When a bees hive is threatened a bee will sting. Their stingers are barbed so that it lodges in the victims skin, tearing loose from the bee's abdomen and leading to its inevitable death. All for the hive. They will never reap the rewards of their actions but that doesn’t stop them.
The light slowly creeps through the room until it reaches my eyes. One by one they reluctantly open to see the familiar walls I live between. I get up and walk through my dimly lit hallway to my bathroom. Focussing on the crude circular mirror, I analyze every inch of my face, wide jaw, my circular face spotted with stubble. I splash my face with stagnant water from our water bucket. Although I scrub hard with my fingertips and nails I can’t get the oily remnants off from the day before. Defeatedly, I walked to my father’s room where he lay asleep. He looks like death as he sleeps in his rustic prison. At the age of 43 his skin is already deathly pale and wrinkled. He’s needed a doctor now for a long time but he refuses to put his health before our needs for food. These days he lays in bed all day, incapable of moving enough to work or even scavenge food. I’ve been the sole provider for a year now. We used to own a farm with cows and chickens; we even grew corn. Now we’re almost reduced to the status of the homeless, making just enough money from odd jobs to feed us.
Rap rap rap. The sound of the knocking at the door pierced the air. I could feel a weight on my chest as I passed through the house like a ghost. In no time I found myself sitting on the tailgate of a rusty, blood red pickup truck surrounded with an uneven burlap tarp. My face stays solid but as we drive my heart races, thinking about what lies underneath the tarp, clinking at every bump. There’s a man sitting beside me. We glance at each other and stay silent in a mutual fear and anticipation. My only solace was the gun I know is stashed behind me.
We arrive at our destination, an old abandoned barn, old enough for the red paint on the side of it to be completely stripped by the rain and wind. This is the place I had been dreading. At the other side of the barn was three men. The first was a tall man with a short beard and a tense brow. The other two were shorter, one was a round gentleman with a monocle.
“Do you have it?” the shortest man mumbled to us. The man in the drivers seat, a man I had just recently met, yelled back. “Yeah, but now where’s my money”. “Right here” the fat one said. Grinning, he brandished a jet black suitcase.. The man in the drivers seat motions for me to grab the case. My heart beating fast, I walked across the hay strewn ground. With every loud step I feel my anxiety grow until I’m face to face with the round man. With an awkward smile I accepted the suitcase and walked back to the truck. I was euphoric, I have never had this much money in my hands. I was giddy with excitement of the returns. Pressure was released from everyone in the area when they saw that I had the suitcase
Now sitting in the passenger seat of the truck I begin to examine the suitcase. It’s a hard leather case, it looks very professional and new. It looks as if it had been bought just hours earlier. With a small twang, the metal holds snap up from the case. Excitement washes over me at the first glimpse of the money. All I see is green 20 dollar bills. With just one of them I could eat for a month. It’s my job to count it. The bills have very official looking paper casing that wraps around the midsection of the bills with the number of bills written on it. I sit there oblivious to my surroundings, completely entranced by the currency in front of me. I take one bundle in my hand and start flipping through the stack with my thumb. Panic enters when I notice that something is off. The bottom half of the stack of bills are much thinner than the rest. Nearly half the money must be fabricated.
Just as my lips break their seal to alert my team of the inconsistency I hear sirens and two shiny police cars simultaneously burst through the open red and white barn doors. In a matter of seconds the room becomes cloudy with gun smoke and my thoughts clouded by the sounds of bullets and death. My mind racing. I duck behind the dashboard to avoid being wounded. As I lay in the fetal position I hear the shouts and screams of my old friends. In a moment of confidence I slap the truck into reverse and hit the gas. The car is propelled backwards and clips the tail of a police cruiser. My body jolts but I don’t dare look up until I’m safe enough to do so. The cop who’s car I had clipped rears his head to aim his pistol at me and the truck. I can hear bullets puncture the siding but I don’t dare stop. I feel a piercing pain and the muscles in my body tense all at once, and I let go of the gas. My adrenaline is running so thick that i barely notice the blood spilling out of my side. This is more blood than I’ve ever seen. Is this what it’s like to die? I peek at the rear view mirror to see a policeman walking towards my car. My vision gets blurry and my vision starts to narrow. This is it.
How did this happen? How did I get myself here? Momentarily, I’m brought back to that answer. I was surrounded by dirty, smoke stained walls in a dimly lit room with no furniture. Although my heart was pumping so hard I was worried my soon-to-be colleagues could see it protrude from my chest, I remained stone-faced. I needed to do this. “We gotta know you ain’t a rat”, the tall skinny man said as he handed me a black pistol. Although elegant in appearance, at that moment, the gun was the ugliest thing i’ve seen. I took a step forward on the tarp laiden ground and my heart kept pounding harder and harder. My whole body felt like it was rhythmically pulsating. In front of me was a man in an old wooden chair tied up with thick rope. There was a sack on his head and he was gagged but I could still hear his light sobbing and see the tears that were trickling down his neck. Never have I heard a more defeated cry. I took up the pistol and aimed it to his head . I could see the gun bounce up and down around his temple and realized how much I was shaking. I closed my eyes and tried to forget what I was really doing. Pain and guilt stuck through every muscle when I heard the piercing sound of a bullet passing through its chamber
Beside me I see my lifeline. A classic cold black tommy gun. I take it in my hands and bring it to my chest. I lay on the torn driver seat of the truck in a moment of silence. Breathe, Joseph. With the last of my strength I take a large breath, I quickly position myself between the driver and passenger seats and take aim at the officer behind me. The police officer raises his gun and fires loudly at me. In a moment of cold concentration, I place the officers chest is in my sights and with a long pull of the trigger, the gun and my shoulder are knocked backward. Ratatatatat. One bullet split through the officers chest and he falls back in agony.
Now is my chance for escape. I sit up and hit the gas in my adrenaline fueled state. I start driving half hazy from the blood loss. The pain is starting to set in and I’m losing feeling in my fingers. I see an officer tailing me in my rearview mirror. Panic ensues, I’m not able to out chase him. I keep driving as fast as this truck will let me. I grit my teeth and push the gas pedal harder to the ground. I’m swaying side to side in my seat now, I grip the steering wheel hard. Around me are familiar houses. I’m on my street. The one I played soccer in with the neighborhood kids. The same street I had my first kiss on when I was thirteen. I pull up to my house, my peripherals are completely restricted. The cops sirens punch through the sound of my temples throbbing and I panic. Grasping for air with every moment. I hug the suitcase to my chest with my left hand and with the other shaking hand I open the truck door. When I land on my feet my body feels ten times heavier than before. Every second is agonizing and I want with everything in my to just give up. With everything I have, I sprint to my front door. I hear bullets behind me but I can barely focus on my motions so I don’t bother turning back. The door opens in front of me and I collapse just feet before my doorstep. My father runs to me in a face of pure terror. My vision fades to black and motioning to the suitcase I proclaim “You can live now daddy.”
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