Kid and Twitch joined the dozen or so who were queueing up around the door. Blaze slid up next to them and extended a hand filled with a dark, gleaming hunk of metal, which Twitch accepted with a nod and shoved into the back of his pants. Kid snatched a quick glance at the belts and hands of the others around them, noting the similar bulges.
Right. So this is a shooting kind of mission.
I bet that was what was in the bag Blaze brought down.
Should we have a gun?
Did you see anyone trying to hand us one?
Wait, we are going to go shoot the people for taking the money?
Appears to be the idea.
Um, even though Ilk was trying to sell pricey construction materials? And, ah, even though WE actually took the money?
Well, they don’t know that second bit. Unless you think now would be a good time to tell them.
Probably not the time.
The decision to leave was made and communicated by means that evaded Kid, who shuffled along at Twitch’s elbow. A glance to his left before Kid passed through the doorway caught the stunned looks on the faces of the other younger boys in the corner, Chubz shaking his head like someone trying to resist the unintelligible insistence of the robed proselytizers around the waterfront. Kid dropped a nod in their direction and ducked through the door.
The mass of bodies turned away from the angry orange grids thrown by the caged lights as they walked toward the end of the alley that Kid did not tend to use, young men, and a boy, bound together in this moment not just by their shared allegiances and histories, but by the collective intention to become death, the destroyers of worlds.
It was, of course, that willingness to take matters to their furthest recourse at the slightest provocation, or even manufactured provocation, that served as the crux of what drove our species to our inevitable fiery transition. That willingness, or if we are honest, the desire to be the one who decides when the thread of one’s life has spun, to wield the fates’ shears, escalated conflicts throughout our long history on the rock from ideological to mortal, from cyclic iterations to final resolution.
Even after the cultivation of an economic system that shunted the vast majority of conflict into the dimension developed for the express purpose of non-physical resolutions. Even with the robust and refined athletic culture allowing for the visceral catharsis of that deep seated impulse. Even so, this advanced country still had more tools designed for the ending of human life than there were humans to carry them, and the fascination with those tools waxed unabated.
Blaze punched a code into the box mounted above a door handle at the end of the alley, and the procession filed into an enclosed stairwell, clumping down a few flights before spilling out on a dark floor of a parking garage, abandoned except for a pack of vehicles parked in the most distant corner. The single-file line necessitated by the narrow stairwell morphed into a more general mass, which Big split with a series of gestures and nods that didn’t get translated into words.
Half of the group peeled off with Ilk to surround then enter a long black car. Twitch skip-hopped around the nose of big, windowless van to open the door of the car in the deepest corner of the garage, and Kid piled into the back seat of the crimson four-door car, sinking low with the weight of the six people, even if one of them was a small boy. Blaze settled behind the wheel, one of the rappers and DD joining him on the front bench as Kid scooted across to far end of the cushioned bench.
I think that dude’s name is Dot.
What’s the MC mean?
No idea. Not important.
What do you mean? It’s his name, it’s important.
Not now it isn’t.
What’s up, Fuzz?
We’re. In. A. Car.
Big climbed into the backseat after Twitch and Kid. Blaze injected a key behind the turning handle and the engine growled, resounding in the closed garage. Kid startled, clutching tight to the door handle, peering over Blaze’s shoulder to see him flick a nod at Big through the mirror.
Blaze nodded and shifted to look over his shoulder. Kid hunched into the deepest corner of the bench as the car jerked backwards. He shipped his head over each shoulder, looking out the back window then the window beside his head, staring down as the corner of the van in the spot next to them veered within centimeters of his door. Blaze had a small smile on his face as he settled back into his seat and navigated toward the looping exit.
Ok. I see your point.
That was awesome!
Hah. Haha. Cool. No one freak out.
No, it’s cool. See? Everyone else in the car is totally fine with this mass of metal carrying them around like predead sardines. Super cool.
Um, remember when you said not to freak out.
Yeah, super important not to freak out. Every single person in this rolling death trap has a gun. Except us. Do not freak out.
Ok. Sorry about that. I’ll be ok.
Music poured into the small space from speakers mounted into almost every surface available, and Kid let himself melt into a more relaxed posture. He bounced a little on the deep cushion and then leaned hard into the door again as the car spiraled up to the street level. A flare of light announced the presence of another vehicle ascending behind them.
At the ground level Blaze pulled up to a closed gate and the window at his elbow lowered to allow him to reach out and punch another code into another keypad, after which the gate raised and he maneuvered the car into the flow of traffic that remained heavy into the late hours of the night. Kid braced himself as they entered one of the lanes in the street, cars in the next lane over not slowing or making room at all, lights glaring as the trajectories of the vehicles approached parallel. Against his back Kid could feel the tremors of Twitch’s inaudible laughter.
Festering fuck faucet. Fuckfuckfuck.
Dude, this is awesome. Try to enjoy it.
What’s the matter, Fuzz. Everyone else is chill, and we really don’t need you losing it right now.
Fuck cars, fuck driving. This is the worst.
Everything is moving, and none of it responds to what we do. None of it. Can’t dodge any of this shit because we’re locked behind these freaking doors. Those huge masses of metal all cramming into these little lanes and getting so close to each other, and LOOK: that driver isn’t even looking at the road! We don’t need to worry about the fight, we’re all gonna die in this stupid car.
Easy, Fuzz. People ride in cars every day.
People die of cars every day.
Hey! FOCUS. Can we do anything about the car situation right now?
Yes! We can find a way to escape! Like, what does this button do?
Kid’s arm spasmed like he was channeling Twitch, finger finding the only button on armrest part of the door and pressing, releasing as the sudden blast of wind hit Kid in the face, stinging his eyes and propelling him into a collapse against Twitch. Every head in the car whipped in his direction as the wind and traffic noise crashing through the open window drowned out the thumping music. Kid lunged forward, pushing the button again, which just served to open the window further. He grabbed the window glass itself and tugged to no avail. Twitch leaned over and tucked his finger into the small opening next to the button and lifted, pulling the button upward as the window followed suit, sealing the car again from the rushing evidence of their momentum. DD leaned over the back of the seat, twisting around to look at Big.
“How we do, B?” DD asked.
Big looked out the window for a moment, the rapper in the middle turning up the music for a few beats, an unapologetic drug dealer exhorting the youth to prove their illicit validity by just getting violent. Big turned, addressing not DD, but Blaze’s reflection in the rearview.
“They be rolled up front ol’ du’e’s place, right?”
Blaze lifted an arm to check his watch without taking his eyes from the road, and nodded.
“Still usin’ his name an’ ‘is recipe, af’er ‘ey kicked ol’Zel’a curb,” DD added.
“Open up on ’em as we come around the buildin’ up the way.”
DD flipped back to face front and punched the dash, and MC DoT cranked the music again.
Um, just want to make sure that I understand the plan. We’re going to a chicken place.
And they are just going to shoot at some guys.
And that’s it. That’s the whole plan?
What is our part?
Um, we don’t have a gun.
I don’t think we have a part.
That doesn’t sound very useful.
Can we suggest an alternative?
Do we have an alternative?
Doesn’t matter if we can’t suggest it.
We could ask Twitch, maybe? Not suggest it so much as maybe poking holes in their plan?
Their plan is pretty much all holes.
Should be easy to poke, then, right?
Kid leaned over to speak to Twitch, and then tried again while yelling to be heard over the pulsing beats now denigrating the very perpetrators of violence the song was encouraging a moment ago.
“So we are just going to walk up and shoot people in front of Izzle’s?”
Blaze spoke into the relative quiet between beats of the song, correcting Kid’s pronunciation while flicking a glance at Kid in the mirror, “Then I’ma get som’a that chick’n.”
“You know tha’s fuggen righ’!” DD howled, pounding the dash again, “Skeezy mothafuckas still know how ta treat a bird.” He laughed, “We gonna have mad words, an’en gobble on’em bad birds,” he punched the rapper in the middle, bouncing up and down on the seat, “OOAOAAAOOh, you know that shi’s tigh’!”
Kid shouted again, to be heard over the drone from the speakers.
“So we are just walking up, and shooting? And they have guns, too?”
Twitch furrowed his brow and looked down at Kid. Blaze looked in the mirror again, this time at Big. Who was also frowning, and turned his full attention to Kid.
Um. We were about to just go murder some guys and eat some chicken.
Yeah, I’m not mad about going for a new plan.
Big looked up at Blaze, who raised his brows in the mirror.
“Hey, cut that shit,” Big barked. DD swiped at the dashboard to dial down the volume of the music, and Big leaned back in his seat, “I mean, we fucken brought the kid for some reason.”
Kid looked up at Twitch, who pressed his lips into a thin line and sat back to watch Kid and Big with one eye each.
He brought us to help plan?
“Think any of those fuckers,” Big asked, as relaxed as a big cat, “migh’ recognize you, Kid?”
Kid froze for a moment.
The puffy one, staring across the alley, eyes wide, while we stood atop the wall, and laughed.
The one on the ground, holding his leg, pointing his gun up at us and squeezing.
“Yeah,” Kid said, looking at the back of the seat in front of him, “I think they might.”
Big laughed, and Twitch swiveled an eye to pin both on Kid, who continued.
“And the one with the tattoos on his neck, with the gun, um, his leg is probably pretty messed up.”
Blaze flicked a look at Kid in the mirror, with the hint of a smile.
“Right,” Big said, laughter still coloring his voice, “Kid goes up to the fuckers, woopdeewoop what an’en bolt around’a corner.”
Kid looked up at Twitch who just waved him down, as Big continued.
“An’ when those fuckers chase you, duck into the alley ‘tween back’a ol’ dude’s an’a bar next door,” he looks over at Kid, “I’s’a dead end.”
He looked back up at Blaze, in the mirror, pitching his voice toward the front.
“Then we come in the black, catch the fuckers not lookin’.”
Blaze nodded, looking quick over at Kid, before turning back to his driving. The music bumped back up, DD and the rapper rhyming along the slightest fraction before or behind the voices blaring through the speakers.
I wonder if they are trying to be off beat?
Well, we got a new plan.
We even got a part!
Um. We’re the bait.
Bait is useful! We wanted to be useful.
You know what happens to the bait, right?
Bait gets eaten.