“To answer your question Doctor, I’d scream. Even if I lost myself, went mad with the anguish of those I had forsaken, and thus having tainted the essence of my very being. I’d scream. For those whom I could not save, who were within the grasp of my fingers, yet slipping through my palms, and departing miles away. I’d scream. For the family I once cherished, now leaving my soul to rot for putting the lives of my country and its people first, abandoning me to eternal solitude and despair. Once again, I’d scream.”
Francis sucked delicately at his pipe, testing the airflow. It was not the finest day he had, had. As a matter of fact it was quite displeasing. He lit the pipe, taking a light puff, enjoying the lingering taste of tobacco on his tongue. It was surely one of the finer things of life, and helped him keep calm and concentrate. For today, he had started to some rather disappointing treatment, by both man and mother nature.
Francis opened the door to a glum and sorry looking day. The sky moved at a lethargic pace, dragging along with it the fleeting memory of summer days. A blur of dismal greys and whites, blotting out the sun. A mild spit trickled down his clothes and wizened skin, already clinging to the wrinkles that sagged under his eyes. The sprays of salt and creaks of old boats were carried along a tired breeze; while grey people walked solemnly past, absorbing the bleakness of the day. Francis had always liked this part of town, it may have been dismal, but it had been his home since he was a lad, and he wasn’t going to just up and give up on it.
The embers danced in the bowl as they grew and shriveled with the time of his breathing, another bowl. He pinched at his waist, taking his tobacco pouch and beginning his familiar routine. “I see your still using that thing.” Simon said as he pushed past the door. “Guess, its not so easy to quit is it?” he laughed a deep booming laugh, “or maybe you ought to clean this den of an office you keep.”
“Everything is where I want it, I could leave a thumb tack on this floor and know where it is,” francis replied rather smugly, “and I don’t see you quitting any time soon either.” Simon carried with him the smell of countless cigars; enjoyed throughout a lifetime of money. “You ought to though, I’v still got years to waste, however your getting pretty far up there yourself” Simon had been a mentor and friend to Francis since he had just entered the world of politics, and had to suffer his dry wit for it.
His carriage arrived late, by this time hair sagged and clothes stuck to skin like an awkwardly familiar coworker. He hurried in, the rain was worsening. People ducked out of the way as the horses pulled their haul along the road, taking shelter where they could from the frosted wind against buildings and wagons. A shimmering blur as the droplets reflected what little radiance the sun could provide through the deep blanket of grey. Francis was jerked forward as the carriage halted suddenly, the horses brayed, while shouts echoed from the coachman. He peeled back the dark curtains to reveal figures in hoods of pure crimson, they were arguing with the coachman. Eyes met, dead, soulless eyes, and Francis quickly drew the curtains to a close again, a sense of foreboding washing over him. His breath seemed to catch in his throat, as he fell back into the seat; who were they?
“Ha!” Simon bellowed, “It’ll take more than a cigar to kill me!” He lit another, Francis watched the fresh cigar decay behind the embers, flickering as if trying to pull itself away from the heat. He found himself smiling stupidly at Simon, the way you do when perfectly smart men do something stupid just to make themselves seem a little more interesting; which of coarse, was exactly what Simon was doing.
“It is a sin to kill oneself,” Francis said almost jokingly, “even if slowly.”
“God may judge me, but his sins far outweigh my own,” Simon sighed, he suddenly seemed quite serious and it put Francis off slightly. “I actually needed to speak with you today, something urgent has come up and I’d like you out of town for a while.”
The carriage pulled toward the town hall, its wooden frame seemed to sag under the weight of the rains endless torrent. He fled his sheltered coach, fighting his way through the wind and rain to the large oak doors, which seemed to push back as he tried to open them; their weight familiar against his palms. As he entered the ever present concoction of timeless dust and scented candles met his nose, it began to run. “Goodmorning Jean,” Francis sniffled.
“Early as always,” Jean replied, “Simon should be in shortly.” She waved him past her desk, eager to get back to the days thrilling crossword, it was either that or she didn’t care for him very much, both plausible explanations. Francis gave her a nod and made his way toward his office, it was small but comfortable, messy like a childs bedroom; the difference being littered across his floor were papers and documents, rather than dirty clothes and discarded toys.
“The mind, it is a beautiful thing,” I’m told. It has the potential for great depth of development, such intricate and fragile ideas, yet it is also volatile, chaotic and easily manipulated. I never asked for such a gift, I never needed it, not for my purpose; yet I have it all the same. It’s said to be the product of your environment, as a fruit is the product of a tree, surely that makes mine a rancid thing, disease ridden and rotten. I was developed for slaughter/destruction/murder, but they were not content with the metal zombies that came before me, they needed something smarter, something that could devise plans, understand the enemy, something that could decimate an army. Thus here I stand, peaceful among the gushing rivers of blood that spew forth through this valley of the dead, a land of my creation.
The rattle of guns, pleads for help, screams of both pain and terror; they merge into the ever consistent orchestra of war. Bullets ricochet off me as if they were birds to a window, unaware that I am impassable. I return fire, the flare between bullets raging out the barrel of my weapon, eager to escape. Death follows. They probably did not want to die, I believe most men don’t, yet I feel for them because like me they have no voice in this battle. Defeat or triumph are the only words our masters understand. My feet are heavy in the oozing mud, sinking in, as if the dead are trying to hold me back, trying to drag me into the earth. Their efforts are futile, I move on toward my next target.
An ambush is waiting for me, there are people rushing to their positions within the settlement ahead, taking cover in buildings. They hold positions in doorways and under furniture. I study the area, find weaknesses in their defences, and proceed. The buildings are old and heavily damaged, roofs have collapsed and dust clings to the walls, falling softly as I drift my fingers only their edges. I find my feet on the earth with each step, making myself ready for any situation. Cautiously I enter the center of the settlement, there is no movement from those in hiding, its as if they have frozen solid. The emptiness of the square is haunting, a cold lonesome area devoid of anything, apart from the dead vehicles who of which I could call ancestors.
Footfalls, heavy and fast from the building behind, rushing toward me. I turn as he appears, attempting to tackle me to the ground, he is unarmed or armoured. Others rush from the buildings in the brief opening he has created, at least the moment he attempted to create. It is clear the rest do not intend to ingage, perhaps they are regrouping with a larger force, this cannot stand. The man at my waist is large and muscular, he is determined to restrain me. I peel him off like a candy wrapper, tossing him to the side, as I open fire on the fleeing units. A red mist forms in the air around them as they fall, dominos, one by one. A blunt force deflects off of me. The man is red, streams run trails through his face, and his expression changed to one far more like that of a soldier. He bares a face of pain, anger and detestment. He swings again, I fire.
Quiet grips the area once again, as I stand above the fresh nameless, yet another scratch on the wall. Red stains the earth around me, as I record the faces of the deceased to my memory, red is always around me. My body is stained by the crimson rivers that flow through the dust and metal, down to join the growing pools at my feet. I tread through them, dragging blood through the dirt with every step, leaving muddy footprints behind me as I move to search the surrounding buildings. There is something inside, warm, moving, alive, perhaps another threat.
It’s a ragged building, almost crumbling compared to the other structures in the area, barely keeping itself composed around the well maintained buildings around it. The door creaks as I push it open, it cries out for the years of misuse and neglect, unloved like the frame it is stuck too. Light breaks through the walls, surrounding the disturbed specks in the air, as they descend slowly toward the bare floor. A door lies ahead, swung ajar, open before me. I bow under the door frame as I enter the next room, trusting it to keep the walls aloft as it has always done. Broken furniture litters the room, and mouldy mattresses lay empty on the ground. Some of those from outside must have lived in this den of disease, perhaps their death was, in fact, a mercy. I turn toward my target, it gazes puzzlingly back at me, scrunching up its nose and puffing out its cheeks. It shifts around in a blanket, anxious about something, it sneezes.
The blood ran. My wrists were fountains as the shackles buried their way through skin into muscle. They dug further. With every pull of the chains agonizing pain shot through my arms, my body screaming for mercy, yet my mouth stayed silent. I was determined not to let them take anything more from me, not a single wince or grimace. There is a crowd up ahead, a mixture of curiosity and disgust squeezed around the haunting image of the gallows. I’m dragged forward, more pain, I want to thrash around, fight back, escape. “Hold it in,” I fought with my own mind, “it’d be a wasted effort to try at this point.” The crowd parts as I’m dragged through, stumbling. Scum,murderer,beast,devil,monster, these words echo in unison through the air as I am paraded onward, while rocks beat against my damaged body. My eyes scan over those nearest, their mouths move, but their words are swallowed by the hateful chorus. Reason has left their eyes, they have been stirred up like starved dogs eager for a meal. To them, I am no longer human.
The heart of the crowd opened up before me, and my end beckoned me forward. A noose hung loosely, yearning to embrace me, ever waiting. Soon it shall get what it wants. Ancient wood creaked as I was lead up toward the gates of hell. These gates, not doors, but a portal for the spirit that the body cannot traverse; gates that only open, can only be seen by, and can only be entered by the damned. I could almost see them, flickering into view as I made my way above the crowd, standing atop the gallows. A shadow stood beside me, only eyes poking through his black shroud. Bright blue eyes that looked wrong wrapped in darkness, yet also belonging in the way they pierce through the soul, as if gazing within and judging your worth. He was perhaps the saint at the gates, deciding where I am to go. I like to think I am worthy of heaven, but I knew my destination was not quite as pleasant. The rope was before me, its almost over.
Looking back, was it worth it? So much blood, and misery brought about because of a selfish child’s dream. A slave, a thief, a pirate and a murderer, and what else did I expect to come of my actions? I did find one thing though. I found a family to share my dream with, a bunch of hopeless idiots, just like me. Sure it was a scarred path, but I believe it was the right one, and if I have to take this burden so that my companions may enjoy a future, so be it. Surely they were watching me here, visible to all those who glanced my way. I longed to call out to them, but did not dare tempt them to plot my rescue. Knowing those idiots they were doing it already, but I prayed they stay back, else my actions had been for nothing. I walked my own destiny, so only God may judge me for my actions, thus I looked death in the eye and smiled.
I looked like a chicken at the markets, hung up by the neck. My toes ached as they barely held my body to the ground. I could barely glance to my left, the shadowed saint waited by his lever, waiting to send me on my way. To my right some pompous arse listed my crimes to the crowd, some were lies, things they tried to tie to my person so that I am left as a sinner in their minds even after death, however many were the truth. I had somehow hoped that the list would go on forever, that this near death moment would last forever and that I’d be able to stay like this, experiencing my life through wiser eyes; but of course it does not work like that. The man finished his list, the saint pulled his lever, the gates opened.
Sorry for the depressing beginning, or end? I guess you’re wondering how I got here, what was it that led to such a dramatic, charismatic and devilishly sexy man being strung up by the neck to die? Well you’d have to know me to understand, so grab a drink and I’ll regale you about how I, Scott Connor, became the richest man to ride the waves!
My intention with this first chapter is to set up a soft ending for the purposes of drawing the reader into the story right away. The final paragraph hints that our protagonist is not dead, as he would otherwise not be able to tell his story, making the reader wonder how it is that he survived, and also how it is he got into the situation in the first place. I believe this is an effective way of telling the story because it shows us that Scott has a flair for the dramatic right away when it comes to storytelling, however he is himself quite light hearted. It also shocks the reader with something much less depression giving them a sense of fresh air so that its not all too sad.