Author: Therin Knite
( 6 Months Ago )
Jackson City is two parts sad and one part powerful.
I venture through the saddest part first. The dying limbs—a center of poverty. A few neighborhoods crawling with those too poor to leave and getting poorer all the time. I pass what was once a swanky penthouse apartment complex, now a boarded-up mess of graffiti. The lobby has no door. There are lumps on the floor that may or may not be people who may or may not be dead. Yikes.
Various objects block my way. Shopping carts. Burned-out cars. Trash bags galore. Piles and piles of human waste. At least one skeleton. I shudder at the thought of trudging down those grimy sidewalks. My poor stilettos.
Some kind of farmer’s market lines a side street, but there’s no one manning it. Rotting fruits and vegetables sit in boxes, on tables, on the pavement. A sickly sweet smell follows me down the road. Either the farmers have all been driven out of public for the day, or they’ve gone to get front row seats for the special event I’m attending. And by “gone,” I mean forcefully dragged there by authorities under threat of being “disappeared.”
Lovely place, Jackson City.
The meager signs of life fade away a few miles farther up. I enter the Dead Divide, as they call it. Great title. Wish I’d thought of it. But the credit goes to a blond bimbo from that horrid California tabloid.
The Divide is a straight line of abandoned city buildings between my target location and what remains of Jackson City. Everything in it is crumbling, rusting, collapsing, degrading. Nature is moving in again. The road is cracked with weeds. Vines are creeping up and up brick walls. Not a single window is intact.
What a fucking tragedy. I’ll add it to my list. My unfortunately long—
A dark blur streaks into the road. I slam on the brakes. My tires squeak as they hard stop on a sheet of dirty plastic in the middle of the lane. More dark blurs dart in front of my car. They empty out of the surrounding buildings. An old gym. A daycare center.
Kids wearing masks.
I know they’re kids because they all have that underdeveloped scarecrow look. Malnourished teenagers struggling to reach adulthood without enough food. Most of them are sticks jammed into the sockets of sunken stumps. The rags they wear as clothes hang off their frames.
There’s a flutter of pity in my chest. I groan. Don’t be a dumb bitch, Georgette. Made that mistake in Baghdad. Got beaten to a pulp and robbed of every penny you had.
These kids don’t have any pretense of kindness though. Every single one is armed. Blunt objects, mostly. A few of them carry machetes. The one in the middle, the tallest, the least underfed, brandishes a knife when he nears my car.
Are they orphans? Street kids? Beggar children?
Or are they a guild of play date thieves who return to Mommy and Daddy when the sun goes down and the cold creeps in?
Does it matter?
I lean over, open the glove compartment, and remove my SIG Sauer. I hold it up for the kids to see. I flick the safety off.
The leader halts. He eyes my pretty face. My flashy makeup job. The buxom breasts half-exposed by a four-figure designer shirt. Checks the gun again—disbelief. I smile, bright and cheery, like I did on that late-night talk show with a pompous dick for a host, where I revealed his six extramarital affairs. Live. To a national audience.
The kid hesitates. Doesn’t want to lose face.
Doesn’t want to lose his life either.
A tense minute passes.
He chooses life and backs away. The other kids disperse, retreating into their hideouts. They reset their trap and wait for a real schmuck to come along.
I sit the gun in the passenger seat and continue on.
If this tip turns out to be a bust, someone’s going to get popped right between the eyes.
And I know exactly who it’s going to be.
Therin Knite is a 22-year-old recent college graduate who occasionally writes speculative fiction and has the odd delusion of literary stardom. Knite lives in a humble little place known as the Middle of Nowhere, Virginia and spends every possible second of free time reading books and writing what may possibly qualify as books. He write every length of literary work known to man, from flash fiction to epic-length novels, but his genres are a bit more limited. His short stories and flash pieces tend to be any genre he’s in the mood for that day, while anything longer is pretty much limited to some variant of sci-fi or fantasy.
He is also the author of Echoes, which is available now.
“50% Dark, 50% Snark”