Conscienceless

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
YES!

Submitted: February 29, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 29, 2012

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A A A


What makes a man dangerous? Is it based from his looks?—the way he presents himself with tattoos, body pierces, or any showy displays which leave a mark of delinquency? Is it for his face?—how aggressive of an expression he makes? Is it for his words?—the threats carried out by his foul tongue? Or is it simply for the weapon he posses?

Sure, these are the typical impressions, but none of which can prove anything. Through a series of episodes I was convinced that everything depends on “how a man thinks.” A man with a gun can be nothing more than “a man with a gun” if consequence lay heavy upon his soul. But what if the man has neither restraint nor remorse, free from the subconscious thought which divides right and wrong, in other words, without conscience?

Now, allow me to relate one of the most thrilling experience I had in what I expected to be an ordinary life. Of course, I cannot recall them without bringing to mind the person of Rael Gustav, with whom all matters concern.

Rael, pronounced as Rayil with a short A, though he appeared ordinary in every outer aspect, was a rather singular character. At first glance he would seem to be the fragile and vulnerable kind; but unbeknownst to the observer, behind that pale, almost sick-looking figure lay a most formidable character one could imagine.

 

The period is set back in 11th grade, a time when I was a common youngster who craved for fun and excitement. My idea of excitement, however, could not be found in what typical teenagers typically do—well, at least not anymore. It struck me how dull and pointless everything was—my everyday life; or to be precise, the everyday life itself. The thought turned up all of a sudden, and I didn’t even think about it, I just accepted it, as if the realization had been there all along.

Drinking, doing stupid stuff, drifting out through the night, chasing skirts, meeting a friend’s friend to do again stupid stuff, and other aimless activities which I had already done no longer satisfied me. Though I admit the fun still lingered in some, but the excitement that had once completed my existence vanished entirely. I no longer cared for society, and in return society no longer cared for me. All that’s left was my self, which started to become less and less appealing. Soon I’d be nothing but an empty shell, or perhaps I already was one.

Anyway, as I have previously stated, Rael appeared in every way ordinary. In fact, too plain. If you put him in a crowd he’ll probably be the least to take one’s notice. I never would have noticed him if he had not been situated in front of me at class. But there was something about him which brings much mystery and intrigue. I don’t know what exactly, perhaps for the way he spoke, the nonchalant tone of his voice, deemed by many as offensive; perhaps because he was treated like a stranger, someone who had landed in the wrong classroom; or perhaps for his reserved attitude. Well, frankly, I was not sure if he had any reserve at all. I always had the impression that that’s just the way he was—aloof, uninterested, and laid-back. Quite the simple guy actually. But whatever it was that gave influence behind that aura of his, I imagine I alone could perceive it.

Since he sat in front of me, I had every chance of observing his daily behaviors. Nothing much was to be observed, however, because he didn’t express himself openly. Never had I heard him coughed, sighed, let out any impulsive human exclamation. He always had his mouth closed, and very rare did he volunteer to open it. A day would even go by without me hearing a single word from him, which led me to wonder at times if he had bad breath. But surely that was not the case.

 

 

 

It was in the afternoon break. With no teacher to supervise the class, I sat on my desk rather than my chair, which was prohibited, and faced the windows beside. Rael did the same. Indeed, everybody does the same whenever opportunity presents.

Both our seats were lined alongside the windows—low, wide windows which offered a courtyard view from four storeys up, and through which we could sight upon many of the school’s trademark oak trees. My spot was particularly at the back end corner while Rael’s, as I have mentioned, was in front of mine.

Just for the heck of it, I tried talking with Rael, by using those phony phrases to open up conversations. Sure enough, he appeared to be a responsive listener. However, that’s all there was—response. No more, no less.

Our interaction went as follows:

“Today’s unusually dim, isn’t it?” I started with this, to which he only nodded, vaguely. “Think it’s gonna rain?”

“Not at all,” he replied.

“Yeah? The forecast says it will, though. You sure?”

“Positive, there’s no wind.”

“Mmm, I guess so. Those guys never get it right anyway—I mean, everything they say has a fifty-fifty ring to it. It actually rained the last time they announced a sunny day, and hard. I got drenched to the skin.

There was an awkward pause—for my part at least, because his insensibility I knew so well.

“Has things like that ever happened to you?” I asked.

He shook his head, vaguely yet again. “I keep an umbrella at all times.”

“Good for you,” I said, keeping up the talk. “I don’t use umbrellas, never did, never will. I just don’t like them. They make me feel… unmanly. I’d rather look childish and wear a raincoat.” I tried to finalize things with a laugh but it sounded very phony, that I began to feel a little embarrassment.

Another awkward pause… Longer and heavier this time.

I was inclined to break it of course.

“So you really think it’s not gonna rain?”

“Positive, there’s no wind.”

His manner offended me in some way. With damaged pride and a vengeful disposition, as I saw him to be uninterested, I pestered him with petty questions, with extreme irrelevance to anything that has nothing to do with anything. Throughout he showed unyielding patience; all the while cool in temper, which somehow bothered me. He answered every word I threw, although without energy. Just simple plain answers. In the end my scheme backfired and I was the one who got annoyed instead. 

Obviously his indifference meant no harm, I sensed it. All was part of his nature, and because of it he received the same indifferent treatment from his classmates. But I’m quite certain public image had never crossed his mind. He was the type who wouldn’t care less if there was dirt on his face, undaunted to any ridicule, to what people think and say.

I guess we were bound to be friends. By coincidence, both of us worked part-time at a small café round Fifth Avenue, a busy section where a great deal of students would regularly pass by after their day’s end. The employment only consisted of two—namely us. Since we sat in class for a few paces apart, took the same route toward the café and the same train home, our days were mostly spent alongside the other, like how Sherlock Holmes and John Watson did. Needless to say, he and I became quite acquainted to each one’s presence. And moreover there was one aspect for which we shared, and was, perhaps, the main reason why we banded. Boredom.

 

Through the kitchen a backdoor opens up into an empty alley, a narrow space formed in between two massive building ends—the building where our own café was situated and another building opposite. On one side comes a dead-end, blocked by a third building rear, while the other side led toward the main street, and we occasionally used this way to go in and out of the shop.

It was down by the alley, when we were wasting our lifespan for cigarette’s sake, that I made the biggest mistake of my life. I was leaning against the building wall, sitting on the ground with bent legs, content at marveling the twinkling sky above. At the farther side of the same wall, Rael was there leaning too, cigarette in hand, but standing. The night was bright. A full moon shone together with its disciple of stars. I could get a glimpse at them through the two towering structure which sandwiched us. Tranquility flooded the alley.

“Hey, Rael,” I said, puffing smokes in the air. “Have you ever wished something new would come your way?”

A full twenty seconds elapsed before he answered. I thought he had ignored me at first, but then I realized he was mulling it over.

“What kind of new are you referring to?” he asked at last. It occurred to me that this was actually the first time he presented a question.

“You know, something out of the ordinary. Or something uncommon.”

“Uncommon is nothing new to me,” said he. “But, yes, other than that, I do want something new.”

“Oh, did I hear that right—uncommon is nothing new to you, you say?”

He nodded, ever so slightly that I thought he only adjusted his head. But an affirmative was definitely given.

“What kind of uncommon are you referring to?” I sent back.

“Well, that is, if killing cats is considered uncommon.”

“Hmm, uncommon enough…” It could’ve been his casual tone or my lack of attention, but in any case the whole weight of the matter slipped my grasp.

“Wait a minute,” I later put in, as I recovered from my stupor. “You kill cats?”

The same small nod again. Now I was growing with interest.

“Why do you kill cats?”

“The same as why we smoke,” he replied.

“I smoke so I could die early.”

“Then dying early it is.”

I laughed, not because killing cats to die early is funny, but because I can’t believe he humored me. “C’mon now, seriously, why kill cats? Had a bad childhood about them? Some personal issues? Tell me. Why?”

He inhaled and exhaled the last of his smoke, dropped it by ground, and crushed it with his feet. Before speaking, he stared for awhile at the eroded cigarette stick, as if choosing his words from it.

“It’s an addiction,” he began. “Like cigarettes, as I have said. An obsession I’ve developed since… twelve maybe. No ill feelings against them, just a little hobby of mine.” His eyes still on the ground, at the cigarette butt. Then he tucked both hands into his pockets.

“Any kind would do,” he continued, “stray, domestic (mostly strays), adult, kitten, newly-born ones—any kind. At times one would wander around the house and ignorantly come to me, some I’d run across on streets, but for the most part I hunt them, from alleys and corners, baiting them with food. If no stray is found, then it’s straight to the pet store. Yes, I’d buy one, just so to kill it. And let me add that it’s not just cats, a variety of animals included: dogs, rats, rabbits, birds—any pet the store can offer. And let me add again, that not only do I kill them, but also torture them, in the most gruesome, unique, and artistic way as possible. I guess now I’ve become pretty good at it. That’s what I’m earning my money for, to buy and kill pets. Now you know, and I hope you’re satisfied, because if you say another why, I’m afraid I’ll have to kill you too.”

I was taken aback by this unfamiliar approach, during which no emotion portrayed his tone and expression. For some reason he seemed rather talkative. By far this was the longest conversation I’ve had with him, not that we had many, and I wouldn’t call them conversations either, for they were simply small, impassive exchanges. So basically this was the real and longest talk we’ve had, the first time he uttered more than two sentences.

Besides killing and torturing animals, what surprised me the most, however, was how he had the guts to make a threat, even if it’s a joke. Very unlike him, and it didn’t mix well with his plainness. His words apparent with threat, but his voice and face showed no sign of it—dull as usual.

But not often was I able to witness another side of him, so I decided to dare his nerve. “Okay, then, how—how do you kill them?”

I half-expected him to let loose, but then again, he’s still Rael after all.

He answered with usual calmness, unaffected: “Rather than tell you, I’ll show you. Come with me later.”

Now here was another thing I wouldn’t be seeing everyday, and I must say, it drove me a little excited.

“Sounds like fun. Count me in.”

I’m afraid I’ll have to kill you too.  Those words echoed in my head. Instinct perhaps… Presently I began to wonder if Rael really meant it when he said it. But the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed. The idea only produced an inward chuckle from me.

The two of us stayed there for a little while longer, in silence. It was probably past nine. We had already tidied up the shop and were all set to close. Shutting the roller shutters was all that’s left, although we still had to wait for the boss while he counted and calculated his income. No doubt checking if we stole any from him.

Awhile later, Rael started off across the alley, simply saying, “Buy cigarettes.” I watched him walked along the gloom, his hands still tucked inside his pockets. Peculiar fellow, I thought, although I couldn’t help admiring him. Never had I seen him yield to emotion, even when he delivered that long narrative; even when some punks in class would tease him; even when some cheeky girls would jeer at him. His composure I found surprisingly admirable, always remained the same, never-changing, like a droid, programmed only for what is necessary.

I heaved a sigh, threw my own stick and went inside the café.

 

As I entered I found the boss over by the counter, fumbling through the cash register. “Hey, kid, come here for a sec,” he gestured with a genuine frown, not his usual one. The boss looked annoyed.

“Yep?” said I inquiringly, approaching him. “Any problem?”

“This goddamn machine, it won’t budge.”

Ah, the goddamn machine. I had my own share of problems with it. I guess we finally reached this point. It was an old model; time to time we had difficulties in trying to open it. We had gotten used to it though, and usually, banging it on both sides was all that needed to do the trick. I did what I could, but to no avail.

“If this piece of junk still won’t give me my money, get me a hammer and we’ll pulverize this into dust,” blurted the boss.

He and I were both bending down at the goddamn machine when a presence disturbed our attention. A tall, gaunt, haggard man, about thirties, wearing thick dark clothes, came to our view as we lifted our heads. He stood by the other side of the counter. It seemed to me he tiptoed his way across the hallway, for I hadn’t the faintest notion of him approaching, nor did I hear the door swung open. I don’t know how long he’d been standing there either. So when and how he reached his current position, I fail to fathom.

He showed all signs of agitation. His breathing was unstable, deep and suffocating. His eyes red and restless, unsettled where to look. I could tell from first glance that the man was in a state of delirium.

“I’m sorry, mister, but as you can see we’re already closed.” The boss obviously read suspicion on this person’s manner.

Out of nowhere, the man produced a gun and aimed at us.

“Give me the money!” demanded he vehemently.

By reflex, the boss and I drew back.

“Whoa, easy there fella. You—“

“Shut up!” interrupted his shrill voice as the boss tried to reason. “Shut up or I blow you’re brains out,” he threatened with a frantic wave of his gun.

I stepped back a little more. This guy was too crazy to bluff. I gave the boss a questioning eye, who in turn gave the robber a straight eye, the frown still in his expression. Then I glanced over at the glass-window, hoping that some passerby would notice us. Unfortunately, as to our preliminary custom when closing, the roller shutters had already been drawn half-way down, and a few passing legs was all I could see.

“Just give me the fucking money,” insisted our robber.

“Listen pal,” said the boss resolutely, if not stubbornly. “You don’t have to do this, you have to be better than this. Life must be bullying you, I know. I can tell. I’d been there. I used to be a lowlife fucker too—been to jail a couple of times, done things I never should have done—but let me tell you, son, the past don’t just go away. You probably don’t give a shit now and think I’m just an old man blabbering to save his skin, but I guarantee you everything will get back.” Whether this was simply an attempt to save his money, I couldn’t know for sure, because I had always viewed the boss as a greedy old man.

“It’s already too late for me…” he went on. For a moment I thought I saw compassion behind that solid frown. “You, on the other hand, still have choices to make. Don’t choose this one, son,” a gentle plead coming from the boss’ not so gentle voice. Although his face still displayed the familiar frown, his dark, solemn eyes, which were glued intently toward the robber’s own, expressed genuine concern.

In spite of it all, a shot was fired.

A warning shot, that is. The bullet ricocheted among the utensils behind us. I at once checked myself for possible damage, and thank god I received none. Physically none. It was my mentality instead which received damage. Fear slowly started to build inside. This affair now had its complete effect. I took serious considerations now than how I did at the beginning. My heart pounding, my adrenaline pumping.

The robber uttered rough and foul words that I couldn’t discern, while the boss, never backing down and still going for reason, exchanged with him. Ridiculous, I thought. As the villain was about to fire another shot, I stepped up. Warning or not, I couldn’t risk it.

“Wait, wait, mister!” I pleaded desperately, and it felt pathetic hearing my own voice. “We want to give you the money, really we do, but it’s stuck. The cash register won’t open. We’ve been trying to, but really, we can’t.”

The robber eyed me as though he’ll eat me, so I added in defense, “I’m not lying. Just see for yourself.”

The boss tried protesting but I just told him to shut up.

“Yeah, just shut up!” agreed our robber. With that, two against one, the boss had to shut up.

Now the robber ordered us to move aside to a corner and kneel. We complied. Then clumsily like a drunken madman he scaled over the counter, all the while with his gun remained pointed toward our direction. In vain was he able to open the goddamn machine. To his dismay, he mouthed another flurry of incoherent words. Still he tried, but without any success. The more he failed, the more determined he became, and the more determined he became, the more oblivious was he to his surroundings. That cursed machine really got into his nerve. He was literally pounding the thing like a gorilla.

The idea came.

He was at least five paces away from me, but I was quite confident with my speed. After all, I was at the prime of life, and my athleticism was something to be proud of, considered superior among boys my age. It would probably take a second for him to notice, before that I must get a hold of his gun, if not then at least the arm which held it.

I deliberated my plan. I’d dash toward him with all the speed my legs could allow, grab his arm as though the world depended on it, and leave the rest to the boss. I’d just concentrate my strength upon securing that arm.

The plan almost set into motion. Stealthily, I positioned myself for an all-out dash. I glanced beside to see if the boss understood my attempt, but to my surprise, he was as white as a sheet. And adding to that were strange sounds coming from his throat, as though breathing under water. Then I realized he was having some kind of seizure. No later did he hit the floor, unconscious, leaving me in a very difficult position. At that moment I wished I was the one who had the heart attack, because before me a raging animal seemed hungry for a kill. The robber, the way he banged that goddamn machine with the base of his gun, the manifestations he had undergone, the ferocity, the hostility, all concentrated to destroy, sent chills down my spine. Soon his attention would turn to me. I had to make my move while chance was still there for the taking.

Too late. That dreadful entity was already facing me with a new look, an upgraded form of aggression, as though not only his face but his whole being had altered altogether.

A rush of emotions passed over me. Do or die. Kill or be killed. Life and Death. Through all these thoughts one overwhelming sensation manifested itself. The excitement!—I found it; the kind of excitement I had always sought and needed, the one that would bring me back to reality. Now, in spite of my fears, I welcomed the situation with an almost maddened ecstasy. This was what I wanted, right?

Definitely!

I was all pumped up and ready for action when a pair of hands suddenly emerged from behind the robber’s neck, each on either side of him. One of which held a knife, the other just bare. The latter grabbed, gripped, and hoisted the robber’s chin, while the other, with the knife, sliced his throat clean. So quick and so swift was this executed, and so sudden and so unexpected had this occurred that I suffered a delayed reaction from it.

In that interval of absent thoughts, a brief scuffle ensued, and before I knew it, the robber was down on the ground, undergoing an inevitable death. Everything happened in an instant, within a span of not more than five seconds. From the robber’s throat, where a deep cut slightly revealed the inside flesh, blood came gushing out nonstop and continued to spread over and round him like wildfire. It was barely perceptible on his dark clothes but it claimed a strong scarlet color amidst the white tiled-floor. With convulsing legs, he grunted, coughed, and choked as death slowly consumed him.

The robber laid motionless, face up, with wide open, horrorstricken eyes and mouth, an agonizing expression which he left before completing death. Before my very eyes this gruesome event occurred, yet as I looked, my mind couldn’t quite absorb the whole scene, maybe because I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Those canny hands undeniably belonged to Rael, who, now standing nonchalantly gazing down at the gory corpse, was also smeared with blood, but not his own.

His face, his clothes, his hands were all touched by blood. Everything accounted for murder, save for one. Only his expression remained untouched. It was blank, as if his recent action concerned him none in the least.

Dumbfound, “What the hell,” was all I could say.


© Copyright 2017 Mr Nice Guy. All rights reserved.

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