back and an enforcer has to grab her before she falls from the stage. The twisted smile comes with a hearty laugh from the death show ruler as she must have gotten the answer she was looking for. There’s such satisfaction with what she has done that I know it’s one of the few times Jay and I ever question a good laugh.
“Someone must claim this man now that this one has ended his display.” There is a bellowing from the crowd, but no one comes forward to the wooden steps of the stage to accept responsibility. Normally, anyone that is claimed is too far gone to survive, but the rulers do not want to waste hospital space so they want the citizens to keep the soon dead until they can be tossed in a designated alley for trash disposal.
Inna feigns surprise to the lack of support for the bleeding mess on the already stained deck of the stage. She reaches to her holster to snap loose her pistol. It’s not often that you see a gun, especially since the current rulers have banned all firearms to those not deemed responsible. I have only seen guns a few times in my life and the majority of the time they were within a ruler’s reach.
I do not question Jay’s motives when he mouths “Jay Leads” and starts walking toward the stage. I look to Cole to signal pursuit as we follow Jay’s lead toward the stairs. The sudden movement gathers notice from everyone, and even I must admit that I do not appreciate the attention particularly from a ruler. “I see that a few men are willing to take this man in until he bleeds out or infection takes him. Here, for your duty to New Middleport.”
Inna notions for some enforcers to throw a sack down to the ground once we’ve gotten to the foot of the steps. It falls with a clank and I already know that there are canned vegetables inside, and possibly some bread. “And don’t forget why you came for your food.” The enforcers don’t need any motivation to pick up the Lawson kid and heave him down the steps. He’s airborne halfway down the steps until he makes contact and rolls to the bottom. At least the fall knocked him unconscious.
The display is over and the enforcers are binding up the girl to take with them, while others break down the stage. Why do all of that to take a little girl? Jay and Cole are already helping Lawson up before I can think about it anymore. “Where to Jay?” is the only thing Cole gets out before I realize what he had in mind. Jay glances at me and I realize that there’s no time to debate if we’re going to save his life. It’s forbidden to take a display to a hospital unless you want to be put on display yourself, so I answer for Jay, “I guess we’ll all find out together.”
We head back toward building 1013 in Lockport. It’s one of the only times I’ve ever heard Jay confused in my life, “Why are we going back to your apartment?” I give a tired smile to Jay and Cole as they both stare at each other for a second as they hold a near lifeless body. I’ve told Jay everything about me, with the exception of one thing. “Let’s go,” is all I say as I hold the door to the building open.
We all walk down the main hallway toward the elevator. The main hallway has nothing but condemned apartments, an elevator that stopped working before I was born, and another hallway. The other three keep going around the right corner down to the end of that hallway that has a side stairwell before they realize I’m not following them. At least one of them has a good excuse not to notice my absence. There is a pause as I can tell they’re waiting for me to open the stairwell door when I notice the shuffle of feet to turn and notice I’m not there. There’s another pause and then a quick scurrying down the hallway back toward the elevator. They turn the corner to find me leaning up against a wall with, I can only imagine to them is, a wicked smile. I must admit that it’s almost unbearable to contain my laughter.
It has become a rule with us not to talk within open spaces of a building. Hallways in particular have a nice way of echoing noise to those that may be near enough to be listening, which is why I hold a finger to my smiling lips to make sure they don’t go berserk with questions of “What the hell are you doing?”
I’m three quarters of the way down the hallway in front of a condemned apartment. This apartment, like all that are labeled condemned, is boarded up with so many boards that you can’t see any part of the door.
“Why are all of the doors boarded up dad?”
“That’s a very important question son. Do you think you’re old enough for the answer?”
My dad holds a finger to his smiling lips as he laughs at my youthful exuberance. I can already tell that he questions telling a seven year old the information he’s about to tell me, but he whispers it to me just the same.
“Weiland, you need to understand that the world we live in is not the way a human being should be living. We’re not meant to be walking around afraid for our lives.”
“But I’ve never seen you afraid.”
“That’s because everything I do is to make sure you are safe. Now I will continue if you don’t interrupt, because I can only risk telling you this one time.” My only recognition is an encouraging nod, so he knows that I will be nothing less than attentive.
“The rulers do not care about the citizens of Port. They have only two interests; power and doing whatever it takes to keep it.” He tells me about the previous ruler when he was a teenager, and how everything was different. They used to have non-processed meat, real vegetables that don’t come from a can, showers that don’t automatically turn off, and amazingly no displays. There was a time when people could feel safe, and not only in their homes, but walking down the street.
“I used to walk down the street with your grandfather to the local market to buy food for dinner. Food wasn’t handed out as wage for working or for turning in a suspected rebel. No, everything was very different. People were free to speak and laugh loudly, play music and dance, walk a pretty lady to her door after going for a long walk in the country.”
My eyes grow in sudden fear of what was being said. “Yes Weiland, we were allowed to leave the city as we pleased.” The very thought of leaving the city just wasn’t within my comprehension at such a young age. I knew from the age of three not to go beyond any pylons that surrounded the city. A bright red glow comes from the pylon tops throughout the day, but is most distinguishable during any evening hour.
Dad continued by telling me the rulers had these pylons installed as their first act of “civil ordinance.” The rulers did not state what these pylons did and it only took a few deaths for the entire city to realize that the city was encased in an invisible field of electricity. Once my senses were good enough, he took me to the fence. He wanted me to recognize the sound of the fence and continued to take me to various areas of the city until I could recognize the fence from a quarter mile away. This took months of trips all over the city, but once I satisfied my dad that I could hear the fence before seeing it, I wasn’t to return until I was older.
The conversation with my dad took all night long. There was so much for him to tell and there was so much that I wanted to hear. He tried to get me to rest so he could tell me more in the morning, but I insisted he tell me everything. It was the only time in my life I had noticed him hesitate about anything, but he finally agreed to tell me the rest if he could take a shower first. I was already under the sink before he could get into the shower and he did something he’d never done before.
He opened the sink cabinet and spoke softly, “Now son, I want you to stay underneath there until I tell you otherwise. No speaking or questions until I say it’s okay, alright?” I think that might’ve been the first glimpse of seeing fear in my father’s eyes. I didn’t understand so I just quietly shook my head without a word, so he knew that I’d already agreed to stay silent. The door shut and I heard his clothes hit the ground and the shower curtain go back. The water turned on and I began my normal trend of listening beyond the water.
My father never finished his shower that night. I didn’t understand why he didn’t get out when he must’ve heard the men come in. I heard them almost as soon as the shower started, so he must’ve heard them right? There were at least three sets of footsteps. I was so confused when the bathroom door blasted open with a thug’s boot and I didn’t hear any response from my dad. The room was very narrow so he could’ve taken them one or two at a time, but the careful steps of the thugs proved that they were cautiously moving on the shower.
The curtain was ripped from its rod and no commotion followed. It was the quietest moment of my life and the next thing I heard was the most devastating. Somehow they’d gotten to him before they entered the apartment because the next thing I hear is the sound of the lifeless body I used to know as my father being taken from the bathtub. I heard him being dragged passed the sink, through the living room, out the front door, down the hallway to the stairwell, and the lack of forgiveness they showed my father let me hear the sound of his head smacking each of the stairs as they tossed him down.