The young man carries himself like he’s not an addict. He is poised. He is alert. He would have made a fine soldier. Every now and then, he stops and scans the area. Usually, because he thinks he hears someone. But, it’s never anything. We stop in the next town. We go on a supply run. We walk into an antique store and look around. Just for fun. I don’t like this building. The way it continues to settle. Too many creaks and groans as we walk around. He calls me over. He asks if I happen to have found any loose tobacco. I had a few towns ago. He has an old pipe and asks if he can have some. He says he hasn’t smoked a pipe in ages. He packs it up. I watch him intently. I never was one for pipes. I like my nicotine quick and to the point. He turns to me to ask for a light. His eyes widen. I feel a sharp pain in the back of my head. Everything goes blurry and fades to black.
I awake to the sound of voices. An unusual sound. As my vision adjusts, I see the young man. He looks terrified. As I begin to comprehend the environment, I notice we are tied upside down. We have been stripped down to our underwear. He is panicking. I try to swing around and take everything in. But, the room is blank. The voices sound like they’re outside the door. I try to speak to the young man, but I spit up blood as I open my mouth. My headache is splitting. I need a fucking cigarette and some whiskey. I hear the door open and see some light leak in. I try to rotate and see who has entered, but I only hear his voice. He is rather upset. Suddenly, I feel myself spin around and there is a man right in front of my face. His breath wreaks of stale tobacco and sour milk. Pleasant. As my eyes adapt to the darkness, I make out the features of his face. He is missing an eye. He should probably have an eye patch because that void is fucking disgusting. It looks infected. His other eye — the one still in his skull — is bloodshot and pale grey. His lips are dry and cracked. The teeth he has are black with rot. He scans me intently. Or at least, half of me. He spits in my face. It smells like rotten eggs shat out by a dog then eaten by a bird who promptly puked it back up. Nice.
“Who the fuck are you?”
Well. I don’t know how to answer that, sir. I sit silently and try to take in the surroundings. He has a bat perched on his thighs as he crouches in front of me.
“Well? Who the fuck are you?”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you think I mean?”
“It seems inconsequential.”
“I like to know who I’m about to kill.”
Oh, a gentleman savage. “I don’t even know the answer to that anymore.”
“Well, you better find one quick. Cut them down.”
I feel a release and I drop on my head. That’ll help my headache. I am lifted up to stand and look in the eye of this man.
“You have a lot of supplies. What were you?”
“Just a teacher.”
“Well, believe what you need to, but that’s all I was.” He doesn’t need to know anything more.
“Well, teach… I’m taking all your shit. I hope that’s fine.”
“You get an ‘A’ for survival technique.”
“Oh, you’re a funny guy, huh?”
I like to think so.
“How did you survive?”
“I guess it was just luck.”
“Luck. Sure. Because that’s what I call lucky. Let him go.”
The hands that held me up let me go and I stumble a little. I regain my composure and look him in the face. Which is probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do in death.
“Not you dumbass… Take the boy.”
His two cronies grab the young man and exit the room.
“I don’t like you.”
“You’re disrespectful.” He’s quite astute.
“Well, sir. You did kinda kidnap me and my friend.”
“And took all of my supplies.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“That’s pretty disrespectful.” I eyeball the bat he has now slung over his shoulder. He looks strong. I think he’s probably not very agile, having only one eye.
“Well, you haven’t earned my respect.”
“That seems a little one-sided.” He’s obviously a fair leader. He laughs. He drops his bat to his side. I see my opportunity and jump for the bat. Right as I grab it, I feel a heavy handed punch on my side. I fall over. Luckily, I still have the bat. I’m certainly not as strong as this man. I jump up. I now notice how large his hands are. He swings a southpaw hook towards my face. He misses. I swing the bat and he stops it with his right hand. I’m actually impressed. He jerks the bat, taking me with it. I hear voices clamoring outside the door.
“Stay out there! I’ll handle this cocksucker.”
Well, I think the homophobic comment was unnecessary, so I grab the bat and swing it hard. I connect. With the wall. The sting in my hands made me drop the bat. He grabs me by my neck and throws me down. He stands over me and clasps his hands together to swing down on my head. I duck through his legs and scramble for the bat. I grab it and swing it around and hit him in the leg. He drops. He quickly recovers. Just in time for me to hit him in the head with the bat. He drops again. For a little longer this time. I watch him shortly to make sure he doesn’t move. I burst out the door, swinging the bat. I connect with one of his henchman and the other puts up his fists to guard himself. The young man grabs him in a chokehold and eases him into a nice sleep. We run away from the brick building. I see my bag and our clothes and we snatch them up as quickly as possible and keep running. After about 20 minutes, we stop and pull on our clothes. He laughs. I laugh. They stole everything but my whiskey and my cigarettes from my bag. That’s fine. We take a swig of whiskey and I offer him a cigarette. We continue walking and laughing. Maybe he and I are more alike than I thought.
We continue walking. A little faster pace than normal. Occasionally downing some branches and veering off path to cover our tracks. We find a well covered clearing that looked acceptable to sleep in. We sit down and crawl under the clearing. As the sun begins to set, I light my lucky cigarette up. One more day. Though, now I’m wondering if this is actually a lucky cigarette in this world…