Shiver me Timbers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic


Matthew Moss, a man who cherishes loneliness and serenity is confronted by an old man at the bar. Annoyed, Matt doesn't realize the truth behind that fragile look, underneath that shabby skin, a
monster in human flesh. Digging up Matt's dark past, finding the truth about a twenty years old crime. Did Matt pull the trigger that day?

Submitted: July 12, 2018

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Submitted: July 12, 2018

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Life is like a candle. Once that warm flicker reaches the bottom, darkness, that's all it remains.

It was the 13 of July 1998. The heat was unbearable in L.A, like vampires, everybody was afraid to walk under the sun ray, sticking to the shades under the stalls.

Tom waits 'Shiver me Timbers' was playing on the radio.

It was lunch break at JJ bank, so Matt turned off his computer, grabbed the car keys aside from the pile of unfinished paperwork, unplugged the fan on his desk, and took off to the security room at the end of the corridor on the same floor.

Davis, the security guard in charge of surveillance was a neat freak. He would always leave his post at lunch, going exactly two minutes to the restroom to wash his hands before digging in the ham and cheese sandwich his wife made for him. Matt took advantage of Davis habit to sneak inside the room and set the cameras on an endless loop.

Matt was in a hurry, he knew the only elevator in the building would be crowded at this time of day. Four minutes, if he was lucky, that's how long he had to wait for it to arrive the thirteenth floor which he was at. So he chose to take the stairs down to the garage underground. Going down fourteen floors was no easy feat, but for a twenty-eight-year-old fit person like Matt was a piece of cake. If he was good at anything, it would be at running. Still, he was breathing hard as if no air would ever be enough, not because he was tired, but because he was anxious. He was not used to the adrenaline. He always preferred a slow paced life, but today was an exception.

In two minutes he made it to the front of his black Mercedes. He unbuttoned the first two buttons of his white shirt, rolled up his sleeves, and opened the car door with his key. He retraced the driver's seat and bent down grabbing the Beretta pistol from underneath.

Matt's hands trembled as he opened the gun's safety. The sound of the click it made kept echoing inside his head as he stared into the pistol's steel frame. He wiped the sweat out of his forehead and attached the silencer to the gun.

He took a glance at the gold watch on his left wrist, it was 1:03 p.m. It was time for her arrival. So he kept the gun behind his back, and like a true hunter, he lied at the corner, becoming one with the darkness.

Her footsteps echoed sharply from afar, like the booming heartbeat of a condemned prisoner. The moment Matt saw that blue skirt passing by, he made his move. Matt blood boiled up to his brain igniting the fire in his heart. He walked slowly behind her until she reached her black Sedan. Amy noticed Matt's reflection on the car's glass, she turned around only to notice the gun barrel pointed right between her eyes.

***

Twenty years later, same city, same day, late at night. Matt entered Marcy's bar. He turned his eyes left then right looking for an empty chair with no one on either side. He worshiped loneliness, a comfort he couldn't get back at the bank. Keeping the employees in line was not easy for the newly appointed director. He sat down at the booth in the corner to the right, that way he made sure to cut down any intruder.

"Hey Marcy, how is it going?" Matt asked, wiping out the sweat from his forehead, all the way down to his grey beard.

"Drunk audience, lonely faces, little to no tips, a lot of tears, and a lot more of puking. How can I complain?" Marcy said, wiping the table with a rugged piece of cloth.

"It sure sounds like a babysitting job to me."

"The usual?"

"Double Vodka cocktail, please."

"Double cocktail coming right up," Marcy went straight behind the bar.

Matt felt a chill in the air, despite being in the hottest month of summer, he rubbed his hands together, his muscles clenched tight against the cold.

"Here's your poison Matt," Marcy said, laying down the glass of vodka on top of a red piece of cloth in front of Matt on the table.

"Marcy, did you turn up the air conditioner?" Matt asked, his teeth chattering like a pneumatic drill.

"No, why?"

Like a phantom, an old man suddenly appeared in front of Matt and sat down beside him on the booth. He laid his cane on the side of the table, tighten up his black tie almost strangling himself. He took off his glasses showing off his big blue pupils, like the sea an endless mystery. He kept his puffy hat on top of his grey wavy hair.

Matt didn't like the company, especially old folks. A lot of blabbering and so little sense to make of, not to mention the long pauses between thoughts. Matt was a straightforward man with a short temper, which screams bad combination.

"Hey there, what's your name?" Asked the old man, barely maintaining his back straight.

Matt was barely looking at the old man in the eyes, he clearly wasn't in a mood for a conversation.

"Pshaw! Matt Moss," he took a sip from the glass.

"Good, it seems I am at the right place."

"Do I know you? What's your name?"

"I went by a lot of name along the years. As of this moment, you can call me Clay."

Matt wanted to avoid any word that would lead to a discussion, he just wanted a nice drink alone. So he didn't respond.

Clay slowly bent forward to Matt and whispered.

"Matthew Moss, your time is up," Clay said, tapping with his cane on the ground.

The room turned dark, suddenly it was pitch black, the sound of clatter in the background disappeared. Matt kept looking left and right with no clue on what's happening. First he thought the electricity went out, but when he tried to feel the table in front of him he didn't find it. It was then he knew something was off.

"Marcy, what's going on?!" He yelled, his voice echoing amidst the darkness.

"Nobody is here, it's just you and me Matthew," Clay's voice echoed inside Matt's ears.

"What kind of sick game is this? Trust me you don't want to mess with me!"

Clay's face suddenly flashed in front of Matt's eyes. Pale and skinny his cheekbones were showing, Matt fell down on the floor, his blood pumping from head to toe faster than an airplane.

"What the fuck are you?!" Matt words were filled with fear. His hands clinging to the ground.

"The angel of death!" Clay whispered in Matt's right ear.

"No, that's not possible!" Matt turned his right.

"I told you your time is up," Clay whispered in Matt's left ear this time.

Matt turned left with no luck whatsoever.

Slowly, the light began to appear in front of Matthew's eyes. Candlesticks everywhere, top, left, right, even beneath. It was as if Matt was floating in a dark space with candles everywhere around.

"Magic, it got to be! It's all an illusion!" Matt slowly stood up, his eyes looking left and right nonstop.

"Call it what you want, but all that is in front of you is the genuine article. The human lifespan. What a fascinating yet sad thing to observe," The Angel of Death stood in front of Matt in Clay's form. Leaning on his cane with both hands, his back bent forward. His ponytail resting on the left side of his shoulder.

"Lifespan? Do you mean these candles are actual stopwatches for human life?!" Matt said, looking at the candles around.

He noticed some are long, some are at the half to the bottom, and some were an inch close to end. But they all had one thing in common, a warm calming heat. When he looked back at clay, he saw him holding a small candle. It was fairly six inches from reaching the bottom.

"See that candle Matthew, that's your remaining lifespan, come to hold it between your hands. Don't be shy, after all, it's yours," Clay chuckled, showing off an endless void while opening his mouth.

Matt hesitated at first, but then he took a step forward, followed by several faced paced steps, until he was facing the old man.

He grabbed the candle, holding it like a mother holding her newborn. He felt it warmth close to his chest going all the way up to the tip of his nose. Despite part of him believing this was all part of a dream, another part couldn't risk jeopardizing his life.

"Matthew Moss, let's play a game! Try to keep the light of your candle from going off, and I shall extend your lifespan."

A gentle breeze began to flow around Matthew. It wasn't enough to blow off the flame, but it was enough to shake Matt's heart.

"From your early days, you were quite calm and gentle. You never hurt your fellow friends at school, you never made your parents worry about your grades. Yet, one day, the eight-year-old Matthew stole one hundred thirty-five dollars from his father's pocket while he was asleep. Explain this to me if you please."

"Who told you that?! I am not telling you shit!"

The breeze turned into foul wind, blowing off everything in its path. The candle in Matt's hands was about to go off, so Matt started talking, and the wind turned back to normal.

"I didn't steal the money! My father was a good man, too good for his own sake. He would never say no to a man in need. He was a rare gem indeed. Maybe in the old days, they would call him righteous, but now, he is referred to as a fool. He ran a small general store in L.A. He barely managed to bring bread on the table every night. Not because business was tight, but because his kind soul was taken advantage off. Andrew Stevenson, a con man is known for his gambling addiction would always come to my father, Roger, whenever his pocket was dry. The usual sobbing no money for family story, followed by tears and a fake smile, that all he needed to get on my father's good side. I was eight years old, I was desperately in need of money, one hundred fifty dollars to pay for school books. Father had the money ready for me, but Andrew came and managed to convince Roger to give him the money instead, using the same trick as always. Father told me to borrow the books from my cousin Charlie, he was one year older than me, but the school wanted the new editions, and I was tired of being hassled by the other kids from sharing their books. So I took the money, my money!"

The old man tapped with his cane on the ground, sending a big shockwave up in the air, the wind got stronger, the fire in the candle was about to go off, so Matt tried to shield the fire with his left hand.

"In your teenage days, you left your girlfriend heartbroken and mentally shattered. What can you say about that?" Clay asked, expressionless as the dead.

"I was seventeen, her name was Nora. She was kind, beautiful, and blessed with a bewitching smile. At the time, she was my whole world, and she thought the same of me. It was raining cats and dogs, we were walking down the street sharing a blue umbrella. Hands entangled together, warming up our hearts. I was walking her home when four men blocked our way in an alleyway. Each one was twice my size. I was tall but fairly skinny and little to no muscles. I knew I was no match for them. They took our wallets. I was okay with that, however, they didn't stop there. Their leader took a liking to Nora, and his wicked smile said he was up to no good. She hid behind me, her breath spoke of immense fear. I could feel her fast heartbeats thumping against my back. Her hands strapped to my shoulders, refusing to let go. But I was afraid too, even more than her. The oxygen was flooding in and out of my lungs, and my skin was drenched with sweat. They ganged up on me, I knew that trying to act like a man would change nothing, it would only make things more painful, for me, and for her. I grabbed Nora's hand and threw her in front of them and went running as fast as I could without looking back. Yes, I let my girlfriend get raped, yes I ran away without even trying to get help, yes I am a coward! I am only human, I can't make miracles happen!"

Clay tapped with his cane again on the floor, this time a bigger shockwave was produced, the wind was howling like a mad beast. Matt tried to hold the candle close to his chest to keep the flame alive. Barely standing his ground. The candle was getting smaller.

"The thirteenth of July 1998, you were ready to take a life. Tell me, what happened that day? Did you fire the gun on that woman?" Clay's eyes grew wider and darker. It was as if his eyes were swallowing the remaining light in the surrounding area.

"Amy Cooper, a talented corporate employee with her eyes set straight to the top, but also a despicable woman rotten to the core. We were coworkers at JJ Bank. We were friends but not that close. Our friendship never escaped work boundaries. If one thing Amy was good at, it would be chess. She knew how to corner her opponent, laying down her webs around her prey. Especially narrow-minded fools, and I was a big one. I worked with the IT division to ensure maximum security was maintained on our servers. One day I noticed a bug inside the system trying to download all of our clients' bank accounts to a private server in an unknown location. I traced it back only to find out that my personal computer was the source. No matter if I was the culprit or not, it would all be pinned down on me if the higher-ups found out. They won't hesitate to throw me in the middle of the fire. I knew someone from the inside was the one who planted the bug, so I checked the camera tapes, only to find Amy messing up with my computer in the morning before I arrived at the office. I tried to confront her, and I even threatened her with the tape. But just like she said, nobody would believe me, the bug was activated that morning, but it was planted long ago, about one month before. It was hidden deep inside the system, hibernating. The tape was as useless as my foggy brain. She told to hand me in, or else she would report me herself. This way not only she would get paid by her employers who ordered her to plant the bug, but she would get promoted for detecting the bug and apprehending the culprit. It was win-win on her part, checkmate on mine. I knew if I took her out of the picture I could stop the bug, and no one would notice it was there in the first place. My future would be saved. That's when I bought a gun from an arms dealer at the black market. I wanted to take justice with my own hands. So I waited for her down in that garage, with the gun in my hand I stood behind her. The barrel right to her head. My finger itching to pull the trigger. In my mind, I killed her several times in a hundred different ways, but again, I was a coward. A fool would always remain a fool."

"Better watch out Mathew, your light is about to go out," the old man teased, a wicked smile looming on his pale face.

Clay raised his cane to the highest point possible with his hand and slammed down the floor, shattering the ground beneath. The wind was so strong Matt drop down on his feet. With his body, he helplessly tried to keep the flame from going off. It was about to reach the bottom.

"I may have sinned, I may have been a failure of a human being, but I don't regret anything I have done! If I had been given a second chance, I would have chosen the same choices over and over again!" Matt yelled amidst the wind blowing erratically against his skin, sitting on all fourth with the candle underneath. It was about to reach the bottom.

"It's fading away Matthew, your flame is about to go out. It's going out...going out...going out," with each word, it was getting darker around Matt, right until there was no light left in the room.

"See, it went out."

Mathew woke up, his head on the table at the bar at the same place he was sitting at. He looked around but never found the old man.

"Marcy, where is the old man?!" Matt asked.

"Matt, are you drunk already?" Marcy was stupefied, cleaning out the glass in her hand.

Mathew looked to his left where Clay was sitting, only to find out an empty glass. He took a deep breath and asked Marcy,

"Do you have Shiver me Timbers by Tom Waits?"

"Sorry, but there is no Tom Waits in the jukebox."


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